Kelly Rowland - “Work (Freemasons Remix)”
I’ve been spending so much time at the gym lately, that I’m becoming the very thing I used to mock: a knuckle-dragging mouth-breather. I’ve managed to get through some fantastic workouts lately, busting through some plateaus and achieving some new personal bests, and a big piece of that is the result of music.
As we already know, I can’t live without music. A day does not go by where I don’t listen to music constantly. In fact, my Last.fm profile says I listen to on average, 199 songs a day. Music that I love, music that matches my mood and everything in between. I’m like everyone else, in that I love to have music just for the gym, and have dedicated an iPod shuffle to just gym tunes. There’s a special playlist of high energy, high octane music, but once I get onto a song for a particular workout, I’ll wear that song out. A couple months ago it was Beyonce’s “Get Me Bodied”. Now it seems that Kelly Rowland’s “Work” as remixed by the Freemasons is what getting me through these insane workouts. Thanks Ms. Kelly, because of you, I work.
It’s your chance prove, don’t forget your moves,
There’s nothing to lose, but me.
Released as the lead single for his debut album, Channel Orange, “Thinkin Bout You” is one of the smoothest R&B songs out there. Utilizing an incredible falsetto voice during the chorus, Ocean sings in a style that’s incredibly close to that of Justin Timberlake or Robin Thicke, but in a way that’s unique to himself. Lyrically, Ocean sings about apologizing to the guy (yes, Ocean is singing from personal experience) he lost his virginity to, and presumably the same guy he knows a relationship with is just out of reach and the complicated emotions surrounding such a situation.
So why did it capture my attention tonight? I’ve been seriously addicted to Frank Ocean’s other hit single, “Novacane”, and from online reviews, it seemed that “Thinkin Bout You” was another well received track. It was upon first listen I realized this is the perfect type of song for a Sunday Night Jams entry. It’s a sultry, slow burning R&B track. It’s not in your face, and it’s just the sort of song that works well playing softly in the background. I’m late getting on the Frank Ocean bandwagon, but if these two songs are any indication, Ocean is going to be a frequent played artist on my iPod.
Abstract: Reviews of Icona Pop, Mally Krock, Nine Inch Nails and more!
Mally Krock - Have a Drink With Me
Disclosure: I know this artist through a friend. I haven’t had the opportunity to hear Mally Krock sing before, so this is a blind listening review like any others.
Ottawa-based country Mally Krock spent some time down in Nashville last year, cutting her teeth songwriting and finding the inspiration to release her debut album, Have a Drink With Me. The thing is though, this isn’t quite a country album. Yes, the album’s got some Nashville roots, but it was recorded here in Ottawa, a city that’s got country fans, but not necessarily a strong country singer community. Mally Krock isn’t a crossover artist such as Shania Twain, or many of the other female country singers out there, but to say that Krock is a straight-up country singer would be a misnomer. There’s a bit of blues in the mix, what what you end up with is a very satisfying album.
In trying to define her voice, I kept coming back to two artists. On a song like “Music Man” she sounds like a modern day Patsy Cline. There’s a haunting quality in her voice in that particular song that is comparable to some of Cline’s finest tracks. And then there’s times when she sounds very much like current female singer/songwriter Jewel, especially on songs like “Take My Hand” and “Jump and Fall”. The influences aren’t just restricted to those tracks though, that overall feeling permeates the entire album.
Debut albums don’t always catch me by surprise, especially when they are from genres that I’m not accustomed to listening to, but in the case of Mally Krock’s Have a Drink With Me, I’m blown away by the sheer talent, the voice and the artistry that this album contains. You can find out more about Mally Krock, including sound clips at her website.
Recommended Tracks: “Have a Drink With Me”, “Music Man” & “Solders March”
Various Artists - Arts & Crafts: X
Canadian music label Arts & Crafts are celebrating their tenth anniversary this year, and they’ve released a couple of projects to mark the occasion. A couple months back, Arts & Crafts: 2003-2013 was released, a compilation collecting material from the likes of Broken Social Scene, Feist, Stars, Ra Ra Riot and many more. It’s mostly material fans of these acts would already have, but it’s a great collection showing a broad spectrum of Canada’s indie scene (I definitely recommend it).
