The Anchor Point will return shortly…

Good morning, WordPress followers!!

First off, I want to give a huge thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read my articles, give them likes, comment and so much more over the past few months. Your enthusiasm and love have energized me and brought me so much happiness with what I’m doing so THANK YOU for being amazing and showing so much support. You guys are the best.

I wanted to let you all know that right now, there’s a lot happening in my personal life and I’m taking a temporary break from the Anchor Point. It’ll only be for a week so I can sort out some things that need my full attention. Currently, I’m in the process of seeking out film work where I live, including production assistant work and jobs for on-screen extras or more and will be contacting a myriad of people and companies around where I live.

This takes a while but the work is absolutely worth it since the film industry is where I’ve wanted to be since I was a kid, watching Star Wars for the first time and having my mind blown. To be on a live set, watching everything unfold before me and having the chance to collaborate and just assist with any aspect of the production is a dream and hopefully that dream will become a reality soon.

Sometimes, in pursuing your life’s purpose and chasing that one thing you want to do as long as you’re alive, it takes a tremendous amount of patience, dedication and perseverance but if you’re willing to commit 100% and not let anything distract you from reaching that goal, you will make it. Sure, it might take a little longer than you hope and the journey might take you down some unexpected roads along the way but you will always end up where you need to be.

Even with this blog, discussing music I love and geeking out over films and movie culture in general has helped me realize even more how much I love and care for this industry. The amount of fantastic, forward thinking people, amazing stories, cool new tech and more contained in this one area is mind-boggling and anyone who thinks they have even an inkling of interest in being a part of it should take a stab at getting their foot in the door.

So, with that being said, I will see all of you next Monday (or Sunday depending on how things go) with more music reviews, film discussions, trailer thoughts and much, much more. Hope every single one of you have a fantastic week and I shall return!!

Also, are there any segments you’d like me to try or things you would like to see me discuss? If there’s something you’re interested in that I haven’t covered yet, leave a comment below and let me know what you’re thinking!

Auf wiedersehen!

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Kings of Leon ‘WALLS’ – Album Review

Time has a funny way of changing your perspective on things.

When Nashville based arena rock superstars Kings of Leon first released their seventh LP WALLS back in October of last year, my first reaction after listening to it was a mix between agonized boredom and failing to express more than a tired meh after each song. The bristling midnight energy of their breakout LP Only By the Night, gorgeous acoustics of Come Around Sundown and grimy rock of Mechanical Bull were nowhere to be found and there was little that grabbed my attention or sounded remotely memorable.

After coming back and listening to it again recently, though, something changed.

Before, WALLS felt lethargic and sluggish, drawing out its’ longer compositions with refrain after refrain of meandering and airy instrumentation and lacked a defined sense of purpose or momentum. The group was obviously looking to reclaim the anthemic, radio friendly highlights of Night but nothing on this LP clicked with me or had the immediacy I was hoping for. Turns out those poor impressions were due to my state of mind and not appreciating WALLS for what it was.

Upon my recent revisit, the album suddenly blossomed into a slow burning, surprisingly gorgeous and willingly vulnerable statement from a group that was traditionally satisfied with writing hooky, punching tunes that never dug too deep lyrically into their own lives. Rather than going for a knockout, the boys instead focus on immersing you in the music and letting the emotional peaks and valleys do the work rather than resting on the riffs or choruses as crutches.

The guitar play between Caleb, Matthew and Jared has never sounded tighter or creatively aligned and Nathan yet again shows off some serious drumming chops, focusing on subtly complex rhythms that give the songs just enough energy to maintain a steady tempo and mood throughout the album without any one dragging too much. Caleb especially proves why he’s one of the best vocalists in the alternative rock world with his gruff but deeply stirring performances.

Lead single ‘Waste A Moment‘ and ‘Reverend‘ make for a strong one-two punch on the LP’s first half and ‘Moment‘ acts as the traditional KOL earworm with woozy, jangling guitars, huge swells of joyous energy and a chorus that’ll be stuck in your head for weeks (“take the time to waste a moment / never ask to be forgiven“).

Reverend‘ pays homage to fallen country star Blaze Foley and reaches euphoric heights with its’ soul stirring, stomping melodies and reflective lyrics (“Just like the reverend, like the reverend on the radio / Your heart will never say so“).

Around the World‘ spins up some sunny, tropical warmth with its’ rattling percussion and funky bassline and as the guitars and drums crash down around the chorus, Caleb sings of the journey that led him to his love (“Been around the world, been around the world / I stormed the gates inlaid in pearl / All around the world all around the world / I lost myself and found a girl“).

Radiant synths open the Southern jam ‘Find Me‘ and once the powerful drum beats and dueling guitars kick in, we’re transported to KOL’s earlier days with one of their most rousing songs to date. Uncertainty and unexpected visitors seem to be the song’s focus, especially on “How did ya find me, how did ya find me? / What are you looking for, are you looking for”.

On the six minute confessional ‘Over‘, Caleb opens up about the issues of alcohol addiction and fame, referencing the band’s horrifying July 2011 concert where he was barely able to perform due to intoxication. He goes on to explore how it affected his relationship with his wife (“I’ll hang around forever, until you cut me down / I’m crossed and ready to face the crowd“) and even though some might find it a bit meandering, the song hits hard if you let yourself fall into its’ steady waves.

The band has a solid track record of writing subtly humorous songs and ‘Muchacho‘ continues this by incorporating classic country guitars and even echoing the genre’s traditionally lower baritone vocals. As Caleb reflects on memories of a good friend and repeats “He was my favorite friend of all“, you get the sense that his ‘muchacho’ has passed on.

Due to the bleary keys and cheery chords of ‘Conversation Piece‘, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were listening to an OK Computer-era Radohead song. Along with the lyrics that speak on finding solace in a lover (“I’d love to know just what you’re thinking / Tell me what I ought to do / I will never leave you lonely / You’re the one I’m runnin’ to“), the song’s unique vibes help it stand out from an album of somewhat monochromatic sounds.

WALLS stumbles just short of the finishing line with ‘Eyes On You‘ and ‘Wild‘, two songs that are pleasant enough but do little to make themselves memorable or even remotely unique. ‘Eyes On You‘ sounds like classic Strokes with its’ bopping beats, 80’s keyboards and calls to make great memories with a lover before the chance disappears (“We’re here for a moment / So let’s own it“). The experimentation is appreciated but KOL doesn’t take it far enough to prevent it from sounding like a cheap knockoff.

Wild‘ returns to the brighter sounds of the LP’s first half but treads familiar ground instead of expanding upon it, becoming stuck and tired by the first chorus. Gratefully, the blissful, reverbed album closer ‘WALLS‘ ends things strongly with Caleb singing of how love shatters emotional and mental ‘walls’ (“You tore out my heart / You threw it away / The western girl with Eastern eyes“). The band lays themselves bare and you can feel the same vulnerability he’s expressing.

Even now, I’ll say this: WALLS is far from a perfect album but also far from a failure. KOL has been at it since the turn of the millenium and have grown comfortable in their craft. Even though the decision to return to the more straightforward sounds of Night makes WALLS much more immediate than Sundown or Bull, it lacks Night‘s grit and comes off as almost too clean, signaling that their sense of comfort could be dragging them down.

Fans still have no reason to pass this up, though, as there are a handful of tracks destined to become KOL classics and the band shows no signs of slowing down, 17 years into their career.

WALLS gets a 7 out of 10!!

FAVORITE songs: ‘Reverend’, ‘Over’, ‘Find Me’
WORST songs: ‘Eyes On You’, ‘Wild’

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HEAR HERE! (Week of Feb. 5-11)

‘We’ve made it to the weekend!! For many of us, the sun is out, an early Springtime seems to have kicked in and it’s the perfect day to get out, have an adventure, make some memories with friends and blast some of your favorite new tunes. There’s also a blizzard happening here in the US, though, so for those of you caught in those lovely whiteout conditions: here are some new songs to help you pass the time while locked indoors without going completely insane!

Even though this week was a bit slow in regards to huge new tunes, some familiar faces made their return and once again, 2017 continues to look better and better for fantastic album releases. I won’t hold you back any longer. Here are just a few of the most notable new songs released this week!!


Katy Perry – ‘Chained to the Rhythm’

Ever since pop superstar Katy Perry released her smashing electro hit ‘Rise’ for the 2016 Summer Olympics, rumors began to run wild that her fourth LP would see the light of day soon afterwards, especially since it had been over three years since her previous album, Prism. The timing would’ve been perfect due to the tense political and social climate that’s taken over the US post-Trump and Perry’s knack for pinning powerful, relevant and socially conscious tunes.

