Sunday, October 6, 2013

Weekend Music Roundup

It's another Sunday, and time for another list of all new releases. Once again there are a bunch of albums here that I'd been anticipating for quite some time. Over the past several weeks, it's been like Christmas with all the new music that has come out. As is typical, some surpassed expectations, others missed the mark, and some were just complete surprises. There's a lot country folk rock on here, but I'm keeping it real with a little metal and psych rock thrown in. Enjoy.

Bill Callahan - Dream River: This is the fifth album from Texas alt-country singer/songwriter. His strength is the rich sound of his voice which sinks into the laid back flow of music like the heavy plop of raindrops on metal during a storm. At times, it can also be a weakness, because there is little range to his voice and song structure. I've always found his work to be a pleasant enough listen, but nothing that I gravitate strongly toward. This album feels the same way. When it's on, I find it enjoyable. When it's not, I don't miss it. That said, I know a lot of others will enjoy this much more than me.

Korn - The Paradigm Shift: Twenty years after their first album, the nu-metal pioneers are still at, releasing their eleventh album this past week. As with their previous few albums, the band brings a melodic sound to their heaviness, which makes it very entertaining metal. There are flat moments, as with all of their records, but when they are on, they sound amazing as ever. "Prey for Me," "Love & Meth," and "Mass Hysteria" are stand-outs.

Johnny Flynn - Country Mile: Just released last week is the London folk singer's third album. Back ins 2008, Johnny's debut A Larum was one of the best releases of the year, marking the return of British folk, before Mumford & Sons. His traditional approach to folk music, much like Alasdir Roberts', provides for bare and beautiful songs. Not as much of as a revelation as his first album, mostly because of the flood of folk since that time, but Johnny definitely is among the best of the bunch. "Fol-de-rol" is a real stand-out track for me.

Blitzen Trapper - VII: On their seventh album, the Portand based indie folk band goes way country. This is a toe-tapping kind of 70's country rock album. It almost sounds like Seasick Steve meets Grateful Dead. I'm not totally in love with it, but it grows on me with every listen. There's an undeniable groove to the record that sounds pretty darn good. "Ever Loved Once," "Thirsty Man," and "Don't be a Stranger" are my favorite tracks.

The Fratellis - We Need Medicine: With their breakthrough debut, Costello Music in 2006, this Glasgow pub rock band seemed destined for huge things. They followed that album up with another great record in 2008, Here We Stand. Then Jon Fratelli went off on his own to release a solo album and an album under the name Codeine Velvet Club. The band split for a time, but have wisely come back together for this album, one of my most anticipated releases of the year. This is another album packed with pub rock enthusiasm, catchy choruses, and pounding rhythms. It doesn't feel as fresh as it did seven years ago, but it still sounds pretty good.

Nik Turner - Space Gypsy: The founding member, and driving force, of Hawkwind just released this solo album of all new material and it's my biggest surprise of the year so far. Teaming up with other members of Hawkwind, the album returns to the space rock roots of the '70s band. This is pretty flawless, and could easily pass for a classic Hawkwind album. Could definitely be a contender to make the best of the year list.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Fiction Friday (22)

Against my better judgement, I've been trapped in a pattern of reading series books for practically this entire year. About a month ago, I was desperate for the second book in The Invisible Order series by Paul Crilley, but when I went to the store, they didn't have it. I ordered it, and have since started reading it, but while I was there I bought the second book in The Mysterious Benedict Society to tide me over. As you've probably gathered, I'm also in a Middle Grade kick as well. I feel that's where my imagination resides these days, I'm all too willing to feed it. 

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey
by Trenton Lee Stewart

The second book picks up a year after Reynie, Sticky, Kate, and Constance foiled Mr. Curtain's plan to brainwash the world. After spending the time apart, starting their new lives with new families, the kids are finally getting together for a reunion. Little do they know, their adventure is about to take a dangerous turn.

Upon arriving at Mr. Benedict's house, the kids discover that their kindly mentor has been kidnapped, along with No. 2. There's no doubt that Mr. Curtain is behind this dastardly plan, with the help of his dreaded Ten Men. Now it's up to the kids to save them using their unique skills, and the cryptic clues left behind by Mr. Benedict.

This book moves at a much faster pace than the first, though it's still a whopper, clocking in at 440 pages. The first book spent so much time setting up the story that it dragged a bit in the beginning. This one has the luxury of not having to introduce the characters, allowing the action to begin quicker, making it a much faster read. 

The scope of the adventure is much bigger in this story, and the pace is helped by having the children follow a trail of clues across the globe, rather than staying stagnant as in the first story. At times it did feel as though it moved a little too fast, and sometimes things were a little too convenient for the kids, but overall I found it quite enjoyable.

One thing I did really like about this book was how it delved deeper into Kate and Constance's characters. The first book was definitely Reynie's tale, and though this one is primarily his as well, the two girls are given their own trials and tribulations. I wish Sticky had been given a bigger role. He's probably my favorite character, and he seemed absent a lot in this book. But these are all minor things that didn't affect my reading pleasure. I'm looking forward to continuing on their adventures in the other books.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Revolution Fallout

I watched the first two episodes of Revolution season 2 last night, and I couldn't believe how dark the story has turned. I'm not complaining. The show should be dark, and the situations should be grim, especially after how last season ended. I'm just kind of surprised, especially with the show moving to the 8pm slot. There were moments in these episodes when it was stressful viewing. I have to say, I'm very much looking forward to several months of this.

While last season took Star Wars as its major story inspiration, nodding to it in the first episode with the lunchbox, it would appear this season's influence is Fallout 3. There were so many references, especially in the different fractions popping up. From the warlords to the new U.S. government, the way the groups are defined by uniform and purpose felt so much like the groups in Fallout. And just as in the first season, there came the direct reference, as seen in the photo above. 

As for the episodes themselves, I felt they were very satisfying. The first episode was a unnecessarily choppy, doing a bit too much jumping around to fill in the blanks of the six months between last season and this one. But by the second episode, things were back in full swing. Each character seems to have an intriguing purpose and sustainable storyline. And just as with the The Walking Dead after its first season, the characters are more defined, giving their stories more depth. Currently one of the only high-concepts shows on prime time, Revolution has a chance to become the best show on television. Let's hope it does.