Friday, October 30, 2015

Complex ran a big list of the 100 best New York City rap songs and I wrote about about a dozen of them.

TV Diary

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

a) "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" 
On the whole, I've been pretty suspicious of YouTube celebrities, especially when they get opportunities in real show business. But this show, created by and starring Rachel Bloom (previously best known for the song "Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury"), is pretty promising. The pilot was just firing on all cylinders with quick wit and big emotion and occasional impressive musical interludes, and Donna Lynne Champlin is great as a best friend who teeters between being the voice of reason and the strangest character in the whole show. There have been a few moments in the next couple episodes where things got eye-rollingly wacky and my initial buzz wore off, but it's still by far one of the best new shows of the fall.

b) "Casual"
Michaela Watkins was very funny and underrated in her single year on "Saturday Night Live," but she always had this kind of subdued energy that made her maybe less suited for sketch comedy and maybe more suited for a dark comedy rooted in reality like this show. She's kind of the straight man to her brother, played by Tommy Dewey (who it took me forever to recognize from "The Mindy Project," where he looked completely different), who got rich off of a dating app. So the whole show is kind of looking at dating in the Tiner era through the lens of these two characters and Watkins's daughter, and it's very dry and sometimes very bitter and nasty, but it has an interesting energy that keeps me watching it.

c) "Red Oaks" 
Even now that "Transparent" has won some awards, Amazon has continued to trot out new shows this year that are just mystifying wastes of effort. "Red Oaks" has a promising pedigree, with executive producers Steven Soderbergh and David Gordon Green (who directed multiple episodes), but it's less of an '80s period piece than a tennis-themed Caddyshack knockoff that actually is about the boring Michael O'Keefe-type kid. It's hard to even tell if there's anything knowing about its '80s sex comedy tropes or if they're serious about this shit. Josh Meyers (annoying brother of Seth) even shows up with the same feathered hair he had on the dreaded final season of "That '70s Show," plus a cheesy mustache because he's in the '80s now. Even Paul Reiser, who I generally like, is way more interesting in his smaller role on "Married" than on his major role in this.

d) "Dr. Ken" 
Ken Jeong has always been hit-or-miss for me, even on "Community" he constantly veered between hilarious and totally unnecessary. Drawing from his real life experiences as a doctor for a sitcom should be a no-brainer, but this show just falls into such a broad, generic sitcom template, with the loudest, most transparently fake laugh track I've ever heard. Occasionally the jokes are sharp, but it's still kind of a bummer to watch guys I enjoy like Jeong and Dave Foley and Jonathan Slavin doing something so much broader than they usually do.

e) "Truth Be Told" 
One of the best new shows NBC has aired in the last few months was "The Carmichael Show," a laugh track sitcom starring a black comedian, and generally centers around the characters discussing hot button topics. One of NBC's worst new shows, "Truth Be Told," is also a laugh track sitcom with a black comedian (Tone Bell) discussing hot button issues with his friends and family. But on this show, he's buddies with Mark-Paul Gosselaar and they're just a couple of pathetic married dudes talking about porn. Like, seriously, the first episode is about them realizing the babysitter was a porn actress, and the second episode is about them getting tickets to an adult film award show. And they try to make the show interactive by having a stupid fucking poll question flash across the screen toward the end of the episode.

f) "Code Black"
Now that "ER" has finally been off the air for a few years, maybe there's some room for another emergency room drama. This one isn't terribly different in its approach, other than trading out "ER"'s shaky cam for more traditional camera work, but it takes place in the busiest ER in the country, where they frequently run out of resources to treat every patient (code black, natch), so it can get pretty intense. Marcia Gay Harden and Luis Guzman are great, interesting anchors for a show like this, and the rest of the cast is fresh-faced and anonymous. But I've never been big on medical dramas, so I don't know how long I'll stick with it.

g) "American Horror Story: Hotel"
I gave this a try on the heels of trying to watch "Scream Queens," which might as well have been a season of "AHS" if they weren't able to sell it to a different network as a whole other show, and once again I'm just finding this Ryan Murphy stuff is not for me. I don't think he even understands horror as a genre. There's no mood-building, no stakes, no pacing, no suspense, no psychological tension, just a bunch of gore and weird shit that doesn't even register as shock value or camp because there's nothing grounded about the world it takes place in to contrast it with.

h) "Gigi Does It" 
I've liked David Krumholtz in a lot of things over the years, but I'm just mystified that there's a show where he dresses up like an old lady with creepy Jiminy Glick-looking facial makeup and interact awkwardly with people and occasionally say inappropriate things an old lady wouldn't say. It's mystifying that they thought this was a good idea for a show.

i) "Benders"
Denis Leary produces a show about amateur hockey players starring a couple of inexplicably popular comedians from MTV2's inexplicably popular "Guy Code," so the whole thing just oozes a douchebag vibe. There were a few funny lines here and there in the episodes I saw, but it's pretty bad. "Documentary Now!" was good but generally IFC's original programming is just the pits, they're currently airing this and "Gigi Does It" in a block with "Comedy Bang Bang" and reruns of "That '70s Show."

j) "Adam Ruins Everything"
This show on TruTV is really unusual and impressive, it centers on this guy Adam Conover breaking down a particular topic and debunking a lot of cliches and received wisdom, like there's an entire show about cars and dealerships and driving insurance and all the bullshit involved with that industry. So it's kind of like "Myth Busters" crossed with the second half of an episode of "Last Week Tonight" where John Oliver just goes to town on a particular topic, but it's all really tightly scripted and revolved around this guy obnoxiously walking into a situation and just explaining all this stuff in a rude know-it-all way, while the other characters kind of try to get away from him. Apparently it grew out of a CollegeHumor video series, so like "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," that's a big point in favor of culling talent from the Internet.

k) "Moonbeam City" 
I still think that this show is, kind of like "Archer," a somewhat flat 30-minute version of what a lot of Adult Swim shows have done in 15 minnutes, but it's growing on me, the second episode was much funnier than the first and in general the writing has been pretty sharp.

