Great Music #32

Hi there. Time for another edition of “Great Music”, where I talk about music I like. Yeah, not much else to say there. Onward!

So unlike the last two parts in this series, today’s song is not from a video game. Instead it’s a regular song-song, something I listen to outside of other mediums. I mean, I found out about this band through a movie once, but this song I heard on my own, without that little help. Ladies and gents, it’s “End of the Line” by The Traveling Wilburys.

For those who don’t know, The Traveling Wilburys is a supergroup consisting of one of the coolest lineups in music. We got George Harrison (R.I.P), Roy Orbison (R.I.P), Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, and Tom Petty (R.I.P)… yeah, this group is (was) the real deal. The group started in 1988 and stopped circa 1991. What I love about their music is there’s no real ego on show here. It just feels like a group of friends getting together and having fun, playing some tunes… which is essentially what they were. Now, Wilburys has a great discography, meaning I could pick any song from them. But I wanted to specifically go with “End of the Line” because of the simple message it has (that I can interpret at least). No matter what happens, be it if you have great wealth or not, driving a fancy car or an absolute shitbox, everything will be okay. Yeah, one could interpret it as “Yeah, we’ll all be dead in the end”, but I’d like to be a bit more optimistic about it. A nice song that warms my heart, telling everyone that it’s all right.

What do you think of this song? And just for fun, in terms of career outside of Wilburys, who’s your favorite of them?
Have a good one and enjoy.

Great Music #31

Well hello there, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome back to Great Music, the series where I just talk about music I like. Last time we did this was back in April. I’m not good at keeping up a consistent release pace for these posts. Oh well. Here we go.

So what’s on the menu this time? Bit of old school rock? Something from a famous movie? Nah, neither. This is a bit more… revolutionary (you’ll know why in a bit). Let’s first get something god damn straight: I don’t like nazis, they’re the fucking worst, get them the hell out. But since those sons of bitches don’t seem to go away any time soon, at least I can imagine it and get some catharsis from it… thanks to “Wolfenstein”. First released in 1981, “Castle Wolfenstein” was a stealth game with some shooting elements. Then in 1992 it saw a reboot of sorts with “Wolfenstein 3D”, a revolutionary (no, that’s not the part I meant earlier) game that really brought the first person shooter to the mainstream. Cut to 22 years and god knows how many games later, and we get “Wolfenstein: The New Order”, another reboot of sorts that shared some stylistic and thematic elements with “The Man in the High Castle” and “Inglourious Basterds”. That game was a huge hit among fans and critics (yours truly included). Then three years later, in 2017 we get the sequel, “Wolfenstein: The New Colossus”, a not quite as good, but still fairly enjoyable action game with some standout moments and characters. Now, the music of “The New Order” was good, but you can still tell that it played it a little bit safe, with composer Mick Gordon testing the waters a bit. After then making the acclaimed music for the 2016 reboot of “Doom”, you could tell that he had found his style and wouldn’t shy away from exploiting it like a motherfucker. Cut to “New Colossus”, where he (along with co-composer Martin Stig Andersen) brought his fucking A-game and gave us some of the best video game music of all time. I could’ve talked about any track from the OST and been just as happy, but I felt like I needed to pick one of the more unique tracks from it to truly justify this post. And that’s why I chose “Horton Hears a Revolution” (THERE IT IS!).

In the game, you play as American resistance fighter William Joseph “B.J.” Blazkowicz (voiced by Brian Bloom) as he tries to fight back against the nazi regime which had taken over the world in 1946, and still rules with an iron cross 14 years later. But he can’t do this alone, he has to gather allies. And at a point in the game he travels to New Orleans to try to recruit a resistance group led by southern preacher Horton Boone (voiced by Christopher Heyerdahl). And as he comes to their base, they start discussing the situation they’re in, which is accompanied by a bit of nice clarinet jazz… and Mick Gordon’s heavier-than-metal guitars and drums. You see, Mick likes to approach his compositions a bit differently compared to your John Williams or Michael Giacchinos of the world. Instead of the typical orchestrations of brass and woodwind, this crazy son of a bitch uses instruments typically found in heavy metal bands (and the occasional synth for good measure). It creates a heavy sound that fits the often satirical but still brutal style of the story and writing. And the way it is used to coincide with the jazzy clarinet is absolutely frickin’ wonderful, creating a mesmerizing chaos that honestly just takes my breath away every time I hear it, while also making me want to start a revolution against some nazi assholes.

