Tag Archives: Top 5

Top 5: Christmas Movies

Christmas movies are a risky proposition in Hollywood. First you are limiting the palpability of watching the movie to a specific time of year and second, these films can be extremely good and become the yearly viewing of many people both on private media as well as over broadcast TV or, they can be forgettable film abortions that are banished to the realm of things that should not exist.

This is my list of my top 5 Christmas movies. Comments are welcome, however, please make them more varied than “Where is ‘Elf’?”

mixed-nuts-1994b

5. Mixed Nuts: Two movies on this list star Steve Martin but this one is always a fun watch. The supporting cast includes some short but memorable performances by Adam Sandler, Liev Schreiber, Rob Reiner, Jon Stewart, Garry Shandling, and Parker Posey. Written and directed by Nora Ephron this film has enough laughs and heart to put you into the holiday mood. 


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4. Planes, Trains, & Automobiles: The ‘Adult’ John Hughes film manages to combine holiday movie, odd couple, and road movie all in one. The second film on this list with Steve Martin is a classic film in its own right. Martin’s straight man Neal Page played against the warm and humorous character Del Griffith played by the amazing talent of the late John Candy manages to make the farcical situations seem grounded. 


grinch

3. How the Grinch Stole Christmas: I’m going with the Jim Carrey version of this tale. Carrey was born to play the Grinch with his lanky figure as well as his hyper expressive style of comedy. There are enough laughs, mild innuendo for the adults, and heartwarming moments to make any Grinch in the real world feel a few seconds of warmth during the holiday season. 


die hard

2. Die Hard: There are two kinds of people in the world, those who think Die Hard is a Christmas movie and those who are wrong. Bruce Willis’ first big movie and also the first major role for Alan Rickman, this movie pits Willis’ good guy John McClain against the awesomely wicked performance of Rickman’s Hans Gruber. Those of us who love this movie can’t help but spout off lines like “Welcome to the party pal!”, and “Now I have a machine gun. Ho, Ho, Ho” to confused people who are not in on the joke. 


national lampoons

1. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: The ultimate Christmas comedy. Forget ‘Home Alone’ because the Griswold family Christmas is far more entertaining than Kevin beating up the ineptitude of crooks with cartoon gags. The second film on this list written by John Hughes, it hits on all of the family tropes from the crazy cousin (Eddy) to the older relatives that make you uncomfortable. There are enough wacky situations and familial tensions that make Christmas a once a year event. 


Bonus:

scrooged

Scrooged: I don’t think any list of comedies can be complete without at least one movie with Bill Murray. It doesn’t matter what phase of his career he is in, he manages to bring the laughs and warmth to any film. Scrooged is a slightly scarier twist on the classic Christmas Story by Charles Dickens, but it is no less impactful, even if the 80’s styles tend to date the movie a bit.  

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Top 5 Post Apocalyptic Movies

Happy Halloween! Since I’ve already written a ‘Top 5’ for horror movies I thought that the next best thing to the horror genre is the ‘Post Apocalyptic’ genre of movies. This is a very specific genre that is set in the near or distant future after an world changing event occurs. In some cases this is nuclear war, in some it’s the rise of fascist totalitarianism, others it’s life after technology has become self aware and conspired to eradicate mankind. Whatever the cause, life is essentially bleak and survival is not guaranteed. This is a list of the movies that stand out to me as both entertaining but also serve as warning of potential fates of mankind.

The Running Man5. The Running Man- Set in the near future, this dystopian tale is about a reality where convicts are forced to survive a deadly game show in which they have to fight and outsmart ruthless criminals and murderers. A combination of Big Brother and American Gladiators but much deadlier. The sad thing is that this movie came out in the 1980’s but managed to predict the rise of “Reality” tv and the social breakdown of morality that we are now witnessing 30 years later.

mad max fury

4. Mad Max: Fury Road- Set in a world where natural resources are scarce and the region is controlled by a cult-like mass murderer that will stop at nothing to keep people under his control this movie is far more bleak than a future we want to view. However; with the rise of global warming and future effects of continued depletion of earths resources we could end up in a similar future. The only way I’ve ever been able to accurately describe this movie is to liken it to ‘paying to be punched repeatedly in the nuts for two hours while being entertained by it at the same time’. This isn’t my way of stating that the movie is bad (if it was it wouldn’t be on the list), instead it is my way of saying that the intensity of the film never lets up.

demo man

3. Demolition Man- Set in a future where a seemingly utopian society where everyone lives in harmony is essentially turned on its head when a mass murderer from the past escapes and the one cop that brought him down is the only one that can stop him. This movie may be corny now but at the time it was released it was a big action flick. Starring Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes it was set to be huge. Early performances by Sandra Bullock, Benjamin Bratt and Rob Schneider are also highlights. 

The interesting part of this movie is that the premise is not far fetched (outside of cryogenically freezing prisoners). It is not impossible to see that within a few generations time the ability to survive and the skills needed today can quickly be forgotten to the point where the people are not able to properly cope with a situation outside of their norm. This is visible in society today where the gap between Generations X and Y is huge with that of Millennials in terms of skills and experiences that could help with survival in specific circumstances. Also, this movie serves as a warning that sometimes utopia may not be what it cracks up to be. 

