Weekly Wrap-Up #6

Let get right into it this week! I got quite a bit to say, and I am excited to write about it!

Album of the week:

Album of the week is an odd category this week, as I have only been listening to Louis Armstrong albums this week, and I have to be honest, I’ve been pretty disappointed. I louis_armstrong_26_duke_ellington_the_great_reuniondefinitely picked the wrong way to go about listening to Armstrong. I imagine I should’ve just listened to a definitive collection of his work as opposed to trying to listen to all his album releases – most of them are just okay. They aren’t bad, it’s still Louis Armstrong! But I don’t feel like I’m getting a full picture of Louis’ career. However, I am still going to pick one of his albums that I listened to this week and thoroughly enjoyed. It was a shorter one, entitled The Great Reunion. Louis’ collaboration with Duke Ellington on this record was a homerun. It starts with the timeless classic “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” which feels more sultry with Louis singing it than any time I have heard the track before. There are also (finally!) a few tracks on this record where Louis just wails on his horn. As much as I enjoy hearing Louis sing, sometimes I just want to here that beautiful, erratic trumpet playing, and on The Great Reunion, I got it! The album is really short – only 30 minutes – so I’d recommend it even more highly as some of Louis’ work is upwards of an hour and if you aren’t invested in him, it’s more difficult to sit through. Start shorter and sweeter and listen to the wondrous styling of a Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong collaboration.

Song of the week:

I haven’t stopped listening to Louis Armstrong this week, so it only makes sense that I would stay in this wheelhouse, so I am picking one of my favorite Louis Armstrong songs as my song of the week. Sometimes in these sections, I just like to let the song speak for itself, and I’m going to do so here. Louis is one of the greatest trumpet players and blues artists of all time – this song is just one example why.

 

Television episode of the week: 

15673919-_sy540_So last week, I decided to discuss what interests me about the television show, Life and in that, I mentioned that I was also watching Wayward Pines. This week, I want to dig into Wayward Pines. I just finished the first season, and I have a lot of thoughts about the whole season. The premise hooked me from the beginning. I thought the pilot was legitimately quite good. The show struggled with pacing as the season went on. Majority of the season
was slow. We had a few major things that happened each episode and the rest of the time in the episode was spent digesting those major things. The show takes some crazy turns, so it makes sense they would give us this time! It just at times got a little frustrating, especially the final episode, which I will get to later. The performances throughout the season were nice, I sort of missed Matt Dillon in this leading role. I had never seen Shannyn Sossamon (Theresa Burke) or Melissa Leo (Nurse Pam) before, and they ended up putting on some of my favorite performances of the season. The premise for the show remained really interesting through the end of the season. I am even decently excited to see where they take it in season two. The directing didn’t do too much for me, but I am also not sure how much I paid attention to it, given how wild the story was. Now can I get to what drove me nuts about this show?

 

*****SPOILER ALERT*****

 

Are you kidding me with that finale, Wayward Pines? The whole season moves pretty slow to let us disgest everything, then you suddenly want to throw all caution to the wind and immediately bring everything together? Characters, looking at you Matt Dillon (seriously, besides those final couple scenes, he is a pretty terrible husband – I have never seen someone refuse to talk to their wife quite like Ethan Burke), refused to communicate with one another, then finally when everything comes crashing down, we are suddenly all in this together and on the same page. Okay, maybe I’m just being nitpicky about that, but the next part is legitimate gripe. The pacing of the season is completely thrown to the wolves in the last 5 minutes of the finale. Ethan dies, but instead of letting the audience mourn that character and what that loss means to the other characters, we accelerate the show 3 and a half years because inexplicably Ben had been in a coma/frozen by the sociopathic underlings for that long? I get it, they are going to explain it in season two, AND I get Djimon Hounsou there, but that was a cop out if I ever saw one. Why did you need to do that? We didn’t need that time jump at the end of the season, and we sure as hell didn’t need to basically just restart the first season except this time with hanging bodies and Ben as the main character instead of Ethan. We saw Theresa break down for like 10 seconds before the director was like, “Alright, that’s enough with the feelings, let’s move onto the crap that won’t make any sense until you start season two, so you HAVE to watch season two.” I’m not here for that. I was already frustrated that they hardly let Theresa’s character breathe or come into her own at all until like episode 7 of the season. For a show that seemingly is predicated on the characters, at least the main characters, it seems like we should have gotten more development there. It seems as though we should’ve been able to learn about those characters before the moments you wanted us to have an emotional attachment to them. Alright, I digress. Clearly I really see the potential in this show, otherwise I wouldn’t have written this much about it. There are just certain aspects of the show that if they were tweaked just slightly or explored a bit more, it would’ve made for better character development and more confidence going into season two.

 

*****SPOILER OVER*****

All that being said? Check out the first season of Wayward Pines, I hope you get hooked like I did.

Movie of the week: 

Hey guys! I saw my first Howard Hawks film this week! I was so excited, His Girl Friday has been on my list for such a long time, and I finally got around to it. Oh, and I am definitely writing about it as my movie of the week, because it surpassed expectations. In His Girl Friday, it was the first time I noticed the influence of movement of people in a scene and mv5botu4oddjndytzjk0zi00zdbmltllodetmzq5nmyzzgeznjvlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjc1ntyymjg-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_how it influences dialogue and how it can become a dance between two actors and actresses. I am not just talking about characters simply walking and either. The way Hawks directs this film, it makes the dialogue so fluid, characters talk fast and at and past each other constantly. It feels chaotic, but never out of Hawks’ control. There is one particular scene near the end where Rosalind Russell (Hildy Johnson) and Cary Grant (Walter Burns) are literally walking around a table together, exchanging dialogue, and it actually does resemble a dance at times. It is moments like that, in those smaller details (Hawks having them move as opposed to just standing and talking to each other), that make this movie so very special. This is my first experience with Howard Hawks (and Rosalind Russell actually!), so I don’t want to go too far in my excitement about this film, but you should absolutely watch it. Ignore the date if that keeps you from seeing certain films, between the direction and the dynamic performances of Russell and Grant, it won’t feel all that aged. I was taken aback by just how much Rosalind Russell dominates with precision and wit in every scene she is in, it’s a beautiful sight to behold. Essentially, I am telling you that you are actually doing yourself a disservice if you love movies and haven’t seen this film.

