Top 50 songs of 2017 countdown (#1-#5)

 

 

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1.) Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane by Gang of Youths
(The best ballad The National never wrote? A plea to value life, an autobiographical song from the heart. The singer explained in an interview he nearly died. I was lucky to find Australian band Gang of Youths thanks to another blogger: Every Record Tells A Story’s Albums Of 2017)

 

 

 

 

2.) Shadow by Chromatics (the YouTube video contains Twin Peaks S3 spoilers) 
(Technically a 2015 single, was re-recorded in 2017 for Twin Peaks. The new version is beautiful and gives me all the feels when watched with the fan-made video)

 

 

 

3.) Windswept by Johnny Jewel
(From season 3 of Twin Peaks. Evoking a sense of mystery and used at the end of episode 5. Some fans call it the theme of Dougie. Johnny Jewel really outdid himself with this instrumental, eclipsing even the new material by Angelo Badalamenti)

 

 

 

4.) Call the Police by LCD Soundsystem
(Wonderful production and the lyrics are open to interpretation. The strongest moment on an album that I thought was overrated)

 

 

 

5.)  Rise Up by Foxygen
(Their latest album has an orchestral, retro 70s sound. I really couldn’t tell it’s contemporary. The closer Rise Up is epic and inspiring)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This post brings to a close the ten part series, I hope you enjoyed reading and listening. What do you think? As always, comments are welcome

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Question: which films are not as good on the small screen?

 

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I should preface by saying I didn’t go to the cinema very often until the mid 90s, and I haven’t rewatched these films recently, which the list reflects. Also worth mentioning, the post was inspired by another blogger who wrote about watching Gravity on TV: The gravity of the situation.

 

 

 

Independence Day (1996)
Independence Day (1996)
I had a great time with this blockbuster back when I was a teenager, it’s funny and visually the spaceships and explosions look epic. The friend I saw it with agreed with me and I even bought the poster. Once released on video my friend rushed out to buy it. He told me about the rewatch and I could see the excitement on his face wasn’t there, the movie lacked epicness at home. I rewatched it too and the result was the same.

 

 

 

 

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Gravity (2013)
Rarely have I seen a film that captured space so beautifully and the spectacle was enough initially.  Similar to Avatar (below), once the film is stripped of the 3D and reduced to the small screen, the story and characters become more important, and neither are at the level of the special effects.

 

 

 

 

 

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Avatar (2009)

Probably a popular choice in this category. The thrill of Avatar was seeing a 3D film for the first time. Immersed in the world of Pandora, with its creatures, landscapes, and most memorably the floating woodsprites which hang in the air among the audience in the cinema. The story isn’t great, and when rewatched on TV there isn’t the same wow feeling.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Sixth Sense (1999)

Keeps you on the edge of your seat, a great mystery. Some viewers may claim it’s easily solved during the first watch. But the excitement of the story unfolding was a cinema-going event which can’t be replicated. The second viewing on home release was a lot less intense, but not a total waste, where you are essentially aware of the twist and the predicaments of the characters are more clearly defined. Still, the twist is what most remember and once that secret is revealed, the film looses some of its impact.

 

 

 

 

 

Gladiator (2000)
Gladiator (2000)

Ancient Rome is presented on a grand scale and I believed I was right there. By no means a bad movie on TV, but I couldn’t help feeling a little let down. For me, definitely one of those films that is most entertaining the first time around.

 

 

 

 

What do you think? Which films impressed you at the cinema and then underwhelmed you on the small screen?

Top 50 songs of 2017 countdown (#10-#6)

 

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6.) Everything Now by Arcade Fire
(A great intro, & We Don’t Deserve Love (from the same album) has a great outro.
Nothing I’ve heard this year is as epic as that piano kicking in at 0.45. For me, 2017’s song of the summer, geared towards big stadiums and crowds singing along. The lyric is about our generation’s opportunity to consume everything)

 

 

 

 

7.)  Nothing To Find by The War On Drugs
(In recent years, I haven’t seen eye to eye with the Grammys. I agree A Deeper Understanding (2017) deserves to win Best Rock Album of the year. Nothing to Find wasn’t a single, but has great lyrics and could be one of the band’s most uplifting songs)

 

 

 

 

8.) Pariah (ft. Ninet Tayeb) by Steven Wilson
(Wilson is sometimes accused of leaning too heavily on his influences. Pariah might be his most affecting song to date. Tayeb’s vocal contribution is inspired. The year’s best duet)

 

 

 

 

9.) Sugar For The Pill by Slowdive
(We exist in a revival era designed to please the fans. Having listened to Slowdive’s entire discography (1990-2017), I’d put Sugar for the Pill up there with the band’s best songs)

 

 

 

 

10.) New York by St. Vincent
(The line ”New York isn’t New York without you love” might be my favorite lyric of the year. I’d love to know more about the hero/friend. Other stand out moments on her 2017 album include Los Ageless and Happy Birthday Johnny)

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think? As always, comments are welcome. The top 5 will be posted later in May!

