Album Review: The Shins “Heartworms” (2017)

“Heartworms” doesn’t stand up to their other albums lyrically but sonically it could easily be their finest


Review of The Shins’ long awaited new LP titled “Heartworms”

By Carter Bagley


The Shins have always been one of my favorite bands growing up and I’ve never hidden from anyone that my favorite album of all time is their 2001 debut “Oh, Inverted World”. Singer songwriter James Mercer has this raw talent that I rarely see in other musicians. He is incredibly gifted with words and metaphors and this is why I’ve always had this personal connection to this band’s music. The rest of the band split after 2007’s “Wincing The shins-heartworms-3.jpgNight Away” and he pulled together a brand new team for 2012’s “Port Of Morrow” which was good but not great compared to The Shins’ first three albums. However, I appreciated how Mercer tried new types of music and tried to make a new sound and it worked on much of the album but not so much on other parts. This time around though it seems like he’s perfected these new styles and I’m glad to say that although this is different, it’s still The Shins I fell in love with. “Heartworms” begins with their second single “Name For You” which is a catchy, pretty pop song and a great start to a new album. It shows off Mercer’s vocal talents right off the bat draws you in instantly. The band released many of the song before the release date of the album and I thought all of those songs are great but it’s a few of the songs I hadn’t heard yet that hooked me. Songs like “Painting a Hole” and “Half A Million” recall back to “Wincing The Night Away” while simultaneously adding in some new flavor as well. The effects laden “Cherry Hearts” and “Fantasy Island” were the songs that really drew me in though. Mercer brings in all these new sounds that I haven’t heard from them before and he uses his voice as an instrument to pair with the music. It builds to a volume so high that it makes me wonder how he could possibly reach it. His voice and lyrics are so distinct that you know a The Shins song the moment the lyrics are sung. The third single “Mildenhall” brings in a folk sound that recalls back to their “Chutes Too Narrow” days. It manages to be perfectly nostalgic without being over the top and it may be a new classic from the band. Some of the songs didn’t quite hook me though like “Rubber Ballz”, “Heartworms” and “Half A Million” just didn’t work on every level like many of the other tracks. The lead single “Dead Alive” is fantastic classic sounding The Shins and I loved from the first time I heard it. “So Now What” is easily one of my favorite tracks from the album and I’ve loved it since it was first released way back in 2014 for Zach Braff’s film “Wish I Was Here”. The whole thing closes out with the longer track “The Fear” which uses interesting melodies that seems like they come straight out of the 90’s at points. The album is not lyrically as strong and much of the band’s discography but but seems to focus more on the sounds. Many songs build this huge wall of sound and it’s interesting to hear all of it surround you and listen as they start to fade out one by one at end of each song. James Mercer focused on many different types of music hear and incorporated all of it into this album and at some points in the same song even. I loved it more than I expected and I can honestly say that this album is not perfect but it’s pretty damn great.

Highlights: Name For You, Cherry Hearts, Fantasy Island, Mildenhall, Dead Alive, So Now What

Lowlights: Rubber Ballz, Half A Million, Heartworms

Rating: 8.5/10

Film Review: “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them” (2016)

“Fantastic Beasts..” is an entertaining adventure with memorable characters despite having it’s share of problems

Review of newest installment in the massive “Harry Potter” series, but this time it shows us the wizarding world of America

