By Jason Charles
Jaymes Young and Vance Joy brought disparate sounds and styles to one of Atlanta’s best small music venues, Terminal West, last week and together shaped a warm, relaxed evening of music.
If you don’t know Jaymes Young by name, you should. This Seattle-born singer-songwriter received immediate label interest and blog acclaim upon the release of his first EP Dark Star last year. Young topped Hype Machine’s “Most Popular Tracks” list for months and garnered the attention of critics at Earmilk, Noisey and others. His musical style is eclectic, to say the least. With influences from R&B to pop, Young puts an ambient, electronic twist on traditional genres to create a sound that is unique.
Many artists are faced with the frustrations of attempting to produce a sound as good as or better than is achieved in the studio in a live atmosphere.
Post-production, sound alterations and electronic effects have become commonplace, especially in the indie music scene, and artists are still trying to figure out the best way to approach live shows. Young used some pre-recorded elements, which the drummer controlled on a laptop. In the end, it was the three-piece band primarily responsible for the powerful, modern electronic feel that produced this powerful sound and elevated the studio tracks to something bigger and better. In fact, Terminal West’s small size and superb acoustics allowed the audience to feel the music, literally, through the vibrations.
Young had an awkward confidence about him as he crooned crowd favorites like “Dark Star” and the closer, “Two More Minutes.” Perhaps his youth and lack of experience worked as assets here, imbuing him with an air of genuinity. One of the highlights of his set was his newest single “Habits of My Heart,” which samples prominent indie folk artist Sufjan Stevens and recreates the track as a soulful ballad.
After a brief break, Vance Joy took the stage and completely shifted the night’s musical focus to a rawer, more acoustic sound.
James Keogh has had an incredible ride these past few years. Within hours of uploading his single “Riptide” to SoundCloud earlier this year, the music blogosphere exploded and the song skyrocketed to the top of numerous charts. The track broke the pop radio barrier and became an infectious summer anthem. The Australian singer-songwriter has an indie folk sound with an evident pop influence. Keogh is new to the music scene, but it’s clear that he is aware of what makes music unique and real. He explained in a recent interview with The Independent, “It’s cool to create something that stands up on its own two feet … rather than a dull and diluted version of music you like.”
Keogh began the night with a simple ballad off his first album called “Emmylou.” The audience was relatively still and, clearly, we were all awaiting his more recognizable hits and crowd favorites. The audience sang along faithfully to songs like “Georgia” and, of course, danced and cheered for the hits “Riptide” and “Mess Is Mine.”
The band left the stage for a few songs at one point in the set, allowing Keogh to showcase his powerful raw vocals and unadorned, yet illustrative, songwriting. Throughout the night, songs sometimes melded into one another, and, unlike Young, the style grew a bit monotonous. But Joy hones the stripped-down, folk-pop sound, which countless other artists (e.g. Ed Sheeran, Ben Howard, Paulo Nutini) have wielded successfully in recent years.
Both acts proved that they are more than indie singer-songwriters who can get a song on the radio. The performances complemented each other well and offered the audience something unique and gratifying. Although Vance Joy was the headliner and the one most of the crowd came to see, Young stole the show with his distinctive sound, quiet confidence and elevated live production. This night of electro-infused indie and acoustic folk/pop demonstrates that new artists across genres are out to prove themselves. It’s good to know that new talent is on the rise.
— By Jason Charles, Contributing Writer
By Rashika Verma
John Green once said “Sometimes, you read a book, and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”
As a bibliophile, I’ve come across many books and characters that have left me thinking about them long after I’ve turned the last page. But one stands out as having changed my life more than the others.
He is not a bespectacled magician or a hobbit-sized explorer (though they too were important parts of my childhood), rather a teenager with ADHD and dyslexia who is just trying to survive in a world that seems determined to tear him down. He is Percy Jackson.
With the release of the final book in the Percy Jackson saga, Rick Riordan’s The Blood of Olympus, fans of the series — many of whom have grown up with the characters — find themselves saying a bittersweet goodbye.
As with any story, the characters have become wiser with age, losing the naiveté that led them astray in the earlier books. However, some things, like Percy’s unwavering loyalty to his family and friends or Annabeth’s dedication to achieving her dream of becoming an architect, have remained consistent. This has reminded me, and many more readers, that while we all grow up, there are parts of us that play such a large role in who we are that not even time can change them. And much like it was the end of an era when the world saw Harry Potter sending his children off to Hogwarts from Platform 9 3/4, reading about Percy’s last adventure to save the world is like saying goodbye to the best friend we have all had.
When readers first met Percy in The Lightning Thief, he was a reluctant hero who had been thrust from one uncomfortable situation to another. He went from dealing with school and his mother’s abusive relationship with his stepfather at home to watching his mother “die” before collapsing himself, literally, at a camp for the children of Greek gods. But before Percy could adjust to his new life, he was accused of stealing Zeus’ master thunderbolt, setting off a series of events that goes on to span 10 books and almost eight years.
But for a generation of readers, following the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series and the later The Heroes of Olympus series (a spin-off series featuring both new and old characters and locations), has been more than just understanding Percy’s struggles.
