In 1996, I was a metal head hating my life as I was moved to a very small town outside of Lafayette. For a kid from New Orleans, the backwards thinking, minimally entertaining atmosphere had me going crazy in terms of figuring out how I’d eventually get out of there. That year, over twenty years ago, also happens to be the year a lady from New Zealand would be born. Much like my world at the time, Lorde dreamt of getting out and making something of herself.
Jump ahead twenty years, and we currently live in a world where the music industry has a newish, shining star. Obviously I’m talking about Lorde. She’s been celebrated by Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters as the future of alternative music, parodied by the creators of South Park in a glorious non-offensive way(It’s not normally like that when Parker and Stone sets their sights on someone), and she’s become a very public figure who hangs out with the current queen of Straightforward Pop, Taylor Swift. All of those things are great, amazing and exciting, but it does little to actually explain why she’s become such a powerful musical force, even if she only has one album out and another one that was just recently released, in all it’s darkly, forwardly pop thinking mindframe
Her 2013 debut. “Pure Heroine,” was a nearly instantly well known record that resonated with “music snobs” like myself, but also with a wide audience who very well may be entrenched in traditional pop offerings. From the opening beats of the record, you can tell it’s something different than the glossy everyday ho-hum of her counterparts. Opening track “Tennis Court” weaves in and out, like a distant light coming full focus under the cover of darkness. Multiple tracks on the debut reinforce Lorde’s unique style of pop music, if you want to call it that.
Take a song like the infectiously playable “Royals.” The song is honest in a way that most music isn’t. On the track, Lorde pierces the cliches of modern music, while at the same time lamenting about how she’ll never be be just another pretty face. This serves her purpose in a more palpable and permanent way. Remember Kesha, or any of the other blantaly played down pop of the last few years. More than likely is the chance that while you may recognize songs from time to time, these artists aren’t meant to stay around. It’s a flavor of the month thing meant to be easily digestible and regurgitated quickly to turn profits for the business who run the record companies.
I mention that because Lorde has managed to ground herself quite favorably in that world, but where other fall on the backs of their one successful song, she presides over thinking man’s pop and turns it into something else entirely. She takes herself seriously as an artist, of course, but anyone who listens to her tracks should be able to see that while she may be known as a “pop music queen,” the concepts of normal pop music barely interest her, beyond the obvious digs at the cliched notions of your run of the mill radio music.
So what do you do after you’ve become a household name with songs that are the antithesis of modern music like “Team?” For Lorde, you go away for a little while, build your sound even more in the direction of dark synth pop than your previous record. Released in the last few weeks, Lorde’s second album “Melodrama,” has all the bite of the first album, but it’s influences are more varied than the theme of a young woman discovering her surroundings, both in the music industry and the outside world as a whole.
Opening the album with the incessantly danceable “Green Light,” it’s clear she’s evolved majorly from the girl whose brain often dreamed of seeing the world and getting out of her hometown. The record is focused and displays mature growth, in both its musicality, as well as sincerity. Not to imply at all that “Pure Heroine” wasn’t honest, but her outlook and perception of the world has changed in drastic ways over the last few years. This is most obvious on a song like “Writer in the Dark.” It’s my favorite song on the record, and mostly it’s because of how much she pushes herself during it’s three minute and thirty-seven seconds. The piano tapping notes slowly, but purposefully ways, it creates Lorde’s first ballad of sorts. The emotion is palpable, and it’s used to brilliant effect. Her voice soars as she expresses regret, sadness and poignancy in ways she simply wasn’t capable of in her early days. It’s a beautifully sad song, and one that proves that she wasn’t just a one trick pony(not like the rest of the album doesn’t also help to drill this point home).
While in the overarching narrative of musical stars and entertainers alike, Lorde as an artist has shown that not only is she album to fill voids with a variance of soundscapes and emotions, but her genuinely kind, patient nature has made audiences far and wide swoon over how someone seemingly as down to earth and honest can survive in the treacherous music industry. Perhaps it's all an act, or perhaps she is the artist that is most likely to succeed beyond traditional wavelengths. If she can keep delivering stellar albums and songs that make everyone want to sing, she just might grow to be as big as Queen B and Swift, although hopefully she’ll keep writing her own songs. That’s where her success is most vital. Stay true to yourself and write about what moves you, and you’ll never be blind in the dark.
