Lazron’s Top Albums of 2016

2016, the year everyone loved to hate ! As with most years, there were a few albums that REALLY grabbed and stayed with me, and 2 of them seem to have gone completely under the radar (no better time to check them out !).

300One of my favourite releases of the year was actually a sort of re-release, albeit with half an albums worth of newly discovered, never released cuts. I really struggled with whether or not I should include it on the main list, but reasoned that I would keep my Top 10 for “New” albums, but spotlight the re-release on its own. I also discovered 3 great TV Soundtracks this year, but again decided to keep them off the main list, as all 3 had so many tracks, I just don’t know how often I’ll revisit them, separate from the shows themselves of course.

While my list doesn’t contain some albums that many seemed to love (Beyonce, Kanye, Chance, Solange, Bon Iver, Radiohead, Bowie, Danny Brown, Common, Iggy Pop, De La, etc), none of them really clicked with me personally, as entire albums. Pretty much all of them contained some good stuff, but just didn’t grab me on a consistent enough basis to include them in the list. That said, it pleases me greatly that so much music connected with listeners this year. It’s always a beautiful thing to see, and I always look forward to seeing what worked and didn’t work for people this year.

12722017 has a lot of gems on the horizon. I’m personally looking forward to new records from Arctic Monkeys, Nas, Jungle, Electric Guest, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Royal Blood, Kasabian, The Slew, The Shins, TRDMRK, Alexandra Savior, Noel Gallagher, Queens of the Stone Age & of course, the physical release of RTJ 3. I hope you discovered a lot of new gems this year, and maybe some of my picks will work for you like they did for me !

Happy New Year, and enjoy the list !!

742Honourable Mentions

GrapefruitYesterday’s Sunshine (1967-68)

grapefruit_webGrapefruit were one of the unfortunate 60’s bands that had the chops, songs & opportunity, but just didn’t blow up quickly enough. They were named by John Lennon, and even had a song produced by Lennon & McCartney ! Unfortunately, their original lineup only released one (excellent) album, 1968’s “Around Grapefruit”, before switching their sound towards Hard Rock for their second (and final) album, 1969’s “Deep Water” (which did have some good tracks, but was like a completely different band).

Grapefruit’s principle songwriter, George Alexander (aka Alexander Young) was the brother of both George Young (of The Easybeats) and Malcolm Young (of AC/DC). Despite his connection to rock royalty, Grapefruit’s timing just didn’t work out, and they broke up in late 1969. Their first record was remixed & re-recorded, but the Lennon/McCartney produced track was never released, nor were the original (non remixed) recordings, or a handful of other non-LP tracks. That situation was rectified this year with the (CD and digital only) release of “Yesterday’s Sunshine”.

This release really shines a light on what could have been, and in some ways adds to the tragedy of losing a great band too soon, as seen all too often in groups like Honeybus, The Family Tree & The World of Oz, among others. While an LP release would have been outstanding, having these recordings finally see the light of day was a joy to be a part of.

Adrian Younge & Ali Shaheed MuhammadLuke Cage OST

coverI’m pleased to admit I was wrong in my apprehension of Disney taking over Marvel (and Star Wars), much less of partnering with Netflix (a then-unknown factor, original content wise). There was a valid fear that the material would be handled with kid gloves, glossing over any violence or adult themes. Thankfully those fears were unfounded, as evidenced by all 4 seasons of Marvel Netflix TV thus far. They’ve been exactly what they needed to be, and handled with the utmost respect to the source material.

Having just finished Luke Cage, I must admit that I found it to be the lesser of the 4 seasons created for Marvel Netflix so far. This is less a knock on LC and more a praise of Daredevil & Jessica Jones. All 3 shows have their issues, but I found that Luke Cage took the longest to get going, and suffered from some problematic writing and odd choices (or lack thereof). That said, I did enjoy the series, and wouldn’t hesitate to watch a second season (I look forward to the upcoming “The Defenders”, starring JJ, DD, LC & the upcoming Iron Fist).

One of the things that worked so well for the show was it’s soundtrack. Roping in a legend in Ali Shaheed Muhammad, partnered with a modern gem like Adrian Younge was a bold and clever decision. Ironically, both producers were contacted separately, without the knowledge that they had just recorded an album together in secret ! Sometimes these things just have a way of working out. Using the club setting to have an array of musical performers was a smart choice. Coupling that with a 90’s throwback feel, the music ended up working better than some of the writing on the show itself !