It’s been discovering a community that celebrates the flaws that make each person unique. The titular character suffers from ADHD and dyslexia, and his best friends struggle with their own problems; abandonment, pride, jealousy and sexuality. Riordan manages to effortlessly infuse the problems that children and teenagers grow up with, while still maintaining the lighthearted tone that has become a trademark of the series.
Discovering the series as a middle-schooler who felt out of place in a big school, I could relate to Percy’s struggles with identity. He was shunned by teachers for being the troublemaker and by his peers for being different.
The culmination of Percy’s journey from an awkward pre-teen to a hero that saves the world (twice) reminds me of the journey that I took from being an awkward Indian transplant in America to having a close group of friends and finding my passions in the classroom and outside.
Though I never had to fight Minotaurs or manipulative gods, I had my share of bullies and exasperated teachers who couldn’t understand why I wasn’t exactly like them.
And though it is a cliché, I know I would not be the person I am today without this series.
Not only did the story give me someone to whom I could relate; it also gave me the opportunity to discover a new passion: mythology.
Reading about the interesting mythological personalities that Percy and his friends encountered in their journeys, from the famous Olympian gods to the lesser known deities and monsters, I became intrigued at the universe the ancients created to explain the world around them.
I began searching out new tales of myths, Greek and otherwise, to try to understand the ideas and perspectives that went on to shape modern society and cultures.
So I say farewell to the characters that have seen me through the last eight years, but I know that they will never be truly gone.
A piece of the story will always live with me, and whenever I feel nostalgic, Percy and his adventures will always be only a bookshelf away.
— By Rashika Verma, Contributing Writer
Shakey Graves (left) performs at his concert at Terminal West in Atlanta on Oct. 15. Graves revved up
the crowd with his upbeat, energizing original songs. | Photo by Maya Nair/Contributor
By Maya Nair
When you first hear the name Shakey Graves, the first thing that probably comes to mind is a corny horror movie or the name of an old, abandoned haunted house.
But there was nothing remotely scary about Alejandro Rose-Garcia, better known as Shakey Graves, as he strolled on stage on Oct. 15 to a sold-out crowd at Terminal West, smiling and laughing in the impressive combination of a cowboy hat, navy suit and a red tie.
Shakey Graves is a blues/folk singer from Austin, Texas who has slowly been working his way up to the top of the folk charts and onto everyone’s “must watch” lists.
Shakey’s first album, Roll the Bones, was self-released on the online music store Bandcamp in 2011.
He has been touring and traveling constantly, this year highlighted by an impressive track record of festivals such as South by Southwest and Hangout Music Festival.
Earlier this month came his much anticipated sophomore release And The War Came, that was accompanied by a performance of his single “Dearly Departed” on “Conan.”
But Shakey is no stranger to the spotlight. Before he became serious about music, he pursued his love for acting, landing a role in the movie “Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over” and a recurring role in the show “Friday Night Lights.” His love for performing translated directly into the high energy night in Atlanta, the first stop on his tour.
Shakey started the night off with one of my favorite songs from his new record called “If Not For You,” with its varying momentum and boisterous guitar riffs.
The crowd brought just as much spirit with whoops, whistles and occasional laughs as Shakey cracked jokes in the middle of songs.
The set list featured plenty of new songs but also included favorites like “Late July” and “Roll the Bones,” much to the crowd’s delight.
He performed plenty of songs in his usual one-man-band style with his guitar and homemade kick drum and tambourine made from an old suitcase, but he did have a few guests that joined on him stage.
The highlight was definitely when indie folk singer-songwriter Esmé Patterson came on stage.
Shakey’s new record features three standout duets with Esmé, and the graceful union of their voices sent the crowd into a state of awe.
One of the best parts of the night was when they performed the hit, “Dearly Departed.” The crowd started singing along before Shakey and Esmé even got started and the look of amazement from them was priceless.
Over the years, I have experienced several very different artists in concert, yet they all seemed to have essentially similar crowds.
The occasions usually involved shoving and a multitude of screaming and crying girls, or in stark contrast, I sat in an arena or amphitheater surrounded by disinterested people sitting in their seats.
But this concert was the most refreshing change of pace for me, as I got to appreciate the music without worrying about the people around me.
The crowd was entirely made up of people who were there to enjoy and pay attention to the music being played, not just fawn over the artist or try to head bang into the next century. The folk singer has his fair share of slower, introspective songs, but that in no way made his performance boring. Shakey gave it his all in every song he performed, and the energy in the room was tangible.
There’s no doubt he’ll be back in Atlanta in no time, playing to a bigger crowd as more people take interest in this charming, talented performer.
— By Maya Nair, Contributing Writer
Lauren Aquilina (left), Jesse Bonanno (center) and Andrew Bird (right) are three musicians that you
need to check out. | All photos courtesy of the artists
By Kelsey Klosterman
We’ve all been through it: we all have at least one artist that we love so much, but no one ever knows who they are. We listen to them all the time, and we’ve been following their work for years, but they never seem to get famous.