So Bon Jovi was without a doubt one of the biggest bands of the 80’s. They were nearly untouchable, and hit after hit was sung by many a blue jean clad lady from the United States to the impoverished Ukraine. Today we’re going to discuss their music video for “ Always.” I’ve always liked the song, but I purposely haven’t watched to video before writing this so I’ll be surprised. Hopefully it’s not too bad, but this should be fun either way.
For some reason they open this one with a street fair on a little back yard that appears to be in South America, and while it has nothing to do with the song, now I want mexican food. Anyway the camera pans up and inward to an apartment with a very nice looking man with no shirt on laying in bed and he’s holding a picture. Now you don’t see the picture, but you know that’s some forlorn foreshadowing. The video has this weird thing going where it cuts back and forth to the band playing in a proper live setting, than to the band playing in a vacant warehouse, then back to the overall plot of the video. It’s really dumb.
So back to the main plot. The main guy character is played by the same guy who played Justin in another 90’s gem, the horror film Event Horizon. He’s in a room that’s very much the room a girl who likes Aerosmith would live in. The female in the video is Carla Gugino, who we all know from Spy Kids, Sin City, and Entourage. She’s dancing around in some sexy clothes, and he’s filming her, but the way it’s happening is so creepy it’s not even nice to watch. He has this disgusting porn star smirk on his face, and I think after I get my mexican food, I’ll need a shower. Also the camera is the size of my laptop. That’s how you know it’s dated.
Next is when it gets complicated. Keri Russell, of all people, is sleeping in the couch when those two “adults” come barging in all hopped up or whatever, and Carla is wearing a overgrown Dr. Seuss hat. Seriously the good ole’ Seuss would be rolling in his grave if he saw that. How is it that they can manage to a get a cat in the hat hat in this tar pit of a video but we can’t get another live action Seuss movie? Thanks again Mike Myers for ruining it for everyone. So this bitch is sleeping, but she wakes up and puts the Tv on to find the video you saw the couple making earlier, even though there’s no VCR anywhere in sight. Apparently Bon Jovi discovered the cloud 20 years before everyone else.
So Justin from Event Horizon and Felicity are on the couch, and he turns and looks at her, and it’s the goddamn creepiest look I’ve ever seen anyone give another human being in my life. It’s almost as if he’s marking his territory and telling her with his eyes “Where do you want me?” Ugh. Then we go back to another video of Jon Bon Jovi singing. Also what’s annoying is how in ever live playing segment, Jon’s hair is completely different. Like I know it’s a music video, but c’mon guys, you couldn’t have planned this a little better? This video has a more shake my head moments than fucking Norbit did.
After all of this Carla comes home and is stuck by the future when she sees Justin and Felicity doing the sexy, yet again on the fucking video tape. What is this guy thinking? And where is there always a video playing in his house. How can you rewind this fast?! SOMEONE EXPLAIN THIS TO ME! How can you rewind this fast!? After the discovery (Shall we say, an Event on the horizon?) Carla leaves the house and decides she wants to walk down the street with no shoes on. That road looks rough though, so hopefully she has some hobbit feet going so she’s not in agonizing pain as she walks away.
Naturally she finds a new guy, and goes to his apartment, and the place is the epitome of 90’s cool. He has a bed that's on risers, and sitting under a steel pyramid, so you know he’s awesome. They end up hooking up, and he paints her like Jack painting Kate in the Titanic. After that awesome night though Carla reconsiders after seeing the painting he drew of her and calls Justin to come to her, and this stranger's apartment they reconnect and make up. It’s short lived however, when Justin finds the painting and goes all ape shit crazy and starts trashing this dude’s place. Seriously though, how is it ok for him to do the sexy with Felicity but his hurt girlfriend isn’t allowed some guilt free fun?