Kyle Dixon & Michael SteinStranger Things OST

coverMore Netflix love, more “It was good, but …” ! Stranger Things took the world by storm and became the Must See TV of that month. While I wasn’t head over heels, lose your mind in love with the show, it did maintain my interest throughout. I have a lot of respect for the filmmakers, they really came out of nowhere with this love letter to the 80’s, an era I reluctantly admit to being born in. In some ways I was reminded of what Tarantino has done with his work, a veritable “Best Of”, influences wise. Certainly not a knock on the show, as I think it achieved exactly what it set out to do.

One of the biggest draws for me (and many others) was the throwback soundtrack that anchored the series throughout. It became one of the rare scores that can stand on it’s own two feet, separate from the source material itself. It reminded me a bit of the semi-recent score for “Turbo Kid”, a film I’d highly recommend for those into 80’s throwback type stuff. This score road the Synthwave wave, along with many others, right into the hearts of 30+ somethings everywhere,

Much like with Luke Cage, Stranger Things has such an enormous amount of tracks (75 in total), I just didn’t feel that I would revisit it enough to justify a place on my Top 10. It’s great in doses, and I love that public demand lead to an LP release, as well as a second season (and presumably more music to come with it). This score has a definite feel, and it’s pretty special that they were able to capture it so long after the era it emulates.

Ramin DjawadiWestworld OST

coverSpeaking of shows that took the (west) world by storm & were intrinsically linked to their scores, Westworld was another brain melter that gave just as much as it needed to, while making us wait 2 years for a follow up season (and score). Being set partially in a saloon, barroom piano music was integral to the shows DNA. The idea of including modern music, albeit in ragtime style, was brilliant and worked perfectly with the shows esthetic.

I was reminded at times of another HBO show with an excellent, piano driven score – The Leftovers. Both shows use their themes (piano and otherwise) to great effect, both rely on an extremely dramatic undercurrent, broken up with very occasional levity. As The Leftovers gears up for its third and final season, at least we’ll have Westworld to continue providing us with our delightful, piano-riffic score fix.

While Westworld did have far less tracks than Stranger Things and Luke Cage, I still wasn’t convinced that it would receive a ton of play from me over the years, as a complete album. While there are a handful of tracks that I loved and will absolutely revisit, it JUST missed the final 10 cut. Still, it’s well worth a listen.

The 2016 Top 10 List

10) The Last Shadow PuppetsEverything You’ve Come to Expect

music-review-last-shadow-puppets

I must confess, I was not the biggest fan of the first Last Shadow Puppets LP. As a huge Alex Turner fan, I was really excited to check out a non-Arctic Monkeys collaboration. Unfortunately, I found the first record to be a bit lost under its orchestration, some good efforts, but overall a bit aimless and overblown. The tools and skills were all there, but it was quite a disappointment after the excellence of Arctic Monkeys.

Luckily, LSP have honed their collaboration on this sophomore effort, bringing everything they do well and crafting some quality tracks in the process. While I can’t say that this is on the level of Arctic Monkeys’ output, it was never meant to be. As a side project between two friends and fellow musicians, it’s a very pleasing release.

9) The CoralDistance Inbetween

cover

I must confess, I have been a massive fan of The Coral for quite some time. Their first single, “Dreaming of You”, was an instant classic, although it took my awhile to warm up to the first record itself. It wasn’t until the first single from their sophomore release, “Pass It On”, that I went back and was blown away by the first LP. The early 2000’s were a magical time for that style of 60’s throwback rock. The Coral & The Zutons were probably my two favourites, but so many bands came out of that time, thanks to the sound The Coral brought to the fore.

Unfortunately, breaking into the US market wasn’t really in the cards. I was lucky enough to see them (and later The Zutons) in Toronto around 2003, but the place was only about half full. As each record passed, they transitioned to more of an acoustic, A/C style that was of less interest to me. In some ways I felt like Arctic Monkeys picked up where they left off, but I’d always hoped The Coral would return to their rock roots. Luckily, they did ! While “Distance Inbetween” isn’t perfect, it’s most definitely a return to form, and a gift to fans who stuck it out all these years.

8) CzarfaceA Fistful of Peril

limited-get-on-down-variant-cover-czarfaceIn some ways, I kind of view Czarface as an alternate universe Run the Jewels. Both groups have just released their third record, both have a white rapper and a black rapper who was previously in a classic hip hop group & both are able to be geeky at times while still maintaining an edge. Plus, ridiculous production, you gotta have that. Unlike RTJ though, Czarface has kind of stayed below the radar, well known to hip hop heads, but yet to achieve the universal acclaim enjoyed by RTJ.

