Deep Album Cuts Vol. 107: Peter Gabriel

Friday, May 18, 2018



















Today, the bulk of Peter Gabriel's discography, including all his studio albums, is on Spotify for the first time (although Apple has had it for a while, and Tidal still doesn't). Other than the original "Solsbury Hill" as it appeared on the soundtrack to the semi-forgotten 2002 film In Good Company, which has racked up 33 million plays on Spotify, most of Peter Gabriel's most famous songs have only been available on streaming services in later re-recordings and live versions, if at all.

For years, Gabriel had been one of the more high profile holdouts from Spotify, which had motivated me to start buying his albums on CD, since I grew up on So and his hits but didn't really know the earlier albums. In fact, I'd just finally finished buying all of the first 4 albums when I heard last week that they were coming to Spotify, which made me feel a little silly, but now I have them to listen to in the car. I previously made playlists in this series for PrinceThe Beatles, AC/DC, and Def Leppard when they finally joined streaming services, and Gabriel was one of the last big ones I was really waiting on (Bob Seger also started streaming his music in the past year but I haven't finished his playlist yet).

Peter Gabriel deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):
1. Start
2. That Voice Again
3. Slowburn
4. Flotsam And Jetsam
5. Kiss Of Life
6. Mercy Street
7. Fourteen Black Paintings
8. Intruder
9. Animal Magic
10. San Jacinto
11. And Through The Wire
12. Here Comes The Flood
13. A Wonderful Day In A One-Way World
14. Excuse Me
15. This Is The Picture (Excellent Birds) with Laurie Anderson
16. The Drop
17. Family Snapshot
18. Lay Your Hands On Me

Tracks 3, 12 and 14 from Peter Gabriel 1 (Car) (1977)
Tracks 4, 9 and 13 from Peter Gabriel 2 (Scratch) (1978)
Tracks 1, 8, 11 and 17 from Peter Gabriel 3 (Melt) (1980)
Tracks 5, 10 and 18 from Peter Gabriel 4 (Security) (1982)
Tracks 2, 6 and 15 from So (1986)
Track 7 from Us (1992)
Track 16 from Up (2002)

A little confusingly, Peter Gabriel's first 4 albums were all self-titled, but the way people tell them apart, either by numbering them 1 to 4 or using words that describe their cover art, have emerged over time as more or less official titles that you even see now on Spotify. As usual, I avoided singles big and small, although several of these non-singles were picked by Gabriel to appear on his first and highest selling best-of compilation Shaking The Tree: 16 Golden Greats ("Mercy Street," "San Jacinto," "Family Snapshot," and a re-recording of "Here Comes The Flood"). Mostly, though, I just went with my gut on the stuff that leapt out to me the most, particularly "Kiss Of Life" and "Slowburn." I've always loved "That Voice Again," which got a moderate amount of radio airplay at the time but wasn't one of So's five big smash singles.

Gabriel's second album is kind of the odd man out in that it's the only one of the early albums that doesn't have a big radio song everybody knows. It doesn't even get a track on Shaking The Tree. The single that was released from the album, "D.I.Y.," is great, but I can understand why it wasn't as big as "Solsbury Hill" or "Shock The Monkey," and I don't necessarily know if there is a song that I can see having been a hit if it was released. But I love the album and it's unusual clash of sounds, particularly with Sid McGinnis evokes country music with the steel guitar on "Flotsam And Jetsam" and "A Wonderful Day In A One-Way World."

Peter Gabriel reminds me a bit of David Bowie, or for that matter a lot of contemporary pop singers, in that they're usually seen onstage just singing, and maybe don't get enough credit for how much they play and write the instrumentation on their records. It's cool to hear occasional stuff like "The Drop" that's just Gabriel singing and playing piano, but usually he's surrounded himself with great musicians like longtime sidemen Tony Levin and David Rhodes, and an incredible variety of guests. Some of the people playing on these songs include Stewart Copeland ("Mercy Street"), Paul Weller ("And Through The Wire"), Robert Fripp ("Slowburn" and "Here Comes The Flood"), John Paul Jones ("Fourteen Black Paintings"), Phil Collins ("Intruder" and "Family Snapshot"), Daniel Lanois, Nile Rodgers and Bil Laswell ( all three of whom are on "This Is The Picture").

One of the things that I find interesting is that while Peter Gabriel made a pretty clean break from Genesis and never looked back, the one former bandmate who played on his records was Phil Collins, who drummed on 4 tracks on Gabriel's 3rd album in 1980. By that point, Genesis with Collins singing lead was well on its way to far greater success than it'd had with Gabriel, so the fact that they were working together is pretty cool. And "Intruder" became legendary for being the first track where Collins and producer Hugh Padgham first developed the distinctive gated snare drum sound later used most famously on "In The Air Tonight" that totally changed how drums sounded in '80s pop music. But for years, I mainly knew "Intruder" via Primus's cover of it.

One thing that really strikes me about Peter Gabriel's albums is what I once praised Prince for: every album is extremely varied, and he never picked a particular mood or sound and stuck with it for a whole record. You get the hard rockers, the slow contemplative tracks, the adventurous genre experiments, and the big gutsy pop singles all side by side on pretty much every album, with odd things you don't quite expect like "Excuse Me" often popping up. My dad who passed away about a year ago loved Peter Gabriel, so he's one of those artists who always reminds me of him, especially "Mercy Street."

