Monthly Report: March 2018 Singles

Sunday, March 18, 2018

1. Migos - "Stir Fry"
Back when the Neptunes had their first run of hits, major labels were still figuring out what to do with southern hip hop, and invariably a lot of guys who had a more regional sound got thrown into the one-size-fits-all Neptunes/Timbaland sound machine, sometimes for better and sometimes for worst. That phenomenon is mostly over, but Pharrell is as relevant as ever, so we still occasionally get ATL rappers with their own roster of ATL producers getting thrown in the studio with Skateboard P for something different. Pharrell isn't really as versatile as he's made out to be, you really just have to hope that whatever wonky groove he's peddling in the studio that day actually sounds good with whatever act he happens to be in a session with. But I feel like I've heard enough Migos songs in their core style to last a lifetime, so I'm really happy to hear a change of pace like "Stir Fry," it's almost as good as "Feds Watching" by 2 Chainz. Here's the 2018 singles playlist I update every month. 

2. Brothers Osborne "Shoot Me Straight" 
The first Brothers Osborne album was really good, but didn't have as many guitar solos as the lead single had led me to hope for. So I'm glad they're kicking their new album off with a killer 6-minute single with an extended outro jam, just so there's at least one if they don't have more songs like that coming. 

3. Darius Rucker - "For The First Time"
Hootie and the Blowfish were basically a country band anyway, so Rucker's transition into country stardom was pretty natural, and he has a great voice for it, but none of his solo singles ever really stuck with me before this one. It kind of feels conceptually like the flipside to Brad Paisley's recent single "Last Time For Everything." 

4. Troye Sivan "My My My!"
They put Troye Sivan on "SNL" to perform this right after it was released in January and I feel like he's getting the push to be a big star this year. But this song hasn't really been big on pop radio, which is a shame, because it's better than most of the stuff in heavy rotation, I love that gently pulsing groove and lilting melody. 

5. H.E.R. - "Focus"
H.E.R. first appeared in 2016 as a mysterious 'anonymous' R&B act in the vein of early The Weeknd, before it eventually came out that she's Gabi Wilson, a former child prodigy who sang on "The View" and the BET Awards and has had her Sony deal since 2011. Which is fine, really, if a singer wants to reboot as alt R&B, I don't really care. But "Focus" is really nice, I feel like this and Daniel Caesar's "Get You" and even SZA's hits have kind of brought delicate slow jams back in fashion on R&B radio where for a few years everything that young acts were doing on the radio was pretty clubby and hip hop-influenced. 

6. Jason Aldean - "You Make It Easy" 
I've only liked a handful of Jason Aldean's many past hits, but it's hard not to root for the guy after one of his concerts became the site of a horrifying mass shooting last year. And I think it's probably for the best that his lead single coming back from that is just a very simple, beautifully produced bluesy ballad, one of the best songs of his career. 

7. Chris Stapleton - "Broken Halos" 
Chris Stapleton had a big 'arrival' moment in late 2015 when Traveller swept the CMAs and rocketed to #1 on the charts, but since then his stardom has largely been measured in awards, good reviews, and touring receipts, he hasn't been much of a hitmaker. So it kind of feels like early 2018 has been another arrival for him: "Broken Halos" is his biggest country radio hit to date, at the same time that Justin Timberlake's "Say Something" has been his big breakthrough on the Hot 100 and pop radio, and "Midnight Train To Memphis" has become his rock radio breakthrough, with all 3 of his albums doing well on the Billboard 200. 

8. Kesha f/ The Dap-Tones Horns - "Woman" 
Considering the circumstances of Kesha's long absence from the spotlight, I guess it makes sense for her to reboot her image with a song like "Praying." But I think it's kind of a shame that for the first 6 months or so of her comeback all that's really been on the radio is "Praying" and that bland Macklemore song, "Woman" retains more of the humor and personality she's known for while not resembling her earlier work that much, I feel like they dropped the ball by waiting until the momentum has slowed down to promote it to radio. 

9. Janelle Monae - "Make Me Feel" 
It's been a long decade of respecting Janelle Monae's undeniable talent and individuality but not really hearing what other people hear in her music. And I didn't necessarily want her to pursue bigger hooks and more accessible sounds, since "Yoga" was kind of terrible. But "Make Me Feel" feels like a breakthrough in terms of her going pop in a way that feels natural and exciting. Obviously the song is full of nods to Prince, who was apparently helping her 'collect sounds' for this album, and his DJ said he'd been playing "Make Me Feel" for people before he died. So I'm pretty curious if he actually worked extensively on this song, or if he just gave her some files of Prince-y sounds to make her "Kiss" homage with. 

10. Ne-Yo - "Good Man"
D'Angelo and Ne-Yo are on different enough ends of the R&B spectrum that the latter sampling "Untitled (How Does It Feel)" looks pretty weird on paper. This turned out really well, though, DJ Camper really doesn't get enough props. 

Worst Single of the Month: Blac Youngsta - "Booty"
Songs about booty are basically a cornerstone of popular music in my lifetime, and I feel sometimes like we don't acknowledge that most butt-themed hits are actually pretty varied and high quality. It actually makes me sad when we get something uninspired like "Anaconda" on the charts. Blac Youngsta is too much of a goofball for me to act like it's a pity that he's let down the genre of songs about ass, but this song really does suck.