l) "Stitchers"
One of my favorite new shows over the summer was "Stitchers," and ABC Family has already renewed it for a second season, although by the time it airs the network will have rebranded as 'Freeform.' So I was pleasantly surprised that they came back for a special Halloween episode this month. It was naturally, a little lighter than the show usually is, taking a break from the main storyline and just kind of doing a Scooby Doo kind of thing, but it was fun, I'm glad they did it.

m) "The Last Man On Earth" 
The first season of "The Last Man On Earth" started with two very funny episodes where Will Forte was completely alone in the world or alone with Kristen Schaal, followed by several episodes with a larger cast that kind of devolved into Will Forte being socially awkard and/or evil in increasingly absurd ways that weren't really all that funny. And so far the second season has followed that exact same pattern. When it's good it's really good, though, so I'm still along for the ride.

n) "iZombie" 
In its brief first season "iZombie" very quickly progressed from something that I enjoyed very easily for its similarities to creator Rob Thomas's previous cult classic "Veronica Mars" to a show with its own characters and storylines that are compelling and entertaining in their own right. And the second season has picked up nicely, continuing some threads from the first season but also getting an interesting arc with a couple new antagonists (Steven Weber, who's become more valuable as a frequent TV guest star than he ever was on "Wings" back in the day, and Leanne Lapp). I am a little disappointed in the declining presence of Aly Michalka, though, she was a strong component of the ensemble when the show started.

o) "Empire" 
I don't think I enjoy this show nearly as much as a lot of people do, but it's still pretty damn entertaining. The first season was such a phenomenon that I wasn't sure if they'd be able to keep up the pace, but so far the second season has just kept on turning out all these memorable lines ("A mouth is a mouth") and scenes (that insane prison recording session with Petey Pablo). As they load up the show with more and more guest stars, though, it gets confusing to try and square their imaginary music industry with real life -- Ludacris plays a prison guard, but Pitbull plays Pitbull, so does their universe also have a Ludacris?

p) "Fresh Off The Boat"
The first season of "Fresh Off The Boat" was very good, but the person whose memoir it was based on and who narrated the show, Eddie Huang, was very vocal about how the show could and should be better. And I respected the odd position he was in, and really hoped he would keep fighting the good fight to make it better and truer to his life. And I guess he didn't, because when the show returned for a second season this fall, the narration was gone. It's not a huge loss -- the narration usually felt kind of redundant to the action, and it actually took me a couple episodes to really notice it was gone. It's still a good show -- Constance Wu

q) "Black-ish"
Another good family show returning for a second season that is often driven by race and culture clash and comes at those things in funny, unexpected ways. The first couple episodes of the season weren't up with the show's best, but I feel like they got back into the groove and the chemistry of the cast is strong.

r) "Fargo"
I told you how much I detested the first season of "Fargo," but it's a new season with all new characters so let me tell you, it's still odious garbage. I didn't even think I revered Fargo the movie all that much until I realized how much it did right that the show abandons or does in the most rote, cynical way possible. About 7 people died in the movie, not all of them onscreen, and I think more people got killed in just the first episode this season. Ted Danson and a few other cast members can't help but be charming, and a couple of the stories seem like they could make for decent drama on their own, but put all together as this ugly parade of 10th generation 'dark comedy' tropes it's just foul.

s) "The Leftovers"
I think this show has gotten some undue hate from people who are still made at Damon Lindelof about "Lost." And while it is in some way a show full of mysteries that will never be solved, Lindelof is a lot more forthcoming about it here -- "The Leftovers" was based on a novel that never explained the mass disappearance of millions of people, so the show will never explain it either, and in a way that relieves a lot of tension. But while I've started the second season still very interested in this world and these characters, I'm not crazy about the direction they've taken. Ann Dowd gave a standout performance in the first season, but now her character's dead and she's still a member of the cast, as a ghost or hallucination that constantly talks to Justin Theroux, taking his more minor mental disturbances to a broader new extreme, and I'm not really wild about this being part of every episode now. In the last episode, Dowd's character started singing Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" in a couple scenes for no apparent reason, almost like a meta Rick Roll, and one of the scenes transitioned to a scene scored by a slow, gloomy cover of "You're The One That I Want" from Grease. I like the unexplained aspect of the show, but I feel like it's starting to just be inexplicable for its own sake.

t) "The Affair" 
"The Affair"'s conceptual hook is that each episode is told half from Dominic West's perspective and half from Ruth Wilson's perspective. And the wrinkle in the second season is that there are now episodes from the respective of their spouses, Maura Tierney and Joshua Jackson. And while I'm still not terribly enamored with the whole vehicular homicide mystery driving the plot right now, it's still a really unique and interesting show. If anything, the second season has just emphasized the undercurrent of just darkness and depression and dread, like this show is really trying to make extramarital affairs seem like the total destructive dead end that they probably often are, without being, like, moralistic about it.

u) "You're The Worst" 
Still love this show. The recent episodes with Edgar dating the girl from the comedy troupe have been full of great stuff, and Gretchen managing an Odd Future-ish rap group continues to be hilarious.

v) "Drunk History"
Some great episodes lately. Jen Kirkman was the storyteller in the first "Drunk History" online video that I loved, so it was fun to see her pop up again.

x) "The Mindy Project" 
Generally speaking, there are sitcoms where the main character(s) have kid(s), and there are sitcoms that delay any plotline where they have kids until like season 7 at the earliest -- even "Mike & Molly" don't have kids yet (and apparently they had Molly get pregnant in one season finale and then just decided to completely forget about it in the next season, which is hilarious and bizarre). So "The Mindy Project" is unique just in the way they've progressed pretty quickly from Mindy and Danny having no relationship in season 1 to getting together in season 2 and having a baby at the beginning of season 4, things that any other sitcom would've stretched out over a decade. The show is still intermittently hilarious, and still has a weird relationship with its ensemble, who it keeps underusing in favor of constantly rotating in new recurring characters. Garrett Dillahunt is funny in everything and I'm happy to see him in the show, but I feel like at this point in this show's run it'd be nice if they just focused on giving Ike Barinholtz and Ed Weeks and Xosha Roquemore good moments in every episode.

