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Monday, June 29, 2015

Michael W. Smith -- The Big Picture

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My mother became a Christian right before I was born, to kick off the glorious 80's. Over time, she slowly put away her Zeppelin, Skynryd, and Sabbath for...CCM. One time she had Michael W. Smith's The Big Picture in her car. Between my sister's dance practice and my parents' house, I heard one of the songs, "Goin' Thru the Motions," and it sounded interesting, but the next time I rode in my mom's car, I noticed the cassette was gone. I asked my mom what happened to it, and her response was, "It was too crazy, so I threw it away." This was a tantalizing comment, but I never heard the whole album until a few years ago, and the only thing The Big Picture is crazy for is the 80's. In all honesty, there is actually ONE Michael W. Smith album I enjoy a lot, and it isn't The Big Picture, but I saw The Big Picture in the used section for 1 cent, that's ONE RED PENNY, so here's a review for it.
Remember 80's pop rock? Big synth beats, big synth lines, big lines of other things, hair metal guitar, big saxophone lines, and also the saxophone player clapping high above his head and doing synchronized dance steps with everyone else when he doesn't have a part to play, and also a whole lot of earnestness? Smith is more earnest than a lot of his peers, and out of these ten tracks, I can stomach about half fairly easily, so I'll go ahead and tip him over average with a six out of ten.
Aha, but the tracklisting declares The Big Picture to have 11 songs! What about the eleventh? Word used to be that Smith was one of the top three keyboard players on the planet. He's done work with some huge artists in that realm, so I'll go for it, and this final track, "Coda" is 41-seconds of it. "Coda" sounds like a seat at the most awesome airport piano bar in the world, and in its 41-seconds, I can imagine a glass of something and the sound of a plane soaring above my head and the silent constant of snow falling in the night, and I can't help but say to myself, "Michael, you could do this the whole time?"
He doesn't do it the whole time, though, in fact, he only does it for the album's final 41 seconds, so instead, here is the big synth line, big synth beat, hair metal guitar, and big saxophone lines of "Goin' Thru the Motions," and may God have mercy on the 1980's soul.

Also, I like this song, so leave me alone.

1986 Reunion
1. Lamu 5:55
2. Wired for Sound 6:00
3. Old Enough to Know 4:47
4. Pursuit of the Dream 5:11
5. Rocketown 4:32
6. Voices 5:50
7. The Last Letter 4:49
8. Goin' Thru the Motions 4:55
9. Tearin' Down the Wall 3:35
10. You're Alright 4:36
11. Coda 0:41

Friday, June 26, 2015

Miles W Bear

 photo Miles W Bear_zpsgs8tizkv.jpg I'm about to review three artists who are basically the same person: Contemporary Christian Music artist, Michael W Smith, trumpeter, Miles Davis, and the rock band, Minus the Bear. Actually, I'm going to review two albums by Smith, take a little break for something really important that may lead to a very entertaining entry or two, then review two Miles Davis albums, then one Minus the Bear. Hope you rubes enjoy it, and sorry for not covering more varied artists. I'll try to diversify in the future.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Michael Knott -- Hearts of Care

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I couldn't tell you when I first heard of Mike Knott. Was it when I stumbled upon the wonderfully cathartic "Rocket and a Bomb" on a particularly dark night? Was it reading a hyped up article on the good old Internet, about how Knott was Christian music's hidden legend, a troubadour who battled addiction and kept it real? Was it looking up his old band LSU because they were called LSU, and GEAUX TIGERS! Was it at Cornerstone 2002? Or was it when my old radio show received Knott's 2002 album Hearts of Care? I guess it doesn't matter. What does matter is, Hearts of Care has stuck with me over these last 13 years (MY LUCKY NUMBER).
I'm sure Knott has better albums out there than Hearts of Care. A common joke is that he's released over 10,000 albums over the course of his career. I'm sure he's released albums that are more influential, and more representative of his core sound. This album, though, is a true pleasure.
Hearts of Care is a half-hour of well-weathered acoustic songwriting, with a liberal dose of lovely violin and harmonica. I was expecting hard-edged rock, and this travels nowhere near that territory, even though the first song is literally and aptly titled "Detox Radio Station." The next nine songs are romance-focused, with the relationship splitting apart on track nine, "Wasting Time." I gave "Wasting Time" plenty of spins on 91.1, and I hope our listeners enjoyed it as much as I did and still do. It brings to mind every romantic relationship I've ever been a part of, with its simple lyrics, gentle melody, lovely harmonizing, and general inevitability.

The album ends with "Hammers and Nails," following the lyrical narrative of Hearts of Care to its natural conclusion, but finishing on a completely different musical note. The majority of the song is just background static and Knott singing without accompaniment, through what sounds like a cassette recorder.
And I'll walk this road,
even if you're not going.
This love is still growing,
it's ringing like bells.
Just listen straight at me,
hear my whispering failings.
That's why I'm singing,
His love never fails.