TV Diary

Thursday, March 08, 2018

a) "Good Girls"
It feels like there's a whole genre of contemporary TV based on the "mild-mannered normie is drawn in to a violent life of crime" premise, with ones with female protagonists as a thriving subgenre with shows like "Claws" and "Search Party." But even as familiar as the story arc is, it feels a little like the "Good Girls" pilot kind of rushes into three struggling moms deciding to commit armed robbery with very little hesitation or deliberation. And in the second episode it already feels like they're just accelerating the action as quickly as possible, I kind of wish they'd just slow down. Still, with three lead actresses as engaging as Mae Whitman, Christina Hendricks and Retta, I feel like this show has a chance of finding its footing. And Manny Montana is a really compelling antagonist, volatile and unpredictable but with an intelligence and odd sense of humor, he really steals the show every time he pops up.

b) "Hard Sun"
This new one from the creators of "Luther" seems to stick closely to the hyperviolent British cop show formula -- the first episode actually opens with a vicious fight scene where, at one point, someone bashes someone else's head with a teapot. But what's at stake in the show is the revelation that humankind is about 5 years away from being wiped out, so it's interesting to see that kind of apocalyptic premise dropped into a show like this, even if it feels like it's mostly driven by pretty boilerplate violence and antihero tropes.

c) "Everything Sucks!"
There's a lengthy TV tradition of thirtysomething creators making nostalgic shows about adolescence that take place 20 or so years earlier, when they were growing up -- "The Wonder Years," "Freaks & Geeks," "The Goldbergs," and so on. And now that I'm in my 30s we're starting to get shows like that about the mid-'90s when I was growing up like "Fresh Off the Boat" and now this Netflix series "Everything Sucks!" which is about high school freshmen in 1996, the year I started high school. So I expected to identify pretty strongly with this show, but it really just feels like the constant '90s alt-rock music cues are doing all the heavy lifting of evoking the period. And as much as I like to make fun of high school shows that are full of actors in their 20s, the kids in this show are the right age for the parts but are just not seasoned enough as actors to carry the show, it's not compelling at all.

d) "The Alienist"
For some reason someone wrote a novel about someone killing prostitutes in New York around the same time as Jack the Ripper, and for some reason TNT made a big lavish limited series about it instead of a Jack the Ripper show. The production values are impressive but I don't really care about the story and the cast is boring.

e) "Seven Seconds"
"The Killing" showrunner Veena Sud's new show, again a dreary thing about a dead child (you should see how often my wife gets mad at me because I put on a new show and there's dead kids in it, like it's my fault that people love to kill kids on TV now). It's not so much a mystery because the show opens with a cop running over a kid and his co-workers deciding to cover it up, so from there I guess it's just a matter of the truth running out, but it's all just really sad and dark and I don't think I'll get past the couple episodes I've watched.

f) "The Chi"
Another show where a kid gets killed in the first episode to set forward the action for the rest of a series. Every episode has a couple of charming little moments of humanity brightening it up, but I feel like this show just doesn't have enough of a sense of humor or a grasp of the scope of what it's trying to do to really manage all the characters and all the dark storylines going on in here.

g) "Channel Zero: Butcher's Block"
It's a shame that SyFy's anthology horror series "Channel Zero" doesn't have as many viewers as "American Horror Story," because it's 3 seasons in and consistently better at actually doing the horror genre justice in series form. This season has a lot of really gross cannibal stuff that they've filmed with great lighting and detail, I believe they actually hired a production designer from "Hannibal" for that stuff.

h) "The Oath"
Crackle, now Sony Crackle as of a few weeks ago, remains the runt of the litter of TV streaming services, recently losing their most famous show, "Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee" to Netflix (also they have ad breaks, and way more of them than Hulu, mostly for their own shitty programming). But they keep cranking out cliched gritty prestige TV dramas, and "The Oath," about a gang of corrupt cops played by Sean Bean and "True Blood"'s Ryan Kwanten, is reminiscent enough of "The Shield" that it's like 10 trend cycles behind. I don't know why they'd bother to make a show exec produced by 50 Cent that has a mostly white cast and holds little appeal to the "Power" fanbase. One scene in the first episode features a knockoff of "I'm Shipping Up To Boston," probably the 100th one that's appeared in a gritty cop show since The Departed.

i) "The Frankenstein Chronicles"
Sean Bean is also in this series that's aired two seasons in the U.K. since 2015 but just came to Netflix in February, meaning that two shows starring Sean Bean debuted in the U.S. just 16 days apart. Interesting twist on the premise but I don't really feel compelled to keep watching.

j) "Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and Notorious B.I.G."
I'm amused that this show starring Josh Duhamel as a cop investigating the Biggie and Tupac murders is on at the same time as Duhamel's Taco Bell commercials where he's investigating the mystery of nacho fries with equal intensity. But really it just feels like Duhamel and Jimmi Simpson and all these other actors are wasting their time on a story that we all know doesn't come to any kind of satisfying resolution, we just get a bunch of unimpressive scenes of the umpteenth actors who don't convincingly portray Pac and Big along with flashes forward to detectives years later who still haven't arrested anyone for their killings.

k) "Death Row Chronicles"
I really wish that half of the resources for film and TV and book projects about Death Row/2Pac/N.W.A. were allocated to some other less overexposed chapters of hip hop history. But this BET docuseries is pretty well done, there's still some good anecdotes and footage being uncovered here that I haven't seen a thousand times before.

l) "The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale"
I watched "The Soup" faithfully pretty much the whole 11 years that Joel McHale hosted it, and really felt its absence in my weekly routine the last couple years since E! abruptly cancelled it. So I'm pretty pleased that Netflix basically let McHale pick up where he left off and go straight back into mocking clips in front of a green screen. It feels like they're leaning a little away from current events and more into reality shows, probably just so the episodes remain evergreen for Netflix bingeing, but that works. I think they're still getting back into the groove, because I laughed a lot more at the last couple episodes than at the first one, but Mini Black Mirror is already a classic.

m) "Sundays with Alec Baldwin"
This is also kind of a reboot of a show the host did previously, although MSNBC only aired "Up Late with Alec Baldwin" for about a month in 2013. And putting this on a nice simple set with a couple of people having a conversation in comfortable chairs really does a lot to make it feel more relaxed and inviting than the MSNBC show. I'm not sure when the series will really start airing weekly but I enjoyed the pilot that was aired after the Oscars this week where he interviewed Jerry Seinfeld and Kate McKinnon. It was kind of funny to watch a pilot on ABC that consisted almost entirely of people who've had their greatest television successes on NBC talking about "SNL" and "The Tonight Show" and "Seinfeld."

