Saturday, 21 February 2009

Of My Favourite Songs

Okay this is wholly random post that I've felt like doing for a very long time. Essentially it's my top 10 songs of all time. Surprisingly almost every song has come from the past decade of music. I'm not saying "all music from pre-2000 is shit". It's just, well, I haven't gotten round to listening to the vast majority of it. There could be some stuff that is flat out fantastic but these are the songs which I get consistently stuck in my head or just that random urge to sit down and listen to them. They're also songs which remind me of significant portions of my life. Now I've missed out a lot of songs which I really, really like ("Where is my Mind" and "M79" are probably my two biggest regrets) however I'm happy with the list. Knowing my tastes it's probably going to be different in a month but hell that's music for you, consistently changing.

So for the list I limited myself to one song per band so as to not make it completely full of Weezer and Death Cab for Cutie (I'm really that obsessive) so here we go my favourite songs this moment in time.

10. "New Slang" The Shins
New Slang is one of those songs which I've always really liked but it's always that after thought song. I can list long streams of songs for people to listen to and then I'll usually say "Oh and New Slang". Its a fantastic song and always puts me in a really good mood (probably because it makes me think of Garden State) but compared to so many of the other songs on this list it doesn't get nearly as much playtime.

9. "Letter from an Occupant" The New Pornographers
I have a Canadian music addiction at the moment. New Pornographers, Moneen and Arcade Fire are some of my favourite bands and they're all from that funny country north of the USA that is oh so much fun to take the piss of (Clerks: Animated Series and How I Met Your Mother do it the best). However there is no denying that these people are fucking talented. Letter from an Occupant is a down right addicting listen. It's so upbeat that you can't help but crack a smile when you listen to it. Yes it might not be for everyone but hell if don't love how different this song sounds to most music nowadays

8. "Alive with the Glory of Love" Say Anything
The song I only started listening to recently. Its featured on Scrubs but I didn't notice it then. However when I downloaded " a Real Boy" I became addicted to this song. It might be the lead single from the disc but its the song I always skip to when I listen to that fantastic album. There are so many great songs on that album but this is one that jumps out at me. It's addicting like "Letter from an Occupant" except it sounds a bit more commercial. Except for the fact that it's about the holocaust....

7. "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" Arcade Fire
What? More Canadian music? Yes indeed. Arcade Fire are probably the best band in Canada at the moment (although I do prefer Moneen). Arcade Fire are known for some extremely grandiose music. In fact both Arcade Fire and New Pornographer have a lot more members than most bands and play a massive array of instruments. Arcade Fire almost have a classical element to them with instruments like violins along with guitars and keyboards. Neighborhood #1 is the first song on their first album and sets up exactly what they're going to do. Whilst the rest of the album has some great songs but this is the one I love to listen to the most.

6. "The Day No One Needed to Know" Moneen
I deliberated for ages on what Moneen song to put on here. "The Passing of America" and "The Song I Swore to Never Sing" are two of my other favourites but I feel that this song just sums them up best to me. At six minutes its a reasonably long song but it goes through so emotional high and lows and only two other songs can pull of a climax like this one. From some elements of screaming (I don't listen to that music often, promise) and then to a spoken word element before kicking off the last part of the song, I love this song consistently even if others pass it off a bit too quickly.

5. "The Modern Leper" Frightened Rabbit
My favourite band of 2008 and my favourite song of 2008. I love this song more than I love a lot of things. The song that kicks off "Midnight Organ Fight" shows just how far the band came from "Sing the Greys". There's a lot more emotion in this song than anything on their debut and sets up the tremendous song that they go on to perfect on the rest of the album. Okay yes it's a song about a guy likening himself to a leper but hell if it isn't catchy. Also? Some of the best drums ever.

4. "Death is the Road to Awe/Together We Will Live Forever" Clint Mansell
I know I said one song per band. However this is a one, two punch I can't ignore. Clint Mansell's score to the Fountain is the best score ever for any film and these songs that perfect the score. If I'd reviewed The Fountain already I would have gushed already but I'm going to do so here. Death is the Road Awe simply put has the best climax of any song ever. The music dips out for a few seconds and then we get a massive sensic rush as all the sound rushes back in a just overpowers you. It's a fantastic moment and then it's followed up by the most haunting piece of piano music ever. Simply beautiful.

