Good Vibrations (Leon Bridges, Good Thing review)

As a collector of good music, it’s incredibly satisfying when a bid continues to pay off. Despite all of the odds telling me that the music well can only dig so deep before coming up dry. Luckily for me, Leon Bridges planted more derricks and is establishing his reputation. It’s a Good Thing.


Leon Bridges – Good Thing

released May 4, 2018
******** 8/10

Todd Michael “Leon” Bridges is now 28 years old. I reviewed his 2015 album Coming Home, almost exactly two years ago. I love that kind of symmetry in life, it’s poetic when things work out good, and it’s a good thing. Good Thing is also the name of Bridges sophomore effort and like his previous work, it’s full of soul, gospel, R&B and blues influences.

The major difference you’ll hear between his two albums is the production value, but that doesn’t mean that one is better then the other. Coming Home is something of a time capsule (read: recorded with vintage equipment), whereas Good Thing feels a lot more like Bridges falling in with the times, though the times are represented by several decades rather then just the sixties. That, and he is proving yet again he knows how to pull on our heart strings. But where Coming Home was cohesive and distinct, this record is more of an exploration, one that still flows in and out of tracks well.

Not everything on the album works perfectly, with a couple of tracks in the middle softening the ambience, but I bet if you listened to this half a dozen times you wouldn’t know which ones I am referring to without some consideration. Proving yet again, that Mr. Bridges deserves his Mrs. and I am thankful that he included a closing track that gets the juices flowing.

The first four songs are particularly entertaining, and rightly so given that Bridges stays within his established zone for them, and Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand, Bad Bad News, and Beyond are also singles that play more like A tracks then B ones.  When we get to the end of the album, you have to wonder where the past 34 minutes went, but luckily enough, hitting repeat is a simple solution.

Shy could be an anthem for me, for you and for anyone that’s ever felt a bit inhibited in life – a problem quickly solved with some liquid courage and a gentle guitar. It’s a solid nod to the 1990s and the production chops of Danger Mouse.

Be still, my beating heart.

Now we get into the meat of the album, and this is where it gets gooey an a little soft. Forgive You and Lions are both free of the past, and they sound like something contemporaries Pharell, Bruno Mars and Sharon Jones would make, with smooth tempos and jazz samples. But then you get You Don’t Know and If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be) and I have to wonder what happened, because those tracks sound a bit more like drafts then final cuts.

I personally think he needs to continue to explore the sounds of the 1950s and 60s, and draw in the new when possible, but this is a good start to something more mature.

Pros: As previously mentioned, Mrs. is the biggest surprise of the record, it’s got depth, breadth and some sauce. But Georgia to Texas is solid runner up for my favourite song and a beautiful tribute to Leon’s mother.

Cons: I already mentioned how If It Feels Good, and You Don’t Know feel rather simplistic and raw in their presentation, and it doesn’t matter how wrapped they are in 80’s synth, catchy isn’t necessarily good either. And man is You Don’t Know a catchy song.

Runtime: 34 minutes

Points of Interest: Good Thing debuted at number three on the Billboard 200. It is the second album to be produced by Columbia records and Ricky Reed, who has worked with Meghan Trainor, had a major hand in the album.

Crooning is a difficult game, and while I can appreciate the fact that black artists who dabble in the past need to represent their forefathers with care, it’s not exclusively their responsibility either, and Leon Bridges doesn’t exactly need a reminder of what soul music means, he wouldn’t be able to make it without some pain.

theories Summarized

And that’s a Good Thing. But in all seriousness, I think this a really solid album and have no hesitations in recommending you take a listen or five. It’s a more adventurous outting to be sure, but Bridges has taken it upon himself to demonstrate that he understands the history of the music he references, and is layering more into the lyrics.

Love, religion, family, and personal battles all feature with great tenderness.

One sophomore album review not enough for you creative cuties? How about this recommendation of Sound of Silver by LCD Soundsystem? It’s a really great record and features all of the absurdity and comedy you’ve come to love from the New York group, but with a maturity that was expressed on their self-titled effort. I think you’ll like it too.

And if you like either of these album reviews or both of them, please like and share the video, and of course, please subscribe to the blog and channel for more awesome theories on the arts! Tomorrow I have some thoughts on Batman Ninja.


