Star Wars Ep. 7 – An opinion piece.


So, the day finally arrived. Star Wars Episode VII has arrived in my lifetime and George Lucas has nothing to do with it! I’m not saying this is a good thing or a bad thing, but considering how I generally dislike the “prequel” trilogy of the early part of this century – I awaited this one with somewhat baited breath. While I am mostly pleased with what JJ Abrams gave us, there were some aspects that I feel could’ve been handled better and some that even exceeded not only my expectations, but anything I could have imagined on my own. Needless to say, its a landmark film for me for being the first 8am release day screening I’ve ever attended recreationally. At any rate, here are my thoughts on the details of the film:PLEASE NOTE – From this point forward this entire piece is one gigantic spoiler. If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t read further, unless you don’t give a fuck — then by all means continue.

I’m going to start by giving a general overview opinion and then a good, crap, and in between detail section. I’ll close with what I think about the future.

Let me start off by saying that I enjoyed the film very much. I took a few days after my initial viewing as I clearly felt I was on a bit of a “contact high”. As that receded, I began re-thinking some things and ended up seeing the film again a few days ago and was disappointed with a lot more than I initially was. While I feel Abrams and his entire team accomplished a great deal, the amount of plotholes, questions raised, and overall “feeling” of the film leaves more to be desired than I expected after my first viewing.

The overall critical aspect of the film is that it very much feels like a “rehash” or to be gentler, a “reboot” of 1977’s A New Hope. I agree with this generalization wholeheartedly and while I understand the reasoning for going this route, I think it was a bit disingenuous and may prove to be the series’ undoing as we move forward. Considering Disney is literally planning a Star Wars film for every year for at least the next 5 years, burnout is a higher possibility than ever before. Had this episode been coined a “A Newer Hope”, it would not have been a lie. At the end of the day, I think JJ Abrams played this episode entirely too safe, which was arguably necessary after the prequel trilogy. However, it’s a laudable achievement and not a bad film.

The Good:

Rey – I especially enjoyed Daisy Ridley’s portrayal of this plucky young scavenger from the planet, Jakku. She carried her weight impressively while onscreen with the icons and generally stole the scene almost every time she was there. I have very little to criticize about this character or performance, but on my second viewing I laughed out loud when she mind controlled the stormtrooper while she was a prisoner and not for the comedic value (although that stormtrooper was portrayed by Daniel Craig, which is kinda cool). Her Force powers were almost too refined. I assume we’ll get an explanation for this, but my initial thought is that it was just an easy way to get her out of those situations in the film.  That said, I was on the edge of my seat during the lightsaber duel with Ren, in a scene that was reminiscent of and a more frenetic version of The House of Blue Leaves scene in Kill Bill when Beatrice Kiddo duels O-Ren. (O-Ren/Kylo Ren) I wonder if that was an Abrams Freudian slip.

The Demise of Han Solo – I knew someone was going to die and my guess going in was that it was going to be Han. I was dreading the moment even though I did not know it was coming and I was pretty blown away with how it was handled. Considering the criticism I have over the introduction of Kylo Ren (below), this scene almost wholly reinvigorated my interest in where they’re going with Ren. Kudos to Harrison Ford for stepping right back into the iconic role one last time and proving he’s one of the most under-appreciated actors in terms of skill ever. He’s more than just a star. The only gripe Id make is that when Rey/Chewie make it back to Leia, Chewie non-chalantly walks by Leia without even a look. Maybe that’s how Wookies grieve I guess.

Technical aspects – The dogfighting sequences were outstandingly produced and the use of practical effects was seamless with the CGI. This was a well-crafted film technologically and I appreciated how it was paced.

Luke Skywalker – Perhaps the only way I was spoiled going into the film was that Luke had a very small role. His 2-3 minute long scene at the very end is easily my favorite in the entire film. From the moment you see him with the back turned to the camera I had chills and when “The Force Theme” is playing was just pitch perfect. I was disappointed initially with the minor spoiler, but the payoff ended up being fantastic. “Bring on Episode VIII”.

The Bad

General Hux – Domhnall Gleeson is a very strong actor who possesses a good amount of gravitas and nuance (see Ex: Machina), however his portrayal of this was so hammy and so over the top, he just lost me in every scene he was in. Was JJ yelling “More Himmler” or “More Heydrich” at him in between takes?

The First Order – The first episode of “The First Order” being the lead baddie was a bit eh. I did not find them very imposing and their whole existence in the Star Wars Universe is perplexing at this point. My guess? They’re a red herring. There’s something deeper going on here.

Starkiller Base  – This is in line with my previously mentioned and more fuel for the”A Newer Hope” criticisms. Oh, its just a REALLY BIG Death Star. C’mon guys. Please don’t build another one in time for Episode IX.

Captain Phasma – They take the coolest looking stormtrooper EVER created and turn her into a pushover. Was it all for the trash compactor line? I find it hard to believe someone who is as seemingly badass as she would be pushed over like that. They have some work to do to fix this character.

As you can see, my gripes are almost entirely about the villains.

The Wait And See

Kylo Ren – An overly petulant Emo bastard who betrayed his entire family. The first half of the film I hated Ren and not in the villain/heel way. I just thought he was a shit character. His outbursts were comical (the scene where the two stormtroopers turn around while hes throwing a tantrum is hilarious though). He’s got something in common with Luke now though having killed his father. There’s something to be said though that from the moment he removes his mask, his character gets a lot more interesting and killing Han was the best thing to happen to his character.

