Great Music #35

Hey there friends. Time for another edition of my Great Music series. If you’re unfamiliar with the series, then the title should be enough explanation. It’s just me talking about songs I like… simple as that.

So last time we talked about Iron Maiden contemplating the fleeting nature of time, which can be a heavy subject, but the band performed it in such a fun way that it becomes easily digestible. So today, how about we delve into a pit of sadness? Today we talk about the somber, contemplative song “Brother”, composed and performed by Shawn James.

According to Shawn James’ twitter (and a thorough, attentive listening of the lyrics), the song is about loss and suicide and other such heavy themes. It’s quite a sad little poem told to us in this song. This is actually the second Shawn James song we’ve tackled in this series, with the first being “Through the Valley”, which I wrote about in 2017. I only mention this because there’s quite a stark difference between what the themes of the songs are, and also the approach to its tonality. Either way, “Brother” makes me a bit sad, but it’s still a brilliant song. Heartbreaking and beautiful in equal measure, brought to life by James’ wonderful voice.

Have a good one and enjoy.

Lock-down Godzilla

Hey there, friends. Today’s post is a little different. In some ways, one could probably consider it a part of my Great Music series, but I that I wouldn’t do that in this case. As you all know, the world’s in a bit of a shitty spot right now with a certain virus-related thingamabob going on. I’m not trying to make light of it, I just don’t wanna say its name too much, as you already know what it is. Anyhow, it’s not just us regular folks who are in lockdown. Famous artists are stuck too, which means they can’t really be out touring and playing gigs… but that’s not stopping some from entertaining the masses.

Recently a video was posted to youtube by one of my favorite bands. That band of course being Blue Öyster Cult. And in it, we have the current band members Buck Dharma, Eric Bloom, Danny Miranda, Richie Castellano, and Jules Radino sitting in their respective homes, giving us a fresh rendition of their 1977 classic “Godzilla”. Not only do I like this because I adore the band in general, but I also like it because the guys clearly still got it. Really, it’s just a fun little video that I’ve been enjoying recently. And I thought I’d share it with you guys, because I enjoy sharing things that I like with my friends.

Have a good one and enjoy!

Movie Review: The Changin’ Times of Ike White (2020)

Howdy. Back in January, in my “Last Breath” review, I kind of alluded to the fact that I’d try to cover more documentaries this year. Well, I better try to keep that promise, I guess. So here’s such a review for y’all.

Ladies and gents… “The Changin’ Times of Ike White”.

This movie documents the life of Ike White, a young man sent to prison for life for killing someone. During his tenure in prison, he gets the opportunity of a lifetime… to record an album while still incarcerated. An album which would help change his life forever. And if you don’t know the story of this man, which I certainly didn’t before watching this, then I won’t say much more about his life. But let me just say that finding out about White’s life was fucking fascinating, but that says more about White than it does about the way the documentary presents it all. Something about the execution just feels quite standard, which does affect the pacing at times. White is a fascinating subject, which is what kept me somewhat engaged throughout. But there’s something about the delivery of the entire thing that just feels a bit too dry for such a colorful individual. He’s an interesting person, and I did like hearing about him and all his shenanigans, but I wish there was something more to the storytelling than just him. The second half does pick up a bit more, and changes direction ever so slightly, but it still has slight drag in the pacing.

There is a little bit of music throughout composed by Andrew Phillips, and it’s fine, nothing you’ll remember after hearing it. Now, let’s talk about the other songs used in the movie… that being the songs written and recorded by White. They’re a sort of soul-funk-R’n’B-psychedelia hybrid that I found myself quite fascinated by. It’s clear that White was a talented musician, as shown by his tunes that were featured in this. It’s good stuff.

“The Changin’ Times of Ike White” was directed by British TV/documentary filmmaker Daniel Vernon, who did an okay job with it. There’s some nice energy given to the shots of the people getting interviewed. You can tell that he’s competent, and knows how to put together a solid product. Now, it’s not just interviews and such, as there’s also recreations of stories told, using minimalistic animations that are really interesting to look at, giving the movie a bit of much needed extra style. The occasional use of found footage and home videos also adds a bit to the film’s presentation.

