Saturday, June 28, 2014

Best of the Week: 6/28/14

Quote of the Week: Talk to him, you mean like Oprah? How do you feel? You had a bad childhood? Oh me too, let’s hug it out. (Jamal al-Fayeed, Tyrant)

Song of the Week: Dream On – Aerosmith (Tyrant)

Big News of the Week: USA Loses and Advances: People were cautiously optimistic when America drew the “Group of Death” for the World Cup. But after a first game win against Ghana (who knocked them out of the last two World Cups) and a lead against Portugal people were thinking about more than advance, they could actually finish first in the group. And then came the equalizer and more certainly. Still the US controlled their own destiny, win or tie and they advance. A tie in the other game even meant advancement despite a loss. Things got a little murkier if a team won outright meaning Ghana could actually knockout the US a third straight time despite losing to them. Thankfully everything worked out despite a close lose. Now the USA has advanced to the Knockout Round in two consecutive World Cups for the first time ever and will face a formable Belgium team on Tuesday. Most importantly America managed to advance without biting any other player.

Preview Picture of the Week:

“Thrown From the Ride” Pretty Little Liars, Tuesday at 8:00 on ABC Family

Free Download of the Week: My Silver Lining – First Aid Kit (Amazon Digital Music)

New Album Release of the Week: Legend - 30th Anniversary Edition (CD + Blu-Ray Audio Disc) - Bob Marley

New DVD Release of the Week: Helix: Season 1

Video of the Week: Life After Beth features Aubrey Plaza as a sarcastic zombie? Awesome. Sign me up.

Next Week Pick of the Week: Under the Dome, Monday at 10:00 on CBS: The Tiffany Network usually plays things safe filling its schedule with police procedurals and Chuck Lorre laugh track sitcoms. One of their rare outside the box ideas came last summer when they commissioned a show based on the Stephan King book and safeguarded their investment by selling the streaming rights to Amazon Prime before it even aired. It paid off becoming the biggest summer hits in years. Sure there was some serious flaws in the execution and some iffy acting, but it still held my attention all summer and has brought me back for a second season.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Around the Tubes: 6/27/14

I have gotten a plethora of cool press releases have been flooding my inbox recently that you may find interesting. This post will include blurbs on Californication, The Almighty Johnsons, Seinfeld, Doomsday Preppers, Killing Daddy, Monster Fish, Eli Wallach, iHeartRadio Ultimate Pool Party, Kendrick Lamar, Web Therapy, American Fringe, and Trey Songz.

- Our time in the sun has come to an end – this Sunday marks the last ride down the coast with Hank, Karen, Charlie, Marcy and the unforgettable cast of characters from the hit SHOWTIME comedy series Californication. The final trip finds Hank (David Duchovny) at a crossroads between his muse/long-time love Karen (Natascha McElhone) and old fling Julia (Heather Graham); daughter Becca (Madeleine Martin) and new son Levon (Oliver Cooper); and stuck between best friends Charlie (Evan Handler) and Marcy (Pamela Adlon). How (and where) will things end up for our favorite motley crew? Tune-in for one last wild, hilarious, trippy ride into the sunset on Sunday at 9:30. Check out a sneak peak below:

- The Johnson brothers are four typical guys - with the power of Norse Gods. But with great power, comes great action-packed comedy drama The Almighty Johnsons, premiering Friday, July 11 at 10|9c on Syfy.

- TBS will celebrate the 25th anniversary of Seinfeld – considered by many television critics to be the funniest sitcom ever created – with an entire week featuring the 25 most popular and acclaimed episodes. The celebration will take place Monday, June 30 – Saturday, July 5, with four episodes each weeknight, beginning at 6:00. TBS's Seinfeld anniversary celebration will climax on July 5, the 25th anniversary of Seinfeld's first telecast, with five episodes widely considered to be the most memorable, including The Contest, The Outing, The Junior Mint, The Puffy Shirt and The Yada Yada. The Saturday lineup is set to begin at 5:30.

- A natural disaster, an economic collapse, an unexpected harsh winter — for every person, there’s that moment when they discover that the world and everything they hold dear can be taken away. And that is why they prep. The fourth season of National Geographic Channel’s hit series Doomsday Preppers digs deep into the basics of prepping: forget expensive, elaborate bunkers and builds — this is just good ol’ prepping. Take a closer look into who the preppers are, why they prep and how their prepping impacts those close to them and their communities. Season four of Doomsday Preppers premieres Thursday, July 24, at 9:00 on National Geographic Channel.

