Old and new albums of the month: February 2017

*(1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die)
The Stone Roses by The Stone Roses (1989)  
Baggy / Madchester/ Neo-Psychedelia / Jangle Pop. Considered The Stone Roses best work, and among the finest debuts by any UK group.
For some reason, I always imagined the artwork was a distorted map of a city, taken from above. Maybe it is, who knows. I still like to think of it in that way. In fact was inspired by the paintings of Jackson Pollock and there's a story behind what the lemons and French flag represent.
An important album that means a lot to those who grew up with it. The kind of music that sadly doesn't get released nowadays. Beautifully put together. Bass, guitar and drums form the basis of the jangle pop/Madchester sound and complement each other well. My favorite could be She Bangs the Drums for the sheer musicianship.
I can imagine anthemic songs such as Made Of Stone and I Wanna Be Adored getting played in huge stadiums with the crowd singing along. The opening lyric "I don't have to sell my soul, he's already in me" could be interpreted in different ways, including a gay reference and a theological claim, the devil is already within, hence he has no need to sell his soul.

*(1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die)
Marquee Moon (1977) by Television  
Art Punk / Post-Punk. Exceptional guitar playing with some great riffs and jazzy solos. An album you could listen to over and over and not tire of. The vocal reminded me of Chrissie Hynde, even though Tom Verlaine obviously is male. Did Johnny Jewel (born John Padgett) of Chromatics fame take his name from the stand alone single "Little Johnny Jewel"?

*(1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die)
Felt Mountain by Goldfrapp (2000)  
In anticipation of the new album in March I'm revisiting Goldfrapp's discography. Felt Mountain is their debut and defies genre categorization. Atmospheric and seductive. Alison has a vocal like no other. There's a hint of Ennio Morricone soundtracks, but they make it their own and it doesn't feel out of place. The album mixes orchestral flourishes with modern electronic production. On the second half, the songs tend to be a bit more restrained. Lovely Head and Utopia stand out.

Black Cherry by Goldfrapp (2003)
Electropop. Sensual, dreamy. I’ve even heard it described as futuristic. Especially impressed by tracks 1-4. I still consider it a pretty strong album despite the occasional weak track. If you like Black Cherry, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy Supernature.

Supernature by Goldfrapp (2005)
Electropop/dance pop. The sound is close to the second album Black Cherry, but more accessible and not as dark. Supernatural has a focus on pop hooks, repeated choruses, and simpler melodies. The lyrics hardly matter and I don’t say that in a degrading way.
I was ready to dismiss the album as throwaway pop, but actually holds up well to revisits and there’s very little filler. Supernature is an easy, undemanding listen. Stand outs: Ooh La La, Fly Me Away, Number 1

Take Me to the Alley (2016) by Gregory Porter 
A lot of new releases are disposable. I feel this one could hold up for a long time. Won Best Jazz Vocal Album at the recent 2017 Grammys. Porter has an old-fashioned, retro vocal style. He cites Nat King Cole as his biggest inspiration. I like the unhurriedness of the music. The first five tracks are probably the strongest on the album. The two closers have some nice instrumentals as well.
In a 2012 interview with Jazzweekley.com Porter explained why he wears a hat and balaclava: "I’ve had some surgery on my skin, so this has been my look for a little while and will continue to be for awhile longer. People recognise me by it now. It is what it is.”

Dixie Chicken by Little Feat (1973)
Their third album. A so-so listen. The title track Dixie Chicken has a memorable chorus. A very 70s rhythm ‘n funk vibe on Two Trains, easily my favorite for its energy and production. Tracks three to ten are pleasant enough but soon forgotten.

Feats Don't Fail Me Now by Little Feat (1974)
Their fourth. My favorite Little Feat LP up to this point. The musicianship is noticeably funkier and livelier.
Oh Atlanta is fuelled by a catchy chorus. The last two tracks impressed me with the guitar solos.
The sleeve with the lightning by the mountain is memorable and dramatic.  The band name obviously has multiple meanings and there’s a play on that in the album title.

The Last Record Album by Little Feat (1975) 
Little Feat's fifth LP and I find it overrated. A mix of elements from their previous albums. Funky and jazzy in some moments, often reverting back to their southern rock sound.
All That You Dream, Day or Night, and Mercenary Territory are fun and adventurous for the jazzy instrumentation. Somebody's Leavin' goes in a surprising direction. Generally I find the lyrics and vocal on their albums a bit bland.
The artwork is thought-provoking, the image of the jelly mountain with the Hollywood sign is particularly brilliant. Perhaps a warning that seeking your fortune in show business is a wobbly career path.