Have a good one and enjoy.

Movie Review: Blaze (2018)

Biopics are fascinating. They give us a glimpse into a real life individual’s personal life, while also trying to provide a couple hours of entertainment. And striking the right balance between fact and compelling drama can be tough. But some people manage it.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Blaze”.

The story follows the life and times of Blaze Foley (Ben Dickey), a raggedy man with a talent for music. From his humble beginnings, and through the highs and lows, including his marriage to Sybil Rosen (Alia Shawkat), we get a good glimpse into Foley’s life. And I think that the plot here is really good. There are elements that we recognize from other biopics, but the way they’re used throughout “Blaze” feels fresh, due to the gentle and nuanced writing. It creates a fascinating tale that can be as heartbreaking as it is warmly nostalgic. The deliberately slow pace might prove a bit frustrating for some, but I thought it worked very well for the story here.

The characters here are flawed, nuanced, charming, and overall feel very real. Ben Dickey plays the titular musician. A likable man with a lot of tragic flaws. Seeing his journey as a character here is really fascinating, and I really grew to care about him. And Dickey is great in the role. Alia Shawkat plays Sybil Rosen, a woman and aspiring actress/writer that Blaze has a committed relationship with. The journey she has here, which really are the ups and downs of being with Blaze, is really interesting, and makes her an interesting and sympathetic character. And Shawkat is really good in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Charlie Sexton, Josh Hamilton, Wyatt Russell, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

As this is a biopic about a musician, it should be expected that one would hear a lot of songs from said artist throughout. You’d be correct in that assumption, you do hear a lot of Foley’s music here… and I love it. Not only because the music is incredibly well written, but also because the way it’s implemented in the storytelling is absolutely wonderful. So yeah, the music here is great.

Based on “Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze Foley” (bit of a mouthful) by Sybil Rosen, this movie was written by Ethan Hawke & Sybil Rosen, with Hawke also handling directing. And the craft here is wonderful. It has a warmness to it, and a willingness to just sit down and really get to know these characters, not always feeling the need to get to the next “big event”. Like I said in the story bit, the pacing is deliberately slow, and the direction embraces that and turns it into some truly compelling stuff. And the cinematography by Steve Cosens helps kind of give it all a nostalgic storybook feeling that really adds to the experience.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 95% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 75/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6,7/10.

“Blaze” is a wonderful movie about a very interesting man. It has a really good plot, good characters, great performances, great music, and great writing/directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *AHEM*. My final score for “Blaze” is a 9,77/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Blaze” is now completed.

That was a nice experience.

Great Music #30

Hello and welcome back to Great Music, the thing where I talk about music I like. And we’ve now reached the 30th one of these. And it only took us… three and a half years, hot damn. Not saying that number 30 in itself is an important milestone, just wanted to point out that I am slow when it comes to these things. Anyway, let’s get into it.

So what song do I wanna talk about today? And one rock track? Something from a movie? Nope. Today I wanna talk about something that was composed for a video game. Now, I am sure some of my followers here don’t really care about video games that much, and that is fine. But I just wanna take a second to talk about my favorite song that was made for one of my favorite games. Today we are talking about “Tears” from Max Payne 3.
In the third Max Payne game, our endearingly moody Max (voiced by James McCaffrey) is at the lowest point he’s ever been, but he get a new chance at life when he gets hired by a Brazilian businessman to be the bodyguard of his family. Max’s journey will lead him through hell and back, from the alleys of New Jersey to the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Near the end of the game, Max has tracked down the person responsible for so much of the trouble he’s gone through, which has led him to a Brazilian airport. Max finds himself in the airport lobby, heavily armed bad guys all around. While giving up would be easy, Max knows he has to give it one more push if he wants to stop the big bad guy. Max sprints out of cover and the music starts blasting. The score for the game was composed by American noise rock band HEALTH (yes, the capitalization is part of the band’s name), who created a score that evokes the dark moodiness of the series while also adding their own flavor to it. And “Tears” is their masterpiece (for me at least) in that regard. A heavy track with a driving beat, perfectly suited for the “one more push” feel of the scene it plays in. But it also has lyrics that are a direct reference to the character himself. Many have interpreted it as Max’s long dead wife and daughter telling him to finally let them go and find his own path. And looking at the lyrics, that seems very likely. So long, Max has been stuck in the guilt of losing his family at the start of the first game, and finally it seems like he’s able to move on. It’s beautiful, poetic even. And when encased within the heavy and driving noise rock beat, it creates a unique musical feel and makes for one of the most memorable parts in any game I’ve ever played.  And even discounting the game for a second, I just love the song. It is very clearly not for everyone, but I absolutely adore it and wanted to talk about it today.