She’s already stated in multiple interviews that her still untitled fourth album would be her most experimental and adventurous yet and now that lead single ‘Chained to the Rhythm’ has dropped, it’s clear we’ll be hearing a new side of Perry’s ever-widening musical scope and versatility.

‘Chained’ channels the glossy, bass filled dancehall and disco hits of the late 70’s and early 80’s with its’ slick but subdued beats and moody pianos that inspire you to dance and think at the same time. The tune subtly hits at people who are complacent and unwilling to speak out about the horrendous and unparalleled events happening before our eyes, choosing to stay ‘chained to the rhythm’, rather than reaching out and doing something to help those who are being negatively affected.

Perry nails the mindset many let themselves become trapped in (“Turn it up, keep it on repeat / Stumbling around like a wasted zombie, yeah / We think we’re free“) and expresses disappointment in those who remain silent during times when they need to be louder than ever (“Are we tone deaf? / Keep sweeping it under the mat / Thought we could do better than that / I hope we can“).

Skip Marley, grandson of the late Bob Marley, even makes a guest appearance in the bridge, laying down lines over the oncoming demise of the Republican oligarchy (“Up in your high place, liars / Time is ticking for the empire“). ‘Chained’ isn’t as boisterous or party ready as previous hits like ‘Roar’ or ‘California Girls’ but it isn’t meant to be. Now isn’t the time to dance, it’s the time to act and Perry looks ready to be another voice in the growing Resistance.


Milky Chance – ‘Ego’

Anytime you decide to give your band a bizarre name, chances are your sound will likely follow suit and become something equally weird or inventive. German alternative/indie group Milky Chance likely grabbed many by surprise by their name alone but their mix of tapped guitars, downtempo beats and mumbled lyrics gained them an even larger audience, even if their music is a bit of an acquired taste.

Their 2013 debut Sadnecessary sounded like almost nothing before it with singles like ‘Flashed Junk Mind’ and ‘Stolen Dance’ being some of the year’s most captivating tunes despite seeming like they should bore you out of your mind halfway through. The LP adopted a ‘less is more’ aesthetic throughout, maintaining their unique style but preventing it from ever breaking out of the drowsy pace set by ‘Stunner’, keeping it from becoming the classic it could’ve been.

After releasing ‘Cocoon’, the lead single from their upcoming LP Blossom, though, it was immediately clear that the group would at last be injecting their sound with a lightning bolt of energy and even wider stylistic influences and this new, more vivid and confident approach becomes clearer in their latest single ‘Ego’.

Huge, Nelly Furtado-ish beats and punchy guitars elevate Clemens’ lively vocals (it’s awesome hearing him so engaged) as he sings about missing a lover while on tour (“Gold shimmering sand is making me thinking of her / Thinking of her / But I am at Half Moon Bay / It’s just too far away“) and the chorus is straightforward enough to become lodged in your brain for days. This group is indeed ‘blossoming’ into something special if these first tunes are any indication.


2CELLOS – ‘Moon River’

‘Cover’ bands and instrumental groups get a bad reputation. Even though many of them choose to play hits exactly as they are rather than add any of their own personality or flair, there are others out there who take a more creative approach. By throwing in instruments that typically wouldn’t be used in the songs they’re covering or pulling the songs into an entirely different genre and style while maintaining the heart of the original, they prove they have just as much merit and skill as any other band out there.

Croatian duo 2CELLOS, composed of classically trained cellists Luka Šulić and Stjepan Hauser, rose to fame after posting a brilliant cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘Smooth Criminal’ on YouTube back in 2011 and have since then gone on to release three critically acclaimed LPs (2Cellos in 2011, In2ition in 2013 and Celloverse in 2015), gone on a hugely successful world tour with Elton John and even playing two back to back nights at Madison Square Garden.

None of this would’ve happened if they were a simple ‘cover’ band and on their upcoming fourth LP, Score, the duo will be turning their attention to the worlds of classic film and television compositions. The LP’s first single, a gorgeous medley of Game of Thrones‘ most memorable tunes, has already racked up over four million views in just under a month and fans’ anticipation will only grow with the cover of crooner Andy Williams’ unforgettable ‘Moon River’.

The idea of redoing the tune without Williams’ signature vocals might sound crazy to some but the duo manage to capture the melodies and emotions that have made ‘River’ a timeless classic that’s still as stirring today as it was when it was first recorded. Songs with this much feeling fit the dui’s style like a glove and Score will doubtlessly be anything else than a fantastic and memorable listen.


The Staves – ‘Tired As F***’

England-based indie folk trio The Staves blew critics away with their overwhelmingly beautiful, poetic and unrestrained whirlwind If I Was back in 2015, pulling off some of the most powerful harmonies and gut punching stories of heartbreak and personal struggles heard in quite some time. Songs like ‘Blood I Bled’ and ‘Damn It All’ possessed a forcefulness and creative vigor that only grew on their 2016 Sleeping In A Car EP.

Even though the group hasn’t formally announced a new album or even EP, new single ‘Tired As Fuck’ at least shows they possess a work ethic not often matched by others in and around this genre. ‘Tired’ is yet another step up from even the most potent songs on If I Was with thunderous guitars and a bluesy stomp that reaches a fiery, cacophonous climax as the sisters sing of growing weary and worn down by life’s experiences (“never had a prayer to follow / I’ll be coming home tomorrow“).

By itself, it’s yet another strong addition to their growing catalog and one can only hope a new album won’t be too far behind…


Jamiroquai – ‘Cloud 9’

Jay Kay, the man who brought Virtual Insanity to the world two decades ago, has faded a bit into the limelight in recent years with none of his 2010s releases managing to have the same impact and longevity as ‘Feels Just Like It Should’ or even ‘Seven Days In Sunny June’. His musical career is far from over but it’s starting to feel like high time for a reinvention or something that could revitalize his music and put the Space Cowboy back on a strong course.

‘Automaton’, the first single from Jamiroquai’s upcoming LP of the same name, was a dramatic, dark and sleek electronic banger in line with modern acts like French duo Justice that still featured some of the group’s signature grooves and hinted towards potentially great things to come. New single ‘Cloud 9’ is a straight up disco ballad, showing Automaton could be one of the band’s most musically varied LPs yet.

The keys, guitars and steady beats hearken back to Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories and ‘9’ wisely avoids the nostalgic cheesiness that plagued LPs like Dynamite, instead playing it straight with a matured and groovy reflection on a man freeing himself from a failed relationship (“Only a fool could walk away from me this time / I’m walking on air and every cloud is Cloud 9“).


The Jesus and Mary Chain – ‘Always Sad’

It’s hard enough to believe that legendary alternative rock bands like Grandaddy and Acceptance will be making their return in the same year but the news of 90’s shoegaze group The Jesus and Mary Chain reforming and releasing a new album was truly mind-blowing. LPs like Psychocandy and Darklands practically defined an entire era of music and even though later albums weren’t as prolific, the group had still left an indelible mark on the industry that influences artists even now in 2017.

Damage and Joy, the group’s first album in nearly twenty years sits just over a month and a half away and first single ‘Amputation’, released last December, sounded like vintage J&MC with the same fuzzed out production and blaring guitars of their best work, even if it wasn’t quite at the same level as those classics. But this far into their career, who’s actually expecting them to deliver something that good again?

Latest single ‘Always Sad’ is a clean, sunny alt/punk tune that channels equal amounts of Oasis and the Beatles and depicts someone struggling with being away from their love and trying to maintain their relationship (“I’m think I’m always gonna be sad / cause you’re the best I’ve ever had / a million miles between us now / why can’t we just work things out“). Sure, their signature distortion is nowhere to be found but the sign of a healthy band is one that never stays in one place for long.


Prides – ‘Away With the Night’

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where the modern revitalization of 80’s music began but Scottish electropop duo Prides, composed of members Stewart Brock and Callum Wiseman, jumped on the bandwagon without just ripping off what every other alternative and indie group was doing, crafting a potent and endlessly danceable mix of enormous synths, pounding drums and unforgettable choruses that would make some of the 80’s most popular pop stars proud.

‘Messiah’, the lead single from their 2015 LP The Way Back Up, was an anthem for the ages with its’ euphoric and uplifting chorus that proclaimed “I know now that I want to keep it / Oh my god do I want love“, expressing the life changing and profound power that comes with new love. This radiant energy permeated throughout their debut LP and even though it never found the audience it deserved, the duo pushed on and has been releasing singles every few months since last year.

