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Classic Rock Magazine

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    Sleepy Hollow Sanctuary

    SPOILERS AHEAD (or, um be-head?), so duck and cover, Sleepy Hollow fans!

    Season One, Episode Nine: “Sanctuary”

    Written by: Damian Kindler & Chitra Elizabeth Sampath; Directed by: Liz Friedlander

    Thanksgiving comes to Sleepy Hollow, and that means a reflection on family. This week also marks a return to the monster-of-the-week format. I guess their quest to find Katrina won’t be an easy and quick one.

    Quick Breakdown

    Philanthropist, author, socialite, and billionaire Lena Gilbert (whose name very closely resembles that of The Vampire Diaries lead Elena Gilbert) has gone missing; and Irving puts Abbie and Crane on the case because he saw the name “Katrina C.” circled on a document she’d recently been attached to. With some quick detective work, they discover that she was last at an aging manor that quickly reminds you of American Horror Story: Murder House.

    Lena was at the house because it belonged to her colonial ancestor Fredericks. In Crane’s time, the house was a sanctuary for freed slaves. As Crane later realizes, Fredericks was most likely in Katrina’s coven, making the house a sanctuary from evil as well.

    Roots are now twisted and twined throughout the house. Abbie gets the creeps. They find Lena’s bodyguard dead in a chair and some bloody hand-prints indicative of Lena and a struggle. They track her to a closet in the house that is completely overrun with roots and vines, imprisoning her within. Crane hacks at the vines and blood squirts out. They free her from inside but also awaken an Ent-like creature from the outdoor garden.

    Back at the police station, Irving is lightly reprimanding Jenny for stealing some of his guns last week — although she claims she thought they were gifts. She then gets extra flirty with Irving, inviting him to Thanksgiving with Abbie and Crane. Before things get too intense, Irving’s ex-wife Cynthia shows up with their wheelchair-bound daughter Macy. Jenny has a private chat with Macy and tells her to give her dad a chance. Cynthia lectures Irving on his absence as a father and gives him one last chance before filing for complete custody.

    Before Crane, Abbie, and Lena can escape the haunted house, the Ent monster has found them in the house. They flee into the walls of the manor, but when they get separated, the monster snatches back Lena. Abbie gets distracted by the appearance of a ghost: servant lady Grace. She mysteriously says things like “It’s coming” and “It’s time,” leading Abbie to a vision of a woman giving birth. The woman, though, is Katrina; and she gives birth to a baby boy. As the boy is born, so is the Ent monster in the garden.

    When Abbie meets up with Crane again, she relays her visions. Crane feels betrayed by Katrina because she never told him she was pregnant. Abbie insists that she didn’t tell him to protect the baby since Moloch appeared to have sent a monster to capture it. Crane now really wants to kill this monster.

    They find Lena via her screams from the basement. Down there it is hard to get a shot at the monster, so Crane and Abbie attack the roots around the room to injure it. Lena escapes, and ghost Grace shows Abbie a secret passageway to help them escape (a passageway she used to save Katrina and the baby way back when).

    Once outside, Abbie is all for driving away and never looking back. But Crane is too invested in the Ent monster’s demise. He grabs an axe and runs back into the house. His anger gives him the strength the hack the monster to death, soaking him in Ent blood.

    In the episodes final moments of reflection, Abbie gives a Thanksgiving pep talk about family to Crane. He then shows her a box “from the Amazon” sent by Lena. It contains documents about Katrina Crane and also the genealogy of one servant named Grace. A cursory glance at her family tree shows Abbie that she is a descendant of Grace. Looks like these two witnesses have been linked together for a very long time.

    Rating

    B

    The return to the monster-of-the-week format was inevitable (even a show as full throttle as Scandal does it); and this week’s was sufficiently creepy — I don’t blame Abbie for being so scared. The episode drags in places but does provide some fun revelations. I hope the next few episodes bring us a living descendant of Crane.

    Now for some random thoughts and my favorite moments of the night…

    Wardrobe Update: Nothing new to report. No one seems to mind Crane’s ancient clothing.

    “What are holidays for if not airing our grievances.” – Abbie

    “What happened, happened.” – Cynthia talking mystically to Irving. What exactly did happen? What put Macy in a wheelchair?

    “Give Moloch my regards.” – Crane before hacking into the skull of the Ent monster.

    Between Katrina’s coven and the haunted murder house, you have to wonder if Ryan Murphy is writing this show as well.

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    posted in Reviews by John Keith


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    Screen shot 2013-11-26 at 12.23.04 PM

    (SPOILERS AHEAD, so proceed with caution, you Mother lovers!)

    Season Nine, Episode 11: “Bedtime Stories”

    Written by: Carter Bays & Craig Thomas; Directed by: Pamela Fryman

    With the holidays approaching, writers/showrunners Bays & Thomas insert a faintly holiday-themed episode into the mix. Told completely in rhyming verse, “Bedtime Stories” is reminiscent more of Twas The Night Before Christmas than Mother Goose (whom Marshall claims to be channeling). It’s possibly the most gimmicky episode yet, but it fortunately isn’t the worst.

    Quick Breakdown

    Saturday 5 p.m, 25 hours before the wedding.

    Marshall is so close to the Farhampton Inn, but the final stretch by bus seems interminable. Poor Marvin hasn’t learned how to fall asleep on a bus, and the only way Marshall and Lily have been able to get him to rest is by speaking in rhyming verse (usually via their Mother Goose nursery rhyme book). But Marshall doesn’t have the book and must rely on his wit — along with the rapping sensibility of Tony winner Lin-Manuel Miranda (of In the Heights fame), who is sitting across the aisle and very invested in Marvin’s sleep — to keep his son from crying all the way to the wedding.

    The first story he recounts is “Mosby at the Bat.” In the not-so-distant past, Ted’s dating life was nonexistent — until sexy Lisa the Professor comes by his office to solicit him for teaching advice. They set up a date, but Ted is unsure if it’s a real date or not. As he debates each of her actions to determine her intentions, he gets hung up on the fact that she slept with a Yankee. He annoys her until she confesses the baseball player’s name. She reveals that it was Derek Jeter and shows him a photo of Barney in a Jeter t-shirt. Date or not, Ted is out.

    The next tale is “Robin Takes the Cake.” At a cake shop, Robin runs into old flame Simon (James Van Der Beek), who is now engaged to be married. In a moment of low self-esteem, Robin steals Simon’s wedding cake and brings it home. Ted implores her to return it, but she rashly starts eating it instead. Not one to leave a task incomplete, she — along with Lily’s encouragement — eats down the entire cake (and somehow doesn’t vomit it up). To celebrate her accomplishment, she then does a kegstand courtesy of Barney.

    The final tale is “Barney Stinson: Player King of New York City.” After bedding his latest conquest — Lisa the Professor — Barney realizes that he’s ended up on the East Side. As Barney reveals, his territory was restricted to the West Side per an agreement with the Council of Players. Various forms of Barney — with monikers like Tuxedo Charlie and Staten Island Lou — debate Barney’s punishment for breaking the gentlemen’s agreement. A Godfather-type Barney says the offended parties should be allowed to bed the women of their choice from Barney’s domain — Lily and Robin. To stop that from happening, Barney poisons them all with a friendly round of champagne, thus becoming the Player King of NYC.

    With only five miles left to reach the Inn, the bus breaks down. A frustrated Marshall takes a moment to enjoy the fireworks with his son, which Future Ted informs us is Marvin’s first memory. The bus will take a couple hours to be repaired, so Marshall decides to walk the rest of the way.

    Rating

    B

    While the gimmicky rhyming is great and implemented flawlessly, it does become tiresome. The episode also feels like treading water that’s even more stagnant than the treaded water that Once Upon a Time had been aimlessly floating in the beginning of this season. The stories (while beautifully tying together) are pointless vignettes that have zero bearing on character or story development. It’s a throwaway episode that’s disguised as fun storytelling.

    Now for some random thoughts and my favorite moments of the night…

    “The last time he saw boobies was the screen test scene in Fame.” – Marshall making fun of Ted’s dry spell

    Loved briefly seeing James Van Der Beek as HIMYM continues to roll out the familiar guest stars in their final season

    “To boobies!” – Barney’s cheer before his councilmen drink the poisoned champagne

    Next week features the laser tag rehearsal dinner, which should prove to be an awesome episode.

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    posted in Reviews by John Keith


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    DEJJ

    For their biggest headlining show to date, a homecoming one no less, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. met with some venue-specific adversity that, for many bands, would have derailed the event. Yet, despite erratic lighting and obtrusive seating, the hometown heroes were undismayed, striving on and seemingly invigorated by the challenges to ensure their audience wasn’t disappointed. In a sense, it was the most appropriate way for the group to return to the beleaguered Motor City: being beset by technical glitches but rolling with the punches with a sense of humor — and coming out stronger for it.

    Before the main act took the stage at the opulent Jack White Theatre in the Masonic Temple, fellow Detroit-ers Flint Eastwood warmed up the crowd with an eight-song set (first opener, Violets, I regrettably missed). Guitarist Bryan Pope, drummer Mark Hartman, and bassist Clay Carnill appeared first, clad in black suits and bolo ties, before singer Jax Anderson lurched her way across the stage like a gutshot gunslinger, playing up the band’s spaghetti western motif. Getting to the mic stand from which a bleached deer skull hung, Anderson kicked off “Can You Feel Me Now?” with a finger-pistol shot at the audience. During their performance, it became increasingly baffling as to why a seated theatre was drafted as venue for bands whose music innately compels people to dance. Simply put, seats are to water what Eastwood and Jr. Jr. are to oil. Far too many people remained plopped down, though Anderson in her frenzied, demanding persona persistently called out those unwilling to take to their feet. That said, the venue’s acoustics made the band’s bombast and searing vocals sound great.

    During Eastwood’s third number, “Rewind,” a darkness descended, blacking out the band from view. While this seemed intentional at first, it was quickly revealed to be a mishap, as from then on, it seemed as if the light guy was unsure if he wanted all of the lights on or none of them. The situation didn’t seem to affect Eastwood, though, as they delivered a particularly rousing version of “Secretary,” during which Hartman stood to crash down on his battle-damaged cymbals, and Anderson led the audience in a volume-varying chant-along. Before wrapping their set, they announced each seat had a ticket taped to its underside, allowing attendees to download their debut EP, Late Nights in Bolo Ties.

    After Eastwood, a fluttering of bubbles drifted down on the crowd and two pairs of stylized J’s and R’s at the forefront and rear of the stage blazed to herald the beginning of Jr. Jr.’s set. Well, actually, one the J’s wasn’t functioning, but the band took a “well, fuck it” approach and, after an extended instrumental build up, launched into “Hiding” from new LP The Speed of Things. Maybe it was the grandiose theatre, the energy of the crowd, the band’s enthusiasm to be home or a combination thereof, but the song sounded so damn large. When it ended, the band bantered with the crowd a bit, an occurrence that would repeat after almost every cut. “We’re playing in the dark a little bit up here, but goddamn it’s good to be home,” Joshua Epstein said as the audience cheered. Later, in trying to spur the audience to dance, he joked that “the seats are throwing us off.”

    From there, Jr. Jr. ran through a setlist composed almost evenly of tracks from both of their LPs. Let me be frank: Jr. Jr.’s two studio records left me a bit underwhelmed. With a few exceptions on each, the melodies didn’t linger and the energy felt too tempered. Live, they’re a different beast entirely. “Simple Girl” was remarkably heavy toward the end, and with the broken-hearted whimsy of “Don’t Tell Me,” Epstein ran around the stage banging on a snare drum, noodling with a synth and jumping onto the floor while Daniel Zott whirled his vertical ponytail and bounced like a pogo stick. “Skeletons” ended with a blistering guitar frenzy, and the saxophone outro of “War Zone” added another level of dynamism. Perhaps most impressive was the musical chairs approach the band had toward their instruments, swapping them back and forth throughout the set.

