Wednesday, December 28, 2016

RIP George Michael




Another legend for those of my generation died three days ago and this one hurts deep.  For me growing up in the 80's, three of my favorite singer/songwriters were Michael Jackson, Prince and George Michael.  It is unbelievable to me that all three of them are no longer with us and that we lost two of them in 2016.

I was 10 years old when Wham's Make It Big album came out and from the moment George Michael said "Jitterbug" on their hit Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, I was hooked.  As great as he was in Wham!, it wasn't until he went solo that I really started to appreciate his talent.

His pop masterpiece, Faith, ended up selling over 10 million copies in the US alone with six top five hits of which four reached number one.  The album is an 80's classic that mixes pop, funk, jazz and soul.  My favorite song on the album is Hard Day which has a killer bass line.  In 87/88, this album along with Michael Jackson's Bad album, was what I listened to most.

The crazy thing is, as big of a fan as I was, it wasn't until he released Listen Without Prejudice that I realized how awesome he was.  After the huge success of Wham! and Faith, George found himself overwhelmed by the glitz and glamour of the business and he decided to change everything.  He told the record label he would no longer put out albums for the mass audience, he would not tour to promote the album and that he wouldn't be in the music videos.  Basically, he wanted the music speak for itself.  Listen Without Prejudice was a more mature and socially conscious album compared to what he did in the past.  While the industry and many of his fans didn't like this change, I was blown away with the album and the decision he made for his career.  He wanted to do it his way and if the industry didn't like it, that was fine with him.  My favorite song from this album is Waiting For That Day.

While the rest of George Michael's career was hit and miss here in the States, he was still huge in his native England and Europe where he continued to sell millions of records.  I continued being a fan, always waiting for new music.  His 1996 album, Older, was a pretty solid with the song Spinning The Wheel being my favorite on the album and his final studio album, Patience, had some good songs on it as well.

In the end, I obviously admire George Michael for his talent, but I also admire him for his strength.  It took guts to stand up to the music industry the way he did knowing it would cost him millions of dollars.  It took guts to be outspoken about AIDS victims and research during a time when people were still ignorant about the disease.  It took guts to come out of the closet after years of playing the sex symbol role to women.  It took guts to release the song Shoot the Dog in 2002 calling out Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush for their war on Iraq.  It took guts to open up to the world regarding his battle with depression and drugs.  The man may have not always made the best decisions, but he always owned whatever he did and I liked that about him.

Some of My Favorites:


Wham!:  I'm Your Man


Hard Day off of Faith


Waiting for the Day off of Listen W/O Prejudice


Spinning the Wheel off of Older



Freeek off of Patience


White Light (a song written after he almost died of pneumonia in 2011)

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas Weekend Box-Office



While there a numerous new movies being released this Christmas weekend, you can expect Rogue One to once again dominate the box-office.  Last weekend, Rogue One had the third biggest opening of 2016 with a 155 million.  It has since since pulled in a ton of money each day this week as well because word-of-mouth is strong with this one.  Last year, The Force Awakens dropped only 40% its second weekend and I expect Rogue One to fall a bit more than that.  Look for around a 45% drop this weekend and for Rogue One to pull in around 80-85 million this Christmas weekend.

So, what are some of the new movies opening this weekend?  It starts with the animated Sing which is pulling in a 71% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes.  It has been a month since Disney's Moana came out, so kids need something to watch this weekend if Rogue One is too scary for them.  Look for Sing to pull in around 45 million this weekend.

The other major releases this weekend are Assassin's Creed (20% fresh), Passengers (32% fresh) and Why Him? (42% fresh) which are all getting horrible reviews.  Why would anyone want to see those movies when you can seen Rogue One for a first, second or third time?  Get your priorities straight! 

Happy Festivus!
Happy Christmas!

Go see Rogue One.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Rogue One Box-Office Update



After breaking the 2016 Thursday night preview record, Rogue One ended up with 71 million its first day.  That falls short of Batman v Superman's first day (81 million) and Captain America 3's first day (75 million).  The movie did pull in a solid "A" at Cinemascore, so word-of-mouth is strong.  Rogue One is now on pace to pull in 160-165 million this weekend which will be the third biggest opening weekend of the year behind CA3 (179 million) and BvS (166 million).

Friday, December 16, 2016

Music Review: Kings of Leon - Walls



A little background on my relationship with Kings of Leon.  I discovered them back before they had any success.  Back in 2003 when their debut album came out, I stumbled across it and really liked their southern style of rock.  I even saw them play in Los Angeles back when they were still playing small venues.  I was really happy that KOL found so much success as I felt their music warranted it.  However, like with many bands who find success, that success can change a band and that is what happened with KOL.  Don't get me wrong, I have liked every album they have put out, but they have lost a bit of their edge due to commercial success.

Walls is really a continuation of their last couple albums; some good songs, some mediocre songs and all of it over over-produced.  Early KOL albums had a much more raw feel to them and now they are way to polished.  That said, there are some very good songs on this album.  For example, I really dig Waste a Moment, Reverend and Walls - all damn good songs.  The album starts off great with its first four songs, the next several songs are average and then it ends with a good song.  While Walls doesn't live up to their first few albums, it has enough good songs to keep me listening to it.




