Category Archives: Arts & Entertainment

Album Review: Lily Allen’s ‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’

British pop star Lily Allen has done it again – no, not another paparazzi-filled night out, but a sophomore album release.

This time around the lyrics remain explicit but are cleaned up nicely to fill in the blanks. They are still risqué and unfriendly for easily offended individuals. Yet, the level of maturity in topic is noticeable in comparison to Allen’s introductory album, Alright, Still.

Allen’s freshman album was a combination of ex-boyfriend attacks, a dark sense of humor, heartbreak, dealing with a lazy brother who smokes too much and sex. So how does she go from risqué to even better and riskier? Allen does not seem to have much trouble completing this task. “I’ll take my clothes off and it will be shameless, ‘cause everyone knows that’s howyou get famous,” – Allen’s lyrics to “The Fear” her first single off It’s Not Me, It’s You, set the tone for her second album.

The album has a more personal insight of who Lily Allen actually is. She still gives her listeners the sarcasm and rebellious attitude with appealing lyrics such as, “But you and I have come to our end. Believe me when I tell you that I never wanna see you again. And please can you stop calling cause it’s getting really boring,” found in track number seven titled, “Never Gonna Happen.”

It is obvious that the petite lady known for her door-knocker earrings comes off as a very self-assured artist. If by chance the confidence is lacking, it’s difficult to see through the show she’s putting on – you would be too distracted by her unique style and lyrical freedom. Allen’s new album does not take the listeners through a standard trip down memory lane or a predictable girlie love-and-heartbreak album. Instead she hits controversial topics such as politics and religion.

But of course the album is not too serious to bore you she also throws in a song about Chinese take-out with TV watching, a small dosage of love lyrics that can’t be measured tremendously, but only in “Who’d Have Known.” She also moves onto the topic of family matters, some about her brother, some reaching out to her father.

Love or hate Ms. Allen, she probably wouldn’t care either way as long as she is doing what she does best and that’s to create her own music.From Britain? Yes. Funk swagger? Yes. I’m sure we can make space for her in the United States – maybe even demote Amy Winehouse who seems to have gone M.I.A. or simply gotten stuck in rehab and let a new British native take the throne.

Capitol Records

-Ariana Valentin, Asst. News

Album Review: Blackout Beach’s ‘Skin of Evil’

Blackout BeachBack in late September of 2008 Carey Mercer sent Pitchfork Media a letter in regards to his sophomore release under his solo project Blackout Beach.

“I wrote this record because I desired to make something that stays on task. I picked an easy task: desire, longing, flight, the sorrow of absence… the DNA of most good songs,” wrote Mercer in the brief letter’s opening sentences.

As a fan of Frog Eyes and Mercer’s other projects, I thought I knew what to expect from Skin of Evil. I imagined something similar to the feel of the first release, Light Flows the Putrid Dawn, or possibly something reminiscent of his songs on Swan Lake’s first album Beast Moans. Instead of hearing a tidal wave of instruments break against Mercer’s dramatic and often times fierce delivery we hear something more focused and ultimately more intriguing this time around.

The differences between Skin of Evil and Mercer’s other work are vast and appealing. With Light Flows the Putrid Dawn we saw that Blackout Beach was the darkest of his projects. That darkness remains, but rather than acting as a rough commentary that wraps up the human experience in a blanket of fog, it instead reveals itself as a clear and powerful force. The album doesn’t push you through the music like other albums with a similar approach; it acts more like a guide delicately leading you through your journey.

The journey itself is a story about a temptress named Donna. She is the ideal notion of what classical Greek society would’ve considered the perfect woman.

Eight of the songs on the album belong to former lovers, all still consumed with their love for Donna. The other two songs belong to Donna and her current lover- William. The results of each individual’s story equate to a musical triumph.

The combination of Mercer’s close attention to language and detail with his newfound minimalistic musical approach are the secret behind his brilliance. The drum machine sounds vintage, providing a fuzzy lo-fi familiarity to the songs, as if they were beats a friend was showing you in his basement. The guitar hits you like raindrops against a pond, crashing against the surface of the songs and rippling outward over the music.

His vocal delivery is much more straight-forward, confined within the songs. Added to this is the presence is a female vocalist, possibly playing Donna, to help some of the tracks along.

This atmospheric and gripping album only spans a little over thirty minutes, but it remains constantly strong, building up the experience, making every minute matter to the listener. Mercer’s stage is set, we can only hope for a tour to be announced so that audiences can be pulled into the theater of his work. It would be a shame if we couldn’t share this experience with Mercer in a live setting.

