Friday, February 23, 2018

TV Review: 'The Shannara Chronicles' Season 2

Title:  The Shannara Chronicles (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Netflix, IMDB, Wikipedia)

Season two of The Shannara Chronicles follows the continuing adventures of Wil Ohmsford, Eretria, and the Druid Allanon as they must confront a new and returning evil to the Four Lands.  The seer Bandon has been seduced by an evil thought dead and works to resurrect the Warlock Lord to bring darkness and pain to all across the world. 

The first season of The Shannara Chronicles was loosely based on The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks.  While the book's sequel The Wishsong of Shannara takes place some three decades later and focuses on the adventures of Wil and Eretria's children, the show's second season completely deviates from the source material.  Bringing in elements from Wishsong, The Sword of Shannara, and The First King of Shannara, the series created a new adventure bringing back the excellent cast from season one.  As with the first season, the story, world building, and characters were all highlights making for 10 very enjoyable episodes in a world that begs to be explored.  That's what works so well in The Shannara Chronicles. 

What doesn't work is the deviation from the source material, the changes of how far into the future this world exists (this was setup in season one), and the very modern dialogue that can take you out of the environment of the story.  Adaptations don't need to exactly follow their source material, but it helps especially when said material is so rich.  I completely understand not wanting to ditch this cast for an all-new one in season two but in not following the source material the show runners cherry picked elements from other books and mashed them together to varying degrees of success.  Now to be fair, I went into this series knowing and loving the world that Brooks had created so I have no idea how this season played out to those unfamiliar with the story as it was written.  Also to be fair, I'm picking at nits.  Overall this has been a great show, one that I hope will continue into season three but it looks like it probably won't.

As a fan of the world of Shannara, I hope that this series shows producers in Hollywood that these books are ripe for the picking to make lush and epic fantasy adventures for the bog or small screens.  If not, we've always got the books, which reminds me I need to get back to re-reading them. 

Currently Listening

1.  "(You're Better) Than Ever" by illuminati hotties (from Kiss Yr Frenemies)
2.  "Drive at Night" by Harker (from No Discordance)
3.  "Act Naturally" by Happy Accidents (from Everything but the Here and Now)
4.  "life" by awakebutstillinbed (from what people call low self​-​esteem is really just seeing yourself the way that other people see you)
5.  "Renovations" by Harmony Woods (from Nothing Special)
6.  "Cloud of Hate" by Superchunk (from What a Time to Be Alive)
7.  "Fear Is the New Bliss" by Dead To Me (from Fear Is the New Bliss)
8.  "Stockton Syndrome" by Nervous Dater (from Don't Be a Stranger)
9.  "We Should Have Won" by Textbook (from We Should Have Won)
10.  "Elizabeth" by Long Neck (from Will This Do?)
11.  "Bulma" by Narrow Head (from Bulma)
12.  "Anxious & Aspy" by Timeshares (from On Life Support)
13.  "Etta James" by Brian Fallon (from Sleepwalkers)
14.  "Still Clean" by Soccer Mommy (from Clean)
15.  "Be More Kind" by Frank Turner (from Be More Kind)
16.  "Vanilla Sky" by Lights & Motion (from Bloom)

Thursday, February 22, 2018

EP Review: 'Bloom' by Lights & Motion

Title:  Bloom (Deep Elm Records, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify)
Artist:  Lights & Motion (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, SoundCloud, Spotify, Wikipedia)

Lights & Motion's latest EP Bloom is the perfect record to pull one out of the depths of winter's cold embrace and into the light and hope of spring.  You can literally hear the flowers blooming, coaxed back to life by the magnetic pull of composer and multi-instrumentalist Christoffer Franzen's sophisticatedly simple and powerful music.  This is everything that cinematic music should be.  The emotions drawn by nothing more than notes and melodies are staggering.  There is something that is so completely serene and beautiful about Lights & Motion's music; it invokes a perfect sense of calm and hope that is reminiscent of a spring sunrise or a perfectly quiet and dark star filled sky.  At this point I firmly believe that Franzen can do no musical wrong.  Lights & Motion have unequivocally set the standard for an entire genre of music and Bloom is another prime example of why this artist is the pinnacle of not only post rock but cinematic music in general.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Album Review: 'No Discordance' by Harker

