December 17, 2009

When I saw that this week’s episode of Crash was titled “Alone Again Or,” I knew it would have good music. Love was probably my favorite 60’s band, and of course “Alone Again Or,” was the song that got me into the band in the first place after hearing it in a skate video while I was in college. But I digress. Yes, this episode did have some great music, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear “The Rise and Fall of Love and Hate” by Oslo play during the ending credits, instead of the obvious choice of the title song.

Regarding the actual episode itself, I think it’s safe to say that Crash the TV show far exceeds Crash the movie. While I thought the movie was OK, it mostly played out as an inferior attempt to make a more accessible, less comedic version of Magnolia. However, when I saw Dennis Hopper cast in the show, I decided it would be worth a watch, and it has slowly gotten better and better with each episode. For those of you who have not seen this episode, here’s a quick preview.

Oslo on MySpace

Ben 10: Alien Swarm

December 1, 2009

Hope everyone had as swell of a Thanksgiving with your friends and families as I did. While the football games were pretty awful (getting used to this lately, seeing as how the Lions are always playing on Thanksgiving), I spent some quality time with the family and packed on a few quality pounds of food. Helped teach my nephew Ryan (he’s 11) to carve his first turkey, too.

One thing that Ryan is a huge fan of is Ben 10. It’s a popular cartoon sci-fi series, and while I have watched a few episodes of it with him in the past and found them decent enough, I did think the first live action movie, Ben 10: Race Against Time was pretty painful to watch…so you can imagine I was less than excited to watch the sequel movie, Ben 10: Alien Swarm with him over the break. However, this movie seems to have a much higher budget than the first, and was actually quite enjoyable and actually had some impressive special effects, enough to impress this self-professed FX geek. Yes, the story was a bit predictable, but this is to be expected for a fun sci-fi movie aimed at younger crowds. Overall, good job…and of course, there was also some good music, as El-P’s “Flyentology” played in the end credits.

“Flyentology” is a great adrenaline-boosting jam, and I’ve heard it countless times over the past year while playing Fight Night Round 4. There’s just something about that lead-in hook that really gets your blood going, and the song to me is pretty obvious choice for music to pump yourself up. You can check out a clip of the song in the film below.

El-P on MySpace

No Subtitles Necessary

November 24, 2009

When I was a young teenager, PBS aired a 9-part documentary on the history of baseball by the legendary Ken Burns, which completely mesmerized me. My Grandma recorded the whole series on VHS for me, and to this day I still have those tapes in my closet. Burns made a few other great documentaries, including ones on the Civil War, World War II, and the history of jazz, and up until recently, the Burns series of documentaries have been the only things I have ever watched on PBS. However, PBS has just started playing a new documentary by James Chressanthis called No Subtitles Necessary, and this lives up to the standard of the Ken Burns films.

No Subtitles Necessary follows the incredible story of legendary cinematographers Laszlo Kovacs and Vilmos Zsigmond, two life-long friends and incredible filmmakers who escaped Hungary together during the Soviet invasion and went on to be perhaps the most important figures in the American New Wave of film in the 60’s and 70’s. Films they worked on include Easy Rider, Paper Moon, What’s Up Doc?, Deliverance, and Say Anything. The pair have an amazing story, and it is told very well in this movie, making me really glad that other people actually donate money to PBS to keep it on the air.

Of course, no post here would be complete without a bit of music, and No Subtitles Necessary delivers on this front as well, with a handful of great songs. Of particular note is the immortal trombonist J.J. Johnson, who’s song “Seven Days to Tahiti” is used during the film as a great mood-setter, playing under some beautiful shots of 1960’s Hollywood. I haven’t listened to J.J. Johnson in years, and was thankful for the reminder of a man who my parents always told me was on the level of Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. Check out the clip below:

Need For Speed Nitro

November 20, 2009

I got a Nintendo Wii on Craigslist a few weeks ago for dirt cheap (one of the only positives of the economy being in the toilet is that people sell their possessions in desperation), and have kept myself somewhat entertained with Wii Sports and Mario Kart. However, just this week I actually bought my first game for Wii that didn’t come with the unit…and that game is Need For Speed Nitro. Earlier this year, I mentioned how much I loved  Need For Speed Shift, especially for it’s realistic physics (excluding huge crashes) and sweet cockpit cam. After a few days with Need For Speed Nitro, I love it, but for entirely different reasons.

