Another year and yet more shows. Plenty of these are always going to be good, but I was surprised and what stood out to me, weeks and sometimes months after. Time can change things, but these were all very fun, adventurous shows, and incoed getting to experience them. Enjoy!
And now welcome to the first edition of our year end reviews. First up we have the ten best songs of the year. These range from hip hop, indie rock, pop and whatever else stood out to me this year. Enjoy!
10.TYLER THE CREATOR:
NEW MAGIC WAND, IGOR
I’ve had plenty of problems with Tyler’s off the stage language over the years, but we’ve gotten to a point where you can’t ignore his success in creating hip hop that’s both honest and jubilant. “NEW MAGIC WAND” sees a man reaching out for love, even when he’s aware he’s being a little too extra. The beats jingle in a way that signals a life of playing the triangle in a school band, but out of nowhere a siren like sound fills the backing mix and the track gets much darker, both in tempo and in the delivery of the vocals. It’s scratchy, more like Tyler’s early records. It also delves deep into what he’s capable of, which in this case means marrying the grime of his past with the maturity and education he’s received during the last few years of his ever increasingly friendly sound. If you want to call it that.
9. THOM YORKE:
DAWN CHORUS, ANIMA
Leave it to Mr. Yorke to make one of the most fascinating songs that you’ll want to weep your eyes out to for years to come. “Dawn Chorus,” is a pinnacle in remembrance of misery; the depth and gravity hit you as soon as the pulsating dark beats emanated over the speakers. It’s sobering in a way no one except Nick Cave has managed to be in recent years, and this time it’s all Thom’s. It’s staggering to witness in concert, and it’s even better for a night time drive, appreciating what you have and not what you’ve lost. It’s a longer track, right at five minutes, yet it feels almost too fast. That’s the secret quality of Yorke and his various products. He has a niche that’s perfect for what he’s trying to do, and every now and then he pulls you away in a bear hug and breaks down your nature to rubble.
8. LOCAL NATIVES
WHEN AM I GONNA LOSE YOU, VIOLET STREET
Up until this song I’ve never really given them a chance, but finally in 2019 my wife started showing interest and, well, she was right. This song is a beautiful if not troublesome track about the realities of living as part of a relationship and how it can be tricky to navigate. “When am I...” is a reminder of the trials but it’s melodic rhythm and the way the vocals struggle out make it more real to me. The end is pretty and nostalgic, like a partner laying in an empty bed remembering the beautiful moments. It’s beautifully romantic, but also honest.
7. CHARLY BLISS:
YOUNG ENOUGH, YOUNG ENOUGH
This was the year that a little band from Brooklyn, on the road supporting their brilliant sophomore release would wake up the indie scene to what could be done well, even if the success is rare. As Charly Bliss, Eva Hendricks and her brother Sam have seen a huge year cross their plates, and in large volumes it’s due to impactful songs like the title track “Young Enough.” It has that classic build budding at the surface. Eva’s voice is clear and deliberate as she waxes poetic about the joys, heartbreak, and optimism that make being in your early 20’s so special. It’s ridiculous in its honesty, and for that reason it’s been a must listen for me throughout the year. It soars at the precise moment it needs to during its five minutes, but it never lets you go.
6. DENZEL CURRY:
SHAKE 88, ZUU
Maybe not the biggest track of the year, but it’s very likely the banger if the year for me. It’s become my almost home from work song over the past year and it’s even better if you have plans you’re headed to. Curry is a monster as an M.C. and the beats are some of the dopest I’ve heard in the last few years. It’s honest, raunchy as fuck, and care free, like all good hip hop should be. There’s a time and a place for everything, and if it’s a party it has to be Denzel Curry. It’s a guaranteed booty shaker as it was meant, and it still hasn’t gotten lame for me.
I’M FULL, NOTHING HAPPENS
I’ve listened to this song maybe 100 times or more this year, and while I still can’t figure out exactly what it’s about, it’s wonderful in every way. From the early release to the vocals, to the drum hits, everything works. At face value it seems like a track regarding drug use, but I think it might be about bettering yourself. Sometimes things are going to be totally fine. Weathering the storm, not overindulging (this is implied by the title) are all important. Musically though they over indulge and make a successful rock anthem that I haven’t reacted to like this in years. It reminds of the carefree days, I could walk around in shorts and a t-shirt and not care. Being in the sunlight, trying to relax and get on track, because “I’m Full.” Dylan’s voice is serendipitous and tangoes at the same time, but by the end you’re flying high through the clouds as the song becomes a celebration of forgiveness.
