Track Review: The Shins “Dead Alive” (2016)

The Shins’ new single brings new and old sounds that show a lot of potential for their upcoming album

Advertisements

Review of the brand new first single from The Shins’ upcoming 5th album

By Carter Bagleydead-alive-the-shins-671x377.png

The Shins are easily amongst my favorite bands of all time with their very distinct and recognizable sound. The master behind it all, James Mercer, who’s the lead singer and songwriter of the group has been teasing this new album and specifically this single for months now. Originally supposed to be released in July and the album supposed to be the-shins-dead-alive-1477493035-640x640released this fall, something happened to where it got pushed back for legal purposes or something like that. But just last week Mercer finally revealed the band’s brand new single and I must say that I’m very impressed. Their last album “Port Of Morrow” was good but didn’t match the quality of their first three albums. However this song really reminds me of something from that album mixed with their “Wincing The Night Away” sound and it works amazingly well. Mercer is one of my favorite songwriters as he uses so unconventional lyrics and metaphors that are strange but always so appealing. The rest of the band shows up to with very fascinating instrumentation. There’s also a very well made music video to accompany the song. After 15 years they band still seems fresh and creative and this shows potential for a fantastic upcoming album.

Rating: 8/10

Stream the new single “Dead Alive” anywhere and watch the music video on The Shins’ VEVO page.

Film Review: “The Accountant” (2016)

“The Accountant” is an effective and original action-drama that could very well be Hollywood’s next franchise

Review of Ben Affleck’s new action drama “The Accountant”

By Carter Bagley

TheAccountant_Trailer2.jpg

Ben Affleck is an actor that has had a very up and down career. He began excellently starring as the great character of O’Bannion in Richard Linklater’s classic “Dazed and Confused” and starred in many Kevin Smith movies like “Mallrats” and “Chasing Amy” before breaking out with co-writing and co-starring in “Good Will Hunting” which jumpstarted his career along with his best friend Matt Damon. After that he had a lackluster career though starring in many awful rom-coms and big budget cheese-fests unnameddisasters like “Pearl Harbor” and “Armageddon”. Since then he’s come along way though and has become a successful actor, director, and screenwriter making such films like “The Town” and the 2013 Best Picture Winner “Argo”. This time he’s starring as “Christian Wolff” which is one of the many alias he goes by to protect himself who works as a freelance accountant for many huge crime organizations. It’s a very fascinating premise already but it’s made even more fascinating when you make the lead character an autistic man who has an incredible memory and high-functioning numerical skills. His father was a decorated military veteran who thought that his son should learn to live with his autism in the real world than make the world change for him. He trained his two sons in multiple different fighting styles and this made Christian an extremely sought after man as he was the best at multiple skills. When he takes on a legitimate accounting job for a company called Living Robotics to analyze the company’s money handling after a girl named Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) finds a flaw in it, he finds himself and Dana in a load of trouble. Ben Affleck’s performance is one of the best I’ve ever seen from him and he’s actually amazing at portraying Hollywood’s first autistic action hero. He has the subtle and not so subtle ticks down to a science and keeps his performance in check without going over the top like many actors do. J.K. Simmons plays Ray King who’s a financial crime director and gives a great performance like he always does and so does his employee Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) who helps him try to find “The Accountant”. Anna Kendrick and Affleck’s chemistry is very good without being unrealistic and cheesy and she feels like a real person we all know. Another standout actor is Jon Bernthal who plays an assassin hired to kill Wolff and Cummings by Living Robotics after they find a legitimately large flaw in the company’s money handling. John Lithgow and Jeffrey Tambor also show up in relatively big roles with small screen time but it’s still nice seeing both of them on screen. This film is getting very mixed reviews which I honestly don’t understand at all as I thought this film was one of the most entertaining, emotional, and effective action-dramas I’ve seen in a long time. Gavin O’Connor has made another great film and I look forward to what he does next since I also loved his 2011 film “Warrior”. I think this could very well be the start of Hollywood’s next original franchise which is refreshing to see such an effective original movie being made these days. “The Accountant” adds up to be an original and well directed drama complete with amazing action sequences and emotional ties that make it a film that impacts you in every way and one I will remember a couple years from now.