By Carter Bagley


Having grown up on the “Harry Potter” movies, I’m very familiar with the hype surrounding them. Personally I’ve never been as big of a fan as many of my peers but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy watching some of them. In fact I really love about half of the series, but the other half doesn’t thrill me enough to not consider myself a big fan. However a couple years ago JK Rowling announced she was making a film series based on the small guide book titled “Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them” and considering at the time the final “Harry Potter” film had already come out and marketed as “the last installment”, so I thought it was a little bit of a sell out. Though just about a year ago fantastic-beasts-where-find-them-movie-poster.jpegdetails started sprinkling in about the movie saying it was about the wizarding world in America and it took place in the 1920’s both of which we haven’t seen before in the franchise. Also I’m a fan of a lot of the actors in the film like Eddie Redmayne, Ezra Miller, and Colin Farrell and David Yates returned to direct it. Yates was definitely the director who consistently made the best films in the series and he does a great job at directing this one as well. The visuals and the editing and directing are the highlights of this film, it’s in the writing where the flaws become apparent. Not necessarily writing the characters as many of the characters were great especially Redmayne’s Newt Scamander who is a very likable and human protagonist. It’s the pacing and story of the film that I found to be disappointing. J.K. Rowling wrote the screenplay herself and despite crafting a cool storyline and mostly fascinating characters I don’t think she did the best job. The main antagonist of the film didn’t catch me the way the “Harry Potter” films did even though the idea of an “Obscurus” was very fascinating. The main idea is that if a wizard’s powers are suppressed long enough, their power manifests itself as a parasite that becomes dark and evil. Despite the idea being surprisingly cool and original it comes off as cliche and tired in the final product, almost like those scenes were shot as a cliche modern horror film. Ezra Miller does a great job with the material he’s given and so does Colin Farrell who seems very seedy the entire film. I’ve heard a lot of praise for this film and I have to say I can’t share it but I will say I enjoyed watching it and found it very entertaining. If you’re a fan of the franchise you’ll probably have a very great time watching but if you’re not there’s not really any reason to go rush out and see it. Overall it was a decent set up for a new saga filled with interesting characters and fresh ideas and I’m still curious to see where the next films take it.

Rating: 7/10

Classic Reviews: Oasis “Definitely Maybe” (1994)

“Definitely Maybe” is an excellent debut album that’s cocky, epic, inspiring and completely rock ‘n’ roll.

Review of the debut classic album from seminal Britpop band Oasis

By Carter Bagley


Coming from Manchester, these lads were always meant to be a massive rock band. Everything about them from their look, their sound, their relationships, and most importantly the sibling rivalry between lead singer Liam Gallagher and guitarist/songwriter Noel Gallagher screamed rock band. In 1994, right from the gates they exploded onto the britpop scene with a massive, loud, and straight-up amazing debut album. “Definitely Maybe” came out four years after the band had officially formed so it sounded like an experienced band who already knew exactly what they were doing. Noel and Liam Gallagher weren’t even the founders of the band originally titled Rain, but after joining it was obvious these two were the superstars of the group despite the others 61-8ceflawlcontributing their own big talents to the music. It was always these brothers who transcended it. After the dying grunge scene left listeners depressed and wanting inspiration Noel penned 11 songs that totally redefined 90’s music after the state it was in. It kicks off with the gorgeously cocky “Rock ‘N’ Roll Star” that’s in the same vein as The Stone Roses’ “I Am The Resurrection” in the sense that these nobodies were declaring that they were rock ‘n’ roll stars. The funny thing is they didn’t have a whole album before it to prove it, it was the first track . Although with Liam’s completely unique vocals and Noel’s kickass guitar riffs in addition to Tony McCarroll’s drumming, this song is all the proof they needed. The song “Shakermaker” was the album’s second single with I really don’t understand because despite it being a good song it’s still unnecessarily long and drags on quite a bit. However, it’s not until “Live Forever” begins that you see this band truly blossom into the brilliant band they were. Every single aspect of the song is amazing beginning with the instantly noticeable drumming, the beautiful acoustic, the simple piano keys, the rocking electric and bass and Liam’s revolutionary snarl on the opening lines “Maybe, I don’t really wanna know”. Liam Gallagher’s voice really was one in a million and although you could hear it slowly get worse over time, there’s no taking away the fact that back in the mid-90’s he had the best voice on the planet. There’s always songs you skip like “Up In The Sky” and “Bring It On Down” and “Columbia” is good just a couple minutes too long. Though none of that takes away from the album because as a whole even those song work into it’s brilliance. The latter half of the album is where it gets spectacularly consistent. The band’s debut single “Supersonic” has nonsensical lyrics but an attitude that only the Rolling Stones could rival and Liam’s voice shines on it to make it a nearly perfect and likable single. “Cigarettes & Alcohol” is a rocker with some epic lead guitar riffs and lyrics that perfectly show the mood of their home city of Manchester at the time. The album concludes with the epic rocker “Slide Away” coupled with the acoustic song of “Married With Children”. The former is one of those songs that should’ve been a single over “Shakermaker”. Liam’s vocals are some of the best on the album and the chorus drills into your head and let’s not mention the kick-ass guitar solos. “Married With Children” shows a sassier side to the band and it gives off a slight reflective tone; it’s a great simple end to a great epic album. There’s not much that hasn’t already been said about this album, but I will add that Oasis is extremely underrated for the fact that many people slack them off these days, but they embody rock ‘n’ roll just as much as any band and they actually stood for something. Liam Gallagher might have been the best leading man we’ve seen in decades and Noel always was a very talented songwriter. Though they may be broken up these days, back in 1994 Noel & Liam Gallagher said that they were gonna live forever, and live forever they will.