This movie doesn’t have a lot of data on my usual sites, but here’s what I got. On Rotten Tomatoes it exists without a rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,2/10.

While it does feel slightly lacking in parts, “The Changin’ Times of Ike White” is still a watchable documentary about a fascinating man. It has an interesting tale to tell, with some good music and direction to boot. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Changin’ Times of Ike White” is a 7,02/10. So while flawed, it’s still worth a watch.

My review of “The Changin’ Times of Ike White” is now completed.

Part “Searching For Sugar Man”, part something else…

Great Music #34

Well hello there, friends. Time for the first Great Music piece of 2020. Are y’all excited? I know I am.

So to kick off a new year of me obnoxiously telling you all what songs I like, I might as well ease y’all into it. And by ease you into it I don’t mean some soft, radio-friendly ballad. No, but ease into it I mean that we take a song from a band that everyone knows. Iron fucking Maiden.

I adore Iron Maiden, they’re one of my favorite bands, having made a ton of songs I love. So there were a lot of options for me to choose from. But like I said, to ease us into a new year of these posts, I thought I’d go with what could be considered their most accessible song… “Wasted Years”. It’s a song about how fleeting time can be. It’s something we all can relate to on some level, which is partly what could make it one of the band’s more accessible songs for anyone that hasn’t really given the band much of a shot. The structure of the verses and chorus is also the closest the band has ever really gotten to a typical power ballad sound, without fully sacrificing their own sound in the process. Bruce Dickinson gets some really good vocal sections, Steve Harris still of course has some damn fine bass licks, and the guitar work is as good as it’s ever been. Guitarist Adrian Smith did a wonderful job in writing this song, creating what might be my favorite tune from the band… well, it’s either this or “Run to the Hills”, I kind of go back and forth from day to day which I like more. Either way, “Wasted Years” is a wonderful song.

Have a good one and enjoy.

Academy Awards 2020: Best Music Nominees

Well howdy there, ladies and gents. It’s me, Markus, taking a breakation from my vacation. For the past two years, some friends and I have been making blog posts about the various Oscar categories, discussing what we think about the nominees and which we think should/will win. And now we’re doing it for the third time. And as with the previous two years, I will be handling the music categories. So, let’s get into it.

Best Original Score

We’re gonna kick off this little post with the best original score nominees. Not much else I can say about that. Y’all know what a score is. So I might as well quit my stalling and talk about the various nominees.

Alexandre Desplat – Little Women (Sample: Plumfield)

The first score we’re talking about is the one for “Little Women”, the latest adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel, brought to the screen by Greta Gerwig. The score was composed by Alexandre Desplat, one of the best composers in the business. And as per usual, he has delivered something pretty spectacular. Often it delves into jovial period piece tunes, the likes we don’t hear much of anymore. But there are also often times where the score goes very mysterious, giving the overall score a really unique vibe when you switch between that and some of the more light tracks. Then there are a few more emotional pieces as well, and those sound great too. Overall, it’s another hit from Desplat.

Randy Newman – Marriage Story (Sample: What I Love About Nicole)

Next up is the score for Netflix dramedy “Marriage Story”, written and directed by Noam Baumbach, scored by Randy Newman… I’m sorry, it’s so weird to see his name outside of “Toy Story”. Anyway, his score for “Marriage Story” almost sounds like it could fit within a Pixar movie. Because there’s such a balance of grounded human drama with an almost fairytale-esque vibe. And while I have not seen the movie yet (don’t kill me), I get the feeling like this score would give it quite an interesting feel. I like it.

