Netflix Diary

Wednesday, March 30, 2011
a) Easy A
Director Will Gluck's previous feature Fired Up! was hilarious and probably my favorite teen comedy of the last couple years, and this, his 2nd movie, is even better (if not necessarily funnier, but smarter and more well crafted), and maybe the best teen comedy since Mean Girls. Just a great cast, sharp writing, and a story that takes a decent number of twists and turns not given away by the trailer. Whatever the hell Amanda Bynes is doing to her face in some futile attempt to still play a high schooler is just disturbing, though.

b) The Expendables
This seems like such a fun idea for a movie on paper but I dunno, the execution just left a lot to be desired, maybe Stallone should've let someone else direct.

c) The Other Guys
As Will Ferrell flicks go, this was pretty decent, not up there with Anchorman or Step Brothers but still good, will probably have some replay value. It was great to finally see Michael Keaton in something actually funny for the first time in forever, there's a whole bunch of great stuff of him just riffing one scene on the DVD extras.

d) Inception
I have to admire the craft and ingenuity of this movie and how well it pulled off such an ambitious concept. But I also have to admit that the end product was a little dry and overwrought, even compared to Nolan's Batman movies, which I thought had just the right amount of lightness and levity. It didn't help that most of the main cast is former child stars who I don't find especially likable or engaging as adult actors, or that most of the mind-blowing special effects shots were shown in the trailers. It was good, but I could see it being so much more amazing if they'd just punched up the script with a little more style and personality and stopped it from feeling so unrelentingly conceptual and cerebral.

e) Daybreakers
This was one of the horror movies we watched on Valentine's Day this year, but I don't remember much about it beyond the color scheme. So I guess it was boring, or maybe I just wasn't paying attention.

f) Paranormal Activity
We saw the sequel in the theater last year without having seen the original, and it worked surprisingly well as a standalone movie. But maybe it just upped the ante too well, because seeing the first movie afterward ended up really underwhelming. Also, I liked the alternate ending on the DVD way way more, even if it didn't leave things open for sequels like the ending they used.

g) "Pushing Daisies," season 2
I'm enjoying re-watching this show but it's definitely not as entertaining the second time around, and the really bad CGI is all the more garish now.

h) Best Laid Plans
Since "Terriers" was one of my favorite shows of last year I've been kinda going back and checking out creator Ted Griffin's earlier works as a screenwriter, and this is right in the same niche as "Terriers," very inventive neo-noir, with great performances by Josh Brolin and Reese Witherspoon. Can't say I loved the whole thing and it felt a little late '90s dated in parts but there was a lot I enjoyed about it.

i) "Northern Exposure," season 1
I loved this show when it was originally on, and watched it a lot in reruns on A&E for years afterward, but I don't think it's been running anywhere for a while and I've been feeling nostalgic so I decide to rent it and watch it all in order for the first time. It's fun to watch it from beginning and instantly remember how different so many of the characters end up from where they started.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I wrote about Tonio: From Da Top's single "Suicide" on the City Paper's Noise blog.

Monday, March 28, 2011
Last week was Nate Dogg week on Singles Jukebox!

2Pac ft. Dru Down, Nate Dogg, Hussein Fatal, Yaki Kadafi and Snoop Dogg – All About U [7/7]
Dr Dre ft. Nate Dogg, Snoop Dogg & Daz Dillinger – Deeez Nuuuts [8/7.5]
Ludacris ft. Nate Dogg – Area Codes [5/7.78]
Shade Sheist ft. Nate Dogg & Kurupt – Where I Wanna Be [9/7.75]
Westside Connection ft. Nate Dogg – Gangsta Nation [8/6.71]
Mark Ronson ft. Ghostface, Trife & Nate Dogg – Ooh Wee [3/5.44]
Mos Def ft. Nate Dogg & Pharoahe Monch – Oh No [6/6.67]
Fabolous ft. Nate Dogg – Can’t Deny It [9/7.43]
Nate Dogg – I Got Love [8/7.29]
Nate Dogg ft. Snoop Doggy Dogg – Never Leave Me Alone [5/5.83]
Nate Dogg & Warren G – Nobody Does It Better [6/6.67]
50 Cent ft. Nate Dogg – 21 Questions [2/5.71]
Dr Dre ft. Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg & Kurupt – The Next Episode [9/7.5]
Warren G & Nate Dogg – Regulate [10/9.73]

We also covered Ain't No Fun but I forgot to write a blurb.