Piece of writing of the week:

Let me keep this one short and sweet. I don’t want to repeat last week, so check out this profile on the seemingly consensus number #1 pick the upcoming NBA draft, Markelle Fultz, written by Jason King. I have been reading about prospects for a few weeks now, especially as March Madness nears, and I don’t think there is a better profile than this one:

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2695960-markelle-fultz-is-the-prototype-meet-the-nba-drafts-2017-superstar-in-waiting

Weekly Wrap-Up #5

I decided to give the Weekly-Wrap Up’s another shot to develop and here is the first one back! I talk about Kurt Vonnegut, Keanu Reeves, Damian Lewis and Life, and Queen Latifah! Here is it:

Album of the week:

600x600bbThis was a weaker week for albums for me. I finished Queen Latifah’s discography and
started Louis Armstrong’s work. I only have made it through a few Louis Armstrong albums and haven’t been able to say that the albums as a whole have been stellar, just that Louis’ actual trumpet playing is magnificent. For that reason, I am picking Queen Latifah’s Black Reign as my album of the week. As much as I enjoyed her first and second records, but I think Queen Latifah was at her best over the boom bap beats of Black Reign. Plus, it has arguably her best track, “U.N.I.T.Y.” on this record as well. It also has some of those slower, softer songs on the back end of the album that showcase Queen Latifah’s singing ability. I love that those tracks seemingly balance the beginning of the album that starts more traditional, in-your-face, NY rap (which still had some of favorite tracks on the record like “Black Hand Side” and “Rough…”). Overall, I think the album represents Queen Latifah’s peak – a solid mix of both rapped and sang songs with a nice of slower more tender songs and songs that exude toughness.

Song of the week:

Why not stay in the same wheelhouse? I already mentioned Queen Latifah’s “U.N.I.T.Y.” so let’s stay there! First of all, that sax? Then that boom bap sound? This beat is absolutely wonderful. It’s got that “They Reminiscience Over You” vibe to it (shout out to Pete Rock because that beat, my god that beat). Okay, maybe that was just the sax and I wanted a chance to mention another beat I love, but still! Over her first few albums, Queen Latifah was no stranger to fighting back against misogyny, but I don’t think there was a song that exemplifies that stronger than “U.N.I.T.Y.” Queen Latifah doesn’t have time for your bullshit. I don’t know what else you want to say. She also flexes her lyrical ability on this record. Man, she can spit. Okay, I’m not going to beat a dead horse. But listen to this track and give Queen Latifah some damn respect.

 

Television episode of the week: 

I’m currently making my way through Batman: The Animated Series, Life, Wayward Pines, and Nathan for You. I’m going to something a little different with this category this week. I want to focus on what makes the show Life so appealing to me, rather than talk about a single epsidoe. I do not even think it had the strongest episode of the week, I think that was probably Nathan for You (which never fails to make me crack up from it from its awkwardness) or Batman: The Animated Series (which functions as both a gripping portrait of a super hero and an interesting look at modern cities). Life works on a different level for me though. I’m only 4 episodes into the show, so it has plenty of time to falter, but I have been enjoying it quite a bit so far. It lives up to its title. There is perhaps no television show genre that is more over saturated than the police procedural. However, that’s also what makes Life such a breath of fresh air. It operates on a premise that I haven’t seen any other police procedural mv5bmtq2njawmdiwnv5bml5banbnxkftztcwmzcxntawmg-_v1_touch. It’s about an officer who was wrongly imprisoned for 12 years before getting exonerated and returning to the police force. His character (played by the wonderful Damian Lewis) returns to “normal” life with an entirely new perspective. One that emphasizes “the now” and the precious and fickle nature of life. What I like so much about the show though, is how they manage to make the entire show mimic that philosophy. It really is about life. For as much as it’s a police procedural, it is also about what makes life worth living for the different characters in the show. I don’t even mean to make it sound overwrought with sentimentality, because I had those same worries starting out and the show has assuaged them quite well to begin its run. I would definitely recommend giving Life a shot.

Movie of the week:

This category is assuredly the toughest category of the week. I watched three movies this week and all three are deserving of high praise. Anomalisa, John Wick: Chapter 2, and Creed. Anomalisa is one of the best animated films I have seen in a long time, second to Kubo and maybe third to Song of the Sea. Creed, and I say this with no hyperbole, may be one of the best sports movies I have ever seen. I also generally tend to have a problem with sports films despite how much I love sports, but that’s a conversation for another time. With both of those things being said, my film of the week is still John Wick: Chapter 2. I can’john-wick-chapter-2-postert remember the last time I had so much fun at a movie theatre. I also saw Moonlight in theatres, and I will recommend that movie forever because of it is one of the best films of this decade so far, but it would be unfair to call that experience “fun.” John Wick: Chapter 2 opened up the world that the first one introduced to us. It’s an exhilarating ride of hand-to-hand combat and gun fu. It retains the sentimentality of the first film, which is again both a nice and grounding touch for the premise of the film. Something else it capitalizes more on (especially through Keanu Reeves acting) is humor. Scattered throughout John Wick: Chapter 2 were moments of levity and hilarity. However, to cap off talking about this great film, I want to talk about my favorite scenes from it. Every scene involving Common and Keanu fighting qualified for this spot. When they first meet and end engaging in a grueling hand-to-hand fight until falling through a window. Then when they discreetly try to fire pistols at each other in a crowded train station to their final encounter on the train. All of these lead up to the moments on the train where Stahelski (director) so wonderfully builds the tension to the climax of that fight. John Wick: Chapter 2 comes together as an action masterpiece on the backs of Stahelski and Reeves, and I absolutely cannot wait for the third installment in the series.

Piece of writing of the week:

This one is kind of cheating. I finished Kurt Vonnegut’s Welcome to the Monkey House this week, so it makes more sense to pick a short story from that. I just don’t think any of them compare to what you get in the book of his that I just started, Slaughterhouse Five. Tsumner_slaughterhousehis book is actually the only book of his that I had previously read, and I really enjoyed on the first go round. This time, the beginning of it hit me even harder. Before he ever gets into the “actual” story about Billy Pilgrim. Those first 30 pages or so. That is my piece of writing of the week. Vonnegut so effortlessly weaves the absurd and somber together unlike many other authors I have encountered and I don’t think there is a better example than the beginning of that book. By consistently focusing on the mundane in the face of atrocities, he brings a levity to the situation without letting the reader forget exactly what they are reading. In any case, if you are going to read a Vonnegut novel, make it Slaughterhouse Five, which may actually end up being my piece of writing of the week next week too.

The Best Albums of 2016

So it has obviously been a long time since I posted on this blog, but I wanted to come back with a bang – which is exactly why I put together this behemoth. I love music and I love sharing my love of music, so if this prompts you to listen to any one of these albums – like it or not – that would make me happy. After this post, I plan on posting weekly, so look out for that! Enjoy.

Without further ado, my favorite albums of the last year!

  1. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 3

I have been a huge fan of Run the Jewels since their first project. I don’t want to say
this project is a step back exactly, but I do not think it was as good as Run the Jewels 2. I don’t think it was as cohesive as either of the other two projects. It almost feels as though it was rushed. That being said, it still clocked in at 20 for my albumrunthejewels3s of the year, so that should indicate just how great these guys are. Both Killer Mike and El-P has been shining for years, but they both got somewhat of a revitalization with their formation of Run the Jewels. They do braggadocios rap at its best, no holds barred. They also refuse to shy away from social issues in their work though. Killer Mike has always been like that while never sacrificing his wordplay and emcee skills for the sake of it either. El-P both again holds his own as a rapper and produced some wonderful fast-paced, occasionally industrial sounding beats. The record also has some great features from the likes of Danny Brown, BOOTS, and Kamasi Washington. With this third straight really good release, I think El-P and Killer Mike have cemented their names among some of hip hop’s best duos. Yeah, it may be a little early to say that, but I think the conversation needs to be had. If you want to check out more from Killer Mike, I would start at R.A.P. Music. If you want more El-P’s production, I would head over to the group Cannibal Ox’s work, namely The Cold Vein.