Highlights: Rock ‘N’ Roll Star, Live Forever, Supersonic, Cigarettes & Alcohol, Slide Away, Married With Children

Lowlights Lesser Highlights: Up In The Sky, Bring It On Down

Rating: 10/10

Top 25 R.E.M. Songs

Out of the band’s enormous discography these are the 25 songs that hit the hardest.

A countdown of the Twenty-Five best songs by pioneering alternative rock band R.E.M.

By Carter Bagley

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I figured to conclude any artist series I should make a list of what I think are that artist’s best songs. So after rummaging through R.E.M. fifteen studio albums and numerous singles and compilations I crafted this list of R.E.M.’s twenty-five best songs.

25. “7 Chinese Brothers” (Reckoning, 1984)

One of the many oddly titled but undeniably charming R.E.M. songs and one that completely defines the sound of R.E.M.’s classic sophomore effort “Reckoning”. It may not be a defining song for the band but it’s definitely a fantastic one.

24. “At My Most Beautiful” (Up, 1998)

A truly beautiful ballad from the band that pairs beautifully with other songs of theirs like “Nightswimming” but this one is tragically unrecognized. It’s really an amazing song and is the best song off their 1998 album “Up”.

23. “Bittersweet Me” (New Adventures In Hi-Fi, 1996)

Probably the most famous song from R.E.M.’s underrated 1996 sprawling double LP “New Adventures in Hi-Fi”. With a rocking chorus, slow breathy verses, and gritty lyrics this song is definitely good enough to be on this list.

22. “Driver 8” (Fables Of The Reconstruction, 1985)

“Fables Of The Reconstruction” is no doubt the most forgotten out of R.E.M.’s 80’s catalog, but the record has some truly great songs on it including this short yet deep and poignant track that’s catchy and memorable and defines this era of R.E.M. perfectly.

21. “Superman” (Life’s Rich Pageant, 1986)

Just a year after “Fables..” came “Life’s Rich Pageant” which is a stark contrast probably because “Fables” didn’t perform as well as they wanted. “Superman” one of the singles and closer of the album sounds like 60’s rock and that marks a new sound for the band and one that makes for a near perfect pop song.

20. “Supernatural Superserious” (Accelerate, 2008)

A late R.E.M. track that’s just as good if not better than many of their earlier songs. Off of 2008’s “Accelerate”, this single doesn’t sound at all like an aging band (which they definitely were) but instead like a young energetic band that still had a lot to say.

19. “Shaking Through” (Murmur, 1983)

A forgotten and unrecognized song of their debut album is one of my favorites because of it’s airtight instrumentation and Stipe’s on point vocals. It’s truly a great R.E.M. song and one that has gone and will continue to go severely underrated.

18. “Gardening At Night” (Chronic Town EP, 1982)

One of the band’s earliest songs yet still loved amongst fans and one of their most critically beloved. This is a very bizarre track with nonsense lyrics and jangly guitar that totally encapsulates the sound of early-80’s R.E.M.

