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Friday, June 28, 2013

Hillsong United -- Across the Earth

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After 2007's breakout All of the Above, which cracked the billboard charts, and two years of non-stop touring, Hillsong United must have been exhausted. There is a weariness to 2009's Across the Earth that shows the band going through the motions to a degree.
The opening trio of songs are decent enough, but sound like they could be live B-sides from All of the Above. The real meat of the album is found on tracks four, five, and six. Track four, "King of All Days" adds a driving beat and more aggressive guitar picking to the standard Hillsong ballad sound, a stunning vocal switch at the 3:52 mark, and a great payoff at the end

"King of All Days" flows smoothly into the next standout, Brooke Ligertwood's "Desert Song." Ligertwood was All of the Above's breakout star, and she doesn't disappoint with "Desert Song," lyrically, vocally, or musically.
Then it begins. The traditional Hillsong ballads. Things start off well with "Oh You Bring," easily the best of the bunch, with its twists and turns and powerful crescendo. United could have easily followed this song with a fast-paced track, but no--a seven minute ballad wasn't enough. It's time for a ten-minute ballad! Don't get me wrong, "Tear Down the Walls" is a beautiful, powerful song, but paired with "Oh You Bring," that's 17-minutes of ballad. That indulgence might be forgivable, but Ligertwood's "Soon" follows, and while it too is beautiful, it slows down the pace even more. Time for a pick me up, though, right? Nope, it's time for "You Hold Me Now," another eight-minute ballad! And then "Arms Open Wide," another six minute...ballad! Both songs are beautiful, but that's five straight ballads totaling 37 minutes. That is just too much balladry. Though the songs are gorgeous, passionate, and powerful, they are exhausting. To further my not-really cookies metaphor from my All of the Above review, near the end of this stretch of songs feels like you've been eating awesome cookies all night to the point that you are lying in a puddle of sweat and your skin is tingling, but you know that your alarm is going to go off in an hour, and you're going to have to go to work, and all you want to do is sleep.
The decision to return to live recording after the studio-recording success of All of the Above is an interesting choice here. All of the Above was such an artistic boost for the band, Across the Earth can't help but feel like a step back. Still, it is such an overpowering wave of a listening experience, I can't help but recommend it anyway.

2009 Hillsong Music Australia
1. Freedom Is Here 5:39
2. No Reason to Hide 4:42
3. More Than Anything 3:53
4. King of All Days 6:18
5. Desert Song 4:40
6. Oh You Bring 7:02
7. Tear Down the Walls 10:21
8. Soon 5:47
9. You Hold Me Now 8:27
10. Arms Open Wide 6:17
11. Your Name High 5:04
12. Yours Forever 3:39

Thursday, June 27, 2013

You Shouldn't Expect the Feeling to Go Away

It's the trade-off for actually having had something.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Hillsong United -- The I Heart Revolution: With Hearts As One

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Hillsong United decided to follow All of the Above, their biggest triumph yet, with a victory lap. The I Heart Revolution follows the best incarnation of the band to that date around the planet as they play their best songs. Almost every corner of the globe is represented, with performances from every continent but Antarctica included on this double album. The performances are edited together into one thrilling, 2.5 hour show, where even most of the band's ballads are full of energy. Crowd enthusiasm is high, and United's performances are powerful and passionate, though the second disc does hold a clear edge over the first. While 155 minutes is a whole lot of music, you probably aren't going to just listen to the whole thing in one chunk. You could clean your house with it on, or just leave it playing in your car for a week. The album flows along well, but it isn't necessary to sail the entire river to enjoy it. That metaphor was a little too wet. That pun was a lot of fun. That rhyme makes me want to...whoops, outta gimmicks...
Hillsong United also released a companion DVD to the album that enhances the international flavor. For instance, the CD version of "From the Inside Out," recorded in Brazil, is in English, but the DVD includes the Argentinean recording...sung movingly in Spanish. It got my Grinch off the mountain.

