I went to see Frozen last night with a friend as equally obsessed with Disney as I am, and I must say I was surprised.
I’ve gotten into a habit lately of not watching trailers for films unless they’re presented to me preceding other films. It keeps the ignorance of the plot to a comfortable level. Going in to the movie, all I was aware of was the critical praise it’s received and the fact that Josh Gad voiced a talking snowman. I was slightly aware of the film’s Scandinavian setting and its billing as a “return-to-form” for Disney back to their fairy tale re-imagining musical films. Actually, now that I think about it, weren’t The Princess & the Frog and Tangled both billed as that same thing? It’s akin to all 4 of Britney Spears’ album’s since 2007 being billed as “comeback” albums. I digress.
What really caught me off guard about Frozen is how gut-bustingly hilarious it is. No exaggeration, there were moments in this film where my entire theater, toddler to geriatric, was in tears laughing. The comic pacing is wonderful and the dialogue is fine-tuned to a science. Josh Gad’s Olaf absolutely steals the show once he’s onscreen, and it’s magical in execution: the character is not obnoxious, he’s not urbanized, he’s not an absolute nut, and he’s not too cutesy to be off-putting — just a genuinely funny, charismatic, naive sidekick.
The songs are decent. Not exactly “Circle of Life” or “Be Our Guest”, but then what else ever will be? Christophe Beck does a decent job scoring the film and I’m excited to see what else he’s capable of in Disney’s hands. ”Let It Go”, in particular, is a showstopper, but Olaf’s “In Summer” takes the cake if for nothing else but its rampant dark humor.
That’s another thing. This script is wonderful if for no other reason than that it showcases the new generation of children’s film writers: cynical, internet-bred millennials with biting penchants for sarcasm and quick pacing. The characters are all well-developed, the relationships are believable, and the plot twist (yes, there’s a plot twist) is actually brilliant. It’s not exactly on par with Stephen Moffat, but for a Disney Movie it may as well be The Sixth Sense. No one, absolutely no one, in my theater saw it coming and a collective gasp sucked the air out of the room when it happened.
The animation is a little hit-and-miss. At times it’s vanilla and run of the mill, but during the song sequences and action scenes it’s possibly the best Disney’s ever produced.
On the whole, I understand why critics are raving about this. It’s a great film that everyone deserves to see. I would rank it above most of the Disney Renaissance as far as quality is concerned, but it’s really pretty damn hard to outdo Tangled. That being said, Frozen has reserved a place in my top 3 favorite Disney films if only based on heart and soul.
After days and days of running not unlike the rest of you caught up in the fervor of the holiday weekend, I’ve finally gotten a moment to myself to compose my thoughts. To avoid superfluousness: this was probably the best Thanksgiving weekend I’ve had.
While the traffic leaving Nashville on Wednesday morning was atrocious, the actual highway was virtually clear, putting me in a great headspace for the drive to Kentucky. The holiday itself was quiet and uneventful, save for volunteering myself to serve as the DD for my sister later in the evening. Quiet and uneventful don’t necessarily mean bad, obviously — to the contrary, Thanksgiving was a great day and I spent most of it in contentment.
I spent the following night with Collin after having not seen him since the day I moved in July. As usual it was a great night that was whittled away talking about life and politics and the sort. Nothing out of the usual, but it’s a friendship I’ve sorely missed through the fall. I also saw Catching Fire for the third time in a week now and while the film is great, I think I’ve reached my Hunger Games quota for about a year. I didn’t get to spend any more time with any other friends before heading back Saturday morning.
I spent last night with my new friend Stephanie, indoctrinating her into Doctor Who after seeing Frozen. All in all, wonderful evening.
I realize this is also the first year I haven’t written out an overdrawn blog about who and what I’ve been thankful for throughout the year, but honestly I think all I’d write about would relate to self discovery anyway. The same people that have littered my posts this year would show up expectedly. Regardless, I’m thankful for them even if I don’t spend two hours articulating it. So, Collin, Stephanie, Will, Jimmy, Judy, Hitch, Danny, Erica, Julia, Mallory: thanks for getting through the year with me.
I’ve been going to a hip-hop cypher for about three weeks now on Sunday nights. I can’t exactly say why, but I believe wholeheartedly I’ve been going there as a result of some magnetic force of destiny — some artistic magnetism that flows through the city’s veins and pumps through a small apartment in the ghetto.
