These are as hilarious as they are accurate--meaning they are mostly hilarious and mostly accurate. My favorite is twenty-seven seconds into the third one, when the lady in the LSU sweatshirt says, "Why would she get married during football season?" My sister got married during the LSU-Bama game, and we had to plug in a big-screen behind the ceremony. A cousin of mine learned her lesson from this and planned her wedding on an open date. That way, there weren't pictures of me and everyone else in the background making overly excited or exasperated faces, looking off at an unseen object.
And who does make instant grits? SICK.
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Monday, July 29, 2013
Serendipity might be my favorite thing. I assume it is probably a lot of people's favorite thing, even if they don't know what the word means. Some night near the start of the summer of 1999 (my favorite year), I was driving along False River on my way home from work at the lovely New Roads Winn Dixie. I was already pretty happy, looking forward to hanging out with friends, when this song came on the radio.
That voice took me to another planet. When I was feeling like nothing could make me happier, something made me happier. I had the radio set to the right station at just the right moment. Musical serendipity. "This Strange Effect" is found on Hooverphonic's second album, Blue Wonder Power Milk. Every song is a portal to a world much cooler than the one in which you are currently residing. Strings, drum and bass music, spy guitar, atmosphere, it's all pretty much perfect. Even when Geike Arnaert gives the microphone to one of her male bandmates, the songs somehow don't suffer. I want to live in the sound this album creates, and thankfully, for one serendipitous moment, I did.
Overall, Hooverphonic's Blue Wonder Power Milk sounds sort of like a euphoric Portishead, save one detriment: the end of Portishead's albums always ruled. The last couple of Blue Wonder Power Milk's tracks are hazy, as if this insanely cool atmosphere is fading into the ether. That just means it's time to listen again.
It's like $1 on Amazon. What are you doing? Do you hate serendipity, or something? Go buy it! 90's forever!!!
1. Battersea 3:50
2. One Way Ride 3:22
3. Dictionary 3:32
4. Club Monterpulciano 3:41
5. Eden 3:33
6. Lung 2:44
7. Electro Shock Faders 3:07
8. Out of Tune 3:26
9. This Strange Effect 3:55
10. Renaissance Affair 3:25
11. Tuna 3:48 12. Magenta 4:51
13. Neon 3:06
Saturday, July 27, 2013
Literally! Howard Shore's Lord of the Rings' scores were supposed to be the last for this letter, but I forgot about the reviews I wrote for Hooverphonic. I mean, how could I do that, they're Hooverphonic? Granted, you are probably thinking, who the "H" is Hooverphonic, but I guarantee you they are worth your time, and here is a picture of them to peak your interest or not.
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
I was expecting Return of the King to be a good film. I was not expecting it to contain one of the most inspirational scenes of all time.
If you don't like that scene, you're evil. Part of the reason it works so well is Sean Astin's Oscarworthy, yet non-nominated performance (The winner that year? The overacting Sean Penn, in the overrated, completely forgettable, and rightfully forgotten Mystic River. The wrong Sean won.). Another highly contributing factor is Howard Shore's score, which, like his work for the two preceding Lord of the Rings films, is excellent. Shore DID win an Oscar for his work for this film, and it IS merited. He soundtracks every scene excellently, using plenty of Celtic instrumentation when he has to be moving, including plenty of booming, intimidating brass when the armies of darkness seem more powerful than ever, and providing as victorious a backing as possible when those armies are overcome.
Shore brings back many of the trilogy's preceding themes, yet adds even more equally as memorable ones to the films' aural lexicon with the introduction of Gondor and the hopes of a world to come. He also tinkers with the older themes, even shifting the dark theme into a major key when the ultimate evil is defeated. Overall, this soundtrack is almost perfect. Almost.
