In a complete turnaround from last year’s slim pickings, this year was full of GREAT music!
Run the Jewels 2
Killer Mike and El-P have done it again. This follow up to their last collaboration hits hard. The fantastic production and infectious rhymes of El-P are matched perfectly with the powerfully prophetic lyrics of Killer Mike. I was fortunate enough to see these gents perform live a few weeks ago and they were amazing. These are two very talented guys at the top of their game, clearly having a hell of a time making music. Lucky for us, we get to hear it for FREE.
Pallbearer, Foundations of Burden
I cheated and put Pallbearer’s first album on favorites list last year. I was pumped for the release of their second album this year. They did not disappoint. The album’s production is a bit more slick, but doesn’t lose the raw low doom feel they had on the first record. The vocals are much more consistent and powerful. The lead guitar parts are haunting and beautiful. Each song has a rise and fall, stretching out to almost 8-10 minutes for each track. When I listen to the record, I feel like I’ve been taken on a journey. I love that. Also saw them live and they blew me away.
Little Dragon, Nabuma Rubberband
Little Dragon is back with their signature hypno-pop-soul sound. I have to admit, I am absolutely in love with lead singer Yukimi Nagano. And how can one NOT be with that amazing voice of hers? This record is a little less consistent in tone than the last, but still features some catchy and fun tunes like “Klapp Klapp” and “Paris” mixed in with chill electronic tracks. Good stuff for the commute.
Helms Alee, Sleepwalking Sailors
I first discovered Helms Alee when I saw them live earlier this year. The absolutely blew me away with their unique heavy sound. I was particularly struck by the drumming of Hozoji Margullis (who I also have to admit having a crush on). All three members of the band contribute to the vocals, giving extra layers of harmony to songs and adding to the overall depth of the record. The wall of sound guitars are balanced great with the thumping rhythm section. Juicy heavy stuff.
Future Islands, Singles
Future Islands had been slowing growing on me over time, but this record really cemented my opinion of them. This is definitely their most pop-y record (probably why it’s called singles), with SUPER catchy hooks and driving beats. The weirdo vocals of Samuel T. Herring are definitely the highlight. He was described by a friend of mine as sounding like a ‘robot vampire’. I think that’s cool.
Mastodon, Once More ‘Round the Sun
It’s a new Mastodon record. Is there anything else you need to know?
And that about wraps it up! One last thing I’ll mention is that I did watch one of the movies on the ‘hadn’t seen it yet’ list. Under the Skin. I thought it was fantastic, haunting, and beautiful. So I’m retroactively popping that on my favorite movies list as well.
Happy holidays ya’ll!
Part 2 of my Favorite Things of 2014 list. MOVIES. It was a decent year for movies, with some big stand-outs for me. I missed quite a few I wanted to see this year, like The Guest, Fury, Nightcrawler, Birdman, Locke, & Foxcatcher. Next year I’ll catch up. But on to the list!
The Raid 2: Berandal
Wow. Wow wow WOW. Iko Uwais and Gareth Evans are here to save action films! The original Raid was a perfect blend of simple concept and tight execution, taking the viewer on a brutal ride. The Raid 2 is definitely a larger film in scope and staging of the fight scenes. Although some claimed the film is a bit bloated with dialogue scenes, I found the story to be a neat twist on gangster movie tropes, with some nice performances. Honestly though, the film could have been people talking like chickens whenever there were no fights happening and I’d still have loved it. Gareth Evans brings back that feeling from older Hong Kong films of really pushing the limits of what you can do when filming action scenes. He utilizes really long takes, insane camera movements, and super tight editing that builds as the film progresses. When you finally arrive at the final knife fight, you think you’re ready for what awaits you. Then you experience one of the most brutal and amazing fight scenes ever committed to film. Iko and Gareth are 3 for 3 in my opinion and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us next.