Everyone there is on the same wavelength. They all see the world in the same color scheme, feel the same pains, and are all loving and protective of each other. There’s a heavier sense of family and togetherness that weighs down the room than I’ve felt anywhere else in my life. And, my god, the lyrics these guys spit are some of the most inventive to ever come from the human tongue. Everyone opens the rest of the room to new ideas and new philosophers and poets, and everyone soaks in the pure spirit of creativity. Everyone’s background is different, and that’s the beauty of the thing. Rappers, soul singers, country writers, metal-heads, hipsters, and pop artists all in tune with one another. It’s just beautiful.
I told one of the hosts tonight that coming made me feel like I had somewhere I belonged in the city; a movement to cling to, I guess. It’s refreshing. Every week the vibe of the room shifts with the ever-changing cast of characters that come in and out with every new gathering. The lyrical topics morph, the beats shift moods, and the voices are always different. Like having a new family reunion each week.
Granted, there’s a steady cast of about 8 people. They are the Diatribe — the hip-hop family that these cyphers revolve around. But it’s not exactly exclusive; if you’re in the room, you’re a part of the Diatribe. You’re within the same cloud of smoke and your bones are being shaken by the same bass and your ears are hearing the same words as everyone else’s.
Altogether it is nothing short of a religious experience with the Muse.
Though I’ve been going for a minute now, tonight is the first time I felt it click. Amongst all the creative constipation I’ve felt of late, I felt exonerated as I waded in the waters of the beat this evening, vibing within the inner circle. A freestyle found it’s way out of my mouth and made the room fall silent. I’ve never felt like I did tonight: raw, passionate, and caught literally within the flow of creative energy. And in the calm after the storm as the beat died down, I felt myself trembling. For the first time in my life I genuinely felt what it’s like to be completely open to creativity and what it feels like to be surrounded by people just as open.
I got into a bit of a swing where it all worked fine: trying to write reviews of music and create it simultaneously. But it just doesn’t work. Regardless of the fact that I’m able to critically listen to a piece of art and dissect it doesn’t necessarily mean I should. It began to honestly just impede my ability to think creatively and create honestly. It started taking over my process and always ended in a fury of right-brain/left-brain turf war. There’s a reason critics don’t often create. The results aren’t that likable. And the emotive constipation I endured was only the result of writing 3 reviews in sequence, as well.
I’d much rather create and leave the critiquing up to the critics. Oh I’ll still write reviews here and there, but only as I feel like it. That’s why it was fun in the first place. Usually, when I would sporadically write music or film reviews as a form of expression and not obligation they were just that: expression. The work I was dissecting had made me feel so strongly about it that I’d formulated enough opinions to fill one of my intrinsically long blog posts with them in some composed manner. So I’m returning to what I love.
I’ve thought a lot lately about why I seem to have been left in the dark by everyone. I no longer feel as confident as I did when I moved to Nashville in July; I’m not as certain that my creativity is on the plane people continue to tell me it is and I doubt and scrutinize my image on an ever-persistent basis that’s not new but nonetheless doesn’t help the situation. But I’m not an idiot. I know why no one’s been helping as much as I’d like: I simply haven’t put forth the effort to prove I’m as hungry for success as I was moving to the city. And the reason is simple, really: I’m always working. I’m always at my job. I’m always trying to make ends meet because somehow I never seem to have as much money in my bank account as logic dictates I should. Though I don’t stress about it like I did even two months ago, it’s still a worry. And that worry (coupled with the aforementioned mental strains of critiquing) all but raped my ability to be hungry for musical success in anything but theory alone. No more. I’m ready to get back on the horse.
You've probably never heard of them, but you need this album by Fightstar.
Fightstar is a british band I got into in 2005 because their lead singer was in a pop band called Busted I loved as a kid. Now, moving on.
Be Human is my favorite art rock record of the last few years. it came out in 2009 and was one of my segueing queues out of my middle school Alt-rock phase and back into the pop music I grew up on. It spans the entire gamut of musical emotion and stylization — it drifts genre to genre from pop-rock to post-hardcore while always feeling sincere.
The chord progressions are always surprising, the real symphoy and choir on most of the album make it feel 10x larger than life, and the lyricism is wonderfully cinematic.
I’m in a fit of nostalgia and rediscovering this album with all the joy I heard it in when I first bought it. If you like great rock, give this a listen.
Standouts include “The English Way”, “Never Change”, “Whisperer”, “Mercury Summer” (GREAT, GREAT song), and “Tonight We Burn”.
I've been angry lately. I haven't been angry for a long time. Not at anyone or anything in particular, just a lot of adrenalized tension building in my veins. Listening to the entire entire Three Days Grace discography like I used to to let it out.
your review for ARTPOP was fantastic! I also wanted to ask what you think of Kanye's Yeezus, and if you've reviewed it or if you're planning to.