SEE YOU AT YOUR FUNERAL, MORBID STUFF
Man what a year for these guys. This song, I just can’t escape it. It’s so fucked in the literal content of how this person feels, but it’s heavily realistic in how you feel after a serious breakup. The chords and the vocals especially are biting and forceful. It’s one of the things that works best. The hurt pouring out from the author is clear. He wants this person to fail so it proves him right. It fits perfectly with the theme of deaths throughout the entire record (more on that later). The segment that begins with “I hope somehow I never see you again, or if i do it’s at your funeral,” are some of the most deeply honest feelings I’ve ever heard, and the way they’re delivered are even more intense. I’ve felt those exact feelings, and it sucks and I’m sorry for everyone who has to go through that. But in the end it ultimately makes the song more profound.
JUICE, CUZ I LOVE YOU
You really couldn’t make this list and not at least include this. As I mentioned earlier, this was a huge year for fabulous ladies, and our first female in the top three is the queen of positivity imagery, Lizzo, and the literal smash “Juice.” It’s sassy in a way few artists are able to perfect, but the Houston diva seems to do it whether or not she’s getting attention. She’s solid in who she is as a person, and it’s another great reminder of the importance of a strong woman. She’s just a great role model for bigger ladies who feel inadequate in a shitty world that can’t seem to accept them. Either way, Lizzo redefines what it means to be positive, and I hope it continues.
2. BILLIE EILISH:
YOU SHOULD SEE ME IN A CROWN, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO?
This was a hard one. All of the songs how do you pick the best? She’s had such an insane year, and at least till this point she hasn’t betrayed her early style and gone more poppy and clean. I was telling my wife recently that she made me think of that person we know and we’re attracted to, but we can’t really say why. You know what I mean. The song is a trap door of emotion and mockery. The opening is doom laden in a way most “mainstream” songs aren’t, but it’s that contrast that makes it stand out even more. Much has been made of her age, and this industry is devastating at times, so I hope she remains who she is, and never compromises. She has the ability and I believe the smarts to pull it off. At the very least she should keep making songs that portray women as fierce creatures who deserve a spot.
1. SHARON VAN ETTEN
SEVENTEEN, REMIND ME TOMORROW
I was driving home from a friends house early this year and Sirius was debuting the song all weekend, since her record had just come out, and it captured me immediately. Again it’s a song of remembrance. But it’s also about watching the future you grow up and tackle the big issues of life. It’s vulnerable, and at some points broken in agony, but I think at its core it’s about longing for the simpler days that are considered childhood. This is Van Etten's most personal song to date, and it’s telling that it’s garnered as much success and praise as it has. It’s a rollercoaster with Etten’s voice at the forefront. The breakdown towards the end is epic and thick with worriedness and fear. As I drove and took the song in I knew it was something special. I’ve taken many drives since, singing those same words, and for all those reasons, it’s the best song Of the year for me. I hope you’ve enjoyed this. We’ll return in a few days with the best shows of the year and of course closing it out with the top 29 albums!
After years of waiting, this week we found out that finally, at long last, progressive gods Tool will be adding all of their material to streaming services. This comes on top of the band’s first album in 13 years, “Fear Inoculum,” releasing on August 30. So, to celebrate all of that, today I share with you the Top 10 Tool songs. A similar list was done years ago, and I’ve reworked some of these entries, but either way I’m looking forward to jamming these ten essential tracks in the very near future. Enjoy!
10. JAMBI: 10,000 DAYS
This is one of the song’s from “10,000 Days” that instantly stuck out. I had purchased a ticket to the 2006 Coachella Festival, out in California. Tool was the headliner of the final day. About 6 days before, this album leaked. I knew I couldn’t wait to hear the songs live. For 6 days prior I consumed this album. While not as excellent as Lateralus, it still had plenty of what every Tool fan wants. The song names on this album at first glance don’t make a lot of sense. But as with many things involving this band, you can’t ever be sure if they’re fucking with you or not. Why exactly was this song named after the genie from Pee Wee’s playhouse? I have no idea. But the song is as heavy as it is melodic. While the earlier albums are still very good compared to most other albums, the introduction of Justin Chancellor on the previous album really helped to bring their sound and experimentation to the next level. The bass is really crunchy here, and he’s an excellent player overall. No disrespect to the former boss player, but Chancellor was the missing link that was needed. With the lyrics you can also tell Keenan’s choices had become even more cryptic, but also more meaningful. This album he discusses everything from the death of someone extremely close to him to being tripped out on drugs.
9 OPIATE: OPIATE
Many old school fans still consider this one of their best, and best known songs. The menacing instrumental opening is brief, but Keenan’s voice and choice of lyrics immediately stand out. The band may have gotten very meta in their recent albums, but this closing song still celebrates just how different this band was, even from the early days. It’s a song that feels like a warning. At first glance it seems to deal with struggling to find your place, and eventually putting your faith in something outside of yourself. What it actually is though, is a play on words of how not to get sucked in. The character featured in the song, if you want to call him that, is struggling with issues he can not yet solve on his own. Musically it’s world different from what came next, more immediate and to the point, but for many this is where it all began.