n) "Our Cartoon President"
The Trump presidency is kind of this gross vortex of things that are so inherently funny but also demand to be taken somewhat seriously that it's really hard to to know how to judge comedy about it. Comedy Central's "The President Show" grew on me more than I expected it to, and I still enjoy Alec Baldwin's "SNL" sketches more often than not, but at a certain point you spend so much time in a week thinking about Trump and hearing jokes about him and you just don't want to hear another word. And that's about where "Our Cartoon President" comes in, a pottymouthed Showtime series co-created by Stephen Colbert. I generally think Colbert has the best Trump material in late night these days, but I don't know why he felt the need to even do this clunky heavyhanded show. There have been a couple inspired moments but it mostly just feels unnecessary and grating, even if making Trump sound like Peter Griffin is more or less appropriate.

o) "Ugly Delicious"
A Netflix food show, kind of the same as other travel shows about food I guess except the hosts are not as hyped up as Guy Fieri. I haven't watched every episode but I heard they didn't even talk to any black chefs in the New Orleans episode, which seems odd.

p) "The Trade"
Showtime's docuseries about the opioid crisis, which is well made enough, but I have about the same problems with that this piece points out, in which it focuses on the victims and on criminal drug cartels and doesn't really look at how the pharmaceutical industry helped cause this crisis. It's basically a Trump administration assessment of the situation.

q) "Slutever"
Viceland's show based on Karley Sciortino's titular sex column, which is actually really refreshingly casual and plainspoken, Sciortino just finds a way to talk about this stuff without any hangups or playing up the kink factor while still being kind of playful and sex-positive and drawn towards pleasure and away from inhibitions or stigmas.

r) "Black Card Revoked"
A lot of big comedians have reasonably funny siblings that also get into the business, but man Tony Rock did not really get much of Chris's talent at all, he's just so boring anytime I've seen him. Now he hosts this goofy BET game show where people answer black culture trivia questions to keep their 'black card.' I feel like the show would be more entertaining if the contestants were white, but then it would just be the 'I know black people' sketch from "Chappelle's Show."

s) "Talk Show the Game Show"
TruTV's weird meta game show about talk show tropes is back for a second season and still very entertaining. I think the judges, Karen Kilgariff and Casey Schreiner, deserve a lot of credit for getting in odd little one-liners and being antagonists to the contestants.

t) "Unikitty!"
One of Cartoon Network's newer shows my sons watch, very hyper and weird and with surprisingly smudgy, amateurish animation. I like it, but Cartoon Network has a habit of just rotating 4 or 5 shows at a time and it's certainly not on the level of "Teen Titans Go!" or "The Amazing World of Gumball."

u) "The Tick"
I liked the 6 episodes of "The Tick" that Amazon released last year but thought it was kind of a short season, so I'm pleased that there turned out to be 6 more episodes to fill out the season this year, with a 2nd season on the way in 2019. My enthusiasm is dimming a little, though, I just haven't felt as engaged with these new episodes, they're still finding the right halfway point between manic cartoony humor and the earnest live action performances.

v) "Jessica Jones"
In the two and a half years since the first season of "Jessica Jones," Netflix has aired 5 other seasons of its Marvel shows that I haven't enjoyed nearly as much, so I'm glad to have it back. I'm only a couple episodes into the new season since it only came out today, but I've been enjoying it, particularly the big where Jones had trouble telling people with superpowers from mentally ill people who thought they had superpowers. This show really has some sharp, funny dialogue and abrupt plot twists, which I think will save it from having a sophomore slump in the absence of its memorable season 1 villain like "Daredevil."

w) "High Maintenance"
This show is pleasant but so fundamentally uninteresting to me. If anything the fact that the husband and wife who created the show are now divorced but still making the show together is more interesting that anything that's happened in the show's second season.

x) "The Path"
I can't believe I'm still even watching this show at all in its 3rd season, it has really been so consistently boring for a premise with so much potential and such an experienced cast. I hope it gets cancelled soon and Michelle Monaghan gets a better gig.

y) "Another Period"
I feel a little blase about this show at this point. But now and again there are episodes that just make me laugh out loud from front to back and appreciate what an odd, fertile little niche of humor they've created in this whole contemporary reality show-style sendup of the early 20th century.

z) "Drunk History"
I'm kind of impressed that this show still has gas in the tank in the 5th season, the season premiere with Tiffany Haddish and Amber Ruffin from "Late Night with Seth Meyers" was one of their best yet.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Woodfir just released EP 2, a pair of fast loud songs that we recorded at Mobtown Studios last year in between sessions for the new Western Blot stuff. We're playing a show in Baltimore on March 9th, if you want to come hit me up for directions.

Monthly Report: February 2018 Albums

Thursday, March 01, 2018

1. Superchunk What A Time To Be Alive
Superchunk were my, in my opinion, the best band of the 1990s, so I was pretty thrilled to write the Spin review of probably their best album since the '90s. And I'm glad that now that I'm done the review I can kind of back away from the big picture assessment of the record and just enjoy the hooks and the energy of the performances, that run of "Break The Glass" and "Bad Choices" and "Dead Photographers" is really killer. Now it's Drake's turn to use a Superchunk album title for his next record -- On The Mouth and Indoor Living seem like the best options for him. Here's the Spotify playlist of 2018 albums I've listened to that most of these records are in. 