Title:  No Discordance (Harker Webstore, BandCamp, Fond of Life Records, Wiretap Records, Shield Recordings, Disconnect Disconnect Records, Future Void Records, Amazon [vinyl], Amazon [CD], iTunes, Spotify)
Artist:  Harker (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTubeBandCamp, Spotify)

Harker's full-length debut is a phenomenal blast of melodic punk rock pop anthems brimming with heart, passion, and honesty.  From top to bottom No Discordance delivers songs that will have your pumping your first, singing along, and pounding your chest evoking emotions that make you think, reflect, and scream.  This record hits on every possible level.  The songs are catchy and pull you in with their fuzzy melody and ridiculous hooks while the lyrics are powerful, relatable, and insightful.  There is an earnest honesty to these songs that pound them directly into the heart and make you feel like they were written just for you.  One of the best aspects of No Discordance, and Harker's music in general, is its universal and timeless nature.  This is one of those records that sounds like it would fit as perfectly next to '80s classics like The Replacements' Let It Be and Husker Du's Flip Your Wig,  '90s gems like Leatherface's Mush and Superchunk's On the Mouth as it would Hot Water Music's latest Light It Up, The Menzinger's After the Party, or anything by the likes of Iron Chic, Red City Radio, or Beach Slang.

There was a part of me that simply wanted to write "this record fucking rules, go buy it" because honestly, that's all you really need to know.  Harker is an outstanding band and have put together the first great album of 2018 in No Discordance.  The gauntlet has been thrown and the bar has been set.  If this is any indication of what's to come, we're in for a hell of a great year in music and this band is in for an incredible career of killing it with amazing songs.

Video of the Day: "Like Flowers Ache For Spring" by The Winter Passing

Song:  "Like Flowers Ache For Spring"
EP:  Double Exposure (BandCamp, 6131 Records, Big Scary Monsters, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify)
Artist:  The Winter Passing (Official, Facebook, Twitter, InstagramYouTubeBandCamp, Spotify)

Monday, February 12, 2018

Book Review: 'Moxie' by Jennifer Mathieu

Title:  Moxie (Official, Macmillan Publishers, Amazon, Google Play, Goodreads)
Author:  Jennifer Mathieu (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, BlogGoodreads)

Moxie takes place in the small Texas town of East Rockport.  Vivian Carter is a junior at East Rockport High and is fed up.  Fed up with the blatant, and apparently staff approved, misogyny and double-standards that seem to dominate those hallowed halls, Vivian takes inspiration from her mother's "misspent youth" and starts a movement.  See, Viv's mom was a Riot Grrrl and thanks to a box of memories filled with pictures, fliers, and zines and the frantic sounds of Bikini Kill, she decides that the only way to make a change is to do it herself and thus Moxie is born. 

Jennifer Mathieu's latest book Moxie is not only a great piece of social commentary but an excellent story.  Following the trials of a normal girl just trying to get through the ridiculous bullshit of a small-town high school is equal parts heartbreaking and inspiring.  This story also touches me in a couple of different ways.  First off there's the fact that I'm a parent with kids in high school who was heavily involved in punk rock in high school (and still to this day).  Second is the fact that a major part of this story deals with Moxie itself.  Moxie is a zine (I love the fact that pretty much everyone at the school calls it a newsletter because let's be honest, who born after 1999 is going to know what a zine is, other than Vivian whose mom is awesome).  Vivian creates an honest to god, cut and paste (old school style not the right-click, Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V action) zine in her bedroom, making photocopies of it at the local copy shop!  That is some stuff straight out of 1994 and I love it!  Why?  Because back in the late '90s, I produced a zine called Caught Off Guard (which you can read more about here) so needless to say, I loved this.  But beyond all of that, this is an excellent, at times frustrating, and ultimately moving story.  I happen to work in a smaller town in Oklahoma, so the situations and places that Mathieu describes in Moxie ring so very and sadly true. 