8. LOST KEYS/ ROSETTA STONED(BLAME HOFFMAN): 10,000 DAYS
Now this song has probably my favorite set of lyrics that Kennan has ever written, but I’ll get to that in a minute. Let me just say quickly, that while most believe, and I guess rightfully so, that this song is about a hippie on DMT who is hallucinating horrible things, I personally like to believe that not only is this song about a man who has seen unbelievable things, but also that the meaning of what he’s trying to tell everyone is of vast importance. Secondly, the conspiracy nut in me believes this song is loosely meant to be the aftermath of the final track off of Lateralus “Faaip De Oiad.” That song see’s a man sprinting across the country from the forces he worked for at Area 51. It’s eternally creepy. I like to believe that “Rosetta Stoned” is what happens after the man simply can’t make it another inch. Stumbling, murmuring nonsense he seeks help in the only place he thinks might be able to help him, a hospital. He may be dying, but the listener can’t be sure. This is what is great about the band. Tool recognize the importance of using the art of others and drawing your own conclusions. Now, like I said, While the DMT drug story holds up, and much can be explained away because of that, for me it’s just more fun to imagine the limitless potential of the gift these Aliens have bestowed upon this high school dropout. In that respect it's also a very sad, depressing song. Towards the end of the song though, Kerman’s voice erupts over the ambient Egyptian style grooves with the line “Overwhelmed as one would be placed in my position, such a heavy burden now to be the one. Born to bear and read to all the details of our ending, write it for the whole wide world to see. But I forget my pen, Shit the bed again, typical.” It’s so beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time that it moves you in a way most heavier bands aren’t capable of.
This for me is the emotional climax of the song. A man, given the gift to save the world from darkness, and bring the news of epic proportions to the eyes and ears of the world, but he’s unable to. He just can’t seem to escape his own mind. Perhaps the immense responsibility of the job he’s been enlisted for is just too great for him, and thus, the world changing secret will be kept quietly inside the fragile brain of this entrusted man.
7. FORTY-SIX & TWO: ÆNIMA
There are plenty of songs throughout this record that have the capacity to pull in the listener. This one however has become a fan favorite over the year, and when you listen to it, especially with headphones, it takes you on a ride so heavy and thought provoking that it's hard to resist. The guitar work by jones has this whirling, chaotic element to it. The drums hit swiftly and loudly, creating an almost tidal wave when the energy picks up. The lyrics are excellent too, with MJK howling throughout, but the real prize ultimately is the instrumentation. They’ve performed this virtually every time i’ve seen them live, and even if you aren’t a fan of the album version, seeing it live makes its that much more enjoyable and cathartic. One of the best off of this ground breaking record, and it lands at number seven on the Top Ten countdown.
6. SCHISM: LATERALUS
Now, more often than not, singles are not a truly fair representation of a band. They are meant to draw in people who otherwise would not go out and buy an album. As with everything, Tool also does this differently. It’s a really awesome song, and the video is both creepy and fascinating to watch. While making this album, the band was at a breaking point. It’s been documented that they just weren’t seeing eye to eye. Maynard Keenan went and wrote the lyrics for this song about this tension within the camp, and while I don’t know for sure if it was a turning point, anyone who has ever been through a difficult situation can understand the tension, or the “Schism” within the band. You see, a band isn’t just fun. Creating anything is difficult. Creating things with other creative beings is very difficult. Four people, four brains working differently, and four opinions that everyone else has to take into account. I imagine that can get messy. Keenan screaming at the end “ I know the pieces fit,” sounds negative, but it’s not. It’s a man trying to figure out why things that once worked before simply aren’t this time around. But in the end it works because making the best album of your career isn’t supposed to be easy going
5. EON BLUE APOCALYPSE/ THE PATIENT: LATERALUS
This song, and subsequent album is where Tool took on a much deeper, knowing sense of purpose. This song creeps, and builds upon itself. It’s an eye opening song, one where they transcend the stagnant waters of the modern rock radio they’ve been wrongly lumped into. This band doesn’t belong on those stations. I’m of the opinion that they don’t belong on any station. Even when I hear this track now I still remember the first time it entered my life. It’s a track that brings all these emotions and concepts of growing and trusting, and it’s a moment of clarity for the band. This song is like witnessing someone reach their true and best potential. The lyrics, the guitar, everything just works. The journey this song takes us on is a beautiful one, and once again, Keenan’s lyrics at the end of the song, not to mention the melody is his vocals and the arrangement of the instrumentation bring the track to a more spiritual, otherworldly place. For this song, words, simply aren’t enough, and you can feel it throughout.