I didn’t review Yeezus, but I do actually love the record. I think it’s some of Kanye’s most subversive and intelligent lyricism, especially on “New Slaves”. The stream-of-consciousness flow of the album’s production is amazing and serves as a way to cement the time period it was made in. I think it’s a classic album even if it wasn’t a chart success — especially given that everyone who paid attention to pop culture this year was aware of its existence even if they didn’t hear it.
I’m not a fan of “Guilt Trip”, but that’s just a personal thing.
There’s a quote by Jay-Z where, if I remember correctly, he said that one either sees Yeezus as a piece of postmodern art or doesn’t get it. I fall in the former camp.
LOVED your ARTPOP review! Very interesting and insightful. Most of what gets shoved down our throats are ungrounded "reviews" in the form of extreme love or extreme hate. I really like how your review's tone is so neutral that, after having read it, I am still unsure if you are a "little monster" or not. Two questions for you: 1. ARE you what pop culture would consider a "little monster"? 2. Out of curiosity, what ARE the ~5 albums released in 2013 that you would say are better than ARTPOP?
1. No. I am a huge fan of Lady Gaga, but only because I think she merits academic study the same way Star Wars does — it’s a pop cultural pastiche that clearly cements the time period it was made in even if it’s not completely original. She’s immensely talented and I love her, but no more than I love Michael Jackson, Kanye, The Killers, or Justin Timberlake. I can remain neutral because, even though I do admittedly study every move she makes, it’s pointless to write a review if you’re just going to praise or rail something.
2. I think I said “maybe 5”, but if I had to pick, I’d say Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, James Blake’s Overgrown, The National’s Trouble Will Find Me, and Bowie’s The Next Day. Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience would’ve been up there if he knew how to sacrifice hubris for the sake of quality.
If numbers alone were a gauge of success, Lady Gaga could lay down her last wig right now and be set for life as an icon. Love her or hate her, there is no denying that the woman has changed the landscape of Pop Music entirely since she first burst onto radio in 2008 with “Just Dance”. On the whole, she ranks among the highest-selling artists of all time with 90 million singles and 24 million albums moved in the last 5 years — and that’s only counting the legal copies sold.
I feel that life moves in patterns in its nature of advancements and decelerations. It seems that before each major progression, the plot dips into substantial pauses generally proportionate to the progressions themselves. For every dramatic, life-changing occurrence, there are months of doldrumic boredom which pave the way for our expectations to be exceeded.
Since moving, though I’ve been faced with a few financial burdens, I’ve had the opportunity to slowly discover who I am outside the contextual paralysis of High School. Do I miss it? Never. Occasionally I find that I miss certain quirks of teachers or conversations with the few friends I had, but other than that I’ve found living on my own to be satisfactory. I’ve been able to discover how deep my love for art runs and how at home it makes me feel to be surrounded by art — to study film, to stand in front of a canvas and just feel what I’m confronted with. I’ve spent my time engulfing myself in directors and visual artists and finding ways to incorporate their methodology into my music.
I have a few friends, which is all I need really. My time is spent mainly straddling between working nights at the cafe and reading or writing when I’m at my apartment. Oddly enough, though my creativity has never been more piqued, I find it hard lately to write lyrics. Instead I’ve been prolific about writing stories and reviews for The Doughnut. (On a side tangent to that: I’ll be reviewing Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP next week, and it’s becoming very hard to try to remain objective as a listener, though I suppose first impressions are the best).
It is, at the moment, the largest lull I’ve had in some time. Which, by virtue of the patterns I opened this entry philosophizing on about, would indicate that something equally and proportionately large is on the cusp of making an entrance. In the meantime, I’m producing a demo that’s on its way to Kelly Clarkson in an hour, wherein I’ll be directing the single greatest live singer I’ve ever had the pleasure of being in a room with: a girl named Sarah who’s a musical genius. I suppose I’ll be content with that, right?
The internet really is a wonderful thing. Really. The entire compendium of human knowledge is available at the fingertips for the majority of the free world, which opens myriads of doors of possibility to the common user. In a matter of hours, one might know the entire history of the Roman Empire, rise to demise. In a matter of days, one might be able to hold full conversations on the status of art in pop culture and cite specific references to support their argument. New skills, talents, and interests are all out there just waiting to be discovered, and none more simply and expediently than musical ability. That’s right, reader: were you aware that a basic knowledge of your keyboard’s Copy+Paste functionality and basic rhythmic ability, you could be able to call yourself a producer if you just have the right software? No? Well, good, because that would be false advertising on the part of collective Internet.