2008 Hillsong Music Australia
Disc A
1. The Time Has Come 6:24
2. One Way 3:37
3. What the World Will Never Take 4:15
4. 'Til I See You 6:05
5. Take All of Me 8:02
6. The Stand 5:32
7. You'll Come 6:22
8. Break Free 4:09
9. Look to You 4:14
10. Where the Love Lasts Forever 6:03
11. Forever 4:15
12. There Is Nothing Like 7:49
13. Tell the World 4:34
14. All Day 5:18
Disc B
1. Take It All 3:36
2. My Future Decided 3:34
3. All I Need Is You 6:00
4. Mighty to Save 5:04
5. Nothing But the Blood 3:49
6. Hosanna 6:13
7. Fuego De Dios (Fire Fall Down) 1:40
8. Shout Unto God 4:14
9. Salvation Is Here 4:03
10. Love Enough 3:04
11. More Than Life 6:29
12. None But Jesus 7:58
13. From the Inside Out 5:59
14. Came to My Rescue 3:43
15. Saviour King 7:03
16. Solution 5:55

Monday, June 24, 2013

What I'd Like to Do to Calc II

Hillsong United -- All of the Above

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Considering that people essentially "graduate" from Hillsong United as they get older, it's hard to pinpoint the reason for United's positive artistic growth over the years. Maybe it's learning from predecessor's work. Maybe it's the college football effect, i.e. a more talented class of youngsters comes in and produces better results. Being in your thirties makes saying the word "youngsters" so much more satisfying. Whatever the cause, the group of individuals who created All of the Above, Hillsong United's first studio album, and the group's 10th album overall (the first nine were all recorded live), easily created the entity's finest work to that point.
Previous releases already featured power and weight, but little momentum or pace. The songs on All of the Above are not only better than those found on the band's previous work, but the album actually flows smoothly from end to end. It's not fast song, slow ballad, slow ballad, slow ballad, fast song, etc. The delineations in tempo and rhythm are far more intuitive here. In other words, Hillsong United's first studio album is actually an album. When something has power, weight, and momentum, it becomes a very dangerous machine. "Dangerous" is certainly not a word one would have associated with Hillsong United's previous work, but it applies here. Don't get me wrong, All of the Above still occasionally wanders into the frozen territories of boring balladry, but those moments are few and far between. The slower songs here are full of passion and bridled, but electric energy. The band use guitar effects and keyboard layers in ways they never have before. The album's final, slow-burning trio of powerful songs is reminiscent of...okay kids, I'm going to use a euphemism here. I'm not really talking about cookies, but...the last three songs are kind of like eating cookies in the middle of the night when you are nearly tired to the point of unconsciousness, and yet those cookies are somehow the best cookies you've ever had in your life.
Anyway...The clear breakout star of "All of the Above" is Brooke Fraser (now Ligertwood) whose memorable "Lead Me to the Cross" and album standout, "Hosanna," became surprise radio hits, boosting the group's name like never before.

These two tracks anchor the middle of the album, which would usually be the point where the band would paint by numbers. Instead, Fraser uses this part of All of the Above to lift the band to a whole new level. While it's clear Hillsong United have been listening to a lot of Sigur Rós (with a little Interpol and Editors influencing the snappier songs), their sound here is unique--no one will get this confused with the regular old Hillsong releases. Here's Adam Sandler on the subject:

2007 Hillsong Music Australia
1. Point of Difference 4:22
2. Break Free 4:07
3. Desperate People 5:29
4. Devotion 5:59
5. Draw Me Closer 1:26
6. Lead Me to the Cross 4:18
7. Found 6:02
8. Hosanna 5:30
9. For All Who Are to Come 3:37
10. Solution 4:37
11. My Future Decided 4:18
12. Never Let Me Go 6:01
13. You 5:03
14. Saviour King 12:16

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Hillsong United -- Best Friend