Otomo is back! One of my favorite animated films is Memories, which featured 3 Katsuhiro Otomo stories adapted by himself and 2 other directors. Short Peace is a similar anthology style film, with Otomo’s works being adapted by others. Otomo directs one portion of the film, which takes place in feudal Japan. His use of movement and references to Japanese scrolls pulls the viewer in to the chaos of a huge fire. The other stories are also very well-done, with a huge variety of styles on display. I was initially a bit turned off by the use of CG in “Posessions” and “Gambo”, but quickly adjusted and was sucked in. “Gambo” features a monster fight akin to the ending battle in BPRD: The Long Death, illustrated by James Harren. Two beastly titans duking it out. Any fan of animation should definitely give this a look, as it displays a diversity of styles from masters of animation at the top of their game.
Edge of Tomorrow
I had pretty much given up on Tom Cruise scifi movies. I was so glad I gave this one a shot. It’s funny, has great action, interesting design work, and Emily Blunt is BAD ASS. Christopher McQuarrie’s writing is surely responsible for many of the successes of Edge of Tomorrow though. He takes a concept that could easily become tiresome and (literally) repetitive and uses it to elevate the dramatic and comedic impact of the film. The pacing and impact of character moments really elevate it above the cute concept. Unfortunately, the ending is complete american sci-fi film cop-out material, but I can forgive that.
All the dudes are making their ‘tough guy revenge movie’ these days. From the new Die Hard movies, to Taken, to 3 Days to Kill, to (cringe) The November Man. But John Wick gets it RIGHT. I felt like I was watching Raw Deal or Above the Law. Say what you will about Keanu, but he’s got the chops (literally) for this part. Many of the modern ‘tough guy’ movies rely on some annoying camera and editing work (cough-JasonBourne-cough) to take the place of real punching. Keanu is certainly no Iko Uwais, but he’s a long way from Kevin Costner. At the end of the day, I know this is a formulaic revenge movie in a long line of revenge movies. Just like a burger is always a burger. But damned if there ain’t some burgers that are perfection from first bite to last.
It’s a lot of fun to see the plans madman Jodorowsky had for Dune. It represents a moment in time where you had a lot of amazing artists involved in something ambitious and crazy. And these artists would almost all go on to work on movies and comics that represent a sea-change in the art-forms. Don’t get me wrong, Jodorowsky is completely insane, but the inspiration and life he exudes is infectious. Watch this movie and try NOT to go make art. It’s impossible.
This movie is bananas. Lots of fun little touches in the midst of over-the-top everything else. Well made and a blast to watch. For me, this is what I’d call a good ‘popcorn movie’.
Honorable Mentions: Big Hero 6, VHS: Viral
Next post will cover music. To see my favorite comics just look HERE.
Here we are again, another year of comics, movies, and music to inspire! As in Years Past, I like to compile a list of some of the art that I enjoyed throughout the year. It’s a good reminder for me to remember what inspires me, but also a chance to share great stuff with others. I found that this year’s list got pretty big, so I am dividing it up into 3 parts: Comics, Movies, & Music. Also note, I try not to recycle stuff from previous years, as those lists are still out there to see. Even though many of those things are still awesome (like Space-Mullet & Prophet). Now, of course, I’m going to start with Comics!
The Wrenchies, by Farel Dalrymple
This is a what comics are all about. Farel operates on a different plane with The Wrenchies. The dreamlike storytelling is punctuated by stand-out moments of sadness and introspection. The inked/watercolored art is absolutely gorgeous. I was lucky to catch an exhibition of original pages from the book and was dumb-founded by how good they looked in person. There is no digital trickery here, Farel’s just THAT GOOD. Shea Hennum over at This Is Infamous wrote a great article about Wrenchies that will do the book more justice than I can, so check that out. If Wrenchies doesn’t sweep the Ignatz and Eisner awards, I might lose all faith in comics. GET THE WRENCHIES
Death of a Crow, by Liam Cobb
Pay attention folks. Liam is one to watch. He posted Death of a Crow on His Tumblr and it spread across the net like wildfire. And it’s easy to see why. Wonderfully illustrated and full of symbolism and pathos, it’s a great example of the power of comics. The reader is drawn in and led to think and draw conclusions about the world presented. Liam has done quite a few striking short comics on his tumblr so go dig in.