After that Justin sets this poor guys loft on fire and leaves. The last thing you see is Justin sitting holding the picture, feeling like a douche, and he thinks he sees Carla, but it’s just a mirage. For some reason I thought she died in some tragic way, but no, that’s how this crapfest ends. Justin with no shirt on, and he’s crying to a Bon Jovi song. That was terrible, but that’s why the 90’s had to exist. So everyone would never forget.
Never Forget. This video exists. And also Mexican food.
If you’re a movie fan, chances are good you’ve seen at least one of the following films. Starting with Alien 3 and improving himself constantly over a storied filmography, Fincher is unmatched in his skill of creating ominous overtones, dark corners, and provocative stories that pull you in. Today we changed it up a little bit and present his top five films. Beware though, These contain spoilers to all of the films on the countdown. Enjoy!
5. ZODIAC, 2007
One of the most captivating and chilling times in the Bay Area is documented in this cold, distant and shadowy film. Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr. move the pieces every direction possible in their search for the foreboding Zodiac killer. Now while I can’t accurately describe what it was like to live through the fear presiding in the area, the tension moments in the movie, and the slow, deliberate pace pushed forth by Fincher do nothing to calm your fears of encroaching doom. Much like the actual killer, the movie relies on misdirection and nuance, and it’s a thriller that would make Hitchcock proud.
4. GONE GIRL, 2014
The movie and book are both highly entertaining, but the performances by Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck help to separate the film in distinct ways from the book. A man comes home to find his wife gone, and he’s not a clue as to what happened to her. Slowly but surely though he recognizes that he’s not only being played tremendously, but the whole country has unanimously turned against him. Pike’s performance as a calm, brilliantly calculating villain is a thrill to watch, and Affleck’s unlikability in terms of being a bad husband make you wonder if he’s actually capable of what he’s accused of doing. A pitch perfect performance by both, and a story that unravels in unexpected ways, Gone girl is a movie worth watching and enjoying, but don’t go in thinking these people are likeable. They aren’t, and while Affleck goes through the wringer more than any person should ever, he’s not solely innocent.
3. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, 2011
Easily my favorite movie of 2011. What Fincher, Craig and especially Rooney Mara accomplish is amazing. The books had been filmed as Swedish films years before, but I myself prefer this retelling. The intensity is prevalent all around, and Mara as Lisbeth Salander is a furious wonder to watch. The great things about Fincher’s movies is that much of what takes place is in the grey area. Even the people you’re rooting for aren’t the best people, but rather anti-heroes doing things they feel compelled to it. The movie is full of rapes, massive violence, and a few heartwarming moments, but in it’s nearly three hour runtime it’s very much a detective story as you follow the various leads that end up helping to close this case in the cold of the brutal Swedish winter. Also the score, brilliantly done by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross creates an underlying sense of dread as the various characters stumble towards the truth, kicking and screaming, both literally and figuratively.
2. SE7EN, 1995
In high school, my mom dropped me off to see this movie while she ran errands. I was late to the movie. The theater, black as the night, and the screen not helping in anyway to give light, set the stage. While the movie is methodical, technical and terrifying all in one, something else happened to me that day that set it apart from other movies. You see, the theater was so dark i literally sat next to a stranger, although i didn’t know it for a considerable period of time. It wasn’t until I covered my mouth at the horror of the Sloth victim that I felt my elbow brush up against this person, prompting me to scare myself to death and run to find another seat. Obviously after I moved I checked the seats next to me to make sure I wasn’t yet again next to some weirdo. All in all though, it’s one of the great modern horror films of all time, and everything from the opening, the thrilling chase scene, to the heartbreaking, gut wrenching finale have stayed in my head since that fateful day at the theater.
1. FIGHT CLUB, 1999
Many of these films are classics, but for me Fight Club remains one of the most powerful films I’ve ever seen. Featuring stellar performances from Norton, Pitt and Bonham- Carter make this movie what it is, even if all three of them are wildly out of their mind(s). I saw it in high school, before I even knew there was a book, so the massive reveal showcasing Norton as just another crazy person left me with my jaw firmly agape. It’s so well executed, that you never see it coming. The book is great and thrilling, but even the author, Chuck Palahniuk said adamantly that the movie is better, so who am I to argue. In Pitt and Norton, Fincher found his Jack and Tyler, and as they crash course through societies constructs and institutions, you finally understand that not all men are created equal. The movie also brilliantly adds a more appropriate ending, and for once, the little guys prove that with enough knowledge, patience, and loyalty from like minded people celebrating their cause, you truly can change the narrative of a world designed to keep us obedient.
