Friday, October 20, 2017

Fiction Friday (60)

So this past week, I read a book that had been on my "To-Read" shelves forever. I always avoided this book because I don't usually like to read realistic YA fiction in fear that it will influence things I'm working on. But given that I had to read one for class, I figured it was high time I read this and I could kick myself for not reading it sooner because I absolutely loved it. What a wonderful book! Enjoy.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
(Penguin, 1999)

Silence suffocates Melinda as she begins her Freshman year at Merryweather High. Isolated by her friends and despised by upperclassmen for breaking up an end-of-summer party, Melinda begins what are supposed to be the best years of her of life as a complete outcast. Part of her believes that things could be different if people only knew the horrible secret of that night at the party when she called the police, but a louder part of her fears that nobody will believe she remains silent. As the school year progresses, Melinda's problems grow. Her grades suffer, her family life becomes more a struggle, and she worries that her secret will eventually drive her to madness. But just like the seeds she studies in Biology and the trees she attempts to create in Art class, growth is inevitable and Melinda finds her voice when she needs it most.

On the surface, Speak is the story of a victim. Melinda is the victim of a horrific crime and a victim of social banishment, but she is more than just a victim. She is an intelligent, compassionate, and courageous young woman that the reader gets to meet thanks to the confessional tone of the writing. Her outsider perspective allows her to identify the absurdity of high school, which she relates in many hysterical observations. The character refuses to be defined by what has happened to her, and likewise the book refuses to be defined as a novel about rape.

Ultimately satisfying and poignant! One of those rare novels that brought to me to tears. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

The weekend is here, and as I promised last weekend, there are a ton of new releases from some of my favorite artists that have recently come out. This past week, I started to work my way through the albums that will become the soundtrack for this autumn. All of them lived up to expectations, which is a rare treat. This is all rock this week, but as it's a varied genre, there's lots of different sounds to check out. Enjoy.

Liam Gallagher - As You Were: I recently read an interview with the former Oasis and Beady Eye singer that said "Liam Gallagher is very good at being Liam Gallagher" and that is a great statement. As a fan, I believe that statement to be true. It's hard to put your finger exactly on what it is about Liam that is so entertaining. Yes, he's an amazing singer. Yes, he's become a great songwriter. But there is an aurora about him that comes through in everything he does, that indefinable "it" factor. On his first solo album, that factor is all over it. It doesn't stray far from his work in his previous bands, and that's exactly what I wanted. It's full of new classic Liam tracks that I will happily play over and over and over again just as I have with the old classic Liam tracks.

Neil Young - Hitchhiker: 40 years after it was originally slated for release, they long-shelved album has finally seen the light of day thanks to Neil's continual archival project. Though this album was set for release in '76-'77 and never saw the light of day, all but two of the tracks were eventually released on other albums. This falls in the center of a transitional period in Neil's career, a more pessimistic and reflective attitude toward the world than his early '70s catalog. This is just him and an acoustic guitar and that's what makes it so brilliant. Many great songs on here, and though they may be known, it's still nice to hear them arranged in an album form as they were intended. 

Marilyn Manson - Heaven Upside Down: The rocker returns with his 10th album, and first in two years following the wonderful The Pale Emperor. This album sees a return to the industrial glam sound of his Antichrist Superstar, Holy Wood and Golden Age of the Grotesque era. It's heavier than anything he's done in a decade, and for that it's a welcome return to form for most fans, even though I loved that last record, probably more than any of his other records. Definitely worth a listen for fans as it falls into the top half of his work in my opinion.

L.A. Guns - The Missing Peace: It's been 5 years since the L.A. glam rock band's last record, and 30 years since their fantastic debut. With the resurgence of interest in this style of music, this is a welcomed return of one of the best. While it lacks the raw energy of their debut, this is as enjoyable as any of their other album and doesn't feel at all like a band simply trying to stick around and cash in.