Need For Speed Nitro is nothing but unabashed arcade fun, with cartoony graphics and an overall feel that just screams fun, making it a perfect game for the Wii.

Earl Greyhound on MySpace

Quick – what’s the best drama on TV these days? If you answered Sons of Anarchy, you are correct. If you answered something else….well, you don’t exist. Just kidding. But seriously, my well-documented Harley obsession aside, Sons of Anarchy is a great show. In keeping up with the tradition of past FX dramas, Sons of Anarchy is certainly an edgy show, and always has an intense forward momentum within each episode as well as the season’s bigger story arcs. The show can conjure up heartfelt moments just as easily as it brings on the intense action. Even better, it doesn’t feature any of the overacting that plagues so many other dramas or shows full of action.

Beyond all the great writing and acting, Sons of Anarchy also plays great music. Kudos to the music director for having featured Murder By Death in the show earlier (who showed in their Harley ad that they are the perfect riding music), and in this week’s episode they brought out more great music with the song “Fly Low Carrion Crow” by Two Gallants. Check out the heartfelt scene below, as Piney holds his pistol with the song setting the heavy mood.

Cold Case has long had a reputation for it’s strong tie-ins with music, and although I’m a fan of the show, and also like how they often feature an artist’s songs repeatedly through an episode, I haven’t always been huge on the music they picked – for instance, last week we were treated to a bunch of Santana tunes. However, on the most recent episode, “Read Between the Lines,” we were treated to the music stylings of one MC Lyte, with her confident jam “Act Like You Know.” The song plays when Zeb takes Donalyn to meet with Andrews, and plays throughout her impromptu ‘audition.’  Click on the picture below to watch the scene in it’s entirety.

MC Lyte on MySpace

Last night I was flipping through the channels when I heard one of my favorite tracks of 2009, “All In” by The Grouch & Eligh (with a little help from my oft-mentioned favorite LA underground rapper, Pigeon John, as well as Flynn Adam). No, this wasn’t on MTV, BET, or FUSE. Instead the song (very appropriately) soundtracked a montage on ESPN’s World Series of Poker coverage, which you can watch at the bottom of this post. I haven’t been religiously following this year’s World Series of Poker, but I am intrigued by the story of amateur Steven Begleiter, a Bear Stearns financial analyst that has worked his way into the November 9.

Killer tracks like “All In” prove that these Living Legends members still are on top of their game. A laid-back jam with some great subtle synth lines, “All In” also benefits greatly from Pigeon John’s smooth vocal stylings on the chorus. While I’ve been pretty disappointed with the hip hop scene over the past decade, it’s great to know that there are still talented musicians laying down jams like this.

The Grouch & Eligh on MySpace

Pigeon John on MySpace

Head To Head Episode 7

November 2, 2009

It’s been a tough football season for me, and all the other Redskin fans out there. Now that my only hope is that the team tanks for a top 5 pick in the draft, I’ve been focusing my energies on following other football story lines, and the one that has me the most intrigued lately is that of two rival high schools in Mississippi, the Wayne County War Eagles and the West Jones Mustangs. Awhile back I posted the first episode of Head To Head, the reality series that is following the two teams as they battle under for supremacy under the Friday night lights.

Well, folks, Wayne County and West Jones finally had their much-anticipated show down, and I thought I would post the last episode of Head To Head that aired before they played. This last episode focused heavily on how football and real-life intersect, and shows stories of previous and current players at both high schools as they made the transition from high school athlete to college. You’ll hear the challenges that former West Jones star linebacker Archie Sims faced to gain academic qualification, as well as that of Jerrell Powe, the former Wayne County star defensive tackle and almost surefire future NFL player who had to wait three years before he could play in college. You’ll get to hear the maturation process of future Southern Miss defensive end Dasmond McCullum, as he builds himself up from a soft basketball player into a terrorizing QB-killer. You will also see that Wayne County’s Jerrell Gandy, Malik Lofton, and Marion Chapman also have a chance to play big-time college ball.