What do you think about the music and album artwork? As always, comments are welcome

2017 Oscar predictions

The Academy Awards are on February 26th (Sunday night) and below are my predictions:

I’ve seen the two favorites Moonlight and La La Land. The latter is the safe bet, but I just watched La La Land on Thursday and was underwhelmed. La La Land is harmless, self-indulgent, set in the present while reminding us of the past. Moonlight is set in the past but is about the present. Moonlight to win, it’s more important.

BEST DIRECTOR: Damien Chazelle
Damien Chazelle is favorite, so I’ll go with him. He should have been nominated for director for Whiplash which is his best film. Barry Jenkins has an outside chance for Moonlight.

Denzel Washington is the joint favorite, but he’s won a couple of time before. The assault allegations may hurt Casey Affleck's chances with voters. Even though I didn’t love Manchester By The Sea, I think it's the kind of oscar-baity role that will win. Fences winning for both Davis and Washington might happen, especially with #OscarsSoWhite controversy of last year. Could there really be three black actors winning in the four actor categories? I don't see it happening, so my money's on Affleck.

Emma Stone for La La Land is the betting favorite. I hope Isabelle Huppert surprises like she did at the Golden Globes, and it would be justice because Elle was snubbed for a Foreign Language Film nomination. Popular Jennifer Lawrence beat veteran Emmanuelle Riva, and I expect the same thing to happen here with the crowd-pleasing Emma Stone beating the darker, subtle work of Huppert.

Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Viola Davis, Fences

Manchester by the Sea to win. Hell or High Water and The Lobster are more original though, so I hope one of those can pull off an upset.


La La Land  WINNER: Hacksaw Ridge

A difficult category. Not a clear favorite. Front runner Toni Erdmann has won precursor awards. The Salesman has picked up steam due to Iranian director boycotting the Oscars in protest of Donald Trump’s refugee ban. I’m sticking with Toni Erdmann. Asghar Farhadi won for A Separation just a few years ago, a film that has some similarities to The Salesman.


La La Land

Jackie  WINNER: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

La La Land

Star Trek Beyond  WINNER: Suicide Squad

The Jungle Book

O.J.: Made in America was riveting to watch, although did voters sit through all 7h 47m?

The White Helmets


Ennemis Intérieurs   WINNER: Sing

La La Land

"City Of Stars" from La La Land

Hacksaw Ridge  WINNER: Arrival

La La Land  WINNER: Hacksaw Ridge

After the ceremony, I will share how many I got right=   17/24 

Will you be watching the Oscars? What are your predictions in the main categories? Which are your favorites of the nominees? As always, comments are welcome

Top 100 songs of 2016 (tracks 60-51)

Ivy by Frank Ocean
Neo Soul. Speaks to me on a meditative level, as does much of the album.

Empty by Garbage
Alternative Rock. You only have to listen to the opening “I’ve” and you can identify the sultry vocal of Shirley Manson. “I’ve been feeling so frustrated, I’ll never be as great as I want to be” is my favorite lyric on their latest LP.

Bum Bum Bum by Cass McCombs
Singer/Songwriter. A nice discovery, which I’ve had on repeat. You’ll probably either love or hate the “Bum Bum Bum" lyric.

Admitting the Endorphin Addiction by Open Mike Eagle & Paul White
Hip Hop. Probably the most pop-friendly on the album. “Blah, blah, blah, I cry for help” , “You'd really be surprised, how innovative I can get when left alone”.

Take Me To The Alley by Gregory Porter
Jazz Vocal. He's a talented singer and won a Grammy last Sunday. Porter revealed: "Take Me To The Alley is about those darker places, those backstreets, the forgotten places. The alley, and how we treat the people that are in the alley and how we think of them."

Passionate Friend by Meilyr Jones
Chamber Pop. There’s quite a lot going on musically here. My favorite from the album. The songs were inspired by Jones' stay in Rome. Thanks to The Swede for the recommendation. Won the Welsh Music Prize for Album of the Year.

Moth Into Flame by Metallica
Heavy Metal. Not sure it's a classic, but still entertaining. Love the intro. Could have been trimmed to 4 minutes.

Cold Little Heart by Michael Kiwanuka
Neo-Soul. A slow-building epic which is Pink Floyd-esque.

Daddy Lessons (Feat. The Dixie Chicks) by Beyoncé
A surprise country song from Queen Bey, and a good one. I've read Beyoncé is not to be admired because she stays with her cheating husband, but on the other hand the power of forgiveness is important. Airing dirty laundry in public is one way of looking at Lemonade, yet to me sincere lyrics have greater emotional value than contrived words do. Granted she didn't write the entire album herself, but she makes it her own. Giving a voice to those who were disrespected and who hopefully can feel less alone with their torment by listening to the music.

