TV Diary

Monday, July 30, 2012
a) "Political Animals"
The USA network does not generally have especially high quality programming, my rabid "Suits" fandom notwithstanding, but it really amazed me just how absolutely terrible "Political Animals" is. I actually kind of feel bad for everyone involved, and a little relieved for them that it's a mini-series and they won't have do it for more than one season. Sigourney Weaver is so bad in this that I'm starting to question whether she was ever a good actress or if I just didn't notice how bad she is when she was in good movies or something.

b) "Perception" 
TNT kinda picked the wrong month to debut a show about a brilliant but insane neuroscientist. At least this one solves crimes, though, I guess. It's a pretty goofy show but it's at least nice to see Rachel Leigh Cook again, she's still the bomb.

c) "Black Dynamite"
I feel like blaxploitation parody at this point must exist in far greater volumes than actual blaxploitation; the whole thing is just kind of spent as comedy fodder. This show at least takes it to such a ridiculous extreme that they can create a bunch of jokes about anything and not just the genre it takes place in, though.

d) "Sullivan and Son" 
Never much liked Steve Byrne as a standup, he has his moments but comes off as a weirdly serious guy for a comic. His TBS sitcom is, well, a TBS sitcom, although the writing on this actually produced a few surprisingly funny lines despite the hoary concept and paper-thin characters. Nice to see the "Wonder Years" dad on TV again, though.

e) "Trust Us With Your Life" 
I genuinely feel like it's a testament to how far we've come as a society since the Pee-Wee Herman days that Fred Willard has a primetime show on ABC right now and it hasn't been pulled from the schedule or anything. This is a weird fusion of "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" and "This Is Your Life" where Willard sits with a celebrity going through their life story and a team of "Whose Line" improv guys like Wayne Brady and Colin Mochrie act out their stories as comedy sketches. It's a pretty tortured concept but it works about as well as the traditional form of "Whose Line," which is to say hit and miss but sometimes really funny.

f) "Empire Girls: Julissa and Adrienne"
Years of watching way too much BET left me with a great amount of affection for the cute latina from 3LW and the cute latina from 106 & Park, both of whom are apparently friends, have a reality show together on the Style network, and both now have gigantic breast implants. This is a pretty great show.

g) "Popped"
Fuse is a frustrating channel for me to watch because they do a lot of the music-centered programming I wish MTV and VH1 did more of, but they so rarely do it well. This is kind of like a "Behind The Music" career overview show that's actually about the music, but it's really just a half hour of talking heads saying uninspired and often inaccurate things about the artist. Plus it revolves around the premise of one song that 'pops' in an artists career, so the whole Lil Wayne episode builds up to "Lollipop," for Rihanna it's "Umbrella," etc.

h) "Opening Act"
Kind of a nice twist on the musical reality show since every episode follows a different aspiring musician and surprises them with a chance to open for a big act and walks them through it. Pretty low stakes and hokey, but I enjoyed it. The girl who opened for Rod Stewart in the first episode, Arielle, was just adorable, I hope she becomes a big star.

i) "Duets"
It's funny how much I enjoy this show, since it usually annoys me when "American Idol" or "The Voice" turns a song not written as a duet into a duet for the sake of a performance, since that's pretty much the whole premise of the show. This is pretty fun to watch, though, especially when it's Kelly Clarkson on one end of the duet, and all the mentors are pretty talented people who tend to come up with genuinely insightful feedback for the singers. John Legend is just hilariously mean and hard to impress, though, he'd make a great music critic.

j) "Bristol Palin: Life's A Tripp"
It's really, really funny to watch this show as if it's "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" and Sarah Palin is Kris Jenner. The show tries to make you feel sorry for Bristol for all the shit people give her, but then in the first episode when someone heckles her in a bar and insults her mom, her response to the guy is "is it because you're a homosexual?" 

k) "The L.A. Complex"
A Canadian show now airing on the CW that's basically just a soap opera about pretty young people trying to make it in show business. But it's actually kind of charming just beyond its population of pretty young people, just because the whole thing is so pessimistic about showbiz and puts these idealistic kids through so much crap. Also Paul F. Tompkins has a pretty entertaining recurring role playing himself as a total asshole.

l) "Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta"
For some reason the confluence of VH1 reality shows, rappers and the skanks who love them had not previously caught my attention, but then my friend told me that Benzino is on this show and it's pretty hilarious to watch him on a show like this.

m) "Single Ladies"
Basically VH1's scripted equivalent of "Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta," with only mildly better writing and acting. Marveling at how good Stacey Dash looked for her age was the main thing I got out of watching this terrible, terrible show last year, but I tried to give the new season a shot even after she got fired. Pretty boring. 

n) "Adam Richman's Best Sandwich In America" 
I really need to stop torturing myself with this guy's shows, every time I see this or "Man Vs. Food" I just want to go on a tour of America's diners and sandwich joints. They did a crabcake sandwich in one episode from a place in Baltimore I've never been to, need to check that out at least.

o) "Wilfred"
This show has settled into a comfortable groove, but for something with such an outlandish premise I feel like they should just go for broke, holding back or settling for that comfort zone has kind of a gradual deflating effect even when it's probably just as good as it was in the beginning.