Thomas Newman – 1917 (Sample: Tripwire)

The third nominee we’re talking about is Sam Mendes’ recent war epic “1917”, scored by Thomas Newman. For a war movie score, it is surprisingly understated. That’s not saying there aren’t loud, intense tunes here. Just saying that compared to some other war movies, the score never makes itself as big and brassy, often relying on other kinds of instrumentation to create an emotional intensity that is wholly its own. And it is pretty god damn stunning to listen to. I can imagine it being quite effective to hear within the movie itself.

Hildur Guðnadóttir – Joker (Sample: Hoyt’s Office)

Next up is the score for “Joker”, a different kind of DC comics adaptation, brought to us by Todd Phillips, and score by Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir (who also did the music for 2019’s “Chernobyl” mini-series). And this score sounds like something right out of a horror movie. Not because there are plenty of sudden stings to make your 12-year old cousin jump, but more in how it relies on low, often eerie instrumentation to create an unsettling vibe that will get under people’s skin… it certainly got under mine.

The one and only John Williams – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Sample: Battle of the Resistance)

For our final score today we have the one and only John Williams’ final entry in the long running “Star Wars” franchise. There’s not much to say other than it’s another “Star Wars” score. Lots of loud brass to create an overwhelming feel of grand adventures. I can’t really go more in-depth with it, as everything you can say about a “Star Wars” score has been said a kajillion times before. All I’ll say is that it’s good… because “Star Wars” music is always good.

Who I want to win: Joker.
Who I think will probably win: Little Women or 1917.

Before we move onto our next category, my friend Maddy has sent in a little paragraph about this year’s score nominees I’d like to share with you all:

Score is a very exciting category this year, and I think the two front runners are Joker and 1917. If Hildur Guðnadóttir wins for her Joker score she’ll be the first woman to win in the category, and if Joker is going to win anything I’d be ok with it being this.

And here’s one from Martin:

This would appear to be a straight up battle between Guðnadóttir and Newman. But even 15 nominations later, and after producing a stirring, breath-taking score for 1917, there’s a substantial chance that Newman could lose out yet again. Which begs the question, what has he got to do to end his run without an Oscar?! If she wins, Guðnadóttir will become the first woman to win since the score category became one single category. While Desplat’s score for Little Women was delightful, it’s unlikely he’ll be claiming his third Oscar. The nomination for Williams does feel like a token nomination, and is more of a celebration of his work in general, given that his score for The Rise of Skywalker was, like the film itself, unremarkable. For the “Portals” track, in Avengers: Endgame alone, Alan Silvestri was deserving of a nomination.

Best Original Song

As with all other years, not only do score get nominated for Oscars, but individual vocal tracks do too. Which means we gotta talk about them as well. So here we go.

I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away, Randy Newman – Toy Story 4

Speak of the devil and he shall appear, it’s our old buddy Randy Newman doing music for “Toy Story”! If you’re like me, you’ve enjoyed Newman’s vocal tracks from previous movies. And this is another addition to that pile. It’s a fun-sounding song about something way more mature than one expects from an animated film about toys.

I’m Gonna Love Me Again, Elton John & Taron Egerton – Rocketman

“Rocketman” is a movie about Elton John. And it seems like the sir gave us a new song in conjunction with it, sung by him and the film’s star, Taron Egerton. And man, this is some fun shit. This is the kind of stuff I’d love to hear at parties (if I were invited). It’s seemingly about self-love, something we all need a bit more of. Combine that with the funky instrumentation and talented vocalists, and you got yourself one hell of a song.

Stand Up, Cynthia Erivo – Harriet

Cynthia Erivo, talented actress and wonderful singer recently starred in “Harriet”, a movie about former slave Harriet Tubman. Not only did she nab a best actress nomination for her role there, but she also managed to get a nom for best original song. And it’s a well deserved one. “Stand Up” is a beautiful soul song about standing up and being free. It’s a strong tune wonderfully brought to life by Erivo’s great voice and obvious passion for the themes and story.

