Saturday, September 10, 2005

Hope Is What I'm Hoping to Find

Who We Are - Hope Partlow

It seems like every other week I’m reviewing another, young, female, singer-songwriter. This week’s entry into the “Bring back Lilith Fair” brigade is Hope Partlow. The Tennessee native’s approach is a little different from those that have come before her in that she has infused the genre with a dash of country. There are no banjos, fiddles or yee-ha’s, but you can definitely hear the southern charm in her voice most notably in the slower songs.

Partlow’s debut album, Who We Are, starts off with the title track, a great song for today’s climate that tells us not to take things for granted with lines like, “It doesn’t really matter what care you drive, it’s good to be alive.” The album actually ends with the “Saturday Night Mix.” Granted it sound exactly like the original with just an exaggerated bass line and doesn’t bring anything new to the album like many “remixes” that are thrown in at the end. The only song that ever really sounded different is Babylon on David Gray’s White Ladder.

Elsewhere on the album Don’t Go is a last ditch effort to keep a loved one and when she sing “I believe this is killing me, don’t go” it almost breaks my heart. Crazy Summer Night is a great party song to play when the title suggests. But unfortunately, its starting to dip into the 40’s at night around here so hopefully this song will be brought out next May when it is more appropriate. Unlike many young girls today who like to brag about stealing other girls’ boyfriends, Hope is actually apologetic as heard on Sick Inside explaining, “I’m so sorry about last night,” and saying wish she had more self control. Partlow show a good vocal range on the slow love song Like You Do. And Hope goes in pure Avril mode (but without the pretentious punk thing) on Everywhere but Here where she sing against louder guitars that the rest of the album. Overall, Who We Are, is a solid debut from a girl that can only get better with age and more experience.

Song to Download – Like You Do

Who We Are gets a Terror Alert Level: High [ORANGE] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Friday, September 09, 2005

First Impressions – Reunion

I know everyone in my high school was this hot, how about your'sWhen the fall lineups were announced a couple months ago, Reunion didn’t really catch my eye. It was on at the same time as a perennial favorite of my, , and even worse, it was on Fox. And since I have morals, I tend to avoid all the Fox channels, the only current exceptions being and . But the more I learned about the show, the more I found it intriguing. The series would take places over twenty year, each episode focusing on a singular year starting with the high school graduation of six friends and culminates at the twentieth reunion which just happens to coincides with of death by one of the six at the hands of another. Another sticking point foe me was the cast included cast members from past shows I liked like the electro-girl from and Meg’s older brother from .

But intriguing premises don’t always translate into good shows as seen last year with Jack and Bobby, a show that looked good on paper, but they ruined the show in the very first episode. As for Reunion’s first episode, it started out in the present day funeral of an unknown person and quickly transitioned back to 1986 and graduation. The show quickly built up not one, but two love triangles. This also rapidly sets up motives for murder. But really all the plot twists in the first episodes were extremely predictable.

Token hot chick alert!In the cast, electro-girl and J.J. are joined by the Ugly-Hot Chick that deserved to mocked in , two no named dudes and, of course, a Token Hot Chick. It became apparent quite early that the actors were cast upon looked because the first episode had some of the worst acting I’ve seen in a long time. The show also must think the viewer is not too bright, which would make sense because it is Fox, so it went to extreme measures to remind us that this was 1986, so there was a constant stream of 80’s music. Also the token hot chick was giving the task of wearing the Madonna gear. Then there was the preppy dude couldn’t decide if he wanted to evoke Don Johnson on or Tom Cruise in Risky Business, so he’d just alternated between the two every other scene. They went seriously overboard with the, “Wham! is the next Beatles” comparison and even took it a step further comparing the dude not named George Michaels to John Lennon. Now when Adam Sandler said, “Get out of my Van Halen t-shirt before you jinx the band and they break up” in , that was funny because it was a comedy. Do it in a drama, and it’s just cheesy.