Their sensibilities continue to sharpen with every new song and ‘Away With the Night’ captures more of the guitar-heavy yet distinctly poppy sounds of Way Back Up but is filled to the brim with even stronger musical confidence and vocal chops from lead singer Stewart. The drums hit harder, the synths glow brighter and if Prides can maintain and accelerate this momentum on their eventual second LP, the world will have no choice but to take notice of a new and vital talent.

AMBER RUN ‘For A Moment, I Was Lost’ – Album Review

The most difficult times in life are often the ones that irreversibly transform us forever and show us a strength or courage we never knew we possessed.

Nottingham based alternative rock quartet Amber Run has faced some grueling trials of their own over the past few years when, despite releasing their fairly successful debut LP 5am and gaining wider recognition through a tour with fellow band Kodaline, they were dropped by RCA Records and lost a band member, leaving them feeling hopeless and yes, lost.

In discussing the events that transpired and how they fueled the themes and sounds of new LP For A Moment, I Was Lost, bassist Tom Sperring said “When you go through the really hard times, you realise whether or not you actually want it badly enough“. There were likely some moments where the band considered hanging it up but instead of caving to the pressure, they used their struggles to rediscover themselves and their music and poured it all into one powerful statement of purpose and passion.

Beautiful things can come out of dark days and For A Moment nearly overwhelms with track after track of deep, swelling waves of pure emotion and heart wrenching instrumentals, lyrics that lay bare stories of hopelessness, not finding happiness in what you thought you wanted and seeking redemption despite overwhelming odds and Joe Keogh’s distinct, moving vocals which have strengthened dramatically since their ambient, hazy debut LP.

On opening track ‘Insomniac‘, the band makes immediately clear that they’ve moved away from 5am‘s slower, more patient mood with huge piano keys, tight drumming and enormous energy behind Keogh’s vocals. Coming off like a rockier Reign of Kindo tune, the stresses behind holding true to something despite outside pressure are brought to light on “do the promises you make feel harder to keep / Are you losing any sleep” and we get our first peek into Amber Run’s mindset pre-Moment.

Digital beats and drums team up on ‘No Answers‘ to give it a soft but steady heartbeat, contrasting with the dramatic, brooding lyrics that the group says are “about struggling with uncertainty and anger“. As Keogh howls “I’ve got no answers for you“, that aggressive spirit explodes and the erupts into a climactic finale of furious guitars and pummeling drums before quickly fading out.

Subtle atmospherics return on the winding, midnight-tinged ‘Island‘, a soaring reflection on losing your way in life (“I forget where I was and for a moment, I was lost“). Sky high walls of guitar bring back some of Coldplay’s most moving moments on X&Y and Keogh shows himself to be a strong a vocalist as Keane’s Tom Chaplin with some powerful notes near song’s end.

Stranger‘ intoxicates as its’ reverbed guitars and swooning melodies pull you into a deep ocean of bliss and by the chorus of “Love, sometimes / You don’t get what you need / But sometimes love comes easily“, it reaches near euphoric levels with massive layers of vocals and instruments hitting you from every angle.

Gratefully, the momentum continues on piano led ballad “Fickle Game” with some U2-like guitar wails filling in the song’s background and Keogh’s thoughts on struggling with getting older and living each day with purpose (“I’m old enough to know I’ll end up dying / And not young enough to forget again / It’s all a fickle game“).

The band takes a page from Imogen Heap on two-minute a cappella track ‘Haze‘, which only heighten’s Keogh’s fears from the previous track as he sings “Scared of getting older, / Scared of dying alone / I’m in a blue haze“. Despite the heavy-handed nature of the lyrics, it still manages to feel cathartic without leaving you depressed.

Melancholic guitars and mournful vocals capture a powerful feeling of pessimism and dejection on ‘White Lie‘ and the chorus of “I’m a failure, I’m a disaster and I don’t wanna be anything else / I’m a loner, I’m a loser and I don’t wanna be anything else” examines a mindset some of us are all too familiar with.

Perfect‘ carries onward with some of these uncertain feelings, sarcastically portraying a man willing to put himself through emotional torture for a ‘perfect lover’ (“I want to fall in love with a perfect stranger / And out of touch with the God that made her / I want her to pick me up and hang me out to dry“).

The aftermath of a hollow relationship is never pretty and ‘Dark Bloom‘ explores the thoughts of someone in the middle of a comedown from the high (“I worshipped you like I’d always wanted you / cause you, you’re a dark bloom / you brought me down to my knees / and I’m haunted by you“).

Machine‘ recalls some of 5am‘s more gorgeous moments with its’ slowly strumming guitars and patiently held piano keys but the song is far from gentle lyrically. Keogh delivers some surprisingly tender vocals as he asks a lover “come together, are we part of a machine / If we’re starting over, are we living in a dream / Do you love me?“, hinting towards a relationship that could be faltering.

Some major OneRepublic and/or Civil Twilight vibes bleed through in the tender pulse of ‘Are You Home?‘ with a ticking clock, shuffling beat and piles of vocal harmonies comprising the meat of the song. During the refrain of ‘are you home or not?‘, we get a sense of someone trying to reach a loved one or close friend who has become distant either literally or emotionally.

Closer ‘Wasteland‘ delivers one more blast of hopefulness, recapping the themes brought up by previous songs and acting as a send off to a lover who is no longer in the narrator’s life. It’s heartbreaking to hear Keogh sing “I hope you’ll find somebody / who you can love like I love you” but as the organ-like pianos, uplifting guitars and drums lift the song out of pain and into acceptance, it’s like stepping back into the warm sunlight after being trapped in darkness.

Amber Run showed some promise on 5am but hadn’t quite figured out how leave a mark that was uniquely their own. The group likely didn’t realize at that time it would take them coming to the edge of breaking up to truly find themselves and become who they were meant to be. For A Moment takes the strengths of 5am and brings in an enormous sense of positivity, bright energy and clear-as-day, rejuvenated passion that at last reveals their full potential and their place as a vital, young creative act.

Here’s hoping that this record will not only bring them continued success but open up the creative floodgates even further for them. They’ve grown tremendously as musicians and people and who knows where their third LP will catapult them to.

For A Moment, I Was Lost gets an 8.5 out of 10!!

FAVORITE tracks: ‘Stranger’, ‘No Answers’, ‘Wastelands’
WORST tracks: …..

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At A Glance: COLOURING ‘Symmetry EP’

We’re entering a truly fascinating era in popular music. Never before has there been a time where electronic bangers, gentle folk ballads, alternative pop anthems and just about anything else you could imagine have all coincided together on the same radio station or even the same album. Genre labels in particular feel useless now with so many artists taking their sound in whatever direction they please, regardless of if it makes sense at first or not.

Alex, Dom, Jack and Sean, the four faces of up and coming London-based alternative pop band Colouring, have used this sense of freewheeling creativity and adventurousness to fuel their music, saying, in an interview with the Line of Best Fit, “We all grew up listening to all different kinds of music that our parents, brothers, friends etc would play us and I think this variety growing up has really reflected the way we make music now“.

Not much is known about the young quartet yet besides the fact that they recently signed with Interscope Records but they deserve to be on many a music fan’s radar with how confident and well defined their sound already is, despite having only released one EP to date. They’ve already drawn some attention with their mix of swelling, Coldplay-ish melodies, subtle dubstep and folk influences and flourishes of gorgeous electronics and their debut EP Symmetry pulls everything together for a powerful opening statement.

Opening track ‘Symmetry’ kicks off with radiant, Mylo Xyloto-like guitars and steady, plinking pianos that build behind Jack’s vocals before the chorus explodes, launching the song skyward with stunning harmonies and an overwhelming sense of happiness. Lyrically, it discusses transitioning into a new part of life (“Into the blue glow / Jump in the unknown / Crossing into a new frontier“) and the joy that comes with new opportunities (“Woah, there’s color in anything / Everything’s coming alive“).

‘In Motion’, the first song written by the band, sets a powerful groove with its’ earth shaking bassline and stuttering beats. Ethereal guitars peek in from the background and the band shows a real knack for expertly constructed rhythms with how tightly every instrument winds together and adds to the song’s momentum. In an interview with FADER, Jack said ‘Motion’ was “written at a time when a lot was changing for us. It’s about having unity with someone and the acceptance that through highs and lows, the future is never written“.