I’m Standing With You, Chrissy Metz – Breakthrough

“Breakthrough” is a movie that seemingly no one saw, but here we are, talking about its one Oscar nomination. Written by Diane Warren and performed by Chrissy Metz, “I’m Standing With You” is a fairly standard soul/pop ballad that you’d hear in any old drama movie. It’s not bad, if I heard it again I wouldn’t be upset. But it’s not one of those I’m gonna be humming and remembering in a week.

Into the Unknown, Idina Menzel & AURORA – Frozen 2

“Frozen” getting a sequel was never in question. And that sequel getting another Oscar nominated song after… that other one that shall not be named… was also never really in question. And guess what? This is less ear-bleeding than that other one. It’s way less of an annoying earworm. Though while Menzel’s voice is nice to listen to, It’s the instrumentation and background chorals that intrigue me. That shit is great. Yeah yeah, Menzel does a good job, but I like the background stuff more here.

Who I want to win: (I’m Gonna) Love Me Again.
Who I think will probably win: Into the Unknown.

Remember Maddy from before? Well, she’s back with some choice words about the original song category:

Best original song is such a dead category this year, with no one song being a stellar stand out (at least in comparison to past years eg Shallow/ Let it Go). I don’t really know which way it will go, but think it will probably be Elton.

And here’s Martin again:

While Rocketman definitely could have got a few more nominations (Costumes and Best Actor), the one nomination it has picked up is likely to end in triumph for the Elton John biopic. As well as her nomination for Best Actress, Cynthia Erivo’s soulful performance of “Stand Up”, probably represents its closet challenger. However, a victory for Elton would be a fitting tribute to a true legend of the music industry.

So those were the music categories for the 2020 Oscars (airing tonight). Who do you want to win out of all of these? And do you have any scores or songs that got snubbed in the nomination process? Frankly I’m sad that the score for “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” didn’t get any love by the academy. Anyway, leave any and all thoughts in the comments.
Have a good one.

Collaborators:

FiveThreeNinety

Through the Silver Screen

Plain, Simple Tom

Perks of Being Nath

My Favorite Albums of 2019

Well howdy there, ladies and gents, I hope you’re all doing great. It’s that time of year again. That time when I go over my favorite albums from the year that’s recently passed. It’s a yearly tradition on this blog, and I have no intention of stopping it yet. So, let’s go over some rules first.

Rule 1: Please keep it civil. These are my picks. If you don’t agree with them, that’s fine. If you want to have a discussion about good music from last year, then I’m very much open to it. All I ask is that you keep it civil. Be kind and respectful.

Rule 2: No movie soundtracks/scores. I love listen to movie music, but if I included any of those albums, this list would go on for days, and no one has time or patience for that.

Rule 3: No “Greatest Hits” albums. I think that explains itself, no compilations of a band’s best songs. That’d be cheating.

That should about cover it. Now, without further ado.. my favorite albums of 2019!

Number 15: Rival Sons – Feral Roots (Sample: Do Your Worst)

Kicking off the bottom of the list (bottom does not equal bad, just means least awesome) is the latest release from Californian rock band Rival Sons. These dudes have a very old school approach to their style that I appreciate, since good ol’ fashioned hard rock doesn’t dominate the airwaves as much as it once did. So it’s good to hear a band keeping that sound alive. It’s a fun album.

Number 14: Dream Theater – Distance Over Time (Sample: Untethered Angel)

At number 14 we got the latest release from long running  prog-metal band Dream Theater. It’s a slightly more stripped back and focused affair than some of DT’s other releases… but that doesn’t stop it from being a fun, epic, and frankly fun album to listen to. It doesn’t really do much to seem like something new in the band’s discography, but it also doesn’t need to, because it’s still a badass album.

Number 13: Whiskey Myers – Whiskey Myers (Sample: Die Rockin’)

At number 13 we find the latest release from Whiskey Myers, an American country/southern rock band from Texas. I actually discovered them earlier in 2019 when I heard two of their older songs in an episode of “Yellowstone”. Obviously liking what I heard, I of course started checking out the band more (like their previous album/social media). And that’s when I found out they were releasing a new album, which had me interested. And when I listened to it… well, the inclusion of it on this list should be a dead giveaway as to my feelings on it. The band is like a heavier version of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and I really like that sound, which is why this is on the list.

