Category Archives: Reviews

Review of Bayside’s Vacancy album

 

Vacancy Baysiders
Bayside’s New Album: Vacancy

American emo rock band, Bayside, recently released their seventh studio album, Vacancy, on August 19, 2016. With its relatable content and matured emo roots, it’s the punk rock ballad album I needed as an angsty twelve-year-old looking for musical direction.

Vacancy opens with ‘Two Letters’, gritty guitar riffs slipping seamlessly under Anthony Raneri’s iconic vocals. It’s hard to articulate the heaviness you feel inside when you hear certain songs but when Raneri sings ‘I hope you understand; I’m not prepared to call you just a friend’, it almost gets easier. Vacancy is a break up album almost, but not your typical break up album. There’s no sad ballad, no self-pity, there’s just the truth.

The track ‘Pretty Vacant’ (not sure if that’s a Sex Pistols reference or not) is arguably one of the happiest tracks on the album. It’s a stand out track, one that dares listeners to sing along. Raneri’s voice is rough and edgy as he confesses, ‘Now I can’t call the shots and uncomfortable is so comforting,’ and listeners are led in this confession with him.

Vacancy winds down quickly with its last three tracks, ‘The Ghost’, ‘It Doesn’t Make It True’, and ‘It’s Not As Depressing As It Sounds’. They focus on deeper issues such as divorce and close the record softly, leaving the listener feeling introspective.

Once again Bayside provides their listeners and fans with a gut wrenching, emotionally excruciating style of music. They continue to stand out even after 16 years in the music industry. While some songs are not as strong as others, Vacancy is a solid body of work that deserves to be listened to.
Favorite Tracks: Two Letters, Enemy Lines, Pretty Vacant, Rumsprings (Return to Heartbreak Road)

Rating: 9/10

Art with a Bang

Artist Profile: Pedro Reyes

Piece: Disarm Project

Pedro’s collection of eight instruments composed of the remnant weapons confiscated by the Mexican Army. This project is actually the second of its kind after Pedro’s Imagine series back in two thousand twelve. Reyes worked in conjunction with musicians as well as Cocolab when crafting the pieces. When we look at each piece we can see the very obvious weapons used. Shotguns, pistols, and even rifles all put together to bring these works to life.

In fact, the weapons now have a new life as they are not simply sculptures. Each construct is a mechanical instrument able to play pre-composed concerts from a computer. Part of the inspiration for such creation was from Reyes’s trip to a recycling plant the Mexican government used to turn seized fire arms into raw materials. Reyes believed these guns could be used to bring life instead of taking it.

Reyes has received acclaim all over the world having showed his works at Art Basel Miami and the Venice Biennial. In an interview with The Creator Project he was quoted as saying, “I believe that the purpose of art is to come up with ways to transform the most negative instincts into creative instincts…I want my work to be useful for social and psychological transformation,”. Anyone who has had the pleasure to view his works will agree that he is repeatedly doing just that. We cannot help but admire the thought of firearms making music, the instruments ring, strum crash and hum. All together they create a sound Seductively simply but watching the instruments play is all together haunting and beautiful.

These pieces truly bring out the thought provoking notion of what we could be using the materials for instead of weapons. Having travelled some of the most violent places of Mexico none of us could have grasped this as Pedro Reyes has. Surely in the future we will see great things from Pedro that will continue to inspire us to see the potential for beauty even in the darkest creations.

 

 

 

Sources

http://pedroreyes.net/disarm.php

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YwQp16D-TqQ

http://thecreatorsproject.vice.com/en_uk/show/pedro-reyes-disarm-turning-weapons-into-instruments

Bad Vibrations

‘Bad Vibrations’, released on September 2, 2016, is the hardcore album A Day to Remember fans have been waiting for since Homesick was released in 2009. Though the band tends to fluctuate between their sound somewhere between pop punk and metalcore, this album is decidedly on the heavier side of things.

The lead track and single ‘Bad Vibrations’ immediately reintroduced the band’s heavier style and set the tone for the rest of the album. With lead singer Jeremy McKinnon screaming ‘All around me, all consuming’ as deep guitar riffs seem to swirl around him, the listener is forced to pay attention to the bad vibrations that McKinnon himself can’t escape.

This heavy hitter just sets the stage for the rest of the album. With tracks like ‘Bullfight’, ‘Naivety’, and ‘Exposed’ ADTR makes it clear, they’re not messing around. ‘Naivety’ reeks of just that. It’s hardcore but at the same time dips into the bands pop punk roots, while also including that ambient background noise in the beginning that ADTR is famous for featuring on their albums. It’s a solidly nostalgic example of their older writing.

‘Exposed’ is the old school metalcore anthem I didn’t know I needed until the first heavy riff began to play in perfect syncopation with my heart. When a quiet guitar leads into McKinnon shrieking, ‘Like a shark that’s combing the surface, we got a taste for blood’, and then the quickest, heaviest breakdown ADTR has ever written, you know you’ve found a winner.

The only problem with the album is the last two tracks. They are the weakest on the album and are boring compared to the rest of it. They do not carry the same type of sound and seem disjointed, as if they were just tacked on at the end.

Despite that, this is a solidly put together album with a little something for every type of hardcore fan out there. If you like heavier styles of pop punk, or simply find yourself in the mood for something a little different, give this album a listen!