 

  1. NxWorries – Yes Lawd!

Now come on, you knew Anderson .Paak was going to make this list. He undoubtedly had one of the best 2016s of any artist. He released his debut, Malibu (which I’ll get to later), has had some absolutely stellar features, and dropped this project with producer Knxwledge. Now this particular album has 19 tracks, but only one song gnxworries_yeslawd_coveroes longer than four minutes. I wanted to mention this because I feel like so often artists do not consider the length of a project or the songs it contains and the effect that has. .Paak and Knxwledge struck a perfect balance here. With Knxwledge’s smooth production, one song almost flows into the next and none of them overstay their welcome. At this point, I’m also convinced that .Paak could actually sing anything and make it sound wonderful. The album moves from jams like “Suede” and “Wngs” into more contemplative tracks like “Khadijah” with an ease that seems like it shouldn’t be attainable for a duo releasing their first studio album. I really look forward to hearing more from NxWorries moving forward. If you want more .Paak – which you definitely should, but I won’t judge if you don’t – check out Malibu. If you want more Knxwledge, he’s got a handful of nice beat tapes in his back catalogue (some that even feature earlier iterations of instrumentals from Yes Lawd!) that you should check out.

 

  1. Michael Kiwanuka – Love and Hate

Kiwanuka’s first album a few years was a decent mix of folk, rock, and soul that had more than a few songs I still return to from time to time (especially the track “Home Again”). With his most recent release, he added something that wasn’t on his debut much – funk. He still retains that soft soul sound to his voice, but over more adventurous instrument51qjhakr2bxlals. Man, does he do it well too. The album itself often feels like a meditation on different aspects of life from “Black Man In A White World” to “I’ll Never Love.” Sometimes it sounds as though Kiwanuka is bearing his soul (I guess pun intended even though I’m not proud of it) on the track, whereas on other tracks like the opening “Cold Little Heart” and the last track “The Final Frame” he often lets the instruments themselves take the spotlight. If you like Kiwanuka’s record here, I would recommend visiting Alabama Shakes. I was reminded of them a few times while spinning this Kiwanuka record, and I will jump at any chance to plug them.

 

  1. Jeff Rosenstock – WORRY.

Jeff Rosenstock’s album only runs 37 minutes, but he manages to pack quite a punch in each of his 17 songs. The lead track, “We Begged 2 Explode,” (my favjeff-rosenstock-worry-1476129905-640x640orite track on the record too) takes the listener through a gambit of emotions from despair to anger to even a little bit of joy as Rosenstock croons “Friend will disappear after they fall in love/Fall in love and get married/Isn’t that shit like, craaaaaaaaaaaaazy?” But that’s par for the course for this album. It’s punk, it’s despair, it’s anger, it’s a furious tribute to the awful year that was 2016. I’ll be honest, I actually know very little about Rosenstock himself. I have never heard anything else from him, so all I can speak to is the strength of this album and it really does have that. I really like Rosenstock’s voice, his songwriting is a huge plus, and there is some really enjoyable guitar playing all over this record.

 

  1. Cass McCombs – Mangy Love

Within the first 30 seconds of Cass McCombs “Bum Bum Bum,” I knew I was going to enjoy this album. McCombs is another artist I had not listened to prior to tcassmccombs_mangylove_coverart-copy_sq-32a30048ba176a758182e55b8a2e52a8d636f0a4-s300-c85his year. I absolutely love the guitar on “Bum Bum Bum,” and his soft-spoken singing (sprinkled with bits of a wonderful falsetto) matches it beautifully. The album continues that same trend the deeper you get into it. The guitar doesn’t go away, but he adds horns on tracks like “Laughter Is The Best Medicine” and a piano on “Low Flyin’ Bird.” (Probably my favorite track on the record) McCombs’ songwriting is another huge plus here, especially with tracks like “Medusa’s Outhouse.” By the end of Mangy Love, I came to appreciate how McCombs refused to be limited to one genre of music. He retains the same general sound with his voice, but he seems to take something from punk music, country music, folk music, and even some jazz music. It all adds up to an album that is absolutely worth your time.

 

  1. Isaiah Rashad – The Sun’s Tirade

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen that I had Isaiah Rashad’s sophomore effort, The Sun’s Tirade at No. 2 for the rap albums that were released in 2016. He still retains that title even after listening to RTJ3 (Run the Jewels) and We got it from here…Thank You 4 Your Service (A Tribe Called Quest). He isn’t featured on many records like Futurcb3fb8d70ad50a85a65f1358c2fb065fe or Boosie Badazz, but when Isaiah releases music, it’s consistently near the top of my list. I will say, I don’t think The Sun’s Tirade is quite as good as his first effort, Cilvia Demo, but I absolutely loved that record. Sometimes you just want to be in your own head. Sometimes you want that slower music. The kind of music you might play with your windows down late at night driving through your city. Isaiah Rashad makes that kind of music for me. Often times, it just sounds as though he is just messing around churning out his work, his flow sounds that effortless. I will say though, I was a bit disappointed his single, “Nelly,” wasn’t on this record, but that’s okay, because now I am just going to advocate you go and listen to that.

 

  1. Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition

My favorite rap album of 2016! Danny Brown just keeps getting better. This album sounds like anxiety. I have no idea if that could possibly explain what I mean by itself. The production all over this album relies on really dark sounds, occasionally venturing into more industrial/experimental sounds. If you have ever heard Dadanny-brown-atrocity-exhibition-1474989981nny Brown rap, you know how well Danny’s flow mashes with those types of sounds. Not to mention you have tracks like “Lost,” “Downward Spiral,” “White Lines,” whose lyrics seem to, at times, mirror the tone of those sounds. All of that adds up to what I was referencing about anxiety. So far, I probably haven’t made this project seem that appealing, but all those things I mentioned are what make it so special. The first track is “Downward Spiral,” and I do not think he could have picked a better one to lead the album. While this may not be the project to start with if you are new to Danny Brown, I would recommend at least giving it a shot. As jarring as the record can be, it also showcases the potential of a willingness to push sonic boundaries.

 

  1. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

Throughout this entire record, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was seeing a movie unfold in my head. It isn’t so much that the lyrics form a larger sto088055831ry or that it’s a concept album. It’s that as I moved from song to song, I felt myself walking down some path I had never been down. I couldn’t see faces, just silhouettes. I didn’t know where or why I was walking. All I could do was hear this album, track by track, passing in one ear and out the other. It was actually quite beautiful. My experience has almost nothing to do with the album itself (as in I have no idea why I went to that place or that I could guarantee you’d listen to the album and see or feel the same thing), but in that way, this album just stuck with me. Tracks like “Daydreaming” can still make me feel as though I am walking that path by myself, immersed in a wondrous – though at times haunting – instrumental. Honestly, I still haven’t even broken down much of the lyrics on the record, because every time I go to listen to it, I cannot stop myself from focusing on the sounds as opposed to their meaning. I would definitely recommend listening to this record, especially when you can just be alone with it.

