May 14, 2011

Thee Oh Sees - Castlemania

Thee Oh Sees have been rocking the whacked-out garage rock scene for about 5 years now, yet they've released 6 or 7 LPs, a live album, a bunch of EPs, some comps, and a handful of 7 inches. And if that wasn't enough, they're supposed to be releasing another LP this fall. Yet it only occurred to me that they might be rushing things after listening to last year's 'Warm Slime', a fairly disappointing release, which didn't have much to offer other than a couple good tracks, and a 13-minute, mostly boring jam. It didn't take a lot to get my hopes up for this release though, especially after listening to the blissfully catchy opening track 'I Need Seed' back in April.

It's safe to say that Thee Oh Sees have severely toned down the whole loud, raw, in-your-face garage rock approach that admittedly made me fall in love with them in the first place, and replaced it with an even more raw, psych folk sound. In other words, the raw electric guitars have for the most part been replaced with raw acoustic guitars. Unfortunately I can see this being a major turn-off for more than a few people, but it's totally refreshing to hear these guys out of their comfort zone. Above all, the melodies are still top-notch, especially on Corprophagist, Stinking Cloud, Pleasure Blimps, A Wall A Century 2, and The Whipping Continues. The psychedelic aspect is still there too. If anything, it's even more so.

Other stand out tracks include the sheer raw power of Corrupted Coffin, the addicting little 1-minute track Spider Cider, the cleaner-sounding Blood on the Deck, which has a nice solo, and their excellent rendition of The Creation song If I Stay Too Long, which is a little bit ironic, because both are bands that should be more popular than they already are. All of the other tracks are highly enjoyable too, with the exception of the title track, which though pretty epic-sounding, is a little too hectic for its own good, and too ill-fitting to the rest of the album. I Won't Hurt You and the closing track What Are We Craving? also get old pretty quick, and set the album back a little, which sucks because those are the two main tracks with long time Oh Sees member Brigid's vocals, and she has a really likable, soothing voice.

Coming in at a little over 40 minutes with 16 tracks, Castlemania is a refreshing, fairly strong comeback from the mostly tiresome misstep 'Warm Slime'. It didn't come close to reaching the heights of Thee Oh Sees' strongest effort 'Help', but I didn't expect it too. For now, I can't stop listening to it, and that has to count for something.

P.S. - The link for I Need Seed is actually a link to an awesome stop action music video.

1. I Need Seed
2. Corprophagist (A Bath Perhaps)
3. Stinking Cloud
4. Corrupted Coffin
5. Pleasure Blimps
6. A Wall, A Century 2
7. Spider Cider
8. The Whipping Continues
9. Blood on the Deck
10. Castlemania
11. AA Warm Breeze
12. Idea For Rubber Dog
13. The Horse Was Lost
14. I Won't Hurt You
15. If I Stay Too Long
16. What Are We Craving?


May 13, 2011

Architecture in Helsinki - Moment Bends

The problem of bands that base their sound on childish instruments and melodies is that, at some point, they have to grow up. The cute niche of indie rock, now far distant from its 90s predecessor, the twee scene, has, in recent years, become characterized by childlike instruments. Xylophones and kazoos made bands like Architecture and Helsinki. However, Architecture could only clap their hands and sing together at circle-time for so long. After relatively positive reception of their debut, Fingers Crossed, Architecture in Helsinki released a few redundant follow-ups which wore thin their welcome in the genre. After 2007’s weak Places like this, it was clear the band had to mature. With Moment Bends, the latest release from the Aussie cute-pop group, it was make or break. In all honesty, it sucks.

Perhaps the strangest novelty of Moment Bends is its instrumentation. The joyful bounce that made Architecture enjoyable to listen to is surprisingly absent for long spells on Moment Bends. Synthesizers, cold and lifeless, weigh down parts album, especially the central tracks W.O.W and Sleep Talkin’. But most importantly, you won’t find all the instruments used here in a fourth grade music classroom. The instrumentation is much less carefree, but, at the same time, shamelessly produced.

As a matter of fact, the production on this album is a huge double-edged sword. The studio effect can take credit for the surprisingly catchy hit Contact High and the euphoric instrumentation of Escapee. However, the hyper-produced, often artificial production virtually nullifies any hipster-cred that the Aussies had left. The cute-pop fans, who, to be fair, represented a massive percentage of this band’s initial success, are likely burning any Architecture in Helsinki albums they owned. Whether this abandonment of a great portion of their band’s fan base was a wise move or not is still up in the air. Architecture in Helsinki are no longer playing with recorders and recording in tiny closets; they’re trying to make it big.