Friday, March 25, 2011

I wrote a piece called Chuck Lorre: Television's Maestro of Hate for Splice Today.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A year or so back when I called Kid A my 55th favorite album of the last decade, I wrote that "there’s something inherently pompous and ridiculous about a rock band with three guitarists and a boring rhythm section stripping away the guitars to focus on 'beats,'" and how I felt that album "was the beginning of them painting themselves into a corner so tiny that whatever sounds that escape from it now, like In Rainbows, sound completely dead and bereft of ideas or energy." So it was kind of with morbid curiosity that I checked out The King of Limbs, which seems to be getting the kind of muted, unenthusiastic reaction that I thought In Rainbows deserved, much of the discussion centering on the album's dance music influences.

And to my surprise more than anyone else's, I actually kinda like The King of Limbs! Not much, but I feel like they're approaching textured, loop-driven songs in a way I dig more here, even if their sense of rhythm is kind of flatfooted and fidgety in a very British way that I'm not the biggest fan of. "Morning Mr. Magpie" and "Lotus Flower" even feel like Thom Yorke actually singing a song to me and not just kind of freeform mewling syllables like a lot of Radiohead's worst later songs. And "Giving Up The Ghost" is a really nice example of them applying their minimal, repetition-driven songwriting approach to a spare vocals and guitar arrangement. But more than anything, I appreciate exactly what people find disappointing about it -- how short the running time is, and how slight and unchallenging it feels, which can be downright refreshing in the context of a career as acclaimed and supposedly important as Radiohead's.

TV Diary

Tuesday, March 22, 2011
a) "Workaholics"
The bar seems pretty low for Comedy Central sitcoms but there's something I really liked about the first episode of "Workaholics," even beyond the fact that it featured a guest spot by Chris Parnell or that the bizarre plot involve him asking the main characters to murder him. The whole thing has a really odd freewheeling don't-give-a-fuck vibe and I'm interested to see where it goes.

b) "Breakout Kings"
It kind of surprised me that A&E had a new scripted drama since they seem to have gone pretty far down the rabbit hole of bad reality shows, and it turns out this was originally developed for FOX and man, it's really good, I'm glad a cable channel picked it up. It was created by a couple of "Prison Break" writers and centers around a team of feds that chase down fugitives with the help of prisoners who'd escaped and got caught themselves, and it kind of rides the fence between really gritty dark plots and a kind of light, funny character-driven show. Also, it was cool that Herc from "The Wire" is in it and some of the first episode took place in Baltimore. The standout of the cast, though, is the character played by Jimmi Simpson, an actor who I kind of disliked for a long time based on him playing the most unlikable character in one of the most unlikable movies of all time, Loser, but now everything I see him in I like him more.

c) "Eagleheart"
I grew up loving "Get A Life" and Cabin Boy so it kind of feels like a big deal to me that Chris Elliott finally has a proper starring vehicle that seems suited to his talents for the first time in almost 20 years. And once again I have to get over my hangup about live action shows on the Cartoon Network, because this is really funny, and in a weird way the episodes being like 11 minutes long totally works and they kind of plot it out like a 30 or 60-minute show and just compress it down to the basic storyline and as many jokes as they can fit in.

d) Thurgood
This is the HBO movie of Laurence Fishburne's turn on Broadway as Thurgood Marshall, and man, he just kills it, really brings to mind how impressed I was when I first saw him in What's Love Got To Do With It. It's kind of more light and humorous than I would've expected but it really helps offset the historical weight of the subject matter, makes it more human and approachable. I'd much rather watch a good play like this about a historical figure than a slick feature film biopic, for a number of reasons.