 

  1. Whitney – Light Upon The Lake

The feeling I get listening to this debut record from the band, Whitney, is a very one I get when I watch Wes Anderson’s films. It’s packed full of breezy, whomepage_large-ad25691chimsical nature that doesn’t settle for staying in that place. It wants to comfort you and indulge you in your fantasies, but at the same time, the record and the films are trying to leave you with more than you arrived with. Alright, I fear I took the comparison too far and it got away from me, I’ll reign it back in to talk specifically about this album. Light Upon the Lake lives with the beautiful instrumentals featuring different horns on numerous songs, acoustic guitars, pianos, and more combined with the often high-pitched singing of Julien Ehrlich. It’s a combination that brings each and every song vibrancy and depth, similar to the way Wes Anderson’s delicate selection of scenery combines with performances of recurring actors like Jason Schwartzman do the same for his films (hah! You had to have known I would try it again…).

 

  1. Blood Orange – Freetown Sound

I probably made it about halfway through this record for the first time, and said to myself, “Man, does this guy know that he kind of sounds like Michael Jackson? Even some of this instrumentals…this can’t be a coincidence.” Uh, well, if you look at the cover of this record…Blood Orange definitely blood-orange-free-town-album-cover-artworkhad a poster of MJ as the only thing (besides the mirror on the adjacent wall) hanging on the wall. I felt kind of foolish and vindicated in my suspicion at the same time. To be clear though, it’s definitely not Blood Orange trying to impersonate MJ. I want to make this very clear. Blood Orange is a damn star in his own right. This album is stellar. It mixes songs about relationships, social issues, and general meditations on life in content, but it does it in a way that separates him from many other artists talking about similar things. For instance, go listen to “Hands Up” and tell me the last time you heard a track that devastating but catchy at the same time. It is on songs such as that that Blood Orange’s creativity shines. The album is a long one with 17 tracks, but you can’t help but feel at the end that it is completely justified. Blood Orange takes on a journey and if I may be frank with you, it’s to shut up, throw on track one, and listen to what the man has to say.

 

  1. Frank Ocean – Blonde

I recently relistened to Frank Ocean’s debut album, Channel Orange (please listen to this if you haven’t already…or even if you have), and it was even better than I remembered it being. It also served to get me incredibly hyped up for Frank Ocean’s next album. Not long after I relistened to that, we got that next 5f06f7f6album. While I’m not sure I’m ready to say that it was better than his debut, it’s a great album. Blonde follows a thread that has always run through Frank’s music (even back to the wonderful Nostalgia, Ultra days). Even though his songs often have broad applications to the listener’s life, they are deeply personal songs. On this record, he actually features a voicemail from his mother (which actually transitions into my favorite track). I have come to love that about Frank’s music though. It’s so intimate, both in content and in instrumental and even the way Frank sings. At times during this record, it feels like he might as well be in your living room singing the track just for you. It’s often stripped down with a focus on each syllable Frank utters. I have no idea how many times I will say there is beauty in simplicity and quietness during the course of my life, but listen to “Solo,” and try to convince me that that isn’t beautiful. Actually, don’t try, because I’m sorry to tell you that you could never convince me of such a thing. By the way? We got another Andre 3000 verse on this record (remember “Pink Matter”?), and I can’t even describe the delight that filled me when I recognized his voice.

 

  1. A Sailor’s Guide to Earth – Sturgill Simpson

There was a time that I hated country music. I used to slander the genre to no end. You know what, we all havsturgill_simpson_a_sailors_guide_to_earthe our flaws. Mine happened to be that I weirdly reversed course on a genre I loved when I was really young. Okay, maybe it’s also that I’m not telling you the truth. I still hate Blake Shelton and a good portion of country music. However, that does not mean I won’t listen to country music. Boy, am I glad I broke that rule a while back. Have you heard Sturgill Simpson? I actually listened to his last album, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music and was a fan. When I heard he dropped a new album, I thought offhandedly, “Oh yeah, I’ll give that a listen.” Never will I speak offhandedly about a Sturgill Simpson record again. What I love so much about this record is how much it refuses to play by the rules. Simpson has a pretty traditional-sounding country music voice, but it works so well with the varying instrumentals all over this record. No two songs sound all that similar. He goes from big, near operatic sounds on the lead track to a country cover (with horns!) of Nirvana’s “In Bloom.” (which by the way is undoubtedly the best cover of that song I have ever heard) It’s that combination of staying true to the roots of country music, embracing who you are as an artist, and pushing yourself outside of what is comfortable that has me singing the praises of Sturgill Simpson.

 

  1. Angel Olsen – MY WOMAN

I loved Angel Olsen’s previous album, Burn Your Fire For No Witness, and two things stuck out more than anything else when I think about it: her songwriting and her beautiful vibrato. Guess what? Both of those are back on her new record. Tha1136135788_5e sound feels completely different though. It doesn’t completely abandon the stripped down sound of her last album (it even brings it back for tracks like “Woman”), but it often sheds for a faster, more electric tempo. The results are wonderful. Songs like “Shut Up Kiss Me” are absolute jams that still showcase her stellar songwriting. However, you also have tracks like “Sister” on the background that return to a softer sound that relies primarily on her vocals. Either way, it’s a combination that has had me return to this album four times now. (I know that may not seem like a lot, but I listen to new albums each day, so I don’t return to albums as much – this one I did) My favorite part of this album is how Olsen takes seemingly disparate songs and runs a theme through all of them to create this cohesive sounding album.

 

  1. Mitski – Puberty 2

The first time I listened to this record, I was on a plane. Now if you have ever tried to listen to music on a plane that’s moving, you know it’s not exactly easy. I couldn’t hear half of what Mitski was saying and I actually fell asleep 2/3 of the wa0571397198_5ay into the album. I knew I had to relisten to it, and boy, am I glad that I did. Mitski has a really sweet voice, but the strength of this album to me was how damn unique the instrumentals were. The first track alone, about halfway through, sounds like a kazoo (don’t worry, I don’t actually think it’s that), but it works! It really does. It’s one of the shorter albums in my top 20, but don’t let that fool you, Mitski packs a punch in a short amount of time. Look no further than “Your Best American Girl” for that. One of the marks of a truly great album is one that upon returning to it, you pick entirely different songs as your favorite. Each successive time I have listened to Puberty 2, I picked different songs as my favorite. It started with “Your Best American Girl,” then it was “Thursday Girl,” and on this listen, I’m actually leaning toward “Crack Baby” or “Happy.” Also, there are only 11 songs on this album, and 4 of them have been my favorites so far, it’s only a matter of time until I just declare the record one giant favorite.