Finn – So stormtroopers aren’t all clones now? John Boyega did an admirable job and overall his performance was inoffensive, but I can’t say I was impressed with him or his character. I didn’t hate or like Finn, but I am interested to see where they go with him.

Snoke – Terrible name and I doubt that’s his real name. I think Snoke has potential to go either way. It will be an interesting few years to see what else they have planned, but a bit too Palpatine-ish in his introduction. It was telling to me how he basically blows off the fact that Starkiller Base was destroyed and caring more about continuing Ren’s training. More fuel to my theory that “The First Order” is a bunch of showy horseshit.

Overall despite my gripes I did enjoy the film. I don’t think its a patch on Lucas’ original trilogy and I’m praying that Episode VIII is not a rehash of Empire. Rian Johnson is a very capable director and I have a strong feeling he can deliver. There’s a lot of questions to be answered. One other critique I read asked a question I have too. Did everything Luke, Leia, and Han accomplish in 4-6 end up being meaningless? They’re all miserable in Episode VII and rightfully so.

Grade: B+

In the hierarchy, I’d rank this one 4th overall in terms of quality. Better than the prequel trilogy, but not a patch on any of the original trilogy’s films.



Film Review: The Summit (2012 – Documentary)

220px-The_Summit_poster The Summit is a 2012 Irish documentary about an ill-fated K2 climbing attempt by a group of expeditions on the mountain in 2008. The incident is one of the largest losses of life on a 8000 meter peak and attained mainstream attention that had not been seen in mountaineering community since the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, which was chronicled in Jon Krakauer’s now classic, Into Thin Air.

I’d been looking forward to watching this film for well over a year when I first read that it was being released. As a very amateur mountaineer, I, like many of the people who are profiled in this film, are and were likely motivated by the great successes and failures of the mountaineers of history. This is a community of like-minded individuals where names like Hillary, Messner, Bonington, Scott, and Kukuckza are considered to be on the par of great athletes like Jordan, Montana, and Ruth. I myself have read countless volumes of literature describing both colossal successes and the amazing failures, the latter of which usually resulted in the loss of a life if not lives. There’s a reason why I’m on a first name basis, at least in the rhetorical sense with people like George Mallory (a hero of mine), Sandy Irvine, Toni Kurz, Andreas Hinterstoisser, Joe Tasker, Peter Boardman, and Wanda Rutkiewicz. Mostly because while I respect and have great admiration for what they accomplished in their lives (in every case very short), but because I want to avoid what happened to them on the great peaks of this amazing Earth like the Eiger, Everest, and Kangchenjunga. Herzog’s Annapurna is as gripping in its success as Into Thin Air is in describing the terrible tragedy that unfolded on Everest in 1996. I’ve been fortunate enough in the past few years to do some very minor climbing in the Alps and to stand at the foot of great Himalayan giants, knowing the history of who came before me and what had occurred, both great and terrible high above me.

The 2008 K2 disaster has long struck me as entirely avoidable as is the case with many mountaineering disasters in hindsight. There are 3 books that focus solely on the disaster that I’ve read (Bowley, van Rooijen, and Wilkinson) with another 2 that I’ve yet to read (O’Brien’s bio of Ger McDonnell, and Marco Confortola’s whose book has yet to be translated to English). That’s 5 books in 5 years, a somewhat staggering amount. I’m also sure (and eager) to read anything that Cecilie Skog may have to say, who is in my opinion among the most sympathetic figures to emerge from this terrible event in 2008. Needless to say, my respect and admiration for Cecilie Skog and Pemba Gyalje Sherpa, know no bounds.

The Film.

The film is a good documentary that is composed very similarly to the wonderful “Storm Over Everest” (2008), made by the inimitable David Breashears about the 1996 Everest disaster. It has both actors re-enacting key moments on the mountain, actual footage, and is narrated mostly by the participants both there and those that were waiting for their loved one (in this film’s case, only Ger McDonnell) back home.  It starts at the very beginning of the trek into K2 with very brief background information and then thrusts right into the climb itself. Its a very tight 97 minutes. I’m not the spoiling type, so I’m not going to go over the minutiae of the story. One of the real joys of this film is seeing and hearing from the Italian great Walter Bonatti, one of the greatest explorers this world has ever known and who was a member of the first K2 expedition that reached the summit, but he himself did not, however, I am critical of this inclusion below.

What worked.

The use of actual footage in this documentary cannot be understated. The mountain views are truly spectacular and legitimate. You see the actual climbers in the midst of their climbs, 11 of which did not return. You see the beauty and the grim. Hearing from Ger McDonnell’s loved ones was truly touching and you can feel their agony and the weight of their loss in these words. On a whole, its a fairly meticulous project that years obviously went into. Hours after my viewing, I will not forget the sound effect of a serac calving into an avalanche, which is a sound that will stick with you whether you climb or you don’t.

What didn’t work.

-Bonatti, through no fault of his own. It was clear that the filmmakers were trying to convey the history and weight of the mountain with the inclusion of the Bonatti interviews, but the cuts and interjections he provided took away from the story this film is trying to tell in both content and the way they were cut into the film. It was truly remarkable to hear from this man, who lived a life that volumes have been written about and to see actual footage from the 1954 expedition was amazing. I do not feel that it added to the 2008 story. Bonatti’s story could and should be a documentary on its own. In my opinion, the 1953 American Expedition would’ve been better served as a historical waypoint as the Bonatti expedition was a success save for the controversy that followed.  It’s arguable that Pemba Gyalje’s actions on K2 during these days is “up there” with Pete Schoening’s miraculous belay. I was truly excited to hear and see this man in this film, but the purpose of his inclusion is never fully understood as there’s no real similarity between the expeditions. There is a distinct disconnect concerning the historical connection the filmmakers are trying to make.