2002 Northern Records
1. Detox Radio Station 5:04
2. Bus Stop 1:30
3. She Steals This Heart 4:42
4. Hearts of Care 4:20
5. And I Love You Girl 3:23
6. Of My Love 1:36
7. Waiting for Your Turn to Smile 4:10
8. She Comes Comforting 4:34
9. Wasting Time 2:41
10. Nothin' is Roses 4:33
11. Hammers and Nails 2:21

Thursday, June 18, 2015

My Plans for this Father's Day Weekend In One Image

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This is real and this is happening! It's like all my dreams came true, plus, apparently, the bar is pretty low on my dreams at this point. Let's say...all my Lifetime Movie dreams...which are comparatively big!
Woohoo, can't wait!
Best Father's Day Weekend ever!!!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Michael Giacchino -- Lost: The Last Episodes (Original Television Soundtrack)

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I'll be blunt: if you go to a movie today, you'll be lucky to even notice the music composed for it, let alone be humming its themes the next day. This isn't just some weird opinion that I'm throwing out there to give myself an easy intro to this review--one of the greatest film composers of all time agrees with me.
With that said, Michael Giacchino, composer for all six seasons of Lost, does not have a problem with memorability. Lost: The Last Episodes (Original Television Soundtrack) is an aural cascade of themes Giacchino composed for Lost's characters, moods, and situations over its entire run, all the while splashing up new themes until the end. This soundtrack covers the season's last four episodes, and
The first episode covered is "The Candidate," an action-packed, tension-filled episode, where our protagonists attempt to leave the island and escape the clutches of the evil Man in Black. They fail. Giacchino creates a frentic, pulse-pounding score for this episode, but I want to punch album executive producer, Robert Townson, in the face, for leaving out the music that closes the episode. After a shocking series of events that claim the lives of many of our protagonists deep beneath the sea, only FOUR of the show's original 14 characters wash up on the beach alive. In one of the bleakest moments in television history, our four protagonists, some injured, some barely conscious, and all completely broken, weep and wonder what purpose the deaths of everyone they have loved throughout the entire run of the show has served. Here's the scene, set to gentle, heartbreaking music that mysteriously does not appear on this soundtrack.
Townson does an excellent job choosing the rest of the selections that made it on this soundtrack, though, and speaking of mysterious...
The next episode, "Across the Sea," is set several thousand years ago, and reveals the origins of the mysterious forces of light and dark who've been utilizing our characters as pawns in their millennia-long battle. Giacchino essentially gets to compose a forty-minute long film score here, crafting new, ancient and mysterious sounding themes, while incorporating the themes he's already created for Jacob (the force of light) and the Man in Black (the force of darkness). While the episode itself can feel a bit stiff at times, I applaud the writers and producers for revealing Jacob as a very flawed character, in need of the same kind of redemption as our original characters, with just as serious acceptance issues with his parent.
The next episode, "What They Died For," features Jacob explaining to our four survivors just that, all the while juxtaposing with the season long "flash-sideways." This episode feeds directly into the series finale, "The End," though, so I will talk about this rest of the soundtrack as one ("What They Died For"'s music ends disc one, while "The End" gets the second disc to itself.)
You know what, though, let me go on this rant that I've been saving this whole time.
I don't understand. The finale reveals the flash-sideways to have taken place in a kind of purgatory our characters unknowingly created together so that they could come to grips with their issues, make peace with the lives they lived, and move on to the next plane of existence. However, the characters do not realize they are dead (all died at different times throughout the years, but all ended up in this same purgatory, at the same instant), and believe they are living their real lives. One by one, they wake up to the truth, as their lives flash before their eyes, and they are often awakened by one another. These scenes are breathtakingly beautiful and incredibly emotional, and every actor is on top of their game. Most of these scenes result in tears for the characters, and the viewer, as our protagonists in an instant recall the lives they really lived, that the person they are in the presence of is someone they love dearly, and that they are, above everything, most certainly dead. This ending has one flaw, though--American audiences apparently don't like to have to think. I have talked to dozens of people who didn't like the finale, and in every case, I find that I end up having to explain it to them, even though the series finale BLATANTLY explains what is going on, multiple times. For some reason, many viewers thought the flash-sideways implied that nothing in the show really happened and that the characters have been dead the whole time, even though series hero, Jack Shephard, is given an impassioned speech by his similarly dead father at the end of the episode that explicitly states "IT ALL HAPPENED." If one, indeed, does watch the episode with a full understanding of what they are viewing, said conversation between father and son is incredibly emotional. Fittingly, stubborn and faithless Jack is the last of all the characters to awake to the truth, and if the scene of Jack being welcomed into the afterlife by his own father's loving arms, as the two declare their love for one another after lifelong acrimony doesn't as much as moisten you eyes, why did you watch six seasons of this show? Above everything, above the mysteries and machinations, Lost placed character, and Jack's growth from a haunted, I'm in charge know-it-all control freak, to a broken shell of a man, to a servant and man of faith is one of the show's greatest accomplishments. I HATED Jack in the show's early seasons--I can't stand take-charge Alpha males who are always up in my business. I always identified most with the character, Sawyer, also an Alpha male, but one who's philosophy is, "I don't care what you do, I'm going over here to do whatever I want, and don't bother me." Naturally, from the get go, Jack and Sawyer hate each other's guts. While Sawyer grows into a hero in his own right, more thoughtful and methodical than Jack, he is perhaps intrinsically a better man than Jack, and his growth is less painful. When Sawyer loses the woman he loves, he is broken because he changed, because he became someone vulnerable. Jack is broken because that is the only way he can change. Lost does right by its characters, and "The End" gives all the character closure a true fan could want. I mean, Miles pointing out Richard's first grey hair, and Richard reveling in his mortality, after more than a hundred years of not didn't like an episode that featured that? Are you kidding me?
Giacchino expertly scores every minute, but the scenes of character awakening, often incorporating and re-interpreting characters' original themes throughout the show, standout in particular. A great example is "We Can Go Dutch." The flash-sideways scene it backs features the tear-jerking reunion of Sawyer and Juliet, as in an instant, they remember the love they shared together, the intense pain they endured as they lost one another, and realize that they are now reunited beyond death. The music, incredibly, accomplishes the same purpose.