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2. The Postman- While, after Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves  believing anything that Kevin Costner does in a period is a stretch The Postman is a great movie. Set in a future time after nuclear war when basic services and old institutions lie in ruins the protagonist poses as a postman and eventually ends up joining a revolutionary force that is fighting against a feudal type leader (a great villainous turn of Will Patton) who seeks to maintain a stranglehold on resources and people. 

The movie manages to show a future where, again, an authoritarian type regime takes control in the chaos of the aftermath and is built on the promise of humanity’s need to fight against controlling forces to seek freedom. 

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  1. V for Vendetta- Set in a dark future London where a charismatic authoritarian leader controls the country. Certain books and opinions are outlawed and people are punished for speaking out publicly against those in control. This movie give a bleak look at a future where the future is controlled by state run forces and is very reminiscent of the Nazis with chosen imagery and propaganda. A man behind a mask manages to become the vigilante and face of a revolution and sacrifices himself in the name of freedom for humanity. Sadly, this could be our future if we don’t manage to recognize these kinds of forces building before they take control. 

Bonus Pick:

book of eli

The Book of Eli- Set in the post apocalyptic future where electronics are no longer useable and power sources and resources of all kinds are scarce, this movie follows the travels of a man who possesses one of the last remaining copies of the Bible. Hunted after by an authoritarian leader who wishes to posses the book, the protagonist manages to survive various attacks by marauders and henchmen alike while being blind. 

This movie shows the power that even a single book can hold in sowing the seeds of dissent and how, as a society, we cannot let censorship become out of control. 

Top 5 Under-rated Comedies

In the world of movies the comedy is always a good bet for an entertaining watch. Over the years comedy has went through many different incarnations, from slapstick to screwball to gross out to dramedy the form has always taken our common experiences and insecurities and shined a light on the ridiculousness of the who human experience. There are many comedies that are well known but I decided to focus on some of my favorite and, in my opinion, underrated comedies.

Back to school5. Back to School: (1986)

Starring Rodney Dangerfield this comedies premise is every kids nightmare, their parents going to college at the same time they do. Dangerfield plays a successful business man who wants to spend more time with his son so he enrolls in his son’s college. Not a previous college graduate but a graduate of the business school of hard knocks Dangerfield’s character comes at odds with some of his teachers but meets some unlikely compatriots in the history teacher (played by the amazing Sam Kinnison) and an English lit teacher whom he falls for. 

Some regular college hijinks happen throughout the movie which are coupled with the “fish out of water” aspect of Dangerfield’s character. There are some great scenes with a quirky early Robert Downey Jr. which steal the show and even a brief cameo by Kurt Vonnegut.

This movie is slightly dated in the 80’s with it’s soundtrack but still a good watch any time and I believe it is highly underrated compared to Rodney Dangerfield’s other known movie Caddyshack.


4. Dirty Work: (1998)42980-dirty-work-0-230-0-345-crop

This movie was directed by Bob Saget (yes, the dad from Full House) and stars SNL alum Norm MacDonald as well as a young (and less drugged) Artie Lange. The story surrounds a slacker and career prankster who starts a revenge for hire business in order to pay for his father’s surgery. There are some great cameo’s and casting throughout including a great scene with insult comedian Don Rickles, Chris Farley missing a nose, Chevy Chase and everybody’s favorite antagonist in the late 90’s Christopher McDonald (Shooter McGavin anyone?)

The movie is really a love story as well as a story about the strength of friendship. Playing to Norm’s strengths the movie has some great one liners and physical humor. Great jokes are sprinkled throughout as well as some great pranks pulled by the protagonist keep the movie entertaining and chuckle worthy.


Evolution3. Evolution: (2001)

The first comedic performance I ever remember seeing of David Duchovny is a good one. This Ivan Reitman directed film has a pretty solid cast which includes Orlando Jones (whatever happened to him?) and Sean William Scott (can’t be Stiffler forever) as well as Julianne Moore and Dan Aykroyd. 

Duchovny plays a disgraced former government scientist who is banished to a community college in the southwest. Things are going normally until a meteor crashes nearby that happens to have alien life forms on it which begin evolving at an accelerated rate. The ensuing hilarity is provided both in jokes, awkward situational comedy and the types of creatures thought up by the effects team. 

This movie never disappoints and always fills in a bored spot on a Sunday. As far as sci-fi comedies go my list contains Evolution, Galaxy Quest (another criminally underrated comedy), and Space Balls. If you’ve never seen this movie I highly recommend you do.


2. Men at Work: (1990)men at work

Quite possibly the only movie I ever remembering seeing the Estevez brothers in (yes, Charlie Sheen is actually an Estevez) it is an odd but lasting comedy. Based around a murder conspiracy involving illegal toxic waste and two bumbling garbage men who stumble upon it, there are plenty of laughs within the context of this thriller comedy. 

Along with Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez stalwart actor (and voice of many great cartoons) Keith David adds a level of hilarity while playing the straight man of the group. The rest of the actors are basically background character actors of the era but they serve their roles in the backdrop of this film well. 

This film is intriguing enough to rewatch and even has a few quotable lines that I still throw around to confuse co-workers who are a good decade younger than me. Another good matinee watch if you need something to entertain yourself for a while.


  1. PCU: (1994)

PCUA lot of people didn’t realize that Jeremy Piven had a career prior to Entourage, but he actually had been in a number of movies. Most notably as a secondary character in a lot of his friend John Cusack’s films like One Crazy Summer and Grosse Pointe Blank he managed to fill in either the typical college douchebag or quirky sidekick character with ease. However, PCU provided Piven with one of his first larger roles and proves that he had that “Ari Gold-ness” to him before he even read the script for Entourage. Great jokes and pokes at college life in the 1990’s are sprinkled throughout. 