Have a good one and enjoy.

Movie Review: Saturday Night Fever (1977)

Ah the disco trends of the late 70s. Such an interesting era for music and clothing. Not much else that I can say, it’s just fun.

Ladies and gents… “Saturday Night Fever”.

Tony Manero (John Travolta) has a pretty shitty family life, always getting put down by his parents. So to get away from that shitshow, he often goes to a local dance club, where he absolutely dominates. So we follow Tony as he deals with life. And this plot is as mediocre as it gets. It tries to be layered, it tries to be nuanced… but it’s not. It thinks itself clever, but it’s a shallow and uninteresting look at the life of this dude. The tone is also all over the place. Now, I can watch a movie switch between tones without any issue as long as the writing is good enough to make the switch feel natural. But the writing here isn’t good enough to carry the tonal changes that occur throughout the movie. This movie doesn’t always know what it wants to be. Is it a character study or is it a boogie-woogie dramedy? Because either way, the plot here never really goes above a “meh”.

The characters in this sometimes feel like they have personality, but in the end I feel like they are mostly these inconsistent husks. John Travolta plays Tony Manero, the kid with the titular medical condition. Working class jerk by day, boogie-woogie master by night. He is a very inconsistent character. Sometimes he’s a total douchebag, and sometimes he’s a nice dude. This isn’t natural character growth for him even, as it just kinda happens on a dime. At least Travolta gives a good performance. We also get supporting work from people like Karen Lynn Gorney, Barry Miller, Joseph Cali, Paul Pape, Donna Pescow, Martin Shakar, and more. And while most of the characters could’ve used a few rewrites, the performances were good.

There was a score at a few points in this movie, composed by David Shire. And it was fine, it’s not too noticeable. But you know what is noticeable? All the disco music throughout. Bee Gees, The Trammps, KC and the Sunshine Band, there’s a ton of old school stuff here, and it’s awesome. Not just because it’s overall a bunch of fun music, but because it just works so well for the setting, it helps really build a mood and give the movie some extra energy. So yeah, this movie has good music.

This movie was directed by John Badham, and I think he did a good job here. While the story and writing is lacking, Badham’s direction gives it all an energy that makes it so much easier to watch and feel invested in. And let’s get to the elephant in the room, the dance sequences. For what is a disco inferno without someone lighting up the dance floor? Well, I have to admit, the dance sequences in this are fucking incredible. The way that the character movement blends with the cinematography makes for some really mesmerizing sequences.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 85% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 77/100. Roger Ebert gave it 4/4 stars. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6,8/10. The movie was nominated for 1 Oscar in the category of Best actor (Travolta).

Soooo, a lot of people call “Saturday Night Fever” a classic. But I think it’s just… fine. It has a meh plot, meh characters, good performances, great music, and really good directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Saturday Night Fever” is a 6,11/10. So while very flawed, it can still be worth a rental.

My review of “Saturday Night Fever” is now completed.

Oh dear. Boogie woogies out of the room.

Academy Award 2019: Music Nominees

Well hello there. Around this time last year, I teamed up with some really cool people to cover that year’s Academy Award nominees. And we decided to do it again, splitting the nominees between us and discussing it on our blogs. And just like last year, I am covering the music nominees, because I’ve barely seen anything nominated for an Oscar this year, and these categories are the only ones I can do from my room for free in a perfectly legal manner. So without further ado, let’s get into it.

