Friday, January 11, 2019

Top Films and Music of 2018


Below is my roundup of my favorite films and music of 2018. In all honesty, I missed a lot of films, but this is the best of what I managed to see.

TOP 10 FILMS OF 2018

1. Sorry to Bother You
2. Avengers: Infinity War
3. Bodied
4. Isle of Dogs
5. Destroyer
6. RBG
7. Blindspotting
8. Beirut
9. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse
10. Three Identical Strangers


HONORABLE MENTIONS:
Annihilation
Vice

TOP ALBUMS OF 2018:

Listen to all the below albums on my Best Albums of 2018 Playlist.

Janelle Monáe - Dirty Computer


In a world without Prince, we can all be thankful we have Janelle Monáe. Like the Purple One, Monáe seamlessly melds rap, R&B, pop, and rock with a masterfulness that is unseen in the current music industry, and her skills shine through on Dirty Computer. From the opening track, backed with Beach Boys-styled harmonies (courtesy of Brian Wilson himself), it's clear that the album is going to be something fresh. Wilson's group famously wrote about songs about pure teen Americana, girls, cars, and parties, and on "Crazy, Classic Life", Monáe revitalizes this formula with a perfectly modern sheen that reflects on our current times. Monae tackles being a black, pansexual woman in America throughout this opus, but always keeps the lyrics and musical totally accessible. Whether it's the lascivious bubblegum of "Screwed" or the sharp topical rap on "Django Jane", every song has character, a message, and stands on its own merits while never feeling out of place on the album. It's monument to modern music, and is one that will hold up for generations to come.

2. U2 - Songs of Experience


U2 have not had the best last decade. Bono suffered a serious run-in with death, receive less radio play, and their albums have met with disregard (No Line on the Horizon) or outright scorn (Songs of Innocence) - though the latter was more due to the method of distribution more than the actual music. And that may be at the heart of the issue - people have spent more time paying attention to the band as a brand or a representation of Bono's oversized personality than actually listening to their music. With Songs of Experience, the Irish rockers flip the script and have returned the focus to what they are - amazing musicians and songwriters. Throughout this collection, it feels like U2 have got their groove back, whether it be hard rockers ("American Soul", "The Blackout"), danceable new wave ("Red Flag Day", "The Showman") or the big anthemic ballads they do better than anyone else ("You're the Best Thing About Me", "Landlady"). The songs both hearken to the band's classic songs while sound completely part of 2018. The lyrics at times touch on the political climate, but with the right amount of attitude to wash over any preachiness. It's simply the best U2 album since All That You Can't Leave Behind. If you're one of the people who wrote off U2 after that album, now is the time to revisit them.

3. Ben Howard - Noonday Dream


With his third full length album, Ben Howard has continued his evolution from an adept pop rock songwriter to a composer of complex, moody and atmospheric musical tapestries that flow and breathe. While this all sounds very elitist and artsy, it needs be said that Howard does all of this without abandoning gorgeous melodies that ruminate in your head for weeks to follow. The melancholy highlight "Nica Libres at Dusk" emotes longing through a dreamy haze, "Towing the Line" drifts elegiacally like an indie folk sea ballad...I could go on touting the majesty of each track. This album is truly mean to be a headphone journey, to be listened to closely in a quiet room while you lay back and let each song breach your defenses and take you away into Howard's world.

4. Dessa - Chime


Dessa is a true multi hyphenate - a rapper, singer, composer...the list goes on. On Chime, she has all of these talents on display, and creates an album that leaves you wanting more. Chime is possibly her most diverse album to date as well, with laments on loss ( the moving "Good Grief"), bangers ("Fire Drills", "5 Out of 6"), and even a straight-up pop ("Half of You") - and it's excellent throughout. While she's yet to reach the full mainstream, the mainstream knows she's where it's at - Lin Manuel Miranda chose her for the Hamilton Mixtape and also included her on his Puerto Rico benefit song, and you certainly can't argue with that man's taste!

5. Darlingside - Extralife


One of the best discoveries of this year, Darlingside craft songs enriched by perfect folk harmonies that imbue everything they touch with an extra warmth and depth. Drawing influences from The Byrds to the Beach Boys, the group boast pitch-perfect harmonies that shine even on the simplest tracks. Unlike similar groups, the songs on Extralife won't put you to sleep. The soul and advanced musicianship on tracks like "Singularity" feel like the soundtrack to a hero's journey, while "Indian Orchard Road" invokes the nostalgia and warmth of an east coast autumn day. "Futures" vibes like Simon & Garfunkel, while "Eschaton" mixes electronic touches in with the folk for a sound that is entirely Darlingside's. This is a group to watch.

6. Brian Fallon - Sleepwalkers


Brian Fallon has spent most of his music career escaping comparisons to his influences, and on his second solo album, he successfully comes into his own, making music that sounds wholly his own. Fallon's songwriting remains ever strong, writing upbeat rockers about death ("Forget Me Not") and mournful love songs ("Watson") that grow stronger on repeated listens. He also branches out musically, incorporating 80's influences and ska riffs ("Come Wander With Me"), all the while continuing to elevate his storytelling lyricism ("Yes, and you always believed there was some kind of diamond in me/Oh but if you still burn every night in the hurt/I know a place where the pain doesn't reach"). Fallon isn't quite at the level of his musical heroes like Springsteen, Knopfler or Strummer yet, but with albums like Sleepwalkers, he's certainly on his way.