A lone piano and gentle birdsong give ‘Everything Has Grown’ a truly peaceful and relaxing vibe, echoing some of Viva La Vida‘s quieter moments. Jacks’ voice soars here, overflowing with emotion and deep feeling as he sings about hoping someone, a friend or past lover, finds what they’re looking for in life after troubled times (“And I hope you’re better off / And you’re hardly, never soft / Every sky’s done healing / And you found your rhythm“).

As the song builds to its’ tremendous finale of glowing, crystalline synths and ascending vocals, the sheer beauty of it all forces you to hold still, close your eyes and take every bit of it in.

‘About You’ utilizes some surprising modern R&B production and rhythms and the tune’s sublime chorus of “I think about you, think about, think about” calls to mind some of Calvin Harris’ best songs, despite not going fully electronic. The versatility shown again and again by the group continues to impress and as the song winds to a quiet close, you have to wonder if they have any more surprises up their sleeves.

Of course they do.

Symmetry closes with a cover of Marvin Gaye’s ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’, but one that’s unlike any other I’ve heard. There are no cheery instrumentals and peppy vocals; rather, the moody guitars and slow, smoky vocals bring some darkness out of lyrics like “It took me by surprise I must say / When I found out yesterday / Don’t you know that I heard it through the grapevine“. Bleeping electronics and clicking hip hop beats transform it from a soul classic into an effective, daring and stunning slow burn.

From these five songs alone, Colouring shows an enormous amount of potential and if they continue to experiment and push their musical boundaries even further, they could very well become one of the biggest new acts in alternative & pop music. Lead singer Jack was quoted as saying “the future is never written” but if they keep traveling down this road, a future of worldwide recognition sounds pretty certain.

If you’re a fan of anything from modern R&B to alternative rock (think Coldplay, Local Natives, Passion Pit) or even some modern pop, give these guys a listen and be sure to purchase their EP!!

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Marvel’s IRON FIST: Debut Trailer Thoughts & Analysis

At this point, it should come as no surprise that Marvel Studios is still maintaining its’ unchallenged dominance in the worlds of film and television. After launching the multi billion dollar Marvel Cinematic Universe, the company has broadened its’ horizons beyond the silver screen and taken over Netflix with acclaimed series like Daredevil and Jessica Jones and even partnered with video game company Sqaure Enix to being crafting games based on their immense canon, starting with The Avengers Project.

Whereas DC films like Suicide Squad and Batman V Superman suffer because of poor planning, horrendous editing and execution and an unending cycle of critics bludgeoning them with terrible reviews, Marvel rarely fails to hit and surpass the high bar it set back in 2008 with the first Iron Man. Films like Ant-Man and Thor: The Dark World are the only blemishes in an otherwise stellar canvas of thrilling, otherworldly and expertly written superhero productions.

Their strongest output of all, though, would arguably be their incredible Netflix series. Daredevil stunned critics and fans with an unexpectedly gritty, grounded and deeply human take on Matt Murdoch, the blind lawyer turned superhero, and his struggles with juggling an ordinary life and a dangerous one. Jessica Jones went even further, portraying a broken woman suffering from PTSD who is haunted by traumatic memories but refuses to let herself remain a victim.

Subjects like rape, sexual assault and more are rarely broached in film or television but Marvel has garnered immense acclaim and respect for not shying away from them, instead allowing these things to strengthen and truly humanize their characters. No one is perfect, ever superheroes, and these series, along with Luke Cage‘s picture perfect reimagining of life in Harlem, have created one of the most realistic and plausible universes for these characters yet.

Anticipation has been building to near unbearable levels after the announcement of a new series, The Defenders, coming in mid-2017, that would bring four Netflix heroes together to face off against the new threat of Sigourney Weaver’s Alexandra. Before that can happen, though, we still have one more character to meet and series to watch. That honor goes to Iron Fist, the newest and final Defender who will be joining Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage in the Defenders series.

Iron Fist centers on Danny Rand (Finn Jones), the child of the Rand Corporation’s owner, who goes missing for fifteen years after a plane crash and returns to gain control of his family’s company. During his exile, he trained to become a Buddhist monk and expert in martial arts, becoming especially skilled with calling upon the mystical power of the ‘Iron Fist’. Naturally, this turns a lot of heads when he randomly shows up again in New York City after most assumed he was dead.

You’re probably thinking “hey, hold up… this sounds a lot ike the CW’s Arrow. Are you sure Iron Fist isn’t just a rip off of that?”. Okay, sure, the character’s backgrounds do have a lot in common but an Iron Fist film was originally put into production long before Arrow premiered on television but we’re only just now seeing an onscreen Danny Rand due to the studio deciding to morph the idea into something that would fit more comfortably as a TV series.

Jessica Henwick is set to star as Colleen Wing, a friend of Rand’s who owns a martial arts dojo in NYC, David Wehnham will play the part of Harold Meachum, a powerful corporate figure who knew Rand’s parents, Jessica Stroup will play Joy Meachum, Harold’s daughter and childhood friend of Rand’s and Tom Pelphrey will portray Ward Meachum, Harold’s son and a bit of a rival to Rand.

Rounding out the cast, Rosario Dawson will return (yes!!) as Claire Temple, who will join Wing’s dojo, Carrie-Anne Moss will reprise her role as Jessica Jones‘ Jeri Hogarth and Wai Ching Ho will once again play Madame Gao, one of the primary antagonists from Daredevil.

The series is due to premiere on March 17th and today, we got our first full length trailer for the series!! Let’s dig in and see what Marvel has revealed to us so far.

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The trailer kicks off with a funny bit of Danny returning to the Rand Corporation and telling the receptionist “I’m back!!” (okay, he didn’t say exactly that but you get the idea). The bewildered look on her face say everything we need to know and he’s quickly dragged off by security guards who think he’s some crazy man off of his meds. Danny will likely be dealing with a lot of this during his first few days back home and you can bet this won’t be the only scene like this.

We’re given a few quick glimpses of Danny’s past and how it compares to where he is and the person he is now. My only fear is that Iron Fist will make use of flashbacks much like Arrow still continues to do. Many of those came off as ham-fisted and trying way too hard so hopefully Fist will either sparingly use them or only reveal brief peeks here and there but using the modern setting as the primary means of storytelling.

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It appears Danny and Colleen will be both good friends and training partners in the series, as we get multiple scenes of them fighting members of the Hand and trading punches. Also, do I detect some romantic tension happening? Things tend to get messy when you combine love and work, like we saw in Daredevil, and Gao and Meachum will likely target her to try to either make Danny surrender or comply with them.

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Speaking of Harold Meachum, we know he’s in cahoots with Madame Gao with this shot of her whispering “this city is no place for Danny Rand“. Plus, he’s an unforgiving man who may be involved with some shady activity that he knows Danny could expose. One thing is still unclear about him: is he just an ordinary man with bad intentions or does he harbor powers of his own? The series needs a formidable villain who can go toe to toe with Danny so perhaps Gao won’t be the primary threat…

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Recognize that symbol? Daredevil‘s second season briefly delved into who the Hand are and what sort of activity they’re involved with in NYC and Iron Fist will no doubt dive even further into the organization and their history. Madame Gao definitely isn’t the only one pulling strings so I’m curious who else we’ll meeet in this season.

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Along the way, it looks like we’ll be getting some insanely choreographed fight scenes worthy of the greatest martial arts films of cinema’s past. It has the kinetic energy and raw danger of Daredevil but could arguably be even greater with the presence of kung fu, swordfighting, aerial acrobatics and yes, Danny’s explosive fist.Will they pull off a one-shot fight scene even better than that infamous hallway scene? My fingers are crossed in eager anticipation.

Already, the series looks to be another action packed, character driven and beautifully shot installment in the Defenders quadrilogy and this trailer wisely raises more questions than answers. Even though Luke Cage was a great series, it couldn’t, at least in my opinion, quite match up to Daredevil and Jessica Jones before it so here’s hoping Iron Fist will pull out all the stop and be the incredible series we all hope it’ll be. Only a few weeks remain until we do…

So, are you guys excited about Iron Fist? What did you think of the trailer? And do you have any theories of your own about what might be happening in this series? Sound off in the comments below and thanks for reading!!

Also, if you haven’t seen the trailer, click below to go to Netflix’s YouTube channel and see it for yourself.