It’s a fact of life: some artists simply don’t get the kind of fame and popularity they deserve.
For me, these artists include Lauren Aquilina, Jesse Bonanno and Andrew Bird — all artists I’ve discovered in the past couple of years and have come to love since then. All three are solo singers who create their own unique blend of styles that leads to great music and happy listeners.
Lauren Aquilina is a 19-year-old singer-songwriter from England. She’s been singing since she was eight years old and playing piano since she was nine.
Aquilina often sang as a teenager trying to raise money, and in 2012, her first independent EP, Fools, was released, kickstarting her career.
In its first week, the album made the Top 50 iTunes singles charts. Fools was released as a trio of EPs with Sinners and Liars, each of which includes four songs, and together, these EPs led Aquilina to her first tour in 2013.
Aquilina’s style is heavily acoustic and indie pop. The songs are slow and because her music is primarily vocals and piano, her songs are relaxing. She puts her heart into her lyrics to tell stories primarily about different kinds of relationships.
Her most popular track is “Fools,” which tells the tale of a couple of friends who wonder if they should risk their friendship to be something more. It features Aquilina singing over a subdued beat, soft instrumentals and subtle background vocals. “Fools,” like most of Aquilina’s songs, has a way of capturing you and filling you up and refusing to let you go until long after it’s over.
Jesse Bonanno is a 31-year-old American singer-songwriter who’s still very much under the radar. He plays acoustic rock, using piano, strings and guitar to back up his vocals. His first work was an EP called Check Please, which featured five tracks. Since then, he has released three full albums, but the original EP remains his most popular work.
Bonanno only has 500 followers on Spotify, where his most popular song is “Never Alone.” This song begins with Bonanno singing over a soft piano backing as he encourages his listener, saying that they have his support, and even though other instruments are slowly added throughout the song, it remains soft and caring until the end.
Some of his songs have a rock feel, but Bonanno tends to sing softly over whatever instrumentals he chooses, giving his music a nostalgic feel and bringing listeners into a different, more introspective frame of mind. His music is the kind that you might listen to on a long car ride or when you’re lost in thought.
Andrew Bird is a songwriter from Chicago, and at age 41, he has released many albums in some overlapping genres: indie rock, indie folk and folk rock.
He’s certainly better known than the other folks on this list, but his music is still not exactly the type you’d expect to hear on the radio. Bird is a multi-instrumentalist, playing the violin and guitar among others.
He has released over a dozen albums since the beginning of his career in 1996.
Bird’s style tends to be upbeat, and the instruments he plays — including the glockenspiel — help foster that mood. His most famous song is “Pulaski at Night,” an homage to Chicago (the track was featured in the season two premiere of the popular Netflix-exclusive program “Orange Is the New Black”).
This track begins with a deliberate rhythm with the violin, and as instruments are added, Bird begins to sing. The song alternates from using silence between beats to stretching out notes to produce a creative blend of folk styles.
He also has many songs that are purely instrumental, including the epic “Lit from Underneath,” which moves along steadily from the beginning with Andrew plucking away at his violin to create a relaxing yet catchy song. There’s also a faint whistling in the background that sounds almost like an instrument itself.
All three of this artists can be found both on Spotify and on iTunes. If you’re interested in uncovering some new artists, try checking these three out. Give them a listen and you might find something you like.
— By Kelsey Klosterman, Staff Writer
Chris Evans (left) and Robert Downey Jr. (right) star in 2012 box-office-record-breaking smash-hit “The Avengers.” Both actors are set to
star in further installments set in the Marvel Universe and the fan speculation on the possibilities is ablaze. | Photo Courtesy of Marvel Studios
By Jake Choi
In an era filled with superhero/comic book movies, even more exciting news has been revealed that will shape the direction of the film industry for this decade.
Though Marvel Studios hasn’t officially confirmed the news, Variety has reported that Robert Downey Jr. (as Iron Man) is on the verge of joining the cast of 2016’s “Captain America 3,” alongside Chris Evans in the titular role.
This caused the fandom of Marvel Studios to buzz with excitement and speculate.
Then, also immediately, DC Comics officially revealed their slate of movies after “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” which will include their own superhero team-up movie “Justice League.”
The potential of Iron Man’s involvement in this film is huge in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, not only because it marks one more film that Downey will make with Marvel (his contract is set to end after “Avengers 3”) but also because it can affect the rest of the movie schedule.
The day after the news broke about Downey’s possible involvement, DC Comics seemed to counter the hype by officially announcing their own slate of comic book movies.
After the success that Marvel Studios has with their cinematic universe, it’s clear that DC also wants to create a cinematic universe, filled with characters like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman fighting together.
DC launched its cinematic universe with 2013’s “Man of Steel,” and it will be followed by “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” directed by Zack Snyder (“300,” “Watchmen”). Henry Cavill will return as Clark Kent/Superman, presumably battling Ben Affleck’s Batman, in a conflict similar to that of Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns.” The film is also set to feature Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor and Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne’s butler.
After the Batman/Superman face-off, “Suicide Squad” will be released in 2016. Mirroring the vibe of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Suicide Squad is the name of the anti-hero team consisting of supervillains working for the government by taking on high-risk, black ops missions in exchange for shortened prison sentences.