Hold Up by Beyoncé
Contemporary R&B. The video with her in the lemonade dress and holding a baseball bat lifted the song to new heights. Her latest album gains so much from the visuals. Being creative is a way of coming to terms with your problems and your past.

Find anything you liked? Already know some of these? Which are your favorites from these albums? As always, comments are welcome. Tracks 50-41 coming soon!

TV watched in 2016

Stranger Things (2016) (Season 1) (8 episodes)
Strengths: Suspenseful and captivating story, well-acted, at times scary, retro soundtrack fits with the 80s mood, depiction of childhood, teenage life, and parent-child relationships handled well. The friendship between the boys has warmth, especially the way groups divide themselves into opposing cliques felt realistic.
Weaknesses: Style over substance, overly reliant on homage to classics such as Spielberg, Stephen King and Twin Peaks, a bit predictable, some of the scientific aspects feel a little far-fetched.
The positives outweighed the drawbacks.
Rating 8.5/10

Miami Vice (1984) (Season 1)
The smooth talking is quite entertaining in a light-hearted way. My issue with TV shows in general is the same problem I have with Bond movies. We know the main character(s) are not going to die, because the show relies on them to come back. Other shows have the same issue when told as stand-alone adventures. That said, Miami Vice is still suspenseful.
The soundtrack has many well-known and sometimes obscure 80s tunes, and as a fan of the music from that decade, that was the main reason I decided to buy Season 1. Both Jan Hammer's original score and the 80s soundtrack picks add to the enjoyment and give Miami Vice a sense of belonging to that era. The series is also famous for its wardrobe.
For me, a weakness is the continuity from the Pilot to Episode 2, in that the boss and Tubbs were seen as unfit to carry on, yet there’s barely any mention of it in episode 2, except a minor line of dialogue about NYPD willing to fry him for misconduct. Despite this, Crockett and Tubbs are a fun partnership with good chemistry. It’s just the way Tubbs is suddenly an undercover detective in Miami which is slightly glossed over.
Another weakness is the detectives manage to fool the bad guys countless times by pretending to be someone else, and this ploy is too repetitive and relies on the stupidity of the bad guys in not doing a proper background check on them.
I can't rate Season 1 as I only watched half of the 22 episodes due to mild boredom with stories tending to be quite similar and a lack of character growth. My favorite episodes were the pilot as well as the two part Calderone's Return. I'll finish season 1, but I'm taking it slow. Not ideal to binge watch, but good in small doses. A fun show to watch if you just want to switch your brain off and be entertained.

Mum (2016) (Season 1) (6 episodes)
A flawed, yet engrossing kitchen sink sitcom. Lesley Manville anchors the series as the motherly recently widowed Cathy, she is the polite, sympathetic listener people turn to. She and Peter Mullan give likeable performances. Cathy’s son’s girlfriend Kelly (Lisa McGrillis) seemed dumbed down a tad too far, yet she is probably the character who grows the most during the series. The scenes between her and Manville, and the scenes with Manville and Mullan are the strongest moments. Some of the supporting characters such as snobbish Pauline and the rude grandmother were too one-dimensional. During season 1, the number of inappropriate, offensive remarks is excessive. Presumably these repetitions and caricatures put in place for comedic effect. For me, the drama worked better than the comedy. The warmth of the main characters kept me watching. Thank god there’s no canned laughter.
Rating 7/10

The Marvellous World Of Roald Dahl (2016) (BBC documentary)
A one hour BBC special to celebrate 100 years since the author’s birth. He was my favorite children's author growing up. Autobiographical elements and interviews are spliced with moments from his books. Apparently the quirky language in the BFG was inspired by his wife's unusual phrasing following a stroke. Charlie & The Chocolate Factory was inspired by Dahl being used as a test bunny at school by a chocolate company who asked kids to rate various chocolate bars. The books Danny the Champion of the World and Fantastic Mr Fox were influenced by him living in the country.
Rating 8/10

50 Years of Star Trek (2016) (The History Channel) (documentary)
Watching Star Trek is on my to-do list. Particularly interesting were the best TV episode picks: The City on the Edge of Forever (1967), The Devil in the Dark (1967), The Measure of a Man (1989), Yesterday's Enterprise (1990)  Far Beyond the Stars (1998), Someone to Watch Over Me (1999).
Also new to me is the way Star Trek has influenced technology, for instance ipads, flip phones, sliding doors, etc. This may be old news to Trekkies, but I found it eye-opening.
The coverage of the Star Trek movies was rushed, which was a pity. The documentary needed to be longer than 84 min.
The round table debates were fairly interesting, discussing the message of Star Trek and how it impacted the fans etc.
Rating 6/10