Not Experimental Enough? Hold My Whiskey (Jack White, Boarding House Reach review)

What rock and roll artist worked with A Tribe Called Quest and Beyonce, and is completely frantic? The guy who used to wear red, white and black.

Now known as the guy who wears blue, white and black.


Jack White – Boarding House Reach

released March 23, 2018
******* 9/10

John Anthony White, better known by his stage name, Jack White, is an American musician, singer, songwriter, record producer and actor. He is also the lead singer and guitarist of The White Stripes, and performs with other bands (The Raconteurs) and artists (Beyonce, Alicia Keys) often. His debut solo album, Blunderbuss, was released in 2012 and followed up a mere two years later by Lazaretto. And to be honest, Lazaretto was the stronger album in my personal opinion.

Both of his solo albums have had considerable commercial success and critical acclaim, so it is not surprising that he eventually followed up with album no. 3, Boarding House Reach; though the time gap was a little wider this time.

Boarding House Reach is an atypical blues rock album and has been released on White’s own label Third Man records as well as Columbia and XL. In an odd move, Connected by Love and Respect Commander were released simultaneously as the album’s lead single back in January, and Over and Over and Over was released as the second single in March. Corporation and Ice Station Zebra were also released as singles, and consequently, the album was able to reach no. 1 on  the Billboard 200.

This is an album which has a lot of layers, and absolutely needs several listens in order to be properly appreciated. Because it probably won’t sound as good as it is the first couple of times, I suggest sitting with it in the background as you drive, while you work away the day, and even as you burst through your evening work out. It’s a rock album that is challenging rock and roll in a time when rock is basically struggling for air.

Thankfully for us, he is a veteran of blues rock, having fronted The White Stripes for years, and it makes sense for him to explore funk, jazz, and even gospel music, but man when he decided to inject hip-hop and spoken word poetry into the mix… that’s when I knew I was onto something special. Plus, it’s a polarizing album, with lots of people locked in, but a healthy amount of skepticism from seasoned reviewers too.

The singles make perfect sense now inside the context of the record, but they are not the highlight of the album, no. They are an introduction into a more fun and carefree Jack White. Yes that might seem off, but listen to Hypermisophoniac, Everything You’ve Ever Learned and What’s Done is Done, and tell me this isn’t a new Mr. White.

Pros: His vocal performances are way out there, and it’s refreshing to see how he is stepping away from blues rock and yet he is still darkly edgy in his lyrical choices. Why Walk a Dog is a great little absurdist track about the idea of owning pets and whether dogs really do have a good life.

Cons: There are a lot of collages of different ideas floating around here, from spoken-word, rapping, progressive rock, funk music, to a cover of Al Capone’s own song (Humoresque). And sometimes they fight with Jack White’s natural sound, whatever that means to you.

Runtime: 44 minutes

Points of Interest: White chose to write like Michael Jackson would, by thinking of the songs as a whole rather then parts. He did everything in the silence of one room, for several hours at a time each day. This is White’s third no. 1 solo album.

This is not an album rooted in the past, like his previous solo albums and his work with The White Stripes. No this is something out of time, and I’m thankful to have found it – now check out our video review below!

theories Summarized

I’ll admit that when I listened to this the first couple of times, I thought, yeah it’s technically good, but definitely not a knockout album. This is normal, and a good thing, dear readers. So settle in as instructed, and you’ll come out the other side singing the praises of the future of rock and roll.

Yeah, it’s a weird album. Ha! But I love it all the same. I hope you get to feel the same, but either way hit us up in the comments, like and share the video if you found it valuable, and of course, please subscribe to the blog and channel for more awesome theories on the arts.


City of Stars (La La Land review)

What do you mean you don’t like jazz?

It just means that when I listen to it, I don’t like it.

The most candid of responses, mixed with sweetness and optimism. That’s the kind of movie you can really get behind, you know? The kind that will propel film into the 21st century and get us out of our hum drum lives, the lives we need to escape from after the great war.

Just kidding, this movie happened in 2016, and it’s about the future.