17. “Orange Crush” (Green, 1988)

One of their first big singles that has gone on to become an alternative rock classic this is on their first studio album and might be one of their last early era sounding songs they ever recorded. Nonetheless it’s extremely catchy and incredibly charming.

16. “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?” (Monster, 1994)

A true rocker that opens up R.E.M.’s 1994 “big dumb rock album” titled “Monster” and this is undoubtedly the highlight of that record. It was a new sound for R.E.M. and one they never really quite had again and as a single it’s definitely a standout of their 90’s catalog.

15. “New Test Leper” (New Adventures In Hi-Fi, 1996)

Not even released as a single, this is one of those deep cuts that only real R.E.M. fans will recognize. In my opinion it’s one of the best they ever wrote as the lyrics are deeply poetic and Michael Stipe’s vocals are beautiful. This is a song that you will fall in love with and if there’s only one reason to check out “New Adventures…” then this is it.

14. “Find The River” (Automatic For The People, 1992)

The closer to quite possibly the band’s finest album that really doesn’t sound like them at all. “Find The River” sounds a little like John Denver with an alternative twist to it and the R.E.M. penned lyrics are beautiful and much better than the stuff Denver writes. It’s pure and lovely and something you need to check out.

13. “These Days” (Life’s Rich Pageant, 1986)

A short and fast 80’s rocker from another standout R.E.M. record in “Life’s Rich Pageant”. It’s catchy and fun and a song that makes “Life’s Rich Pageant” the damn near perfect album that it is. The oddball lyrics but strong delivery is pure 80’s R.E.M. and it’s brilliant.

12. “Country Feedback” (Out of Time, 1991)

One of the many highlights of R.E.M.’s best-selling seminal album “Out Of Time”. Maybe not the most consistent album they’ve made but one that’s full of poetic and beautiful songs like this that make it understandable that the record got the classic status it has.

11. “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville” (Reckoning, 1984)

A song that sounds completely different than the rest of the album it’s at the tail-end of, yet it’s still undoubtedly a standout on “Reckoning”, their 80’s catalog, and their entire discography altogether. Having a very southern country rock sound but with the charm of typical R.E.M. and using jangle-pop vibes that make it an R.E.M. staple.

10. “The One I Love” (Document, 1987)

A fantastic hit single that can and has been interpreted in many different ways. Most people see it as a simple love song but it’s nearly the exact opposite and is layered which you can tell when Stipe wails “Fire!” after the chorus. This is one of the songs that grew the band’s fame and secured them a record deal for their next album, and it’s easy to see why.

9. “World Leader Pretend” (Green, 1988)

Hands down the best song off their divisive first studio album “Green”. Despite the album being divisive this song always seems to be given the accolades it truly deserves. Stipe moodily delivers fantastic lyrics that touched on new ground for the band. If you haven’t heard this song, do yourself a massive favor and go give “World Leader Pretend” a few spins.

8. “So. Central Rain” (Reckoning, 1984)

A song that completely encapsulates the perfect sound featured on their sophomore classic “Reckoning”. The lyrics are beautiful, the instrumentation is catchy, and Michael Stipe’s vocal performance is perfect and all that adds up to an amazing early alternative rock song complete with jangly guitars and moody vocals.

7. “Fall On Me” (Life’s Rich Pageant, 1986)

Probably the band’s first recognizable success came with this single as the video got decent airplay on MTV and it blew up college rock stations everywhere. One of the catchiest songs they ever recorded, “Fall On Me”  highlights one of R.E.M.’s best albums and defines the term college rock.

6. “Nightswimming” (Automatic For The People, 1992)

A truly beautiful ballad accompanied with lovely piano and vocals that make you feel more than you’d like to admit. The all-too-real lyrics and the pure and genuine tone it naturally has cemented “Nightswimming” as a memorable heartwarming song that only gets better the more you hear it. Really go check this beautiful song out as soon as possible.

