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REVIEW: Turtleneck & Chain

Turtleneck & ChainI bought two records on May tenth. I’ve already written up my thoughts on Goblin for this blog and for Hearwax Media. In short, it’s an album full of promise that I doubt will ever be fulfilled. But on the same day, I bought the new album by The Lonely Island, Turtleneck & Chain. And since that day, I’ve listened to Goblin around three times in its entirety. I’ve listened to Turtleneck & Chain constantly. I wake up in the morning and put on Turtleneck & Chain, I go to sleep at night and it’s the last record I was listening to. When I’m around the house and nowhere near anything that can play it, I’m singing the songs out loud all day. And for most pop records, that would mean singing the chorus. Except that most of the songs on T&C don’t have choruses. Within days, I’ve memorized nearly all the words to these songs. And it’s got me thinking about a few things.

But let’s save the philosophy of fake rap for later. Band bio time! The Lonely Island are a comedy troupe from California who were transplanted to New York City at some point in the last five years. You might know designated frontman Andy Samberg from his appearances on Saturday Night Live as a regular cast member. The only place you might have heard of designated “supporting members” Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone is in the various songs Lonely Island are already famous for: Kiv is in “I’m On a Boat” and Jorm is in “Jizz in My Pants”, both from previous hit album Incredibad. And since these three were best friends in university (or high school, I’m fuzzy on the details), they’ve been making various comedy sketches and attempts at pilots. But, with Andy’s gig in New York came the opportunity to start making SNL “Digital Shorts”–two-to-three minute sketches made in an attempt to garner some credibility online by Lorne Michaels. And these were farmed out to–you guessed it–The Lonely Island. Read more…

Categories: Music, Reviews

REVIEW: Goblin.

GoblinI first heard of Tyler, the Creator back in… February, was it? It was the week after the Grammys, I know that for sure. And I downloaded Bastard shortly thereafter, cos Tyler is a talented guy and I wanted to hear more of what he had to say. And it was listening to that album that I realized Tyler’s major malfunction. And don’t get me wrong, I love Tyler and Odd Future and everything I’ve heard from the Wolf Gang so far. Though, if someone can investigate making the Dena Tape download work, that’d be great. I like the entire Odd Future box and concept, and those guys are the kick in the pants that hip hop badly needs right now. Tyler is right–there are too many forty year old men rapping about the stacks of cash they have and not enough passion or energy. Man, even Eminem went straight after all was said and done. So now these punks from LA think they’ve got the new thing–albums from their basements made on their laptops from the covers to the raps. And that’s cool, yeah. Indie scenes always pop up around twenty years into a genre to wake it up. Pop got punk after all.

But Tyler has some issues, and I don’t mean the bits where he talks about his father. And for all this album is necessary, is good, is brave, bold and innovative and represents taking the power back from the rich for hip hop, it’s also drowning in a few issues. Much like Inception, it’s a good project that has a few flaws that taint the whole package. Unlike Inception, it can’t emerge unscathed. But if you’re buying an album this week, buy this one instead of Turtleneck & Chain. Cos Lonely Island will make money with or without you and Tyler deserves to be paid for this. Read more…

Categories: Music, Reviews

REVIEW: Justin Bieber: Never Say Never

February 21, 2011 4 comments
Justin Bieber in Never Say Never

oh god not the hand NOT THE HAND

Justin Bieber is a charming kid. If that statement made you want to kill small furry animals in rage, you might want to get out now. I saw Never Say Never because I knew the review would attract more traffic to my blog than a review of Beyond the Game or Splice. I saw it in 3D and with an open mind. I walked in to that theater saying to myself that if this movie was bad, I’d say it without hesitation. I was going to be entirely honest with this movie because that’s what my friends would want me to do. Boy, did that come back to bite me in the ass. See, I said I’d be honest with this movie. But I never thought I’d like it. Look at the title, look back down here. I’m not going to make that joke.

But the young Mr. Bieber is a charming kid and a gifted performer. His songs are the kind of inoffensive pop music that filled the charts while Vietnam’s war anthems were busy being remembered by history. He has clean dance moves and a strong voice. Onstage, he’s a magnetic presence. He doesn’t just take all of the attention given to him, he works for it. And he earns it. It’s true that Justin isn’t the only person working for his fame. He might not be the person most directly responsible for it, his manager being the one to drive him from one coast of America to the other. But if Justin weren’t a driven, talented and passionate kid determined to make music his living, he wouldn’t be onstage singing. And I respect that. Read more…

Categories: Movies, Music, Reviews

REVIEW: Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt OST

February 7, 2011 1 comment

PSG OSTThis is seriously the best soundtrack I have ever heard to an animated program. That is only hyperbole in the most, but whenever I listen to this soundtrack’s greatest songs, it feels so true. Hideaki Anno, director of Gainax’s previous flagship series Neon Genesis Evangelion, said that in the years that have passed since Eva that there has been no newer anime. While this is certainly true in a literary sense, where Eva‘s imitators have fallen prey to Aping Watchmen and just going dark and edgy without going smart, there have certainly been more modern anime. Leading the pack in modernity since October of 2010 has been Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt–an unrelentingly, unapologetically different series that takes the traditional magical-girl premise and fills it with sex, violence and gross-out humour. Helping it along this path is one of the most righteous soundtracks in existence: a blast of techno and genres that have only existed since the year 2009. Wonderful.