However, because the team is filled with hardcore killers edgier than that of “Guardians,” fans will surely be delighted by fan-favorite supervillains like Deadshot and Harley Quinn working together in uneasy, tension-filled environments. According to The Hollywood Reporter, DC is approaching A-list actors such as Ryan Gosling, Will Smith and Tom Hardy for this flick.
Next on the agenda is the 2017 release of “Wonder Woman,” played by Gal Gadot. Wonder Woman will be a demigod daughter of Zeus in this cinematic incarnation.
After her own stand-alone movie, she will have a major role in 2017’s “Justice League Part 1,” also directed by Zack Snyder. It seems that DC is doing the opposite of what Marvel Studios did; instead of having several stand-alone origin stories before the big team-up movie, DC will have the superhero team-up movie to introduce the characters and build the cinematic universe for stand-alone movies later on.
Although DC’s entire schedule has been released, not much information on the movies has been given other than their titles and the actors slated to play the main characters.
In 2018, “The Flash” and “Aquaman” will be released. Unrelated to CW’s television show, “The Flash” is set to star Ezra Miller (“The Perks of being a Wallflower”) in the role of Barry Allen. “Aquaman” will be played by Jason Momoa (“Game of Thrones,” “Conan the Barbarian”).
In addition, the movies “Shazam” and “Justice League Part 2” will be released in 2019. Shazam, formerly known as Captain Marvel, will face off against his nemesis Black Adam, played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Finally, the current movie schedule will finish in 2020 with “Cyborg” and a “Green Lantern” reboot. The titular character of Cyborg will be played by Ray Fisher, an American stage actor.
It is an auspicious sign that “Green Lantern” will have a recovering reboot after the failure of the first “Green Lantern” movie in 2011 with Ryan Reynolds.
With these reports, it seems that the executives at DC are going all in to commit themselves to building a cinematic universe.
Marvel is not backing down either, with their President Kevin Feige having planned out films all the way to 2028. Marvel is already in post-production for the 2015 blockbuster “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” and they are currently filming “Ant-Man” with Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas for 2015, while “Doctor Strange” has been confirmed for 2016.
Although the plans might change depending on the financial or critical outcomes of the movies from both DC and Marvel, one can clearly see the enthusiasm of both film studios. Because they are planning so far ahead, the competition will breed diligence and innovation.
The heightened recognition of the genre will inevitably lead to financial success and finally, more superhero movies.
One thing’s for sure: it is a great time to be a fan of comics.
— By Jake Choi, Staff Writer
Last Friday at Black Dog, a poetry reading hosted by Emory student literary collective The Pulse, College senior Eugene Ahn (center)
addressed the difficulties of growing up a minority through his poetry. | Photo by Julia Munslow/Staff
By Julia Munslow
Antiquated, monotonous and boring: the often misleading reputation of poetry and everything that Black Dog proved contemporary poetry is not.
Emory’s literary journal The Pulse hosted Black Dog, Emory’s first undergraduate student reading series, at the Woodruff Library Courtyard last Friday (Oct. 24). Eight Emory undergraduate students shared their poetry, including members of Minds on Mic, Emory’s slam poetry team.
The outdoor space allowed poets and audience members alike to mill around the stone steps and grassy lawn together before the show, eating, talking and enjoying the fall weather.
Editor-in-Chief of The Pulse and College senior Dana Sokolowski was one of the creators of the Black Dog series. Sokolowski and co-founder of The Pulse senior Emily Gutierrez developed the reading series two years ago with help from former Creative Writing Fellow Harmony Neal.
Sokolowski explained that the trio wanted to give students a place to read their work, as well as to recognize talented individuals on campus by reaching out and asking them to share their poems, or other types of written work, through the reading series.
Minds on Mic team member and College senior Elliot Levy kicked off the evening with a candid and heartfelt poem about his father, delivering his piece with conviction and sincerity.
Levy, first inspired to try slam poetry by the documentary “Brave New Voices,” encouraged everyone to try going to slam poetry, stating, “People enjoy it and might not even know it.”
Slam poetry is a competitive form of performance poetry, traditionally judged by audience members on delivery as well as content.
College sophomores Maya Bradford and Jason Ehrenzeller followed Levy. Bradford presented a soft-spoken but powerful poem about La Llorona, a mythical woman who drowns her children in order to be with the man she loves, while Ehrenzeller shared three poems, including a work about being born with a heart defect.
Following Bradford and Ehrenzeller, College senior Eugene Ahn bounded up onstage and told the audience about his hopes for his future kids, infusing humor into a discussion of the difficulties of growing up LGBTQ, female or a person of color. His relaxed confidence and comfort onstage only added to his presentation of his poem.
College senior and Wheel Editorials Editor Rhett Henry and College sophomore Hilleary Gramling followed Ahn. Henry gave the audience a mini history lesson, sharing a poem about number stations, shortwave radio stations used during World War II. Gramling, though nervous during her first poem on breaking a vase, seemed to relax into her second and third poems, reading with poise and certainty.