    When the technology was cooperating, the giant white orb behind the band swirled with various images. In “Run,” an animated cartoon face with color-changing dimples appeared on the globe, while with “Mesopotamia,” the ball bore Nintendo-style graphics of the Genesis account’s fall of man (On the downside, the song grew shrill in its concluding salvo). The audience responded with its own quirkiness, several attendees hoisting cut-outs of Epstein and Zott’s faces on pickets and tossing either condoms or candy on stage. A loose, almost carnival mood pervaded the event, akin to a low-key Flaming Lips concert.

    Late in the set, the band paused to take photos of the crowd and state their thankfulness. “We’re so overwhelmed with gratitude,” Epstein said. “This is actually the biggest show we’ve ever played.” They proceeded to end the main set with the rousing “Almost Lost Detroit” and “If You Didn’t See Me (You Weren’t on the Dancefloor).” Placed back to back, the songs were the true highlight of the night, Zott on the former jumping down from the stage, letting his curly mop of hair down and leading the audience in belting out the Gil Scott-Heron ode to Detroit. After a brief break, the band returned for a three-song encore. A stark “A Haunting” kind of killed the powerful momentum of its two predecessors, but a cover of the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” made up for it, especially as Epstein announced they had brought the tune out of retirement and were dedicating it to those in attendance. “Nothing But Our Love” then properly closed the set with an extended outro of instrumental pandemonium, the bubbles returning to bring a feeling of the show having come full circle.

    Now, as mentioned above, I wasn’t too hooked on Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.’s albums going into the show. Going out, I’d attained a whole new perspective on the group. They are one that needs to be experienced live to get the full range of what they offer, and their performance implored me to revisit their records to see if my newfound appreciation carries over to them. What more can you seek from a show than to leave with that sensation?

    Flint Eastwood setlist

    1. Can You Feel Me Now?
    2. The River
    3. Rewind
    4. Shotgun
    5. Secretary
    6. Can You Save Me?
    7. Angels
    8. Billy the Kid

    Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. setlist

    1. Hiding
    2. Simple Girl
    3. Vocal Chords
    4. Don’t Tell Me
    5. Ooh La La (the Faces cover) / Morning Thought
    6. Run
    7. Mesopotamia
    8. War Zone
    9. Skeletons
    10. We Almost Lost Detroit (Gil Scott-Heron cover)
    11. If You Didn’t See Me (Then You Weren’t on the Dancefloor)

    ENCORE

    12. A Haunting
    13. God Only Knows (Beach Boys cover)
    14. Nothing But Our Love

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    posted in Live Reviews by Cole Waterman


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    Screen shot 2013-11-27 at 10.53.26 AM

    While Christmas and Halloween are jam-packed with traditional and/or novelty music, Thanksgiving is usually drowned out by the sound of gorging, the drone of NFL football, or tryptophan-induced snores. Hell, NYE is all about the music, so why has Thanksgiving been swallowed into the non-musical void? Fear no more intrepid readers. I’ve compiled a list a the Top 10 food/holiday/movie related Thanksgiving tunes to kick your dull family or semi-awkward Friendsgiving party into high gear.

    10. Adam Sandler – “The Thanksgiving Song”

    While justly overshadowed by “The Chanukah Song,” this might be Sandler at his most boy/mannishly annoying. Yet, it’ll be just the right, un-filling appetizer to your big day.

    9. Blur – “Coffee and TV”

    Before hitting the hard stuff, it’s probably best to perk up with some coffee and whatever classic 80s comedies TBS/VH1 is running.

    8. Ween – “Booze Me Up and Get Me High”

    Let’s be honest: it’s usually best to get in a few glasses of booze and/or a joint before the big event.

    7. Addams Family Values – “Eat Me”

    This is a personal favorite of mine, and while not technically a fully-formed song, it’s pretty goddamned hilarious.

    6. Tom Waits – “Eggs and Sausage”

    Probably the coolest song ever written about food. ‘Nuff said.

    5. Golden Smog – “Pecan Pie”

    One of the goofier cuts from the alt-country supergroup, it is what it is: a simple ode to the pleasures of pecan pie. At least, I don’t think it’s a double entendre.

    4. Coyote Shivers – “Sugarhigh”

    The closing song to a soundtrack I love, but a movie I hate (Empire Records) this little slice of pop punk is the perfect antidote to heavy gravy.

    3. Dead Kennedys – “Holiday In Cambodia”

    Jello Biafra, off the album Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables. It works.

    2. Paul Young – “Every Time You Go Away”

    The end credits to arguably the greatest Thanksgiving movie (Planes, Trains, and Automobiles) while obviously not about food, will leave you full and satisfied.

    1. “Weird Al” Yankovic – “Eat It”

    C’mon, was there any doubt?

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    posted in Checkin' 'Em Twice by Drew Fortune


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    HBO Boardwalk Empire Mask

    HBO

    (SEASON-WIDE SPOILERS AHEAD…)

    In the cutthroat world of television, few series are the given the chance to grow into themselves and get better with time. HBO’s Boardwalk Empire is a perfect example of what can happen to a show when it’s given that chance. Last Sunday night, the series ended its fourth and finest season with a finale that was one of the best hours of television I’ve seen this year.

    Boardwalk Empire has always had the ingredients to pull this off, but it has often fallen short. The show has strong writing, excellent acting and directing, and name recognition: star Steve Buscemi, creator Terence Winter, and producer Martin Scorsese. It also has a very authentic feel and tone, yet the show has never had the success or acclaim of other HBO heavy-hitters like The Sopranos or Game of Thrones, or the number of viewers of lighter HBO series like True Blood. In fact, it is one of the least watched HBO series, and one many critics have been mixed about (including Entertainment Weekly, who recently called the show “Bored-Walk Empire”).

    When you take on the gangsters of the 1920s, mix in real life characters with fictional ones, and spread your story between Atlantic City, New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington D.C., and most recently Tampa, it can be hard for viewers to fully connect or for new viewers to jump on-board. In past seasons, the trouble was in the scope of the show. Boardwalk Empire’s world is often too big. The cast is enormous (even with all the deaths), and the storylines are sometimes disconnected from each other.

    The series stars Steve Buscemi as Nucky Thompson, who begins as a “half-gangster” working for the city (Atlantic City) and running a small crime ring that mostly focuses on smuggling alcohol (It’s Prohibition time). As the series progresses, Nucky gets greedy and becomes a full gangster, while things quickly spin out of control (and the body counts rises). Buscemi is a great actor, but Nucky is often the least interesting character on the show, which has perhaps also led to some of the critiques of the series. Nucky isn’t as compelling as some might expect from the central character.

    To the show’s credit, the writers have made many bold decisions — but these decisions have come at a cost. The shocking deaths of main characters have been good for the story, but have often left strong and interesting characters marooned. These characters were often only connected to the central storylines through a character that now no longer exists. This was particularly an issue with Gillian Darmody (Gretchen Mol) and Richard Harrow (Jack Huston) when the second lead of the show, Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt), was surprisingly killed in the season two finale. Michael Shannon’s Nelson Van Aldan has also been left floating about the series sometimes with little purpose or connection to the main action. Regardless, viewers enjoy watching these characters and some, like Harrow, are fan favorites.

    As a viewer, I’ve always accepted these issues and enjoyed the show for its strengths and ability to follow its storylines through in realistic and often shocking or upsetting ways. When you are dealing with the gangster world, things aren’t always going to work out — even for your favorite characters. I appreciate writers who are willing to make the right decision for the story.

    In a series that is good with surprises, the real surprise this time was that Boardwalk Empire managed to pull itself together to become the show it has always wanted to be. This was the strongest season yet, which is rare for a show in its fourth year (yet not impossible, think of Dexter). It felt more cohesive than any other season and the storylines were right on point.

    This season belonged to Michael K. Williams’ Chalky White and Shea Whigham’s Eli Thompson. Both actors gave Emmy-worthy performances and brought the series to a whole new level. Williams’ plays the always-about-to-boil-over Chalky with precision and Whigham could get an award for just his facial expressions this season (particularly for his scene with Agent Knox in episode eight, “The Old Ship of Zion”). These characters have been on the show since the beginning, and both have played important roles, but this season focused on these two men as they faced their biggest struggles.

    Boardwalk Empire Sesaon 4 Chalky

    In a smart decision, the show put a spotlight on the black characters and brought on-board Jeffery Wright as Dr. Narcisse (a Harlem intellectual slightly based on W.E.B. Du Bois and the “talented tenth” movement during the 1920s). The calm yet menacing Narcisse provided the perfect rival for the short-fused Chalky; with each episode, Narcisse pulled back another layer to reveal his true character.

    It started off as a business arrangement for entertainment at the club Chalky now runs, but quickly turned into a battle for control. Narcisse sees all of Chalky’s weaknesses and plays him for much of the season. This includes getting Chalky’s right-hand man Purnsley (Eric LeRay Harvey) to go behind his back and sell heroin to the black community in Atlantic City (weakening them). Chalky is actually rather slow to catch on to what is happening, and when he does, he’s left with few options.

    Chalky’s biggest weakness comes in the form of the Jazz singer Daughter (Margot Bingham), who Narcisse uses to distract Chalky. In true HBO fashion, Daughter and Narcisse have a sick and twisted back-story, which provides yet another layer to the action (her mother was a prostitute that he killed). She distracts Chalky not only from his business, but also his family. Chalky’s family has always been a presence in the show, but his relationship with them is strained. He never seems to know quite how to be “the family man.” Lucky for Chalky, Daughter truly falls for him and foils the Doctor’s plan by killing Purnsely, who gets sent to kill Chalky. For a show that has become known for its slow-pace, this season kicked it up a gear. All of this happened well before the finale.

    Daughter brought an interesting female role to a rather male-dominated season. The show’s previous female lead Kelly Macdonald got only about 20 minutes of screen time in the entire season, which was another smart writing decision. Macdonald’s Margaret has mostly run her course as a character and left Atlantic City at the end of season three. Leaving her nearly out of season four gave room for other characters to take on a more significant role. I suspect she will return in a bigger way next season.

    The Chalky vs. Narcisse storyline was refreshing in a lot of ways because it showcased historical issues within the African-American community during this time period, which is something the show hasn’t explored that much. Often in historical shows or films, the tension or focus is on racism (white against black) as if that is the only story to tell. In this season, the central battle was between two black characters with very different lives and experiences (an intellectual and a man from the streets). We already know from previous seasons that Chalky can’t read, so the divide between these men is a wide one. It is also historically important. During this time period, there was a debate within the black community about how to progress and fight for true equality. Many important organizations and movements within the black community started during these years.

    The other main storyline this season involved Eli (Nucky’s brother) being blackmailed by the FBI Agent Knox (Brian Geraghty). In another smart move that helped tie this season together, the show began exploring the FBI take over by Hoover and the beginning of their investigation into organized crime in the United States.

    Eli has always been a sympathetic character. He plays second fiddle to his brother Nucky and has fallen on hard times before (like when his plan to kill Nucky backfired and he was forced to take the fall and go to jail). Like Chalky, he is also a family man (a big Catholic family). It is his family that he prides himself on and holds over his brother (who is single and childless). This is what made the inclusion of Eli’s son Willie (Ben Rosenfield) such a perfect move for the show.

    Early in the season, Willie accidently kills a classmate (a prank gone bad) while away at college. Instead of calling his father, he calls his Uncle Nucky, who comes and “fixes things.” The fix includes selling out Willie’s college roommate who helped him. This sets into motion a series of events that causes Agent Knox to find out about the cover-up and use it to convince Eli to turn over his partners. If Eli sets up a meeting with people from New York, Atlantic City, and Tampa (proving there is organized crime across state-lines), Knox will let Willie stay out of jail. Like Narcisse finds Chalky’s weakness, Knox finds Eli’s. Both men are put into situations with few ways out.

