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March Music, Part 1

While most of the world is gearing up for March Madness (you know, the college basketball thing), I’m bracing myself for an expensive month on the new music front.  There is so much new music coming out in March that I’m hoping it all staggers out enough that not too much comes out of any one paycheck.

First up is Tuxedo, a duo comprised of Mayer Hawthorne and Jake One.  Readers of the blog know how fond I am of the multi-talented Hawthorne. I am so jealous of that man’s ability to sing in falsetto! It’s been a couple years since Mayer Hawthorne released a new album, but it hardly seems like it because he’s showing up everywhere these days.  But Tuxedo’s debut album appears to be the next big thing for Hawthorne and I’ve been on board since I heard the debut single “Do It” in late 2014.


This stuff is classy as shit. Influenced by the disco and funk of the late 70s and early 80s, this album is on track to be one of my favorites of the year and it hasn’t even been released yet.  All that changes on March 3rd when Tuxedo’s album drops although you can listen to it on NPR’s First Listen which I did this morning even though I was up at an ungodly hour. I didn’t get a chance to really digest it all that well, but it sounds fantastic. It fills the gap that was occupied very briefly for me by “Uptown Funk” which I can barely listen to any longer thanks to overplay on the the tuxedoradio at work. I swear if I hear “Don’t believe me just watch!” one more time I will not be responsible for my actions.

Mayer Hawthorne really is in his imperial phase right now. Everything he does turns to gold (at least for me.)  I think it’s because he is so clearly inspired by music and loves it so much. This creates a palpable energy in his music.  While this is not a new solo album and probably not as ambitious as Where Did This Door Go?, it’s always good to get new material from him, especially a whole album’s worth.

The 2LP vinyl version of Tuxedo’s album is on its way to me as we speak! I’m starting to think it might get here before next Tuesday, which would be pretty damn awesome. I preordered it back in January thinking it wouldn’t charge my credit card till it shipped. I was wrong about that but I’m still glad I bought it when I did.

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2015 in Mayer Hawthorne, Music

 

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Horny Horns

Horns_Official_Movie_PosterLast week, I watched Horns, starring Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame, directed by Alexandre Aja, the man at the helm of such cinematic masterpieces as Piranha 3D, and based on the book by Joe Hill.  I was eagerly anticipating this one, as I had heard pretty good things about it. I hadn’t read the book, but I’m not completely sold on Joe Hill, the son of horror maestro Stephen King, as the one book of his that I read (Heart-Shaped Box) was only ok.

As it turns out, that’s kind of my opinion on Horns as well – only ok.

Radcliffe, playing decidedly against type, stars as Ig Perrish, a young man suspected of brutally killing his girlfriend Merrin. He’s not been charged, but he’s already been tried and convicted in the court of public opinion in the small town where he lives.  One night, after going on a bender and waking up horribly hung over, he looks in the mirror and sees that a pair of devilish horns are starting to grow out of his head. He quickly finds that the horns compel people to confess their darkest sins.

Honestly, I was only marginally interested in the whodunit aspect of the movie. I was more interested in what was going to come out of people’s mouths when they came into the general vicinity of Ig’s horns. Some of the confessions were heartbreaking, some hilarious. It reminded me of how good it is that people have filters that prevent them from saying whatever crazy thing pops into their heads.

Overall, the film is kind of clunky and oddly paced, mixing the story with flashbacks as the identity of Merrin’s killer is fleshed out.  The final third of the movie is very what-the-fuck, but whatever. We’re talking about a movie where a guy has horns growing out of his head. If you wanted realism, you probably shouldn’t have looked here.  But the shoddy story-telling was what ultimately caused this movie to get a 3-star rating from me.  Not having read the book, I’m not sure how it stacks up against its source material, but I’m not really inclined to read it either.

The failure to somehow incorporate Paula Abdul’s “Vibeology” and it’s “horny horns” refrain into the movie remains a missed opportunity, but this gif made the rounds shortly after I watched it.  It’s pretty much perfect.

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Posted by on February 10, 2015 in horror flicks

 

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Six things I’ve learned about Rebel Heart

1035x1035-rebelheartI think all the little Dutch boys in the world with their fingers in the dam couldn’t have stemmed the Rebel Heart leaks. Madonna has not been able to keep this album under wraps for love nor money and it’s led to an extremely awkward album rollout. It all culminated yesterday in the leak of all 25 track from the deluxe version of the album in high quality. Poor Madge, she can’t catch a break.