y) "Project Greenlight" 
This show has really become about one of the producers, Effie Brown, struggling heroically against the absurd unrealistic expectations of the director they chose, Jason Mann. It's all kind of a trainwreck that I can't look away from, I really can't believe this guy sometimes. I'm curious to see the movie when HBO airs it, though, I get the feeling it might turn out okay. I've worked on enough sets, even if they weren't for feature films, to really feel the anxiety these guys go through as they fall behind schedule or go over budget or run out of time to do more takes.

z) "Saturday Night Live" 
This is the first new season of "SNL" in a while with no major turnover in the cast, nobody got fired and there's just one new featured player. The new guy, Jon Rudnitsky, is not very promising -- his most prominent role so far was a way too broad Anderson Cooper impression. The cast is in an awkward place -- Bobby Moynihan and Taran Killam and Vanessa Bayer and Kenan Thompson are a strong glue, and Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones and Kyle Mooney bring weird interesting vibes that the show didn't have before, but sometimes they're all failed by the writing. And Killam's Trump was very bad, especially considering that Darrell Hammond is still around as the announcer and popping up to do the Clinton impression. It was fun to see Amy Schumer's episode, especially since she's maybe the first person to host "SNL" while starring in a different sketch comedy show, but as with most episodes lately it was a couple strong sketches and a lot of forgettable ones.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A couple new pieces for Complex: The 10 Most Memorable Live Performances In Music History and Kittens Teaches You How To Make The Perfect Playlist.

Monthly Report: October 2015 Singles

Monday, October 26, 2015

1. Tory Lanez - "Say It"
I am not someone to gripe about current R&B's failure to resemble old R&B, but one thing I do miss is the complete disappearance of vocal groups. So while Tory Lanez is a Toronto dude who seems to fit into that whole sleazy whispy Toronto thing, sample-friendly R&B geniuses Pop & Oak fill the chorus with glorious harmonies from '90s girl group Brownstone that automatically help the song stand out from current R&B radio on just a simple textural level. A lot of the melody and charm of the track also comes from the Brownstone sample, but Tory Lanez puts enough of his stamp on the song that I like it as an original (also can I go ahead and admit that I'm weirded out by how similar this guy's stage name is to that of porn star Tory Lane? Just me? OK, nevermind). Here's the favorite 2015 singles Spotify playlist I add to every month.

2. Ellie Goulding - "On My Mind"
I liked this song, and how it was more of a bombastic Max Martin pop thing than the ethereal dance pop sound she's had before, right off the bat. Then I heard about the whole thing about how this is supposedly a response to Ed Sheeran's awful hit "Don't" being supposedly about her, and having that kind of context to the song, I dunno, it doesn't really add anything for me, if anything I'm just sick of every other song on Top 40 radio being a passive aggressive shot at another pop star. But the song works without any of that baggage, so I dig it.

3. One Direction - "Perfect"
Another tabloid Top 40 song that winks at another major star the act has been linked to, except in this case the chorus even seems a little similar to Taylor Swift's "Style," the song supposedly about Harry Styles that this is a supposed response to. Again, all this meta stuff gives me a headache --- I really don't care much at all about these people's lives, even though One Direction's last album is one of my favorite records in recent memory. But hey, this song is pretty great, even as derivative of "Style" as it feels.

4. Kendrick Lamar f/ Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat - "These Walls"
It was amazing to see Kendrick's Kennedy Center show last week, and I enjoyed kinda reconnecting with one of my favorite albums of the year in anticipation of the show, and this is one song that started to stick out more that hadn't before. And then I heard it on the radio the day of the show, not even knowing it was the next single, and then it sounded great live. When To Pimp A Butterfly dropped, "You Ain't Gotta Lie" jumped out at me as the midtempo R&B-ish song that I thought should be a single, but "These Walls" really just has a ton of hooks going on in it, good pick. Kendrick has always sounded kind of awkward and clinical rapping about sex or love, and this song almost takes that to a ridiculous extreme, but it's still good.

5. E-40 - "Choices (Yup)"
He's operated in such a weird parallel universe from the rest of the rap world for 20 years now, making double albums every year for a small cult audience, that it's always a pleasant surprise when E-40 sneaks into the mainstream at all. A few years ago "Function" kinda predicted the way radio was about to sound and helped introduce YG, IamSu! and Problem to the country all on one track, more recently Big Sean gave him his biggest feature ever, and now this song has really grown into a sleeper hit over last 10 months. I remember David Drake talking about how this song was gonna be big when the album came out, and I totally didn't believe him, so hat tip for that.

6. Nelly f/ Jeremih - "The Fix"
This song is hilarious, it's almost like they saw how offended people were by "Blurred Lines" and said well, let's just have Nelly yell "come and get this dick" over "Sexual Healing." Jeremih is undefeated, even though a lot of his features aren't especially good songs, he just sounds fantastic on everything. Between this and "Don't Tell 'Em," you could really do a whole volume of just Jeremih and DJ Mustard interpolating 20th century classics, that would be a fun novelty record if Jeremih was ever capable of releasing an album.

7. August Alsina f/ Lil Wayne - "Why I Do It"
I don't know why this song hasn't done better yet, it's great, especially compared to some of August Alsina's songs that have been hits. Lil Wayne and August Alsina are both on Curren$y's new single that's also really good.

8. Foo Fighters - "Outside"
When Foo Fighters only played 3 songs from their latest album, the first 2 singles and this, at the 20th anniversary show, that was really my first clue that it was gonna be a single, and the song sounded pretty amazing in the stadium that night even between all the familiar old hits.

9. Walk The Moon - "Different Colors"
Now that "Shut Up And Dance" has gone down as the big alt-rock hit to cross over in 2015, Walk The Moon get to go through the inevitable motions of all their future singles getting decent rock radio play and zero pop chart action. It's a good song, though, obviously lacks the big bold qualities that made "Shut Up" blow up, but they're consistent with hooks.

