November 23, 2010

Shugo Tokumaru - Port Entropy

Let me fill you in, because I doubt you've been informed of this genius. Shugo Tokumaru is a Japanese musician who's been writing quirky, very animated Japanese indie-pop songs since 2003. Last year, he made it to #1 on our Top 50 Albums of 2008 list, and with reason. 2008's Exit brought light-hearted, complex songs that were colorful and childish enough to put a smile on anyone's face. Oh, and they're all catchy as hell. To put is simply, it was a work of art. I think the best way to describe it is music accompanying a creative kindergartner's drawing for art class. I hope that made sense somehow.

Port Entropy had the same drive, but not much stands out compared to Exit. For example, Exit has the bright and quick guitar line on Parachute, the perfect mix of dissonant woodwinds and scattered drums on Clocca, and a bunch of other significant moments. But that's not to say Port Entropy just ends, leaving you with no memorable choruses or melodies going through your head. It opens really well with the resonant duo of Platform and Tracking Elevator, which both have the shine of previous Tokumaru songs, and though Rum Hee may not be as quirky as classic Shugo songs, it has one of the catchiest intros ever. The rest of the album is consistently good too. Even the last two songs, Orange and Malerina, are among my favorite Shugo Tokumaru songs now.

If you're not really into bright indie pop like this, I might be a bit hesitant, as some of this stuff is really sugary. But otherwise, I recommend.

Listen to the full album here.
Recommended: Tracking Elevator, Rum Hee, Laminate, Drive-Thru, Suisha, Orange, Malerina


November 20, 2010


Red stars pretty much every actor ever, Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, John Malcovich and Mary-Louise Parker. They star as a group of retired C.I.A. agents that are put on the RED list (Retired and Extremely Dangerous) and are hunted down by the government and fight back. All of these actors are impossible to not completely love, but it seems like they put absolutely no thought into their roles and were all in this movie for the sake of saying they were all in the movie. I cannot lie to you and say that I could not help but love all of these old people shooting everyone, especially Helen Mirren wielding a machine gun. The dialogue and direction pretty much does not exist, but one can not help but love all of these great actors.
My Review: C


The Social Network

I commonly use the phrase "I had high hopes for this movie", but I am not sure if I have ever had higher hopes for a film than The Social Network, directed by one of my favorite directors and screenwriters, David Fincher (Seven and Fight Club) and Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip). The hopes got even higher when it had 97% on RT. I was sort-of satisfied. In case you have been in a coma for a past few months, The Social Network is about Mark Zuckerberg, the creative genius behind Facebook, and what he had to do to get his website the biggest in the world. Mark Zuckerberg is played by Jesse Eisenberg who, don't get me wrong, is a great young actor, but is not really playing a character, but Jesse Eisenberg making a website. However, there are two phenomenal stand-out performances by Andrew Garfield, Mark's partner in the creation of Facebook, and Justin Timberlake as Napster creator Sean Parker. Aaron brings his razor sharp and speedy dialogue, as was expected, and truly captures how college students talk. The big disappointment of the movie for me was David Fincher, who of course directed the movie as best as he could, but it seemed to me that they repressed his creativity and innovative perspective. Overall, it was a great look at what it takes to get to the top, but it could have been a little better.
My Review: B+


The Town

This is Ben Affleck's second try at directing since 2007's great "Gone Baby Gone" and his first starring role in years. He stars with Jeremy Renner and an all star cast as a bank robber who takes a bank manager hostage and falls in love with her. When I saw the trailer, I thought this was just another attempt to make the next "The Departed", but I was very wrong. It was beautifully written by Affleck, who gets the dialogue of his home town of South Boston that literally hundreds have tried to perfect. The acting is just as mind-blowing as I expected, with great performances by Affleck, Renner, Jon Haam, and a surprising brilliant performance by Gossip Girls' Blake Lively as an oxy-dealing single mother who is always tossed aside by Affleck's character. The plot is a little slow at times, but these great preformance, screenwriting and directing by Ben Affleck makes me feel like he has a comeback in store and I will be first in line to see his next film.
My review: A-


November 19, 2010

Top 5 Christmas Movies

I take Christmas very seriously, so this list has had a lot of thought put into it.
5.Elf - Will Ferrel makes what was probably his best performances ever as a stupid elf in the big city. Classic. Also notice one of the debut appearances by goddess Zooey Deschanel.
4.Home Alone - Little boy beats robbers to near death.
3.Home Alone 2 - Same thing as #4 but in NEW YORK!!!!
2.A Christmas Story - You know this movie is a classic when you literally can't remember a year when you did not watch this on Christmas.
1.Christmas Vacation - If this is not number one on your list, there is probably something wrong with your childhood.