A quick thought on Monty Python's "Meaning of Life"
I’d like to point out that Monty Python’s “Meaning of Life” is probably the greatest comedy movie that can and will ever be made. It’s hilarious, specific, all-encompassing, stream-of-consciousness, random and yet ultimately connected, vulgar (but only when appropriate), socially aware, and existential in the best way so it never seems pretentious. The punch line of the film is also great. There’s something for every type of comedic pallet, which is an incredible feat given that everyone’s sense of humor varies drastically. All-around perfection.
I talk often in my personal life about the importance of musical integrity regardless of genre. As much as people love to bash Pop music or push it to the side, there are genuinely intelligent, well-crafted pieces within the genre that become ubiquitous entries in the soundtracks to our lives. Enter Katy Perry, 28-year-old singer/songwriter from California who began by making gospel records and broke into the pop charts with nigh-everybody’s 2008 guilty pleasure “I Kissed a Girl”. Perry’s first record One of the Boys was notable at the time of its release because, though its lead single was co-written by arguably the biggest cash-cows in the music industry (yes, you, Dr. Luke and Max Martin), the remainder of the record was heavily informed by Indie rock, and it produced two other smash singles before Perry faded into oblivion for about two years. Then Teenage Dream happened.
Perry’s second album — produced and co-written entirely by Martin, Luke, and their respective protégés Benny Blanco, StarGate, and Christopher “Tricky” Stewart — produced FIVE #1 singles (6 counting “Part of Me” from the record’s 2012 re-release) on the Billboard Hot 100, the only album to do so since Michael Jackson’s Bad. And yes, most of them are quite throwaway, but the album’s title track is arguably one of the best Pop songs of the last 15 years and certainly one of the most well-written, and the deeper album cuts written by only Perry and Greg Wells are beautiful lyrical masterpieces. Over all, while repetitive, the album was a spectacular showcase of the possibilities of fun pop songs without trying to push the genre forward, and it payed off well, selling 5.5 million copies worldwide since its 2010 release. Having one of the most important pop albums ever to live up to, Perry has given us PRISM.
Roar - Currently dominating radio, “Roar” seems the best way to kick of the album. It’s very lightweight, catchy as hell, and extremely accessible. Now. That being said, it’s also extraordinarily boring. The lyricism displays a tremendous instability with the first verse displaying wonderful, raw, and honest encapsulation of emotion and the second displaying pure laziness on the part of the writers in comparison. “I went from ze-ero, to my own hero” makes me cringe every time I hear it through my radio and the effect lessens none through headphones. The lack of a bridge doesn’t exactly help the case that this song was audibly written quickly as a by-the-numbers attempt to get another #1 while trying to still seem raw, which is quite sad really given that the first verse is beautiful. I won’t comment on the fact that the song is almost identical to Sarah Bareilles’ “Brave” simply because that horse has been beaten beyond its death.
Legendary Lovers - This is what I’m talking about. Surpassing “Roar” by a long shot, this is everything Perry and her studio cohorts are capable of. The opening subdued sitar riff sets a perfect atmosphere for what ends up being a very succinct, well written verse and a dizzying and magical pre-chorus. As for the hook itself, it stands among some of Perry’s best. “Take me down to the river, underneath the blood orange sun. Say my name like a scripture, keep my heart beating like a drum.” That’s golden. The chord movements throughout the hook are cinematic and are absolutely beautiful, abstaining from the usual 1-4-6m-5 that’s littered through most pop. There are tints of Grouplove/Matt & Kim-influenced indie-rock colored with Desi influences that work for the most part. If the rest of the album lives up to this track, it would show a wonderful progression beyond Teenage Dream’s disco/electropop-influenced tropes.
Birthday - Oh, look. A disco/electropop-influenced song. Recycling Teenage Dream’s overtly sexual nature paired with immature naive euphemisms. It’s catchy enough, and I suppose the lyrics are clever, but it’s really a letdown after “Legendary Lovers”’s apparent willingness to experiment, and it’s another obvious attempt at a radio hit. Granted, by the final chorus it’s hard to not find yourself dancing to what is an undeniably infectious hook that Whitney Houston could have rocked.