7. The Coup - Sorry to Bother You


An incredibly original and provocative movie like Sorry to Bother You deserves an equally incredible soundtrack, and the director Boots Riley's rap group The Coup delivered, with a little help from Tune-Yards, Janelle Monáe, Killer Mike and others. Riley's lyrics are sharp, smart and clever throughout, rewarding multiple listens, and like the film, the album's tone runs the gamut without feeling like a mixtape. Whether it's hard riff-rap on opener "OYAHYTT", the addictive party anthem "Hey Saturday Night", or the unsettling trance rap of "Monsoon", each track feels like it naturally fits onto the album as well as it fits into the wildly unique film.

8. Dirty Projectors - Lamp Lit Prose


I never responded to strongly to the Dirty Projectors until listening to 2018's Lamp Lit Prose. Finding a balance between their quirkier indie tendencies and sticky, afropop melodies and pop hooks, the album twists and bends in crafty ways that keep it fascinating throughout. The warbling electronic noises on "Break-Thru" create an almost-danceable groove, while lead single "It's a Lifestyle" embraces a wistfulness that you will feel though may not understand. The group's lyrics are certainly still esoteric, but like a masterful art film, the meaning and emotion imbued within it still connect

9.Tony Molina - Kill the Lights


Tony Molina began his career in the hardcore scene, where he showed an incredible knack for writing 2 minute punk ragers that never overstayed their welcome. While the length of Molina's songs hasn't changed, Kill the Lights show an incredible growth and evolution as a songwriter. Molina has traded in his Black Flag influence for The Byrds, The Beatles and The Beach Boys. The songs here shimmer with jangling guitars and lilting indie rock vocals, weaving melancholy and hopefulness through every lovely song.  Each track leaves you wanting more, making repeat listens a must as you try to absorb the nuanced musical touches and thoughtful lyrical prose.

10. The English Beat - Here We Go Love


No one gets to say ska is dead as long as albums like Here We Go Love keep getting made. The English Beat, featuring Dave Wakeling, sail through the songs on their latest album like Elvis Costello on a sugar buzz. The music pops, the vocals are silky smooth, and through all of the fun, skank-ready rhythms, the lyrics aren't afraid to touch upon weightier topics (see the excellent "If Killing Worked"). That's not to say some of the songs on here aren't meant for pure fun; the title track is all about the party, and with the rest of the album, is one you'll want to throw on when you need a glorious pick-me-up from our rough world.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Albert Hammond Jr. - Francis Trouble

American Aquarium - Things Change

Family of the Year - Goodbye Sunshine, Hello Nighttime

Fat Tony - 10,000 Hours

Femi Kuti - One People One World

George Ezra - Staying at Tamara's

Imarhan - Temet

Miguel - War & Leisure

Nathan Gray - Feral Hymns

Peter Bjorn & John - Darker Days

Shannon and The Clams - Onion

The Struts - Young&Dangerous



Top Fifty Songs of 2018:

Of the thousands of songs I heard in 2018, about one hundred and fifty managed to shine brightly enough to be worth considering. From these, I once again went through the difficult process of pairing that list down to the fifty best of the best.

Like all lists of its kind, it's purely subjective and there are likely hundreds of other songs I missed that I look forward to discovering as similar lists hit the internet. For now, below are my favorite songs of 2018 (and a few that came out LATE 2017 so are included here). Listen to all of these songs on my Top 50 of 2018 Playlist:

1. Dan Mangan - Fool for Waiting



Released towards the beginning of 2018 as the first single from Dan Mangan's album More or Less, "Fool for Waiting" is at once gorgeous and heart-wrenching. Though stripped down to little more than piano, guitar, and Mangan's deeply resonant vocals, this song struck a chord on multiple levels after just one listen. It's a love song for anyone who's a bit crazy, while also endearingly showing the craziness of love. As Mangan pleads "If you try to be with me, I will try to get by. Some say I'm a fool for waiting, they don't know this fool doesn't mind" it's impossible to not relate (I certainly can in very specific ways). While it's been a while since a ballad like this took top honors, there simply has not been another song this year that was as moving and pure.

2. Dessa - 5 Out of 6



Dessa is a true multi-talent; a singer, rapper, composer, and songwriter able to balance aggressive rhymes with engaging melodies. "5 Out of 6" captures everything that Dessa does well as an artist. The verses have bite, while the melodic chorus is dark and empowering. As she sings "I'm the phoenix and the ash", you'll feel prickles down your spine as you raise your hands in the air, entranced by the waves of rhythm Dessa's hypnotic delivery. The song is more proof that Dessa is one of the most underrated artists  working today.

3. Editors - Magazine



When they first started, Editors received numerous comparisons to goth rock groups like Interpol, but never fairly. The British band traversed similar dark roads in its music, but with incredible amounts of emotion and soul, able to break a heart or send your spirits to heaven through bombastic, U2-style melodies. This soul runs through the veins of "Magazines". The track disarms with its pedantically paced lines, teasing nefarious breadcrumbs like "I got a little secret for you, it's in a magazine", before turning into a booming political rally cry, "Now talk the loudest, with a clenched fist". Digging at the pompous, fascist-leaning leaders in power, the track manages to not let the pointed lyrics overpower the club-ready rhythm, finding a perfect balance that is one of the group's best songs in years.