Co-stars in the film include early performances by David Spade, Megan Ward, Jake Busey, Jon Favreau as well as a great performance by Bluth matriarch Jessica Walter and a cameo appearance by George Clinton and P-funk! This movie is an amalgam of insult humor, stoner humor, shots at social group humor and the political correctness movement of the 1990’s all rolled into a fun package. This is another movie I quote and get blank stares in response because I think I’m one of probably 5 people on the planet that still watch this film. This film is not overlooked due to quality, I think it was more that the humor was geared toward a specific generation and a target that small tends to get missed by a lot of people.



Bonus Obscure:

disorganized crimeDisorganized Crime: (1989)

This movie had one of the best ensemble casts of the late 1980’s. Corbin Bernsen, Ruben Blades, Fred Gwynne, Lou Diamond Phillips and William Russ play a crew of thieves who are called in for a heist of a small Montana town. Bernsen plays Frank, the leader of the group who is snatched by the FBI after sending out invitations to the remaining crew for the job. The remaining cast show up to the meeting house to find no Frank and no further details about the job. While dealing with their own dysfunctional relationships the group work to figure out what the job is and decide to pull of the job without Frank.

Frank manages to escape custody but is chased by FBI agents played by the great Ed O’Neil (AKA Al Bundy) and Daniel Roebuck who play their parts as bumbling flatfoots hilariously. While evading the FBI Frank encounters his own series of unfortunate events which make you feel for his character because nobody should have to go through what he does just to get away. 

Meanwhile the rest of the crew formulate the plan to rob the vault in the bank and evade the small police force. I wont give any more of the plot away but I will say that this movie is a great watch and is such an obscure movie that most of you probably never even knew it existed prior to reading this. 


Bonus Bonus Obscure!

10147544-0-water_michael_caine-dvd_f_830e7322-af07-4f81-905f-88cd04df242d_largeWater: (1985)

I remember watching this movie with my dad the first time and not quite understanding why I was laughing but over the years and subsequent re-watchings I’ve come to understand why this movie was funny. Written in the dry British humor Water is a movie that only got as big as it ever was going to but is an enjoyable watch for anyone who enjoys British comedy.

Michael Caine plays the governor of a small British island in the Caribbean whose rather small responsibilities and relatively freewheeling life are interrupted when an old abandoned oil well starts erupting mineral water with a peculiar quality. The fight ensues between the American company that owns the well and the British government who wants to cash in as well. 

While dealing with these warring parties and a dissatisfied wife, Caine’s character also has to deal with the antics of a local guerrilla group played by Billy Connolly and Jimmie Walker who seek to claim independence for their home island. Billy Connolly’s ‘singing rebel’ works to undermine all parties involved with hilarious consequences. 

This movie is great for anybody who loves the oddball comedy as well as has an appreciation for British humor and wants to watch something that is so obscure that they are part of a small club.

That’s it for this time. Hope you watch something on this list and find a new guilty pleasure! Comment below!!

Top 5 R & B/Soul Songs

In honor of the recent passing of the great Aretha Franklin I am doing a top 5 of my favorite Soul/R&B songs. Soul and R&B of the 1960s and 70s also encompassed part of the Doo Wop music that started in the 1950’s and was the first major mainstream success for a lot of African American musicians. For one of the first times in history the artist did not have to be re-recorded by a white artist in order to get attention for their songs. Motown became a hit making machine and the writers and musicians in these sessions managed to produce some of the most enduring and heartfelt performances by the artists that have ever been.

Marvin GayeMarvin Gaye- “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” 1971

While the majority know Marvin for songs like “What’s Going On” and “Let’s Get it On”, I’ve always gravitated towards his less played hits like Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler)” and “Mercy Mercy Me”.

This song just has a silky smoothness that is synonymous with the genre and the time period. Coupled with it’s deep, thoughtful lyrics about the environmental issues in the late 1960’s and 1970’s before the formation of the EPA, this song managed to call to attention the issues caused by lack of regulations on industry and motor vehicles of the time. Sadly, the subject content is still relevant 47 years later as we deal with global warming and the environmental impact humans cause on the environment.

Marvin Gaye was a giant in the genre and is as venerated today as he was at the time of his death in 1984 and his music stands as a testament of what soul can and should be.


Tina Turner- “River Deep, Mountain High” (1966)tina-turner-black-white-photo-shoot-1960s-02

One of the lasting contributions of ‘Wall of Sound’ producer Phil Spector, this song really showcased Tina Turner’s ability. The power of the production only elevates the vocal performance of a woman who would later become one of the biggest names as a solo act in music.

This song employed the talents of the group of studio musicians known as the “Wrecking Crew” which included great artists who played on about a million great tracks over the 1960’s which included names like Glen Campbell and Leon Russell as well as one of the most under appreciated bassists in history, Carol Kaye. Check out the Documentary “The Wrecking Crew” for a great insight into this group of musicians.

Solomon BurkeSolomon Burke- “Down in the Valley” (1962)

One of the most overlooked in the genre Solomon Burke made a sizable (both musically and physically) contribution to the R&B and Soul genre’s. While his musical popularity was more isolated to the 1960’s he still remained a major figure in music until his death in 2010. Often cited as a major influence by a number of people still performing in R&B.