Thanks for reading!
WRITERS NOTE: This was written for Jazzfest, but ended up not being used. Either way i hope you enjoy.
The year is 1992, and an album by a doctor was sweeping the nation. Song after song blew the hip hop game open, that’s not the entire story though. The album, “The Chronic,” released by Dr. Dre was memorable in many ways, but the most memorable moments on the album came from an unknown who stole tracks all over the album. This act, quickly discovered as Snoop Doggy Dogg wasn’t meant to only be a feature on someone else’s album, but rather a huge name in the rap world. This all turned out to be true.
If you enjoy getting down to rap, the chances are slim you’ve never heard of Dogg. Since the Chronic was lit in the early 90’s, he’s been one of the most trustworthy in the game. He continually releases album and tours big venues, and when he’s not doing that, you likely hear him guesting on various other artists’ records. “Drop it like it’s Hot” was a huge smash hit, as was “Beautiful,” both featuring the acclaimed hit maker Pharrell Williams.
The other thing you might know about Snoop is his insatiable love of Mary Jane. I mean, of course the guy we meet from the chronic will be end up being a pothead. I mention this only because as his image has gotten bigger, his acknowledgement and support of the green plant has become just another thing you can use to discuss his art. At the end of the day, I believe all of those things contribute to how solidly he’s viewed not only in the Rap world, but the general music industry also.
Back to the songs themselves though. From the debut “Doggystyle,” in 1993, he’s had tremendous skill in his ability to make gangster rap songs alongside more easily accessible tracks. His evolution is also important. Early Dogg was in your face animosity, much like the early days of N.W.A. and the others that came from it’s death.
Like much of the rap coming out of southern California around that time, tensions between minorities and police were used as a launching pad for ordinary local people to get their frustrations and thoughts out to a common cause. Snoop Dogg doesn’t do that exclusively. While he has serious, crime related songs(“Murder was the Case”) he also has songs like “Who Am I(What’s My Name).”
This has served him well. In 24 short years he’s gone from a guest on an album, to having a huge career for himself, and in the last few years his brand has steadily expanded. Aside from just being a rap star, he’s appeared in “Training Day” with Denzel, as well as the unexpected announcement that not only was he friends with Martha Stewart, but they have their own cooking show. Yes, it’s actually a real thing, seek it out and see what you think.
Since i started writing I’ve been chronicling the best moments in twelve month increments. Over the years I’ve picked many albums, some are still awesome, but on the other hand some have been known to fade in quality over time. Today we’re going to discuss my last five Number 1 albums of the years, and speculate and ultimately determine whether these were actually the best albums from that year, or if they simply found me at the right moment in time. Enjoy!
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: BON IVER, BON IVER
RUNNER UP:LYKKE LI, WOUNDED RHYMES
Back in 2011, I was already in love with Vernon’s first release as Bon Iver. When the second album hit though, it took over my life and was eventually named my album of the year. The album is poignant, heartbreaking and sobering, all of which Vernon does very well. At the time of the year end countdown, this was a pretty obvious number one for me. Sometimes you just know when you hear a record for the first time that it’s going to be an amazing influence in your life, and that was the case for the second Bon Iver record. However, the second place record, Wounded Rhymes by Swedish songstress Lykke Li was still a very important record. The loneliness and wounded nature of the album had a strong presence in my listening habits that year.