2. American Pleasure Club - A Whole Fucking Lifetime Of This 
A couple months ago in this space I wrote about American Pleasure's name change from Teen Suicide and their first release under that name. That record was really good but kind of a lo-fi precursor to this, the proper album, which is really ambitious and bursting at the seams with ideas and emotions, kind of this blissed out newlywed record with enough darkness on the periphery to not be saccharine. Sam Ray kind of gives me this millennial Lou Barlow vibe in both his voice and his vulnerability on record, and this album is like if Lou had kind of thrown a solo record and a Sebadoh record and a Folk Implosion record all together into one thing. Spotify and iTunes are missing a couple of key songs so make sure to check it out on Bandcamp

3. various artists - Black Panther: The Album
Kendrick Lamar is the kind of A-list rapper who doesn't need to do mixtapes or EPs or anything to keep in the spotlight between albums. But since guest verses are an oddly scattershot and often unflattering venue for him, I'm glad he's started to find good interesting stopgap projects that utilize his penchant for assembling and sequencing albums. And where untitled unmastered. was an understated solitary work, Black Panther: The Album is the opposite, a big star-studded blockbuster action movie soundtrack where he weaves together labelmates and friends and up-and-comers while still managing to always pop up and assert some authorship over it all. I think what I really like, though, is that Sounwave has more production credits on this than any Kendrick album and his sound really ties it all together, so you can throw 2 Chainz or Khalid or Mozzy in the mix and there's still kind of a sustained sound and mood. 

4. 2 Chainz - The Play Don't Care Who Makes It EP 
The way 2 Chainz cleared the path to Pretty Girls Like Trap Music with EPs and short mixtapes worked really well, so I'm glad that he seems to be doing that again, releasing this 4-track just before announcing that an album called Rap Or Go To The League is on the way. The big talk of this record is the last track, "Lamborghini Truck (Atlanta Shit)," a long autobiographical ballad, 2 Chainz has done several great songs like it over the years so I'm glad people are starting to appreciate them. "Land of the Freaks" is great too, if this record has a hit, it should be that. 

5. Nipsey Hussle - Victory Lap 
It's been about 8 years since Nipsey Hussle's first initial flirtation with mainstream fame, which included an appearance on a new version of "We Are The World," and a sketch on "SNL" that namedropped Nipsey as an example of how the song was full of "half-famous randos." It's been about 4 years since I made Nipsey Hussle mad by including him in a Complex piece about underachieving rappers. And after all that, Nipsey's major label debut has finally arrived as the album that genuinely cements his long-shaky status as a serious star. It's funny to think that someone's first proper album could be aptly titled Victory Lap, but that's just how careers are now, often albums come at the end of a long process, and over the years Nipsey has turned out to be a really shrewd, creative businessman who's pretty consistent with his music. I don't love it front to back -- the Marsha Ambrosius ballad is like Aftermath Records cosplay of the boring kind of west coast crossover rap album -- but it builds on the strenghts of Crenshaw and puts his flinty real talk in the perfect context. "Hussle & Motivate" is my favorite. 

6. Pianos Become The Teeth - Wait For Love
I don't know if the Baltimore quintet Pianos Become The Teeth are not as heavy as I remember or if the earlier stuff I had listened to was more aggressive, but I was surprised by just how pretty and tuneful Wait For Love is. They're a really powerful, loud band, but there's a lot of brooding slow burning beauty on this record. 

7. Turnstile - Time & Space
Turnstile is another Baltimore band that kind of used hardcore as a jumping off point to kind of find their own unique sound. It's hard to say you think a band that's on a major label now sounded better with less glossy production without sounding like a hater who begrudges their success or something, but the production really does make them sound a little more generic, the cheaper production of the earlier records may suit them more. 

8. Justin Timberlake - Man Of The Woods
I was always in the minority that thought all of Justin Timberlake's chemistry was with Pharrell and that the Timbaland-heavy albums after Justified were a snooze by comparison. So amidst although the bad advance buzz around this album, I was encouraged by the news that The Neptunes produced more than half the tracks. But I found that the Timbaland-produced tracks, especially the three co-written by Chris Stapleton, are really the glue of the album, kind of feels like Timbo brought some of that experience from Bubba Sparxxx's classic Deliverance of fusing his sound with country to this record. I mean, don't get me wrong, this album has a lot wrong with it, from "Supplies" to the weird interlude where Jessica Biel sounds like she's narrating a cologne commercial. But I found more to like here than I expected, more than the 20/20 Experience records. 

9. John Oates with the Good Road Band - Arkansas
I was amused by the fact that the same day Timberlake released Man Of The Woods, another icon of blue-eyed soul released his own tribute to rootsy southern music. Lately I've been really enjoying early Hall & Oates stuff from the Abandoned Luncheonette era, which is a little looser and folkier than the records they became famous for, and Oates has a great voice that you don't hear as much on their hits. So I enjoyed catching up with him on this album, it's got a really nice relaxed, unadorned sound. 

10. Mila J - February 2018 EP
I've always really liked Mila J's stuff but she's really on the edge of the radar of mainstream R&B and I haven't really kept up with what she's done since her last minor hit a couple years ago. So I was pleasantly surprised to see that she released a new EP and it's in fact the 4th EP she's released in the last 12 months, what I've listened to of this recent stuff is all really good, I hope she gets some momentum out of this prolific run she's on. This EP in particular is really restrained and intimate, not a lot of drums.

The Worst Album of the Month: Rich Brian - Amen
This kid is just kind of self-evidently lame in that way that it's almost not worth pointing out, he was until a few months ago known as 'Rich Chigga' and openly talked about how Macklemore was his gateway to listening to rap music. But now he's got a more palatable name and a polished album with trap beats and an Offset feature and it's all just awful. This is the most "if I say curse words in a deep voice nobody will wonder if I'm a virgin" album since early Tyler, The Creator, but without anything resembling a perspective or a personality.

