The People’s Albums: Holiday Edition

For this installment of The People’s Albums, I thought I’d take a little detour and dive into America’s best selling Christmas/Holiday album.  And in that regard, I must thank God that this album exists.  Otherwise, the best-selling Christmas album would be Miracles: The Christmas Album by that rat bastard Kenny G.

Album: Elvis’ Christmas Album
Artist: Elvis Presley
Release Date: October 15, 1957
Copies Sold In The U.S.: 10 Million Continue reading

2013 Music Rundown: Repave

Volcano Choir – Repave

When it comes to Bon Iver, you’ll either find their music beautiful or boring and pretentious. Volcano Choir, the band combining Bon Iver’s frontman Justin Vernon with members of Collections of Colonies of Bees, doesn’t have that problem. That, by all accounts, is due to Vernon’s smaller role in this band – allegedly he just serves as the lyricist and vocalist. That means that Volcano Choir is able to sound more like a band and less like an indecipherable man who lives alone. Not that Vernon’s lyrics aren’t still tricky to suss out based purely on listening, but it surely helps when the rest of the group sings along with him. Repave is an album I’ve really liked from the first listen, but not in any special or remarkable way, which is why I never got around to reviewing it. But if you ever listened to Bon Iver and thought they would be better if they rocked a bit more, there’s this. Why don’t you check out the YouTube video after the break, if you dig it, there are seven more of those on the album.

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The Best of Top Ten Thursdays: Vol. 3

Looking for the perfect gift for that special someone? Look no further! It’s “The Best of Top Ten Thursdays: Vol. 3”! A roaring collection of humorous musings from Matt Carstens, Sean Lemme, John Otteni, and Colin Wessman. Vol. 3 is 69 minutes (Nice) of comedic pop culture musings and more! Topics include: The Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the Wrath of Adam Sandler, Sean trying a Fifth Avenue for the first time and my personal favorite track, “The Demon Wars” where the Mildly Pleased gang talk about the Biblical apocalypse. So kick back with a cozy sweater, some nog, and let our nasally voices fill your home with laughter!

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Night Falls On Newbridge

Well it looks like 2013 will see one more landmark piece of pop culture come to a close, as tonight will mark the final episode of The Best Show On WFMU with Tom Scharpling.  Now look, I’m not gonna sit here and pretend that I’m one of the show’s longtime die-hard listeners, because I’m not.  I didn’t truly get in to the show until about two months ago, around the time that Scharpling announced that The Best Show would be going off the air on December 17.  But considering these last two months have seen me having a lot of free time on my hands, I can say I’ve spent an unhealthy amount of time binging on Best Show Gems as well as tuning in to each new episode live, while also making my way through the extensive 13-year archives of The Best Show. Continue reading

2013 Music Rundown: MCII

Mikal Cronin – MCII

Considering Mikal Cronin’s MCII feels like a more wistfully indie take on power-pop, I had a pretty easy time falling for it when it came out in May.  However, now it’s getting a little difficult to look at it as anything more than a nice remnant of this past summer.  This is probably due to my first memory of listening to MCII being during the trip to Boston that marked the beginning of my summer, while the last time I remember listening to it was during the long drive from Seattle to L.A. that more or less marked the end of my summer.  Now I’m sure I’ve listened to MCII once or twice since then, but for whatever reason, Mikal Cronin’s collection of hard-rockin’ pop tunes hasn’t quite been able to transcend being anything more than just a really good summer album.  Which of course is dumb and irrational, but this is the kind of reasoning that starts to take over your brain when a top 10 albums of the year list is just on the horizon. Continue reading

Smaug the Great and Powerful

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Thinking back on the first third of The Hobbit trilogy, it’s easy to see why people wouldn’t like that film. It’s long and meandering and can’t focus on trying to tell just one story. But for fans of the franchise, it’s also a delicious opportunity. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit without an intention to write The Lord of the Rings. This was a child friendly fairy tail, unlike the epic that would end up following it. As a result, he spent considerable effort adjusting and accounting for discrepancies between the two stories; most notably, he rewrote the chapter in which Bilbo steals the One Ring. Peter Jackson’s film series has the opportunity to capitalize on the wealth of material about Middle Earth to make a series that not only tells a fun story, but can act as a prequel to his The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

The Desolation of Smaug takes advantage of that better than An Unexpected Journey did. It covers Bilbo, Thorin, and the dwarves’ journey from where they were left in the last movie, outside of Mirkwood, to the eponymous desolation at the Lonely Mountain. But, given this relatively short section of an inarguably short novel, Jackson has to add side plots to pad the length. He does this by letting us follow Gandalf’s quest to expose the true nature of the Necromancer, and, perhaps controversially, adding in an elf side plot.

We follow two wood elves, one you’ll recognize, Legolas, and one brand new, Tauriel. Tauriel is played by Evangeline Lily and is a totally new invention of Jackson and the other screenwriters’ – at least, as far as I can tell. She seems fine and adds a new dimension to the dwarves’ story, which is nice, since they mostly exist in the background of Thorin and Balin in book. Without giving away what’s changed, the way these movie ends has all our characters in dire situations, some of which differ profoundly from what you might expect. I’m excited to see how it plays out.

But more than anything else, The Desolation of Smaug is a more entertaining movie than the first Hobbit third. While that felt like two and half hours of just the filthiest fan service, this is more like the adventure we all signed up for. The pace is much faster, with no singing or lengthy scenes of exposition relating to plots that won’t even play out in the movie. Like, seriously guys, Legolas and Tauriel kill so many orcs. And the dwarves get to do more than just get captured, too. Although it’s still mostly getting captured.

I think Smaug turned out to be really cool, and that might be partly related to my predisposition to love giant monsters and robots. But seriously, how many great movie dragons have there been? You’d think there would be a lot, since they’re kind of the biggest deal as far as mystical creatures are concerned, but I have a hard time thinking of many. I guess the one from How to Train Your Dragon? Yeah, I think Benedict Cumberbatch’s Smaug is better than that.

After being largely disappointed by this summer’s blockbuster offerings, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with these last few. I thought Thor 2 was great, the new Hunger Games was cool, and now The Hobbit sequel has reminded me why I loved this franchise so much in the first place. OK, Anchorman 2, don’t fuck this up.

2013 Music Rundown: Acid Rap

Chance The Rapper – Acid Rap

I haven’t had a lot of experience with mixtapes — because I don’t have a lot of experience with modern hip-hop in general — but they seem pretty sweet, mainly because they’re like albums but free.  Acid Rap, the second mixtape from Chance The Rapper, was something I kept coming back to mainly for a few really great songs (“Good Ass Intro”, “Chain Smoker”), while the rest was a little hit-or-miss.  But perhaps that’s just the nature of any collection of hip-hop songs, though even on the less essential songs on Acid Rap, it’s hard to deny the 20-year-old Chance’s potent combination of bratty swagger and heartfelt confusion over the crime-ridden state of his native Chicago.  Also, in a year that saw Kanye West going progressive, it was nice to hear someone who could mine the kind of catchy R&B/hip-hop territory of early Kanye, but with a style and personality all their own. Continue reading