However, the worst and most important change on Moment Bends is the singing. What the hell happened? Like, actually, what the hell happened? Architecture in Helsinki’s vocals have been butchered on Moment Bends. This slaughter is best characterized by the closer, B4 3D, which reeks of the singing and dancing boy bands of the early 00s. The vocals on W.O.W make Architecture in Helsinki sound like they’re rolling over and begging the radio to fuck them (to loosely quote Johnny Borrel discussing the Kooks).

Similarly to the cute-pop genre as a whole, Moment Bends’ pluses are its minuses. The lyrics are both cute and immature, the instruments are both peppy and annoying, and the vocals, well, those just suck. The overall coat of polish on the band just looks tacky in the end, and perhaps subtly hints at the lack of overall quality of the band to begin with. Moment Bends reveals that Architecture in Helsinki might just have been a one trick-pony, and a mediocre one at that. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was disappointed.

1. Desert Island
2. Escapee
3. Contact High
4. W.O.W
5. Yr To Go
6. Sleep Talkin'
7. I Know Deep Down

8. That Beep
9. Denial Style
10. Everything's Blue
11. B4 3D


May 8, 2011

Scream 4

Scream 4 is the newest and last in the Scream series that brings Ghostface into the digital era and in my opinion, he fits in just fine. Wes Craven brings Sydney Prescott (Neve Cambell) back to her home town where nothing could possibly go wrong. Shocker, Ghostface is back and this time he has a digital twist of streaming the killings live to the web. It is up to the hilarious duo of Courtney Cox and David Arquette to find the killer after they have been settled down since the last film. The film tries a little too hard for my taste to integrate the new young cast, but Craven still has the perfect mix of horror and self deprivation that I loved in all three of the other movies. Many critics have said that the first film was the only good one, but I am one of the last people who thinks they have stayed consistently good. It seems like the youth was sort of forced into a movie that would have been perfectly fine without it, but I enjoyed it overall.
My Review: B

Your Highness

Your Highness is the newest film from many-time stoner movie supporter, Danny McBride, who writes and stars as a spoiled medieval prince. The film also stars James Franco as the more heroic prince, who's bride (Zooey Goddess Deschanel) is kidnapped by  an evil warlock (Justin Theroux). This forces both of the princes to go on a quest to save the damsel in distress. Natalie Portman co-stars as a tough archer, also trying to defeat the warlock who killed her family. Portman and Franco put in a great effort to do what she can with one of the dumbest scripts I have heard in a long time, with not a second going by without a masturbation or weed joke. It is obvious that this film was originally a short for Funny or Die that McBride thought he could extend into a feature-length film. If you have to see this movie, see it for the hot and hilarious Portman and Deschanel.
My review: C

May 6, 2011

Top 10 Worst Movie Sequels

I recently heard that the year of 2011 will have the most sequels of any other year in the history of film. To mark the occasion, I have compiled a list of my least favorite movie sequels.

10. The Godfather: Part III: Marlon Brando: The greatest. Al Pacino: awesome. Andy Garcia: meh.
P.S. Sofia Coppola, please dear god never act again.
9. Spiderman: The scene where he dances down the street. Enough said.
8. Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over: I actually enjoyed the first two, but Robert Rodriguez put absolutely no effort into this terrible film, which was just a bunch of annoying teenagers that were far too old to play little kids playing a terribly boring video game.
7. Ocean's 12: Whenever I see this movie, it's just like all the actors are saying "There is no plot or demonstration of any effort put into making this film, but we are pretty so fork over the cash."
6. Terminator: Judgment Day: In retrospect, this film was actually not that bad of a movie. I think I only didn't like it because the first sequel blew the first away and might have been one of the best sequels of all time, so I expected this movie to be a gift from God when it ended up just being okay.
5. Batman and Robin
4. The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day: A film that once stood for one of the most thought-provoking messages in indie cinema, came back with this meaningless violence once they knew it had become a cult flick. If you are a real true fan of the original, you hopefully have never seen this.
3. Men In Black II: want an effective way to ruin a sequel to a decent movie? A talking pug-dog, that will do the trick.
2. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace: I don't know this is one of the clearest things I remember about this movie, but I saw it when I was pretty little and seen all the others already and when I saw it in theaters, all I could think about was "Is Jar-Jar Binks mentally disabled?" I still wonder this today and if you re-watch this crappy movie with that question in mind, you will see it completely differently.
1. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of The Crystal Skull: I can not give you a brief one sentence synopsis of why this film sucks so hard because when ever I think about it, its like I go into the stages of grief. First, denial ("I bet it was just a goof, the real one will come out in a couple years!"). Then, anger ("A FLYING SAUCER? REALLY? THAT'S YOUR ENDING?") and finally, i go into a deep depression ("They pissed on Indy's grave, there is no hope for the world"). I think later I might transcribe the tangent I give about this terrible film to random people on the street that takes hours to explain.