    Going into Sunday’s finale, I knew certain characters were in danger including Chalky, Narcisse (guest stars are often in grave danger come episode 12, “Farewell Daddy Blues”), Eli, and Agent Knox, but to the surprise of most, three of those four lived for yet another season.

    In a perfectly choreographed fight, Eli bested Knox and found himself on the run, which also provided an interesting tie-in to the action in Chicago (which I haven’t mentioned). This season’s last shot of Eli was him arriving in Chicago and getting picked up by Van Alden. I can’t wait to see where that story goes. I’d like Al Capone (played perfectly by Stephen Graham) to get more focus next season.

    Chalky and Narcisse’s standoff resulted in the biggest surprise of the season: the death of Harrow, who in many ways has always been the heart of the show. He’s one of the most tragic characters on the series, and, as a viewer, you are always on his side. He’s first introduced in season one as a WWI vet who is missing half his face (He wears a half mask, which isn’t as Phantom of the Opera as it sounds). He fought along side Jimmy, but when Jimmy is killed in season two, Harrow is left on his own. His storyline has often been disconnected from the greater story, but has been one of the strong points of the series. The real tragedy of his character is that he desperately wants to be free of a life of killing (whether that is in war or as a hired hitman), but things keep getting in the way — a central theme of the show.

    Early on in the series, Harrow was often shown putting together a scrapbook in which he would take clippings from newspapers or magazines and paste together a family for himself. As the series continued, his chance at a family became a reality. He met a nice girl, and he bonded greatly with Jimmy’s son Tommy. This season we saw Harrow finally willing to embrace and fight for this family. This required getting custody of Tommy from Jimmy’s mother Gillian (who was seen last season raising Tommy in a brothel).

    Throughout the season, we have seen courtroom scenes of the custody battle. All of this was brought to a surprising head in episode 11, “Havre de Grace,” when Gillian got arrested for the young man she killed last season (which she claimed was the body of her son, but was really a young man visiting from Indiana). She was arrested by this season’s other guest star, Ron Livingston, who posed as a businessman interested in marrying her but was actually a detective trying to get a confession out of her. I’m going to be honest: I didn’t see that coming at all.

    Gillian’s storyline provides the last tie-in to what leads to Harrow’s death and what makes this season so perfectly intertwined. In the finale, Gillian is facing murder charges but claims no one can prove that the young man who died was not her son — because his body was never found. Harrow wants to see Gillian put away and knows that Nucky killed Jimmy. He gets Nucky to provide an anonymous tip giving up the location of Jimmy’s body. To pay Nucky back for this favor, he agrees to take out Narcisse (once again being pulled back into killing).

    Chalky and Narcisse meet in the club to come to some agree (arranged by Nucky), as Harrow waits in the balcony with a gun. In the course of the conversation, Narcisse reveals that he has Chalky’s daughter. He calls her out just as Harrow is getting ready to pull the trigger. Harrow’s a little shaking. He refocuses, aims, and shoots just as Chalky’s daughter comes into the frame. She’s shot in the head and killed right before Chalky’s eyes. This causes a lot of commotion and gunfire, which is increased by a sudden raid by FBI agents looking for Eli in the murder of Knox (everything coming together) In the chaos, Harrow is shot. He escapes, but dies on the beach imagining meeting up with his now real family. The tragedy comes full circle.

    Boardwalk Empire is about how every action has a consequence. In season four, this idea was executed perfectly. Each storyline met up and connected or interfered with another in surprising and beautifully sad ways. I also appreciate how the show never forgets its history. Jimmy’s been dead for two seasons, yet he still played a role in what happened. Not all consequences are immediate.

    The action of this season led not to the death of Chalky or Narcisse or Eli, but to the deaths of two people who weren’t really directly involved (Harrow and Chalky’s daughter). For a show that has killed a lot of gangsters, it was a smart move to have the main causalities of the season to be two of the more innocent characters.

    In one of Gillian’s last scenes, she is being escorted out of the courtroom and she screams, “Why does a man get to do anything he wants?” In some ways, she has a point. Of all the characters to be arrested for murder, she has the smallest body count to her name, but in many ways, this finale was about the cost that all of these characters must pay for their choices. Gillian must go to jail. Chalky must face the death of his daughter that was really a result of letting his guard down. Narcisse was last shown in prison where Hoover forces him into being a government spy. He’s not dead, but he’s broken and now is under the white man’s control. Eli made a decision to save his family that backfired, and he’s now on the run with no family. And our main character, Nucky, is in the center of it all. More a witness this season than an actor. In fact, Nucky is seen at the end of the season wanting out. Out of the whole thing? We don’t know. But like Harrow, can he ever really be free until he’s paid with his life? Has anyone, male or female, gotten away with anything?

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    posted in Reviews by Stephen Mills


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    Phil Collins

    This news is so much tastier than leftover stuffing: Phil Collins is “thinking about” coming out of retirement — and he’s even open to reuniting with his old band, prog-pop icons Genesis. Collins broke the news to German outlet Bild Am Sommtag last week (and it was subsequently picked up by The Guardian).

    “I have started thinking about doing new stuff,” the legendary drummer/vocalist said while attending the Stuttgart premiere of stage musical Tarzan, based on the Disney cartoon soundtracked by Collins. “[Maybe playing] some shows again, even with Genesis. Everything is possible. We could tour in Australia and South America. We haven’t been there yet.”

    Holy. Shit.

    The last time Collins played with Genesis was 2007. The drummer/singer reunited with keyboardist Tony Banks and bassist/guitarist Mike Rutherford (along with touring members Chester Thompson and Daryl Stuermer) for a major tour (chronicled on the live DVD When in Rome). The seeds of that reunion can be traced back to 2005, when the band considered a full-fledged reunion of the early ’70s line-up (with singer Peter Gabriel and guitarist Steve Hackett) to perform the 1974 double-LP opus The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. When Gabriel eventually declined, the trio line-up moved forward.

    Screen shot 2013-12-02 at 11.28.07 AM

    Collins’ last solo album, 2010′s Going Back, was a tribute to the Motown favorites that inspired him as a young musician. He hasn’t released an album of new material since 2002′s Testify (which is, unfortunately, also the worst album in his catalogue). Over the last few years, Collins has been focusing on raising his young children and, well, obsessing over the Alamo. He hasn’t played on-stage since 2010, mostly due to a devastating neck injury that left him barely able to grip his drum sticks.

    After some depressing (and probably tongue-in-cheek) comments he made during an interview with Rolling Stone, the media ran wild with rumors that Collins was suicidal. He also seemed disillusioned with the music industry and his position as a critical whipping boy. When specifically asked about his drumming, he had a decidedly bleak outlook: “I was going to stop drumming anyway,” he said. “I had stopped. I don’t miss it.”

    But let’s hope Collins actually decides to make good on his new comments. While it’s unlikely he’ll be able to play the drums on-stage, a Genesis reunion with is very much doable.

    The most likely scenario would be a reunion of the ’80s touring line-up:

    1) Collins – vocals, percussion, Tony Banks – keyboards, Mike Rutherford – guitars, basses, Daryl Stuermer – guitars, basses, Chester Thompson – drums

    Then again, Steve Hackett has been touring the country as Genesis Revisited, and he’s even released a couple albums of reworked Genesis tunes. He’s always been the most vocal about his love of Genesis material, and it would be great to see him included in a reunion. I can’t imagine him adding his spacey guitar tone to, say, “Invisible Touch,” but it would be a lot of fun.

    2) Collins – vocals, percussion, Tony Banks – keyboards, Mike Rutherford – basses, Steve Hackett – guitars, Chester Thompson – drums

    Also, what really needs to happen is a one final Genesis album. Come on, guys: You have to redeem the mediocre yawn-song that is 1997′s Calling All Stations. Please. I’ll start a PledgeMusic campaign if it helps.

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    posted in Editor's Choice by Ryan Reed


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    Screen shot 2013-12-02 at 6.35.47 PM

    You know that guy — that highly intoxicated loudmouth blue-collar douchebag who continuously cries out during concerts for the band in question to play some obscure early track. Everybody else rolls their eyes, maybe throws the dude an “Ughh, really?” glance, and tries not to stab themselves in the face.

    Well, I have to give some serious kudos to this dreadlock-sporting Pearl Jam fan, who is the exact opposite of the previously mentioned douche. As our friends at Jambase note, a monumental concert event went down during Pearl Jam’s Saturday night gig in Spokane, Washington, when Dreadlock Dude held up a sign containing a bold request: If the band were to play Yield opener (and one of my favorite PJ tracks) “Brain of J,” he’d shave his head.

    So Eddie Vedder obliged, bringing the fan on-stage and letting him rock out with one final glorious headbang — before taking up the clippers and going to town. He almost didn’t do it, though — out of respect for his mane.

    Behold, in all its greatness, below:

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    posted in News by Ryan Reed


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    HIMYM The Rehearsal Dinner

    (SPOILERS AHEAD, so proceed with caution, you Mother lovers!)

    Season Nine, Episode 12: “The Rehearsal Dinner”

    Written by: Chuck Thatham; Directed by: Pamela Fryman

    It’s time for the rehearsal dinner, and if previews are true, then Barney has planned a laser tag rehearsal dinner (the first of its kind?). After last year’s bachelor party surprise, Barney is ready for another elaborate surprise from Robin. Yet everyone claims that no surprises or laser tag games are in store. Who is lying? And will there be an elaborate reveal at the end? This is HIMYM after all.

    Quick Breakdown

    Saturday 8 p.m., 22 hours before the wedding.

    As Marshall finishes the last leg of his trip, Barney is spending his rehearsal dinner in jail. Well, not a real jail — he’s handcuffed to a pipe in the Laser Tag Security Office, with Robin in a gold-colored dress pacing the floor. He urges the officer to press the button on the animatronic jazz-playing cow with the words “Let’s Get This Party Started” stenciled on its base. Robin tells him not to, annoyed because Barney always has to press the button.

    But why is he handcuffed in a Laser Tag Security Office? Months ago, Robin vetoed Barney’s idea of a laser tag rehearsal dinner, not long after he vetoed her idea for a wedding in Canada. But after that elaborate bachelor party last season, Barney is convinced that Robin is planning a surprise laser tag rehearsal dinner — although she and the others vehemently tell him that it’s not the case. Barney being Barney, he doesn’t listen.

    One hour before the rehearsal dinner, Robin is scurrying around the Farhampton Inn, making sure everything is ready. Barney still believes it is a decoy. When there is a problem with the ice, Barney assumes it’s because he’s meant to drive to the nearest place with ice, which will be right next to a “laser taggery,” where the surprise rehearsal dinner will be.

    Lily is slowly growing annoyed with Barney’s obstinacy and the fact that no one will tell her a secret (because she’s such a blabbermouth). She gets so annoyed that she distracts Robin by spilling Marshall’s secret to her and Ted. Yet not even this news can distract Robin, who has learned that Barney is arrested and awaiting the arrival of police at the nearby laser tag place — for threatening to dunk the snack bar attendant’s head in a vat of nacho whiz.

    With the security officer all caught up on their story, Robin remains furious with stubborn Barney. But suddenly he’s slipped out of his handcuffs and dramatically presses the button on the animatronic cow. The walls of the office rise to the ceiling revealing an ice skating rink decked out with Canadian paraphernalia. Barney packed the building with Canadian clichés and callbacks to old jokes, including the reappearance of Alan Thicke (who sings with James). Looks like Barney will always be the master of surprise.