All screenshots are from the YouTube trailer;
Iron Fist is the inteleectual property of Marvel

MUNA ‘About U’ – Album Review

Conservatives and those fed up with the modern SJW movement love to bash anyone who talks about ‘safe spaces’, inclusiveness and acceptance, but considering how volatile things have become in America over the past few weeks and how much anger has been directed at millennials and those who consider themselves part of the LGBT community or feminist and/or Black Lives Matter movements, they have every right to shield themselves from the eyes of hate and wrap themselves in arms of love.

Even though these movements have only continued to grow and become more prominent, the music industry hasn’t reflected what’s happening in society. Lady Gaga has been championing LGBT rights and welcoming those from every religious, social, ethnic etc. background since 2011’s Born This Way but she’s only one artist in an endless ocean of indifferent creators. Up and coming LA indie pop/R&B trio MUNA stand poised to finally bring this inclusive spirit into the worlds of alternative and electronic music.

Members Katie Gavin, Josette Maskin and Naomi McPherson originally met in college and quickly discovered they shared not only a wealth of musical chemistry but a deep desire to write honest, unflinching songs about sexuality, the aftermath of heartbreak, struggles of the modern young woman and finding strength and acceptance in yourself, despite the world around you saying you don’t belong because of how you choose to live or who you choose to love.

All three members also identify as queer but have pushed beyond just being a ‘queer girl band’ and used their music to inspire anyone who never felt like they fit in. The decision to remove all gender pronouns from their lyrics also imbues the songs with both more universal and deeply personal meanings. McPheron, discussing the mission of the group, said “We want a safe haven” and their refreshing perspective & loving ethos opens the door for some of the most heartfelt and forward thinking music in years.

From their first EP More Perfect, released in 2014, the trio has produced every aspect of their music themselves, crafting a unique blend of warm, uplifting and 80’s influenced alt/pop ballads with huge hooks and endlessly danceable rhythms that balance out the often heavy subject matter. The easiest way to get to the heart is to get the feet moving first! Anticipation has been building since their 2016 Loudspeaker EP and MUNA has at last delivered their grand opening statement to the world with debut LP About U.

Regarding the album’s themes of empowerment and encouragement, McPherson said “We think it’s really important that when it’s released that we can tell our fans that we made it on our own. We want them to know that they can make it on their own“. And indeed, About U features song after song about fearlessly expressing yourself and knowing that you are loved, even when it feels like the world has turned its’ back on you.

Opening track ‘So Special’ brings in some distinct HAIM vibes with the deep grooves and crystalline keyboards and the group described the track as “a drunken reckoning of oneself” with lyrics like “There’s a few bad things I’ve done / That nobody made me do” that show a person struggling to recover from a failed relationship in a healthy way.

‘Loudspeaker’ hides feelings of weakness and low self-worth due to sexual abuse and/or assault just below its’ driving dance beats and spirited guitars with lines like “And if I feel like crying, I won’t hide it / I am a loudspeaker” and “I don’t know where the blame lies
/ But you better believe I’m not gonna carry it all” belaying the cheery instrumentals.

Despite only having been released a few weeks ago, ‘I Know A Place’ has become one of the trio’s biggest anthems yet, calling on anyone who’s ever felt marginalized or victimized because of who they are to come together in love and make a safe haven for others. If “You think being yourself / Means being unworthy“, the band seeks to reassure when they say “I know a place we can go (yeah) / Where everyone gonna lay down their weapon“.

The chilly, Imogen Heap influenced ‘Winterbreak’ reflects on a relationship that’s crumbling but continues to pull the two lovers back together. How many of us know exactly how this situation feels? Despite the desperate state of things, the refrain of “Oh, baby I think we both know / This is a love that we won’t get right / Still if you said that you wanted / I know I’ll always have one more try” reveals someone not quite ready to let go.

CHVRCHES-like vocal manipulations and radiant keyboards fill the atmospheric ‘Around U’ and the lyrics “Something false that once was true / I no longer revolve around you” sees the singer realizing her love has drifted, perhaps permanently, away from her and the dark, R&B vibes of ‘After’ focus on the aftermath of this heartbreak, with lines like “Is it all alright now?” and “I am going to be lonely for a long, long time” effectively expressing all of the confusion and sadness felt during this strange period.

Love is messy and we sometimes unintentionally say hurtful things to each other out of fear or stubborn pride and ‘Promise’ grapples with trying to make sense of these feelings, especially on lyrics like “And even if you said you would forgive me / I don’t know if I could ever say I’m sorry“. Solemn piano ballad ‘If U Love Me Now’ gets in the mindset of someone feeling undeserving of a lover’s affection and the refrain “There’s me in the doorway telling you please / You should just let me leave / If you love me now” is a brutal but sincere look at the depths we push ourselves into when dealing with these conflicting emotions.

An unexpected pounding, industrial beat propels the moody ‘Crying on the Bathroom Floor’, a self examination of an abusive relationship (“Give me your disrespect / Give me your pain and loneliness / And I’ll love you the best / Promise I’ll love you the best“) and the singer ponders if they’ll forever be trapped in this disastrous cycle (“Tearing off the dress I wore, I wonder / If I could never ask for more / If I’m never gonna ask for more from a lover“).

Electro banger ‘End of Desire’ brings some much needed levity back to the album with the story of a lover consumed whole by a crush that could become something more (“Turn your head to the side / Hold your gaze against mine / And there it is / A mark of the divine“) and the overwhelming, anthemic closer ‘Everything’ sums up About U‘s themes with one succinct line: “Everything’s about you to me“.

‘Love’ songs have been around since the beginning of the music industry but have found themselves stuck subject wise, repeating the tropes of ‘I love you’ and ‘you broke my heart’ ad nauseam and never digging any deeper. MUNA finally smashes through this barrier, transforming the entire idea of a ‘love’ song into something focuses on every facet of the person, their life, emotions, deep thoughts, personal struggles, pain, honest confessions and so much more.

Combining that with lyrics that could be referring to any type of modern relationship (straight, bi, gay, you name it) and an ever-present sense of welcoming and honest caring elevates the trio’s songs to an entirely new level of significance and proves they could finally bring about a new wave of musicians and bands ready to open their arms to everyone and heal the divides that have needlessly driven so many of us apart.

About U is an extremely promising first step for this young trio that manages to dodge the typical issues of sounding too much like their influences or not remaining consistent throughout. Their musical and personal identities are strongly established and the LP does exactly what it sets out to do, if not more. Revolutions begin with one small step and the three ladies of MUNA may just have started something great…

About U gets a 9 out of 10!!

FAVORITE tracks: ‘I Know A Place’, ‘Winterbreak’, ‘Crying on the Bathroom Floor’
WORST tracks: ….I’ll get back to you on that one.

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SUPER BOWL 2017 Trailer Recap!

I am not, and never have been, anything remotely close to what you could call a sports expert or even a moderate sports fan. Over the years, I’ve passed up countless parties that involved watching pretty much every American sport you can imagine (except for the winter X Games. Those are pretty awesome) and given up trying to act like I know the first thing about them whenever someone asks me who my favorite team/player/etc. is.

There is one event, though, that never ceases to get me excited and chanting “yeah, sports ball!!”. Judging by the image above, you should know which one I’m talking about.

The Super Bowl, at least in recent years, has become a touchstone of American culture, bringing together the worlds of sports, film, entertainment and consumerism. Nowhere else will you see a live football game put back to back with new trailers for hugely anticipated movies, multi million dollar advertisements for beer or Doritos and a halftime show that crams an entire concert’s worth of flash and pyrotechnics into an eight minute performance.

As soon as the game stops and the commercials begin, I’m immediately glued to the television, wondering what sort of surprises will be thrown my way next. 2017 is shaping up to be an incredible year for film and, thankfully, a step up from 2016’s painful lack of quality blockbusters. The 51st Super Bowl dropped a few trailers we were expecting and a few we weren’t so for your viewing pleasure, here are the biggest ones revealed during the big game!!


Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

At World’s End really wasn’t that bad of a film. Sure, it couldn’t match up to the timeless quality of Black Pearl but none of us expected future films in the Pirates series to be able to compete. Still, despite its’ outlandishness and occasional CGI excess, it was a decent conclusion to one of the greatest action/adventure trilogies since Indiana Jones. Too bad it didn’t stay a ‘conclusion’ for long. 2011’s On Stranger Tides happened and I bet even the most ardent Pirates fan was thinking ‘is this really necessary?’.

The series was running out of steam but still made over $1 billion worldwide so guess what? That somehow justified yet another one. After seeing the first teaser for Dead Men Tell No Tales, I was shocked at how poorly executed and unexciting it was. There was no indication that this could revive the long running series and all I could muster was an exhausted ‘ugh’. Now that the first proper trailer has been released, though, my feelings have changed… a little.

