Great Music #38

Hey there, my friends, I hope you’re doing well. Welcome back to Great Music, the series where I ramble on about songs I enjoy. Been a while since last time… Jesus Christ, September 2020!? Man, I need to get better at doing these… anyhow, let’s talk music.

So what’s on our menu today? Well, I’ll tell you, just relax. So today we’re talking about a song by a band from my own home country of Sweden. The song I’ve chosen today is “I Sell My Kids for Rock’n’Roll” by Crucified Barbara… talk about eye-catching title.

Formed in Stockholm in 1998, Crucified Barbara was a hard rock/sleaze rock/metal band that had a decent audience for a while, but really came into the public eye when they competed in the 2010 Swedish Melody Festival (basically our lead-in to Eurovision) with their song “Heaven or Hell”. They then later broke up in 2016. Much like much of the general public, I didn’t really know about them until that one song. And even then, I didn’t immediately latch onto them (despite my love of rock and metal), that took another few years. But then I finally did, and “I Sell My Kids for Rock’n’Roll” has sort of become the one track I find myself going back to the most. It’s a rip-roaring belter of a song, with fast riffs, heavy percussion, and debaucherous lyrics. Now, this isn’t anything new within the world of rock music (Bill Idol, Mötley Crüe, and many more come to mind), but I feel that Crucified Barbara bring this unique energy within the song. I can’t quite put my finger on what, but they have this firey, balls to the wall attitude that makes this song stick out. Aaaaaand I love it.

Have a good one and enjoy the song.

My Favorite Albums of 2020

Hello there. I hope you’re doing well (unless you’re a racist piece of shit, then off you fuck). We have reached that time of year again. The time where I share my terrible opinions on a bunch of music. That’s right, once again I will share my favorite albums of the year that just ended. But before we begin, let’s lay down some ground rules.

Rule number 1: Let’s all be kind here. This is my list, my opinions, and I hope you can respect them. If you don’t agree with any of them, that’s fine. Just don’t be a dick about it in the comments section.

Rule number 2: I will not be including any greatest hits albums, as that’d just be cheating for very obvious reasons. Only albums of previously unreleased material.

Rule number 3: No soundtracks/scores from movies/tv/games for similar reasons as rule number 2. This is strictly a list of regular albums released by bands/artists.

With all that out of the way, let’s get into my favorite albums of 2020!

Number 11: Gangstagrass – No Time For Enemies (Sample: Nickel And Dime Blues)

Kicking it off with number 11 we have the latest release from eclectic music project Gangstagrass. For the uninitiated, Gangstagrass is a group that mixes bluegrass with hiphop. I’ve been a fan of them for a few years, and I was super excited to see them release some new material. And it’s really solid. It’s fun, but it also has some deeper meaning with a few of its tracks. It’s just good stuff.

Number 10: Hayley Williams – Petals For Armor (Sample: Simmer)

At number 10 is the first ever solo release from Paramore vocalist Hayley Williams. It’s very clear from the offset that this is a very raw and personal project for Williams, which brings us an album that is manages to both entertain as a general music experience, while also giving off a bit of a somber, introspective vibe at times. And that makes for a really interesting listening experience that I’d certainly recommend.

Number 9: Neil Young – Homegrown (Sample: Separate Ways)

Next up on the list is the latest release form none other than Neil Young (more like Neil Old, am I right?). And much like “Hitchhiker” in 2017, this album was actually recorded way back in the 70s, but has remained in the archives since then… until 2020 that is. And while not as terrific as the aforementioned “Hitchhiker”, there is no denying just how good Young is as a songwriter. You can tell that he was going through some stuff at the time, which translated itself a little into the songs themselves. And it makes for a really solid album.

Number 8: Blue Öyster Cult – The Symbol Remains (Sample: That Was Me)

Speaking of old people releasing new albums, Blue Öyster Cult’s back. 19 years after their last studio release, the band has come out with “The Symbol Remains”. And despite that long time between albums, it’s clear that these gents have lost none of their skill. What you get here is a healthy mix of the Cult’s older style, with some more modern influences sown throughout, making for a sound that shows the band’s ability to evolve without sacrificing what makes them unique and interesting. And I love that.

Number 7: Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown – Pressure (Sample: Pressure)

Coming in at 7th place is “Pressure”, the latest release from American hard rock act Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown. Crunchy guitars, scratchy vocals, ear-meltingly good solos, and some nice, driving percussion. It’s everything you could ask for in a good hard rock release.

Number 6: Alastair Greene – The New World Blues (Sample: Lies and Fear)

Ending the back half of this list is American blues rocker Alastair Greene’s latest release. And let me tell you, if you love blues rock as much as I do, then you’re in for a treat with this. What you get are some fun and frankly interesting lyrics, sung by someone with a really good blues voice. And as the cherry on top you get some absolutely excellent guitar work that is an absolute joy to listen to. It’s a damn good album.

Number 5: Joe Bonamassa – Royal Tea (Sample: Royal Tea)

Speaking of feelin’ the blues… Smokin’ Joe is back with another album. And once again he has managed to make his way onto a best of the year list. Is it possible that I might be a bit of a Bonamassa fanboy? Yes. But that’s also the beauty of this blog… I can let my fanboyisms fly, and no one can stop me. But in all seriousness, Bonamassa is an excellent musician whose craft improves with every new album he releases. And “Royal Tea” is further proof of that, bringing us more of the uniquely interesting lyrics/vocals and ear-melting guitar work I’ve come to expect from him.