 

  1. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial

“Fill in the Blank” may be my favorite lead track of any album that came out in 2016. The song is absolutely infectious, but digging a little deeper, it’s also a wocar-seat-headrest-teens-of-denial-compressednderful piece of songwriting. I also noticed on probably my third listen of this album that it hits me in three song bursts. Those first three songs (“Fill in the Blank” to “Vincent” to “Destroyed By Hippie Powers”) are stellar and then it goes into the decent “Drugs with Friends.” The next best three song streak on the album is the one near the end that starts with “Cosmic Dancer.” I absolutely love the way that song starts. Also, if you can make a 10-minute plus track that I really enjoy, you know you have a great album on your hands (see: “The Ballad of Costa Concordia”). See, we are getting into the top 5 now, and I am just going to gush about how much you should listen to each of these records, because they legitimately are that good.

 

  1. Pinegrove – Cardinal

“Old Friends” gives “Fill in the Blank” a run for its money as the best lead track on a 2016 album. What I love about this particular record isn’t just tha0463988403_10e song writing and singing of Pinegrove’s Evan Stephens Hall, Josh Marre, Nandi Plunkett, and Zack Levine. It is this lovely raw Americana sound that the band has perfected. It isn’t exactly a country sound, though it has those elements. It isn’t exactly an indie rock sound, although it also has those elements. It is some bridge between the two, and with Cardinal, I think Pinegrove found their sweet spot. It’s only a 30-minute record, and I think that was a perfect length for this album. It showcases their offbeat singing, their wonderful guitar playing, and some of their heartfelt songwriting.

 

  1. David Bowie – Blackstar

What in the world could I possibly write about this album that would do it justice? David Bowie knew he was dying, and as his longtime collaboratblackstar_front_coveror and producer Tony Visconti said, this record is the parting gift he left us. Bowie’s last couple records in general have been a return to form for him, but none came close to touching Blackstar. If ever there were a time to talk about the beauty in death and leaving this world, it would be while listening to this record. You cannot escape the record’s emotional gravity. It follows you through every track, but at the same time, you can’t help but feel some sort of release while you listen to the record too. Blackstar is art rock, Blackstar is jazz, Blackstar is David Bowie, and there will never be another. Rest in peace, Mr. Bowie. Thank you for everything. (P.S. this blog used to be named after a lyric in “Girl Loves Me” off this record – “Where the Fuck Did Monday Go?” – I still absolutely love that lyric and the way it echoes in that song, but decided it would be uncouth or whatever to keep that as the official name of the blog)

 

  1. Solange – A Seat At the Table

Remember how I said that Car Seat Headrest’s album hit in three song bursts, well Solange’s A Seat At the Table has the best three (even four actually) sonsolange_-_a_seat_at_the_tableg run of any album I listened to in 2016. “Cranes in the Sky” starts this run, and it’s my favorite track on the album. However, “Mad” delivers a fantastic song about emotion, retaliation, and letting go. It also gives us some of the best Lil Wayne work in years. That moves into “Don’t You Wait,” which is just a wonderful song about Solange not giving into criticisms of her work or changing her style to appease said critics. A bonus track I would include in this run is “Don’t Touch My Hair” which is a great collaboration with Sampha. Really, this whole album is a great run, but that specific run right in the middle is my favorite of the year. Solange brought it with this album, and you should just sit back and listen. Take in what she’s saying. You might learn something too.

 

  1. Bon Iver – 22, A Million

If you know me beyond an acquaintance in any respect, you probably know how I feel about Bon Iver’s work (spoiler: I really like it). Initially when I heard this album, I thought, this is weird. It’s electronic, it’s at times experimental, and it’s a departure from his previous work. I can’t even decipher the damn song titles. In fact, I can’t even understand what Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon is saying22_a_million_cover 90% of the time I hear him, but on this record, it feels like none of that matters. Some music finds a way to worm its way inside you, so that when you hear it, something greater than that happens – you feel it. 22, A Million is that for me. It’s probably going to be another 10 listens before I can decipher meaning from the album as a whole, but what I love so much about this record is that I don’t give a damn about that. I know how it makes me feel, and that I didn’t get with many albums this year. My favorite track off this record at the moment is “29 #Strafford APTS.” Go ahead and give it a listen. I have no idea how you’ll feel about it, but I hope it can make you feel something the way it does for me.

 

  1. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree

Before I ever listened to this album, I saw the trailer for the making of the album, called One More Time With Feeling. I’m not going to say anything else, just watch.

 

packshot1-768x768This album was made after the abrupt death of Nick Cave’s 15 year old son. That is the event he is referring to in the trailer. David Bowie’s Blackstar carried the gravity of his death while listening to it, but this album carries something entirely different. Whereas Bowie’s album felt almost as if it was a goodbye, this doesn’t feel like that at all. It feels like album that is screaming, “Please don’t leave me,” without ever wanting to say exactly that. It’s a record that ponders how to move on, or even if you can move on, from enormous loss. What does it mean to lose someone? What does it mean to move on? Ordinary life becomes difficult and completing the most mundane of tasks comes with extraordinary difficulty. No one knows this better than Nick Cave. I…don’t really know how else to pitch this to you. This is the best album I listened to in 2016. It’s devastating, it’s not liberating. It’s not about the freedom or the beauty in death. It’s about the exact opposite. It’s about how paralyzing loss can be. It’s about meaninglessness. It’s about digging deep within yourself and struggling to keep going without the person you love most. Take 40 minutes of your day sometime and just sit with this album. Allow Cave’s words and the instrumentals of The Bad Seeds to wash over you.

 

That’s my list! I would recommend you listen to all those records, but that’s also because I love music to no end. Just in case you also wanted a list of other albums I considered for my top 20 and thought would be worth your time, I also compiled that. These are in no particular order, but I hope you enjoy!

Hero – Maren Morris

Midwest Farmers Daughter – Margo Price

Magma – Gojira

HOPELESSNESS – ANOHNI

I like it when you sleep – The 1975

Human Performance – Parquet Courts

Changes – Charles Bradley

Lemonade – Beyonce (the ONLY reason this didn’t make my list is because I only got a chance to listen to it once, it would have been top 5-6 if I had more opportunities to listen)

Malibu – Anderson .Paak (again, the only reason this didn’t make the top 20 was because I only got to listen to it once)

Human Ceremony – Sunflower Bean

Blood Bitch – Jenny Hval

Konnichiwa – Skepta

When You Walk A Long Distance – Mothers

You Want It Darker – Leonard Cohen

Next Thing – Frankie Cosmos

Utopia Defeated – D.D. Dumbo

The Colour In Anything – James Blake

Wildflower – The Avalanches

Up To Anything – The Goon Sax

Ology – Gallant

Blank Face LP – Schoolboy Q

Still Brazy – YG

Hella Personal Film Festival – Open Mike Eagle & Paul White

Everybody’s Heart Is Broken – Niki and the Dove

Nonagon Infinity – King Gizzard and Lizard Wizard

Stranger to Stranger – Paul Simon

Untitled unmastered. – Kendrick Lamar

Hope Six Demolition Project – PJ Harvey

The Easy Truth – Skyzoo & Apollo Brown

Big Baby DRAM – DRAM

No Burden – Lucy Dacus

ANTI – Rihanna

blackSUMMERsnight – Maxwell

Lil Boat – Lil Yachty

We got it from Here…Thank You 4 Your service – ATCQ

Goodness – The Hotelier

And The Anonymous Nobody… – De La Soul

Honor Killed the Samurai – Ka

99.9% – Kaytranada

JEFFREY – Young Thug

Return To Love – LVL UP

The Life of Pablo – Kanye West

Emily’s D+Evolution – Esperanza Spalding

American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story – Kevin Abstract

American Band – Drive-By Truckers

Collegrove – 2 Chainz & Lil Wayne

Pretty Years – Cymbals Eat Guitars

Schilmco – Wilco

I Had A Dream That You Were Mine – Hamilton Leithauser & Rostam

Weekly Wrap-Up #4

I’m officially four weeks into this! Let’s get started.