-The entire story was not told – I understand the limits of film making. However, this film as a documentary briefs over far too much important and in some cases, incredible detail. As its an Irish-made film and had the full participation of the McDonnell family, I knew it was to be “Ger-slanted”. This is understandable and respectable, as I gained even more admiration for him as a person through this film. However, I felt that the lack of detail of Pemba’s actions, Wilco’s incredible ordeal to survive, and the all too brief explanation of Hugues’ and the Koreans deaths were a disservice to the viewer and to their memory. The explanation for Mr. Kim not being heard from is appreciated.  Not hearing from Maarten van Eck or Heleen van Rooijen was disappointing. I hope that a “director’s cut” is one day viewable as the entire story of these days in 2008 deserve to be told. The detail is paid to one member of the expedition more than any other, which again, is understandable considering the source but a bit of a disservice to the rest of the members of the expedition and to the viewer. The end comes all too swiftly.

Should you see it?

Yes. It’s a well made and thought out piece for both the non-mountaineer and mountaineer alike. The actual footage is extraordinary, the interviews are cohesive and plotted well. If this is your introduction to the story, there is a lot that isn’t covered that deserved to be. It’s not definitive, however I feel that the promotion purports it to be. It’s focus wants to be wider, but in the end it’s narrow and not quite all encompassing. It feels incomplete in many respects and its slanted towards one member of many who perished in this incredible tragedy.

Grade: B-

My Favorite Albums, Tracks, and Gigs of 2013

As you can tell by now, I don’t post on this blog as much as I did when it first started. Living in the metropolitan NYC area has its advantages and disadvantages. One of the disadvantages is finding time to sit down and blog. I do miss it, even if my activity doesn’t show it, and I’m ever hopeful that the coming year will see a resurgence. That being said, this is my favorite time of the year and there’s really no way I could not make a Best Of post.

In respect to the music of 2013, I found 2013 to be exceptionally strong. While I personally felt it was missing that one “grab you by the balls – never forget me” record, I believe that the year on whole was great. Last year, I felt that it was a strong year for debuts, this year was more established acts regaining/maintaining footing.

Enough jibber-jabber, here’s my list(s):


4d1b2902#1 Mazzy StarSeasons Of Your Day – I struggled with my #1 choice this year. By the time I published this past I wavered between the top 4 and felt strongly with each choice that it was the right one. However, when push comes to shove, I have to go with my favorite and that is this sublime album after a 17 year absence. Rarely do acts that decide to take such a long break come back with an album this strong, but Hope Sandoval and David Roback et al. did. This album has more in common with Hope’s work with the Warm Inventions than it does the Mazzy Star most know from the early 90s in that it’s more stripped down and laid back, but with tracks as great as “I’ve Gotta Stop” & “California”, it’s perfectly understandable.

artworks-000049298070-f0ntn6-t500x500#2 HeliotropesA Constant Sea – Despite my opening dribble before presenting my list, this year was not short of strong debuts. Heliotropes excel in wielding their influences as weapons. This is an album dripping with strong hooks and melodies that bring back memories of greats like Ozzy-era Sabbath and Nirvana (their fantastic cover of Nirvana’s Negative Creep here), but at the same time putting their own spin on things and doing it their way. Gorgeous frontwoman, Jessica Numsuwankijkul‘s strong vocals and awesome guitar help propel this record from top to bottom and there’s not one skippable track. The first 2/3 of the record are mostly heavier tracks with the riff heavy “Psalms” and pulsating “Quatto/Joy Unfolds” being among the highlights, but the album takes it easy on the listener at the end with more laid back tunes, basically an aural come down.  An absolutely strong first impression and a band to keep an eye/ear on.  “One of these days I’m gonna jump riiiight out of my skinnnnnnnnnn“. Damn right, Jessica.

Arctic-Monkeys-AM#3 Arctic MonkeysA.M. – Alex Turner is the greatest songwriter of his generation. There, I got that out of the way. There is simply no other way to put it. Arctic Monkeys released their 5th album in 2013 and unlike the previous two releases (2009’s Humbug & 2011’s Suck It & See) both solid listens in their own right, this one seemed to step away from their great formula and add a bit more to the stew. This was the album I debated with most in terms of its ranking. A great listen from top to bottom, this is the band’s best effort since their sophomore release, Favourite Worst Nightmare. Tracks like “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High”, lead single, “Do I Wanna Know”, and the lovely “Fireside”, all help add to an already long list of great songs. I’m still waiting for Arctic Monkeys to release their masterwork, but at the very least the wait is bearing some great fruit.