Best Original Score
Let’s start with the scores first. No real reason, just seems reasonable. But before we get into that, we have a comment here from the lovely Maddy of FiveThreeNinety regarding what she considers a major snub:

HOW First Man was not even nominated baffles to me the point of not being able to see the actual contenders. I was convinced that was a sure win.
Thank you, Maddy. Your thoughts are much appreciated. Now, on with the nominees!

Black Panther – Ludwid Göransson

First up we have the score for Marvel superhero movie “Black Panther”, which I haven’t seen yet. I know, weird. Still, any thoughts on the movie itself do not matter, it’s what the music is like that matters. And not gonna lie, from what I’ve heard, the score by Ludwig Göransson is pretty stellar, mixing the typical superhero brass with a lot of African percussion and woodwind, and even a little bit of interesting electronica to create one of the more unique scores within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

BlackkKlansman – Terence Blanchard

Next up is the score from the latest Spike Lee joint, “BlacKkKlansman” (that stylization really fucks up my flow). A true story about a black police detective infiltrating the KKK. So what does Blanchard bring in for the music? Well, he gives us a score that mixes somber string work, march percussion, and even a little bit of blues guitar, creating an absolutely stunning sound that seeps into the soul and just creates a sense of dread. Yeah, it’s a good one.

Mary Poppins Returns – Marc Shaiman

From composer Marc Shaiman we have the score for “Mary Poppins Returns”, the sequel to the 1964 musical classic. And it’s a fairly standard score here. Not bad in the slightest, it’s just that we’ve heard this kind of stuff before in Disney movies for god knows how long. The sung songs are a lot of fun, and the main score is easy on the ears, so the music here is just a bit of good ol’ crowd pleasing.

Isle of Dogs – Alexandre Desplat

Next up, we have the score for Wes Anderson stop motion film “Isle of Dogs”, composed by one of my favorites, Alexandre Desplat. Mixing in a lot of Asian percussion and chorals mixed in with the occasional regular brass, strings, and piano, it makes for a fun and quirky sound that also has a nice emotional undertone.

If Beale Street Could Talk – Nicholas Britell

Next up we have Nicholas Britell’s score for “If Beale Street Could Talk”, Barry Jenkins’ movie based on the James Baldwin novel of the same name. And holy fuck, this score hits hard. Somber strings, emotional piano pieces, and a general sense of sadness makes it a stunning feast for the ears. But you know what it reminds me of at times? Nick Cave’s score for “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” (still a mouthful), which has a similar sound. That’s not saying that “Beale Street” doesn’t stand out musically, because it really does.

And here’s a comment from Martin of Through the Silver Screen:

“Re-teaming with Barry Jenkins after his Oscar nominated work in Moonlight, Nicholas Britell did it again creating a score that was both beautiful and melancholic, capturing the joy and despair of the main characters beautifully. But by far one of the biggest snubs here was for Justin Hurwitz’s First Man score, which had it been nominated would surely have come back down to earth to win the statue. Ludwig Göransson’s wonderful work for Black Panther is also very much worthy of the gong, as it was grounded in the beauty of the continent of Africa.”

And here’s one from Nathan:

Best Original Score’s real winner (Justin Hurwitz’s First Man) inexplicably missed an Oscar nomination but Nicholas Britell’s If Beale Street Could Talk is a gorgeous, brooding composition that enriches the film’s tenderly melancholic exploration and portrait of love. It should, and probably will, win but faces stiff competition from Black Panther.

Biggest chance of winning: Isle of Dogs.
My pick: BlacKkKlansman.

Best Original Song
And now we move on to the second half of this post, the part where we talk about the best original song nominees. So let’s do it.

All the Stars – Kendrick Lamar/Sza – Black Panther

Man, “Black Panther”, raking in the nominations. So here we have “All the Stars” by Kendrick Lamar and SZA (apparently pronounced Sizza). I’m not the biggest fan of the style of music that this is, but I do also think that this sounds quite good and I can see why it was nominated. So yeah, it’s pretty good.

The Place Where Lost Things Go – Emily Blunt – Mary Poppins Returns

Remember how I said that the sung songs were the better part of the “Mary Poppins Returns” music? This still applies, because this is beautiful. The minimalist composition gives it a nice emotional tone, the lyrics are beautiful, and Emily Blunt’s singing is stunning and it really reaches into my heart. So yeah, this song is very good.