We finally get our first look at Barbossa, Jack Sparrow(!) and Will Turner(!!) and rumors have been floating around that Keira Knightley just might pop in for a cameo at some point. The vibe is noticeably darker this time around with undead birds, armies of ghost pirates, fiery sea battles and an ever present sense of death and destruction. Playing Johnny Cash’s ‘Ain’t No Grave’ in the background probably helps with that too.

To be honest, I’ll be stunned if this film matched even Dead Man’s Chest in quality but directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg could pull a fast one on us. Only three months remain until we see if Pirates can raise itself from the dead.


Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Baby Groot. Literally the only thing Marvel fans can focus on right now since his adorable face was featured in a previous Guardians Vol. 2 trailer is Baby Groot. With how well the first film pulled off such a strange mix of humor, action, loveable characters and subtle maturity, there was no doubt that they’d be able to include a character this cute without him becoming too cheesy or over the top. Who knew they’d pull it off this well, though.

The massive success of the first Guardians has also placed an immense amount of pressure behind the upcoming Vol. 2 to either deliver something of the same quality or better yet, blow it out of the water. Director James Gunn has hinted the film would really dig into our main characters and more of Star Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and yes, Groot, is a glorious thing. They’re more interesting than the Avengers if you ask me.

Even though this new teaser doesn’t really give us much we haven’t seen before, there are a few funny quips such as Rocket’s “he says welcome to the frickin’ Guardians of the Galaxy. Only he didn’t use frickin” in response to Yondu not understanding Groot and Mantis repeating what we’ve all been saying for months now: “ohhh, he’s so cute!”. Also, including Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’ was a brilliant choice.

Two things are certain at this point: this film will be hysterically funny and it’ll be a really, really good time. We’ll all be happy if it’s just as good as the first Guardians but I know I’m not the only one hoping Vol. 2 goes the extra mile.


A Cure for Wellness

Now here’s a film that screams everything except ‘blockbuster’. First revealed in the fall of 2016, the Gore Verbinski directed psychological thriller follows Mr. Lockhart, played by Dane DeHaan, an executive who has been sent on a mission to pick up his company’s CEO from a remote, mysterious “wellness center” high and away in the Swiss Alps. Taking a page from Shutter Island, there’s a lot more happening in this facility than Lockhart realizes.

The first trailer dropped us right in the middle of a monochromatic, brooding and twisted world of exquisitely artful cinematography and production, creeping darkness that oozes through every frame and some of the strangest, most shocking imagery to be hurled at us since some of Robert Eggers’ or Tim Burton’s more recent work. Best of all, it still isn’t clear exactly where the film will take us, even though it’s due to be released just over a week and a half from now.

This new 30-second teaser doesn’t introduce us to anything new but rather compacts everything we’ve seen before into a fast paced blast of scenes and moods and we get some disturbing narration that includes the line “accept the diagnosis and you will see it’s wonderful here“. Clearly this film will be going places not often visited by others in the genre (much like the journey of Mr. Lockhart, visiting this remote area) and at this point, it’ll either be an insane, tense blast or letdown that emphasizes style over substance.

Here’s hoping for the former.


Transformers: The Last Knight

They’re still making these movies?? *sigh* This is one inevitability of modern Hollywood. Like Pirates, if you launch a film franchise that continues to bring in billions of dollars after each installment, even if their reviews keep plummeting deeper and deeper into mediocrity, the studio will keep giving you the green light to pump out more and more until you’ve beaten that dead horse beyond recognition.

Michael Bay has claimed The Last Knight would be his last turn as director of the franchise but we’ve heard this same rhetoric before so who knows if he’ll truly step away from Transformers for good after this fifth installment. 2014’s Age of Extinciton garnered even lower reviews’ than the truly awful Revenge of the Fallen so his departure would certainly be welcome.

Knight looks to be even wilder than the four films before it with an evil Optimus Prime (or is it Nemesis Prime?), what looks like Unicron devouring the moon, Anthony Hopkins, King Arthur, District 9-like scenes of anti-Transformers propaganda, Independence Day: Resurgence levels of planetary destruction and Mark Wahlberg all happening at once. Who bloody knows how they’ll fit those pieces together in any sort of coherent way but you have to admit, it looks cool.

Knight could be the film that finally swings the pendulum back and delivers something as good as the first film but after the mental exhaustion of slogging through three horribly tedious films after, it might be too little too late. We’ll see.


Ghost in the Shell

‘Whitewashing’ and all of the controversies surrounding this apparently really prevalent issue have reached a fever pitch in recent years with films like Pan and The Great Wall being blasted for not featuring more cast members of international backgrounds (even though they explained Matt Damon’s place in Wall. You can’t reason with these SJW people. It’s like talking to a brick wall that won’t stop screaming at you.). None of these have received the amount of backlash that Ghost in the Shell has, though.

Based off of, but not a reboot of the culturally transformative 1995 anime film, Ghost follows a character known only as the Major as her task force Section 9 battles hackers and digital terrorists. At first, fans of the original freaked over the announcement of a major, live action film but went ballistic when Scarlett Johansson was cast in the lead role. Complains of “why isn’t she asian??” could be heard echoing from the deepest pits of Tumblr and Twitter and drew massive amounts of attention to the film.

The Japanese have always had a fascination with people from Europe and American and considered them beautiful, thus explaining why so many characters in anime don’t exactly look Asian but hey, that’s not important. In order for this film to sell to an American audience, you have to pitch a name to them that they’re familiar with and will spend their money to see. But nah, that isn’t important either.

From the first trailer, we were drawn into a beautifully shot and unbelievably well realized world that echoes the 1995 films in almost every shot but also keeps itself grounded with the aesthetics of modern Japan and China. Terrifying cyborgs, stylish slow motion scenes that aren’t cliched, incredible costume design and CGI (it’s unnerving how real it looks when part of the Major’s face is removed) and the jaw dropping inclusion of the original film’s iconic song have, at the very least, made me extremely curious.

Ghost in the Shell has a lot riding on it but the simple fact that the crew have intentionally tried to give it a fresh look and feel compared to most modern sci-fi/action films has given me hope. It’s uncertain if it’ll be another philosophical slow burn like the original or Blade Runner but there’s no doubt it’ll be an experience. Keep your fingers crossed that it will be a great one.


The Fate of the Furious

It’s funny that every installment of the Furious series heavily touts cars, racing and stunts as if they’re a major elements of the movies when, over the years, they’ve become more and more about guns, explosions, hand to hand combat and some of the most ridiculous, over the top sequences you could possibly imagine (dropping cars from a plane? Not big enough. Having cars smash through a window a hundred stories up and fly into the building next to it? Still not big enough).

The Fast and the Furious 6 pushed the craziest parts of the series to 11 and you’d be forgiven if you thought someone had handed directorial duties to an ADHD, Mountain Dew fueled, video game addicted preteen. These films aren’t concerned whatsoever with telling a story full of thought provoking questions and emotional, heart tugging moments and are more content with simply being two hours of speaker blastingly loud, ludicrous and outrageously antics.

The one serious moment it had to address, though, was the death of lead actor Paul Walker. His character Brian O’Conner was a key part of both the cast and the story & Fast 6 managed to handle the task of respectfully sending the character off and respecting his legacy. Where does the series go from here? Judging by the first trailer, apparently they’re taking a 180 since Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto is revealed to be a traitor and spy in disguise… or is he?

Whatever’s really going on under the hood, giving the Rock a heftier role and adding in Charlize Theron and Jason Statham as major characters indicates The Fate of the Furious (is there anyone out there who doesn’t facepalm when they hear that title?) will be even more action heavy than previous films and scenes of a freaking submarine chasing the main cast hint that we might just see the series’ craziest sequences yet.


Logan

Everyone’s excited for Guardians Vol. 2 but I’d be willing to wager that the most highly anticipated superhero film not just of 2017 but in recent years is the upcoming Logan. Since this is officially the last time we’ll ever see Hugh Jackman take up the claws and play the iconic, sneering character, anticipation has been pushed into overdrive over how Marvel will wrap up his story after first being introduced in X-Men way back in 2000.

X-Men Origins and The Wolverine were both misfires that didn’t seem to know how to handle Wolverine’s personality, arc, powers etc. so there’s understandably been some hesitation over if we’ll finally get a film deserving of the Wolverine name. After 20th Century Fox announced the film would be rated R for brutal violence, it’s been apparent that they’re taking this very, very seriously, and thankfully so.

