Popular Science (MGMT, Little Dark Age review)

We all have a little darkness inside of us, some of us embrace it, some of us run from it, and other find a way to little it simmer just under the surface. Adding some texture to life.

 

MGMT – Little Dark Age

released February 9, 2018
********* 9/10

MGMT is an American rock duo comprised of Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser. They’ve been playing together since 2002, well before you would’ve expected from a band that hit the big time back in 2007, I remember because it was at the apex of indie electronic music. The singles Kids, Electric Feel, and Time to Pretend were everywhere that year, in movies, on the radio, and at most of the clubs I attended.

Yeah, this was back when I went to clubs, looking for loves.

And TBH, that music perfectly fit with the beautiful nihilism of the day, but I didn’t want to be part of it, so I ignored them, even though Ornacular Spectacular was clearly an amazing album. Then they followed it up with Congratulations in 2010, and it was even more experimental, but I had moved on and wasn’t really into that kind of music anymore. Around the time that the self-titled MGMT landed, the duo weren’t even on my radar, as in, I just discovered that Little Dark Age is their fourth studio album, and not their third one.

And thus, the history lesson concludes, because the boys appear to have some full circle. Older and wiser, fortunately for us, because Little Dark Age is their best album to-date and the sythn-pop was always their strong suit anyway, that and a subtle darkness, which is not unappreciated in the album title.

She Works Out Too Much is a perfect opener, capturing the challenges of dating in a smartphone app era, and later accented by TSLAMP. Then comes the big kahuna, the title track (Little Dark Age) which has been on everyone’s mind since it dropped as a single back in October of 2017. If you listen hard enough, you’ll hear Gary Numan, The Cure, Depeche Mode, The Smiths, and a host of other emo progenitors. Geez, now that I think of it, I can even hear the Police in there – and that’s an incredible thing.

Me and Michael is perfect in it’s subject, a quant song about friendship. That pairs well with Days That Got Away and When You’re Small.

It’s the kind of album that I know will get better with repeated listens, and I can almost guarantee will find a place on my shelf in years to come. Dare I say it, this album might even have me aching for possession of their back catalogue.

And if you’re worried that the album slows down too much as you sink into it, One Thing Left to Try is just as upbeat as the opening songs.

I’m glad that we were able to get back on track with MGMT, and even though their third album should have been the point where they came back stronger and wiser, not every flower blooms at the same time, and we can’t fault a band which debuted on a high note, without understanding the intricacies of their relationship with music and popular culture.

Pros: Obviously the return to pop music is a welcome change. And inserting notes of psychedelic rock into the mix has proven to be a recipe for success.

Cons: I know that Ariel Pink had a hand in When You Die, but I find it difficult to separate his production from MGMT’s natural sound, and all it does is make me want to listen to his music instead.

Runtime: 44 minutes

Points of Interest: The record was conceived partly out of the election of Donald Trump as president of the US, and partly because of a desire to return back to their roots.

I guess all it took was some time for these two college friends to embrace their identity and make music which suits them. I’m personally thankful for the opportunity to revisit their music, and I truly do believe that they’ve matured into their sound finally.

theories Summarized

Do I think that you should give this album a listen? Absolutely. I didn’t really expect to like this record, as I had avoided MGMT for years, but as I sit in my office on a warm March evening, I can see fairly easily how this will become one of my favourite albums this year. Yes, I’m calling it a quarter of the way through.

And speaking of bands that got better with age. Brendon and I wanted to remind you of one of the greatest punk rock albums of the 1990s, The Offsprings SMASH. This is seriously one of my favourite albums ever, and if you’ve never heard it before, you are in for a treat. But if you have listened to it before, and you needed a reminder, give it solid listen, and appreciate their skillful guitar playing, choice lyrics, and exciting melodies.

Thanks for taking the time to read the review, watch the video review and hopefully you’ve left a comment or two. If you liked what you saw, click on the like button, and even better, subscribe to the channel! Come back tomorrow for a film review about Darkest Hour. There’ll be more theories!

Tim!

Fire Taming Business (Only The Brave review)

Tragedy and comedy are supposed to be the two major themes in theatre. This movies takes the former route, but somewhere inside of it’s themes, it finds an honest story that doesn’t suffer from ill-gotten sentiment.

 

Only The Brave (2017)

Cast: Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, Jennifer Connelly, Taylor Kitsch, Andie MacDowell
Director: Joseph Kosinski
released on blu-ray February 6, 2018
******** 8/10

IMDB: 7.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, Audience Score 92%
The Guardian: ***/*****

Joseph Kosinski is American television and film director who is known for his work with computer technology. His directorial debut came from the critically panned Disney sequel Tron: Legacy, which believe-it-or-not, I actually enjoyed. He also worked on the less intelligent copy-cat of Moon – Oblivion, starring Tom Cruise.

Thankfully for the majority of audiences, Kosinski brought it back to reality with his third film Only The Brave.

Taken from IMDB (credit: Kenneth Chisholm) and modified…

In 2007 Prescott, Arizona, Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin) of the Prescott Fire Department is frustrated fighting forest fires when the Type 1 or “Hotshot” front line forest fire fighting crews from afar overrule his operational suggestions to his area’s sorrow. To change that, Marsh gets approval from the Mayor (Jeff Bridges) to attempt to organize an unprecedented certified municipal-based Hotshot crew for Prescott. To that end, Marsh needs new recruits, which includes the young wastrel, Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller), to undergo the rigorous training and qualification testing for the most dangerous of fire fighting duty. Along the way, the new team meets the challenge and the hailed Granite Mountain Hotshots are born. In doing so, all the men, especially McDonough, are changed as new experience and maturity is achieved in fire-forged camaraderie. All this is put to the test in 2013 with the notorious Yarnell Hill Fire that will demand efforts and sacrifices no one can ignore.