10. Calvin Harris & Disciples and Ina Wroldsen - "How Deep Is Your Love"
I'm amazed people keep releasing singles called "How Deep Is Your Love," considering that the Bee Gees really own that title forever. But the Dru Hill song was great, and I enjoy this one a bit too. A couple months ago I wrote about how obnoxious it was when Bebe Rexha sang the chorus on a huge hit by David Guetta but she wasn't in the video and initially didn't even get an official feature credit on the song. And this is the same shit, really, a songwriter named Ina Wroldsen sang this entire song but it's only credited to Calvin Harris and another dance act, Disciples, for no other reason than that Wroldsen isn't famous enough that they need to credit her. Plus the video stars a model, who doesn't lip sync who's basically the only person you see in the video and the first time I saw it I really just assumed it was the singer, which shows you how insidious and shitty this whole thing is.

Worst Single of the Month: Drake - "Hotline Bling" 
I don't care much about the 'controversy' about this song vaguely resembling D.R.A.M.'s "Cha Cha," because the beat and the sample and the melody are all pretty different, and really they're both terrible songs. I don't even really care about how totally abhorrent the lyric is and how it completely epitomizes Drake's creepy "good girl" nonsense. I've just always hated Drake's all-singing pop tracks (aside from "Take Care," which is really a Rihanna record anyway), and this is just the bottom of the barrel, it's even worse when he sings in that deep "Started From The Bottom" voice, the whole thing just sounds like garbage, I don't know why anybody likes it, I'm disgusted that this is probably going to #1.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

I made my picks for the 10 best guitar solos of the past 5 years for Complex.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Last night, I went to the Kennedy Center and saw Kendrick Lamar with the National Symphony Orchestra, performing much of To Pimp A Butterfly live for the first time, and wrote about it for Rolling Stone.

(photo by Joy Asico)

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 49: Mötley Crüe

Monday, October 19, 2015

Mötley Crüe are currently on a highly publicized farewell tour that they promise for real for real will end with the band's last show ever ever on December 31st. It's hard to know if that really will be the end, but anything's possible, and in any event, it's a good time to look back at their catalog, especially since I've never really had much hard rock in this column, and pop metal bands are really good candidates for this kind of thing.

Mötley Crüe Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist): 

1. Piece Of Your Action
2. Too Fast For Love
3. Come On And Dance
4. Public Enemy #1
5. Bastard
6. God Bless The Children Of The Beast
7. Red Hot
8. Ten Seconds To Love
9. Keep Your Eye On The Money
10. Fight For Your Rights
11. Raise Your Hands To Rock
12. City Boy Blues
13. Bad Boy Boogie
14. Nona
15. Five Years Dead
16. Sumthin' For Nuthin'
17. She Goes Down
18. Rattlesnake Shake
19. Sticky Sweet
20. Slice Of Your Pie
21. Angela

Tracks 1, 2, 3 and 4 from Too Fast For Love (1981)
Tracks 5, 6, 7 and 8 from Shout At The Devil (1983)
Tracks 9, 10, 11 and 12 from Theatre Of Pain (1985)
Tracks 13, 14, 15 and 16 from Girls, Girls, Girls (1987)
Tracks 17, 18, 19 and 20 from Dr. Feelgood (1989)
Track 21 from Decade Of Decadence: '81-'91 (1991)

Mötley Crüe have made 4 albums since Dr. Feelgood, but I didn't feel the need to include that stuff. Crüe have done a better job of staying in the media spotlight, and occasionally scoring rock radio hits, than pretty much every other '80s hair metal band since the early '90s, but they've still been essentially a shadow of their former selves. After their first best-of compilation (from which I included the one new track not released as a single), their golden days quickly gave way to the John Corabi era and then a succession of comeback attempts of varying levels of success.

I read the band's infamous and engrossing memoir The Dirt ages ago, but obviously the music often took a backseat to the antics in that book, save for some interesting Nikki Sixx chapters that delved into his influences and obsessions. At the time, things like Spotify weren't around yet and the only album I was inspired to buy because of the book was Dr. Feelgood, mainly because "Kickstart My Heart" remains the one Crüe song I never tire of, so it was fun to finally delve into the earlier albums. I love the sleazy speedy sound of the early albums, and the increasingly bluesy guitar sounds as they went further into the '80s was interesting to notice.

One of the things that I find interesting about Crüe is that they're one of the few big guitar rock bands where the guitarist is the least famous member of the group. That's mostly down to the bassist being the songwriter (and also writing a bestseller and hosting a radio show) and the drummer becoming a tabloid star, though, nothing wrong with weird old Mick Mars, who's not an amazing guitarist compared to his contemporaries but has a pretty cool tone and aesthetic. Vine Neil is easily one of the lamest frontmen of a huge rock band ever, especially for someone who didn't play an instrument or contribute much to the songwriting, but his voice comes across better on the early albums, especially when he sells lines like "when she's hot, well damn, she's hot" with panache.

Some of my favorite surprises on the albums included a couple of 90-second curios, the mostly instrumental guitar overdub showcase "God Bless The Children Of The Beast" and the dreamy harmony-driven pop interlude "Nona." But at their best they are just a great bubblegum hard rock band, "Piece Of Your Action" and "Ten Seconds To Love" and "Five Years Dead" are killer tracks. And some songs, like "Raise Your Hands To Rock," verge on such a total Spinal Tap parody of the genre that they're entertaining in a different way.

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

Thursday, October 15, 2015

I wrote a piece for Complex suggesting 14 places to record a song besides a studio.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

I wrote a long, fun piece for Noisey about how the Rich Homie Quan-inspired "Hit The Quan" is now a bigger chart hit than anything by Quan himself, and what it all means.