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After dominating the mid-90's worldwide worship scene, Hillsong Church had a pretty good idea: get out of the way and let the younger members of the church make their own music. The "grown ups" would continue to release albums under the "Hillsong" moniker, while the twenty-somethings would make their own albums as "Hillsong United." Sophomore year of college, my mother gave me Hillsong United's live-recorded "Best Friend," which features the United project still in its infancy and figuring out what they want to be.
The turn of the century featured the commercial height of "pop-punk," and the young adults of United give a nod to that on the album-opening, "My Best Friend." While "My Best Friend" is full of infectious, youthful energy, it suffers from a pretty extreme lack of spiritual depth in the lyric department, featuring the chorus, "Jesus, you are my best friend, and you will always be, and nothing will ever change that." The attempt to do something musically different is appreciated, but unfortunately, over the next nine tracks, it doesn't happen again often. As soon as track two, "Stronger Than" kicks off, the musical difference between Hillsong United and Hillsong vanishes. This song sounds like the opener to any mid-90's, adult-led worship service. As soon as "Stronger Than" ends, the rote, seven-minute Hillsong Ballads kick in. It's not that the ballads are badly done, it's that all stacked together they become the same, predictable, stagnant musical pool. What's worse: as mentioned above, these are the same boring ballads you would find on any regular old Hillsong album.
The momentum of the first track is stopped dead for a full twenty minutes by these songs before being briefly picked up by the energetic, youthful "I Live for You." Then it's back to the ballads. Again, they aren't awful songs, they just aren't interesting, and they're all piled together, rocks blocking what should have been a bubbling stream.
Surprisingly, a song that's already been done to death breaks the dam. The penultimate track, United's rendition of "Jesus, Lover of My Soul" is so passionate, it is annoying that the band didn't put this much thought and fire into the tracks that preceded it. For one thing, they come up with a powerful, piano-led intro unique to this rendition of the song. For another, there is actual conviction in the singing and performances. For worship music on this level to work, it has to sound like the topic of the song is the only thing that matters in the universe. Just singing the words isn't good enough.

In my opinion, this performance of "Jesus, Lover of My Soul" finally introduces the passion and the spirit United would later be known for. Too bad it doesn't happen until the album is nearly over.
Naturally, the energy of this song flows into the closer, "The Reason I Live," a far better stab at pop-punk than the opening track, combining "My Best Friend"'s energy with the conviction of "Jesus, Lover of My Soul." So here we have a decent opening track, two great closers, and seven tracks in between that aren't bad, but only mark time between the three. After a release like this, Hillsong United could have easily gone into obscurity. Thankfully, that didn't happen. And thanks to my mom, I can say, "Hillsong United? Yeah, I listened to them back when they kind of sucked."

2000 Hillsong Music Australia
1. My Best Friend 5:03
2. Stronger Than 3:32
3. Saving Grace 7:09
4. Forever 5:34
5. God of All Creation 7:36
6. I Live for You 4:59
7. Jesus Generation 5:05
8. I Will Sing 4:33
9. Jesus, Lover of My Soul 9:54
10. The Reason I Live 4:24

Monday, June 17, 2013

He Is Legend -- It Hates You

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By the end of 2004, I was too old for most of Solid State Records' roster. Since I grew up with old school metal and Solid State in its infancy, all the screamo bands the label had been signing at the time seemed beneath my college graduate ears. I lumped He Is Legend into that group to ignore, which may not have been entirely fair. Eventually, screamo morphed into whatever-core or something, but He Is Legend morphed into something else entirely: a group of dudes who just wanted to play the music they liked, regardless of popular tastes. Apparently, what He Is Legend really like is atmospheric rock music, and that's what I like, too, so everything worked out for the best. I'm hungry.
It Hates You is quite a collection of music. The performances sound like they are coming from a virtuoso group who know how to restrain themselves. He Is Legend are a band who can go heavy, but instead make the heaviness on It Hates You more of a "presence" thing, and not a screamy, smashy thing. This is comparable to smelling the greatest Christmas Dinner ever versus someone power-funneling blended Big Macs down your throat.
What is wrong with this review?
It is more difficult to describe music that doesn't adhere to genre rules than just tagging some words on a review of cookie-cutter crap. There ain't no cookie-cutter crap on It Hates You, just cookies. Like the old McDonalds cookies from the 80's that tasted like God baked them in Heaven. How did I just make negative and positive comparisons to McDonald's in the same review? You know what, this album's cover features an in-flight Pteranodon vomiting a laser beam at an unsuspecting ostrich's head. I'm gonna say whatever comes to mind in this review. Actually, I think the insanity of the cover contains some hidden depth about the difficulties of transformation. According to science, the Pteranodon, a flying, intelligent, dinosaur-like reptile, is an evolutionary precursor for birds, including the terrestrial-bound ostrich on the album cover. Through millions of years of evolution, the Pteranodon, a majestic, soaring creature, morphed into a flightless dunderhead, stuck with the stigma of burying its head in the sand when it is afraid. In other words, the Pteranodon used to be something awesome, and now it is something not. That's a major lyrical theme to It Hates You, turning from man to monster in a sense, though the music has actually transformed in the opposite direction, from trendish to rocking and transporting and haunting and powerful. Vocalist, Schuylar Croom, whose voice reminds me of a gritty, ballsy Sting, explores...pig freckles, now all I can think about are those McDonald's cookies. Wonder if anybody has any on Ebay?
Just go listen to this song and try not to smoke a cigarette after, okay?