I’ll Fight – Jennifer Hudson – RBG

Not every day a documentary has a best original song. But “RBG”, a documentary about supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, had it, and it’s the kind of grand, sweeping, soulful pop tune that you’d hear everywhere a few years ago. And I like thos kinds of tunes, so this kind of appeals to me. Is it the best example of this kind of song? No. But is it still a strong contender? Hell yeah.

When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings – Tim Blake Nelson/Willie Watson – The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

In 2018, the Coen brothers gave us anthology western “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”, and that movie gave us this song. The singing for Nelson and Watson is stunning and just fits the whole quirky western singing. The small amount of instruments also gives it a small intimate feeling that just works so well for the story told in the song. It’s a charming little song that I kinda love.

Shallow – Lady Gaga/Bradley Cooper – A Star is Born

How many versions of “A Star is Born” do we have now? 46? What, only five? Okay. Anyway, this version stars Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, and people apparently like it a lot. And this song, “Shallow” is the song from it that got an Oscar nomination. So is it good? Very. I like this sort of ballad bordering a little on rock, pop, and country, as it makes it stand out with this nice blend of the three. And “Shallow” is a damn good example of it. And now, a comment from Maddy again:

If a Star is Born doesn’t win, I will shave my head. It is one of the best original songs for film in years, and that’s saying something looking at the past few winners.

We also just got in another comment, this from Martin of Through the Silver Screen:

“Though I love “All the Stars”, nothing is stopping Lady Gaga here. Given that the Best Actress statue will likely be out of her reach, this is one award Gaga will be deservedly holding at the end of the night. The moment in ASIB when she sings “Shallow” with Cooper in the film, just sends chills down my spine. Incredible.”

And here’s a comment from Nathan:

We’re not far from the Shallow now, where Lady Gaga will ascend to the stage to collect the award for A Star Is Born. You can’t really argue against it – it’s a fantastic, stadium-worthy song – despite my personal belief that Always Remember Us This Way is the movie’s crowning achievement. I’d be equally happy for Mary Poppins Returns’ The Place Where Lost Things Go to take it on the night, although A Cover Is Not The Book or Can You Imagine That? would have taken its place on my personal ballot.

Biggest chance of winning: Shallow.
My pick: When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings.

So now we’ve gotten through all the music nominations, and I gave some of my thoughts on them. But I’d also love to hear from you guys. What are your thoughts on the music nominees for the Academy Award of 2019? Leave any and all thoughts in the comments.

The cool people I collaborated with:

Plain, Simple Tom

Through the Silver Screen

FiveThreeNinety

Perks of Being Nath (who also hosted our friend Ryan, because Ryan doesn’t do his own blogging anymore).

And that’s it. Have a good one.

My Favorite Albums of 2018

Hello there, ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time of year again. The time when I share with you some of my favorite albums of the year that recently ended. Took a little longer than usually this time, as I slacked a bit throughout 2018 in listening to a lot of new albums. But now we’re here. And I’m excited to start writing, this is one of my favorite things to do each year. Just a few stipulations between us.

Rule number 1: Please be nice. If you don’t agree with my picks, that is fine, I encourage discussion. Just don’t be a dick about it.

Rule number 2: I am not including any film scores/soundtracks, as that would make this list go on for way too long. Also, this is just to celebrate the music in its own right, and not have it clouded by any positive cinematic experiences.

Rule number 3: I don’t do EPs or singles. This is for those fully referred to as ALBUMS. So if there’s an EP that you liked that isn’t here, now you know why.

That should be it. Though I will also give an honorable mention to “Campfire” by Kasey Chambers and The Fireside Disciples. The few tracks I’ve heard from that album are incredible, but due to some licensing bullshit, I can’t listen to the full album since I’m not in Australia… and importing is too pricey, so I’m not gonna hear it anytime soon. But I guess an honorable mention is fine.

Anyway, with all that out of the way, now is the time for me to share my favorite albums of 2018!

Number 13: Luke Westaway – Short Songs With Long Titles (Sample: I Took a Week Off Work and My Brain Didn’t Know What to Do With That, Clearly).