Movie Diary

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

a) Wild
I think 127 Hours has set my expectations for a movie like this way too high. By which I mean, I was disappointed that the biggest body part Reese Witherspoon lost was a toenail. Also, I get OCD about movies where actors have an age difference that makes the relationship between their characters implausible, and even with flashbacks it's just weird that Reese's mother is played by Laura Dern, who's only 9 years her senior in real life. Mostly, though, this was just an adaptation of a memoir that didn't really manage to make a personal anecdote seem very cinematic and compelling.

b) St. Vincent
I haven't really cared much for most of the dramedies Bill Murray has done since Rushmore, and it didn't help that this one was like a much more boilerplate version of the 'Bill Murray hilariously bonds with a boy who is not his son' element of Rushmore. It was okay, surprisingly it was Melissa McCarthy that really gave the story some dramatic gravity but it was all kinda predictable and not as charming as it thought it was.

c) Like Sunday, Like Rain
I had to watch this as soon as I saw that Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day co-stars in it. The whole thing is a flimsy little indie flick, but I was not disappointed by how bad an actor Billie Joe is, someone could make an amusing YouTube compilation of his scenes in this movie.

d) They Came Together
This doesn't quite satirize romantic comedies as perfectly as Walk Hard satirized musical biopics, but it definitely reminded me of it in its approach. In a way, rom-coms have been too self-aware for their own good for a while now, so it was hard to for They Came Together to make jokes that haven't been made already, but they did a good job of taking some of those jokes to amusing new extremes.

e) A Promise
This was a nice, sweet, romantic movie, although it made me think about how sometimes movies seem to kind of rely on the viewer's disdain for marriages that aren't age-appropriate to make age-appropriate extramarital affairs seem nice and sweet and romantic. And maybe I only sympathized with the older guy a little more than usual because he was Alan Rickman? I dunno.

f) 300: Rise Of An Empire
Say what you will about Zack Snyder's big, ridiculous CGI operas, but if you hand off one of his better movies to another director for a sequel, it's gonna lack the over-the-top swagger of the original. Eva Green kicking ass throughout history remains a pretty entertaining genre of film and television, though.

g) RoboCop
RoboCop last year was a shock.

h) Sideways
For some reason I never saw this movie at the time and it was interesting to finally sit down with it, a decade later. For a movie that got nominated for Oscars and was a surprise box office success that made elevated its stars careers and even had an economic impact on the wine industry it's, I dunno, surprisingly slight. Even next to Alexander Payne's other movies, which I'm mostly a fan of, it just kinda came and went.

i) Cube
My wife put this on recently and I found myself getting pretty interested in it. It's a sci-fi movie from the late '90s that was produced in Canada and has no recognizable stars. The whole thing is just a handful of strangers trapped in a mysterious cube, and the whole thing never really makes much sense, but the low-budget visuals are really unique and cool-looking, and the tension between the characters really drives the whole thing forward effectively. I'm surprised this hasn't built up enough of a cult for me to have heard of it before.

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 48: Sara Bareilles

Monday, October 12, 2015

Last year I wrote 'a defense of Sara Bareilles,' to examine and explain both my enjoyment of her music, and her unlikely and much-maligned Grammy nomination for Album of the Year. She's the kind of odd mainstream underdog that I like to champion in this series. And it seemed like a good time to take a look at her deep cuts: she just published a memoir, Sounds Like Me (I haven't read it, although here's an excerpt), and next month she's releasing What's Inside: Songs From Waitress. The latter features songs she's written for a Broadway-bound stage musical based on the 2007 film Waitress. I love that movie, and the single "She Used To Be Mine" is a real tearjerker, so I'm pretty curious about this whole project.

Sara Bareilles Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist): 

1. Little Black Dress
2. Love On The Rocks
3. Fairytale
4. Machine Gun
5. One Sweet Love
6. Lie To Me
7. Kaleidoscope Heart
8. Eden
9. Winter Song with Ingrid Michaelson
10. December
11. Come Round Soon
12. Sweet As Whole
13. Let The Rain
14. Hercules
15. Many The Miles
16. Red
17. Basket Case
18. City
19. Once Upon Another Time

Tracks 2 and 16 from Careful Confessions (2003)
Tracks 3, 5, 11, 15 and 18 from Little Voice (2007)
Track 9 from The Hotel Cafe Presents Winter Songs (2008)
Tracks 4, 7, 13 and 17 from Kaleidoscope Heart (2010)
Tracks 6, 12 and 19 from Once Upon Another Time EP (2012)
Tracks 1, 8, 10 and 14 from The Blessed Unrest (2013)

She's only released 3 major albums so far, but there's a lot of good stuff on each of them. And there's also her indie debut Careful Confessions, which features a few songs that were re-recorded for her mainstream breakthrough Little Voice, and a few that weren't. "Love On The Rocks" is the one song on both albums where I vastly preferred the low budget early version, there's just something about that "Bennie And The Jets" groove that sounds better in that one.

Once Upon Another Time is an interesting stopgap release, 5 songs produced by Ben Folds that were a little less marketable than the big Grammy-nominated album she released soon after. "Sweet As Whole" features more swear words than the rest of the Bareilles catalog combined several times over, but it's really grown on me as a pretty clever, well written song. And the mostly a cappella title track has an eerie beauty to it. Also eerily beautiful: "Winter Song," a one-off duet for a compilation that became a chart hit in Ireland and was sampled by Kanye for a beat on John Legend's last album.

I always thought Bareilles has a lot of great singles, and it's a shame that she's relatively unknown outside of "Love Song" and "Brave." But I'm really impressed at how consistent her records are, a lot of these songs, especially "Little Black Dress," easily could've been singles. And there's some interesting choices like the time signature on "Let The Rain," or the weird trippy vocal layering in "Eden," that really make me wonder what she'd be capable of outside of the straightforward piano pop format, great as she is at it.

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

Friday, October 09, 2015

It's time for the 3rd quarter Remix Report Card over on Noisey!

Monthly Report: September 2015 Albums

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

1. Jess Glynne - I Cry When I Laugh
I never know the rhyme or reason behind which big U.K. artists cross over to America and which don't -- for every Adele or Sam Smith, there are a few like Jess Glynne. She's had five U.K. #1s in the past 2 years, but the only one with any traction in America was Clean Bandit's "Rather Be," which peaked at #10 here. I was a huge fan of "Rather Be," and the rest of the album continues pretty successfully in that vein of big, soulful dance tracks with glossy hooks. "Ain't Got Far To Go" is just so beautifully joyous, and "Don't Be So Hard On Yourself" is one of those U.K. chart-toppers that I wish was as big over here. Listen to it on my giant 2015 albums playlist on Spotify.