It opens with five of the loudest crashes and bangs possible with the aptly titled “Theme for Panty & Stocking”. A one-chord wonder barely passing thirty seconds in length with improvised lyrics mumbled into an autotuner in a language the singer doesn’t speak, it is perhaps the most addictively simple theme song in history, aside from Hawaii Five-0. It conveys almost all of the feel of the series in thirty-two glorious seconds of blasting techno. Following on this theme is the extended version of our heroines’ power-up theme, “Fly Away”. I don’t know if they credit samples or not–perhaps I shouldn’t have said that–but this is a blastingly compressed, crunchy-to-the-max ode to side-chained compressors. With a kick drum sharp enough to rock your skull and bassy enough to flap your pants, it’s a glorious song even out of context. Read more…

Categories: Anime, Music, Reviews

REVIEW: Pretty Hate Machine (2010 Remaster)

January 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Are you ready for a stunning admission? I’ve never liked Pretty Hate Machine. Ever. And I know it’s heresy for a Nine Inch Nails fan to say they can’t get into the debut album of one of their favourite artists–cos face it, if you like NIN, they’re among your favourite artists. But I’ve always found the overly synthesized textures, awkward lyrics and far too frank emotional discussions of a white boy to be really jarring to try to sit through. Pretty Hate Machine is just not the world’s greatest album by anybody’s standards. Is it the best thing that Trent Reznor could do at the time? Certainly, and I admire him for being brave enough to publish an album that was in a genre that didn’t quite exist before it. It certainly took more balls than anything I’ve ever done–that’s why I’m a critic! Read more…

Categories: Music, Reviews

REVIEW: The Social Network Original Soundtrack

January 21, 2011 Leave a comment

I define an original score to be music written by a composer or group of composers “to picture”–that is, they are watching the movie they are scoring as they write the music and they write the specific cues to the specific scenes. Is this a bit pedantic? Sure. Is it needlessly specific? Yes. Is it a distinction made by anyone but me? Probably not. A soundtrack is music written before picture, cued to picture by the director, editor, sound guy or Chaz. Where things get murky are original soundtracks: music written expressly to accompany this film, but cued to picture after it’s been composed. Recently, celebrities in the music world have started writing original soundtracks for movies. Daft Punk did TRON: Legacy, for instance. Read more…

Categories: Movies, Music, Reviews

REVIEW: (Kanye West’s) Runaway

November 2, 2010 Leave a comment

Kanye West is a man for whom there is no such thing as half-steppin’. When Kanye walks on the scene, he Leo Struts. (Sorry, I’m still in NaNoWriMo mode, I’ll try to even out the reference based humour before the end of this paragraph.) His music videos have always reflected the themes in his lyrics that no other rapper is touching these days. Ever since Flashing Lights explored the hip hop tropes of beautiful girls in lingerie, fast cars and crime in a way that reversed the power dynamic of the entire set-up, Kanye West has been the only hip hop artist really exploring the visual side of hip hop. We have thousands of videos from every artist–rich, poor, major, minor–all built around the same things. Cars, clothes, cash and attractive ladies. Mr. West has been the only artist to explore these themes and their implications through both song and video.

His new music video, Runaway, is a complex beast of a project. At thirty-four minutes long, it is possibly the shortest thing I will ever review on this website. It’s also the best hip hop music video I’ve ever seen. Daring, complex, constructed entirely in metaphor, but built with a hip hop mindset. It’s also, you know, over thirty minutes long and contains nine songs. On the most basic level, Runaway can be seen as a response to the response to Kanye West’s previous video, PowerPower was just over ninety seconds long and only contained one and a half verses and two choruses to its runtime. Power is also one of my favourite rap videos ever made. It functions not as a video, per se, but more as a portrait. A painting of the artist at a time in his life when he is simultaneously the king on his throne and the penitent in the noose he hung himself. Power is a collection of images and sounds that, when viewed, convey Kanye West as he stands today. 90 seconds? That’s pretty incredible. Read more…

Categories: Movies, Music, Reviews