With that said, Czarface have brought the heat yet again, proving that their chemistry and artistry is no fluke. Their devotion to a comic cover aesthetic is admirable, and enviable, a perfect fit for the multitude of comic references littered throughout. Ironically, Run the Jewels did a series of comic book covers for Marvel last year, something that probably made Czarface more envious than any other accolade RTJ has amassed. Still, all comparisons aside, as listeners WE are the real winners, getting to enjoy both albums before the dawn of 2017.

7) A Tribe Called QuestWe Got It From Here … Thank You 4 Your Service

frontBy all accounts, this is a record that should not even exist. Up until this year, and especially with the untimely death of Phife Dawg, it seemed that Tribe’s legacy would end with the uneven “The Love Movement”. Of course, regardless of that, ATCQ would have gone out with no less than 3 Classics (depending on who you ask), which is more than most groups can say in their lifetime. That said, we were blessed with a final record, made in secret & unleashed when nobody was expecting it. The problem was, could it possibly EVER live up to the hype and legacy ?

Well … no. Much like a new Beatles album, there’s simply no way to please millions of fans, many who had been following the group from their onset. Luckily, it really only needed to be better than TLM, and it certainly was ! As a 2016 Hip Hop release, Tribe delivered. As a late period addition to their catalogue, Tribe delivered. As an Instant Classic that will stand the test of time next to their other gems ? Well … just enjoy it for what it is.

6) The AvalanchesWildflower

2d3bd6cf9de70afb8992874acb2b5599-1000x1000x1Speaking of lengthy waits between records, how about 16 years between first and second albums ? True, Tribe went 18 years, but that was after a breakup and 5 albums ! It was starting to look like we would never see a follow up from The Avalanches, and the pressure was intense, considering how lauded their debut was. Amidst health issues and throwing out albums to start from scratch, 2016 was finally the year we got to hear another transmission from the top of the mountain. But was it worth the wait ?

Well … again, I suppose that depends on what type of listener you are. Their debut, “Since I Left You”, is on such a pedestal, it’s almost impossible to top or equal (for most diehards). It’s a situation many electronic artists struggle with, from RJD2, DJ Shadow, Fingathing, Portishead, Tricky and onward. Thankfully, “Wildflower” meshes very well, and rewards repeat listens. Its release also spurned a re-pressing of their debut, so if you end up hating this one, you can finally afford a copy of the other one !

5) Wax TailorBy Any Beats Necessary

recto-def-1024x1024Wax Tailor is sorely underappreciated, and virtually unknown in many places. I actually wasn’t too familiar with his work until about 2 years ago, but better late than never ! While I find some of his LP’s a bit uneven, “In the Mood for Life” really blew me away (and is highly recommended). Still, that record came out 7 years ago, and with any artist (much less a DJ or Producer) there is always the chance that the magic is lost, or at least, not consistent enough to carry an entire album.

Luckily, WT has delivered an enjoyable, partly Blues-based effort that flows nicely and doesn’t sound derivative of his earlier material. I can’t say that it reaches the heights of “In the Mood for Life”, but it does have elements of that release, as well as his other projects. Last year he released a live, orchestral backed album which was essentially a Best Of. That release dovetails nicely into this one, and both are certainly worth a listen.

4) WeezerThe White Album

weezer-weezer-white-album-2016Well, if you’d told me that a 2016 Weezer album would crack my Top 10 list (much less Top 5), I’d have said you were a piece of human garbage for spreading such lies. Yet, here we are ! Sorry for the cruel remark. Anyway, like most people, I really dug the first 2-ish Weezer records, then tuned out entirely for several (horrific sounding) albums. I felt no real urge to listen to them, neither their old OR new material. That said, I started hearing rumbles that this was a pretty solid return to form, then I found the whole thing on youtube anyway, so why not gamble with 30 minutes for an old favourite ?

As it turns out, the rumours were true. This is easily Weezers best front to back album since Pinkerton (which in some ways isn’t saying much, but is actually pretty astounding if you think about it). The way I describe it is, if you EVER liked Weezer, you’ll find something to love about this album (perhaps all of it). It would certainly be easy to dismiss, and many who haven’t heard it (or Weezer in years) will sneer and ignore it. It is what it is, but what it is may be of interest to you.