5 Movies I Am Pumped For; Winter 2010

This is my list of 5 movies I am pumped for this winter, a.k.a. the drama season:
1. Black Swan - Darren Aronofsky brings the crazy back to the cinema this winter with his trademark 'tortured-people-and-their-terrible-lives', and it will end with the main character definitely killing themselves.(Example: Every Darren Aronofsky movie ever).
2. Somewhere - Sofia Coppola is hanging out in a hotel again. I am going to love it.
3. The King's Speech - Colin Firth plays the king of the U.K. during WWII who has to lead his country, but he has a crippling speech impediment. Co-stars Helana Bonaham Carter and Geoffrey Rush. In summary, this is Oscar crack.
4. 127 Hours - Danny Boyle directs his latest movie since Slumdog Millionaire. James Franco stars as a hiker that gets his arm trapped under a rock in the middle of a completely deserted canyon. I won't tell you how it ends, but it involves a pocket knife, a video camera and he cuts his arm off.
5. Sucker Punch - I was not the biggest fan of Watchmen, but 300 was so good that I will give Zack Snyder another chance. It's about crazy girls that escape into their minds and fight zombies and ninjas with machine guns, dragons and explosions. If a 10 year old could make a movie, this would pretty much be it.


Waiting for Superman

Since I am currently a member of the public education system, I was excited to see this film from the genius director of "An Inconvenient Truth" to expose the flawed educational system, and I was not at all disappointed. The point of this documentary is to give the audience not just statistics about children trying to get into good public schools, but to give them a face of a child to match with the statistic. This technique has been used in many documentaries, but never has one effected me as much as these kids. It made me not just angry at our government's educational system, but terrified of what was to come for my education and the education of future generations. 
My review: A


Best Stand-Up Comics Currentley Performing

5. Sarah Silverman - I know, it is like the whitest thing ever to like Sarah Silverman, but we all have our guilty pleasures. From her racist rants to her penis jokes, I find that her subtle cuteness matched with her terrible thoughts make me chuckle at any time.
4. Bo Burnham - My new discovery of this musical comic have Julian and I completely hooked. He has been publishing his routines on YouTube since he was in high school and got a record deal right after he graduated, making him one of the most talented young rapper-comedians on the comedy scene right now.
3. Aziz Ansari - The young comedic indieness and observational comedy gives him one of the most accurate depictions of this generation. I cannot talk about Aziz without mentioning his player and more confident alter ego Raaaaaaaandy (has to be spelled with 8 A's), who was the best part of last summer's Funny People.
2. Russel Brand - The British wonder-kid comedian has brought his comedy to the U.S. in such films as Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek, but when his comedy was showcased on last year's Comedy Central Special that brought out his flamboyant tendencies and child-like humor, it had me doubled over in laughter.
1.Louis C.K. - This underrated indie gem comedian has been close to making it big on multiple comedy specials, his HBO sitcom Lucky Louie, and his newest work of genius, the late night FX show that just ended. His depressing, self hating and angry-at-the-world attitude makes him one of the most unique and hilarious comedian out there right now.



I will attempt to put my feelings about this television show in a review, but I will do it no justice. This British BBC import is about a bunch of slacker British teens in the U.K. who's lives are pretty much centered around partying, drugs and sex and being the kinds of people anyone would kill to party with. But underneath the surface, their true lives and feelings are revealed one episode at a time, each episode centering around one character of the gang. This sounds like every teen angst drama ever, but it leaves all of the competitors in the dust. The writing, directing and of course acting make this show completely mind blowing and powerful that has you fall in love with every character the episode focuses on. I feel terrible not explaining the show enough, but I would have to describe very little of it, or would have to explain every single episode. All I can say is I literally beg you to watch this genius piece of art.
My review: A+
P.S. This is like the best poster ever. Just saying.


Fair Game

Naomi Watts stars in this accurate depiction of Valerie Plame, the C.I.A. agent who's identity was revealed by the Bush Administration and whose life completely fell apart. Sean Penn co-stars as Valerie's ambassador husband who can not get enough of himself and completely juices his wife's reveal to try and take on the entire Bush Administration all by himself. The story of Valerie is so astounding and terrible that it couldn't be intriguing, and was only helped by the gritty director of The Bourne Ultimatum, who made a good structure for the film, but Naomi and Sean's semi-half-assed acting made this movie a disappointment. If the actors had put more work into their roles, it would be a great film and total Oscar bait.
My review: C