Album of the week:

and_the_anonymous_nobody_album_coverI have always had a fondness for alternative hip hop, because I love hearing the genre in all its forms and I can appreciate experimentation. That is all to say, I’ve been a fan of De La Soul since the first time I listened to them. This week, I have been listening to exclusively rap music and no album was better than De La Soul’s most recent project. and the Anonymous Nobody… is a great piece of work both as concept album and as a alternative hip hop album. De La Soul tackles anonymity and what it means to be a nobody. They also do so with some of the most adventurous sounds in hip hop I have heard any time recently. It comes with some great features like David Byrne from the band, The Talking Heads. Damon Albarn from the Gorillaz and even the trip hop group Little Dragon makes an appearance on this record. Some tracks, like the one that Little Dragon is on, are so unconventional to what makes a hip hop song today. It’s refreshing to hear, it really is – you should absolutely give the album a listen. De La Soul has not lost a step since their fantastic debut in 1989.

Song of the week:

Why not stay with De La Soul? Some weeks I just like to let the track speak for itself, and that’s what I will do here. Here’s “Pain” featuring Snoop Dogg:

Television episode of the week:

deadwood-eb-was-left-out-03-1024_featured_photo_galleryOkay, maybe I was wrong when I thought that movies were going to be the strongest
category from week to week – because television has definitely been the strongest every week. This week though, Deadwood takes the cake. The episode was “E.B. Was Left Out.” It had every aspect that I love about Deadwood. It highlighted the relationships between characters while simultaneously allowing them to exist on their own – a task so many TV shows and movies even really struggle with. Al Swearengen’s character development has been some of the best on a television show that I have ever seen. He has so many different aspects to him – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Above all though, he’s alive and I greatly appreciate when writers can bring their characters to life. Not to mention how great the direction has been on the show, or even the acting. I tweeted this once, but it bears repeating: Ian McShane is masterful as Al Swearengen. Episode in and episode out, he’s flawless.

Movie of the week:

theo-hugo-poster-218x340Another down week for movies watched! That should change next week, but I did see one this week – last night actually – that really grabbed my attention and I thoroughly enjoyed. Theo and Hugo is a French film released this year. It takes quite a bit of inspiration from films from the French New Wave of the 1960s (especially Cleo From 5 to 7). The writing reminded me of Truffaut’s writing in Breathless. The directors, Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau, also employed a lot of the techniques and themes pioneered during this era too. The film was a fantastic love story full of fear, anger, and hope and I would absolutely recommend it to fans of French New Wave style filmmaking.

 

Piece of writing of the week:

 

maxresdefaultI recently started reading short stories from BJ Novak’s collection of them titled One More Thing. Novak is a hilarious, endearing, and charismatic writer. This week I read No One Goes To Heaven To See Dan Fogelberg. Novak explores what heaven might be like in this story and it’s a wonderful read. It’s also really funny. Novak wrote quite a bit for the American version of The Office (he even played Ryan too) and you can hear his voice from his work on that show shine through here. I am sure this is not the last time I will discuss Novak’s work in this section, because I still have quite a bit left to read in his book. I would highly recommend it so far (I actually don’t even think the story I read this week was his best one).

 

I will see you next week, where I will be updating from Ohio!

Weekly Wrap-Up #3

Yo! I’m back. Let’s jump right in.

Album of the week:

To be quite honest, homepage_large-66410a7ball of the categories are a bit weakened this week, but that’s not for lack of trying! I have listened to a few albums every day, but that doesn’t mean the quality was anywhere close to last week. I have been working exclusively on the rap project this week and most of the time, it was not particularly strong. One of the few exceptions to this is the work of one of my favorite rappers putting out work today, Ka. He released Honor Killed The Samurai not that long ago actually, and it did not disappoint. He comes from the tradition of Wu-Tang Clan – from the grittier, grimier sounding New York style of rap. The album isn’t very long and it suits it really well. Honor Killed The Samurai is somewhat of a concept album. He juxtaposes his own story against that of a samurai. Rules and the culture of samurais serve as the introduction of each song and set the tone. Ka’s flow is so intriguing. At times, he almost seems distant – not completely there – but everything he says, he says with such a conviction that I can’t help but believe him. He meanders through the wonderful beats on this record, punching through each and every line with a slow cadence and introspective lyrics. It really is a superb record. Give it a listen. Also, go back and listen to Ka’s last two albums, Days with Dr. Yen Lo and The Night’s Gambit – they are all wonderful.

Song of the week:

I considered putting a Bon Iver song here, because I keep returning to particular songs of his, but I have since decided to put one of my favorite tracks from Ka’s Honor Killed The Samurai. It’s called “Just.” What I have to say about this particular track very much mirrors what I said about the album as a whole, so I’ll just let the track speak for itself.

Television episode of the week:

jupiter_jazz_by_indioblack619-d4f2du2Assuredly the strongest category of the week, BoJack Horseman, Cowboy Bebop, and Deadwood were all really strong this week. However, I do not think I can take the honor (heh, get it? Honor Killed The Samurai…sorry…) away from both episodes of Cowboy Bebop this week. It was a two-part episode called “Jupiter Jazz” that I watched, and it honestly may have been the peak of Cowboy Bebop so far. These episodes are roughly 20 minutes each and I am consistently astounded by how complex the storylines get without losing its way and meandering through different topics. It’s almost assuredly somewhat of an empty gesture to say this, but the show has such a poetic quality to it that I’m often taken by its beauty alone – aside from the stellar writing and captivating voice acting. When I say poetic here, I am referencing the flow of poetry. I am thinking about how softly or how harshly words come from the lips of those that read poetry. I am thinking about the pacing of each line. I am thinking about considering where to accentuate a syllable and when to just let it hang over your audience. Cowboy Bebop does this so well with each and every episode. Although the incredible music throughout the show is a big influence on this, it’s not just that. It’s also about the art in the show. Remember that scene I described last week with the guy trying to light his cigarette? It’s scenes like that that define the poetry of a show like Cowboy Bebop and stick with you far after the episode ends.

