New Midlake Track – Antiphon

I’ve talked about how much I love Midlake’s music before and it’s been quite a few years since their last release, The Courage of Others. Obviously the departure of Tim Smith in the middle of recording the new LP caused quite a few problems. But apparently Midlake has finished recording and they’ve released a sample of what we can expect.

I’m digging it. While I worry that Midlake will lose something now that Smith is no longer a contributor, Midlake is one of those bands that creates a new sound with each release while still threading each album with something uniquely themselves. Bamnan and Silvercork was very English Countryside/Beatles-ish with some songs almost reminiscent of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club. The Trials of Van Occupanther (my favorite release) felt rugged and pastoral. The Courage of Others had a very ancient, sylvan and almost primeval sound.

This latest release feels kind of psychedelic with hints of conflict. The echoed vocals and billowy guitar riffs are very acid rock. As I listen to this new tune, my mind’s eye conjures images of American soldiers slogging through the jungles of Vietnam. Or it’s possible I’ve seen Platoon one too many times. Either way, Midlake is and remains one of my favorite groups and I can’t wait for the November release of the new album.

Van Occupanther

As a little bonus, here’s Roscoe, which I felt was the best tune off the Trials of Van Occupanther album. How do you think they compare?


The History of the Eagles

Everybody, through this band, wants to remember a 70’s that they may or may not have had… – J.D. Souther

Eagles Documentary

There are some people out there who have an insane amount of disdain for the Eagles. I’ve commonly seen this kind of dislike and vitriol associated with the New York Yankees. It’s almost as if some people feel they do not deserve the success that they earned. I’m definitely not one of them and this is something I’ve never understood. Interestingly enough I’m a N.Y. Yankee’s fan as well (3rd generation!)

I’ve been an Eagles fan for as long as I can possibly remember. My parents were very musically appreciative when I was growing up and there was always a radio or stereo on in the house. Because of this, I tended to associate a good deal of memories from my childhood with the songs that were playing at the time. Since the Eagles were one of their favorite bands and were played with more frequency than other albums, I have more memories connected with their music than any other band from that era.

The above quote from the documentary by J.D. Souther was both very poignant and very accurate. I may have only been a small child during the 70’s but I remember the 70’s because of the Eagles nonetheless.

History of the Eagles: The Story of an American Band is easily one of the best rock documentaries I’ve ever seen. It captures the essense of the band that I was too young to understand during the 70’s and am now finally able to appreciate as an adult. The first thing I noticed was how much fun the band members seemed to be having as they told their story. They genuinely seemed to enjoy contributing to this endeavor even when they were relegating the tales of the darker moments in the group’s history prior to their 1980 break-up.

The amount of old footage they included was staggering and I was kind of amazed at how many other artists and bands from the 70’s were instrumental in the formation of the Eagles. It was cool seeing the interviews with Bob Seeger, Kenny Rogers, Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne and footage from bands like Poco, the Byrds and the Flying Burrito brothers. Especially impressive was all the footage from the famous Troubadour Bar and Music Hall. Other video footage I found really impressive was the old 70mm camera rolls from their album cover photo shoots of both their title album and Desperado. It was also nice to see the outside perspectives from people who were involved in the band like producers Glyn Johns and Bill Szymczyk and manager Irving Azoff.

The music steered the narrative which is a directorial decision I really agree with. It didn’t delve into much of the band members personal lives but instead stayed on course by only discussing how their lives both drove and were affected by the music itself. I loved seeing the story of the formation of the band unfold, but what really stuck out in my mind was how the director focused on the creative genesis of most of their songs; what drove them, what influenced them and what inspired them. Glenn Frye’s account of how he learned to write songs by listening to Jackson Browne through the floor of his apartment was a phenomenal device.

While it was clear that Don Henley and Glenn Frye drove the narrative of the documentary, it was nice to see them give plenty of interview time to ex-members of the band, Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner and Don Felder as an acknowledgement of how much they contributed to the success of the group. And while I think they painted a little too big of a target on Don Felder I have to imagine he signed off on what was portrayed before it went public which to me is almost an admission of guilt.

