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Entries in Underrated (15)

Sunday
Aug242014

Random Movie Review: Return to Oz

A movie seldom celebrated but left a great enough impression on the masses of youth born roughly between 1978-1988 that if you mention it to anyone born in that time their likely response will be something along the lines of "Oh My God, yes!"

Return to Oz was panned by critics for being too dreary and frightening.  Both slights are true.  Those wheelers scared the bejesus out of me.  I cannot overstate how creepy the idea of princess that can change heads is to a 6-year-old.  But, it's a funny thing, looking back it's far more memorable than a lot of other live action children's movies because it was a little scary.

I don't want to oversell Return to Oz, it's no Neverending Story or even The Ewok Adventure, but it had imagination.  It had personality.

To quote Jules Winnfield, "Personality goes a long way."

Also, easily Fairuza Balk's best movie (maybe that's why she never made that many).

Return to Oz, just a smidge Underrated.  

Saturday
May102014

Weezer (1994) Turns 20

Weezer (1994) came out May 10th 1994.  Weezer’s Blue Album turns 20 today.

To say an album “changed my life” is a pretty overused phrase.  Especially an album you discovered when you were 14.  How can an album change your life when you’ve barely even lived it?  So instead of saying it “changed my life”, perhaps it is more appropriate to say that Weezer’s debut album Weezer shaped my life.

 

It was a few years before I really gave it a listen.  I was, after all, only seven when it first debuted.  I have a vague memory of hearing “Buddy Holly” when I was eleven or twelve: I thought it sounded dreary.

No, it wasn’t until I heard “Hash Pipe” from Weezer’s second self-titled album, known as The Green Album, that I went to the Manchester Media Play and picked up both Green and Blue.  The next days I sat listening to both albums, alternating from one to the other when they finished, over and over and over and over.    Both albums were good, but Blue was something else.

The next weeks it was all I talked about to my friends.  I had starting learning how to play guitar two years earlier in middle school.  I spent the next months teaching myself every song on that album.  I probably played “Say it Ain’t So” for friends and at parties in college two hundred times.

 

As a personal item it is priceless, as an album it is amazing accomplishment in music.  The Blue Album finds a blend between heartfelt, poetic lyrics and sly pop sensibilities and plays them up to a critical mass.  You can love The Blue Album because it speaks to you, you can respect it because it is a master class in production and songwriting. 

There is not a single point at which the album falters.  Every single track is new idea, a different variation on a single sound.  Anthemic force, clever pop, unbridled enthusiasm, teen angst, pained longing, every song is a feeling played out in a sharp 3 ½... or 8 minutes (some feelings take longer than others).

Years later, it has inspired countless bands and imitations.  When it was released, critics praised The Blue Album for its clever pop songs.  They could see half of what made the album great.  To see the other half, it would take time.  Not as long as twenty years, but looking back now, there is no mistaking what it has meant to music and all of the fans that Weezer (1994) shaped the lives of.

Wednesday
Mar262014

The Salty Sublimity of Future Islands

I had actually heard of Future Islands before they played Letterman.  That’s when most of you probably heard about them.  It was in that performance from early March that Future Islands front man Sam Herring danced and bobbed his way into the hearts of music blogs everywhere.  Letterman himself was visibly tickled by the performance exclaiming, “I’ll take all of that!” when going to greet the band after performing their song, “Seasons”, the first single off their brand spanking new album, Singles.  Letterman would reference the electric performance multiple times in subsequent episodes and memes of Herring’s unorthodox dance moves began popping up all over the interwebs.  That is how most of you probably heard about them.

I had heard of them a few months earlier in a music dig through ITunes that has become something of a weekly routine for me.

Future Islands are a lot like very good whiskey.  They’re a synthpop trio with an indie infusion giving them a smoother finish than one might expect from a band with a lead singer that likes to growl as much as Herring does.  Their dulcet tones spiked by the occasional flourish of guitars or anguished howl.  I don’t particularly like easy listening synthpop, nor do I especially like whiskey, but Future Islands is very good whiskey and you’ll never try anything so smooth.  The music fills you with a warm rush that calms and excites you at the same time.

They have a sound about them like the ocean.  Both distant and close, silky and rough, refreshing and salty.  A dichotemy that makes them as intriguing as it does exhilarating.

Few songs could encapsulate this feeling better than the new wavy anthem “Swept Inside” off their 2010 album, In Evening Air.  It sounds like something straight out of 1979 England met with the slick production quality of today and made this ear candy that is simultaneously soothing and manic.

So, even though you may have only just heard Future Islands for the first time and you’re only just thinking about picking up their fantastic new album Singles, you might want to start thinking about picking up a lot more than that, because these guys are one of the best bands going right now.