Monday, February 19, 2007

Does Size Matter?

The Coup - Pick A Bigger Weapon (buy)
If you were to take George Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelice and blend it with Public Enemy/Dead Prez the results would be The Coup. Blatantly politically, The Coup's Pick A Bigger Weapon takes aim at both the White House and corporate America. While the politics are not subtle by any means, it does hit the mark more often then not. The Coup are at their best on tracks like: “My Favorite Mutiny”, “Tiffany Hall”, “Laugh/ Love/Fuck”, and “We Are the Ones. On these tracks the group highlights not only the flaws with George Bush and major corporations, but also how they affect the inner cities. Yet, similar to the cartoon The Boondocks, there are times where their message comes off ridiculously juvenile. Such is the case with songs "Ass-breath Killers" and "Head (of State). The band often uses humour to help their overall message digest easier. Unfortunately it serves as a disadvantage on these tracks. The childish humour overshadows the deeper meaning; both songs would have work more effectively had they just played it straight. Another minor gripe I have with the album is the length. Running at just over an hour, you will most likely be too exhausted from all the messages to hit the replay right away. Pick A Bigger Weapon is a good album that will get you thinking; just don’t expect it to be subtle.


Video: The Coup – We Are The Ones




Sondre Lerche – Phantom Punch (buy)
So how do you follow up two melancholy pop albums and one jazz-influenced pop album? That’s easy, you make a rocking pop album with only the faintest elements of your previous efforts. At only 26, Sondre Lerche has just released his fourth album, The Phantom Punch, which will surely receive the same level of praise as his other efforts. Too be honest I was never a die-hard fan of Lerche. I have casually enjoyed his previous efforts but rarely felt the need to revisit them. I’m not quite sure why really; maybe they were just too melancholy for my taste. Phantom Punch could be the album that changes all that. I was quite shocked by how much I love this album. It by no means groundbreaking music, especially by Lerche standards, yet I cannot stop listening to it. At a brisk 39 minutes, the album provides enough substance yet still leaves you with room for more. Some of my favourite tracks at the moment include “Well Well Well”, “Airport Taxi Reception”, “Say it All”, and the seven minute sonic experiment “Happy Birthday Girl”. The latter is one of the few slower paced songs on the album (the other being “tragic mirror”). At first the inclusion of “Happy Birthday…” will seem out of place, yet now it is impossible to picture the album without it. The song consistently keeps your attention, and the many sublte nuances are a testament to how talented Lerche really is. If you enjoy upbeat music with intelligent wordplay, you cannot go wrong with the Phantom Punch.


Video: Sondre Lerche – Phantom Punch

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Baby It's Cold Outside

So the first snowstorm of the winter season arrives in mid-February!!! Maybe it’s time I finally rent An Inconvenient Truth…


The Arcade Fire-Neon Bible (regular)(deluxe)

This week The Arcade Fire finally announced the dates for their highly anticipated tour to promote their highly anticipated new album, Neon Bible. Now the odds of getting tickets are extremely slim, especially if you look at how fast tickets sold out for U.K. shows. The last time I heard record numbers like that was when Dave Chappelle was in town (still bitter over that one). Regardless I am going to attempt to acquire some tickets anyway; Arcade Fire shows are just too good to pass up. I have seen them twice already and have not been disappointed yet. I am also eager to hear how songs such as “Black Mirror”, “The Well and The Lighthouse, and “Neon Bible” will sound at Massey Hall. Although the Neon Bible album has already leaked online, it really is one of the must buy albums of ’07. Yes, it is just that good.


Video: Arcade Fire - No Cars Go performed at Rock en Seine. While the video does not truly grasp the frantic energy of their performances, it is still enjoyable.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Moviepooloza

I’m slowly trying to catch up on all the Oscar nominated films. Yes, despite the insane number of films I see each year; there are always nominated films that I missed (or just did not want to see).