The Blu-Ray pack is broken down into three discs.  The first disc is Part 1 which documents their formation and leads all the way up to their 1980’s split. The second disc is Part 2 which deals with the band members solo careers and their eventual reuniting in 1994. The third disc is bonus footage from their 1977 show at the Capital Theatre in Maryland. I was a little disappointed that it was only 8 songs and not the full concert, but a bonus is a bonus so I’m not really going to complain about it.

Love them or hate them, the Eagles are a pillar of rock and roll and you can’t talk about 70’s rock without them.  To this day I’m still making memories as their music continues to provide a soundtrack to my life. You can’t get any more seminal than that…

New track from the upcoming Iron & Wine album!

Sam Beam has been hard at work in the studio on the latest Iron & Wine album Ghost on Ghost. Here’s the first taste of the new goods. This track is called Lovers’ Revolution.

I’m completely torn. On the one hand I love jazz and this song is really… freaking… good. On the other, I do miss Iron & Wine’s traditional acoustic folk sound that has all but disappeared over the last few albums.

I feel somewhat obnoxious saying this after only hearing one track, but someone on the youtube channel made a comment that really resonated; with each passing album Beam puts more distance between himself and the listener and I think that’s staggeringly accurate. The folky, scratchy, low-fi sound of old had a way of making it feel like they were right there beside you. As each successive album was released, that sound became more and more processed and diluted in the studio resulting in the aforementioned distance. Beam’s stylistic changes only added to that.

I realize that I don’t have any room to complain. It’s nostalgia and nothing more. And as this is only one track, I’ll withhold judgement of any kind until April when Ghost on Ghost is released (which of course begs the question “then what the hell was the point of the previous paragraph?” but I digress). As long as Beam’s amazing lyrics continue to weave their way in and out of dreams and reality I don’t see Iron & Wine leaving its post as my favorite band.

And as a little bonus, here’s a cover Iron & Wine did of Long Black Veil made famous by Johnny Cash.


Donavon Frankenreiter Live @ Jannus Landing

(Photo courtesy of Greg Unger)

Caught the Donavon Frankenreiter concert at Jannus Landing last night and had an absolute blast. Donavon puts on a really great show. Check out the video clips of some of my favorite songs below:


Too Much Water

Move By Yourself

Broke into a little Skynyrd with Simple Man

The Way It Is

Both before and after the show Donavon was just hanging out by the merch table talking to people, signing albums and taking photos. He seems like he’s a really cool guy but judging by his music, this is no surprise. We had some camera trouble and he was nice enough to snap multiple photos with our group without complaint until we got a proper one

I’m already looking forward to next year’s show!

Handwritten by the Gaslight Anthem, Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith, Len Wiseman’s Total Recall Reboot, and Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain

Handwritten by the Gaslight Anthem

As I’ve posted before, I’ve been waiting for this album to release for a few months now and after listening to it multiple times over the past week I can safely say it’s been well worth the wait. Gaslight Anthem fans will find themselves completely at home with Handwritten, their fourth studio album.

Anthem has always cultivated a gritty, 80’s, punk-infused sound and they have continued to refine that sound with their latest release. As they age, they’ve perfected the almost bushido-like art of knowing when to smooth the edges and when leaving them rough will likely benefit the listener; it’s an art that’s far too rare in this era of music.

I won’t go over the entire album but I will make mention of some of my favorites. 45 is a tribute to Anthem’s predecessors and a throwback to the vinyl era. Hearty and nostalgic, this may be one of my favorite tracks ever, second only to The ’59 Sound. Too Much Blood cuts deep into the perils of being creative and putting so much of yourself into your art. As a writer, this song hit VERY close to home. The closing song “National Anthem” is very reminiscent of Springsteen’s I’m On Fire (too often, The Gaslight Anthem gets compared to Bruce Springsteen but to be honest I’d like to hope they don’t mind; there are worse artists to be compared to). It also marks Anthem’s first acoustic song and in my opinion they nailed it. Mellow, soulful and raw, I can’t help but think of a specific woman from my past as they quietly sing about life, love and loss.

