Empire State of Mind (Environment)

I have probably played way to much Magic: The Gathering and other fantasy based games growing up my friends, because I always want to equate myself with a particular element of nature and just run in the general direction of that thing to better equip myself for the stresses of life. According to astrology and palmistry fire seems like the natural choice, while other personality tests and chinese zodiac results lead to that of the earth. So I guess that means I’m geared for the life of the country AND the city, but not so much high up or near water.

Whatever that means.

To be honest I think that we should make decisions about our physical environment based upon our interests and what inspires us. So if you need to be out in nature in order to be creative, do so, and what that natural environment looks like to you is also relevant, then seek it out.

Today, we go over the importance of your habitat, climate, scenery, terrain or surroundings.

Your Friendly Neighbourhood

That’s right friends, a new month,  a new post inspired by the OECD index which I was initially led to in the first place by the folks at Post Consumers. But this time dear readers, I have decided to focus on the importance of environment for artists and give you some options to consider in your quest towards health, wealth, and happiness. Because while frugality and conservation of resources are important for the planet, your mental space needs to be taken into account too.

Yes, believe it or not, if you look out for yourself and a lot of other things begin to fall into place.

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But what does that look like, you ask?

Well, like anything in life that depends on what you are about. So why don’t I give you the rundown of some things to consider, via a handy list, and you can decide for yourself if you’re on the right track to health, wealth, and happiness.

Welcome To New York, It’s Been Waiting For You

Before we get too far along, I need to clarify something. While I do think that New York city is a great place to live, and while my subject headings in this post so far are really hinting at NYC as a one stop shop, that’s just not true. And no, I’m not leading you towards Los Angeles either.

Instead I want you to look over some questions and the corresponding key words, and think on what kind of creative professional you need to be. All of these factors will help lead you towards an answer, and lead you towards creating a sustainable lifestyle.

  1. Is it important to you to attend parties? Think street parties, exhibitions, murals, fairs, and citywide events.
  2. What about a structured living situation? This could include open-concept loft apartments, industrial towns, and attending art museums as well as galleries.
  3. Does the place you live in need to be warm all the time? A daily does of street performers, dancing, food eaten outdoors, curbside coffee shops, and urban graffiti go a long way.
  4. Could you experience a wide variety of activities and room for contemplation? Where does live music, onsite food trucks, post-secondary education, libraries or urban sprawl fit in?
  5. Would economic stability be essential? If you like quirky shops, breweries, cheap rent, and post-grad couture.
  6. How organic is your palette? Farm-to-table, organic groceries, yoga, countryside views… Do those terms grab your attention?
  7. Are you inspired by other mediums? If film, audio recording, performance, and site specific works are your thing, consider your location.
  8. Does interacting with your immediate space matter? For when you need to make guerilla art, partake in festivals, induce public art participation, and convert odd spaces.
  9. When do you choose to collaborate? Artist run centres, art collectives, creative clubs, and meet-ups are all options.
  10. Who do you collaborate with? Whether musicians, hippies, hipsters, scensters, hip-hop lovers, electronic record spinners, cowpokes , entrepreneurs, writers, theatre artists, photographers, and techies all have their homes too…

While not comprehensive, these are all great factors to consider in the much larger picture that is the artistic environment which you call home. I can dedicate a lot of time to any number of these aspects, but you need to start somewhere after all.

theories Summarized

Well creative cuties, have you got your terrain locked down yet? I hope you spend some time with this one because we all need to work in spaces which are inspiring, comfortable and accessible. Like so many of these themes that tie into the OECD, environment has value. It may be my theory, but it should be yours too. That’s it for now, I’ll see you tomorrow with a timely update.

Tim!

 

A State of Depression (Childish Gambino, “Awaken, My Love!” review)

When you care, you can come off a little creepy. Especially when you put a little stank on it.

This is why it’s important to inject some passion and some perspective into your music, it gives the audience a point of leverage and an opportunity to empathize with you.

Take this week’s album review for instance…

Childish Gambino – “Awaken, My Love!”
released December 2, 2016
******** 8/10

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Donald Glover is an American actor, writer, comedian, and musician. When making music he either goes by the stage name Childish Gambino (performing) or mcDJ (disc jockey). As a recording artist, he usually performs under the stage name Childish Gambino, and as a disc jockey, he performs under the name mcDJ.

His breakout role was with the Derrick Comedy group, followed quickly by writing for 30 Rock and with support from Tina Fey. He later got a role as Troy on the NBC sitcom Community and now stars in the FX series Atlanta which he created. And if that’s not enough cool for school, Glover has voiced the Ultimate version of Spider-man on an animated series and will be portraying a young Lando Calrissian in the standalone Han Solo movie.