Kicking off this list is an album with a very self-explanatory title. From Luke Westaway, most known for his hosting gig on the OutsideXtra youtube channel, comes “Short Songs With Long Titles” an album all about short songs with long titles. It’s a charming little thing that just puts a smile on my face. It’s not musically complex, it’s not emotionally charged… it’s just a guy having a bit of fun, and that is quite infectious, for me at least.

Number 12: Ry Cooder – The Prodigal Son (Sample: The Prodigal Son).

Next up is “The Prodigal Son”, the latest album from musician Ry Cooder. It has an interesting sound in how it blends a bit of rock and folk and blues and a tiny bit of country. And it blends together to make something really cool that I enjoy listening to.

Number 11: Kacey Musgraves – Golder Hour (Sample: Slow Burn).

At number 11 we have the latest release from pop/country artist Kacey Musgraves. When I first heard of Musgraves I dismissed her as another pop artist (like an asshole). But then later I started hearing murmurs of her actually being a country artist, which had me intrigued. And I decided to give her newest release a chance. And I’m glad I did, because it’s pretty damn good (evidenced by its inclusion here).

Number 10: Buddy Guy – The Blues is Alive and Well (Sample: A Few Good Years).

I think I’ve made it clear on this blog a few times that I’m a fan of blues. So the fact that such an old school blues album can be released in 2018 just makes me happy. Hell, that album title just summarizes my thoughts perfectly. The blues is indeed alive and well.

Number 9: Florence + The Machine – High as Hope (Sample: 100 Years)

First single digit entry is the latest from alt-rock/pop outfit Florence and The Machine (that “and” often stylized as a +). And with this, Florence Welch (who fronts the band) lays herself bare, talking about pain, suffering, sadness, and other such fun subjects. I already enjoyed the band to a certain extent, and this album is another reason for me to do so.

Number 8: Greta Van Fleet – Anthem of the Peaceful Army (Sample: Lover, Leaver).

At number 8 we have the latest release from legendary rock band Led Zeppelin. *Smack* Ouch, okay, fine, I’ll be serious… dick. So yeah, it’s impossible to talk about Greta Van Fleet without mentioning their similarity to Led Zep. I mean, Josh Kiszka’s voice is a dead ringer for a young Robert Plant. Anyway, similarities to Markus’ favorite bands aside, how does it stack up on its own as a rock album? It’s great (the inclusion on the list should’ve been a dead giveaway). It’s great to hear this kind of old school rock still being played in our current days. And who can complain about hearing a bit of new Led Zep material in 2018/2019? *Smack*.

Number 7: Shemekia Copeland – American’s Child (Sample: Ain’t Got Time For Hate).

Buddy Guy said it. Blues is alive and well. Copeland comments on a lot of current issues within the United States, and her message comes through beautifully through her strong vocals, and use of the blues genre. Blues is great for telling genres, so using it to send a message about some of the fucked up stuff going on in the world is a brilliant idea. Plus, it’s just a damn solid listen overall.

Number 6: Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa – Black Coffee (Sample: Give it Everything You Got).

Man, 2018 was one hell of a year for blues. Even better is that this is a collab by one of the best duo’s in the genre. Hart and Bonamassa have done a couple albums before that I really liked, so I was already excited to hear another one from them… and man, it did not disappoint. Hard-hitting instruments, Hart’s fierce voice, and an overall sense of the various crew members’ skill makes this one hell of a good time.

Number 5: Steve Perry – Traces (Sample: No Erasin’).

Man, was this the biggest surprise release of 2018. I was just chilling out and browsing twitter a bit, and suddenly I just see “Journey’s Steve Perry to release new album in a couple days”, which of course had me reacting like “Fucking what?”. Perry’s been relatively quiet on the musical front since leaving Journey in 1998. Then suddenly 20 years later he releases a new solo album… and it’s great? Talk about one of the most pleasant surprises in recent years. But yeah, if you like a lot of his old Journey stuff, you’ll most likely enjoy “Traces” too.

Number 4: Father John Misty – God’s Favorite Customer (Sample: Hangout at the Gallows). 