The Districts - Popular Manipulations: The indie band from Pennsylvania's fourth album is a pleasant listen that reminds me slightly of bands like The Microphones and Sunset Rubdown, but without the level of experimentation that those two bands deliver. It's more straight forward indie rock, but vocally, it takes chances which makes it more enjoyable and less generic than a lot of others. The fantastic "Rattling My Heart" is a real standout on this record. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Where There is War, There are Voices

“It’s as if Sarajevo is slowly dying, disappearing. Life is disappearing. So how can I feel spring, when spring is something that awakens life, and here there is no life, here everything seems to have died.”
Zlata Filipović, Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Wartime Sarajevo

It's not exactly a Fiction Friday since this isn't Fiction, but it is a book review of another book I just read. The saddest part about a book like this is that it still happens. It seems no matter how many times humankind tries to learn the lesson that war is horror, it never seems to sink in.

Zlata's Diary by Zlata Filipovic
(Viking, 1994)
When Zlata begins writing in her diary, her life in Sarajevo is a happy one. She writes about weekend trips to her family's vacation home in the mountains and the excitement of beginning a new school year with her friends. Her life consists of the familiar anxieties and joys shared by most Middle School students. She worries about how she will perform on upcoming tests and recounts the excitement of holiday celebrations and watching popular videos of MTV. But in the spring of her eleventh year, Zlata's childhood ends seemingly overnight when war comes to the city she loves, the city she calls home.

The Bosnian War, one of several conflicts which ravaged the Balkins in the 1990's, killed tens of thousands and displaced even more across Europe. The politics of these wars were extremely complicated, and often ethnically motivated. But the politics mattered very little to Zlata as she lived through the three year siege of Sarajevo. What mattered to Zlata were the very real results of the war that stole part of youth away from her. Unable to leave her apartment, she watches as a city once teeming with life begins to die under the strains of war. Buildings are destroyed. Stores closed. Electricity and water are unreliable. Trees that have stood for hundreds of years are cut down to be burned for heat in the hard winter months.

Nearly all of Zlata's friends have fled with their families, or have gone to stay with relatives in other countries. Eventually, Zlata and her mother have plans to leave, but discover that it is very hard to get out of Sarajevo once the war has engulfed the city. Through it all, Zlata is a witness to the struggles of the city inhabitants. But she is also a witness to the human spirit that somehow finds a way to survive even in the worst of times. Though she sometimes wants to give up, to succumb to the tranquility of death, she refuses to be defeated and finds ways to carry on because she knows that one day the war will end and Peace will triumph.

A heroic account of one young person's bravery in the face of devastating circumstances. Zlata may have lost her childhood to the war, but she never lost her love for life.  

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

As it tends to do, the weekend has arrived once again. As I mentioned last week, there are a ton of new releases in the last few weeks from some of my favorite artists and I have begun to listen to them this past week. But as I always do, I like to mix in some surprises because music discovery is one of my favoritest things. This week are a few great albums that I'm excited about and make for a good start to the Fall music season. Hopefully you'll be as excited as I am about these. Enjoy.

Death From Above - Outrage! Is Now: The Toronto duo returns for their third album, the first since their return in 2014. They are back to their original name (dropping the 1979 which I assume was required because of some lawsuit which has since been settled). Thirteen years ago, they were one of the pioneers of Dance-Punk genre and though they have since morphed more into straight rock, they are no less intriguing. "Freeze Up," "Caught Up," "NVR 4EVR" and the title track are my personal favorites on one of the best albums of the year so far.

Tricky - Ununiform: Twenty two years after his solo debut, the Trip-Hop pioneer is still making interesting music that continues to explore the strange inner spaces that the genre has always seemed to infiltrate in my mind. This is one of his strongest albums, with varied influences and a pitch perfect mood that runs throughout. "New Stole," "Same As It Ever Was," "Running Wild," "Dark Days," and fantastic cover of Hole's "Doll Parts" were my personal favorites.

