• New Music Fridays – Lydia Ainsworth

    I saw this Canadian artist open for Yeasayer a couple years ago. For an opening performance, it was exciting and refreshing. She did everything herself with a couple keyboards, a computer, and a sequencer. The songs were fun and equally enjoyable as Yeasayer. The best part was that she was using some sort of vocal effect that made it sound like little leprechauns were singing backing vocals on a couple songs.

    This new album, Phantom Forest, continues in the tradition of infectious synth pop with warm vocals. The first single, Can You Find Her Place, is the kind of song you just have on repeat all day. Then here are slower, lighter numbers like Tell Me I Exist and Kiss the Future. It’s got something for everyone, even the kids!

    Streaming options:


  • New Music Fridays – Big Thief

    Well, it’s a little past Friday, but this album called U.F.O.F. by Big Thief came out and it is worth a listen (or actually two).

    The best way I can describe it is folksy with a tad of emotion. But wait, there’s more! The opener, Contact, starts with a plucky riff under airy vocals, and by the end, distorted guitars perfectly parallel cavernous screams.

    Adrianne Lenker’s voice is what keeps the whole thing together. From quiet intimate moments in From to the bubbly energy in Cattails, her singing style ranges from subtle to forceful, but never in-your-face.

    Places to stream:


  • The Corporations Are Winning

    The grocery store where we live has a fuel rewards program where you get a point for every dollar spent in the grocery store. For every 100 points, you get 10 cents off each gallon of gas you buy at the grocery chain’s gas stations.

    I started using this program as it seemed fair at the time. The rules being any remaining unused points in a calendar month would carry over to the next month. A couple years ago, I noticed the rules had changed and the unused points no longer carried over to the next month.

    There would be times when I would look at my point totals and it would say I had 85 points for the previous month, but I was already past the cutoff day, so those points were useless. Oh, and to add insult to injury, I would go to get gas and my point total for the current month was only 99.

    Anyway, this is bullshit. As a customer of this grocery store, I feel cheated and I’m not going to buy fuel from their gas stations anymore. I’m seriously thinking about getting groceries somewhere else, too. You want to mess with me? I’ll boycott yo ass.


  • New Music Fridays – Local Natives

    After their third album in 2016, Sunlit Youth, I was hooked on the refreshing melodies of Local Natives that felt like a distant cousin of Radiohead and Grizzly Bear’s love child.

    Much to my surprise and happiness, I saw this new one called Violet Street was coming out today.

    I’ve already listened to the album three times and it is delightful. The sonic feels make for great driving music or nighttime relaxation. It has a wide range including the catchy pep of When Am I Gonna Lose You and the bittersweet melancholy of Tap Dancer.

    The full album can be found here: Violet Street YouTube Playlist

    Or any of your favorite streaming services:


  • Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

    Freddie Mercury was one of the most amazingly talented musicians of the late 20th century. His voice and showmanship were unparalleled.

    While I generally don’t love biopics, I was eagerly anticipating this one due to the subject and also the actor chosen to portray Freddie: Rami Malek.

    I was less than pleased when it felt like the beginning was extremely forced in order to get the band together as quickly as possible.

    As things progressed, the harsh reality set in as turmoil erupted within the band. Freddie also was dealing with the realization that his fate was sealed when he was diagnosed with AIDS in the late 80s.

    There were some emotionally charged moments and wonderful acting. The final Live Aid performance was spectacularly done. I sincerely hope Rami Malek receives the Oscar for his performance.

    Rating:


  • Bird Box (2018)

    In this thriller from Netflix, Sandra Bullock plays Malorie, a survivor of an apocalyptic event must protect her two children on a trip down a river while blindfolded.

    The movie sets the stage with rules that govern the universe it creates. Anyone who “sees” the invisible creatures will become suicidal and immediately try to kill themselves. Also, there are crazies who have essentially become advocates for the end of the world and go around trying to force people to look at the creatures.

    The story shows the “present” timeline, but also shows much of the background when the shit hit the fan and everyone was trying to figure out what was happening.