Soft Abuse Records

-Jason Cunningham, Entertainment Editor: ccsurecorder.entertainment@gmail.com

Album Review: JFJO’s ‘Winterwood’

Despite their name, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey is tough to place.

Most of their musical style falls freely into the jazz or jazz-fusion arena. The problem is this instrumental band is so unique, so different and so original that they sound unlike any other group also associated with jazz or jazz-fusion. JFJO, which currently houses four members, Brian Haas on keyboards, Chris Combs on guitar, Matt Hayes on upright bass and Josh Raymer on drums, has been on the scene since 1994.

Their latest album, Winterwood, which is available as a free download on their personal Web site, is their second album in as many years and showcases the band being as quirky, abstract and enjoyable as ever.

The first two tracks on this album, “Dove’s Army of Love” and “Song of the Vipers” are two of the more upbeat and jovial songs I’ve heard from this group. The album then quickly moves from these two inspiring songs to the mellow “A-Bird” before being brought right up with the up-tempo “Oklahoma Stomp”, which sounds just as you might imagine.

A few of these songs, such as “Song of the Vipers” and “Earl Hines” resonate the feel of the old West. These songs without a doubt refer back to the band’s home of Oklahoma in sound. I can’t help but picture anything else in my mind when hearing the culmination of this band’s work. “Song of the Vipers” will make you want to get up and do a jig. It’s a feel damn good song.

The album ends on a high note. “Bumper Crop of Strange” is an amusing collection of sounds that picks the spirit of the album right back up from the mellow sounds that precede it. “Autumnal – Vernal Equinox”, the closing track for the album, is a thundering one, taking a whole seven minutes of your time. Those are seven minutes you should be willing to spare considering the uprising feel of the track.

In comparison to the rest of JFJO’s albums, Winterwood holds up incredibly well. It is, in fact, one of my favorites of theirs. It’s a 72-minute, that’s right you guessed it, jazz odyssey.

Kufala Recordings

-Michael Walsh, Asst. Entertainment

Album Review: Black Lips’ ‘200 Million Thousand’

It’s a trend that has been seen many times before.

Indie rock bands with a taste for the lo-fi side of life tend to find motivation and/or sobriety by their third or fourth album and ultimately betray the very DIY production values and messy antics that gave them a name to begin with.

We’ve witnessed it with The Strokes and Kings of Leon just in the past few years, and while the new sounds and neat packages don’t always disappoint, they nevertheless feel a bit safer in their attempts at grandeur, as if fun is the necessary victim of higher production values and more complex artistry.

On their fourth album, 200 Million Thousand, Black Lips throw up a big fat middle finger to the very idea of more production, opting instead to lay down a thick layer of scuzz over the entire track list and proving that a band need not grow up, sonically or mentally, to show maturity.

On their last release, 2007’s Good, Bad, Not Evil, the band was able to clean things up a bit without losing their signature garage-psychrock sound that always seemed to be coming from a dank basement circa 1967. Nevertheless, in its desire to prove itself eclectic the album instead came off as scattershot, presenting a track list of mostly winners with some duds and joke songs that, though superficially entertaining, warranted skipping over after two or three listens.

Previous releases provided more consistent atmospheres but were similarly uneven and sometimes too messy, even by lo-fi standards. 200 Million Thousand seems to find a healthy balance between the two and, more importantly, resists fucking around (with the exception of the “rap” song near the end, “The Drop I Hold”), the result being the group’s most consistently entertaining album to date.

Though the highs may not be as high there are also no real lows to speak of. Instead the Black Lips focus on fleshing out their sound in lieu of running from it by finding inspiration in the darker corners of their music. “Take My Heart” and “Let It Grow” sound as though they could’ve been seedy gems on the group’s 2004 album Let It Bloom, while “Trapped in a Basement” evokes Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (of “I Put a Spell On You” fame).

Things remain dark, especially on the second half of the album, but never lose the fun sense of spontaneity that no doubt spawns from the band’s stubborn adherence to live recording sessions.

This stubbornness may, in fact, give insight into how the group manages to remain fresh without significantly altering their sound; The Black Lips know that they’re making dank, dirty, scuzzy rock music, and that they don’t need to add production or kill the fun to make it good.