Rating: 8/10

 

Best Tracks: Bad Vibrations, Exposed

Narcos is the new Breaking Bad

Netflix Originals are the new HBO shows. Netflix really takes drama to a whole new level with shows like “Orange is the New Black:. As much I love OITNB, Netflix has completely outdone themselves with their new series, “Narcos”.

I kept seeing references to “Narcos” but didn’t give it much thought. Honestly, it didn’t look like something I’d be interested in. I’ve never claimed to be an action movie or show fanatic. Out of sheer boredom, I clicked on “Narcos” on Netflix and my life will never be the same.

Narcos is badass. For one, it’s based on real events in the life of Colombian drug lord, Pablo Escobar. The show often references actual pictures and videos of his real-life story. For example, Escobar’s famous mugshot where he’s grinning from ear to ear.

Is Narcos as intriguing as Breaking Bad? Graphic from IMDb
Is Narcos as intriguing as Breaking Bad? Graphic from IMDb

The next reason you should make time to figure out what the hype is about is the acting. The actors aren’t anyone immediately recognizable. However, that doesn’t hold the show back at all. Detective Murphy (Boyd Holbrook) had my heart the first time we see him in the intro of the season.

The best part of the show though is its attempt at getting into the heads of it’s characters. Wagner Moura, who plays Escobar, portrays the human emotions so vividly and perfectly. The show will also pull your emotions in so many different directions. At one point you’ll hate Escobar, yet during the next episode you’re quietly cheering for him.

These actors do such an amazing job of making you realize even the most sociopathic people are still humans with real emotions and families of their own.

If you liked “Breaking Bad”, you’ll love “Narcos”. “Breaking Bad” was very raw in a violent sense. I’m the kind of person who cringes when I see someone get hurt on TV, but if you’re the kind of person who likes action and gore, you’ll be on the edge of your seat watching how things go down.

Another more obvious reason you need to see “Narcos” is the sheer rawness of its details. It’s obviously very gory as Pablo and his men take the lives of thousands, I mean THOUSANDS, of people.

As horrifying as that is, it’s all based on real events. They even show crime scene photos at some points. The producers have done an amazing job in fact-checking while still making the show more desirable.

I will warn you, however, that there are a lot of sex scenes. If you think OITNB pushed the limits with their sex scenes, you’re going to be very embarrassed if you ever watch this show with your parents in the room.

Escobar is very committed to his wife, but also has a mistress so you can expect there to be a lot of sex scenes. There are also some references to the horrific sex trafficking that went on at this time in Colombia.

Overall, “Narcos” is just a very addicting show. If you’re looking for a new show to binge-watch, “Narcos” should be your first choice. I’m really looking forward to see what happens in Season 2 and how the producers push the envelope even further.

Ryan Adams vs. Taylor Swift

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that singer-songwriter, Ryan Adams has just come out with a cover of Taylor Swift’s entire album, 1989. Ryan Adams is mostly famous for his covers of popular songs such as Oasis’ “Wonderwall”. Despite covering many artists’ songs, Adams always finds his own sound, making his covers extremely unique.

ryan-adams-taylor-swift
“Despite covering many artists’ songs, Adams always finds his own sound, making his covers extremely unique.”

He made the decision to cover Swift’s newest album while going through a divorce with his spouse, Mandy Moore. Of the album, Adams said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly “there are elements that describe these situations—that describe interactions and the world of romance and the confusion of being alive and knowing how you fit in—all that stuff is there. It’s what we write about.”

While some fans were initially miffed at the prospect of their favorite songs being made over, as soon as Adams’ album dropped it became an instant success, albeit receiving mixed reviews.

Ian Crouch, in an article for The New Yorker,

describes Adams’ cover as “more sincere and sentimental than the original,” while others at Rolling Stone write it off as “melancholy”. One thing is for certain though, from his low tempo rendition of the pop hit, “Blank Space” to his chilling version of “Bad Blood,” Ryan Adams has created an album to rival the original.

While Swift’s sound is very “Top 40’s” pop, Adams’ has a much more “indie rock” meets “90’s alternative” vibe, causing the songs to sound vastly different than their originals. Ryan Adams’ versions of Swift’s songs are much less upbeat and sadder provoking many to speculate that the pain that Adams pulls from Swift’s music sets him above her talent-wise.

I, however, feel that Adams’ heartbreaking renditions of the “1989” tracks simply present Swift’s lyrics in a different light. Taylor Swift has released heart-wrenching albums before, such as “Red“. Her songs are naturally sad and full of disappointment over failed relationships.

Instead of playing up that aspect of her lyrics on “1989,” Swift instead masked the underlying pain with catchy dance beats. Adams’ take on Swift’s songs brings this hurt to light.

One twist that Adams’ takes with Swift’s songs that critics have yet to mention is the “80’s rock” feel to tracks such as, “Welcome to New York” and “I Know Places”. In fact each song on the album sounds like it’s from a different era of rock ranging from the 80’s to today. This nostalgic feel works well with the title of the album.

Both albums are truly phenomenal; Taylor Swift is a terrific performer as well as songwriter. However, Ryan Adams’ covers took an album that could’ve almost been written off as “cheesy pop” and gave it back the meaning that the lyrics demanded. While Adams’ album won’t get you amped up for a night out on the town like Swift’s original will, it’s amazing easy listening music and deserves five out of five stars.