After Henry and Gramling came College sophomore Caroline Schmidt, who confessed before the start of the series, “I’m trying to be more honest in my poems.”
Schmidt’s promise of increased candor in her work fell far from short. Schmidt used her poetry to paint candid images of her experiences, sharing poems about her mother, bulimia and making love on a sailboat.
Minds on Mic team member and College senior Philip Winkle closed out the series with a stunning and dynamic piece about first times and comets. His stage presence alone proved his experience with slam poetry, as his animated performance captivated the audience, who laughed and engaged in the poem.
Winkle cited poetry as “an outlet for people who are trying to express themselves,” affirming its importance to the arts.
Though all of the poets had distinctly different writing styles and stories to share, Black Dog created a space where each one fit.
“[Black Dog is] a way to get to know students in a different way, especially if you don’t read poetry,” Sokolowski said, encouraging all students to attend. “It builds community; it helps students feel what they’re doing is valid.”
Schmidt agreed with Sokolowski, stating, “I think [people] would find a lot of factors that they can identify with [at Black Dog].”
The audience’s enthusiastic and supportive responses to the poetry shared provided evidence that poetry holds the power to touch people of all backgrounds.
“[Poetry is] about expression, about this celebration of language,” explained Schmidt. “It doesn’t have to be unreadable.”
Despite USA Today naming Emory the number one school for aspiring writers, the event’s attendees explained that they felt Emory’s poetry scene today is not as strong as it had once been. Minds on Mic previously held regular open mics and readings, along with placing fifth in 2012 in the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational, a slam poetry competition with nearly 50 competing teams. Emory’s reading series, “What’s New in Poetry,” will end this December. Regardless of the many obstacles, the arts community is full of impassioned, supportive individuals who are determined to bring poetry back stronger than ever.
Levy and Winkle of Minds on Mic echoed Schmidt’s sentiments, encouraging intrigued students to reach out to them. They hope that everyone is simply aware of the slam team’s presence on campus.
“We’re coming back,” Levy asserted confidently.
Sokolowski encouraged budding writers, stating earnestly, “What we write is meant to be shared.”
Black Dog was funny, sobering, insightful and, above all, inspiring. For those who love poetry, Black Dog is the perfect stage to relax and listen to student poets. And for those who have never voluntarily read a poem in their life and despise the thought of listening to poetry for an hour, let Black Dog prove you otherwise.
The next Black Dog series will take place in November.
— By Julia Munslow, Staff Writer
Photo Courtesy of Ross Idzhar on Flickr
By Josh Lehman
iTunes boldly pigeonholes SBTRKT’s (pronounced “subtract”) sophomore studio album Wonder Where We Land as electronic. However, Aaron Jerome, the man beneath the exotic tribal SBTRKT mask, has touched upon a multitude of genres with his cache of distinguished features. The 15-track record includes appearances from up-and-coming rapper A$AP Ferg, Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig, British electronic soul singer Sampha and many more. Collaborators on the deluxe edition’s six additional tracks include Warpaint, Raury, Boogie and Andrew Ashong.
A noteworthy track is “Temporary View,” which highlights featured singer Sampha’s hauntingly high register over a plethora of electronic rifts and shifting futuristic sounds. Sampha seems to be the collaborator of choice for SBTRKT, having had a hand in SBTRKT’s first studio album From Arctic to Alpine (2011). Hit tracks such as “Trials of the Past” and “Hold On” from the first album receive a much-welcomed encore in “Temporary View,” “Gon Stay,” “Wonder Where We Land,” “If It Happens” and “Maybe.” Jerome does a masterful job of letting the fragile yet mesmerizing vocals of Sampha breathe; too often other artists drown out vocals with noisy splashes of synthesizer and overwhelming bass lines.
SBTRKT does not disappoint his steadfast electronic fans. His unparalleled sense of rhythm and sound pairing is best exemplified in the track “Lantern.” The song slowly fades in a bar of oscillating notes that emulate the rhythm of a strobe light, only to be interrupted by a series of charming harp-like chords, which are an acoustic interpretation of the feeling of incertitude broken up by an angelic force.
This battle of light and dark electronic rhythms is a trend set by the song “Go Bang” in From Arctic to Alpine, which was the subject of unsatisfactory sampling by Manhattan rapper Skizzy Mars with his song “No Curfew.”
This was not the only beat of SBTRKT’s to be botched by a rapper. Rap mogul Drake created a lackluster “Wildfire” (OVO Remix). This convinced me that SBTRKT was not meant to be rapped over, and one can imagine my dismay when A$AP Ferg was listed as a possible collaborator on this album. Thankfully, the resulting “Voices In My Head” is an incredible surprise; A$AP Ferg rides the spacey beat with a flow more similar to a Bone Thugs-N-Harmony member than to his past “Shabba” and “Work” styles. Ferg’s smooth yet sporadic rhyme scheme matches perfectly with SBTRKT’s accompaniment of declining piano lines and soft drum rolls. The track leaves its listener with the haunting repetition of Ferg muttering about “All these voices in my head.”