“Down in the Valley” is a great song which utilizes a plodding tempo coupled with horns and piano to make up the majority of the song. Solomon’s voice shines with smoothness and range throughout the lyrics. You can hear the emotion through the delivery on certain phrases and the strength of his voice shows the power that he encompassed in his singing.


Aretha Franklin- “Respect” (1967)aretha-franklin-1392048574-view-1

Originally written and released by Otis Redding two years earlier the song became a staple and one of the most well known songs of Aretha’s. I remember hearing it on the radio but it wasn’t until I saw her perform the song in the Blues Brothers movie until it became solidified in my mind to her. While there are some noticeable differences between the original and Aretha’s re-working of the song, the biggest difference is the change of tone and intent. Redding’s version was about a man who wanted respect from his woman, while Aretha’s became a soundtrack for the power of feminism and the changing attitudes of women at the time.

Aretha was a power in the genre and her recent passing was a major loss for musical heritage and history in the U.S. She will forever be one of the queens of Soul music and a strong voice for women’s rights with this track.


happy-song-otis-reddingOtis Redding- “That’s How Strong My Love Is” (1965)

For me the two titans of Soul singing are Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding. Otis was a prolific writer and his songs have been covered by a great number of groups both in and out of the R&B and Soul genre’s. Most people know him for either “These Arms of Mine” or “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay”, which was the last songs he recorded, however; “That’s How Strong My Love Is” remains my favorite despite the fact that it was not written by Redding.

There are a lot of songs profess their love to the subject, but Otis managed to put the emotion and power of love for someone into his voice. While some of the songs lyrics resort to cliche, he managed to bring out some of the great word choices with his delivery. Lyrics like “I’ll be the moon when the sun goes down, just to let you know that I’m still around” bring a poetic sensibility to the music and are only made that more impactful with the emotion you can hear in his voice. The great guitar work of Steve Cropper accompanies the vocal track in a way that highlights passages without overplaying or overtaking the importance of the vocal track.

Sadly, Otis died in a plane crash at a young age, but his musical contributions and voice were not lost upon the world thanks to the technology of sound recording.

That’s it for this time. As always, comments are welcomed.

Top 5 Nu Metal Albums

Nu Metal was a musical trend that only lasted a few years in the grand scheme of things but managed to produce some great bands that managed to transcend the label. Korn, Deftones, Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit managed to be on the forefront and most popular bands of the era but the widespread meshing of music managed to produce some surprising combinations of music and metal. This list includes many of these names, however; while not entirely definitive, this is the list of my favorite albums from the era.

220px-Limp_Bizkit_Significant_Other5. Limp Bizkit: Significant Other

While their debut earned some recognition due to it’s spirited cover of George Michael’s “Faith”, it wasn’t until Significant Other that the Florida NuMetal squad managed to make an impact on the scene. The confluence of hip hop beats and rapping with the heavy of metal managed to combine into one of the biggest and catchiest songs of the era “Nookie”. The album actually manages to have some great songs on it (it spawned 4 top 20 singles) mixed with some short skit tracks that are commonly associated with rap albums. Songs like “Break Stuff”, “I’m Broke”, “Re-arranged” and the Scott Weiland and Jonathan Davis Guesting Track “Nobody Like You” are all great songs and show a versatility that touches outside of the hip-hop/metal mixture the band was known for.

Ultimately Limp Bizkit became a victim of their own success and imploded shortly after the Nu Metal craze burned out. They did manage to release a few albums after their last successful effort 2000’s Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavored Water but have never managed to get back to a top heap status. The band does still occasionally tour and legions of ex-jocks still pump to “Break Stuff” while waiting for the band to release their long awaited Stampede of the Disco Elephants album. 

220px-Mudvayne_lost_and_found4. Mudvayne: Lost and Found

Mudvayne remained an enigma throughout their short (9 years) yet productive career. They burst on the scene as the nickname monikered painted Nu Metal act and evolved in a short time to one of the most progressive metal acts out there. I can think of few bands that could mix together the intensity of Pantera with the highly methodical writing of Tool to come out with a cohesive and catchy sound. Each member was highly skilled at their craft and brought new elements that were lacking in metal. I’m a big fan of Ryan Martinie and Matt McDonough as they held down the bottom and added complexities of timing and funk of slap bass into the metal mix. 

Lost and Found is the first album I ever remember being so excited about that I pre-ordered. While Mudvayne had two great albums that preceded, 2000’s debut L.D. 50 and 2002’s The End of All Things to Come, but with 2005’s Lost and Found they finally found a sound that was more representative of their collective efforts. From the jump the album is heavy with the opening track “Determined” followed by “Pushing Through”. The third song and first major single “Happy?” Is heavy yet catchy with lyrics that speak to anyone who has ever had a bad relationship. The bands complex song writing can be heard in songs like IMN, Rain. Sun. Gone. And Choices. The album has the commecial appeal of more radio friendly songs such as the aforementioned “Happy?”, as well as “Forget to Remember”, “Fall Into Sleep” and “Pulling the String”. Lost and Found stands as a testament to how missed this four piece is on the metal scene since their hiatus as well as remains one of my favorite albums to listen to from the era.

