Finally, Winter has come for us. Nearly 8 years to the day after we first observed members of the Night Watch get brutally devoured and murdered by the White Walkers, we are going to see how this wonderful, chaotic, marvelous and visually stunning story concludes. I don’t normally devote an entire week of entries to television, or anything really, but for me, and likely many of you, this is a big deal. Today we start our week with the best characters throughout the years. Some of these start as horrible people and grow, some go the opposite way. One thing is for sure. All of these characters have been through hell and back, and what they’ve seen in the previous seven seasons has changed them, for better, and for worse. Without further adieu, I present to you the best characters of the Seven Kingdoms and beyond.
EDITORS NOTE: All of these blogs will be in countdown style with five entries each. As always I welcome comments, opinions and sharing. Lastly, MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD.
When we first see him in season one, Tyrion is firmly enjoying the benefits of being a Lannister. He drinks, knows things, and has a voracious sexual appetite. The problem for the youngest Lion is that he can’t sustain it. He’s nearly killed multiple times, is betrayed by the ones he values most (even if they don’t value him), and is set off on a quest that means unknown trials but ultimate glory. Finding the Breaker if Chains is crucial to Tyrion because it gives him hope. Tyrion is more than likely the most intelligent person in the world, yet with that brain power comes the capacity and unfortunate knowledge that nothing stays positive or good. Darkness always finds a way. For Tyrion, it’s a long, hard journey that brings him to the side of his chosen queen Daenerys. What comes next, we don’t know, but I’m willing to bet his most formidable adversary, his sister Cersei, has an idea of how she wants “the mistake” to be taken care of.
4 DAENERYS, MOTHER OF DRAGONS
I’ll be honest here. I was never really a fan of her during the early years. Much of this might of had to do with how she was presented in the novels, but for better or worse I wasn’t a fan. What turned me to her was the sheer will she possesses. Continually, unflinchingly and at times heroically she renewed faith in the high born and sought to bring peace to the forgotten souls. Whether it was the devastation of Slaver's Bay, or the triumphant way she dismantled the armies and ships of the Masters after they ignored the agreement they had initially, she's thoroughly bad ass through and through. Yes she has her negatives (such as always having Missandrie announce all 85 of her self given titles) but she overcomes these obstacles by being not just a talking point but by ensuring her people she will always have her followers best interest at heart. Not to mention, her dragons are Fucking incredible and oh my are they so fun to watch.
3 JON TARGARYEN
By now we all know the truth. “The Bastard from Winterfell” isn’t a bastard at all. Rather, Jon Snow finds his way in the dark terror filled world by not only being resilient but also by being the best man he could be. This all starts with his Uncle Ned Stark. Think about it: the Stark's are proud, strong and perhaps too trusting for their own good, but all this serves the purpose of making Jon perhaps the fiercest warrior in ASOIAF. he suffers daily taunts and is ridiculed by his own family, is ignored and pushed aside by his “step mother,” and after that he finds his place at the wall as part of the night's watch. This ends up being fatal to him, but clearly, the Lord of Light wasn’t done with him. He triumphs over the traitors that killed him for doing the right thing, survives Hardhome and the battle of the bastards. But he’s still not done. He goes through despair at the feeling of wanting to do the right thing in a world of wrong, but his perseverance is a mandate he can’t let go of. His story and how it ends will be a huge deal in the coming weeks, but for now, we know he’s ready to face the Night King, and won’t stop until the
life has been sucked out of his lungs, for what’s likely to be the final time.
2 JAIME LANNISTER
What would you do if the woman you loved lost her mind? Well, if you’re Jamie of House Lannister, you stand beside her until you can’t. When we meet the Kingslayer in season 1, you hate him immensely. He’s rich, smug, and worst of all, blond. Yet, over the course of 7 seasons he’s come to stand as one of the most honorable men in Westeros. You’re likely to still have a bone to pick with him over the whole almost killing Bran thing, but there’s so much more to him. You also have to remember that during the opening season he was still desperately trying to hide the fact that not only is he banging his sister, but all of her kids also happen to be his, thus making the basis for Ned reaching out to Stannis all the more vital and important. Over time though, we learn why he killed the Mad King, and the reasoning is sound and logical. He literally didn’t have a choice. The key moments for him though comes with the separation of his sword hand from his arm. He’s quoted as saying “I was that hand,” and it’s true. But in losing his hand, Jamie changes, and becomes a different type of person. His reasoning becomes more sound and less about saving his house. He’s still trying to save Cersei, but by the end of season 7, he abandons her because of the word he gave to Jon and all the others to help destroy the coming storm. That’s what makes him honorable, and ultimately an insanely interesting character.
1 ARYA STARK
Really, where to begin. Simply put she's a bad ass hell bent on bringing the glory back to her house. When we first meet her she feels very much like a person meant for great things. However, she’s the wrong sex in the medieval sense. In the world of Fire and Ice, women aren’t meant to be warriors, but rather waiting hands to strong men with desires for power. That all changes with the death of Ned. Instantly she’s plucked away and begins a years long journey. She has a list, and while she’s gradually building up her talents for killing she’s also keeping the names on her list front and center in her mind. The introduction of the Hound to her journey at first seems like a death sentence, but she learns from him, even while still wanting to kill him. The two of them together are a force to be reckoned with, and when that concludes (after the Hound is seemingly killed by Brienne of Tarth) her journey takes her to Braavos, and that’s when things get even trickier for her. She’s torn between becoming “No One” but also honoring her family and seeking vengeance. She learns a great deal from the House of Black and White, but that all comes to a head with the fight against the Waif ( or rather, a faceless man meant to push her to her limits). In the end she becomes stronger than ever before. She manages to take the lessons to heart and to become a faceless man, albeit not in the traditional way. She chooses the Stark crest while still embracing the the lessons she learned from Jaqen. In doing that she manages to escape with her life and a strong purpose. From there she heads north. Some of the best Arya moments come after that. Her killing of not only Walder Frey but literally everyone else in House Frey is a maddening moment where we get to see her drive and, quite darkly, her joy at dismantling the enemies that had long forgot her. The North remembers, and it’s in Arya's journey that we see that idea put forth over and over again. She still has names on her list, and she’s primed to seek bloody vengeance. It’s been a fascinating journey for her, and the girl is now a warrior. For all of these reasons, Arya is the best character in this heartless, cruel world, and the story is that much better because she’s part of it.