By 2006, one will be dead and... well you know the restPredictions:

- By the time we hit the 90’s, the two love triangles will have morphed into a love hexagon.
- Even more in jokes including how Vanilla Ice will go down as the greatest rapper ever and how the Red Sox will never win the World Series. The wardrobe will transition into Hammer pants then flannel shirts.
- Who dies: The nerdy virgin
- Who is the murderer: The Token Hot Chick
- Why: Nerdy dude gets too obsessive and the Token Hot Chick kills him in a moment of self defense.

Verdict: Poor acting, predictable plot lines, but considering whenever I’m flipping through channels and come across I Love the 80’s/90’s on VH1, I’ll sit and watch it, I’ll be checking out Reunion every week.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Boom Pow Surprise

The kickoff to the football season is tonight, and that also means the start of fantasy. The first couple weeks of fantasy football are always tough because they coincide with the start of the playoffs for fantasy baseball. As we go into the playoffs, I have one team sitting on top with my two other teams sitting in third place. Luckily fantasy baseball will be over by the time fantasy hockey rolls around (contact me if you are interested in joining my league). But as for football, I had a draft last night and here’s who will be lacing up for Boom Pow Surprise:

Michael Vick (Atl - QB)
Andre Johnson (Hou - WR)
Eric Moulds (Buf - WR)
Brandon Stokley (Ind - WR)
Shaun Alexander (Sea - RB)
Tatum Bell (Den - RB)
Steve Heiden (Cle - TE)
Paul Edinger (Min - K)
Atlanta Falcons (DEF)

Aaron Brooks (NO - QB)
Kerry Collins (Oak - QB)
Ricky Williams (Mia - RB)
L.J. Smith (Phi - TE)
Amani Toomer (NYG - WR)
Phil Dawson (Cle - K)
Chicago Bears (DEF)

This should be a solid team with three quality QB’s, a top tier RB and another who should benefit from the Broncos system. But what could put me over the top is the 11th round pick up of Ricky Williams. Hopefully Cedric Benson will be a bust during Ricky’s four game suspension and Ricky can return to being the Ricky of old, well, but without the weed.

And like the last few seasons, the kickoff of the football season is being accompanied with a concert. For some reason the NFL felt obligated to let a press release out saying that Kanye West would not be kicked off the bill. Thanks for the memo NFL. Since when does not doing anything warrant a pres release? Of course this stems from Kanye’s comments at last weeks hurricane relief concert on NBC. But there was no way the NFL could boot the only black performer for making an anti-Bush comment when other performers include Green Day, who’s last album, American Idiot, takes shots at the Bush administration, and the Rolling Stone, who recently called Bush a piece of, um, human excrement, on their recent song, Sweet Neo-Con (scroll down to read how much I hate this song). So the NFL were in a no win situation. I’ll be interested in seeing what song Kanye chooses to perform tonight considering Maroon 5 are also on the bill. Keep in mind that on a Kanye’s latest album, he did a duet with the lead singer from Maroon 5 on the song Heard ‘Em Say in which Kanye raps, “And I know the government administered AIDS.”

Oh yeah, and there is a football game tonight too, which happens to be Randy Moss’ debut with the Oakland Raiders playing against the defending Super Bowl Champs, the New England Patriots. With all these tangibles, I wonder how Vegas put the odds on who will make the water cooler moment tomorrow. I think I'll put my money on Randy. As for my predictions for the season, here are mine:

AFC East: Jets
AFC North: Steelers
AFC South: Colts
AFC West: Chargers
AFC Wildcard: Titans, Chiefs
NFC East: Eagles
NFC North: Green Bay
AFC South: Falcons
NFC West: Seahawks
NFC Wildcard: Panthers, Cowboys

AFC title Game: Colts over the Jets
NFC Title Game: Falcons over the Panthers

Super Bowl Champs: Falcons

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

I Think I Just Made the Biggest Mistake of My Life

A Bigger Bang - The Rolling Stones

After listen to Eric Clapton grow gracefully on his latest album (scroll down for a review), it make the latest Rolling Stones album, A Bigger Bang sound even worse. Granted Clapton has been pumping out great albums for the last couple years whereas The Stones seem to slap some song together just as an excuse to tour. Yet everyone knows they will be playing Jumping Jack Flash over any songs on that album. A Bigger Bang is no exception.