Walking On Air - Which leads us into Perry’s forage into 90’s-drenched House music. The production is interesting (particularly the slap-bass riff running through the chorus), but the song itself is underwhelming to say the least. It’s not particularly catchy, and the songwriting doesn’t make up for what it lacks. It also presents a massive problem with Katy Perry’s position as a pop idol: the girl has a really weak voice. Yes, yes, anyone with a passive viewing history of music award shows for the last 5 years should be well aware of that, but it’s blindingly apparent on “Birthday” and “Walking On Air” that while her voice isn’t capable of a huge range (2 octaves, 5 notes by all accounts), she has done nothing to help herself in that department, relying instead on a very weak falsetto to hit the notes her catchy choruses demand. Her brassy chest voice is charming at times, but when it’s used to give the false impression that Perry is able to vamp off vocal runs like Houston, it almost becomes intolerable. Without ranting too long, what I mean to say is that there’s a specific moment as the bridge builds into the final chorus in which the music moves to the 3rd chord to build tension in the track while Miss Katy lets out what should sound like an impressive vocal run were it not only two notes in actuality that are lower than parts of the chorus melody. Vocally, this is essentially tantamount to a baseball player hitting home runs for an entire game before striking out and expecting a larger applause than previously.
Unconditionally - Reaching into the stratospheres of that limited vocal range, Unconditionally” is a beautiful, urgent, soaring love song. This may be Perry’s best ballad to date. There’s not much to say other than that. The syncopation of the chorus melody is what really sells the song. What’s to be seen is whether or not she’ll be able to pull it off live in all the glory it deserves to be delivered in.
Dark Horse (feat. Juicy J) - Built over a percolating trap-influenced beat, this song is definitely the sexiest of the lot thus far. The verses are cool and breathy, but what absolutely sells this song are the near-perfect pre-choruses. The vocal delivery of the lines “make me your Aphrodite”/“it’s a yes or a no now, baby” is nothing short of spine-chilling, and the harmonies introduced the second time around flirt with Danny Elfman-esque colors. The transition from the more anthemic choruses back into the verses is a little rough, but it’s forgivable. Juicy J’s guest verse is painful, presenting moments sparse of clarity (if not lyrical obviousness like “she’ll eat your heart out like Jeffery Dahmer”) over a very dull flow. Dullness aside, the writing is solid and the Perry’s limited voice is utilized well.
This Is How We Do - An unapologetic update of 2010’s “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)”, this song presents nothing new. The lyrics present various vignettes of how Perry and her ladies “stunt”, sandwiching a rather unimpassioned shout-out dedication section that’s written for live performance. The most impressive part of the track is its production, which bleeps and blips over a pounding beat, guitars and house-inspired pianos blazing in the chorus; it sounds magical in headphones. Which is why it’s such a shame that such a cool track is wasted on such a boring song.
International Smile - Something about the guitar work in the verses is reminiscent of Rio-era Duran Duran, and the lyrics have some interesting word play that’s both cool and facepalm-inducing simultaneously (“She’s a little bit of Yoko, and she’s a little bit of Oh-no”), and the vocoder solo is a cool touch, but that’s where this song’s strong points end. The chorus isn’t memorable by any measure, and the whole song just sounds like conscious filler. This could have easily been left on the cutting room floor and it wouldn’t affect the quality of the album at all and would probably improve it.
Ghost - The first piece of heartbreak apparent on the record is one of its best moments thus far. Aside from lyrical faux-pas like “there’s just a pillow where your head used to sleep, my vision is 20/20” (which just sounds awkward in context as it does in print) and the one-liner bridge that seems to have just been written as a placeholder lyric before being left in, it’s one of the best pieces of wordsmithery available in the collection. The chorus walks a fine line between catchy and heartbreaking, treading it with ease. Beautiful production, beautiful vocal delivery, and one of the best songs on the album.
Love Me - Essentially “Roar” version 1.0, this mid-tempo ballad presents the revelation that precedes “Roar”’s sense of victory and self-empowerment: that you must love yourself before someone else can love you. Which is fine. Just fine. What’s almost maddening about this wonderful, wonderful song is that the lyrics are flawless. By any standard of songwriting in any decade, these lyrics are absolutely perfect. The problem is that moments like this that are so obviously inspired, genuine, and intelligent really showcase how lazy songs like “Roar”, “This Is How We Do”, “Walking On Air”, and “Birthday” are. This is Perry & Co. at their finest. “Sometimes I wish my skin was a costume that I could just unzip, and strip; but who I am is who I’m meant to be, and it’s who you are in love with.” Gorgeous.