This album seems to have taken a darker path than previous SBTRKT projects. The single “Higher” featuring new Atlanta artist Raury describes the struggles of growing up without a father. He also includes references to riding on the MARTA and walking around Decatur — imagery to which Emory students might well relate. His harsh tone and quick wordplay matched with a fast kick and snare pattern creates a serious mood that carries over throughout the album.
A similar mood expresses itself within the much-anticipated single “New Dorp. New York,” in which Koenig of Vampire Weekend chants and sings dark abstract imagery such as “gargoyles gargling oil” over a wonky bass line and a steady Cabasa rhythm to give it the feel of a mysterious funk song.
Much like Ferg, Koenig is pushed outside his normal indie rock repertoire to match the creative mind of Aaron Jerome. This emphasis on both creativity and using artists in innovative ways is the primary reason why this album flourishes and is so unique.
The album that is Wonder Where We Land may not be defined by genre, for there is no central unifier of rhythm, instrument use or song structure. Jerome manages to gather voices of all musical backgrounds to create truly avant-garde concepts. He successfully begets a series of emotions and moods through inventive uses of sound. SBTRKT creates a fresh sound with Wonder Where We Land, and this freshness is nowadays a rarity.
SBTRKT was scheduled to perform in Atlanta on the first stop of his North American tour on Oct. 7 but was forced to reschedule due to personal illness. I would highly suggest attending his upcoming concert when he reschedules — it’s a safe bet that we will be watching SBTRKT pioneer the music industry for years to come.
— By Josh Lehman, Contributing Writer
Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs (left) stars in “Airplanes vs. Volcano,” a B-list action movie produced by film knock-off company The Asylum. The film is available deep in the vaults of Netflix. / Courtesy of The Asylum
Have you ever wondered what you would do if a volcano started coming after you? Not just erupt. Apparently, the volcano has an unquenchable bloodlust that you cannot outrun. One minute you’re brushing your teeth, the next minute you’re consumed by heaps of lava that you didn’t see creeping behind you in the bathroom mirror. Well, I know I’ve worried day and night about volcanoes chasing me, until “Airplane vs. Volcano” addressed all my lava-related anxiety.
This 2014 B-list action flick follows the story of a commercial aircraft that must fly through a ring of newly formed volcanoes near Ka’ula Island near Hawaii. The volcanoes relentlessly spurt lava at anyone who dares cross their path, as if it is a personal offense. The chaos of the volcanic eruptions turns the aircraft into a pressure cooker of desperation. Meanwhile, U.S. military officials grapple with the decision of saving the people in the aircraft or evacuating the people who live near the volcano (because the military is apparently too small to do both of those things).
I should give full disclosure: this film was produced by The Asylum.
For those unfamiliar, The Asylum is a film studio famous for their “mockbusters” — direct to video knockoffs of popular movies, such as “Transmorphers: Fall of Man” and “Atlantic Rim.” The magnum opus of The Asylum’s filmography is the incomparable 2013 TV movie “Sharknado,” which gathered serious attention because it’s a movie about sharks in a tornado — what more could you want? So anyone familiar with The Asylum should ask this: does (cheesy) lightning strike twice?
The cast of characters is a laundry list of every action movie trope dummy you’ve ever seen. Dean Cain (whom you may remember as Superman from “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman”) stars as Rick Pierce, an amateur pilot who takes over the aircraft after the original pilot dies at the hands of the bloodthirsty volcano and its unusually precise onslaught. His commandeering of the flight is met with severe skepticism, particularly from passenger Carlos Crieger (David Vega), who attempts mutiny against Rick. Carlos is supposed to be a “foreign” character, but I am unsure what country his stereotypical performance is supposed to mock, so I’ll just assume that it’s offensive to everyone, Antarcticans included.
Lucky for Rick, he has ample support from flight attendant Lisa Whitmore (Robin Givens), volcanologist Landon Todd (Matt Mercer) and air marshal Jim Kirkland (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, who older people and TV nerds may remember as Freddie “Boom Boom” Washington from “Welcome Back, Kotter”).
None of the performances were spectacularly bad (admittedly, something I crave in any Asylum movie).
In fact, Hilton-Jacobs surprised me with a pretty good performance. He gives his role the authority that it does not even deserve. The Asylum should have cast him as the lead in “Snakes on a Train.”
The cinematography is the standard made-for-TV style: nothing stunning, but it works well enough to where you can’t complain. However, I have to say that I admire the bold use of lens flare whenever they cut to a scene with military personnel involved. I like to think the lens flare is The Asylum’s equivalent to a salute.
The dialogue scrambles together all the action movie dialogue you’ve ever heard with a few little nuggets of brilliance shining through, such as when Rick asks the question that plagues mankind to this day: “If I were a plane, what could I get rid of?”
The technical flaws in this movie are more obvious than a gigantic ash cloud rushing towards a city. Of course, the volcanologist aboard the flight gives Rick the grand advice of “don’t fly too close” to the volcano. Are you sure about that? Isn’t the first rule of volcanic eruptions to get up close and personal with the molten rock and fire? The passengers aboard this flight must also be acrobats, as they attempt feats such as fixing the engine and tossing luggage out of an open cargo hold during flight. The movie suggests that the best way to stop the eruption is by shooting the volcano.