The Return of the King's soundtrack unfortunately shares the same flaw as its film. It just keeps on ending. Now fans of the books know, the cinematic version of Return of the King excises much of that book's ending. But Jackson, in a very rare display of bad instincts, chooses to transition through what is left of the ending with fadeout after fadeout. When you are ending a nine-hour trilogy, you want the audience to be absolutely sure when it is over. Fading to assumed credits only to show another scene again and again is not the way to do this. The final minutes of Shore's score have to soundtrack these transitions, and unfortunately, it makes the album drag. It ends, and then it ends, and then it ends. It's not a completely "didn't stick the landing finish," though. It's just a "they somehow accomplished 700 impossible somersaults, then stood after they landed and stared off into the distance for several minutes" landing. In other words, the Lord of the Rings trilogy is one of the greatest ever filmed, and its soundtrack is also excellent, they just both don't know how to say goodbye. Better a lovable lingering visitor you enjoy than a loitering, sulky vampire. The sun comes up, and they just hang around and glitter.
1. A Storm Is Coming 2:52
2. Hope and Memory 1:45
3. Minas Tirith (feat. Ben Del Maestro) 3:37
4. The White Tree 3:25
5. The Steward of Gondor (feat. Billy Boyd) 3:53
6. Minas Morgul 1:58
7. The Ride of the Rohirrim 2:08
8. Twilight and Shadow (feat. Renée Fleming) 3:30
9. Cirith Ungol 1:44
10. Andúril 2:35
11. Shelob's Lair 4:07
12. Ash and Smoke 3:25
13. The Fields of the Pelennor 3:26
14. Hope Fails 2:20
15. The Black Gate Opens (feat. Sir James Galway) 4:01
16. The End of All Things (feat. Renée Fleming) 5:12
17. The Return of the King (feat. Sir James Galway, Viggo Mortensen and Renée Fleming) 10:14
18. The Grey Havens (feat. Sir James Galway) 5:59
19. Into the West (performed by Annie Lennox) 5:49
Monday, July 22, 2013
The first time I saw The Two Towers, I was quite angry afterward. Before the movie started, a friend who had never read the books asked me what he should expect.
"One word," I said. "Shelob."
Shelob is a giant spider, and she most definitely does not make an appearance in the film, The Two Towers. This is one of countless changes from the book to the film, and on first viewing, I hated every single one of them.
The Lord of the Rings films came out during the Christmas breaks of my sophomore, junior, and senior years of college (the first time). During that period, I learned a very valuable lesson. A movie and a book are not the same thing. After three or four viewings, I began to appreciate The Two Towers film as its own entity. I began to appreciate the excellence of its final battle scene. I began to appreciate that it had heart to go with its bombast. But what I appreciate most about this film are its more quiet, hypnotic moments. An immortal elf imagining a life alone, wandering an empty, dying Earth. The moon coming up over a forbidden pool. A wizard watching the stars wheel overheard. Ships passing silently over the sea as an ancient character describes the passage of time. This movie really excels in its middle-chapterness, and it does not lack action. The hour long 300 worn out men (2,000 in the book) versus 10,000 warrior orcs final battle pretty much ruined any fantasy film trying to do the same thing (I love the latter Harry Potter movies, but the final battle there is but a shadow of this one...not to mention the even better one to follow in Return of the King). But beyond the action,these quiet moments that contemplate what has happened, and what is yet to come, are, in my opinion, the most enjoyable. Fittingly, my favorite cue on the soundtrack to the film comes from one of these scenes, in this case, a moment where a hero, unconscious from battle, attempts to reawaken.
The Two Towers: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack captures these kind of moments well, and pumps up the adrenaline fittingly during the battle scenes. It introduces several memorable new themes, including a stirring, violin-led piece for the people of the horse-riding kingdom of Rohan. It also features some excellent choral work, much like its predecessor. Composer, Howard Shore, wisely lets vocalist, Enya, sit out of the proceedings. In her place, he uses a bevy of more exotic sounding singers, like the afore-linked Sheila Chandra in "Breath of Life." This lends the film a more epic landscape, as it takes place between much larger parties, and among characters now separated by greater distances.
One thing this soundtrack lacks compared to Fellowship of the Ring's, though, is a greater sense of continuity. The album just doesn't flow as excellently as its predecessor, but that's okay. Just like the film it is taken from, The Two Towers: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is quite fine on its own merits.