Batman: The Arkham Night review

There have been massive improvements with narrative in video games since the last Arkham game was released. Immersion has always been a key factor of the Arkham series and Arkham Knight is no different.

Even with new additions such as the Batmobile, Arkham Knight still plays like it belongs in the company of the first two games. The controls are just as fluid as ever, supported by combat that’s flexible.

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Arguably, the calling card of the franchise, predator mode (a feature that requires the player to use stealth and gadgets to eliminate opponents) still demands some skills; it leaves you feeling like Batman more than anything else.

Arkham Knight also offers new enemy types such as the medic and ninjas who seem to be influenced by Scott Snyder’s “Court of Owls” storyline. These new enemy types make older strategies more difficult to execute, while enemies adapt to each new situation; however, this is counter-balanced by new abilities such as multi-fear takedowns.

Although experimentation was appreciated, segments that demanded the Batmobile for puzzles and combat leave the impression that it was an unnecessary inclusion.

The thrill of driving Batman’s car lasts for the first couple of missions, but after a while it becomes an annoyance. At times, the player wonders if they’re playing two separate games when the Batmobile is and isn’t in use. Unclear destination points don’t help matters either.

This is the first game featuring the Batmobile and with more time it could be just as interesting as the other mechanics are.

Without spoiling anything, the story takes place after the death of a certain character. This character unexpectedly returns in a way that goes beyond the standard D.C. and Marvel resurrections. As the game progresses, this character becomes a major driving point of the narrative.

Arkham Knight analyzes what Batman represents as a figure; often the merit of the beast that’s able to wrestle with god-like beings is questioned.

Arkham Knight also introduces a new antagonist named after the game. Despite the disappointment of the character’s identity, he effectively drives the themes home.

Speaking of themes, another reused idea is Batman’s relationship with the Bat-Family. The division between them is more substantial than ever.

The most enjoyable part of this game is how the “resurrected” rogue played a role in debilitating Batman. This character (when used properly) haunts Batman, which Arkham Knight sadistically took advantage of.

Batman’s history is laid bare during these scenes, teasing that the image of Batman is a myth, and an unreliable and flawed one at that.

These moments, in spite of how creative they are, read like a greatest hits moments between Batman and his rogue. Even though this character is defined largely by history, new possibilities for him are itched but never fully opened.

The tides are turned in the end, and new opportunities for environment interaction grew out of how he is defeated. It’s also a fitting final dance between him and Batman.

In many respects, this is Batman’s Swan Song. Despite Arkham Knight’s few flaws, it’s a worthy addition to the series and worth replaying.

It’s Such a Beautiful Day review

“It’s Such a Beautiful Day” has done something few things can – its held my attention.

Sure, the film is a quaint 62 minutes and yes it’s a downright absurdist film, but damn it I am enamored.

After watching it for the first time I gave 30 minutes to chew on what I’d just watched before diving back into its beautiful depths. The day after I couldn’t help but rant and rave over its brilliance: the subtly of things that happen in life, the beauty in everything.

Don’t be fooled by my (nearly) over zealous praise; “It’s Such a Beautiful Day” has some dark nihilistic moments. This movie is for those with a craving for a philosophical and psychological plot. This isn’t mindless entertainment this is life.

Released in its entirety in 2012 “It’s Such a Beautiful Day” is composed of three chapters. All three sections focus on the life of a guy named Bill. Plot twist: Bill is essentially a stick figure.

 

 

A style that speaks only to the present but with a meaning that says everything exists all at once.

Chasing Life Season One

ABC Family brings forward a new plot. “Chasing Life” is centered around 24-year-old April Carver (Italia Ricci). April is an ambitious young woman who works hard to get what she wants. She has an entry-level reporting job at the Boston Post, where she makes little money and earns no recognition. Yet she uses these setbacks as obstacles to triumph over. April decides to use a hospital blood drive in order to get access to a possible lead. After giving blood, April passes out cold. Coincidentally, April’s estranged uncle George (Steven Weber) is an oncologist at the same hospital. Without April’s permission, he tests April’s blood and diagnoses her with leukemia. The television show follows April’s life after her diagnosis, and cancer is not the only bomb dropped in her lap. From juggling two boyfriends to her dead father’s love child, this show never has a dull moment.

Chasing Life Cast. Graphic from Backstage
Chasing Life Cast. Graphic from Backstage

“Chasing Life” isn’t just about cancer. Yes, cancer rears its ugly head every episode, but the show adds more dimensions to its plot. April is making headway in her new job and begins a steamy flirtation with a ridiculously handsome entertainment writer named Dominic (Richard Brancatisano). If that wasn’t enough, her family just lost her father, and now she must tell them that she’s dying as well. No one can blame the girl for wanting to keep this life-changing event to herself for a bit. Unfortunately, cancer waits for no one. As this tragedy comes to light, April has to deal with the aftermath which sets her life down a path she never planned for. Along the cancer path, April meets Leo, who’s suffering from cancer. There’s undeniable chemistry between the two, which puts April in the most complicated love triangle ever seen on television. Now for the love child! April’s father had a love affair which resulted in the creation of Natalie, who’s only a bit younger than April (Jessica Meraz). Completely unaware of Natalie’s existence, April stumbles upon her at her father’s grave. April’s life is completely turned upside down and shaken for good measure, yet April still manages to summon enough strength to see her through.