2009 Tragic Hero
1. Dicephalous 4:04
2. Party Time!!! 4:13
3. Everyone I Know Has Fangs 3:26
4. The Primarily Blues 3:52
5. Cult of She 3:27
6. Stranger Danger 7:32
7. Don't Touch That Dial 4:14
8. Decisions, Decisions, Decisions 4:51
9. Future's Bright, Man 3:45
10. China White III 5:31
11. That's Nasty 5:35
12. Mean Shadows 6:50

Friday, June 14, 2013

Hanson -- Shout It Out

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Hanson follows "The Walk" with what is essentially, "Walking On Sunshine, The Album." The weight lent to "The Walk" by the band's trips to Africa is missing on Shout It Out. What's left are the standard, lightweight, pop-rock songs Hanson have staked their name on, except of course these guys are hitting their 30's now. That means these songs are well-written for what they are, and the aforementioned "Walking On Sunshine" is repeatedly referenced with snappy rhythms and a bunch of sunny horns. The exceptions are the more emotional ballads, where, truthfully, Hanson sounds pretty decent. Actually, the end of that statement sums up Shout It Out in its entirety. Pretty decent.
I mean, anyone who can get Weird Al to play tambourine in their video can't be that bad, right?

2010 3CG
1. Waiting for This 3:17
2. Thinkin' 'Bout Somethin' 3:45
3. Kiss Me When You Come Home 3:38
4. Carry You There 4:32
5. Give a Little 3:45
6. Make It Out Alive 4:34
7. And I Waited 4:01
8. Use Me Up 4:04
9. These Walls 3:57
10. Musical Ride 3:48
11. Voice in the Chorus 4:38
12. Me Myself and I 5:30

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Hanson -- The Walk

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My wife gave me the first shock early in our relationship.
"I have to tell you," she said, "that I'm kind of obsessed with Hanson."
My skin prickled. "Like how obsessed?" I asked.
Like most guys who came of age (went through our teens) in the 90's, my first experience with Hanson was that "MMMBop" video, and the thought that there is no way at least one of these people isn't a girl.
My wife and I made a deal. She would watch U2's Rattle and Hum film with me, and I would watch...Hanson: Tulsa, Tokyo, and the Middle of Nowhere.
I gathered two positives from Hanson's documentary:
1. Unlike boy bands, the Hanson brothers actually play their own instruments and write their own songs.
2. These little tow-headed terrors work their tails off.
With at least that much respect in mind, I braced for the release of 2007's The Walk, knowing that I was in for hearing it at least 1000 times.
Something cool happened, though. In all those years of touring and playing, the Hanson brothers got really good at their instruments and even better at songwriting. Also, at some point they did some volunteer work in Africa and got really serious. They even recorded with some kids in an African village for key points in the album, like on opening track, "Great Divide."

Of course, for the most part you still have your usual lightweight Hanson songs about life, and love, and all that stuff, but they're given a little extra weight by the patches of songs about social justice. Also, remember the tiniest little Hanson brother, the one who sounded like a chipmunk? He has a wife and kids now, as do his brothers, and he writes songs like this.

