There Is Good Hip-Hop Out There

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As of recent, I have been seeing many individuals complain about Hip-Hop and how it is in a very bad state currently. As the genre continues to get bigger, of course there will a lack of diversity in most popular songs and can be easily shown by just looking at the Billboard Hot 100.

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Meditations: Leonard Leauge

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I regret making this.

Ok, I think it’s been long enough… i’m just going to say it. Are you ready? Alright, here we go…. (inhale)… the Justice League movie sucked.

Granted, it wasn’t as bad as Batman vs Superman or Suicide Squad, but the there’s no denying that the two hours of pedestrian acting, obnoxious CGI, and weird story decisions that made up the movie could suck a golfball through a straw. That’s not even mentioning the fact that the film underperformed at the box office, which I guess isn’t correct on my part because I just now mentioned it.

It’s all a damn shame too, because I genuinely enjoyed Wonder Woman.

Despite all this though, Justice League give me something that I would never in a million years expect it would give me; a newfound love and appreciation for the works of Leonard Cohen. Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either.

It all started when I went and saw the film with a few friends during my first few days back home for Thanksgiving break. Ironically, while the film is a bit of a dumpster fire, I do remember it having a very well crafted opening credits sequence. A montage of how nations around the world dealt with the tragic (yet ultimately meaningless) death of Superman, the sequence did a good job of painting a world that had lost its protector (but it’s OK he comes right back about halfway through the movie). While the imagery of black flags bearing Superman’s insignia and a sad looking Ben Affleck were powerful, what really makes it all work is a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows” by Norwegian pop artist Sigrid.

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Batman and Flash watch as their box office and Rotten Tomatoes score plummet.

It’s one of the better covers I’ve ever heard, and I was humming the tune long after the film was over. I actually at first believed that the cover was an original song by a talented and clever up and coming pop artist. Once I went to check her out Spotify however, the weird Norwegian pop that started playing quickly reminded me that I still live in the modern music industry.

It wasn’t until I watched Red Letter Media’s Justice League Half in The Bag Episode that I found out who actually wrote the song. During the review, host Mike Stoklasa, mentions off hand that he knew he was in for a bad time time when the opening credits of the film were accompanied by a  crappy Leonard Cohen cover.From there, things made a lot of more sense, and I immediately went digging for the original version.

Up until that point, I had only really known Leonard Cohen as the hallelujah guy who “probably died or something”. Once I finally got a chance to pick through his discography and read up on the man. It took only a few days for me to quickly fall in love with the man and his discography. His songs were contemplative, thoughtful, and could genuinely make me feel really emotional times. Cohen’s low and almost conversational vocals and silky smooth classical guitar playing was a hypotonic combination, and during those first few days I remember listening to songs like “Suzanne” “Chelsea Hotel No. 2” and “Who by Fire” on almost near constant repeat.

Then there are those lyrics… those sweet, sweet leonard cohen lyrics.

Those were the reasons and that was New York. We were running for the money and the flesh, and that was called love for the workers in song, probably still is for those of them left,” you don’t get that anywhere else.

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The man himself.

The timing was also pretty good, as I was already going through the obligatory college freshman folk/americana singer songwriter phase, so adding Mr. Cohen to my Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Tom Waits, and Warren Zevon filled playlists was a very natural choice.

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Aquaman is still lame.

The whole thing has me a little frustrated if I’m being honest. It made me realize how narrow minded I can be when it comes to music, which can be a little problematic considering that I pride myself on being a music aficionado. I could name you every Pink Floyd or Beatles song, but somehow it took watching a lame superhero movie for me to come to appreciate the discography of one of the great american songwriters. It’s a little embarrassing actually.

So what’s the moral here? Same old crap really: have an open mind, try new things, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket  blah blah blah…

But in all seriousness though, you would do well to keep your ears open. Who knows, maybe the opening credits of Fifty Shades Freed will be just as life changing.

 

 

Meditations: Let’s Scrutinize Some Netflix Original Movies

 

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Jack Black stars in The Polka King. Photo courtesy of Variety.com

Name a Netflix movie off of the top of your head. I’ll wait. It’s hard right? While series like Stranger Things and Making a Murderer have become household names, trying to think of a memorable Netflix original movie is like trying to name one of the non-Beyonce members of Destiny’s Child.

This is a real shame considering that a lot of Netflix original films are very weird, enjoyable, and genuinely half decent films that are often better than they have any damn right to be. There’s a good amount of variety between most of the films, and you get this sense that Netflix were a lot more willing to give the  people behind them more creative freedom than their big budget counterparts.

