Sunday, April 20, 2014

Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division REVIEW

The 1979 d├ębut album from the post-punk band: Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures, is widely regarded to be one of the greatest albums of all time.

Taking their name from the infamous "comfort women", Jewish women who were forced to work as sex slaves by Nazis during World War II, Joy Division courted controversy since their inception. Joy Division were only able to make two albums before Ian Curtis committed suicide on the eve of their American tour in 1980. The rest of the band, continued on under the "New Order" name and became very successful through their dance synthesizer rock, which was a sharp contrast to the depressing music of Joy Division (listen to the song "Age of Consent").

The album begins with the dance drum-beats of "Disorder", seguing into a simple yet captivating bass line on the right and a distorted guitar on the left. However, the moment that hits you the deepest is when the crooning baritone vocals of Ian Curtis finally come in, "I've been waiting for a guide to come and take me by the hand/Could these sensations finally make me feel the pleasures of a normal man?" From that moment on, the album never loses its hold on the listener.

The simple black and white artwork represents the album with the fullest extent. Every song feels as though there is no color left in the world, as if there is only a dreary grayscale. The album uses only basic instrumentation to achieve this depressing effect, and does so with vigor.

Ian Curtis, though not the most technically gifted vocalist ever, inflects upon every word with the emotion of a man dealing with depression, giving each song a dreary and depressing mood. He is able to represent anger, the sadness, and the depression of the times of a world that has gone through a punk revolution and is only four years separated from the end of the Vietnam War. This is not an uplifting album, this is not a mindless punk album; it is an album distilling the pure angst and depression that the youth of Ian's time felt. You can simply lose yourself within any song on this album. Whether its "She's Lost Control" or "Day of the Lords".

Choice Picks: "Disorder", "Day of the Lords", "Shadowplay", "She's Lost Control"

Rating: 9.5/10

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Suburbs by Arcade Fire REVIEW

Arcade Fire's shock Grammy win left them jumping for joy.

So as you may know by now, this is more of a retrospective review. The Suburbs, came out back in 2011 and led to Arcade Fire's national prominence after a shock Album of the Year win at the 2011 Grammys, leaving most teenage kids in confusion as they could not comprehend the sheer indie-ness they were listening to. Frontman Win (fittingly named) Butler, coolly responded to the mass hysteria experienced by tone-deaf teenagers by simply saying, "We're called Arcade Fire — check it out on Google."

To simply state, The Suburbs is a fantastic album that manages to distil the anguish and isolation felt by countless numbers of people who decide to shift lifestyles and settle down in a simple neighbourhood far away from the insanity of a cityscape. 

The album begins with two fantastic tracks, "The Suburbs" and "Ready to Start". A torn lover is faced with the harsh cruel realities of life that he/she faces. These two tracks sum up some of the main messages conveyed throughout the album. In some ways this album could be considered a concept album in that it ties together a central theme of alienation and loneliness felt by humans. Other tracks of note include the frenetically paced "Month of May", the loss in "Suburban War", the cruel harshness of time in "We Used to Wait", the closeted optimism and rejection of the suburbs of "Sprawl II: Mountains beyond Mountains", and the isolation of "Modern Man".

From a musical standpoint, this album continues the trends seen in Arcade Fire's previous effort, Neon Bible. A variety of different types of instruments are used as well as numerous vocalists, whether lead or backing. Small flourishes of electric guitar or synthesizers, add to the albums grandiose feeling.

Simply put, this is one of the best albums of the decade, and in my personal opinion is the best album that Arcade Fire have ever put out on shelves. Such a shame however, that mindless pop is what gets the most recognition in the minds of the average person, as we have such beautiful music that for the most part goes unrecognised, but thankfully, not in this case.

Rating: 9.5/10

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Reflektor by Arcade Fire REVIEW

Arguably one of the most hyped up albums of all time, Reflektor by Arcade Fire has been the spawn of many debates on the album's more controversial and electronic sound. The album itself was produced by LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy and was recorded in places such as an old Haitian castle. Frontman Win Butler, has not been shy in talking about the album's influences, stating that most of it is based on the Carnival in Haiti, where the band are frequent visitors.

The album starts off with their lead single "Reflektor" and lets listeners know that this album is nothing Arcade Fire have ever done before. With backing vocals from David Bowie, the song itself is one of the high points on the album. Other great songs of notice include: "Afterlife" with its rousing synthesizers and Win Butler's questioning lyrics, "Here Comes the Night Time" withe its rapid start-stop tempos and Carnival sound, and "We Exist" comprising of such fantastic guitar interplay. Other songs of note on the album include the slower electronic song "Porno" and the soul-staring "Flashbulb Eyes". "Joan of Arc", "You Already Know" and "Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)" are the closest to the old Arcade Fire we will receive on this double album. 

Thematically the album speaks of a general distrust in Christianity with many not very subtle references to Hell and Heaven. The lyrics aren't the greatest, but the general meaning of each song is inherent and easy to understand.

Overall, this was a risk that Arcade Fire had to take in order to not be complacent. The album itself, in my humble opinion is reminiscent of such career-changing albums such as Kid A by Radiohead, and Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan. The albums are not similar in sound or even context, but in the way that they completely changed the futures for the artist, and Arcade Fire truly reinvents itself on this album and their future is bright for this in lack of a better word, beautiful band. 


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

AM by Arctic Monkeys REVIEW

It's been one hell of a ride with the Arctic Monkeys. They gave us their fantastic punk-influenced debut back in 2006, and it has never been the same since. After alienating fans with their (in my opinion great and mature) 2009 album, Humbug, they took a turn back to the more pop-like anthems in 2011's, Suck It and See. AM is the culminating effort, their center-piece album. It seems as if all the work they have done in the last 8 years comes to this. Combining the mature sounds and lyrics of Humbug with the pop like choruses of Suck It and See, Favourite Worse Nightmare, and Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, AM comes out to be arguably their best album yet.