Sadly my enthusiasm to purchase this album bit me in the ass as I was completely unaware of the existence of a deluxe edition with three extra tracks, two of which being covers of a Nirvana and a Tom Petty song respectively. I’ve since downloaded all three but I would have liked to have them on the disc and I’m seriously just considering ordering the deluxe and giving my copy of the regular to a friend. If you’re a CD collector like me, don’t make the same mistake I did.

Lyrically, the Gaslight Anthem is evolving as they learn how to weave that grittiness into poetry and I find myself turning their words over and over in my lead long after the songs had ended. That’s the mark of a great band.


Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith

Penned by the same hand that wrote Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Seth Grahame-Smith finds himself this time stepping in the alternate fictional shoes of the Three Wise Men with the aptly titled Unholy Night. Admittedly I’m not a religious person but from what I little I remember from Sunday school class, said Wise Men appeared, gave gifts and then departed, never to be mentioned again. It’s a perfect stomping ground for Grahame-Smith’s particular brand of revisionist history.

Rather than learned men and kings from far away lands, Gaspar, Melchior and their leader Balthazar (also known as the notorious master thief called “the Antioch Ghost”), are death row prisoners who manage to escape the dungeons of the mad King Herod, narrowly avoiding their own executions. During their flight, they make a stop in Bethlehem and stumble into a well-known stable where a young woman has just given birth to a supposed messiah. Content to take their leave, Balthazar reconsiders when Herod’s soldiers quickly shift focus from tracking the fugitives, to slaughtering all first-born sons in the kingdom. The Three Wise Men decide to escort Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus to Egypt and thus begins the adventure.

I found this book to be a little bit more straight forward than Vampire Hunter. Without the constraints of the memoir format of the previous book, Grahame-Smith was really able to demonstrate his ability to work with prose and I look forward to new books from him in this more traditional story-telling format.

He did an excellent job of weaving in characters from the original biblical story. Joseph and Mary are refreshingly portrayed as regular people rather than the saints that 2000 years of religion have built them up to be.  Herod is a masterfully crafted villain who walks the line between calculatingly evil and absolutely insane. Cameos by John the Baptist and a certain up-and-coming Roman soldier (whom Jesus will encounter again 33 years later) are worked into the story at the right time and in perfect doses. Gaspar is remarkably opportunistic and Melchior is demonstrably one of the greatest swordsmen of all time (not to mention absolutely ruthless once a blade is placed in his hand).

And then there is Balthazar. Balthazar is the lynch-pin of the story as we see this great escape tale told through his eyes. I’ve read other reviews in which readers found him unlikable at first, but I was a fan of his character from the get-go. The more that was revealed about his past, especially his childhood, the more I liked him. His transformation from a selfish, singularly driven thief, to reluctant protector made him someone I wanted to root for.

I tore through this book quicker than I usually do (I read multiple books at once which typically results in my taking a very long time to finish one). That’s a pretty good indication of how engrossing the story is. I’d recommend this one regardless of whether you enjoyed Grahame-Smith’s previous novels or not. It’s sure to suck you in. 


Total Recall

I’ve never understood the perception of remakes. Whenever a filmmaker takes a beloved classic and decides to remake it there is this bizarre expectation that the movie be exactly the same as the original. When this doesn’t turn out to be the case, people flip out. Why would anyone want to see the same movie with merely a new coat of paint on it?

As soon as I saw trailer for Len Wiseman’s new Total Recall I knew that was the direction it was heading in. I try to avoid reviews before I see a film (I’m in total agreement with Chuck Klosterman in that I never understood why someone would want to be told the inherent value of a piece of media before they actually experience it) but I usually keep my eye on the aggregates via Sure enough, Total Recall was getting trounced.

What some people do not realize is that this film isn’t actually a remake of the 90’s film. Like its predecessor, this film is an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s short story, We Can Remember it For You Wholesale. To be fair, neither film is a very faithful to the source material; they both take liberties. Each film follows certain plot elements but neither is a verbatim adaptation.