Vice Music

-P.J. Decoteau, Staff Writer

Album Review: Buckethead’s ‘Slaughterhouse on the Prairie’

“Crouching Stump Hidden Limb”- that’s just one example of the unique and macabre song titles guitar shredder Buckethead devises.

On his 25th studio album, Slaughterhouse on the Prairie, Buckethead has references to basketball players and the chicken meat industry, among other things. Buckethead is quite simply a workaholic. He produces his solo albums like nobody else.

Hardly ever is there a period of production quietness from this unique fellow. Constantly teaming up with new collaborators and releasing solo album upon solo album, Buckethead is the type of artist a fan loves. Slaughterhouse has that typical Buckethead sound. Attitude towards another Buckethead album of escalating guitar solos entirely depends on one’s favorite flavor of Buckethead.

Albums of his range from straightforward shred heavy thrash inspired albums like this one to metal themed albums like Somewhere Over the Slaughterhouse (yes he loves slaughterhouses) to experimental concept albums such as Bucketheadland, which gives the listener a tour of his fantasy amusement park.

The album kicks off with not one, but two tracks in honor of NBA star LeBron James. The first track, simply titled “LeBron” is an absolute stunner of an opener for an album. I’ve always been captivated by Buckethead’s ability to capture the sound that one would expect from his instrumental track’s titles.

The song that follows the opener, “LeBron’s Hammer”, does just this. It’s as if Buckethead was watching a highlight reel of LeBron when creating this track.

Buckethead’s music is almost indescribable to someone who has never had the pleasure of actually listening to him before. A few words do come to mind when listening to this latest album. Pulsing, energetic, soaring and obliterating are the first few that roll off my tongue.

My words don’t do justice for the masked man who wears a bucket on his head. Slaughterhouse is yet another musical success for Buckethead, after all, 25 albums is a lot. The magical thing is that each of these 25 albums, while sometimes displaying the same side of Buckethead, never sound redundant.

To keep a sound so fresh over that many years and that many albums is an amazing feat. I look forward to Buckethead’s 26th album which should be out in, oh, a few months.

 

-Michael Walsh, Asst. Entertainment

Album Review: Dan Auerbach’s ‘Keep It Hid’

Dan Auerbach, best known for being one half of one of indie rock’s most invigorating duos, the Black Keys, has made a career out of his thick guitar riffs and blues swagger.

On his first solo release, Keep It Hid, Auerbach tones down the riffage and instead displays a knack for a mixture of melody and country-tinged sleaze that he’d only shown hints of with the ‘Keys.

Of course, without drummer Patrick Carney slamming away at the set and the stomp-heavy garage-blues structure of his main gig, Auerbach’s music loses some of its blunt force. Keep it Hid more than makes up for it in a subtlety not typically found on a Black Keys album.

The title track, for example, displays not only Auerbach’s better-than-expected vocal range, but also a swagger that doesn’t necessarily come from his usual brute style, employing instead a slower beat and sparse guitar.

The album also presents a more varied Auerbach, having him jump from his niche of blues-rock to country-melancholia (“Trouble Weighs a Ton”), barroom pop (“Whispered Words”), and even soft-acoustics (“When the Night Comes”).

Those expecting another Black Keys album will likely be a bit thrown off at first, but Keep It Hid holds a bevy of good whiskeysoaked tunes and some welcome deviation.

Nonesuch Records

 

-P.J. Decoteau, Staff Writer

Black-Eyed Sally’s Presents Perfect Atmosphere for Jazz

Black-Eyed Sally’s walls are covered from front to back with blues and rock legends like Buddy Guy, Hendrix, Elvis and Stevie Ray Vaughn, but every Monday night the lights are dimmed down, the candles are lit and the smooth sounds of jazz fill the air.

On Monday, Feb. 9, the Kris Jensen Quartet was swinging away as couples were sprinkled through the dining area enjoyed the house’s barbeque and whatever else looked tasty on the menu. The people at the bar, who greatly outnumbered the diners, sat and watched Jensen and his quartet breeze though songs like “Body and Soul” and Freddy Hubbard’s “Birdlike”.

The atmosphere was comfortable and the bar seemed decent, but it was obvious that almost everyone was there to see the band. Peter Greenfogel, a personal friend of Jensen and the rest of the quartet consisting of Steve Porter, Craig Hartley and Ben Bilello, said there weren’t too many places he knew of to hear America’s greatest contribution to music.