Logan takes place in 2029 in a post apocalyptic era where most of the mutant population has died off and the character has hid himself away, addicted to alcohol and struggling with the steady loss of his healing powers. An ailing Professor X and mysterious young girl known as X-23, who just happens to have powers like Logan, come into his life and he realizes his decades long mission hasn’t ended just yet.

Death and finality loomed heavily over the first trailer and the movie will be going deep into issues of morality, existentialism, life, death and family. Just as the first X-Men transformed the superhero film genre, Logan has the potential to do it again if it is indeed the unflinching, savage, heart wrenching and profound film it’s been hinting towards in the various teasers that have been released, such as this one.

It’ll be hard to say goodbye to Jackman and I’ll probably be shedding a few tears since I’ve been an enormous fan of his since 2000 but all we can hope is that Logan will be a finale for the ages and a fitting end to the character.


Stranger Things Season 2

Holy s***!!! Of all the things I’d expected to see during the Super Bowl, this is the absolute last trailer I think many of us expected. The first season of Stranger Things became an outright cultural phenomenon, drawing from the works of Stephen King, John Carpenter, Steven Spielberg and more to create a living, breathing homage to the 80’s that also stood apart as its’ own unique experience, following a group of kids and their families caught in the middle of unexplained supernatural events.

The series didn’t overdo any of its’ self referential elements, instead distilling what made so many of the 80’s films and stories so charming and entertaining into an 8-episode season that featured a young girl with superhero-like powers, an alternate dimension full of terrifying creatures, a boy ripped from our world who tries to call for help from beyond and a suspicious government agency that has its’ hands far deeper in these matters than anyone could have guessed.

It was an incredible, refreshing thrill ride that ended all too quickly and teasing the second season now is pretty cruel since we have another eight and a half months to wait until it’s released on Netflix. We do get a few interesting glimpses into what could be happening next for the cast, though. At the end of ‘The Upside Down’, Will was returned to our world but appeared to have gained supernatural powers of his own and now it looks like he’ll be having visions of doomsday and War of the Worlds-size invaders.

Whether or not these are real foresights or just figments of his active imagination will likely be part of season two’s narrative and we see flashes of Eleven, Jim Hopper and what looks like some of the organizations’ members watching… something from a wall of surveillance screens. All that’s certain is that we’ll be thrown into an even bigger world of mysteries, dangers and thrilling stories. If only we didn’t have to wait so long to see said stories.

HEAR HERE! (Week of Jan. 29 – Feb. 4)

Swift social and cultural upheavals are happening right before our eyes in today’s tense, uncertain world and as Trump continues to baffle both Americans and those around the world, millions of concerned citizens and artists are beginning to rise up and protest in any way they can. The immigration ban was the catalyst to something that’s sure to blossom into something massive in the near future and this week, Depeche Mode was one of the first groups to step forward with a resistance-focused song.

Not everything has been focused on the ‘Resistance’, though. Themes of happiness, encouragement, looking at the big picture and more have popped up in some of the new songs released this week and more than ever, a sense of hope and coming together to overcome something greater than ourselves seems to be spreading further and further into the music community’s collective consciousness.

The most transformative periods in history lead to some of the greatest music, films, art, literature and more so it’ll be interesting to see what sort of avalanche is triggered by the recent events in the US. For now, here’s the tip of the iceberg.


Imagine Dragons – ‘Believer’

The Las Vegas based alternative rock/pop quartet has built quite the reputation for themselves despite only being in the spotlight for a little over four years, selling out massive headlines tours around the world, releasing #1 single after #1 single and crafting songs for everything from video games to film soundtracks to the UN Refugee Agency’s campaign to support the ongoing crisis.

Two years have now passed since their matured, all over the place sophomore LP Smoke + Mirrors and the group has hinted for months now that their upcoming third album was deep in development and with the release of lead single ‘Believer’, solid details on the album’s title, track list, sound and much more should (hopefully) be just around the corner. So what does ‘Believer’ tell us about this new LP?

It’s another stomping, acoustic/electro jam that falls in line with the sounds we heard on Smoke, including some fiery wordplay in the verse and a huge drop in the chorus that verges a bit too close to what the group did on ‘Gold’ but Dan Reynold’s ever-strengthening vocals and the cry of “you make me a believer” give it enough power to stand out. ‘Believer’ might not be their best single to date but their leads rarely are. If we’re lucky, we won’t have long to wait to hear more of this mysterious new LP.


Depeche Mode – ‘Where’s the Revolution?’

Ever since releasing their first LP Speak and Spell way back in 1981, new wave and electronic rock giants Depeche Mode transformed and challenged the music industry over and over again with jarring, shocking imagery in their videos, music, themes and lyrics that routinely verge on nihilism and a sharp tongue that rarely holds back when discussing politics or modern culture.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that their upcoming LP Spirit, their latest since 2013’s Delta Machine, will reportedly be one of their most politically focused yet. Anticipation over what the music could sound like is also higher than ever since Delta Machine was an unexpectedly powerful return to form for the group who had been releasing subpar and poorly received albums since 1997’s Ultra.

Lead single ‘Where’s the Revolution?’ brings back the lighter, rapid fire synths of classic early 90’s LPs like Violator and lead singe Dave Gahan holds nothing back as he lashes out at corporate and media manipulation (“You’ve been lied to / You’ve been fed truths / Who’s making your decisions / You or your religion“) and gets to the heart of what’s caused so much societal and social chaos in recent months (“They manipulate and threaten / With terror as a weapon / Scare you till you’re stupefied / Wear you down until you’re on their side“).

Even though the bridges becomes repetitive with the refrains of “the train is coming, the train is coming“, Dave’s message comes through loud and clear and the band sounds more fired up here than they did on Delta. Whether or not that ‘spirit’ carries through the rest of the new LP is unclear but this is about as strong a start as you can get.


Father John Misty – ‘Two Wildly Different Perspectives’

Whereas Depeche Mode’s take on our current cultural revolution was dark musically but not as much lyrically, Father John Misty fearlessly confronts the ideological divide between America’s political parties on new single ‘Two Wildly Different Perspectives’. Most of us know that Democrats and Republicans have been slowly swirling into one corrupted, amorphous group for years and it’s disheartening and shameful to see so many blatantly ignoring or denying where we’re heading.

‘Pure Comedy’, the first single from Misty’s new LP of the same name already hit hard enough but ‘Perspectives’ ups the ante even further, softening the blow of the blunt lyrics with a bed of graceful, ambient strings and pianos that gently support Misty’s vocals but maintain enough distance to allow his words to be completely understood.

The hate spat from those of different religious beliefs (“One side says / “Y’all go to hell.” / The other says / “If I believed in God, I’d send you there.”) and how many believe we should treat terrorists (“One side says / “Kill ’em all.” / The other says / “Line those killers up against the wall.”) are all discussed and even though it hurts your heart to hear, Misty’s music makes you hope that maybe, just maybe, we can change from a nation of ‘pure comedy’ to the one we desperately need to be.


BNQT – ‘Restart’

One thing that remains constant about supergroups is that they’re hit or miss in their ability to make music that’s original and doesn’t use their individual backgrounds as a crutch. The Dead Weather and Audioslave are just two examples of combinations that sounded crazy on paper but became brilliant, unique creative entities without copying the music they’d already made before.

BNQT has to be one of the most interesting, and almost bizarre, groups to come to life in a long time, though. Headed up by Midlake’s Eric Pulido, the new band also consists of Band of Horses’ Ben Bridwell, Grandaddy’s Jason Lytel, Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos and Travis’ Fran Healy. That’s a roster of names I never thought I’d see in the same place but Pulido said the mission behind the band was to create art “with other people that you love and appreciate“.

‘Their very first song ‘Restart’ makes a strong case for them with a wild mix of horns, classic rock guitars, triumphant pianos and keys and intoxicating, layered vocals. The song doesn’t fall stylistically anywhere near the band members’ primary groups and the fact that this first song is already so impressive and engaging only spells good things for their debut LP Volume 1 which is due to be released on April 28.


Future Islands – ‘Ran’

Few modern bands fit the textbook definition of ‘love them or hate them’ quite like Maryland indie pop trio Future Islands. Since releasing their 2008 debut LP Wave Like Home, the group quickly established an oddball aesthetic of bright, looping synths and bubbly beats that acted as a pleasant balance to lead singer Samuel Herring’s wild, all over the place vocals that could go from a soft croon to a gritty growl in a split second. They’re not so much vocals as they are a vehicle of pure emotional expression.