“Chasing Life” isn’t just a story about cancer. It’s about the life of a woman who has everything to lose and refuses give a single thing up. This show doesn’t butter cancer up. People die and others get cancer again. It’s April’s fighting spirit that keeps us hooked to the screen instead of looking for yet another box of tissues.

 

 

All Time Low – Future Hearts Review

All Time Low is a pop punk project that sprung out of Baltimore in 2003. Influenced by notable pop punk band Blink-182, All Time Low was on the forefront of the softening of the punk scene. With their sixth album Future Hearts, they continue the trend of teenybopper pop punk power ballads and casual emo revival.

Future Hearts album cover. Graphic from Alter The Press
Future Hearts album cover. Graphic from Alter The Press

Future Hearts was released on April 7. The album is very unceremonious, which unfortunately is the merit of not taking any risks. While the tracks are catchy and mildly interesting, they’re lackluster. Maybe that’s one of the best aspects of the pop punk genre. While the music is catchy, it’s also very one-dimensional and therefore easy to like.

This is unsurprising, considering this album was produced by John Feldmann. He also produced their 2011 album Dirty Work, a body of work criticized almost entirely for being bland and emotionless. If anything, Future Hearts is everything that Dirty Work could have been. Following their heaviest album to date, 2012’s Don’t Panic, the band chose to adopt a more mainstream sound. This, combined with the crisp vocals of lead singer and guitarist Alex Gaskarth, are what support this album almost entirely.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. With their ‘poppier’ sound, the band extends their reach to a larger audience. Tracks such as “Satellite” are guaranteed to get radio play while others like “Don’t You Go” and “Kids In The Dark” are catchy and lyrically enticing. However, it isn’t as strong as their earlier albums. I expected a lot more creativity and musical originality from the sixth album of a band I’ve been following since the early 2000s and was let down a little by this most recent project.

“Kicking And Screaming,” “Something’s Gotta Give” and the indie pop-esque “Runaways” carry this album with their energy and heavier instrumentation. The track that stood out the most to me was the acoustic “Missing You,” which features mandolin riffs and weird folk vibes. The cameos on the album, which include Joel Madden and Mark Hoppus, are forgettable and two-dimensional.

All Time Low performing at RU last fall. Graphic from YouTube
All Time Low performing at RU last fall. Graphic from YouTube

At the end of the day, Future Hearts is a solid body of work with a consistent sound. However, the grey-scale, lack of emotion, and quieter instrumentation take a lot away from the final project as a whole. Regardless of this, it’s an incredibly captivating album — and if you can look past these few errors, should be a nice soundtrack to the summer.

Rating: 7/10

Favorite Tracks: “Don’t You Go”, “Missing You”

 

The Maine discography

The Maine formed in 2007 in Tempe, Arizona. They are part of a very small collection of bands that has somehow managed to maintain it’s original lineup for roughly 7 years. John O’Callaghan is responsible for their distinct vocal sound, setting them apart from other pop punk bands and making them stand out despite belonging to a very monotonous genre.

 

Their most recent release American Candy, is just that – sweet, an odd contrast when compared to their last album Forever Halloween. With an incredible 90s alt-rock vibe, it’s the perfect summer album. Tracks such as Am I Pretty? (“It’s such a pity, no one adores me yet, so make me up in a shade that fits me, tell me love oh ‘Am I pretty?’”) and English Girls (“Smoke whatever you’ve got left, it’s getting late and we don’t have much to lose”) keep you hooked from the very beginning. It’s incredibly rare to find an album that is consistent with its message despite the differing tracks.

 

To me everything about American Candy is about not fitting into the universe as a whole but making our own little homes among the people we love. Their unique bubblegum pop-punk sound is back after the 2013 release Forever Halloween. It is briefly interrupted by “24 Floors”, a track that is the auditory personification of a suicidal thought. Like the rest of the album, it somehow manages to be strangely uplifting, exclaiming, ‘You don’t wanna die tonight. Take one more breath to clear your mind. This moment is relevant’.

the maine

O’Callaghan keeps the feeling going strong with ‘(Un)Lost’, a very vague call to arms, declaring “I’m unaware where I’m going or if I’m going anywhere at all but I know I’ll take the leap if it’s worth the fall.” This persistent emotion, encouraging the listener to chase happiness and take chances, is something that my musical repertoire has been sorely lacking lately.

 

The closing track “Another Night On Mars” is perfect for a summer night spent with friends. As I listened, I wasn’t alone in my room anymore. I was back in 2010. My best friend has just gotten her driver’s license and we are on our way. I don’t know where we’re going and I don’t know why but I don’t care.

 

That’s something special. The ability of this album to keep me happy and nostalgic while still holding some surprises is definitely it’s biggest strength. As the music slows and the last lyrics ring out, I already know that I’m ready to listen again and I bet you’ll feel the same.