“I’m only here for the jazz,” said Steve Nebbia, who is a regular at jazz nights, and added that he didn’t even Black-Eyed Sally’s Presents Perfect Atmosphere for Jazz bother looking for any other venues since every Monday night at Sally’s was always a guaranteed solid performance.

There is no cover at the door, so the experience won’t even cost a dime. The patrons are friendly if newcomers are in the mood for conversation.

“I’m still trying to get the kinks out, you know, getting over these winter doldrums,” said Jensen, on the tenor sax, in between songs. Ironically, by the sound of the band, it didn’t seem like they had many cobwebs to dust off.

The stage appearances from week to week, depending on who decides to play. Sometimes a musician will decide to play a couple of weeks in row, such as the night’s piano player Craig Hartley does. It is rare that these musicians disappoint.

Sally’s is an easy-to-reach place and a laid-back venue apart from the insurance company-laden streets of downtown Hartford.

These are seasoned veterans coming out to perform, so if you’re attracted to Sally’s for the jazz, which you should be, expect some of Connecticut’s best.

Black-Eyed Sally’s BBQ and Blues. 350 Asylum Street. Hartford, Conn. 06103

 

-Charles Desrochers, Staff Writer

College Humor Better Off Staying Home

Everyone’s favorite waste of time, CollegeHumor.com, has now made the jump to cable television.

A site more known for it’s collection of internet memes and video captured calamities, College Humor is now branching out with a show on MTV. The show itself is in the style of the Web site’s prominently featured Hardly Working series.

The characters are all exaggerated versions of their real life counterparts. What will make show successful is its experience and its timing. The actors on the show have been doing roughly the same thing for the Web site for a couple of years now. They might not be as polished as some other comedy troupes, but they’ve had time to grow into their style.

The fact that the College Humor staff has been producing content almost every day for that last three or four years gives them an edge just for the sheer quantity of work. Other troupes like Britanick and Those Aren’t Muskets, while having more satisfying, higher quality material, only put out videos every month at most. I can’t imagine any better practice for a television show than that kind of repetition.

Rooted in the Internet, the writers have realized that quick works. The timing in each sketch is key because one of the things that seems to plague sketch comedy is its inability to know when to quit. SNL sketches seem to always be two minutes longer than they need to be and MADtv should have never started in the first place.

College Humor is like the fast food of comedy because of this: it doesn’t require too much thinking, too much time or too much commitment. Everything is presented in less than five minutes, not leaving enough time for the scene to fall apart. The viewer never needs to commit to a character on any level other than, “He’s nerdy, I like him”. The show is literally just like the Web site.

Now before watching, it seems obvious that the Web site has something going for it that the show may not. Like I said before, people like College Humor because of its collection of stupid videos ready to be beamed to your laptop at a moment’s notice. A TV show, on the other hand, is every Sunday at 9:30.

With this, it’s no longer College Humor working around your schedule, but your schedule working around College Humor. If you are dead set on not watching MTV though, on the chance that you may witness the collapse of civilization, you can still watch the episodes in their entirety online.

I have to commend the producers of the show for this because they realized their audience is a bunch of lazy bastards who spend more time on their computer than their television.

Then again, if you’re a Web site that makes a TV show that will most likely be viewed more online, where you already have a ton of content in the same style, then why bother making a TV show instead of a Web series?

The College Humor Show is a waste of time – not that that’s a bad thing. It is what’s made them popular.

 

-Charles Desrochers, Staff Writer

‘Friday the 13th’ Reboot Results in Uninspired Bore

Remake, reboot, reimagining, whatever you want to call it, they’ve all gotten tired. Nearly 30 years after the original Friday the 13th studio execs at New Line Cinema have decided to rework the campy slasher classic and its first three sequels the same way they put their greasy hands all over the original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

The new film, which is the first on screen appearance of Jason Voorhees since 2003’s Freddy vs. Jason, reboots the series in a way so viewers are first met with scenes from 1980, the year the original film was made. Flash forward to present day where a group of young adults are camping in the woods. Flash forward again and you have the brother of one of the now missing girls searching for his sister, Whitney. Enter Voorhees, and you have your plot.

Friday the 13th has almost all the fixings of your typical slasher film. Blood, gore, laughs, sex, nudity, drag the kids into the woods and kill them plot device and so on and so forth. The problem with this film is that it doesn’t do anything new for the tried and true genre of slasher films.

These films have been around in different forms for years now. To separate your film from the other mass amount of formulaic and generic films that clog up the horror genre you have to be different.