Yes, I'm as shocked as anyone that Hanson does not suck and is actually a talented trio of writers and musicians. It's kind of weird. The Walk is a good album. It's a little too long, but that's never a huge negative in my book.
So see what happens when you get married, kids? You don't think Hanson sucks anymore. Who's Hanson, you ask? Shut up, kids, and get off my lawn!

2007 3CG Records
1. Intro (Ngi Ne Themba) 0:24
2. Great Divide 3:59
3. Been There Before 3:32
4. Georgia 3:47
5. Watch Over Me 4:54
6. Running Man 3:41
7. Go 4:04
8. Fire On The Mountain 2:42
9 One More 4:10
10. Blue Sky 3:37
11. Tearing It Down 3:04
12. Something Going Round 3:12
13. Your Illusion 5:00
14. The Walk 5:03

Monday, June 10, 2013

Hans Zimmer -- Inception: Music from the Motion Picture

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Inception is a rare beast, the idea film with action scenes set on a huge scale. We really haven't had one this good since Bladerunner in 1982 (I consider the Matrix trilogy to be action films with ideas, though that line of films is pretty rare in itself). Both films share a common theme: are we real? Bladerunner's Deckard hunts "replicants" of humans, but he may unknowingly be one. Inception's Cobb plunders dreams, but he himself might be dreaming. Neither film's ending is conclusive. The viewer doesn't know what the origami unicorn means, and it doesn't know if the top falls. Theme isn't the only thing these films have in common. Both film's soundtracks are a combination of organic orchestrations and synthesizers.
Vangelis' Bladerunner soundtrack is more synthesizer heavy (befitting the time of its release, and its film's setting farther in the future), and Zimmer's leans more toward his trademark percussive, symphonic bombast. Inception's score sounds most reminiscent of Zimmer's work in The Dark Knight. Though Inception's soundtrack contains less themes than The Dark Knight's, they are just as iconic as Batman's. Who doesn't immediate think of the "doom sound" at the end of track six, "528491" when they think of the film?

On an extreme nerd side-note, I feel like Cobb's character is the only one to receive a specific theme because the other characters are purposely ciphers--they are only there to help him achieve his ends, leaving open the very real possibility that his dreaming brain constructed them. As I previously mentioned, Inception: Music from the Motion Picture doesn't contain as many distinct themes as Zimmer's Soundtrack for the Dark Knight, but the music here feels a bit more complex, and most importantly, is actually pieced together as an album. This makes the listening experience far more enjoyable. While there's still that annoying out-of-film-order thing going on that one usually finds in soundtracks, these tracks flows together pretty excellently, only blurring in the final quarter. Zimmer and the album producers perform some excellent segues, particularly the electronic distortion that takes the previously mentioned midpoint "528491" into the fast-paced, world-music influenced percussion and synth/symphony combo, "Mombasa." So while Dark Knight's soundtrack might contain some higher highs, Inception's has more depth and consistency, placing both soundtracks on equal ground. Wait, I was supposed to be comparing Inception to Bladerunner. Crap. I blame this lack of review cohesion on the possibility that I am either dreaming or a robot...or both.

2010 Reprise
1. Half Remembered Dream 1:12
2. We Built Our Own World 1:55
3. Dream Is Collapsing 2:28
4. Radical Notion 3:43
5. Old Souls 7:44
6. 528491 2:23
7. Mombasa 4:54
8. One Simple Idea 2:28
9. Dream Within a Dream 5:04
10. Waiting for a Train 9:30
11. Paradox 3:25
12. Time 4:35

Friday, June 07, 2013

The Nicsperiment's Summer Break Movie Mini-Reviews, Part One

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Well, my short summer break is officially over. I begin Calculus II on Monday. I'll have another short break before the fall semester, so hopefully this entry will have a part two.
I didn't see any movies this spring, so I decided to rent as many and go to see as many as I could over the last month. Here are two sentence reviews of each. Because the one star to four star film review scale is limited, outdated, and silly, I am going to score these on a one to ten basis, just like my music reviews. Also, I got a minor in film theory in college the first time through, so that slightly elevates my perspective from "some jackass" to "some jackass who got a film minor a decade ago."
In alphabetical order:

Argo -- 9/10
Apparently, in the world we currently live in, Ben Affleck has the best grasp of how to make a movie--the characters, plotting, tension, and even humor are all masterfully balanced, and I'm sorry about any Affleck joke I've ever made. The Academy Awards showed itself to be a farce long ago, but the fact that Argo won "Best Picture" and Affleck didn't even get nominated as "Best Director" brings that point home for the thousandth time.