 

“What’s another night on Mars, with friends like ours anywhere is home…”

 

Album rating: 9/10

 

Favorite Tracks: ‘Am I Pretty’, ‘(Un)Lost’, ‘American Candy’

Jane The Virgin: Season 1

Jane the Virgin is an all new and original series that has captivated the hearts of hundreds of people. This gem of a TV show has so many aspects that have never been seen together; romance, murder, love triangles, telenovela vibe, a tender-loving family, notorious drug dealer and that’s only scrapping the surface.  This comedy-drama follows the life of a bright young woman who is accidentally artificially inseminated and oh did I mention shes still a virgin? Jane (Gina Rodriguez) is a high-achieving college student who pays the bills by waitressing at a wealthy Miami resort. She has a handsome and ridiculously patient boyfriend, Michael, that she hasn’t has sex with in the two years that they’ve been dating. Jane is blessed to be apart of a very loving family however every family has it’s “uniqueness”.

Graphic from IMDb.
Jane, a virgin gets accidentally artificially inseminated. Graphic from IMDb.

Young Jane lives with her very religious abuela (Ivonne Coll) and not so religious mother (Andrea Navedo). So how do these influential women tie into Jane’s abstinence? Her abuela gave Jane an intense talk (Two words: Wilted Flower) about waiting until marriage and her mother’s free spirit only solidified what Jane’s abuela said. Jane’s life was going according to plan until she went for a routine check up and came out artificially inseminated. Now hold on to your heads here, the sperm belonged to Rafael who just so happens to be the sexy man Jane shared a kiss with a few years prier and did I mention he is her new boss? Complicated? Oh it gets better. The guilty doctor is Rafael’s sister and the the sperm was originally suppose to go to Rafael’s gold digging wife who is being investigated by guess who? Yup. Micheal. Jane’s cop boyfriend. Now this complicated cake would not be finished with out the very large cherry on top. Jane’s real father is the star of her favorite telenovela, The Passion of Santos. However, her mother neglected to tell Jane that important tibet. A lot going on in one show, right?

Jennie Snyder Urman is the talented show runner for Jane the Virgin. She effortlessly strings together all theses plots into one while still making it easy to follow. One creative way she does this is by using a telenovela styled narrator who gives humorous input on each character. This show has a lot of twists and turns that keeps the audience intrigued throughout the 22 episodes. The plot gets thicker and thicker as each episode ends and it never leaves the audience unsatisfied. The character’s gain new dimensions that make them more complex and interesting. Character’s originally disliked by the audience are later loved as more details come into light. This show is filled with jaw-dropping, heart warming, and head spinning moments that makes it’s almost impossible to wait another week for a new episode.

 

 

Cinderella: Have courage and be kind

Our favorite Disney film has been adapted dozens of times over the years. The most recent adaptation of Cinderella, by Kenneth Branagh,  beautifully depicted the tale of a commoner turned princess. The details in each scene were vivid and elaborate, which enhanced the fairy tale’s plot. From the “talking” mice to the golden pumpkin carriage, the movie made every woman and girl envious. The plot was only enhanced further by the skillful acting of each actor and actress. Of course the film is not entirely the same as the original tale, but the new adaptation does not take away its original splendor. The daring romance and visual gorgeous scenes leaves the audience completely riveted from start to end.

As we all know, Cinderella (Lily James) was forced to endure the cruelties of her stepfamily after the death of both her parents. Branagh went a step further than past adaptations by creating a personal connection with Cinderella’s parents. The beginning of the film showed the love that emanated from the family before the dark years. The movie did a beautiful job portraying the pain and courage Cinderella had to rely on as the audience witnessed the wake of both deaths. “Have courage and be kind” was the mantra that Cinderella’s mother left her before she died. This statement continued to pop up not only on the big screen but also from the mouths of children and adults as they exited the theater. Once again, Disney has made us stop and think about how we could become better individuals. If only the stepmonsters followed in Cinderella’s foot steps.

FullSizeRender
Photo By: Daniele Johnson

 

The stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and stepsisters (Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera) were exceptionally fair on the outside but incredibly rotten on the inside. The actresses did a wonderful job personifying the greed and selfishness of the antagonistic characters. On one especially horrid day, Cinderella had enough of their wicked ways and rode into the woods. There she meets a dashing stranger (Richard Madden), who, little does she know, is her Prince Charming. Richard Madden makes a dashing prince, from his heart-melting blue eyes to his heroic personality. As Cinderella’s and the Prince’s hearts grow closer, the plot thickens with fairy godmothers (Helena Bonham Carter) and glass slippers. I will not divulge anymore details about the plot, other than that it ends with happily ever after. This film will enchant all those who see it and most likely enchant them to pre-order it on DVD. The film is also preceded by a eight minute short titled “Frozen Fever.” This short is jam-packed with cuteness and fun. One detail about the short: Olaf gets little brothers! Remember! Have courage and be kind!

Death Cab for Cutie Discography Review

Death Cab for Cutie formed in Bellingham, Washington in 1997. Despite the original solo nature of the band, started by Washington native Ben Gibbard, the project was eventually expanded into group. Gibbard released a demo solo album titled You Can Play These Songs with Chords, which was widely received with positivity and eventually led to a record deal with Barsuk Records. He then invited more members to join the band, releasing three albums in four years. Until very recently the band was made up of Ben Gibbard, Nick Harmer on bass, Jason McGerr on drums and Chris Walla on guitar. Walla has since parted ways with the band.

