I finally got around to watching the two newest James Bond movies, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. I'm a fan of quality action movies - the Jason Bourne series comes to mind - so I had high expectations for this new Bond series. I remember when I first heard Daniel Craig was cast as the title character, I thought he didn't visually suit the part. He won me over about two minutes into the first film. After finishing up Casino Royale, I was hesitant to jump into Quantum of Solace. I know it wasn't received as well as the first film, but I was not let down at all. Actually, I think it benefits from better pacing than its predecessor. Either way, these new Bond films are fantastic, and I'm ready for a third one right now.
Put aside that Star Trek Blu-ray, it's time to reflect on the great music that was released in 2009. I think my list of top albums this year is pretty varied, so maybe it'll help you discover some new music that tickles your fancy. Next year I hope to listen to more hip-hop (new and old) and tons of Beatles songs (want!). If you think of an album from 2009 that is sorely missing from my list, let me know.
15. As Tall As Lions - "Is This Tomorrow?"
14. The Swellers - "Do You Feel Better Yet"
13. Paramore - "Where the Lines Overlap"
12. Portugal. The Man - "Do You"
11. Nightmare of You - "Hey Sweetheart"
10. Jay-Z - "Run This Town"
09. fun. - "Be Calm"
08. Brand New - "Bought a Bride"
07. Audrye Sessions - "Dust and Bones"
06. Manchester Orchestra - "Pride"
05. Third Eye Blind - "About to Break"
04. Wale - "Shades"
03. Kevin Devine - "All of Everything, Erased" (this spot could be taken by any of the first five tracks off Brother's Blood)
02. P.O.S. - "Low Light Low Life"
01. mewithoutYou - "A Stick, a Carrot & String"
Artist of the Year
Best New Band
Most Disappointing Album
Say Anything - Say Anything
I Don't Get It
The Dangerous Summer - Reach For the Sun
Releases I Rocked in 2009 That Weren't Released in 2009
AFI - Sing the Sorrow
Alkaline Trio - Crimson
The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds
The Beautiful Mistake - This Is Who You Are
The Benjamins - The Art of Disappointment
Bush - The Science of Things
Butch Walker - Sycamore Meadows
Cartel - Chroma
Cary Brothers - Who You Are
Coldplay - A Rush of Blood to the Head
The Early November - The Acoustic EP
Eve 6 - Eve 6
Frank Sinatra - Songs For Swingin' Lovers!
The Format - Dog Problems
The Format - Snails
Green Day - Nimrod
Gym Class Heroes - As Cruel As School Children
Incubus - Make Yourself
The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Are You Experienced?
Jimmy Eat World - Static Prevails
John Anderson - Seminole Wind
Jonathan Vassar - The Hours and the Days
Lifetime - Jersey's Best Dancers
Midtown - Save the World, Lose the Girl
Muse - Absolution
MxPx - Teenage Politics
The Narrative - Just Say Yes
Ramones - Greatest Hits
Ramones - Ramones
Saves the Day - Can't Slow Down
Various Artists - La Bamba Original Soundtrack
Weezer - The Lion and the Witch
Heartsounds are proof that the punk rock spirit is alive and in good hands. They're a fairly new band, so now is the perfect time to hop on the bandwagon. If you're looking for up-and-comers who are more concerned with substance than style (yes, they aren't that easy to find these days), look no further than Heartsounds' debut album Until We Surrender. Along with singing about the seeming futility of mortality on title track "Until We Surrender" and symbiotic love on "Walking Dead," the band calls out all the "artists" who create music for the wrong reasons:
"So count the numbers and on to the next city. / Preach to the choir of unknowing children / Who will scream back to you with sterile expressions of passion. / Oh how I pity you who think you've struck gold / But you're mining for shit in a sea of coal."
Last night I turned on the TV for a bit of entertainment before bed. Instead I saw a farm worker bash a piglet's head against a pen. He dumped it in a bucket, assuming it died on impact. When told that it was still moving, his response was, "Let it bleed out." It turns out I caught Death on a Factory Farm close to the start, a documentary about an undercover agent who caught video footage of animal cruelty on an Ohio farm, and the subsequent court trial that followed. The focus of the trial quickly became the definition of cruelty, and which forms of death are the most humane and least painful for an animal (the hanging of a pig is the crux). It is a clash between an outside team that is clearly appalled by the video footage and a farming community that accepts it as old fashioned farm business.