3) Boogie BelgiqueVolta

coverSpeaking of underrated producers, Boogie Belgique  is another who has released several excellent albums, but remained relatively obscure in most non-European places. BB’s style is largely Electro Swing based, meaning he combines old jazz tunes with new electro beats to make catchy and timeless new tunes (ideally). I was a bit concerned for this album, as his last 2 haven’t been front to back perfect, but I was still excited enough to pre-order it.

Luckily, BB stuck the landing and delivered arguably his most accomplished album to date. It draws on elements of his previous records, but feels BIGGER, especially production wise. I still worry that he may have reached his peak (especially if this doesn’t land), but this is one of the best records of the year. I truly hope it reaches as many ears as possible.

2) Run the JewelsRTJ3

runthejewels3Well, they’ve done it again. This time they shocked us all by dropping RTJ3 on Christmas Day, for free. Another astounding move by a group that has done so much in such a small amount of time. For Hip Hop fans, this was one of (if not the) most highly anticipated releases of the year. I have to admit, I was a bit disappointment when they moved the release to January, but anything worth having is worth waiting for (plus, I didn’t really have a choice either way).

Luckily, the album is a gem (as assumed). Easily the Hip Hop release of the year (sorry Kanye / Chance) & a triumphant conclusion to the RTJ Trilogy. Who knows what their next step will be (apart from a massive world tour), but RTJ have built up a ton of goodwill with fans, and an impressive discography. In the end, we are all witnesses …

1) La FemmeMystere

la_femme_mystere_albumLast (first?) but not least, another underrated band who will likely miss out on most End of Year lists. I had the great fortune of seeing La Femme in Montreal this year, and it was a fantastic experience (muddy sound mixing notwithstanding). Their first record, “Psycho Tropical Berlin” was another under the radar release, finishing 2nd on my Top 10 that year, second only to Arctic Monkeys’ stellar “AM”. It didn’t seem right to bump LF again, so here they are, alone at the top !

Now, of course, this won’t be for everybody. I know that some people just don’t care to listen to non-English music, and I must confess that La Femme are the only french band I listen to. That said, they make an eclectic and appealing blend of Dreamy Pop, with Rock, Rap and even Dance elements at times. Kind of a mix between Serge Gainsbourg, Portishead, Radiohead, Phantogram & Sigur Ros ? Maybe ? All that really matters is, they write great tunes, put on a great show & have released 2 highly enjoyable albums. Check them out, it just might be up your alley !

 

And that is that ! Hope you guys dug the list, and that maybe some of it works its way into your ears ! Have a great year, and keep the music coming !

  • e

2014 – A List of Things I Can’t Wait to Enjoy

With all due respect to 2013, I think it may be all but a memory when 2014 is said and done. That isn’t to say that the past year was without it’s gems, far from it. 2013 brought us the return of Anchorman, the best Arctic Monkeys album yet, an instant classic horror remake (Maniac), my engagement, a second Deltron 3030 album, an overindulgent Arcade Fire (and Eminem, and Kanye) record, and many many other occurrences.

Still, I had a hard time feeling great about 2013 while compiling this list of upcoming gems. The more I added to it, the more excited I became. And that was BEFORE 60’s Batman was announced for a DVD/Blu-Ray release ! Hell, that could be it’s own blog entry right there ! It’s not though. Anyway, I’ve separated the gems into 4 columns. TV, Music, Film & Home Video. And yes, I’m still calling it “Home Video”, I fear change !

TV

1) The Return of 24 [season 9] (May 5th)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ir9t53Dh08Q

24_Live_Another_DayI know this won’t mean much to non-diehards of the show, and even those of us who trudged through the last 3 seasons probably aren’t expecting much at this point. That said, 24 was a thrilling show that I looked forward to seeing week after week. Season 5 was the clear standout (best characters, story & villains, least junk), but I’m hoping that a change in format (from 24 episodes to 12) and location (London instead of the US) may be just what the series needs to ratchet up the tension experienced in the first 5 seasons of this groundbreaking show.

2) Better Call Saul (November)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBNs9rk0FGo

Better-Call-SaulClearly that isn’t the real intro, but I’m sure we’d all still watch it if it was. I actually didn’t catch up with Breaking Bad until this year, mainly because I’d watched the first season (& a few episodes of season 2) with my (now) ex, so it was a bit tainted for awhile. I knew I’d love it (and I did), and now that I’m caught up, I can’t wait to watch this prequel series, starring Bob Odenkirk’s popular Saul Goodman character. Clearly it won’t live up to everyone’s hype, but it’s the closest we’ll get to new episodes of BB, so bring it on !