Doctor Who: The Greatest Show in the Galaxy (1988-89) (season 25, episode 11-14)
Even though I’ve never been an avid Doctor Who fan, this particular adventure left a lasting impression. I watched parts of it as a 7-year-old in the late 80s and was terrified by the clowns. Now I have completed it, and doesn’t live up to its intriguing title. You get to hear a rap by the circus ringmaster, so there is that. The clowns are not as scary as I remembered, in fact they didn't frighten me at all now.
The feisty assistant “Ace” (Sophie Aldred in the center of the poster) is cute, the synth soundtrack by Mark Ayres is alright, and the cliffhanger endings are effective. But the production looks like a silly B-movie horror, and the main characters are not given much to do. The mystery about the circus kept me interested. There are memorable scenes and surprises. I like the doctor’s umbrella handle, which is shaped as a question mark.
I read afterwards the adventure can be perceived allegorically as creativity being destroyed by ratings in the TV industry. TV shows are destroyed when they don't pull in the required ratings and the Gods of Ragnarok can be likened to the BBC controllers of the time, who focused more on the ratings than how original or creative the shows were.
Favorite quote: "Entertain us, or die!"
Rating 5/10

Blackadder's Christmas Carol (1988) (TV Special) 
I previously watched the Blackadder TV series from the 1980s, and found it original, but only mildly amusing. The WW2 episodes are my favorites. For whatever reason I hadn't stumbled upon the Christmas special until now, which is a parody of Charles Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol. The story jumps around in different centuries, with Roan Atkinson reprising various characters. The comedy was too predictable. Funniest when Blackadder insults people.
Rating 6/10

Have you seen any of these and what did you think? Which (old or new) TV shows impressed you in the last 12 months?

Top 100 songs of 2016 (tracks 70-61)

Smile More by Deap Vally
Garage Rock. Thanks to Sun Dried Sparrows for the tip. The lyrics are what got me hooked.

Red Earth and the Pouring Rain by Bear's Den
Alternative/Indie. Thanks to Derek at Past and The Pending for the recommendation. The album artwork (pictured above) fits perfectly with the music, retro 80s suitable for the road.

It Means I Love You by Jessy Lanza
Synthpop. The album is overhyped, but the drum and synth combo here is quite primal and bewitching. In the video she wears the golden gown from the album sleeve.

Fire by Justice
Nu-Disco. Had me pressing replay. Seems these guys have a Thelma and Louise fixation. I guess Geena was busy.

Open Your Eyes by School of Seven Bells
Dream Pop. A wake-up call to face life again. From their fourth (and final) album. The band’s career tragically cut short by the death of Benjamin Curtis.

Red Wine by Common
Conscious Hip Hop/Neo-Soul. A track that I didn't even listen to the words of. Just a very smooth sound. I'm sure he has some interesting lyrics if you dig a little deeper. "Get comfortable".

In God's House by Bat for Lashes
Art Pop. A concept album about a woman going through a tragedy on her wedding day. This single is atmospheric and the video dream-like.

Aslan by Charlotte Cornfield
Alt-Country. CS Lewis’ Lion has a cameo

Why Did You Separate Me from the Earth? by Anohni
Art Pop. Can you guess if the singer is male or female? The androgynous voice, appearance and name is part of the performance. I've read the lyrics are about human beings vs the natural world. A powerful song. The mobile phone video is fanmade and irrelevant.

Exodus by Jesu / Sun Kil Moon
Singer/Songwriter. A bonus track to Nick Cave’s new album Skeleton Tree

Find anything you liked? Already know some of these? Which are your favorites from these albums? As always, comments are welcome. Tracks 60-51 coming soon!

Question: Your anticipated films/albums/books of 2017?

In this post, I've listed my most anticipated films and albums. You can click on the links for descriptions/trailers. New books I don't follow, I prefer to read the classics.

I realize several of the below films have already been released in some areas of the world. The thing is, I'm still waiting for them in Denmark, we are often late getting them to our screens.
I included a bunch of these based on early buzz. One More Time with Feeling was praised by Jordan, The Wailing by Zach, Elle by Lisa, The Handmaiden by Sati, Christine by Dave, and T2 Trainspotting by Anne. There's no guarantee I'll react the same way though.

Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve) (October)

Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi (Rian Johnson) (December)

One More Time with Feeling (Andrew Dominik)

Elle (Paul Verhoeven)

Christine (Antonio Campos)

Top 100 songs of 2016 (tracks 80-71)

One More Night by Michael Kiwanuka
Neo-Soul. A motivational song that encourages you to get things done. If anyone knows why he has long legs in the video please explain.

Mercury (feat. Tim Darcy) by Charlotte Cornfield
Alt-Country. A talented lyricist. This is one of her best songs which holds up to many plays. Another find from saidthegramophone's top 100

No Worries Gonna Find Us by Plants and Animals
Indie Rock. Are you a worrier? Maybe this tune can help.