*SOB!* These flash-sideways feature lovers reunited, murderers making penance to their victims, Jack FINALLY getting over his daddy issues...if you truly loved these characters, what more could you want?
The body of work Giacchino has built up throughout the series is astounding--a hundred hours of consistent, cohesive music--truly mind-boggling. The fact that we get more than ten hours of it over the course of these seven soundtracks is a true gift. Throughout these last discs, though, Giacchino's body of work becomes even more vast--the flash-sideways is only half the ongoing plot in this episode. The other half follows the present-day, action-film like final battle against The Man In Black to save the island, and perhaps, the entire universe. Giacchino goes all out here, as well, with some great actions themes, further evolutions of The Man In Black's theme, and general awesomeness, including callbacks, as well. My favorite Lost musical moment of all comes at the climax of "The End," and can be heard on disc two's track nineteen, "The Hole Shabang." Giacchino mounts furthering tension, suspense, and opposition for six minutes and forty-five seconds before paying the entire series off with the most cathartic musical moment of the six season run. Lost features a lot of music containing a tentative, hopeful feeling, as these are wounded people in search of redemption, on a playing field they little understand. Giacchino's most famous piece for the show came near the end of the first season, as the survivors send a raft off in search of rescue. That track, "Parting Words," is everything I listed above, tentative, hopeful, yet soaring. The climax of "The Hole Shabang" takes a sudden burst of "Parting Words" and transforms it into a wave of certainty, resurrection, victory. It is incredible.

After this climax, and with all business on the island either completed or ongoing safely, the show and Giacchino are free to wrap things up with the flash-sideways and the series itself. "Moving On" features nearly ALL of Lost's six years worth of protagonists doing just that, coming together and giving each other final greetings as they prepare to...go into the light. If you didn't understand this episode the first time through, I highly suggest you watch it again, knowing the truth behind all that is happening. "The End" improves with every viewing, as the viewer picks up nuance after nuance, but Giacchino's score for the episode and this final scene don't because they are already perfect.
If you don't like that the island was magical, fine. The show did suggest early on that science could explain everything, but the island's true origins, while perfectly enjoyable to experience, are more fairy tale than anything. That's one thing. That's why I wouldn't quite put Lost at the absolute pinnacle of television quality. But if you hated the flash-sideways, and retroactively hated the whole show because of the finale, I don't understand you. What other show in history has introduced this many well-drawn characters, and developed them so naturally over such a long period of time? These people feel real, and to watch the show for six years is to love them. How can you not see yourself in at least a handful of them? Do you yourself never feel lost? Are you fully whole? Were you born feeling and knowing that you have it all together? If so, you aren't my kind of person.
Fully embedded rant ends.
If you love Lost, buy this soundtrack. It has everything you want (except that one cue I complained about up above, but that's okay, Townson, I forgive you). All the character themes, all the event themes, all imaginatively arranged, all are here. All the new music is as high a quality as anything Giacchino ever composed. If you buy only one Lost soundtrack, this is the one you need. It was only released in a 5000 copy run, and I only have it because my cousin Adrian is awesome, but it's also available digitally from a variety of well-known legal outlets.
This ends my exhaustive Lost soundtrack run, and two months of listening to almost nothing but pure Giacchino. Back to regular life. Thanks to JJ Abrams, Carlton Cuse, Damon Lindelof, Michael Giacchino, and their network of cohorts, for creating a vast, fully-realized and comforting world that I can return to anytime I want. But for now, it's time to leave it.
Up next, my brief dalliance with Michael Knott.

