Jan 6 2014

Year In Review: 2013

Who says 13 is unlucky?

This year, culturally speaking, was a major improvement upon the last year overall. This usually happens after a year containing a dearth of quality music, television, and movies. Not that 2012 was abysmal, by all means, but let’s just say this year’s lists were A LOT harder to make. As a whole, a large bulk of content you’ll find on this year’s best-of will likely stand the test of time a bit better than the material we were fed last year.

Also, I graduated from grad school, got a job at Facebook, made new friends, and things are swell more or less. There were ups and downs, and there is a long list of resolutions, and you know, things happened. 2013 was a moderate success. If it was a failure, I’d probably have more to write about, frankly.

So, without further ado, I welcome you to Culture Greyhound’s Year in Review for 2013, a year of very high highs and very low lows, a year of mediocrity and boring disappointment, a year of mind-blowing excellence. You know, a year.

Schedule:

Tuesday: Quarterly Review
Wednesday: Top 20 Remixes
Thursday: Top 200 Tracks
Friday: Top 50 Albums

On a final note, I would like to remind everyone about my always-streaming Internet radio station, Culture Greyhound Radio, which I add music to every week, new and old. Tune in!

That’s it. Happy New Year, everyone!


Jul 25 2013

Review: Daniel Markham – Ruined My Life

daniel markham ruined my life

I’m a bit late to the show, but like all of Markham’s output, this one’s a grower. It might be the one you’ll have to spend the most time with out of all of the Markham albums. And that’s because, underneath the twang, the West Texas melodies, the semblance of loneliness, that dirgy Deadsy guitar, that brilliant album title, and that head-scratching album cover, Ruined My Life is a new side of Daniel Markham he’s merely hinted at in the past. With this, the first post-Lubbock proper full-length, and the first proper solo album, his eyes are turned outward, his head is held higher, and frankly, the mood’s a bit brighter.

The highlight here is “New Blood.” Uptempo and upbeat, Markham signals early this album represents a change in life, attitude, and perspective. And I can’t think of a single song he’s ever done that sounds anything like it. Throughout the album, a theme of “moving on” and “well wishes” are given as opposed to past Markham mantras of lost love and confused direction. Pronouns have shifted in his lyrics, giving advice to broken hearts rather than lamenting his own. One Wolf’s material produced an image of internal battle and identity struggle. Ruined My Life (with a title that’s simultaneously humorous, unfortunate, guilty, and, maybe for an ex, downright accurate) contains songs that signify that internal battle, at least for now, has been won.

The death of R.E.M. likely put a heavy weight on the songwriter’s psyche. I’m merely speculating, but I’d be willing to bet money that’s who the “favorite band” is in Ruined My Life. Regardless, the influence has never been more prevalent in Markham’s music than here. “Drag Up Some Dead” sounds like it could belong deep on New Adventures In Hi-Fi and “Killers They Will Creep” makes the younger Markham of Waiting to Derail fame sound like a guy wasting away in Margaritaville. We’ve certainly come a long way from “Wish,” haven’t we?

But mostly, it’s an amalgamate of good ol’ Markham. Combining elements of pretty much everything he’s ever done, from the lovelorn alt-country of Waiting to Derail to the pop laden with sadness throughout the first One Wolf album, to the cacophony of guitar and emotional torment in the second One Wolf album, there’s signature sounds here that immediately make me think of Lubbock, Texas, even though I haven’t been there in years, and I’ve never heard this new music there.

But this is not Lubbock music. Lubbock is a wonderful place to live….for a while. But anyone who’s felt stuck there likely would put a few One Wolf tracks on their mixtape dedicated to a future away from the eerie desolation, the unending boredom, the strange loneliness in a town of 300,000 people. The Markham Sound is inherently Lubbock – it was born there, it still remains in his music; you never really wash off that red dirt. But lyrically, thematically, this is the soundtrack of Lubbock behind you. The melodies are more positive (“No Mosquitos,” which could be about leaving the 806), the thoughts are optimistic (“Best of Luck,” one of the strongest tracks on the album), and the humor, always hinted at in the past, is more apparent here. Less about love lost and more about change, traveling, touring, living life, Ruined My Life is a more mature Markham, a refocused, repurposed, relocated, and recalculated Texas musician Denton should be proud to call a resident.

Buy it on iTunes.