Put The Fire Out by Courtney Marie Andrews
Singer/Songwriter. After hearing a couple of songs on YouTube I downloaded her album Honest Life from bandcamp (it wasn't on Spotify). Her stories come from travelling around the US and also working as a bartender. The lyrics have a relatability and the melodies and vocal are distinctive. The album recently climbed to the top of the UK Americana Charts.

E V P by Blood Orange
Quite funky. There's some Prince influence here. The best track on Freetown Sound. Judging from the YouTube video, probably better live.

Solitude by M83
Synthpop with beautiful orchestral elements. Might be too sad for some listeners.

Body Talk by Foxes
Dance Pop. Very catchy

80 West by Caveman
Indie Rock. A hidden gem which should have been a single. Good driving music.

Love On The Brain by Rihanna
Anti was a mixed bag, the modern tracks I loathed and throwbacks (like this one) I enjoyed

8 circle by Bon Iver
Folktronica. An infectious vocal performance

Find anything you liked? Already know some of these? As always, comments are welcome. Tracks 70-61 coming soon!

Harry Potter films reviewed and ranked

A word of warning. These reviews contain spoilers!!!

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)
Among my biggest movie blind spots was the Harry Potter franchise. So what better place to start than the first film.
I like JK Rowling’s imagination, even though she has admitted they are not all original thoughts. Wise owls that deliver mail, paintings that are alive, chocolate frogs, the secret station platform, unpredictable staircases that change, quidditch balls with wills of their own, pumpkins that hover in the air above the dinner tables, decorating a Christmas tree by moving objects with a wand, the invisible cloak, shifting chess pieces with the power of the mind, etc.
Philosopher’s Stone has convinced me to keep going. I’m not expecting the sequels to be as inventive, but the characters and continuing stories should be enough for it to maintain interest.
Rating 8/10

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
Entertaining enough, but the plot is too similar to the first film. Another flaw in the story is why his step parents are so desperate to cling on to Harry, yet are constantly fed up with him and ask him to stay out of sight. Maybe they feel a duty.
Again it’s the imaginative details that I enjoy, the knitting needles that knit by magic, the flying car that has a mind of its own, the angry tree, Mandrake plants, a talking letter, a diary that can store a person.
We learn Hermione is a “mud-blood”, a half-blood as her parents are non-magic muggles, and we delve further into Harry’s ability to talk to snakes.
Rating 6/10

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
The opening sequence is similar to the previous two Harry Potter films, but again there’s an important message about the neglect and cruelty orphans sometimes have to endure.
JK Rowling’s imagination knows no bounds, a London bus installed with beds and chandelier that can drive between two other buses by making itself narrower, a monster book that is a monster, a kettle that pours the tea itself when you hold out your mug, floating candles, gum that makes a person sound like a specific animal, a flying Hippogriff which is a mix of horse and an eagle, boggarts that take the shape of what you are afraid of, the magical map of Hogwarts which shows you where everyone is.
The dementors seemed like an allegory for depression or trauma, in the way they feed on happy memories and leave you with your worst experiences. The time travel in the last act was quite clever.
Rating 7/10

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
Definitely warmer than Prisoner of Azkaban. Friction in the friendship between the trio was bound to happen, and we get our first taste of that, although why Harry and Ron have a falling out is vague. We also see the students being vulnerable teenagers trying to get dates for the dance. The main story is the tournament and there’s a thrilling dragon chase sequence. Not too sure about Harry’s haircut though, which looks strangely 1970s.
Imaginative details: A tent that is far bigger when you enter, a flying carriage, a potion that can alter your age, a newspaper with moving images, badges that can change appearance, a potion that makes a man grow underwater gills, sharp liquorish that bites, etc.
Rating 7/10

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
Harry is in danger of being expelled, as he before the age of 17 uses magic in front of a normal person(his brother), and speaks out of line in class. The new teacher (from the ministry) harms him for disobedience by marking his hand. There’s a general distrust of Dumbledore and several teachers, who are perceived as not meeting the regulations of the ministry.
Harry’s experiences his first kiss, we learn Harry’s father bullied the young Severus Snape, and there’s a notable character that dies.
The story starts promisingly, but is too slow paced, and not as well-told and not as charming as previous instalments. The scene when the exam is interrupted and sabotaged I had mixed feelings about. Surely an exam should be treated seriously, regardless if you like the teacher or not.
Also, the film is noticeably weaker on new imaginative details. The stand out is the red telephone box which they can travel with using magical coins. Order of the Phoenix is my least favorite of the series so far.
Rating 5/10