Rating: 8.5/10

R.E.M. Series: “Green” (1988)

“Green” is a worthwhile effort and even the bad songs weren’t as much bad as they were just uninspired

Review’s of R.E.M.’s first big label album and also their first misstep

By Carter Bagley

1985-fables-band-shot-530

Eventually, no matter how great you are, if you’re an indie band and you want to become huge you must sign to a major label. If you don’t you’ll simply fade away into a whisper and be remembered mostly as the band that influenced the artist that did sign. So naturally R.E.M. decided to make that decision and look where it led them. There were no shortage of fans who condemned the band for their decision and judged their major label debut before it even came out. So since it’s released this album has carried this slight 4d1f5930stigma about it. From my experiences people either seem to really enjoy it or completely shun it and I must say I’m not either but I’m more on the side of the former. It’s defintiely not great however I’d still say it’s a solid record it just doesn’t compare to their earlier albums and for most other bands “Green” would be remembered in a fonder memory. The record starts off with the songs “Pop Song 89” and “Get Up” which are two pretty similar songs and kind of blend together. “Pop Song 89” has some decent enough lyrics and despite being slightly jumbled it’s a delightful enough album opener. “Get Up” feels the same in tone but it’s definitely catchier and radio-friendly than most of the bands other songs. “You Are The Everything” is a bit cliche but is still very sweet in its delivery and Michael Stipe does good with charming vocals. Track 4 “Stand” actually surprises me by how big of a single it was or how it was a single at all. It’s very cheesy and marketable I guess which was all that mattered for late 80’s pop music. It’s an enjoyable tune for what it is but it gets on your nerves and if you’re not a fan of R.E.M. this is not the song to change your mind. By this point the album¬†definitely isn’t bad it’s just not the same R.E.M. the band once was. The first four songs are nice and not challenging but that’s all they are, though this changes with track 5 “World Leader Pretend”. It really is a fantastic gem mixed in with this studio pop album and contains intelligent lyrics and a contemplative regretful demeanor about it that has always impacted me. “The Wrong Child” however is really not a very good song. The first minute is pretty annoying with lyrics that sound almost like tumblr quotes now that I’m looking back on it but it kind of wins me over towards the end of it solely because of Stipe’s wailing vocals. What makes it even more awkward is that it’s sandwiched right in between the albums best two songs “World Leader Pretend” and “Orange Crush”. The latter was the biggest single on the record and it’s a nonsensical yet fascinating and catchy lyrics mixed in with it’s good production, memorable backing vocals and moody lead guitar guarantee this song as an alternative rock staple. The next track “Turn You Inside-Out” is total filler but I still find myself enjoying it every time I give this album a listen. It has very 80’s guitar riffs that sound dated and kind of comes off as a half-assed effort from the band but it’s still a song I wouldn’t skip if it came on unlike others on the record. “Hairshirt” on the other hand doesn’t fall under that same category. It sounds like songs the band made later in their career like “Nightswimming” or “At My Most Beautiful” although done with much less skill than those, it’s still enjoyable at some parts though it just makes me want to listen to those songs now. Track 10 “I Remember California” really irritates me when it comes on every time as it’s just a reminder on how less they seemed to be applying themselves for this album. The lyrics and the instrumentation are both repetitive and the vocals are lazy. Bill Berry’s percussion isn’t bad however and may even be the only redeemable aspect of the song. The albums ends on a high note though with the song “Untitled” as it’s short and sweet and Michael Stipe’s vocals build on top of themselves and the background vocals also take a much more prominent step forward. Peter Buck gives a lovely and snappy lead guitar and it fades the album away on a high. The name of the song and the placement in the tracklist almost guaranteed this song would get overlooked which is quite a shame. “Green” is a worthwhile effort and even the bad songs weren’t as much bad as they were just uninspired. “Hairshirt”, “The Wrong Child” and “I Remember California” have potential and aren’t cringe-inducing , they’re just boring and that idea seems to encompass the entire record despite a few songs.

Highlights: Pop Song 89, World Leader Pretend, Orange Crush, Turn You Inside-Out, Untitled

Lowlights: The Wrong Child, Hairshirt, I Remember California

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: “Blair Witch” (2016)

An interesting premise and some good frightening moments don’t make “Blair Witch” succeed completely

Review of the new sequel to the influential found-footage classic “The Blair Witch Project”