e) The Sunset Limited
Another HBO movie I really enjoyed, which seemed like a nice excuse for a couple of old pros like Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson to just go head-to-head for an hour with a nice barebones, intriguingly framed little premise. It was also refreshing to see such a wordy Cormac McCarthy adaptation, since seeing a couple others and reading The Road kinda made me wonder whether his minimalist style and terse characters were some kind of cover-up for an inability or disinterest in writing dialogue, which this has lots and lots of and is sometimes over-the-top but never dull.

f) "An Idiot Abroad"
I've never been big on the Ricky Gervais podcast/animated HBO show thing where he sits around and laughs way too hard at how dumb his friend Karl is, but I kind of enjoy this goofy travel show where they send him to different countries and let him just kind of be an ugly American (well, ugly Englishman, whatever). The comedy is a bit predictable and broad, but so many travel shows have these overly enthusiastic and open-minded hosts that it's kind of refreshing to see one through the eyes of someone who's a little bit sheltered and xenophobic and the occasional moments where he kind of enjoys himself.

g) "Face Off"
My wife really likes this SyFy show, which is basically a reality show competition for special effects makeup artists, and it's pretty neat because a) it's cool to see how that particular sausage gets made and b) it's not an especially high profile profession so they're able to get really major people in the field who've done Star Trek and Tim Burton movies to come on as guest judges. A lot of the actual show is typical reality show bullshit with backbiting and feuds, but it's still cool to see how people rise to or fail at the challenges, sometimes hilariously.

h) "Comedy Death Ray"
It's kind of neat that with all the billion comedy podcasts out there these days, IFC picked one up and used it as a format for interview bumpers between all the old Apatow-y '90s/early '00s shows they've been showing reruns of lately ("The Ben Stiller Show," "Larry Sanders," "Mr. Show," "Freaks & Geeks" and "Undeclared"). I kinda wish they'd just made it its own show instead of the bumper format, though, because these little 90 second interview snippets end up being kind of bland soundbytes whereas I assume the whole appeal of those podcasts is just letting the comics and actors unwind and shoot the shit.

i) "Fairly Legal"
This has kind of become an unlikely candidate for one of my favorite new shows of 2011 so far, I tuned in mainly for the eye candy of Sarah Shahi and Virginia Williams, but the whole cast is gelling and the writing is a little sharper and wittier than I'm used to from a fluffy USA dramedy.

j) "Episodes"
The little thinkpiece I wrote about this show focused more on the subject matter than the execution, but this did turn out to be a pretty solid show, even if the kind of British farce aspect of it took some predictable silly turns by the finale. Would like to see this come back for another season.

k) "It's Effin' Science"
G4's attempt at making a hip, young "Myth Busters"-style science show is pretty sad, mainly because it's actually stiffer and dorkier than the actual "Myth Busters," in addition to not being as interesting with the science content and trying way harder to be funny. Even the token hot girl isn't as hot as the one on "Myth Busters," although she's still pretty hot, so there's that.

l) "Mad Genius"
FUSE has this weird niche of doing all the music-oriented programming you wish MTV would do but not necessarily doing them that well, and in this case they have a show profiling musicians and actually focusing on their art instead of just breaking down their drama and controversies on a "Behind The Music" tip. But a lot of times they're profiling some boring modern hard rock type, or some really overexposed rapper, so it's not as interesting as it should be.

m) "Parenthood"
I'm starting to sour a little bit on this show. One of the things I liked best about the first season was how plots and conflicts would unfold gradually over the course of several episodes. Now it feels like something's always coming to a head, to the point that there are sometimes multiple climactic shouting matches within a single episode.

n) "Parks & Recreation"
As I predicted last year, I'm warming up to this show a bit more now with Rob Lowe and Adam Scott in the cast, and Lowe in particular has become a good foil to allow Rashida Jones to actually be funny. But I dunno, the way this show leans on awkward silences and reaction shots is really irksome, especially the way every Aubrey Plaza scene is punctuated with her rolling her eyes at the camera.

o) "Being Human"
Now that I'm caught up with all the episodes aired so far of the SyFy version of this show, I'm now going back and starting to watch the original BBC version of the show. And I'm still not really sure which I prefer, or if watching them both so close together isn't going to kind of mush them all together in my head.

p) "The Dish"
Style's "The Soup" spinoff/knockoff never seemed especially necessary, especially given they were making fun of half of the same clips most weeks, but the show really grew on me over the last 3 years, and I came to realize that it wasn't just because I've been kind of in love with Danielle Fishel since the "Boy Meets World" days -- the show really was pretty well written and fun in an unapologetically goofy way. So it was a real bummer to turn it on this past weekend and find out it was their last episode ever, R.I.P.