2. Brett Eldredge - Illinois
Two country singers who released moderately successful debuts in 2013, Brett Eldredge and Thomas Rhett, both put out sophomore albums in September. They've both got a couple singles I like, they're touring together this year, they did a song together on Eldredge's new album, and even their album covers are weirdly similar. So I figured I might expect their albums more or less equally, but that's not the case at all -- Rhett's album is full of bad decisions, from bad jokes (a "Mustard on the beat, ho" reference) to weird guests (Lunchmoney Lewis and Jordin Sparks) and ill-conceived bro country crossover moves. Eldredge, meanwhile, has a deeper, richer voice and a much better sense of what to do with it on big, warmly anthemic songs that are as good as his singles. Even the big stylistic detour on the playful soul shouter "Shadow" works pretty well. At least the Rhett collaboration is one of the better songs.

3. Young Thug - Slime Season
Although I'm fine with considering the Rich Gang mixtape his masterpiece, I feel like there was a bit of anxiety among fans and critics about the fact that Young Thug didn't release a solo project in his big breakout year last year. And that's carried over this year to the very divided reaction to Barter 6 (which I think was fine but not what its most ardent supporters made it out to be) and the ramped up expectations for HY!£UN35, which had a ton of thinkpieces pegged to its September release before it was pushed back once again with Slime Season coming out instead. I was really kind of more excited about Slime Season anyway, since it was announced a few months ago as being produced entirely by London On Da Track. And that ends up not being the case -- London only did 1/3rd of the 18 tracks, including the 11-month-old opener "Take Kare," But it's fine, because the production is all at a pretty high level, and one of the non-London cuts, "That's All," might be my favorite song Thug has put out this year. Listen to it on DatPiff.

4. Fetty Wap - Fetty Wap
It's interesting how people interpret rap albums these days. When someone with a unique voice and an ability to make hits by themselves makes an album, labels often prop them up with big name guests and producers that to me kind of suggest that a lack of confidence in the artist and their team. But Fetty Wap, who had three top 10 pop hits before the album was released, an unheard of feat for a rapper in any period but especially in 2015, got to put out an album of the songs that made him famous and tracks with the producers and collaborators he came up with, and people are almost disappointed that it wasn't drowning in guests besides Fetty's homie Monty. And honestly, 20 songs of this stuff is a bit much, but he's shockingly consistent, I can easily see any number of songs here being as big as "My Way" or "679."

5. Scarface - Deeply Rooted
It's weird to think that this is the first album Scarface has made since turning 40. He's been wizened and world weary since practically the beginning of his career. And he's had one foot out the door towards retirement for over a decade, and keeps coming back after saying he's retired or that he probably wont make another solo album. I don't mind, because he's more incapable of making a bad album than almost anyone in rap history, But at the same time, none of the albums since The Fix have been especially memorable by his standards, all kind of blending into the same blur of somber, wizened elder statesman rap. What distinguishes this album from other later records is a stretch full of features (Rick Ross, John Legend, Cee-Lo and Avant) that seem to cater to some vague radio-friendly ideal even though nobody's going to play Scarface on the radio in 2015 either way. The rest of the album  but for the most part it's really good, the usual lush no-nonsense production from N.O. Joe, and Face rapping with all that terse voice-of-god authority. "No Problem" is a great closer.

6. Jay Rock - 90059
All through the rise of Kendrick Lamar and TDE, Jay Rock seemed the guy patiently waiting his turn and playing the game -- he was the first to release an album in 2011, and he had great guest verses on everyone else's project. But after Kendrick's blockbuster, ScHoolboy's middling Interscope debut, and Ab-Soul's twitter tantrum to get his album released independently, it was finally Jay Rock's turn, and what did he get? A long, slow rollout for an album with no hits and no major label muscle, and perhaps the worst scheme to goose sales in rap marketing history (the label basically said "the more people pre-order the album on iTunes, the sooner it comes out"). In the end, the gambit didn't work at all -- they went ahead and dropped the album after a couple weeks because nobody took the bait and it only did 15k the first week, even less than Ab-Soul's album. And it's a shame, because 90059 is good, Jay Rock stretching his voice out of its comfort zone a little more than I expected but otherwise a concise, hard-edged album with an emphasis on creative flows.

7. Bleachers - Terrible Thrills, Vol. 2
Two of the most talked about September releases, 1989 by Ryan Adams and Meow The Jewels by Run The Jewels, were deliberately minor, ephemeral rewrites of 2014 albums that I was sick of hearing about nearly a year ago. So I was pleasantly surprised that September also saw a revision of a 2014 album that I liked and probably didn't listen to enough, Bleachers' debut Strange Desire. This version basically replaces Jack Antonoff's vocals with a different female singer on each track, and sometimes the backing music is pretty much the same and sometimes it's overhauled to fit the new vocal. It's a good idea -- I like Antonoff's voice, but he's done good work with Taylor Swift and Grimes and seems to know how to write for female voices. That said, I think a lot of these songs were written well for his voice and seem a little forced in this context -- Tinashe singing "I Wanna Get Better" just doesn't really work, and a couple of the guests, like MØ and Brooke Candy, pretty much never sound good, so it's a wash. But the more traditionally gifted vocalists like Natalie Maines and Sia and Sara Bareilles sound fantastic on these songs. Listen to it on Google Play.

8. Young Dro - Da Reality Show
Justin Charity's take on this album as being comparable to To Pimp A Butterfly is really interesting and I'm still getting my head around it. Best Thang Smokin' is a classic to me, and nothing Dro has done since then has ever quite gotten up to that level of quality, but he still has a great voice and a unique ear for wordplay, so I'm always rooting for dude and it's been great to see "We In Da City" become his biggest hit in ages.

9. K Camp - Only Way Is Up
K Camp has a way with melodic hooks and has been on a good run of hits the past couple years, and made a really solid pop trap album. And if he hadn't dropped the same month as Fetty Wap, who accomplished pretty much the same thing on a much bigger commercial platform, people might have noticed.