- Killing Daddy, premieres on Saturday, July 5, (8:00) on Lifetime and stars Nickelodeon fave Elizabeth Gillies (Victorious), William R. Moses (Secret Life of an American Teenager, Jane Doe Mysteries) and Cynthia Stevenson (Men in Trees). Cassie Ross (Gillies) is the black sheep of the family. She was only six years old when her mother committed suicide and she blames her wealthy father, George (Moses) for it. Cassie left home as soon as she was old enough and has had a hard time surviving on the fringes of society. When she finds out her father has suffered a massive stroke, Cassie sees this tragedy as a sign for her to return to her hometown of Philadelphia and seek her revenge.

- For the past four seasons, fish biologist and National Geographic Fellow Dr. Zeb Hogan has traveled the globe in search of the planet’s largest, weirdest and most dangerous freshwater fish. He’s reeled in a cow-sized goldfish and wrestled a car-sized stingray. Now, in the fifth season of Monster Fish — premiering Monday, July 7, at 9:00 on Nat Geo WILD — he’ll “tackle” a whole new mission, traveling through the U.S., Australia, Asia, Nicaragua and South America in search of elusive freshwater megafish.

- Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will remember legendary actor Eli Wallach on Monday, June 30, with an 11-hour marathon starting at 9:00 A.M. featuring five of his performances. The marathon will feature Wallach in such memorable films as How the West Was Won (1962), The Misfits(1961) and Baby Doll (1956), which earned him a BAFTA Film Award and a Golden Globe® nomination.

- iHeartRadio and the Fontainebleau Miami Beach this week announced that the third annual iHeartRadio Ultimate Pool Party presented by VISIT FLORIDA will stream LIVE for fans nationwide on Yahoo and Clear Channel radio stations throughout the country as well as be aired as an exclusive television broadcast on The CW Network. The two-day musical weekend, which takes place on June 27-28 as part of the Fontainebleau’s BleauLive concert series, will be hosted by Nick Cannon and feature live performances by Jennifer Lopez, Neon Trees, Tiësto, Ariana Grande, Iggy Azalea, Lil Jon and recently added to the Saturday performance lineup Magic!.

- The New York Times Magazine shadowed Kendrick Lamar for three weeks while he was on tour with Kanye West. Lamar, seven-time Grammy nominee last year, is on a quest to become the best rapper in the world.

- Everyone’s favorite online therapist, played by Emmy Award winner Lisa Kudrow, will dole out more horrible advice on the fourth season of Web Therapy, premiering on Wednesday, October 22nd at 11:00. Season four brings top film and television stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Jon Hamm, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Matthew Perry (the fourth consecutive ‘Friend’ to appear on the series), Allison Janney, Lauren Graham, Craig Ferguson, Calista Flockhart, Dax Shephard, and Marie Claire Creative Director Nina Garcia into Fiona’s narcissistic world. Additionally, series co-creator, executive producer and Emmy Award winner Dan Bucatinsky will reprise his role as Fiona’s old assistant Jerome, along with returning guest stars Billy Crystal, Lily Tomlin, Rashida Jones, Victor Garber, Julie Claire, Jennifer Elise Cox and Tim Bagley.

- White supremacists. Anti-gay churchgoers. Freedom- loving misfits. Gun-toting “hillbillies.” Across all 50 states, there are provocative groups of Americans with unorthodox beliefs that do more than just raise eyebrows; they push the limits of our judicial system. Often challenged for their beliefs, many of these individuals and groups have chosen to remain outside of the limelight, shying away from the media attention … until now. Gaining unprecedented access and employing dramatic storytelling, National Geographic Channel (@NatGeoChannel) pushes boundaries with a thrilling, in-depth look at some of the country’s most controversial subcultures in American Fringe — a six-part series premiering Wednesday, July 9, at 10:00.

- Beast Sports went behind the scenes of Trey Songz' latest video for his hit song "Na Na" for an up close and personal work out session with Trey where he shares his personal fitness tips and gives a how-to on the workout routine featured in the "Na Na" video.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

I Listen to Sad Songs, Singing About Love and Where it Goes Wrong

dx - Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran is one of the rare popular new artists this decade than managed to get his sizable fan base by pure hard work and not having a massive radio hit. His first album went Gold here and despite the lack of massive radio hits, three years after the release of that album most everyone is now familiar with The A-Team, Lego House, and Give Me Love. Making Sheeran’s success more surprising is that the singer / songwriter era of the early 00’s that he would have fit very well into is long over. The last massive hit from a member of The Mellow Show was Jason Mraz’s 2008 I'm Yours.