3) The Return of Trailer Park Boys [Season 8] (TBA)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m97HE5U91VM

tpbSpeaking of shows that were once great, then got less great (but still enjoyable), TPB is coming back for an 8th (and 9th, at least) season ! There’s also a third film being released in April (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwJIDrOEPts), though I’m a bit more excited to have a regular series returning. As it turns out, the main cast members themselves have acquired the rights to the series, so I suppose we can look forward to them milking the characters to death for years to come. That said, it’s nice to see them back in TV show form, even if it ends up being online only.

4) American Horror Story [season 4] (October)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Khbhv33ab0

o-AMERICAN-HORROR-STORY-570Sadly, neither of those are real. Well, “official” that is. All we know about the upcoming season of AHS is that it will be a period piece set in 1950, and most of the cast will return (including the always excellent Jessica Lange). It may seem pretty far away (seeing as season 3 doesn’t end until tomorrow), but AHS has been a consistently fun watch over it’s 3 season run. It makes me look forward to every October even more than usual.

Home Video

1) BATMAN (TBA)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AlusgU-MUZ4

d083576dc96bccb3a19606f4fbc2ddd61e48b12I can’t even begin to tell you how outrageously excited I am for this release. This has been at the top of my list since I was a child collecting VHS and watching Batman re-runs after school. I can safely say that this is one of my favourite TV shows of all time, despite how ludicrous it became. One need only look at the blu ray transfer (and special features) given to the one-off 60’s Batman film to fathom just how good those colours can look in HD. This show was so tangled up in rights issues, I’d assumed that my black market DVD’s of studio master VHS rips was the best I’d ever get. The fact that I’ll have a blu ray copy of all 120 episodes in my hands by the end of the year is almost too much to comprehend. SO STOKED !! (P.S – that’s not official cover art, but it’s pretty sweet regardless).

2) Nightbreed – The Cabal Cut (TBA)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CX0-AlytIXY

nightbreedcabalNothing bothers me more than censorship or studio fuckery. Many films have been irrevocably ruined by studio meddlers who thought their vision trumped the filmmakers’. It’s rare that the artists get another shot to fix the mistakes of the past, but Clive Barker has been given just that. Not only will we get to see (more or less) his original vision of Nightbreed, but we’ll get it from the brilliant minds of Scream Factory, arguably the best studio for genre video releases. It’s been an ongoing struggle to wrestle the footage/rights from the studio, but this Fall it will all have been worth it (assuming the extended cut is actually good).

3) Anchorman 2 – Recut (April)

http://et.tv/1cE2B5T

anchorman-2-whysoblu-2As much as I enjoyed Anchorman 2, I couldn’t wait to see the long discussed recut version of the film. So much footage was shot for the original Anchorman that an entirely new movie was made with the leftover footage (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNWTvzLrWFA). A similar thing happened with the second film, but with a bit of a twist. Although the “recut” version will include 15-20 minutes of entirely new footage, ALL of the jokes from Anchorman 2 have been replaced with alternate jokes, 250 new jokes in total. An ambitious undertaking to be sure, but one I can’t wait to sink my teeth into.

Music

1) Johnny Cash – Out Among the Stars (March 25)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hiUaWE_Vftg

Johnny_Cash_-_Out_Among_the_Starshttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBlRx7DlL_E

It’s not often that we’re treated to a “lost” album by a certified legend. Recorded in the early 80’s, this album has never seen the light of day. We’ve become conditioned to lower our expectations when it comes to an artist of this caliber, especially for material that’s been buried for 30 years. That said, I’m excited to hear what’s been tucked away for so long.

2) Broken Bells – After the Disco (February 4th)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhBewKu80Mg

After_The_Disco_CoverDespite the pedigree of the duo involved (The Shins, Gnarls Barkley, Gorillaz, The Black Keys, Beck), I think the first Broken Bells album flew under the radar for most people. It was a lovely blend of both artists, an album that rewarded multiple spins and became all the richer for it. I’ve been fiending for a follow up record (though their Meyrin Fields EP was an enjoyable stopgap). Word is that this record is even better than the first. Can’t wait to give it a spin.