5. “Radio Free Europe” (Murmur, 1983)

One of the earliest singles the band ever made that still makes you single along to the nonsensical lyrics even after you’ve heard it thousands of times. “Radio Free Europe” is insanely likable and completely defines the sound of the band’s debut album “Murmur”.

4. “Man On The Moon” (Automatic For The People, 1992)

One of the strangest singles from the band, but the song tackles a lot of topics in one song and it seems to do it beautifully. It’s one of those songs with that amazing chorus that just gets drilled into your head the first time you hear it. The performance and the catchiness of this song is what makes it so good especially the chorus which is what makes it such a powerful lovable song.

3. “Talk About The Passion” (Murmur, 1983)

One of the band’s earliest poetic songs and one that features a more laid back sound opposed to most of “Murmur”. This song doesn’t seem to be talked about at all unless by real R.E.M. fans and those are the people who really cherish it. Some beautiful lines mixed with the rawness of the band’s early sound is what solidifies my love for this album.

2. “Losing My Religion” (Out of Time, 1991)

The band’s smash single that broke them into mainstream success still holds up amazingly 25 years after it’s initial release. Now it’s become a rock classic and has retained a status on the same level as other hits of the era. With thought provoking lyrics, angry and raw vocals and layered instrumentation accompanied by one of my favorite music videos of all time, it makes sense why this is the song that brought them universal acclaim. It’s truly legendary.

1. “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” (Document, 1987)

There’s an endless amount that could be said about this song and what it means. It’s honestly one of the best pop songs to ever be recorded in my opinion and every single aspect including the fast, rambling verses, perfect backing vocals, catchy jangly guitars and hard-hitting drums along with the political yet smile-inducing lyrics that can only put you in a great mood. All of it leads into one of the best choruses ever put to tape and I truly mean that. Out of the enormous discography from this acclaimed pioneering rock band, this song remains their greatest achievement and has only grown in popularity since it’s release. It’s proved itself addictive and timeless and even if the end of the world as we know it comes, this song will keep us feeling fine.

R.E.M. Series: “Collapse Into Now” (2011)

R.E.M. caps off their legendary career with their swan song “Collapse Into Now”

Review of the final album from legendary alternative rock icons R.E.M.

By Carter Bagley


My first artist series comes to an end with the review of R.E.M.’s final album fittingly titled “Collapse Into Now”. The legacy of this band is going to be that of legend someday, compared to most bands their discography is huge and pretty flawless despite a few missteps. Either way back in 2011 R.E.M. knew they made a great record with “Accelerate” and knew it was time for the long-running group had to come to an end. They decided to make one final album to go out on and it had to a good one if it was going to be the last from a band that brought us “Murmur”, “Document”, and “Automatic For The People”. I’d say in many ways they succeeded and ended up delivering an album that’s entirely enjoyable and emotional. It start off strong with the one-two punch of the energetic and exciting opening songs rem-2.jpg“Discoverer” and “All The Best”. At this point the record is similar in tone and sound to “Accelerate” which gives it a fun opening vibe.The album isn’t all the way like that as the previous R.E.M. albums have had a hard time blending themes and emotions together like their earlier albums did so well. “Accelerate” may have been fun and enjoyable but it sort of lacked a depth while other albums like “Up” and “Around The Sun” were just too slow and overdramatic at a lot of parts. “Überlin” is a highlight on the album and sounds like something off one of their older classic albums with proficient vocals and lyrics from the band. The album continues to be extremely impressive with the lovely performed and melodic “Oh My Heart” and “It Happened Today” which are both very good songs. “Every Day Is Yours To Win” isn’t quite as good as some of the others but the way Michael Stipe delivers the vocals coupled with the beautiful instrumentation makes it have a real emotional vibe. The songs “Mine Smell Like Honey” and”Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter” are probably the worst songs on the album but they’re still very listenable power pop. The latter is pretty much lyrical nonsense almost in an Oasis “Supersonic” way but not done nearly as well. “That Someone Is You” is very melodic and pop rock sounding almost more like Better Than Ezra and Gin Blossoms than R.E.M. though that’s not a fault. Stipe’s lyrics are the best on the songs “Walk It Back” and “Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I” with the latter sounding like lyrics from early R.E.M. albums that make little sense but still convey a real point to them. The final song “Blue” does an amazing job at closing this album and caps off the career of one of the greatest and most consistent rock bands of all time. The album mixes celebratory fun with sorrow and that’s what makes it so good. The entire album feels real and genuine and mixes together many R.E.M. sounds and qualities from past and present to give a strong goodbye to their entire career. As R.E.M. collapsed into now they left one final great album that many people should give their attention to, for it deserves all of it.