Nonetheless, it’s still a new Madonna record, so naturally, I’ve been pretty excited about it. I resisted the temptation to listen to the album early for about 8 hours. I was asleep for about 6 of those hours so all in all, I think I did pretty well. So far, I’m not sure what I think of the record other than it seems very “kitchen sink” to me – not surprising considering the number of writers and producers that have been involved in this project. But it’s still early and I haven’t listened start-to-finish even one time. But here are six early observations.

  1. When “Rebel Heart” makes my favorite songs of 2015 list (it likely will), it’ll be the version that leaked in November of 2014 and not the album version. Stripped of its Avicii-ness, the song is more appropriate for American Life. It’s not a bad change, but I vastly preferred the production on what was allegedly the demo. My hunch is that the version that leaked was a close-to-finished version and once it leaked, Madonna reworked it into what it is now.
  2. “Holy Water” is the new champion of  Madonna’s least subtle double entendres, displacing its clear musical cousin “Where Life Begins.” It’s kind of hard to argue when the lyrics are “Baby you should get down low/And drink my precious alcohol” and “Kiss it better, make it wetter/Don’t it taste like holy water?”  And then, as if to remove all doubt she says “Yeezus loves my pu**y best.”  Wow, just wow.  Still, it’s not a bad song, one of those songs that I will love in spite of myself. It also marks the second time she’s sampled “Vogue” into one of her songs.
  3. “Joan of Arc” works much better as a midtempo number than the straight ballad it was in the demo version.  This morning my phone autocorrected the song to “Joan of Arcadia” which is how I think I’ll refer to this song from here on out.
  4. “Iconic” will be massive live.
  5. Madonna’s still mixing her metaphors, this time with “Body Shop.”  A body shop doesn’t do repairs to car engines. A cute song though.
  6. “Autotune Baby” is the first Madonna song in 30 years of being a fan that is completely and utterly unlistenable. Just awful. Words can express how awful it is.

It’s fun to get this many songs from Madonna all at once, but my friend P.H. Davies has a really good take on what might have resulted had Madonna had anyone around her that is capable of saying “no” to her.

Regardless, it’s a new Madonna era! Let the games begin. Also, start saving your pennies for the tour.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2015 in Madonna, Music

 

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On being non-sporty on a holy sports day

A friend of mine posted this xkcd comic to Facebook. It’s probably made the rounds, but I’m posting it here too because it really made me think.

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As a non-sporty guy, it’s easy for me to mock the passion that many people feel for professional sports. The fact that so many men love sports and I don’t still makes me feel, even in my early 40s, like maybe I’m not as much of a man as they might be – like I’m missing something important in my own genetic makeup that renders me an inferior man. That kind of stuff has deep roots for me.  For a time in college, I pretended to be interested in softball so that I could play in the annual pharmacy school softball tournament.  My roommate spent a ton of time basically teaching me how to throw and catch so that I wouldn’t make a fool of myself.  When it came time for the tournament, we were snowed out – on the first weekend in May, believe it or not. Sometimes I think a higher power was looking after me.

Living in a college town, lack of interest in sports is usually met with disbelief. I’ve certainly been in the situation where I’ve been defensive and vocal about not following sports. Most of the people I work with know I don’t and that’s kind of something that makes me Dan. But the thing I’ve learned over the years is that the way people feel the day of the Super Bowl, during the World Series or the Olympics, or in the Final Four is not all that dissimilar to how I feel when I’m anticipating a new Madonna record or going to her show. And Lord knows people put up with me going on and on about that. Even if they don’t quite connect with how excited I am, I have to give them props for listening. Talking about something I feel so passionately about does make me vulnerable. As an introvert, being vulnerable around someone is perhaps one of the biggest compliments I can give. It means I trust you and that’s not something I give away easily.

So today, on this holiest of holy sports days, let’s all us non-sporty people vow to try to understand the feeling that sporty people get from watching the Super Bowl and try to figure out what about us would make us feel that way, and how we would feel if someone called it dumb or silly. Remember – the sporty people did let a Madonna concert interrupt their football game a few years ago.