Arts & Crafts: X contains brand new material from all of these acts, but with a twist. Bands and solo artists alike, paired up on tracks, some covers, some originals, to give us this collection of tracks. And there are some unlikely pairings, as Chilly Gonzales a frequent collaborator with Feist, instead works with Stars, and Ra Ra Riot cuts a track with The Darcys. The most surprising was Apostle of Hustle covering New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle” with Zeus, to great effect! All in all, this is an incredible compilation, and has opened my ears to a number of artists and bands from this label that I’ve been meaning to give try. Anyone who’s a fan of any acts from the Arts & Crafts label, are going to enjoy this compilation.
Recommended Tracks: Apostle of Hustle Ft. Zeus - “Bizarre Love Triangle”, Feist Ft. Timber Timbre - “Homage” & Ra Ra Riot Ft. The Darcys - “Time Can Be Overcome”
Icona Pop - “Girlfriend”
While everyone else is probably still seriously addicted to Icona Pop’s other single, “I Love It”, you should know that this electro pop duo from Sweden have got a new song out, “Girlfriend”. “Girlfriend” is just as catchy if not more than “I Love It”, but perhaps a little less aggressive. It’s about female empowerment, it’s got a fantastic beat and pretty easy lyrics to remember; all vital ingredients when you want a hit summer song. There’s something about those Swedish electro pop singers; they know how to put out incredibly addictive ear candy.
So once you’ve become bored with “I Love It”, remember this track, and give it a quick listen. It’ll win you over just as quickly as their other material has.
Nine Inch Nails - “Came Back Haunted”
Surprise! While you weren’t looking, Trent Reznor took some time (a year) and quietly put together a new album. And while he’s at it, he’s preparing to go on tour with the new material. In a pop culture environment when most albums leaked weeks before their release, it’s incredible to think that Reznor has not only kept the album from getting out there, but actually managed to keep the secret. So far the lead single, “Came Back Haunted” is the only thing we’ve heard off of the new album, but if this one song is any indication, Nine Inch Nails is going to be back in a big way.
“Came Back Haunted” reminds me a little of his previous hit “The Hands That Feeds”, but a little less aggressive. Okay, so a little less aggressive should not be used to describe the music of Nine Inch Nails, but work with me here. Reznor’s lyrics are still as cutting as they’ve ever been, and his voice sounds as edge as ever, but some of that anger has gone away. I suppose that happens when you get married, have a kid etc, but in a way, “Came Back Haunted” still proves that Reznor still has something to say, even if it’s not as harsh as it used to be. And then there’s the music side of things. Reznor knows how to make a song sound good, and his instrumentation only becomes better as time goes on. It’s funny to think he’s been on the scene for nearly twenty-five years, but those first albums sound just as sharp now as they did in the early days. His technique and technology has only gotten better, and it truly shows with this incredible track.
Friends ask me to go see it with them, knowing that I’ve been a fan of Superman for almost thirty years, and are surprised when I say I don’t have any interest in seeing the film. Family has even raised a collective eyebrow at my insistence that I have zero desire to see this film. There are a myriad of reasons, and I know I’m going to come across as an entitled fan when I lay it all out, but before I do, I have this to say:
I hope that Man of Steel is a box office smash. I want the Man of Steel to be a box office smash because that means they’ll be more Superman films. Warner Bros. seemingly has this inability to get their major properties from DC Comics onto the big screen. Green Lantern was a box office bomb (I didn’t think it was that bad) and Superman Returns wasn’t all that bad folks (though yes, the fact that a two hour Superman movie without Superman punching something is a bit of a travesty), and that leaves Batman as the only franchise that can seemingly get people into theaters. However, I still want this movie to succeed, so I can eventually get a better Superman film, a Superman film that I can invest in as a fan, a couple years down the road. For now, the reasons why the Man of Steel isn’t on my radar:
1. Zack Snyder. The man’s directing is really hit or miss. I remember Dawn of the Dead being a decent movie. 300 was amazing, but Watchmen was so terrible, and Snyder missed the point of the story when he adapted it to film, that I can’t believe that Warner Bros would then turn around and entrust him with the keys to the kingdom to a franchise that they so desperately need to succeed. And don’t get my started on Sucker Punch…
2. I don’t need another origin story. I saw that in the original Christopher Reeve Superman movie. I’ve seen it in comic books countless times. Bryan Singer gave us enough of the origin back in Superman Returns that I don’t need to see it for a third time on the silver screen. And considering Superman Returns (despite it’s perceived flaws) was only released six years ago, let’s not treat the audience like they’re stupid; they get the basic premise of the Superman character, or they should considering he’s been around for seventy-five years!