2013TheNational_TroubleWillFind600G210313#4 The NationalTrouble Will Find Me – I find a lot in common with the #3 and #4 acts on this list. While playing different styles of music, the career arcs are similar in that both bands are regularly releasing very strong albums over the last decade plus and have not had a dud yet. The National arguably saw their largest surge of popularity this year and they released this gem of a record. What I found most pleasing about this was the way the band used their guests. “Don’t Swallow The Cap” w/ Nona Marie Invie adding a backing vocal that confounded me with “WHO WAS THAT” for about five months before I found out it was her. The great St. Vincent on “Humiliation” & Sharon van Etten who appears on multiple tracks. I loved the addition of adding female vocals to The National’s glorious melancholy. Again and similarly to #3, this is a band that has found a formula and have stuck to it for the most part, but are not afraid to add to the stew and improve what they’ve already got going.

166444#5 TOYJoin The Dots – This is the latest album released this year that I’ve listed and I’m ranking it so highly because I’m so damn excited by this band. Not suffering from a sophomore slump, the UK’s TOY bring forward an excellent record that evokes the best feelings about shoegaze/psychedelia and has me championing this band as their career really starts to gain traction. This is an excellent effort with an absolute blinder of a title track and most of all, understand that an album is a cohesive piece of art, rather than just a hodgepodge collection of songs. Strong musicianship and another band not afraid of their influences, if there is one band out of the UK that has emerged in the last two years that I’m excited by, it’s TOY.

#6 The Love Language – Ruby Red

#7 Camera Obscura – Desire Lines

#8 Bill Ryder-Jones – A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart

#9 Thee Oh Sees – Floating Coffin

#10 Julianna Barwick – Nepenthe

#11 Caveman – Caveman

#12 Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away

#13 Still Corners – Strange Pleasures

#14 Rose Elinor Dougall – Future Vanishes EP (technically an album teaser for 2014, but ranking it anyway)

#15 The Asteroid #4 – The Windmill of the Autumn Sky

#16 Anna Calvi – One Breath

#17 Laura Marling – Once I Was An Eagle

#18 Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Specter At The Feast

#19 Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience Part 1

#20 Veronica Falls – Waiting For Something To Happen



#1 Richard Hawley – The Troxy – London, UK  – 2/23/13

#2 The National – Mercury Lounge – NYC  – 5/21/2013

#3 Mazzy Star – Terminal 5 – NYC  – 11/10/2013

#4 Fleetwood Mac – Prudential Center, Newark, NJ – 4/24/2013

#5 Queens of the Stone Age – Brooklyn Masonic Temple – Brooklyn, NY – 6/7/2013

#6 Clinic – Le Poisson Rouge – NYC – 4/20/2013

#7 Jessica Pratt – Union Pool – Brooklyn, NY – 6/1/2013

#8 Esben & The Witch/Heliotropes – Mercury Lounge – NYC – 3/22/2013

#9 The Love Language – Glasslands – Brooklyn, NY – 8/1/2013

#10 Mikal Cronin – Bowery Ballroom – NYC – 6/20/2013

The Best of 2012 – Albums, songs, gigs!

Whoa! Do I suck at blogging or what? Oh, well. I have learned to get used to this fact as time has passed and I will at the very least post a best-of list. I find it kind of funny that my previous year’s best-of is still on this front page. I guess being busy in life is a good thing, so I will go with that as my excuse.

2012 has been a fairly lackluster year on first glance. While I’ve felt there have been some very strong debuts and good stuff from some familiar faces, it seems to have missed that one amazing release that I listen to 10000 times. I usually have my favorite records of the year decided a month in advance of this post, but this year has been remarkably different. I’ve been neglecting putting this piece together simply because I wanted to listen to more. This list is definitely shorter than years past on this blog (2010 & 2011 lists), but it’s definitely got some quality. I am most impressed by the amount of newcomers this year.

And with that, let’s get down to business…


By The Sea#1 By the SeaBy The Sea – By The Sea’s debut offering is a wonderful slice of shoegazey Britpop. A band out of that somewhat famous village, Liverpool, these lads served up nine songs that cohesively form my album of the year. Strong melodies and hooks with a unique “hush” quality to the lead vocals carry the listener through a wonderful menagerie of delightful sounds. Tracks such as the title track and lead single “Dream Waters” are among the standout highlights, but it’s rare with a debut to go from top to bottom and never have a skip. An excellent first foray and arguably the album I was most looking forward to prior to its release, so in that respect, it definitely scored well.

Young and Old#2 TennisYoung & Old – This is one of those albums that kind of snuck up on me. When it was first released earlier this year, I did not give much time to it. I was left a bit lukewarm after seeing the band perform live and I wasn’t prepared to give the follow-up to Tennis’ excellent 2011 debut, Cape Dory, the proper listen it deserved. When I finally came around to this record around September, I was extremely glad I did. This record takes the formula that made their debut so strong and made it even better. With some genuinely fantastic pop-rock tracks like “Origins” & “Petition”, Tennis makes a statement that says they are going to be around for a bit longer. Now if only the live performance matched the studio output, this would be a band to be reckoned with. Alaina Moore possesses a unique vocal timbre that is wonderful when its fully utilized, and I’m eager to hear what they do next.

hvnlp94cdgfwt300x298#3 TOYToy – This is another debut from another excellent English band. Led by Tom Dougall (brother to darling of this blog, Rose Elinor Dougall), Toy are a band in the vein of The Cure and the New Order line of bands. Brooding new wave rock and roll with a mysterious edge to it. The release on venerated UK label, Heavenly Records (home to Doves) is a terrific album that has a mood and mystique to it typically associated with acts that have been around longer and have larger catalogues. The band were not afraid to go 7 minutes long on superb tracks like “Dead & Gone”, as well as releasing some online-only nuggets like the great “Clock Chime”. Along with the #1 on this list, TOY were one of the most exciting discoveries of 2012.

