Movies

Best of 2015: Music, Film, Literature

Oh hey there. Let’s jump right in.

Music

2015 was a fantastic year for music. Adele and Taylor Swift reminded us that people still buy music and that pop stars still exist. Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal and a host of other streaming services pushed the discussion of “music as a commodity” centerstage. Despite where opinions settle, I think we can all agree that our streaming discussions were well overdue (and on two fronts: people paying for their music again and artists getting fairly paid for streaming).

NOTE: Amazon Prime’s streaming service (Amazon Music) is the industry’s best kept secret. It’s by far the best streaming service. Comes with your Prime account, you can download thousands of records, listen to them offline. Why is no one talking about this?

Every year I have artists and their releases that I look forward to, but this year there were some out-of-left-field albums that no one saw coming. Leon Bridges and Sufjan Stevens’ masterpiece, for instance, rocked (and rolled) almost my entire musical year.

Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

Someone once told me that art should look different every time you see it. I think the same can be true for music, where you hear something different every time you play it. Stevens’ latest hits the proverbial mark. Borrowing from Gregorian chants, from 70’s folk, from his own catalogue — Carrie & Lowell is lyrically transparent, musically restrained, and almost perfect. Make no mistake, people: Sufjan Stevens made a masterpiece.

There are instances, such as in “The Only Thing“, where the track is just begging for a rhythm section (i.e., bass & drums), but we don’t get it, and it’s the right choice. “The Only Thing” is about despair, about barely holding on with just a glimmer of hope. Sure, you can sing about depression with a backing band, but it wouldn’t fit here. Stevens isn’t trying to be flashy, and he’s not making anthems, what Stevens is doing is splitting open his chest and singing therapy.

As someone who’s had a similar (not exact, but similar) upbringing as Stevens, I latched onto this record like a child to his mother, and it brought me comfort many times over. Can someone with a glossy childhood enjoy this album? Of course. But who actually had a glossy childhood? (more…)

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Best of 2014: Music & Film

Another year, another best-of list. One of these days, when I’m old and gray, I’m going to show these lists to my grandkids and prove to them that I was at, one time, relevant with pop culture. They’ll say, “What’s a blog, Grampa Kev-bo?” I’ll say, “What?” They’ll say, “What’s a blog, Grampa Kev-bo?” And I’ll say, “What?”

You get the idea.

As for now, I’m happy to report that I still have my hearing and that I am loving 2014 music and film. Up first: here are some of my favorite albums and tracks from the year. Some you probably know, maybe a few you don’t? Give them a listen and let me know if any resonate with you.

Music

Kevin Morby-Still Life

Kevin Morby is my new favorite singer-songwriter. I’ve been obsessed with Still Life, his latest effort, for a few weeks now. The range of this record is amazing. From minimalist acoustic/drum tracks (see below), to fuzzy reverb layers, to clean 70’s pop, to indie folk, this album has a bit of everything, and it executes it well.

In reviews, I try to stay away from easy artist comparisons. Hardworking musicians, like Morby, deserve complex criticisms. That said, Kevin Morby is the brilliant lovechild of Nick Cave and David Bazan, though was raised by his god parents in the 90’s in a sailboat off Santa Monica by Beck and Lou Reed. That’s what he sounds like. Got it?

SBTRKT-Wonder Where We Land (more…)

Weekend (Ultimate) Warriors: Boston, MA

That’s right, folks. It’s time for another installment of our nation’s favorite weekend road trip blog: Weekend (Ultimate) Warriors! Or, it’s summer and let’s hit the road.

But wait a minute. It’s not summer at all. In fact it’s snowing everywhere.

Buffalo logged 6 feet of snow in one day.

Alright, alright. You got me. The wife and I went to Boston a few weeks ago, before all the snow. And yes, summer was definitely over, but fall was doing fine at the time. Amazingly enough, the Boston temperature was quite warm and welcoming, if not brisk. We lucked out wicked big time.

Here’s the thing.

I’m totally obsessed with Boston. It’s sort of a nostalgia thing, which I recently swore off, I know, but the nostalgia is earned. I had never been to Boston; however, the city of clam chowdery love had played a big role in my life, once a week, for at least a year straight.

Okay. Here it comes.

In California, years ago, when I shared an apartment with some friends, we hosted “Boston Night,” every Tuesday night.

Yes, dorky. I’m aware. Boston Night. Why would random young Californians obsess over Boston?

Well, Boston movies for one. They are their own genre. And the movies are frequently wicked excellent. Boondock Saints, The Departed, Good Will Hunting, Mystic River, Fever Pitch

Maybe not Fever Pitch, but you get the idea.

Really, Boston Night was an excuse to get together. To bring people under one roof. I always loved hosting Boston Night. I’ll never forget the movies and Sam Adams, the Boston Baked Beans and clam chowder, my friends and their bad “Southie” accents. It was a good time. (more…)

Proof My Life is a Movie and That I’m On To You

My favorite all-time movie is The Truman Show. I think its Jim Carrey’s finest hour on screen (Eternal Sunshine, of course, is a very close second). As a child (1998!), I remember exiting the movie theatre convinced that my life was one big TV show and everybody was in on it. There has since surfaced a mental delusion called Truman Syndrome or The Truman Show Delusion where people believe their lives are really staged plays, TV shows, or films.

I’m proud to say that I am not a sufferer of Truman Syndrome. However, I am on to you bastards. Some strange things have been happening this last week, and the only logical explanation is that I’m trapped inside a hilarious, yet tragically poignant, reality television program and/or movie. (more…)

5 Things To Do on St. Pat’s Day (that don’t include drinking & fighting)

Today is my favorite holiday! Hold up, my second favorite holiday; I’m a Halloween fanatic. Third favorite, my third favorite holiday (Flag day).

My Irish blood swims around my veins and spits out through my red hair and pale skin; naturally, I have a love/hate relationship with the holiday which manages to both celebrate and demean my Irish heritage.

St. Patrick’s Day can (and should be) a family holiday. Never mind the drunk parade. Never mind the girls puking in the street and the bros who drink Michelob Ultra out of a skinny can with a coozie. There is more to St. Patrick’s Day than drinking and fighting and acting like an idiot.

Because truth be told, (pause for serious effect), the Irish are the most humble, down-to-earth people I’ve ever met. Their representation deserves some balance. (more…)

That One Time I Married Special Agent Dana Scully

My favorite X-File comes from Season 10. It’s called “Marriage.” In this freaky episode, two harmless citizens dedicate the rest of their lives to each other until they die. The man and woman follow one another all across the world, leaving friends and family behind, and even if they aren’t always happy, they stick together and see through it. Quickly dispatched are Agents Mulder and Scully who investigate this unexplained phenomena.

Scully, the scientist, suggests brain trauma. Mulder, the dreamer, hypothesizes anew.

MULDER: What if they’re in love, Scully?

SCULLY: In love?

MULDER: Ancient Irish folklore suggests the idea of ‘love’ as early…

I Want to Believe

I’m just gonna come right out and say it. I’m a huge X-Files fan. Right? That little outdated show from the ‘90s is my TV bread and butter. It’s on Netflix now, which means I get to drag my wife through the entire series.

The X-Files means a lot to me. It’s the salient reason I ever started writing. As a child, I loved the idea of exploring different pockets of the country and each week discovering a different monster. Pushing boundaries and all. I began writing short stories in elementary school because of it.

My wife, she’s an awesome wife, got me a book for my birthday called The Philosophy of The X-Files. Nerdy? A little. You know your wife loves you when she encourages you to nerd-out.

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