3. "Such Great Heights" The Postal Service/Iron & Wine
Okay I broke the rules again. Technically this is two songs but they go together perfectly. They're both the same song but in completely different styles. When is electronic and upbeat in tempo, the other is a literally a gorgeous lullaby. Both versions work with the lyrics. One is more a less a guy so happy to be in love that he can't help but proclaim it. The other is a quiet love note full to the brim with beauty and romance. Both work perfectly and I honestly couldn't decide which version is better because they're bother perfect.

2. "I Will Follow you into the Dark" Death Cab for Cutie
Speaking of beautiful songs, here is a gorgeous one. Benjamin Gibbard is one of the best song writers at the moment (he wrote number 3 as well). This song is a beautiful little acoustic song that has become the highlight to Death Cab's album "Plans". Originally supposed to be a full band piece I'm glad it became just Gibbard and a guitar. It pulls out the beauty so much and is just haunting. It's been used recently in Scrubs and I will say embarrassingly that the first time I heard it over the scene I got a tear in my eye.

1. "Only in Dreams" Weezer
If you read this blog often you'll know my gushing love of this song. If you don't know simply put its 8 minutes of song perfection. The first 3 minutes are sung in an almost dream like state before being followed by the most perfect 5 minutes in all music. The best climax of any song ever (even better than "Death is the Road to Awe")

I'm So Ready To Party Down!!!!!

Okay, I'm here to hype up a new show. This new show is called Party Down and is about a group of caterers who go to all sorts of different parties catering them. Early buzz is hugely positive.

The reason you should be excited? It is more or less a Veronica Mars reunion fest. I don't mean like the episode of Fringe that was on a few weeks ago where three cast members of The Wire were featured (although it did help boost what was otherwise a seriously 'meh' episode). I mean FOUR of the main cast are Veronica Mars alums and EVERY episode features at least one guest alum. Now a lot of them are one episode guest shot characters (albeit some of the more memorable ones) but four of them had significant arcs in the show (and again feature some of my favourites from BOTH Cliff and Vinnie). However the biggest news? Not only is Dick (Ryan Hansen) one of the main characters but ALL THREE of the biggest Mars alums are appearing. Yes that does mean that Kristin Bell (Veronica Mars), Jason Dohring (Logan Echolls) and Enrico Colantoni (Keith Mars) are all appearing in one episode.

Yes I am officially so psyched for this. Oh and its not just a reunion because someone out there really liked Veronica Mars, its actually being written and executive produced by the guy who created Veronica Mars in the first place!!! So not only do I get Cupid next month but now this? and a promised Veronica Mars movie? Rob Thomas I officially love you.

Speaking of stuff you should look forward too, next month we get a new series called Kings which looks quite interesting. It's a modern retelling of the David and Goliath story with Ian McShane (Deadwood) and written by an ex-Heroes writer (Season One thank God). I'm curious to see how it shapes up. Also the new series Castle featuring Nathan Fillion (Firefly) might be good.

Apologies for more lack of reviews (seriously busy) however I promise a little Lost retrospective next week due to break the show will be taking in between episode 7 and 8. I'm going to look over the first seven episodes and just gush my little fanboy heart out.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Of Mad Men Season 2

Okay I'm weak. Mad Men Season 2 only started airing two weeks ago on BBC and I'm already done. I have so much crap that needed to be done but I got addicted to Mad Men. It really is one of the best shows on television at the moment and I binge watched Season 2 even with other stuff that desperately, desperately needed to be done. The fact that this is the second Mad Men review this year shows how much I'm in love. Plus it won't be the last. It's been confirmed that there are going to be two more seasons of this show, one airing over the summer and it's pure brilliance has made it a shoe-in for my Top Television Shows of 2009 list. In fact I would go as far as to say that Mad Men is currently tied for my favourite show still on the air (The Wire, sadly, finished). So expect Lost and Mad Men to be fighting it out for the top spot come years end.

This being the second Mad Men post this year means I'll just say this. It's set in the 1960s, there's drinking, smoking and all around many different attitudes to nowadays. The show has expanded upon its first year in so many ways. The characters are all known so we can focus some more on the supporting cast who are all extremely talented. However its the three main female characters, Betty, Peggy and Joan who deserve immense praise. They are three of the strongest female characters on television and provide some of the most compelling scenes of the entire show.