By Carter Bagley

_DSC0144.ARW

The 1999 modern horror classic “The Blair Witch Project” revolutionized the found-footage style of filmmaking, which is now one of the most popular techniques in low-budget films. Whether that’s for better or worse is up to you because most found-footage movies are just cheap, lazy, and unoriginal like the “Paranormal Activity” series, “Unfriended” or “The Last Exorcism” but for every once in a while we get a film like “Chronicle”, “Creep” or “V/H/S/2” that’s surprisingly good. Either way the original “Blair Witch Project” film is a good horror film for what it is, maybe a tad overrated but still good nonetheless. So when just a few months ago Adam Wingard announced that his latest film “The Woods” was actually secretly a Blair Witch sequel titled “Blair Witch” I was mildly interested. Wingard is an intriguing filmmaker who made the 2014 thriller “The Guest” which I really loved quite a bit when I watched it and he already directed the entertaining house invasion thriller “You’re Next”. This new film follows James who is the younger brother of Heather from the original film who disappeared and hasn’t been seen since she left for the Black Hills Woods in Burkittsville, Maryland 20 years ago and the footage was found later which was the film “The Blair Witch Project”. She went missing when James was 4 and now he’s in his early 20’s and his friend Lisa who’s doing a film school project decides to help him investigate it by going into the woods themselves. James’ childhood friend Peter and his girlfriend Ashley choose to tagalong also as they meet two Burkittsville residents who posted footage online that James believes could be from Heather. The residents join them on their journey into the woods helping guide the group and before long weird stuff begins to happen and when they soon find themselves unable to escape the woods that’s when the real terror sets in. It’s an interesting enough premise and it works for the first act of the film. You somewhat care for the characters, some more than others, and you understand their perspective and they don’t seem completely incompetent like most horror characters. The problem with this film though is that in a lot of ways it’s the same movie as the original until the film’s final 15-20 minutes or so. Somewhere later in the second half and beginning of the third I got bored as it seemed a bit repetitive. There were definitely some unique moments thrown in there though, specifically one involving a voodoo figure. It does seem that the filmmakers really cared about making a good horror film, and they did a decent job for the most part, it just feels like the screenwriters didn’t know what to do with the film at certain parts and so it comes off as filler. The ending though elevates the film quite a bit however as it brings in original concepts and well-paced thrills. You even get a few genuinely frightening images and moments in the witch’s extremely creepy house. If you enjoy the original or like these kinds of horror films there’s a good chance you’ll get a few kicks out of this latest installment. If you’re into the franchise’s lore then you’ll definitely enjoy it as it introduces some interesting concepts. If you’ve never seen the original film though I advise you watch that one instead as overall it’s a more effective and consistent film although “Blair Witch” might have a few better moments.

Rating: 6/10

 

 

Film Review: “Sully” (2016)

“Sully” is an entertaining, human story about courage and how a few moments can define us forever.

Review of Clint Eastwood’s latest biographical drama about “the miracle on the Hudson”

By Carter Bagley

sullyheader1

It seems that whenever someone desires to make an awards season drama with a charming leading man they always cast Tom Hanks. Whether the director is Robert Zemeckis, Steven Spielberg, or Ron Howard it doesn’t matter because you’re guaranteed a charismatic likable performance by Tom Hanks every time. I’m not going to say he’s as good as Daniel Day Lewis or Al Pacino or maybe even a guy like Sean Penn, but Tom Hanks is like a Honda, they may not be as luxurious as a Mercedes or as cool as a Ferrari but they’re reliable, efficient and they can appeal to all types. Even though he plays similar characters a lot of times, he always brings a feeling to the film that most can’t and that’s what he’s good at and what he’s made a career off of. This time around the filmmaker is Clint Eastwood and the charismatic likable character is Chesley Sullenberger, although you might know him as Captain Sully the pilot who successfully landed a commercial airplanessiun1a on the Hudson River. When I first heard Clint Eastwood was making this film about a year ago I didn’t know what to think. In fact I felt this way up until about a week ago. The reason for this is Eastwood hasn’t impressed all that much with his last few movies. It started when he made the biographical drama on J. Edgar which starred Leonardo DiCaprio and there’s no reason that should’ve been any less than great based on the talent involved. It fell flat and didn’t grip me really at all when watching it. The next one was with “Jersey Boys” about the 50’s group “Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons”. I was very excited to see this one as music films always interest me; but yet again it was handled sloppily and I came out feeling very underwhelmed. Then in late 2o14 everyone was heralding his last film “American Sniper” as a complete return to form for him, although I still felt underwhelmed coming out of the theater. It even annoyed me when it was nominated for Best Picture and Bradley Cooper was nominated for Best Actor. It annoyed me because I thought many others deserved the nominations more. So when I heard he was helming “Sully” I was obviously frustrated because I figured he was going to waste a great story and a great actor (Tom Hanks) like he did three times before. I’m happy to say though that with “Sully”, that’s not the case at all. Actually it’s the exact opposite of that, because Clint Eastwood’s directing is simply what made this film good. Instead of telling it like most would it’s told out of sequence, with a slow build and excellent pacing it was all on Eastwood’s shoulders to direct it the right way to make sure the scenes build on each other properly. Tom Hanks is good as always and embodies the character of Chesley Sullenberger almost perfectly. You’re often told he’s a hero throughout the film and you’re not entirely sure just what to think until the very end. You don’t know whether he did the only thing he could’ve done in that instant or was in a moment of poor judgement. This all builds up to the conclusion that’s very satisfying without being too preachy or too dramatic, it just felt real and that’s pretty much as good of a compliment I can give this film. Aaron Eckhart also does a fantastic job as he always does playing Sully’s co-pilot Jeff Skiles. Aaron Eckhart has always been a very underrated actor as he’s always very funny and charming in most of the roles he’s in, especially in “Thank You For Smoking” and “The Dark Knight”. There are some flaws in the film though, Laura Linney plays Sully’s wife and she doesn’t really do that much for the story. There are also some scenes that seem a bit repetitive as we see Sully experience visions countless times and I feel as if a few of those scenes could’ve been cut out to keep the story airtight. Altogether “Sully” is an entertaining, human story about courage and how a few moments can define us forever. Even though it may not be one of my favorite films I’ve seen this year, ¬†it’s definitely a good one.