The album starts off with the lead single "Do I Wanna Know?" and never looks back. "R U Mine" is the closest we get to the hard-rocking days of oh so long ago and "One For The Road" is a hidden gem. "Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High"'s hip-hop influenced beats help outline the repetitive yet golden lyrics. With grooves inspired by Queens of the Stone Age and fantastic production by James Ford, this is the furthest the Monkeys have journeyed from conventional rock and that risk pays off. The album thematically speaks of the many problems faced by a paranoid party-goer trapped in a fierce attraction with a unknown lover (rumored to be Alexa Chung).

For a lack of a better word, this album is pure sex.

This is one fantastic album by the Arctic Monkeys, but it will be tough to match up to in the future.


NEXT UP: Reflektor by Arcade Fire

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Apocalypse Now REVIEW

"The horror... the horror". These are the last lines uttered in the 1979 classic epic Apocalypse Now by The Godfather director, Francis Ford Coppola. Set in Vietnam, the film takes us through the psychological and physical battles that our main character, Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) endures throughout the course of his top-secret mission to kill the gone rogue, Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando). Set in Vietnam during the height of the war, the film is not necessarily a Vietnam film, but a film set in Vietnam, as the war itself is not the main focus besides showing the horrors of war.

Starting off with a now classic intro of Willard lying in his bedroom while the song, "The End" by the Doors plays interlaced with scenes of destruction in the jungle, the film sets the tone  as we see Willard is a damaged good, who claims that his new mission was going to be his last.

The cinematography in this film was truly breathtaking, with beautiful shots of jungles and rivers. And then there's the fantastic scene in which helicopters attack a beach with Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" playing.

The acting in this film was brilliant, from Martin Sheen's psychological portrayal of Willard, to Marlon Brando's incredible performance as Kurtz, to Robert Duvall's performance of the wisecracking Kilgore. There were superb performances from all around, including a young 14 year old (at the time of the beginning of filming; he was 17 when it finished filming), Laurence Fishburne, now known for his roles in the TV series Hannibal, and the film, The Matrix.

Overall, this was a film that justified its troubled and problematic production, with fantastic cinematography, acting performances, and just a fantastic script and plot [based on Heart of Darkness (1902) by Joseph Conrad], the film was everything that it was made out to be, and even better than that. Apocalypse Now is definitely one movie that you must see before you die.


Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Last Airbender REVIEW

I'm not going to lie to you guys, I hated this film. The Last Airbender by M. Night. Shyamalan is absolutely an atrocious movie with horrible acting, jumbled up dialogue, terrible plot choice. Now for those of you who didn't know, the film is based on the universally acclaimed cartoon, Avatar: The Last Airbender. The cartoon itself was one of the best cartoons in history. The movie however, ruined many elements that made the cartoon so appealing, and for fans seemed like a slap in the face.

First off, lets talk about casting for the characters. Aang (or Uhng in the film) is supposed to be a joyful, playful kid who also has a serious and wise side to him. In the film, the actor Noah Ringer portrays Aang as a serious, depressing person who I'm pretty sure didn't even smile once in the film. Here's some pictures to explain:

It gets even worse from here, Sokka (or Soak-uh in the film) is a sarcastic and humorous warrior in the cartoon. He was "portrayed" in the film by Jackson Rathbone who does the absolute worst acting job I have ever seen. Sokka is the most depressing monotone person in the Four Nations.

Third, I get that Shyamalan is Indian and all, but seriously? Pretty much the entire Fire Nation is Indian, and characters like Ozai and Zhao who are supposed to invoke fear really just seem miscasted. I get trying to make the film racially diverse and all, but you cast the best fit for the character, not try to force in a terrible choice just because you want to.

Next, I'll talk to you about the terrible delivery of dialogue, and just the absurdity of the dialogue itself. Many of the actors in the film seem to be off in their timing and delivery is just terrible as no one shows emotion besides Dev Patel (who just yells pretty much the entire movie).

Finally, lets look into the plot of the movie. The film is based on the first season of the cartoon which is bascially 20 episodes. The film left out many key plot points and overemphasized others, such as the exclusion of the Kyoshi Warriors and King Bumi who are integral parts of the cartoon. Even just doing a montage of the travels of Team Avatar would have done the left out characters more justice than having a quarter of the film about the Blue Spirit and the Avatar in prison.


Overall, this is a horrible film that I would definitely not recommend you see if you are a fan of the cartoon or if you aren't. I recommend watching the cartoon instead as that is a very good TV show. 

Watch this instead!

Link for Show (Netflix Instant Stream): 
Rating: 0.5/5

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises REVIEW

Over the years, Christopher Nolan has given us films over the years that changed our lives and bent our minds. But he has outdone himself with the immense spectacle that is The Dark Knight Rises. The caped crusader truly rises in this film to immortal glory not seen before in The Dark Knight and Batman Begins.  From Michael Caine's heart wrenching performance as the trusty butler, Alfred to the sheer awesome power Tom Hardy invests in his character Bane, the film truly is breathtaking. Not to be forgotten is the amazing score from Hans Zimmer who recycles themes from the previous films and adds new ones, including my personal favorite track, "Gotham's Reckoning", with bone chilling chants of, "Deshi Deshi Basara Basara". This film goes down in my books as not only one of the greatest comic book and superhero films of all time, but arguably one of the greatest films of all time. The Dark Knight Rises truly rises above the competition and gives you a film that you wish would never end.

Rating: 5/5