Overall this season is a little detached from the first season, or at least seems to be. At the start it feels like Season 1 has been forgotten and then we get slowly but surely introduced to all those lingering plot elements. It makes an extremely compelling story and the writers show their immense skill in pulling it all off without having to shout it from the rooftops that *removed* was *removed* and gave up *removed* or that by seasons end *removed* has *removed* someone in retaliation for *removed* doing the exact same thing.

Okay I wanted to make this one a short one. There will be no spoilers at all. This is necessary television viewing. There are only 26 episodes in existence and should be required viewing for anyone with a television set. Go and pick up the first season boxset and track down Season 2. The writing and acting are simply superb. Especially the way that they incorporate real moments from the sixties into the narrative of the show such as the Cuban Missile Crisis. Everything is specific to the era, whilst the characters are fictional, the stories, events and opinions most certainly aren't. Racism, homophobia and sexism are all dealt with on the show and give an insight into how far we have come as a society.

Overall the show has proved it to be utterly superb. I know I gave season 1 a 9.5 and since this season arguably isn't as good (I think they're level pegging) I'm only going to go 9.5/10 again

Just read that as near to 10 as makes no difference.

Monday, 16 February 2009

First Impressions - Dollhouse

Alright, wow. I thought I'd do a few posts in between this and my Heroes first impressions however that obviously isn't that case. So here we go with Joss Whedon's new show. Now I'm not the biggest Joss Whedon fan in the world. I love Firefly and am getting through Buffy at a steady pace. So whilst I'm a fan of most of his stuff and think he's an amazingly talented bloke, I'm not as big a fan as the people who hound after single little thing that he puts his hand to.

So after last years amazing Dr. Horrible and the announcement of this my interest was piqued. After some rave reviews of the pilot script I got a lot more interested. Then the problems started. There were script rewrites, hiatuses in production, recasting and re-shoots. So we finally made it to what I saw yesterday. Critical reception was middling, especially from those who had read the original pilot script. So I went in with lowered expectations.

It did meet them and I was sort of impressed but it's not the "WOAH OMG" feeling I got from Lost and even the Firefly pilot. So I'm going to carry on watching the show (it's only going to make it to 13 episodes so it's not a massive chunk of my time). Overall you can tell there's a far better show trapped in there but for the first few episodes I don't think we'll be able to see it purely because of the need to introduce this to a mainstream audience (which it already hasn't).

So overall the concept is very cool. People being essentially blank slates and then having personalities imprinted over the top to do certain jobs such as in the pilot the perfect date or a hostage negotiator. It leads to a lot of moral problems such as whether these people have free will and whole notions of slavery (luckily there are no black Dolls which definitely wouldn't have helped). I'm anticipating the later episodes because you can just tell that it really is going to expand very soon.

However I do have some complaints. It just really feel like a Joss Whedon show. Now obviously we warned about that by the man himself before the show began but still. There isn't his trademark wit that made Buffy, Firefly and Dr. Horrible shine. There were moments like when Echo says that something fell on her, only to get the answer "well I hope it was something really great". But the show is missing the deft balance of humour and drama that makes Joss' other work so amazing.

Secondly I'm just not feeling the FBI story at the moment. Whilst it's cool to see Battlestar actors after the show has finished (well it hasn't finished yet but you get my drift), the story doesn't have any ties to the many story which I hope it develops soon.

Finally I'm a bit upset we won't be seeing many other Dolls. In the main cast two of the main characters are Dolls but we were originally going to get four. The problem being the script rewrites which necessitated recasting. I'm hoping we get to see the original pilot at some point because what we got last night just wasn't meant to be our opening taste to the show.

So overall the show is good, not as good as Joss' other stuff but fun and with a load of potential. I'm going to keep watching if only because I have faith that it's going to blow up and be amazing by the seasons end (just like Fringe is sort of kinda proving to do.)

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

First Impressions - Heroes Volume 4

So yesterday marked the official return of television. Whilst shows like Lost, Scrubs, 24 and Battlestar Galactica came back a few weeks ago, February marked the full fledged return of television. Sunday we got a new Office (Superbowl special which whilst being hilarious wasn't a good Office episode) and yesterday Heroes, Chuck and How I Met Your Mother came back. Since most of these shows are mid way through a season I'm not going to give First Impression (I did that a few months ago). However Heroes has opened a new Volume which we have to grin and bear.