4. PUSHIT: ÆNIMA
This was one of those first tracks that properly made me comprehend the journey of long songs. While Tool doesn’t even have the longest songs in general ( Sunn O))), Godspeed You Black Emperor, Motion Sickness of Time Travel come to mind), their songs truly are journeys of interstellar proportions. For people unfamiliar with this band (I’m assuming those exist), these aren’t nearly just long songs. The band has said many times how they meticulously go about searching every rabbit hole, and exploring the boundaries before they decide that’s where this road is taking them. Many bands rush to record, and you can tell because the end product suffers. Tool simply refuse to do this. As one of the lengthier, but equally stand out songs of their entire career, Pushitt serves as not only an excellent leap forward into more trippy landscapes, but also as a clear indicator as to where the band was heading next. In my opinion, the journey of this song is the tipping point for brilliance. From where I’m standing you can clearly see that not only were they pleased with the road this took them on, but that they could dive even deeper with subsequent releases.
3. STINKFIST: ÆNIMA
For many, this album and lead track was the big break that got them into the band. I had heard the previous records of course, but when this came out, it lit up my imagination and showed me tons of new sounds I had never knew possible before. This track, the one that begins the record, is as drudge filled and intense as anything else you hear on the remainder of Ænima, but it’s also just a phenomenal way to begin this landmark album. The lyrics are dark and twisted, and while I imagine horrible things happening in the shadows, I can’t turn away to shield myself from the ugliness of the track. It’s quite simply an intense ride that sets us on an off road, difficult course. Seeing this performed live is even more spectacular. The energy Keenan expels makes you melt into tranquility, and the raw emotion of the instrumentation makes you want to move your body. Some heavy bands are capable of this, but Tool is one of the ones who have perfected the art.
2. THIRD EYE: ÆNIMA
“Think for yourself, question authority,” might as well be the motto of the band. While this song hasn’t been played a lot at the shows I’ve attended, I’ve heard that phrase quite a few times. The opening of the “Salival” version, provided by Tim Leary, basically sets the stage for the most epic, mind melting pieces in their catalog. This song has more loops and turns than an episode of “LOST.” It also happens to have a persistence that doesn’t quit for the entire 14:05 minutes of the song. Seeing this song live, and especially as the show opener is just insane. Most bands don’t have the nerve to open a two hour show with the longest song they plan to play that night, but Tool do it without missing a beat. Adam Jones’ guitars, to me at least, have always reminded me a little bit of something you’d hear in an Egyptian science fiction movie. Speaking on the topic of mixing, and making sure that every part is integral is something no one except maybe Radiohead does better than Tool. They understand the lyrics are the not the overwhelming plot point of the song. Everything you hear is meant to induce emotions. Sure the lyric helps, but all parts are equally valuable. With more than five minutes left, the song takes yet another turn. It goes from ominous foreshadowing to the welcoming of a love thought lost perhaps. Then another turn down a spiraling rabbit hole. Imploring us to open our eyes may or may not have something to do with the opening dialogue on the track. Humans aren’t meant to be conditioned by rules. We are too great of a people. Life without boundaries is the most ultimate gift anyone can achieve, yet at times it’s those very rules of society that help us to stay safe. Then another, even uglier turn, this time with the intense drums of Carey while Keenan proclaims “ Prying open my third eye,” as the song comes to a final, full circle resting place.
1. LATERALUS: LATERALUS
This is easily the best Tool song ever made, and a perfect representation of the album. It has every awesome aspect of the album in one perfect, thought out space of time. The lyrics describe the opening of a world to a baby, or perhaps, a rebirth of an older soul. This is where the “ Saturn Return” comes into place again. But also, it’s described as the opening of a LSD trip, where bright colors slowly make themselves known. Now, we talked about the importance of Justin Chancellor earlier, but this is the song where he easily shines the most. Now, one of the most interesting things about this song is the time signatures. I’m no musician, but I think most hardcore music fans can recognize the brilliance. The weirdest thing about this song however, is how the signatures, and the lyrics were both thought of separately and without mutual knowledge from the two key participants. In an interview Keenan goes on to explain while he was writing the theme of spiral’s turning in on themselves stuck out and brought a clear focus not only to the song, but the band’s feelings at the time. Here’s where it gets really intriguing though. The original name of the song was 9-8-7, for the weird time signatures, but then the band realized that 987 was the 16th number in the Fibonacci sequence, which also shares interests with the “ Golden Spiral.” I hope that doesn’t confuse you. In other words, there are lyrical and musical reasons why this is the most important, and strongest Tool Song. The positivity of the song is worth noting. It’s imploring us to live every day to the fullest, and maybe, to always try to expand your knowledge, one way or another.