Something About Airplanes, their debut album, was well received but unrefined. Even Gibbard has admitted that he isn’t sure what he was singing about at the time. It set up the general ‘aura’ that DCFC would eventually come to embody with its atmospheric composition and dynamic melodies. Their next two albums, We Have The Facts And We’re Voting Yes and The Photo Album, marked their place in the world of indie-pop with a more defined sound and a sobering commentary against the romanticization of the unromantic.

But it was their fourth album, Transatlanticism that marked the beginning of DCFC’s rise to stardom. The title track was once described to me as a song you would only share in secret with someone you love. To be honest the entire album is like that. It opens strong and before you know it, slows the pace down with a more mellow pop sound and heavy atmosphere. Each songs blends into the next perfectly, in a way that almost hurts you. The album embodies the weird tense feeling of butterflies you get in your stomach when you see the person you care about the most. It solidified Death Cab’s place in the indie/alternative music scene and propelled them into a place where they finally began to be recognized by the mainstream music scene.

Death Cab for Cutie signed to Atlantic Records to release Plans, which is possibly their most polished album yet. I might be a little biased because this is my favorite album. It got me through an abusive relationship; the subsequent break up as well as another relationship and break up. It’s not as rough and tumble as Transatlanticism but that doesn’t take away from the overall effect. Gibbard’s poetic lyrics make the album, as he chants “Your love is gonna drown.” Plans is the perfect album for the hopeless romantic with its continuous ballads punctured every once in a while with an upbeat track to lighten the mood. The album signified a definite transitional period in the band as they continued to develop their sound.

Narrow Stairs was released in 2008 to much surprise. The general consensus among fans is that it is probably the oddest Death Cab album to date. The subject matter is a lot darker, and they lose their polished sound, instead reverting back to the rawness introduced in Transatlanticism. It’s a desperate album, coupling ‘sunny’ orchestration with solemn lyrics. The lyric design is more like a stream of unconscious thoughts. Gibbard’s glassy, haunting vocals seem to weigh him down, almost like a confession. The closing track The Ice Is Getting Thinner exemplifies that feeling as he gently croons, “We’re not the same dear and it seems to me/ There’s no where we can go with nothing underneath.”

Gibbard is fairly infamous for name-dropping and the band’s seventh studio album Codes and Keys is a prime example. It was written two years into Gibbard’s marriage to Zooey Deschanel and references her several times (“She may be young but she only likes old things/And modern music, it ain’t to her tastes”, you aren’t being subtle Ben). While they retain their general sound, Codes and Keys is probably the least ‘pop’ album released by Death Cab since they broke into the mainstream music scene. It is incredibly texture heavy and sounds experimental in the way that it mirrors the band’s ‘normal sound’, almost as if they are covering their own tracks.

Kintsugi, Death Cab for Cutie’s eighth studio album, is scheduled to be released on March 31, 2015.

Fifty shades of GTFO

By now, you’ve either seen Fifty Shades of Grey — or you haven’t flushed $9 down the drain and ruined your stomach for sex.

(Oh, SPOILER ALERT for those of you who still intend to see it; stop reading now, you poor, unfortunate soul.)

For those like myself, who had the misfortune of seeing this abysmal excuse for soft porn, let’s examine all the reasons why we shouldn’t wish the sight of this shitshow on our worst enemies.

Firstly, there’s the overt and condescending phallic (that means penis) symbols. The concept is completely taken over the top after Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey’s first meeting, where the shy young woman literally takes a cold shower in the Seattle rain.

Of course, the incredibly terrible decision to not make significant changes to the characters, scenes, and writing brought the movie’s potential down to a frighteningly disappointing level. Development of characters may have existed, but it was hard to see past the giant leaps in time and the speed at which couples began to form for no apparent reason.

But the only reason not to see this movie that really matters, in this reviewer’s opinion, is the sex portrayed in Fifty Shades of Grey.

Whether or not you’ve ever been curious about, or even involved in, BDSM, let’s make it very clear that what Christian’s up to is no such thing. While he has much of the right equipment (frankly, a little too much), Christian’s idea of what a D/s (Dominant/submissive) relationship is fifty shades of fucked up.

While Christian Grey may have the right tools for BDSM, he does not have the right mentality.
While Christian Grey may have the right tools for BDSM, he does not have the right mentality. Graphic from NY Daily News.

Clearly, both leading characters have emotional issues that require serious professional help. However, the D/s relationship has stereotypically been an outlet for those who are not otherwise able to find expression for their more dominant or submissive sides. Though it isn’t unbelievable that Christian would want to Dominate in the bedroom as hard as he does in the boardroom, it seems unusual. However, this is explained to some satisfaction by his six years of abuse by an older woman, starting at the age of 15. While he describes it as a consensual sexual relationship,  15 isn’t a legal age of consent —  for any of the activities he and “Mrs. Robinson” got into.

Movie-Christian also doesn’t seem to understand the finer points of this subculture he considers himself an expert on, including one of the most basic principles: aftercare. Book-Christian did (at least at first) remember to help the inexperienced Anastasia through her first recovery after a spanking. Unfortunately, the director must have felt this wasn’t very sexy and chose to omit the gentle caressing of Anastasia’s offended bottom after she cries to her mother.

The most important thing the Fifty Shades of Grey movie (and, in large part, the book) left out about BDSM relationships is that it isn’t about being “fifty shades of fucked up” — it’s about an intimate and mutually beneficial relationship. No sex needs to occur (though it’s very nice) in order for a couple to engage in a healthy BDSM relationship.