Films of the month: April

 

 

 

A Matter of Life and Death (1946)
A Matter of Life and Death (1946) (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger)

The sets and visual side look fantastic (the record’s area in heaven, the stairway, inside the eyeball, the court room), and the story has charm. The two of them falling in love at first sight I guess could happen if you are a believer in that sort of thing. In real life, few women would allow you to kiss her after just 1 minute! But it’s a fantasy so I just ran with it. They don’t make movies like this anymore.
9/10

 

 

 

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To Be or Not to Be (1942) (Ernst Lubitsch)

A daring comedy considering was made during WW2, but at times tonally inconsistent . Funniest quote: “what he did to Shakespeare, we are now doing to Poland”
8/10

 

 

 

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Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) (Karel Reisz)

Great performance by Albert Finney as the angry young rebel, bored with his working class factory job, he lives for the excitement of the weekends, and doesn’t want to end up like his father in front of the TV. Considered one of the earliest and best kitchen sink dramas to come out of the British New Wave of social realism films in the 50s and 60s.
8/10

 

 

 

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The Last Emperor (1987) (Bernardo Bertolucci)

My second attempt and I can’t bring myself to sit through the entirety of this Best Picture winner. Reading the wikipedia synopsis to get the gist is enough for me. Praiseworthy for the set decoration, costumes, cinematography, but I couldn’t care less about the characters.
4/10

 

 

 

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Den ofrivillige golfaren (1991) (Lasse Åberg)
By the makers of the Swedish comedy classic Sällskapsresan/ The Package Tour (1980)
Lots of golf jokes, wearing helmets, hitting the wrong ball, the misuse of the word handicap. The Scandinavian answer to 1980’s Caddyshack. Starts promisingly but the jokes seem to dry up mid film. Charming, and occasionally amusing, but the story lacks surprises.
6/10

 

 

 

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Red Road (2006) (Andrea Arnold)
Feature film debut from Andrea Arnold. A dark, unsettling story about a lonely female surveillance operator captivated by a man she follows via her screens. Her obsessive observing and following held my attention and addresses the legal issues of using CCTV. The voyeuristic approach is very cinematic and there’s an eerie sense of danger and bad things might happen.
The second half goes for an explanation as to her motivation. Slightly overlong for the story it tells. Worth a look but not as powerful as Fish Tank (2009)
6/10

 

 

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In Bruges (2008) (Martin McDonagh)

Rewatch. From the director of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Entertaining Tarantino-esque dialogue, but the more I think about the mean spirited jokes, the less I like the film. Offensive to overweight people. I was okay with the dwarf who is given a fully realized supporting character as in Three Billboards. Humanizes two assassins who have a conscience about their job. Nice scenery from Bruge in Belgium. I wasn’t sure if I was rooting for Ray (Colin Farrell) as he does violent and tasteless things and his date still likes him afterwards. Shows that nice people can be violent hitman and we shouldn’t judge too soon.
7.5/10

 

 

 

Super 8 (2011).jpg
Super 8 (2011) (J.J. Abrams)

A Spielbergian homage with a cast not unlike Stranger Things. Entertaining while it lasted, but the more I think about it, the less I like the film. The story is far-fetched and I found the creature to lack personality. As with most retro films it isn’t as great as its influences. The first 30-35 minutes are better than the rest.
6/10

 

 

 

Lady Bird (2017)
Lady Bird (2017) (Greta Gerwig)

Probably my expectations were too high due to the oscar buzz. A good-but-not-great coming of age. The characters are cute but slightly annoying at times. The prom sequence is probably the sweetest part, and the parent-daughter aspect is well done. The other siblings are underdeveloped. Perhaps I need to watch again to appreciate the nuances. I liked that the story is a modern twist on the John Hughes playbook. You can also see the influence of more recent female led coming of age movies so I’m not convinced the structure of the plot is particularly original. I wanted to connect with the characters but only did so fleetingly. The film’s strength is the dialogue and acting.
Favorite quote: mother: “Of course I love you”. Daughter: “But do you like me?”
6/10