I Love You Phillip Morris

This indie was a hit at all of the film festivals this year and came out in the U.K. in March. It won't come out in the U.S. until mid-December but, I could not wait. I Love You Phillip Morris is the first film in very long time from Jim Carrey, and I was pumped to see that it was not one of his crossovers into drama, but found the trailer to be a classic Carrey comedy. However, this ended up being his best preformance of all time (BEATING THE TRUMAN SHOW). He stars in this true story about a man that reveals he is gay to his family and proceeds to go on a crime spree, landing him in jail for robbery and insurance fraud. In jail, he falls madly in love with a cellmate named Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor) and vows that he will stay with Phillip at all costs, including multiple prison outbreaks and schemes to get money. Not only was Carrey at his comedy and drama best, but great dialogue and directing lead to the most surprising, shocking, and extremely offensive ending. This film will have you laugh out loud, tear up and effectively make your jaw drop.
My Review: A


Easy A

It was about 2:00 in the morning and I had no hope of going to sleep. So, like with most of my problems, I turned to movies. I scanned my favorite illegal sites and found this movie. I IMDB'd it and saw an all-star cast led by Superbad's breakout star, Emma Stone. I started the movie thinking this teen comedy would make me sleepy, but I ended up stifle my laughter from waking my parents. It is about a nobody-teen girl (Stone) who gets caught up in the rumor mill after faking sex with a gay friend and becomes the slut of the school without doing a thing. It's razor sharp dialogue and Stone's spot on delivery made me literally laugh out loud. After seeing Emma Stone host SNL a couple weeks ago, I had high standards for her performance which she surpassed. This is a teen comedy that is the stereotype of a teen comedy while making fun of itself. Its great writing and acting from a young teen star made this movie the new Mean Girls.
My review: A-


November 12, 2010

The Walkmen - Lisbon

Something about The Walkmen’s newest album just feels empty. While it’s not really a happy album, it’s definitely not a sad album. There’s just something in the arrangements that really leave you wanting something more. The Walkmen are somewhere between Beach House and Local Natives, musically speaking. The slow, almost nonchalant guitar lines are accompanied by a lead vocal line that is just depressing. Even on a song called Victory they sound pretty defeated, and that’s never a good sign. Not to be unfair to The Walkmen, a good band with some pretty decent albums (08 release You & Me, I’m talking to you), they’re good at what they do. The chords progressions, the entrances of melodic lines, the variety, it’s all very well-done. It’s just I can’t ever find myself really excited to listen to this album. I fail to understand how anybody can get pumped when a song from Lisbon pops up on shuffle. Sure, the music is pretty, Walkmen are a good band, Lisbon is just... boring.
And my problem with that is that The Walkmen aren’t that kind of band. It’s not like Lisbon is just a slow album and I’ve just been impatient. Lisbon is slow and boring. Yet somehow, I look forward to The Walkmen’s next try and I think you should, too, since, I mean, it is some well-written stuff.
A conflict of great but often boring songs leaves Lisbon earning just below average.


November 11, 2010

The Thermals - Personal Life

The Thermals haven’t lost much since their brilliant release Now We Can See a couple years back. The prissy Death Cab for Cutie guitarist Chris Walla produces Personal Life, The Thermals third full LP. His effects on the album are obvious, and for the most part fail to improve the overall sound of the record. The rather cheesily named first and last tracks are called I’m Gonna Change Your Life and You Changed My Life respectively, and they don’t really get things going or close things out well. However, Personal Life’s energy as whole is good as the middle of the album is superb. It’s just as loud as everything else these guys have thrown at us and even a little bit more in tune. My personal favorites on Personal Life are I Don’t Believe You, Never Listen to Me, and Your Love is So Strong. On all three tracks The Thermals quit the crap and get down to business. Side note: generally speaking, taking the catchiest hook on your old album and slipping it in your new one doesn’t go over so well. Now We Can See and Your Love is So Strong have nearly identical openings.

When The Thermals bang their heads and smash on their guitars, they’re amazing. It’s when they try to write emotional ballads that they begin to falter. So why ballad-producer Walla was brought in I have no idea. It may be lacking a couple of hooks that Now We Can See brought to the table, but whatever. The Thermals will still rock your pants off.


November 10, 2010

Of Montreal - False Priest

I've never really loved an Of Montreal album. The closest I've gotten was with their debut Cherry Peel, and that was during their lo-fi-guitar-pop-with-pretty-melodies phase back in the 90s. Other than that, I love individual Of Montreal songs, like Disconnect the Dots, Sink the Seine, Gronlandic Edit, A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger, and even Id Engager from their previous album Skeletal Lamping, which was slightly disappointing. But never a whole album.

False Priest is different, however. There aren't any specific songs that I love on it, but not any that I strongly dislike either. In other words, nothing stands out for me on this very animated record, which isn't entirely a bad thing. The songs on False Priest are more consistent with each other, and seem to flow much more smoothly than on Hissing Fauna, or Skeletal Lamping. This makes it their most accessible pop album to date, and it's pretty hard for a band like Of Montreal to be considered 'accessible'.