4. Brian Fallon - Watson



Best known as the lead singer of The Gaslight Anthem, Brian Fallon is continuing to solidify himself as an incredible solo artist. With his second album, Sleepwalker, Fallon filters his romantic trials and fears of death and loneliness through poetic lyrics and elevated metaphors, no better than on "Watson". The romantic ballad finds Fallon longing for a woman he meets in London, unsure of how a relationship will work, but struggling with the fear of not taking the chance on her. Comparing his fears of losing her to England's famous detective duo trying to track down "the one that got away", the song builds to a cathartic denouement, filled with mournful slide guitars that would make Tom Petty weep. Is pure heart-on-your-sleeve Jersey songwriting in the best possible way.

5. The Vaccines - I Can't Quit



British rockers The Vaccines came back in a big way this year with their best album in years, and an irresistible lead single that was made for shouting along while jumping on a club floor. It's the kind of rock song that could have been a huge hit in any of the last three decades, filled with timeless, pogoing melodies and the perfect "fuck all" delivery that UK rockers do so well.

6. U2 - Red Flag Day



Coming back with their best album since All That You Can't Leave Behind, the veteran Irish rockers managed to sound reinvigorated and relevant throughout Songs of Experience, but nowhere more than on "Red Flag Day". Reminiscent of classics like "New Years Day", the song finds the Edge shaking and swerving with angular guitar spikes that play off Adam Clayton's funky bass lines, until Bono swoons out with subtly melancholy chorus that smartly reigns in some of U2's normal pomp to make the track a dangerously sharp, solid modern rocker.

7. Bedouin Soundclash - Salt-Water



After a long hiatus, Canadian trio Bedouin Soundclash made a triumphant return this year, releasing six singles over the course of the year, all of which were incredibly eclectic, original and memorable, but the strongest had to be the Preservation Hall Jazz Band-assisted first single "Salt-Water". Melding various influences, from New Orleans brass to island calypso, the group created a song that manages to be warm and haunting, bubbly and poignant. I'm all the more excited for 2019 knowing that there are more songs to come from the group.

8. The Interrupters - She's Kerosene



The Interrupters did what many thought was impossible - they brought ska back! Aimee and the Bivonas took North America by storm with their positive and unifying brand of ska punk, and earned a very well-deserved radio hit with the infectious first single. While it was difficult to decide between this track and the incredible "Gave You Everything", the sharp and clever lyrics ("I'm a match, and she's kerosene. You know she's gonna burn down everything") helped "She's Kerosene" edge out its placement on the list.

9. The Coup - Hey Saturday Night (feat. Tune-Yards)



For the soundtrack to Boots Riley's first feature film, Sorry to Bother You, Boots and his group The Coup teamed up with the ever-eclectic Tune-Yards to create a soundtrack that is as crazy, quirky and awesome as the film itself. Of all the great tunes on the album, the highlight has to be the handclap-happy "Hey Saturday Night". An excitably upbeat, good-time party song from the generally socially and politically minded rap group, the song still manages to be as smart as it is catchy, with Boots spitting rhymes like "Entice us with the future, say our destiny's a shopping mall, but we gon' be the looters".

10. Janelle Monáe - Django Jane



While her incredible album Dirty Computer shows off Janelle Monáe as the true heir to Prince, the second single from the diverse album, "Django Jane" stays true to Monáe's hip hop roots without forgetting the black female empowerment message she exalts on the album. "And we gonna start a motherfuckin' pussy riot, or we gon have to put 'em on a pussy diet" may have been a more effective campaign slogan for Hillary than the one she used to rally more women to her cause. Monáe remains an incredible writer and trailblazer, both in her music and her voice.

11. Dashboard Confessional - We Fight

Emo favorite refinds his inner stadium-rocker with this uplifting anthem.

12. Vance Joy - Saturday Sun

A perfect piece of summer acoustic pop from the Australian hit maker.

13. The Fratellis - Starcrossed Losers

The Scottish rockers' very catchy ode to Shakespearian lovers

14. Jukebox the Ghost - Jumpstarted

Queen couldn't have done this multi-part stadium rock composition any better.

15. Alan Silvestri - Even for You

A powerful and moving piece from the excellent Avengers: Infinity War score.

16. Frank Turner - Blackout

Turner turns in his most full-realized rock song yet that perfectly hits both political and personal notes.

17. A Perfect Circle - So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish

A surprisingly touching farewell to some of the famous lights lost.

18. Better Than Ezra - Grateful

An unabashedly feel-good slice of pop rock from the 90's hitmakers.

19. The Parrots - Soy Peor (Bad Bunny cover)

A garage rock cover of the Latin trap song that is so much better than the original it became the only cover to make this list.

20. Nathan Gray - As the Waves Crash Down

Passionate acoustic punk from the lead singer of BoySetsFire.

21. Skizzy Mars - American Dream

Mars turns a screed about the economic disadvantages facing young black men in America into an insightful banger.

22. Gin Blossoms - Break

The classic 90's rockers returned with a new single that slowly dug it's way into my consciousness with a simple but extremely effective hook.

23. Ben Howard - Nica Libres at Dusk

A sparse but hauntingly beautiful track from Howard's excellent new album.

24. 88rising - Midsummer Madness

The embodiment of a summer jam, the Asian rapper collective kill it on this hazy addictive opus.