This Moment - The beat is identical to “This Is How We Do”, but the pulsing bass underneath is what makes this sound magical from the first moment. It gardens through the same “live for the moment because tomorrow’s not guaranteed” subject matter that litters radio, but it’s delivered with a little more charisma than most. At times, Perry sounds like Imogen Heap, layering her voice into beautiful chordal movements for her falsetto to really shine. That being said, the lyrics have fallen back to sub-par, sprinkling forced lines — “Do you ever think that we’re just chasing our tails like life is one big fast treadmill? And we pop what is prescribed if it gets us first prize (I actually do like that part). But you know who I, who I think will win? Are the ones that let love in, are the ones that take the time” — that would make Dangerous-era Michael Jackson cringe. The ballads are beginning to drag the album down, as well, but that’s a minor complaint.
Double Rainbow - And yet another ballad. There is nothing new here, and while the song isn’t bad, it’s not really noteworthy in any way. Lyrically, it’s not as bad as it could be.
By The Grace of God - And, going for the fifth consecutive ballad, Perry presents the album’s third I-overcame-adversity-by-learning-to-love-myself tune, ending in much the same way she began. Not to disparage Perry’s own personal struggles or the therapy of songwriting, but this is a completely unnecessary entry into PRISM’s already drudgingly repetitive fare. It’s pretty enough, and it’s impassioned, but by the end, PRISM has expired well beyond its welcome.
Bonus Tracks — “Spiritual” is a cool, spacey electro-ballad that comes close to “Legendary Lovers”’s experimentalism and succeeds far and above most of the Standard album’s ballads. “It Takes Two” is bland and is rightfully left off the record. “Choose Your Battles” falls in much the same category.
To say that this record had a lot to live up to as far as radio success is concerned is an understatement, which makes it understandable why so many of PRISM’s choruses are so obviously crafted solely for the purpose of digging their way into your ear. However, that doesn’t excuse the fact that it’s a very bland, overdrawn record that seems to be part of a new stream of ennuis-as-the-norm, joining the ranks of Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience, The Weeknd’s Kiss Land, The 1975’s debut album, and Drake’s Nothing Was the Same. Good pop comes from a combination of musical integrity and being able to sacrifice ego for succinctness; Thriller and True Blue both only have 9 songs, but they all present new ideas and don’t stale. On the flip side, while Abbey Road has 18 songs, it never grows old and is a wonderful exercise in expert songwriting. The point being that, on a record made for commercial purposes by an artist who has lamented about not being taken seriously critically, some sacrifices could have been made easily to whittle this record down to its best tracks. Truth be told, in a perfect world and with a little bit of willingness to make sacrifices on the part of the Perry, Max Martin, and Dr. Luke, this could have easily been a classic, 9-song pop album and packed a much better punch than it does presently. If you want to really experience what this album could have been, here’s your ideal track listing:
Dark Horse (sans Juicy J’s shoehorned verse)
This Is How We Do
It also doesn’t excuse the fact that Perry says she tried to avoid making Teenage Dream 2.0 (as she should), and yet so many moments presented her could have been throwaway songs from the TD recording sessions. Putting all of that aside, this album’s biggest Achilles heel is its scatter shot lyricism. I understand that I shouldn’t have extremely high expectations from a pop album, but when real ability to write something smart is shown in songs like “Ghost”, the first verse of “Roar”, “Love Me” and even “Birthday” [at times], it begs the question why more time wasn’t spent refining the remainder of the tracks to make something that cements itself as both a commercial AND critical success.
With all of that in mind, of the 13 tracks on the standard edition of PRISM, 8 are pretty great. The dead weight brings it down on the whole, though.
I wanna scream “I love you” in the pouring rain, I want a wide-shot when I call your name. I want to cut to your eyes so I can see the pain when you tell me that you feel the same. It’s gotta be cinematic. It’s gotta be cinematic. I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but I love you and that is that.
The text was simple and succinct: “He likes 4 songs, talk to you tomorrow. This is HUGE.”. At the time, I was on shift at the cafe and couldn’t really take much time to really digest it.
In fact, it wasn’t until on an early morning jog that it hit me how imperatively critical the preceding 24 hours will be on the grand scheme of my life. You see, reader, I didn’t sleep — not surprising really (I have nowhere to be today and I have no plans and I got caught up in a flurry of studying art and reading, not that I’m really required to defend my sleep patterns but I know my mother reads my blog from time to time) — and I decided two hours ago to jog around the lane circling my apartment complex. There was a transcendental moment that occurred at one point that really just took my breath away. Before I really picked up any speed, a song of mine called “Witch Doctor” [it’s not online] began to play; and as the opening banjo and dobro of that track intermingled with the beat, I looked up into the star-decked sky if only for a brief moment. It was the first time I’ve seen a sky so full of stars since I moved to Nashville. As I looked up and inhaled the crisp first air of Autumn, I felt The Universe moving through me. Odd as it may seem to say, I legitimately felt the energy of the Universe descend from my open mouth through my core and into the ground below me. Only at that moment did my manager’s text from last evening penetrate me.