    Rating

    B+

    This was another episode delightfully stuffed with callbacks to earlier this season and earlier this series. While Barney is frequently (always?) boneheaded, his elaborate surprise is actually very romantic, further proving how much he belongs with Robin. Everything else in the episode, not related to Barney and Robin, however, feels forced and uninteresting. (Do we really care about Lily’s drama when we know that Marshall is so close?) Overall, though, this is a great episode to propel us to the mid-season finale (in two weeks).

    Now for some random thoughts and my favorite moments of the night…

    Robin gives Barney a look and tells him to memorize her “Pretty Mad Face.” Barney retorts that it looks an awful lot like her “Pretty Hungry Face.”

    Gluten-free edible panties — one of Barney’s worst ideas (according to Lily).

    As the gang riffs on Robin’s dreams of a Canadian wedding (Ted: Are you registered at Tim Horton’s?), a couple in the background at McLaren’s gets engaged, pregnant, congratulates their son on his graduation, and faces the end of their lives. Seeing a gag like this took away from the main characters and made me start to wonder if this entire season itself wasn’t just one big gag.

    Robin argues with Barney, saying that she wants a “marriage built on honesty and trust and all of that Lily & Marshall crap.”

    An unfunny running gag throughout the episode has Ted dressed as Liberace and learning to play the piano. I pretty much ignored it, though.

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    posted in Reviews by John Keith


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    With “I Was There When…,” veteran music journalist Doug Collette reflects on his experiences in the glory days of live rock music. With each column, he takes us back to a specific concert he attended way back when, spotlighting bands like The Who, Pink Floyd, and The Allman Brothers Band, among many others.

    The Replacements 1989

    Credit: Sire Records Publicity

    Whether you adored The Replacements through their indie days at Twin Tone Records or got a crush on the band when they moved to the majors on Warner/Sire, you loved the group as much in spite of their vices as because of their virtues. And that dichotomy was especially prevalent on stage when the only guidance this band had laid in their own instincts, for better or worse.

    It seemed, at the time and in retrospect, that those odds were even when the Replacements played Burlington, Vermont’s Memorial Auditorium in March of 1989. Also an early stop on The Allman Brothers Dreams reunion tour this same year (‘Mats leader Paul Westerberg claims he learned guitar by playing At Fillmore East at slowed-down speed), the somewhat ramshackle venue had been closed to concerts for a period of time by the Queen City due to dubious activities, including the de rigeur noise complaint, in recent years.

    The Bastards of Young’s audience did nothing to cause issues this late winter night. but they were most likely alternately fascinated, repulsed, and mystified by the goings on in front of them. Rare it is for a band to be as unruly as its audience and perhaps more so, but even without any incitement to riot, the ‘Mats careened more than a little madly though a lengthy set in which the thin veneer of polish they’d developed over the years, accentuated by the hiring of guitarist Slim Dunlap to replace the ailing Bob Stinson, just as often as not gave way to the sloppy drunk musicianship that almost but not quite called into question the band’s credibility even into their later years.

    Not surprisingly, the sharpest performances came on material of more recent vintage, not just from Tim and beyond (“Can’t Hardly Wait,” “Little Mascara”), but Let It Be cuts like “I Will Dare” that turned that album’s title into a command when it was a benediction from The Beatles. In fact, the variations in level of professionalism now sounds so marked, it’s almost as if The Replacements deliberately conceived the set that way, implausible (impossible?) as that may sound.

    The end of the show provided either the punctuation to that statement of stellar role-playing or exercise in cynicism, depending on your point of view. It was one thing to hear the rowdy quartet encore by shredding the ear candy that’s “Hitchin’ A Ride,” another altogether when Westerberg ended up lying flat on his back crooning unsteadily into the microphone on “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes).”

    Standing at the rear of the gymnasium (sic) watching this near train wreck, the T-shirt slogan of the group’s soundman: “What’s so great about being a grownup?” (or words to that effect) could’ve been The Replacements’ motto. They never did find an answer, but on nights like this, they posed the question so relentlessly, it couldn’t be ignored.

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    posted in Features by Doug Collette


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    Screen shot 2013-12-04 at 10.33.51 AM

    On November 6th of this year, Garbage frontwoman Shirley Manson posted a Facebook photo of her erstwhile contemporary, Courtney Love, along with this note:

    “I miss Courtney. Looking back, our generation was so eclectic and exciting.
    All of us writing our own material. All of us full of piss and vinegar.
    Where are all the brand new girls who want to upturn some tables? Please for the love of god, if you are out there, it is time. Savages and Warpaint are leading the way!
    It is time to rise up and let your voices be heard. Let it Bleed.
    And Bleed Like Me.
    Please?
    Pretty please.
    I promise I will love and honor you.
    Honest I will.
    And I’m not the only one.
    Sx.”

    Now, as a music fan who is primarily drawn to female artists/voices, this kind of pissed me off. I would need an extra pair of hands to count the number of visionary, ingenious women who have self-penned and released records of power and honesty in the last six months, much less the last few years. Neko Case, Alison Goldfrapp, Laura Mvula, Janelle Monae, Florence Welch, Annie Clark, Marina Diamandis, Vienna Teng, Lorde, Lissie, even Lady fucking Gaga: These are women who do things their way and call their own shots. They use their musical gifts, as well as their image and its attendant qualities — joy, fury, despair, vulnerability, sexuality, and everything between — for their own purposes, and with their own intent, attracting fans from across all strata of gender, status, race, and orientation. So it’s difficult to read this comment from Shirley Manson, a first lady of ‘90s alt-rock and an icon of independent, empowered womanhood, and not think, “What the hell?” I’d sooner expect someone like Manson to be writing with effusiveness and pride about the new generation of women in music who are carrying the torch that she and her contemporaries like PJ Harvey, Bjork, Tori Amos, and yes, even Courtney Love, set ablaze in the ‘90s. I mean, yes her post references Savages and Warpaint, but still.

    Now, no one can speak to Manson’s original intent with this post, but it turns out I wasn’t the only person who batted an eye at it. Beset by angry comments from fans, many of whom pointed out the ladies I listed above, Manson posted a defensive pseudo-retraction which claimed that in her original post, she was talking about women artists that no one had heard of yet. Ooookay. Still, it was a strange incident in a year that has been strange as a whole for women in music — as creators and performers, and certainly as objects and subjects.

    For example: Robin Thicke’s summer smash “Blurred Lines” and its racy video had a whole nation tapping their toes to a tune that stops this shy of endorsing date rape.

    Miley Cyrus took things a step further, incorporating Thicke and his song into her cartoonishly raunchy performance of “We Can’t Stop” at the MTV Video Music Awards in September; sporting little more than underclothes, Cyrus stuck out her tongue and gyrated back against a fully-clothed Thicke. The sexually-charged performance (notable in one way because of how unsexy it actually was) ignited a flaming shitstorm of invective and debate that consumed the Internet. Everyone was talking about it, everyone was arguing about it: on Facebook, on Twitter, on countless blogs and message boards. Whether you were decrying the sexuality of Cyrus’s performance, or decrying the quality/tastelessness of it while supporting her right to do as she pleases, or just decrying the people doing the decrying on either side, you were part of a conversation that went on for weeks. It almost seemed to feed on itself and grow in strength: an autotrophic meme.

    And it wasn’t just us laypeople and armchair quarterbacks digging in. Because Cyrus is, after all, a woman, and because overt female sexuality in entertainment still raises eyebrows and complicated questions about intent and exploitation, several talented and famous female musicians felt obligated to chime in. Sinead O’Connor’s now-infamous open letter to Cyrus espoused concern for the young star and cautioned distrust of the powerful, male-oriented machine operating around her, but also boxed Miley into a traditional sex and gender role by claiming that her body should be for her boyfriend, and no one else. (This elicited a crass response from Cyrus that poked fun at O’Connor’s mental health; the dialogue quickly deteriorated).

    In quick succession, commentaries on the matter from other prominent women in music pasted themselves across our screens: Amanda Palmer wrote to O’Connor, taking issue with the conservative view of sexuality that the Irish singer expressed in her letter to Cyrus; Annie Lennox put the sexualized visuals of the mainstream industry on blast; and then, conveniently enough, Shirley Manson put in her two cents, too. Manson’s comments were more thoughtful than most, expressing discomfort with the exploitation of female sexuality but hesitant to frown on women using their sexuality in their music and their image. Actually, all of these women had acute and truthful insights to offer, but I noticed something strange about their comments. With the exception of Amanda Palmer, all of them, from Sinead to Shirley, didn’t once mention a woman musician at work today as an alternative example of whatever it is about Cyrus, her performance, and the system that they were lamenting. Which I didn’t think much more about until Shirley Manson’s November 6th “where my powerful women singers at?” post.

    Here’s the pitfall of wringing your hands about Miley Cyrus, no matter your reason: It makes it seem like the Mileys (and the Katys, and the Rihannas, and the songs by the Robin Thickes) are all that’s going on in music. But that’s patently untrue. They don’t even represent the majority of what’s going on. They’re just the ones with the most exposure. They’re in your face 24/7 — on the radio, on magazine covers, on blogs, on talk shows — because there are Suits with Money behind them. Suits with Money pay millions of dollars to shove this stuff down our throats every millisecond of a never-ceasing news cycle in the hopes that we’ll be snowblinded by Miley Cyrus’ ass and do the very thing many people seem to do, which is completely forget about the strong and independent voices singing out from every economic sub-strata of the music business and instead spend our time obsessing about twerking.

    Of course, it’s easy to rant about stuff. It comes naturally. It’s more fun. And yes, pointing out the systems of exploitation that are ingrained in our industries, our politics, and our social hierarchies is necessary. But, dear Internet, we need the other side, too. Calling out bullshit doesn’t help anything if we don’t offer solutions, alternatives, or contrasting examples. I mean, after all…what are any of us supposed to do about the Meat Machine? We can bemoan it all we want, but we can’t strip record and advertising executives of their wealth and exile them to the Island of Misfit Misogynists, unless you have some kind of superhero team on speed dial.

    The only thing we can do is be the change that we want to see, and hold up artists who are embodying that kind of change and independent, self-actualized spirit as beacons. Talk about these women! Urge the music on your friends. Write about them on message boards. Because if their contemporaries aren’t going to talk about them, especially in a context where they beg to be discussed, then we — the fans, the consumers — have to. And if you’re someone who spent countless Internet man hours in a froth about Miley Cyrus, but you don’t buy records, attend shows, and spread the gospel of women artists who embody the antithesis of whatever it is about Miley Cyrus you object to…well, you’re actually part of the problem.

    Stay tuned for Part 2: Mark’s year-end review of the best albums released by female artists this year. Coming soon!

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    posted in Editor's Choice by Mark Pursell


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    Big Ears 2014

    The Big Ears Festival is officially back in action. The incredibly eclectic event, based in (my hometown Knoxville, Tennessee) has just unveiled its 2014 line-up — and it’s a doozy: Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, former Velvet Underground member John Cale, Steve Reich, and alt-rock icons Television round out the jaw-droping roster, who will perform at venues throughout the city from March 28th to the 30th.

    The last Big Ears event was back in 2010, and it featured more commercial bands like Vampire Weekend and The National (among its usual roster of electronic, experimental, and art-rock). But the 2014 edition is built more on obscure (slightly avant-garde) acts like Oneohtrix Point Never, Tim Hecker, Julia Holter, and Colin Stetson.

    According to a press release, composer Steve Reich will be honored at the fest by Ensemble Signal (who will perform his 1976 piece Music for 18 Musicians, along with Radio Rewrite), Greenwood (performing Electric Counterpoint), and So Percussion (performing 1971′s Drumming).

    This is incredibly exciting news. For the unacquainted, Big Ears is produced by AC Entertainment, the same company responsible for outstanding fests like Bonnaroo, the Forecastle Festival, and the recently re-christened Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit (formerly Moogfest).