The album title itself sound like a shot at the recent hubbub of Intellectual Design by naming the album after a theory that contradicts it, the Big Bang. And that would usher in a more political Stones most prominently heard on the song that has already come under fire by Fox New, Sweet Neo-Con. If you haven’t heard already, the song rails against Bush calling him a hypocrite and blasting him about prisons without trial and Haliburton. And people said Eminem was late to comment on the elections. At least Mosh was catchy; Sweet Neo-Con is just painful to listen to.

But then again A Bigger Bang could be a sexual reference, this is The Rolling Stones. Even when the boys getting up their in age, they still like their suggestive lyrics, “Once upon a time I was your rooster, now I’m just one of your cocks.” (Rough Justice) It’s nice to see Jagger can still write those double entendres. Wait, no it isn’t, it’s kind of sad he still does. But wait, there’s more, in the appropriately titled Oh No, It’s You Again, Jagger sings that he’s, “staring down your tits.” Ladies, it’s time to lock up your granddaughters.

Elsewhere on the album, there is the Angie rip off, Streets of Love, but it’s not as emotional as the original. The king of the cheesy songs goes to Laugh, I Nearly Died, which could describe anyone who makes it through the whole album. This especially goes for the songs wear they let Keith Richards sings. There are a few, and I mean very few, rays of sunshine on the album, including a funky riff on Rain Fall Down and Back of My Hand has a cool , down home bluesy feel to it, but they never come close to redeeming the set of songs. Hopefully the next time The Rolling Stones get a feeling to tour, some one tells them they can actually do it without having to release an album to do so.

Song to Download – Back of My Hand

A Bigger Bang gets a Terror Alert Level: Low [GREEN] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

I Need to Hear that Sound

Back Home - Eric Clapton

Back in middle school, Eric Clapton changed my life. Up until then, I had listened to exclusively hard core gangsta rap. Than a tape trader friend of mine passed me along a copy of and I quickly realized why people called him God. Shortly thereafter, Clapton participated in the legendary Unplugged series showing a different side to his already accomplished guitar repertoire. I have picked up every one of his new albums since then. Which lead me to today with the release, Back Home.

The title Back Home can be linked to Clapton returning to more of his 60’s sound of blues rock after his recent affinity for straight blues including last years album of songs. Listen to the opening track, So Tired, Back Home can also mean being back home with his family, including his three young girls. The song chronicles the life a new dad who can’t seem to take it in but at least, “momma’s a natural.” The song even features a baby screaming at the end.

Clapton also rediscovered his love of reggae on this album, but instead of a cover, he decided to write his own in Revolution. The slowed down song deals with a person who want to start a revolution not necessarily because he feels the cause deep down in his heart but rather because he has nothing better to do. The album does feature a couple cover songs including George Harrison’s Love Comes to Everyone and the penned I’m Going Left. And just like B.B. King had Clapton come play with him, Clapton has brought in a few of his disciples to play on the album including and the current king of the slide guitar, . and , who wrote One Day for the album, also appear along with who contributes on the keys throughout the whole album.

Song to Download – So Tired

Back Home gets a Terror Alert Level: High [ORANGE] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

You Gotta Love it Though, Somebody Still Speaks From His Soul

Late Registration - Kanye West

For the last couple years, rap has become very anemic, the same rappers saying the same thing talking about how much ice they have and how many groupies they have scored with. Yawn. Then along came a guy with a backpack and a teddy bear mascot with the vibe of A Tribe Called Quest (by his own admission) and clever wordplay that rivals the Beastie Boys in their prime. Kanye West’s The College Dropout was not just the best rap album of last year but it was easily the best rap album of the last five year. On the album, West pushed the boundaries of rap touching on topics that most rappers found on the radio and MTV including religion and even admitting he was self conscious.