Monday, March 21, 2011
Some recent Singles Jukebox scores and blurbs:

Cee-Lo Green – It’s OK [2/5.86]
Fabolous – You Be Killin’ ‘em [7/5.22]
Pink – Flippin’ Perfect [6/4.08]
Lupe Fiasco – The Show Goes On [6/5.22]
R Kelly – Love Letter [7/7.38]
Nicki Minaj ft. Drake – Moment 4 Life [5/4.56]
Lady Gaga – Born This Way [7/4.71]
Pitbull ft. T-Pain – Hey Baby (Drop It to the Floor) [1/4]

We're also doing an all-Nate Dogg week this week, so check that out, should be a lot of fun.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

I wrote a post on the City Paper Noise blog about "Crystal Meth," the new video by Born King aka Killa Fifth, produced by Singodsuperior.

Friday, March 18, 2011

I reviewed Microkingdom's Three Compositions of No Jazz for

The 2011 Remix Report Card, Vol. 2

Thursday, March 17, 2011
"All Of The Lights (Remix)" by Kanye West featuring Lil Wayne, Big Sean & Drake
The original is a giant glittery turd so in a way all this has to do to be an improvement is to not reprise Kanye's stupid fucking "I hold my head" line or anything, although he's kind of not even on this remix and supposedly will be adding a verse, I dunno. Wayne hasn't been a truly welcome presence on remixes in a long time, but he brings a certain comfort and confidence to the beat that the other guys lack, Big Sean in particularly just flailing and outright ignoring the beat. Drake's attempt at a kind of doubletime flow is hilariously pathetic but as his verse wears on he sounds convincingly pissed off, which is kind of a refreshing change of pace from his usual barely conscious droning.
Best Verse: Lil Wayne
Overall Grade: C-

"Lay It Down (Part II - A Tribute to the Legends)" by Lloyd featuring Patti Labelle
This is one of those songs that has multiple official remixes, and in the last edition I already covered the one with R. Kelly and Jeezy, but this one seems to be more high profile (there's a third with B.o.B. but fuck even listening to that). This one is nice for both including and acknowledging Labelle, who was sampled on the original, as well as paying tribute to Teena Marie, but really the best part of this is that Lloyd sings the chorus a little different and finds a much better take on the melody that isn't all shrill and annoying like on the original.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: B+

"Wet (G-Mix)" by Snoop Dogg featuring Jim Jones and Shawty Lo
I was just giving props to the original version of this song last week, but what the fuck kind of remix lineup is this? It would've been considered wack even in 2008 back when these 2 assholes had careers. Shawty suddenly biting Gucci Mane's whole flow really transparently at least has some entertainment value, though.
Best Verse: Shawty Lo
Overall Grade: F

"Welcome To My Hood (Remix)" by DJ Khaled featuring Ludacris, T-Pain, Busta Rhymes, Mavado, Twista, Birdman, Ace Hood, Fat Joe, Jadakiss, Bun B, Game & Waka Flocka Flame
7 minutes? Seriously? The "I'm So Hood" remix was a nice moment, but every attempt Khaled makes at recapturing it is worse than the last, and this one is basically Miami water torture. Golf clap to Luda for cramming a Charlie Sheen reference into his last bar. As usual T-Pain dropping verses on remixes is better than any hook he does lately. I thought a Twista remix verse could never be boring but even he can't rescue this. It's always hilarious when Khaled raps but his verse here doesn't top the "All I Do Is Win" remix. Ace Hood is increasingly weirdly kinda not bad? I think this beat just has an awkward groove or BPM, barely any of these guys sound natural or comfortable trying to flow on it. Waka batting cleanup is kinda dope, I guess.
Best Verse: T-Pain
Overall Grade: D