1. Foundations of Stone 3:51
2. The Taming of Sméagol 2:48
3. The Riders of Rohan 4:05
4. The Passage of the Marshes 2:46
5. The Uruk-hai 2:58
6. The King of the Golden Hall 3:49
7. The Black Gate Is Closed 3:17
8. Evenstar (feat. Isabel Bayrakdarian) 3:15
9. The White Rider 2:28
10. Treebeard 2:43
11. The Leave Taking 3:41
12. Helm's Deep 3:53
13. The Forbidden Pool 5:27
14. Breath of Life (feat. Sheila Chandra) 5:07
15. The Hornburg 4:36
16. Forth Eorlingas (feat. Ben Del Maestro) 3:15
17. Isengard Unleashed (feat. Elizabeth Fraser and Ben Del Maestro) 5:01
18. Samwise the Brave 3:46
19. Gollum's Song (performed by Emilíana Torrini) 5:51
Saturday, July 20, 2013
Satine. I don't understand why this band never took off. Five years ago, I was cruising around the La Blogoteque page, when I stumbled across Satine. Granted, they were French and I thought their lead singer was...attractive, but watching their Take Away show video now as an old man in his 30's, I still think it is really good. Why didn't Satine take off? I also purchased their live album, listened to it recently, and it is still really good, as well. I still had a Facebook back when I first got into this band, and I messaged them to let them know how much I enjoyed their work. They messaged me back and seemed to be really excited that they had an American fan. But perusing their website now, they haven't been active since the last World Cup. What gives?
Satine, where are you? Bring this back!
Satine October Dane Concert à Emporter by lablogotheque
Also, autumn sunset in a European city for the win.
Satine, where are you? Bring this back!
Satine October Dane Concert à Emporter by lablogotheque
Also, autumn sunset in a European city for the win.
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Howard Shore -- The Lord of the Rings-The Fellowship of the Ring: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Peter Jackson is a talented man. He took a trilogy of novels that are essentially unfilmable, and successfully filmed them. What's crazier, he filmed a property held in the highest regard by one of the most obsessive compulsive fanbases in existence (myself included), and in the process, somehow placated that fanbase. There are events in The Lord of the Rings films that differ from the books, and those differences bother me, yet these are some of my favorite films of all time. It is impossible to find epic fantasy done this well in one other film let alone an entire trilogy. These movies are a remarkable achievement. I've seen them a dozen times, and I could see them a dozen more. But of course, these are reviews of the soundtracks.
One of the wisest decisions Jackson made was his choice of composer. Howard Shore brings a respect, zeal, and most importantly, understanding of the material. He realizes full well that these films are meant to be taken seriously and gives them the epic treatment they deserve.
For the first film in the trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, Shore has some musical world building to do. He introduces the seductively memorable ring theme in the prologue before delving into the peaceful, whimsical world of the hobbits. Once he establishes the nostalgic, autumnal atmosphere of Hobbiton, he introduces the dark mystery of the ring into it, then the creeping terror of the dark forces that wish to take it. As the characters enter the larger world of Middle Earth, Shore's greatest instincts shine through. Taking a beat from Orff's Carmina Burana, Shore invokes the most powerful instrument in history: the human voice. The choral work Shore composes creates huge, ancient, unarguably epic bedrock for the film to rise upon. Nowhere does this manifest more strongly than the subterranean adventure of "The Bridge of Khazad Dum." Just try to imagine the scene this is taken from without the music. In fact, listen to this without watching the film, then watch the scene on mute. Which one is more evocative?
Or better yet, don't do that. Why have one when you can have it all? But if you can't watch the film, listening to this soundtrack is the next best thing. Shore's aural representations of Hobbiton, Rivendell, Moria, Lothlorien, and everywhere in between are just as important to the excellence of these films as anything. Shore's "Fellowship Theme," which plays anytime one of the characters, particularly Aragorn, does something heroic, is almost as memorable as John Williams' Star Wars theme. Oh, and I nearly forgot about Enya.
Enya lends her otherworldly voice and writing skills to a couple of key moments in the film, most significantly the ending. Her comforting voice works well in the context of The Fellowship of the Ring, which puts more focus on Frodo and the Hobbits than do The Two Towers and Return of the King. For some reason, the previoius sentence took a half an hour to write. I just mean that Enya's voice works well in the more intimate, smaller scale of The Fellowship of the Ring, but wouldn't fit in the vaster, battle-filled world of the two sequels. Not that there's anything wrong with that...