Daughter - Music From Before the Storm: The new album from the London is their third album is a soundtrack to the video game, Life Is Strange. It seems like an odd arrangement for a band that began to break through last year, but then again, there's nothing about the title that links it the video game, so I wonder if this wasn't simply their next album and was used as a soundtrack. Either way, this is another shoegazer art folk record, like their previous efforts, and like those, it's beautiful and subdued. "Burn It Down," "All I Wanted," and "A Hole in the Earth" were standouts for me.

Fleetwood Mac - London Live '68: The original incarnation of the British band was a British Blues band led by the phenomenal Peter Green. This version of the band ranks right up there with the best in the genre, and this archival release from 1986 captures the magic of that band. They run through a wonderful set of blues tunes that capture the sadness and despair in a way that was unique to the British bands of the time. Unfortunately the recording quality leaves a lot to be desired, keeping from being essential. But fans of the genre would do right by giving this a listen.

German Oak - Down in the Bunker: This instrumental heavy psych outfit released one album, way back in '72. It's recently been reissued in a three disc set that most likely includes everything the German band recorded. It's a psych jam that sounds like outtakes of UmmaGumma. Long extended ramblings that explore an interpretative idea of war as filtered through early '70s spack rock. An interesting listen, something that is good for a curious listen, but nothing that will really blow your mind.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Fiction Friday (59)

So here we go again, the continuation of my increased reading habits brought on by graduate school. This is the next installment of several YA titles that will get their chance on Fiction Friday. This week I read a classic of the genre that I hadn't picked up before. I have seen the movie, but it was so long ago, and under the influence, so needless to say, I didn't remember anything about it. That was good, because the book felt fresh and I had no images in my head of how it was supposed to look...well, except for the Karate Kid as Johnny. Enjoy.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
(Penguin, 1967)

Greasers vs. Socs...Punks vs. Preps...Nerds vs. Jocks. No matter what labels are attached, teen literature is littered with stories of two opposing groups whose hatred for one another is based on appearances and social status. Perhaps it's because these differences are so important to us when we are trying to discover who we are and who we want to be. S.E. Hinton, being a teenager herself when she wrote this novel, understood that and that is why this novel remains so popular more than sixty years after it was first published despite the fact that the terms "greaser" and "soc" have long been forgotten.

Ponyboy Curtis is a greaser. He is a greaser because he wears his hair long and slicked back. He is a greaser because he lives on the East Side of his town instead of the richer West Side. He is a greaser because his friends are greasers. He is a greaser because others say he is a greaser. For all of these reasons, he identifies with being a greaser and takes pride in it. At least he did until one night causes him to question everything.

Do the kids who have nice clothes, cars, and money, really have it easier than those who have nothing? Or does every kid suffer from social pressures, issues with their parents, and the confusion that comes with getting older? Ponyboy doesn't have the answer to these questions, but two crucial encounters on that fateful night make him begin to think that perhaps there isn't much of a difference between those on the East Side of town and those on the West. Sure, they have certain material advantages and catch a lot of breaks when it comes to the cops, but that doesn't prove that their lives are as perfect as they seem to the outsider. 
--> Tragedy makes Ponyboy realize that before we are greasers or socs, or any other artificial label, we are all people.
A compelling novel about friendship, loss, and family framed in the age-old struggle between social groups with different interests.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

The weekend has arrived and brought both the rain and the end of the heat wave with it. But the heat lingered all this past week, and as a result, I geared my listening to the summer weather. There's quite a mix of things in here, and a lot of artists who I hadn't heard before. All in all, it was a nice week of discovery before I settle in next week with a lot of new releases from old favorites. The Fall always brings high profile albums, and I'm excited to begin listening to them. Enjoy.

Laucan - Frames Per Second: The debut album from the London based singer songwriter was released over the summer and is a beautiful piece of indie folk. There's a sadness that permeates throughout this record, which I'm definitely partial to. It reminds me a lot of The Microphones, without the experimental elements, so I suppose, more like Mount Eerie. "I Want Out," "Symptom," and "The Tree (Came Down)," were my personal favorites on this quality record.