I almost never do just a routine album review anymore, but something about the weird nature of Bradford Cox and his Deerhunter cohorts got me in the mood to do a rare and simple review. It’s been four years since “Fading Frontier,” And much has changed for the band and their unique sound.
“Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared,” the 6th overall studio album by the band finds the group in an awkward spot in their career. Not that the music is awkward at all, but rather after years of going from one style to another, where does a band like Deerhunter go? They’ve done indie rock perfectly when determined, they’ve gone weird and into the darkness with an album like “Monomania,” and yet they’ve still produced records that are both off the beaten path yet easy to envelop yourself in. “Disappeared” is no exception.
There are many standout points during the run-time, but honestly it may not get better than the opening track “Death in Midsummer.” It’s got this jingle, lightly textured songwriting quality to it but it doesn’t come off as joyous at all in its lyrical
context. That’s sets up an interesting juxtaposition throughout the song. It’s a bittersweet track that while fun from far away, gets more despondent the closer you get to the source.
Cox and Deerhunter have this way about them that both embraces changing styles yet keeps the core of their creations firmly in the “this sounds like Deerhunter” corner of things. There is a chance that this recognition has to do with the signature way Bradford’s voice always sounds, or the intricate way he can weave a song.
If you’ve been a DH fan for awhile like me, you start to notice the restraint and creativity flowing through all of the records. Some are most obscure, while some have bigger moments in the songwriting structure. For the most part, this record wanders away from that and is far more experimental and low key. It’s never gets to be too much to handle though, and the gradual easy going nature of the instrumental sections help to bring you to a place where you can clearly
judge the record. “Element” has this opposing drum beat interwoven around the dreamy guitar and the voice of Cox that when mixed properly (like it is here) seems to be surrounding you at once, slowly circling you in a dream like sequence that reminds you why you’re a fan of weird alt rock to begin with.
Much of the record continues to do this, exploring territories the band hadn’t ventured to before. As the finale approaches, we get one last look at exploration. The track, “Plains,” has all the elements of a successful song, but there’s something else that jumps at me. There’s this element in the song that reminds me of a song from the Arcade Fire “Reflektor” album. The beat in the background is similar enough to catch your ear, but it actually comes off better than what the AF attempted to do. Not that the AF record and song is bad or even not that great, but when it’s done under the Deerhunter frame of reference, it frankly just feels more natural and easy to accept.
Overall though, this is another album that speaks to me as an avid fan, and while not all of their choices pay off, it’s a challenging and ultimately rewarding listening experience. Basically, it’s par for the course when delving into the weird, abstract, thoroughly enjoyable world that Bradford Cox occupies in the space of music that we call Deerhunter. It’s not their best record, but it’s still likely better than a majority of the records music fans will get their hands on this year.
Over the course of more than twenty years, Dave and his Foo’s have rosen in the ranks to become one of the biggest and most consistently entertaining bands.Today we’ll be discussing the band’s best records, and reliving all the great moments that we’ve been blessed with since their inception.
5. ECHOES, SILENCE, PATIENCE, & GRACE, 2007
After years of growth, some stumbles, and more than a few high notes, the band’s maturity began to show. ESP&G begins with “The Pretender,” And from there it covers all the normal bases a Foo Fighters fan desires. It rocks hard, Grohl screams his guts out while the rest of the band create that classic thumping sound the band is known for. Tracks like “Let It Die” begin with a murmur then explode into a menagerie of heavy hitting sounds, while others such as “The Ballad of the Beaconfield Miners” expose something different, albeit bluegrassy in nature, but still quite good. It’s not a masterpiece, but it’s a solid record all the way around.
4. FOO FIGHTERS, 1995
If you’re Dave Grohl, music is part of your blood and soul, so it seems natural that you might feel compelled to keep going on your musical journey, say, if you were in a huge band that suddenly ended. Either way, Grohl recorded this entirely on his own, and well the rest is history. “Alone + Easy Target” is the type of song that makes you want to bounce, but the real strengths throughout the debut record are the more popular tracks. The first three tracks are all doozies and hugely well-known, but as a package there aren’t three better songs sequenced together on any FF record. Opening the album with “This is a Call,” “I’ll Stick Around,” And “Big Me” is a brilliant move as all three songs are powerful but also different. With a record like this it’s no wonder they became one of the biggest most well loved bands of the last twenty years.
3. THERE IS NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE, 1999
This record was the moment where it became obvious these guys would end up filling stadiums. This type of record can be tricky though. Sure you want to remain vital as a unit, but you also want to stretch your skills. “Nothing Left” has all of those qualities rolled into one. Songs like “Stacked Actors” is a fuck you to hopeless people who need attention, while “Breakout” might also be about a certain blonde the band knows well. Either way the music speaks for itself. It has this garage recorded vibe floating through it, and it works to the band’s advantage. It’s a thicker more full sound, but it also has tender moments. “Learn to Fly” is a sweet, easy going song (not to mention a hilarious video), while “Next Year” is a slow, sorta trippy track that sounds just as at home here as it would had it been done by a pop “rock” band like Train or Maroon 5.
2. WASTING LIGHT, 2011
By this point in their career, the Foos had a built in fan base that was always eager to go wherever Dave and company felt compelled to go. From the opening moments of “Bridge Burning,” the whole record is focused, strong and melodically encapsulating. Tracks like “Rope” And “Arlandria” both have soaring choruses that sink their nails into the listener, while a track like “White Limo” sees the band get gritty with a heavy drum section and Grohl screaming his heart out. Late in the game, it’s not so normal for a band to make a devastatingly effect rock album, but with “Wasting Light” the band did just that. As the record ends with “Walk,” you’re also reminded that at their core they can write a song that’s both reflective and honest about being a full time band always gone in the pursuit of bringing your music to the nations front doors. For this reason and all the others I’ve named, “Wasting Light” lands at number two.