    More artists will be announced soon. Passes go on-sale this Friday, December 6th, at noon EST. More info is available at the Big Ears website.

    In the meantime, gaze in awe at the line-up below:

    Steve Reich
    Ensemble Signal
    Jonny Greenwood
    John Cale
    Television
    Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog
    Marc Ribot solo performance of original score to Charlie Chaplin’s “The Kid”
    Nazoranai (Keiji Haino, Oren Ambarchi, Stephen O’Malley)
    Tim Hecker
    Oneohtrix Point Never
    So Percussion
    Vladislav Delay
    Dean & Britta: 13 Most Beautiful: Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests
    Julia Holter
    Colin Stetson
    Dean Wareham
    Glenn Kotche
    Dawn of Midi
    Vatican Shadow
    Susanna
    Laraaji
    Son Lux
    Nils Frahm
    Bill Orcutt
    Mark McGuire

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    posted in Festivals by Ryan Reed


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    Alabama Shakes 12

    Last night, soul-rock newcomers Alabama Shakes brought their energetic stage show to Hard Rock Live in Orlando, Florida. HT photographer Barbara Sheridan was in an attendance, capturing the band in all their live glory (including some close-ups of firecracker frontwoman Brittany Howard). (– Ryan Reed)

    Alabama Shakes 1 Alabama Shakes 2 Alabama Shakes 3 Alabama Shakes 4 Alabama Shakes 5 Alabama Shakes 6 Alabama Shakes 7 Alabama Shakes 8 Alabama Shakes 9 Alabama Shakes 10 Alabama Shakes 11 Alabama Shakes 12 Alabama Shakes 13 Alabama Shakes 14 Alabama Shakes 15 Alabama Shakes 16 Alabama Shakes 17 Alabama Shakes 18 Alabama Shakes 19 Alabama Shakes 20 Alabama Shakes 21 Alabama Shakes 22 Alabama Shakes 23 Alabama Shakes 24 Alabama Shakes 25 Alabama Shakes 26 Alabama Shakes 27 Alabama Shakes 28 Alabama Shakes 29 Alabama Shakes 30

    Here’s the band playing one of their signature tunes, “Hold On,” at Glastonbury 2013:

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    posted in Into the Lens by Barbara Sheridan


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    Screen shot 2013-12-04 at 9.52.04 PM

    (SPOILERS AHEAD, so proceed with caution, South Park fans!)

    Season 17, Episode Nine: “Titties and Dragons”

    Written and Directed by: Trey Parker

    So here we are: the final installment of the Console Wars trilogy. Judging from the reactions I’ve read in the comments section, in other reviews, and even on my Facebook feed, this storyline has been a “love it, hate it” ordeal. On one hand, it’s kind of a shame to spend 30% of an entire season on one plot — the Game of Thrones-styled banter and all the Princess Kenny stuff has really felt like filler; condensing this down to two episodes probably would’ve helped the flow. On the other hand, these episodes have been home to some of this rocky season’s biggest laughs.

    Either way, I’m glad to see this story resolved — and luckily, it went out on a high note. We finally see the dreaded Black Friday carnage; we get a few more hearty weiner jokes (pun intended), and we get some of Trey Parker’s reliably sharp satire on consumerism and corporate greed. When people around the country are literally beating the shit out of each other to get their coveted 50% off Blu-Ray players, you can either choke down some Zoloft or laugh at the sheer absurdity.

    Or maybe both.

    Quick Breakdown

    We start out in the “Princess Kenny” anime, with the Japanese Sony executives talking about Black Friday. Princess Kenny enters the room, speaks Japanese (or what I assume is Japanese), and eventually parachutes onto a ship to stop a shipment of PS4s from reaching their Black Friday destination.

    Meanwhile, Black Friday crowds are getting ridiculously long. “They’re cold, they’re starving, and there’s already been a lot of bloodshed over these holiday deals,” says the news station’s field reporter, who interviews a local man who literally turned to cannibalism in the name of savings — by eating his own son. (Hey, they drew straws!)

    Stan and company (Team PS4) strategize about where to go in the mall, plotting out how to overtake a crucial battleground: the Red Robin. Cartman and Kyle’s crew (the X-Boxers) show up, finally admitting defeat and asking to join forces in the pursuit of console glory. This, of course, is a ruse: Kyle thinks of a brilliant plan (renting out the Red Robin for a fake wedding party), and Cartman plans to lock Stan’s crew inside the restaurant.

    And here we hit a dead stretch: The random old man with the garden spills the beans of Cartman’s plot to back-stab Stan; Cartman then confesses the truth, then screws Stan over by getting him grounded (telling Sharon that he defecated in the old man’s yard). Kyle shows up to clear the air with Stan, but the latter feels betrayed, saying he’ll never play Call of Duty with him again. (That was roughly as much fun to type as it was to watch.)

    But things pick up once Black Friday FINALLY arrives.

    Back at the mall, Randy tells his fellow security guards to stay strong against the adversity. (When one guy can’t take the pressure and tries to run away, Randy shoots him with a bow and arrow.) Meanwhile, Black Friday Master George R. R. Martin cuts the ceremonial red ribbon — or at least he’s supposed to. (“But first,” he says, “I’d like to share with you a few words about my weiner,” leading to an epic poem about his genitalia.)

    At the Red Robin, Cartman leads a Black Friday toast, secretly plotting his devious scheme. But Kyle shows up with plans of reverse-reverse-reverse sabotage (or something). “I let my friend get grounded,” he says, “but today I will get him a Playstation.” With the battle-lines grayer than ever, Bill Gates shows up, and so does the Japanese Sony exec. And then Stan, who tells the truth: The real war, he says, is between Sony and Microsoft — not the innocent consumers. It’s a corporate thing. So Gates and Sony guy engage in a bloody battle to the death, with Gates reigning supreme. “It’s over,” he says. “X-Box wins!”

    But nobody wins in this scenario. When Martin won’t stop reading his epic weiner poem, he gets stabbed to death, leading to the inevitable riot. People start murdering each other (one lady hits a woman in the head with a baseball bat), and in a reliably brilliant nod to reality, Parker blends the animated chaos with actual Black Friday news footage. (Besides a few decapitated heads, the brutality is awfully similar.)

    Gates tells the kids to go claim their X-Boxes, so they reluctantly do, strolling through the bloody mall carnage. Back at home, they finally get the chance to play, noticing the marginal improvements of the console — but they’re clearly depressed and disillusioned by the Black Friday ordeal, so they go play outside instead. “All we need to play are the simplest things,” Cartman says, in a moment of clarity.

    But this wouldn’t be South Park without some satire to balance the sweetness. So we cut to an ad for the new South Park Console Wars video game, out soon in a greedy, manipulative chain store near you. Who knows — maybe if you wait in line for a week and assault your first cousin, you can get 60% off next Turkey Day.

    Rating

    A-

    Now for some random thoughts and my favorite moments of the night…

    Red Robin Wedding…get it? Got it.

    In a nod to last week’s hilarious Martin moment, the opening credits are replaced with the epic Weiner chant

    Cannibal guy sings incredible jingle about eating his child and the Blu-Ray player

    Parker’s horribly offensive Japanese voice impression remains the funniest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.

    Martin and Butters are riding on horseback to Colorado…(because horses have huge penises)

    “Now if you’ll excuse me, my lady, I need to take a shit.” — Cartman

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    posted in Reviews by Ryan Reed


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    Credit: FX

    Credit: FX

    (SPOILERS AHEAD, so witch your step, Coven fans!)

    Season Three, Episode Eight: “The Sacred Taking”

    Written by: Ryan Murphy; Directed by: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

    After a little Holiday break, it’s time to see where the chips fall after all the new alliances were made in the last episode. Ryan Murphy even took time out of his busy schedule to write this week’s installment. As Queenie dramatically quotes from Game of Thrones (consciously or not): “War is coming.”

    Quick Breakdown

    Queenie is lurking around a shady homeless hangout, a girl on a mission. Zoe and Madison show up, trying to get Queenie back on their side. She laughs in their faces and says Laveau is a better teacher than Cordelia (or Fiona) ever was. In fact, she’s here to get a dark heart that Laveau will use in a spell to give Queenie more power. She cuts open a rapist’s chest and pulls out his heart. She then declares war: voodoo vs. witchcraft.

    Cordelia summons the remaining witches for a war council. Before they even think about Laveau, though, they must get rid of Fiona. She warns that they have only one shot before Fiona catches on and retaliates, so it must go off flawlessly. Her plan involves an old witch ritual called “The Sacred Taking,” which requires the current Supreme to kill herself, allowing the next one to rise. They’re then interrupted by the doorbell. With no servants left in the manor, Zoe opens the door and sees her old pal Misty — and she’s in trouble.

    While lying in bed, listening to Stevie Nicks, Myrtle (looking like she needs five more minutes of sleep) alerts Misty to an armed intruder (presumably Hank). They barely escape, making it to Robichaux’s in search of a safe place. Cordelia welcomes them in, seeing new allies in her quest to take down Fiona. Myrtle delights at the plan, and tells the witches that Misty is the next Supreme — a declaration that rankles both Zoe and Nan.

    Fiona is feeling pretty under the weather; her cancer is taking its toll. With a limited time left, she starts packing for an escape (She’s always running away) with the Axeman, the only person who loves her. Hopped up on pills, she’s confused when she sees Madison in her bedroom. Madison baits Fiona with talk of replacing her as Supreme, unsettling Fiona. Madison gives her some pills and saunters out. Myrtle replaces her as the ghost of murders past, telling Fiona to give up on her dreams of a happily ever after with the Axeman who will inevitably grow tired of a dying hag. Fiona succumbs, pulls on a fur coat, and takes the plunge into the afterlife.

    Then Cordelia’s plan backfires thanks to the overzealous Zoe. Spalding appears next, with a bottle of ipecac in hand. He belittles Fiona for falling for the witches’ trap (reveling that as a ghost he can finally speak again), and forces her to fight for her life and power. Downstairs, Myrtle plays a “mawkish” dirge for Fiona, as they await her death. Fiona, looking healthier than she did an hour ago, slinks into the room, looking for the swamp witch they claim will really be the next Supreme.

    Next door, Joan is trying to purify her tainted son Luke. To purify his insides, she forces him to withstand a potent baking soda enema. It seems every mother this season is unhinged. Nan, furious that no one thinks she could be the Supreme and worried for Luke (whose wailing thoughts she keeps listening to), runs over to the Ramsey house to save her love. She finds him tied up in the closet and tries to escape with him. Joan appears to stop them, but it’s Hank and his sniper rifle that takes out Joan and Luke before anyone can escape.

    Over in voodoo land, Laveau shoos away Queenie from feeding the animal, LaLaurie. Still in a cage, she tells Laveau to do her worst since she, LaLaurie, can’t die anyway. At the manor, Zoe has left Kyle with a laptop and an educational program to teach him words and feelings. After the murder plot goes awry, she goes up to check on her Franken-boyfriend. He confesses that he loves her and she reciprocates; Madison overhears the exchange and actually sheds a few tears.

    Just as Fiona shows up to find the little swamp witch, Misty runs away. She must be naturally drawn to death because she goes right next door to Patti LuPone’s bullet-ridden body. Fiona pops in to say hi to Misty, urging her to work her powerful resurgence skills (arguably the hardest of the trials for the new Supreme) on Joan. While she does this, Cordelia manages to get her all-seeing hands on one of the bullets, having flashes of her spurned husband Hank pulling the trigger.

