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Friday, December 02, 2011

Freja Loeb - Never Stop Coming Back

"I'll never stop coming back"

I haven't featured all that much Danish music on the blog this year, but I'm always excited when something new comes out. Freja Loeb is an 80's styled rock/pop singer--kind of a cross between Karen O and Ladyhawke. I've yet to do any deep delving into her music, but I'm really enjoying this single. It's the hook that really gets me. For some reason, it reminds me of something No Doubt would have written in their Return To Saturn days. If I'm being honest, though, it was Freja's image that first drew me to her. I saw the cover of her album and had a feeling that the music it represented would be right up my alley. And I was right! Geez, it seems like it's amazing female pop star after amazing female pop star this year. I wonder, where is the male version of this?

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists. Buy the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Thursday, December 01, 2011

Nightwish - Song Of Myself

"A song of need of a courageous symphony"

This new Nightwish album is something else. It's like they took their last one and blew it up to twice the size. If you're a fan of huge orchestral rock, Tim Burton/Danny Elfman, rock musicals or massive choral vocals, you've got to give this a listen. Song Of Myself is the climax of the album, coming at the very end and lasting over thirteen minutes. Of course, the last half of the song is more spoken word poetry than melody, so it does cut itself in two very neatly. And while the last 6-7 minutes makes more sense in the context of the album, the "song" portion is immediately accessible to anyone. I'm a sucker for drama, and this delivers like crazy. In a word, it is epic like nothing else has been epic this year. And I thought Storytime was big! Of course, me being the obsessive music resequencer/cut-and-paster that I am, I've found a way to make this album even better. Basically, combining the best elements from Imaginaerium and their last album, Dark Passion Play, makes something that's pretty much perfect. Maybe I'll post my tracklist later.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists. Buy the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Movie Review: Hugo


I'm an enormous fan of well-made "kid movies," or as I like to think of them, movies for the uncynical and young at heart. I think one of the biggest reasons they appeal to me so much is that they cut to the core of things. Oftentimes, a coming-of-age or childlike film gets right down to who a filmmaker is at their essence. This happens more often when great writers and directors are at the helm of these movies. They feel very personal. That's one of the reasons why I consider JJ Abram's Super 8 to be my favorite movie of the year (there are a hundred more, but this isn't a review of that film). Martin Scorsese's Hugo is right up there, and for many of the same reasons.

Based on a children's book by Brian Selznick (which, it kills me to say, I actually haven't read), Hugo is a completely unique, almost dream-like fable. I went in with little knowledge of the story and no expectations, which I think is the best possible frame of mind to be in before you watch this movie. After about the first fifteen minutes (more of an introduction to the title character's world... which ends with a stunning reveal of 1930s Paris) I found myself utterly engrossed. Riveted, even. This feeling lasted through the entire movie and the weird thing is, it's not a wham bang action thriller with huge plot twists and explosions. It's not the kind of thing I'd expect to be riveted by... yet there I was.

Now that I've given it some thought, I can put it down to several factors. First, the world of Hugo is utterly immersive. The color palette, the cinematography (the angles used to shoot inside the station are just thrilling to watch) and the side stories of the different goings on inside the station all add up to create a sense of place that's absolutely transportive. It's like a classic painting come to life. Story and character aside, it's beautiful to look at. But that's selling the story short. After awhile, you do know where it's going, but the journey to get there had me guessing. What's up with this strange boy's salvaged automaton? Or the mysterious toy seller, or the secrets his dead father seemed to know? I love a good mystery, especially when it pays off as well as this one did. I didn't expect the rich taste of history and filmmaking we get in the film's latter half. This is that deep, personal connection I was talking about earlier. It definitely feels like this is Scorsese's core. You almost expect the movie to head in a fantasy direction. What you get is quite different, and far more affecting.

Finally, I'd be leaving a gaping hole if I didn't at least mention the acting. It's uniformly excellent... "kid movie" or not. I've loved everything that Chloë Grace Moretz's done, so it's no surprise that she's amazing here (and it's nice to see her playing against the Let Me In/Kick-Ass type). Sacha Baron Cohen hams it up a little much here and there, but turns in a performance that ends up to be much more layered than it first seems. Ben Kingsley has one of the tougher performances and plays a critical role in the central mystery. He carries it off brilliantly, of course. And Asa Butterfield, the youngest of the bunch, carries the movie on his shoulders with a pair of ultra-expressive blue eyes that often speak louder than any line he's been given. He's the heart of Hugo, and wouldn't be a total shocker come Oscar nomination time.