1. THE COLOUR & THE SHAPE, 1997
Could there have been any other album to get the number one spot on this list? I know it was a somewhat easy choice for myself, but when you look back at how well regarded the band became after this master stroke, it’s hard to argue with this being their best. What the album has in huge singles is apparent, but some of my favorite moments come from the songs that didn’t get huge radio play. “Hey Johnny Park” is a sprawling rock anthem with a killer finale explosion, but other songs are just as worthy of attention. “February Stars” is gorgeous layered and mesmerizing, but in the end the big numbers ultimately steal the show. “Monkey Wrench” is a rocker full of attitude, while “My Hero” is perhaps the most vibrant example of a feel good moment during the run time of the record. But then, of course, we get “Everlong.” Even 22 years after the song was released, it’s still one of the best songs I’ve ever heard in my life. It’s full of speedy intensity, and the vocals and guitar arrangements bring the song to the crescendo that is fitting for the entire record. It’s an incredible song on an amazing album, and it helps to make the album the best the band has ever done. I wouldn’t count them out though. They could always return with another amazing album that keeps the band in the bright light of the music world. Thanks for reading!
There are moments when a certain collection of music comes into your life and mixes itsinspiration with the nature of your soul. For me, this is true of the second album by Tame Impala,”Lonerism.” It’s has this perfect spectrum to it. For that reason we’re going to be discussing the valuable and timeless album of my life, “Lonerism” by Kevin Parker, aka Tame Impala.
One essential component that never changes in the world of Tame Impala is the process of making the actual music. Entirely done by Parker, it offers thoughtful observations into his psyche. Does he prefer doing everything himself, or does he just feel like he can better get the ideas out in his own time and journey? It’s hard to say and while both arguments could possibly be valid, I think the end results justify the means. This guy doesn’t make bad music, and on “Lonerism” you can see a more clear picture of a musical genius emerging from the background.
It all starts with the whirling, hazy yet fluttering opening of “Be Above It.” Being the first song on any record is important, as it sets the tone and stage for what’s to come. I imagine this track being made from an amalgamation of the other ideas, after they’ve been put into a blender to make something that’s colorful and full of energy. The best never changes or diverges from its early beginnings, but rather expands in density and thickness as all the beats are explored and brought into one harmonious rhythm section.
The whirlwind, psychedelic elements only start on “Above It,” but when you hear Parker’s voice creep in over the musical section of “Enders Toi,” you know the first track was only the musical representation of going up a roller coaster, waiting for the actual adventure to begin. Parker lets the music do the talking more than the scattered vocals, but it allows the music to breathe properly, which in turn makes the song better. By the time the thumping drum beat of “Apocalypse Dreams” come in, the listener is submerged in deep sounds that fill up a room like a light being shown in a dark field to help illuminate on your path to view the stars above your head. The drumming is crucial here because while it sets the pace, it also gives pointed motives for the rest of the music to become as good as it can be. It’s hard to imagine Parker doing all this himself, but that’s the reality, and none of us will ever be this good at doing something ourselves. It’s ok, I’m come to live with the knowledge that Parker is just not human. The breakdown towards the conclusion of the track is euphoric and beautiful, even if you can sense the remorse in Parker’s lyrics. It’s one of the early moments on the album that strike me as utterly beautiful. It just works and the full, lushly produced music flows effortlessly through the speakers and captures your body and soul as you surrender to the beats and arrangements.
This happens over and over again during the duration, but it never gets old. Each and every song has this kind of deep texture running through it, and the lo-fi production quality only helps to make a record that is as entrenched in heart and soul as it is in imaginative pysche rock. On tracks like “Mind Mischief” is extremely obvious, but it’s also obviously brilliant and thoughtful, which makes it all the more enjoyable to get lost in. I got this record a few years ago for my birthday, to this day it’s remained one of the best gifts I’ve received in terms of cool music.
Throughout “Mischief” Parker reminisces on a nameless women he was captivated by. It’s only at the chorus and conclusion that it becomes known that in fact “she remembered my name,” which for any guy who’s thinking about a lady all while being unsure if she even knows you exist, it’s a huge moment of positivity and gratefulness. It’s timing and moments like this that make the album feel like an extension of yourself, and makes you feel even closer to the spirit under which the album was created.
Just to throw this out there, but this album is full of almost nothing that doesn’t pull you in. Every track is a banger, but the middle section is where the road meanders into a truly trippy section of the record. “Music to Walk Home By,” is a thinly vailed attempt at making the drums and synth the focus of the track, but again because it works so well you don’t really care that the vocals are mixed low and muddy in the arrangement. For me it always goes back to how you want to service the song. You don’t always need the vocals to be forefront, but Parker manages to write lyrics that are easy to follow along with, should you choose that path. If you don’t that’s fine too because the instrumentation is pulling at you like nature pulls a helpless victim into a beautiful lush garden you might end up being a part of. To me, that doesn’t sound all that bad, as long as I have this album to accompany me.
It’s a pushy album in how it embraces the next gorgeous moment and that push helps to keep it fresh and ever growing. Middle tracks like “Music” and “Why Won’t they Talk to Me,” both work well as intermissions between the more solid sounds surrounding it on either side. These tracks are great, but to me it’s more about where we’re going and not where we’ve briefly found ourselves as listeners. Not to downplay the significance of this song and the former, but it feels like the bridge that crossed over two seperate sections. In that regard it works great.