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Yellowbirds is the new solo project of Sam Cohen of the Boston band Apollo Sunshine, who were responsible for a couple of the best rock records and best rock shows I've experienced in the past decade. A lot of my love for that band was due to Cohen's jaw-dropping guitar playing, but he only ever sang lead on a handful of hit-and-miss songs in the Apollo Sunshine catalog, so I wasn't sure how excited to be about him taking the lead on the Yellowbirds' recent debut album, The Color.

Cohen's voice and songwriting are a little more confident and developed on the Yellowbirds material than on his band's previous albums, but the sleepy, pastoral aesthetic and the album's emphasis on texture and ornate production over hooks and personality unfortunately echoes Apollo Sunshine's heartbreakingly underwhelming 2008 album Shall Noise Upon. Still, the densely detailed psychedelia of The Color, as much as it's not necessarily what I'd like to hear from Cohen, is pulled off really well when his guitar playing gets to shine, especially on the twangy "Rings In The Trees" and the gorgeous "Beneath The Reach Of Light," which brings out a little of the Cohen that amazed me on early Apollo Sunshine songs like "Conscious Pilot" and "Ghost."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

This morning WYPR aired their latest segment featuring me talking about Baltimore club music along with DJ Equalizer, and you can stream the entire segment, plus some web exclusives, on the Maryland Morning site.

Monthly Report: February Albums

Monday, March 14, 2011

1. The Disciplines - Virgins Of Menace
I've always felt like The Posies had a more interesting and diverse sound than their power pop reputation gave them credit for, and Ken Stringfellow's extremely variedd career outside the band has helped bear that out, with three solo albums that ran the gamut from lo-fi to polished singer/songwriter country rock and piano pop, a collaboration with the African band WaFlash, and most recently the raw garage rock of the Norway-based The Disciplines. I didn't much care for the first Disciplines album a couple years ago, which felt a little too rushed and frantic, like Stringfellow was kind of playing a character. But Virgins Of Menace maintains that aggressive energy while adding a lot of melody and a distinct lyrical perspective, making for easily his best set of songs since 2001's Touched, and easily a more enjoyable effort than the last Posies album released just 5 months earlier.

2. Sonic Youth - SYR9: Simon Werner a Disparu
As I mentioned the other day, I just read David Browne's Sonic Youth biography Goodbye 20th Century and have been poring over my favorite band's back catalog all over again, so this record kind of had perfect timing for me to be excited about it. I've always been a little unenthused about the SYR series in general, other than "Anagrama" the early volumes didn't live up to all the potential of a totally freeform instrumental Sonic Youth record and I got off the bus around SYR5. But this is almost exactly what I always wanted out of an SYR, a long luxurious collection of jams with varying levels of composition and improvisation, mellow vibes and harsh noise. It's almost the album people who never much liked the band's vocals have been waiting for, although it'll be interesting to see if any of the riffs, or the general sound of this record, turn up on their next 'proper' vocal album -- I could see "Chez Yves (Alice et Clara)" turning in to a really great song. It's very definitely post-'90s Sonic Youth, but there are some things on here that honestly give me kind of a Evol vibe.

3. Dawn Richard - A Tell Tale Heart
I've been so obsessed with Diddy-Dirty Money's Last Train To Paris since it was released in December and quickly became my 2nd favorite album of 2010 that it's been fun to having some new stuff from the same team with the same kind of expansive, emotional dance/R&B sound to enjoy, including this mixtape from one half of Dirty Money. Richard's got some really strong material of her own, and hearing her voice by itself outside of Danity Kane or Dirty Money for the first time I'm realizing she has this really appealing raspy grain to her voice that reminds me a little of Brandy. Here's hoping she gets to launch a serious solo career off of this mixtape.