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
A passable film, with nice cinematography, a bit more humor than usual, and suspense towards the end, but somewhat forgettable and overlong. Most of the crucial scenes are in the last third. Comparable to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, with the students as love struck teenagers. An important character dies. There is further explanation as to why Tom Riddle killed Harry’s parents, which has to do with his soul breaking into pieces, which remain, even though his body dies.
I’m not sure if it’s the David Yates entries lacking soul, or if I’m just growing weary of the franchise at this stage. Unfortunately I can see Yates also directed the final two films, but I’ll finish to see how the story pans out.
Inventive details: a small dragon breathes fire on to some food products in a box, liquid luck potion which is disastrous if made incorrectly, memories stored in a bottle, wearing shoes to bed because you sleepwalk, a library where the books go back on the shelf by themselves, a Christmas cake decoration that moves, the ability to heal a broken nose or other injuries.
Rating 6/10

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)
I’m not loving these entries directed by David Yates. Different to many of the other Potter films in that it doesn’t take place at Hogwarts. To me, tedious and inessential. Very little of importance happens in the first 90 minutes, and begs the question if Deathly Hallows is split into two merely for profit.
The transformation scene near the beginning is technically impressive, they look the same yet speak with the same voices, which is amusing.
There is a cute dance accompanied by Nick Cave song O Children and a suspenseful scene when Harry goes under water to find the sword. Probably my favorite scene is animated and explains the origin of the deathly hallows, although does not include any of the main characters who are just listening to that story being told.
Rating 5/10

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)
A step up from Deathly Hallows Part 1, the action sequence when they travel underground is thrilling. In general, the final chapter is very blockbuster-y with some of the biggest actions scenes so far in the series, notably the multiplying gold cups, indoor fire, and good and evil confrontations at Hogwarts. The orchestral soundtrack is also bigger and louder. You could accuse Deathly Hallows Part 2 of having predictable moments. However the path to that outcome is entertaining and unexpected. The Jesus allegory is hard not to notice. Good to see the Harry Potter franchise end strongly.
Rating 7/10

My ranking:
1.) Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)
2.) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
3.) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
4.) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)
5.) Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
6.) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
7.) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
8.) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)

Have you watched the Harry Potter films? Agree or disagree? Which are your favorite films from the series? Do you have a favorite character?

Favorite older album discoveries of 2016

Treasure by Cocteau Twins (1984)
Dream Pop. What a voice and love the ethereal production. I enjoyed listening to their entire discography during 2016. Victorialand (1986), Blue Bell Knoll (1988), and Heaven or Las Vegas (1990) are very good too, as are some of the EPs.
Treasure I consider their masterpiece. Robert Smith described Treasure as "the most romantic sound he had ever heard" and claims to have played the album before his wedding,
Some will argue the lyrics are nonsensical, which is a valid argument, but that's part of the attraction. Like Radiohead, music to feel rather than understand.

Closing Time by Tom Waits (1973)
Singer/Songwriter, Tom Waits’ piano-heavy debut is beautiful and timeless. There isn’t a lot of variation from track to track, so the music sort of all blends together.  A record you can have quietly on in the background, in essence a lounge singer performing for you at home. His vocal is not as harsh and rough at this early stage in his career. Sets the template for Waits’ melancholy style, and you can already tell he is a talented lyricist with lines such as “I don't have to take no trip to outer space. All I have to do is look at your face”. Waits also demonstrates he's a competent pianist and the melodies fit well with the mood. Highlights for me are Martha, Ol' '55 and Midnight Lullaby.

Abbey Road by The Beatles (1969)
Pop Rock/Psychedelic Pop. Abby Road is considered among the best Beatles albums and the much debated sleeve is iconic. Come Together is easily my favorite, which has a great melody. Something and Here Comes the Sun are obviously Beatles classics as well. Of the lesser known songs, Because is a highlight. I already know their hits, but intend to explore their other classic albums soon.

Take It Off by Chic (1981)
Funk. I listened to their early discography 1977-1981 and surprisingly the lesser-known Take It Off is my favorite Chic album. The band's 1970s releases have big hits yet too many filler tracks. There are no massive hits on Take It Off, but it's consistently good and I enjoyed the album from start to finish.

Horses by Patti Smith (1975) 
Proto-Punk/Singer-Songwriter. Her vocal certainly has presence, even if I find her delivery not as beautiful as other female singers of the era.  The iconic album sleeve is powerful and empowering, just like the music. The musicianship on the track Land is breathtaking. Highlights: Gloria, Free Money, Kimberly, Land.

Old No. 1 by Guy Clark (1975)
Country. If anything positive can come out of the deaths in the entertainment industry it's that we can discover artists from the past. Clark's debut is considered his best work. Highlights include L.A. Freeway, Desperados Waiting for the Train, That Old Time Feeling, and Let Him Roll Train.