Django Unchained -- 4/10
Self-indulgent, manipulative crap, but the worst part is, it thinks it's cute. Quentin Tarantino really needs someone to start telling him "no."

Epic -- 7/10
Fun, if slight kid's film that looks pretty as it repeats the same plots as Ferngully and Avator. It kept my three-year old still and quiet for 90 minutes, so mission accomplished.

The Fast and the Furious:Tokyo Drift -- 7/10
Immediately embraces the fact that it only exists to be fun, then procedes to be fun for its entire hour and forty-five minute running span. The film's tendency to favor real cars, twisted metal, and burnt tires over CGI is also a great asset, and a step forward for the franchise.

Fast and Furious -- 5/10
Disappointingly regresses the franchise back to CGI territory. At least the original cast seems happy to be together again, and the movie breezes by.

Fast and Furious 6 -- 8/10
Slightly weaker than the action film perfection of its predecessor, Fast Five, but just barely. The chase scenes are huge, the destruction massive, the atmosphere fun, and A REAL TANK DESTROYS OVER 250 REAL CARS!

Looper -- 8/10
One of the best mass appeal "time travel" movies in a long time, and with great action, as well. It is not afraid to pose the question "would you have killed Adolf Hitler when he was a child," in celluloid form, and then is brave enough to actually explore the difficulties of the answers.

The Master -- 8/10
Both Paul Thomas Anderson and Joaquin Phoenix really go nuts in this film, and that's saying something. I don't have another sentence.

Star Trek Into Darkness -- 8/10
So fun, I saw it twice. When I hear these "not Star Trek enough" comments, all I can think is, this movie is incredibly well made, propulsive, highly enjoyable, and has a ticker in its skull--Star Trek can have excellent action and a cool factor, and still be Star Trek--what more do you want? BONUS THIRD SENTENCE: I grew up watching the original series in early eighties reruns, watched Next Generation live, had my little mind blown when Picard became Locutus, watched all of Deep Space Nine live, saw all the films multiple times, most of them in the cineplex, and I think these new movies have been just great--change is good if it is positive change.

Zero Dark Thirty -- 6/10
Some stuff happens, and then some stuff happens, and then some other stuff happens. This is a completely dry, textbook reading of an event that should have been excitedly told, or at the least, been interesting to see played out on film--it wasn't, and this director (who also directed The Hurt Locker) could have done better.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Hans Zimmer (with James Newton Howard) -- The Dark Knight (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