A movie that demands respect and candor from it’s audience, but also stands up to the challenge of telling an authentic story, with useful subplots and lots of agressive action from Mother Nature. Never have I ever felt more responsible to prevent forest fires then after watching this film, and that’s no dig against Smokey The Bear, but Josh Brolin has a commanding and grizzled appearance that no one dares mess with.

I also really enjoyed the evolution of the team as they worked towards Hot Shots certification, and best exemplified by the friendship arc between MacKenzie (Taylor Kitsch) and Brendan McDonough.

Pros: We get to see the bureaucracy of firefighting, how it’s employees personal lives are impacted, and emotional canvas of interactions. The bonds these men forged in those mountains are brought to life with sensibility and determination.

Cons: While the structure of the film is excellent, and the ending is just perfect, it gets to be tedious in the middle, and the supporting cast gets lost in the wilderness.

Runtime: 2 hours 14 minutes

Points of Interest:

Miles Teller is starting to come into his own as an actor, and being surrounded by veterans Jeff Bridges, Jennifer Connelly, and Josh Brolin, you can really see how he is a much more convincing dramatic actor then say, Shia LaBeouf. Where the movie falls down is from a lack of real risk-taking with it’s characterizations, which is ironic, given the source material. This is a minor concern though, because of the amazing treatment of these real life heroes and their hometown.

theories Summarized

With all that said and done, I think Only The Brave is a worthy addition to any collection that wants and/or needs more biographies and natural disasters in the mix. Without spoiling the ending, it’s a powerful film and not one I will soon forget. And that’s no theory.

Speaking of unforgettable movies… Have you seen the original Oldboy from Park Chan-wook? This movies is seriously messed up, but it has such an original story, and is part of Chan-wooks vengeance trilogy. I’ll let Chris and Mike go over the details, because, whether you’ve seen it before and need a reminder, or it’s on your list, I’m thinking this recommendation will finally sway you to give it shot.

Yeah, the premise of being trapped in a hotel for fifteen years seems odd, but just wait for the twist – the violence will help you along the way. Check it out! And remember… Like! Comment! Subscribe!

Tim!

Leave Me Alone (Leaving Thomas, Leaving Thomas review)

Not every album review can be a winner unfortunately, and while there’s nothing wrong with the old adage of you never know unless you try, I kind of wish I hadn’t given this week’s album a second thought.

 

 

Leaving Thomas – Leaving Thomas

released January 19, 2018
***** 5/10

Leaving Thomas are a Canadian country pop duo from Calgary (a neighbouring city in my province of Alberta). Annika Odegard and Bryton Udy have finally dropped their much anticipated self-titled EP, Leaving Thomas. It’s eight tracks in length make for a pretty hefty EP, but there is enough variety in the song choices that you can sit through it without too much issue. And I can see why their are gaining momentum throughout Canada and the United States, but unfortunately it’s kind of an uneven listen for me, with a lot of filler tracks and not enough chances taken.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to see a Canadian country duo getting lots of attention, but if track no. six is any indication, Best Adventure is far from it, and feels a little bit like your average middle of the summer radio jam. Which is probably why it’s one of the the first three singles released.

That said, Blame it On The Neon is where this EP really shines, it a good time for all involved and really showcases Annika’s vocals. You can easily see this song filling a stadium. And If This Is Love is a solid second runner up for best track, with all kinds of emotion, punctuated by the piano, it’s a incredibly deep ballad and something you’d expect from more seasoned performers.

The last of the singles, Waiting Kind of Girl, falls somewhere in the middle, with it’s interesting melodic structure and tempo. But man that chorus is just brutal to listen to. It’s way too on the nose, with rises and falls all over the place. And that percussion just hurts me.

I just wish the album was a bit longer, which would have made it a full-length album, and maybe there would have been some artist driven choices here, rather then the safety net of convention. You can tell this duo has a voice just waiting to break out, but musically they are playing it safe and boring. Unfortunately for us.

Pros: When they are connected, you can tell very clearly that Odegard and Udy are childhood friends that enjoy playing together and to each others strengths, and there is a sweetness to If This Is Love, which absolutely merits it’s inclusion.

Cons: I wish that Udy had a larger role in the vocal work, and that he played off of Odegard more often, because while she is the big sister to his little brother figure, sometimes youth can surprise you with energy and innovation. And I wish that Shame On Me had hit the cutting room floor. Yuck.

Runtime: 28 minutes

Points of Interest: Odegard is two years older then Udy, and they first meet as children during a biblical stage production. They reconnected at the Calgary Stampede 2012 where they were both competitors in a talent search, but it wasn’t until a rained out BBQ that they decided to play 90’s country together and then things clicked.

There is some serious potential with this pop country duo, but it won’t get them into a position of prominence playing it safe. So for now I’ll be leaving Leaving Thomas on the shelf, with hopes that it isn’t nostalgia but success that demands another listen from them.

theories Summarized

I don’t think  you should buy this album or pick up a digital copy, but I do think you should listen to a handful of the tracks and make up your mind to investigate further. Maybe you’ll be more forgiving of the EP that have been, either way Leaving Thomas won’t be leaving the scene anytime soon, and hopefully they take the feedback with a grain of salt.

That said, I am happy to announce another first for timotheories, and an excellent album for you to consider listening to. Grizzly Bear’s Painted Ruins is well worth a spin, and their democratic brand of music is refreshing. Don’t Believe me? Just watch what Brendon Greene and I have to say about the matter.

I hope you enjoyed our first ever Sound Culture video review, but if you did, can you do us a favour and subscribe, comment and like the video? We appreciate your continued support dear readers.

Tim!