Jonas Brothers-Happiness Begins

In 2009, if you had told me that I’d willing listen to a Jonas Brothers record in 2019, I’d probably say something that I’d be ashamed of in 2019.  While it’s difficult for me to discuss what qualified as insanely popular and well-discussed pop music at that point in time, I can tell you that the Jonas Brothers were hits in the eighth and ninth grade circa 2007-2009.  Their 2019 return as a mature pop act is an easy sell to nostalgic twenty-somethings and a chance for reassessment from pretentious Marilyn Manson fans.  With Happiness Begins, the trio’s reinvention cements their credibility beyond teenie-boppers, but does little to set them apart from their new contemporaries. Continue reading

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The National-I Am Easy to Find

Sometimes, I tend to forget that the guys in The National are both thoughtful and innovative musicians.  Despite being a group that shifted the sound of indie rock, it’s easy to think they’ve mostly done the same thing on every album.  I Am Easy to Find is the first album since Alligator that feels like a significant shift for The National, and it’s a really grand thing. Continue reading

Swallow (dir. Carlo Mirabella-Davis)

Comparisons will be drawn between Carlo Mirabella-Davis’ Swallow and the films of Yorgos Lanthimos and Todd Solondz, with its showcasing of the most grotesque and depraved parts of humanity using very clean-cut, sanitized and symmetrical imagery. But apart from some absurd and darkly comic dialogue, at no point does this film become untethered from reality, and perhaps that is what makes the viewing experience of Swallow so stressful. Lanthimos and Solondz might push the limits of horror, absurdity, and magical realism for the sake of satire, but Mirabella-Davis tip toes right up against the line. Exaggerated, sure, but never unbelievable. Continue reading

Craig Finn-I Need a New War

While there’s real emotions loaded behind every Hold Steady song, they’re built around magical realism, where liquor and painkillers are the means to rebirth more than they are a cause of death. I Need a New War, the latest solo album from Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn, occupies the same spaces that records like Separation Sunday and Boys and Girls in America does, but Finn isn’t as reckless and mystified as he was in those mid-aughts masterpieces. While Finn still eludes to heavy drinking and a complicated relationship with faith, he’s much more aware of the repercussions of those viewpoints. Continue reading

Insignificant Other-i’m so glad i feel this way about you

If you were a tumblr user and fan of bands like The Front Bottoms and TWIABP in 2015, it’s near impossible to not have heard of Insignificant Other.  Lead vocalist and songwriter, Sim Morales has been releasing covers with some originals via bandcamp for last half of the decade, but the recent release of i’m so glad i feel this way about you paints a picture of a triumphant pop-punk band with a Brooklyn-sensibility despite their Alabama by way of Gainesville location. Continue reading

Dave Hause-Kick

With the formal formation of his backing band, The Mermaid, Dave Hause has become more adventurous. Where 2016’s Bury Me in Philly felt transitional, Kick sounds like a musician who wants to see where he can reach.  The singer-songwriter still channels the Americana of his peers Brian Fallon and Craig Finn perpetuate, but there’s more of an inclination towards a (slightly more) modern America than the Ferris wheels and classic cars that you’d probably expect from the former or the drug abuse as religious metaphor of the latter.  Hause allows his work to be more bass-driven, as he reflects on finding some contentment in age and sobriety. Continue reading

PUP-Morbid Stuff

Following the success of 2016’s The Dream Is Over, an album that catapulted PUP from respectable Canadian pop-punks to North American scene superstars, Morbid Stuff was weighted with excitement and ambition.  While there was plenty to ring up the excitement in Dream, Morbid Stuff is like taking a rocket to an unknown moon that was just discovered orbiting earth.  With sleek and chunky riffs, Stefan Babcock spills anxiety over with rallying cries and quarter-life rage that sets the band in a certain class of their contemporaries like Rozwell Kid, where they can make incredibly fun and upbeat songs that are immediately memorable and occasionally silly but only layering over a very real sense of self-actualization. Continue reading

Weezer-Weezer (The Black Album)

If you’ve never seen the 2007 Jason Lee-starring children’s film Alvin and the Chipmunks, I implore you to watch it before listening to the latest Weezer record, The Black Album.  Of course, it was only a matter of time before Weezer entered this Spinal Tap realm that was mostly occupied by Metallica and Jay-Z, but it was developed with loathing diehard fans.  While Weezer is a cultural touchstone, and their Teal Album was the subject of ire from many critics, The Black Album is like Alvin and the Chipmunks in that it’s really enjoyable in a mind-numbing way. Continue reading

Meghan Trainor-The Love Train

When Meghan Trainor’s Title was released in 2015, it was occasionally a breath of fresh air.  It subverted classic 60’s and 50’s pop by singing about modern ideas.  It was very similar to Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox.  The bops were there.  “All About that Bass” and “Lips are Movin'” were genuine hits, and most of the best moments on the album signaled the energy of those two songs.  Whether it was the doo-wop of “Credit” or corny white-girl rap “Bang Dem Sticks,” there was something mystifying about Trainor,which the industry  obviously sees since she’s appeared on a bunch of singing shows and the Grammys.  What’s most puzzling about Trainor though is her appeal to (much) younger listeners, which her latest EP, The Love Train answers (sorta). Continue reading