220px-Static-X_-_Wisconsin_Death_Trip3. Static-X: Wisconsin Death Trip

Nu Metal managed to combine a number of seemingly opposing genres of music with metal, but Disco? Wayne and crew managed to meld the industrial metal of Ministry, NIN and Fear Factory with a pop orientated dance music to created their self proclaimed “Evil Disco”. Static-X was the first band that I had ever met in person and as such they hold a pretty special place for me. I met the band prior to them becoming huge on MTV and in the Nu Metal scene. At the time the guys were all jovial and friendly and were just enjoying themselves. Wayne was highly intelligent if not a little quiet. Tony and Ken were two of the funniest nicest guys you could ever meet and I have a fond night of hanging out and laughing with them. That being said, I can be a little biased with my love for Static-X’s music, however; their debut album Wisconsin Death Trip was an amazing first step for a band that would evolve and become heavier as time went by. Members changed as well as the sound but the groundwork set in their debut album would still come through in their sound throughout the bands lifetime. 

The mix of metal guitars, hooky riffs, and funky pop orientated rhythms managed to give you two things that bring together metal heads and girls, heavy music to mosh to and groovy beats to shake your ass to. The band managed to put together a cohesive sound with two musical movements that always seemed at odds with one another.

The album’s biggest songs come on the front side of the album with “Push It”, “I’m With Stupid” and “Love Dump” being three of the first four songs on the album. I am a big fan of some of the album’s deeper cuts. The hypnotic “Stem”, the dance hop of “Sweat of the Bud” and the album’s two trance-inducing final tracks “The Trance is the Motion” and “December” close out the album on a mellow yet satisfying end as it fades into white noise.

I never got to hang out with the band again but I bought every album they ever put out and saw them live every time they were in town. Some of my best memories are Static-X shows and while I still listen to the albums regularly, I have done so with a heavy heart since Wayne Static’s death. Their music still endures in this day and age and did not date itself with sound or content and that is one of the things that makes a great band.

Deftones_-_Around_the_Fur2.  Deftones: Around the Fur

The Deftones were one of the bands considered one of the founders of the Nu Metal movement and, even though they have long since shed their Nu Metal classification by continuing to evolve, they still managed to produce one of the best albums in the movement. 1997’s Around the Fur is one of the most solid sounding albums they produced in the 1990’s. This album had the atmospherics that would be utilized more on 2000’s White Pony coupled with the metal intensity that they had showcased on their debut album Adrenaline. 

The sound is more focused and production better on Around the Fur than their debut and the album really shows how their progression was going to continue beyond the confines of the genre. While it is impossible to figure out what singer Chino Moreno is singing about you cant help but love the anthemic choruses that litter the album. From the opening track “My Own Summer (Shove It)” anybody who had listened to the first album knew that they were going to be going down a rabbit hole to something altogether different yet familiar enough to not drive fans away.

The riffs are tight and move the song, the rhythm section is solid, and the choruses are anthemic and catchy. The band manages to meld so many different sounds and dynamics into the albums tracks that it is almost unfair to listen to any album released at the same time with similar expectations in experience. This album is great to put on if you want to rage or if you want to chill and relax. Heavy songs like the “My Own Summer”, “Rickets”, “Lotion”, “Headup”, and “MX” keep the blood flowing enough to satisfy the metal fan while down tempo and slightly chill tracks like “Lhabia”, “Mascara”, “Around the Fur”, and “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)” keep a groove and funkiness that you can sit back and tune out to.

The Deftones have put out some pretty incendiary albums so far in their career, White Pony and Koi no Yokan for instance, however; the mixture of laid back tunes and heavy burners that make up Around the Fur will always make it stand out in my mind as an ultimately listenable album that set the Deftones apart from the heavily hip-hop inspired Nu Metal that followed.

hybrid theory1. Linkin Park: Hybrid Theory

When it comes to quintessential Nu Metal albums Linkin Park’s debut album is considered the top of the list for almost anyone who was a fan of the genre. The group managed to combine all of the elements of hip hop, groove, metal and pop and successfully manage to produce albums that were poppy enough for the mainstream yet metal enough for the longhairs. 

Carefully calculated raps from Mike Shinoda juxtaposed against the emotional and painful lyrics and scream-singing of Chester Bennington became the forefront of the mix. Catchy riffs layered on hip hop beats with the addition of tasteful atmospherics and dj scratching were all held together with a solid rock and roll foundation. The combination of all these elements managed to strike multiple platinum success for the band as fans packed stadiums and bought everything they produced.

Linkin Park is also another band that managed to transcend the genre and ultimately shed the label of Nu Metal to produce more widespread musical albums and it is a testament to the band that after two massively successful albums with one style of music they were willing to take a right turn on their third album and manage to keep a lot of die hard fans. While the death of Chester Bennington may have put the bands activity on indefinite hiatus, the band’s catalog to date is more than enough to satiate the want for Linking Park. 

The album was a hit factory for the band as almost every song on the album stood a chance at being a successful single only four songs were release as singles for the album. While “One Step Closer” became a staple on hard rock rotation it wasn’t until the success of “Crawling” and “In the End” that the band really took off. I don’t know anyone my age that doesn’t know pretty much every word to “In the End” and I hear the occasional failed attempt of the song at karaoke, however; the song became so popular that it almost became a victim of its own success. 