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
Vol. 26: T.I.
Vol. 27: Jackson Browne
Vol. 28: Usher
Vol. 29: Mary J. Blige
Vol. 30: The Black Crowes
Vol. 31: Ne-Yo
Vol. 32: Blink-182
Vol. 33: One Direction
Vol. 34: Kelly Clarkson
Vol. 35: The B-52's
Vol. 36: Ludacris
Vol. 37: They Might Be Giants
Vol. 38: T-Pain
Vol. 39: Snoop Dogg
Vol. 40: Ciara
Vol. 41: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Vol. 42: Dwight Yoakam
Vol. 43: Demi Lovato
Vol. 44: Prince
Vol. 45: Duran Duran
Vol. 46: Rihanna
Vol. 47: Janet Jackson
Vol. 48: Sara Bareilles
Vol. 49: Motley Crue
Vol. 50: The Who
Vol. 51: Coldplay
Vol. 52: Alicia Keys
Vol. 53: Stone Temple Pilots
Vol. 54: David Bowie
Vol. 55: The Eagles
Vol. 56: The Beatles
Vol. 57: Beyonce
Vol. 58: Beanie Sigel
Vol. 59: A Tribe Called Quest
Vol. 60: Cheap Trick
Vol. 61: Guns N' Roses
Vol. 62: The Posies
Vol. 63: The Time
Vol. 64: Gucci Mane
Vol. 65: Violent Femmes
Vol. 66: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Vol. 67: Maxwell
Vol. 68: Parliament-Funkadelic
Vol. 69: Chevelle
Vol. 70: Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio
Vol. 71: Fantasia
Vol. 72: Heart
Vol. 73: Pitbull
Vol. 74: Nas
Vol. 75: Monica
Vol. 76: The Cars
Vol. 77: 112
Vol. 78: 2Pac
Vol. 79: Nelly
Vol. 80: Meat Loaf
Vol. 81: AC/DC
Vol. 82: Bruce Springsteen
Vol. 83: Pearl Jam
Vol. 84: Green Day
Vol. 85: George Michael and Wham!
Vol. 86: New Edition
Vol. 87: Chuck Berry
Vol. 88: Electric Light Orchestra
Vol. 89: Chic
Vol. 90: Journey
Vol. 91: Yes
Vol. 92: Soundgarden
Vol. 93: The Allman Brothers Band
Vol. 94: Mobb Deep
Vol. 95: Linkin Park
Vol. 96: Shania Twain
Vol. 97: Squeeze
Vol. 98: Taylor Swift
Vol. 99: INXS
Vol. 100: Stevie Wonder
Vol. 101: The Cranberries
Vol. 102: Def Leppard
Vol. 103: Bon Jovi
Vol. 104: Dire Straits
Vol. 105: The Police
Vol. 106: Sloan

Movie Diary

Wednesday, May 16, 2018
























a) The Hitman's Bodyguard
It's interesting to think about the career that Ryan Reynolds has had, how long he's been around and how any times I kinda thought he'd peaked, and then he came back bigger. He was one of the guys from "Two Guys, A Girl And A Pizza Place," then he was Van Wilder, then he was in a few forgettable blockbusters like The Proposal and Safe House, then he disappeared for a few years only to finally wind up with a pretty ideal starring vehicle in Deadpool. But Deadpool lays on the Reynolds snark and schtick a little too thick sometimes, I feel like this movie is a better use of him because it's a more straightforward action flick with another foulmouthed star, Samuel L. Jackson, as his foil, it's pretty enjoyable. 

b) Girls Trip
This was very good, although like Bridesmaids I kinda felt like the big pee/poop-themed scene felt like kind of an unnecessary over-the-top moment to make the statement that women can make gross bawdy laugh-out-loud comedies too. Also one of the most amusing things about the whole movie for me was that Queen Latifah's character was a once respectable journalist who'd been reduced to writing celebrity clickbait to get out of debt. 

c) Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets
Fifth Element is one of those movies that my wife watches a lot that I respect as a unique movie that manages to stand out in the samey field of space operas, but I kind of find it grating and don't enjoy watching it. Still I kind of wanted to root for Luc Besson to kind of build on that and do another space epic well, and Valerian mostly feels like a missed opportunity that continues Dane DeHaan's string of flops, he and Cara Delevigne look less like movie stars and more like sickly wet rats in this movie. But there is an entertainingly goofy sequence in the middle of the movie where Ethan Hawke as Jolly The Pimp introduces them to a shapeshifting poledancer played by Rihanna. 

d) The House
I should have known that Chance The Rapper was taking his hero worship of Kanye West too far when he started championing subpar Will Ferrell movies. This isn't bad, really, but it was interesting to see Ferrell and Amy Poehler just kind of clock in as the protagonists who are only intermittently funny and basically let a large supporting cast of mid-level comedy stars headed by Jason Mantzoukas really do all the heavy lifting. 

e) War For The Planet Of The Apes
I like how this reboot series has been executed, it does the 'start over from the beginning' prequel idea better than a lot of franchises have attempted. That said, I don't think any of the subsequent movies have been able to equal how well Rise of the Planet of the Apes was executed and now it kinda feels like I'd like to get on with it and see them redo the stories of the Charlton Heston movies. 

f) Before I Fall
One of the best movies I've seen recently was Happy Death Day, which was kind of a 'horror Groundhog Day' where a girl who's a freshman in college lives the day she's murdered over and over. So I was curious to see this movie, which came out a few months earlier and is similar, except it's about a girl who's a senior in high school, and dies in a car crash in the day she has to repeat, and it's more of an introspective drama than a horror movie. There was a lot I liked about the storytelling and the performances, but the ending was really just not good and felt like it didn't have the poignance they thought it would. 

g) Deep
My kid found this movie about an octopus on Netflix, it's kind of offbrand Finding Nemo but still pretty good, I feel like there's always more room for animated films about ocean life because there's so many cool colorful species that you can turn into characters. 

h) The Book Of Love
The fact that I couldn't remember who the star of this movie was and figured it was probably John Krasinski makes me really feel bad for Jason Sudeikis, who I usually like, but this was really a bland movie. 

Monthly Report: May 2018 Singles

Saturday, May 12, 2018























1. Ariana Grande - "No Tears Left To Cry"
Everyone knows that Ariana Grande self-consciously patterns herself over '80s and '90s divas like Mariah and Celine and Whitney. But back then pop stars would release ballads for every 2nd or 3rd single, whereas Grande has had to play the more consistently uptempo game of 2010s pop radio. And "No Tears Left To Cry" is kind of a clever way to get around that, opening like a schmaltzy ballad, then dropping in the dance beat and the chants about turning up, and then combining the flowerly melody with the funky beat. I'm a sucker for records that blur the line between ballads and uptempo songs, so I appreciate the experiment. Here's the 2018 singles playlist I update every month. 

2. Ella Mai - "Boo'd Up" 
I think I got a crush on Ella Mai just from hearing her voice when this started getting played on the radio a few months ago. It's cool how chameleonic and versatile DJ Mustard has become since the heyday of his signature sound, I had no idea he produced this until recently.