 

 

 

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Happy End (2017)  (Michael Haneke)

A dark satirical drama about the nature of good and evil. The title is ironic. There are topical themes about self-medication in the home environment, work place safety, alcohol abuse, old age, pets, the European refugee crisis, and being ”seen” on social media, especially the latter is well done in the opening scene, using smartphone video. The daughter (13 year old Fantine Harduin) breaking down in the car was powerful and she is given the most interesting role. The restaurant sequence is also memorable although not as great as the one in The Square.
To me, a messy Haneke work, with lots of semi-formed ideas. Perhaps the story called for the longer TV format. I guess it’s too much to ask that every film by Haneke should be masterful. Sort of a sequel to Amour (2012). Alex Withrow, in his review, argues the director uses Happy End to rally against social media platforms which can detach people from real emotion. “It’s on my phone, it isn’t real.” Also explored in 2017 horror-comedy Tragedy Girls.
6/10

 

 

 

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The Work (2017) (documentary)  (Jairus McLeary & Gethin Aldous)

Wins points for its raw emotion. In Folsom prison, inmates and others from outside are together in group therapy. Dealing with issues such as grief, lack of parental love, and distance from loved ones. They are encouraged to go to these dark places so as to face their fear. Some of them break down, letting out years of pent-up pain. Others in the group try and comfort them or express respect at how honest the vulnerability is. Several of the listeners can relate and urge those in pain not to give up.
As another letterboxd reviewer wrote, a film about “masculinity, guilt, and the unhealthy ways that society often teaches us from a young age to detach from our true emotions”
7/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think? As always, comments are welcome

 

 

Albums of the month: April

 

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Year of the Cat by Al Stewart (1976)

Wonderfully produced, Al Stewart’s vocal reminds me of John Lennon. Someone compared the album to Kaputt by Destroyer, and you can certainly hear echoes of Dan Bejar in the song Midas Shadow.
Year of the Cat is a strong single, the lyrics combine Vietnamese astrology and the film Casablanca.
Yet there are so many other quality songs here such as Lord Grenville or On the Border. The album has plenty of replay value due to its instrumental variation.
9/10

 

 

 

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New Boots and Panties!! (1977) by Ian Dury 

*1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die*
Not a fan of Ian Dury’s pub rock vocal or the cheeky lyrics, but it’s impeccably produced, I enjoyed the use of piano and saxophone. The latter part of the record goes in a punk direction with tracks such as Blockheads and Blackmail Man.
Highlights: Wake Up and Make Love With Me, Sweet Gene Vincent, My Old Man, Clevor Trever, and the superb non-album single Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll
6/10

 

 

 

 


2112 by Rush (1976)
2112 by Rush (1976)

*1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die*
On this LP, the Canadian hard rockers decided to experiment with progressive rock. Alex Lifeson remarked to Rolling Stone mag about the tour for 2112: “It was definitely a turning point. That was the time where we felt that we had arrived at a Rush sound, where we sounded like us”
The 20 min epic title track is an Ayn Rand–inspired science-fiction ode to individualism, ambitious but also quite uninvolving emotionally. I like the rockier Overture which lasts about 4-5 minutes while the remainder of the track is pretty boring. Judging from YouTube it’s better live.
The shorter songs on Side B are more accessible and enjoyable with some fun riffs, especially A Passage to Bangkok and The Twilight Zone stand out.
7/10

 

 

 

A Farewell to Kings by Rush (1977)
A Farewell to Kings by Rush (1977)
Catchy single Closer to the Heart is a Rush classic. The instrumental work on the 11 min prog rock epic Xanadu is beautiful, the lyrics are about eternal life, and superior to the overrated 20 min 2112 on their 1976 album. The last three tracks are decent enough but less noteworthy.
7/10

 

 

 

 

Hemispheres Rush
Hemispheres by Rush (1978)
There’s less filler than previous Rush albums. Cygnus X-1 Book II – Hemispheres is well-written, despite its Greek mythology, a relatable song about the logic of the brain and emotion of the heart, on first listen the words outshine the music. Circumstances is another identifiable moment, depicting Neil Peart’s struggle to make it as a drummer. The Trees details oppression and democracy, and could be interpreted as an allegory on racism or class difference. The 9 min closer La Villa Strangiato (An Exercise in Self-Indulgence) is a complex instrumental which the band allegedly attempted to record in one take around 40 times. According to Lifeson, it is based on the various nightmares he would have. While technically impressive, LVS lacks the emotive qualities of the other tracks.
Is Hemispheres as memorable as the albums it’s sandwiched between? Probably not, but a step up in terms of lyrics and consisting of intricate arrangements that don’t reveal themselves immediately. The difficulty that was associated with the album’s production led Rush to create much less strenuous music in the 1980s.
8-9/10