Seven Waves by Suzanne Ciani  (1982)
New Age. The melodies are impressive, although the tinny C64 sounds initially bothered me, particularly on the first and second wave, so I almost gave up. I'm happy I stuck with the album. The fifth and seventh wave are the most pleasing, and the third, fourth and sixth waves are quite beautiful too. You might have to lower the volume for the album to truly resonate.

Crocodiles by Echo and The Bunnymen  (1980)
Post-punk. Strong debut with few weaknesses. Ian McCulloch has a unique vocal. Highlights include: Stars Are Stars, Rescue, Pictures On My Wall.
1980 was a significant year for debut albums: Iron Maiden, OMD, The Pretenders, Visage, Angel Witch, Def Leppard, Diamond Head, Psychedelic Furs, The Feelies, Huey Lewis and the News, New Musik, and U2.

Not reviewed, but loved:

4.5/5 or 5/5 rating:
Are You Experienced? by Jimi Hendrix Experience (1967)
Electric Ladyland by The Jimi Hendrix Experience (1968)
Desire by Bob Dylan (1976)
Moving Pictures by Rush (1981)
Signals by Rush (1982)
Ride the Lightning by Metallica (1984)
Master of Puppets by Metallica (1986)
Music for the Masses by Depeche Mode (1987)
Songs of Faith and Devotion by Depeche Mode (1993)
Frank by Amy Winehouse (2003)

4 out of 5 rating:
Sticky Fingers by The Rolling Stones (1971)
Foreigner by Foreigner (1977)
Wave by Patti Smith Group (1979)
Pretenders by Pretenders (1980)
Permanent Waves by Rush (1980)
It's My Life by Talk Talk (1984)
Van Halen by Van Halen (1978)
1984 by Van Halen (1984)
5150 by Van Halen (1986)
Violent Femmes by Violent Femmes (1983)
Porcupine by Echo & The Bunnymen (1983)
Victorialand by Cocteau Twins (1986)
Blue Bell Knoll by Cocteau Twins(1988)
Heaven or Las Vegas by Cocteau Twins (1990)
Lullabies to Violaine (compilation of EPs) by Cocteau Twins (2005)
Violator by Depeche Mode (1990)
The Essential Miles Davis (2001)
Greatest Hits by Foo Fighters (2009)
Channel Orange by Frank Ocean (2012)

I Danmark er jeg født by Natasja (2007)
Kim Larsen's Greatest - Guld Og Grønne Skove (1995)

I'm only including releases prior to 2015 and leaving off re-listens. What do you think? Have you listened to any of these albums?

Films of the month: January 2017

I, Daniel Blake (2016)
You know what you are going to get politically with a Ken Loach film, it's no secret he is left wing and fights (much like Charles Dickens did) the cause of the lower classes. His latest, which is rumored to be his last, could be Loach's most insistent and powerful, which addresses how poverty is also becoming an issue for the middle class and that the structure of the welfare system in the UK needs simplifying and humanizing.

Manchester by the Sea (2016)
As Kenneth Lonergan’s previous film Margaret, the story felt novelistic, many characters and storylines, but on this occasion not as interesting and rather simplistic.
Having a job as a plumber/handyman is not easy when tenants sometimes behave disrespectfully. Some of the sad or confrontational scenes had a dash of humor, thanks mainly to the teenage son, otherwise it would have been too melancholy.
A man dealing with grief and detachment has been done before. Captivated me in patches. The most powerful scenes to me are when he meets Randi with the pram and she break down, and there is a surprising development in the middle of the film than I didn’t see coming. The flashback chronology was a little confusing and I could have done without the constant swearing. A well-acted film, but not a favorite.

Nocturnal Animals (2016)
Beautifully shot and well-acted. Amy Adams looks stunning. The fragmented story was sometimes thrilling during the road rage, yet also unsatisfying with a number of loose ends. Michael Shannon was almost unrecognizable and his performance stood out. Perhaps what I’ll remember most is the anti-smoking propaganda inserted into the screenplay. The film lacked a consistent tone, and while it was cleverly told, the story left me cold.
6/10  (changed to 7/10 as of 10 Feb)

David Bowie: The Last Five Years (2017) (documentary) 
I was confused by the title The Last Five Years, as the documentary jumps back to the 1970s quite a lot and addresses how he handled fame. The film opens with an examination of the Reality tour, which was a joyful time, yet also took its toll. The middle part of the doc looks into the album The Next Day (2013) with a number of revelations about the videos and lyrics. The idea he had for The Stars Are Out Tonight video is celebrities stalking normal people to study them, Tilda and David playing the normal couple, with a transformation occurring so the normal become celebs. Valentine’s Day apparently is a song about a serial killer at a school and the lyrics are from the point of view of the killer, a statement about gun control.
Finally in the last 30 min the focus is on Bowie's deteriorating health and burst of creativity that led to a musical and the Blackstar album.