4. Diddy-Dirty Money - LoveLOVE vs. HateLOVE
As with A Tell Tale Heart, this feels like a wonderful little addendum to Last Train To Paris, collecting all the remixes of songs from the album that have been floating around along with some cool new songs like the amazing "Sade." I put all this, the original album and the Richard mixtape into one playlist for a crazy 3 hour shuffle party of all the stuff in this vein.

5. Patrick Stump - Truant Wave EP
I mentioned a couple months ago that the Fall Out Boy frontman's solo album Soul Punk is probably my most anticipated record of 2011, and this little 6 song digital EP he quietly put out while Interscope hems and haws about releasing the full-length has only made me more excited about the album. Some of the stuff on here has a kind of rushed synth pop feel that I'm not totally on board with, my favorite is the funky midtempo "As Long A I Know I'm Getting Paid," but there's a really appealing range of sounds and moods on here and his voice as always is fantastic.

Reading Diary

Saturday, March 12, 2011
a) Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth by David Browne
Sonic Youth are my favorite band of all time, and I spent a good chunk of my teenage years devouring their music and any writing about them I could get my hands on, liner notes, magazine articles, message board chatter, whatever. So I went into reading a book about the band kind of feeling like there was nothing new I could learn about the band but still eager to try and add something new to my obsession. And I have to say, David Browne did a pretty good job of tying everything I already knew together, adding some other trivia and nuance, and making their career into a really cohesive narrative, even without much of the drama or tragedy at his disposal in his previous book about Jeff & Tim Buckley. My favorite weird fact that I learned from this book was that Kim Gordon dated Danny Elfman in high school, which makes SY covering "The Simpsons" theme song all the more surreal.

b) By Any Other Name by Spider Robinson
My dad's always been a big sci-fi buff, so I grew up with access to his large personal library of the stuff and connected with some authors more than others but generally have a limited appetite for those kinds of novels, even if I appreciate a lot of the sci-fi genre in other mediums. Spider Robinson is one author he likes that I'd never really checked out, and recently I cracked open one of his short story collections and was really blown a way with it, just how much story he can compress into a couple dozen pages and how much humor and characterization comes out in most of these stories. It's kind of amazing to me that Robinson hasn't been adapted for the screen, several of these stories could make for a good movie or TV series, and the opening story Melancholy Elephants has some really interesting insights about copyright law and the nature of musical creativity that I've been thinking about a lot since I read it.

c) Valis by Philip K. Dick
My dad didn't have any Philip K. Dick in his collection when I was growing up, which used to disappoint me when I was getting heavy into Sonic Youth and hearing about all the references to his stuff on the lyrics on Sister, but then in the last couple years my dad discovered his stuff and started recommending it really enthusiastically. I don't know if this was the right book to try first, though, I'm kind of having a hard time with his prose and haven't gotten into a groove with it yet.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I wrote about Rome Cee signing to Under Sound Music and releasing his new track "Rap Messiah Freestyle" on the City Paper's Noise blog.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Last year I began doing some segments with the Maryland Morning program on WYPR, Baltimore's NPR station, including some pieces about Baltimore club music to tie in with my upcoming book, Tough Breaks: The Story Of Baltimore Club Music. The latest segment in that series features DJ Equalizer, and will air on the morning of next Tuesday, March 15th, and the interview turned out great and I think will be really entertaining and illuminating for people who don't know about early Baltimore club and the role Equalizer played in it. It should stream on the Maryland Morning site at some point, too, so I'll try and link that when it goes up if you can't listen to the show when it airs.

Monthly Report: February Singles

Monday, March 07, 2011

1. The Foo Fighters - "Rope"
Even if the Foo Fighters haven't really made a solid album since the '90s, they've remained a really solid singles act with songs like "The Pretender" and "Best of You" and "Times Like These" and "No Way Back" and "D.O.A." and "Long Road To Ruin" and on and on, and while it's too early to say where "Rope" falls in that pantheon, it's really just sounded initially fantastic, a really ingeniously constructed groove that's a little bit off from the formula of the band's previous hits. Who knows, they might actually have a good album this time around too (although I'll believe that when I hear it).