2010 Varèse Sarabande

Disc One
from "The Candidate"
1. Cage Crashers 0:45
2. Shephard's Why 1:08
3. Sub-Primed 6:33
4. SS Lost-tanic 6:56
5. Flew The Coop 2:06

from "Across the Sea"
6. Across the Sea 1:54
7. Don't Look At The Light 3:31
8. A Brother's Quarrel 2:58
9. Make Like A Tree 6:10
10. Mother of a Plan 5:14
11. Mother of Sorrows 3:56
12. Love is Stronger Than Death 2:51

from "What They Died For"
13. Cereal Experience 2:25
14. The Four Amigos 1:13
15. Walk and Talk and Aah! 2:31
16. Hide and Snitch 3:00
17. A Better Ben 1:56
18. What They Died For 3:30
19. Jack's Cup Runneth Over 1:41
20. Get Out Of Jail Free Card 3:10

Disc Two
from "The End"
1. Parallelocam 3:23
2. Leaver-age 1:10
3. The Stick With Me Speech 3:05
4. Ultrasonic Flash 2:52
5. Fly By Dire 0:52
6. Down The Hobbit Hole 4:34
7. Dysfunctional Setup 2:15
8. The Well Of Holes 3:21
9. Pulling Out All The Stops 2:28
10. Blood From a Locke 0:33
11. Our Lady of Perpetual Labor 4:35
12. If A Tree Falls 2:56
13. Locke v. Jack 2:21
14. Can't Keep Locke Down 2:51
15. The Long Kiss Goodbye 5:29
16. We Can Go Dutch 2:28
17. Kate Flashes Jack 1:13
18. Hurley's Coronation 2:47
19. The Hole Shabang 7:29
20. Aloha 1:12
21. Closure 8:08
22. Jumping Jack's Flash 0:58
23. Moving On 7:55

Bonus Track
24. Parting Words (Drive Shaft) 3:32

Monday, June 15, 2015

Michael Giacchino -- Lost: The Final Season (Original Television Soundtrack)

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And now we are so close to the end. Lost's final season features two separate soundtracks, consisting of nearly five hours of music, spread across four discs. The first soundtrack covers all but the last four episodes of Lost's sixth season, though there are two bonus tracks from the series finale given at the end of the second disc, to tease the final soundtrack: Lost: The Last Episodes.
Lost: The Final Season (Original Television Soundtrack) is a treat for long-time fans, as composer, Michael Giacchino, gets to re-state and re-interpret almost every theme he's created for the show over its six year run. The beginning of this season hints that our crash survivors may have simply been pawns in a far more epic battle, of which they have little knowledge or understanding. The has been hinting since the beginning, though, that some battle of light and dark will occur, and throughout Season Six, Giacchino is allowed to come up with several compelling themes for both. This music is archetypal, with themes for good sounding ancient, intelligent, and vaguely Egyptian or Grecian, and themes for evil sounding brutal, primal, and vaguely the bad guys from Sabu's The Jungle Book or The Thief of Bagdad. Meanwhile, as our survivors attempt to make sense out of just what crazy things are happening all around them, the show utilizes something dubbed a "flash-sideways." *Deep Breath* The viewer is not told where or when these flash-sideways are occuring in this first batch of episodes, only that they exist in some other place and time we have not yet been privy to, that all of the characters throughout the show's run exist there, and that each character's relationship with one another is different than the viewer has been accustomed to, if indeed the characters know each other at all. This creates a very disorienting feeling for the viewer, but Giacchino offers a mysterious, optimistic string theme for them that gives hope that all will soon be revealed...or at least that Desmond, Lost's sort of Ronin character, will work everything out.
Also, even in this final season, Lost is capable of taking a character the viewer has known little about and dedicating an entire episode to that character where all is revealed in an epic, remarkably satisfying fashion. In this instance, that character is the mysterious Island adviser, Richard Alpert, and that episode is "Ab Aeterno." In true Lost fashion, Richard turns out to be as broken and "Lost" as all the rest of our characters, except also he is 200 years old. I've been a fan of Alpert actor, Nestor Carbonell, since his self-written and produced indie-film, Attention Shoppers, where he brutally satirizes himself as a sitcom actor making a celebrity appearance at a grocery store's grand opening. I've never seen any actor poke that much fun at his own insignificance, and even though Attention Shoppers isn't a great film by any means, Carbonell certainly won over yours truly as a fan on a lazy summer of 2000 afternoon. "Ab Aeterno" gives Carbonell a chance to shine like never before (his biggest role before this was as the walking Latino stereotype on the sitcom, Suddenly Susan), and it also allows Giacchino a chance to do even more epic work, creating an incredible string theme for Richard, prominent on tracks 3-9 on this soundtrack's second disc.
The best reason to listen to this soundtrack, though, is for the callbacks to previous themes, and the ways that Giacchino re-interprets them. While the flash-sideways gives the talented composer ample opportunities to do this, disc one, track 21, "The Lighthouse," does so while backing a scene that takes place on the Island. The scene features survivor leader and broken man, Jack Shephard, finally being faced with the inarguable evidence that he has been brought to the Island for a reason, and that he has a destiny to fulfill. Giacchino begins the piece with his theme for Jacob, the Island's ancient figure of light, then moves to a sensitive statement of Jack's theme before a final, violent burst of another motif for Jack, symbolizing the good doctor's violent rage when faced with the truth. It's a brilliant piece.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention this soundtrack's terrifying version of the classic lullaby, "Catch a Falling Star," played during one of Lost's most horrifying displays of pure evil (this soundtrack in particular features the most horror-inspired music of the series), but I won't link to it, just in case the smoke monster is listening.
So in conclusion, this is a very good soundtrack, full of depth and unique moments, but it is not quite on the level of the Season One and Season Four soundtracks, as they do in one hour what this one does in two. Still, for fans of the show, or just Giacchino in general, Lost: The Final Season (Original Television Soundtrack) is a must have.

