The Dream Is Over

PUP: The Dream Is Over

Rocking and roiling punk noise from up North of the border is honestly on my list of things that make me consistently happy. And, on this front, PUP fulfills. Their snotty brand of old-school NOFX-like humor and scream-singing group choruses make for a rollicking time that plays to the more fun side of the pop-punk / emo thing and forgoes some of the math-y wallowing in favor of intentionally sloppy fun, time-signature changes and awesome bursts of crunchy energy. Like their coutrymates, Japandroids, PUP write anthemic tunes that drive enthusiastic fist-pumps and encourage an outrageous level of need-to-sing-along with their […]

The Book of Strange New Things

The Book of Strange New Things

The Book of Strange New Things is not only a mouthful, but is also almost impossible to describe without either sounding way too simplistic or entirely too detailed and spoiler-y. So, I’ll start by saying that this thing is basically a sci-fi narrative that, like most sci-fi narratives, isn’t really all that much about science, but is actually spiritual and, in this case, about unabashed and blind religious fealty. I think, if I had to compare it to anything I’ve read in the past (like the way past), it would be parts of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. Not in structure, […]

Return to Love

LVL UP: Return to Love

I believe this is the second LVL UP album I’ve reviewed in 2016, but why not stick with what you like, right? That said, I loved that first album, 2014’s Hoodwink’d. It was like an amalgam of all the indie rock I loved from the 90s squashed into one album. So I was set up for the inevitable come down of this album — because that’s what happens when these DIY bands move to a major label (in this case, Sub Pop), get some money to record and just kind of lose that edge because they think their music, now that they’re […]

Atlanta

Atlanta: Season 1

I’ve been to Atlanta (not including the airport) a grand total of once. There wasn’t much to it. They told me the traffic was going to be awful. It was nothing compared to LA or the NYC area. I was told by the desk woman at my hotel (in a not-so-subtly racist way) to stay away from the local Waffle House, but that the local Steak ‘n Shake was “safe.” Turns out, it was both safe and pretty decent for a late-night dinner. But, honestly, I didn’t get a great flavor for the city or its inhabitants. That has all changed […]

Snowden

Snowden

Rating (out of 5): ***½ I have to admit that I knew fuck-all about Edward Snowden before heading into this movie. I mean, I’d seen the dude on the news and had a general sense of what Snowden did, but my recollection of exactly what he blew the whistle on in what government program was definitely fuzzy. And my memory of how he got his hands on what he got his hands on was totally lacking. I’ll also admit that I only went to see this thing because I had to kill a couple hours and it just happened to be […]

Omar’s Mediterranean Cuisine

Omar’s Mediterranean Cuisine

If you want the quintessential Midtown Manhattan lunchtime experience, take your khakis on over to Omar’s. You won’t be alone, as you stand in long lines with other dudes in blue dress shirts and even the occasional lady in a smart suit jacket. Thing is, Omar’s is an opportunity lunch spot, as you’ll also find the facilities guy with his name stitched on his shirt and the nice woman from nail salon next door. The point is, everyone just f’ing loves this place. It’s almost cultish the lengths to which people will give up large chunks of their lunch hour […]

Head Carrier

Pixies: Head Carrier

Pixies are a pretty large touchstone for me in my musical evolution. It honestly started back in 1989 with Doolittle, and I subsequently, and quickly, dug back into their back catalog to uncover Surfer Rosa and then their debut EP, Come On Pilgrim. So I kind of took them in all at once: the more polished, major label band on Doolittle and the weird, indie band from Surfer Rosa. And, like most every other band I love, I tend to like their earlier, more raw stuff better. It’s just more organic and angry and, well, strange. Granted, Doolittle has some […]

Straight Outta Compton

Straight Outta Compton

Rating (out of 5): ***½ I’m not sure why my name isn’t on the masthead of Straight Outta Compton. I mean, I grew up a mere 20 miles from the heart of where this story took place. I rocked a Kings hat and once wore a white t-shirt and probably a black jacket and, on occasion, said the “f word.” Wait, what, it was because of these guys that I did that? Ok, fine, yes, I followed, rather than lead, on the “gangsta rap” thing. I first heard a bootleg of Eazy-Duz-It in 1988 and couldn’t believe my ears. My friend put it […]

The Body. The Blood, The Machine

The Thermals: The Body, The Blood, The Machine

I definitely saw this album cover back when this thing came out in 2006. I mean, how could I miss it with the whole Jesus in front of wreckage thing going on? I probably listened to it too just to see what the Jesus thing was all about. Thing is, I don’t at all recall liking it. So that makes me think I was either drunk or sleeping or both. Because now, ten years later, I can’t for the life of me stop listening to all ten tracks over and over again. How, I ask, can this shit keep happening to […]

