Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Interstellar REVIEW

I knew it. I knew from that first moment we saw their spaceship and we heard the dead-silence of space. I knew that this film would be inevitably compared to Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. And those comparisons aren't wrong. There are so many details from 2001 that Interstellar borrows and pays homage to. From the shape of the robot assistants, CASE and TARS, to the sheer depiction of space and the structure of the ships. Even the score by Hans Zimmer seems to relish back to the grandiose sounds of the 1968 film. None of this is bad. In fact it makes the film feel like something it is, an enhancement and furthering of those beautiful effects from 2001.

But Interstellar is something of its own. It is a film in many other respects that is so different from 2001. It focuses on the emotional struggles of a father launching into space and leaving his children and family behind. It focuses on the idea that love is something that cannot be measured, yet is the most quantifiable and beautiful things in the universe. It focuses on the idea of losing the ones you love because of the inescapable and terrifying effects of time. It brings a resiliency and strength back to the notion of believing in humanity and looking up to the stars in wonder.

In the realm of cinematography, the film is unmatched. The striking shots of entering a wormhole to the sheer awe that is inspired by the sight of a black hole, create an image of space that has never been seen before. The most fantastic part of this all is: it's all true. Due to help of physicist, Kyp Thorne, Nolan is able to conjure up images of scientifically correct phenomena and still make it look as beautiful as it should in a film. My eyes were transfixed in wonder as I gazed upon a wormhole (that wasn't a circle, but a sphere, as noted in the film), that looked so real I could touch it.

The narrative and script can get boggled down at times, but the overall story is another beautiful idea. An idea that humankind is not destined to stay on earth, but is destined to be pioneers and visionaries up in the stars. This film may very well have inspired a potential generation of physicists and astronauts into thinking about the world in a new perspective.

Matthew McConaughey and the rest of the cast do an exceptional job. Especially the young Mackenzie Foy, who plays the young Murph, daughter of Cooper (McCounaughey's character). It's truly a fantastically acted film.

This film is pure bliss. It's mentally challenging, but the reward you get at the end is worth every struggle. 

Born out of an appreciation and understanding of films such as 2001, Interstellar manages to make a new footprint on not only the genre of science fiction, but films in general by taking complexity to an uncharted beauty not seen before. Interstellar, even with its far-reaching concepts, still is able to convey the simplest, yet the most powerful of human ideas, love.

Rating: 5/5 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Ghost Stories by Coldplay REVIEW

The boy's are back. After a slightly disappointing album (not in my opinion, but the public's) in 2011's Mylo Xyloto, the Londoners make their return with the "stripped-down" Ghost Stories. Dealing with the pressures of a disintegrating relationship, Chris Martin sings of nothing but  love on this 9 song, 40 minute album. Filled with the ambient production of Paul Epsworth and others (even including Timbaland and Avicii), the album has a very laid-back and casual feel to it. Most of these tracks aren't really stand-outs on their own, but as a whole they combine to create a lightweight and fresh feel.

Opening with "Always in My Head", the light and delicate work of Jonny Buckland's guitar and the simple yet soothing sounds of Will Champion on the drum machine, the song has a airy and dreamy quality to it, which is maintained by the rest of the album.

Two of my favorite tracks on the album, "Magic" and "Ink" both use thumping beats to create an upbeat and cheery feel. Lyrically neither of these songs, or the rest of the album for that matter, are anything really special. But with Coldplay, its the sum of the parts that counts, and the sum in this case is truly magnificent.

"True Love" is an OK track that to me feels like "Ink" but with slightly less effort put into it, and a hell of a lot more annoying background sounds.

Arguably the centerpiece of the album, "Midnight" is one of two songs that don't seem to fit into this album whatsoever, with "A Sky Full of Stars" being the other. "Midnight" is reminscent of Kid A by Radiohead mashed with Bon Iver's vocoder vocals. 

The weakest part of the album consists of the two songs "Another's Arms" and "Oceans". While "Oceans" does sound the closest to old Coldplay we get on this album, the incessant sound of a sonar like beep in the background ruins any and all atmosphere that is trying to be achieved. "Another's Arms" lyrically and musically is nothing special, here let Chris Martin's lyrics tell you:

"Late night watching TV,
used to be you here beside me"

The best song on the album in my humble opinion is the simple yet striking piano ballad, "O". Sounding like a mashup of "Atlas" and "Clocks" it has neither the high production of those two songs, but retains all the emotion and sensitivity that those two have. It simply is the best piece of work that Coldplay have done in the last few years.

Choice Picks: "Always In My Head", "Magic", "Ink", "Midnight", "O"

Rating: 7.5/10

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Turn Blue by The Black Keys REVIEW

The hard rockers from Akron, Ohio are finally back with their newest album since 2011's El Camino. This new album, Turn Blue, marks a shift from the hard rocking bluesy sounds of their previous albums and veers into a more psychedelic-pop sound which retains only hints of its blues heritage.

I have to admit, when I first heard "Fever", I felt like this album was going to be a dissapointment, even though "Fever" grew on me. However, the album is so varied in sound yet connected in themes that it has something for everyone.

The album begins with the ramblings sounds of a lone acoustic guitar in "Weight of Love" then transitioning into looping and snaking guitar solos from the genius of Dan Auerbach. Had Creedence Clearwater Revival begun their playing days in this modern age, this is the equivalent of that. Conjuring up images of a travel down a desert highway at sunset, the song sets the mood for the rest of the album. "In Time" begins with a Broken Bell-esque sound most likely contributed by producer Danger Mouse, which then transitions back into familiar Black Keys territory, with small looping guitar riffs and hard rocking drum beats. Others include the Bo Diddley inspired "It's Up to You Now" and the sexy sound of the 9th track, "10 Lovers".

The rest of the album continues upon that psychedelic sound and even as it seems to deccelerate down into bluesy slow jams, it quickly picks back up to the familiar fast paced sounds of the Keys.

With the production of Danger Mouse, the guitar and bass of Dan Auerbach, and the drums of Patrick Carney, the Black Keys have created an album that holds up to its own when compared to Brothers and El Camino. In fact the three albums may even be considered a trilogy, like Bowie's Berlin albums and Dylan's 1960s classics.

Album Highlights: "Weight of Love", "In Time", "Fever", "Year in Review"

Rating: 8.5/10

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