    The next morning, Fiona has a heart-to-heart with her daughter. She tells Cordelia that she’s very proud of her, eliciting amused shock from Cordelia. She’s happy the coven tried to knock her off because they were finally showing some true grit. Once again, conversation is interrupted by the doorbell. “Where are all the servants?” Fiona intones again. She opens to the door to find a box. After doing a witchy TSA-security scan, she brings the box to the kitchen. When she opens it, she finds Gwyneth Paltrow’s head (just kidding!). Fiona finds LaLaurie’s head in the box (which should come as no surprise if you read Entertainment Weekly a couple weeks ago).

    Rating

    A

    This episode wasn’t really laden down by guest stars, and focused mainly on the core cast. What are the odds Jessica Lange uses this episode to garner her next Emmy nomination? It didn’t take long for them to attempt to kill Fiona (I half expected that storyline to last until January), and now they’re moving on to bigger baddies like witch hunters and a voodoo war. There are still five more episodes this season, and it feels like the real fun is only just beginning.

    Now for some random thoughts and my favorite moments of the night…

    There were a slew of great quotations this week; I’ve included the best ones.

    “Do me a favor, die before Thanksgiving so none of us has to suffer through that mess of raisins and styrofoam you call stuffing.”   – Cordelia to Fiona after her mother announces her impending death by cancer.

    “What the hell happened to the staff in this house?!” – Cordelia when no one answers the door.

    Myrtle affectionately calls Cordelia “blind as a butter knife.”

    “Can you imagine those poor Salem witches traveling down here in covered wagons without a proper charcuterie platter or a bidet? Absolutely savage!” – Myrtle

    “You’ll be hash browns by this time tomorrow.”  –Madison as she threatens Fiona with death by fire.

    Myrtle tells Fiona that Madison reminds her of a young Fiona, “Thin as a pin with a dreadful case of the Me, Me, Me’s.”

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    posted in Reviews by John Keith


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    Screen shot 2013-12-06 at 10.55.32 AM

    As I compiled my long list of metal albums that kept me the most captivated in 2013, I noticed something about my growing tastes in the genre, which happen to nicely correlate with trends in metal overall. While the top 10 below features two excellent traditional heavy metal records, overall the list is primarily dominated by releases that don’t fit purely into one subgenre. Some of these albums eschew genre altogether (see #6) and others take surprising angles on tried-and-true formulas (see #13). Though I came to heavy metal after being a diehard fan of classic rock (one might say I started listening to metal chronologically in that sense), over time I’ve found myself less enamored by purist takes on styles. (When traditional/purist takes become refreshing is after a relative dearth of a particular style for a decently long period of time (see Dawnbringer’s majestic Into the Lair of the Sun God from last year.) The 20 albums that make up this list reflect metal’s increasing ability to outgrow people’s conceptions of it, in the process making progress not just for itself, but all the other genres it’s come to challenge.

    N.B. Where titles of albums are hyperlinked, the band has provided a full stream via Bandcamp.

    The Runners-Up

    20. October Falls—Plague of a Coming Age [Debemur Morti]
    19. Norma Jean—Wrongdoers [Razor & Tie]
    18. Wartorn—Iconic Nightmare [Southern Lord]
    17. In the Silence—A Fair Dream Gone Mad [Sensory]
    16. Author & Punisher—Women & Children [Seventh Rule]
    15. Lycus—Tempest [20 Buck Spin]
    14. Orphaned Land—All is One [Century Media]
    13. Deveykus—Pillar Without Mercy [Tzadik]
    12. Dead in the Dirt—The Blind Hole [Southern Lord]
    11. The Dillinger Escape Plan—One of Us is the Killer [Sumerian/Party Smasher]

    The Top 10

    Final Sacrifice Cover

    10. Noctum—Final Sacrifice [Metal Blade]

    It’s quite difficult, particularly as metal has grown immensely since its inception, to peg specific irreducible qualities that “make metal metal.” Of the few that come to my mind, The Riff is one of them. There’s something more to a metal riff than a rock riff, though the two undoubtedly arrive from similar camps. The veritable riff-fest that is Noctum’s sophomore LP, Final Sacrifice, is a tribute to that great facet of metal, incorporating positively wicked grooves (“Liberty in Death”) and even some ’70′s Aerosmith swagger in the fantastic instrumental “Deadly Connection.” Like Dawnbringer in 2012, Noctum show that it’s still entirely possible to purvey in old-school styles without devolving into pastiche. Fans of metal’s ’70′s-’80′s halcyon days would be foolish to pass on this one.


    9. Mansion—We Shall Live [Svart]

    As certain periods of metal’s history will make a little more than obvious, heavy music hasn’t often taken kindly to Christianity, a fact that inspired a particularly hilarious Christmas gift idea. The Finnish quintet Mansion, however, don’t represent your Joel Osteens and your Rick Warrens; mainline Christianity of any stripe would probably find Kartanoism, the sect Mansion affiliate with, to be insane. Extreme asceticism, self-flagellation, lengthy prayer sessions culminating in feverish speaking in tongues… this ain’t your garden-variety Jesus worship. All of those things are, however, prime motivators for heavy music, which Mansion delivers in spades. We Shall Live is spellbinding, moody doom metal at its highest caliber, and proof that maybe the devil doesn’t have all the good music after all.


    8. Jucifer—There is No Land Beyond the Volga [Nomadic Fortress]

    Jucifer isn’t looking for anything approaching “accessibility” with its eighth studio record, за волгой для нас земли нет (“There is No Land Beyond the Volga”; others have dubbed it “The Russian Album”), a concept album about the Volgograd told from the perspective of its people, including those that occupied it when it was known as Stalingrad. Already, the conceptual bar is set high; added on top of this is the music itself, which unlike the more atmospheric iterations of doom present on this list is abrasive, rough, and sludgy. It’s the latter of the three that comes through most strongly on Volga; much like the Russian landscape it depicts, the music is harsh, frigid, and often desolate. Jucifer’s feat here, as with their previous concept album about Marie Antoinette, L’Autrichienne, is taking intimate knowledge of a subject material and transforming it into a work that positively bleeds of it. On their Bandcamp page, Jucifer boasts that it is “notoriously nomadic” and that its members “live in their tourbus.” If the group keeps making music this good, that bus will start racking up the miles quick.


    7. Darkthrone—The Underground Resistance [Peaceville]

    In 1992, the Norwegian natives of Darkthrone caused the now ubiquitous Blaze in the Northern Sky. Twenty-one years later, black metal is still ingrained into the band’s DNA — in what other genre would one find a song called “Leave No Cross Unturned?” — but with The Underground Resistance, Darkthrone embrace old-school metal in all its glory, with galloping riffs, theatrical clean vocals, and a real spirit of fun and conviviality at full blast. The Underground Resistance isn’t a comeback album in the technical sense; after 2006′s The Cult is Alive, Darkthrone has begun a process of differentiation from its black metal roots. Fenriz and Nocturno Culto have been alive and kicking for some time. But they haven’t sound this revitalized in awhile; to hear metal luminaries such as these perform at such a high caliber after their golden age is a rare treat.


    6. Ihsahn—Das Seelenbrechen [Mnemosyne]

    Much like Scott Walker’s impenetrable Bish Bosch, an album whose influence on this one is near undeniable, Das Seelenbrechen (a Nietzscheian phrase meaning “the soul breaking) takes a great deal of time to get into. Its first four cuts are a natural extension of what Emperor founding member Ihsahn has been doing with his past several solo outings: “Hilber” and “NaCl” are A-grade prog-metal, “Pulse” is an orphaned Katatonia cut, and “Regen” is probably one of the best symphonic metal songs in recent years. After “Pulse” concludes, however, things get weird. “Tacit 2″ experiments with dissonance and tempo-free drumming. “Tacit” follows that up with a random horn section straight out of the Mingus playbook. “See” is pure post-1995 Walker. Love Das Seelenbrechen or hate it, it is true that these halves are disjointed. What unifies them is Ihsahn’s daring and his inability to compromise; just when you’re lured into thinking this is as another experimental prog-metal affair, out comes the rug underfoot. It’s a risky sort of thrill ride, for sure, but it’s an ultimately rewarding one.


    5. Kvelertak—Meir [Roadrunner]

    Meir isn’t just an incredible metal LP; in its dizzying array of genre exploration, it feels more broadly like a tribute to all things great and heavy. AC/DC finds spiritual succession in the surefire crowd chant of “Kvelertak.” Highlight cut “Spring Fra Livet” throws black metal tremolo picking and blastbeats, blues riffs, and dueling guitars into a pot, stirs them together, and comes out with one of the year’s most memorable metal songs. In its native Norwegian, Kvelertak means “stranglehold,” and that’s precisely what Meir (say “more”) feels like, though not just in riffs and double bass. Meir‘s mile-deep display of heavy metal knowledge is indicative of amazing things to come from these guys.


    4. SubRosa—More Constant than the Gods [Profound Lore]

    One would need only play the part when the riff kicks in on “Cosey Mo,” the third cut off the Salt Lake City-based doom-metal collective SubRosa’s More Constant than the Gods, to know why this record kicks as much ass as it does. For its past three studio albums, SubRosa has flown comfortably under the radar, captivating those lucky enough to be caught in the tumultuous waves of its amplifier feedback. With More Constant than the Gods, the group expands its sound tenfold, and not just because four of this LP’s six songs run over 10 minutes. This is, after all, the band that included in its last outing, 2011′s No Help for the Mighty Ones, an a cappella version of the folk standard “House Carpenter”; sitting comfortably on laurels is not one of this band’s pastimes. From the low-end heft of “Cosey Mo” to the piano-led dirge “No Safe Harbor,” More Constant than the Gods enthralls at every turn. Also, much like Mansion, SubRosa proves that the best doom is more often than not fronted by women, a considerable achievement in a genre whose fanbase is, to put it mildly, over-saturated in Y chromosomes.


    3. Shining—One One One [Prosthetic]

    Blackjazz, Shining’s 2010 creative breakthrough, is a record no band, no matter how good, would ever envy having to top. With One One One, these Norwegian provocateurs haven’t topped their now-signature sound, but they have reformulated and expanded it, which as One One One makes apparent is just as good as the former. Pop music isn’t exactly the next logical step from Blackjazz, but, then again, one can only imagine what Shining conceives “logic” to be. In any case, the result is entirely thrilling: lead single “I Won’t Forget” is just as good as any Billboard-topping track in 2013; “How Your Story Ends” finds frontman Jorgen Munkeby doing a helluva Sexy Sax Man impression, and the groove on “Paint the Sky Black” is a fine reminder that these guys got their start in the knotty interplay of ensemble jazz. Metal has never seen a pop album quite like One One One, nor has pop seen a metal album like One One One. This is hybrid music at the edge of the form.


    2. Deafheaven—Sunbather [Deathwish, Inc.]

    If one is talking about “that” metal album from 2013, it’s probably Sunbather, the sophomore album by the Bay Area metalgaze outfit Deafheaven. The band was blessed by a major critical push headed up by Pitchfork and an advertisement shout-out from the folks at Apple, which propelled it to international attention. (Deafheaven recently announced their first Australian tour.) For all the good it can bring to a young band, however, it’s hype that is the most frustrating thing about Sunbather. It’s a fantastic, provocative record that shows just how punishing metal can be even as it crosses over into the dreamier, poppier elements of shoegaze. But it never feels as it if it itself is insisting upon that project; founding members George Clarke and Kerry McCoy have talked about trying to expand their sound with Sunbather in promotional materials, but never any genre sea changes. Perhaps that’s what makes Sunbather so powerful in the end, though: come the year’s end, its genuine greatness has transcended its hype.