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The Dark Knight is one of the biggest movies of all time, the rare cinematic feat that garnered critical accolades and mass audiences. Hans Zimmer's score contributes greatly  to the huge, important feeling The Dark Knight exudes.
Zimmer has been unfairly maligned for the basic facts that his scores have been popular, and his works share a similar musical feeling. I don't think it's right to hate someone's work based on the fact that it his been consistent. Zimmer's scores are always huge, percussive, and propulsive, and his work on The Dark Knight is no different. Texture is given far heavier weight than complexity, and for this particular film about shades of white, gray, and black, nothing could have been more fitting.
For instance, Heath Ledger's unsettling performance as the Joker is given an even bigger push by the terrifying, distorted notes that follow his presence like a macabre shadow. Zimmer's electrical distortions to his orchestral compositions, and his innovative methods (for instance, having the violins played with razor blades) pay off in spades. He wisely hands off the film's more delicate moments (Harvey Dent's heroically hopeful themes) to fellow soundtrack veteran James Newton Howard, and the two compliment each other brilliantly. Few scores have matched and augmented the film they underlie as well as The Dark Knight's.
Of course, this is only the soundtrack without the film on top of it, and the naked experience of this listen is a bit different from the film. The music is still just as stirring and evocative with one caveat:
The music is jumbled from the order it appears in the film, track to track, and even within particular pieces. I've never understood why composers and soundtrack producers do this, and they do it often. Both great albums and great films have excellent emotional flows, and by chopping up the order of the score, that effect is lost in this unique meeting of the two. Because of this rupture in cohesion, it's tough to just sit down and listen to 80-minutes of The Dark Knight Orignal Motion Picture Soundtrack.
With that said, this soundtrack is still chock full of excellent, blood-pumping work (Batman's two-note, sky-shaking theme is particularly inspiring, despite its simplicity). The greatness of the parts far outweigh the cons of the whole.
My favorite theme of the film is unfortunately only found at the 6:30 mark of opening track, "Why So Serious?" It's an out-of-tune piano alternating between two notes, symbolizing the deeper, eternal battle of good and evil underscoring Batman and The Joker's respective, archetypal characters.

It's featured most prominently near The Dark Knight's close at the end of this excellent scene.
For some reason, it's stuff like this that makes me cry. The devil is supposed to be alluring.
"C'mon, I want you to do it!"

2008 Reprise
1. Why So Serious? 9:14
2. I’m Not a Hero 6:34
3. Harvey Two-Face 6:16
4. Aggressive Expansion 4:36
5. Always A Catch 1:40
6. Blood on My Hands 2:16
7. A Little Push 2:43
8. Like a Dog Chasing Cars 5:03
9. I Am The Batman 2:00
10. And I Thought My Jokes Were Bad 2:29
11. Agent of Chaos 6:55
12. Introduce a Little Anarchy 3:42
13. Watch the World Burn 3:48
14. A Dark Knight 16:15

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Hands -- Give Me Rest

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I'm not gonna mince words here. Sometimes an album comes along and just blows everything else around it out of the water. Sometimes an album makes the listener wonder why everything can't sound like it. And sometimes an album makes a reviewer second guess all the other "tens" he's given.  Hands' Give Me Rest is that album.
Give Me Rest is a heavy album, and I don't mean musically, though it certainly has some crushing moments. The album is, essentially, a fifty-minute conversation between a man and God. As the man goes through doubt, belief, peace, conflict, and a deeper understanding of the Almighty, the listener can feel every minute. Give Me Rest is full of soul, which sets it apart from...almost everything. It is so incredibly honest in its Psalmic journey, it casts a bright light on the lack of authenticity in its musical peers. It's an honesty that anyone can feel, as I've heard several atheists praise it enthusiastically, despite its quite theistic outcome.
With that said, I can think of a short list of people who will hate this album:
1. People who can't stand any amount of screaming in their music.
2. People with awful tastes.
3. Militant atheists.
4. Christians who like to skip the book of Job and any of the Psalms David wrote when his life sucked, as they read through the Bible.
And on a final note, Hands' frontman Shane Ochsner essentially wrote and recorded everything heard on Give Me Rest, himself. Considering the equal attention every instrument gets, the quality of the instrumental performances, the quality of both the singing and screaming, and the ridiculously high quality of both the songwriting and the album sequencing, this guy needs some kind of a reward. Instead, hardly anyone will ever here this, and Hands broke up basically before Give Me Rest was even recorded. On the bright side, Ochsner has a new project, Everything In Slow Motion, and it sounds like it will be a direct continuation of the sound of Give Me Rest. Instead of posting another link to the music from Give Me Rest (I already did that at the end of 2011, when I gave it the top spot, an action I don't regret in the least), here is the latest video from Everything In Slow Motion, from their upcoming 2013 release.

2011 Facedown Records
1. I Will 4:06
2. Water 5:21
3. Cube 4:21
4. The Helix 6:35
5. Here I Am 4:11
6. Jovian 6:07
7. Northern Lights 5:17
8. 2005 5:21
9. Restart 5:21
10. Give Me Rest 7:07