2010 Varèse Sarabande

Disc One
from "LA X, Part 1"
1. A Sunken Feeling 1:34
2. Heavy Metal Crew 1:01
3. Doing Jacob's Work 1:58
4. Smokey And The Bandits 4:55
5. LAX 4:08

from "LA X, Part 2"
6. Temple And Spring 1:53
7. Locke At It This Way 1:37
8. Richard the Floored 1:55
9. Coffin Calamity 3:46
10. Lie Thou There 2:30
11. Trouble Is My First Name 1:51
12. Death Springs Eternal 6:23
13. The Rockets' Red Glare 3:34

from "What Kate Does"
14. Temple And Taxi 3:37
15. My Orca 0:40

from "The Substitute"
16. Helen Of Joy 2:00
17. Jacob's Ladders 3:26
18. The Substitute 4:45

from "Lighthouse"
19. Peculiar Parenting 2:54
20. Door Jammer 0:42
21. The Lighthouse 3:33

from "Sundown"
22. Sundown 7:37
23. Catch A Falling Star 1:46

from "Dr. Linus"
24. Linus and Alpertinent 2:27
25. Karma Has No Price 4:11

Disc Two
from "Recon"
1. Recon 3:23
2. Crazy Town 2:01

from "Ab Aeterno"
3. None The Richard 1:20
4. Love In A Time Of Pneumonia 1:35
5. The Fall of Man 2:58
6. Dead Man Talking 1:18
7. Jacob's Advocate 5:50
8. Standing Offer 1:20
9. And Death Shall Have No Dominion 3:54

from "The Package"
10. Sayid After Dentist 1:49
11. Shepharding Sun 2:16

from "Happily Ever After"
12. Tesla Tester 2:33
13. George of the Concrete Jungle 1:09
14. World's Worst Car Wash 2:00
15. None The Nurse 3:48
16. Happily Ever After 2:00

from "Everybody Loves Hugo"
17. Hugo Reyes of Light 1:41
18. Passing The Torch 3:40
19. A Memorable Kiss 1:23

from "The Last Recruit"
20. The Last Recruit 4:07
21. Kool-Aid Claire 1:19
22. The Sub Group 3:50
23. Sunny Outlook 0:40
24. Reunion And Reneging 2:58

from "The End"
25. The Hole Shabang (Bonus Track) 7:02
26. Moving On (Bonus Track) 7:54

Friday, June 12, 2015

Michael Giacchino - Lost Season 5 (Original Television Soundtrack)