La La Land (2016)

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Rosemarie DeWitt, J.K. Simmons, John Legend
Director: John Lee Hancock
released on blu-ray April 25, 2017
********** 10/10

IMDB: 8.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, Audience Score 83%
The Guardian: *****/*****


I’ve written about American director Damien Chazelle before, when I decided to review Whiplash last August. So yeah, we already know that Chazelle is a musical whiz, and that he can bring music and film to life in an epic pairing. Owed to his own musical background of course. Which he fully and completely does with the construction of 2016’s La La Land.

Here is a brief overview of the plot, courtesy of Wikipedia.

 Stuck in traffic on a Los Angeles highway (“Another Day of Sun”), Mia Dolan (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress, has a moment of road rage with Sebastian Wilder (Ryan Gosling), a struggling jazz pianist. Her subsequent audition goes poorly, where the casting director takes a call in the middle of an emotional scene. That night, Mia’s roommates take her to a lavish party in the Hollywood Hills (“Someone in the Crowd”). She walks home after her car is towed.

During a gig at a restaurant, Sebastian slips into a passionate jazz improvisation despite warnings from the owner (J. K. Simmons) to stick to the setlist of traditional Christmas songs. Mia overhears the music as she passes by (“Mia and Sebastian’s Theme”). Moved, she enters the restaurant, but Sebastian is fired. As he storms out, Mia attempts to compliment him, but he brushes her off.

Months later, Mia runs into Sebastian at a party where he plays in a 1980s pop cover band; she teases him by requesting “I Ran (So Far Away)”, a song he considers an insult for “a serious musician”. After the gig, the two walk to their cars, lamenting each other’s company despite the chemistry between them (“A Lovely Night”).

The next day, Sebastian arrives at Mia’s work, and she shows Sebastian around the movie lot, where she works as a barista, while explaining her passion for acting. Sebastian takes Mia to a jazz club, describing his passion for jazz and desire to open his own club. They warm up to each other (“City of Stars”). Sebastian invites Mia to a screening of Rebel Without a Cause; Mia accepts, forgetting a commitment with her current boyfriend. Bored with the double date with her boyfriend, she runs to the theater, finding Sebastian as the film begins. The two conclude their evening with a romantic dance at the Griffith Observatory (“Planetarium”).

After more failed auditions, Mia decides, at Sebastian’s suggestion, to write a one-woman play. Sebastian begins to perform regularly at a jazz club (“Summer Montage”), and the two move in together. Sebastian’s former classmate Keith (John Legend) invites him to be the keyboardist in his fusion jazz band, where he will be offered a steady income. Although dismayed by the band’s pop style, Sebastian signs after overhearing Mia trying to convince her mother that Sebastian is working on his career. Mia attends one of their concerts (“Start a Fire”) but is disturbed, knowing Sebastian does not enjoy his band’s music.

During the band’s first tour, Mia and Sebastian get into an argument; she accuses him of abandoning his dreams, while he claims she liked him more when he was unsuccessful. Mia leaves, insulted and frustrated. Sebastian misses Mia’s play due to a photo shoot with the band that he had forgotten. The play is a disaster; few people attend, and Mia overhears dismissive comments. Despondent and unable to pay the theater back, she moves back home to Boulder City, Nevada.

Sebastian receives a call from a casting director who attended Mia’s play, inviting her to a film audition. Sebastian drives to Boulder City and persuades Mia to attend. The casting directors ask Mia to tell a story; she sings about her aunt who inspired her to pursue acting (“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”). Sebastian encourages her to devote herself to the opportunity. They profess they will always love each other but are uncertain of their future.

Five years later, Mia is a famous actress and happily married to another man (Tom Everett Scott), with whom she has a daughter. One night, the couple stumbles upon a jazz bar. Noticing the “Seb’s” logo she had once designed, Mia realizes Sebastian has opened his club. As Sebastian notices Mia in the crowd, he plays their love theme and the two imagine what might have been had their relationship worked perfectly (“Epilogue”). Before Mia leaves with her husband, she shares a smile with Sebastian.

What a whirlwind! I’ve seen this movie three times now, and I still can’t but smile when I think about it. Gosling and Stone have some of the best chemistry of all time, better than Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, Clarke Gable and Vivien Leigh, Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal, Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. I could go on for a while.

Point being, that while this appears to be a film about Hollywood, it’s moreso a film about love and the dangers of it, but despite those dangers, it’s far better to experience love and live a full life than to wait for life to happen.