p) "Web Therapy"
I'm not a huge fan of this show, a lot of the jokes are kind of cheap laughs and the whole thing feels very driven by celebrity guest stars. And yet, I've developed an appreciation for how they manage to actually move along the plot of a surprisingly continuity-heavy show with nothing but one-on-one dialogue scenes that kind of obliquely react to all the action taking place offscreen, it's pretty unique and inventive in that regard.

q) "Alphas"
My wife is still really into this show and I kinda don't get it. 

r) "Louie"
The FUNNIEST MAN IN THE WORLD PULITZER PRIZE WORTHY hooplah around Louis C.K. and this show have reached a fever pitch but I've decided to just try and loosen up and enjoy what I can of the show from week to week like I started to by the end of the second season. By its nature it's an inconsistent show but I appreciate the unpredictability of it. The Melissa Leo episode and the Miami episode in particular were pretty memorable, although it's still often more interesting than it is funny.

s) "Eagleheart"
I feel like even by Adult Swim standards this show has really doubled down on some creative absurdity this year, the twists and turns they take from point A to point B in one 12-minute episode would be iimpressive for a half hour show.

t) "Workaholics" 
This show has been on a good run lately, the dead co-worker episode was especially great. Every time I think they're drifting into territory a little too broad or obvious they come with something left field and often kind of disgusting.

u) "Franklin & Bash" 
I haven't watched the current season much since it's on at the same time as "Workaholics," but that's ok since the "Workaholics" line about "Franklin & Bash" probably made me laugh more than "F&B" ever has.

v) "Luther"
I have no idea how The Emmys can justify nominating this show for best miniseries for its SECOND SEASON but really the main thing is this show just isn't that good. I love Idris Elba and all but the show is just kind of cartoony and ludicrous as a crime drama.

w) "The Looney Tunes Show"
I was recently introducing my son to classic Warner Brothers cartoons (he goes "bunny!" when Bugs is on), when the Cartoon Network pulled a bait-and-switch and threw this new show on after a block of classic 'toons. Generally speaking, new school kids shows that are weird slick modern reboots of classic characters are really awful and distasteful to me, but there is something oddly compelling about the fact that they basically put Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck into "Seinfeld"-like sitcom. Still pretty offensive and unnecessary, but as far as sitcoms go it actually wasn't bad.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

I put a post on the Baltimore City Paper's Noise blog about Kane Mayfield's Rhymes By Kane: Thievery Corporation Edition.

Monthly Report: July 2012 Singles

Friday, July 27, 2012

1. Imagine Dragons - "It's Time"
When I wrote my column a few weeks ago about alternapop crossover, I realized that I really enjoy the overwhelming majority of the recent songs I talked about in there, which makes me kind of a dork, but I really already knew that. One thing that surprised me was that the song was produced by Alex Da Kid of "Love The Way You Lie" fame (shades of fun. and Jeff Bhasker, adult alternative and pop rap are really colliding this year).

2. Miguel - "Adorn"
Although I enjoyed the Art Dealer Chic EPs, I was never as head over heels about "Adorn" as some people and resented the suggestion that it was as good as or better than my beloved "Sure Thing." But as much as brevity worked in the 2-minute EP version's favor, I really love the new three-minute version that's now an official single, that bridge is fantastic, it feels complete to me now. I do now kind of worry whether my prediction after "Birthday Cake" of partial-song snippets being the new single coming true, though.

3. Meek Mill f/ Jeremih and Drake - "Amen"  
It's very shrewd of Drake to take half of the biggest new non-Young Money rappers coming up on tour with him and appear on their lead singles, and kind of cement his role as the head of the new class of mainstream rap and all that narrative bullshit. But of course since I can't stand Drake most of the time that just means he's tainting what could've been better songs -- he doesn't get in the way too much on the Waka and French Montana singles, but he definitely ruins the 2 Chainz single. Meek Mill would seem like an artist with a lot to lose in a Drake collab, just because he's managed to get on the radio already shouting over aggro beats like "I'ma Boss," but "Amen" works better than it really has a right to. Drake's verse is good by Drake standards, Jeremih is underused but also deployed perfectly when you can actually hear him, and Meek sounds surprisingly good over those ticky little drums and warm piano chords, kinda bodes well for his album not being too one-note.

4. Little Big Town - "Pontoon"
People who talk about "summer jams" tend to overlook country but that's really where most of the summeriest hits reside. This one is a really good windows-down joint, with the added bonus of listening to hot chicks talk about "motorboatin'." I love that little mandolin hook, actually between this and the Imagine Dragons song there's a lot of mandolin on the list this month.

5. Trey Songz f/ T.I. - "2 Reasons" 
I am still not sick of all these clappers, man, I love that sound. And I hate to say it, because it's not a nice word he uses, but the explicit version of the chorus flows a lot better than the radio edit.

6. Lil Wayne f/ Big Sean - "My Homies Still" 
This isn't quite a clapper but it has that same stomp, as well as a whole lot also borrowed from Big Sean's "Dance (A$$)," almost like Wayne wanted to get his co-sign before biting that song this hard. Every few months, the constant deluge of Wayne hits starts to yield a few actually alright songs or verses, but I'm not under any illusions that he'll ever be half the rapper (or even half the artist/personality) he was a few years ago.