Lawman (1971)
Watchable western, but too clichéed and predictable. Inferior clone of Hang 'Em High (1968)

The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981)
Meryl Streep‎ as Sarah does mysterious well, so the audience wants to get to know her. She is complex and difficult to understand, and that’s what makes her character fascinating. Charles (Jeremy Irons) is convincing as her bewildered pursuer and their journey is the most compelling aspect of the film. 
The perspective of the servant life is given its due, and in some ways it's a story designed for us to empathize with their hardship. Charles' servant Sam is frustrated by the uncertainty of his job and other servants are not able to live a happy life because of strict, bullying employers such as Mrs. Poulteney. The jumps between eras was confusing (on first watch) and the modern narrative less memorable.
The film-within-a-film reminded me of Truffaut’s Day for Night (1973), only The French Lieutenant's Woman is more emotionally involving. Truffaut’s film on the other hand does a better job of showcasing the compromises, difficulties and everyday life of shooting a film.

Bronson (2008)
Biopic based on the life of notorious English criminal with nickname Charles Bronson. I couldn’t look away from his craziness. The first 30 min when he is imprisoned is the most gripping. The scene when he takes a librarian as hostage had suspense for its unpredictability, but maybe they shouldn’t have repeated that. A questionable decision to make entertainment out of his vile behavior. You can debate if the jail time made him worse or he was always a troublemaker. The worst kind of celebrity, wanting to be famous, even if it was for being bad. The audio intro (on the dvd) suggests he’s not proud, but not ashamed of what he’s done. I forgot to mention Tom Hardy, who delivers an award worthy performance. When he smiles and then does a stone face is both creepy and somewhat comical.

Bread and Tulips (2000)
A light comedy from Italy. Very sweet. Licia Maglietta's charming lead performance makes me want to look up what other films she's done. If you are stuck in familiar routines, a story that could inspire you. About a housewife who takes a spontaneous holiday to Venice. I feel this film should be better known. The Bruno Ganz scene with the tulip petals falling off is unforgettable, although I'm not too sure why bread is in the title? Won several Italian film awards.

Danish films:

Baronessen fra benzintanken (1960)
Considered a classic of Danish cinema, but to me weaker than its reputation. A couple of amusing scenes when the water pipe bursts in the bathroom, and the party when Dirch Passer eats the oyster. Another fun moment at the party is when the servant announces the guests and someone says he ‘already knows his own name’. But a few scattered laughs does not make a great film.
There was not enough story and the pacing was too slow for a comedy. I lost patience several times and fast-forwarded until something happened. 122 minutes was way too long. Ghita Nørby is one of Denmark’s most prolific and recognizable actresses and this performance is among her signature roles. Her character is quite charming, although it was Dirch Passer in a supporting role who I think gave the most memorable performance. The special effect of the ghost was impressive when you consider the film is from 1960.

Frøken Nitouche (1963)
Another classic Dirch Passer film I knocked off my list. A sweet but predictable period musical comedy. Based on the operetta Mam'zelle Nitouche, first performed in 1883. Sometimes I rolled my eyes at how dated it is. There are a few sporadic laughs, especially when a man chases after Dirch Passer with a sword because he made passes at his lady friend. 
Favorite quote:” I can’t stand the sight of blood, especially not my own!”

Olsenbanden i Jylland / The Olsen Gang in Jutland (1971)
Some fun ideas, going to a new location outside of Copenhagen without paying for petrol, Egon using diving equipment to access the bunker, and the trio stealing a train. The usual one-liners are there which audiences expect from the series. There's suspense and even though they're crooks you want them to find the gold.
The storytelling has some flaws, too contrived that all these people happen to be looking for the treasure at the exact same time. A villain fires countless gun shots and keeps missing, that's implausible. I found the humor to be a bit juvenile, but there is a certain charm to these characters. The military is made fun of which is quite amusing.
To me, the differences between Sjaellanders and Jutlanders is not explored enough. Jutlanders are not all bonderøve/hillbillies and the script does little to dispel that fallacy for the viewer. Surely Karl Stegger's character could have looked for the gold ages ago and not just because the gang are passing by. The filmmakers decided to focus mainly on action sequences and that is what works best. As someone who lives in Jutland, visiting the filming location at Vigsø Bugt, Hanstholm is now on my bucket list.

Gasolin’ (2006)
A rather superficial documentary about arguably Denmark’s most famous rock group of the 1970s. A few interview clips with the band members, but not as a group. Too much focus on their unsuccessful America tour and not enough focus on the actual albums. Most interesting were the parts about the early years and how they started.

Any thoughts on these films and reviews? As always, I'd like to hear what you think in the comments.


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