Movie Diary

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 26, 2018

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

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 102: Def Leppard

Friday, February 23, 2018

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

Def Leppard deep album cuts (Spotify playlist):

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monthly Report: February 2018 Singles

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 16, 2018

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

TV Diary

Thursday, February 15, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 12, 2018

Due largely to my own procrastination, my latest Remix Report Card took more than twice as long as they usually do, but it's up on Noisey now.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Last month I released Western Blot's Too 30 EP on Bandcamp. And it's now also available just about everywhere else music is streamed or sold, including Spotify, iTunes, Tidal, Soundcloud, and so on, where it joins the 2016 full-length Muscle Memory (while I'm at it, let me shout out Michael Bartolomeo's video for "Dull Dark Side" from last year that I'm really proud of). Lots more music I've been working on coming out this year!

Movie Diary

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

a) The Cloverfield Paradox
I was a pretty big fan of the original Cloverfield, and I was disappointed when initial plans to do a proper sequel explicitly tied into that movie's plot never came to fruition. So I was pleasantly surprised when 10 Cloverfield Lane came out, which was probably an even better movie, even if it was pretty much a completely unrelated project that was kind of repurposed as part of the 'franchise' fairly late in development. Continuing in that lane of kind of making the franchise a loosely connected anthology of orphaned mid-budget sci-fi films is sort of a neat idea, but it's also a gamble. And in the case of The Cloverfield Paradox, which was titled God's Particle during production and which the screenwriter learned would be a 'Cloverfield' during shooting and began rewriting, that gamble didn't really pay off. It reminded me heavily of the space station mishap movie Life that I saw a couple months ago, which I think helped me enjoy it more than most people did -- at least The Cloverfield Paradox has a few really memorably bizarre FX setpieces, Life was just kind of violent and dumb. But the reaction to this movie, which was released immediately after being advertised during the Super Bowl on Sunday, has been overwhelmingly negative, and I'm not gonna defend it too vehemently, it was at best a pretty flawed movie. 

b) Mudbound 
It speaks to how good Mudbound is that it got multiple Oscar nominations even though it was largely seen on Netflix and not in theaters. I was most curious to see Mary J. Blige's nominated performance, but really I think what's impressive is just how restrained and almost unrecognizable she is, for someone who puts so much catharsis into her music, she really got a chance to let the emotions mostly stay just under the surface here as an actress. The end is pretty gut-wrenching. People like to say there are too many movies about slavery, which is a loaded but debatable topic, but I think there are probably not enough movies like this that take a hard look at the Jim Crow era. 

c) Rough Night
Rough Night is a movie burdened by comparisons, particularly as a female version of Very Bad Things, and as a mostly white counterpart to the far more successful Girls Trip released a few months later. I haven't seen Girls Trip yet to compare, but Very Bad Things is one of the shittiest movies I've ever seen in a theater, so that's a pretty unflattering parallel. Rough Night is moderately better than that comparison suggests, but it's also a bit like the series "Search Party" in that it's at its best before the accidental murder plot point where everything takes a dark turn and it doesn't quite recover its sense of frothy absurdity. Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell and Ilana Glazer are all incapable of not being at least a little entertaining, but this still felt well beneath their usual scene-stealing work. 

d) Snatched
Another ill-fated comedy that mainly seems to exist to put women in the kind of raunchy absurd comedies that men usually star in but fails to really hit the mark. A bit better than Rough Night, Amy Schumer as Goldie Hawn's daughter is some pretty good casting, but really feels like the wrong vehicle for Schumer at a time when she needed to follow-up on Trainwreck with something stronger than it and really cement her spot in movies. 

e) Wilson
Woody Harrelson has had a great, busy last decade or so of playing cranky yet lovable mentors in seemingly every movie. But as he settles into a groove as America's favorite supporting actor, he doesn't get as many leading roles, and so I was curious to see Wilson, Craig Johnson's follow-up to The Skeleton Twins written by Daniel Clowes. Harrelson and Laura Dern and Judy Greer are typically great in Wilson, but I dunno, it felt like just another rambling story where a veteran actor plays a misanthropic guy who constantly says blunt, rude things to people. 