Oct 20 2011

Review: M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

If Anthony Gonzalez’ breakthrough album Dead Cities, Red Seas, and Lost Ghosts was a dreamy bedroom experiment, and it pretty much was, that means Before the Dawn Heals Us was a beautiful cinematic sleeper hit, and it also pretty much was. Let’s call Digital Shades Vol. 1 an itch Gonzalez had to scratch – it was an ambient pastiche favoring mood over substance (fingers crossed for no Volume 2). And then there was the masterpiece, Saturdays = Youth. Favoring over-the-top, pathos-driven production and theme, it was a brilliant homage to the 80’s, teenage angst, and young love. It was beautiful, near flawless. It has grown to be one of my favorite albums not just of 2008, or of the last decade, but of all time. It’s one of those albums you turn on before you drift off at night, it’s a cloud that sweeps you away.

So how does Gonzalez top what will no doubt be his finest work? An epic, two-disc conceptual album inspired by Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and childhood slumber. Over 72 minutes and 22 tracks, M83 brings together an array of sounds built around the theme of dreaming, and it really does sound like it. Gonzalez has always been great at building, rather than borrowing, from his older works; here you can hear the grand tinkering of Dead Cities, the bold soundscapes of Before the Dawn, the soft ambience of Digital Shades, and the captivating emotion of Saturdays.

But there’s something more; as with every album, Gonzalez continues to grow. He is now the prominent vocalist for his band, holding his own alongside the declarative Zola Jesus and previous collaborator Morgan Kibby. And his songs now are even more direct pop statements; rather than hinting at the idea of achieving soundtrack-worthy compositions in one part of the album, Gonzalez has stretched them throughout. There is a memorable melody around every corner, in between each instrumental interlude, each playful crescendo with laughing children, each soft acoustic strum.

Sure, it’s nowhere near the brilliance of Saturdays=Youth. Maybe it does run a little long, maybe there are a few too many short interludes, maybe there are slight flaws hidden around the strong highlights. But isn’t that why we love double albums? Their ambition? Their objective? Their adventure? As with any double album, this is meant not to be shuffled around for your commute, but to be listened to in one sitting, or two, or ten. It’s meant to be fully digested as a whole over and over again. And ultimately, that is a rewarding task. It may not be the best M83 album, but it’s certainly one of the best albums of 2011.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Listen to Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming on Spotify.


Feb 2 2011

Paragraph Reviews 2/2/11

Music, Movies, Television, etc. Pop culture reviews for the short-attention-span Internet age.

Blue Valentine (2010)

It truly is a crime Gosling was robbed of a Best Actor nomination this year, as he and Michelle Williams both deliver mesmerizing performances.  Blue Valentine all by itself is a powerful film, a realistic portrayal of an unfortunately true-all-the-time tale of a couple filled with circumstance and rejection, a marriage falling apart, and a family just beginning to break.  The romance scenes are particularly intense and shot well, and the getting-to-know-you dialogues between Williams and Gosling sell the movie for me.

Rating: 8

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Dec 10 2010

Paragraph Reviews 12/10/10

Music, Movies, Television, etc. Pop culture reviews for the short-attention-span Internet age.


Love and Other Drugs

Watch the two-minute green band trailer and you know exactly how this movie goes, more or less.  Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway fall in love, separate, and get back together again.  Welcome to the standard rom-com formula, unchanged since the beginning of time.  That’s not to say the movie isn’t enjoyable (up until the trite ending, which everyone sees a mile away); there is great chemistry between Gyllenhaal’s take on a career-minded, smart-ass, sweet-talking med salesman and Hathaway’s sarcastic, quasi-misanthropic, surprisingly charming twenty-something with Parkinson’s.  Add a dash of breasts, a ton of male ass, and many many boner jokes (the character is selling Viagra, after all), and you’ve got a decent date movie, even if the first third (which is mainly focused on career moves and less on romance) is more interesting than the eye-roll-worthy rest.

Rating: 6

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Nov 29 2010

Paragraph Reviews 11/29/10

Music, Movies, Television, etc. Pop culture reviews for the short-attention-span Internet age.

Daft Punk – Tron Legacy Soundtrack

When I heard back in February Daft Punk were doing the music for Tron, I was immediately excited – new Daft Punk? Awesome!  In retrospect I don’t know why I thought producing a score for a Disney sci-fi film would sound anything like Discovery, and inevitably it doesn’t.  That doesn’t mean this hour-long soundtrack doesn’t have its moments – the sound is great, the French duo’s first stab at composing orchestral tunes is to be applauded, and the combination of strings with Daft Punk’s trademark house crescendo is simultaneously creepy and, well, cinematic.  And there are even a couple bangers hidden in here too, reminiscent  of the good ol’ Daft Punk.  There just aren’t enough for my tastes.  In the end, it’s just a film score.