2. Lady Gaga - "Born This Way"
I kind of feel lame defending this song because I don't necessarily disagree with any of the reasons people hate on it: the brazen "Express Yourself" ripoff (which I don't mind mainly because I love "Express Yourself), the pandering pro-gay message, the lyrics that are cringe-inducing even when they're not using some sketchy racial terminology. But the song just works for me, especially after fourfour pointed out its similarity to "Born To Be Alive"; I love how overstuffed and frantic it sounds, and that great a cappella I WAS BORN THIS WA-HEY breakdown at the end. Gaga better have at least 2 singles better than this off the new album, though, or she's seriously dropping the ball.

3. Travis Porter f/ Too $hort - "Bring It Back"
I've never really known what to make of Travis Porter, it always seemed to me like the goofy name/image was kind of covering up a really bland anonymous approach to ATL swag rap, and their big breakthrough radio hit "Make It Rain" didn't really contradict that impression. That song grew on me slightly over time, but I could never get past how lame it was to have a less catchy song called "Make It Rain" like 4 years after the Lil Wayne/Fat Joe joint. But "Bring It Back" builds on what I did like about "Make It Rain" and adds some more, especially the Too $hort guest spot and that little squirmy synth line on the chorus.

4. My Chemical Romance - "SING"
I generally enjoy MCR more in frantic barnburner mode than in midtempo power ballad mode (my favorite song, "Helena," is basically a really fast power ballad), but this song has really grown on me as it's become ubiquitous on rock radio. Since the cast of "Glee" recently covered this song it's of course quickly earned the distinction of charting higher in that version than the original, which is a pretty standard thing to happen on the pop charts in 2011 but feels kind of surreal for MCR.

5. Snoop Dogg - "Wet"
I enjoy how this song uses almost the exact same wet/sweat switches for the clean version as David Banner's "Play," and like that song you still get a sense of exactly how filthy the song is even int he clean edit. Even better, the song was apparently written for Prince William's bachelor party. I kind of hate to give props to something produced by the Cataracts, but whatever, this is a joint.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

I posted Billo's new video "Off My Mind" and wrote a bit about it on the City Paper's Noise blog.

The Freaks & Geeks and Undeclared Kids, A Decade Later

Friday, March 04, 2011

For the last few months, the Independent Film Channel has been airing reruns of "Freaks & Geeks" and "Undeclared," the two short-lived Judd Apatow TV series about high school students and college students, respectively, that ran for one season each between 1999 and 2002. And as a fan of the shows when they were originally on the air, who identified strongly with "Freaks" as a high school student and then with "Undeclared" as a college student, it's been fun to kind of grow up with the shows casts and watch them take on adult roles and develop successful careers. Given that its most famous alumnus has no less a gig than hosting the Oscars this weekend, it seems like a good time to take stock of the casts of both shows and see where their careers are at in 2011, from most successful to least:

James Franco
Franco, the rebellious Daniel Desario from "Freaks & Geeks," always cut the most dashing movie star figure out of the show's cast, so it's no surprise that that's exactly what he became. But after a few years of being famous mainly for a supporting role in the Spider-Man trilogy, he recently reached a career peak with the unusual distinction of being nominated for an Academy Award, for 127 Hours, the same year that he hosted the Oscars telecast, although his kind of mediocre hosting performance has kind of resulted in a backlash, so maybe this is his peak and it's all downhill from here.

Seth Rogen
Until Franco's recent resurgence, Rogen was generally considered head of the class for "Freaks & Geeks" kids, with Apatow taking the young Canadian under his wing as a writer and cast member for “Undeclared,” some small film roles, and then the star turn in the blockbuster Knocked Up. Co-starring in hits like Superbad and The Pineapple Express (with Franco) followed, as well as a number of commercial misfires like Funny People and Observe And Report, but his recent superhero starring vehicle The Green Hornet did well enough that he’ll probably remain a headliner for a while.