With his sensitive singer / songwriter image, it was jarring that the first single off his sophomore album x (pronounced “multiply”, not the letter) was the ultra poppy Sing. It may have been the most jarring first single since U2 spent the early nineties getting weirder and weirder only to close the decade out with the Pop opus Discotheque. The song is instantly Sheeran’s most (really only) danceable and inexplicably borrowing an acoustic guitar from The Doobie Brothers Listen to the Music (much like when the heavily Got to Give It Up sounding Pharrell produced track Blurred Lines last year, The Doobie Brothers are not credited). Of course the song went on to be Ed’s first instant hit and biggest to date stateside.

Unlike Pop, x is not a complete sea change. Most of the rest comes straight out of the + playbook of mainly simple acoustic tracks with confessional lyrics. The other overtly pop song follows Sing on the album and this time Don't is co-produced by Benny Blanco (who has produced ultra-bland pop songs for Katy Perry, Ke$ha, and Maroon 5) and Rick Rubin. Another small block of hip-hop influenced songs appears later on the album which include another Pharrell assisted track Runaway which is followed by the early nineties inspire hip-hop beat The Man which unfortunately features Sheeran fake rapping which were the worst parts of + too. There is probably a reason why there has not been a successful rapper with a British accent since Slick Rick.

The best of x remains when Ed sticks to his bread and butter of confessional acoustic based tracks. Instead of evolving with an in your face pop song like Sing, a better evolution would have probably been a smaller tweak to his sound like Bloodstream (also produced by Rubin) where he adds a subtle bass sound to the existing acoustic sound. But there is plenty of good here that maybe Ed Sheeran will eventually get to his seventh album: .

Song to download - Bloodstream

x gets a Terror Alert Level: Elevated [YELLOW] on my Terror Alert Scale.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I Want My Music Television: 6/25/14

There have been a couple of videos that have caught my eye lately so I thought I’d give them some love since the death of Musical Television left a void for a forum on the art form. If you are interested in buying the video through iTunes, click the title link (where available). If you are interested in buying the song, look for a link in the analysis.

A Sky Full of Stars – Coldplay

Coldplay is sometime considered U2-lite and this could very well be their I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. Except Bono is inherently cool and even this semi-ironic look at himself, Chris Martin comes across even less cool. But still, I still wish the video featured the live performance (aside from a honking horn) with the silly instruments being used on their backs instead of the bland dance track of the original.

Writings on the Wall – OK Go

It feels like it has been a long while since the last OK Go video and their latest trippy optical illusion filled video does not disappoint in that you have to re-watch it multiple times just to figure out what is going on. But like every other OK Go music video you mute the crappy song on the second watch because it is not any good.

Get Her Back – Robin Thicke

A couple months ago Robin Thicke and Paula Patton split after years of marriage, a courtship that goes back to when they were teenagers, and a kid (most speculated that being twerked on my Miley Cyrus in a Beatlejuice suit was the main reason she left). Not that I cared much because Allen is the only member of the Thicke family I care about. A couple months later he released a song called Get Her Back, it was a sweet slow jam that certainly will not make a Blurred Lines dent in popular culture. Then he announced his upcoming album would be called Paula. Alrighty. The cynic in me wants to call this whole “separation” a cheap marketing ploy for the new album. Then came the music video for the song and oh no, it is embarrassingly bad. The video features texts (presumably between Robin and Paula) that make he look like a complete fool. Then he appears in the video for no apparently reason with a black eye and bloody nose. Is he accusing her of domestic abuse? Trying to get her back after that make him seem even worse. If this really has all been a marketing scheme, it is a massive fail. And if it is not a marketing ploy, c’mon Robin, as Michael Wibon would say, there is always another train coming. Just do not get on the Miley Express again.

Bartender - Lady Antebellum

I came to the realization watching the new Lady Antebellum video is that Kate Upton should be in every music video ever. Though I am not sure I would drink anything Buster Bluth served me.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Previewing Tyrant

It has become a cliché ever since The Godfather coined the phrase: "Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in." Barry has been living the simple life as a pediatrician in Pasadena for the past twenty years with two teenaged kids (one boy and one girl of course). But his nephew’s wedding brings him back home for the first time in two decade and in instantly brought back in to family turmoil. But unlike the numerous other stories of people being pulled back into the family business, Barry was born Bassam Al-Fayeed and the family business is the dictatorship of the Middle Eastern country Abbudin.