“If Radiohead had sex with The Beatles” a youtube comment described this song. It’s not entirely wrong. I can certainly hear a little bit of that in Misty’s sound, though I also think he’s still created something entirely his own within the sort of indie/folk/alt-rock sounds that he clearly resides within. His voice, the instrumentals, and the lyrics all make for one really great album.

Number 3: Joe Satriani – What Happens Next (Sample: Energy).

Rock and motherfucking roll. Coming in with a bronze medal, we have the latest release from acclaimed rock guitarist Joe Satriani. I’ve been a fan of his for years, so I was of course excited for his new album which was an early 2018 release, and I was listening on day 1. And man, it was so badass. Badass solos, slick licks, and and Satriani’s overall sense of how to keep purely instrumental songs fresh and unique makes it one of the best of the year. Plus, the background work by Chad Smith and Glenn Hughes gives it an extra edge too.

Number 2: Judas Priest – Firepower (Sample: Firepower).

Wow, was the inclusion of this quite surprising. Bands that have been working for as long as Judas Priest shouldn’t sound so good so far into their lifetime. And when I first heard the album, I kinda dismissed it as another half-decent, fairly catchy, pretty well done metal album. But since then it’s really grown on me, and I have realized just how good it is. “Firepower” is as old school as metal gets, and I’d say that it might be the band’s best since “Painkiller”, maybe even since “British Steel”. Like, what the fuck, this is way better than it has any right to be. Oh well, I’m not gonna complain about a bit of awesome music.

Number 1: Joe Bonamassa – Redemption (Sample: Redemption).

Anybody who knows me should not be surprised by this. I’ve said so many times on this blog, on twitter, and in real life how much I adore Bonamassa’s music. And with “Redemption” he has once again given us a musically impressive, catchy, and overall solid blues-rock album. His vocals are the best we’ve heard from him, and the guitar work is still absolutely stunning. Bonamassa is one of the most hard working musicians out there, constantly touring and putting out content and just overall kicking musical ass. “Redemption” is my favorite album of 2018.

So those were my favorite albums of 2018. But now I wanna hear from you guys, what have been some of your favorite albums of last year? Either leave a comment or make a blog post of your own as a response to this, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Have a good one.

Great Music #29

Hello and welcome back to Great Music, the series in which I share a song (or more) that I like. When was the last one we di- holy shit, it was all the way back in July of last year… so it’s been a while. Oh well, better now than never. Anyway, let’s talk about some good music.

So what song has DJ Markus decided to play y’all today? Well, it’s an oldie that’s been rerecorded a couple times, so some versions aren’t really oldies, but the one we will talk about today kind of is. The song we’re talking about today is “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. Originally recorded by The Beatles in 1968, the version we’re talking about today is the one from guitarist Jeff Healey, released in 1990. I love the Beatles version, it’s a great song, but I’ve always kind of preferred Healey’s version. I don’t really know why, maybe it’s the heavier blues edge that Healey has, maybe it’s the rhythm flowing a little bit better, I honestly don’t know fully. But that doesn’t matter. What does matter is the fact that it’s an amazing song featuring some stunning guitar licks throughout, accompanying Healey’s solid blues-tuned vocals. The guitar may weep, but I don’t, because this song is great.

Have a good one and enjoy!

Great Music #28

Hello there! Time for me to once again talk about some music I like. Got nothing else to say here. Let’s jump into the song!

So for today’s edition of “Great Music” we have something relatively new. Today we’re talking about Joe Bonamassa’s “Redemption”. Now, this isn’t the first time that Bonamassa has been mentioned/written about on this blog. As a matter of fact, I went back and checked, and this is the fourth time that he’s featured in a post of mine. For those who don’t know, Joe Bonamassa is an American blues singer/guitarist. I first discovered him a couple of years ago when spotify recommended one of his songs to me. And since then I’ve been a fan. Hell, his last studio effort “Blues of Desperation” made it quite high on my favorite albums of 2016 list. And now we are talking about his newest song (which I found out about today, and it’s been out for like a month, and I feel ashamed to be this late since I love his music so much). So here we have Joe making a song about seeking redemption… simple as that, the title basically describes it. The song has a cool mix of acoustic and electric guitar work, finding an interesting blend of blues, rock, and a pinch of country. It’s basically like something you’d hear in an episode of “Justified”. But yeah, as this series suggests, it’s another great song. From the chord progressions, to the instrumentals, to Bonamassa’s vocals, and to the awesome guitar solo that blends a bit of “Kashmir” with a bit of its own awesomeness. What’s also awesome with this song is that it helps announce Bonamassa’s next studio album (titled “Redemption”), set to be released on September 21st of this year. So yeah, a great song that gets me excited for a hopefully awesome album.