25. Dirty Projectors - That's a Lifestyle

Quirky afropop-influenced indie rock with an undeniably memorable chorus.

26. Lord Huron - Ancient Names (Part 1)

Folk rockers return with a hints of psychedelia added to their sound.

27. Tony Molina - Jasper's Theme

A short and sweet Byrds-esque tune.

28. Amy Shark - The Idiot

Recalls classic Alanis Morissette in her perfect cadence and delivery. Gets stuck in your head too easily.

29. Passengers - Survivors

Hummable and evocative  with true emotional desperation.

30. Gorillaz - Humility (feat. George Benson)

One of the most breezy and summer tunes to ever come from this animated band.

31. Plan B - Guess Again

A British rap/dancehall banger, pure and simple.

32. Marshmello X Bastille - Happier

One of the year's biggest songs, and deservedly so. Melancholy, heart-felt lyrics meld with  club-ready production for an anthem to all those who care more for those they love than themselves.

33. Kokoroko - Abusey Junction

Jazz meets afrobeat for a moody, beautiful instrumental.

34. Muse - Something Human

A surprisingly warm acoustic song about longing to return home from the road that hits the right emotional notes.

35. Family of the Year - Let Her Go

Family of the Year manage to infuse pristine melancholy into their Laurel Canyon folk rock.

36. P.O.S. - Catch a Vibe (feat. Zamora)

A chill summer rap gem from an up-and-comer (note: this is a different rapper than the one on the Doomtree label)

37. Spanish Love Songs - Aloha to No One

Angsty punk band writes a perfect, self-effacing acoustic song about wanting to be better even if you'll never be your best self.

38. Imarhan - Tumast

This Algerian desert rock group bring insane guitar riffage that would make Muse jealous.

39. Eminem - Like Home (feat. Alicia Keys)

Eminem eviscerates Trump while lauding what makes our country great.

40. Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness - Ohio

McMahon takes us on a nostalgic journey that is both sad but hopeful as a family leaves Ohio in hopes of finding a fresh start.

41. Peter Bjorn and John - Gut Feeling

The Swedish trio comes back with their catchiest single since "Young Folks", and don't even need a whistle solo to sell it.

42. Alice Merton - Hit the Ground Running

New artist Merton writes an empowering song that will be on running playlists for decades to come.

43. The English Beat - If Killing Worked

Political indictments of war and brutality have never sounded so sugary sweet as this soulful ska song.

44. Ball Park Music - The Perfect Life Does Not Exist

Australian band Ball Park Music help keep us grounded with this ode to accepting the world we have.

45. Tar & Flowers - This Machine

A thoughtful folk song that summons the living spirit of Bob Dylan in its eloquence and elevated writing.

46. Elohim - Fuck Your Money

One of the year's best dirty pop songs with an eternally relevant message.

47. Interpol - The Rover

Interpol return with a straight-up post-apocalyptic rocker that make guitars sound necessary again.

48. Barbarossa - Don't Enter Fear

Gorgeous harmonies give an ethereal quality to this somber piece of indie pop.

49. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones - Wonderful Day for the Race

Boston ska heroes return with a horn-filled, uplifting ode to the best of humanity.

50. Rare Americans - Cats, Dogs & Rats

A rabble-rousing, scuzzy punk singalong with an irresistible chorus.

BEST OF THE REST (in alphabetical order):

Adam Sandler - Farley

Albert Hammond Jr. - Far Away Truths

American Aquarium - Tough Folks

Anamon - Iron Bill

Bear Hands - Back Seat Driver (Spirit Guide)

Big Red Machine - Gratitude

Bob Schneider - Blood and Bones

Big Mother Gig - Alvarado

Blue October - How to Dance in Time

Boygenius - Me & My Dog

Chance the Rapper - Work Out

Charlie Fink - My Heartbeat Lost Its Rhythm

Childish Gambino - Feels Like Summer

Chris Cornell - When Bad Does Good

Cloud Nothings - Offer an End

Cornershop - Double Denim

CHVRCHES - Get Out

Damien Jurado - Over Rainbows and Rainier

Dan Romer - Annie and Owen

Dave Matthews Band - Idea of You

Deer Tick - Hey! Yeah!

Descendents - Who We Are

Dude York - What Would You Do If You Had Some Money Now?

ELEL - Tequila

Fall Out Boy - Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)

Fat Tony - Got it Out the Mud

Femi Kuti - Na Their Way Be That

Four Fists - 6666

The Get Up Kids - I'm Sorry

Goodbye Blue Monday - Misery-Punk Ruined My Life

The Go! Team - Chico's Radical Decade

Great Lake Swimmers - Side Effects

Hinds - Tester

The Hold Steady - Eureka

Hop Along - Prior Things

Jack White - Over and Over and Over

Jade Bird - Uh Huh

James Bay - Pink Lemonade

Jay Rock - Win

Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros - London is Burning

John Doe - Comequando

John Nolan - Half a Block to Go

Kacey Musgraves - Space Cowboy

Kamasi Washington - Fists of Fury

Keegan DeWitt - Hearts Beat Loud (feat. Kiersey Clemons)

Keenan - Mahattan (feat. Marc E. Bassy & Skizzy Mars)

King Tuff - Psycho Star

The Knocks - Shades

The Kooks - All the Time

Lagartija Nick - Strummer/Lorca

Laura Jane Grace & The Devouring Mothers - Apocalypse Now (& Later)