f) The Layover
William H. Macy has started directing films in the last few years, and I kind of assumed that even given his work in "Shameless" he'd probably direct the kind of character-driven indie films he's known for and not, well, a sex comedy starring two women, Kate Upton and Alexandra Daddario, who are primarily known for having large breasts. It's kind of an anti-Bechdel Test movie where the babes just spent the whole movie competing for a guy, so even when they ultimately inevitably choose to put their friendship first, it all feels pretty pandering and lowbrow. 

g) Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
My son absolutely loves the Captain Underpants books, so the movie was a real anticipated event for him. But that was my wife's turn to take him to the movies, so I didn't actually see it until it hit Netflix more recently, and I found it pretty enjoyable, I dug the way they transferred the amateurish drawing style of the books to slick computer animation in a way that felt right. 

h) Gold
Gold is about a lot of wealthy investors getting ripped off in a scheme to mine gold in Indonesia, and it kind of feels like the movie itself mirrored that. Lots of big names were attached to the project at various points, including directors Michael Mann and Spike Lee and star Christian Bale, before it ultimately wound up falling to Syriana director Stephen Maghan and star Matthew McConaughey (who does pretty much the same kind of bald schlubby sucker that Bale ended up playing in American Hustle instead). It's not a bad movie, but you can kind of sense that the people behind the film got strung along hoping for a bigger payoff just like the characters. 

i) Newness
This is a movie about a couple who meet and go through  a rough patch and then start trying to have an open relationship with threesomes and voyeuristic titillation to spice up their relationship, and it all feels very po-faced meditation on dating apps and promiscuity. It might've had the profundity it was going for with better actors or a little more color in the dialogue, but it just felt like all these pretty people were scowling through the whole movie. 

j) Hell Or High Water
As I've said in this space before, my house is a place where Ben Foster is held in high regard, and he got to have a ball playing an unhinged bank robber in this Best Picture nom, he really carried the movie even if Jeff Bridges was the one who got a nomination. 

k) Don't Knock Twice
I think I came home after my wife had started watching this movie so I missed the beginning, but it was a pretty good creepy ominous horror flick, some good jumpy moments. 

Monthly Report: January 2018 Albums

Friday, February 02, 2018

1. SiR - November
I've been really rooting for SiR since 2015's Seven Sundays, and landing at Top Dawg Entertainment about a year ago is about the best thing you could hope for as far as artsy west coast R&B singers go. November is his first full length album for TDE but it still feels a bit like a buzz-building appetizer project at just 32 minutes, in a good way. The conversational spoken word flow of "Never Home" really lets him get a lot off his chest and let you inside his head a bit, but I like the more sumptuous melodic stuff like "D'Evils," "Something New," and especially "Dreaming Of Me." Here's the 2018 albums playlist that I constantly update with all the new albums I listen to throughout the year if you want to find any of these on Spotify.

2. BØRNS - Blue Madonna
I rolled my eyes a little at all of the press around this record being focused on Lana Del Rey's appearance on 2 songs since I like his music a lot more than hers. But then, I don't know if BØRNS would have gotten a lot of that press otherwise, and her backing vocals are perfectly fine and unobtrusive, so it's not a problem or anything. And I can see where they have an affinity, they both make music with a very stylized, cinematic sort of retro aesthetic. But I love his weird breathy androgynous voice and his ear for weird synth tones and soaring hooks, "Man"

3. Fall Out Boy - Mania
I listened to this back-to-back a lot to write my Spin review, but now that I've gotten some distance from it and have had time to think and revisit it, I think my opinion of the album may actually be more positive than the review lets on. Even the weird outliers like "Young And Menace" work pretty well in album context (although I think a lot of people might prefer the alternate running order of the CD edition, which puts it near the end of the record instead of at track 1). But "Church" and "Last of the Real Ones" and "Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)" are awesome, this may wind up being my favorite of the three post-hiatus albums.