    1. Russian Circles—Memorial [Sargent House]

    Post-metal is exciting at its best and utterly boring at its worst. Hallmark works of the genre, such as Isis’ Panopticon, inspire greatness where by-the-number instrumentals (e.g. anything Pelican has done following What We All Come to Need) lull listeners to sleep. Amidst the rise and fall of major post-metal acts over the course of the late ’00s, the Chicago trio Russian Circles steadily rose, putting out sleeper records (2008′s Station in particular) that gradually built upon their predecessors. With 2011′s Empros, it seemed a peak was reached, but no — the world had yet to see Memorial then. Memorial is Russian Circles’ shortest LP to date, but what it lacks in length it more than makes up for in emotional resonance, gorgeous melancholy, and prodigious instrumentation. Chelsea Wolfe’s airy, transcendent vocals on the title track, which rounds out the album, add a whole other dimension to this group’s sound — but if the seven songs that precede her guest spot indicate anything, it’s that Russian Circles are one of those rare bands that need no words to say all they need to say. In years to come, I suspect Memorial will come to be seen as the genre cornerstone that it truly is.

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    posted in Best of 2013 by Brice Ezell


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    Noel Gallagher

    When Noel Gallagher speaks, people listen. The former Oasis member (who currently performs solo as High Flying Birds) wrote some of the most memorable, stadium-filling rock songs of the 1990s, but I’d say his finest achievements have been in a totally different kind of arena — the oratorical arena. During Oasis’ Brit-pop prime, the eternally bickering Gallagher brothers made enemies with just about every one of their contemporaries (including Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, Blur’s Damon Albarn, basically every music journalist) with their frank — and frequently hilarious — opinions on music, politics, and the world at large.

    In a new interview with Rolling Stone, Noel adds another impressive boost to his quotable interview resume. Reliably cranky yet surprisingly full of backhanded compliments, Gallagher gives love to Kanye West and electro-pop newcomers Disclosure and art-rock legend David Bowie, compliments half of the new Arctic Monkeys LP, and spews some hatred at Arcade Fire and their increasingly ornate costumes. (Clearly all you have to do when you interview this guy is mention a person’s name, step away slowly from your recording device, and let the magic brew.) Below, I’ve highlighted five of my favorite passages.

    5. On Kanye, Yeezus, and the Splendor of Leather Jogging Pants

    “I’m not really a fan of his or anything like that. I don’t really like that kind of modern hip-hop, whatever you call it. But somebody told me to watch this interview he did in England [with BBC DJ Zane Lowe], so I watched it, and I thought it was one of the best interviews I’ve ever seen. I fuckin’ loved it! Especially the bit about the leather jogging pants or whatever he’s going on about, fucking claiming he invented them.”

    I love this so much. Gallagher doesn’t want to just say he likes Kanye (That would be too nice), so he prefaces his compliment with an insult. I also adore how he says “that kind of modern hip-hop, whatever you call it.” Is the “whatever” in reference to the abrasive, noisy brand of hip-hop found on Yeezus — or simply hip-hop itself? I also want to know more about his love of the “leather jogging pants” line. I can see Gallagher respecting such a lofty claim.

    4. On The Anonymity of British Pop Radio

    “And what else? There’s singles on British radio that I don’t know what they’re fucking called. I have no idea. I hear them when I’m getting my kids ready for school. As for what they’re called? Fuck knows.”

    This is classic. Nobody bother Noel with remembering track titles — this really pisses him off. It seems like he has a hard time just liking things — “Yeah, this chocolate cake tastes great, but fuck off. I don’t know what it’s called!”

    3. On “Blurred Lines” and Some Douche Named Robin Thicke

    “I don’t mind it. It sounded good on the radio. Got a bit annoying after the five millionth time you’ve heard it. I think he’s going to be a one-hit wonder, surely. It’ll be like that guy who’s done ‘Gangnam Style’ – we’ll never hear from him again.”

    Again, Noel: Don’t be embarrassed to like a funky pop song! This is just so great in so many ways: I like how the song sounds “good on the radio.” (I guess it would sound shitty coming out of a mid-level stereo system.) Also, the thought of Noel Gallagher listening to “Gangnam Style” is simply the best.

    2. On Miley Ray Cyrus and “Desperate” Female Pop Artists

    I think there’s a trend, unfortunately, in the game, at the minute, of girls desperately trying to be provocative or desperately trying to – in inverted commas – “start the debate” about some old shit or other. Because, really, they’re not very good. Do you know what I mean? We have it in England regularly, and you have it in the States. I feel bad for ‘em. It’s like, ‘Write a good song. Don’t make a provocative video – write a good fucking song. That’ll serve you better, I think.’ She was on TV recently, Miley Ray Cyrus, and it was just like, ‘What the fuck is all this about?’ I don’t know. It’s a shame, because it puts all the other female artists back about fucking five years. Now, Adele and Emili Sande – that music, to me, is like music for fucking grannies, but at least it’s got some kind of credibility.

    Pretty self-explanatory. The “fucking grannies” line is particularly great, though — “This song is wonderful. I hate it.”

    Also, since we’re talking about modern female pop artists, check out Mark Pursell’s amazing piece about that exact topic.

    1. On Arcade Fire’s Costumed Concerts (Also: The Three Musketeers, Cheech and Chong, and Flying Saucers)

    “Well, what’s the point of that? Do you know what the point of that is? That is to take away from the shit disco that’s coming out of the speakers. Because everybody’s dressed as one of the Three Musketeers on acid. ‘What was the gig like?’ ‘I don’t know, everyone was dressed as a teddy bear in the Seventies.’ ‘Yeah, but what was the gig like?’ ‘Ah, fuck knows, man, I have no idea. I was dressed as a flying saucer.’ ‘Yeah, but what was the gig like?’ ‘Fuck knows. I don’t know. Seen Cheech and Chong, there, though.’ Not for me.

    Slow-clap to infinity.

    BONUS QUOTE: On Lady Gaga’s Art-Making Process

    “In fact, she’s probably doing a shit on top of a boiled egg right now. And somebody will fucking freeze it and call it art.”

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    posted in Checkin' 'Em Twice by Ryan Reed


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    Credit: Danny Clinch

    Credit: Danny Clinch

    By this point, Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival is basically an institution. The fourth incarnation of the event (held last spring in New York City) is documented on the new Crossroads Guitar Festival 2013 set, which is available now on DVD, Blu-Ray, and CD formats. In addition to Clapton himself, the release features performances from legends like The Allman Brothers Band, Keith Richards, Jeff Beck, John Mayer, Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, and Gary Clark Jr, among many others.

    We’re giving away a two-disc Blu-Ray copy — to win, tell us what up-and-coming guitar whiz should be added to the next Crossroads Festival. Who’s the “next Clapton”? (To boost your case, please provide some proof — in audio or visual form — and tell us why he or she is such an incredible guitar player.)

    The deadline for the giveaway is next Friday, December 13th, at 5:00 p.m. EST. NOTE: The set can only be shipped to an address in North America.

    The tracklist is below. Check out more details at Amazon.

    Disc One

    1. “Tears In Heaven” – Eric Clapton
    2. “Spider Jiving” – Eric Clapton with Andy Fairweather Low
    3. “Lay Down Sally” – Eric Clapton with Vince Gill
    4. “Time Is Tight” – Booker T. with Steve Cropper
    5. “Born Under A Bad Sign” – Booker T. with Steve Cropper, Keb’ Mo’, Blake Mills, Matt “Guitar” Murphy & Albert Lee
    6. “Green Onions” – Booker T. with Steve Cropper, Keb’ Mo’, Blake Mills, Matt “Guitar” Murphy & Albert Lee
    7. “Great Big Old House” – The Robert Cray Band
    8. “Everyday I Have The Blues” – The Robert Cray Band with B.B. King, Eric Clapton & Jimmie Vaughan
    9. “Next Of Kindred Spirit” – Sonny Landreth
    10. “Cry” – Doyle Bramhall II with Alice Smith
    11. “Bullet And A Target” – Doyle Bramhall II with Citizen Cope
    12. “She’s Alright” – Doyle Bramhall II with Gary Clark Jr.
    13. “This Time” – Earl Klugh
    14. “Mirabella” – Earl Klugh
    15. “Heavenly Bodies” – Kurt Rosenwinkel
    16.  “Big Road Blues” – Kurt Rosenwinkel with Eric Clapton
    17. “Next Door Neighbor Blues” – Gary Clark Jr.
    18. “Queen Of California” – John Mayer
    19. “Don’t Let Me Down” – John Mayer with Keith Urban
    20. “Damn Right, I’ve Got The Blues” – Buddy Guy with Robert Randolph & Quinn Sullivan
    21. “Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad” – The Allman Brothers Band with Eric Clapton
    22. “Whipping Post” – The Allman Brothers Band

    Disc Two

    1. “Congo Square” – Sonny Landreth with Derek Trucks
    2. “Change It” – John Mayer with Doyle Bramhall II
    3. “Ooh-Ooh-Ooh” – Jimmie Vaughan
    4. “Save The Last Dance For Me” – Blake Mills with Derek Trucks
    5. “Don’t Worry Baby” – Los Lobos
    6. “I Got To Let You Know” – Los Lobos with Robert Cray
    7. “The Needle And The Damage Done” – Allman, Haynes, Trucks
    8. “Midnight Rider” – Allman, Haynes, Trucks
    9. “I Ain’t Living Long Like This”- Vince Gill with Albert Lee
    10. “Tumbling Dice” – Vince Gill with Keith Urban & Albert Lee
    11. “Walkin’ Blues” – Taj Mahal with Keb’ Mo’
    12. “Diving Duck Blues” – Taj Mahal with Keb’ Mo’
    13. “When My Train Pulls In” – Gary Clark Jr.
    14. “Please Come Home” – Gary Clark Jr.
    15. “Going Down” – Jeff Beck with Beth Hart
    16. “Mná Na Héireann” – Jeff Beck
    17. “Key To The Highway” – Eric Clapton with Keith Richards
    18. “I Shall Be Released” – Eric Clapton with Robbie Robertson
    19. “Gin House Blues” – Andy Fairweather Low with Eric Clapton
    20. “Got To Get Better In A Little While” – Eric Clapton
    21. “Crossroads” – Eric Clapton
    22. “Sunshine Of Your Love” – Eric Clapton
    23. “High Time We Went” – Ensemble

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    posted in Giveaways by Ryan Reed


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    Richard Coughlan, drummer and founding member of prog-rock legends Caravan, has died at age 66. The percussionist, who had been suffering health problems in recent years, passed away last Sunday, December 1st. He is survived by daughter, Beth, and wife, Sue.

    ”It is with a very heavy heart that we announce that Richard Coughlan passed away,” the band wrote in a Facebook post. “May he Rest in Peace.”

    Coughlan’s first major band was The Wilde Flowers (also featuring Robert Wyatt and Kevin Ayers), a seminal progressive rock outfit that ultimately helped spawn the quirky Canterbury scene of the late ’60s. The ’70s brought a series of classic albums from Canterbury outfits like Camel, Soft Machine, Hatfield and the North, National Health, and Gong all — but Caravan may very well be the most influential: 1971′s In the Land of Grey and Pink and (my personal favorite) 1973′s For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night are two masterpieces of the era, showcasing the band’s unique blend of art-rock, jazz-fusion, tongue-in-cheek pop, and psychedelia.

    Below are two Caravan classics — one live and one studio. Coughlan’s jazzy, intricate (but never bombastic) drumming is a crucial element in the band’s style.