You know, like in “Jaws.” Perhaps the biggest issue for me is the fact that they were flying for about an hour around these volcanoes. Ka’ula is only about a quarter of a square mile in size.
I’m no Amelia Earhart, but a quarter of a mile flight should not take an hour. If it does, you should receive a free drink coupon in the mail afterwards.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the film is its poster, which confidently claims that “Airplane vs. Volcano” is “BASED ON THE TRUE STORY.” Which “true story” are they referring to? If something even slightly resembling the events of this film actually took place, people would have heard about it. It would be in history books as “The Great Airplane-Volcano War.” Dean Cain would be on a postage stamp.
The world as we know it would have changed.
Even with the many factors working against it — and there are many — ”Airplane vs. Volcano” still manages to be an enjoyable B-movie.
Sure, it doesn’t make any sense when you think about it, but the movie has a way of tapping into your emotions and sucking you in, no matter how stupid the event on screen may seem. It’s nonstop action from start to finish — never a dull moment to sit and reflect on the fact that the volcanologists don’t know anything about volcanoes, and the pilot knows nothing about planes.
Highly recommended for people who want pure excitement to take the wheel. Or in this case, the aircraft yoke.
— By Erin Penney, Staff Writer
Robert Downey, Jr. (left) and Robert Duvall star in new courtroom drama “The Judge,” directed by David Dobkin. / Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.
On occasion, films will tackle a genre that rarely leaves the cable television screen: the courtroom dramas. When people think of courtroom movies, they tend to think of the classics: “A Few Good Men,” “The Crucible,” “In Cold Blood,” “The Verdict” and “12 Angry Men.” It’s hard not to love the combination of snarky lawyers and deep moral questions that are always topped off by a big twist at the end.
But there hasn’t been an acclaimed courtroom free-for-all in the 21st century of film as of yet, and it’s difficult to say if “The Judge” will be able to fill that role. Instead of supplementing the electrically-charged court case with a background of interpersonal drama, “The Judge” took the opposite route.
Ultimately, the courtroom became a stage for the Palmer family to force out their interpersonal problems — and this would have been an interesting change to the courtroom film formula, had it tried to balance out the clichés with matching quality.
All the scenes in court took a backseat to the roller coaster of emotions that was the Palmer family disaster. Only 10 minutes into the film, the audience was dragged into the picturesque scenes of a small town family trying to pull itself back together 20 years after it fell apart. The poignancy of the familial moments was arguably only effective due to the outstandingly provoking father and son relationship portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall. Even with a whirlwind of shabby directing decisions and a script that limits the potential of what could have been an amazing film, the acting of Duvall and Downey Jr. combined with the empathetic family melodrama left me surprisingly satisfied.
Directed by David Dobkin (“Wedding Crashers”), the film begins with illustrious city lawyer Hank Palmer (Downey Jr.) in a courthouse bathroom “accidentally” peeing on his opposing prosecutor. The entire theater lost it as Downey Jr.’s persona continued to be witty and obnoxiously egotistical, setting the stage for what began to feel like an “Iron Man: Back in Court” experience.
The court case grinds to a halt as Hank hears of his mother’s passing, and he makes the trek to his old hometown of Carlinville, Ind., where nothing ever changes. Hank is clearly (and explicitly) loath to return to the small town life, and the audience soon discovers that it is less because of the town itself and more due to his intensely estranged family. The movie takes off when Hank’s father (Duvall), the town’s only judge, is accused of murder, and Hank dives headfirst into untangling both the truth of the trial and the alienation of his family.
The film hit so many clichés that it’s hard to reconcile that Dobkin actually put them all in intentionally, not even trying to make any of them innovative. There’s the outwardly smug but internally struggling lawyer, the mom that tied the whole family together, every single small town trope you can think of, emotional courtroom scenes where everyone cries at least once and the stubborn grandpa, traditional and morally rigorous to a fault. Unfortunately even with the family melodrama, there were so many points in the two hours and 20 minutes where the film simply lagged before managing to jostle itself awake again. If you want to see a movie of suspension and action, this is not the work for you.
Though not an outstanding legal thriller, “The Judge” touched on the dysfunctional family dynamics that most viewers can relate to without dragging down the film into a dreary puddle of sadness. The cinematography was delightfully bright and captured the quaint small town feel with ease, and the soundtrack was a perfect choice with songs by Lucinda Williams and Bon Iver that are guaranteed to tug on your heartstrings. The entire theater burst into hysterical laughter an abundance of times while leaving room for scenes that made me tear up against my will, balancing humor and sentiment in equal terms.
The Palmer family was the root of all emotions in the courtroom (and theater). The chemistry between Duvall and Downey Jr. as father and son could not have been more remarkable, and we’ve all met a grandpa just like Duvall’s Judge Palmer. He is obstinate, he is honest, he is grumpy and honorable. Judge Palmer is the biggest jerk to his kids and the biggest sweetheart to his grandchildren.