The vague marketing isn't doing Hugo any favors, but if you like intelligent, engrossing, character driven movies (that just happen to star a child), you've got to check this out. Hell, if you're a fan of movies and moviemaking in general, I don't see how you could miss it! A


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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Donkeyboy - City Boy

"Underneath this doubt there's an ego"

I've established that Donkeyboy have one of the worst band name in pop music a long time ago, but that doesn't really matter because boy they're excellent. And they're back! City Boy is the first teaser from their upcoming album and, from the sound of it, they're going a little more electronic. While this might not be as lush as their past singles, I'm pleased that it's more uptempo. At first, the processed vocals irritated me, but I've grown to really love them--especially with the overall sound of the record. It will be interesting to see how this band develops. Their first (fantastic) album was a big hit in Scandinavia but couldn't find much traction anywhere else. I'm not sure if this is the song to break them out of cult status, but it's definitely a step in an interesting direction. I'm really loving it, especially the trippy music video.

Donkeyboy - City Boy by MrFavo

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists. Buy the first album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Track-by-Track: One Direction - Up All Night

Though they've got a lot of competition in the UK, One Direction have released the best boyband album of the year by a mile. Not only that, but it's one of the best pop albums of 2011 as well. It's that rare case of a record where every track could be a single. Couple that with the guys' insane popularity and I think we've got a new Take That on our hands. Or at the very least, a new Mcfly.

1. What Makes You Beautiful - Their big, breakthrough single. This is the type of unabashed power pop that manages to cross audiences and appeal to everyone. It's everything these guys should be doing, and one of the year's best singles. 10/10

2. Gotta Be You - This, on the other hand, should never have been a single. It's a nice song and a great album track, but there are stronger ballads on here. It does have a very Christmassy sound, though. 9/10

3. One Thing - Basically What Makes You Beautiful Part II, which explains why it's the next single. Same writers, similar production, and nearly as catchy. This could end up being the band's defining sound. 10/10

4. More Than This - Probably the best ballad on here. It's got a mature, classic sound to it and a wonderful melody with the expected boyband lyrics. Niall sounds especially excellent here. If this isn't a future single, it's a real shame. 10/10

5. Up All Night - An uptempo, catchy track with more of a rock sound. It borders on the novelty side of things, but I really love the Def Leppard-esque refrain at the end of the chorus and all the little hooks that run through the track. As with most tracks on the album, it's a ready-made single. 9/10

6. I Wish - Melody is the focus here, as this is one of the more mature sounding tracks on the album. It's got a throwback sound--a little rock, a little country. It doesn't initially stand out, but becomes better each time you hear it. 10/10

7. Tell Me A Lie - This is such a ready-made hit. Written for (by?) Kelly Clarkson, it sounds a lot like My Life Would Suck Without You (which, ironically, the boys sang on X-Factor). If they really want to break America, this is the song to release. It's one of their absolute best. 10/10

8. Taken - Another ballad, this is a Harry-centric track. It reminds me of something that Hanson would record, and that is no bad thing. It has a very organic feel. 9/10

9. I Want - Probably my least favorite track on the album. It was written by Mcfly and has Queen-esque guitars in it, which should be a great thing. But the melody and lyrics just seem too obvious. Not bad by any standards, but not amazing either. 7/10

10. Everything About You - Ushering in the dancier part of the album, this is a propulsive, repetitive radio track. Maybe a tad too repetitive, but I guess that's sort of the point. It's instantly catchy, for sure. 8/10

11. Same Mistakes - The final ballad, and it's a great one. The melody really appeals to me. It's got an interesting sound that somehow feels a lot more indie than the other tracks on the album. 10/10

12. Save You Tonight - The band's RedOne collaboration, and it's totally RedOne by numbers. That being said, the song's grown immensely on me. The chorus is still a bit underwhelming, but I love the bridge and verses. 8/10

13. Stole My Heart - What a way to end the album! Over a Dynamite-esque beat, the guys have taken the current trend of electro-dance and perfected it. The chorus and production are ridiculous. This needs to be a single! 10/10

* One thing of note about this album is that the tracks are ordered completely wrong. Plus, every b-side they've released is worthy of a place on the album. So here's my new version of Up All Night (Alienhits version):
1. What Makes You Beautiful
2. One Thing
3. Tell Me A Lie
4. Up All Night
5. More Than This
6. Stole My Heart
7. Another World (GBY b-side)
8. Gotta Be You
9. Na Na Na (WMYB b-side)
10. Stand Up (deluxe version track)
11. I Wish
12. Taken
13. Everything About You
14. Save You Tonight
15. Same Mistakes
16. I Want
17. Moments (deluxe version track)
18. Forever Young (deluxe version track)

Album Grade: 9.2/10

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