Dreamgirls

Can a film really be “snubbed” if it does not deserve the nomination in the first place? Although I really enjoyed this film, it is by no means best picture material. Personally I had problems with the films rhythm. Whenever Jennifer Hudson was on the screen the story was brisk and interesting. Yet the minute she was off the film would lag. This is probably due to the fact that there were too many characters and not enough substance to sustain them all. Beyonce’s and Anika Noni Rose’s characters are pretty much one-note through the whole film. By time they started to show growth I had already lost interest in them. The only well written characters were the ones portrayed by Hudson, Eddie Murphy, and Jamie Foxx. In regards to Murphy, this brings me to another aspect that hurt the films pacing, the editing. Murphy give a great performance when he is on screen, the problem is there are long stretches where is character is forgotten. While some may argue that was done to reflect the characters journey, I think faulty editing is to blame. Murphy and Rose are suppose to be together for 8 years, yet the editing makes it seem like only a few weeks. It would have been nice if they had sprinkled him throughout the film a little more. This would make the impact of Murphy’s choice even greater. Still, despite the pacing issues, the film did entertain me. It made me actually want to see the stage production.



Blood Diamond

Should he have been nominated for The Departed or Blood Diamond? I still haven’t made up my mind yet. This film is definitely more thought provoking, yet not as well crafted as Scorsese’s film. I enjoyed the chemistry that Dicaprio and Dijimon had. Unfortunately this film will be remembered as a decent, albeit overly long, action movie. Similar to his other movies, director Edward Zwick wants to have the best of both worlds. He wants to deliver a message, but he uses the action genre (usually known for mindless escapism) to do so. The action sequences, especially towards the end, were elaborate; yet the villains came very close to being over-the-top. Personally I think the film would have probably been more effective as a straight drama. I would have loved it if the film explored why diamonds, especially in engagement rings, are so significant in Western culture. The film was at its best when Jennifer Connelly and Leo are debating whether people would still buy diamonds if they knew it was costing people their lives, etc. To bad Zwick couldn’t rely on the strength of these types of conversations. By time you get through all the shootouts and explosions the message has lost its punch. Maybe subconsciously Zwick knows he is fighting a battle that is already lost. Whether they are conflict or not; at the end of the day, diamonds will always be a girl’s best friend.



Flags Of Our Fathers

To be honest, I had no real desire to see this film. I have had my fill of American war films. Yet, I felt compelled to watch Flags before I see Letters To Iwo Jima; and for the most part I am glad I did. The film was much more layered than I was expecting. While not the greatest war movie in recent years, not even close, there were many things I did like. The most compelling aspect for me was the stuff off the battlefield. The scenes where the government is basically pimping out the men to convince Americans can buy bonds, which ultimately help fund the war, were fascinating. Off the top of my head, I cannot recall another war flick that touched on that particular issue. The thing that puzzled me the most about this film was the casting. Besides Adam Beach and Ryan Phillippe, who were both okay, no one else seemed quiet right for their given roles. Jesse Bradford in particular bothered me. Personally I thought he and Jamie Bell should have swapped roles. I have problems seeing Bradford as a leading man; I just do not think he is that good of an actor. Again, that is just a personal gripe. Overall I thought the film was okay; it basically made me want to see Iwo Jima even more.



The Good Shepherd

Who would have thought a film about the history of the C.I.A. could be so boring. This film went on for far too long, without any real payoff whatsoever. The one thing that annoyed me the most is the constant jumping back and forth through time. It does not enhance the story and it adds nothing to the picture style wise. While I found many of the supporting characters to be interesting, I had problems with the way Damon and Jolie’s character were written. Jolie character should have been fleshed out a lot more. She serves no real purpose in the film. Being in a loveless marriage can happen to anyone regardless of the CIA’s involvement. In regards to Damon, I found it hard to believe that daddy issues would lead him down the road it does. Sure it made him good at his job, but even there he seemed clueless half the time. The film kept stressing that no one can be trusted, enemies quickly becoming allies and vice versa. Yet whenever he is asked to do something by the US or the Brits, Damon would comply without even questioning. He seemed to be spinelessly stumbling through life for whole picture. After a while the line between patriotism and just being eager to please became blurred for me. Which is a shame because I was expecting like this film