Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Best Picture: Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, A Star Is Born, Vice

Will Win: Roma
Should Win: A Star Is Born
Biggest Snub: First Reformed

What a weird group of nominees. Five of these movies absolutely deserve to be here: Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, The Favourite, Roma and A Star Is Born. Vice is a movie I wanted to love because a good reminder of how much Dick Cheney sucks is always welcome, and I’m still glad it was made, but I think Adam McKay’s style just didn’t work as well here as it did with The Big Short. It wouldn’t be nominated if it were up to me, but there are bigger fish to fry in this category.

Those fish are Bohemian Rhapsody and Green Book, neither of which should be anywhere near this category. They both follow unoriginal formulas that should’ve been retired a decade ago — Bohemian Rhapsody recycling the same old music biopic script just with a different band; Green Book showing once again that maybe racists will become a little less racist if they just spend some time with a black person. Neither one does their subject justice — Bohemian Rhapsody somehow makes Freddie Mercury and Queen seem no different than a million other musicians, and actually completely makes up major plot points because apparently they just weren’t interesting enough on their own (that’s sarcasm; obviously they were); Green Book distorts Don Shirley’s story, violates his family’s requests and almost totally ignores the eponymous “Green Book,” all in the service of making Tony Vallelonga a star.

There are plenty of more deserving movies that could’ve been nominated. First Reformed is incredibly original and suspenseful and unnerving, was ranked highly in a lot of year-end lists, and got some nominations from other awards bodies. If Beale Street Could Talk was a beautifully made movie that covered important societal issues. Leave No Trace is my personal favorite movie of the year and is still at 100% Fresh at Rotten Tomatoes. If you wanted another blockbuster, Mission: Impossible – Fallout is one of the best action movies ever made and finished in the top 10 of the year at the box office. Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Eighth Grade, Paddington 2… the list goes on.

I thought all year that A Star Is Born was going to be the movie to beat for Best Picture, because it seemingly had everything Oscars voters love — it’s about show biz, it has terrific acting performances, it’s well made, it has great music in it, it took an old Hollywood story and made it new again. I love this movie and would love to see it win here, but all its nominations throughout this awards season haven’t translated to many major wins, and that seems likely to continue at the Oscars, especially given Bradley Cooper’s snub in the Best Director category. For whatever reason, A Star Is Born just hasn’t gotten the awards love it initially seemed destined for, and it’s been pretty disappointing to see.


Top 20 Albums of 2018

Posted: December 9, 2018 in Uncategorized

Before I get started, I just want to say that it pains me to not include the A Star Is Born soundtrack. I love that movie and “Shallow” and “Always Remember Us This Way” are two of my favorite songs of the year, but ultimately the album as a whole just has too much filler to put it in my top 20.

On to the list…

20. Miya Folick – Premonitions

A very promising debut from the Los Angeles singer-songwriter. This is a pop album at heart, but Folick gets there through a variety of influences and sounds, and pairs it all with a great voice.

19. Camp Cope – How to Socialise & Make Friends

Camp Cope is on the growing list of promising artists coming out of Melbourne that also includes the next entry on this list and No. 10 on this list and Alex Lahey and King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard and maybe others? Anyway, this is a great collection of cathartic rock songs that are sometimes sad, sometimes angry and sometimes even hopeful.

18. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs

I’ve seen RBCF compared to R.E.M., and that makes a lot of sense given their jangly pop-rock sound. I also hear a little bit of Loaded-era Velvet Underground. Point is, it’s a very good sound and they’re very good at it.

17. Kali Uchis – Isolation

There is so much going on here in terms of styles (pop, soul, R&B, reggaeton, funk and more) and collaborators (Tyler, the Creator, Bootsy Collins, Gorillaz, Kevin Parker, Jorja Smith and more) that it almost feels like it shouldn’t all work, but it does.


Now that the Oscar nominations are out, it’s time for everyone to argue about them, so here are my takes on who will win, who should win and who was snubbed in the major categories. My top 20 movies of the year are listed at the bottom.

I’m not listing out all the nominees here, so click here if you want to look at those before/while reading.

Best Picture
Will Win: The Shape of Water
Should Win: Get Out
Biggest Snub: The Florida Project

Right now the two favorites, based on other awards results and betting lines, appear to be The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. I think it will end up being The Shape of Water for a couple reasons. One is that there seems to be more backlash against Three Billboards than any of the other nominees, and that will only continue through the final round of voting. Deservedly so. I thought it was a mediocre-at-best movie that doesn’t deserve anywhere close to the awards love it’s getting.

