Saturday, August 25, 2007

Stardust



Neil Gaiman's work always gets lodged into my head for a good few weeks after reading it, infiltrating my dreams, affecting my speech... you know, the typical.Therefore, since I had just finished Stardust the night before seeing the movie, it was not only fresh in my head, but I hadn't given myself proper time to mourn the loss of another finished masterpiece. It would have been like drinking an entire bottle of champaigne, feeling ill from overdosing on something that, in its acceptable dosage, would have been otherwise delicious and amazing.

That being said, any time I see a movie after reading the novel, I'm usually disappointed in the latter. But that wasn't the case with Stardust. This movie was spectacular and so wildly different from the book, it was like an entirely separate story altogether. Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn had adapted the book into a screenplay, with Matthew Vaughn as the director. At first I was apprehensive seeing how far the adapted screenplay had strayed from its source. But as the movie progressed and wove its new story lines, I was just as glued to the screen as I was each page of the book; I had absolutely no idea what was coming next.

Claire Danes was a perfect choice for Yvaine, the star, as she naturally glows on screen without the need of visual effects. Additionally, Charlie Cox was a perfect choice for Tristan: handsome, but invariably awkward when he needs to be. Overall the acting was wonderful despite Claire's propensity to lose focus momentarily breaking that suspension of disbelief. Luckily that hardly happened in this piece. Michelle Pfeiffer made for a beautiful and grotesque Lilim queen, and Robert DeNiro surprised me as a "flopping" (also known as "flaming" to those of us not from the realm of Faerie) buccaneer. Finally, tying it all together is the omniscient narration driven by the soothing voice of Ian McKellen.

Neil Gaiman created a dark, terrifying and glorious world in his novel Stardust. A domain I'd certainly like to cross The Wall into, visit the marketplace, and maybe settle into a flying ship to spend the rest of my days. Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn did a magnificent job transforming Gaimans words for the screen. Though different, absolutely none of the magic was lost.

-Janis Acampora

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Bryan Field McFarland - All That Matters


Bryan Field McFarland
All that Matters

Sassafras Songs 2007

The world needs more musicians like Bryan Field McFarland.

On second thought.

The world needs more people like Bryan Field McFarland.

On his newly released full length album All that Matters, McFarland touches upon the gamut of human emotion and registers an album of such emotional honesty and purity that it cant help but place a beaming, joyous smile on your face for the rest of the day.

As a musician in my own right, it is and has always been my quest to observe the simple joys and wonderment in life and hopefully, reflect those feelings in songs... and in turn hopefully help others to see that joy within themselves. It is the most important quest (in my estimation) for any musician or artist for that matter.

And McFarland does this with such ease that it is hard not to relish in delight over his talent. Take for instance his song "Blacktop River," a moving acoustic number (in the vein of John Hiatt or the later career solo work of David Crosby) that simply put, is a track about taking your car out and experiencing the glory of good drive. Simply put, McFarland's music is a celebration of life, and so much of that kind of musical magic is lost in today's music market.

At times, McFarland's CD hits too heavy with religious overtones, which has never been my forte per-se, but what I do admire about these songs is that they are not geared around changing the religious beliefs of the listener, but rather simply state the feeling that McFarland has about his own faith. And again, this is a testament of McFarland's gifted craft as a songwriter.

So please, take a listen to Bryan Field McFarland's new CD... it is bound to make you feel better about your day, and anything that has the ability to do that is something purely magical.

-Mark Dougherty

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Blindside - The Black Rose EP


Blindside
The Black Rose EP

Self Released 2007


Here’s the deal. The world of mainstream radio is a dictatorship, and you are being brainwashed if you’re listening. The box in your dashboard with the dials and the frequency reading is nothing but a tool to tell you what you should be listening too, and thus what you should be spending your money on. What’s happening more and more is smart listeners are turning off their radio, and logging onto the internet to find out exactly what is good and what they want to hear, not what some suit forces at them. What in turn results is less of a need for major marketing and million-dollar hype, and more freedom for real artists to create great music that will be heard.

The end is coming.

As artists become less worried about landing the long coveted record deal and start trying to do it on their own (with greater success), holes are bored in the gigantic ship that used to be the music industry. It is sinking slowly, but flamboyantly.

You probably already know this, so lets move on. To the proof that this is really working.
If you’ve ever heard Blindside you know they have passion. Lead singer Christian Lindskog screams desperately in most every song, so you know there’s emotion running thick in his bloodstream. The band follows close at his heels with raw-sounding energy bursting though heavily distorted riffs backed by pounding beats, the likes of wish could bang the head and shuffle the feet.

The four members who hail from Sweden have been through the major label journey. Now, label free, they have taken a great risk with their latest effort. The Black Rose EP was released on June 27th. However, you won’t find it in any stores. It can only be purchased online by way of their website.

The sound for the band is one of a comfortable satisfaction. They are a band that arrives with a fresh attitude for each album. From their early metalcore efforts with A Thought Crushed My Mind before there was such a genre, and their most popular, melodic hardcore release Silence, to a more mainstream screamo sound on About a Burning Fire, they always bring honesty with a punch. In 2005, the band retreated to a less polished, more reserved sound, seemingly influenced by bands in the European scene (namely Muse), on the most recent LP The Great Depression. It seemed that Blindside had reached a burnout point, as Lindskog’s lyrics expressed a heavy burden he felt for the state of the world as well as their band. The title seemed to signify a weight upon the members, and the album, though littered with upbeat dance-worthy grooves, is the band’s darkest one to date.

But The Black Rose EP changes their course yet again- musically and professionally. The freedom they now have is evident and Blindside returns to crush you with the album’s dancing energy paired with their signature crunchy distortion. They only add fuel to the burning fire that is their sound, and seem to dance excitedly to their own beat on top of the contractual chains that once held them.