Matt Pond PA - Still Summer: The Philly indie band's new album follows last years wonderful Winter Lives. Departing from the melancholy folk vibe of that album, which fits the season of the title, this is a more upbeat indie rock album which fits the season of its title. Whereas the folk album held a unique sense of honesty that I really appreciated, this album, while it has less of that quality, is still quite special. It begins fairly formulaic, but by the end, builds into a thoughtful look at the concept of summer past and present. I still like last year's album better, but that could simply because I far prefer winter to summer. "Rabbit," "Last Breath," "Canada," and "Union Square" were my favorites.

Black Grape - Pop Voodoo: It's been 20 years since Shaun Ryder's spin-off band last released an album, and 10 since his main band, Happy Mondays, last released a record. Not much has changed in the passing of time. More than 30 years into his career, Ryder is still creating catchy Baggy Madchester tunes that attack the mainstream sentiments. As always, this is a fun listen, but as with the last HM album, it's really one of those one or two listens before it gets shelved and forgotten. "Money Burns" and "Losing Sleep" were standouts. 

Oddfellow's Casino - Oh, Sealand: The fifth album from the Brighton based indie band is pleasant piece of neo-psych that, unlike American bands of the genre which draw from '60s influences, draws more from BritPop influences. It sounds like a mellow Suede or Coral in their quieter moments. "Down in the Water," "Children of the Rocks," and "Penda's Fen" were my personal favorites on this thoroughly enjoyable album.

Felly - Wild Strawberries: The L.A. rapper's second full length album is a blissful bit of hazy summer beats and laid back flow mixed with an R&B vibe that all somehow just clicks in a way that is welcoming to my ears. Certainly not revolutionary, but certainly a sound that is rare these days. Reminds me a bit of Digable Planets first album because it combines R&B soul with hip hop the way that album did for jazz and hip-hop, but this album has a decidedly California feel to it. "Baby Boy," "Above Water," and the fantastic "Oceans V2" are standouts on this ray of sunshine.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Fiction Friday (58)

As I mentioned last week, I'm going to posting more reviews in the coming weeks thanks to a YA class I'm taking for my Master's in Library Science. This week I read a book that has been sitting on my shelf for years. One I wish I'd read when I was first given a copy of it shortly after it was published. I met Ned a few occasions. Both of us being young authors in NYC, we crossed paths here and there. Right after this book came out, we spent a few days together at a conference and shared the same panel. I make it a point to rarely read books by people I know, or books that resemble books I've written. This fell into both, being subject matter that overlapped my novel at the time, Pure Sunshine. I decided to read it now, a few years after Ned passed away, and wish I'd had the chance to tell him how much I appreciate it.

be more chill by Ned Vizzini
(Miramax, 2004)

Except for the lucky few, every teen struggles with trying to be 'cool'. The lucky few are those who are naturally blessed with the right attributes that assure a level of cool, or those who simply have no interest in being cool, which is a blessing in itself. Jeremy Heere does not fall into either of these two groups. He is desperately 'uncool' by the standards of others in his High School. He spends his time in class obsessing over his social interactions and the social interactions of groups he's been left out of, recording his failures and faults daily on Humiliation Sheets. He spends his time at home in a way that way a lot of teens (especially boys) spend their time; masturbating to porn on the internet.

Like many people in his situation, Jeremy seems unable to break out of the social niche he's been placed into. Despite the elaborate plans he comes up with to change his circumstances, he always ends up right back where he started...that is, until he learns about squips. Squips are supercomputers, ingested in pill form, that attach to the user's brain, access their memories, analyze the world around them, and advise the host on how to achieve their goals.