The Spyrals#4 The SpyralsThe Spyrals – Yet another debut and another self-titled one at that! This time the psychedelic offerings of San Francisco’s, The Spyrals.  This was the first release I heard in 2012 (it was released on New Years Day) and was played to about death throughout the spring and summer (still going strong). Chock full of classic psychedelic sounds, blistering lead guitar, and a fantastic lead vocal, The Spyrals have yet to make much noise outside of their own genre, but hopefully that will change soon. With thumpers like “The Rain” and the guttural and hypnotic closer, “Evil Kind”, The Spyrals are able to take a sound very familiar to just about any rock and roll fan, and create new magic.

xlpz9u#5 Tame ImpalaLonerism – Australia’s Tame Impala did something not a lot of bands do this day in age, that’s better their debut album! Lonerism is an exciting psychedelic concoction that exemplifies studio wizardry and songcraft in one fell swoop. If I was able to give an award for “Best Mixed” or “Best Produced” record, this surely would get the nod. This is the type of record that rewards multiple listens, yet the melodies are crafted so well that it has the ability to hook you right from the word go.  They also have a wonderful ability in making the live versions special yet not losing their sonic magic. Songs like “Mind Mischief” & “Feels Like We Only Going Backwards” exemplify the best in merging new sounds with the old. This is a band that has a long career ahead of them if they keep thinking forward and taking chances with their creations.

uvjvb7#6 GOATWorld Music – Goat are incredibly hard to describe, but I will do my best. Smoke a bowl of the best hash or weed you can get your hands on; turn the guitars up to 11; get some chicks to sing harmony, put in a bowl. Press puree. Do it again for good measure. Once you have done that, you might just be able to get an idea of the music of Sweden’s GOAT. Another psychedelic cocktail, this group does it their own way and by the time you finish your first listen, you’re queing it up again, just because. It’s not even worth suggesting tracks to listen to, because they all belong together. Besides, who woulda thunk “Disco Fever” following the double whammy of “Goatman” and “Goathead” would work so damn well?

uwtgk3#7 The VandellesStrange Girls Don’t Cry – The best way to sum up The Vandelles are “surf punk with 60s style pop stylings”. That’s definitely the only way to describe The Vandelles’ latest. An excellent power pop record from top to bottom, Strange Girls… features some really fuzzy guitars, excellent “gnarled” lead male vocals, and some pretty girl harmonies on the back end. Tracks like album opener “I’m Way Ahead of You” are stomped right into you from the beginning of the experience, through the fire of the title track, and right into its closer. The Vandelles take a formula and add their own twist to it very well. Like Tame Impala, a band that takes its album releases seriously, and can also deliver live as well.

CS464372-01A-BIG#8 Stealing SheepInto The Diamond Sun – Another Liverpool act. Another Heavenly Records act. Stealing Sheep do it a bit differently though. Comprised of 3 girls who sing close harmony, this is an indie pop act with some songwriting and composition chops. Very much in tune with other “kitschy” sounding acts like The Talking Heads, Stealing Sheep have a sound all their own and have a quality that is very easy to fall for. Single “Shut Eye” is a excellent tune with a singalong chorus and a wonderful build.

q8xp2u#9 Jake BuggJake Bugg – Well, look at this. Another debut. Another Englishman. Only this time its an 18 year old! I didn’t know what to think when I first heard of Jake Bugg. I was a bit “yeah right” that he was any good considering his age. Whoa, was I wrong. Bugg’s scoring well beyond his years with this  cracker of a debut. Evoking classic singer-songwriters from his own country like Nick Drake, Bugg has that uncanny ability to paint a picture with lyrics that make you think you’re right there with him. He’s also able to incorporate other influences, ranging from Dylan to Bowie throughout a debut that I believe will be remembered 10 years from now for starting a career that has the potential to be very special. He also is able to make the classic sound modern like fellow troubadours in this vein, i.e. Ryan Adams. Personal favorite “Simple As This” is also on my favorite tracks list, and one listen is all you need.

jessica-pratt1#10 Jessica PrattJessica Pratt – Oh? Another debut? Another self-titled? What the hell? And guess what? This is another youngin. I fell in love with this record from moment. It’s a very simple, yet evocative, folksy debut from 19 year old Pratt who like the aforementioned bug has the same gift for lyricism and storytelling in her music. The thing about Pratt that is so captivating, is her very mature sounding vocal. Bathed in mostly the sound of an acoustic guitar, Pratt’s 60’s style folk sounds echo only the very best in this style. You know, the ones who can go only by one name. Joni. Bob. This is an eye-opening debut from someone I expect very big things from. And now I’m off to listen to “Casper” for the 193rd time and cry some more.

11. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange

12. Father John Misty – Fear Fun

13. Cosmonauts – If You Wanna Die, Then I Wanna Die

14. Swans – The Seer

15. The Walkmen – Heaven

16. Rose Elinor Dougall – The Distractions EP

17. Richard Hawley – Standing At The Sky’s Edge

18. Sharon van Etten – The Tramp

19. Beach House – Bloom

20. Ren Harvieu – Through The Night


1. I Already Forgot Everything You Said – The Dig

2. The Night – Rose Elinor Dougall

3. Nancy From Now On – Father John Misty

4. The Way In – Porcelain Raft

5. Simple As This – Jake Bugg

6. I’d Rather Be Lonely – The Black Angels

7. I Wanna Go – Summer Heart

8. Adventures In Your Own Backyard – Patrick Watson

9. Dodecahedron – Beth Jeans Houghton & The Hooves of Destiny

10. Take Us Alive – Other Lives


1. Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs – 12/8/12 – Union Pool, Brooklyn

2. Tame Impala – 11/7/12 – Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn

3. Other Lives – 11/28/12 – Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn

4. The Brian Jonestown Massacre – 8/25/12 – Webster Hall, NYC

5. Swans – 10/10/12 – Bowery Ballroom, NYC

6. Sigur Ros – 7/31/12 – Prospect Park, Brooklyn

7. Spiritualized – 5/7/12 – Terminal 5, NYC

8. The Vandelles/Jesus & Mary Chain – 9/13/12 – Irving Plaza, NYC

9. The Amazing – 11/7/12 – Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn

10. Chelsea Wolfe – 8/18/12 – Highline Ballroom, NYC

10 Movies I Loved When I Was Younger – And Whether They Hold Up For Me Today…

I was sitting around contemplating this post a few weeks ago and decided to watch the 10 films I’ve listed below again. I decided to do this after being a bit peeved after watching one of them and noticing I didn’t quite feel it as much as I did back when I was younger. I’ve limited it to films I saw first up to age 17, the “legal” age for rated R. This list is also in reverse order. All viewings recently were at age 34.

This is #10-#6. I will publish #5-#1 tomorrow.

#10 License to Drive (1988) – Age when first seen – 11. Where first seen? Theatre.

 Ah, the Coreys (Corey Haim & Corey Feldman)! What child of the 80s-90s did not see a film starring the Coreys? I was a big fan and its obvious as you read this list as they appear a few times. This was their first film where they were advertised and marketed as the reason to see this film. It’s also notable for being the film debut of Heather Graham, who is one woman I can say without hesitation that has gotten remarkably hotter (if not  any better at her craft) as she ages. The plotline is really simple. Boy takes drivers test. Boy fails drivers test. Boy can’t bear to reveal to his parents (or friends) that he failed. Boy goes out with friends for the evening without license. Hilarity ensues. Supposedly. I loved this film when I first saw it with my 11 year old mind. It’s also notable because it may be one of the only times I got any friction from my mom on what we were going to see. She knew it was probably going to be crap, but took me to see it anyway because I wanted to go so bad. I had the poster on my wall and counted down the days to go see it. It didn’t disappoint me at the time.

 Does it hold up? Oh, hell no. I watched this again a few nights ago and I could barely get through it. The plot is somewhat believable, but the hijinx that ensue are completely and totally implausible, especially the end, which is one of the stupidest ideas ever put to film. It also has some really painful subplots involving Haim’s sister and anarchist boyfriend, and awful performances by Carol Kane and the aforementioned, Graham. I also hated the performance of Richard Masur, who played Haim’s father. It really is a pile of shit that I don’t care if I ever watch again. The one positive that still holds up is Haim’s performance. His comedic timing was pretty spot-on, and it’s a shame that his life turned out the way it did. Feldman also plays the sidekick to a tee, but he was my favorite of the pair at the time and I remember being disappointed his role wasn’t larger when I first saw it. At age 34, I just wanted the damn thing to be over.

#9 Adventures in Babysitting (1987) – Age when first seen – 9. Where first seen? Rented the VHS.

I remember I really wanted to see this movie when it was out in the theatre, but for some reason, I didn’t get the chance to.  I finally did when it came out on videotape and I remember keeping the tape late and incurring a large late fee which pissed my parents off, but I watched it every day that I had it. I tended to gravitate towards films that put young people in journeys and this was exactly what the title stated. Girl’s boyfriend cancels on date. Girl decides to babysit. Girl’s friend calls girl to tell her she ran away from home. Girl decides to take the kids she’s babysitting with her to the big bad city of Chicago to rescue friend. Time for hilarity.  I enjoyed this film because it was fast paced and I thought Elisabeth Shue was “cool”, which was my 9 year old mind’s definition for “hot”. I also really enjoyed the two male characters in the crew of kids. One of which, Keith Coogan, I watched all of his films and always enjoyed his work when I was younger. Whatever happened to him anyway? The film is interesting for some early performances by actors that are still working and recognizable today. One noteworthy element to this film was that it really got me to want to see what Playboy magazine was all about. I watched it probably 5 days in a row after renting the tape, so I clearly loved it at the time as that didn’t happen often.

Does it hold up? Sort of. Shue’s performance is quite good and it’s a bit of a surprise she didn’t have a longer lasting career with better roles (Leaving Las Vegas is total shit). Notable actors that appear in this film are  uber-80s douchebag character actor Bradley Whitford as Shue’s boyfriend, Penelope Ann Miller as incredibly annoying runaway friend (I commented during my age 34 viewing that she should’ve just been left in Chicago), and Vincent D’Onofrio as a mechanic who reminds the Thor-crazed little girl of Thor. It’s amazing how that guy has let himself go. I didn’t dislike this film as much this time around as much as I disliked the film at #10.

#8 The Lost Boys (1987) – Age when first seen – 9. Where first seen? Rented the VHS.