7. Leah LaBelle - "Sexify"  
I caught this video on MTV Hits by this foxy chick with the Lisa Stansfield vibe and had too look her up, apparently she was an American Idol finalist way back before I watched the show. But even more surprising is that this song was produced by Pharrell Williams in 2012 and it doesn't suck. 

8. Haley Reinhart - "Free"
Another American Idol also-ran whose video I came across on MTV Hits without knowing that that's where she's from. I was really struck by how nice it was to see a young female pop singer doing something so overtly old-fashioned (but not stylized in any particular hip "retro" way).

9. Yo Gotti - "I Got That Sack"
Here is a summary of the ass-backwards state of affairs in mixtape rap as exemplified by Yo Gotti's career: On January 10th of this year, he released his major label debut, Live From The Kitchen, nearly three years after the release of its most successful single, "5 Star." A few weeks before the album dropped, he released the promotional mixtape January 10th. A few months later, "I Got That Sack," from the January 10th mixtape, is quickly becoming a bigger hit than any of the singles released in the immediate run-up to the album, and has a slick video directed by Mr. Boomtown.

10. John Mayer - "Shadow Days"
I've always been amused at how John Mayer's sober, earnest songwriting persona has clashed with his increasingly salacious, hammy, douchey public persona, even while I liked both his songs and his sense of humor more than I care to admit. It's funny how after he finally went over the edge to people just outright hating him, he's kind of overcorrecting in a really transparent way with the long hair and hat "serious singer/songwriter" look and this ridiculous song about he's a good man with a good heart who just lost his way. But once again, I find the song too catchy and enjoyable to totally dismiss.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

In this week's City Paper I wrote a feature about DJ Jonny Blaze and his fusion of Baltimore club music and gospel on the new album The Transition.

Also in this week's paper, as usual, I wrote the Short List of concert listings.

(photo by Rarah)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

My latest Radio Hits One column for the Village Voice's Sound Of The City blog is about remixes and re-recordings of pop hits as country songs, from Kelly Clarkson to Lionel Richie.

Monday, July 23, 2012
I wrote a City Paper Noise blog post about the new Height With Friends video for “I Can’t Stand To Be Refused."

The 2012 Remix Report Card, Vol. 5

Saturday, July 21, 2012
"Bad Girls (Remix)" by M.I.A. featuring Missy Elliott and Rye Rye or Azealia Banks
The alt icon I've always had a low tolerance for as a vocalist dropping two remixes of her latest single, both featuring Missy and one up-and-coming female dance rap sensation. Of course, I'm partial since one is from Baltimore and did an interview with me recently, but I think Rye Rye killed this and Azealia Banks is mostly still annoying and overrated. The beat on the first remix is better too, though. Missy's cool but guest verses have never really been her thing, it's more fun to hear her rule her own track.
Best Verse: Rye Rye
Overall Grade: B / C

"Bands A Make Her Dance (Remix)" by Juicy J featuring Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz
Juicy J's whole weird career resurgence as a solo artist after Three 6 tried and failed to sell out doesn't make a lot of sense to me, especially since such a brilliant producer and iffy rapper is mostly getting by working with of-the-moment producers. As Mike Will beats go I'm not real into this, it sounds like a lesser version of "Way Too Gone," and it feels even more inert and boring when turned into an all-star remix. As much as I want to be in favor of the rise of 2 Chainz, he really does shit the bed on most of his features, and Wayne is actually better than usual here, especially when he does that little start-stop flow and the track drops in and out with him.
Best Verse: Lil Wayne
Overall Grade: C-

"Born Stunna (Remix)" by Birdman featuring Rick Ross, Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj
The original is one of the worst songs of the year, mainly for Ross's chorus, so hearing that a few more times automatically makes this pretty terrible. There are serious diminishing returns on Nicki's "you my son" punchlines, which weren't even that good to begin with, and Birdman's verse is laughably rudimentary even by his usual standards. So it's a mild surprise when Wayne saves this with a fairly energetic verse at the end. 
Best Verse: Lil Wayne
Overall Grade: D+

"Function (Remix)" by E-40 featuring French Montana, Young Jeezy, Red Cafe, Chris Brown and Problem
It's a sad reminder of how regionally divided rap radio still is that this song charted nationally seemingly purely off of West coast airplay, not that it's one of my favorite songs of E-40's album but he made one of the year's best rap records and it would be nice to hear him on the radio, which I still haven't even after this big-name remix. 40's opening verse isn't as good as the one on the original, and everything else is as you'd expect: French sounds about as hapless here as he does anywhere else, Red Cafe is boring as fuck, Jeezy holds it down well enough, and Chris Brown does his usual angry Jermaine Dupri routine.
Best Verse: Young Jeezy
Overall Grade: B-

"Tonight (Best You Ever Had) (Remix)" by John Legend featuring Pusha T
The original "Tonight" with Ludacris is not that good but has kind of become an unlikely R&B radio hit from two guys whose careers had been pretty cold for a while. I'd actually kind of forgotten John Legend was still on G.O.O.D. Music during the run-up to Cruel Summer until this remix dropped and I mean, label synergy aside this is a pretty useless collab, nobody wants to hear Pusha get grown and sexy, if they want to hear him at all these days.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: C

Friday, July 20, 2012

This week marks the 4th anniversary of DJ K-Swift's passing, and I wrote a City Paper Noise blog post about that and Noisey Nation's internet radio tribute to her.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Baltimore City Paper's annual Big Music Issue is out this week, and in addition to the many articles, it features the introduction of several new genre-specific columns of music news that will be regularly running in CP from now on. I am writing two of them: Rap Sheet, which is about hip-hop, and BPM, which is about dance and club music and DJ culture.