As far as I'm concerned, when farm workers become exuberant when carrying out various forms of slaughter they have lost basic human empathy. And aside from the death, the living conditions of the pigs is abhorring. It is a shocking film, and it raises issues that need to be addressed immediately.
It was about time I picked up a Jay-Z album. The Blueprint 3 is pretty much a platform for Jay-Z to celebrate the greatness of Jay-Z, and I'm not complaining. There are some solid hits on this album that make it well worth the price of admission. I was fortunate enough to pick it up for $3.99, and Amazon MP3 is currently offering it for the very fair price of five bucks. Tracks like "Run This Town" and "Empire State of Mind" are obvious album standouts, but maybe you don't know how outrageous and funny some of the lyrics on the album are. Example:
"No I'm not a Jonas / Brother I'm a grown up / No I'm not a virgin / I use my cajones."
I know, good stuff. Oh, and "On to the Next One" will forever be my Vegas song. Double your money and make a stack.
I had been meaning to listen to a Paramore album, so I'm glad I got a chance to hear Brand New Eyes this week. Since this is the first Paramore album I've heard, I cant' say whether the band has grown/matured/whatever, but I'm sure these new tunes will not alienate their fanbase. The music is standard pop punk fare, but Hayley Williams' vocals really propel the songs forward. Now it's clear to me why Paramore's music is adored by young music fans who want to rock out, and it explains why I overheard two teenage girls at the movie theater singing along to "Misery Business" without the slightest inkling of public embarrassment. My favorite moment album moment comes during the track "Where the Lines Overlap" when the music cuts and Williams belts out, "No oooooone [her voice gets a bit surly at the end] is as lucky as us" (2:12). I don't know how many new fans will be drawn in by this album, but it is definitely worth a $3.99 digital download. So go ahead and find out why Hayley Williams is cool like Thundercats.
On a Fueled By Ramen side note, I wish I was as into the new Swellers album as much as others seem to be, although I really like the lyrics to "Dirt."
I hope by now everyone has found a band they enjoy through our Absolute 100 feature (major props to Julia and Blake for pulling extra weight this year). My picks can be found below, and make sure to check out Moonshine Matinee as well -- we were unable to include them in the final list due to some technical difficulties.
Heartsounds - San Francisco, California AP.net Profile | Myspace Why We Like: Quick drum beats, fast guitar strumming, high energy, blaring hooks -- yup this sounds like punk rock. Heartsounds (catchy name, right?) already have a few admirers here at AbsolutePunk.net, and it's time to expand their audience. Ben Murray and Laura Nichol, the dynamic duo who form Heartsounds, remind us why we fell in love with the punk rock genre all those years ago. Buy their new album Until We Surrender and immediately burn a copy for your car CD player. You'll want to sing along with this one. RIYL: The Swellers, The Loved Ones, How Water Music
Slave To a Heart That Strays
Jonathan Vassar & the Speckled Bird - Richmond, Virginia AP.net Profile | Myspace Why We Like: If you were siting at ease in a rocking chair paying mind to only the natural world before your eyes, you'd want Jonathan Vassar and his acoustic guitar by your side. Though artists are always borrowing elements from the past to create their current sound, Vassar sounds like he could have shared a stage with classic country and folk acts on The Johnny Cash TV Show. It's a rustic sound that time appreciates. Vassar doesn't offer big hooks to catch fickle listeners, but instead rewards patient minds who remember a time when a musician's studio was the open air. Triple Stamp Records knew exactly what they were doing when they signed this gentleman. RIYL: David Shultz and the Skyline, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits
Turn Down the Sun
Moonshine Matinee - Dupage and Will County, Illinois AP.net Profile | Myspace Why We Like: It's about time "John Rowland" became a household name. Rowland first caught our attention with his great Limbeck-esque band Dorsey, and he's currently moonlighting as the lead singer of Moonshine Matinee. Though the band is brand spankin' new, the music is an affable kind of folk-meets blues-meets rock 'n' roll soul that sounds pleasantly aged. Become a fan of Moonlight Matinee now, before Rowland starts up another talented band you're missing out on. RIYL: Dorsey, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Good Old War
The Mysterious Disappearance (Jesse James)
The Narrative - Brooklyn, New York AP.net Profile | Myspace Why We Like: When your unsigned band receives the coveted Henderson seal of approval, you know you've got something special. The Narrative are the kind of raw, young talent that makes lesser bands envious. The charming duel vocals of Jesse Gabriel and Suzie Zeldin on Just Say Yes are some of the best you'll ever find on an introductory EP, and the music is alluring in its own right. Stream the EP on the band's AP.net profile and fall in love. RIYL: Lydia, Death Cab for Cutie, Destry
The Soldier Thread - Austin, Texas AP.net Profile | Myspace Why We Like: It feels a bit redundant adding The Soldier Thread to this list of up-and-coming artists. Many of the Absolute 100 picks are made based on the promise of further maturity, but as of this moment The Soldier Thread sound ready to rule the world with their haunting ambiance. There's an engrossing density to their sound that is made all the more special by the addition of lead singer Patricia Lynn and her viola. Often a band that falls under the "ambient" headline will better serve listeners as background music (for studying, relaxing, what have you), but The Soldier Thread don't make the kind of music that is secondary to anything. RIYL: Death Cab for Cutie, Eisley, Copeland, The Narrative
Ah, Little Toot. You would make the ocean liners wait while you make a figure 8.