Movie Diary

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

a) Happy Death Day
Because we spent our first Valentine's Day together snowed in, watching scary movies and eating Chinese food, my wife and I order Chinese and watch a scary movie every Valentine's Day, and this was our pick this year. I really enjoyed it, they had a lot of fun with the 'Groundhog Day as a horror movie' conceit (including a little meta nod to Groundhog Day at the end) but it had its own structure and its own twists that made it its own thing. Wild that one of Michael Landon's kids grew up to write and direct scary movies. 

b) Peter Rabbit
I took my kid to see it, and I found myself comparing it a lot to the last movie I took him to, Paddington 2, which is way better but overall more similar than it is different. Will Gluck directed two of my favorite comedies of the last 10 years, Fired Up! and Easy A, and his work in children's films still retains some of the wit and pacing of those movies, even if the overall sense of humor is a lot cornier and more broad. I'll be happy when he does some more live action movies about adults, though. 

c) Band Aid
I really adore Zoe Lister-Jones and am bummed that she's stuck in a show as mediocre as "Life In Pieces," so I'm glad that she's continuing to write and star in her own indie films, including this, her directorial debut. This movie pairs her with another very likable sitcom star, Adam Pally, as a couple who try to deal with their troubled marriage by starting a band and turning their fights into songs. It's got a lot of really clever and funny moments and also winds up pretty emotionally affecting at the end, although it kind of felt like they let Susie Essman kind of do a monologue at the end to tie up all the movie's themes instead of working it more gracefully into the story. 

d) The Girl On The Train
I like to say that Emily Blunt has great taste in projects and that I've loved just about everything she's been in aside from just really liking her as a performer. But I'd say this is definitely on the low end of her filmography, suspenseful and well made but still ultimately really maudlin and heavy-handed and dreary where I was hoping there'd be a bit more mystery or element of surprise. Certainly not remotely as good as its most frequent point of comparison, Gone Girl. I thought it was funny that Darren Goldstein has a small role in this, because the only other thing I've seen him in is "The Affair," which is very similar in a lot of ways. 

e) The Mummy
It's weird to feel kind of defensive about them moving on from the Brendan Fraser Mummy movies and rebooting with Tom Cruise. But Cruise has become kind of reliable for these old-fashioned low expectations action flicks, and this one turned out well, good visual effects and amusing comic relief with an undead Jake Johnson. 

f) The Bye Bye Man
I think this is one of those movies where the title is so hilarious and infantile-sounding that it's hard to totally take it seriously even though it's pretty decent. Movies where people's perception of the world gets distorted so that they do terrible or self-destructive things always really creep me out. I really had a crush on Jenna Kanell from an episode of "Shots Fired" she was on and she's good in this as well, kind of thought the parts with her were more interesting than the main plot with the protagonist. 

g) Arsenal
John Cusack was never exactly a superstar but I feel bad for the guy that his career has drifted into this aimless sea of undignified direct-to-DVD/VOD genre flicks. And I feel like this movie where he shares top billing with Nicolas Cage really just brings into startling relief that that's where he is, he's in Cage's world now, making crappy action movies with Adrien Grenier. 

h) The Emoji Movie
I feel like this movie was kind of designed to appall adults merely for existing, and in a way I think it's cool that kids movies can still do that in the post-Pixar age of extremely acclaimed and tasteful animated features. Like, the TJ Miller interview where he ridicules himself for taking the job, and the Jordan Peele interview where he ridicules himself for losing a role as a poop emoji to Patrick Steward, kind of exist as much in the public imagination now as the movie itself. But my kid liked it and it was kind of charming in its own proudly absurd way. 

i) The Adventures of Tintin
I started watching this with my kids and we have yet to finish it. I really have no idea who Tintin is or why Steven Spielberg wanted to make a movie of it, but my toddler thought his dog was cute. But as impressive as the animation is in this movie, it's still on the wrong Polar Express side of the uncanny valley and kind of weird to watch. 

j) Heathers
As someone who's pretty well versed in '80s movies, cult comedies, teen movies, and Winona Ryder movies, this movie has always been a weird blind spot for me where I'd managed to not see it even though I've seen pretty much every other movie it shares a fanbase with. And since there's a TV version debuting soon, I figured it'd be a good time to finally catch up. I kind of feel like the darkness of its satire was more entertainingly daring than outright funny, but I appreciate the odd unique clash of different tones. 

Monday, February 26, 2018

I've done some more playlists for The Dowsers recently: an overview of the Future tracks produced by Zaytoven, a playlist of the raunchiest sex raps from 1988 to 2018, and Kanye West's best work with southern rappers.

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 102: Def Leppard

Friday, February 23, 2018

Last summer, I wrote an installment of my column The Unstreamables about Def Leppard's Hysteria in which I noted that it and Pyromania are two of the very few Diamond-certified albums in pop history that aren't readily available on Spotify and other streaming services. That finally changed in January, when Def Leppard finally made their early work available for streaming, and Hysteria actually charted in the top 20 of the Billboard 200 for the first time in almost 30 years.

Def Leppard deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Stagefright
2. Run Riot
3. High 'n' Dry (Saturday Night)
4. Love And Affection
5. Action! Not Words
6. I Wanna Touch U
7. Gods Of War
8. Comin' Under Fire
9. It Could Be You
10. Don't Shoot Shot Gun
11. You Got Me Runnin'
12. Sattelite
13. Excitable
14. Die Hard The Hunter
15. Gift Of Flesh
16. Kings Of Oblivion
17. Switch 625
18. White Lightning

Tracks 9 and 12 from On Through The Night (1980)
Tracks 3, 11 and 17 from High 'n' Dry (1981)
Tracks 1, 5, 8 and 14 from Pyromania (1983)
Tracks 2, 4, 7, 10 and 13 from Hysteria (1987)
Tracks 6 and 18 from Adrenalize (1992)
Track 15 from Slang (1996)
Track 16 from Euphoria (1999)

Def Leppard are one of those bands who have just 2 albums that loom over the rest of their catalog as by far the biggest sellers, so obviously Pyromania and Hysteria had to take up half of this playlist. Those albums had so many singles that I was able to include just about every song that wasn't a hit, and even there, there were some gray areas -- I included "Action! Not Words" and "Comin' Under Fire," non-singles from Pyromania that got enough rock radio play to chart. Some of these songs really sound like hits, though -- "Love And Affection" definitely could've been Hysteria's 8th single if they had managed to work that record even longer.

But of course, Def Leppard has a lot of other records, I didn't want to neglect them too much. On Through The Night established the band as having some pop instincts but not nearly as polished a sound as they'd end up with. It's easy to imagine them never meeting Mutt Lange and going through the '80s sounding more like Judas Priest. Even their first album with Mutt, High 'n' Dry, doesn't have quite the same sheen they'd establish later. But it was cool to highlight the band's harder side and the songs that featured the late Steve Clark, including his instrumental showcase "Switch 625."