3. Jay Rock f/ Kendrick Lamar, Future, and James Blake - "King's Dead" 
I really like Jay Rock and think he had a shot at stardom on the heels of his appearance on "Money Trees." But it feels like everything Top Dawg Entertainment has done in the half decade since then to promote Jay Rock has mostly served to make him seem more like an also-ran on the label he helped launch. The long stretches without any new music, the ridiculous pre-order scam for 90059, and now the song from the Black Panther soundtrack that's ostensibly supposed to launch Jay Rock's next album and is technically now his biggest hit to date. But between Kendrick doing the hook and a showboating outro over a beat switch, and Future's absurdly funny cameo becoming one of the most quoted verse, it's oddly easy to overlook how great Jay Rock is on the song too.

4. Dorothy - "Flawless" 
Roc Nation is a funny label, their roster has a few of the most famous rappers and singers in the world, and then some acts you've probably never heard of, like the L.A.-based hard rock band Dorothy. I don't think I've even heard this on the radio at home, I was driving through Ohio recently checking out all these random rock stations and this was the song I heard that really struck with me. 

5. John Legend f/ BloodPop - "A Good Night" 
I remember when John Legend released "Green Light" and it seemed to really put his voice in this unexpected context of a big uptempo feelgood dance track and I thought it was a great moment that suggested a new lane for his career. But that lane has been left mostly unexplored in the decade since then, so it's nice to hear something that has a little of that vibe again. I only know BloodPop from the 2 songs that actually made me enjoy Justin Bieber, so I knew this was gonna be good when I saw his feature credit. 

6. Ball Greezy f/ Lil Dred - "Nice & Slow" 
A nice filthy sex rap radio sleeper hit for the last few months, from a guy whose name sounds like it means "sweaty nuts," took me a while to figure out if I liked the song or just enjoyed the Freddie Jackson sample. 

7. Chris Stapleton - "Midnight Train To Memphis"  
My local hard rock station only played this a little but it sounded really good in that context, Stapleton promoting one of his rowdier songs to rock radio is a good idea. 

8. The Lemon Twigs - "Tailor Made" 
I've been listening to my alma mater's college station, Towson's WTMD, a lot lately, and this is one of my favorite recent discoveries from the station. Apparently The Lemon Twigs released an album on 4AD a couple years ago, and "Tailor Made" is from a recent 2-song single, so hopefully there's a whole album in this '60s harmony-driven rock style on the way. 

9. Niall Horan - "On The Loose" 
I still feel like a big opportunity is being missed that Niall Horan's song with Maren Morris isn't a single while she's crossing over, but the opening song from Flicker is a solid single too. 

10. Drake - "Nice For What" 
When I enjoy a Drake song these days, I think "but is it 'stomach on flat flat'?" It's nice to hear him just do a solid pop rap song, after the Views era when his biggest hits were on some millennial Lou Bega tip. But "Nice For What" also feels like a good example of how even when Drake puts some different ingredients together in an appealing way, it feels like he's just playing catch-up with everyone else -- the disembodied Big Freedia vocal sample echoes Beyonce's "Formation," the nod to ringtone rap era hero Fabo echoes Young Thug's "Stoner," even the Lauryn Hill vocal loop is something did, or at least tried to do before he was famous enough to get the sample cleared. And then of course, the beat is homage to bounce music, but Drake got a fellow Canadian to produce it even though he's fucking signed to Cash Money and kind of knows a few people from New Orleans.

Worst Single of the Month: Bad Wolves - "Zombie"
Rock radio is full of so many bland bands doing clumsy retreads of overexposed '90s music that it's appropriate that two current hits are Five Finger Death Punch's even more butt rock version of the Offspring's most butt rock song, "Gone Away," and this reworking of The Cranberries' "Zombie." Bad Wolves got Dolores O'Riordan's approval of their version before she died -- she was actually going to appear on the track but never got the chance. But it's really just so awful, particularly because they update the lyrics, dropping "drones" and "2018" into the original lines of the song.

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 106: Sloan

Wednesday, May 09, 2018
















Most of the artists I include in this series are household names, but now and then I stretch the parameters of inclusion for some personal favorite like The Posies or now another power pop institution, Sloan. But Sloan, though they've maintained a fairly low profile in America, are a moderately big deal in their native Canada. I fondly remember falling in love with One Chord To Another in high school and going to Toronto on a school band trip and geeking out to see the "The Lines You Amend" video on MuchMusic and get a sense that one of the little cult bands I loved was actually famous somewhere. Sloan released their excellent twelfth album 12 last month, and I started putting together this playlist just thinking about how impressively consistent they've been without every breaking up or changing members. If you don't know the band well already, the A Sides Win: Singles 1992-2005 compilation is a good entry point to a dozen or so of the songs that have charted in Canada, and this playlist is kind of a companion piece for that to dig deeper.

Sloan deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Penpals
2. Can't Face Up
3. Right Or Wrong
4. On The Horizon
5. Left Of Centre
6. It's In Your Eyes
7. I Hate My Generation
8. A Side Wins
9. You Don't Need Excuses To Be Good
10. Stand By Me, Yeah
11. Lemonzinger
12. Down In The Basement
13. Ready For You
14. Listen To The Radio
15. Cheap Champagne
16. 400 Metres
17. Wish Upon A Satellite
18. HFXNSHC
19. Snowsuit Sound
20. The Great Wall
21. Anyone Who's Anyone
22. I Was Wrong
23. Green Gardens, Cold Montreal
24. The N.S.

Tracks 5 and 11 from Smeared (1992)
Tracks 1, 7 and 19 from Twice Removed (1994)
Tracks 2, 8, 16 and 21 from One Chord To Another (1996)
Tracks 4 and 10 from Navy Blues (1998)
Track 24 from Between The Bridges (1999)
Tracks 6 and 20 from Pretty Together (2001)
Tracks 13 and 22 from Action Pact (2003)
Tracks 3, 14 and 18 from Never Hear The End Of It (2006)
Tracks 12 and 15 from Parallel Play (2008)
Track 23 from The Double Cross (2011)
Track 9 from Commonwealth (2014)
Track 17 from 12 (2018)

The last time Sloan released an album in 2014, I did a post here of an 'imaginary Sloan box set' with 4 playlists collecting the best songs of each member of the band, singles and deep cuts alike. And I decided to keep that concept in mind with this playlist and every four tracks cycles through the members of the band, since I think Sloan's greatest strength is that every member writes and sings songs on pretty much every album. Tracks 1 and 5 and so on are Chris Murphy, tracks 2 and 6 and so on are Patrick Pentland, tracks 3 and 7 and so on are Jay Ferguson, and tracks 4 and 8 and so on are Andrew Scott, so each guy gets six of their best tracks here.