3) Kasabian – TBD (TBA)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3x_ayUaoSk

3004Not much is known about Kasabian’s upcoming fifth album, but they’ve become one of the most consistent and enjoyable UK bands in years. Only Arctic Monkeys can boast a better track record, and their recently released fifth album was their best effort yet. Can Kasabian continue that trend ? Let’s hope.

4) Ratatat – LP5 (TBA)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X827AZ_ajAs

f3158fdc5db111e3be8c12db5299872b_6Speaking of consistent bands dropping their fifth records, it seems like ages since we’ve had any new Ratatat music to enjoy. Their delicious blend of “Daft Punk meets Legend of Zelda” has served them well over the years, even leading to a production job for Kid Cudi (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXaqfllUz3k). Though LP5 hasn’t been OFFICALLY announced for 2014, I’d be shocked if we don’t have it in our hands by the end of the year.

5) Wu-Tang Clan – A Better Tomorrow (TBA)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdvsUdOssiw

Wu-Tang ClanOh, the ups and downs of being a Wu fan. I actually really enjoyed (most of) their last record “8 Diagrams”, but fans have a valid reason for being concerned with the quality of this, their (likely) last record. For years we’ve seen in-fighting, bickering, subpar solo releases and little reason to hope for the best. The latest cause for concern is Raekwon’s reluctance to add verses to the album unless he is paid upfront. Supposedly the album is finished, apart from Rae’s contribution. Truly a sad state of affairs, but either way, we’ll be getting the album soon enough.

6) DoomStarks – Swift & Changeable (TBA)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9_HY6uZwVc

Doom+Starks+doomstarks

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1-Mv2pzhh8

I’m starting to think we may never actually get this record. Supposedly they’ve been working on it for the past 7-8 years, but so far only 2 tracks have been released. On the plus side, one of those was released last year, leading me to believe that we’re closer than ever to hearing this (hopeful) gem of a record. Of course, both artists tend to spread themselves pretty thin, so who knows when we’ll actually get to hear it.

7) Nas – TBD (TBA)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJ2E-hRDfiY

NasNot much is known about the upcoming 12th Nas album, apart from the fact that it will drop in 2014 and be his last release under Def Jam. It was also recently confirmed that it will contain a track called “Sinatra in the Sands” featuring Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake. It’s also a safe bet that Kendrick Lamar will make an appearance. Can’t wait.

8) Jack White – TBD (TBA)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpK0CTEZGe8

2010jackwhitejm080112gallery0Much as it pains me to admit, I was pretty letdown by Jack White’s first solo record, “Blunderbuss”. It wasn’t a “bad” album, it just didn’t quite live up to what came before it. That said, I’m a HUGE Jack White fan. I think he’s one of the last real rock stars, and I’ll always check out anything he lends his talents to. Fingers crossed that his second record knocks it out of the park.

9) The Slew – TBD (TBA)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5kVrbs2B6XA

TheSlew_Band_2_16x9_620x350Speaking of albums that flew under the radar, hardly anybody seemed to notice when Kid Koala (Deltron 3030, Bullfrog) teamed up with the 2 former members of Wolfmother (when they were good) to create The Slew. It was an incredible show and album, featuring 2 DJ’s and a live rhythm section. 2014 will bring us the next chapter in their sound, but I urge you to check out 100%, great record.

Film

1) Dumb and Dumber To (November 14th)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMXwrJV3W98

dumb-and-dumber-to-set-09242013-102002I wish I had a trailer for you, but that TV spot was pretty great for 2 reasons. First, she said ‘we’ve all been waiting 20 years for this”, but appears to be about 23-25, so there’s that. Second, she pronounced the name Harry “Doon” instead of “Done”. Bit awkward for someone who’s been waiting for a movie since she was a toddler ! ANYway, Dumb & Dumber was an instant classic, much like Anchorman. I never thought we’d get a sequel to either, but to get BOTH seems to make this the best year ever !

2) Sin City 2 – A Dame to Kill For (August 22nd)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDYsUl5-9Gk

Sin-City-A-Dame-to-Kill-For-teaser-posterSpeaking of sequels I never thought we’d see, this year we’re being blessed with a follow up to the visually astounding Sin City. I couldn’t believe how awesome the trailer looked when the first movie arrived, and the film itself did not disappoint. I can’t help but think this will be a highlight of the summer.