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Lost's fifth season is my favorite. It follows no rules, save its one through-line question: can the past be changed? Season Four ended with half of the surviving characters off the island and back on the mainland in some way, and the other half still marooned. However, one of the island's defense mechanisms has been triggered, in light of the attack by the freighter crew of Season Four. While the island was supposed to leap in time once to hide itself, the mechanism is jammed, and thus the island is now jumping around to different eras like a "skipping record." Unfortunately for those still on the island, their minds can't handle all the jumping. They begin to die off. Thus, early episodes are literally a race against time, as the islanders attempt to find a way to stop the island from being "unstuck in time." Meanwhile, the Oceanic Six, those who have managed to get off the island, along with several other ex-islanders, come together in an attempt to return and right the wrongs of the past.
This early structure is great fun, as Lost reveals much of the island's history through the time jumps. The jumps also feature some fun interaction with our islander's past selves. About halfway through, though, the time jumps are rectified, stranding our island survivors in the mid-1970's--a time when a scientific hippie commune, The Dharma Initiative, maintained a presence on the island...and highlighting an oft-mentioned, but heretofore little explored era of the island.
Our characters assimilate into Dharma due to the excellent conning skills of survivor, James "Sawyer" Ford. Sawyer is by far my favorite Lost character, and that rare television example of an...intelligent Southerner. Yes, as a lifetime resident of South Louisiana, I've vomited over the lousy media portrayals of my kinsmen over the years--as a bunch of dumb hicks who don't know their sister from their girlfriend. Actual Southerner, actor Josh Holloway, does the South well, never compromising Sawyer's harsh edge, yet making the character's growth into a reluctant leader and hero throughout Lost's six season supremely believable. In a stroke of genius, Lost's writers romantically pair Sawyer with the headstrong, equally hardened Juliet, giving viewers yet another fine example of a very real, believable adult relationship (the strength the two bring out of each other is a contrast to the juvenile antics of Sawyer's previous romantic relationship with Kate, a character who is too much like Sawyer in all the wrong ways).
Unfortunately, our survivors' groovy 70's bliss is foiled when the Oceanic Six return...throwing the peaceful lives Sawyer has constructed for everyone into chaos. The rest of the season focuses on the Oceanic Six's failed assimilation into the Dharma Initiative, the violent fallout from that failure, and the obsessive attempt by once survivor leader Jack to change the past and stop the survivors' original plane from ever crashing on the island in the first place. Twists, turns, action, romance, drama, and ridiculously fun science-fiction elements rule the day in these 17 episodes, which seem like a reward to those viewers who've stuck around this long. While I love the show as a whole, I don't think any of Lost's seasons brought me as much pure enjoyment as this one, nor that any of the show's season finales broke my heart like Season Five's "The Incident." Season Three's finale may feature Lost's most epic character death, but "The Incident" easily features the show's most heartbreaking...until the series' last handful of episodes, that is.
Michael Giacchino composes more great music for the show this season, but unfortunately,  Lost Season 5 (Original Television Soundtrack) doesn't quite capture the feeling of the season like the fourth season's soundtrack did. There also aren't as many examples of the show's past themes being further developed (though there are some). These could be due to the editing and music selection of album executive producer, Robert Townson, who has the unenviable task of culling 17 episodes' worth of music into an 80-minute soundtrack. Many of the season's episodes are not represented here, which may explain why the soundtrack lacks continuity. Or maybe it's just that the season as a whole, due to its enjoyably scattered nature, lacks a unifying theme like Season's One ("Parting Ways") and Four ("The Oceanic Six Theme").
For what it's worth, the music here is just fine, but little stands out, and the album lacks much flow or momentum...relegating it in worst cases to simple background noise.
That's a shame, as Giacchino has turned in undeniably great work for Season Five, just as he has for all of Lost's seasons. The package offered here to represent it just doesn't give any kind of a complete picture of that work...and perhaps no 80-minute product could.
For me, Lost Season 5 (Original Television Soundtrack) features two moments that have hung around in my brain. The first is the introduction of Sawyer and Juliet's love theme on "La Fleur." "La Fleur" conjures feelings of long-earned contentment and lingering hope, yet another excellent and evocative romantic piece by Giacchino.

The second is the introduction of the enigmatic Jacob's theme on "The Tangled Web." It's a fittingly dark and mysterious string and harp piece, in my mind bringing to life images of antiquity. "Jacob's Theme" is key to the show going forward.

The rest of the album, as I've said, is good, but just doesn't quite come together to form a satisfying package. A favorite least favorite soundtrack.

2010 Varèse Sarabande

from "Because You Left"
1. Making Up for Lost Time 3:23

from "The Lie"
2. The Swinging Bendulum 5:43

from "The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham"
3. Locke's Excellent Adventure 4:01

from "316"
4. The Science of Faith 2:19
5. More Locke Than Locke 3:13
6. Together or Not Together 4:02
7. Through the Window 2:07

from "LaFleur"
8. Dharma Delinquent 1:51
9. La Fleur 2:36

from "Namaste"
10. Crash and Yearn 2:28

from "Whatever Happened, Happened"
11. Your Kharma Hit My Dharma 2:05

from "Dead Is Dead"
12. Alex in Chains 1:35

from "Some Like It Hoth"
13. I Hear Dead People 1:52

from "The Variable"
14. For Love of the Dame 3:17

from "Follow the Leader"
15. Follow the Leader 7:50

16. Sawyer Jones and the Temple of Boom 5:14

from "The Incident, Part 1"
17. The Tangled Web 1:41
18. Dharma Disaster 5:17
19. Blessings and Bombs 1:30

from "The Incident, Part 2"
20. Jack's Swan Song 1:15
21. Dharma vs Lostaways 4:23
22. The Incident 3:07
23. Jacob's Stabber 7:32

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Michael Giacchino -- Lost Season 4(Original Television Soundtrack)