Surprisingly I was impressed.

It wasn't flat out awesome like an episode like "Company Man", however it showed potential. Whilst the new story is essentially an X-Men rip-off, it was executed well. There are definitely some tense moments, especially involving Sylar (finally a decent fight scene involving super powers!!!). In case you don't know all the Heroes are being rounded up and it is fairly well done. The whole round up is interesting and the final scene on the plane was an interesting lead into the next episode (however I do want to know who went flying from the plane). However I can't help thinking if I stop watching now all I have to think is that everyone died and that's the end. To be honest it might be better if I do that.

The only reason I think this is because Bryan Fuller, has said that the first few episodes are quite strong however a few episodes in the show loses focus again. The interview has to be read between the lines but essentially he says that they fucked up in a big way and its his job to salvage the volume (his involvement is probably my one interest in this volume.

However there are a great deal of improvements over last volume. For starters it feels slower, instead of a billion plot points in one episode many of which are later forgotten, we got 1 main one with a few new cool pieces (except for one but that's for later). Secondly the characters acted like humans for once. It felt a lot realer than last volumes flip-flopping. Plus Nathan didn't change his mind again which is a positive. Also the Hiro/Ando storyline looks passable (Ando is quickly becoming his own character).

On the negative side, the volume looks like Lost crossed with Prison Break. Lost might be awesome but I'm just not sure if the Heroes writers could ever match what they're doing on Lost, especially at the moment with the time travel mechanic. There's also the threat of the show becoming bogged down again and then there's Parkman's story. I'm sorry but WTF. Painting was originally a power and now it's a gift. Both Sylar and Peter took it but now it can pass to random chosen people. We all know you love Tim Sale's artwork Heroes, but please you've killed off two artists, why do we need another one? Especially since Parkman already had his own power to start with.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Of Snow and Music

If you live in the UK then you surely know that today it snowed. If you don't live in the UK, let me just say that it never snows. However global warming is helping feel wintery again (yes believe it or not it actually snowed during winter instead of March or October). So school was called off. Normally I'd be happy but today was Monday, and Monday is my best day. It essentially amounts to 10 hours fucking around 2 hours lessons.

However I hear you ask "BUT IT SNOWED!!! Go outside and have fun". Fair enough. Unluckily being the idiot I am I left my window open last night and proceeded to wake this morning feeling like shit and a cold. So all day I've been watching people go past on toboggans, making snow angels and snowball fights. So I've been pissed off all day.

However the thing that saved me was music. Which is mostly why I've decided to do this post. On the recommendation of a website, I downloaded an album by Say Anything entitled "...Is A Real Boy". Now I'd heard good things about it, plus I was looking for more albums like it. So I stuck it on my iPod and pressed play. Jesus Christ is this album amazing. Now I've been going back over a load of music from 2008 (Frightened Rabbit, Vampire Weekend, Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes and MGMT) and a load of it is phenomenal. However 2008 lacked an album like this. So 2004 came to the rescue and gave me one of the best albums I've listened to in a long time. Plus there are some intelligent lyrics in it (last song is a perfect example).

I just want my little oppourtunity to rave about it. Whilst it isn't for everyone (it's stereotypical angsty teenage music) the album is the perfect example of what it is. I have feeling this album is gonna be playing in my head for a long time. Also "Alive With The Glory Of Love" is my new favourite song (not of all time, just at this moment in time).

Sunday, 1 February 2009

February 2009

Alright I lied, I completely and utterly failed. I have so many bloody film reviews that I don't know where to start. At the moment I've got 16 film reviews planned. So essentially that is what you lucky people have to look forward to this month.

On another note I'm once again completely addicted to downloading music. Something like 200 songs in the past day and I've still got a massive waiting list full of stuff to download. Just wish that I could actually put it all on my iPod. However I'm still stuck on which iPod to get (poll says Touch, but I could get a normal iPod for half the price and 3x the space). Decisions, decisions.

Stuff Coming Soon
- 16 Film Reviews
- First Thoughts on Dollhouse
- Review of Mad Men Season 2

Currently Listening to: See These Bones - Nada Surf
Currently Watching (TV): Mad Men Season 2
Currently Reading: American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Currently Playing: Fallout 3