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Mirrors

I watched two horror movies last night in which mirrors play a prominent role. One was really good and one was mostly shit, but just mostly.

oculus_ver2_xlg-oculus-movie-review-no-spoilersThe first is yet another movie on the list of the 15 best horror films of 2014 that I’m chipping away at. The film stars Karen Gillan of Doctor Who fame, who is really carving out a nice post-Who career for herself. Eleven years after Kaylie and Tim Russell watched their father gun down their mother and only escaped after Tim shot their father, they attempt to kill an evil that dwells in an antique mirror that once adorned the walls of their father’s office.  The premise sounds ridiculous, but when you think about it, the premise of most horror movies sound ridiculous. Trust me, by the time you finish Oculus, you won’t think it ridiculous and you just might find yourself wanting to remove all the mirrors from your house.

The execution of this film is nearly flawless, the pacing perfect. Kaylie’s best laid plan appears foolproof, and you know it won’t be going into it, but how the movie unspools is half the fun. (Once again, the trailer gives away way too much so don’t watch it.) This is one smart horror film, one that keeps you guessing the entire time, but never leaves you confused and scratching your head wondering what the hell is going on. If it does, it’s in a “pleasantly confused” way.  The end was truly a shocker, one that I didn’t really see coming at all, and one that leaves the door open for a ton of inferior sequels, I presume.

yYIMENwSbHM6mt3pSkoAV5RqSHRI always say the smartest horror films scare with ideas and not with gore. Gore is just gross and not necessarily scary. I found this to be the case with the original Candyman movie that was released in 1992, one of my favorite horror movies. Sure, it’s plenty gory. How can it not be when the main scariness comes from a guy with a hook for a hand that eviscerates his victims? But I remember thinking at the time how judiciously the gore was used, choosing instead to scare with the idea of the Candyman. Is he real? Is he a figment of the imagination? This was decidedly not the case with the 1995 sequel, Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh. It also suffered from having a weaker story, a lot of info dump and no Virginia Madsen.

Candyman 2 takes the action from the Chicago projects to New Orleans, in which a series of killings that look like the work of the Candyman. Naturally, the cops think it’s the work of some psycho that is obsessed with the Candyman, and there’s no shortage of those people. Enter Annie Tarrant, who teaches in an underprivileged New Orleans school and whose father was killed by the Candyman (or at least in Candyman fashion.) What follows is a confusing gobbledy-gook of weird family ties, not knowing what’s real, unnecessary gore and the origins of the Candyman.

I’m not sorry that I watched it – Tony Todd still kills it as The Candyman and it was interesting to see him play the slave who would eventually become Candyman. But it is definitely an inferior sequel to the original in every way. It didn’t even really deliver any good scares, mostly just jump scares and gross-out sequences..

Every time I watch Candyman, I always think of my brother who postulates how different the movie would have been had Sammy Davis, Jr., who had a #1 hit in 1972 with “The Candy Man”, cast in the role. The world may never know, and it wasn’t even a possibility since he passed away in 1990.  But watching these two as a double feature did make me wonder what would happen if you said “Candyman” 5 times in front of the mirror featured in Oculus. That would probably release a veritable shitstorm and it’d be hard to say what would get you first.

Watch Oculus, skip Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh, but watch Candyman and read the Clive Barker story Candyman is based on called “The Forbidden.” You won’t be sorry.

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2015 in horror flicks, Movies

 

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Tusk

tusk-poster1I’m working my way through this list of the 15 best horror films of 2014. It started a few weeks back with The Taking of Deborah Logan, which got an enthusiastic thumbs up from me.  Second on the list was Afflicted – more about that in an upcoming post – and today, it was Kevin Smith’s Tusk. I wasn’t sure what to think about Tusk going into it. I’m not a huge Kevin Smith fan, but I did like Red State (perhaps “like” is kind of a strong word for such a disturbing film.) I had heard decidedly mixed reviews, with some horror fans declaring it the worst film of the year. I was also familiar with how it bombed at the box office when it was released. After watching Tusk, I can see why – but that wasn’t because I didn’t like it.

Like The Taking of Deborah Logan, it’s best if you go into Tusk knowing as little as possible about what’s going to happen.  Even watching the trailer gives away too much, so don’t watch it! That’s more or less how I did it and let me tell you, not knowing anything made the experience so much better. What I will tell you is that Tusk is the story of a podcaster who interviews strange people with interesting stories to tell. When an interview that he travelled to Canada to do falls through, he responds to an ad posted by a retired seaman who promises that he has stories to tell.