 

 

 


Autobahn by Kraftwerk (1974)
Autobahn by Kraftwerk (1974)
*1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die*
The 22 min A side track is the masterpiece and the b-side is accomplished too. The midnight hour track Mitternacht is surprisingly dark and nightmarish.
The main refrain “Wir fahren fahren fahren auf der Autobahn” (English: “We drive drive drive on the Autobahn”) was often mistaken for the English phrase “Fun fun fun on the Autobahn” and thought to be a reference to the 1964 Beach Boys’ song “Fun, Fun, Fun”.The title track is intended to capture the feeling of driving on the Autobahn: from travelling through the landscape, the high-speed concentration on the fast lane, to tuning the car radio and the monotony of a long trip.
8/10

 

 

 

 

 

Die Mensch-Maschine by Kraftwerk (1978)
Die Mensch-Maschine by Kraftwerk (1978)
*1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die*
An original, otherworldly, well-crafted concept album. The vocals veer towards robotic (ala Daft Punk), the listener can imagine Kraftwerk as futuristic cyborgs playing music. Side A is at times a bit cold and I find The Robot single too repetitive.
Side B I prefer. Tongue-in-cheek The Model sees the group looking inward, about models, fame and appearance. The 9 min Neon Lights has a dream-like quality which is hard to resist, according to a critic celebrating “the glamour of urbanization”. The closer is quite hypnotic, returning to the theme of The Robot, exploring “the science fiction-esque links between humans and technology”. Rolling Stone mag argued “the band might actually be committed humanists, documenting how emotionless the future will be” (…) and the album “parodies us dumb mortals”. Open to multiple interpretations. Celebrating the dream of technological advances but also a warning about a dystopian future.
8/10

 

 

 

 

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Tour de France Soundtracks by Kraftwerk (2003)

The first time I was bored by the German electronic group. I assume it’s intended as a soundtrack to listen to while watching the cycling. Most of my points are for the concept, going through the phases of the race, incorporating heavy breathing, locations, and extreme endurance, but on its own without any visuals, the overlong tracks become tedious. 55 minutes is just too long and the melodies aren’t as interesting as Kraftwerk’s classic era.
There are soundtracks that lack something outside of the movie, and for me this Kraftwerk effort is lacking as a stand-alone experience. The closer Tour De France (orginally recorded in 1983) is the keeper. I might listen to the album again in the summer during the Tour De France just to see how it flows, I think the concept deserves that gesture.
5/10

 

 

 

 

On the Border by Eagles (1974)
On the Border by Eagles (1974)

A second tier Eagles album. Decent but forgettable. Lacks memorable moments.
4/10

 

 

 

 

 

One of These Nights by Eagles (1975)
One of These Nights by Eagles (1975)
Considered the band’s commercial breakthrough. The term “easy listening” would apply to One of These Nights, a harmless album welcomed by some and dismissed by others as the Eagles selling out. Drifting further into radio friendly pop with a bunch of memorable choruses. Journey of the Sorcerer is an unexpected instrumental, which was subsequently used for the 1981 Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy BBC TV series. Lyin’ Eyes is the most affecting moment. The instrumental, After the Thrill Is Gone, and Take It to the Limit also stand out. A few of of the non-singles are a bit flavorless.
6/10

 

 

 

The Long Run by Eagles (1979)
The Long Run by Eagles (1979)
A mixed bag. Sounds like an attempt to recreate the pop success of the previous two albums, but the lyrics are much weaker and the production is at times a bit bland. Heartache Tonight is reminiscent of the famous 70s hit Rock and Roll Part 1 and Part 2, it’s a good chorus but nothing more.
A top heavy album, I particularly like I Can’t Tell You Why and In the City, the latter was featured in the end credits of the 1979 movie The Warriors. King of Hollywood is the track with the most substance, and for me one of the group’s most underrated, eerily reminding us of the recent #MeToo scandals. As an album, there’s a lot of filler. Worth it for the A side, while tracks 4, 7-10 is arguably the most uninspired (and quite frankly embarrassing) material of their career.
5/10

 

 

 

 

What do you think? As always, comments are welcome