The other is that The Shape of Water led all movies with 13 nominations and got love all across the board, from directing (for which Three Billboards didn’t get a nomination) to the acting categories to the technical categories. I really liked The Shape of Water, but not quite to the level of considering it one of the absolute best movies of the year. I’d still be much happier with it winning than Three Billboards, though.

In my perfect world, this would be a race between Get Out and Lady Bird, and I’d go with Get Out. It combines a truly original premise with great storytelling and great acting, and it keeps you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. It was the best movie I saw this year and one that I’ve already watched three times and will continue to watch pretty much any time I come across it going forward.

As for snubs, I am shocked that The Florida Project wasn’t nominated. It’s an incredible movie about life in a motel outside Disney World, and it absolutely deserved a nomination. I can’t even fathom what the argument for not nominating it would be. I’d also consider Mudbound a snub, but I wasn’t really expecting it to be nominated. (more…)

Top 20 Albums of 2017

Posted: December 5, 2017 in Uncategorized

Because this distinction sometimes matters, it’s worth noting that these are my favorite albums of 2017 more than anything else. While I consider cultural impact, importance, critical reception, etc., ultimately how much I enjoy listening to the album is the deciding factor.

20. Manchester Orchestra – A Black Mile to the Surface

I had never really been a fan of Manchester Orchestra before, but I really like this album. Definitely a step forward for them in terms of songwriting and a consistently strong album start to finish.

19. SZA – Ctrl

Great debut studio album featuring songs of love, loneliness and strength set to R&B and soul influences.

18. Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up

This is their most ambitious album and features some of Robin Pecknold’s deepest lyrics and most complex arrangements. It’s also probably their most challenging listen, but repeated plays can reward you with new discoveries each time.


Best Albums of 2016

Posted: December 11, 2016 in Uncategorized

20. Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
19. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
18. Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing
17. Esperanza Spalding – Emily’s D+Evolution
16. Bon Iver – 22, A Million
15. Hiss Golden Messenger – Heart Like a Levee
14. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
13. Solange – A Seat at the Table
12. PUP – The Dream Is Over
11. Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book

10. Conor Oberst – Ruminations
If you like sad albums, this is a very good one. Sad songs are nothing new for Oberst — plenty of the stuff he did with Bright Eyes was sad, including much of their best album (I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning) — but Ruminations is notable for being even more personal, and especially for being so sparse. Oberst wrote it after having to cancel a tour when he was hospitalized for “laryngitis, anxiety and exhaustion,” and that struggle and his loneliness is reflected in his typically great lyrics. The music is him alone on guitar, piano and harmonica, and piano-based songs like “Tachycardia,” “Gossamer Thin” and “Next of Kin” stand out as some of the best here. “A Little Uncanny,” the only song where the pace picks up a little, is also great.

9. Kevin Morby – Singing Saw

Kevin Morby lists The Band, Bob Dylan and Neil Young among his favorite artists, and it’s easy to see their influence on his work. There’s a lot of Americana here and Morby shows that he’s a pretty damn good singer/songwriter himself. “I Have Been to the Mountain” and “Dorothy” (which features awesome fuzz bass and some great piano breaks) are a pair of rockers that stand out as highlights, but slower songs like opener “Cut Me Down,” “Singing Saw” (which includes an actual singing saw) and “Black Flowers” are great too, as is “Water,” which builds into a classic upbeat folk song to close the album.

8. A Tribe Called Quest – We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service

Much like David Bowie’s final album wasn’t just a nostalgic goodbye (more on that shortly), neither is A Tribe Called Quest’s first studio album in 18 years, which came out nearly eight months after Phife Dawg’s death. Q-Tip, Phife and Jarobi still sound great and the songs still take on the world around them, including the presidential election, just like they did in the group’s heyday. Frequent Tribe guests Consequence and Busta Rhymes each appear on multiple tracks, while Andre 3000 on “Kids…,” Anderson .Paak on “Movin Backwards” and Kendrick Lamar on “Conrad Tokyo” all shine in feature roles as well. (more…)

Top 15 Albums of 2015

Posted: December 7, 2015 in Uncategorized

15. Carly Rae Jepsen – Emotion
One of the biggest musical surprises for me this year was that neither this album nor any of its songs made much of an impact on the pop charts. It’s a really good pop album — much better start-to-finish than 2012’s Kiss — and even if none of the songs are quite as catchy as “Call Me Maybe,” there are still a lot of really good songs here. “Run Away with Me,” “Boy Problems,” “Making the Most of the Night” and “Let’s Get Lost” all sound like hits to me, but what the hell do I know.