After that though, the record spirals out in a wave of euphoria, starting with the band’s first taste of mass appeal. “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” is a monumental track that harnesses the power and emotion of a doomed relationship. Parker’s vocals are clear and the pain expelled fills the mostly upbeat instrumentation with a certain murky, unsure quality that really brings out the humanity that Parker was going for. I could listen to this song over and over (and I have), but it never loses its luster. It’s bright in arrangement and the heartache is palpable. There’s a reason it’s a massive hit, this wasn’t coincidental. From there the album continues with what has been proven to work, which is more drums, easy going guitar parts intermingled with a low but gorgeously inspired Beatles vocal style. Parker got a bit of heat for “ripping off Lennon” in these early days again, and well, he does sound like Lennon, but to me the difference is Lennon had three other members to lean on, and Parker is doing this all on his own. At this point pretty much no music can be claimed at “totally original,” but Parker has this knack for taking everything he’s ever heard, laying his own twist on it and coming out the other end with something that is as original as anything being played on radio right now.
One great example of this is the track “Elephant,” found as we get closer to the albums conclusion. It’s a thumping, heavy track that starts easily enough with a crunchy beat and a roaring appetite. The simplicity in the song is one of its strong victories, in that while it diverges to become part of a fuller sound, the drum beat never changes. Like it’s namesake, it’s driving, forceful, and determined. It never loses sight of that as a song, and that’s why it works so brilliantly. The lyrics are also fantastic. It’s somewhat nonsensical in that it isn’t a song about some deep loss or vulnerability. However, it does have the always timeless wordplay of “He pulled the mirrors off his Cadillac (yeah) ‘cause he doesn’t like it looking like he looks back,” which to me is cheeky, adversarial and too cool for school. The high energy featured during the track is a perfect detour from some of the other more slow, thoughtfully full sections of music we get during the rest of the record.
As the album finds its conclusion, we’re treated to a song that’s literally perfect for the ending. I picture the album being a journey through the darkness of the soul, but with “Sun's Coming Up,” it feels like the awakening of a new day. At this juncture, the pain felt throughout “Lonerism” can be happily discarded as you embark on an entire new day as you shed the difficulties of the past. The music also helps obviously. It’s slow at first just featuring a piano and Parker’s voice. For all intents and purposes, it works and the embrace you feel during the track is like an old friend hugging you after a stressful time. It’s easily the slowest song on the record, and it’s placement is crucial because it doesn’t get lost in the same way it might have been placed somewhere else. It’s still a sad track that makes you think, but it’s a pretty, and ultimately fitting end to what really is a remarkable album that I’m able to share my soul with. Thanks for reading.
These days, the art of modern rock takes resilience, the right amount of swagger and musicianship. It’s also rare when bands can get more than five albums worth of catchy, popular hits that still get people excited. Led by brothers Matt Shultz, rhythm guitarist Brad Shultz, lead guitarist Nick Bockrath, guitarist/ keyboardist Matthan Minster, bassist Daniel Tichenor, and drummer Jared Champion.
Hailing from Kentucky, the band has managed to release only great albums. We won’t go going in depth on these too much, but rather talking about their growth and the ability to make a song that has something for everyone. I mean seriously, their first album has what’s likely the band’s biggest hit. The track “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” features a loose country twang running of the vocals, and the vocals are delivered with almost a hip hop type of flow. The tale is morbid, sad and the reality of some of our lesser fortunate. Basically based on the strength of this track, the band got recognized.
The band would evolve on that with their next album “Thank You Happy Birthday.” Even from the second track “Aberdeen,” you can tell how much the band embraced the idea of being the next big thing in indie music. To fill a vast amount of space you need the right type of artist, whose sound can elevate themselves and bring in the big crowds and paydays. “Aberdeen” proved that it was possible for them. It’s a strong anthemic song and all the parts work effortlessly together. There’s just so much to enjoy with this band it’s hard to decide which aspect is the best. Even the sneakiness and sarcastic nature of a song like “Indy Kidz” works better than it should. I mean they’re literally talking shit at a demographic that could have made or broken them. In that regard they get points for bluster and bravado, and it oozes out of them. Then you have a sweet lovely song like “Shake Me Down.” It’s reminiscent of pain but also salvation. When Schultz talks about keeping his eye “fixed on the sun” I see it at as a metaphor for the band’s pursuit of acknowledgment. Then the instrumentation opens up and your mood goes up in happy remembrance. The “even on a cloudy day” section is simply gorgeous, and for me at least, it’s impossible not to smile.
The band can also get heavier and more frenzied. The next album, titled “Melophobia” opens up with the scorcher known as “Spiderhead.” It’s one of my favorite songs they’ve ever composed, and it invokes images of a gorgeous strong woman dancing in a field with her arms in the air. It’s just a fun booty shaking track. It’s easy to lose yourself in the song; when I belt this song out in my car after a long day, all the stresses of life fade away. Having said that, the band’s other two best known and popular songs are the ones that eventually the album became known for. “Come a Little Closer” and final track “Cigarette Daydream” are heartfelt moments, but “Daydream” is the emotional conclusion of the album, and the heart of everything that came before. The soft guitar works wonderfully amidst a vocal section dealing with reluctance and pain at the thought of being lost in the passage of time.
Finally, three years ago, the first record on the big scale was released, and naturally, the band got bigger and better at their craft. The songs on this album didn’t end up being their best of all time, but there’s plenty to love about the entire duration. “Mess Around” is a 60’s era psych rock song arranged in the spirit of their Kentucky garage roots. It’s masterful and dance-able, both things the brand excels at by now. “Cold Cold Cold” is a dangerous darkly thematic track, but the real show stopper to me is “Punching Bag.” The story of a woman fed up with her abusers bullshit, it has a revenge plot running through it, but honestly, those fuckers deserve to be dealt with. It has an intentional type of danger to it that I enjoy. Rock n Roll needs to be more dirty and unsafe than it’s been in recent years, and this track proves that this band is capable of that, even if they only brush on the area.
All in all, this band is going to get bigger and (hopefully) better as the delve into new and exciting parts of the musical spectrum. The new album will be out soon, so we’ll all find out shortly I guess. Thanks for reading.