The overplaying of certain tracks aside, the album is packed with great material. The non-single tracks pack a lot of punch with tracks like “Papercut”, “With You”, “Points of Authority”, “Place for My Head”, and “Forgotten” moving the album forward and keeping the listener engaged with emotional lyrics and easily to remember raps to get stuck in your head. Even the non-lyrical track of “Cure for the Itch” manages to showcase Mr. Hahn’s skills as a dj with a fun and every evolving track that goes from samples and scratches to a solid catchy melodic track. The album closer “Pushing Me Away” is one of my favorites and a fitting end to an amazing debut album. 

Hybrid Theory was so good that it was questionable that the band would be able to follow up with a decent album. To beat the sophomore curse Linkin Park bought themselves some time by releasing an equally amazing remix album Reanimantion while writing their follow up. This proved to be a winning strategy as Metora came out and was just as catchy and prolific as Hybrid Theory was. 

For all their changes in style and substance, Linkin Park managed to keep an emotionality with their content that endeared fans to the band and their albums. Hybrid Theory came out at the right time and had the right mix of elements to be a massive album. There was a whole generation of people in their teens or late teens going through emotional changes and heartbreaks that were going to gravitate toward the introspective and emotional lyrics of Shinoda and Bennington. The emotional gravity of Hybrid Theory is what, in my mind, puts this album as the #1 Nu Metal album on this list and dare I say all time.

Your favorite Nu Metal album not make the list? State your case below! Comments are always welcome.

Top 5 Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Guitarists

Anyone who has read any of my other posts knows that I am a self proclaimed metalhead. As metal goes it has always been very guitar driven and as a result has produced some of the most technical and virtuoso guitarists in the last 20 years. I decided to put a list together of my favorite heavy metal/hard rock guitarists as both a tribute to them as well as to maybe expand your listening a bit (if you are so inclined).

malcolm-young-12aa9252-b531-486b-a595-1cc4580251f55. Malcom Young- Everybody knows his brother Angus as the flashy schoolboy outfit wearing lead guitarist of AC/DC, however; Malcom Young is by far one of the most overlooked guitarists in the hard rock genre. Without this man AC/DC would have been missing almost all of their signature rhythm guitar parts which are some of the best known pieces of their songs. With the exception of the lead from “Thunderstruck” what other parts can you really remember that weren’t written or co-written by Malcom? The answer is none. I could run down the list of great parts played by this understated by hard rocking guitarist but that would take too long. Suffice it to say that you would not be listening to AC/DC if it wasn’t for this man.

Matt Heafy4. Matthew K. Heafy- While I was not a huge fan of some of their earlier records Trivium has become one of my ‘go-to’ metal artists. The first song I listened to by the band was “Pull Harder on the Strings of your Martyr” but oddly enough I was listening to the track for the drums. It actually took me a while to finally connect with the bands music as only a few tracks from The Crusade and Shogun really stuck with me. It wasn’t until 2011’s In Waves that I really perked up and started paying attention. 

At this point the band finally found themselves in being able to blend all of the elements of their previous efforts into once cohesive album. Heafy’s technical ability as well as his sense for melody and structure make him one of metal’s most talented frontmen and guitarists out there and his abilities are not limited to only rhythm playing, the guy can shred solos like nothing.

Mark-Tremonti-2014-BILLBOARD-6503. Mark Tremonti- Going back to his beginnings in Creed I always kind of kept an eye on this guy. While there were a few moments in that band that he was able to show a little of his skill (“What If”) he was largely held within a certain box. After Creed dissolved and was reformed as Alter Bridge (sans the Christ wannabe singer) Tremonti was able to showcase his talents on the guitar and his songwriting grew leaps and bounds. He has shown over the course of 20 years that he is a man committed to his craft and is dedicated to also helping spread the interest and love of guitar to new people. He launched his own company, Fret 12, which distributes guitar demonstration videos from some of metal and hard rocks big names including guitarists from bands like Slipknot, Stone Sour, Sevendust, Mastodon, as well as his own band Alter Bridge. 

image-placeholder-title2. Dimebag Darrell- Anyone who ever listened to metal knows Dime’s name. It has become synonymous with virtuosity and heaviness. Dime was a statesman in the world of metal and was known to be one of the most generous guys with both his time and his friends. In the early 1990’s Pantera managed to keep metal in the minds of the public as well as alive through the Grunge era when most metal bands fell out of favor with the audience at large. While Cowboys from Hell has been recognized for one of their best works and Far Beyond Driven got a lot of attention for being one of the few metal albums to debut at number 1 on the Billboard charts, the album between, Vulgar Display of Power will always be one of my favorites as there isn’t a single song I skip past. I will say that I didn’t always appreciate some of Dime’s solo’s (dont get me wrong, their great some kind of dissolve into noise for me) the more melodic ones he produced were my favorites. 

Dime’s death weighed heavily on the metal community and he is someone who will never be forgotten because he was such a big figure that did not deserve to die the way that he did. His legacy lives on in both the music and the hearts of the fans and friends alike. 

randy-rhoads-fame-735x4131. Randy Rhoads- Let’s face it, there would be no Ozzy Osborne post Black Sabbath if it were not for this man. Sadly, Randy is not looked at as highly in most people’s eyes as Eddie Van Halen, but while Van Halen was stealing all of the flash for his two hand tapping guitar tricks and fun rock music Randy was grinding it out on the LA scene with his band Quiet Riot and teaching classical guitar at his mom’s music school. Both Rhoads and Van Halen belong at the top of the mountain for innovative guitarists in the last 40 years their styles were worlds apart. Van Halen kept his innovation to a blues based rock music while Rhoads brought his classical guitar background to the metal world and redefined Ozzy Osborne’s career in the span of just two albums. 