Movie of the week:

220px-sugata_sanshiro_posterThis was actually the weakest category of the week for a second week in a row. This week I started making my way through Akira Kurosawa’s filmography though! I watched his first four films (well, three of them – I am going to watch the fourth tonight). The best of the three that I watched was Sanshiro Sugata. The film follows the competition between judo and jujitsu through the journey of one man’s attempt to master judo. Kurosawa’s filming of the fight scenes was realistic and enjoyable. I do not have a ton to say about this movie as a whole. It was a solid story and it was entertainingly executed. However, it was not much more than that for me. I did notice Kurosawa’s tendency to utilize silence, which I am really excited to see more of moving forward.

Piece of writing of the week:

I unfortunately did not read much this week either. I continued with Simmons’ The Book of Basketball, which by this point I am convinced I will never finish. If I had to pick a piece of writing, I read a solid piece yesterday about Kevin Garnett and Chris Bosh by The Ringer’s Danny Chau. Chau takes a look at how KG changed the role of big men in the NBA and how Chris Bosh was poised to be “the next KG” – for lack of a better term. It’s also potentially a tragic story though, especially if Bosh never plays again – which is a very real possibility. Chau’s a good writer and effectively summarizes just how much KG changed the NBA and how much we will miss him (as well as Duncan and Kobe) now that he has retired.

https://theringer.com/chris-bosh-last-next-kevin-garnett-453530ad6bf1#.fnctl194k

Weekly Wrap-Up #2

I’m back for another weekly wrap-up! This time? I’ve started the rap project! Of course I’m nowhere near done and won’t be posting those till much later in the year, but I have gotten started on it, and I’m doing it in more organized fashion this time around. I’m really excited to show that to you all. But on with the task at hand!

Album of the week:

This has definiteare_you_experienced_-_us_cover-editly been the most hard fought category of the week with relistens of records such as Desire by Bob Dylan, Are You Experienced by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange. I also had a few solid introductions to records this week including YG’s fantastic sophomore record, Still Brazy, Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska – by far my favorite Bruce record I have listened to so far – and Odessey And Oracle by The Zombies, which was weird and delightful. However, despite all the great music I have listened to this week from those cats, it ultimately was not too close for me. Are You Experienced is my favorite Jimi Hendrix record and from start to finish, I just cannot say enough about that album. The record starts with “Purple Haze.” Jimi’s guitar playing is incredibly raw always and his vocals match that. I have heard people talk about how he wasn’t much of singer and by trade, I completely agree. But I’ll be damned if I don’t love hearing Jimi sing. Especially on the record, “Manic Depression.” Those first lines are wonderful.

“Manic depression is touching my soul, I know what I want, but I just don’t know how to, huh, go about gettin’ it”

The “huh” in that lyric is wonderfully placed. Man, does he tear up the guitar about halfway through this record too. Then the album moves to “Hey Joe”? Are you kidding me? I probably should not go through this track-by-track, because I totally could, and I would not break this level of enthusiasm for this record. Another quick note though, “May This Be Love,” is such a change of pace from the rest of Are You Experienced, but it is terrific in its own right. In fact, if you don’t much like the brashness of some of Jimi’s other songs, give this one a listen. Okay, now I am really going to stop gushing about one of my favorite musicians of all time and move on. Before I do though, do yourself a favor and spin a couple of the tracks from Are You Experienced.

Song of the week:

I can’t put multiple songs from Are You Experienced here, right? That’d be a bit of a cop out? Alright. I’ll switch it up and talk about a few songs I can’t stop hearing playing in my head on a loop. I am going to cop out anyway actually and pick three songs of the week here. See, this is what happens when you are agreeable, you can’t be decisive on picking your song of the week. That’s what they say, right? I’ll pick my favorite track from The Boss’ record, Nebraska. It’s called “Atlantic City.” It was almost jarring for me to hear after listening to almost all jolly, “Born In The U.S.A.” Bruce up until this point. This song is not anything like that. It’s about death, it’s about having one last hurray, and it’s about what it means to hold onto what little you have left. I will once again be damned if this song wasn’t inspired by Bob Dylan too – that may be the reason I enjoy it so much. The harmonica is wonderful on this song and I love the way Bruce sings with restraint on this track. Give it a listen!

For my next song, I had to pick The Zombies’ “Time of The Season” over from something Frank Ocean (though I did like Frank’s record more). I may or may not have picked it for this lyric alone:

“What’s your name? Who’s your daddy? Is he rich like me?”

This song is so odd, so driven by eccentricity, organ, and weird breathing layered on the beat that I can’t help but smile when I listen to it. It somehow all works so well together.

The final song has to be the one that I really cannot seem to get out of my head. YG had a song on his first record that was called “Bicken Back Being Bool” that I really enjoyed and he gave me another dose on Still Brazy with “Bool, Balm & Bollective.” It’s so west coast, so g-funk, so YG and it’s catchy as hell. The hook has been stuck in my head since I heard. I walk around the apartment just saying that I’m “bool, balm, and bollective.” I should probably calm down actually.

Television episode of the week:

I have watched almost exclusively comedy television shows (Broad City, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, BoJack Horseman, and Community) this week save Cowboy Bebop and Mr. Robot, and I don’t think there was a better episode than “Ganymede Elegy” on Cowboy Bebop.

Potentially for this scene alone:

A man is sitting on a dock with his legs dangling over the edge, the camera then cuts to a close-up of his cigarette and he starts flicking his lighter to get the flame to appear, but it’s not working. He keeps flicking. That’s the only sound the viewer can hear. The man starts flashing back to the night before when he took another man’s life. The flicking of the lighter gets more intense with each passing moment, and he can’t get it to work. Another man walks by and he’s abruptly taken out that moment, as are we, and we move forward with the episode.

As I typed that out, I just wanted to watch that one scene over and over. It was beautiful. The whole episode carries the themes espoused on in that moment: confrontations of your past and consequences of your actions. It seems so simple, and it is, but it is the way that Cowboy Bebop goes about exploring such simple themes that makes it such an inviting watch that you find yourself wanting to return to time and time again.

Movie of the week:

Just last week, I said that this was likely going to be the most contentious category I had on a week-to-week basis. Well, maybe that will start next week, because up until this point, I have only watched two movies this week and one of them fell pretty flat with me. I watched Orson Welles’ Chimes At Midnight and his TV Movie, The Immortal Story. I didn’t think The Immortal was bad so much as I was curious as to what exactly Welles was trying to do. It felt quite inspired by films of the French New Wave (think Breathless), but it was assuredly Welles’ own creation, one that felt surprisingly long-winded for an hour-long movie. Chimes At Midnight was a much different story. The final Shakespeare adaptation of Welles’ succeeds in places his others did not. Although he gave quite good performances in Othello and Macbeth, none were better, or more tragic than his portrayal of the jolly John Falstaff in Chimes At Midnight. I have talked Welles’ adept ability to light scenes ad nauseam, so I won’t get into that, but the way he would position two people talking to each other but both facing the camera was interesting and reminiscent of a stage play, which I thought was a fantastic touch. Beyond that, I thought Chimes At Midnight, beyond any of his other Shakespeare adaptations, best captured the depth of screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-1-16-52-amShakespeare’s work (granted, it’s important to remember I’m speaking as someone who doesn’t even come remotely close to understanding that depth either). In Chimes At Midnight, there were comedic moments, there was family drama, and there was tragedy – it captured a wide breadth of moments without feeling overbearing. Chimes At Midnight was my movie of the week.