3. Is there some written rule that the only villains that can be used are Lex Luthor and General Zod? SEVENTY-FIVE YEARS OF HISTORY, PEOPLE! That’s seventy-five years worth of adversaries. Yes, a lot of them are downright hokey (Prankster, Toyman), but many of them have been revamped in the last thirty years to be real credible threats (Metallo or Parasite are two of the lower-tier villains that could work well on screen). If you had to go with the alien conquerer route, why not Mongul, Darkseid or Brainiac? Just because an audience isn’t familiar with a character doesn’t mean they can’t come to like? Darkseid’s an obvious choice, but they’ll probably save him for a Justice League movie. So Brainiac. Or if you wanted a Kryptonian villain, why not the Eradicator over Zod? The Eradicator is easy enough to explain, and you could even dredge out Superman’s own origin again, if you must, for the sake of the story.
4. Where’s Jimmy Olsen? A character that has been around nearly as long as Superman, Daily Planet photographer Jimmy Olsen is noticeably absent from the movie. Yes, there’s Jenny Olsen, but Man of Steel script-writers and Snyder himself state that Jenny is not a gender switch of Superman’s Pal. Sure, there’s a lot of characters running around in this film, but a large part of what makes Superman’s cast works is the fact that there are several voices: Lois Lane is the love interested, Perry White is the professional mentor, his parents are his moral compass and Jimmy is his best pal. Take that away, and you actually take away some of the humanity that makes up our favorite hero.
If it was just one thing on this list, just one thing, I’d probably see the film, but the sum of the list leaves me ambivalent about the whole thing. On the plus side though; this is all material that can be addressed in the next movie; we won’t have to see the origin, we can get a different villain and Jimmy can make an appearance. I may have to suck up the fact that Snyder will be back as director, but we all sometimes have to make concessions for the heroes we love. So, Man of Steel, take in a bajillion dollars at the box office, because I seriously can’t wait to see your sequel!
Possibly one of the most re-issued New Wave song, with five separate releases over nearly thirty years, “You Spin Me Right ‘Round” is one of those dance floor fillers like New Order’s “Blue Monday”. Originally released by Dead or Alive in 1984 under the same production team that would make Kylie Minogue a megastore a few years later, “You Spin Me Right ‘Round” went to number one in the charts. And in that typical Stock, Aitken and Waterman sort of way, it was more about the catchy hook and danceable instrumentation than anything. Despite the cheese factor, this song must have something about it, if it’s still a club favorite some twenty-nine years after its original release.
It’s been covered by metal group Dope (rather well), by Jessica Simpson (not well), and sample in a mash-up with Dannii Minogue’s hit song “I Begin to Wonder” (renamed “Begin to Spin Me Round— again, rather well).
Superman Unchained #1 - “The Leap”
Writer: Scott Snyder
Penciller: Jim Lee
Cover: Jim Lee
I have been eagerly awaiting the release of this book ever since it was announced (probably a year ago), and now that the wait is over, I find myself really not disappointed by the end result. From what I’m reading from other reviewers, this book has seemingly divided the fanbase. Some think it’s the best thing since sliceed bread, why others were expecting much more from this book. I’m somewhere closer to the sliced bread camp.
Yes, this issue is a bit thin on deep plot, but what I found exciting about this issue was the character work. Snyder understands how Superman ticks, and whether he’s writing Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen or even Lex Luthor, he gets their voice perfectly. Hell, his short scene featuring Lex Luthor is probably the best depiction of Luthor I’ve seen in years! And he accomplished that in three pages.