They've made a few albums in the 21st century, but I decided to just keep up with their career up through the end of '90s, partly because Euphoria's "Promises" was the last Def Leppard song that got played a ton on U.S. rock radio. I was 10 in 1992 and started buying CDs that year, and Adrenalize was among the first dozen or so CDs I ever bought alongside Pearl Jam and Soul Asylum and so on, which should give you an idea of just how huge Def Leppard still loomed over MTV and pop culture well into the grunge era. As I mentioned in The Unstreamables piece, I was excited to see that the album was produced by Mike Shipley (no relation), who also mixed the band's '80s albums. The Adrenalize track "I Wanna Touch U" fascinates me because it seems like they took a line from the bridge of "Photograph" and built a whole new song around it, kind of the way Cash Money rappers would take a line from a verse and make it the hook for a new track.

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

Monthly Report: February 2018 Singles

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

1. Jacquees and Dej Loaf "At The Club"
I always root for Dej Loaf but I didn't bother checking out the project she did last year with Jacquees because I don't care much for his whole Great Value Pleasure P thing. But the sleeper hit from that record turned out to be really good! I'm kinda surprised it's turned out to be a bigger hit for Dej than "No Fear" was, I thought that one was gonna be huge. She has such a funny awkward vibe, like on "At The Club" she'll sing some seductive and suggestive line and then in the background do those goofy kung fu movie ad libs she always does. Here's the Spotify playlist of my favorite 2018 singles that I update every month. 

2. Pink "Beautiful Trauma" 
I wasn't sure if this song really was single material initially and just thought the choreography of the video was charming, but the song has really grown on me lately. There aren't a lot of pop songs these days that do loud verses and a quiet chorus, I always enjoy hearing tracks that invert the usual formula. 

3. AJR f/ Rivers Cuomo "Sober Up"
I have had mixed feelings about AJR's couple of minor pop radio hits, and when I saw they had a song on the rock radio charts that featured Rivers Cuomo, I had imagined the worst case scenario of what they'd sound like combined with late period Weezer. But this is really pretty nice, and Cuomo is a minor, welcome presence on the bridge of the song, apparently he's a fan of AJR and asked to be on one of their songs, which is kind of an interesting thing for an older established artist to do with a newer act. 

4. Bishop Briggs "Dream" 
It bums me out that after Bishop Briggs got her big push of having songs in big ad campaigns and opening a Coldplay tour, her singles just did okay and her label only released an EP last year, because her music is really good and if the industry wants to blow someone up it might as well be her. The INXS cover she did for the last Fifty Shades soundtrack was disappointing, though, she just changed the melody way too much. 

5. SZA "Broken Clocks" 
I'm glad this one got released as a single, I'm hot and cold on CTRL but this one is good. The performance on the Grammys with the harmonies was awesome. 

6. Royal Blood "I Only Lie When I Love You" 
These guys are pretty aggressive derivative, but they have a nice sound and I always enjoy hearing a new song from them on rock radio. 

7. Chris Young - "Losing Sleep" 
I had started writing a chorus a while back that I was really excited about that had kind of the same idea of "Losing Sleep," so I was bummed out a little to hear this song and decided to scrap my idea. But those Nashville guys are always coming up with the kind of clever catchy hooks I aspire to, so it also kinda made me feel like I'm on the right track. 

8. Old Dominion - "Written In The Sand"
I feel like the Old Dominion singer's delivery is a little too cutesy for me, but that's a good lyric. I like the playful minimal percussion on the song and the way that little tap-tap riff feels like a key part of the chorus. 

9. Midland "Make A Little" 
"Make A Little" is really good, but I'm not surprised that it hasn't done remotely as well as "Drinkin' Problem," Midland is a bit more traditionalist than most acts on country radio so they have to be careful what they release as a single. I would've gone with "Burn Out" or "Check Cashin' Country" or "This Old Heart." Hopefully there'll be a third single.

10. Sofi Tukker f/ NERVO, The Knocks, and Alisa Ueno - "Best Friend" 
This song blew up off an Apple ad and Sofi Tukker and The Knocks are both goofy-looking groups who seem to exist mainly to get sync money from ad agencies. But this song's main riff is pretty damn catchy, almost makes me look past all the annoying things happening in almost every vocal part of the song. So far this is doing slightly better on alt-rock radio than on top 40 radio, which interests me, rock radio is really hilariously more influenced by advertising than any other format. 

Worst Single of the Month: NF - "Let You Down"
Just because I'm a white rap fan doesn't mean I have to like white rappers, and although invariably there are some good ones, I think they're mostly terrible and laughable. And in the past couple years, their market share of the pop charts has become disproportionately large. There have been a few times in recent months when the majority of the top songs on iTunes' hip hop charts have been by G-Eazy, Post Malone, Eminem, etc. And one of the newest ascendant stars of this white rap zeitgeist is NF, who seems to be some kind of white rap Frankenstein's monster -- he warbles like Post on the hook while the verses sound like an earnest Macklemore type rapping in furious Eminem flows. It's like a perfect little capsule of exactly how white rap is its own crappy little inbred genre for tweens now. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Superchunk's excellent new album What A Time To Be Alive is out today, and I reviewed it for Spin.