Watching Hank try to reconcile with his father was a journey of one step forward and two steps back, and it was one of the few elements of the film that broke out of its cliché box. The supporting brothers Glen (Vincent D’Onofrio, “Law & Order: Criminal Intent”) and Dale (Jeremy Strong, “Zero Dark Thirty”) to Downey Jr.’s middle child were not as relevant as they could have been, though it seems to be due to the enormous shadow of Hank’s father drama.
And not to give too much away, but all you need to know about Hank’s daughter Lauren is that you want to give that small child 10,000 high-fives. Without her, the film would not have been nearly as cheerful and might have played out as a complete downer — even with Downey Jr.’s endless sass.
In the end, the film was much longer than it needed to be and hit far too many speed bumps to join the ranks of classic courtroom films, and yet as a family spectacle, it is worth seeing. The ending is one of the few surprising moments and leaves you feeling not entirely happy but undoubtedly content.
If you want to see two highly profiled actors at the top of their game, and you like mixing your laughs with a sprinkling of tears, it is worth setting aside a few hours of your time to settle down and get personal in the town of Carlinville, Ind.
— By Erin Degler, Contributing Writer
Photo courtesy of Relativity
Just like the Nicholas Sparks movie adaptations that have come before it, “The Best of Me” makes you laugh, cry and wonder why life always seems so simple in movies. The movie follows the lives of two people who fell in love 21 years ago and were torn apart by their circumstances, only to be reunited once they have reached very different points in their lives in the present.
Unlike other Sparks movies, this one has a unique twist at the end that helps distinguish it from the traditional happy-ending love story. This story focuses more on fate and destiny rather than the unwavering love between two people. Nonetheless, it is a great love story. For those of you who want to lose yourself for two hours in a compelling love story, this is the perfect film for you.
The story is both relatable and very well told. Because this film is more than just a love story, there are many things that viewers can relate to indirectly. For example, viewers can relate to the concept of deciding what is best for someone else even if it ends up making both people unhappy. We have all been there from friendships to relationships, when we come to a crossroads and make a choice that we then have to live with. The film shows the consequences of those decisions by jumping back and forth between the beginning of the epic love story and the present day. Though the film jumps back and forth, the two time periods intertwine smoothly into one storyline.
Though the story itself was strong, the acting made the film even better. The epic love between young Dawson Cole (Luke Bracey, “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”) and young Amanda Collier (Liana Liberato, ”If I Stay”), was mesmerizing. The palpable chemistry between Bracey and Liberato is undeniable. Dawson, a sweet soul that does not fit in with his outlaw family, is shy and Amanda, a well-off southern belle, is outgoing and strong headed. Though the two seem like polar opposites, somehow they prove to be each other’s perfect complement.
Liberato was the perfect combination of sweet and sarcastic. She did a phenomenal job of portraying the vulnerabilities that young girls feel as they grow up and try to find themselves.
And Bracey said more with one look than anyone else could with a monologue. He was captivating as the shy Dawson who breaks out of his shell to open his heart to love. From the moment Amanda and Dawson talk at the top of the water tower and Amanda begs Dawson to let her love him like he loves her, it’s clear that his heart is forever in her hands.
The older versions of the characters pay homage to the young love that lives on inside of us years after we say our goodbyes. Present-day Dawson (James Marsden, “X-Men: Days of Future Past”) and present-day Samantha (Michelle Monaghan, “Due Date”), manage to accurately depict the awkwardness that we can imagine would be inherent in seeing your first love after 21 years.
Watching the two grow from awkward acquaintances to rekindling the romance of a lifetime was an enjoyable journey thanks to its authenticity — nothing about it felt forced. Rather, the characters seemed to naturally gravitate towards each another all over again.
After being Allie Hamilton’s second choice in “The Notebook,” Marsden finally got his well-deserved role as a Nicholas Sparks leading man. He was phenomenal; he seemed to make every girl in the theater believe in true love. He adeptly walked the line between wanting to be honest and shout his love from the rooftops and wanting to delicately navigate the flood of emotions that resulted from reconnecting with his one true love. Marsden’s talent is evident in many scenes in which he saves people, often at his own expense. However, he truly shines when he lets his character be vulnerable by telling Amanda that he has not loved anyone since her. The raw emotion that he displays is admirable.
Though the story is endearing and the acting is strong, ultimately, life just isn’t that perfect. Don’t get me wrong, I love going to the movies to escape reality just as much as the next person, but at some point, it just becomes too unbelievable. For instance, when Dawson and Amanda retreat to a cottage that holds many special and emotional memories of their youth and end up re-enacting moments from their past, the story becomes too mushy and unrealistic. Like all great thematic loves, everything seems to happen just right, and nothing is too insurmountable for the power of love. Though a love like this is unrealistic, sometimes it is nice to be able to pretend it exists.
Still, “The Best of Me” is another great film adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks book. Despite the Sparks genre being incredibly formulaic, each individual film can still be an escape back to a time when people wrote letters to express their feelings, and true love was the “best” part of growing up.
— By Annie McNutt, Staff Writer
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