Ritual #3: Vile Decay, by Malachi Ward
Malachi must be Rod Serling re-incarnated. His scifi/fantasy/speculative fiction has been an invigorating addition to the comics scene for a few years now. Vile Decay really hits on all cylinders. Malachi’s illustrations are detailed, while still maintaining a cartooned iconic feel. Vile Decay explores character relationships through surreal landscapes and violent riots. The limited color palette and spot-on paper decisions all add up to a book with a unique feeling that enhances the themes within. GET VILE DECAY
Half Asleep #2-3, by Beth Hetland & Kyle O’Connell
Beth & Kyle turned comics up to 11 a couple years ago with Cycles, which I loved. Initially, Half Asleep was a hard swallow for me. But as the series has progressed, they have really found their voice. O’Connell’s manic concepts spew forth while Hetland uses the tricks of the comics trade to deftly translate the unreal to real. Characters are expertly developed through their actions rather than drawn out dialogue. On top of that, each book sports artful screen-printed hand-cut covers. I’m really excited to see where these two go with Half Asleep next year. GET HALF ASLEEP
Pax Americana, by Frank Quitely & Grant Morrison
Frank Quitely is an illustration god. He pushes the limits of the medium with each new book, without alienating mainstream sensibilities. I barely have an understanding of what’s happening in this beautiful book, but I will enjoy digging into it and deciphering the puzzle for months to come.
In the Sounds & Seas: Volume 2, by Marnie Galloway
It was a long time coming, but SO worth the wait. Marnie’s work has progressed wonderfully since volume 1. Her illustration style lends itself to the story’s themes of interconnectedness and myth. She has also grown as a panel to panel storyteller, finding clarity in the small moments portrayed, while still including beautiful stylistic flourishes in each drawing. In the Sounds & Seas it not like anything else out right now and it showcases a unique voice in the medium. GET IN THE SOUNDS & SEAS
Gardens of Glass, by Lando
Lando is another example of a creator with a strong voice. Gardens of Glass is a collection of the stories Lando has published through the always trippy scifi collective anthology Decadence Comics. Seeing the stories side by side, you find that Lando has been building not only a style, but almost a complete world-view. Each piece compliments the next, re-inforcing ideas and visual queues. The drawings themselves are beautiful and delicate as well, with clear influences from manga and french comics . Gardens of Glass was published by Breakdown Press, who are also doing super cool stuff with comics. GET GARDENS OF GLASS
Time Capsule #2, Peow Studios
Much like Breakdown & Decadence Comics, Peow is working with immensely talented artists in creating beautiful book objects. Time Capsule is one of the best looking Risograph printed comics I’ve come across to date. The Riso has quickly become a mainstay in indy comics, but no one has quite harnessed the potential of the press like Peow. Featured in this issue are Stathis Tsemberlidis (of Decadence Comics), Wren Mcdonald, and Matt Sheean (regular collaborator with Malachi Ward & Prophet alumni). Stathis and Matt’s pieces stand out to me the most, as they both have less focus on traditional narrative. Stathis shows a figure as it accelerates through time and space, (literally) smashing through touchpoints of human existence. Matt gives us a strange story featuring children in the woods of a new planet. Matt has a way of presenting visual and text information that is almost rhythmic and inseparable from eachother. Love it. GET TIME CAPSULE
Prophet: Strikefile #1-2, Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, & The Prophet All Stars
Ok it should be obvious from all my other picks, as well as previous year’s picks, that I’m going to be ALL ABOUT Prophet Strikefile. As with the series itself, Brandon & friends have taken a concept (the sourcebook comic) and elevated it to something a little smarter, a little prettier, and a lot awesome-r.
Ghost Fleet, Don Cates & Daniel Warren Johnson
Don’t get me wrong, Ghost Fleet is amazing. I just have a feeling it’s really going to shine next year. Daniel is an artist on his way up I’m privy to what he’s cooking up in future issues of Ghost Fleet. And Donny’s story is pretty bananas. You need to jump on board now, because Ghost Fleet will blow your mind in 2015.
I’m positive I’ve missed some great books this year. Please let me know what you think I should check out from 2014! I’ll be back soon with Part 2, discussing my favorite movies of the year.