I recently rediscovered some classic Disney sing-song stories on YouTube that I hadn't thought about in many years. Ah, childhood nostalgia. Did anyone else watch these in school? They were released in the mid-1900s, so I feel like an old man referencing them. Oh well. Click on the links below if you feel like spending time with these animated characters that are drawn from popular folklore. The music used in these is timeless.
"This is what the good guys do. They keep trying. They don't give up."
We have blasted the earth and destroyed its life. The sun is hidden behind endless haze. Ashes cover all. A father and son journey south to avoid freezing to death. But death takes on other forms as they travel along the road.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy is heartbreaking. It is a dismal tale of survival that takes place years after a catastrophic flame deluge, and its mood brings to mind stories written by those who endured the Holocaust. This is jarring fiction, and it's important fiction. The Road fits alongside classics like 1984 and Lord of the Flies in all their disturbing glory - it shakes us awake and warns us of the dreadful capacities we possess. Read this.
I recently put together some of my favorite movie soundtracks for Adam Pfleider's (aka duffmanrxbandit) "Five and Alive" blog feature. You can find my picks here, and be sure to keep up with Adam's blog regularly -- it's one of the best on the site.
The Format deserve a couple spots on the (500) Days of Summer soundtrack. Their pop melodies dealing with joyous sentimentality and crippling heartbreak are very much akin to the relationship shared by onscreen couple Tom and Summer. I hesitate to call (500) Days of Summer a romantic comedy, because that genre is generally predictable and crusted in cotton candy. This film is definitely funny - more so than Funny People - and there is heartfelt romance. But it's also creative and more honest than most romantic comedies care to be. Tracing the highs and lows of Tom and Summer's relationship, it's easy to sympathize (let's say empathize), to feel pieces of yourself projected. (500) Days of Summer is a sweet film, one of my favorites this year.
If you love love, you love being in love, and you don't care what it does to you, you need some Summer in your life.
I know I'm twenty-four years old, but that doesn't stop me from wanting some TMNT swag to celebrate the Turtles' 25th anniversary. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was one of my favorite cartoons many years ago, and the first couple movies are pretty impressive, considering the absurd premise of talking, crime fighting turtles.
As my NES cartridge for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shows, there was once a time when the Turtles all wore red bandannas. These guys look tough (except for Mikey, who looks silly):
I remember shopping with my mom when she bought my brother a set of the original action figures for his birthday. I had quite a collection myself:
I've been hooked on graphic novels this year, so of course I'd want to learn more about the mythos behind the shells:
Though it wasn't Halloween, I once paraded around in a Turtles costume when I was a young lad. Why not relive those glory days:
A film starring Brad Pitt as the leader of a band of Nazi hunters should be amazing, but Inglourious Basterds is only okay. I expected Quentin Tarantino to really deliver with this one, to remind me why I love Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, but the film's just not at that level. Rather than hanging on every word of dialogue, I found myself waiting for the Basterds to show up again, because they're easily the most entertaining part of the movie. The film is long, it sort of drags, but at least Lieutenant Aldo Raine can be remembered alongside such greats as Jules Winnfield. This quote courtesy of Kirk Honeycutt sums things up pretty well:
"The film is by no means terrible -- its two hours and 32 minutes running time races by -- but those things we think of as being Tarantino-esque, the long stretches of wickedly funny dialogue, the humor in the violence and outsized characters strutting across the screen, are largely missing."
As it stands, District 9 was a better way to spend my $8.75, and I'm still looking forward to 9.