Pros: The two leads play well off of each other, as they always do. Stone is beautiful and heartbreaking in her authenticity, and Gosling is too warm hearted to really be that rakish. The homage to the passage of time is so well done you’ll get all the feels.

Cons: There are an ever-present string of cliches to snip through as you watch, but you have to know the musicals that came before to be truly effected by it.

Runtime: 2 hours 8 minutes

Points of Interest: Emma Watson turned down this role to film the live adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. Ryan Gosling learned to play piano for this role, and John Legend learned to play guitar.

This is a love affair fully realized, passing through seasons, time and space, and ending on a high note. No, it is not a happily ever after scenario, but La La Land doesn’t need to be in order to showcase the starry idealism of today’s youth. Talented and romantic, these kids are paying homage to what has proceeded them, without falling into the tropes of the musical genre. Admittedly, I struggled with the very first sequence of the film, but I think like any good musical, Chazelle is capable of drawing you into this world and getting you to settle into it’s rules.

theories Summarized

There are musical numbers throughout this love story, but what I find most interesting of all is the love story that Chazelle has with this city. La La Land is so happy and sweet in it’s outpouring of emotion, that you have to wonder what Los Angeles did right to have this director fall so hard for her. I have a few theories, but I don’t kiss and tell.


Take A Polka Doted Waltz Through The Cuban Country, With Some Rock and Jazz, Man (The Mavericks, Brand New Day review)

I think some of my favourite things about listening to music are when you can stumble across something you like but can’t believe that you didn’t already know about it. Or to put it another way, when you reconnect with music that you forgot you were a fan of.


The Mavericks – Brand New Day
released March 31, 2017
******* 8/10

The Mavericks have been making offbeat country music for just over 20 years, and that’s taking into account the break they took between 2005-2011! Known for their eclectic sound that combines latin and rockabilly influences. I first heard about them back in the 1990s, when I was still voluntold to listen to the country station in my parents house. Remember Here Comes the Rain and All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down? This is sound of The Mavericks that I still remember sitting in my parents faux wood panel station wagon.

But that doesn’t mean the ninth outing for these guys is out of sync with this generation.

There are high standards in place here.

The opening track Rolling Along reminds me of Ukrainian mountain music and features its share of accordion harmonies. A callback to their early work and very peppy to boot, also it’s about drugs. Just in case that wasn’t obvious. Quickly changing pace for the title track, The Mavericks present us with a more somber tone on Brand New Day, its upbeat though, and features some excellent caterwauling from Miami born Raul Malo. Then we get to hear some horns on Easy as It Seems, which is surprisingly easy going with its message of musical sambas from the 50s.

Then again, that sound does continue through on the next song I Think of You, and later with Ride With Me and closing track For the Ages, but the mixing in of early pop, jazz and true bread and butter are what they are known for. It’s comforting to see a group caring the torch along, without dragging it on the floor.

Staying true to their sound has always been important for The Mavericks, and I think that’s why they choose time and time again to stay independent, nobody messes with the production. They have fun with their music and it comes through – listen to Goodnight Waltz and tell me you don’t think of lounge singers, spaghetti, and cocktails. But with a country twang to it.

This music does not fit into any particular genre. I chose country as the prefacing statement because that’s where I heard it first in my youth, but this music reminds me of so many different things at any given moment, that they are eclectic is the really the best way to put it.

It never reaches a point where I’m listening and re-listening to the lyrics or pausing to reflect on ideas within, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile.

Mavericks indeed.


theories Summarized

Do you want to take a trip through Americana, post-war and pre-war? Well this is your ticket and I wish you well on your journey, I think there is something of a history lesson and a demonstration that it all comes full circle when we listen to music.

An unorthodox or independent-minded person. The definition of a maverick. These gentlemen fit the bill, and that’s my theory for why they have staying power, not because there is something brand new here, but because they are inclusive and adventurous.


Hall of Fame (Whiplash review)

Sometimes people confuse talent with potential. Potential is aptitude not yet realized, but talent is an expression which is right in front of us. Yes, talent can be reigned in, developed, focused, nurtured, etc. But the real question of the day is, can we recognize talent when it does something a little bit left of normal.