Unfortunately Randy met an untimely death due to a plane crash in the 1982 and there were not a lot of unreleased material for his fans to be able to enjoy. Lots of us question how big he would have been in the metal world had he lived longer, sadly, we will never know. One of the best albums to hear the greatness of this little blonde wizard is the Tribute album which is a live collection of songs that were recorded during the the two tours he did with Ozzy. While the studio versions of “Crazy Train” and other classics are still amazing, the live versions go even farther in dynamics. The live versions have a slightly faster tempo and the guitar fills played on these songs make them so much better than the studio versions and showcase the ability that Randy had on the instrument. 

Top 5 Dramatic Television Shows (in the last 20 years)

Television is a medium that waxes and wanes on its quality. It is also one of the hardest mediums to write a piece on the “best of” because tastes are so varied. I decided to put out a list of my top 5 dramatic television shows released in the last 20 years because a good drama can make you question whether you were paying attention. When the twist hits sometimes you stop and go “Wow… the whole damn thing was building to that!”

5. Billions- A New York lawyer in a battle of wits with a hedge fund billionaire with questionable morals. This premise could have fallen completely flat if it were not for the excellent main cast and the chess-like game played out with brilliance over both Season 1 and 2 (so far).

Paul Giamatti is brilliant as is Damian Lewis in their roles opposite each other. The show doesn’t get stuck in the minutia enough to bore but puts enough thought into both the legal and financial worlds to educate as well as entertain.

4. Justified- Law and order and hillbillies and drugs. Nothing ever got tired on this show. Throughout its five seasons the twists turns and standoffs between the main characters produced some of, if not THE best, dialog on television for a long time. Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins were amazing as rivals. The supporting cast was excellent with the inclusion of  Jere Burns as Wynn Duffy, as well as Nick Searcy and Jacob Pitts (that guy from Eurotrip). Sam Elliot made the final season just as interesting to watch as characters came and went. Season 2 stands out with the brilliant acting of Margo Martindale as Mags Bennett.

3.The Newsroom– My God. Jeff Daniels and Sam Waterston were amazing in this show. The drama and humor were well balanced. While depicting events in the past, it created an interesting dynamic with the audience knowing what will happen next in the news events while the characters work their way through news stories such as Casey Anthony, The Horizon Spill, and many other important historical events unfolding on the screen.

The show was written by Aaron Sorkin (by far one of my favorite screenwriters) and blends the smart dialog and dramatic tension that he is known for in his other work. Oh yeah… The show also opens with probably the best 5 minutes on television ever.

2. The Wire– This show wasn’t super popular at it’s beginning, but man what a monster it became. The Wire broke the mold of normal serial television and was one of the first “anthology” shows out there. Each season explored a different aspect of society through the eyes of the city of Baltimore. From the drug trade, the death of the American Dream, to corruption in politics and the broken education system you learn the many layers that comprise the systematic failure of the institutions of major cities.

Season 1 was gripping and built an excellent foundation for the subsequent seasons, however; Season 2 is a standout because the cast, story and scope was so amazing and heartbreaking at the same time.

1. The West Wing- Another show written by Aaron Sorkin. I blame The West Wing for making me go into student loan debt in college. The dialog and interaction with events that, while fictional, could be just as real in the White House today. The show had heart. Strong characters and actor that brought an otherwise potential snooze fest about politics to life with wit and charm. One of the biggest things that stands out on this show for me is Martin Sheen’s portrayal of President Bartlett. While his character can be called a “liberal’s dream”, President Bartlett struggles with real decisions and moral questions throughout the entire series and really embodied what a President should be, fictional or otherwise.

Honorable mentions:

True Detective-This show did not make it into my top 5, but it stands as one of the great anthology series. Season 1, which starred Woody Harrelson and Matthew Mconaughey was epic. The story unfolded in different times and in different areas and the humanity of the characters drew you in.

While Season 2 was marred with some pacing issues that caused issues with the viewership. However; the standout performance of Vince Vaughn alone was enough to keep tuning in episode after episode. Hopefully the upcoming season 3 will finally restore this great show back to its previous height.

Fargo– Another anthology series loosely based off of the Coen brothers universe. The first and second seasons were amazing. The ensemble cast, from Billy Bob Thornton and Martin freeman held down the quirkiness and dark humor of the series. Season two included the likes of Ted Danson, Patrick Wilson and Jeffery Donovan. However, it was surprising standout performances by Nick Offerman and (crazily enough) Bokeem Woodbine that stole a lot of the episodes.

As always, comments are welcome. Weigh in on your favorites!

Top 5 Books I Read in 2017

These books may or may not have all been released this year but they are books that I read in 2017.

26sec5. Twenty-Six Seconds by Alexandra Zapruder

I picked this book up at an airport store as a ‘flight read’. I am always interested in historical books and this one added the element of something synonymous with the Kennedy assassination. A thorough history of the film which captured the most compelling evidence of the assassination. If you’ve ever wondered about the backstory of one of the most important amateur films in history, check out this book.

220px-QuietBookCover4. Quiet by Susan Cain

As an introvert it is always a struggle to fit in with the crowd. I like solitude and introspection and have a hard time living in the increasingly connected society. Quiet helps provide information about introverts and the reasoning why we crave being alone. It also provides insights on how to navigate a world built on socializing even when your instinct is to run away.