Number 4: Deep Purple – Whoosh! (Sample: The Power of the Moon)

I’ll be honest, after 2017’s “Infinite”, I wasn’t sure if Deep Purple would make another album. But 2020 proved me fucking wrong with the release of “Whoosh!” (that’s a fun title). Do you like Deep Purple? Then you’re gonna fucking like “Whoosh!”. It has a lot of the staples we’ve come to expect from them in terms of style, just done to absolute perfection. Ian Gillan’s vocals are still top notch, there’s still good guitar work, and the heavy synth is still as fun as ever. Will this album be listed as a classic along “Machine Head” or “In Rock”? Only time will tell. But in this moment I can at least say without a doubt that it’s a fucking great album. A fucking great album called “Whoosh!”.

Number 3: Run the Jewels – RTJ4 (Sample: Ooh LA LA)

Taking the bronze on this list is the latest album from rap duo Run the Jewels. What’s extra fascinating about it is that they released the album for free on their website before the actual release date, as a gift in the harsh times of 2020. And that’s a cool fucking gesture on their part. And the album itself is great (its inclusion here shoulda been a dead giveaway), featuring plenty of great flows, lyrics with plenty of meaning, and a lot of fun beats. There’s also plenty of interesting guest appearances throughout that adds a lot to it. It’s just a top tier rap album, man.

Number 2: Sepultura – Quadra (Sample: Isolation)

I’ll be honest, for years I couldn’t get into Sepultura. I don’t know why, but for some reason I had a hard time seeing the appeal. But in recent years I have started coming around to them. And the latest album from the Brazilian metal band is some excellent stuff. It hearkens back to a lot of mid to late 80s thrash, while also featuring elements of death metal and even some traditional Brazilian music. And it makes for one of the most electrifying listening experiences I had in 2020.

NUMBER 1: Blues Pills – Holy Moly! (Sample: Kiss My Past Goodbye)

Here we are, friends. The final one. The gold medalist. El queso grande. My favorite album of 2020 is “Holy Moly!”, the latest release from Swedish psychdelic blues rock band Blues Pills. I stumbled upon one of their songs around two years ago, loving it. So I checked out a few more songs, loving those. Which had me eagerly anticipating whatever they’d release next. Cut to 2020 and “Holy Moly!” hits stores and streaming and wherever else their music can be found. And right from that first listen, I fell in love. This album is fun, funky, and absolutely electrifying. It’s simply fantastic.

So those were my favorite albums of 2020. And whether you agree with my picks or not, I hope you enjoyed reading through that. Maybe you even discovered a new favorite? Anyhow, if you have any favorite album from 2020, feel free to mention it in the comments.

Have a good one.

Great Music #37

Hello there, friends! I hope you’re doing well. So it’s time for another Great Music post. You know, those irregularly posted things of mine where I ramble about music I enjoy. Nothing deep, nothing analytical… just good tunes. So let’s get into it.

So last time we went for a somber ballad. But today is a little different. It’s still a song with an interesting narrative baked into it, but it’s presented in a slightly more digestible and (for lack of a better word) fun package. Today we’re talking about “I Was Just a Kid” by Nothing But Thieves.

Hailing from Southend-on-Sea in the UK, Nothing But Thieves is a rock band in a similar vein to Royal Blood. And in 2017 they released their album “Broken Machine”, an album all about how nothing in this world is perfect. On said album is “I Was Just a Kid”, a fast-paced rock tune with relatively mellow vocals on verses and loud shouts on the chorus, a combination befitting a song about the loss of innocence. Combine this with thumping percussion, driving guitar, and some nice bass to back it up, and you get a really great song. So on the surface it can be seen as just a fun hard rock tune, but if one cares to delve deeper, nuance can be found. And I guess that dichotomy is part of what has helped me appreciate it. Because I first discovered it while playing “Need For Speed: Payback”, getting pumped up by it as I tried to beat my opponents in various races. And since then I’ve learnt to appreciate its deeper meaning. So that’s cool.

Have a good one and enjoy!

Great Music #36

Hello friends, I hope you’re doing well. Yes, it’s finally time for another entry in Great Music, the series on this blog with the most self-explanatory title possible. It’s been a while since last time, which was back in May. If I continue the series at this exact rate I’ll reach the fiftieth one by the time I turn 30. Anyhow, let’s see what tune I wanna ramble about today!

So for this one I wanted to bring things down a bit. Some entries in this series have had big, loud, fun tunes that you could probably move your booty to. But today is not one of those. Today we’re getting a bit more somber. Today we’re talking about “Too Many Tears” by Celldweller.

The lyrics of this song are very contemplative, using a lot of strong imagery in its lyrics to convey agony in various forms. It’s strong stuff… it was also not written by Celldweller (real name: Klayton). It’s originally a song by a band called… The Call. And before you ask, yes I did check out their original version. The lyrics are of course powerful, absolutely stunning. However, I feel like the sound might be a little bit off for it, and so did Klaytondweller apparently. And this led to him covering the song for his 2017 album “Offworld”. And I absolutely love this rendition of the song. The instrumentation is incredibly somber and otherworldly (fitting, given the album title), really making this version its own thing compared to the original. Klayton makes it stand out. This is also where I should mention that I found out about this very t2alented man through a fucking racing game. Two of his songs (“One Good Reason” and “Shapeshifter”) were featured in the video game “Need For Speed: Most Wanted”. And I liked those songs which led to me checking out more of Celldweller’s stuff, which naturally led me to this absolutely stunning track. If you in any way enjoy heavy metal or nu-metal or some electronica, I highly recommend checking out a lot of Celldweller’s output. So while we’re at it, you may as well start with “Too Many Tears”.

Have a good one and enjoy.

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!

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.

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 #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.

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.