Since Sloan had a bit of a shoegaze/Sonic Youth-influenced sound when they debuted in the early '90s, and slowly turned towards a more retro Beatles production aesthetic, I worried a little that jumping around their discography wouldn't sound right. But the first two albums fit together with the later stuff pretty well, it turns out. The Never Hear/Parallel Play/Double Cross era has a lot of songs that flow together from one track to the next, which makes for some abrupt beginnings and endings when you take the songs out of the albums for a playlist, but for the most part it's not too disruptive here.

One thing that surprised me is that I ended up picking songs that really complement their hits. Where a lot of their biggest singles have been Patrick Pentland hard rockers like "The Good In Everyone" and "Money City Maniacs," I gravitated to Pentland's mellower deep cuts like "It's In Your Eyes" (a strong candidate for one of the band's best songs ever) and "Listen To The Radio." And the band's albums have often featured some fun outliers in the band's sound like the the acoustic "Green Gardens, Cold Montreal," the punky "HFXNSHC," and the Dylanesque "Down In The Basement." And "Penpals," "I Hate My Generation," and "Anyone Who's Anyone" have been featured in their setlists as often as a lot of their singles. I should probably try to go to their show in D.C. this week, I've only seen them live once before.

Monthly Report: April 2018 Albums

Tuesday, May 01, 2018



























1. The Nels Cline 4 - Currents, Constellations
Nels Cline has led many instrumental combos of different shapes and sizes over the past few decades, but the two longest-running bands, The Nels Cline Trio and The Nels Cline Singers, were guitar/bass/drums threesomes. So The Nels Cline 4 is a break from tradition in that he's now sharing guitar duty with Julian Lage. Cline and Lage's 2014 duo album Room was spare and minimalist, so it's cool to hear them now try out their intertwining guitar lines in a more uptempo context with a rhythm section. Television has always been a big influence on Cline and it's cool to hear him try out a quartet that's a little like the Verlaine/Lloyd interplay of two lead guitarists. Plus there's stuff like "River Mouth (Parts 1 & 2)," where Lage helps lay out this lush textured backdrop for one of Cline's best solos in recent memory. Here's the 2018 albums playlist where I put all the records I've been listening to this year.  

2. War On Women - Capture The Flag 
About 7 years ago, I asked Shawna Potter to sing on a song I was working on, because I was a huge fan of her old band Avec. And after the session, she was telling me about the band she'd just formed, which I believe she described as 'Bikini Kill meets early Metallica.' Soon after, I saw an early War On Women show and was blown away, and they've just been an incredible force for good in the world since then, making incredible records and advocating for feminism and fighting rape culture at places like the Warped Tour. And now, their second full-length actually features Kathleen Hanna herself, which feels like the perfect culmination of this whole thing, although I hope there's a lot more in store for them. "Anarcha" is the song on here that really hits me the most with just this powerful, righteous anger, this incredible scorched earth emotion that War On Women does better than anybody right now. 

3. Brothers Osborne - Port Saint Joe
I'm kind of proud that Brothers Osborne are the biggest contemporary country act from Maryland because they're great, so I was a little bummed when I saw that they named their new album after the Florida beach where they recorded it, which is like a Kenny Chesney move or something. But apparently making the album in a relaxed beachfront environment was a great idea, because the whole record feels incredibly relaxed and inviting. Like their first album, Pawn Shop, it was produced by Jay Joyce, who I often call my favorite producer working today, but I was still bowled over by how good it sounds and how seamlessly each song dovetails into the next one.  

4. Wye Oak - The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs
The last time Wye Oak released a proper album, I interviewed Jenn and Andy (the site it was for is gone now, but it's archived here), and I wrote about how exciting it was that they'd kind of overhauled their sound for this 'difficult fourth album' and had survived some of the things that have broken up other bands. But I wasn't actually sure if they would be back for another album, and I'm really glad they are, because songs like "Join" feel like a really cool fusion of Shriek and the earlier Wye Oak albums with something new. "Lifer" in particular feels like this beautiful mission statement of what it means to kind of dedicate your life to something music and playing in a band and how complicated that can be. I really believe Wye Oak have been one of the best bands in the world of the past decade and am happy for every minute we get of them. 

5. Cardi B - Invasion Of Privacy
Even before "Bodak Yellow," I was impressed with how fluidly Cardi B translated her Instagram persona, and her ability to coin catchphrases that people instantly start repeating, to a rap career. But I was still kind of skeptical that what worked for a string of singles and features would translate to an album, and am pretty impressed at just how well this holds together and how it kind of hits all these different areas of her life and her persona and feels like a complete debut album. That's not to say that the songs that kind of expand on who she is like "Be Careful" and "Best Like" are as good as the straight up bravado and shit talking of songs like "Bickenhead" and "Money Bag," but they all work to some degree. Between "I Like It" and "Bickenhead" and "I Do" she could easily spend the rest of the year ruling radio even while she's chilling at home with a newborn. 

6. Sloan - 12 
There are a decent number of bands who've had great second decades, but I can think of very few who've remained as consistent as Sloan in their 3rd decade, and without ever breaking up or having any lineup changes. 2 of their last 5 albums were sprawling double LPs, but this is back to a more concise set, with more of a laid back AM gold vibe than the hard rock/power pop side of the band, "Wish Upon A Satellite" is probably my favorite so far.

7. various artists - Restoration: The Songs Of Elton John And Bernie Taupin
Tribute albums are a dime a dozen, and no matter how star-studded they are, they tend to be so hit-and-miss that the most you can say about them is that you can grab the couple highlights and skip the rest. But two collections of Elton John covers were released simultaneously in April, and while the one full of pop and rock artists, Revamp, is above average, the other country-leaning album, Restoration, is easily one of the best tribute albums I've ever heard (Miley Cyrus is the only artist on both albums, and a lowlight each time). Elton's always had more country in his records than he gets credit for, and '70s singer-songwriter pop is a big piece of contemporary Nashville's DNA, so it's fun to hear great deep cuts done justice like Maren Morris singing "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters" and Miranda Lambert covering "My Father's Gun." Even the odder interpretations, like Lady Antebellum's self-consciously spacey "Rocket Man" that opens the album, are pretty enjoyable ways to approach some very familiar songs. But the one that could've gone either way that I really love is "Sad Songs (Say So Much)" by Dierks Bentley.