In order to best describe this, I want you to picture the world of cinema as the european continent. All of the well known, big budget blockbusters and oscar contenders are like the equally well known western european countries like England and France, in that they’re cream of the crop, tried and true, and beloved by all. Netflix movies dwell a bit more to the north east, and are more akin to your Estonia’s and your Latvia’s; feisty little guys with rougher, smellier exteriors that hide hearts of gold.

So now that this introduction has gone well beyond the 200 word mark, let’s actually discuss some of the Netflix original films that I saw within the past few weeks-ish. Also, i’m not going to talk about Bright because I haven’t seen it and it looks stupid.

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Kendrick Lamar and Top Dawg Entertainment To Produce ‘Black Panther: The Album’

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2017 was easily a successful year for Top Dawg Entertainment.

With SZA’s rise to stardom with her debut album “CTRL” that as an album, showcased a woman’s growth throughout to becoming an individual that is more independent and requiring less validation from others. Many of the songs did very well on the charts and SZA is now on the forefront for the label with great potential to be a great artist. Also with legendary artist: Kendrick Lamar dropping his 4th LP: “DAMN.” that solidified the artist’s ability to delivery from all forefronts of Hip-Hop. “DAMN.” was easily his most successful album in terms of sales to date with many tracks such as DNA, LOVE, and HUMBLE charting very high on the Billboard Hot 100. The way Kendrick was able to appeal to a more mainstream audience without sacrificing his quality of music was incredible.

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Best Albums Of 2017

2017 is almost at an end and though it has been a terrible year for politics, and basically everything else, 2017 however, has been an incredible year for music. 

Back in March, I put out an article highlighting some of my favorite albums that had been released early on in the year. Since then, we have been graced with even more outstanding, 10/10, listen-from-start-to-finish albums, so I would like to take a moment to showcase my top 15 picks (in a very particular order) of 2017: 

15.) Ariel Pink – Dedicated To Bobby Jameson

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Dedicated To Bobby Jameson is Ariel Pink’s 11th studio album. The album is an intimate and humble piece, containing a combination of pop and rock anthems.

TOP SONGS:  I Wanna Be Young // Bubblegum Dreams // Do Yourself A Favor 

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Some People Choose To Hear the Beauty In This World

“PAINT IT, BLACK! IT’S PAINT IT, BLACK, OH MY GOD!”

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Poster for the 1973 Sci-Fi film starring Yul Brynner that inspired HBO’s TV show of the same name. 

I had to call it before any of my friends figured it out. And I couldn’t hold it in; I was so excited. If you’ve ever wondered what The Rolling Stones would sound like if they had to write a spaghetti western theme with an orchestra at their disposal, that’s reason enough to check out Westworld.

This show scored major points by contracting Game of Thrones’ composer Ramin Djawadi to arrange classic songs in a style fitting for the wild west and its many veneers.

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Photo Courtesy of HBO.

Season One’s line up includes songs from:

  1. Sound Garden (Black Hole Sun)
  2. The Rolling Stones (Paint It, Black) (Obviously)
  3. Johnny Cash (Ain’t No Grave)
  4. Radiohead (No Surprises, Motion Picture Soundtrack, Fake Plastic Trees, Exit Music (For A Film)) Djawadi actually uses a cover of MPS by the Vitamin String Quartet for the show!
  5. The Cure (A Forest)
  6. Nine Inch Nails (Something I Can Never Have)
  7. Amy Winehouse (Back To Black)
  8. The Animals (House Of The Rising Sun)

These songs eerily fit into moments where Westworld’s main characters become consumed with curiosity, self-doubt, risk, and disbelief. The tunes echo a sensation of unrest in the characters and their audiences. If you’re a lyricist, you’ll notice the meanings of each song mesh with the on-screen drama in a way that makes your jaw drop, like you’ve just solved a riddle. You’ll hear House Of The Rising Sun play in the town’s brothel and realize that Ain’t No Grave could be referring to the hosts. Or the guests. Or the programmers. Or everyone.

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Photo Courtesy of HBO.

Does Djawadi select modern songs so the modern guests subconsciously feel at home while visiting the new “Old World?” Does he want the audience to feel this way, too? The songs are certainly hard to pick out when they’re partially buried under the din of gossip and shoot-outs that push the plot. Often, they’re played on an out-of-tune player piano, a novel piece of mechanized art for the portrayed era. Hinting at automated humanity while producing a hollow, creepy sound are Djawadi’s version of hitting two birds with one bullet.