That is the premise of the new FX series Tyrant. The show comes from the same guys who did Homeland which is kind of the reverse of Tyrant where an American exiled in the Middle East (so to speak) returns to the United States. But where Homeland had twists and shocks at every turn (some good, some horribly bad), Tyrant for the most part plays it safe, the series premiere plays out almost exactly how I expected it to just from knowing the premise. The only scene that was mildly surprising is that that causes Barry (Adam Rayner who looks like a vaguely ethnic Matthew Fox).

After the premiere, the show falls into an almost procedural where instead of a case of the week, there is an Arabic country problem of the week where the country’s general (and Barry’s uncle) wants to solve with force, usually the deadly kind, while Barry tries to convince the president to solve the problems in a more civilized (read: American) way. Teenage terrorist kidnap someone? The general want to storm the building and kill everyone, Barry wants to go in and talk. Suspected terrorist is captured? The general wants him hung in the town square within twenty-four hours, Barry wants a trial. Peaceful protest in the town square: The general thinks the president should go talk to them. Oh, wait no that is Barry, the general want to kill them all.

I am actually more interested in Barry’s family. The underappreciated Jennifer Finnigan (Monday Mornings) has been married to a dictator’s son for all this time but apparently never talks about it. The son is your typical teenage douchebag who has no problem living up the dictator family lifestyle even though some of his action would have him stoned in the town square. The daughter does not want to be there but never really articulates why (she does call her grandfather a war criminal at one point) and we have to assume she does not want to spend time in a country where women are oppressed. It was almost as if the Homeland writers are overcompensating the internet’s hate over Dana Brody that they give the daughter absolutely nothing to do but know she is basically just Chris Brody without the irrational Wizards fandom. But none of the American citizens are flushed out and that includes the underutilized Justin Kirk (Weeds) as a U.S. diplomat.

The most interesting characters in the first couple episodes are Barry’s brother Ashraf Barhom (300: Rise of an Empire), who, without his brother for the last couple years, managed to be Uday and Qusay Hussein rolling into one. Sure some will see the character as way over the top, but nothing he does in the first episode I do not look at and say yeah, I would totally believe that either Uday or Qusay did the exact same thing, I would actully be more shocked to learn they were not doing the swame things. He is married to Moran Atias (The Next Three Days) your typical political wife who may very well be more ambitious than her husband.

Tyrant reminds me of numerous post-Golden Age of Television show where all the ingredients are there: good idea, good acting, it looks good, but it sometimes forgets to be entertaining. Tyrant is good, but for the first couple episodes I have been waiting for great, it just has not arrived… yet (hopefully).

Tyrant airs Tuesdays at 10:00 on FX.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Five Most Anticipated Albums of Summer 2014

Okay, let’s be honest, there is only one album to get excited about this summer and that is a new “Weird Al” Yankovic. There are a couple others that may be good, but Al’s is the only one that is going to get to check YouTube hoping the first video is released yet. Granted another reason is that most of the non-Al marquee names that will probably have a new album out by the end of the year have not released official dates meaning we will not be getting them until closer to Christmas. Here are the ones that will actually hit shelves (or digital shelves) before the leaves start to change colors. Click the album name or cover to preorder on Amazon (where available) or the artist’s name to be taken to their iTunes page.

1. Mandatory Fun – "Weird Al" Yankovic (July 15): It has been three year since the last Weird Al album which featured him poking fun at Taylor Swift and still the Hanna Montana era Miley Cyrus. There have been plenty of parodyable songs to come out since then. Currently we do not know much about whom he will be targeting this time around except Patton Oswalt said he has heard that album and will be parodying one of his favorite bands of the nineties and a gossip site saying Al ambushed Iggy Azalea for permission to parody one of her songs. Since there is no track listing yet, here is a Power Ranking of songs I hope made the cut:

Call Me Maybe – Carly Rae Jepsen: No song in the past decade screams out for an parody from Weird Al than Call Mew Maybe. I do not want to live in a world where there is not a Weird Al Call Me Maybe parody.

Somebody That I Used to Know – Gotye featuring Kimbra: When Al teased the Russian themed artwork my first thought was “Soviet That I Used to Know must be the first single.” (Call Me Ruskie was my second thought.) On the other hand, half the time the cover art has nothing to do with any of the parodies like last album’s Alpocalypse.

Royals – Lorde: There is an obvious Game of Thrones parody as low hanging fruit in there somewhere for Al.

Roar – Katy Perry: She was the biggest pop star in the nation when the last Weird Al album dropped on her way to tying a Michael Jackson record for most number ones from one album but not one song from Teenage Dream got parodied. None of them even made the polka (I Kissed a Girl did though). Roar is some overtly cheesy it was almost as Katy was begging for a Weird Al parody with it.