Their 2014 LP Singles, led by massively popular single ‘Seasons (Waiting on You’, catapulted them from their quaint indie beginnings to the world stage and publications from NME to Pitchfork plastered the band on every magazine cover and webpage headline they could get their mits on. This newfound fame brought in an ever growing and loyal fanbase who have been itching for something new from the trio ever since.

With the announcement of their latest LP, The Far Field, that’s due to come out on April 7th, said fanbase is likely stirring itself into another frenzy of anticipation and lead single ‘Ran’ hints that this LP just might match or even top the brilliant Singles. Twinkling keys and driving drums give an extra punch to Herring’s passionate vocals as he expresses his need for a lover or friend’s help (“And I can’t take it, I can’t take this world without / This world without you“).


London Grammar – ‘The Big Picture’

Somehow, nearly three years have passed since English dream pop/downtempo trio London Grammar blew our minds with their chilling, overwhelmingly gorgeous debut If You Wait and with the unending stream of negativity and stressful news coming at us 24/7, we’ve never been in greater need of more of their soothing, peaceful vibes. With the sudden release of ‘Rooting for You’ last month, it appears that wait might soon be over, especially now that a second single, ‘The Big Picture’ has dropped.

Hearing Hannah’s soaring, featherlike vocals over the band’s powerful and moving musical ambience brings about indescribable happiness and Hannah sings of finding peace in realizing someone’s true nature through heartbreak (“Only now do I see the big picture / But I swear that these scars are fine / Only you could have hurt me in this perfect way tonight“). Only London Grammar could make such a subject sound so uplifting and joyous.


Blanck Mass – ‘Silent Treatment’

English composer Blanck Mass, first known as a founding member of drone rock band Fuck Buttons, has been working away in the underground electronic music scene since 2011, whipping up a savage mix of foundation leveling, dense as concrete and overwhelmingly loud music. His 2015 LP Dumb Flesh was a roller coaster journey of aural attacks and melodic moments that proved he was capable of much more than just blowing your eardrums out.

With his new LP World Eater coming out in just over a month (March 3), you’d expect it to be even more adventurous and unpredictable than Flesh and new single ‘Silent Treatment’ all but confirms we’re in for one hell of a ride. Splashing hip hop beats and radiant synths steadily pull you into the song’s deep pool of sound before stuttered vocals, oriental keys and walls of noise blast it to pieces. This quiet/loud dynamic persists throughout ‘Treatment’, making it both incredibly engaging and, dare I say it, more accessible.

The wait for this new album is becoming unbearably hard.


 

ELBOW ‘Little Fictions’ – Album Review

Anytime a new Elbow album comes around the corner, it’s like reuniting with a long, lost friend and reveling in swaths of nostalgic memories and warm, heartening feelings. The long running UK quartet, one of the last musical groups still standing from the 2000’s Britpop explosion, has been trucking on since releasing their debut Asleep in the Back nearly 16 years ago.

From their earliest days, Guy Garvey and co. proved to be a strikingly intellectual and fiercely creative unit, often doing away with typical verse-chorus-verse song structures and allowing their distinctly British brand of alternative rock to slowly and steadily build, focusing more on setting a vivid scene and telling a story, rather than bludgeoning fans with a riff over and over again.

Listeners who prefer instant gratification and easily digestible hooks will be disappointed by Elbow’s often slow burning and languid tunes but they’re a nice contrast to so many modern bands who seem more concerned with style than substance and have fallen into a cycle of creating catchy but ultimately hollow, forgettable music. The group’s relaxed pace almost got the best of them, though, on their 2014 LP The Take Off and Landing of Everything.

Written in the wake of Guy Garvey’s split with longtime girlfriend Emma Jane Unsworth, the album explored themes of heartbreak, death and redemption but too often found itself wallowing in a sea of melancholy, occasionally showing signs of vigor with some gorgeous instrumental sections but for the most part coming off like a band stuck in place, creatively and emotionally. Even 2011’s Build A Rocket Boys! sounded positively vibrant compared to this.

The most successful bands always find a way to break free, allowing themselves to be carried by the winds of change, and the same gratefully happened for Elbow. In the years following Take Off, Guy released his first solo LP, Courting the Squall, in 2015 and married actress Rachael Stirling in 2016. Founding member and longtime drummer Richard Jupp also amicably parted ways with the group before writing on Little Fictions commenced, planting the seeds and setting the stage for some sort of reinvention.

Elbow has mastered and settled into their style and even though a dramatic transformation or change in sound wasn’t expected, Fictions, their seventh LP, glimmers with a newfound sense of vitality, love and happiness. Without Jupp in tow, the rhythm section is freed up to experiment with digital drum loops and subtly danceable beats, giving their new tunes an added punch and feeling of life and adventurousness.

From the opening notes of ‘Magnificent (She Says)’, it’s evident the band is operating with a completely new mindset as the shuffling drums, stirring strings courtesy of Manchester’s Hallé Orchestra and gorgeous, engaged vocals from Guy make it the most stirring Elbow song to come along in some time. When he sings “It’s all gonna be magnificent“, you already find yourself agreeing.

The minimalist, driving percussion of ‘Gentle Storm’ imitates the beats of techno or electronic music but in organic form and as the chorus of “Gentle storm / Rage my way / Fall in love with me” washes over, it becomes impossible not to sway along. Jazzy drums and gentle melodies propel the sublime ‘Trust the Sun’ and Guy sweetly reflects on how his new love has changed him (“I just don’t trust the sun to rise / When I can’t see your eyes / You’re my reason for breathing“).

Previously released single ‘All Disco’ is a more traditional and overwhelmingly beautiful alt rock anthem that pokes at the mentality of music being all there is to life (“What does it prove if you die for a tune / It’s really all disco”). The ending brings in the Hallé’s choir, elevating it past its’ already high level of aural exquisiteness. ‘Head for Supplies’ slows things down with its’ low key pulse but maintains the LP’s immense heart (“You are the reason for this missing beat / On the streets that I love / And in me“).

Spoon-like pianos and handclapped beats turn ‘Firebrand & Angel’ on its’ head and deepen the band’s rhythmic sensibilities. Blips, keyboards and echoed vocals fill the background and as the Hallé’s vocal harmonies climb higher and higher, Guy and crew sound more and more vigorous, making the song not only one of Fictions‘ highlights but one of Elbow’s best to date.

The song that will likely draw the most attention, though, is the Brexit-focused ‘K2’. A killer drumline and glowing keyboards effectively set a somber but reflective tone and Guy comments on the world’s view of Britain (“I’m from a land with an island status / Makes us think that everyone hates us“), the ugliness of modern politics (“It’s full of blood, snot and teeth and the glory of no one“) and his desire to just escape it all (“I’ve been asleep in the woods with a mother to be / Planning on a static caravan in the Andes“).

Two minute piano hymn ‘Monparnasse’ eases the tension with its light keys and loving lyrics (“Your heart could easy power three of me“) and leads into the epic, eight minute title track. Session drummer Alex Reeves finally lets loose, showing off his full dynamic range and the song steadily builds from its’ quiet beginnings to a massive finale of wailing guitars, squealing keys, overwhelming emotions and Guy victoriously proclaiming love’s power (“Let’s get old / Dare you now / Mix blood with me / All in / Love is the original miracle“).

Sounding like it was recorded in a woody attic, closer ‘Kindling’ is the sound of a man coming full circle from grief and finding happiness. As he references his breakup from years ago (“Had a circular saw blade / Where I should have had a heart / I was trusted, I adored her / And I tore it all apart“), Guy sounds truly grateful when, while on a train ride, a text from his wife makes “the wheat fields explode into gold either side of the train“.

Little Fictions ends on a powerful, heartwarming note and you’ll likely walk away feeling every bit of contentment and well-being that Guy and the band so evidently feel now. Elbow has matured and aged with grace and sound like they’ve embarked on a new creative journey with this LP. Like a fine wine, these songs will blossom and reach perfection if you’re generous with your time and patience. The pay off is worth it as you’ll be rewarded with Elbow’s best LP since The Seldom Seen Kid.

Little Fictions gets a 9 out of 10!!

FAVORITE tracks: ‘K2’, ‘Little Fictions’, ‘Gentle Storm’, ‘Firebrand & Angel’
WORST tracks: There isn’t a single bad or weak track here. Seriously.

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