    There is so much to love about the movie and so little to find fault in. The cast is great: Sandra Bullock and Trevante Rhodes are particularly wonderful. John Malkovich is also superb as always as the character you really despise despite his bitter honesty.

    There are a lot of comparisons to A Quiet Place due to its post-apocalyptic setting and the sensory plot element (visual and auditory). I think Bird Box ends up winning the trophy for all around better movie. It’s much more satisfying and intelligent. The characters in Bird Box did logical things and it felt much more realistic. The monsters in A Quiet Place were a little too visible, making them less menacing.

    If you like post-apocalyptic and moody thrillers with intelligent characters, you should check this one out.

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  • A Christmas Story (1983)

    This is arguably the best Christmas movie. It’s heart-warming, hilarious, and is just as relevant today, even though the movie is set in the early 1940s and came out in the early 80s.

    Join Ralphie Parker on his misadventures at Christmas time. All he wants for Christmas is a BB gun, but everyone thinks it’s too dangerous for him.

    Among the many enjoyable moments, you have Ralphie’s dad receiving a “major award” – the lady leg lamp, Ralphie dropping the F-bomb, Ralphie decoding a secret message on a radio program, and Ralphie going apeshit on a bully.

    I think the best part of it is Peter Billingsley as Ralphie. This kid played the shit out of the role and nailed every nuance of the character. He was serious and straight for the important bits and then broke out the cheeseball stuff for his various daydream sequences.

    When the credits finally roll, you are left with blissful satisfaction. And then you watch it again on the TBS marathon. “Fa ra ra ra ra ra ra ra ra”

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    Available to rent/buy from these locations


  • Die Hard (1988)

    Bruce Willis plays action hero John McClane. He’s just a regular guy at his estranged wife’s business party in Los Angeles when a group of terrorists (spoiler: thieves) take over the Nakatomi building where the party is being held on the 30th floor.

    Some people say this isn’t a Christmas movie, but they are wrong. This is the Christmas movie for after the kids go to bed. “Now I have a machine gun. HO HO Ho”

    This movie is so good, it spawned hundreds of movies riffing on the concept: Die Hard on a bus, Die Hard on a plane, Die Hard at a daycare.

    As the terrorists break into a vault in the Nakatomi building, McClane must stay alive and do everything possible to save the hostages, which includes his wife. Along the way, the cops and FBI outside the building are more of a hindrance than a help.

    It’s got great action, suspense, twists, comedy, one-liners, lovable and despicable characters, and a pace that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

    As the edited for TV version says: “Yippee Kay-Yay, Mr. Falcon!”

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    Available to rent/buy from these locations


  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

    When I was growing up, How the Grinch Stole Christmas came on TV every year. It was a magical 30 minutes of story, song, and heart.

    Based on the Dr. Suess book, the Grinch is a hateful curmudgeon who lives on a mountain above Whoville and can’t stand the Whos and their Christmas celebrations.

    The Grinch decides to steal Christmas from the Whos, but doesn’t realize that it’s not about the stuff for them and they continue to sing and celebrate. When it sinks in, the Grinch has a literal change of heart and returns the Christmas items to the Whos, who forgive him.

    The message is powerful and the whole experience is so memorable. The poetry and songs are the perfect bow that keeps the whole package together. The animation holds up even though it is quite old now. This one is required at Christmas time and usually gets more than one viewing.

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    Available to rent/buy from these locations


  • A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

    Chuck and his merry group of misfits sure know how to party. Except that the Christmas season has arrived and Charlie is depressed. Nothing is going the way he would like.

    After visiting Lucy’s doctor office/stand, she tells him to direct a Christmas play. Things do not work out so great at rehearsals, so Charlie decides to get a Christmas tree for the play.

    Charlie picks a sapling and everyone ridicules him for his choice. He’s even more depressed until his friends come through and decorate the little tree.

    Sometimes the holidays get you down, but friends and family are what it’s all about. This TV production is still great today after 53 years. My favorite part is the music, which accentuates all of the fun of the kids.

    Rating:

    Available to rent/buy from these locations