During the early aughts, a groundswell of garage based, mostly indie rock came bubbling up after the death of new metal. Bands like the Hives, White Stripes, and maybe most notably, the Strokes helped to usher in a new age of rock n roll. Hailing from NYC, the capital of American attitude, the five piece consisting of Julian Casablancas, Albert Hammond Jr., Nick Valensi, Nikolai Fraiture, and Fabrizio Moretti on drums released an album that was defined by its devil may care logic in quick, punctuated music that touched on issue of being reasonable, lost in thought, and more notably, fun times spent laughing about the memories, good and bad. I haven’t done one of these “Albums of My Life” in awhile so I thought it would be great to discuss one of the overall best albums of the last 20 years, without a doubt. Here are my thoughts on the Seminal album by the Strokes, “Is This It?”
I hope you enjoy.
At 35 minutes, this album is quite short, but what it lacks in duration is quickly forgotten because nearly every song is a classic anthem and perfectly exemplified everything that was amazing about the early indie movement. The opening title track starts with a mild electronic beat before becoming a very evenly paced instrumentation section. It’s only made better by the slow murmurings of singer Casablancas. Much has been made of the bands seemingly lax relationship with how normal bands do things, but from the start they made that known, and have basically stuck to their guns in the following 18 years.
Musically, the opening is a nice teaser for a more immediate next track “Modern Age.” It’s easily one of my favorite songs the band has ever recorded, the guitar part is contagious, and the song takes off like a coaster on Coney Island. It’s one of the more fun energetic tracks on the album, and overall is a masterpiece. It’s powerful, defensive and ready for attack. I think that’s what I like about it most.
Many of the songs on this album stay with you for way longer than they maybe should. Much of what was released during those years of the garage rock revival has been forgotten, like any fading genre, but this record always seems to get classier with age. As the album progress, we get a solid round or so of songs that would end up helping the band become such a well known act. “Someday” is filled with this sense of longing and regret, which I think is still relevant of the times. The lyrical content is used from points of frustration and apathy, but also of redemption and finding the strength to be the best person you can.
Following that we get the massive hit “Last Nite,” the song that was the first big break the band got on radio and (even then) music videos on MTV. I think the song is good but not the best in their arsenal. Having said that, it’s hard to be as great as you can be when the next track “Hard to Explain” blows everything out of the water. It’s a fast paced but beautiful song of remembrance. I have a friend who was going through a difficult time, with a lady, and he described to me the freedom of flying down the interstate on New Year’s Eve, blasting this song and being freed of all the burdens of the last year and the Strokes played it, seemingly just for him in that moment. It’s stuff like that that always stays with me. It’s the power of music, and while this album has many high points, “Hard to Explain” is not only the best track on the album, but more than likely the band’s best overall song. I hope you enjoyed this. Thanks for reading.
When At the Drive In broke up, leading members Omar Rodríguez-López and vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala made a left turn so surprising that many were uncertain. However, it worked, in spades actually and The Mars Volta became one of the great post rock, almost demented jam bands of the early 2000’s. Today we discuss the bands ten best songs, and try to make sense of it all. Enjoy, and wish me luck!
10. ABERINKULA, THE BEDLAM IN GOLIATH
One of the best mechanisms the band has is the ability to whirlwind this retro avant-garde prog rock with a type of trippy Spanish influences. Over and over again they mix the two to become a band that is as creative as they are free wielding shape shifters. This track is a perfect example of that artistry. It’s King Crimson meets Santana, and that mythological influence captivates everything in the song.
9. VISCERA EYES, AMPUTECHRE
Drawing an audience has never been a problem for this band, but I doubt they care immensely. This gives the band cause to do whatever they want. “Viscera Eyes” is a perfect example of that. Mixing Spanish and English lyrics captures both sides of the band while still expanding their sound. At over nine minutes in length, it’s another in a long line of adventurous tracks that make you feel like a fever dream setting out for your prize.
8. CICATRIZ ESP, DELOUSED IN THE COMATORIUM
Quite a few of these selections come off the seminal full length record, and all these years later the album is still mesmerizing, along with this song which finds us at number eight. It’s got quite the drum beat, but the real show is the guitar work, which I think was done by Frusciante of the RHCP. It has this middle section that welcomes the calm before the storm, then welcomes the storm itself while Baxter screams “defender.” It’s a powerful moment for sure, and a great song to boot.
7. TETRAGRAMMATON, AMPUTECHRE
Easily the longest track to make this list, this sixteen minute journey exemplifies how the band delves into otherworldly grooves and hooks and never looks back. It meanders between weird Latin infused arrangements while embracing the prog rock nature of the band itself. At this point in the band’s career they were basically operating freely and away from normal operating procedures for most successful bands. Trusting their instincts and making something that is wide ranging yet thought provoking is what got them to where they ended up, so why not keep trusting it?
6. TEFLON, OCTAHEDRON
I remember hearing this song when they album released, and quite frankly it had me spellbound. It’s hypnotic and captivating in leaps and bounds. The swerving mechanics bringing forth the twilight zone-sequel instrumental section, while again the vocals roam like a once caged but now free animal. It’s curious and darkly mesmerizing and it’s one of their best, weirdly mid tempo classic. It’s even better to experience live, as I did finally at Bonnaroo 2009.
5. INERTIATIC ESP, DELOUSED IN THE COMATORIUM
Maybe their best known song, but also their mass welcome to the music world at large. It starts with a bang and doesn’t let up for the entirety of nearly four minutes and thirty seconds. The drumming, coupled with the madness of the screeching guitar make it a truly dynamic song. Much of the vocals and words are non sensibility, but that finds its way into this band pretty often. It honestly works though. Sometimes, for certain songs I feel like the lyrical content isn’t as important as the overall quality of the song. But, this is part of where they thrive. We don’t have to understand everything.
4. METATRON, THE BEDLAM IN GOLIATH
I’ve used this before to describe this band, but the wild , free wielding nature is one of the best attributes of the Mars Volta. Strange unorthodox soundscapes lay the groundwork for a song that’s as heavy and verbose as anything the band has ever done. Much of the lyrical content is jumbled into an abstract context, but the real winner here is the drum work, I believe by Jon Theodore( they change members quite often) is electric and pummeling all at the same time. It’s one of the best aspects of the song, and it helps “Metatron” land at number four in the countdown.