West is now back with his sophomore effort, Late Registration and is pushing the boundaries of rap even further. This is most notable in the addition of Fiona Apple’s producer Jon Brion helping West out on the boards. Brion presence is definitely felt on tracks Touch the Sky with horn the rival those sampled on Crazy in Love, and string section featured in Bring Me Down, Diamonds from Sierra Leone, and Gone. They even bring in full orchestration on Celebration. With Brion by his side, West even stepped up his own game, avoiding the easy way out by copying his signature sound of sped up vocals (not counting the hidden track, Late), and instead created a whole new sound for this album.

Kanye is pushing the boundaries with his choice of topics on this album too. Instead of an ode to Jesus, Late Registration had a song devoted to another subject much ignore subject in rap, his mother on Hey Mama. West saves his best production for this song with a choir of multi-layered la la’s playing throughout the song and Kanye even gives a shot at sing a verse and a chorus.

Late Registration is also more political than most major rap releases in recent years. But Kanye comes off more like Oliver Stone than Public Enemy with accusations like, “And I know the government administered AIDS” (Heard ‘em Say), “How we stop the black panthers? Ronald Reagan cooked up an answer,” and, “Who gave Saddam anthrax? George Bush got the answers” (Crack Music). Kanye also takes on the state of the health care in our country on Roses, but this time no conspiracy theories are needed and he asks a question that needs to be posed to our political leaders: “If Magic Johnson got a cure for A.I.D.'s and all the broke (expletive deleted) past away, you tellin me if my grandma was in the N.B.A. right now she'd be ok?”

Unfortunately, with all that said, Late Registration does not entirely live up to the promise of The College Dropout. One thing that really disappointed me was when the album was being made, Kanye mention that he wasn’t going to any guest except John Mayer and Common. But West decided to bring in more guests some with better results then others. Out is John Mayer, instead we get the new token white accessory to rappers, Adam Levine of Maroon 5 helping out with a soulful performance on Heard ‘em Say. Also Jamie Foxx shows why he got the Oscar for his portrayal of Ray Charles as I originally though Gold Digger had a sample of Ray’s I Got a Woman, until I realized that it was different lyrics. Other decent appearances include Jay-Z on Diamond from Seirra Leone (Remix) along with Consequence and Cam’Ron on Gone. But on the flip side Brandy can’t carry a tune and lives of to the name of her contribution, Bring Me Down. Lupe Fiasco gives an uninspiring verse on Touch the Sky. The Houston inspired Drive Slow featuring Paul Wall and GLC drags the album down too much. And even though Nas is in my top 5 rappers, his contribution We Major falls flat.

Another major different between Kanye’s two albums is that The College Dropout sounded like a concept album revolving around college with track flowing into each other perfectly. The thoughts on Late Registration sounds more like great songs that are thrown together. For instance, there is a bad transition between Touch the Sky that goes straight into Jamie Foxx’s acapella beginning of Gold Digger. The only thing that barely hold Late Registration together are the four skits throughout the album dealing with a fake fraternity, Broke Phi Broke.

The highlight of this album, much like his last, is Kanye’s quirky wordplay. He doesn’t drop references as obscure as the Beastie Boys, but he’s working on it. But what other rapper would quote John Denver; “I'm going on an airplane, and I don't know if I'll be back again” (Touch the Sky). Tim Hardaway, Gil Scott-Heron, Shirley Bassey, Sam Cooke, Forrest Gump, Nicky Giovanni, The Jeffersons, Gone with the Wind, Anakin Skywalker, and Jennifer Aniston all get namedropped throughout the album. But like his last album, the best line involves Michael Jackson, “She was suppose to buy ya shorty Tyco with ya money. She went to the doctor got lypo with ya money. She walkin around lookin like Michael with ya money” (Gold Digger). But honorable mentions go to “Ask the reverend was the strip club cool if my tips help send a pretty girl through school” (We Major) and “If a stripper named Porscha and u get tips from many men, then your fat friend, her nickname is Minivan” (Diamonds from Sierra Leone).

Song to Download – Hey Mama

Late Registration gets a Terror Alert Level: Severe [RED] on my Terror Alert Scale.