 This was the film that started it all for the Coreys partnership. It was also a movie that made me hate Kiefer Sutherland, simply because he was so good at playing an asshole. This was also one of the first vampire films I ever saw that had a vampire as a “good guy”. Keep in mind this was well before that Angel asshole or any jackass named Cullen became popular. My mother is quite a fan of horror and science fiction and she actually went to see this in the theatre. It flew under my radar at that age, but she decided to let me watch it when it came out on videotape later that same year. Boy, was that a mistake, but I’ll explain why in a bit. The film’s plot is easy to summarize. Family moves to new town. Older brother sees hot chick who he really wants. Ends up hanging out with some really bad dudes. Younger bro suspects something and learns that the town is a bit of a haven for vampires. Uh oh. Blood-sucking ensues. I thought this movie was totally awesome when I saw it at 9 and for quite a few years after that, it was my #1 all time favorite if anyone asked. The day after I watched it, I decided to become a vampire hunter myself, and I hand-made business cards advertising my new business and passed them out by putting them in neighbor’s mailboxes. This didn’t sit too well with the two old ladies that lived down the street, who got scared and actually called the police. Back during the heyday of VHS, I eagerly anticipated this film’s arrival on the “previously viewed” shelf so I could buy it. I got my mom to buy it for me the day that happened.

Does it hold up? Absolutely it does. The acting is great all the way around and the different take on vampire lore and the introduction of “half-vampires”, is an interesting concept. There is not a bad performance in this film. It’s fast paced, not very gory bar one scene, and is really a lot of fun. It’s also got Jami Gertz back in the day and she is someone who has not aged a bit if you’ve seen her recently. She’s still a stunner. The one negative I would say is that it is a bit dated in some respects. Haim’s character wears the most dreadful 80’s outfits you can think of, and the gang of vampires look like rejects from a Whitesnake video. That’s not to mention the greaseball shirtless saxophone player rock star dude who made me laugh out loud when I watched this a few nights ago. If you can get past the fashion, which I was able to easily, this is still a rock solid horror film with (at least at that time) a different twist on vampires. It’s also got Kiefer Sutherland in one of his best early roles. Jami Gertz though…love her. The soundtrack is pretty good too, even today!

#7 Revenge of the Nerds (1984) – Age when first seen – 7. Where first seen? HBO.

This movie is notable for one specific thing that I will share in a moment, but it’s also notable for being a movie I watched sneakily and while watching, knew I wasn’t supposed to be watching. It’s a pretty simple plot about a group of, well, nerds, who arrive to college and, well, get revenge against the evil jocks who make their lives a living hell . It’s a pretty positive story when looking at it from afar and parallels can be found in all walks of life. Robert Carradine and Anthony Edwards are pitch perfect as the lead nerds (I remember laughing so hard when I saw Edwards on E.R.) with Ted McGinley playing a smarmy quarterback and the always awesome John Goodman as the evil football coach perfectly. I saw a few firsts in this film. One was marijuana. I knew, even at 7, that the scene where marijuana is used, wasn’t cigarettes. And the second, was vagina. While you don’t quite get the view you get in porn, this was absolutely the first time I ever saw a woman’s private area, albeit covered in hair. “We’ve got bush”, and “Hair pie”, were two things I learned to quote early on and continued into middle school. I really enjoyed watching this when I was a kid, and it was one of those few movies that even up through college, if I ever came across it on TV, I would watch it even if it was the 500th viewing.

Does it hold up? This is a bit hard to answer. While I felt watching it this time around that it was entertaining, you can’t help but notice how different things were in the 80s. There are a lot of stereotypes in this film that absolutely would not fly in film today, most notably the depiction of the Omega Mu sorority, which is literally the fat girl sorority and the depiction of the Asian character, which I don’t think would fly this day in age. The end “musical revue” that the nerds put on absolutely does not hold up to the test of time.  It’s amazing to me this film is almost 30 years old. One thing that holds up is John Goodman’s performance, which was quite remarkable watching now. He’s much younger, still huge, but he’s got a great intensity to his performance. Carradine’s charisma is also rather great and it’s easy to see why his character, Louis, is seen as a hero, despite a scene that would probably be considered rape anywhere in the world. Julia Montgomery was a total fox as well. I definitely enjoyed the viewing this time around, but being an adult I can totally see where the actions of the heroic nerds would get themselves into shitloads of trouble if actually occurred. The jocks too, but the nerds seemed to actually have more moments of “wow, they’d totally be arrested for that”. I also totally hate the “Wormser” character and Poindexter kicks ass.


#6 The Goonies (1985) – Age when first seen – 7. Where first seen? Theatre.

 “Goonies never say die!” “Even more amazing than the time Michael Jackson came over to your house to use the bathroom?” “It’s our time down here!“. Ahh, The Goonies. This was one of the first movies that I was able to quote endlessly and I wanted more than anything to be in their crew. I was lucky to have a mom that took me to see this when it was in the theatre. I loved it immediately and I still love it today. It’s also the only film that I completely wore out the first VHS copy I had of it. The plot is far fetched, but very easy. Kids neighborhood is getting closed down for a golf course. Kids find a map to a pirate’s treasure. Kids go to find it. Bad guys chase kids. Adventure and comedy ensue. This is one of the first movies that I really remember seeing the first time. I was actually mad when it was over and I wanted to go see it again the next day (didn’t happen). It’s directed by Richard Donner, who at the time was not known for making adventure films for kids. It’s also got performances by actors who found work well into their adult years, including Sean “Samwise Gamgee” Astin, Josh Brolin who’s blossomed into an excellent actor, as well as featuring the perennial to this list and one of my favorite film characters of all time in Mouth, Corey Feldman. It’s also got the appearance of two characters who are still referenced throughout pop culture in Chunk and Sloth. Just to note, this is the movie that inspired me to write this list in the first place.