 

Piece of writing of the week:

This past week, I was unfortunately swamped with schoolwork that I did not bookofbasketballget a chance to do much reading on my own, so this week, I chose the book I have been reading for what seems like forever, Bill Simmons’ massive The Book of Basketball. It’s a comprehensive history of the NBA written with humor, passion, and the frequent semi-related tangents that both make Simmons such an enjoyable read and sometimes a pain in the ass read. I can’t even begin to expound upon on that I have learned about the history of basketball since starting this book. My passion for basketball and the history of the sport is intensified immensely every time I open this book up. I would highly recommend it for any basketball fan, or anyone that wants to learn about the history of basketball.

Until next week! Be well.

Weekly Wrap-Up #1

It is time for the first weekly wrap up! This is a more bare bones wrap up, because I wanted to start small and it has actually been a pretty light week for me, so I only have a few things to talk about!
So I’ll start with album of the week: 

I have almost exclhounds_of_loveusively been making my way through Kate Bush’ discography this past week with a few other albums interspersed throughout. That being said, of the albums I listened to by her, Hounds Of Love was undoubtedly the best this week. That album is not completely alone though, because I also re-listened (for the 4th time, I believe) to PJ Harvey’s debut album, Dry. However, for the sake of the singular “album of the week,” I am leaning on Hounds Of Love over Dry. The album starts out fantastically with “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” and the title track, “Hounds Of Love.” One of the things I absolutely love about Kate Bush’s voice is how even when she’s not belting loud notes, you can still hear the capability for those moments lying dormant behind softer spoken words – somehow that makes those quieter moments all that more powerful. Another thing I have enjoyed about making my way through her discography as a whole is just how much
she was willing to get weird with instrumentals while remaining true to an art rock sound. There is also definitely a unifying theme/story that runs through Hounds Of Love, but I just haven’t sat with the album long enough to figure it out. I would recommend that you do, the album is a rewarding, and not altogether long, listen. “Hello Earth” is near the end of the album and showcases a bit of a different side of Bush. The song starts normal enough, but then starts to transform with a more haunting tone. By the middle of the track, Bush almost sounds like she is in space. Finally, the whole last half of the song is more empty space with haunting sounds than anything else. It is a 6-minute encapsulation of the end of the earth – in the most beautiful of sounds. I do not even want to try, but if I had to pick a favorite track, I’m probably riding with “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” on this listen. It’s just too good, too catchy, and too incredible of an introduction to the great Hounds Of Love to deny.

 

Now for the album’s distant cousin, song of the week:

For this, I turn to the esteemed PJ Harvey. Yeah, I loved Bush’s “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God),” but sometimes I just want to listen to angry, righteous, blistering PJ Harvey. “Happy and Bleeding” offers an almost restrained version of what we know Harvey is capable of on tracks like “Rid of Me” (which, by the way, might be my favorite track of Harvey’s ever, that song is something else), but that’s also what I love about “Happy and Bleeding.” You listen to the whole song and you’re wondering, did we ever reach the climax? Did we get that punch that the guitar indicates is coming? That leaving me wanting more, with all of the magnificent song writing and guitar work, is what makes “Happy and Bleeding” my song of the week.

 

Now for the most contentious part of the first ever weekly wrap-up, television episode of the week:

This one was between 4 of the shows I am currently making my way through: BoJack Horseman, Cowboy Bebop, Community, and Deadwood. As I have thought about it more, I eliminated Deadwood. The only episode I have watched so far this week was really good like every week, but not as good as some of these other shows. I am between Cowboy Bebop and BoJack Horseman. Community gave me a fantastic episode with the first season’s paintball game, but not enough to edge out either BoJack or Bebop. The episode of BoJack that is up for this is The Telescope (Season 1, Episode 8), while Bebop is competing against it with Waltz for Venus (also Episode 8). Cowboy Bebop almost always finds a way to balance to near perfection the light hearted, humorous material with a grimmer, more brutal reality. It is something BoJack also tries to do again and again, sometimes succeeding and sometimes not. However, I thought in The Telescope, BoJack really did succeed and that’s why it’s my episode of the week. I enjoyed almost every minute of the episode. The juxtaposition of the ridiculous flashbacks that I could not stop laughing with theimpending death and subsequent confrontation of betrayal and what it means to be forgiven was the perfect storm – which is a great way to describe how you feel after you finish that episode.

screen-shot-2015-02-19-at-7-59-04-pm

What will likely be my favorite award from week to week, movie of the week:

This week was pretty easy, because I have only watched three films. Since I am still making my way through Orson Welles’ filmography, two of the films were his, Touch of Evil and The Trial. For the third film, I finally went to a movie theater for the first time in over a year and saw the new The Magnificent Seven. Although I didn’t think that one was as good as either of the Welles movies I watched this week, it was still quite enjoyable, and I’d really love to see those actors and actresses in modern, original Westerns. As weird, surreal, and Kafka-esque (get it, because he wrote the book? Okay, that was really dumb) Orson Welles’ The Trial was, it just did not reach the heights that Touch of Evil did. Orson Welles is a damn renaissance man with all that he can do – he reworked the script, directed, and played a big part in the actual film. He did all of that exceptionally well too. The film is set in a border town with a noir feel, Charlton Hestotouch-of-eviln holding down the lead role, and Orson Welles and Janet Leigh flanking him. I thought it actually served as a solid, somewhat nuanced exploration of police corruption and what that means to different people in the film depending on the roles they have. The direction of course knocked my socks off – I don’t think people say that anymore, but it felt right. I will talk about Orson Welles’ ability to light his scenes with my dying breath. It is every single movie. I almost don’t believe it at this point. How can he possibly be this good? Nonetheless, you should watch all of Orson Welles’ movies, but if you don’t have time for that and prefer noir to character studies, choose Touch of Evil over Citizen Kane (Yeah, I said it. So what? Okay, not really, watch Citizen Kane too).

Last, but most certainly not least, favorite piece of writing this week:

I didn’t reafist-stick-knife-gun-canada-geoffreyd much outside of my class work this week unfortunately, so I can’t exactly recommend to much in the way of online articles or short reads like I could have last week. However, I did finish a book for class called Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun by Geoffrey Canada. The book is firsthand account of Canada’s experiences growing up in the Bronx, and while most of the book is personal anecdotes, it is also a call to help the youth around this country from gun violence in particular and propose solutions that have actually shown to have a positive effect on this issue – not just using jails to solve issues. The book presents an unflinching look at violence in inner cities both in the past and today, and while the anecdotes do not often have happy endings, the book is not without hope. It is certainly worth your time and energy, especially if you don’t have knowledge of the structural issues that surround gun violence.

Well! That is it for the first weekly wrap-up, and I am delighted that you made it this far! I look forward to continuing to do this, because I legitimately had a ton of fun writing this up and considering the merits and enjoyment I got from each of these things this week. I hope you find the same enjoyment from the things that you listen to, watch, and read. Let’s make this week a great one.