Thanks for reading!
Among today’s film auteurs, Fincher stands above nearly everyone else. In fact I can’t think of a director not named Nolan who has a better eye for creating a full encompassing world through the lens. Today we’re gonna be discussing his best moments, and how these films have stood the rest of time, even if they aren’t yet considered old school classics.
5. GONE GIRL, 2014
Like many, my first exposure to this excruciating world came from the Flynn book of the same name. The book is amazing, if not also infuriating. What Fincher does is bring the tense atmosphere of the book to a startling vision of a couple completely ruined in more ways than one. Ben Affleck as the husband is able to be likeable, at first, but over the course of the film you see different shades of a character. In the end though, Rosamund Pike steals the movie, and as you unravel the mystery, you realize that yes, Affleck as Nick isn’t a world class husband in any way, but his wife isn’t the glorious woman he thought she was. By the end of the movie you feel nauseous from watching all the terrible things that occur to the characters. You don’t end up feeling amazing. It’s a difficult film to watch, and the carnage depicted feels more real than it should. It’s strange. You don’t feel particularly bad for any of the characters, but what Nick goes through, no one deserves, even if he was a shitty husband. The moral is that even if you go through tremendous trauma, sometimes the end is just the beginning of a snake trap you can’t escape.
4. SE7EN, 1995
Speaking of snake traps, Se7en is another movie that seems to be rolling to a satisfactory climax, until bam, some shit goes down in the middle of nowhere and it’s at that moment you realize pain is eternal. You follow Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman through the ropes of various rings as they try to discover the identity of serial killer John Doe, but as the mystery reveals itself, this film becomes something else entirely. Legend has it spacey only accepted the commanding role on the condition that his name not appear in the opening credits, thinking it woul make the reveal of himself as the killer more shocking. It worked, and for most of the movie he serves as the demon lurking in the darkness, circling the city and Detectives Mills and Somerset. The scenes are brilliantly plotted out, and the terror, and rushed adrenaline of some sections forced you to watch. It’s a gorgeously dark film. The sets, the overall narrative and the ultimate reveal of the villain are perfectly executed( like the lawyer), but it’s those final moments when you realize that the villain won the war before the final battle, and all that’s left is to see what results from the fallout of that crucial nail biting final scene. He didn’t know.
3. FIGHT CLUB, 1999
Maybe the best initial viewing of a movie I’ve ever had in my life. When this came it my high school buddy Miles drug me to see it proclaiming it as the best movie ever. It’s not, but I definitely thought it was for a considerable period of time. I won’t delve too far into the exact plot if the movie, but it’s very much in the spirit of the novel by Palahniuk. It expertly captures the feelings of a lost generation, unsure of the next move. The feel of it is dense and without empathy, but it’s relatable. When Tyler and Jack are talking about what they should've done with their lives you feel that misguided optimism so many of our generation feel. We all weren’t supposed to be famous and Nobel and brilliant. It’s brutal in its portrayal of beauty and poetic in its portrayal of rebellion, and it just works. The acting by the big three of Pitt, Norton and Carter carries the film as much as the message does. We aren’t special, and we aren’t all meant for wondrous things. Sometimes though doing the most destructive things can set us free, and that’s what I take away from the movie. It’s aged incredibly well, and in some ways it’s serves as a warning call to the world were living in now. Would Tyler Durden be checking his Facebook all day while posting pics of kids that only his family cares about for likes and hearts? Fuck no he wouldn’t. We’re doomed as a society, and still Fight Club reminds us that the “ things we own end up owning us.”
2. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, 2011
There are two camps for this novel turned film series. One is the Swedish versions of the Millennium trilogy, while the other is represented. By Fincher's attempt to see it through more American eyes. For me this is the best version. It’s expertly directed as usual, and the performances by Mara, Craig and essentially the entire cast is a master class in adaptations. The time is set early one, with Fincher's coldest, and best qualities burning themselves to the film. It’s gorgeous throughout, and the plot is top notch. It was easily the best movie I saw the year of its release, and on multiple viewings you pick up more and more. It’s a long film, but it never feels tired or lost in its vision. From the opening moments where we see Christopher Plummer opening up another sad reminder, until the chaotic conclusion and the solving of the crime at hand, you’re on the edge of your seat. It’s brutally captivating in a way most films aren't Rooney’s performance as Lisbeth is the stuff of legends. She’s viscous yet smart in regards to how she views the world, but you’d probably be the same if you went through what she has. Sadly the other books never got the Finchers treatment, which is a shame because both of those could’ve been incredible films. It’s cold, distant, and deceiving from start to finish. An excellent film, that lands at number two on this list. Truly a must watch if you’re a fan of the series.