Does it hold up? Without question it holds up. It’s a timeless story with excellent performances by almost everyone in the film, great pacing, and lots of cool things that make both kids and adults eyes go wide. I had not seen it in about 15 years before I decided to watch it a few weeks ago, and while I enjoyed the trip down memory lane, I noticed myself nitpicking it for the first time ever. This is a film that I know backwards and forwards. I can quote the characters in almost every single scene and I believe its a film that every kid should get a chance to see when they’re young. It’s very imaginative and a lot of fun. The nitpicking comes from the numerous plot holes and questions I was asking myself. “How does Mikey know where to begin the search?” “How come the map is basically forgotten about 1/4 of the way into the film until they hit the organ?” “How come we never see a good shot of the map?” “Yep, Martha Plimpton has always sucked.” “If Willy’s gold sets off the destruction of the cave, why didn’t Willy escape back in the day?” Despite these newly discovered negatives, it does not take away from my memory of the film, nor did it ruin this return viewing.

2012 – Halfway Favorites

As 2012 hits the halfway mark, I can’t help but think this has been an underwhelming year so far for new music. This by no means doesn’t mean “bad”, I just haven’t been grabbed as strongly as I have been the last two years of this blog’s existence.

That said, there has still been a good number of records I’ve been enjoying, and I felt it a good time to share some of these that you may or may not have heard. This is by no means comprehensive, nor is it in a specific order, but take a listen to some of these if you’ve not had the chance to.

Ren HarvieuThrough The Night – This is a delightful old-school sounding pop record with lush/big arrangements and a girl with a voice that just rips right through you. I was astonished when I first heard this record a few months ago and it’s gotten regular spinnage since that time. If you’ve read this blog at all in the past, you know I’m a sucker for English girl pop, and this is another new discovery that I am quite proud of. Sensually warm vocals and great songs go a long way with me and this girl’s got both.

Listen to Ren’s track “Tonight” here.


The SpyralsThe Spyrals – A band from San Francisco that wield a great psychedelic sound in the vein of some of my favorites like The Black Angels. Excellent guitar work, killer vocals, and a classic sound frame 9 tracks of just damn good rock and roll. This is another discovery that has been getting a lot of play out of me and I am eagerly anticipating getting to see these guys in person. I am a bit shocked they’re still under the radar at this point (the record came out in January), but hopefully in due time they’ll start getting a bit more props. This is a record that sounds timeless to me.

Listen to the entire album here.


 The Walkmen – Heaven – The Walkmen are one of my favorite bands, so it’s no surprise that I’m really enjoying their newest LP, Heaven. It’s hard to really describe this record if you’re unfamiliar with the band’s music, but it perfectly fits the band’s already excellent catalogue. I am also eagerly anticipating hearing a lot of these tracks live, which is where this band truly excel. From the quaint strains of opener “We Can’t Be Beat”, straight through to the closer, this record stays with you after first listen and demands a return. A fitting follow up to 2010’s wonderful, Lisbon.



 Rose Elinor DougallThe Distractions EP –  Oh Rose, how I love thee? Let me count the ways.  Just by looking at this page you can tell that I am a big fan of Rose, who is a fantastic singer, and yes, another English girl. This is Rose’s first release since her excellent 2010 debut, Without Why, and although only 3 songs, it delivers. The reasoning given for this release is that her follow up album will be drastically different from this EP’s particular sound, and she “didn’t want the tracks to go to waste.” This is definitely a gift. All three tracks are scintillating and give Rose a perfect platform to blast off from.  I have and could gush about Rose even more.

Listen to the EP in full here.


 The Brian Jonestown MassacreAufheben – In recent times, I’ve been a bit wary about a Jonestown release. I’ve felt that Anton Newcombe has made some mistakes in album creation and his vision has been a bit hard to grasp. This is completely erased with this newest record, which may go down as one of the band’s best efforts. It’s quite obvious that Anton’s genius was missing the creativity brought to the group by Matt Hollywood, who returns for this effort. A smashing record from start to finish, this may be the most streamlined and most complete Jonestown effort to date. It’s a varied record that goes to a variety of different places and gives you something new with every listen. Love it.

Listen to “I Wanna Hold Your Other Hand” here.


That’s only five, but its a decent start. Some others that I’ve been digging include:

Tennis – Young & Old

Eternal Summers – The Dawn of Eternal Summers

Marissa Nadler – The Sister

Half Moon Run – Dark Eyes

Summer Heart – About A Feeling

Here’s hoping the 2nd half delivers some more good stuff. This isn’t all I’ve dug on so far this year, but these are the ones getting the most out of my ears at this point. With new records from The Love Language and possibly Rose Elinor Dougall releasing her second full-length, I’m anticipating the summer and fall greatly.

Bring It On.

The June Mixtape – Sleepy Time

I was sitting up a bit late, not tired, and debating on what to do and I decided to put together a bedtime mix. This is the type of stuff I like to listen to this time of night. Very mellow. Some instrumentals, some not, some newer, some old. It’s all good though, at least I think so. If you’re having trouble sleeping, why not give it a shot? 🙂 Can be listened below via the widget or the little arrow to download.

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