Let’s stress  “healthy,” as E.L. James and the movie both fail to represent any hint of a healthy relationship between the overly timid Anastasia and the controlling, possessive (to the point that he gets jealous before he’s even asked her out) stalker Christian. The man is clearly a nutbag and should have been arrested — not a turn-on.

To sum it up, the Fifty Shades of Grey movie ruined an almost tolerable collection of porn scenes that happened to fill in with the worst writing ever published — and it illustrated an abusive, terrifying relationship that misrepresents an entire subculture and will turn you off of any form of sex for some time.

Title Fight breaks down punk with Hyperview

Title Fight was formed in 2003 in Kingston, Pennsylvania. In July 2014 they announced they had signed to ANTI-Records on their instagram. They released their most recent album ‘Hyperview’ on February 3rd, 2015.

TitleFight
Album art for Title Fight’s new “Hyperview” album. Image taken from: wiux.org

To be honest I had a lot of expectations for this album after their 2012 release ‘Floral Green’. This album is decidingly not ‘Floral Green’. That isn’t to say it isn’t a good album in its own right. It’s just very different from what I expected. While musically, it is well written, it lacks the energy that I’m so used to hearing from this band. It makes up for it with a very dreamy ambient sort of sound.

“Chlorine”, the album’s first single, harkens to their old sound but replaces jarring chords with almost synthetic guitar riffs. This is a common theme in the album. This release marks Title Fight moving away from their melodic hardcore roots to emerge with a more shoegaze sound.

Hyperview is an album you can vibe to. From the opening track “Murder Your Memory” to the very end the atmosphere is oddly out of tune with the environment around the listener. Title Fight has generally been very grounded in the punk scene but with this album they break down punk constraints and other various musical barriers with their hazy, ambient instrumentation and heavy lyrics to go straight to your heart.

That’s the best part about this album – the emotion. Songs like “Murder Your Memory” and “Your Pain Is Mine Now” are quiet, but drag you down. While earlier releases expressed this feeling through energetic screams and almost violent guitar riffs, Hyperview relies on the listener’s ties to the music. It’s a tense feeling almost, but you’re left wondering when you began to feel that way.

As a long time fan and listener, Hyperview was almost uncomfortable for me, being such a drastic change in the band’s sound. The evolution of the band isn’t bad. If anything, it is an amazing album – just not in the genre we’ve grown to expect from them.

Album Rating: 7.5/10

Favorite Tracks: “New Vision”, “Trace Me Onto You”

American Sniper: Remembering our heroes

If you haven’t seen “American Sniper” yet, then go out right this moment and watch it.“But I have homework to do and a paper due tomorrow!” Excuses! Homework can wait. This movie is directed by Clint Eastwood and stars Bradley Cooper as Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. The film received a 7.6 out of 10 rating on IMDb and we all know how harsh their rating system is! “

Chris Kyle takes up arms after seeing a terrorist attack on TV and heads overseas with only one mission in mind: to protect the brothers that stand beside him. As time goes by, Kyle’s pinpoint accuracy with his sniper rifle brings him recognition and praise from the countless soldiers he saved. He earns not only the nickname “Legend” but also notoriety from a growing number of Iraqi enemies in the shadows. Kyle not only has to deal with the enemies trying to cash in on the price on his head but also the demons that plague his mind. Upon returning home, Kyle’s military experiences and his duties as husband and father clash because he’s unable to find a balance between the two. The movie gives a beautifully realistic view of the struggles Kyle faced during and after each of his four tours. From suspenseful action scenes to humorous ones, this film has all the components to keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.

Bradley Cooper plays Chris Kyle in American Sniper. Graphic from IMDb
Bradley Cooper plays Chris Kyle in American Sniper. Graphic from IMDb

The action scenes all take place overseas, naturally. The first scene opens up with Kyle perched on a housetop looking for abnormal individuals. A young boy and woman step out into the street and the woman gives the young boy (no more than 13-14 years old) what looks to be a pipe bomb. There is no visual confirmation of the pipe bomb, so Kyle must choose whether to shoot the boy or not. If that’s not a stressful situation, then I don’t know what is. The action scenes are so intense, you’ll feel more overwhelmed than disappointed.  So, to all my action movie lovers, I suggest you bump “American Sniper” to the top of your need-to-watchlist.

The scenes where Kyle is stateside hold the audience’s attention much like the action scenes do. Bradley Cooper perfectly depicted Kyle’s feelings of uselessness and failure when he’s home. As I mentioned earlier, Kyle’s one mission is to save the lives of his brothers-in-arms, and he feels he can’t do that if he’s not out there fighting the enemy. Watching his friends die around him only strengthens his resolve and as a result pulls him farther away from his family. The struggle between family and duty have been romanticized (cough, cough Love and Honor) in countless movies. However, Clint Eastwood finally put his foot down and showed the real pain that is embedded in the conflict.

“American Sniper” is a movie that every U.S. citizen needs to watch. It’s easy to go through life forgetting the men and woman laying down their lives in order to keep our country safe. This movie serves as a reminder that war is not an easy thing to carry on your shoulders and those who carry this burden deserve not only our respect but also our remembrance. Wow, that got deep. “Yeah it did but it was a good deep.” The moral of the story is to go and watch the movie based on Chris Kyle’s biography! “Buying my ticket now! Thank you Fandango!” SPOILER: As the movie ends, take notice that no one will be saying a word as they leave.