3. ROULETTE DARES(THE HAUNT OF), DELOUSED IN THE COMATORIUM
Many songs on “Deloused” are navigations into uncertain waters, but “Roulette Dares” actually ends up being one of the more straightforward, albeit jammy tracks on the record. The gradual opening begins with drums and off the wall guitar renderings, but with an explosion of other instruments joining the fold, the song becomes more epic than any other song found in this countdown. Cedric's vocals are strong and soaring, but he’s also able to bring it down a notch when needed. Honestly the contrast between the two vocal stylings show how powerful and capable he is as a vocalist, and the song is better because of it.
2. THE WIDOW, FRANCES THE MUTE
After a huge debut like the band had, it was somewhat expected for most fans to be underwhelmed by what they cooked up next. It’s not because of the end product is bad, but rather I think it had to do with the length of the album and how many of the songs seemed to be one big long piece that had to be played as one. Thankfully, the second track on the album,”The Widow,” is a song that hides hardly any mystery and has few drastic changes throughout. This juxtaposition helps the album to find some common ground in its arrangement. It’s more of a straight ahead track than what the band is known for, but it also ends up being one of the best the band has ever recorded. The agony in Cedrics voice is obvious, and with all the other parts working together the song is able to become profound and ultimately engaging and rich.
1. TELEVATORS, DELOUSED IN THE COMATORIUM
I’m not sure when this ended up being my favorite song by this band, but during the years I ended up falling in love with this band “TELEVATORS” always stood out to me as an imperfect masterpiece. It’s weirdly arranged but still maintains a more linear songwriting approach than many of their other contributions. The slowly building background sections are gorgeously layered, and when Baxter suggests that “the chalk outline will circle this city,” you get the feeling he’s weapons for a divisive culture on the edge of collapse. It’s a sobering song in a heap of exploratory songs that shows that the band isn’t all weird and alien like. In the end it ends up being the band’s best overall song, which is why it ends our countdown at number one. Thanks for reading, I hoped you enjoyed!
Artists by nature are allowed to be chameleons to a certain extent. The album or songs you write as a 20 year old might draw from very different places than it will when you’re gaining in years. It’s all part of the growth and maturity that comes with being a performer and an adult, as a matter of fact. That’s where we find the inspiration for today’s post, about up and coming, potential superstar in the making, Mitski.
Since arriving modestly in 2012 with her album “Lush,” her music has been about personally engaging emotions that overwhelm while also waking you up to how these deterrents can be fought and ultimately conquered. The record, along with her next self released album “Retired from Sad, New Career in Business,” are both engaging and worth a listen. On “Retired,” we get a more orchestral movements along with her silky yet sullen voice whispering from the darkness, trying to lull the listener into a dark, albeit engaging emotional place. One of the best tracks on the album, “Shame” features violin chords that cut deep with tension and a foreboding that is often not heard outside of film scores or during haunting symphonies. It’s an early testament to her pushing herself musically, and even without a huge budget and no name recognition, it stands proudly as an early sign of excellence that portents to what future Mitski works will showcase.
In 2016 though, at the age of 26, right as most adults are still trying to gain traction and make a name for themselves (in whatever field they happen to be in) Mitski took that dive and released a record that was not only hailed by indie music types, but also caused people to take notice to this soft spoken but direct Japanese American songwriter named Mitski Miyawaki. That record, “Puberty 2,” explores the dense and intimidating nature of things like growing up racially obscured in terms of how to balance the concepts of cultures that often wildly misalign in how events are felt, showcased and ultimately handled. Her experience in this is likely normal for others like her who grew up walking the line between having a profound culture from one point of view while still trying to fit in in whatever culture you spent more time. It’s a struggle that bleeds through the whole record, but it doesn’t ever get black and white in terms of what’s right and wrong. I’ve found in dealing with culture clashes there often isn’t a “this is right or this is wrong” standpoint. Certain people just do things differently from how my family might do it, but it’s not wrong or right. It’s just how it is.
Songs like the powerful opener “Happy,” are engaging in their sexuality but also frank about the turbulence of any potential romantic relationship. Her lyrics are dirty in message but they way she manipulates the words ends up being more romantically cathartic than perhaps it’s meant to be. It’s another example of her word play when she talks about “happy came into me,” as she’s describing the bliss of love making with the person of her choosing. Other songs like “Dan the Dancer” brim with immediacy courtesy of the rhythmic guitar sections. It’s moments like this that capture the listener while also making departures that an unknowing fan might not expect. It’s this variance of sound that’s makes difficult to anticipate what might come next. At least it’s exciting thought provoking music though.
One of the best, standout tracks on “Puberty,” “Your Best American Girl” finds its entrance about fifteen minutes in, but it’s musicality, vocals, and lyrical content stand as the best on the record. The trepidation composed throughout the track is palpable and agony driven. At the root of the track is the regret and uncertainty of being in love but of also feeling like the way you were brought up isn’t in line with what others perceive as being the best way. Again this speaks to the culture clash of being a Japanese born American and having to navigate the difficult task of being from two juxtaposing worlds and ways of life. “Puberty 2” ended up getting accolades from various indie music blogs, justifiably so, but Mitski’s next trick would be more eye opening and raw than anything else she has released thus far.
Released last year to widespread acclaim, “Be the Cowboy” has everything her fans have grown to love, but it’s pouring with dark pop tendencies. Take the first track “Geyser,” it’s a blustering harmonization of dinky lit synth, with Mitski’s voice calling from the darkness for us to join her. From there the album delves into what the artist Mitski has described as her “saddest record” to date. And boy let me tell you she wasn’t joking. Over the 38 minute run time, you feel her pain and desperation. Tracks like “Washing Machine Heart” might seem more upbeat than others but the lyrical content still makes you want to weep with her and tell her it will be ok.