4. Bandhunta Izzy - Code Blue
It's exciting to see so many young Baltimore rappers now building sizable grassroots followings, something that a lot of the city's best talents over the years have struggled to do. But a lot of the new school are not necessarily the most skilled MCs, and in that regard Bandhunta Izzy really stands out as someone who has a really strong flow and a lot of clarity and purpose in his writing, particularly for a 21-year-old dude who just released his first solo mixtape as a major label project for UMG/Republic. Lawrence Burney recently wrote a great Izzy profile for Noisey

5. JPEGMAFIA Veteran
Baltimore has a rich history of rappers with an arch sense of humor and a taste for odd, noisy production, so the amount of well deserved attention JPEGMAFIA has gotten for this record feels like a vindication of that tradition. The constant snark and listlessly twitchy beats wear me down a little by the end of Veteran, but I like how totally committed he is to his sound and sense of humor.

6. Devin Dawson - Dark Horse
My round up of country radio in 2017 included my usual observations that Jay Joyce is probably the best producer in Nashville these days, and I noted that he helped break two new artists on country radio, LANCO and Devin Dawson last year. And then on January 19th, both of them released debut albums produced entirely by Joyce. I think LANCO has the better single between the two acts, but I prefer Devin Dawson's album, which has a bit more of a modern gloss but a bit more musical variety and some sharply observed lyrics.

7. Chris Dave And The Drumhedz - Chris Dave And The Drumhedz
Chris Dave is a big R&B session musician guy, rightfully revered for his work on albums by Maxwell and D'Angelo, and I always love seeing drums take the reins as bandleaders. There are a lot of guests on here, including three appearances from SiR, and the moment when Tweet's voice shows up on "Spread Her Wings" is one of the most delightful moments in music so far in 2018. But the whole thing has a great relaxed vibe and sounds great even when no famous guests are around.

8. Migos - Culture II
Migos have always made records that far outlast my desire to listen to Migos -- most of their career-launching mixtapes ran over 70 minutes. Still, it was a mild shock when the sequel to the relatively modest 58-minute Culture is 105 minutes long. I usually roll my eyes when southern rappers with a successful homegrown sound start rubbing elbows with the likes of Kanye and Pharrell, but I was actually looking forward to Migos changing things up a bit, and I wish there were more beats out of their comfort zone like "Stir Fry." I found Culture II pretty enjoyable despite the bloat, though, I predictably most liked the Takeoff/Zaytoven tribute to early Gucci Mane "Too Much Jewelry" and the 2 Chainz-and-a-saxophone track "Too Playa." 

9. Payroll Giovanni & Cardo - Big Bossin Vol. 2
I mostly know Cardo for producing trendy-sounding ominous goth stadium rap radio hits for stars like Travis Scott and Drake and ScHoolboy Q, so I was surprised that his duo project with Detroit rapper Payroll Giovanni is this super smooth homage to regional '90s pimp rap, so many of these beats sound like they could've been on an old Too $hort or 8Ball & MJG album. 

10. Mike Shinoda Post Traumatic EP 
I was a little surprised that Mike Shinoda would release a brief EP dealing with losing someone close just a few months ago, but I identify with that impulse since I basically did the same thing recently. But as someone who's never really followed Fort Minor and only really liked Shinoda's work in the context of that big Linkin Park sound, I found this really compelling, partly because he doesn't shy away from really difficult emotions. One track ends with several near identical voicemails from friends "just checking in" on him, and another talks about the anxiety involved in the band doing one more tribute show for Chester and by the end he's just sarcastically lashing out at people for speaking to him in platitudes, it's really uncomfortable and cathartic.

Worst Album of the Month: Rick Springfield - The Snake King
Rick Springfield is a talented guy with at least one timeless song under his belt, so I checked out his new album genuinely rooting for him to do something at least interesting. But about a minute into the album, he says "in the land of the blind, the one-eyed snake is king," and the heavy-handed wordplay and political allegories just continue in that vein for an hour, the whole thing is just full of howlers.