Also, as usual, I did this week's Short List of concert listing. 

(photo by Josh Sisk)

1994, Reconsidered

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Top 50 Albums of 1994:  

1. Notorious B.I.G. - Ready To Die
2. Nas - Illmatic
3. Soundgarden - Superunknown
4. Jeff Buckley – Grace
5. Shudder To Think - Pony Express Record
6. Mary J. Blige - My Life
7. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Orange
8. Pearl Jam - Vitalogy
9. Gang Starr - Hard To Earn
10. Sonic Youth - Experimental Jet Set, Trash And No Star
11. Outkast - Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik
12. Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral 
13. Soul Coughing - Ruby Vroom
14. Common - Resurrection
15. Green Day – Dookie
16. Prince - Come
17. UGK - Super Tight 
18. Tori Amos - Under The Pink  
19. Stone Temple Pilots - Purple
20. Redman - Dare Iz A Darkside
21. Hole - Live Through This
22. Pulp - His'N'Hers
23. TLC - CrazySexyCool 
24. Bone Thugs-n-Harmony - Creepin On Ah Come Up EP
25. Frank Black - Teenager Of The Year
26. Warren G - Regulate...G Funk Era 
27. Scarface - The Diary 
28. Sunny Day Real Estate - Diary
29. Superchunk - Foolish
30. Method Man - Tical
31. Beck - Mellow Gold
32. Beastie Boys - Ill Communication
33. Smashing Pumpkins - Pisces Iscariot
34. The Meat Puppets - Too High To Die
35. Nirvana - MTV Unplugged in New York
36. William Hooker / Lee Ranaldo - Envisioning
37. Neil Young - Sleeps With Angels
38. Da Brat - Funkdafied
39. Toadies - Rubberneck
40. Pavement - Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
41. Weezer - Weezer
42. R.E.M. - Monster
43. Dinosaur Jr. - Without A Sound
44. Sebadoh - Bakesale 
45. Brainiac - Bonsai Superstar 
46. Rolling Stones - Voodoo Lounge
47. Toad The Wet Sprocket - Dulcinea
48. Sloan - Twice Removed
49. Elvis Costello - Brutal Youth
50. They Might Be Giants - John Henry 

Last month I was gushing about 1995 but I think 1994 might really be my favorite year for music, at least in my lifetime.Of course, I was only 12 at the time, and I wasn't even aware of a lot of this music -- I owned less than 20 of these albums when they were new, mostly the big name rock records. But shit, the whole year is really just an apex for a lot of different kinds of music. In my top 5, you've the two crown jewels of NY hip-hop, and then the three most beautifully sung alt-rock records of the decade.

Top 100 Singles of 1994:

1. Snoop Doggy Dogg - "Gin And Juice"
2. Notorious B.I.G. - "Juicy"
3. Warren G and Nate Dogg - "Regulate"
4. Wu Tang Clan - "C.R.E.A.M."
5. Craig Mack - "Flava In Ya Ear"
6. Green Day - "Basket Case"
7. Mariah Carey - "All I Want For Christmas Is You"
8. Ace of Base - "The Sign"
9. Nine Inch Nails - "March Of The Pigs"
10. Gang Starr - "DWYCK"
11. Tori Amos - "Cornflake Girl"
12. Dinosaur Jr. - "Feel The Pain"
13. Sonic Youth - "Bull In The Heather"
14. Stone Temple Pilots - "Big Empty"
15. TLC - "Creep"
16. Aaliyah - "At Your Best (You Are Love)" 
17. Shudder To Think - "X-French Tee Shirt"
18. Soundgarden - "Fell On Black Days"
19. Queen Latifah - "U.N.I.T.Y."
20. Beastie Boys - "Sure Shot"
21. Sagat - "Why Is It? (Funk Dat)"
22. Domino - "Getto Jam"
23. R.E.M. - "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?"
24. The Cowboy Junkies - "Sweet Jane"
25. Pearl Jam - "Yellow Ledbetter" 
26. Seal - "Prayer For The Dying"
27. The Dambuilders - "Shrine"
28. Pavement - "Cut Yr Hair"
29. Toad The Wet Sprocket - "Fall Down"
30. Jeru The Damaja - "Come Clean"
31. Brandy - "I Wanna Be Down" 
32. Rollins Band - "Liar"
33. Counting Crows - "Round Here"
34. Heavy D & The Boyz -"Black Coffee"
35. Beastie Boys - "Sabotage"
36. Stone Temple Pilots - "Vasoline"
37. The Meat Puppets - "Backwater"
38. Green Day - "She"
39. The Rolling Stones - "Love Is Strong"
40. Nas - "Ain't Hard To Tell"
41. Hole - "Miss World"
42. The Pretenders - "Night In My Veins"
43. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony - "Thuggish Ruggish Bone"
44. Ahmad - "Back In The Day"
45. Soul Coughing - "Screenwriter's Blues"
46. E-40 f/ The Click - "Captain Save A Hoe"
47. NOFX - "Leave It Alone" 
48. R. Kelly - "It Seems Like You're Ready" 
49. Hammer - "Pumps And A Bump"
50. Stone Temple Pilots - "Interstate Love Song" 
51. Counting Crows - "Einstein On The Beach (For An Eggman)"
52. Tori Amos - "God"
53. Pearl Jam - "Spin The Black Circle" 
54. Frank Black - "Headache"
55. Nine Inch Nails - "Closer" 
56. They Might Be Giants - "Snail Shell"
57. Mazzy Star - "Fade Into You"
58. Nas - "One Love"
59. Da Brat - "Funkdafied" 
60. The Violent Femmes - "Breakin' Up"
61. Guns N Roses - "Estranged"
62. Soundgarden - "My Wave"
63. Janet Jackson - "Any Time, Any Place" 
64. Keith Murray - "The Most Beautifullest Thing In This World"
65. Smashing Pumpkins - "Frail And Bedazzled"
66. Sheryl Crow - "Leaving Las Vegas"
67. Gin Blossoms - "Allison Road
68. Green Day - "Welcome To Paradise"
69. 69 Boyz - "Tootsee Roll"
70. Dawn Penn - "You Don't Love Me (No No No)"
71. Liz Phair - "Supernova"
72. Morrissey - "The More You Ignore Me, the Closer I Get"
73. Domino - "Sweet Potato Pie"
74. The Breeders - "Saints"
75. Beastie Boys - "Root Down"
76. Common - "I Used To Love H.E.R."
71. Pearl Jam - "Animal"
72. Scarface - "I Seen A Man Die"
73. Soul Asylum - "Can't Even Tell"
74. Alice In Chains - "Got Me Wrong"
75. Hootie & The Blowfish - "Let Her Cry"  
76. White Zombie - "Black Sunshine"
77. Possum Dixon - "Watch That Girl Destroy Me"
78. Megadeth - "A Tout le Monde" 
79. Sheryl Crow - "All I Wanna Do" 
80. Veruca Salt - "Seether"
81. Mary J. Blige - "Be Happy"
82. Outkast - "Player's Ball"
83. Garth Brooks - "The Red Strokes" 
84. Real 2 Real - "I Like To Move It"
85. Dave Matthews Band - "What Would You Say?"
86. Lady of Rage f/ Snoop Doggy Dogg - "Afro Puffs"
87. Gang Starr - "Mass Appeal"
88. Des'ree - "You Gotta Be"
89. Nine Inch Nails - "Hurt"
90. John Mellencamp f/ Meshell Ndegeocello - "Wild Night"
91. Tom Petty - "You Don't Know How It Feels" 
92. Lucas - "Lucas With The Lid Off"
93. Soundgarden - "Spoonman" 
94. Crash Test Dummies - "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm"
95. The Spin Doctors - "Cleopatra's Cat"96. Deadeye Dick - "New Age Girl"
97. Cake - "Rock'n'Roll Lifestyle" 
98. Flaming Lips - "She Don't Use Jelly"
99. The Offspring - "Come Out And Play"
100. Beck - "Loser"

I had almost 50 extra songs that I had to cut to get this list down to 100, fuck what an incredible year. Looking over these songs, I realize that '94 must have been the peak of me watching videos on The Box. Remember The Box? Anyway, one of my favorite things about '94 is that it was kind of the little island of the post-Nirvana years when 'indie' bands were getting played on the radio -- Sonic Youth, Pavement, Dinosaur Jr., Liz Phair and the Meat Puppets all had charting singles -- before shit like Live and Bush took over and things started getting lame. That era had a big impact on me. Also, obviously, just an incredible time for west coast rap.

Monday, July 16, 2012
The CW's upcoming musical talent search show, "The Next: Fame Is At Your Doorstep," is shooting in Baltimore this week, and I wrote a quick Noise post with info about the taping, how to get tickets, and a meet-and-greet with one of the celebrity mentors on the show, Nelly.

Movie Diary

Saturday, July 14, 2012
a) The Other F Word
A documentary about rock musicians discussing fatherhood, which on the surface looks like the kind of thing I could vibe with, but it's pretty much exclusively focused on guys from SoCal punk bands, so generally the bulk of the movie is a bunch of guys I don't care about with occasional scenes of someone mildly interesting or likeable like, say, Flea. And it's not really well directed or even has any kind of point or POV beyond its premise.

b) One Day
The whole conceit of this story probably worked better as a book than as a movie, where it's mildly ridiculous to watch the two actors change hairstyles without aging at all over almost 20 years. But it is kind of charming and involving, at least until the emotionally manipulative bullshit ending. 

c) The Help
There's something very smug and off-putting to me about movies like this that get to magically invent a story in a charged period like the Civil Rights era and just make all these convenient calls from the right side of history with all-too-perfect heroes and villains. The cast was great (and Bryce Dallas Howard played perhaps the most horrible character I've ever found tremendously, shamefully attractive), and there were some great moments, but the longer the thing dragged on the less I thought of it.

d) Captain America: The First Avenger
I think if I had seen this before The Avengers I would've been disappointed by its use of Captain America as a bland goody-goody, since this movie does such a good job of making a relatively boring superhero pretty likeable and compelling, all things considered. Shame about the first third of the movie where Chris Evans's giant head sits atop a tiny CGI body, though, that was just a fiasco and really made that whole part of it difficult to watch.