The Night Of

The Night Of

The thing that sets The Night Of apart is pacing. It starts with a night of drugs and sex and murder, which really throws the viewer into what he/she thinks is going to be a wild ride of whodunnit, but once it kind of gets the crime out of the way, it settles the pace down to a slow burn that really chews on its characters and the little nuances that happen between them. It concentrates on dialogue and the feeling of the words in the characters’ mouths way more than it does on the intricate plot points. This isn’t CSI. […]

Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits

Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits

I may have gone one too deep in the David Wong (aka Jason Pargin) canon. Granted, including Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits, his canon numbers three. First there was John Dies at the End. That novel was fun and funny and mixed and matched post-modern and horror and comedic genres in a really great way that felt fresh and new to me. Then came the sequel, This Book is Full of Spiders. It was less funny and less fun. It wasn’t bad per se, but quite a comedown from his debut. So now, with his third novel, he’s left the “John” […]

Boronia

Hockey Dad: Boronia

There is nothing more exuberant on this planet than young Australian dudes. Hockey Dad, indeed a couple of teenagers from New South Wales, are what appear to be two skater-surfers who discovered that a simple guitar and drum setup can bring happiness to the masses (or at least the tens who have listened to this record). Granted, every single photo of them seems to contain at least one, if not both, of them flipping the bird in an almost mock-punk posture. But they are far from punk. They are more in the surf pop, fuzzy, sunny laid-back tradition of guys […]

Draught 55

Draught 55

I’ll give you two guesses what street this joint sits on. Ok, I’ll give you no guesses (and I’ll even put the address down at the bottom of this review) and just tell you that it’s in one of those kind of non-descript sections of the city that attracts dudes and ladies looking for a noon-time Thursday beer and burger and groups of said people looking for maybe some Scotch and craft brews in order to unwind at the end of the day. So not necessarily a destination to which folks come from their apartments, but rather an easy and […]

The Last of Us Remastered

The Last of Us Remastered

Look, I don’t play a lot of video games. I’m an adult with a job and a wife and some kids and some other stuff that keeps me from sitting for hours at a time shooting zombies and jumping from ledges and stuff. I’m still only three quarters of the way through Half-Life 2 on the original Xbox for god’s sake. No, I mean like I literally still have the game system hooked up from like 12 years ago and have yet to get through the thing. So it’s pretty damn amazing that I finished this game on my PS4, […]

Love: Season 1

Love: Season 1

I was admittedly digging deep in my Netflix queue in watching this one. Love is not only ungoogleable, it is so deeply entrenched in the tropes of modern cable television that it just kinda hurts. Sort of ugly, funny, but damaged guy falls in love with the beautiful, but deeply damaged, woman. Lots of awkwardness, mostly of a sexual nature (this is Judd Apatow, after all) ensues and everyone cringes and laughs uneasily as little, clearly-written-in-a-writer’s-room vignettes play out, some successfully and others feeling like retreads a few degrees off from other Apatow scenes. I’m just not sure we need […]

Stranger Things

Stranger Things: Season 1

I kept mistakingly calling this show Needful Things. That, of course, is a Stephen King novel from 1991 and a terrible film based on the book from 1993. This is Stranger Things, an awesome show about Dungeons & Dragons and a demon of hell being accidentally unleashed upon a small Indiana town by a telekinetic child.  The two have very little in common plot-wise, but there is certainly a Stephen King-esque quality to this series nevertheless. And there is even a larger Steven (with a ‘v’ and not a ‘ph’) thang that hangs over this throw-backy show in the form of […]

A Doubter's Almanac

A Doubter’s Almanac

This feels like a book that in 2001 would have been as popular as The Corrections. But given what feels like both an oversaturation of the book market with the advent of self-publishing and digital reading and whatever the hell else has gone on in the business and the attention span of the general public being whittled away to nothing greater than 140 characters, books like this just don’t get the ink they would have gotten back then. Add to that what feels like an entire generation of young people who have no interest in reading anything that they can’t read on […]

Camp Cope

Camp Cope: Camp Cope

Jesus, I just want this album on repeat in my head all day long. No, Camp Cope isn’t some horrible MTV rehab show hosted by Bob Forrest, but is instead an all-woman indie rock band from Australia. Three women to be exact, fronted by singer and songwriter, Georgia Maq. And it is her mournful, yet demanding voice that can both coo and howl that drives their incredibly 90s-sounding brand of emo pop punk folk rock. Wow, that’s a lot of adjectives to describe one album. That’s because at times they remind me of fellow Aussie, Ben Lee and then come […]