8. Willie Nelson - Last Man Standing
I've been reading Willie Nelson's 2015 memoir It's A Long Story lately and gaining a deeper appreciation of his remarkable life, career, and way of looking at the world. So it's lovely to hear him still playing and singing like nobody else and writing about his "weird mind" and his halitosis ("bad breath is better than no breath at all") on an album released just a couple days before his 85th birthday. "Something You Get Through" is pretty moving in particular. These old legends don't owe us any more music at an age like that, but there's something beautiful about the fact that he still wants to (I assume, since his mess with the IRS has been resolved).

9. Bishop Briggs - Church Of Scars
I liked or loved pretty much every song Bishop Briggs put out since her 2016 breakthrough hit "River" up until her current single, "White Flag," which I think is crap. So I feel like it doesn't speak well of this album that my favorite half is the stuff I already know from 2016/2017 and the new stuff is more hit and miss, but there's still some great songs on here and I'm trying to give the record as a whole a chance to grow on me. 

10. Tinashe - Joyride
There's been a lot of performative disappointment (or schadenfreude) about the commercial performance of Tinashe's long-delayed 2nd album. As good as Aquarius was, the many singles she released in the run-up to this record dimmed my enthusiasm. And I have to wonder if people are being a little naive, as if they just assumed that any photogenic singer with one hit and one well-reviewed album should be set for life, which really flies in the face of what's happened to what major labels have been doing with most female R&B singers in the decade since Amerie and Cassie got shelved. The title track to Joyride is the most Rihject-y Rihject ever, and that "no dramama" single blows, but once you get past those, this album is pretty solid, I really like "Ooh La La" and "Faded Love" and "No Contest." 

The Worst Album of the Month: Thirty Seconds To Mars - America 
I already covered why this sucks in my Spin review, but it really is quite insipid. Even as some of my favorite albums this year, from Superchunk to War On Women, have addressed current events head-on, it's instructive to hear what a truly useless, wish-washy resistance-bait album sounds like. 

TV Diary

Thursday, April 26, 2018














a) "The Last O.G."
Tracy Morgan has had a few supporting roles since he recovered from his accident a few years ago, but it's nice to see him really come back with a starring vehicle. "The Last O.G." is about a guy from Brooklyn getting out of jail after 15 years and coming back to his gentrified neighborhood, and finding out he has two kids. So a lot of it is that fish-out-of-water stuff with a guy getting his family back, it's kind of sweet, I wish it was laugh-out-loud funny more often but it has its moments. It seems like kind of a waste to put Tiffany Haddish in a straight man kind of role just as she's becoming a major comedy star, though.

b) "Trust"
There's a weird Armageddon/Deep Impact thing going on where this miniseries about the abduction of John Paul Getty III debuted 3 months after the release of All The Money In The World. It makes me kind of wonder if instead of recasting Christopher Plummer in Kevin Spacey's role they could've just combined these two projects and inserted Donald Sutherland's footage from "Trust." Of the episodes I've watched so far, Brendan Fraser was only a major presence in one of them, and that was by far the best episode, it was really fun to watch him hog the spotlight in a way he hasn't in a long time, a really entertaining performance. Mostly, though, the Danny Boyle direction is really indulgent, the show is good but I have mixed feelings.

c) "Rellik"
Another dark Cinemax series, with the same female lead, Jodi Balfour, from another dark Cinemax series, "Quarry," that was canceled last year. Given the rash of attacks and killings in recent years of people being splashed with acid, which is really terrifying, doing a series about the hunt for an acid serial killer is a pretty good premise. And Richard Dormer plays a detective who survives an attack, so he's doing the whole series with his face made up to look really badly scarred. Pretty intriguing, well directed show, but man that title is cheesy.

d) "Lost In Space"
Doing a modern update of a campy '60s show like "Lost In Space" half a century later seems like an odd prospect to me, especially if you're going to have state-of-the-art special effects and a cast of respectable actors like Molly Parker and Parker Posey. A lot of the time, it looks and feels like a 21st century prestige sci-fi show, and then you get a fan service nod like "danger, Will Robinson," and it kind of feels like they're trying to have their cake and eat it too. I think I'd prefer a completely new show with this cast and crew about a group of people lost in space that's not called "Lost In Space," or a reboot that more fully embraces the tone of the original "Lost In Space."

e) "Howards End"
Hayley Atwell is really delightful and I'm glad to see her back on TV after she had 2 series canceled back-to-back, even if it's just for a 4-episode miniseries. I've never read Howards End or seen any other adaptation so I have no real frame of reference, but I was a little surprised how involving it's been so far.

f) "The Letdown"
This Australian show is kind of a dark comedy about motherhood. But for what it's worth, the mother in the room, my wife, got up and left about 10 minutes into the first episode, so maybe it's a little too dark, at least for her taste. I can't say I found it particularly funny even at the times when the scenes about what it's like to have a newborn in the house were relatable.

g) "Wyatt Cenac's Problem Areas"
When I heard that Wyatt Cenac would be doing a topical weekly series for HBO, I kind of assumed that it would hew close to the format of "The Daily Show" or the several other shows currently hosted by "Daily Show" alumni. But there's no desk, no green screen, no studio audience, and in the first two episodes, he mentions Trump just once to say he's going to focus on other topics. It's also a lot quieter, with a kind of quirky, droll sense of humor -- tonally it reminds me more of NPR or a more highbrow podcast. I don't love it, but I like it and feel like I actually heard some stuff that I don't hear in 5 other shows, so it's a welcome addition to the late night landscape.

h) "Rapture"
A Netflix series where each episode is a 1-hour documentary about a different rapper. Pretty well done stuff, feels more like a casual snapshot of a recent moment in Nas's or T.I.'s career rather than an overview, which is probably smarter than if they were trying to tell their whole life story.