Rating: 8/10

Album Review: Wilco “Schmilco” (2016)

Wilco’s “Schmilco” is an interesting album with themes about love, childhood, and looking back on past experiences.

Review of the new record from renowned indie band Wilco

By Carter Bagley

wilco

I have to admit that Wilco has never really been on my radar. Despite having a fondness for 90’s bands and especially liking the 90’s indie scene with bands like Pavement and Guided By Voices, it seemed that Wilco always had a different vibe to them. Not one I don’t like by any means, just one that I’m not familiar with. The first album of theirs I heard was their debut album “A.M.” through the subscription service Vinyl Me, Please. You could tell they definitely had soft country roots and then evolved it into more of a folk alt-rock sound that still comes out now. They have this sort of folk indie rock sound that’s very welcoming. I’ve heard only two other albums of theirs, one being Summerteeth which I must say I wasn’t too impressed with despite a couple great songs and the other being Yankee Hotel Foxtrot which blew me away fromwilco-1 first listen. For one reason or another I just haven’t delved that deep into the rest of their discography, but since they have a brand new album released today titled “Schmilco”, I decided to give it a proper review. Right from the opening track “Normal American Kids” I was instantly interested. It’s relatively short but has a very soft charm mixed with a delightful nostalgic feel to it. It seems as though lead singer Jeff Tweedy is reflecting on his childhood and his own experiences. It has a soft lead guitar and his folky vocals really add to it. The second track, also the second single for the album, “If I Ever Was A Child” also really impressed me maybe even more so than the opener. It is a little more upbeat with great lyrics although still continues the same feeling as the first. It has the very recognizable soft indie rock sound that Wilco helped establish and is a song I’ll definitely return to. The next few tracks aren’t nearly as good as the first two although they’re not bad whatsoever. “Cry All Day” and “Nope” are decent they’re just a tad generic but they’re solidly performed enough to give a listen to. It’s “Common Sense” that I didn’t really care for all that much as it has this unnerving sound to it that gets quite annoying after only a minute into the track. The song that comes after was the third song released from the album “Someone To Lose”. The instrumentation is pretty basic but still catchy and the main thing here to listen to is the vocals and the drumming. Despite the drumming being very simple it still holds the beat very well and makes you enjoy the song for what it is. Track 7 “Happiness” manages to be a very subtle yet fantastically raw song that might go unnoticed by many. The lyrics are interesting and weirdly sweet, and the chorus is honest and beautiful. The instrumentation is mostly just acoustic with some soft piano in the background that lifts the song up above what other artists would’ve just kept it as. Track 7 and on is when the album really picks up steam again after the few songs that came before it. “Quarters” sounds like a basic folk song although it’s still a nice listen but it’s “Locator” and “Shrug and Destroy” that got me invested in the album again. The former was the lead single for the album which is understandable as it’s one of the most marketable on the whole record. “Shrug And Destroy” is a truly lovely song that after multiple listens my enjoyment has only increased. The final two songs (“We Aren’t The World (Safety Girl)” and “Just Say Goodbye”) finish this whole record off really well too. They both have fairly similar sounds which is nice as they play into each other very well. Despite a couple tracks that I didn’t necessarily enjoy, there’s enough very good songs on “Schmilco” that I will indeed return to it a few times and I now have interest to check out the rest of the bands catalog. Lead singer and songwriter Jeff Tweedy seems to be reminiscing on childhood memories throughout the entirety of the album and that seems to be the theme. Although some memories being beautiful, some of them are just completely normal and boring and others are even a little weird. This is what gives “Schmilco” it’s charm and despite Tweedy often reminiscing, it’s that back and forth nature of the kinds of memories he shares with us that makes it not necessarily nostalgic, it’s just a man recollecting some old times. The comically sweet cover art also represents the album’s feel very well too and I’d say Wilco’s “Schmilco” is an interesting album with themes about love, growing up, and looking back on past experiences. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re interested and if you’re not I’d say you should give a listen to a few of the songs because if not, you’re missing out on some lovely music.

Highlights: If I Ever Was A Child, Happiness, Locator, Shrug And Destroy, We Aren’t The World (Safety Girl), Just Say Goodbye

Lowlights: Common Sense, Nope, Someone To Lose

Rating: 7.5/1o