GRADE:  B-

  

New Movie Friday: 12.6.16



Sorry Will Smith, but there is only one movie opening this weekend that matters and that is Rogue One.  The first spin-off of the Star Wars franchise is set to dominate the box-office, but don't expect The Force Awakens type of numbers.  I've seen predictions for this movie from 155-180 million and I think it will definitely end up on the higher end.  Last night the movie pulled in an excellent 29 million from Thursday night previews which is tops for 2016.  Batman v Superman pulled in 27.7 million and Captain America 3 pulled in 25 million.  Those movies opening weekends were 166 for BvS and 179 for CA3.  After Thusday night, Rogue One is set to beat both those movies for sure.  Reviews have been very strong with an 85% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes and word-of-mouth will be very strong as expected.  Look for Rogue One to pull in 180-190 million this weekend, which will be the top opening of 2016.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Music Review: Scorpion Child - Acid Roulette



This year has been a really good year for rock bands with a retro 70's style and I couldn't be happier.  So far this year we've had Wolfmother, StoneRider and Rival Sons (to name a few) who all fit in that category and now Scorpion Child.  It is only fitting that Scorpion Child comes from Austin Texas which is one of the best music cities in the United States.  Scorpion Child joins The Sword and Jonathan Tyler as one of my favorite rock artists from amazing city.

Scorpion Child's debut came out in 2013 and I really enjoyed it, so I had pretty big expectations for this album and overall it lived up to them.  Stylistically, this album has a Deep Purple and Rainbow feel to it.  Great guitar work, organs and the vocalist has classic rock range.  Standouts on the album include Acid Roulette (w/ a killer organ solo), Addictions and She Sings, I Kill.  If you are a fan of bands like classic Deep Purple, Rainbow or Led Zeppelin, Scorpion Child offers you something new in that style of rock. 

 


GRADE:  B+

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Music Review: Rooney - Washed Away



One genre of rock music I love is power pop.  From The Beatles to The Raspberries to The Cars to Weezer, I love it.  Rooney fits in this category with their British Invasion style of rock that is catchy as hell.  Rooney's lead singer is Robert Schwartzman who is actress Talia Shire's son and actor Jason Schwartzman's brother.  I became a fan of Rooney when I heard their first single, I'm Shakin', back in 2003 and I've been a fan ever since.  Schwartzman ended the band back in 2011 to do some solo stuff that was a different style of music, but he reformed the band in 2016 with new members and released this new album.  I will admit, I was a bit pissed that he didn't reunite the original band as I am a huge fan of Rooney guitarist Taylor Locke, but I got over it.

New members or not, Rooney's Washed Away follows in the tradition of their earlier work.  The songs are super catchy with nice hooks and great melodies.  The first half of the album is especially strong and while the second half of the album is not as good, it is still enjoyable.  I am really diggin' the songs All the Beautiful People, My Heart Beats 4 U and Washed Away which are all great examples of power pop.  There is no doubt that Robert Schwartzman can write a song that gets stuck in your head and this album is filled with them.  It is great to have Rooney back. 




GRADE:  B

Monday, December 12, 2016

Music Review: The Cadillac Three - Bury Me In My Boots



I'll be the first to admit that I don't like country music.  I just don't connect with it musically or lyrically, but The Cadillac Three are one of the few exceptions to this rule.  For a little history in how I even discovered this band, we go back to 2010 and my favorite album of that year.  My favorite album of 2010 was the self-titled debut from the band American Bang.  This album was produced by Bob Rock (Metallica, Motley Crue) and I really like their Kings of Leon style of southern rock.  Unfortunately, the album didn't find success and the band called it a day.  Soon after that, three of the guys from American Bang decided to start what I call a country grunge rock band called The Cadillac Three.  I gave their 2012 debut a chance and I really liked it.  Their 2016 release, Bury Me in My Boots, continues where the debut left off with some badass country grunge rock.

Bury Me in My Boots consists of some great tunes with a lot of groove.  My wife, who likes country music, says that this band sounds similar to a lot of country rock artists, but when she played me those artists, I don't hear the similarities.  The Cadillac Three have a unique style to their songs that puts them on another level in my opinion.  They are also really sharp with their lyrics and I really like the way the lead vocalist sings the songs.  Songs that are really worth checking out include The South, Party Like You and Drunk Like You.  When all is said and done, my biggest compliment to this band is that they can get a guy who doesn't like country music to listen to their albums over and over again.




GRADE:  B+



Friday, December 2, 2016

Music Review: Crobot - Welcome to Fat City




Crobot is a band from Pennsylvania that offers one of the coolest mixes of rock styles out there.  Imagine stoner rock mixed with some funk rock and then mixed with some soulful lead vocals.  Their debut album came out in 2014 and it impressed me immediately.  Their second album, Welcome to Fat City, impresses me as well.

If there is one word to explain Fat City, that word is energy.  Crobot has so much energy on their albums if you allow the music to consume you, it can be a bit exhausting.  In some songs, the riffs and choruses can almost feel overwhelming, but that is really the charm of Crobot.

Songs like the title track, Easy Money and Right Between the Eyes are perfect examples of what makes Crobot feel frantic and enjoyable at the same time.  One of these days, I'm going to see this band live and I am expecting that to be an insane experience.




GRADE: A-

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Music Review: Biffy Clyro - Ellipsis



I discovered Biffy Clyro back in 2013 and their album Opposites became my second favorite album of that year.  This Scottish band has done very well in the UK and some of that success has reached the States.  What I really like about Biffy Clyro is that their music features a sophistication that many rock bands don't have.  Some of their songs feature smart arrangements and time changes which demonstrates their creativity.

Ellipsis is a very tight album.  What I especially like about the album is that really is the tale of two halves.  Half of the album is more angry and has more energy, while the other half is more mellow.  Some of the songs that really rock include Wolves of Winter, Animal Style and On A Bang.  On the more mellow side, I really dig Medicine and People.  While the album is not as good as their last album, it is still a strong album.







GRADE:  A-