Glovers first album Camp came out in 2011, followed by Because the Internet in 2013 and most recently “Awaken, My Love!”, which is why we’re here after all.

It was odd to pick up this album last week, know that it was released in hushed whispers, be very aware that Childish Gambino had disengaged with his previous model of work AND still feel like this was coming out of absolutely no where. I really wanted to hear more nerd hip hop because I had had a taste for it twice already, but that is not what this album is. Childish warned us he was a quiting the hip hop game, and he did.

It’s a love letter to the 1970s, with equal measures of soul, funk, R&B and psychedelic rock dispersed throughout. You can tell that Childish did his research and made sure to reference many of the greats of the era, while infusing his own emotion and experience into it. It’s incredibly engaging and makes me feel the feelings. You’ll probably connect best with Me and Your Mama right out of the gate, but the themes in Boogieman and Zombies remind me of that younger/sillier Donald Glover and taste pretty sweet.

In the wake of a Donald Trump presidency, not unlike Common did recently with Black America Again, this feels like an emotional outcry against prejudice, fear, hate, and anxieties of all stripes. Have Some Love Riot and Terrified practically lay it out there for you to scoop up and eat.

I think Baby Boy is my favourite though now that I think about it through and through. It’s rather sentimental and sweet, full of harmonies and soft sounds, and likely inspired by the birth of his son.

Childish Gambino might not have enjoyed putting this album together, it was a complete left turn for him when you consider it, but it’s very apparent that he is tapping into something different, possibly inspired by his new show Atlanta. The nerd rap was an important part of his identity when he was working on the show Community, working to find a voice and separate from the pack, but tapping into funk while he helms the ship makes sense. There are a lot more emotions to navigate and way less certainty of the destination.

 

 

 

If you haven’t already been convinced to pickup this incredibly soulful effort by Childish Gambino, I don’t know what you’ve been doing for the last 598 words, but this is it folks, this is creative experimentation that works and while it isn’t perfect, it’s far more ambitious than some of the other musicians I’ve reviewed this past year. For real. Could just be a theory though.

Tim!

Avengers 2.5 (Captain America: Civil War review)

Have you watched the best movie of the year yet? Well if you don’t know what I’m getting at, I’m not going to drag this out. It’s time to sit down and enjoy Captain America: Civil War.

 

 

 

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland, Daniel Bruhl, Frank Grillo
Director(s): Anthony Russo, Joseph V. Russo
released on blu-ray September 13, 2016
********* 10/10

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IMDB: 8.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, Audience Score 90%
The Guardian: ****/*****

The Russo brothers conduct most of their work in film as a team, whether it’s directing (Welcome to Collinwood, You, Me and Dupree, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War Part 1, and Avengers: Infinity War Part 2) producing, writing, acting, or in post-production. Also it’s kinda weird for me to put You, Me and Dupree down. Though they did have a major hand in directing both Arrested Development and Community, two of my favourite television shows.

It’s going to be challenging for me writing about this movie without pouring out my soul and spilling over the edges of the screen. I will say this as a preface. This is my favourite Marvel movie so far, and it is based on my favourite Marvel story of all time, so it’s really important for me to remain unbiased in my feedback.

I loved this movie. And I think it’s pretty fair to say “spoiler alert.” It features my all-time favourite superhero done right for the first time. Spider-Man is played by Tom Holland and he does such a great job of filling the shoes of someone who has incredible powers, a moral compass, but no idea of what to do with his abilities. He rambles on during the major ensemble fight of the movie, he stutters over his words in trying to keep secrets from Aunt May. Tom Holland was born to play Peter Parker.

The plot of the movie is fairly simple, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) was operating as a literal sleeper agent for Hydra ever since the 1940s, and in the 1990s he intercepted a case of super-soldier serum from the Starks, killing them in the process.

In present day, a team of the Avengers are working to find Brock Rumlow (Frank Grillo). Rumlow blows himself up, hoping to kill Captain America (Chris Evans), but Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) contains the blast, throwing it in the air and accidentally kills several Wakandan emissaries.

The UN decides that the Avengers need to be put in check because of the events in Lagos and previous events in New York, Washington DC, and Sokovia. And Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is leading the charge, especially after he is confronted by a mother who lost her son during their mission to stop Ultron a year earlier in Sokovia.

Because Cap had dealt with the infiltration of SHIELD by Hydra agents previously, he doesn’t believe that this is the right decision. Eventually Cap and Iron Man come to blows because of this difference of opinion, building their own teams of heroes. Especially the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), who goes on a mission of revenge after his father King T’Chaka of Wakanda is murdered during a bomb blast triggered during the UN Sokovia accords session. The world thinks the Winter Soldier did it, and Captain America wants to bring in his friend, but against UN oversight.