     

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    posted in News by Ryan Reed


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    Screen shot 2013-12-09 at 12.17.52 PM

    [Last week, we ran a piece by Mark Pursell called "This Is Not an Open Letter to Shirley Manson." It was essentially a response to the Garbage frontwoman's recent Facebook post about the lack of "piss and vinegar" in modern female pop and rock music. "It was a strange incident in a year that has been strange as a whole for women in music," Mark wrote, "as creators and performers, and certainly as objects and subjects." This list is a companion piece to that original story. -- Ryan Reed]

    In that spirit, here are ten of my favorite records released by women artists this year. Some of them are mainstays of the mainstream fringe; some have mainstream popularity despite their fringe sensibilities. And some are only just beginning to gain recognition. Regardless: Give these records a listen — and tell me that there aren’t women full of piss and vinegar who are out there every day, doing it their way. In alphabetical order:

    1) Neko Case - The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You

    Neko Case isn’t hurting for positive exposure. She’s a queen among the independent/alternative rock set, her star ascendant since 2002’s Blacklisted but growing ever brighter since, each new record a meticulously-crafted treasure box of literate, angular songs that only increase the wattage of her brilliance. This year’s The Worse Things Get… is no exception; as usual, Case expertly weaves together her folk, rock, and country influences, and the personal, almost confessional subject matter of the songs comprise a record both gritty and vulnerable, alternately lashing out and self-lacerating. Appropriately for this list, Case tackles the thorny subject of gender on several songs, particularly first single “Man,” though it’s the spooky doo-wop of “Local Girl” that lingers in your mind long after the record’s end.

    2) Sky Ferreira – Night Time, My Time

    The cover of Sky Ferreira’s full-length debut is a NSFW picture of the singer/songwriter, topless in a shower. However, the image is leagues away from the sexually-exploitative semi-porn one might expect. Ferreira stares balefully out at the viewer, her blonde hair wet and limp. It’s a picture that (purposely) evokes sadness and desperation, despite her visible breasts, and in doing so perfectly encapsulates the record it emblemizes. Night Time, My Time is a searing collection of pop and pop punk tunes whose lyrics are full of anger, weariness, and smirking self doubt, though the melodies and production bubble over with infectious energy. The contrast results in a record that listens like an exorcism, a catharsis of the garbage Ferreira has ingested and endured for the last five years of her turbulent tenure in major-label development hell. On tracks such as “Boys” and “Ain’t Your Right,” she excoriates and exonerates men, often in the same breath, then turns her laser sight on herself on “I Blame Myself.” But the lovelorn resignment of “Heavy Metal Heart” is the album standout.

    3) Haim – Days are Gone

    The sunshine-through-melancholy spirit of Fleetwood Mac is alive and well in the music of the Haim sisters, who write and perform their own songs and put together this first full-length record with the help of up-and-coming producer Ariel Rechtshaid (who also produced the previous entry on this list by Sky Ferreira). The subject matter is standard — connection and disconnection, relationships and regret — but Haim’s sense of rhythm and their wordy, glottal melodies set them apart, showing that the trio’s love of female R&B artists like En Vogue and Destiny’s Child has informed their folk pop for the better.

    4) Lady Gaga – Artpop

    Lady Gaga is a divisive figure, but no matter what you think of her, you can’t say that she doesn’t carve her own path and make her own choices about her music and image. And though she is the definition of a superstar, and thus not really in need of the infinitesimal exposure this list provides, her songs and her visuals have always been left-of-center, frequently (though not always) rejecting the standard, porno-for-men Maxim aesthetic of her pop contemporaries in favor of bombast, androgyny, and performance art. As for the new record, it’s a mixed bag — songs like “Aura”, “Swine”, “Venus”, and the title track are some of the most interesting and forward-thinking pop she’s made, while other tracks feel like a regression to her Fame-era days — but never a boring one.

    5) Goldfrapp – Tales of Us

    If there’s any woman in music who embodies the different dimensions of female beauty and sexuality and how to use them to effect, it’s Alison Goldfrapp. She and her musical partner Will Gregory, working together as the duo Goldfrapp, reinvent themselves with each new record — art-pop, trip-hop, dance, chamber folk, they’ve done it all — and with each record, Alison presents some new facet of herself: sometimes sultry (Black Cherry, Supernature), sometimes ethereal (Felt Mountain, Seventh Tree), and, on newest record Tales of Us, an intriguing mixture of both. Tales evokes the cinematic grandeur of Goldfrapp’s debut Felt Mountain in sound but its melodies and lyrics create an intimate, self-contained world that the listener wants to curl up in and never leave. A slow-paced, thoughtful record, but an extremely rewarding one.

    6) Lissie – Back to Forever

    Lissie’s sophomore release more than builds upon her excellent debut, Catching a Tiger. Back to Forever is tighter, focused, the songs as lean and honed as the emotions contained in them. Lissie’s early songs and first record bore elements of folk and country; here, those influences mostly fade away in favor of guitar-driven pop rock that brings Stevie Nicks to mind on some songs, and Courtney Love on others. But the record’s personality is wholly Lissie herself, a hard-drinking and hard-loving young woman whose ambivalence about her potential fame, troublesome ex-lovers, and veering emotional state strike the listener with visceral force even as you bob your head to her hooks. She richly deserves wider recognition.

    7) Lorde – Pure Heroine

    Not since Fiona Apple burst onto the scene with 1996’s Tidal has a teenage singer-songwriter come bounding out of the gate with such accomplishment and such ferocious, single-minded purpose as Ella Yelich-O’Conner, whom you may know better as Lorde. Hype is a troublesome byproduct of entertainment-as-commodity, so it’s always deeply satisfying when that hype is matched or surpassed, and Lorde’s full-length debut, Pure Heroine, does the latter. Yes, The Love Club EP was a promising, precocious initial sally, and yes, “Royals” lit up the airwaves as an early-autumn smash, but none of this could have prepared us for Pure Heroine itself. Lorde’s songs — their articulate lyrics full of beautiful concrete images and wry one-liners, their melodies swinging from straight pop to something approximating electro R&B, their beats shimmering and somnolent by turns — take you aback because they don’t sound quite like anything you’ve heard before, and at the same time like a classic record you’ve always loved. Line by line, song by song, Lorde’s astounding record accomplishes that most difficult of tasks: It is at once happy and sad, a reveling in the glory of the moment coupled with the sweet, melancholy awareness that all of this is transient, and will all too soon be gone, or may be gone, already. A tie for my favorite record of the year with Vienna Teng’s Aims (#10 on this list).

    8) Laura Mvula – Sing to the Moon

    While we’re talking about women musicians whose music doesn’t sound like anyone else’s, we have to bring up Laura Mvula. I first heard about her when the video for her single “That’s Alright” made the rounds on the blogosphere earlier this year. Even as a single song, it struck me as an assured, independent statement from an artist who, though new to the scene, seemed self-possessed and very much in control of what she wanted her music to sound and look like. The full-length debut, Sing to the Moon, contains 11 more songs that leave the same impression. Mvula’s melodic sensibilities are organic and natural but always surprising, swooping in unexpected directions before plopping you down again in a traditionally-hooky chorus or bridge, and the lush orchestrations enhance the novelty of these songs while also reinforcing their difficult-to-classify, almost genre-less quality.

    9) Tegan and Sara – Heartthrob

    Identical twins Tegan and Sara Quin have been putting out excellent indie-rock records for well over a decade, and the back-to-back releases of If It Was You and So Jealous in the mid-Aughties expanded both their following and their musical palette. It would be a crime, however, to talk about the best records released by women artists in 2013 and not mention the duo’s Hearthtrob, which came out this past January and, due to the passage of time, may not be on many people’s “end of the year best” radars. It’s on mine, though. For Heartthrob, Tegan and Sara gave their poppier instincts full rein, and the result is an adrenaline-fueled smorgasbord of towering power-pop. The riffs are big, the hooks are bigger, and it all sparkles from under a sheen of glossy but not sterile production from pop heavyweights Greg Kurstin and Mike Elizondo. Do yourself a favor and revisit this record as 2013 comes to a close; you may find yourself dancing in your driver’s seat.

    10) Vienna Teng – Aims

    It’s fitting that the final record on this list is the one that is tied (with Lorde’s Pure Heroine) for my favorite of the year. Like Tegan and Sara, Vienna Teng has been putting out records for over a decade. Her early work showcased her intricate piano stylings and poetic, introspective lyrics, drawing comparisons to Tori Amos and Sarah McLachlan. Over the years, though, Teng forged her own path. Her songs grew riskier and stranger, her lyrics plumbing subjects as varied as ghosts, Hurricane Katrina, high fantasy, domestic terrorism, reincarnation, political optimism, immigration reform, and the nature of compulsive/addictive behavior. Then, in the wake of her 2009 record, Inland Territory, she announced that she would be taking a break from music in order to pursue a dual-Master’s degree in global sustainable enterprise from the University of Michigan. The time off and the shift in intellectual focus seem to have worked some kind of magic for Teng, because now, four years later, she’s released Aims — not only the pinnacle of her artistic achievement thus far, not only my (tied for) favorite record of 2013, but also that most unusual and tricky of all animals: protest music that isn’t preachy.

    You might think that taking the concerns of global sustainable enterprise and funneling them into songs would yield dry, didactic results. On the contrary: the first half of Aims tackles contemporary American concerns about corporate overreach, environmental exploitation, and personal responsibility in songs that positively crackle with warmth of emotion and fire of purpose, and which somehow avoid devolving into plaintive whining or accusatory saber-rattling. “Level Up” is a truly epic call to action that makes the spine straighten, the resolve steel; “In the 99” brings the fight to the 1%. Throughout, Teng never loses the sweeping sense of melody or the poetic wordplay that are her trademark. It’s a delicate balancing act, but she pulls it off with as much aplomb and seeming lack of effort as an acrobat dancing across a high wire. In the second act, things grow more personal — “Oh Mama No” addresses Teng’s (or someone’s) mother and the inevitability of losing her, “Flyweight Love” the lightness of a romance that binds but does not burden — but the standout track is the a capella “Hymn to Acxiom,” in which a ghostly chorus of Tengs sing from the perspective of the corporate machine, envisioning a future under their control, seducing the listener with promises of personal attention and empathy before, in the bridge, revealing their intent to design the listener “a perfect love or…lust,” a need specifically tailored to them that only the Machine can fulfill. “Now we possess you,” the hundred Tengs sing, in an emulation of sacred music that is so beautiful it makes the subject matter and sentiment all the more chilling. It is science fiction, protest, and breathtaking hymn all in one. It is the most stunning song of the year on the most stunning record of the year. Run, don’t walk.

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    posted in Checkin' 'Em Twice by Mark Pursell


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    St. Vincent

    Reliably fascinating art-rock weirdo Annie Clark has a new LP ready for 2014. The self-titled set, her fourth overall, is out February 24 in the UK and February 25 in the U.S. via Loma Vista. The album follows 2011′s Strange Mercy and last year’s Love This Giant, a collaboration with David Byrne.

    In a press release, Clark describes the LP’s overall feel with this odd nugget: “I wanted to make a party record you could play at a funeral.”

    Whether or not you’ll want to play this album at your great-uncle’s wake is yet to be determined. But in the meantime, you can get your awkward, robotic, artsy white-person groove on to “Birth in Reverse,” an elastic slice of paranoid funk-guitar crunch, caffeinated percussion, and growling synthesizers. Oh, and it includes the lyric: “Oh what an ordinary day / Take out the garbage, masturbate.” (Probably best not to do those two things at the same time.)

    “I knew the groove needed to be paramount,” Clark says of the John Congleton-produced St. Vincent, which features contributions from Dap-Kings drummer Homer Steinweiss and Midlake percussionist McKenzie Smith of Midlake.

    (Side note: Her new Bride of Frankenstein hairdo kinda freaks me out.)

    Check out the tracklist below. You can stream “Birth in Reverse” — or if you feel like dishing out your e-mail, you can even download it with the handy widget.

    1. Rattlesnake
    2. Birth In Reverse
    3. Prince Johnny
    4. Huey Newton
    5. Digital Witness
    6. I Prefer Your Love
    7. Regret
    8. Bring Me Your Loves
    9. Psychopath
    10. Every Tear Disappears
    11. Severed Crossed Fingers

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    posted in News by Ryan Reed


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