TV Diary

Thursday, February 15, 2018

a) "A.P. Bio"
"It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia" is heading into its 13th season while this makes, along with "The Mick," the second show that one of the stars of "Sunny" is moonlighting with on one of the big 4 networks, basically doing variations of the same bawdy misanthropic thing that their main show does. It reminds me of those bands that have been around forever without ever breaking up but still have solo albums and side projects that sound exactly like the main band. That said, the first 3 episodes of "A.P. Bio" have been pretty entertaining, out of the whole burgeoning mini-genre of shows about adult employees of elementary schools behaving badly ("Teachers," "Those Who Can't," "Vice Principals," "Bad Teacher"), it feels like it has more potential than most of those, partly because it's kind of the only one that really considers what the students are thinking at all.

b) "Corporate"
The last couple decades of comedy have been full of satirical depictions of office drones and cubicle culture, from Office Space to "The Office" and so on. Comedy Central has at least put a slightly wilder spin on the Dilbertification of television with "Workaholics" and now "Corporate," which reminds me a bit of the ABC cult classic "Better Off Ted" but is a little more over-the-top with the dark touches and does stuff like an entire episode of Banksy jokes. Lance Reddick and Anne Dudek are just in the supporting cast but they're really the MVPs of this show.

c) "Absentia"
Stana Katic of "Castle" fame stars in this Amazon series about an FBI agent who disappears for 6 years while tracking a serial killer and is assumed dead, only to turn up alive. So there's a whole mystery to unravel, but the first couple episodes that we watched are more about her just returning from society and reuniting with a son who doesn't remember her, and it's all pretty emotional and gut-wrenching. I find it pretty distracting that they named a tertiary character Kelly Price, though. And when I tweeted something to that effect, the show's official Twitter account responded with what looked like a plot spoiler, so that was pretty weird.

d) "Chris Rock: Tamborine" 
Standup specials used to be something I'd channel surf to and drop in on for a 10 or 20 minutes at a time regularly when they were mostly on Comedy Central or HBO. But now Netflix produces standup specials at such a dizzying volume that I've kind of checked out and don't even watch the ones by comics I love most of the time. But I grew up in the era where Chris Rock specials were cultural events, and it felt like a big deal to see his first one in a decade. He's not firing on all cylinders all the time anymore, but in pretty much every section of the show he works his way up to a couple hilarious crescendos, there's always a musical rhythm to his routines that I really love. His piece about police brutality is about as great as you'd expect ("Some jobs can't have bad apples...American Airlines can't be like, 'Most of our pilots like to land!"). But what I really liked was how the bit about divorce led, surprisingly, into some fairly good marriage and relationship advice (alongside some stuff that was funny but not necessarily words to live by).

e) "Bellevue"
Another mystery show, this one starring Anna Paquin as a cop. It aired in Canada a year ago and had already been cancelled by the time the first season started airing in the U.S., which is fine with me, I didn't find the pilot compelling at all. 

f) "The Resident"
It's been a while since I watched medical procedural time shows with any regularity, so picking up this show and "9-1-1" recently has reminded me how stressful they can be to watch, just the minute-to-minute life and death matters. "The Resident" can be pretty gripping and well done, but I don't know if I actually like or care about the cast at all. The main guy played by Matt Czuchry is kind of supposed to be a flawed character but I can never quite tell if they're writing him as unlikable or if I find the actor totally unlikable.

g) "Let's Get Physical"
Matt Jones and Chris Diamantopoulos are two guys who've both had memorable supporting roles in some popular shows, so it's a great idea to make them the leads of a show where they're rivals, especially since they have such different screen presences. I feel like the show is off to a slow start, though, like they don't really know where the laughs are supposed to come from aside from the storyline full of campy aerobics outfits.

h) "Altered Carbon"
This show is rumored to be Netflix's most expensive show to date, costing even more than "The Get Down"'s $120 million season. And it really seemed to land with a thud, and probably wasn't helped by the fact that Netflix had a more high profile sci-fi release, "The Cloverfield Paradox," just a couple days later. It's not bad, has some cool visual ideas, but I always say, even in high concept genre shows, casting and dialogue is really key to making a show anyone actually wants to watch, and aside from Martha Higareda's character, I don't really care much for the people or what they're saying in this.

i) "2 Dope Queens"
I adore Jessica Williams and I guess it's nice that she has a popular podcast, but this whole thing of adapting podcasts into TV shows seems like not a great idea. I attended a live taping of a podcast a few months ago and it was a fun night and this show reminds me a lot of that, but the loose fun of a mostly improvised stage show of a few people making conversation does not really translate to television that well.

j) "Grown-ish"
Doing an "A Different World"-style college spinoff about one of the kids from "Black-ish" seems like kind of a natural, if unimaginative idea. But Yara Shahidi really is pretty capable of carrying a show on her own, even if I wish they dropped the "Black-ish"-style voiceover narration in every episode, and they do a pretty decent job of making it a topical show about what the college experience actually is today. It's not laugh out loud funny very often, but it's had its moments, I think they're still finding their footing, the cast is pretty good. Importing Deon Cole's character from "Black-ish" has been implemented a little awkwardly but he's always funny so it's not really a problem.

k) "Waco"
I remembered when it was announced that Michael Shannon had been cast in a miniseries about the Branch Davidians and thought it was gonna be amazing to see him play a cult leader. But then I realized that he's too old to play David Koresh and Taylor Kitsch would be Koresh while Shannon plays an FBI hostage negotiator. I always dismissed Kitsch as a pretty boy would-be action star that Hollywood failed to make happen, but I tried to give him a chance to prove himself in this. I dunno, though, I feel like the voice he does is so stylized and maybe it's accurate to play Koresh as having sex with his mom glasses on but it felt like Kitsch was just going over-the-top with his portrayal. And even though there are two whole episodes before the ATF standoff begins, it just feels like you don't get that much meaningful background on who these people were and how they got into that mess.

l) "The Four: Battle For Stardom"
I feel like this show was designed as an alternative to "The Voice" but they didn't really develop the idea much further than "what if we have the singers in 4 big circular brightly lit chairs instead of the celebrity judges/coaches?" It's pretty entertaining because 2 of the judges are Diddy and DJ Khaled (and Khaled is basically a prop comic on this show). But the whole idea is that any given time they have 4 singers in contention and new challengers can always knock them out of the 4. And there was so much turnover from week to week that it was hard to really get attached to anyone and root for them, although there were a few I rooted against, especially Jason Warrior (a total weirdo who is said to have taken anger management classes after he lost on "The Voice" but really did not take it well when he was eliminated on "The Four"). Plus there was a whole debacle where the one non-famous judge, label exec Charlie Walk, was accused off sexual harassment and kicked off the show right before the finale, and it was really awkward how they kind of tried to pretend it had always been 3 judges and minimized his footage in clips from previous episodes. The girl that won last week, Evvie, was really good, though, she deserved it.