Sucker Punch

Sucker Punch is the newest film from semi-animated director of 300 and Watchmen, Zack Snyder. The film centers around Baby Doll (Emily Browning) being forced into a Brothel/strip club/insane asylum after she tries to kill her evil stepdad. Baby doll and the other girls are forced to dance for high powered politicians and a little something extra (if you know what I mean) and they dream of escape through a parallel universe Babydoll creates where they fight dragons, zombies, samurais and so many more over foes with Snyder-style graphics and production value. When I first saw this trailer, i was so excited to see some good old fashion ass-kicking, but was disappointed to see that it was exactly like an eleven year-old boy had written and directed it. The only thing I can never hold against Snyder and kept my attention through the whole film was the punk-rock, ass-kicking tunes he always brings to his films, with tracks from Bjork, Queen and Beck. I also have to give credit to Snyder for his gorgeous graphics, but without a good storyline like Watchmen or 300, the novelty wore off. I would say if you are a pre-pubescent boy, go check out this flick, but to everyone else out there, just get the soundtrack, listen to it and imagine your own better movie to go with the great music.
My review: C-

May 5, 2011

Brendan Returns with The MovieFortnight!

To my many loyal readers-

I have been insanely busy with school and all that stuff that I have had no time to write. I feel so crappy that I have been such a deadweight as Owen and Julian have kept up writing the awesome reviews, that I have created the Movie Fortnight. for the next two weeks, I will write at least 2 reviews/articles a day. I promise to stick to my goal and will write many more as we move into summer.

May 1, 2011

tUnE-yArDs - w h o k i l l

Sound-a-likes: Dirty Projectors, Micachu, Deerhoof

After giving w h o k i l l about ten thorough listens all the way through, I think I can confidently say that this is one of the freshest things I've heard in a while. The main instruments of this album are Merill Garbus' amplified ukelele, and her unmistakeably unique voice. Saxophones, primal drum beats, and a booming bass are also prominent. Oh yeah, and there's tons of looping, drum-wise and vocal-wise, which is an automatic plus in my book. Apparently she went to Africa before the recording of the album, and that seems to rub off on the music quite a bit.

Not only is this one of the freshest things I've heard, it's also quite strong, and in-your-face. Right out of the gate, the album opens with an unexpected beat, and Garbus' powerful vocal delivery. Not the most inviting way to start off the album, but it worked just fine for me. I only had to hear the first minute of the quirky next track Es-So, and I knew I would love this album. Gangsta only pulled me in further, with it's upfront beat and brilliant bass line. It's honestly something I can listen to for hours on end. Plus Garbus contorting her voice to sound like an ambulance makes the track amazing. The saxophones are a nice touch too.

The blissful eccentricity continues on tracks like the primal-sounding Bizness, where Garbus' vocals are especially enchanting, the light-hearted You Yes You, and Killa, the upbeat closing track with a bit of added sass and another classic bass line.

Now, a word of warning. Like I said, this stuff is very strong, and the kookiness only lets up on a few tracks, those being Powa, which is probably my favorite track here, Wooly Wolly Gong, and Riotriot. I can see this album being very off-putting to a lot of people. I can't promise you that you'll like it. You may even find it completely revolting, I don't know. You'll just have to see for yourself. But I can guarantee you that you won't forget it.

1. My Country
2. Es-So
3. Gangsta
4. Powa
5. Riotriot
6. Bizness
7. Doorstep
8. You Yes You
9. Wooly Wolly Gong
10. Killa