Pharrell: Take your pick: Get Lucky, Blurred Lines, Happy. Really Al could just do a medley or give Pharrell his own polka from Rump Shaker (yes a nineteen year old Pharrell wrote the Wreckx-n-Effect classic) to Happy. And if not a Pharrell polka…

Folk Polka: When it came to thinking of songs I would like to hear Weird Al parody, a few folk songs came across my mind like Ho Hey and Little Lion Man, but I actually would rather here those songs as part of a polka instead.

2. Get Hurt – The Gaslight Anthem (August 18): Two years ago the band released their first major label record and I thought they were poised for a Black Keys type breakout. The album was good, it just did not hit with the general public. Granted The Black Keys did not break out until their second major label album, hopefully The Gaslight Anthem follows suit. So far I have only heard about thirty seconds of the album but the band promises something completely different.

3.  x - Ed Sheeran (Tomorrow): It seems like the singer-songwriter era that John Mayer kickstarted at the start of the millennium ended right around the time he spouted off about his racist genitalia, really the only dude with an acoustic guitar with any success since them was Ed Sheeran. So it was jarring when the first single off his sophomore album was a Pharrell produced dance song built around that acoustic guitar (which bears a striking resemblance to The Doobie Brothers). Everything that has been released since (which seems like the whole album by now) does fit more with his earlier motif so it may not be a complete sea change of an album.

4. The Golden Echo – Kimbra (August 18): Most people in America only know Kimbra from the Gotye song but her debut album ended up being much better than the Goyte song was featured on. Her follow hopefully will feature a song that will end up being her first solo hit. But that will probably not be first single 90’s Music which sadly does not sound like alt-rock or something produced by Babyface (the two things I think of when I think 90’s music).

5. Wish I Were Here Soundtrack (July 15): Ten years ago, Natalie Portman promised that The Shins would change my life. It did not. But you know whose lives it changed: The Shins. And really indie pop in general as The Garden State Soundtrack brought the sub-genre to the masses going platinum and winning a Grammy. For his next film Wish I Was Here, of course The Shins are featured on the soundtrack with a brand new song. Also making a retuned appearance is Coldplay, this time as a duet with Cat Power and Paul Simon. The soundtrack also features two songs from Bon Iver.

Here are some more albums that will be at the very least worth a spin on Spotify.


One More Around the Sun – Mastodon

June 27
Ultraviolet EP – Owl City

July 1
Legend - 30th Anniversary Edition (CD + Blu-Ray Audio Disc)Bob Marley
We Are Only What We Feel NONONO
PaulaRobin Thicke
RemedyOld Crow Medicine Show

July 8
Beautiful Goodbye – Richard Marx
1000 Forms of FearSia
"Now (Chicago XXXVI) - Chicago
Redeemer of SoulsJudas Priest
Shutup&Jam!Ted Nugent

July 15
No Fools, No Fun - Puss N Boots (Sasha Dobson, Norah Jones, Catherine Popper)
Strange Desire - Bleachers
Yes!Jason Mraz

July 21
Nobody Smiling - Common
Trouble in Paradise – La Roux

July 29
Hypnotic EyeTom Petty and The Heartbreakers
The Voyager - Jenny Lewis
The Breeze (An Appreciation of JJ Cale)Eric Clapton and Friends
A Life Worth LivingMarc Broussard

August 5
They Want My Soul – Spoon
Tough Love – Jessie Ware

August 19
In Motion: The RemixesAmy Grant

August 26
Brill BruisersThe New Pornographers

September 2
V – Maroon 5

September 9
All Together Now – Better Than Ezra
Goddess – Banks
El PintorInterpol

September 16
Bulletproof Picasso - Train
Sukierae – Jeff Tweedy
World on Fire - Slash

September 22
Strut – Lenny Kravitz
This Is All Yours – alt-J

September 30
Collide – Boyz II Men

October 28
With a Little Help From My Fwends – The Flaming Lips

Everything Will Be Alright in the End - Weezer
Dear You - Meiko
Plain Spoken – John Mellencamp
24 Karat Gold: Songs From the Vault – Stevie Nicks
Somewhere Under Wonderland – Counting Crows
Deeply Rooted – Scarface
Mr. Wonderful – Action Bronson
Now We Even – Mase
Big Boi
Billy Idol
Bob Dylan
Christina Aguilera
Foo Fighters
Guns N' Roses
Kanye West
New Order
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Red Wanting Blue
Robert Plant
Ryan Adams
The Lone Bellow
The Ting Tings
The Veronicas

And of course here is the obligatory maybe this is the quarter we get to hear Detox from Dr. Dre.