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Full disclosure...that last review took quite a bit out of me. 67 tracks is...a lot of tracks. Lost's third season is so complex and had so many things factoring into it. I mean, I love it, but as far as reviewing things, Season Four's soundtrack is going to be so much easier! Also, I'm not going to go quite so in depth for the next four reviews because of exhaustion, and because I'm going to attempt an experiment in brevity. Speaking of...
Lost's fourth season is its most bare bones, straightforward season. It was originally conceived by its writers as Lost's "action season." With 2008's writer's strike, the planned 16-episode season was pared down to 14, creating an even leaner, meaner season. While a little bit of character exploration had to be sacrificed due to time, the show benefits highly from the most consistent, rapid pace of its entire run. While Season Four isn't my favorite season (I think I'm going to have to go with Season Five, though I guess we'll see soon if that opinion holds), it is a remarkable achievement, carving out its own unique identity in the Lost mythos, while still maintaining the great character development and relationships, adventure, and outright weirdness the show has always been known for.
Season Four pings back and forth between three different perspectives, and this is where the season is most dangerous. The first perspective shows the trials faced by the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815, as their island is visited by a freighter whose crew may have a more malevolent purpose than they're letting on. The dangerous part comes with the season's unpredictable perspective-shifts between "flash-forwards" to the mainland, revealing which survivors managed to make it off the island, and flashbacks to certain survivors adventures before the plane crashed. Sometimes, the viewer is uncertain which of the latter two they're seeing until an episode concludes--hence the danger...and also the fun. Season Four is quite a roller-coaster ride.
We begin exactly where Season Three left off, with Season Four premiere. The survivors are excited about their impending freighter rescue, until Desmond returns from his mission to unblock an island radio jammer. Desmond conveys a message that Charlie, a now deceased survivor, had written on his hand the moment before he died: the freighter isn't what the survivors thought it was. With distrust sown, the survivors break off into factions, one led by man of science, Jack, the other lead by man of faith, Locke. Meanwhile, back on the mainland, and years into the future, Hurley, another Oceanic 815 survivor, is not doing so well. He is revealed to be a member of the "Ocean Six," one of the six crash survivors to eventually make it back to the mainland. Part of the fun of Season Four is seeing just who these six people are. The show teases the answers to this at just the right pace throughout these 14 episodes.
And speaking of just the right pace...of all the Lost soundtracks, Lost Season 4(Original Television Soundtrack) hits the sweet-spot. Maybe it's the way the soundtrack includes almost every major character theme featured up to this point in the show's run, and develops them to more sophisticated and enjoyable degrees. Check out what Giacchino does with Desmond and Penny's classic, epic love theme on "The Constant."

Too soft for you? Well, Lost Season 4(Original Television Soundtrack) wisely builds throughout its runtime. Many of the soundtrack's quieter...more romantic tracks come early, slowly giving way to the season's rising action, as a faction of the freighter crew turns out to be the show's sole representative of ruthless, sociopathic evil. Generally, when someone on Lost does something bad, we are eventually shown their motivations, which at least partially redeem their actions. The freighter's Keamy just likes to kill and cause others pain--under the guise of following orders--because he enjoys it. With a foe that can't be reasoned with or understood, all bets are off, the body-count skyrockets, and there is little time to mourn. "Keamy Away from Him" features the kind of percussive, trombonically violent music one has come to expect from Giacchino to this point, but with just a little more oomph.

As the soundtrack progresses, Giacchino also introduces and develops "The Oceanic Six Theme," a beautiful piece of music that takes its origins from Giacchino's classic "Death Theme," but then turns into something altogether different. Stirring, longing, hopeful, and yet tinged with regret, this theme comes to gorgeous fruition on penultimate "Landing Party," before giving way to the creepy weirdness of album closer, "Hoffs-Drawlar." "Hoffs-Drawlar" soundtracks the season's final scene, at a funeral home on the mainland, hearkening back to the brilliant Season Three finale, as revealed Oceanic Six member and man of science, Jack, looks into the coffin of now deceased man of faith, Locke, ready to return to the island, revive faith, and fulfill his destiny...AND CLASSIC LOST EPISODE ENDING BOOM.
And I think I just accomplished in a few paragraphs what the previous review did with 500 of them.

2009 Varèse Sarabande

from "The Beginning of the End"
1. Giving Up the Ghost 2:40
2. Locke'ing Horns 1:52

from "The Economist"
3. Lost Away - Or Is It? 1:41

from "Eggtown"
4. Backgammon Gambit 1:19

from "The Constant"
5. Time and Time Again 2:42
6. The Constant 3:52

from "Ji Yeon"
7. Maternity Hell 2:31
8. Karma Jin-itiative 1:24
9. Ji Yeon 3:09

from "Meet Kevin Johnson"
10. Michael's Right to Remain Wrong 1:54

from "The Shape of Things to Come"
11. Bodies and Bungalows 1:23
12. Benundrum 3:24
13. Hostile Negotiations 2:21

from "Cabin Fever"
14. Locke-about 6:05

from "There's No Place Like Home, Part 1"
15. There's No Place Like Home 2:35
16. Nadia on Your Life 1:42
17. C4-titude 2:00
18. Of Mice and Ben 2:19

from "There's No Place Like Home, Part 2"
19. Keamy Away from Him 4:58
20. Timecrunch 2:06
21. Can't Kill Keamy 1:48

from "There's No Place Like Home, Part 3"
22. Bobbing for Freighters 5:20
23. Locke of the Island 7:07
24. Lying for the Island 4:53
25. Landing Party" 3:23
26. Hoffs-Drawlar" 3:50

Monday, June 01, 2015

The Nicsperiment's 2015 Early Summer Movie Mini-Reviews

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It's the summer! That means it's time for some two-sentence movie reviews, dawg! Do people still say "dawg?" Whatup, Catz? WORST INTRO EVER.

Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem -- 5/10
It appeared at the camp in Grand Isle in the summer of 2008...or was it 2009...on the entertainment center shelf, a mysterious DVD with the initials "C hearts A," and it sat there for, until finally, I just couldn't take it anymore, and took it to my house. There, an illicit viewing, as I ate a mallard I killed last winter, and lo, the film was not a good one, a monster-mash directed by two of the foremost practical special effects artists of our time, shot completely in the dark so that none of their creations could be seen...and avast, a hidden BB, deep within the duck's flesh, at the vital moment, when finally, for a moment, the monsters became visible, chose its time to strike, my chewing, unguarded, my molar, chipped to oblivion, the tooth-breaking of destiny--also, post-Rescue Me Steven Pasquale deserves better than this..also, what the hell is the "Requiem" for?

American Sniper -- 8/10
I get that half the stuff in this movie was fabricated by Spielberg (the butcher, the Syrian sniper nemesis) before the project was passed on to Clint Eastwood, but this is still a moving portrayal of a soldier and veteran's life, regardless. Also, Bradley Cooper was great back in the day in Alias as Jennifer Garner's little buddy, but he so far eclipses that with this that I feel old, man.

Avengers: Age of Ultron -- 7/10
This movie had the misfortune of being viewed by me immediately after my first viewing of the immediate classic, Mad Max: Fury Road. As such, this is like pretty much all the Marvel movies, sans the excellent second Captain America film: a bunch of empty CGI spectacle against armies of CGI foes, a paint-by-numbers story, a general feeling of a heavy studio hand in all major creative decisions, and some delightful character banter to make the whole thing more bearable.

Birdman -- 7/10
Now I know why this movie won best picture over Boyhood: because above everything, Hollywood loves movies about itself. Michael Keaton's great, and the manic pace is admirable, but Boyhood is an incredibly deep film about the actual experience of being, and Birdman is a surrealistic fantasy about how wacky actor's lives and showbusiness are--if that's all you know, that's what you're going to vote for.

The Boxtrolls -- 8/10
I wish more movies--kid ones, adult ones (like movies for adults, not porn), whatever--had as much heart and creativity, as this one. Also, whoever got Steve Blum out of anime voice-dub purgatory deserves some kind of medal--Spike Spiegel should be in more movies!!!

Foxcatcher -- 8/10
Three great performances in the aid of one extremely uncomfortable, hard to watch film. Features an odd, stodgy cold that just never lets up.

Furious 7 -- 7/10
This is a nice send-off for the deceased Paul Walker, but unfortunately, franchise newcomer, director, James Wan, can't match the sublime action of past director Justin Lin's Fast Five, or the over-the-top insanity of Lin's Fast and Furious 6. Still, if I told you I didn't have fun watching this movie, or get emotional during its ending, I'd be lying to you--please Wan, though, cut the CGI and get back to Lin's practical-effects laden, real car smashing of the previous two films!

Mad Max: Fury Road -- 10/10
Years and years of complaining: will they ever make an artfully made, non-stop, largely CGI-free action movie, with no quick cuts, great acting, great story, great art design, great music, great, real physical stunts...such a movie's existence began to seem like a myth. Then, 70-year old George Miller took a break from making Happy Feet movies to finally deliver exactly what I wanted--everything listed above and more--finally, the perfect action film, and I can't stop listening to the soundtrack, either (seriously, has an action scene matched its score as well as the one below in the last 20 years?).

Pitch Perfect 2 -- 6/10
My wife-enforced viewing of the first film was a very pleasant surprise--a hilarious, irreverent film that had a heart, but didn't take itself too seriously. The second one made me chuckle a few times, but it feels more like a series of subplots, than a coherent, necessary film.

Still Alice -- 9/10
Again, was my wife's idea, but this is a great, horrifying, yet warm film, about a horrifying, cold illness. Julianne Moore and the filmmakers do such a good job of putting a human face on Alzheimer's Disease without once going for easy tears or paltry drama--it just feels real.

Whiplash --9/10
Blood, sweat, and blurry drumsticks, this movie has the audacity to feature two knockout performances in direct opposition to each other, Miles Teller as an aspiring drummer, and J.K. Simmons, as his abusive teacher, and not tell you how you're supposed to feel about everything at the end. The film might feature knockout editing set to its own jazzy beats, yet when the dust settles, the drummer's life may be ruined, his psyche may be damaged forever...but he is a better drummer: cinematic ambiguity like this is refreshing.

Nope...still can't see anything...
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