1. ZODIAC, 2007
Goddamn is this a great movie. There’s a reason it’s often hailed as not only Fincher's best, but also one of the best films of the Aughts. Everyone who either grew up during that era, or happens to a be serial killer buff(probably not the best word to be honest) is aware of the Zodiac killer and how she shattered the safety of the Californian north during the 70’s. The movie opens up with a murder, but the change in narrative between the committal of the crimes and how investigators far and wide try to dissect is masterfully done. Fincher takes long cuts during the horrific moments, forcing the viewer to stay focused, even if what is being shown on screen isn’t something you want to see, or think about. The cast surrounding the film is top notch as well. Gyllenhall as the eventual last soldier still trying to figure it out was an excellent choice, but having Downey Jr. as the intrepid drunk reporter makes them a one two bunch. Rounded out by police officer Mark Ruffalo and plenty of other great but less recognizable actors and what you get is another genius project from one of the best directors alive. Like I said it’s a slow burn of a film, but plenty of scenes are unnerving in their execution, specifically the cellar scene towards the films climax. That one segment of the film is somehow scarier than the grisly murders you see throughout the film. It’s just a perfectly fine film, and for that reason it makes the number one spot on the Top David Fincher films.
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And finally, here we are. With only one day left before we begin our final watch, it’s time to go back and recap some of the best episodes in the history of Game Of Thrones. It’s an excessively rewatchable show and as a person who not only has seen every episode multiple times, my last and I just rewatched from the beginning in anticipation for the final season. Having said that, most of these are obvious picks, but it’s only because of the brilliance exhibited by the cast, crew, creators and writers. No other show has ever been able to combine political intrigue, violence, sex, backstabbing, zombies, and Fucking dragons and not done it so well. There is no replacement for this show, and there never will be. And now, before our watch has ended, I present to you the best episodes of Game of Thrones. Enjoy!
5 BLACKWATER (S2, E9)
Granted, there were big moments before this episode aired, but this is the point where we get to the large scale glory of battle that has been teased. “Blackwater” is a litmus test for the show, and obviously they succeeded far and wide. We’d been leading up to this the entire season. As soon as news of the illegitimacy of Joffrey's reign is known, were introduced to Stannis Baratheon, whose scowl is legendary and is at this point, assumed to be the rightful king. Obviously he hates the Lannisters, but the victory he prays for isn’t to be. During the battle though, we see the true scope of the world the writers and creators have created for us. The battle of The Blackwater is marvelous to behold and the use of wildfire is a visual feast that hasn’t been seen on the show before. In the end we don’t get the king that was promised, but we end up with more reasons to hate Joffrey, Cersei and all their minions, which I guess is a win.
4 THE WINDS OF WINTER (S6, E10)
What a doozy of an episode. I guess that pretty clear based on its inclusion here, but still, goddamn if I don’t get pumped every time I watch it. Fun fact: I HATE religious zealots. Especially those who love to stand on a perch of condemnation under the disguise of moral superiority. This is why the High Sparrow is so repulsive and infuriating. The episode opens with the trial of Cersei, but please, like we ever suspected her to turn herself over to her torturer again. She looks down on them (rightfully so) but unfortunately King Tommen is essentially a little bitch for the entirety of his stay on the Iron Throne. Thus, Cersei takes her revenge against not just one enemy, but many. Sure it’s a shame that thousands have to die, but watching the satisfaction of the Queen Mother as the Sept burns is one of the best things the show has ever featured. Also, Cersei getting her revenge on that Sept maiden is wonderful to watch, even if I know in my heart that Cersei is evil as fuck. But, that’s only half the episode. Thought the episode, there's plenty of justified retribution. We get to see Arya take down the grotesque Walder Frey in spectacular fashion, along with Queen Tyrell joining forces with Allaria and her Sand Snakes. Basically, lots of moving parts coming together in preparation for the final battles to come. As the episode draws to a climax though, we get a bombshell that had been rumored for years. Jon Snow is no bastard at all, and in fact, he belongs on the Iron Throne. The reveal is heartbreaking but also executed perfectly. It’s one of the more satisfying moments of the show, and with that coming near the seasons conclusion, you can’t help to get pumped for what’s next to come.