Number 12: Beth Hart – War in My Mind (Sample: Bad Woman Blues)

Next up we have the new release from American blues singer Beth Hart. In this release, Beth strikes a nice balance between blues, funk, and soul to create a sound that is simply magical. I’ve enjoyed Hart’s music for a few years, and this album doesn’t disappoint at all, it is a blast to listen to.

Number 11: Phil Campbell – Old Lions Still Roar (Sample: Rocking Chair)

Coming in at number 11 we have the solo album debut of former Motörhead guitarist Phil Campbell. Even with the experience as guitarist in one of the greatest metal bands of all time, you never know how well your solo stuff might turn out. But Campbell (along with his many guest acts) really knocked it out of the park. Some are more stripped back affairs like “Rocking Chair”, but then you also got tracks like “Faith in Fire”. But one thing one notices throughout it all is that Campbell is quite contemplative in his tunes, which makes for a rock album that pleases both poetically and in terms of being fun to listen to.

Number 10: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Ghosteen (Sample: Bright Horses)

Now we’re getting into the meat and p’taters of this list, the top ten. And kicking off this section is “Ghosteen”, the new release from Australian artist Nick Cave, and his band, The Bad Seeds. It’s a direct follow-up to their previous album, “Skeleton Tree” (which also made it to my best of the year list when it came out). In that album, there were moments where Cave was dealing with the recent death of his son, and Ghosteen is him fully embracing that dark and contemplative process, making for a beautiful and haunting album that, while not something I’d put on at any time, still had a lasting effect on me thanks to its beautiful production, and Cave’s soulful and pained vocals.

Number 9: Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown – Truth and Lies (Sample: Shock & Awe)

At number 9 we have “Truth and Lies”, the new album from blues-inspired hard rock act Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown. If you like heavy blues-rock, then this should be right up your alley. I certainly like that sound, and I really like this album, it’s cool.

Number 8: Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell! (Sample: Norman fucking Rockwell)

Every year there’s usually at least one album that sneaks onto my list that I didn’t expect in the fucking slightest. And this time, it’s the latest release from American pop singer Lana Del Rey. It’s a soulful and cleverly written album which features Lana discussing some interesting stuff, all while a beautiful strings and piano-based production backs her up. And it’s all great, making for an enjoyable trip that I wouldn’t mind listening to again.

Number 7: Neil Young with Crazy Horse – Colorado (Sample: Olden Days)

More like Neil Old, am I right? Joking aside, how the fuck is Neil Young still releasing good music. Sure, his voice isn’t quite what it once was. But the fact that the songwriting still hits me and his voice still conveying every emotion perfectly is testament to his skill. Combine that with his first teamup with Crazy Horse since 2012, and we got a really well produced album that finds Young still knows how to reach into my heart and make me think.

Number 6: Bruce Springsteen – Western Stars (Sample: Western Stars)

From one old legend to another, at number 6 we have the latest release from The Boss himself, Bruce god damn Springsteen. And he hasn’t lost his touch yet, “Western Stars” is a beautiful country/soft rock album that shows Springsteen at his strongest once again. I don’t know what else to say here, Bruce Springsteen making good music shouldn’t really be much of a surprise to anyone.

Number 5: Airbourne – Boneshaker (Sample: Burnout the Nitro)

From nice and soulful, to high octane rock n roll. This was seriously one of, if not my most anticipated album of the year. I am a huge fan of this band and their AC/DC-esque sound. A new Airbourne release is always fun to listen to, because they just make some badass rock n roll. When I first listened to it, I wasn’t the biggest fan of this one. I thought it was fine, not making much of an impact. But further listens have made me appreciate it more. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s certainly… a boneshaker.