e) Larry Crowme
Given how rarely Tom Hanks has relied on his easy goofball charm since he started winning Oscars, I kind of just enjoyed how fluffy and pleasant this was. And Gugu Mbatha-Raw is just an amazing-looking woman, even if she was totally a manic pixie dream girl in this movie.

f) The Beaver
Despite the strangeness of the premise and the presence of post-psychotic break Mel Gibson, this is actually a pretty bland movie, hitting pretty much all the same emotional beats as any other post-American Beauty dramedy about family dysfunction. It was a pleasant surprise to see Jennifer Lawrence was in this, though, I guess.

g) Something Borrowed
I started watching this for Ginnifer Goodwin expecting another shitty romcom like He's Just Not That Into You, but it's kinda actually good? Mainly because the comic relief (Stevie Howie and Ashley Williams) is pretty funny, the movie actually encourages you to dislike Kate Hudson as much as you want to, and John Krasinski serves a somewhat novel purpose as the gay (not gay) best friend who actually tells the heroine she's being stupid and complicit in a ridiculous love triangle and helps move the plot forward. There is some pretty annoying direction, though, lots of sappy montages and scenes that end in slow motion, even the goofy scene where they dance to Salt N Pepa's "Push It."

h) Exporting Raymond
I'm fascinated by the phenomenon of remaking American sitcoms in Russia and other countries, but as a doc exploring the nuts and bolts of that it wasn't really very interesting and only occasionally entertaining.

i) Suck
Satirical horror movies are a dime a dozen these days and at times this movie, about a band who become vampires, felt like it had stumbled onto the same basic idea as Jennifer's Body. But it was also pretty consistently ridiculous and entertaining, and chock full of cameos by people like Henry Rollins and Iggy Pop that were funnier than they had a right to be.

j) Deception
Sometimes I'll see some movie on TV that was apparently in theaters less than 5 years ago and just not remember it ever existing and sit there watching, fascinated, waiting to recognize something I saw in a trailer. This Hugh Jackman/Ewan McGregor movie apparently really existed, but noone noticed and justifiably so. It's odd how McGregor started his career playing memorable characters with big personalities but over the last few years just seems to take the blandest, most earnest parts he can in every movie.

k) Whitecoats
Every minute of this comedy that takes place in a hospital basically feels like someone decided to make a movie out of "Scrubs" -- even the title basically admits it! Except without the serious bits, and also not as funny, but it does have its moments. Mostly it's just a weird unknown movie to see people like Dave Foley and Dan Aykroyd pop up in. Apparently Dave Thomas from SCTV directed it, which makes it even more depressing.

l) The Big Bounce
This movie looked really cheesy and unappealing when it first came out but now I'm like, huh, a lighthearted Elmore Leonard adaptation with Owen Wilson in Hawaii! What fun!

m) My Life Without Me
There is exactly one remarkable moment in this movie, which I will happily spoil for you because it is a very poorly made and aggravating film. During the scene in which the sad, soulful Sarah Polley, who has terminal cancer, hooks up with the sad, soulful Mark Ruffalo in a car in the rain, the moment before they're about to have their stupid inevitable kiss, she just screams this big electrifying scream right in his face with the biggest smile. Everything else before and after that is miserable and predictable with a lot of unearned drama.

n) All I Wanna Do
A few weeks ago I watched a coming-of-age Elijah Wood movie originally titled Try Seventeen and then given the blander title All I Want for its American release. Then I watched this, a coming-of-age Kirsten Dunst movie originally titled The Hairy Bird and then given the blander title All I Wanna Do for its American release. This one was better, if for no other reason than it was a surprisingly bawdy movie about teenage girls that starred Rachel Leigh Cook and Monica Keena, but it was also actually pretty funny. Not very convincing as a period piece, though.

o) Only The Lonely
Given how short John Candy's career was it's nice to be able to still catch him in a starring role I haven't seen already and it be pretty good. Definitely not one of his funnier movies, but it's refreshing to see him as the lead in a romcom where he gets a babe like Ally Sheedy, dude was just so incredibly loveable.

p) Repo Man
Had always heard this referred to as a cult classic but really had no idea what it was like or what it was about. Finally put it on the other night while I was staying up late getting some writing done, and I thought maybe my sleep-deprived state would make me enjoy this loopy movie more but instead I just wasn't able to get into it, still not sure if I disliked it or just didn't get it.

Friday, July 13, 2012

This week I wrote a post on the City Paper's Noise blog about three Baltimore acts that were nominated to compete in a battle of the bands to get to play the 2012 Afro-Punk Festival: Femi The DriFish & The Out Of Water eXperience, Me & This Army and Reina Williams. Voting just closed today and Femi The DriFish was voted into the top 16 to compete in the battle. Congrats to him!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012
This week's City Paper Short List, which is notably devoid of Sonar or Talking Head shows.

Monthly Report: June 2012 Albums

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

1. Hammer No More The Fingers - Pink Worm EP 
As I've written about a few times, a really high number of the best out-of-town bands I've seen play at clubs in Baltimore have been from North Carolina, to the point that it's kind of an obsession of mine. These guys are one of those bands, and I know they're friends with one of my favorite Baltimore bands, Gary B. & The Notions. I never got around to hearing the full-length they dropped last year, but this 5-song EP is a great listen, they have a knack for very comfortable, familiar guitar pop but they throw a lot of interesting little rhythmic wrinkles and arranging decisions into the mix to keep it unpredictable and compelling.