3) X-Men – Days of Future Past (May 23rd)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pK2zYHWDZKo

X-Men_Days_of_Future_Past_posterI have to admit, I’m more excited about this film due to “X-Men First Class” rather than the first 3 X-Men films. Not that they were bad (maybe the third one), but First Class was the only one of the four that really blew me away. Excellent acting, cool storyline, good casting, etc. I’m hoping that Bryan Singer (director of the first two) is able to bridge the universes properly, but I’m certainly a bit cautious about this one.

4) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (July 11th)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0wP5ZkaUGg

Dawn_of_the_Planet_of_the_ApesI’m actually a pretty big fan of the Planet of the Apes series, but even I was taken aback by how good the prequel/reboot was. It was arguably the best film of the entire series, and I’m still kicking myself for not catching it in theaters. I won’t make the same mistake twice, I just hope my diligence pays off.

5) REC 4 (October 18th)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApWyHgYZFqQ

REC_4_PosterThe original REC was one of the greatest “found footage” horror films ever made. Unfortunately it spawned a horrible remake (Quarantine), which itself had an unrelated, direct to video sequel that nobody cared about. REC 4 will be a sequel to the well received REC 2, picking up immediately after it ended. I still haven’t watched REC 3, but it’s set at a wedding, so it should coincide nicely with my own impending nuptials.

6) Interstellar (November 7th)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WzHXI5HizQ

interstellar-christopher-nolan-posterI don’t know too much about this one, but all that really matters is the director (Christopher Nolan) and the cast (Matthew McConaughey, Ellen Burstyn, Matt Damon, Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway, John Lithgow). After The Dark Knight, Memento, The Prestige and Inception, it’s hard to think Nolan will drop the ball on this one. Sign me up !

7) The Grand Budapest Hotel (March 7th)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Fg5iWmQjwk

The_Grand_Budapest_Hotel_PosterSpeaking of reliable directors, you either dig Wes Anderson or you don’t. I’m not a fanatical Anderson Defender, but I’ve loved most of his output, including his most recent offering, Moonrise Kingdom (which ranked among his best). As usual, the cast is great, the tone is quirky and the seats will be filled.

8) Grand Piano (January 30th)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nEoM7bM7KVw

Grand_Piano_Official_PosterIt’s hard to believe how far Elijah Wood has come. From “The Good Son” to Middle Earth to Sin City to Maniac, the boy can act ! The premise of this one sounds a bit like Phone Booth meets Amadeus (alright, it’s the first movie I thought of involving a piano), and it’s been garnering rave reviews on the festival circuit. Catch it On Demand in January or in theaters this March.

9) The Town that Dreaded Sundown (TBA)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njIN4eHJKWM

The-Town-That-Dreaded-SundownSpeaking of Elijah Wood, his turn in last years “Maniac” remake further solidified his acting chops. Will “The Town that Dreaded Sundown” be this years semi-obscure indie horror remake that improves on the original ? In the hands of American Horror Story’s Ryan Murphy, I’ve got pretty high hopes for it.

In Closing

There are certainly many other projects that I’m excited about this year, as well as many I’m sure I don’t even know about yet ! There’s been a strong rumour that The Kinks may re-form this year (for the first time since the mid-90’s). I’ve heard those rumours before, so I tend not to get too excited. That said, if it doesn’t happen this year (the 50th Anniversary of their first album) it’ll never happen. Fingers crossed they can overcome their differences and head out, one last time.

Apart from all that, I’ve got my aforementioned wedding to look forward to in 5 months. For that reason alone it’ll be hard to top 2014 as one of the highlights of my life. But then I found out Batman was coming out too. How lucky can one guy be ?!

Till’ Next,

– e

Lazron’s October Horrorthon 2013

Well, it’s that time of year again. The time where I’m not the only person lovingly busting through as many horror flicks as possible. I’d argue that Halloween is my favourite holiday, though I’m also partial to Christmas. That said, my Christmas Horrorthon is never as good as my October Horrorthon, so Halloween might have the edge here.

I’ve been doing this for a few years now, much to the occasional chagrin of relationships past and present. As with most things, there’s been ups and downs. Lack of sleep, regrettable film choices, amazingly obscure soundtracks, it’s all been part of the fun in this horrific October learning curve.

This year will be a little different than years past. For one thing I’ve decided to pick 31 films I hadn’t seen before. Traditionally I’d watched the classic “Trick r’ Treat” on Halloween and “Halloween II” on the 30th. As much as I love those films, and I may still sneak them in, I felt there was already a glut of cinematic atrocities that remained to be seen, thus the painful decision to carry on without those two mainstays.