i) "For The People"
Shondaland's latest entry in the endless parade of sexy lawyer shows is nothing special, although those lawyers certainly are sexy (Jasmin Savoy Brown took off her glasses from "The Leftovers" and got a little glammed up and, I mean, wow). I like the focus on the SDNY Federal Court, though, it leaves a lot of potential for more interesting than usual legal stories.

j) "Station 19"
Amidst all the sexy lawyer shows, sexy firefighter shows are really starting to be everywhere, and this is the ABC/Shondaland addition to "Chicago Fire" and "9-1-1." I didn't even realize when watching this that it's actually a "Grey's Anatomy" spinoff, it didn't occur to me that that was likely since it also takes place in Seattle. I guess it's nice that Jaina Lee Ortiz quickly got another network job after the cancellation of "Rosewood," but that was a better show.

k) "Deception"
Another fairly dopey ABC procedural with the twist that the guy from "Cooper Barrett's Guide To Surviving Life" plays a disgraced famous magician who uses his expertise in creating illusions to help the FBI solve crimes. The pilot was actually better than the goofy premise deserves, but the ceiling for a show like this is just not very high. 

l) "In Contempt"
Another sexy lawyer show, this one kind of feeling to me like BET's answer to "Ally McBeal." Kind of knowingly lightweight but pretty funny when it wants to be.

m) "Troy: Fall Of A City"
I like that the second sentence in this show's Wikipedia entry is "The series has received an overwhelmingly negative response from users on the IMDb website." It has a decent amount of visual flair, but yeah, not good.

n) "The Boss Baby: Back In Business"
As someone who took his kid to see The Boss Baby in the theater, and actually had nice things to say about it, I was not thrilled to see that Netflix made a series of the show. None of the voice cast from the movie is involved, and the quality of the animation is a bit lower, but I was pleasantly surprised that the show more or less retains the wit and comedic sensibility of the movie.

o) "Craig of the Creek"
A new Cartoon Network show that my kids and I both adore, really charming and funny and does a great job of evoking that phase of childhood where you go out exploring the neighborhood and everything feels like an adventure.

p) "On My Block"
This is kind of a good, perceptive coming of age show, but it's also kind of a soap opera that I'm not interested in enough to watch more than a couple episodes.

q) "McMafia"
This is probably the best possible time to be doing a show about the Russian criminal underworld, but I dunno, this feels kind of boring. Also, I know it got the name from the book it's based on, but "McMafia" is a terrible name.

r) "In Ice Cold Blood"
It's so weird to think that Ice-T has been a TV cop for almost 20 years and it's basically the defining feature of his public profile at this point. This show is basically a boilerplate TruTV true crime thing telling the story of a murder with news clips and reenactments, the presence of Ice-T doesn't really do much to make this genre of TV more interesting to me.

s) "Brockmire"
This show's main appeal is Hank Azaria stringing together obscene but strangely literary monologues together in an old-timey baseball announcer voice, which is really something I never get tired of. So I'm glad the second season just kind of rebooted the story and put him in a slightly different context but still is pretty aware of what makes the show work.

t) "Mary Kills People"
This show got off to a strong start last year but my interest dwindled a little by the end of the first season. I've only just started the second season, but it seems pretty promising, Des's storyline with the introduction of Rachelle Lefevre's kind of manipulative femme fatale character should be good.

u) "The Arrangement"
My wife reads romance novels sometimes for kicks, and one thing she's told me is a pitfall of those books is that they'll often throw some plot device in there to endanger the relationship or make the guy seem dangerous that actually just turns the reader's sympathies against him so that the story ceases to be romantic. And I feel like that's a little bit of the balancing act that "The Arrangement" is dealing with, the first season did a good job of making it seem like Kyle could either be an unwitting pawn or a villain while still making Megan's relationship with him feel kind of real. But increasingly in the second season I kind of want them to stop playing coy with that and let the other shoe drop.

v) "A Series of Unfortunate Events"
I liked the first season of this, but it can be a little exhausting to watch so I've only watched a little of the second season so far. The addition of Lucy Punch and Nathan Fillion is promising, though.

w) "Westworld"
I grew up with network shows usually only going on hiatus for 3-4 months in the summer, but nowadays cable shows run for maybe 10 weeks and then you wait 9 months for the new season. So when a show like "Westworld" takes 16 months to follow up the first season, it really just feels like a lifetime ago since this show had me glued to the screen and I'm still kind of easing back into it. The premiere this week had a few cool scenes but I'm still waiting to see if it'll really hold my attention again. I'm a little bummed that there'll be a lot less of Anthony Hopkins and Jimmi Simpson.

x) "Atlanta"
Another show where the 16-month break after the first season seemed almost like a luxury of the show's acclaim and popularity. I haven't caught up with all the new episodes yet, but it's been good so far. The first season had kind of an uneasy balance between the slice of life stories, the music industry satire, and the weird surreal breaks from reality, but now that they've established that kind of anything-goes ethos, I'm cool with it. Brian Tyree Henry has really been amazing this season in just being able to make scenes funnier just with little facial expressions, I loved the episode with the barber that was just one long farce with him being dragged along.

y) "The Circus: Inside the Greatest Political Show on Earth"
Showtime's "The Circus" was a pretty good document of the 2016 election because even if they treated it a little too flippantly like a horse race like most other media outlets, their weekly half hour documentaries at least dug in and showed you a slightly different perspective. The show has been less essential as a chronicle of the Trump administration, and last year one of the three hosts, Mark Halperin, got caught up in a #MeToo scandal. So now the show is back this year, with a woman, Alex Wagner, in Halperin's place, which is a good call they deserve some credit for. There was an awkward moment, however, where one of the other hosts kind of vaguely mentioned what's been happening in the country and "in society" since the show's last episode, and like, motioned toward Wagner, but they never really addressed it. But I liked what they did on Russia, which included actually going to Russia and speaking to people on the street and outspoken critics of Putin.

z) "New Girl"
"Parks & Recreation" did a 'jump forward' 3 years for its 7th and final season that mostly served as a platform for some silly jokes about the near future. "New Girl" is also doing a 'jump forward' 3 years for its 7th and final season. But here it feels like the point was that, since "New Girl" started out as a show about 30-year-olds living like college students, now they're kind of skipping forward to have them actually start living like they're almost 40. So Schmidt and Cece have a baby and Winston and Aly have one on the way, and so on. It sounds stupid, and it kind of is, but I would say the show is as good now as it's been for the last couple seasons that it's been past its peak while still enjoyable.