I’ve been a bit out of commission the past few weeks, and I believe that you all deserve a brief explanation as to why. To be quite cut and dry about it, I’ve been living.
Yes, the boy who at this very time last year was writing about happily isolating myself to a select group of people, has been out amongst reality trying to soak all of it in. Granted, I’ve also been at work every night of the past several weeks as well, but I’d say my greatest accomplishment on that front has been the ability to finally make new friends after two and a half months in Nashville. Maybe not as close as my friends from back home, but then again no one can ever be, really. Regardless, I’ve utilized the beginning of autumn to flit around exploring Centennial Park and its Parthenon, art museums, and thrift shops, buying new books to keep myself company in the coming months, and to re-evaluate my goal as an artist.
My primary ambition has always been to somehow revolutionize Pop music, though I was never quite certain of how to initiate said revolution. It certainly wasn’t through the music I featured on IDENTITY — no, reader, make no mistake, that EP was made purely to be a fun dance record with introspective lyrics, not to innovate — and it certainly wasn’t the direction I spent most of last winter experimenting with. I’d have to say, rather, that what I’m creating now is the future. My manager seems to agree, and come Tuesday, I’ll know if anyone else does as well. After months of being down for the count as a result of leukemia, Danny is ready to push the music, and I’m ready to step into the ring. What I’ve been writing over the past several weeks is what will innovate Pop Radio, I swear to you. It’s almost painful for me to say that without being able to give snippets of it away or release full songs yet because I feel it may make me seem like a bit of an egomaniac; but trust that when everything that’s being set in motion this week comes to fruition, you’ll hear them. My particular favorites are called “Girls and Boys”, “Free Your Mind”, “Passion”, and “Not If”.
It’s funny, really, to think that this time last year I was about to enter into a crippling depression that costed me most of my friends, hanging on desperately to the silver lining that I’d be the only one in my group really entering into the Real World. And here, from that Real World looking back, I’m glad I didn’t do anything drastic. Where my life is headed is so much more wonderful than where it’s been previously.
I’m sorry, did I say too much? I’m sorry, I just got too caught up. I’m sorry, I’m apologizing much too much, oh God I’m sorry I’m just rhyming in a rut. But I’ve just let this fire consume every piece of empty room in my soul, and I can’t refuse these thoughts when they’re in full bloom.
I’m just a fool with a stupid heart, acting like it’s gonna fall apart. And I know, that it’s crazy to you but I’m in love, what am I supposed to do?
There’s a certain amount of hesitation that comes with seeing a website for an artist that only features one song and is completely black, save for a very Art Deco-inspired logo. On the one hand, it’s very aesthetically pleasing and inviting whilst on the other it screams “we have no material”.
Whatever the case may be, my own hesitation upon seeing Los Angeles-based electronic duo Satchmode’s website were quelled immediately when I pressed the play button of a very unassuming song called ‘Old Fears’.
The track revolves around a sonically pleasing four-on-the-floor gently bobbling along for the duration, accentuated here and there by warm finger snaps, but generally carried by a pulsating bass recalling latter-day Daft Punk. There’s an undertone of a much more energetic 90′s house beat below the surface, but it never takes center stage, instead allowing the sweepy synth flourishes and analog blips to revel in the spotlight.
That being said, the sheer brilliance of the song is in its chordal movement. Whether they know it or not, Satchmode has written a song that could blend in seamlessly with much of the Great American Songbook as far as its musicality.
It’s a bit hard to explain really, but while the song itself is in a major key, there are subtle minor chords that seem to fade in and out of existence as if to suggest the presence of a darker motivation to the song’s admittedly light lyrical fare of entering into a new relationship carrying the weight of previous heartbreak.
Were there nothing else redeeming about ‘Old Fears’ but its instrumental, it may be easy to overlook, but what really sells the song is the gorgeous, ethereal vocal that it emotes through – and I say that quite intentionally.
The song often feels as if it simply exists as a permanent entity that is communicating through the band. It’s almost spine-chilling at points; it’s simultaneously beautiful and haunting and progressive and nostalgic without becoming cluttered at any given moment.