Lauren Ruth Ward - Well, Hell

Lauv - Chasing Fire

The Living End - Otherside

The Love-Birds - Hit My Head

LSD - Thunderclouds

Lucero - Bottom of the Sea

Lucius - Tempest

Macy Gray - Cold World

Matt Costa - Sharon

MGMT - When You Die

Milo Greene - Worth the Wait

More Giraffes - Dinosaur

Moscow Apartment - Orange

The Motorleague - Everyone is Digital

Mt. Joy - Jenny Jenkins

Murs - Powerful (feat. Propaganda)

New Found Glory - 20 Years from Now

The Night Game - Summerland

Novo Amor - Birth Place

Open Mike Eagle - Relatable (peak OME)

Ozomatli - Coming War

Panic! at the Disco - Dying in LA

Paul McCartney - I Don't Know

Paul Weller - Aspects

Quinn Devlin & The Bridge Street Kings - Answer Me

Rainbow Kitten Surprise - Matchbox

Rat Boy - Internationally Unknown

Razorlight - Japanrock

Rivers Cuomo - Medicine for Melancholy

Rod Stewart - Didn't I (feat. Bridget Cady)

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - Talking Straight

Ruston Kelly - Asshole (demo)

Salt Cathedral - Rude Boy

Shannon and the Clams - The Boy

Sloan - Right to Roam

Sparta - Cat Scream

Sting & Shaggy - 44/876

Strung Out - Town of Corazon

The Struts - In Love With a Camera

The Tallest Man on Earth - Forever is a Very Long Time

Tash Sultana - Blackbird

Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra - Chienowa (feat. Kazunobu Mineta)

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - Keep a Little Soul

Trampled by Turtles - Thank You, John Steinbeck

The War and Treaty - Healing Tide

Waxahatchee - Slow You Down

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

It's Gotta be MAY



It's clear I have neglected this blog, and will likely continue to do so. What can I say - I've been as busy as I suspected I would be. I am now working as a Creative Executive at an incredible company called The Young Astronauts, working on everything from TV, Films and music videos to apps and games. It's kind of a creative's dream job.

The first day on the job, I wrote the treatment which would become this video:


Outside of work, I am still writing for TheIndyReview.com, and have completed two courses at Otis College of Art and Design, with a third one starting in June. I hope to begin painting again soon, but don't know exactly when (May is going to be busy).

Automated Irritation has finished it's festival run (I will be attending the Feedback Film Festival in Los Angeles tomorrow where it will be screening), and we are actively developing an anthology series within the same world based on it.

The creativity goes on in many new ways.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Top Films and Music of 2017

Below are my collected Top Films, Albums and Songs of 2017.


Top Ten Films of 2017

1. Wind River
2. Kong: Skull Island
3. Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri
4. Brigsby Bear
5. Logan
6. The Post
7. Logan Lucky
8. Spider-Man: Homecoming
9. The Big Sick
10. The Shape of Water

Honorable Mention: Patty Cake$, Thor: Ragnarok, Blade Runner 2049, The Disaster Artist, Get Out

TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2017

1.Bleachers - Gone Now

Over the last two years, Jack Antoff has proven himself an expert in pop songcraft, writing and producing tracks for Lorde, Taylor Swift, and more importantly, himself. With his latest venture under the moniker Bleachers, Antoff has created an album that is both cohesive as a singular piece of musical art, and overflowing with radio-ready singles. Gathering influence from 80's pop and stadium rock, songs like "Don't Take the Money" and "Hate That You Know Me" could have ruled the radio and MTV during its heyday, yet also sound completely in-tune with our modern aesthetic. The ways in which Antoff calls-back to certain phrases and melodies throughout the album feels natural instead of gimmicky, and overall helps infuse this work with a romanticism and nostalgia that no other pop album released this year managed to capture so well.

2.Matthew Ryan - Hustle Up Starlings

Matthew Ryan is one of the most consistently strong and underrated song-writers working today, and his latest release only continued to solidify that. Ryan's throaty, near-whispered vocals are an emotional weapon, capable of inducing a nuclear impact of hurt, regret, wistfulness and longing. What gives this album an extra adrenalized boost is the production work of Brian Fallon, upping the tempo on excellent tracks like single "(I Just Died) Like an Aviator". It's an extra burst of power to a collection of songs that are at once beautiful and emotionally devastating.

3.Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires - Youth Detention

The best true rock n' roll album of the year. Mixing the southern rock heft and hustle of the Drive-By Truckers with the eclectic songwriting of R.E.M., the songs on Youth Detention explode with punk energy, cracklin' hooks, and stadium-worthy jams.

4.Matthew Good - Something Like a Storm

If the title of the album didn't convey it clearly enough, Matthew Good's latest release is brimming with drama, dread and an impending sense of darkness encroaching on us, and it's a perfect soundtrack for a year that encompassed all of these fears and uncertainties. From the bitter acceptance in "Bad Guys Win" to the contemplative title track, Good's evocative imagery and poetic lyrics bring artfulness to a bleak landscape.