Jeremy's goals are relatively easy ones. He wants to be cool. He wants to be cool, because being cool will get him girls. More specifically, being cool will get him Christine. Communicating with Jeremy telepathically, the squip instructs him on what to wear, what to say, and how to say it. Initially, this arrangement produces promising results. Jeremy becomes substantially 'cooler' in the eyes of his classmates, and far more attractive to girls. But there are always consequences to pretending to be someone you are not, and Jeremy learns the hard lessons there are no shortcuts to achieving your goals and that being yourself is frequently the best approach to life. The saddest thing about this novel is that Jeremy is just fine as he is and the biggest obstacle to being 'cool' is our own self-doubts and our desires to be something we aren't.

An outstanding novel, one I wish I had read when I was a teen.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

This weekend, summer has returned to the Hudson Valley with a vengeance! Needless to say, I'm not happy about it. I'd been enjoying the Fall weather, and the even cooler weather in Switzerland last week, only to return home to this messy heat. But weather doesn't stop the music and I'm happy to share thoughts on some albums I've been listening to on my travels. Most of these were designed for cooler weather, which justifies my ramblings above, so think of these as something to checkout as soon as this heat wave moves back down south where it belongs. Enjoy.

Iron and Wine - Beast Epic: It's been four years since the last true album from Sam Beam under this moniker, and not much has changed in that time. He is still one of the best and most consistent songwriters of his generation, and he can still infuse Americana with indie folk with the best of them. This album is a little more bare bones than the previous two, resembling his earlier work. "Summer Clouds," "About a Bruise," and "Last Night" are my personal favorites.

Big Blood - The Daughter's Union: After releasing a two-part album back '15, the freak folk duo from Portland, Maine worked on some collaborations. This summer, they released this new album which once again reaffirms them as one of my favorite bands. They have a sound that taps right into my imagination and illustrates thoughts of mine into sound. "Reproduce and Get Dirty," "Thank You for the Path," "All is Clear," "Stars Sewn Into Our Skies," and "On and On," are standouts on one their best albums to date.

Warhorse - Warhorse: The UK hard prog band is one of the handful of innovators who developed the heavy psych genre, along with Sir Lord Baltimore, Gun, and Horse. Released in 1970, this is a stunning debut album that is much heavier than most of hard rock at the time. Though still blues based, it moves away from that sound and into a heavy psych vibe. "Woman of the Devil," "No Chance," "Vulture Blood," and "Burning" are my personal favorites on this epically underappreciated album.

The Experience Nebula Room - Ouroborous: The debut album from the Rio band is a brilliant instrumental record that is perfectly paced between heavy psych sounds and gothic folk. It all comes together to produce a sound that feels like the soundtrack to a pleasantly horrifying dream. I gave this a chance because from the cover I had a hunch it would sound something like Goblin Hovel, and I was right. The softer gothic songs are similar, but there are also moments that are more like King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. Definitely worth a listen.

Nektar - Magic Is a Child:  The seventh album from the German space rock band was released in '77 and sees the band follow the general trajectory of 70's psychedelic space rock bands. By that, I mean this album feels far safer and more radio friendly than earlier releases. As a result, it also feels a little less interesting to my ears. It feels more like Kansas or Styx than Pink Floyd or Hawkwind, which isn't necessarily terrible, just not quite as good. "On the Run" and "Spread Your Wings" were my personal favorites on this album that is just okay.

Kids United - Un Monde Meilleur:  Formed in 2015, these six French children recorded this debut record, a second would follow a year later. My longstanding interest in kidcore recordings led me to check out this album. I expected yet another bubblegum pop record, and was pleasantly surprised to discover this isn't that. This is far more club friendly dance pop, which is certainly over produced, but not unbearable. These kids all have very powerful and soulful voices that sound grown up and very Adele influenced. "Des ricochets," "Toi + moi," and their cover of "Imagine" are standout tracks on a record that is a curiosity interest for those into this kind of thing.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Fiction Friday (57)

I've returned from a brief stint across the pond, and on the return flight, I was without child and had time to finish reading the graphic novel I'd been reading between fits of James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake. In the coming weeks, I will be posting many more Fiction Friday's as I attempt to plow through 20 YA novels for the course I'm taking this quarter. So look forward to many more thoughts on a genre that I should, repeat should, know a lot about. Enjoy. 