As for Jim Lee, I’m not particularly sure why there’s a segment of comic book readers that hate his art so much. Sure, he’s not the best penciller in the world, but his quality is at least consistent. He makes Superman look, well, Superman and even in static poses the Man of Steel looks commanding. That’s how Superman should be depicted.
Overall, I’m really happy with this first issue. It’s not perfect, but it’s still super good reading!
Batman #21 - “Secret City Part I”
Writer: Scott Snyder
Penciller: Greg Capullo
Cover: Greg Capullo
Zero Year, the massive year long look at Bruce Wayne’s return to Gotham City and emergence as Batman begins here. There’s been a lot of hype about this, Scott Snyder has done a lot of press about this storyline, and now that we have the first issue in our hands, it’s a little… underwhelming.
I find the premise intriguing. Snyder’s not looking to undo Batman: Year One by Frank Miller. Instead, he’s taking us a few months and possible a few months before that. We’re seeing Bruce Wayne before he was the Batman. We got a bit of that in Batman: Year One, but that story is very much how Batman in the moment he started out. Yes, there’s the failed first night as a vigilante, but Scott Snyder can play around that moment in his timeline by showing us how he got to that failed night, and what he did afterwards before debuting as the Batman. There’s room to tell a tale without fudging the canonicity of the original story. However, I have a few sticking points. The pacing was dreadfully slow. The use of Edward Nygma and the Red Hood Gang in separate scenes just wasn’t enough, and why does Snyder have to trod out another family member from Bruce Wayne’s past for the sake of a story? Seriously, Snyder, at the rate you’re going Bruce will never truly be an orphan, because you will have established that he could’ve been taken care of by half of Gotham!
Those complaints aside, I’m still interested in where this could go. Snyder just needs to get into it, and stop treading on plot devices he’s already done.
Back-Up Feature - “Where the Hell Did He Learn to Drive?!”
Writers: Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV
Penciller: Rafael Albuquerque
Funny enough, if this back-up feature had been used as the back-bone of the main story, it would have worked so well! We see a bit of Bruce Wayne’s unconventional training, as well as the emergence of his strict code of conduct in eight pages. It’s fast paced and it’s a nicely done in one type story.
It’s also great to see Albuquerque back on with art duties on something Batman related. His pencils have a bolder, more energetic feel to them than his back-up feature during the “Court of Owls” storyline, and it really shows off his art. Really, this is possibly one of the best featurettes that this title has had so far!
I’ve written about this track before in an article I once wrote for (Cult)ure Magazine on covers, but it deserves to be returned to. Originally performed by Don Henley of The Eagles, India Arie released her own version of the song about seven years ago for her third studio album. I first heard it a couple years after that when it was used on the soundtrack to the first Sex and the City film. In the song, sung almost like a gospel number, Arie truly tugs at the heart strings (in fact it’s one of few songs that has made me tear up while listening to it), and it’s one that Don Henley himself as said was done better than he did! It’s just an incredibly beautiful rendition.
In the video clip, Arie sings “The Heart of the Matter” along with Rihanna’s “Umbrella”, noting that “The Heart of the Matter” spoke to her as a song, and that “Umbrella” is the sort of song that as a songwriter she hears and wishes she could have written for herself.
Released as a single in 1968, “Both Sides Now” is one of Joni Mitchell’s most recognizable and quite possibly most widely covered songs, and it was one that came from very simple origins. Mitchell was on a plane reading a book that referenced the protagonist looking out a window of a plane and observing the clouds. As the story goes, Mitchell put the book down, looked out the window and was suddenly struck with the inspiration for the song. The rest is history.
So why did it capture my attention tonight? I’m tired from having run a race this morning, and spending the afternoon with a friend. I’m home now, getting ready for the new work week and reflecting on how many little things have been influencing or inspiring me lately, and believe me there are a great many things that have, and they’ve all been great. This song came on, and it just clicked. Another perfect moment of inspiration.