2. Waka Flocka Flame - Triple F Life: Friends, Fans And Family
This album has gotten pretty terrible buzz even among the people who know Flockaveli was the shit, and I remember even when that album dropped people kind of seemed to instantly presume that Waka wouldn't make another album worth hearing and he had already done as well as he ever would. So I was surprised by how much I liked Triple F Life at first, and kept listening to make sure I wasn't tripping, but nope, it's pretty good. Not a patch on Flockaveli, of course, but I can honestly say I don't dislike any song on here besides the annoying Trey Songz single, even "Get Low" and "Fist Pump" are alright with me, even if they'd be easily improved by removing the Tyga and B.o.B verses. "Triple F Outro" is even better than "Fuck Dis Industry" and "Rooster In My Rari" and "Let Dem Guns Blam" feel like a good continuation of mixtape Waka. "Lurkin'" even does a mixtape-style pullback to the intro! Plus, I just love that the follow-up to the crunkest album of the decade is a celebration of friendship.

3. Reverend Dollars - UEP
This is weird beat music by a guy I like to talk music with online, much like the Chants record I mentioned last month, and in fact there is a Chants remix on this. Anyway I'm probably out of my depth as far as some of the influences on this, but it sounds cool. Love the triangle pattern on "UKnwDmnWll," I am tempted to taunt him by saying that Usher used the same concept already for 8701 (originally titled All About U), though.

4. Usher - Looking 4 Myself
Oh yeah, speaking of Usher. It's kind of sad that this album's cynical idea of "adventurous" is actually gaining traction with people who generally don't listen to Usher albums, when it actually isn't even as good an album as Here I Stand. The whole first half is kind of a wash, "Show Me" is the only song I really like, but from "Dive" onward it actually gets pretty damn good.

5. Wordsmith - King Noah
Wordsmith is a really prolific, hard-working rapper from Baltimore that I've always respected more for his grind than I've connected with his music. But he released an album right before Father's Day, which I didn't realize until after I did my Father's Day playlist is basically a concept album about fatherhood, so I was really in a mindset to feel what he was talking about and it's a pretty solid, engaging album.

6. Big K.R.I.T. - Live From The Underground
My reservations with Big K.R.I.T. are mainly that he's so slavishly paying tribute to a specific era of southern rap. But more than that, he has this weird mentality that the style of music he's doing is still 'underground,' that it didn't have a pretty huge commercial peak 5-10 years ago, that he's the guy that will make it "Cool 2 Be Southern" as if that didn't happen eons ago. That said, for someone with very few ideas of his own and no real personality or charisma, he's a pretty solid producer and songwriter -- this album basically has all the strengths and weaknesses of the J. Cole album, except it's a tribute to UGK instead of Kanye.

7. The Smashing Pumpkins - Oceania
Although he may aim elsewhere, Billy Corgan mainly pisses all over his own fanbase and legacy, which really doesn't personally bother me so much, at least until it means no more Jimmy Chamberlin. When I saw the band two years ago, it was kind of painful watching the new guy on drums butcher "Cherub Rock." So it was surprising to me that the drums don't bother me so much on Oceania that I can't listen to it. Billy's voice sounds kind of off on a lot of the album, though, like he's trying to be less nasal and piercing and ends up actually more annoying in the process. It has its moments, though, "The Chimera" is great.

8. R. Kelly - Write Me Back
Although Love Letter grew on me, and its title track is a minor classic radio jam,this whole phase R. is going through kind of bums me out. In the past he'd been so adept at making his old school influences shine through his more modern work, but now that he's overtly paying tribute to the '60s and '70s, he's kinda half-assing it with these canned arrangements. The singing is beautiful, and the songwriting is occasionally inspired, but a large part of the appeal for me of those old R&B records is the playing and production of the bands, so the drum machines and synths just sound chintzy and lightweight. Anyway "When A Man Lies" is sublime, and the MJ nods on the bonus track "You Are My World" are really fun.

9. Jimmy Fallon - Blow Your Pants Off
I've always had limited tolerance for Fallon, and memories of "Idiot Boyfriend" gave me a kneejerk negative reaction to news that he got to release another album. But when I will grudgingly admit the charms of his overrated talk show, the musical bits are definitely one of its greatest strengths, and it's kind of nice to have the best ones collected here. "Scrambled Eggs" with Paul McCartney is just incredible.

10. Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Americana
I am not part of the Neil Young cult and may never be, even if I love a lot of his music and eventually will probably listen to all of his albums. So the appeal of him and Crazy Horse doing sloppy rocket-powered versions of fucking "Oh Susannah" and "This Land Is Your Land" is kind of lost on me as anything but a forgettable novelty. It's fun, but it'd be more fun if those Jimmy Fallon-as-Neil versions of "Whip My Hair" and the "Fresh Prince" theme were on it.

Monday, July 09, 2012

I reviewed Rachel Anne Warren (of Gunwife Gone)'s Friday night show at The Ottobar on the City Paper Noise blog.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

I reviewed the new Time Columns album, Mana, on the Mobtown Studios site.