Have a good one and enjoy!

Movie Review: Almost Famous (2000)

Music. One of the most powerful things in the world. A medium that transcends language. You may not understand what that foreign person is saying, but you will connect thanks to the recognizable riff of “Smoke on the Water”, or the vocal melody of “Stairway to Heaven”. Music, connecting people better than words can.

Ladies and gents… “Almost Famous”.

The year is 1973. High school student William Miller (Patrick Fugit) has been given the opportunity of a lifetime: To follow up-and-coming band Stillwater on tour and write an article on them for Rolling Stone Magazine. So yeah, that’s about it. We follow William and the journey he goes on with this band. From meeting them, to seeing them play, to the various other highs and lows of a 70s rock band being on tour. And I found myself fully engrossed in the plot of this movie. When it wants to be fun and breezy, it’s fun and breezy. And when it wanted to tug at my heartstrings, it did. It rides the balance between fun and dramatic perfectly, creating a journey that I loved following from the start to finish.

The characters in this are all entertaining, layered, interesting, and feel like real people. Patrick Fugit plays William, the young man who’s been given this opportunity. He’s naive, but not dumb. He holds these guys in high regard, and you can see the joy in his eyes as he hangs out with the band. But you also see him get some good development throughout. And Fugit is great in the role. It’s also refreshing to see him play such a happy character after having seen him be so stressed and damaged in “Outcast”. Next up we have Billy Crudup as Russell, the lead guitarist of the band. He’s the member we get to know the best and that gets the most amount of development. He is a bit mysterious, but as he spends time with William he starts to open a bit more and really develops as a character. And Crudup is great in the role. Then we have Kate Hudson (who I mistook for Drew Barrymore at first, oops) as “Penny Lane”, a mysterious girl that William runs into early on that follows along on the journey. She’s a pretty secretive girl, but she also becomes one of William’s closest friends during this journey. She’s a very fun and interesting character. And Hudson is great in the role. I’m not gonna go in-depth with any more characters as most don’t get the same kind of development as the main three, and also because I don’t want this post to get too long. But we do get some supporting work from people like Jason Lee, Frances McDormand, Noah Taylor, Fairuza Balk, Anna Paquin, Philip Seymour Hoffman (R.I.P), Terry Chen, and more. All doing really well in their respective roles.

While not a lot can be found on it online, there was music in this composed by Nancy Wilson (one half of rock duo Heart), and the little I found out about it was really good. There has been one piece officially released from it that is fantastic, and she also co-wrote some songs for the band in the movie (with some additional help from Cameron Crow and Peter Frampton). And there were of course A LOT of 70s rock tracks used throughout to capture that era and story, and it worked brilliantly. Then again, I am a bit biased due to my love for that era of music. Still, the soundtrack for this movie worked perfectly for it.

The movie was written and directed by Cameron Crowe and he did a fantastic job. His directing is tight and intimate, getting us close to the characters and their situations, making us feel like were really part of it. But it’s not the “look at me and how personal I can get”, Crowe’s direction doesn’t call attention to itself. There’s also a lot of humor in this movie and I found it to be really funny, I laughed out loud several times. But the humor never feels out of place or like it overtakes the drama, it fits into the movie incredibly well.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 89% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 90/100. Roger Ebert gave it 4/4 stars. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,9/10. The movie won 1 Oscar in the category of Best original screenplay. It was also nominated for an additional 3 Oscars in the categories of Best supporting actress (Hudson), Best supporting actress (McDormand), and Best film editing.

“Almost Famous” is a fun, inspiring, and engaging little dramedy. It has a great plot, great characters, great performances, fantastic music, great directing, and funny humor. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Almost Famous” is a 9,89/10. Which means it gets a the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.
 

My review of “Almost Famous” is now completed.

Hold me closer, tiny dancer…