10. Drake & Future - What A Time To Be Alive
This project probably looks better on paper than it works in practice. I wrote a whole thing about Future's career that ran the day this dropped, so it was interesting to try to digest What A Time To Be Alive right after writing that. As popular as both of these guys are, they're so different that it seems like nobody could ever like them both equally, so the way the album sounds to you probably depends highly on who you prefer, and to me this sounds like an alright Future tape with too-frequent Drake interruptions, and I really had only just started to let "Where Ya At" grow on me when this dropped. A few songs are killer, but "Big Rings" is really just the worst shit ever.

Worst Album of the Month: Prince - HITNRUN Phase One
Prince's new records will never escape the shadow of his classics, but I always try to approach his new releases with open ears. And of last year's two releases, I was one of the few who preferred the hard rocking album with 3rd Eye Girl, PLECTRUMELECTRUM, to the cheeseball synth tracks of Art Official Age. And unfortunately, HITNRUN sounds like a lesser sequel to the latter with the same co-producer at the helm. He even remakes one of the Art Official Age songs, when he's not collaborating with Rita Ora, doing a weird interpolation of Lil Wayne's "Duffle Bag Boy" chorus, or faking you out with an obnoxious "1999" sample on the opening track. When I go to listen to Prince on TIDAL in the future, it'll probably just be my deep album cuts playlist.

TV Diary

Friday, October 02, 2015

a) "The Grinder"
Rob Lowe is great at playing vain, vapid, smooth-talking perfectionists, from Wayne's World to "Parks & Recreation" to this, partly because no matter how self-aware his performance is, it's hard not to suspect that that's who he is in real life. His three previous most noteworthy TV roles were all ensemble shows that he left before their runs ended -- Lowe was vocal about leaving "The West Wing" and "Brothers & Sisters" because he wasn't getting enough screentime, and "Parks"), and on "Parks" he submitted himself for lead actor Emmy consideration even though nobody thought of him as a lead on the show. So "The Grinder" is a promising show in part because Lowe gets to hog the spotlight to his heart's content and it just makes his character funnier when he does. And Fred Savage, who's directed far more TV comedy than he's acted in over the last 20 years, is a really good foil for him. The pilot wasn't amazing or anything, but out of this fairly unexciting fall season it's the show I can most easily imagine still wanting to watch in 6 months and rooting to get picked up for a 2nd season.

b) "Grandfathered"
Considering how many '80s and '90s network stars have been shipped off to sitcoms on TV Land or TBS or whatever, I'm kind of shocked that FOX wanted John Stamos to headline one of their new fall shows. And this show is kind of light and cutesy in a way that would probably function better or ABC Family or something anyway, with Stamos kind of parodying his own public persona the same way Lowe does in "The Grinder," to lesser results. It's not a terrible show, the scenes with Paget Brewster have a spark, mostly because she's great, but it's totally forgettable. And she just did seasons of "Community" and "Another Period," we're not starved for Paget Brewster at the moment.

c) "The Muppets"
When this show was announced, I was naive enough to picture that it would just be a straightforward update of the vaudeville-style "The Muppet Show" from the '70s, and I never got over the disappointment of finding out that it would be instead be in that stale mockumentary sitcom format. The first episode was actually much more tolerable than I expected, though, the writing was sharp enough that if it was just another workplace sitcom about humans, it would be the better ones out there. But that's kinda the problem, Muppets are humans, and treating them interchangeably only has so much mileage as a joke.

d) "Rosewood"
Banter goes a long way for me as a television viewer, if it's well written and suits the characters. And dramas, especially procedurals, have gotten pretty weak with the banter lately, so I was immediately pretty impressed that this show has genuinely funny, engaging dialogue. The whole show maybe bends over backwards too much to be charming, with the doctor people call 'Rosey' who volunteers his forensic services to Miami police and has a "Moonlighting" dynamic with a female detective AND has a heart defect that means he only has a few years to live. It's all laid on kinda thick, but again, it's sharply written, the first new procedural in years that I might be tempted to watch regularly.

e) "Scream Queens" 
This show has been kind of cementing my theory than Ryan Murphy shows are like Bryan Fuller shows but for dummies. I appreciate the mix of dark comedy and camp and soap opera and gore and progressive politics, and it sometimes gets so close to being funny or surprising, but it always just feels too satisfied with itself to do anything smart or interesting. Emma Roberts is getting good at playing villains, but as a whole the show is kind of loud and monotonous.

f) "The Bastard Executioner"
I appreciated what "Sons of Anarchy" did well while recognizing what was ridiculous or poorly done, so I didn't know what to expect from a new Kurt Sutter show. Medieval Wales is a good setting for a show, and theoretically it would require some of the same things "Sons of Anarchy" excelled at, but everything is kind of drab and bland and they don't know how to write interesting characters with all the modern biker gang trappings.

g) "The Player"
Probably the single most boring new show of the fall season. It just wants to be exciting and intriguing and it isn't. I feel bad for Wesley Snipes, he deserves a better television vehicle than this. But then, he passed on "Empire," and for better or worse that show might've been more of a legitimate drama and less of an unintentional comedy with Snipes in the Terrence Howard role.

h) "The Daily Show With Trevor Noah" 
I feel like I'm in the minority that I've watched Trevor Noah's standup and went into his "Daily Show" debut rooting for him to pull it off (to be fair, it doesn't help that Comedy Central hasn't bothered to air any of his several standup specials, or have him tape a new one if need be). The first week hasn't been a knockout victory, but he only fell flat in a couple small moments, and mostly has maintained the established rhythm and sensibility of the show without doing a Jon Stewart impression. He didn't really have a bit that only he could do until Thursday's "Trump is presidential like an African president" bit, though, that was good. Jordan Klepper has been growing on me out of the newer correspondents, he's really unafraid to play the asshole for laughs.

i) "Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris" 
I've always been pro-NPH and the whole career resurgence he's enjoyed since Harold & Kumar and "How I Met Your Mother," and back when there was all the upheaval in late night talk shows, I was rooting for him to get one of the hosting gigs. Turns out he apparently was offered Letterman's job, and turned it down because he'd rather host a weekly variety show, and this is that show. And while I get what they're going for with this wacky U.K.-style show where anything can happen, it all comes off a little bit toothless and short on laughs. My wife likes it, and there is a decent balance of weird stunts and music and surprise guests and cute heartwarming segments that it stays fairly entertaining, but I just think about how it could've been better.