To finish this ramble on a soundtrack fan note, as opposed to simply a fanboy note, let me mention one more factor that puts this soundtrack on top as an actual album: sequencing. That's right, these tracks are actually in the order they appear during the film. You would think this is just a common sense decision on behalf of the soundtrack's producers, but for whatever reason, hardly any other soundtrack for a major film does this. The natural flow of the film translates just as well to the music, enhancing The Fellowship of the Ring: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack as a full and satisfying experience.
2001 Reprise Records
1. The Prophecy 3:55
2. Concerning Hobbits 2:55
3. The Shadow Of The Past 3:33
4. The Treason Of Isengard 4:00
5. The Black Rider 2:48
6. At The Sign Of The Prancing Pony 3:14
7. A Knife In The Dark 3:34
8. Flight To The Ford 4:14
9. Many Meetings 3:05
10. The Council Of Elrond (Featuring "Aniron (Theme For Aragorn And Arwen)") 3:49
11. The Ring Goes South 2:03
12. A Journey In The Dark 4:20
13. The Bridge Of Khazad Dum 5:57
14. Lothlorien (Lament For Gandalf) 4:33
15. The Great River 2:42
16. Amon Hen 5:02
17. The Breaking Of The Fellowship ( In Dreams) 7:20
18. May It Be (Enya) 3:26
Monday, July 15, 2013
Sometimes, I love being wrong.
Every few years, a certain genre will get popular, and countless bands will jump on its bandwagon. This usually results in hundreds of boring bands who sound exactly the same. At the turn of the century, it was pop-punk. In the middle of the 00's, it was screamo. In recent years, the cookie-cutter genre has been metalcore, with repetitive tired riffing and the same old chugga-chugga breakdowns on every single song on every single album by every single band.
When I heard Hope for the Dying's name several years ago and saw their album artwork, I immediately lumped them in with the bands I referenced above, and I completely ignored them. Bad move. However, after a recent article by Rick Gebhardt on the always reliable, always underrated Decoy Music recommended Hope for the Dying's newest album, Aletheia, I felt like I had to check them out. Good move. Hope for the Dying is not a cookie-cutter metalcore band. Hope for the Dying is not even a metalcore band.
One look at the track lengths for Aletheia make it immediately apparent that Hope for the Dying is playing progressive metal. It's not like they are the only band in this genre. Between the Buried and me has been putting out incredible music for years, though they've stagnated as of late. Aletheia is not a stagnant album. With each winding passage, acoustic break, tabla-enhanced groove, and unexpected moment, it's clear that Hope for the Dying are not only passionate about the music they are making, but also genuinely enthusiastic about the turns their songs are taking. Nothing here is just done to be done. This album is emotionally well-plotted, music performed by virtuosos who understand they don't constantly have to proove they are virtuosos. Vocals are almost entirely screamed, though decently sung vocals do crop up from time to time. The lyrics are a high point, deeper than what usually comes with such adventurous music, and they actually hold up and are enhanced by scrutiny. I've saved the most important element for last, though. This is not just a progressive metal album--it's a symphonic progressive metal album. Strings chase Hope for the Dying around through much of Aletheia's runtime. They truly set Aletheia apart from any recent competitors. They are integrated well and feel always like an organic component of the music, never like a gimmick. The strings enhance the power of the band's sound--and Aletheia is a powerful album.
As Hope for the Dying blow through and build up 13-minute closer, "Open up the Sky," it's tough not to be trapped in the momentum. A huge buildup needs an equally huge payoff, and as vocalist, Josh Ditto, belts out Aletheia's final lines:
Close up the earth, command the clouds
let the rain fall, the water pouring down
flood all the rivers, the oceans overflow
Open up the sky! Open up the sky!
it is clear that Hope for the Dying are a band not to be ignored. Every time I hear the beautiful piano outro that follows, I'm even happier about just how wrong I was. In fact, the only thing that would make me happier is if this album could make me a sandwich. I really need to get Subway to sponsor The Nicsperiment or something because this would be the perfect spot to stick an advertisement. Here's a link to the song I just talked about, instead.