And wow, does he ever.

Revealing any more than this really threatens to spoil the film, but rest assured, as the poster at right insinuates, walruses play a role.

Some random thoughts about Tusk:

  • There were some points in it that I was very much grossed out. It’s not for the weak of stomach. Wikipedia describes it as a comic body horror film. I didn’t even know body horror was a thing.
  • It was actually pretty funny too, when it wasn’t busy grossing me out. Justin Lang is perfect as the douchey podcaster Wallace Bryton. I think it was the mustache that pushed it over the edge.
  • Haley Joel Osment has not really lived up to the promise of that Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, but it was fun to see him in the role as Bryton’s fellow podcaster.
  • The movie was an hour and 45 minutes long, and honestly, it probably could have been a good 20 minutes shorter.  Let’s face it – that’s a long time to tell a story that probably could have been told by Rod Serling in 22 minutes on an episode of The Twilight Zone.

I mentioned that I could see why Tusk bombed at the box office. The reason I say this has nothing to do with how much I personally enjoyed the film. Despite the gross factor, it was not a bad way to spend my morning. What I think happened is that people went in expecting something that was funnier than it was and were turned off by the grossness.  If late night TV weren’t sold to the highest bidding informercials, Tusk would be playing as the late movie for years and years to come. It probably should have gone the road of a video-on-demand release and had only a limited theatrical run. Expectations would have been lowered and it could have dodged the label of “box office bomb”, especially bad since there are two more films starring the cast of Tusk in the works.

And for those wondering, yes, it uses Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” to great effect.  Honestly, even if the rest of the movie had been utter shit, that scene would have redeemed it for me.

Next up for me is probably Oculus since it’s streaming on Netflix, but Horns is supposed to be coming from Netflix. I’m excited for both.

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2015 in Movies

 

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I put my ring back on (and it may not come off)

wonderful-mens-wedding-rings-of-wedding-rings-and-jewellery-yellow-gold-wedding-ring-for-menIf I ever wondered whether or not I have gained weight since my wedding day, the proof is in my fingers.

Yeah, there’s no doubt that I’ve gotten a little soft around the middle (working on that) but really, even my fingers are fat. I discovered this recently because every time I go in to make IVs, I have to take my wedding ring off. I’m now to the point where it will absolutely not come off my finger unless I use soap to coax it off. It has never gotten stuck on my finger – at least not yet – but it serves as a daily reminder that I am not as young (or as thin) as I used to be.

Because I am me, it reminded me of that Mary Chapin Carpenter song “I Put My Ring Back On” from her 2010 album The Age of Miracles. That was one of probably three songs that were not ballads, and it’s always been a favorite of mine. In the song, Chapin sings of how the protagonist in the song fought with her husband and threw her ring down in a rage. Later, she realized that it was just “this hurting inside of me that threw it down/Down, down, down” and she put her ring back on and the couple made up.


I really love Vince Gill’s harmony. Harmony that is higher than the melody always gets me. Every single time.

What I love most about this song is what a grown up love song it is. It speaks not of new love, but the old married love that sometimes isn’t as sexy as the new crush but should never be underestimated. The road traveled by those in long-term relationships is rarely without potholes. Frequently, the biggest threats to those relationships are those in it, for they’ve been together so long that they know just how to hurt the other. No one remains the same over the course of a even a quarter of a lifetime, let alone an entire one, and the song speaks to all this.

We can’t speak like lovers we used to be
We can’t change ancient history
Love wounds with such simplicity
And I threw it down. 
Down down down.

I’m always a little bit sad for Chapin when I listen to this song, because ultimately, she did NOT put her ring back on and divorced her husband to whom she was married at the time this song was written. It’s kind of like “Annie’s Song” – John Denver divorced Annie, so it kind of takes a bit of the punch out of the song.

But for the rest of us, hopefully in the end, it’s worth it. She sings “Cause here with you is where I belong.” I know that every disagreement I’ve had with my spouse has led me to that same spot – I would never want to be without her – so we work it out and that love that has been through so many changes and forms over the last 20 years perseveres. And that’s not just because I have a hard time getting my ring off my finger.

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2015 in Heidi, Life stories, Random thoughts

 

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