5.Dispatch - America, Location 12

There is a journeyman's quality to Dispatch's latest work, but one where the person journeying eventually returns to the reality of American life and has to face it. While tracks like "Only the Wild Ones" and "Painted Yellow Lines" evoked carefree times and youthful romance, they are balanced with political scorchers like "Skin the Rabbit" or "Rice Water". Even as the lyrics shift, there is no arguing that it's one of the group's most musically consistent works, blending folk rock with sparks of reggae and hard rock. A great showing that proves why they are one of the most successful independent bands around.

6.Lucky Boys Confusion - Stomchasers

These Chicago boys made their long-awaited comeback this year with an album that shows the pop-punk sound is far from dead. But then, LBC have always been more than just pop punk, incorporating more mature songwriting and doses of ska, reggae and dub into their style to expand it beyond the typical Warped Tour fair. And with tracks like "Sun in My Eyes" and "Good Luck", you'll be wondering why this group isn't yet playing arenas with the Green Days and Fall Out Boys of the world.

7.Sorority Noise - You're Not as __ as You Think

There's been a lot of talk online about an "emo revival", and Sorority Noise are the first group I've listened to that makes me believe it's real. Combining indie rock melodies, punk wails and thoughtful and funny lyrics about struggles with mental health and suicide, You're Not as ____ as You Think rewards repeated listens to unpack the depth of each song.

8.Chastity Brown - Silhouette of Sirens

Lovely, swooning folk rock from a soulful chanteuse. Brown shows an incredible range on Silhouette of Sirens, from delicate to expansive. One could picture these songs playing during a long drive, a rainy evening, or a protest march, and they would only enhance those moments.

9.Japandroids - Near to the Wild Heart of Life

While not as impactful as their Celebration Rock, the Japandroids' third album is still chock full of power punk pile-drivers driven by Springsteenian storytelling about breaking out of small towns and chasing big dreams. It's crisp open road rock n' roll with a bursting romantic heart at its center.

10.Miles Mosley - Uprising

Barn-burning soul from Kamasi Washington's stand-up bass player. Rave-ups like "Young Lion" will hit you like a bulldozer, and if you don't get caught up in the piano-driven jam "Abraham", then you certainly should never claim an affinity for funk, because it's the funk song of the decade.

TEN HONORABLE MENTIONS (In Alphabetical Order)

Brand New - Science Fiction
Brian Owens - Soul of Cash
Flobots - Noenemies
The King Blues - The Gospel of Truth
Mexican Institute of Sound - Disco Popular
Murs - Captain California
Ryan Adams - Prisoner
Talib Kweli - Radio Silence
Ted Leo - The Hanged Man
The War on Drugs - A Deeper Understanding

TOP 50 SONGS OF 2017

1. Paramore - Hard Times

If you had told me in January that my favorite song this year would be a Talking Heads-inspired pop jam from Paramore, I would have done a double take. Not that the group hasn't written some good songs ("Ain't It Fun" made my Best of 2013 list), but I was definitely blindsided by this one. Maybe it's how the lyrics seemed to directly address what was one of the roughest years of my life, or how Haley and the team did this through one of the most effortlessly cool, quirky, grooving songs they've ever written. Whatever it is, this infectious concoction won the year hands down.

2. Strand of Oaks - Radio Kids

A song that touches on the power of music and youth, with guitars that send shivers up my spine and soul.

3. Bleachers - Don't Take the Money

Shiny guitars and 80's production wrap around eccentric pop with stadium ambitions and a hopeless romantic's heart. If Say Anything were released today, it wouldn't be far-fetched to see John Cusack blasting a song like this from his stereo. It hits all the right chords and then some.

4. Japandroids - No Known Drink or Drug

The Japandroids reveal themselves to be grand romantics with this anthemic rocker. "No known drink, no known drug, could ever hold a candle to your love" is a line that should win over the hardest hearts.

5. Miles Mosley - Young Lion

This soul-funk number rages in all the right ways as it blasts out of the speakers with a glorious fire.

6. Mac McCaughan - Happy New Year (Prince Can't Die Again)

The best song to address our current political climate this year. Written at the very end of 2016, it sadly stays completely relevant, with the one uplifting note of it being that Prince truly can't die again.

7. Gorillaz - Ascension (feat. Vince Staples)

On the outside it's a high energy hip-hop track for the dance floor, but listen to the lyrics, and you'll find Staples demolishing America's gun culture and race relations. A subtly powerful track that will take you by surprise.

8. Matthew Ryan - (I Just Died) Like an Aviator

One of Ryan's most propulsive songs to date. For anyone who has ever lost someone close to them, try listening to Ryan's pleading at the end "Don't die, don't disappear. I swear to God we need you here" without getting choked up. It certainly got to me.

9. Son Volt - Back Against the Wall

This steady folk number has the timelessness of Dylan's best work, with a understated vocal performance that adds an emotional heft to the track.

10. Bash & Pop - On the Rocks

The most welcome surprise of this year was Tommy Stinson reforming his post-Replacements band to tour and release a new album. The lead single contained all that made the group's first album so strong; catchy guitars, boozy vocals, and a lively spirit.