To Terra: Volume One by Keiko Takemiya
(Vertical, 2007)

In the unspecified future, the home planet of human beings which has been renamed Terra, became inhabitable. The air was polluted, fish could no longer swim in the oceans or rivers, trees would no longer grow, and non-degradable toxins had built up underground. Humans searched the far reaches of space for a new home, but were never able to find a new Terra. Eventually they came to the conclusion that Terra wasn't the problem, humans were. The decision was made to reform humanity and a system was put in place to raise humans in a new way.

Having handed control of humanity's course over to a computer called "Mother", children are born in test tubes and raised by designated parents. They are given an ideal and loving upbringing until the age of 14. It is at that point when all children must undergo the maturity evaluation. Those who pass have the majority of their memories erased and are sent to an educational space-station to complete their preparation to return to Terra. By the opening of this epic science-fiction graphic novel, there are rumblings of discontent in this seemingly perfect system.

In the first volume of this trilogy from Keiko Takemiya, two storylines emerge, destined for a collision as the series progresses. Conflict between the Mu (human mutants with telepathic powers) and humans over control of Terra and the fate of humanity has begun with both sides being led by charismatic young leaders determined to secure the safety of their way of life. Outstanding art helps prop up this story whose text is a little too vague at times.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

Time once again to celebrate the week that was in my music listening. This was one of those weeks of exceptional albums, some of which were new discoveries, others were albums that exceeded expectations, and another was just something that was a surprise release. Mostly straight up rock on this list, with a few minor exceptions. Hopefully you'll find something on here to check out. Enjoy.

Brand New - Science Fiction: The rock band's fifth album is their first release in eight years and it's the album I've always been waiting for from them. While their last two records were both fine albums, both had moments that didn't appeal to me. This one is a complete album that showcases what the band does best, which is moody post-hardcore rock. There isn't a weak song on this album, making it their best since the demos for The Devil and God... and one of the most solid albums of the year so far.

Jamie Aaron Aux - Close the Circle: The Seattle singer/songwriter's third album was released in June and it's pretty awesome. This eerie psych folk record reminds me of some of my favorite work by Lightning Dust and Warpaint. Perfect for late night or early pre-dawn alone listening to create a wonderful moody experience. "Optiks," "Black Tourmaline," "Fake Gold" and "Sights in Overdrive" are among my favorites.

Mozzy - 1 Up Top Ahk: Though this Cali rapper has been incredibly active over the past three years, releasing a ton material, this was my first encounter with his work, but certainly won't be my last. The beets are exceptional and his flow is hypnotic. He reminds me a bit of 2Chainz, but seems to take his craft much more serious. There tales of criminal activity, but tales that feel genuine, and by that, I mean believable. He doesn't try to sell himself as something he isn't, a mistake too many hip hop artists make. He's not trying build himself into a legend, he's telling his story and it's up to you to decide whether it's legendary.

Ty Segall - Fried Shallots: The ever-prolific Ty continues his quest to be the most prolific artist around with this new EP that came out at the end of July. It's his signature fuzzed out sound, a little more fuzzed out than some of his more recent full-length albums, but no less fantastic. "When the Gulls Turn to Ravens," "Another Hustle," and "Is It Real" are standouts on this nice addition to his growing catalog.

Metallica - Self-Destruct: The 10th true studio album from the iconic thrash metal band was released late last year to pretty positive reviews as it sees a return to form from some recently poorly reviewed albums. This is the "Metallica" sound through and through, and in fact, there are moments throughout the album where you can almost hear parts of other songs coming through. It's not easy for a rock band, let alone a metal band, to remain relevant thirty years into their career, but this album manages to that. Certainly not on the same level as their 80's catalog, but can stand alongside their 90's catalog just fine. At times it almost feels like they are trying too hard, and perhaps there was no need to make this a double album. "Now that We're Dead," "Moth into the Flame," and "Am I Savage" were standouts for me.