It is a well-rounded product; something that the band has expressed was their goal for Black Rose. They didn’t want it to feel like a rushed project that was done simply to keep fans happy. The first five tracks are all brand new, starting off brutally with the first four and ending on an emotional acoustic note with the title track. The final three are live recordings of songs from The Great Depression.

It is apparent that they cared honestly for this album, which makes it even more daring of a risk on a personal level to release it without large monetary backing. But what they may or may not realize is that they are helping to break new ground. It may happen sooner or later that record stores will be a thing of the past. There is a new calling for artists to take their art into their own hands. If they’re as honest with their music as Blindside is, it will usher in a new scene of true art, and real music. Popularity will then come to what is best, not to what is most played.

Blindside has always been about hope in the midst of change and despair. That message is sure to play loud as the scene heads toward a new type of existence.

-Mark Wingerter

Friday, August 10, 2007

Grant Lee Buffalo - Fuzzy

This video was brought to my attention this morning by my good friend and killer good musician, Andy Fosberry.

And on thinking on it for some time, it is for good reason that we pay a little salute to one of the most rocking and life affirming bands of our time, Grant Lee Buffalo.

Take a listen and view... these guys were just brilliant.



-Mark Dougherty

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Flight of the Conchords - The Humans are Dead

Okay... if two things have become evident this season on HBO it is this: 1, do not even bother to watch John from Cincinnati (sucks so very hard) and 2, make damn sure you see Flight of the Conchords. These New Zealanders are hysterical, the music videos and the script itself is just bloody brilliant.

So, for those already fans and for those that need to buck up and get watching, here is an early performance of Flight of the Conchords before the show aired. Enjoy!



-Mark Dougherty

The Glaciers - The Moon Never Misses an Appointment



The Glaciers
The Moon Never Misses an Appointment
Eskimo Kiss 2006


I had been meaning to do a write up for some time on the Queens, NY based duo The Glaciers. And I am quit happy that I have finally come around to it. Because this is a group you need to know about. And I mean need. I actually am quite amazed that they have not emerged onto the national indie scene as a vital and integral band. But, soon enough that will happen. If there is any justice in this world.

But what makes the Glaciers great you may ask? A combination of brilliant attributes. The first is lead singer, Jackie Linge. She has that uniquely powerful gift of a voice that would honestly make me quite happy if she were singing me the phone book. Imagine a little bit of Sarah McLaughlin and Hem intertwined. It is a soulful, ageless and glorious gift.

If Linge's voice were it alone, this would still be a band worth holding onto. Yet, it is just the tip of the iceberg. The musicianship of her counterpoint, Ian Stynes, is so subtly beautiful and well conceived it is jarring - he is a master at the helm. Loaded in The Moon Never Misses an Appointment are soft electric leads, harmonies, piano, strings and my favorite, the pedal steel. So beautiful and ethereal - even masterful.

So listen up... The Glaciers are the kind of band that Reactor Media is in business for. And the kind of talent that I envision will be around for years. It is quite brilliant indeed.

-Mark Dougherty

Friday, August 3, 2007

The Clip Bandits - Higher

Okay, so YouTube is the wave of the future, the gateway to letting people like you and me make a video and post it for all the world to see.

And hopefully get enough viewers to get a little instant fame. I get it. Pretty smart model. And a great place for everyone to share their creativity.

But can that be too much of a good thing?

Enter the Clip Bandits. Basically, this is a band of four that has never met each other in person. The play remotely, via video conferencing, have band practices and make songs... and get 360,000 hits on You tube. Yes that number is correct, 360,000!

Is it a bit much for a band that has a cute gimmick? I think so because the Clip Bandits are really not that great. Had the Clip Bandits met in a conventional real world and not displayed their music only on You Tube, would they be where they are today. No. It is all gimmick and zero substance. I found the songs I listened to remotely average at best, reminiscent of mediocre old time bar bands.

Which leads to the great dilemma of MySpace and You Tube and all other online media sites. It seems more and more, the beautiful craft of music is being lost in the flush of anyone who has a guitar and can write a song. It is a double edge sword, because for every Clip Bandit, there is a William Fitzsimmons, an artist demanding to be heard and not drowned out by cute little staged trickery and ideas.

It is great that everyone now has a chance; well, on second thought. Is it?

Here is a clip of the Clip Bandits. Cute, but great music? You be the judge.



-Mark Dougherty

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Liz Durrett - The Mezzanine

I saw the Atlanta based and Vic Chesnutt produced, Liz Durrett, play alongside Ham1 last week as part of the Look Alive Presents series in downtown Greensboro. And I was blown away. Really blown away.

Listening to Durrett is like listening to about five of the best indie female singers (Cat Power, Beth Orton, Innocence Mission, etc.) wrapped into one immensely talented musical vehicle.

I was not as fond of her backing band, Ham1 because basically, I could have listened to Durrett sing the phone book without any instrumentation and I would have been moved. It is not everyday that you come across such a voice as hers.

Here is a live video of Durrett playing "The Mezzanine," from her latest iTunes release The Mezzanine (courtesy of WARM Recordings).

Do take a listen and look and catch her on her short east coast tour. Info is at her MySpace page www.myspace.com/lizdurrett.



-Mark Dougherty

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Andrew Bird- Weather Systems

I am basically hooked on La Blogotheque, it is true. Case in point is their video of "Weather Systems" by Andrew Bird. What enthralls me about these recordings is their bare bones style, and sheer simplicitym but moreover, how utterly exposed the raw talent is of each musician being filmed.

And Andrew Bird is a genius. Remarkable little video. Do take a look.




-Mark Dougherty