Albums like this can be difficult to get through. Mostly what it boils down to for me is how closely do I want to be engaged to these forbidding, often deceptive thoughts. Many of the songs here simply work, like “Remember My Name” with its pure vocals and walloping drum section, it’s vaguely heartbreaking in scope, with the listener hoping for recognition in a world that pretty much lets everyone ignore everyone else at will. It’s small moments and observations like this that gave the album growing room and high praise. It’s also why among many publications and websites this record, this “Be the Cowboy”, came bursting through and landed atop most of the year end albums lists of the year just completed. Hell even this very website named it the top album of 2018.
For some that classification speaks to what was perceived as a lukewarm music year, but to me it means the album was incredible and moving. To get to a point where your album is named “the best” means that you’re taking risks in your creation. That point brings me to the track “Lonesome Love.” It’s a bittersweet piece about attempts to convey your happiness through your outward beauty but then being let down. Included during the vocals is a line regarding how well she can take care of herself sexually. Twenty years ago a female musician likely would’ve been chastised for being “too graphic” or any of the other things bullshit men who don’t want women being too overly sexual to be. The point I’m trying to make is that to stay strong and independent and well, human, we have to be able to convey our feelings and to do so without being frightened of perception. The album is seething with these types of abandoned or pushed aside emotions, but in its final minutes Mitski takes a leap and manages to pull all the other messages during the album into one last, gorgeously layered track.
This track, “Two Slow Dancers,” is the type of song that breaks into your heart, making you remember all the times you were wrong, ill informed, or downright fucked over. I can feel the pain of being part of something that ends tragically or miserably- and in that moment we’re transported to a time where lovers held each other under soft lights. The picture she paints here is regrettable, not because we don’t want to deal with it, but because we all already have, and the weight of the pain in going back is just too much for our souls to handle. When Mitski harmonizes “To think that we could stay the same,” it brings moments fluttering into your subconscious. Moments that you’ll never forget, even if you want to, and also the joys and free wielding nature of being in love during the early highs of our 20’s, without a care into the world. That can’t last of course, and even though we hear the beautiful vocals of Mitski as she exclaims that “we get a few years and then it wants us back,” we know that life is filled not with ultimate second chances, but of regret and sadness. Like I said, the record is incredibly sad and vulnerable, but the best music was never made from a confident, happily reassured place. But rather from a place deep within us as we try to move past our own hang ups and mistakes. Thank you for reading.
It’s hard to make one truly amazing film. It’s entirely more difficult to become one of the most innovative auteurs of our time. Both of those are traits Scott holds, and oftentimes the execution is obvious, grandiose and spellbinding. Today we’re gonna discuss what I consider to be his five movies. Picking his best is difficult and many great films of Scott’s had to be left off the list. I tried to include a mixture of his exercises in filmmaking, and this list features horror, science fiction, crime drama and others. What they do have in common is their ability to create a world through a lens that is at times heartbreaking, shockingly scary and poignant. Without further adieu, I give you Ridley Scott’s best. Lastly, there will be spoilers throughout, so hopefully you’ve seen these. Enjoy.
5. THE MARTIAN, 2015
What could have been a film as depressing and downtrodden as any other survival type movie manages to be not only tough skinned in tone and delivery, but also quite funny throughout. Much of this is due to the screenplay for the film, based on the book of the same name by Andy Weir is thoroughly funny throughout, with sarcasm and snarkiness permeating through. Much of that is due to how well Matt Damon delivers in his role as Mark Wattley. You sense his desperation in the face of almost certain death, but the levity he brings to his trials helps the movie goer, and the character himself, brave the more difficult parts of the film. You ache for him when his crop dies, yet you laugh with him when he’s explaining the poor choices in music that his captain has. It’s a harrowing adventure sci-fi film, and it’s thoroughly rewatchable. The whole cast, which includes Jeff Daniels, Donald Glover, Jessica Chastain and more are all great, but this is Damon’s show and he owns its power.
4. AMERICAN GANGSTER, 2007
I went to see this with my former partner over a decade ago, and her reaction to loving the film still creeps out in my head. She hasn’t heard much about it. But was uninterested all the same. Nearly three hours later she was excitedly ranting about how great it was. In hindsight it’s hard not to expect Washington and Crowe to deliver the kind of top tier acting they’re known for, but this movie still wasn’t a completely sure thing. The plot involves a crime lord working his way up while working himself into the spotlight long pointed at his mentor, who passes away during the early moments of the film. On the other hand you have a cop, played by Russell Crowe, who’s similarly working his way back into the good graces of his police cohorts, while also trying to get his law degree. Both of these masters trade back and forths as they circle each other until the tension can’t be held anymore. It’s an excellent drama led by another insane cast, with Josh Brolin playing a huge asshole corrupt cop, and plenty of others. The tale spans years, continents, provocations and of course the ultimate fight among cops and the drug dealers who work to control the means of production.
3. ALIEN, 1979
John Landis once commented that Alien isn’t actually a science fiction film but gothic horror. To some extent he’s correct. However, in my opinion it’s able to be both sci -fi and gothic horror. It’s scary and futuristic, but the setting of the Nostromo makes the sense of dread even more palpable. Essentially it’s a film about a creature torementing the residents of a ship, but that’s just the beginning of the nightmare. Ellen Ripley, played brilliantly by Sigourney Weaver is a powerhouse of raw energy and instincts that she utilizes to defeat the Xenomorph in the film. Simply put this film is a masterpiece, and its success spawned decades of at times exciting film making and plot twists. But if not for the memorable moments of the first film, none of the others would have ever done to fruition. Between the infamous chest bursting scene, or all the grizzly deaths carried out by the “Alien,” Aliens was a different kind of horror tale, and it worked to massive success and the emergence of a female heroine that everyone could root for, even if the story of Ripley is ultimately heartbreaking and seemingly never ending.