Take, for example, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. This 2006 slasher gave a different perspective of your not-so-average serial killer. The film was a mockumentary of sorts that had the viewer on the side of the killer rather than the side of the victims. It showed how Vernon, the killer, picked his victims and planned everything out. This is the kind of freshness that is not found in any of these remakes or reboots, including this one.

It’s no secret that I have absolute distaste for Hollywood’s constant usage of past ideas and brilliance to make a quick buck. That’s a whole different story for a whole different time. That said, this money-maker wasn’t all bland. If the film separated itself from the dreaded remake stigma there’d be more chance of having a fresh feel.

Director Marcus Nispel is one of these reasons. He’s already shown that he has potential for directing genre films as he helped the remake of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre succeed. The film is well composed and shot. Derek Mears stands out as Voorhees. He’s bulky yet athletic, creating a fearsome opponent for the victims. One look at Mears and he appears to be the modern day Michael Berryman.

The main problem was the people Mears was stalking. How many uninteresting, stupid and bland characters can you fit into one film? Ask screenwriters Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, because they know the answer. There’s your token black guy, your funny Asian, a few dumb blondes and oh, yeah, your absolute key college frat boys.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely satisfying to watch these annoying characters get killed off one by one. I’m not asking for character development that’s off the charts either. I’m just looking for a few memorable, fresh and unique characters. This partners up with the film not being able to separate itself from the rest of the bunch to make for a charmless, formulaic, sometimes boring and all too serious horror film of the slasher variety.

I’m trying hard to be kind to this film. I noticed the effort. The writers paid some nice tributes to the original series of films that are to be appreciated. This film is certainly better than other films in the series and other recent remakes in general.

The question for me is, was it necessary? Probably not. Why can’t these obviously somewhat talented screenwriters and director team up to create something new, something fresh? Where’s the spirit? Where’s the energy? Create your own slasher icon. Wouldn’t that be more fun? I guess it wouldn’t be fun for the men in suits sitting high in their offices as they’d fear that the film wouldn’t bank for sure at the box office.

The new Friday the 13th is the uninspired film we’ve all seen before. These films have lost their charm and as long as the media conglomerates run things it will never change.

Long gone are the days of Mario Bava’s twisting macabre tales set to slasher formula. Ah well, at least I got to see the wife of US Olympic hockey player Mike Modano get hit by a boat.

 

-Michael Walsh, Asst. Entertainment

Album Review: Giant Squid’s ‘The Ichthyologist’

Release Date: February 3, 2009

Imagine sinking into the deep, surrounded by mystery, darkness and haunting cries as you succumb to your long death.

This is what Giant Squid’s latest album The Ichthyologist sounds like.

Based on front man Aaron John Gregory’s graphic novel, The Ichthyologist is a tale of the sea and the heroes it swallows.

Another theme of the album is the tale of a man who is left with nothing but the sea, causing him to loose his humanity. He adapts to survive the pain of human loss and emotional tragedy and by the end he resembles something else entirely.  Very rarely does a metal album have such deep meaning and wide sound.

Gregory’s dooming vocals lead the journey as Bryan Ray Beeson’s bass pounds away relentlessly much like the waves of a storm. On drums is Chris Mellvile Lyman a hard-hitting musician who uses his art form to propel the band into uncharted waters filled with rich textures underlying with the constant mood of depression and loss.

Giant Squid even features cello, played by Jackie Perez Gratz, along with her vocals she accompanies Gregory providing ground for the slower paced songs “Dead Man Slough” and “Sutterville.” The use of cello isn’t even the strangest part of this album; they use flutes, trumpets, violin, even a banjo. One would think that the use of such instruments in a metal album would become cloudy and cluttered.

These guys have put together what could be called an orchestra that just keeps up with itself and never loses it flow or interest. When vocals are brought up its hard not to mention that Gregory and Gratz role play as sea creatures, victims and even the sea itself is given a chilling voice that haunts and intrigues.

Some of the heavier songs like “Throwing a Donar Part at Sea” feature the best of the entire band, with a trumpet solo that acts as one of the album’s defining moments.

In short, this album is brilliant. From track to track you will not be disappointed. It’s one of the true great metal albums of the year. Giant Squid has given their best in The Ichthyologist, filling it with intelligent solos, lyrics and deep themes and allowing it shine throughout.

-Sean Fenwick, Staff Writer