Rating: 6

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Nov 17 2010

Paragraph Reviews 11/17/10

Music, Movies, Television, etc.  Pop culture reviews for the short-attention-span Internet age.

Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday

Call it a case of the hype machine, but upon several initial listens, it would seem Nicki gave away her best verses to other people’s songs.  Certainly we are asking too much if we expected the album to be more “Roman’s Revenge” and less “Your Love” – and that is something (albeit a disappointing fact) that I’m willing to overlook.  The production is slick, the melodies are catchy, and Minaj has a great singing voice.  So what if the finished product is a little too soft R&B and less manic schizo rapping?  Nicki has many faces; the first impression was obviously just one of many styles.  But the rhymes on this album do not live up to Minaj’s past work on tracks by Diddy, Trey Songz, Kanye, etc.  The cadence is samey, the words are lazily repetitive, the dead air is filled by stuttering, and the unwritten law of rap is violated many times (the one that says you can’t rhyme a word with the same word….it’s the same word).  Pink Friday will be a moderate success, but it’s not strong enough of a debut to give Nicki the promotion from “featured” to “standalone” artist.

Rating: 6

Two more after the jump…

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Aug 8 2010

Random Web Findings – Green Day @ Lollapalooza

As expected, last night Green Day stole the show in Chicago, performing well over the park’s curfew and giving every Lollpalooza ticket holder their money’s worth and then some.  It’s doubtful Soundgarden will be able to top it tonight.  Consequence of Sound has the rave review and more coverage of the day.

Top Tweets of the Week

Americans’ 15 Favorite Restaurant Chains

No Van Gogh: Fifteen Fantastically Awful Selections From the Museum of Bad Art

Ten August Albums Worth Checking Out

Twenty-Five Songs For Dr. Dre’s Planet Playlist

Our 11 Favorite Oversized Bands

Mobbed Up: Hip-Hop’s Eight Best Posse Cuts

Six Dinosaurs That Might As Well Be Fake

Eighteen Band Names Inspired by Other Bands

23 Disney Characters and the Entertainers Born to Play Them

New York Rappers Talk Their Worst Summer Jobs

Ten Best Party Vacation Destinations

Cities With the Most Millionaires

Restaurant Tipping Around The World: 25 Countries’ Gratuity Protocol

Autobiographies By The Under-25 Set

11 Sci-Fi Movies to Look Forward To

14 Cases of Actors Getting Cut Entirely From Notable Films

8 Videos With Hilarious Offscreen Surprises

Top Ten Ad Icons of All Time

Most Controversial Album Covers Ever

Top 50 Maddest Moments In Music


Jul 23 2010

Review: Brothertiger – Vision Tunnels EP

Vision Tunnels EP by Brothertiger (2010, self-released)

Since its inception last summer, the term “chillwave” has predictably divided artists and music lovers the way most newly coined subgenres do.  Like the emo and shoegaze forerunners of the past, the crowd is split between those who denounce the word and those who embrace it.  John Jagos, whose stage name is Brothertiger, likely falls in the latter category; last month he told the nightdrive blog, ” I’d definitely be interested in another chillwaver to remix one of my songs!”  And his move from Ohio to Brooklyn appropriately serves to support the argument: Jagos knows his sound, his influences, and his audience.

That’s not to say, however, that Brothertiger’s debut EP is just another chillwave album.  The elements are all there, sure – hazy vocals, synth pop tendencies, and steady dance beats encompass Vision Tunnels.  But a key distinction remains after these five beach-ready tracks – Jagos effortlessly progresses the ever-changing sound in his own way, utilizing 80’s new wave and early 90’s pop in a low-key style largely untouched by his peers.  Washed Out and Active Child come to mind, but so do breezy, laid-back Pet Shop Boys and slow Annie Lennox tunes.

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Jul 22 2010

Review: Fang Island – S/T

Fang Island by Fang Island (2010, Sargent House)

It’s only fitting that Fang Island’s debut begins with the sound of fireworks; they are very aware their music goes hand in hand with a kick-ass Fourth of July shindig.  One could imagine if these guys ever rocked Milton Keynes, the sky explosions would last throughout their set, rather than begin immediately after.  Such is the mood throughout this half-hour disc – a relentless, all-American, fist-pumping party.

The Providence quintet has had a busy year.  They packed up and moved to Brooklyn, provided the soundtrack to a few MTV promos, received high-profile praise thanks to a well-received stint at SXSW, and opened for a little band called the Flaming Lips.  The boys are certainly on their way, and it’s a cause for celebration.  Luckily, the perfect soundtrack is one they themselves composed.

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