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Photo Courtesy of HBO.

Whatever his reasons, this soundtrack has been added to my trail running playlist. Motivated by such an emotional, underdog-chiding echo, maybe I’ll finally make it to where the mountains meet the sea.

Have a Scien-tastic Day!

 

Feel Old Yet?

I didn’t want to make this blog all about how old some of my favorite albums are because I know my taste in music is someone else’s least favorite genre. So it’ll be a mixture of things to make some of us, if not all, nostalgic as we start 2017. Sometimes it’s okay to look back.

TV Shows:
The Simpsons has been around since 1989, making it 28 years old
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Saved by the bell (1989-1993) ended 24 years ago

Friends ended 13 years ago

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Goosebumps ended 19 years ago

SpongeBob SquarePants is turning 18 years old this year. 18 years and SpongeBob is probably still trying to pass his driver’s test

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was released 24 years ago and ended 18 years ago

Pokémon was released 20 years ago

Movies That Came Out 15 Years Ago:
Like Mike, Jackass: The Movie, 8 mile and Spiderman with the “original spiderman” Tobey Maguire

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Albums turning 15 years old in 2017:
Simple Plan’s debut album No Pads, No Helmets… Just Balls
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Foo Fighter’s One By One

Sum 41’s Does This Look Infected?
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Eminem’s The Eminem show

For the 90’s babies:
The Nintendo DS was released in 2004, 13 years ago

The Nintendo 64 was released in 1996, 21 years ago
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The Game Boy released 28 years ago

The first iPod was released 16 years ago, my iPod Still plays every song on my playlist but my smartphones can’t last me over a year

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The 62 Goosebumps books written by R.L Stine began 25 years ago and ended 20 years ago

The Bop It game was released 21 years ago

Beanie Babies launched 24 years ago

Feel old yet?

Halloween Horror Fest

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Halloween is just around the corner. For the average Joe it’s just a spooky holiday where you dress up in funky garbs and pass out on candy or drinks. But for all of my fellow Halloweenies, we have been prepared for the pumpkin carving, house decorating, and most importantly, the horror movie marathons.

Here are five films that are on different spectrums of spooky, but are all great in their own right!

1. Scream (1996)

“What’s your favorite scary movie?” sneers Ghostface, the franchise’s murderer. Wes Craven’s classic slasher, Scream, happens to be one of mine. The film revolves around the town of Woodsboro, California, when it suddenly becomes the hunting grounds for a serial killer who targets 90’s teen archetypes. Craven satires horror cliches in a perfectly comedic, bloody mess – but nothing is predictable about the ending.

2. The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

You may know Joss Whedon of Firefly or The Avengers fame, but the comic nerd of a director has a twisted dark side too. The Cabin in the Woods also plays on horror tropes and takes a critical eye on the torture porn branch. Five college students, who all fit the bill of jock, slut, nerd, stoner, and virgin, plan a weekend getaway at a deserted cabin in the woods. That introduction alone should already set up that things don’t turn out well. It doesn’t, and how it gets that bad is what makes this film a cult favorite.

3. The Exorcist (1973)

A Halloween list cannot be complete without William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. Centered on two priests exorcising a possessed 12 year old, this movie’s simple premise is iconic. Forty years ago this terrorized people so much that some movie critics said they couldn’t understand who would see this movie for pleasure. People left the premiere in either pure anxiety or extreme fear. Take caution: you probably will end up the same way if you are not a seasoned horror watcher.

4. The Babadook (2014)

Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook is another jarring fright fest. After the death of her husband, Amelia struggles to maintain her life with Sam, her son. When Sam preoccupies himself with an imaginary friend from a book called Mister Babadook, the titular creature starts to take a sinister form. Touching on a common youth experience and combining it with psychological troubles of adulthood, the film pokes a nerve at growing up. This Australian psychological horror has since become a cult favorite and the target of many fan theories.

5. Hocus Pocus (1993)

If you braved the previous scarring scare and need something light, a signature Disney film can do the trick. Being a 90’s kid, I was lucky to have Disney original movies that gave me the heebie-jeebies as I learned a lesson. Hocus Pocus follows the Sanderson Sisters’ quest to gain absolute youth by stealing children’s souls, and Max Dennison trying to prevent his sister from being the next target. The eight year old me learned about stranger danger and to never wander in creepy abandoned houses, but the twenty one year old me plays it for the nostalgia.

Now build your pillow fort, grab your sweets, turn off the lights, and get ready for those jump scares!

(Photo illustration credit: Valashard)