3 THE RAINS OF CASTAMERE (S3, E9)
Arguably the episode that changed everything. Before this aired we were knee deep in a way between the Starks of the North and the Lannister’s from Casterly Rock. While the journey of Arya and the Hound hits a snag at the Frey compound, something else hugely majorly happens. Obviously we’re talking about the deaths of Catelyn, Rob, and his soon to be wife (insert name). It’s not just that they died, but it happens in spectacularly bloody fashion as both the Frey’s and Bolton has a hand in their opponents destruction. I can slightly understand Walder Frey’s Fontenot at them after trying unsuccessfully to get one of his daughters married off, but for real to just kill and entire family, and their dire wolf is just ducked up. Before this episode ends we know the true costs of going back in your word, but it still feels like overkill. But no matter, because eventually, all of the betrayers meet equally horrible painful deaths, and well, you don’t really feel bad for that. You only feel bad because for the better part of 3 years we’ve rooted for the Starks, and just as it’s starting to looking promising in their campaign for the throne, it all gets taken away swiftly and buried in the ground.
2 HARDHOME (S5 E8)
This was a difficult choice, but in reality all of these could’ve been the number one episode. The buildup of Hardhome is spectacular, as we’ve seen the Knights watch and the Free folk battling it out for years and years, well before we as viewers start to see the tension. The point of this episode is that being human puts them on the same side, whether they like it or not. Most don’t. I watched this episode at least 3 times the week it aired, and still I can’t find anything wrong with it. The action is tremendously well done, and the palpable danger is flowing through the scenes. It’s also noteworthy because we finally get to see the White Walkers unleash hell as the living try to get away to a remotely safe place. Much of that is futile though, as Jon learns that any person left behind instantly joins the ranks of the dead. Meanwhile we get to see Cersei still being tortured by the Sparrows, and that plot line is reaching its breaking point. You just know that this isn’t going to work out how the Sept wants it to, but it takes then some time to gain that knowledge for themselves. It’s also the episode that Tyrion’s journey finally ends with his formal introduction to the Mother of dragons. All of this is well scripted and acted, but for everything else that occurs in this episode, it’s quickly forgotten as soon as the White Waller’s begin rampaging on the living.
1 BATTLE OF THE BASTARDS (S6 E9)
Long regarded as the key episode in all of the seasons, this penultimate hour has so much to love and chew into. We open with Queen Daenerys fighting her way out of Mereen with the help of the unsullied and her children. The opening battle is visually breathtaking, and it’s an important conclusion to this section of the story. But, obviously, this isn’t even the biggest event in this episode. Instead, that honor goes to the Battle of the Bastards, as we finally see Jon and Ramsay do battle. This fight is epic as fuck for a few reasons. Jon and Ramsay are the Batman and Joker of the series. Jon, bound by honor, and built from pain and resilience, he attacks head on,
not leaving it to someone else. Ramsay on the other hand, is a deceptively smart violent individual, who sows chaos as easily as he wins battles. Secondly, It’s a showdown like we hadn’t seen up until this point. The filming and plot is ridiculous and inventive, and you agonize over all the details being thrown at you. Finally it’s great in conclusion. Much of this show has been seeing people you love get destroyed, but on this night we get exactly what we hoped for. Ramsay is defeated, valiantly. In a strange twist of Irony, it’s because one of the other most vile people in this universe, Little Finger. Again he has a hand in shaping a desirable outcome for himself. Lastly, the final touch of Bolton being eaten alive by his own dogs as Sana’a walks away smiling is a beautiful moment of sweet redemption and the knowledge that eventually, violent people end violently is a small delight in a world that is dark and full of terrors. For all of these reasons the “Battle of the Bastards” stands as the best episode of Game of Thrones. That’s likely to change as the series concludes in 6 weeks, but we’ll have to wait and see how they top it. Thanks for reading!
What makes a great villain great? The answer can be many things, but in the world of Ice and Fire, one trait is shared among all the best bad guys and gals. That is, adaptability and the will to survive while your enemies fall. Today we launch into the second round of our Game of Thrones week with the worst of the worst. I hope you enjoy.
*WARNING MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD*
Let’s start with this question: Who is the Waif actually? That isn’t easy to pinpoint, frankly, but what we do know is that the character definitely has it out for Arya during their shared time together in Bravoos. From the jump this lady (or is she?) seems to despise the very existence of Arya, making things difficult for her around every corner. She’s pompous, arrogant and frankly a flat out bitch. Her strength is also her weakness though. She likes to torment, and she enjoys even more making people she sees as a threat look dumb or untrained. But maybe that was her whole purpose. Perhaps she wasn’t just a dirty bitch trying to suck up in order to rise in the ranks of the Faceless men. Maybe she was herself a trained Faceless man meant to show Arya her true calling. You can’t say for sure, but there’s plenty of evidence to back it up. Either way, she’s presented as a miserable person who enjoys punishing others, and that’s what makes her a good villain.