The high points of this album are in the lyrics, which sound best when Kevin Barnes sings them. Most of the lyrics are about teenage romances, and random experiences. They're pretty funny though, like most Of Montreal lyrics. Here he sings about a girlfriend throwing his beta fish out the window, female erections, sexual innuendo related to playgrounds, and a bunch of other bizarrely hilarious topics.

It almost seems like Kevin Barnes was spending a little too much time on the lyrics rather than making some memorable melodies. But all negativity aside, I really enjoyed listening to False Priest, and I think it's an improvement from Skeletal Lamping. Give it a listen.

Funniest track: Our Riotous Defects


November 9, 2010

Belle and Sebastian - Write about Love

Some things take time. For Scottish twee pop legends Belle and Sebastian, it was releasing their eighth studio album after four years apart. For me, it was figuring out what to say about it.

There are remnants of Belle and Sebastian’s genre-defining 90s sounds on Write about Love that we haven’t heard since long before their 06 release The Life Pursuit. Although not a compromise of their old and new sounds, Write about Love sits somewhere in the middle of the Belle and Sebastian spectrum.

90s releases If You’re Feeling Sinister and The Boy with the Arab Strap were built on mellow guitar and soft vocals. The early 00s led to a poppier Dear Catastrophe Waitress and the extremely upbeat bursting 06 release The Life Pursuit. Now we have Write about Love, an album that doesn’t quite sit anywhere comfortably in the B&S timeline. The band’s sound is more mature than their most recent work. Their upbeat pop grooves have mellowed and are now more relaxed, taking their time to say what they’re trying to say. Their slower ballads are now flushed out, with more powerful instrumentals. On Write about Love, Belle and Sebastian take their time when they go fast and hurry things along when they slow down.

Sarah Martin is, for the first time, the lead vocalist as she sings on a majority of the album. However, we can still hear Murdoch as his harmonies nestle between Martin’s vocals and tight instrumentals.

Belle and Sebastian have always been crafting cheeky little pop tunes. To twee fans, Scots, and Scottish twee fans, among others, these guys are legends. It is difficult, therefore, to try and pick at Write about Love like any other album. To me it just seems less important to critique each song individually than it is to recognize this album for the accomplishment that it is.


November 8, 2010

Due Date

The latest film from comedy heavyweight Todd Philips, writer and director of last years hit The Hangover, comes the new comedy starring Zach Galifinakis and Robert Downey Jr. Downey plays an expecting father put on the no-fly list in Atlanta, a day before his wife is due in L.A. He catches a ride with Galifinakis and his masturbating bulldog. My colleague Julian and I have followed Galifinakis's career a while before The Hangover and we were pumped to see another awkward and insane character. I was surprised to see that Galifinakis did not have the same effect on me as The Hangover and it really seemed that Philips was saving the good material for The Hangover 2, out next summer. Downey brought an unsurprising charming and witty protagonist as usual and having you rooting for him the whole time. The film was a silly dude comedy that made me laugh out loud, but was not as much of a revolutionary comedy as The Hangover.
My review: B


Matt & Kim - Sidewalks

I'll admit, at first I didn't really dig this album, mainly because Sidewalks is much more electronically-based than the two previous Matt & Kim albums. Each song is extremely immaculate and much synthier than their other songs, which makes them hard to get used to. Also, it seemed a bit over-produced. But several listens later, I realised how catchy it really is.

Almost every song has a high replay value, and I think that outweighs any bad mainstream pop vibes that I get from it. There are some songs that put me off a bit, specifically the peppy opener Block After Block, and Good For Great. But other than that, Sidewalks is a fun record that's chock-full of hooks and catchy tunes that shine as bright as the smiles on Matt and Kim's faces when they play live. I think Matt & Kim are headed in a positive direction.

Favorite tracks: Cameras, Where You're Coming From, Northeast, Wires, Ice Melts


Fang Island - Fang Island

Fang Island are young, loud, and immature. What’s not to like? Jamming out on synthesizers and guitars with thirty-year-old amps, these guys make a lot of noise. Dream of Dreams and Careful Crossers open the album well with surprisingly tight arrangements of vocal harmonies and arpeggio guitar lines. Their sound is tastefully rough around the edges at times, giving a great raw feel, which fits really well with their sound. No steam is lost in the middle of the record with Daisy and The Illinois recorded exclusively to make you want to turn your volume knobs to maximum. Matt and Kim influences can be picked up on Life Coach, another loud tune. The young cymbal smashers and distortion punks are weighed down only by their main asset, rawness. It’s a great album at times, but occasionally, especially on the later tracks, they make you wish that they had listened to the track they just recorded before they threw it on the album.