DID I MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE?: Both albums are still very good and worth checking out, but sometimes an album finds you at the right time, and I believe that that’s the reason Bon Iver was selected as number one, and why it remains the correct choice.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: PASSION PIT, GOSSAMER
RUNNER(s) UP: BAT FOR LASHES/ THE HAUNTED MAN, EL-P/ CANCER FOR CURE
Lets just put this down as quick as we can. That Passion Pit record was less about how good the record was, and more about the behind the scenes of my life at the time. I was struggling to graduate, plan a wedding, and grieve the loss of my grandmother, who was the person closest to me in my life. All of those things drove me to “Gossamer,” with it’s shining brightly instrumentals and hauntingly sad lyrics about the struggles of Michael Angelakos. Looking back though, this was very clearly not the record of the year. While I still enjoy the record on a minimal basis, the third Bat for Lashes record, and even more importantly, the third El-P album are way better in retrospect. “Cancer for Cure,” especially should’ve likely ended up as the Record of the Year. It’a jarring and confrontational hip hop album that showcases everything that is real and human about El-P, and it helped set the stage for the future of hip hop with the emergence of Run the Jewels.
DID I MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE: Simply put, no. El-P or Bat for Lashes have both aged better.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, ...LIKE CLOCKWORK
RUNNER UP: CHVRCHES, THE BONES OF WHAT YOU BELIEVE
I remember this being not particularly hard to determine in regards to the number one slot, but i do recall the order following that was difficult. Queens of the Stone Age, returning after more than five years with a new, excellent, career defining record was an obvious choice for number one, but the top three was rounded out by the debut Chvrches record, which is still an electro-pop masterpiece, and Kanye West’s frenzied, in your face, anti-establishment “Yeezus.” All three records are still wonderful in various ways, and while any of them could have easily been number one, I think the only change I would make it putting West at number two.
DID I MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE: ...Like Clockwork has only gotten better in the years since it’s release, and while the other two records are still powerful, there wasn’t a record in 2013 that could’ve met the expectations for me like the way Joshua Homme and company managed to deliver with ..LC
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: BECK, MORNING PHASE
RUNNER UP: LYKKE LI, I NEVER LEARN
I remember this being a decision I went back and forth with for weeks before I finally settled on “Morning Phase.” Both of these records are exquisite and unraveling in emotional responses, to the point where I was even considering having a tie for the number one spot, Alas though, I chose Beck, but I’m still not even sure if i made the right choice. Beck’s record was a sort of return to form in the vein of his earlier masterpiece “Sea Change,” with it’s mellower atmospheres and expert instrumentation that we have come to expect from Mr. Hansen.
Lykke Li’s “I Never Learn,” though, soared in the same way as the first two parts in her trilogy of broken love songs and personal growth, resulting in another second place album of the year.
Like i said both records are still full of worthwhile moments. I’d say quite possibly that Beck’s album and Li’s album are both reminders of personal struggle and growth from that same struggle( Those themes are obvious on both records), and that’s why I was so connected to them.
DID I MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE: Maybe, but i can’t be sure. These two records are still albums that both are easily qualifiable as Albums of the year, but i guess it sorta depends on what your personal styles are.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: CHVRCHES, EVERY EYE OPEN
RUNNER UP: TAME IMPALA, CURRENTS
And finally we come to my choices from two years ago. My reactions to both of these albums were instant and satisfactory, which made the choosing even more difficult. Chvrches for me was a great second record that was largely ignored by other websites in regards to accolades, but there are many, many things that still hold weight two years later. It’s high energy record that (to me) proves they weren’t a one record fluke, and the production value, not to mention the classic nature of the new synth pop classic “Clearest Blue,” still stand tall among some of my favorite records.
The Tame Impala record though, is a very different record overall. It maintains Parker's gorgeously layered psychedelic stylings, while essentially being an R&B record that may or may not be a concept record about a breakup. It’s an excellent record still today, and like “Every Eye Open,” it still resonates with me.
DID I MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE: I don’t think so. Like I said both albums are still very good, but “Currents” has aged better in more little ways than the Chvrches record. It also helps it’s case that I was struggling with the aftermath of a divorce, and if you’ve listened to Currents ever in your life, you’re well aware that Parker's regrets, torments and sense of closure are bleeding through every note over the course of the record.
Thanks for reading!
Landon Murray is a New Orleans native, who thrives on painting the world he interprets through the useful forms of all types of art he feels connected to. He's seen over 1000 bands, and had loved mostly every minute of it. He has an amazing 10 year old dog, and is loving life.
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