Favorite song: “Run Away with Me”

14. Chvrches – Every Open Eye
This is another really good pop album, and one I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate a couple years ago because I didn’t care for synthpop. In fact I didn’t appreciate Chrvches’ 2013 debut, which I now realize is a really good album. Every Open Eye manages to sound both happy and sad at times, but it’s catchy throughout, and Lauren Mayberry’s voice is always great. The first four songs are especially strong, and “Empty Threat” and “Bury It” highlight the second half.

Favorite song: “Keep You on My Side”

13. Screaming Females – Rose Mountain
Rose Mountain wasn’t quite as highly acclaimed as Screaming Females’ last couple albums, and it seems like the main point of contention is that it’s cleaner and not quite as wild as their previous work. That’s true, but personally I don’t have a problem with it. I still love this album, and I think “Wishing Well” and “Hopeless” — two of the softer songs here — are actually among the highlights. Plus, there’s still plenty of great hard rock with songs like “Empty Head,” “Ripe,” “Burning Car” and “Triumph.”

Favorite song: “Triumph”

12. James McMurtry – Complicated Game
Complicated Game might have the best lyrics of any album this year. James McMurtry is a great storyteller who brings a variety of everyday characters to life — on “Copper Canteen” it’s an older couple who “turned into our parents before we were out of teens,” on the rollicking “How’m I Gonna Find You Now” it’s a trucker, “Carlisle’s Haul” a fisherman, “South Dakota” a soldier returning home, and “Long Island Sound” a hard-working New Yorker. McMurtry backs his Americana stories with classic Americana folk.

Favorite song: “Long Island Sound”

11. Vince Staples – Summertime ’06
This album is about exactly what the title says, but don’t expect to hear any happy stories about hanging out on a beach. Instead you get a look into what it was like for Staples to come of age in Long Beach and how his teenage years shaped his view of the world. It doesn’t take long for Staples’ bluntness to show. “Lift Me Up” and “Norf Norf” set the tone right off the bat both lyrically and musically — the music doesn’t try to be upbeat here either. “Jump Off the Roof” and “Senorita” are other first-half highlights, while “3230,” “Get Paid” and “C.N.B.” stand out on the second half.

Favorite song: “Lift Me Up”  (more…)

Top 10 Albums of 2014

Posted: December 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

Happy holidays. Here are my favorite albums of 2014. As always, I’ve linked to my favorite song from each album to help you get a taste of anything you haven’t heard.

Honorable Mentions
Jack White – Lazaretto
Jenny Lewis – The Voyager
Steve Gunn – Way Out Weather

10. The Men – Tomorrow’s Hits
Three years ago, The Men were a noise rock band. Two years ago, they were a great hard rock band. Last year, they were a hard rock/classic rock cross. On Tomorrow’s Hits, their fifth album in as many years, The Men continue what they started on 2013’s New Moon and embrace classic rock influences even more. “Dark Waltz” and “Get What You Give” are songs the next guy on this list would be proud of, “Another Night” brings horns into the mix, and the piano-centric “Sleepless” is one of their most laid-back tunes to date. And if you still want the energetic hard rock, there’s plenty of that on “Different Days,” “Pearly Gates” and “Going Down.”

Favorite song: “Dark Waltz”

9. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Hypnotic Eye
It’s probably not very cool to like new Tom Petty music in 2014, but man I really like this album. It’s Petty’s best album since 1994’s Wildflowers, and it’s one of the four best albums he’s ever made as far as I’m concerned (1979’s Damn the Torpedoes and 1989’s Full Moon Fever would be the other two in that group). This isn’t just a comfortable old rocker sticking to a familiar blueprint and making a quick buck. No, Petty sounds desperate and bitter here, and the Heartbreakers bring a dirty, aggressive garage rock sound that hasn’t really been heard this consistently on a Petty album since his very first albums. “American Dream Plan B,” “Fault Lines” and “Red River” are a stellar 1-2-3 start, and “All You Can Carry,” “Forgotten Man” and the slower “Sins of My Youth” stand out as well.

Favorite song: “American Dream Plan B”

8. Sun Kil Moon – Benji
Benji isn’t the easiest listen because it’s pretty dark and depressing, but it has some of the best lyrics I’ve heard in a while. There’s a lot of death and a lot of personal stories from bandleader Mark Kozelek, and if you’re in the right mood and willing to give him your full attention, the stories become stunningly real, thanks to the fact that, 1) they are real, and 2) Kozelek is an excellent writer who uses great detail. On opener “Carissa,” he tells us that not one, but two of his relatives have died from freak accidents involving exploding aerosol cans. He sings about his love for his parents on “I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love” and “I Love My Dad.” And he shares his personal reactions to major events like mass shootings (“Pray for Newtown”) as well as seemingly unimportant events like watching Led Zeppelin (“I Watched the Film The Song Remains the Same”).

Favorite song: “Pray for Newtown” (more…)