11. GospelbeacH - Strange Days
12. Tash Sultana - Jungle
13. Matthew Good - Bad Guys Win
14. Frank Turner - The Sand in the Gears
15. Valerie June - Got Soul
16. ZZ Ward - Domino (feat. Fitz)
17. Dave Hause - The Flinch
18. Lucky Boys Confusion - Sun in My Eyes
19. Aloe Blacc - Real Slow
20. Kesha - Let 'Em Talk (feat. Eagles of Death Metal)
21. Mexican Institute of Sound - Mi T-Shirt De La Nasa
22. Ryan Adams - Doomsday
23. Missio - Middle Fingers
24. 311 - Too Much To Think
25. Rise Against - House on Fire
26. PnB Rock - Horses (feat. Kodak Black & A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie)
27. Fastball - Just Another Dream
28. Foo Fighters - Run
29. Julien Baker - Distant Solar Systems
30. Our Lady Peace - Drop Me in the Water
31. Earl St. Clair - Ain't Got It Like That
32. Portugal. The Man - Number One (feat. Richie Havens & Son Little)
33. Low Cut Connie - Revolution Rock n Roll
34. Dispatch - Only the Wild Ones
35. Captain We're Sinking - Trying Year
35. Lana Del Rey - Love
36. Flogging Molly - Reptiles (We Woke Up)
37. Alex Cuba - Todas las Cabezas Estan Locas
38. Wyclef Jean - Hendrix
39. Liam Gallagher - Wall of Glass
40. Murs - 1000 Suns
41. Machel Montano - Beat It
42. Brand New - 137
43. Hurray for the Riff Raff - Rican Beach
44. Anti-Flag - Racists
45. Manchester Orchestra - The Gold
46. Cold War Kids - Can We Hang On?
47. Dessa - Good Grief
48. Buyepongo - Sueltan Fuego
49. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - If We Were Vampires
50. Tyler Bates - Guardians of the Frickin' Galaxy

Best of the Rest (In Alphabetical Order)

1 AMVRKA - Raised in the Wild
The Afghan Whigs - Toy Automatic
Aimee Mann - Goose Snow Cone
Ariel Pink - Feels Like Heaven
Authority Zero - Bayside
Beck - Seventh Heaven
Ben Nichols - Stormy Eyed Valentine
Benjamin Booker - Witness
Benjamin Francis Leftwich - Pure Morning
Big Head Todd and the Monsters - Damaged One
Blink-182 - Misery
Blondie - Long Time
Brian Fallon - Forget Me Not
Charlie Parr - Dog
Charly Bliss - Glitter
City and Colour - Rain
Curtis Harding - As I Am
Cyril Morin - Arthur and Gena
Damian Marley - Slave Mill
Dan Auerbach - Malibu Man
David Ford - A Hundred Streets
Desmond Dekker - Have Courage
The Dogs - Why is the Flesh So Strong
Dr. Dog - Survive
Drive-By Truckers - The Perilous Night
Father John Misty - Pure Comedy
Flamin' Groovies - End of the World
Flobots - Dancing in the Light of a Burning City (Phoenixes)
Frightened Rabbit - Roadless
George Ezra - Don't Matter Now
Gill Landry - Berlin
Glen Hansard - Time Will Be the Healer
Goldfinger - See You Around
The Goo Goo Dolls - Tattered Edge/You Should Be Happy
Gregg Allman - My Only True Friend
Haim - Want You Back
Holy Oak - Basilisk
Hot Water Music - Never Going Back
J. Roddy Walston & The Business - The Wanting
Jessica Lea Mayfield - Maybe Whatever
Jillette Johnson - Love is Blind
John Legend - Woodstock
Kendrick Lamar - Feel.
The Killers - Run For Cover
The King Blues - Heart of a Lion
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizards - Rattlesnake
The Knights - Stevens/Arr Atkinson: Suite from Run Rabbit Run: I. Year of the Ox
LCD Soundsystem - Call the Police
Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires - Underneath the Sheets of White Noise
Lee Fields & The Expressions - Time
Lillie Mae - Wash Me Clean
Linkin Park - Heavy (feat. Kiiara)
LP - Switchblade
Mark Mothersbaugh - Ragnarok Suite
Martin Simpson - Thomas Drew
Matt Pryor - I Won't Be Afraid
Mick Jagger - Gotta Get a Grip
Milo Greene - We Kept the Lights On
Mo Kenney - Unglued
Mondo Cozmo - Thunder
New Politics - CIA
The New Pornographers - This is the World of the Theater
The Night Game - The Outfield
Noah Gundersen - The Sound
Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - Holy Mountain
Olatunji - Ola
P.O.S. - Thieves/Kings
P!nk - Whatever You Want
Palmas - Floating in the Dark
Palolo Deep - Surf Ghetto
Passenger - A Kindly Reminder
Preservation Hall Jazz Band - Santiago
Propagandhi - Failed Imagineer
Ray Davies - Poetry
Red City Radio - Rebels
Robert Plant - The May Queen
Roger Waters - Déjà Vu
Sam Outlaw - Bougainvillea, I Think
Save Ferris - New Sound
Sébastien Tellier - Lovely Blonde
The Shins - The Fear
Slaughter Beach, Dog - Your Cat
St. Vincent - Pills
Starsailor - All This Life
Talib Kweli - Traveling Light (feat. Anderson .Paak)
Tinariwen - Arhegh ad annagh
Travoltas - Until We Hit the Shore
Van Morrison - Transformation
Vic Mensa - We Could Be Free (feat. Ty Dolla $ign)
Vieux Farka Touré - Ouaga
Walk the Moon - One Foot
The War on Drugs - Nothing to Find
Waxahatchee - Silver
Weezer - Mexican Fender
The White Buffalo - Avalon
Wild Cub - Somewhere
Willie Nelson - True Love
Wiretree - Louisiana
The Wombats - Lemon to a Knife Fight

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

First Published Story on Popularium


I'm proud to announce the publishing of my first story on Popularium, Moshing in his Memory.