The events turn out to be orchestrated by Colonel Helmut Zemo, a Sokovian who lost his whole family during the events of the Age of Ultron. He wanted to break up the Avengers from the inside, and worked to get Barnes, Cap, and Iron Man in the same room. Only revealing that Barnes murdered the Starks at the last moments of the film. A fantastic twist that still haunts me after three viewings.

 

Pros: This movie has it all. Action, drama, humour, a great plot, incredible cameos that never feel full, deep connections, and even some references to the Russo brothers previous work.

Cons: There aren’t any. Just kidding. In some ways it feels like a build-up to the next Avengers movie, but all of the movies feel that way upon deeper inspection.

Runtime: 2 hours 27 minutes

Points of Interest: The film lines up rather nicely with the 75th anniversary of Captain America. And 10 years ago, the original Civil War comic book came out. It’s also the Black Panther’s 50th anniversary.

This movie is entertaining throughout it’s long screen time. I barely notice the time fly by as I watch the spectacle unfold. And even when it gets introspective, nay, especially when it gets introspective, you can’t help but become engrossed by the characters. My heart actually breaks when Tony says “I don’t care, he killed my mom.” The Russo brothers have an incredible ability to balance drama with everything else.

 

 

 

Dear readers, do yourself a favour, run, don’t walk to your nearest major retailer or go online and get yourself a digital copy of this movie. I don’t think Marvel is going to do much better than this. We’ve reached the apex of the MCU and it was glorious.

Tim!

Just Hymning Along (Bloc Party, Hymns review)

There is this really lame scene from 2007’s Spider-man 3 where Peter Parker gets upset with Eddie Brock, pushes him against a wall, and decides to expose him as a fake photographer. Which is then topped off by the one-liner – You want forgiveness, get religion.

Fans of the Spider-man comic books can appreciate both the cheesiness of this line, and the attempt at foreshadowing the pending birth of Venom in the film.

This might be relevant to today’s Melodic Monday entry in more ways than one.

 

 

 

Bloc Party – Hymns
released January 29, 2016
****** 6/10

Bloc-Party-HYMNS

Bloc Party are an English indie rock band, which also use elements of electronica and house in their music. Though they have seen some lineup changes over the past few years, the current band is composed of Kele Okereke (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboards, sampler), Russell Lissack (lead guitar, keyboards), Justin Harris (bass guitar, keyboards, saxophones, backing vocals) and Louise Bartle (drums).

This is their fifth studio album, which comes after a 4 year hiatus. After 2012’s Four was released, Matt Tong left the band in 2013 and Gordon Moakes left the band in 2015. This is where Justin Harri and Louise Bartle came in.

Hymns is an interesting effort. \s I already mentioned, it is the first album Bloc Party has made in four years, but it is also the first album the new lineup has recorded together. And somehow it manages to both work as a wall of sound album, with religious undertones, and simultaneously alienate fans of their older work. In other words, it’s not really like the smash first album Silent Alarm and their dancier third album, Intimacy.

But what’s the problem?

Why it doesn’t work is because it never quite reaches the levels of spiritual praise that it claims to be striving for. It’s an album half baked. But when it does work it’s because they stop pretending to be making dance music with religious redemption and just talk about the issues they care about. This is where Okereke’s vocals have always been strongest and where the heart of Bloc Party lies.

Instead with Hymns we get to see Okereke in control of the show, existing in a space between soul and gospel, but he does still love his electronica. Stand out tracks include Into The Earth, So Real, and Living Lux, but overall the rest of the songs are just okay. It’s so strange because this was one of the 21st centuries golden children, they were pioneering in 2005 what has now become the norm in modern rock. But their exploration of music and lryics as a slow and forced movement into a more mature sound just doesn’t quite work yet. This truly is Bloc Party 2.0, but I’m not entirely convinced that the upgrade has been worth it.

It may be because half of the original band has left, and the party has left with them, but Different Drugs best demonstrates the future of the band, and incidentally may be a code for the reason why the band started to break up in the first place. If reinvention is supposed to be cool, I think it just got cold in this house.

 

 

 

Now I don’t necessarily think that Bloc Party “got religion” in the wake of the band experiencing inner turmoil, but it is interesting that self-reflection usually breeds this kind of behavior. And I’m willing to bet we haven’t seen the last of Bloc Party, that an awesome team-up style fight is in the not-too-distant future, but I’ve been burnt before.

So should you buy this album? Well I don’t think it’s amazing, but still, it’s a decent listen. Fortunately enough, I just might have a redemption movie in store for tomorrow. What do you think? Is Hymns marred with too much self-worship? Are my theories on the mark?

Tim!