Friday, July 06, 2012

I wrote an entry on the Baltimore City Paper's Noise blog about Rebel Yell, the solo album from Stevie Krizz of The Unstoppable Nuklehidz.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Urbanite Magazine's hip hop issue is out, and I interviewed Rye Rye and Blaqstarr for the cover story. I also wrote a brief overview of the checkered history of Baltimore rap and club music artists that have had national attention and/or major label deals in the past.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012
Happy 4th of July! Here is the City Paper Short List of Baltimore concert options for the holiday and following week.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

On Sunday night my brother-in-law ended up with a spare ticket to see The Lumineers and Good Night, States at Rams Head Live, so I went and reviewed the show on the City Paper's Noise blog.

TV Diary

Monday, July 02, 2012
a) "Brand X with Russell Brand"
How did America get stuck with this fuckin' guy and start pretending he's any good? His character in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him To The Greek was funny enough with the right writing but when they put him onstage and just let him be himself at an MTV awards show or on something like this it's just torture. It's like he wants to free-associate absurdity like an Eddie Izzard but doesn't have half a brain to even remotely make it work. Can we get send this idiot back to England now?

b) "Anger Management" 
As one of the few people who thought Charlie Sheen-era "Two And A Half Men" was a pretty effective trad sitcom, I would like to definitively state that this show is total garbage even compared to that. And it's pretty much as close to making the same show again as Sheen could get, which is funny since he kept saying that the writing on that show was below his standards when it was really the best thing he'd ever done. The weirdest thing of all here, though, is that there's not even any apparent connection to the movie this show is named after and supposedly based on, other than that a main character is an anger management therapist. I feel bad for Shawnee Smith and Selma Blair that they're in this, even they don't seem to know why.

c) "The Newsroom" 
"Sports Night" and to a lesser extent "West Wing" are all-time classics to me, so I will forever remain something of an Aaron Sorkin apologist, and thought his movie into commissioned screenplays for things like The Social Network was nice in that it let him exercise his talent for dialogue without being caged by his own habits and obsessions in the way that brought down "Studio 60." So here comes HBO with all the horrible horrible freedom they can offer him to repeat himself into self-parody. The things that this show is really getting beaten up on, the recent past timeframe, its Great White Male complex, etc. are really the least of its problems for me. I mainly hate the direction and tone of the show; the cast and the story are decent, but once you put on that pompous opening credits sequence and shoot everything in drab color on handicams it just comes off so much worse than it could. Man I hope they cancel this, because I'm probably going to watch every episode for as long as it's on just like "Studio 60." Which was actually better than this, by the way.

d) "Saving Hope"
This show NBC is running over the summer is a Canadian production that's already been on the air up there for a few months. And it's a combination medical procedural/supernatural high concept show, which is just the definition of what TV doesn't need any more of. But man Erica Durance is one insanely good-looking woman, so I have watched it a few times.

e) "Bunheads" 
I never watched "Gilmore Girls," but that was mainly because I have an irrational dislike of Lauren Graham, so I have no idea how I feel about this lady's shows in general. But the pilot of this was pretty decent, although I was bummed that they basically (spoiler alert) wrote my favorite actor in the show out of being a series regular in that first episode, which has kind of lowered my motivation to keep watching.

f) "The Eric Andre Show"
I have to appreciate that this show is taking the ramshackle anti-comedy Adult Swim aesthetic somewhere darker and much less cutesy and pop culture-driven than most of their other shows. But I dunno, man, I feel like it's just being crazy and unpredictable for unpredictability's sake and is being funny is kind of an accidental secondary concern, which is not really my scene. It's about ten times better than that "Comedy Bang Bang" bullshit, though.

g) "Bunk"
This is in a way as much a deconstruction of game shows as "The Eric Andre Show" is of talk shows, but it's also really really funny, just a minute-by-minute zany thrill ride in the best possible way. 

h) "Veep"
I feel like this show got better as it settled in and the cast really got some chemistry. I still feel like it's kind of going for easy laughs and dressing them up with colorful cursing, though.

i) "Suits"
One of my favorite new shows of last year is back, off to a great start. Not an especially innovative show but also not a boilerplate legal procedural, I like that the plot is still very driven by tension between the characters. And really it's almost as gratuitously about people looking great in expensive suits and dresses as "Mad Men" is, and those women really look amazing.

j) "Episodes"
Another new show I enjoyed last year but wasn't really in any rush to see more of. So far it's actually funnier in the second season, though, had some serious belly laughs in the premiere.

k) "The Big C" 
I took my time getting around to watching the third season of this since I was pretty on the fence about the first two. Then I finally got bored enough to catch up, and by the fourth episode I just realized how much I hate these characters, especially when they tried to adopt a baby and refused to accept that a middle-aged couple with cancer and heart problems shouldn't adopt and I was just yelling "fuck you" at the screen. 

l) "The Sunny Side Up Show"
This is one of my son's favorite shows on Sprout, where a squeaking chicken puppet named Chica and one of four human co-hosts wishes happy birthday to viewers and sings songs. My wife and I had a favorite co-host, a cute redhead named Liz who was by far the best singer on the show. And then recently they replaced her with a "quirky" chick named Carly who plays ukelele and is almost like SNL's Zooey Deschanel parody brought to life, so we're a little annoyed with "The Sunny Side Up Show" at the moment. My son doesn't seem to care, though.