For those of you unfamiliar with the site (which I was before sending in my pitch), they focus on sharing stories and experiences built around the things we love. Whether it's a song, a movie, a type of alcohol, a strain of weed - if it had an impact on a memorable moment from your life, then it could be a Popularium story.

I hope you all enjoy. I'm hard at work on finishing my next collection of short stories (on #9, with at least 2 more to go). My short film (A)utomated (I)rritation has now gotten into 11 film festivals, and I've started a Drawing & Composition course at Otis College of Art and Design, so focusing on that before returning to painting.

I know I've been neglecting this blog and the creator's journey, but as so often happens with creative folks - we drop certain projects so we can focus on more immediate ones.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

September Update

I have no kept my word about updating this blog as much as I had promised, but it's only because I've been working on so many other creative ventures!

1. I have had a blog post accepted on the BlckLst's blog of Essential Rock n Roll films.

2. The Indy Review is still going strong with interviews, reviews and recommendations for all types of music.

3. I am writing the 7th story for my next collection of shorts.

4. I am developing a script with my friend Tyler Werrin for us to co-author.

5. I am writing a script with my wife.

6. I just finished an original piece of artwork for my sister's upcoming food blog. I'll premiere the piece when her blog goes live.

7. While going through some of my old saved artwork from junior high, I found a piece I liked that had gone unfinished, and am finally finishing it!

8. I've been revising my pilot The Beaten Path and my short The End Walks.

9. I've had a story pitch for Popularium accepted, and need to finish the final draft over the next couple weeks. I'm getting paid for this one!

On top of all this I've still been job hunting and doing volunteer work. In one of my previous posts I discussed stretching oneself too thin, and I have definitely fallen victim to that. I'm enjoying being busy, but I'll be working on whittling down my number of projects, especially as I have also signed up for a Drawing & Composition course at Otis College of Art and Design, as a prerequisite for taking a storyboarding class next semester.

God help me if I finally get a full-time job.

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Indy Review Returns!

Those of you who know me that along with a passion for film, television and painting, I am a complete music junkie. In past years, I have contributed to a number of music blogs, most often The Indy Review.

After being deactivated for a couple years, The Indy Review is finally back up and running. Featuring album reviews, new music recommendations, and much more, if you love discovering new music, old music, hearing about shows in your area, or want to share some of your favorite new music, please visit the site.

We also have a Facebook page to follow.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Discipline and Distractions

Between 2009 - 2010, I was unemployed. And this was one of the most creatively productive times in my life. My schedule would be as follows:

1. Exercise
2. Spend 1-2 hours looking for jobs
3. Either write 5 pages or write for 2 hours
4. Practice guitar
5. Work on an art project
6. Free time

I wrote 5 feature screenplays (and completely revised a 6th). I did a number of mixed media pieces (some you have seen on the site like Willie Nelson, Brandon Flowers, and Tom Morello). And I even wrote a bunch of songs (meaning I had to teach myself to actually write songs). Lucky for all of you I didn't have access to good recording equipment or I may have tried pushing a poorly produced EP on your ears.

Since my unemployment ended in August 2010, a lot has changed. I got a smart phone, with a number of distracting games and apps. I was just on Facebook in 2010, and now I manage a Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter account (the latter two just for art). I have accounts with Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and HBO GO, with way too many shows and movies calling my name. Marriage and maintaining a home and relationship also require a good amount of attention (if you have any sense at all).

And I'm currently unemployed again.

I would truly like to make this time period as productive as possible. I have a number of creative projects I could be working on at any one time (including this blog), but it just feels...harder. The last seven years have shortened my attention span, and I am doing what I can to fight this urge for distraction with discipline.

Every day is a battle between these two D's. If I'm able to sit myself down in a chair with some light music in the background, I find I can make myself write for at least an hour. And then the pull comes. The urge to see what's on YouTube. To read through the Facebook wall. To see how many more "likes" my art has gotten on Instagram. To waste my time with the million of entertaining but meaningless actions that will do little to further my career or finances. Or just take a walk to remember there is an outside world.

During my first stint as an unemployed human, I still had hope that one of the screenplays I was writing could sell and make me a professional writer. Since then, I've worked in the film/television industry, and have learned what it takes to get even a minor-budget film made. With learning how the sausage was made went my appetite for the meat. I have not lost confidence in my scripts, just the ability to get anything produced that isn't branded IP or stemming from the mind of a bankable actor or director. There are so many avenues to get content shown, but so few to earn actual living wages from.

When it comes to art, despite enjoying the process of making and completing a piece, we are in an economy where few people can enjoy the luxury of buying art (even art as inexpensive as mine ;) ). So what's left to inspire a creative person to discipline themselves as strictly as is really needed to be successful, when the hopes of monetizing ones creativity becomes more and more remote?

I guess you got to love creating more than playing Words with Friends. It certainly reaps greater, longer-lasting rewards than landing the word "spewing" on a Triple Word tile. Though if I could get a $1 for every point I got in WWF, I would be happily retired by now.

How do you discipline yourself when trying to finish a project? Please don't say Adderall.