2. GLADIATOR, 2000
From the epic battles and plot, to the grandiose set design and feel of the time, Gladiator is a rare Epic that did extremely well with both casual audiences and critics alike. Nearly twenty years later, it’s still a marvel to watch, and it only gets better with time. As Maximus, Russell Crowe is amazing in his role, and expels determination and brutal methods in his race to be welcomed to the afterlife where his family is waiting for him. Running close to three hours long, it’s easy to lose interest in some films, but Gladiator sucks you in and won’t let you go until all the wrongs of Commodus are undone and made right. It’s poetic and poignant, but also deeply dark and sinister, especially when Phoenix begins his descent into madness. It’s one of my favorite movies of all time, but it’s also just a really really good film. For that and all the other reasons I’ve explained, Gladiator lands at number 2 on our countdown, and it’s well deserved.
1. BLADE RUNNER, 1982
Really, where to even begin? Among Scott’s best films there tends to be a large division among the top choice. Some choose the coldness of Alien, others the engaging battles of films like Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven, while others like his softer more compassionate side with The Martian. For me though, Blade Runner tops all of them. I’ve always been a fan of dystopian science fiction, and this is widely considered among the all time best. From harrowing performances by Ford, Rutger Hauer and Sean Young, to the gorgeously layered rubble of Los Angeles, it’s basically perfect. One thing though, they have multiple cuts of this film, so make sure to avoid the voiceover version. Stick with the final cut. It’s longer and more dense, but you get snapshots of the world more and it ends up being more thoughtful also. It’s honestly beautiful in its portrayal of humanoid machines trying to figure out what the right way to survive is. It’s a struggle for the characters, but understanding it is really a cinematic treasure and a joy to experience. It makes you think long and hard about our future and the unnerving future that is racing towards us. One of the best movies of all time, it only gets better and more relevant with age. I hope you enjoyed this little variety in the programming, and I’ll see y’all later. Thanks for reading.
In my opinion, the single greatest band of the last twenty years. What was wrongly assumed to be a no brainer one hit wonder band, the British powerhouses of nuance-Yorke, the brothers Greenwood, Selway, and O’Brien have consistently been able to transcend modern music and make thought-provoking music that’s not easily digestible but nonetheless has engrossed a massive following that is as fervent as the band is stubborn in pursuit of new exciting sounds and emotions. As another entry in our series of top five albums, I present to you the five best albums from the one and only Radiohead.
5. Amnesiac, 2001
Released just one year after Kid A (we’ll get to that later), this record is weird, yet motivating, but also with a sinister undertone, like a foreboding apocalypse. “Pyramid Song” is a masterpiece and maybe their best song period, while closer “Life in a Glasshouse” is a solemn, worrisome track that whimpers passionately, under a cloud of horns and uncertainty. So much of the album is opposite of its predecessor, yet it still manages to be a poignant reminder of the potential of the band. I feel like it’s often overlooked when discussing the bands best moments, but if you’re a fan of the band through and through, it’s a classic album that deserves accolades.
4. The Bends, 1995
Pablo Honey has come and gone, and while most people simply wrote them off as that one hit wonder band, the quintet set out to push themselves to make something more memorable than the first go ‘round. The result, 1995’s “The Bends” is a British arena rock album just waiting for a crowd big enough to rock arenas. The title track is snarky and conquering all in the same, and the guitar work on the track, as well as the accompanying record proved to everyone that they weren’t correct in writing the band off as the next big thing that went nowhere. “Fake Plastic Trees” is perhaps the most unusual ballad of the decade, while still being a beautiful soaring moment. “My Iron Lung” bristles in the sunlight before diving deep into anguish, while “”Black Star” is melancholy and honest. The album got people to put more stock into the band(at least critically), and by the time the band released their next album they were no longer a forgotten name from the early 90’s.
3. In Rainbows, 2007
Pay what you want, and get a record. I still remember the announcement of the bands seventh record, and definitely not understanding the angle. Either way, once you downloaded “In Rainbows” you were welcomed into a record that ended up being a landmark for the band. It has all the constructions and effects that a fan can recognize as being Radiohead, but it’s more casual and easy going then some of their more experimental records. It’s has the slow building moments like “Nude” and “Videotape,” but it also has measured angst and raucousness during segments like “Bodysnatchers” and “Jigsaw Falling into Place.” This record is hard to escape, even 12 years after the fact. It shows a band maturing in gorgeous but painful ways, and sees the band enter a new landscape of musical direction.
2. OK Computer, 1997
The album that changed everything. One moment they were a quite good but obscure band, and then the turn approached and the band went balls to the wall to break out of their earlier shell. The result is simple- the best album of the 90’s. In 1997 it was hailed as a masterpiece, which it is, but we hadn’t yet met this “new” Radiohead. Every track on “OK” works and sits nestled in comfortably with each other track. “Paranoid Android” is a whirlwind of sounds and energy, while “Let Down” is a thick mess of emotions and soundscapes. The point is, every song compliments the tracks before and after it while staying true to the theme of failing systems prevalent through the running time of the album. The fact that every song is an illumination of the bands strengths make the album that much more of a landmark. Even after 22 years it’s still often regarding as a perfect album, but that’s only because it actually is.
1. Kid A, 2000
And now we come to the number one. Obviously this is just my opinion, but when a band does a complete and sudden 180 in regards to their sound, and it ends up being this goddamn good, you have to take notice. The cold electronic elements beaming through the record put the listener in a lonely, thoughtful place, but again, it simply works. “How to Disappear Completely” is a slow burn of emotion, with Yorke’s detached voice acting as a compass as you wander through the dark looking for safe passage. Note, this record is less about showing safe passage than it is opening up your subconscious in a way that’s measured but sullen. I could listen to this all day and still find new things to get excited over. “Idioteque” is more upbeat and energetic in instrumentation, but it still has the hunger and depraved moments the band is known for. If “OK Computer” was the best album of the 1990’s, than “Kid A” stands as the moment that the band not only made two of the best albums in different decades, but also the moment that the mass public really started to get hooked into the wondrous, illuminating sounds that make this band so timeless and engaging.
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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