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 105: The Police

Wednesday, April 25, 2018


















Every time Sting releases a new project, like last week's odd album-length collaboration with Shaggy, 44/876, I think about the classic The Onion op-ed where Sting mused "you know, I used to be kind of cool once." Some of my earliest memories of music were hearing The Police albums around the house, and Stewart Copeland was one of the first drummers I looked up to as a guy who didn't just do amazing things with his kit but also seemed to really be the engine that drove the band's sound and sensibility. My dad often recalled how much he loved "Roxanne" the first time he heard it, and remained a fan of Sting throughout his life. Lately I've been driving around with a folder full of Dad's CDs that includes the first few Sting solo albums but not any Police. And some of the Sting stuff is good, but hearing it really made me crave going back to the Police records.

The Police deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Truth Hits Everybody
2. When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What's Still Around
3. Synchronicity I
4. Bring On The Night
5. Next To You
6. Canary In A Coalmine
7. Secret Journey
8. The Bed's Too Big Without You
9. Walking In Your Footsteps
10. Man In A Suitcase
11. Too Much Information
12. Reggatta de Blanc
13. Murder By Numbers
14. Born In The 50's
15. Driven To Tears
16. O My God
17. Does Everyone Stare
18. One World (Not Three)
19. Peanuts
20. Tea In The Sahara
21. Behind My Camel
22. Omegaman

Tracks 1, 5, 14 and 19 from Outlandos d'Amour (1978)
Tracks 4, 8, 12 and 17 from Reggatta de Blanc (1979)
Tracks 2, 6, 10, 15 and 21 from Zenyatta Mondatta (1980)
Tracks 7, 11, 18 and 22 from Ghost in the Machine (1981)
Tracks 3, 9, 13, 16 and 20 from Synchronicity (1983)

I'm a big fan of bands with multiple singer/songwriters or moments when one of the sidemen steps out with an occasional great song. But The Police never quite had that dynamic -- they're a classic power trio where each member is brilliant and indispensable, but Sting is the clear frontman, and it often feels like Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers were writing songs mainly to get their own cut of royalty money, keep things from getting too pop, or simply to fill out LPs when Sting came up short. They were, after all, cranking out an album a year while touring all over the world.

I like Copeland's vocals and lyrics fine in the context of his own stuff, like his Klark Kent solo project (which actually debuted on the UK singles charts a couple months before the first Police hit). But Copeland singing, or Sting singing Copeland's songs, invariably pales in comparison to Sting's fairly effortless ear for melody. And Summers' vocal turn on Synchronicity's "Mother" is probably one of the most infamous and widely disliked deep cuts to ever appear on a blockbuster album. One side effect of The Police being one of the biggest bands in the world is that even some of their least memorable tracks won major awards -- both "Behind My Camel" and Reggatta de Blanc's title track won the Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.

The Police are a tricky band because they only made 5 albums and went out on top with their biggest record, so there's no period of decline and every album featured a couple of great classic singles, but their discography is by no means flawless. There's not even a perfect album in the bunch, whether you want to blame Copeland/Summers songs, filler instrumentals, or Sting's occasional embarrassing couplets like "hey Mr. Dinosaur, you really couldn't ask for more." This playlist was fun to make mostly because I could skip past both the overly familiar hits and the outright stinkers like "Be My Girl - Sally."

And while Synchronicity is often crowned as the band's classic, there's not really a strong consensus about the band's best and worst albums. It says a lot about Synchonicity that the B-side tacked onto later CD and cassette editions, "Murder By Numbers," kind of surpasses a lot of the proper album. I find myself in the minority when I vouch for Zenyatta Mondatta, which I think has the smallest gap in quality between the best and worst songs, and perhaps the most sustained mood of any Police album, with a focus on the trebly, jittery side of the band. Maybe it just gets lost in the shuffle among the people who like the punky energy of the first two albums or the growing pop sophistication of the last two albums. I always want Reggatta de Blanc to be better than it is but it's arguably derailed by filler more than any of their records. And Sting's brief infatuation with playing saxophone kind of makes Ghost In The Machine my least favorite in their catalog.

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
Vol. 26: T.I.
Vol. 27: Jackson Browne
Vol. 28: Usher
Vol. 29: Mary J. Blige
Vol. 30: The Black Crowes
Vol. 31: Ne-Yo
Vol. 32: Blink-182
Vol. 33: One Direction
Vol. 34: Kelly Clarkson
Vol. 35: The B-52's
Vol. 36: Ludacris
Vol. 37: They Might Be Giants
Vol. 38: T-Pain
Vol. 39: Snoop Dogg
Vol. 40: Ciara
Vol. 41: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Vol. 42: Dwight Yoakam
Vol. 43: Demi Lovato
Vol. 44: Prince
Vol. 45: Duran Duran
Vol. 46: Rihanna
Vol. 47: Janet Jackson
Vol. 48: Sara Bareilles
Vol. 49: Motley Crue
Vol. 50: The Who
Vol. 51: Coldplay
Vol. 52: Alicia Keys
Vol. 53: Stone Temple Pilots
Vol. 54: David Bowie
Vol. 55: The Eagles
Vol. 56: The Beatles
Vol. 57: Beyonce
Vol. 58: Beanie Sigel
Vol. 59: A Tribe Called Quest
Vol. 60: Cheap Trick
Vol. 61: Guns N' Roses
Vol. 62: The Posies
Vol. 63: The Time
Vol. 64: Gucci Mane
Vol. 65: Violent Femmes
Vol. 66: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Vol. 67: Maxwell
Vol. 68: Parliament-Funkadelic
Vol. 69: Chevelle
Vol. 70: Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio
Vol. 71: Fantasia
Vol. 72: Heart
Vol. 73: Pitbull
Vol. 74: Nas
Vol. 75: Monica
Vol. 76: The Cars
Vol. 77: 112
Vol. 78: 2Pac
Vol. 79: Nelly
Vol. 80: Meat Loaf
Vol. 81: AC/DC
Vol. 82: Bruce Springsteen
Vol. 83: Pearl Jam
Vol. 84: Green Day
Vol. 85: George Michael and Wham!
Vol. 86: New Edition
Vol. 87: Chuck Berry
Vol. 88: Electric Light Orchestra
Vol. 89: Chic
Vol. 90: Journey
Vol. 91: Yes
Vol. 92: Soundgarden
Vol. 93: The Allman Brothers Band
Vol. 94: Mobb Deep
Vol. 95: Linkin Park
Vol. 96: Shania Twain
Vol. 97: Squeeze
Vol. 98: Taylor Swift
Vol. 99: INXS
Vol. 100: Stevie Wonder
Vol. 101: The Cranberries
Vol. 102: Def Leppard
Vol. 103: Bon Jovi
Vol. 104: Dire Straits