American Beauty/American Psycho review

On January 20th, 2015, Fall Out Boy released American Beauty/American Psycho. Just like Save Rock And Roll, the album that represented the end of their five-year hiatus, AB/AP is definitely more of a pop album, very similar to SRAR in a lot of ways.

To be honest, I liked Save Rock And Roll as a concept album. I think it represented a drastic change between 2008 Folie à Deux F.O.B. and the post hiatus feeling the band adopted, and I respected that. But part of me wondered if I was too old to like Fall Out Boy anymore. I  loved 2005 Patrick Stump yelling, “I swear I’d burn this city down to show you the light,” while Pete Wentz made headlines with his eccentric guyliner and scandalous cellphone pictures.

falloutboynew
“On January 20th, 2015, Fall Out Boy released American Beauty/American Psycho.”

When Save Rock And Roll came out, I had to force myself to listen to it several times before I could admit it had its good points despite having much more linear lyrics and a pop-oriented sound. I wasn’t incredibly comfortable with the band’s gravitation away from the emo/pop-punk music scene after so many years of knowing what to expect from them. I didn’t have to do nearly as much work with this album. American Beauty/American Psycho definitely represents a more masterful grasp of their new sound, while it also incorporates a lot of older symbolism and experimentation I grew to love in middle school.

“Irresistible” opens the album with hints of F.O.B.’s old sound mixed with softer vocals and relatively tame guitar riffs. I’m not sure it was the best song to list as the first track. It’s a generally good track but doesn’t really match the feeling of the rest of the album, which steadily builds the longer it goes on. That is the main issue with this release. It’s carried by several key tracks, while others fall short – not by much, but just enough to be noticeable.

Every F.O.B. album has that one slow jam, the almost-ballad. On AB/AP it’s “The Kids Aren’t Alright.” I experienced a weird version of nostalgia listening to Stump sing, “Fall to your knees, bring on the rapture, blessed be the boys time can’t capture,” after spending so many years hearing lyrics about how they were going to be forgotten. It characterizes this album as one of not only musical evolution but personal evolution within the band members as well.

One of the more powerful moments of the album is expressed through the song “Novocaine” in which Fall Out Boy really pushes Stump’s abilities. Not only does he reach new pitch levels that we haven’t really been exposed to before, but they open with heavier guitar/synth riffs making the songs not only one of the most impressively dance-oriented songs on the album, but also one of the boldest tracks in their entire discography.

I don’t think I’m ever going to be too old for Fall Out Boy. While Save Rock And Roll reintroduced the band as a more polished project, American Beauty/American Psycho marks them taking their place among today’s pop contemporaries. It’s raw power and industrial jungle pop sound (yes, I made that genre up, but I promise it fits) place AB/AP as not only a monument in Fall Out Boy history but also a representation of the cementation of the band’s rightful place in music history.

Album Rating: 8.5/10

Favorite Tracks: “Uma Thurman,” “Novocaine,” “Jet Pack Blues”

 

 

Interstellar takes humanity to a new dimension

Interstellar uses fifth dimension transcendence to wow its audience in a movie that can only be described as a modern day space epic.

Christopher Nolan, the director, kept his usual style of gloom, but interwove a slight sense of optimism. What’s impressive is the way the Nolan sets a scene, in the near future, that feels all too plausible. For a sci-fi movie to succeed it needs to feel believable for the onset; Interstellar does this and more all within the first ten minutes.

Interstellar movie poster. Graphic from IMDb
Interstellar movie poster. Graphic from IMDb

Archetypes are used with to capture the essence of a dying earth. If earth is the home of humans then its death can best be illustrated by using humanity as the brush. Much like The Sixth Sense, the film begins on the Cooper family’s farm. The audience comes to know the father as Cooper during his voyage through space (and later the fifth dimension). Cooper lives with his father and two child; Tom, who is destined to be a farmer and Cooper’s daughter, Murphy who’s intelligence helps Cooper stumble upon a secret NASA facility.

To create a near apocalyptic feel Nolan and the writers employ a dustbowl like weather that all too often ravages the Midwest setting. With the world ending NASA has created a secret mission that looks to find a new hospital planet for the human race.

Matthew McConaughey does a stellar job as Cooper. He brings amble emotion to his character which is a key component for the movie. Obviously the audience wants the human race to survive, but McConaughey displays a beautiful combination of awe and terror through out the new space classic.

The camera work is something that should be noted. Off the heels of the fluid cinematography of last years’ Gravity, Interstellar keeps things simple, but realistic. Instead of having a camera behind the spacecraft, Nolan is careful to keep camera mounted on the spacecraft during travel. This technique gives the film a sense of plausibility that is so vital to a sci-fi movie’s success.

Interstellar is so much more than simple space movie. While Gravity was so well received, it didn’t have much to it other than survival of a couple of astronauts. Interstellar is different because it’s the survival of the entire human race and directly deals with the morality of that.

Is giving up on those left on earth acceptable? Is it okay to artificially populate another planet so that we can survive?

From an existential point of view, Interstellar gives humanity a purpose: survival.