Jason Segel
Like his fellow freak Rogen, Segel was encouraged by Apatow to write as well as act, and penned his first starring vehicle, the moderate hit Forgetting Sarah Marshall. And that movie's hilariously bizarre puppetry segments led to Segel's most intriguing project to date, co-directing a new Muppets movie due out later this year. Along the way, Segel has also carved out a niche on TV on "How I Met Your Mother," and has had a great opportunity to flex his dramatic chops on the show’s current sixth season, following the death of his character Marshall’s father.

Charlie Hunnam
Hunnam has undergone and impressive transformation from the pretty boy Brit he played in "Undeclared" to beefing up and mastering his American accent to play the head of a California motorcycle gang in the top-rated cable drama "Sons of Anarchy."

Jay Baruchel
"Undeclared" star Jay Baruchel is pushing 30 but still usually plays neurotic, nerdy high school or college-age characters in whatever movies Shia LeBeouf and Michael Cera pass on, with his two biggest hits being the family flicks The Sorcerer's Apprentice and a voice role in the animated How To Train Your Dragon.

Busy Philipps
The exceptionally admired Busy Philipps parlayed her small role on "Freaks & Geeks" into a couple seasons on the inferior but far more popular teen drama "Dawson's Creek." Currently, she's arguably the funniest member of the ensemble cast on ABC's "Cougar Town."

Martin Starr
After playing Bill Haverchuck, the geekiest character on "Freaks & Geeks," Starr has played an assortment of other dorks and losers, most memorably in Adventureland and on the hilarious, sadly short-lived cable comedy "Party Down."

John Francis Daley
After playing Sam Weir on "Freaks & Geeks" and having a few awkward years as a teenager, Daley eventually landed back on primetime TV, joining the cast of "Bones" in 2007.

Linda Cardellini
Cardellini, who played the main character on "Freaks & Geeks," Lindsay Weir, has had perhaps the most depressing career trajectory since the show went off the air. At first, she took thankless roles in two over the hill franchises, playing Velma in two live action Scooby-Doo movies, and then cranking out six seasons on "ER" long after everyone stopped caring about that show. And in the five years since a small role in Brokeback Mountain, the most notable thing she's done was probably providing the inspiration for Forgetting Sarah Marshall by dumping Jason Segel.

Monica Keena
After a run of roles in theatrical films like Freddy Vs. Jason and Man of the House following her stint on "Undeclared," Keena has lately been reduced to TV movies and direct-to-DVD flicks.

Samm Levine
Since playing Neal Schweiber on "Freaks & Geeks," Levine has racked up dozens of film and TV credits -- no big juicy parts, but enough funny small roles that he's on his way to a respectable career as a character actor.

Timm Sharp
Like Samm Levine, "Undeclared" co-star Timm Sharp has an extra "m" in his first name and a variety of TV credits, most notably with recurring roles on "Six Feet Under" and "'Till Death," but it looks like his best days may still be ahead of him as a cast member on the upcoming HBO series "Enlightened."

Carla Gallo
Many critics have pointed out that Judd Apatow has nurtured the careers of a lot of male actors, but hasn't done much for female performers. The argument to the contrary is Carla Gallo, the female lead from "Undeclared" who Apatow has cast in such memorable film roles as 'Toe-Sucking Girl' in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, 'Period Blood Girl' in Superbad, and 'Gag Me Girl' in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. OK, maybe that’s not a good example, nevermind.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

I wrote a piece for Splice Today about the Nels Cline Singers and the ROVA Saxophone Quartet's show together at the Windup Space earlier this week.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

I wrote a post on the Noise blog about "Hometown," the great new Dukeyman-produced single by OOH from Brown F.I.S.H., from his upcoming solo EP The Big 7.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The March issue of Urbanite Magazine hit Baltimore newsstands today, and the theme of the issue is change, with features on six Baltimore 'change makers.' One of them is my article about Shodekeh, the human beatbox who's been performing with the BSO and doing countless other interesting projects that change the perception and parameters of his artform. I also spoke to another beatboxer, The Bow-Legged Gorilla, and High Zero Foundation member Shelly Blake-Plock about Shodekeh for the article.

In the same issue, I also wrote a review of Celebration's new album, Hello Paradise.