4 HIGH SPARROW
The High Sparrow infuriates me more than nearly all the other villains in the universe of Game of Thrones. It’s not because he’s religious, but rather because he uses that high horse to reign over people who are lost. For me he’s a reminder of all the hypocritical figures we have to pick from in our own lives. The priests who tell us were going to burn because we don’t believe in their vision of god, or the politician who enforce their beliefs while ignoring the wills of the people. The High Sparrow is all of those things. He uses his persuasive abilities to make Tommen believe he doesn’t have a choice. Now, this is the only time I ever wished Joffrey was still king. The Sparrow would’ve have been rightfully killed almost from the jump, but Tommen is a little bitch who follows people he believes are smarter than himself. But in the end, his hubris and holier than thou attitude is what costs him everything. Margary implores him to let everyone out of the High Sept, but in his wisdom he knows better. Also one of the few times the watchers of the show are able to be happy that a horrible plan by Cersei comes full circle. Sure thousands die, but it’s important to remember that all of “Little Sparrows,” as Cersei proclaims, all end up ash as the pain and torture they inflicted is washed away in one giant swoop. They were willing to die for that asshole, and they got their wish.
It is unfair to the weight of the character to first first address truly How much of a force she is. Individuals like Cersei are bred for nobility, but also strength. Often times she exudes both, making the character and. brilliantly portrayed by Lena Headey. She really is one of the can’t miss characters, even if you do hate her. From very early she’s presented as evil, cunning and most of all, smart. She’s clever this one, but it comes with a price. Children dead, mostly as a result of her continued bad deeds. Her family killed for things she played roles in. Think about it, she hated her brother that much she actively tried to have him killed. Sure she gets punished by the Sparrows, but even that is somewhat short lived. She comes back though with an unquenchable thirst for sweet revenge, which she gets. Whether it’s wildfire, poison, or just sheer brutality, she seeks out what she wants and gets it, eventually. She is a force to be reckoned with, and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon.
2 RAMSAY BOLTON
I’ll be honest, these top three choices were more difficult than I thought it would be, but that’s part of what makes this show such a great treat. The villains often are weapons literally used to infect the seven kingdoms with grim. Ramsay is one of the most effective. Early on, he actually presents hope, before his full heel turn comes to dash all of Theons hopes and plans. He methodically tears away what little humanity Theon had left, but well, we know what other parts of Theon he takes for himself. What makes Ramsay so evil is the thrill it gives him. He doesn’t always do it for a victory, but rather for fun. It’s part of his bone and he never ceases to find ways to hurt people. His treatment of Sansa is particularly bad, but he’s still capable of worse. He single handedly takes his entire family down just to be the King. He’s savage, smart and evil to his core, and he’s a monster in a world of men. Even during the Battle of the Bastards he’s cunning to the end. The plan to box them in and smother them is brilliant, but Sansa wasn’t about to let him win again. The Vale shows up, and before long, Bolton is a heap of smashed bones. He never begs for his life, but his screams are enough to make anyone smile. Especially Sansa.
1 LITTLE FINGER
As I mentioned before, this was difficult. From afar Petyr Baelish looks like many of those who are high born. He’s not, but he certainly plays the role of advisor well. This helps him tremendously. Who needs to be in charge when those schemes you nurture and then unleash keep all the Kings and Queens fighting each other? Let’s not forget that his lie is literally what begins the Rebellion of Robert, and how Little Finger was able to navigate that. It’s brilliant, but it showcases his smooth talking, agreeable actions. I could take the hours it would take to dissect all of actions, but they run so fluidly through the narratives that it would simply take for more. But, the more time you watch the show the more it makes sense. He has a hand in the killing of Ned Stark, in pitting sister against sister in the battle of attention between the ladies of the Vale, Catelyn and Lysa Arryn. This one scheme also kills Lysa’s first husband, opening up the spot for Baelish to swoop in (albeit years later) and use her own paranoia against her in “saving Sansa” by pushing her out of the moon roof. It’s the same cunning that enables him to get Sansa back to Winterfell, even though it gives her quite easily to the evil Ramsay. He comes out of that nicely, but it’s not long before he has to choose a different side yet again to serve his purpose. But at this point, Sansa has entered the game, and his schemes are becoming obvious to her. This section nurtures Little Finger into a false sense of safety though. Arya, Bran and other soon come along, exposing his scams over the last however many years. What makes Petyr the most cunning villain isn’t his bloodthirsty rage, but rather his slow, purposeful sense of how the world works. He’s ruthless, but never face to face. He’s a snake, and most importantly, he whispered in the dark and gave nudges when needed, all to serve to fulfill his goal, which is to say himself. He’s done more damage than most, but rarely has he fulfilled the action himself. In some ways he controlled the iron throne by being persuasive and careful about his exploits. His lies have hurt many in the Seven Kingdoms, and while thankfully that came to an end with his throat being slit by Arya, who knows when something else will be uncovered, forgotten in the darkness.
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.
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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