Movie Diary

Tuesday, April 17, 2018





















a) Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Looper is one of my favorite movies of the decade, and I've had very mixed feelings about Rian Johnson directing an installment of the current Star Wars trilogy, especially now that he's been subsequently hired to create an additional new Star Wars trilogy. If you consider someone to be a pretty original filmmaker and can't wait to see what they come up with next, the idea of them spending 5-10 years of their prime as the custodian of a big familiar franchise, I dunno, it bums me out. So even though The Last Jedi is really good, it just makes me think about the unfinished screenplay languishing on Johnson's laptop now. In particular I liked just seeing more of the new cast, Daisy Ridley and Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver are all so good in their roles, and Benicio del Toro and Kelly Marie Tran are great new additions. For months I had managed to avoid spoilers while hearing vaguely about fan backlash, and kind of expected there to be some kind of huge dark twist that pissed people off, but I was kind of surprised that the movie was so divisive. At most I thought it was kind of lame that [major character] pulled a cool trick to avoid a violent death and then just kind of voluntarily died moments later, but nobody even seems to care about that.

b) Coco
This was pretty wonderful. I have a hard time now evaluating kids' movies after one view because I the ones my kids like end up playing in our house a couple dozen times and I develop completely different feelings about them over that kind of repetition, for better or worse. But I really liked the story and the music and the way family and music were woven through the story, could very well wind up my favorite Pixar movie since Up.

c) Thor: Ragnarok
I like the Marvel movies most when they don't take themselves too seriously, and tend to most enjoy the ones that have a distinct comic voice (Iron Man 3, the first AvengersAnt-Man, though I'm a little neutral on Guardians). And Thor: Ragnarok is definitely the funniest and most offbeat movie in the MCU to date, I can see how it's not everyone's speed but it was so enjoyable to see Taika Waititi treat this huge budget and this big canvas of Marvel mythology as a ridiculous playground.

d) The Justice League
It's a good illustration of how Marvel movies have found and nurtured a sense of humor while D.C. has avoided figuring out that whole aspect of making a popcorn movie as much as possible that The Justice League only has a decent amount of levity because Avengers director Joss Whedon was brought in for rewrites and reshoots. The movie was less of a mess than I expected, perhaps because I really expected a mess, but I think the fun of seeing the cast come together helped a lot, The Flash and Cyborg were good. Henry Cavill's weird CGI'd face was so distracting, though.

e) Atomic Blonde
This was fairly fun and stylishly directed. But it was also one of those movies that was just so obnoxiously on-the-nose with constant needle drops of iconic '80s pop songs to remind you that it takes place in the '80s, to the point that at one point they basically remade the Reservoir Dogs "Stuck In The Middle With You" scene with "99 Luftballoons." There's one particular scene in Atomic Blonde that I thought was one of the best, most impressively choreographed fight scenes in recent memory, uh, the one set to "Father Figure" for some reason.

f) The Sound
Christopher Lloyd has had dozens of the TV and film credits in the last 20 years, but a lot of it has been so low profile that it feels like he fell off the face of the earth after being staple of so much pop culture of my youth. So when I see that he's done a movie that's not, like, for kids, I get excited that it could be some late period gem. But this thriller with Rose MacGowan was kind of a letdown, I liked the concept but it involved a lot of people typing on phones/computers and the way the text splashed across the screen was really poorly executed and made the movie look cheaper and more slapdash than it otherwise was. 

g) Alien: Covenant
I kind of feel like Alien and Aliens are about as good, and as good for different reasons, as just about any 2 movies from the same franchise, but pretty much everything else from the franchise is a total wash, and every movie seems to fail to understand what worked about those movies in a new way. This one I didn't pay too much attention to when my wife watched it since I didn't much care for Prometheus, but it seemed maybe better than that. I'm kind of confused by Katherine Waterston, like she agreed to some Faustian bargain where she gets to be in major films but she often has the most terrible '80s mom hair bowl cut that makes her look older than she is. 

h) The Book of Henry
I remember seeing a trailer for this movie and rolling my eyes at another poignant movie about a precocious, near magical young child. But it wasn't until The Book of Henry came out a few months later that I started reading the awful reviews and realizing just how ridiculous the movie's plot was and kind of wanted to see it for myself. And it really is just fascinating to watch all these professional actors just soldier through this weird awful idea as if it was all gonna work out. But aside from the crazy plot twists it's really just insufferable how poorly the genius kid's dialogue is written to sound like neither a realistic child nor a realistic adult. Naomi Watts probably owes her career to the fact that she said yes to stories like Mulholland Drive and I Heart Huckabees where some actors might not have, so maybe it was a matter of time until her adventurousness ended up in a legendary farce like this. But it's also weird to see people like Sarah Silverman and Bobby Moynihan carry on like this is just a regular movie. 

i) Gifted
This is more like the kind of boilerplate poignant movie about a precocious child that I thought The Book of Henry was going to be. And while there were some obnoxious scenes that played like a Good Will Hunting about a 7-year-old girl. But I think I mostly enjoyed this for the extremely real chemistry between Chris Evans and Jenny Slate that turned into an IRL relationship after they made this movie. 

j) Allied
Much like Gifted was interesting partly because it sparked a romance between co-stars, this spy movie is largely infamous because of the gossip that Brad Pitt's marriage ended because of an affair with Marion Cotillard. Which is funny because his first marriage ended because of an affair with a co-star of a movie about spies. Anyway it's not bad, good ensemble, I was pleasantly surprised that Lizzy Caplan turned up in this with an enjoyable supporting role.