 

wt3. White Trash: The 400 Year History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg

I’m not entirely sure how I initially ran into this book but it was an interesting read. Class struggle in America is something that is increasingly in the forefront of news today. This book gives an interesting look into the life and history of the ‘poor white’ in America. A must for any history/social science geek.

 

am512. America ’51 by Corey Taylor

I admit that I’ll read pretty much anything from Corey Taylor. His first three books covered a spectrum of topics but were rooted in a story telling ability reserved only to a frontman of a rock band. The book takes a look at America and it’s ills. While some might think that it is baseless bitching from a rich rock star, the points are still relevant and the opinions are not too far from my own.

 

running w scissors

1. Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

I became a fan of creative non-fiction when I took a class in college based on the subject. The teacher was my favorite that I had in college and helped to foster my own writing in the process. I had not heard of this author but my cousin is a fan so I decided to check it out. Irreverent, entertaining and embarrassingly open. Burroughs puts his life out on the page and, if anything, you realize that your childhood may have been pretty normal compared to other people.

Bonus Read:

240px-The_Art_of_HappinessThe Art of Happiness by His Holiness the Dalai Llama

A must for anyone who is searching for a path to happiness. While insightful and rooted in real world examples it does not come across ‘preachy’ in the ways of Buddhism. Sometimes the path to happiness is the easiest thing to understand but the hardest thing to do. I strongly suggest this book even if you are happy with your life because it never hurts to enlighten your mind to other ways of thought.

Top 5 Albums of 2017

Being that it is the end of the year there will be plenty of “Top” lists out there to choose from. I limited mine to five but there were a few extras that could have made the list. This list is based on the albums I’ve listened to the most that have come out this year.

5. rcpmRoger Clyne and the Peacemakers- Native Heart

Anybody who doesn’t know that the 1990’s act The Refreshments is still alive and well in RCPM should take note. The new album from Arizona’s own will quench the thirst for anyone who is in a drought of good singer/songwriter rock and roll. There are so many good songs on this album.

 

 

4. HumanzGorillaz Gorillaz- Humanz

Another long anticipated album from Gorrilaz. Humanz manages to capture poppy hooks with a tech-synth backdrop. Perfect workout and chill music.

 

 

3. Villains_cover_artworkQueens of the Stone Age- Villains

It is almost impossible to go wrong with a new album from Queens. Josh Homme and company produce another excellent album with enough hooks and booty shaking rockers to keep you jamming.

 

 

2. The_Sin_and_the_Sentence_album_coverTrivium- The Sin and the Sentence

The last four albums forms the Florida metallers have been a steady progression of maturity in their writing. With The Sin and the Sentence Trivium manage to combine all the different era’s of the bands writing into a cohesive and intensely listenable album. Even the harder songs are great.

 

 

Marilyn_Manson_-_Heaven_Upside_Down1. Marilyn Manson- Heaven Upside down

Anti-Christ Superstar, Pale Emperor, whatever name you call him by Marilyn Manson hit a home run on his latest album Heaven Upside Down. The songs are well balanced and the sequencing plays to the album’s strengths.

Video is NSFW

Have a favorite album that didn’t make my list? Comment below!

Top 5 Ear Worms

Ear Worm:

noun

  1. a tune or part of a song that repeats in one’s mind.

As any music listener will tell you, there are just some songs that get stuck in your head that are damn near impossible to get out. Sometimes you hear them in the store, sometimes a passing car, sometimes you even wake up with them in your head and end up humming them in the shower. Regardless of how they get there they can be stuck for days unless you find a way to rid yourself of them. Sometimes the DJ in your head is a dick and won’t move on, other times you are able to escape the loop and make it to greener pastures.

This is my list of my Top 5 Ear Worms (hopefully I don’t curse you with these).

5: The Kinks- All Day and All of the Night/You Really Got Me

The bad and good thing about The Kinks is their catchiness. I listed two songs because they are both ear worms and are very similar sounding. While The Kinks may be credited with the first use of distortion on a record, they were not the inventors of the ear worm, only a proud provider of a few.

4: B-52’s- Love Shack

Some of you may question my sanity with this song but “Love Shack” can very easily get caught on a loop in my head. You hear this thing at the store or at a restaurant that plays music and BAM next thing you know you’re driving down the road suddenly screaming “YOU’RE WHAT?” at random.

3: Dirty Vegas- Days Go By

A lot of people will remember the car that the song ended up selling, the Mitsubishi Eclipse, but not the song itself. The song is catch as hell but in a good way (most of the time). It has a great bass line and a good danceable beat. Perfect for burrowing into your brain to stay.

2: Kylie Minogue- Can’t Get You Out of My Head

If ever there was an aptly named song… Jesus. I think I only saw the video for this once and ever since (2001) it has cropped up like an assassin and unexpectedly gets stuck for days in my mind. While Kylie was hot as hell in the video, I’d like this one to retire to the recesses of my mind that are seldom accessed.

Winner

1: Outkast- Hey Ya!

This one was tough, but ultimately Outkast has to be the biggest producer of ear worm fare in recent years. “Hey Ya” only supplanted “The Way You Move” as their weapon of choice against the armies of my head. I love and hate this song at the same time.

 

Got a song that is worse than these? Prove it! Post a comment below.