Look, I get that the original film was a cult classic, I really do. But you know what? I’ve already seen that Total Recall. I want a new interpretation. Whenever I go to see a remake I try to do it with the mindset of the original having never existed. Of course that’s easier said than done with certain films, but as a whole, that perspective usually yields a decent result. And you know what? The new Total Recall movie was a good film in its own right.

They did away with the entire Mars plot and stuck to an Earth that was almost completely ravaged by chemical warfare, leaving only a small area of Europe known as the United Federation and Australia which is now known as the Colony. The Federation is populated by the rich and the Colony by the poor (a rather blatant allegory for the current 1% vs 99% sociopolitical discourse currently being waged in this country). Each day the Colonists travel on a transport to the Federation via a giant hole bored directly through the planet known as The Fall. We’re introduced to Douglas Quaid and events in the film play out similarly to those in the short story and 90’s film but in a much more grounded way. Overt political overtones aside, I felt that this plot, while less campy, was also less clunky. It flowed in a more even manner.

Rather than choosing to be influenced by the first film, Les Wiseman’s decision to pay homage to other classic sci-fi films succeeds with flying colors. There’s a little bit of Logan’s Run, a little Starship Troopers, a LOT of Blade Runner and a smattering of other classics that can clearly be seen. Robots, flying cars, futuristic weapons, a Rekall facility more akin to a drug den and The Fall itself (the gravity shift when the transports hit the earth’s core was pretty damn cool) all lend a great deal of credibility to the film.

It was well casted. Kate Beckinsale was an absolute badass; no surprise there as the Underworld films (also directed by Wiseman) have cemented her role as a Hollywood Queen of Badass. Bryan Cranston as Cohaagen did a good job of portraying that kind of controlled megalomania that the character required. Jessica Biel did the optimistic freedom-fighter gig well. And Colin Farrell spent a good deal of time channeling his character from the Recruit, which was surprisingly fitting especially in the scenes where Quaid was either confused or kicking ass.

Between the more streamlined plot, the excellent style and the great cast, Wiseman pulled the pieces together well and it worked. If you’re a fan of sci-fi I recommend checking it out. Just try to keep in mind what you’re seeing is someone else’s take rather than Arnie with some shiny new duds.


Heavy Rain

Admittedly I’m way behind when it comes to PS3 Games. I’ve been gaming on the 360 and the Wii for years now but the PS3 really didn’t have any proprietary titles that I just HAD to play the way the other consoles did. It wasn’t until I was in the market for a Blu-Ray player that I decided to spring for a PS3. Had I known about the existence of Heavy Rain I’d have sprung for the new console long ago.

Created by Quantic Dream, well-known for their innovation, Heavy Rain is an interesting kind of game in that there really isn’t anything else out there like it. Anyone who’s been reading my reviews for a while knows that in gaming I value story above all other aspects of gameplay. The game plays out like an interactive story, but in a much deeper way than just directing where the story goes. You’re invested in a way that most games can’t reach because of other aspects that get in the way.

 Heavy Rain tells the story of the Origami Killer told through the perspective of 4 different characters, an investigative reporter, a private detective, an FBI agent and the father of the Origami Killer’s most recent 10-year-old victim. You move the story along through a series of quick-time events that allow you to manipulate the environment. Certain decisions must be made on the fly, others can be thought about for a period of time before you need to decide.

The story in and of itself was excellent, that is to say, the story I experienced. Everyone who plays this game will have a completely different outcome depending on what you said and the decisions you made. I’m choosing to say very little in terms of the plot to avoid spoilers, but I will say the use of the rain as a major plot element was absolutely brilliant. The plot twists kept me guessing and in some cases took me completely by surprise, which is hard to do because I’m typically pretty good at calling those kinds of things.

If you’re like me and you’ve only recently jumped on the PS3 train or you’ve been passing Heavy Rain over in favor of more standard faire games, definitely check this one out. One thing I will note is that the beginning starts off rather slowly. Power through. Once you get to the meat of the story it becomes apparent that the slow beginning was necessary to establish the motivation of one of the characters.