Highlights: Überlin, Oh My Heart, It Happened Today, That Someone Is You, Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I

Lowlights Lesser Highlights: All The Best, Mine Smell Like Honey, Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter

Rating: 9/10

Film Review: “Oasis: Supersonic” (2016)

“You and I were gonna live forever” the Gallagher brothers once sang. This new documentary shows just how true that statement might be

Review of the new documentary about the seminal britpop band Oasis from the producers of “Amy” and “Senna”

By Carter Bagley


Oasis are no doubt one of my all time favorite bands. It seems that lately that’s kind of an uncool opinion to have as the endless sibling rivalry between lead singer Liam Gallagher and lead guitarist and songwriter Noel Gallagher has been their most defining trait for their entire career. Ever since their 2009 split they haven’t spoken to each other and even though there’s been rumors of a reunion nothing has happened yet. Despite being a bit washed up, back in the mid-90’s they were the greatest rock and roll band on the entire planet, and I firmly believe that. So it only makes sense that the guys who made the oasisdoc.jpg
amazing documentary “Amy” along with director Mat Whitecross would tackle such subject matter like Oasis and that’s exactly what happened with “Oasis: Supersonic”. Starting as a poor family from Manchester living alone with their mom and their older brother, Noel & Liam Gallagher were never fit to be anything other than rock stars. Noel was always the quiet, independent thoughtful one who wrote and played guitar while Liam was always the cool, funny and confident one with the better looks. They didn’t don’t go well together at all but for some reason their relationship is what makes Oasis work so well. The film follows them from when Noel was a drum technician for the forgotten madchester band Inspiral Carpets and Liam was doing lead vocals for a band called The Rain. Noel happened upon one of their gigs and showed them a bunch of songs he wrote and pretty soon he was in the band under the name Oasis. What followed the next few years is complete madness and the stuff of legend. The way Whitecross approached this film is very interesting as it doesn’t have any scenes where it shows them interviewing someone and it’s not just a biography. It opts instead for an in depth look at the band’s biblical rise and takeover of the British music scene. Noel and Liam both gave great insight on the times depicted in the film and the crew got their hands on a surprising amount of quality footage to use for the film. Fueled with interesting behind the scenes stories, fantastic interviews and plenty of the band’s genre-defining songs to give you an experience as if you were truly witnessing these crazy frenetic years in the lives of one of the world’s most phenomenal, brash and tumultuous rock bands. It’s easy to write off the band as just a forgettable 90’s act but seeing the impact they had on an entire continent and listening to their early albums it’s almost impossible to deny that these guys created some truly amazing songs. It all leads up to the legendary two-night concert at Knebworth where the band played to 250,000 people in one of the most hyped concerts of the past quarter century. Liam and Noel say some amazing lines that really give the film a personal and sentimental feel as if they’re talking in the same room together, however they were interviewed separately. Ironically these are the guys who poetically sang the lines “Don’t look back in anger, I heard you say” yet it seems they’re the ones who do it the most. “Oasis: Supersonic” transcends the genre of the average rockumentary to instead tell an inspirational and epic tale of brotherhood, self-fulfillment, and it captures the moment and the impact these guys had perfectly all to the sound of some great definitive rock songs. If you’re a fan of Oasis, documentaries, rock and roll or just epic stories in general than you should definitely not miss this film.

Rating: 9/10

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

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.