m) "Llama Llama"
My kids only have one or two of the Llama Llama books that we haven't read a whole lot, but I showed them a little of the Netflix series based on them, and they weren't too interested and I can't blame them. Kid's books usually need some creative license to turn into a decent screen adaptation, especially when the books are heavy on wordplay or rhymes, but unlike say, most Dr. Seuss adaptations, they didn't really even incorporate the rhyming into the show that much.

n) "Breathe"
Apparently Amazon is getting into distributing foreign series in America like Netflix has been doing a lot of, which is a good idea. But the Indian crime series "Breathe" doesn't have subtitles for all the Hindi and Tamil dialogue on U.S. Amazon, unlike Netflix's imported shows, which seems pretty stupid. I watched one episode and the story seemed intriguing from what I could make out, and visually it's really well done, but I can't keep watching a show where I have no idea what anybody is saying.

o) "Grand Prix Driver"
I started watching this Netflix documentary series narrated by Michael Douglas but quickly realized that I just don't care about racecars.

p) "Dirty Money"
Another Netflix doc series, one that's pretty interesting and centered around white collar crime and financial scams, really some good explanation of all this infuriating stuff that happens all the time that I think the newsmedia really has failed to explain or highlight the importance of enough to the general public.

q) "Britannia"
My wife is a bit of a history buff so I was interested to see what she'd think of this show that takes place in A.D. 43 as the Romans are conquering Britain. She spotted a lot of weird historical inaccuracies and thought there were more interesting figures from that era that they could've made characters. I mostly just thought it was melodramatic and boring. Also, it seemed really odd and arbitrary that the show's theme song is Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man."

r) "Chain Of Command"
NatGeo embedded camera crews in the Pentagon and with a bunch of U.S. military operations on foreign soil throughout 2016 and 2017 for this series. And that means that they wound up being there for some surreal Trump era episodes like Jared Kushner's visit to Iraq, which opens one episode, and it's just so depressing to watch these experienced high ranking officers dutifully act honored to explain what they do to the president's son-in-law.

s) "Child Support"
A game show where the contestants have to either answer questions or rely on the answers generated by a panel of young children consulted by a comedian is a cute idea. But Ricky Gervais seems like the absolute last comedian I would pick to sit and interact with children in a "Kids Say the Darndest Things" style, there's just something so uncomfortable about it all even though he seems to be genuinely enjoying himself. Fred Savage hosting this show so soon after he had a pretty good sitcom cancelled reminds me of the recent "Episodes" storyline where Matt Leblanc hosted a ridiculous stupid game show. I would feel bad for Savage, but that story just came out about sexual harassment on the set of "The Wonder Years," so I dunno, I'll save my sympathy.

t) "Hot Streets"
One of the main cast members of this new Adult Swim cartoon is Justin Roiland, and since my wife loves "Rick And Morty" I put on an episode of "Hot Streets" while we were watching TV and she hated it so much that she was offended that I'd even presume that she might enjoy this show that I hadn't seen before either. But yeah, it's not so good. A lot of that usual Adult Swim doldrums of shitty animation and lazy misanthropic humor.

u) "Crashing"
I loved Pete Holmes's talk show on TBS but I have such mixed feelings about his HBO sitcom. And I think that the thing is that instead of letting him kind of play with and subvert his folksy aw-shucks exterior as he does in his standup, on "Crashing" he just has to be the bumpkin all the time even while he's probably writing a lot of the cynical and profane things the other people say. But I think the show is at least settling into a groove where they're not leaning into the formula of having him hang with a different famous comic each episode. And I like when bad things happen to Henry Zebrowski's character because his episode of "Netflix presents: The Characters" was some of the worst shit I've ever seen. But I like the storyline with Jamie Lee, it's hard not to have a massive crush on her.

v) "Divorce"
I thought this show's first season was likable and well made but kind of a bummer and not terribly memorable. Halfway into the second season, though, it's growing on me, though, I'm starting to care about the characters and enjoy their little victories or share in their embarrassments.

w) "The Magicians"
At this point Margo is just one of the funniest characters on TV, Summer Bishil's comic timing is just incredible. This show really gets to shift tones in really interesting, unpredictable ways, it can be so funny at times but also go to pretty dark places with the storylines. The last two episodes, about Penny leaving his body and everyone thinking he was dead, and the one where Quinn and Eliot basically live an entire lifetime together in this weird little fantasy world, it really feels like the writers of the show are having a lot of fun with the premise of the books and inventing some interesting new situations.

x) "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"
The third season has been such a rollercoaster ride of pretty emotional episodes that I was starting to feel like there were fewer songs and laughs. But the last few episodes as they run up to the end of the season this week have been pretty great, bringing back weird Trent for another episode was inspired, Paul Welsh is such a delightfully creepy performer.

y) "Planet Earth: Blue Planet II"
Last year's sequel to "Planet Earth" was awesome and I'm glad that they went whole hog and did a sequel to "Blue Planet" as well. I would love if they keep doing both series once a decade for the rest of my life. This one had some great deep sea footage of stuff like sperm whales swimming vertically, and also they got good video of that cute octopus that was discovered a few years ago. There's also a scene with a Portuguese man o' war that's just insane.

z) "The X-Files" 
I don't like the idea of bringing back beloved old shows, particularly ones that kind of ended poorly to begin with like "X-Files," and last year's 6-episode return was really just garbage, just a totally random grab bag of different kind of "X-Files" episodes thrown together like a pu pu platter. This season is 10 episodes and it feels like they're trying to sustain more of a storyline now, but there are so many bad ideas from towards the end of the show's original run that they've continued to carry along that it just feels like a big stupid mess.