You’ll also get to hear “Enchanted Hill” by The Album Leaf again. As you may recall, “Enchanted Hill” was also featured in the first episode of Head To Head, and just like “First Breath After the Coma” by Explosions in the Sky, “Enchanted Hill” makes for the perfect epic football music. The song plays in Part 1 of this episode, about 2 mins and 50 seconds in.

I won’t spoil the results of the actual game for you, because the entire game is posted on Cellular South’s website (unfortunately it was too big for me to post myself), so I would advise this – check out the episodes of Head To Head to get you ready for the action, and then watch the game yourself.

Head To Head Episode 7 Intro – The story of Archie Sims

Head To Head Episode 7 Part 1 – Dasmond McCullum prepares for college; Wayne County has a few players poised to play at the next level, too

Head To Head Episode 7 Part 2 – Jerrell Powe fights through adversity to make it to Ole Miss

Head To Head Episode 7 Part 3 – Life after high school football

Those of you who have watched the entire series like  I have, know that this should have definitely played on ESPN instead of just regional television and online, but I’m still glad to have been turned on to this wonderful series. I can only salivate at the possibility of Jerrell Powe lining up next to Big Albert Haynesworth sometime in the near future.

Back to The Album Leaf, as I was listening to “Enchanted Hill” again, I realized that this band is at the top of my list as far as bands I love that I haven’t seen live, in some elite company amongst the likes of Godspeed! You Black Emperor, The xx, Girls, Built to Spill, and Sigur Ros. Here’s hoping for a tour featuring at least two of these artists in 2010.

The Album Leaf on MySpace

Tim Roth is a bonafide badass. He made his first impression on me as a teenager when I was introduced to Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, and has carved out a nice career with roles in Rob Roy, Planet of the Apes, and The Incredible Hulk (which I actually thought was a really good movie…but maybe that’s just becuase the Ang Lee Hulk was so bad).

Roth’s latest project, Lie To Me, is one of the most original shows on television. When I first saw the promos for this show, I couldn’t help but think back to the classic Christopher Walken-Dennis Hopper scene from True Romance, where Walken says he learned all the different pantomimes people do to give themselves away when they are lying. In Lie To Me, Roth plays Dr. Cal Lightman, who helps out law enforcement agencies to expose the truth behind lies. It’s a great concept, and one that gives the writers a great amount of flexibility in the story lines they can come up with.

In last night’s episode, Cal and co. are assigned to look into a college football player accused of statutory rape (unfortunately, stories like this are all too common these days in the real world). During their investigation, they snoop around a college party to find more answers, and this particular scene jumped out. First, it had great realism – so many party scenes in movies and TV look nothing like an actual party. This actually captured the awkward crowdedness of the whole deal, and felt real. To top it off, one of my favorite party tracks of ’09 was bumping in the background, the song “Bang” by Bijou.

I saw Bijou perform a few times when I was visiting old college friends down in San Diego, and the guy brings a tremendous amount of raw energy to the stage. “Bang” makes for the perfect party music, but also something that would work well as an entrance theme for a boxer (I’m thinking Jeff Lacy here). The beat, like Bijou’s rapping, is confident and propulsive, but never gets obnoxiously bassy or in-your-face like so much modern hip hop. Check out the scene below and see for yourself.

Edit: Sorry guys, I didn’t realize that my video had been taken down from DailyMotion, but I’ve remedied that. Click on the image below and it will play the scene on Hulu.

Picture 1

Bijou on MySpace

Recently, one of my reader’s who enjoyed Head to Head (which featured music from The Album Leaf), brought to my attention that the band’s music has also been featured in a recent public service announcement. The song used is “The Light,” and the commercial is part of a volunteerism campaign being conducted by the Entertainment Industry Foundation.This particular commercial focuses on helping out military families, but the overall campaign is all about getting people to help out in the community and volunteer in general. Good cause, good music. It’s certainly a breathe of fresh air (especially for an LA resident who is used to reading negative story after story concerning celebrity behavior) to see people with high visibility speaking up for something important. Not to preach, but I think you should all consider the message of this campaign for one second, and try to think of just one small way you could volunteer your time to help out those less fortunate than yourself.

Check the commercial out below (and thanks again to Todd for pointing it out to me).

Vodpod videos no longer available.