2013 Facedown Records
1. Acceptance 9:43
2. Reformation 4:17
3. Iniquitous 5:20
4. In Isolation 8:10
5. Through a Nightmare, Darkly 5:11
6. The Lost 5:30
7. Visions 9:53
8. Serenity 1:59
9. Open up the Sky 12:41
Friday, July 12, 2013
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Mouth by Mouth, the follow-up to His Name Is Alive's Home Is in Your Head, features a more filled out and consistent sound. It is also decidedly less weird than its predecessor, featuring a more straightforward, near-shoegaze, dare I say, "pop" sound. With that said, this still feels like guitarist, Warren Defever's art project, albeit with a much bigger budget, and slightly more focus. Apparently, Defever's original cut of the music featured a lot more samples that were integral to the sound of several tracks. The label was scared of lawsuits and removed them, along with the original final track, and there is a feeling that something is missing on Mouth by Mouth. Still, it has songs like "Can't Go Wrong Without You," which received yet another ghostly, gorgeous video from the Quay Brothers.
A year after the time I described in my Home Is in Your Head review, in an empty house, I checked out the Quay Brother's compilation DVD again and relived the glory.
1993 4AD/Warner Brothers
1. Baby Fish Mouth 2:32
2. Lip 2:57
3. Cornfield 3:15
4. In Every Ford 3:43
5. Lord, Make Me a Channel of Your Peace 2:17
6. Drink, Dress and Ink 2:30
7. Where Knock Is Open Wide 2:46
8. Can't Go Wrong Without You 3:14
9. Jack Rabbits 1:50
10. Sort Of 1:03
11. Sick 3:50
12. Blue Moon 2:15
13. Ear 2:02
14. Lemon Ocean 2:47
15. The Torso 3:14
16. The Dirt Eaters 4:24
Monday, July 08, 2013
Time to get weird.
If you know me, or if you've read plenty of these reviews, you know that from the end of 2003 to late summer of 2004, I had a migraine for nine months. It was...interesting. Anyway, near the end of that period, as the fog was starting to lift from my head, I figured I should try to have fun and be happy. I decided that checking out and watching ten movies a week from the library would contribute to that, and it did. I made a lot of great discoveries during that period, but few as memorable as the film work of the Brothers Quay. These identical twins have made many hauntingly beautiful stop-motion films over the years, but I've found their video work for a band called His Name Is Alive to be my favorite. As soon as I discovered these short films, I forced my brother and anyone within arms length to watch them again and again. I think they are brilliant. The first, "Are We Still Married?" is taken from the Rykodisc edition of the album Home Is In Your Head.
The Rykodisc edition is actually Home Is In Your Head with the band's The Dirt Eaters EP added to the end. There isn't a great difference in sound between the two, so I don't mind reviewing them together as one work. And as for that review...
You thought that video was weird? It doesn't scratch the surface of some of what you will find inside this album. Home Is In Your Head is almost entirely only reverb-drenched guitar and female vocals, with some weird sampling tossed in at times. The reverb and singing style give the whole album a strange, medieval feel, but overall, Home Is In Your Head sounds like one big art project. It's a very listenable art project, though. The songs are short, and if an idea doesn't work, the next usually does. Also, the sparseness can be strangely spiritual at times. There are many lovely, contemplative pieces here with some great meditative qualities. A favorite is "Sitting Still Moving Still Staring Outlooking" which has calmed violent storms in my mind more than a few times.
Also, the Dave McKean-influenced artwork rules.
1992 4AD/Rykodisc Records
1. Are You Coming Down This Weekend? 0:18
2. Her Eyes Were Huge Things 1:37
3. The Charmer 2:14
4. Hope Called in Sick 1:36
5. My Feathers Needed Cleaning 2:27
6. The Well 2:25
7. There's Something Between Us and He's Changing My Words 1:20
8. The Phoenix, a Pool of Ice 0:50
9. Are We Still Married? 2:51
10. Put Your Finger in Your Eye 0:50
11. Home Is in Your Head 2:23
12. Why People Disappear 4:17
13. Here Eyes Are Huge 1:11
14. Save the Birds 0:23
15. Chances Are We Are Mad 2:37
16. Mescalina 0:48
17. Sitting Still Moving Still Staring Outlooking 3:26
18. Very Bad a Bitter Hand 3:02
19. Beautiful and Pointless 2:25
20. Tempe 3:25
21. Spirit and Body 1:49
22. Love's a Fish Eye 3:32
23. Dreams Are of the Body / The Other Body 2:39
24. Man on the Silver Mountain 3:45
25. Are We Still Married? 2:59
26. Is This the Way the Tigers Do? 3:37
27. We Hold the Land in Great Esteem 4:03
28. The Dirt Eaters 3:44
Friday, July 05, 2013
This trailer will explain why you should have watched this movie instead of whatever unpatriotic thing you did, you awful American.