I guess we’ll find out in today’s Theatrical Tuesday review.




Whiplash (2014)

Cast: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist, Austin Stowell, Nate Lang
Director: Damien Chazelle
released on blu-ray February 24, 2015
********** 10/10


IMDB: 8.5
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Audience Score 94%
The Guardian: ****/*****

Damien Chazelle is an American film director and screenwriter. He has currently served up only two feature-length films, but at thirty-one he is making a name for himself and about to release a movie called La La Land which I personally am very excited about. And the major reason for this is that Chazelle knows something about music that not many directors seem to be capable in pulling off. When you tie in the emotional and mental endurance needed to create art, people gravitate to that struggle and can see a story through to it’s conclusion.

Which is where Whiplash comes in, as Chazelle’s second effort, and preceded by the jazz musical Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, we get to see an excellent sparing match between Miles Teller and J. K. Simmons. Though this movie was technically released almost two years back now, I’m anticipating that 2016’s La La Land will have a similar rhythm to it. Pun intended.

The movie starts with the struggle of a young jazz drummer named Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) and his journey through school at a top music conservatory in New York called Shaffer Conservatory.

Infamous and tyrannical conductor Terence Fletcher (J. K. Simmons) stumbles upon Nieman practicing late at night and is eventually convinced to invite Nieman into his studio band after a few awkward interactions. But Fletcher is relentless and expects the absolute best of his students, pushing them around both verbally and physically, kicking individuals out on a whim. Nieman practices so hard that his hands start to bleed, and he even breaks up with girlfriend Nicole (Melissa Benoist) because he wants to be the very best.

At one point we sympathize with Fletcher because he shares that a former student of his recently died in a car crash, a student with tremendous potential, and who was quickly rising up. Which is foreshadowing for Niemans own car crash. In a rush to a competition due a broke down bus, Nieman rents a car, but forgets his sticks at the rental agency. He then rushes back and is t-boned by a large truck. Instead of seeking medical attention, he runs to the concert hall and attempts to play the piece, but cannot due to injury. Fletcher boots him from the stage, but not before Nieman attacks Fletcher in front of the audience.

After being dismissed from the conservatory, Nieman and his father (Paul Reiser) meet with a lawyer of the student that died in a car crash. It turns out that the young man hanged himself, and that Fletcher pushed the student to anxiety and depression. Nieman chooses to testify, if only to remain anonymous.

He later stumbles upon Fletcher performing at a jazz club, and is invited to a drink afterwards. Fletcher has been removed from his position, but he wants Nieman to be his drummer for a JVC Jazz Festival. Nieman agrees, but when he shows up to play Whiplash, Fletcher reveals that he knew Nieman testified against him, and has set him up for embarassment. Nieman walks off the stage, but then returns to the stage and starts up Caravan, bringing the rest of the band in with him, and finishes the song with a solo.

Nieman and Fletcher share a look, then work together to finish the set.

ProsThe movies asks the question, what are you willing to do in order to achieve greatness?, and rather deftly answers it. The two leads share an amazing set of performances and obliterate the typical student-mentor relationship trope.

Cons: We never really get to enjoy any music, which is ironic, given that it’s a movie about music. Also, the message is rather linear in it’s presentation, not much room for a supporting cast to move around.

Runtime1 hour 47 minutes

Points of Interest: The film was edited, shot, and submitted to the Sundance Film Festival in a period of ten weeks. Andrew Nieman is in every scene. It was adapted from a short film of the same name, J. K. Simmons plays in both.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this kind of story before. If we traded a studio band for uniforms and the drum kit for a football, boom we’d be in a sports movie. Or conversely, we could trade the studio band for a war zone and the drum kit for a rifle and all of a sudden it’s a war epic. But to spit some cheese, the song remains the same. Chazelle has done something here, something authentic, pulling from his own experience, and showing us what happens when someone really wants greatness at any cost.

Whiplash is a rare film that manages to be about music and overly romantic about music. It is considerate enough to share the screen time between it’s human characters and it’s musical ones. It should be obvious that Andrew Nieman has talent from the outset of the movie, but his drive to demonstrate his skill at any cost is what makes this a great case study of expression.

But that’s just a theory.