While it never reaches any real definite climax, Satchmode’s introductory track is one that deserves your attention almost certainly more than any other electronic act of the year. The color palette of the music is wonderful to listen to, and the track presents us, the musical public, with a very big question: “How long until Satchmode blows up?”
This group has all the necessary ingenuity and skill level to drill out a cozy niche in the pop market, without a doubt; it’s now simply a matter of when their moment to shine will come. True, they may never play arenas if the remainder of their catalogue is in the same vein of ‘Old Fears’, but Satchmode could easily become the indie-pop Gods of Tomorrow with little to no effort.
Well, after the monstrosity that was “We Can’t Stop” dominated the summer, here’s hoping that Miley Cyrus’ heart-wrenchingly beautiful new power ballad will do much the same through the fall. This song is wonderfully written, well-paced, the melodic structure is refreshing, and the lyrics are actually quite intelligent. The video is a bit provocative, but oddly enough even when Miley appears fully in the nude, it’s never tasteless — rather, it comes across as an invitation to see beneath the twerking and the tongue-sticking-out of late (to be fair, she does stick out her tongue several times herein as well). The video was directed by Terry Richardson and does a great job giving the song life visually if only for its minimalism. For me, the highlight is the editing where the breakdown transitions into the last chorus, but the close-up shot of Miley at the beginning? Priceless.
Well done, Milez. Well done. One of the years better music videos.
I decided to watch this film on a whim after it popped up in my Netflix suggestions. Definitely the best decision I’ve made today.
I’ve never been so awestruck at a film before, and believe me I’ve seen near everything one could consider a great film. But this, this is something completely different: this is transcendence on tape (coincidental due to the recurring motif of Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden”). The first thing I really noticed about this film was its very technical editing and lower camera quality — not to say the cameras were low in film quality, rather that it’s quite apparent that the film was made on cheaper cameras than typically seen in the silver screen arena (not to worry, it works to the film’s credit). The editing is precise, always perfectly paced, necessary, quick and could easily have been billed as the major character of the movie, so don’t get too caught up in it if you can avoid it. The cinematography is gorgeous and the subdued, post-Instagram-era color palette is very pleasing to eye, creating a very comforting, enticing look to the screen. Many shots are often kept on screen for minutes at a time to allow you to take in the sheer beauty of their composition; the way the imperfections of our actor’s faces isn’t hidden by nearly any makeup, the way that the settings themselves create the atmosphere of the scenes, the arrangement of the elements available to create what could easily be artwork were it a still-frame shot — all of this is given to you very subtly, allowing even the avid skeptic of typical Art House be able to digest it quite easily. After about an hour, I began to notice that there are few to no wide-angle tracking shots anywhere in the movie, instead focusing the majority of the camera time on intimacy with the players while never becoming claustrophobic as so many of the Hollywood breed seem to do of late (*cough*Les Miserables*cough*).
The cast, while all independent actors, is perfectly chosen. The dialogue is so precise that it rivals Tarentino’s accuracy, defeating him only with the sheer minimalism of its presence at all, effectively making what little there is all the more important. The storyline is experimental and requires a fair amount of dissection afterwards to really “get”, but I think that’s the mark of a good piece of art. The only real issue the film has is it’s sub-par ending. While not terrible, it leaves a lot to be desired as far as its clarity is concerned; as I stated, the story takes some heavy thought, but that’s mainly due to the fact that the ending doesn’t completely knot up all of the film’s loose ends. They’re tied, yes, but simply not secured. Then again, perhaps that’s the intention: to imply the feeling of the reveal and not simply give it to the audience. Either way, it doesn’t dampen the work as a whole by any means.
On the flip side, the film’s biggest strength is its musicality. About halfway through, I began to realize that the editing, in all its quick cuts and [necessary and never over-used] repetition, gave the film the feeling of almost being symphonic. Each phrase transitioned smoothly into the next and the next and the next with arpeggiated swells, countermelody, and delightful little refrains in the cuts. I haven’t read any other reviews of the movie as it’s only just ended as I type this, but I highly doubt I can be the only observer who noticed this quality of the film. It’s in this musicality that it really becomes transcendental in the first place, stirring emotions within you that are much more defined than what appears on the screen.
To not give much away, I will only say that the film centers around an anxiety-ridden woman who must rebuild her life after being abducted, and falls in love in the process; all of the characters are brought together by a common thing, though none of them realize it. The idea of Identity is presented in a very raw format onscreen, as is the nature of parallels in life and in nature (see what I did there?). If you have an hour and a half, find this film and watch it. Don’t look away for a second.