While there's been some criticism of the book for being too overtly feminist and others for being too white and straight, I see it as a story that speaks pretty clearly to its environment and the background of the author (speaking of, I was already a fan by the end of the book but then Mathieu referred to Sassy magazine in the Notes from the Author sections and it was all over).  In this day and age, you simply can't please everyone.  You make something or take a stand and you open yourself up to all sorts of criticism from every imaginable side.  Some will scream that you've gone too far while others yell that you haven't gone far enough.  The way I see it, if you're making that many people, from all of those different sides, angry then you're probably doing something right.  And Moxie isn't just right, it's excellent. 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Single Review: "We Should Have Won" by Textbook

Title:  "We Should Have Won" (BandCamp, CD Baby, Spotify)
Artist:  Textbook (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTubeBandCamp, Spotify)

In celebration of their 20th anniversary as a band, Chicago, IL's Textbook have released a new single "We Should Have Won" a song that is as much a lament as it is an anthem.  In typical Textbook fashion, the band has created another pop indie rock punk jam that fits right in that Midwest sweet spot of part Replacements, part Naked Raygun, part Methadones, resulting in something new that feels like it's been with you all along.
You could kill me now with the blinking of your eye
Cross my fingers not, not hard, and hope to die
With my arms around you and stars to guide you
How'd this end up as a friendship somehow lost
And I said "song of a gun"
It's a game we should have won
Son of a gun
Wrote this song about you, played it for to long
Dreams surrendered outright, I guess we're done
With maxed out credit cards and double down on bets
Time spent lost inside the songs of past regret
And I said "song of a gun"
It's a game we should have won
Son of a gun
We should have won
We should have won
(Song of a gun)
We should have won
Sonically, "We Should Have Won" is a catchy, rousing rock anthem with a great hook and sing-along chorus.  Lyrically there's something deeper going on.  This song touches on regret and looking back.  There's a point in life when you begin to take stock because middle age is finally sinking in and you look back and realize that maybe things didn't turn out the way you hoped they would.  This song nails that moment, but does it in a way that isn't filled with wallow or sorrow for what could have been.  In a lot of ways, this is a song about acceptance, moving on, and letting go.

"We Should Have Won" was produced by  by Mike Hagler (Mekons, Wilco, Neko Case) at Kingsize Sound Labs and featured indie rock guitar superstar Doug Gillard of Guided By Voices, Nada Surf, and Cobra Verde fame.  The band also reconnected with drummer Ian Lee who played on The Great Salt Creek and has since worked with the likes of Manchester Orchestra, Bash and Pop, Son Volt, Guided By Voices, and Nada Surf.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Currently Listening

1.  "Elizabeth" by Long Neck (from Elizabeth)
2.  "If Your Prayers Don't Get To Heaven" by Brian Fallon (from If Your Prayers Don't Get To Heaven)
3.  "Disorder" by Joy Division (from Unknown Pleasures)
4.  "Star Roving" by Slowdive (from Slowdive)
5.  "All Be Gone" by Buffalo tom (from All Be Gone)
6.  "300 Cigarettes" by Harker (from 300 Cigarettes)
7.  "The Opener" by Camp Cope (from The Opener)
8.  "What a Time to Be Alive" by Superchunk (from What a Time to Be Alive)
9.  "Fri-end?" by Kate Nash (from Girl Talk)
10.  "Pop Heiress Dies" by Chainsaw Kittens (from Pop Heiress)
11.  "Spider Song" by RVIVR (from The Beauty Between)
12.  "Christine Perfect" by Lemuria (from Recreational Hate)
13.  "Rebound" by Sebadoh (from Bakesale)
14.  "No Culture Icons" by The Thermals (from More Parts Per Million)
15.  "We Hate It When We're Well Respected" by Teenage Frames (from More Songs, Less Music)
16.  "My Umbrella" by Tripping Daisy (from Bill)
17.  "The Winter Fuel Allowance Ineligiblity Blues" by Martha (from The Winter Fuel Allowance Ineligiblity Blues)
18.  "Scene Of The Crime" by The Amazing Crowns (from The Amazing Crowns)
19.  "Wait It Out" by Happy Accidents (from Wait It Out / A Better Plan)
20.  "Ghosts in the Graveyard" by Sincere Engineer (from Rhombithian)