j) "Blindspot" 
This show kinda feels like a scramble of tropes and plot points from La Femme Nikita, Bourne Identity, Memento, Long Kiss Goodnight, among others. It feels like they were trying to combine all these elements to create a super intriguing pilot with a super memorable opening scene, but it all kinda falls flat. I don't care about these characters, I don't care what happens with them, I checked out in my mind before I was done watching the second episode.

k) "Minority Report" 
Adapting this as a TV series is one of those ideas that seems like a no-brainer for about 5 seconds until you start thinking of all the potential problems. And the people making the show attempt to sidestep all that by basically setting the show a decade after the events of the Philip K. Dick story and the Spielberg movie and asking what happens to the precogs after the precrime program shuts down. This is kind of creative, but kind of not -- now one of the precogs is secretly helping a cop solve crimes, so it's just another fantasy procedural where someone has a secret mysterious crimesolving power. Plus, of course, the ramifications of punishing 'precrime' is a pretty fucking relevant thing for fiction to tackle in 2015, but this show doesn't really seem interested in pursuing that topic. And of course, we've removed the entire context for the meaning of the phrase "minority report" from the story, but it's still the title of everything, which is kind of stupid.

l) "Quantico" 
I wasn't sure what to expect with this show, I kinda thought it would be a light frothy procedural about a sexy cast with sexy problems that happened to be FBI recruits. And it is that somewhat, but the pilot packed a lot of plot into an hour and set a lot of story in motion, and the characters were fairly well drawn. Nice to Johanna Braddy from the summer's best show, "UnREAL," getting a network gig.

m) "Indian Summers"
This is a British series that PBS just started showing on "Masterpiece Theatre," I tried out "Poldark" over the summer and didn't stick with it and I don't know if I'll stick with this one either. It's about Brits in 1930s India, and it seems more like a soap than a history lesson or a political drama so far, but it's not an especially interesting soap. And honestly shows like this that are primarily about white English-speakers in a foreign land with the natives in supporting roles are just tiresome at this point, even if the show is ostensibly critical of colonialism and whatnot.

n) "Blood & Oil"
I'm sure this oil tycoon soap opera wants to be the new "Dallas," but I don't think it'll be on for 13 seasons, and I don't think anyone will care if they shoot Don Johnson. Maybe they should shoot him anyway.

o) "Limitless"
I don't think I ever saw the Bradley Cooper movie this is spun off of, I thought maybe I did but I guess that was The Words. You kinda get the idea of the movie from the trailer anyway, and the show is just a new guy, more of an offbrand Chris Pratt, getting the same powers Coop had (and Coop makes a cameo). It's all pretty dumb.

p) "We Have Issues" 
The E! network has long tried to come up with more comedic pop culture commentary shows to pair with "The Soup," and nothing has stuck around for really long yet. "The Comment Section," a show that featured one of my tweets in the first 5 minutes of its premiere episode, recently completed a 6-week tryout and now another show, "We Have Issues," is getting its turn. This one is kind of a weird format, two hosts playing up a rivalry with each other that isn't as funny as they think it is, but the show has a mean bitchy edge that works for them. They have other comics guest on the show, and Guy Branum was great on the 2nd episode, hope he shows up again. Still, if the 2 shows are in competition, my vote is for "The Comment Section," and not just because they showed my name on TV.

q) "Life In Pieces"
One of my biggest pet peeves with sitcoms these days is that many of them seem to put zero effort into integrating plots and weaving the ensemble together -- it's just an A plot with these characters and a B plot with these characters and things rarely dovetail together in a clever "Seinfeld" way or anything. So this show, which features a sequence of 4 separate, unrelated stories in every episode, seems almost designed specifically to piss me off, although I kind of respect that they're open about the format. I was just lamenting recently that Zoe Lister-Jones is one of my favorite people on TV that can't seem to get a good permanent gig, and this show mostly continues that trend. On a show where Diane Wiest, James Brolin and Colin Hanks are all pretty wasted, Lister-Jones is at least really funny in her scenes.

r) "Blunt Talk"
Here's a prime example of one of the shows that jumped a little too fast to filling half of every episode with B-plots that don't feature the main star. This show is charming and odd in many of the same ways as "Bored To Death," but when that show took you away from the main character, you were usually with an extremely entertaining Ted Danson or Zach Galifianakis. "Blunt Talk" has a fine supporting cast but I think they're getting asked to do a little too much without Patrick Stewart so early in its run.

s) "Documentary Now!"
I haven't caught up on all the episodes yet, but this show has been increasingly impressive with just how thoroughly they've studied different documentaries or types of docs and pastiche them with accuracy and subtle satire. Like, the source material for any given episode is usually relatively obscure but whether you're familiar or not it's usually just fun to watch Armisen and especially Hader try on new faces and voices.

t) "Married" 
I had mixed feelings about the first season, but I think it's really stepped up in the second season. It's so hard to do warts-and-all comedy about marriage without it getting too dark or too cheesy and cliched, but they're striking that balance pretty well.

u) "The Hotwives Of Las Vegas" 
I didn't think the show was as good this year as the "Hotwives of Orlando" season was last year. But as with both seasons, and with the shows they're parodying, the 'reunion episode' finale was the funniest one.

v) "Rick And Morty"
This show really just gets better and better. I feel like it's taking a somewhat "Futurama"-like approach to using science and speculative fiction tropes as a springboard for comedy, but the fast pace and meaner edge of the dialogue is much more to my liking. The Tiny Rick episode was a classic, so was the 'purge' episode, especially when Tony! Toni! Tone!'s "Feels Good" was used to soundtrack scenes of robot suit mass murder.

w) "Review"
Everyone who likes this show seems to be frothing at the mouth at how amazing it is, so I feel weird about just thinking it's merely good. I caught some of the original Australian series it was adapted from on YouTube, and I thought it was maybe a little more my speed, might have to catch up on that.