Number 4: The Highwomen – The Highwomen (Sample: Redesigning Women)

At number 4 we have a self-titled album from all-lady country band The Highwomen. Sound-wise, it’s a classic country sound, showing that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Where it stands out however is in the lyrical department, making some interesting commentary on society and women’s role in it, which I find quite fascinating and engaging, especially when paired with the beautiful country composition.

Number 3: Leonard Cohen – Thanks for the Dance (Sample: Thanks for the Dance)

We’re getting into the nitty-gritty now, y’all. In the bronze position, we find the new release from the late, great Leonard Cohen, which he of course recorded before his passing in 2016. Produced by Cohen’s son, Adam, this is a beautiful, emotionally charged, and soulful experience that sees Cohen at his finest. It’s a nice posthumous send-off for one of the greatest songwriters ever.

Number 2: King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Infest the Rat’s Nest (Sample: Planet B)

Well, this is certainly a leap in genres. In second place is the newest release from Australian rock band King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard (possibly the greatest band name ever). And it’s an old school thrash metal album, hearkening back to mid-80s Metallica or Slayer, while still putting in some minor flourishes of their own to make it stand out. And good god damn, I am in love with this album. I only heard it for the first time very recently, and yet it has made quite an impact for me. Partly because of the interesting storytelling concepts throughout the songs, but mainly because I am a big fan of old school thrash metal, and this is one of the finest takes on that genre.

NUMBER 1: Gangstagrass – Pocket Full of Fire (Sample: You Can Never Go Home Again)

In previous years, I’ve had a rule against including live concert albums. But I decided to loosen that rule this year because 1, this my blog (so I can do whatever I want). And 2, I really really really wanted to mention this. What we have here is American hip-hop/bluegrass band (yes, that mix does work) Gangstagrass at various live venues, playing their songs, and making it all sound fantastic. Seriously, these are some of the best and most head-bobbing recordings I’ve heard of these songs. So yeah, my number 1 is technically cheating my own rules, but I also don’t care, because great music transcends everything.

So those were my favorite albums of 2019. But now I’d love to hear from your guys, what are some of your favorites? Let me know in the comments.
Have a good one.

Great Music #33

Well howdy, ladies and gents. You all doing okay? Anyway, time for me to ramble on once again about music I like. Which I last did in… September. I’m getting better at keeping semi-regular intervals with this series, it seems. Oh well, let’s chat about a tune.

The year is 1967. A group of people come together to form a band. This band was called Soft White Underbelly. This name wouldn’t last too long however, as in 1971 they would change their name into what we know them as today… Blue Öyster Cult. Best known for their legendary super hit “Don’t Fear the Reaper”, from the band’s 1976 album “Agents of Fortune”, the band went on to become fucking huge in the rock/metal scene. But today we’re not talking about that one song that needed more cowbell. We’re talking about an earlier track of theirs. It’s the final track from their 1974 album, “Secret Treaties”. This is “Astronomy”.
The song opens with a little piano piece that makes the listener go “Hmm, what’s this?”. It’s slightly mysterious. Then it gets more mysterious. Then Eric Bloom opens his mouth and starts telling a tale… and by the end, it has given us one of the band’s best songs. Though that maybe doesn’t say a lot considering how many great songs they have. But if it wasn’t for “Don’t Fear the Reaper”, then “Astronomy” would be my favorite song by Blue Öyster Cult. From Bloom’s engaging vocals, to the eclectic instrumentation, to the absolutely perfect structure and pacing. The song is a beautiful crescendo, starting with that simple and mystic opening, to a somewhat bombastic, yet dramatic-sounding finale to cap off the album. Again, this is my favorite song from the band… if you discount the cowbell song.

What are your thoughts on “Astronomy”? And what’s your favorite Blue Öyster Cult song that isn’t “Don’t Fear the Reaper”? Leave any and all thoughts in the comments.
Have a good one and enjoy.

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.