Now, time to redeem yourself and your honor in the sight of your country and your species.
Now, time to redeem yourself and your honor in the sight of your country and your species.
Wednesday, July 03, 2013
If there's a stigma about Hillsong United, it's the classic image of the blond, long-haired, v-neck wearing, goofy-looking Australian guy, holding a guitar, saying with a Crocodile Dundee accent, "Are you guys redday to prayse Jaysus?" There have been periods where their image and music supported this notion. Zion, their newest studio album, does not.
Hillsong United have finally broken out of the box. Their basic, guitar-rock sound is gone. For the first time, they aren't simply beautifying musical boundaries. Zion has no boundaries. "The music of God?" one could ask of their previous work. "I guess God must listen to a lot of U2." The music on Zion does not sound like U2 (though I love U2's music very dearly).
Zion sounds incredibly modern without aping trends. It is lead by electronics, but it is not taking a lead from anyone. It just is, and it is beautiful. The only stepping off point, or at least warning that Zion was coming, are the small electronic bursts found on United's previous album, Aftermath. That's not to say Zion doesn't have any guitar--guitar just isn't the dominating instrument anymore. It is musical equality all around. Every performance and example in songwriting sets a precedent that every other worship album released this year should try, but will probably fail, to live up to. That's enough out of me. Here're a couple songs, and I'll get out of the way. Have a happy 4th.
2013 Hillsong Music Australia/Sparrow
1. Relentless 5:09
2. Up in Arms 4:27
3. Scandal of Grace 4:05
4. Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) 8:55
5. Stay and Wait 5:12
6. Mercy Mercy 4:41
7. Love Is War 7:15
8. Nothing Like Your Love 5:51
9. Zion (Interlude) 3:31
10. Heartbeats 3:53
11. A Million Suns 5:05
12. Tapestry 6:42
13. King Of Heaven 5:28
Monday, July 01, 2013
I speculated in my previous review that the Hillsong United of 2009 sounded exhausted. I think I was correct. After the release ofAcross the Earth, and for the first time in the band's eleven year history, Hillsong United took a hiatus. 2010 is the only year since 1997 that Hillsong United have not released an album. Taking a break was a great idea. 2011's Aftermath show's Hillsong United, at the time of release, musically stronger than ever.
It's clear from the start that United has added to its studio repertoire. Album opener "Take Heart" showcases the band's first use of strings, and they pop up throughout the album to great effect. "Take Heart" is a very nontraditional opener for United. It actually starts in a fairly dark place, like the band has its back against the wall, slowly building to an almost chillingly beautiful crescendo of victory. Basically, it's this in slow motion.
This feeling of newness infiltrates the majority of Aftermath. In addition to strings, Hillsong also experiment just a bit with electronic music, paying off the biggest dividend when it collides with the strings at the surprise climax of "Like an Avalanche." This band knew power before, but here they wield it like a galaxy wields stars. The big moments on this album are astronomical in scale. When even a simple interlude between songs can induce tears, someone is doing something right.
If Aftermath has a flaw, it's that the band do embrace their old identity a bit in the final third, dallying with less interesting ballads again, and more traditional guitar sounds. Still, Aftermath is a huge artistic leap for Hillsong United, and a welcome portend of things to come.
2011 Hillsong Music Austalia
1. Take Heart 7:37
2. Go (Giving It All Away) 3:37
3. Like an Avalanche 4:24
4. Rhythms of Grace 5:44
5. Aftermath 5:00
6. B.E. (Interlude) 2:54
7. Bones 6:16
8. Father 6:51
9. Nova 5:45
10. Light Will Shine 3:36
11. Search My Heart 6:05
12. Awakening 7:11
13. Search My Heart (Radio Version) 3:55