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Sound of Something Clawing Through

With a short break in the graduate school season, I've had some time to get back to work on writing. The new novel that I began a few weeks ago has turned into a nice stack of pages, which means the structure is now calling for me to get into the really crazy parts that I imagined when I cooked up this insane journey through the tortured imagination of my adolescent self. That's not to say there isn't insanity to be found in the existing chunk that has already been written, but the truly surreal is yet to come and I must admit that I'm excited for it.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Weekend Music Roundup

The long weekend has arrived and with the extra day, there's plenty time for thinking about music and finding new sounds to discover. For this week, I took a few chances this week to listen to things I hadn't heard of before. As always with a gamble, some paid off better than others. Of course, I also threw in a few albums that I'd been looking forward to listening to. There's mostly rock on here, but several different varieties. Next weekend I'll get a little more diverse again. Until then, enjoy.

Sleepy Sun - Private Tales: On their fifth album, the San Fran psych rock band feels to have matured into one of the finer examples of the genre. This album is pure psych rock, not heavy psych, not psych folk, something few do very well. This album reminds me of Black Angels and even Morning After Girls and The Coral. "Crave," "Throes," "Reconcile," and "The Plea" are standouts on a really enjoyable album.

Savoy Brown - A Step Further: After their '67 debut, the British Blues band released six albums in their first three years, this being the fourth, and second released in 1969. Built around the classic British Blues sound, this album sees the sound taking a heavier turn that would continue throughout the '70s and eventually lead to blues based hard rock and heavy metal. The first side of the album is dynamite. The second half is a live set that is a little messy, but in a boozy sort of way that works for the style. 

Miraculous Mule - Two Tonne Testimony: The third album from the London blues rock band was released this past spring and is pretty much by-the-book hard blues rock. There's nothing on here that will surprise a listener educated in the genre, though young listeners will probably be impressed and seek out older bands that have done this sound before. "Where Monsters Lead," and "The Fear" are my personal favorites on a solid album, but nothing really essential.

American Opera - Small Victories: The debut album from the Michigan indie duo is an interesting blend of indie folk and emo that feels uneven while still quite listenable. It feels like one of those debut albums where the band has developed a few different styles and hasn't quite decided where to focus their attention. They will get there. "Jack Pine" and "The Farewell" are standouts for sure.

Black Kids - Rookie: The second album from the Florida indie pop band was a pleasant surprise for me. I tend to steer away from indie pop, but took a chance on this one. Heavy new wave influences make this record very enjoyable. It feels a lot like The Kooks with a healthy dose 80's pop thrown in, which is fine by me. There's absolutely nothing original about this, but it doesn't make it any less fun. A nice ode to teen longing and 80's rhythms with "Illin'," "Rookie," and the fascinating "Obligatory Drugs" as standouts.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Winter is Here

The seventh season of Game of Thrones ended this week with a blockbuster feature length episode. Though only eight episodes, this season was still packed with plot and saw the story advance farther than any previous season. We all know the game is coming to an end next year, which has forced the show to move closer and closer to the eventual conclusion. 

All sides have been clearly drawn, though some uncertainty lies in the reception for the Targaryen family in the North. The Great War has begun in earnest now that the white walkers have acquired their blue fire breathing dragon to break through the barrier of the wall. And though that battle is sure to be costly and deadly, the real intrigue still lies in the future occupant of the iron throne. We have one true heir, one sitting line from a rebellion built on lies, and one who has shown to be a worthy ruler but whose claim can be challenged. 

Whatever happens in the final season, I will be glued to each episode and watching with an active brain, because that is what this show does best. It causes you to think and speculate while it entertains. And though I want to know how the game turns out, I never really want it to end.