The other difference between this year and years past will be my inability to watch one film per night. I’ll still be watching (at least) 31 films over the month, but I’ll be out of town 3 days for a wedding, which is apparently more important than terror films. Hopefully I can sneak on the wedding-themed “Rec 3”, but it’s probably best not to ruin everybody’s joyous occasion. Not deliberately anyway.

Those caveats aside, I’m genuinely stoked to be starting another epic list of horror gems. In years past I’ve discovered some truly enjoyable flicks, including Nightmare City, Some Guy Who Kills People & The Dead. Of course, there’s also been stuff like The Burrowers & Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2, so it could go either way.

Another thing I’ve tried with this years list is including youtube links to full movies whenever possible. This will theoretically allow you to watch along with me ! Though you and I both know that’s not going to happen. Still, a surprising amount of them have been uploaded, thumbs up for modern technology.

Anyway, without further adieu, I present you with the latest installment of …

Lazron’s October Horrorthon 2013

1) Night of the Demons (1988)

night-of-the-demons-movie-poster-1989-1020204365“A group of teens decides to have a Halloween party up at the deserted funeral parlor. They accidentally awaken a demon while having a seance. The demon enters the body of one of the women, and soon the teens begin experiencing an attrition problem.”

At one time I actually owned this movie, though I never ended up watching it. I think it was on one of HMV’s 5-8$ Super Sales and seemed too good to pass up. That is, until I ended up selling it before viewing it. That said, it’s got a solid fanbase, multiple sequels and has since been remade. Seems like as good a film as any to kick of the holidays !

2) Curse of Chucky (2013)

Curse-of-Chucky-poster-art“After her mother’s mysterious death, Nica begins to suspect that the talking, red-haired doll her visiting niece has been playing with may be the key to recent bloodshed and chaos.”

I’m not really much of a Child’s Play fan, though I did enjoy Bride and Seed of Chucky. I’ve always found the originals to be fairly boring and unworthy of returning to. It’s rare for a film series, especially horror, to hit its’ stride on the fourth entry, but that’s precisely what many would agree happened in this case. This sixth film (all have been written by creator Don Mancini) is a direct to video affair, though it’s gotten good early reviews and is said to tie the series together nicely. Colour me intrigued.

3) Dr Phibes Rises Again (1972)

014“The vengeful Doctor rises again, seeking the Scrolls of Life in an attempt to resurrect his deceased wife.”

I’m a big fan of Vincent Price and would have to place the original Dr. Phibes film in my top 5 of his work. That film had a perfect ending, one which didn’t seem to leave room for a sequel (much like “The Descent”). I vaguely recall watching this follow up film when I was younger, though I dismissed it as a less than stellar rehash of the original. That said, my love for the original and distance between viewings has lead me to give it another chance. There was actually a third film planned (a script was eventually leaked online) but alas, it was not to be.

4) Body Melt (1993)

body_melt_1993“Residents of peaceful Pebbles Court, Homesville, are being used unknowingly as test experiments for a new ‘Body Drug’ that causes rapid body decomposition (melting skin etc.) and painful death.”

I’ve had a copy of this one for awhile but I’d always heard mixed reviews. I’m kind of a sucker for low budget melting movies though (Street Trash, Slime City, The Stuff), so I think it’s finally time to see whether or not this fits in the pantheon of Melted Masterpieces.

5) Nomads (1986)

NoMads“A French anthropologist moves to Los Angeles and is followed by the evil spirits of an extinct tribe he once uncovered.”

It’s hard not to enjoy seeing Pierce Brosnan in strange, pre-Bond forays (The Lawnmower Man, Mrs. Doubtfire. Nomads). Even in post-Bond efforts his appearance tends to bring a smile to my face. Brosnan made “Nomads” in between seasons of “Remington Steele”, and it actually has a fairly solid fanbase behind it. It doesn’t hurt that it was writer/director John McTiernan’s first film (over the next two years he’d make Predator and Die Hard). I’m most excited to see Pierce playing a french archeologist though. Spot on casting !

6) Slime City Massacre (2010)

SLIMECITYSMALLSIZEPOSTER“In the wake of a “dirty bomb” attack, a New York City neighborhood known as “Slime City” has been evacuated, except for the homeless (“displaced refugees”). Four squatters searching for food in the ruins of the Zachary Devon Soup Kitchen discover a supply of Zachary Devon’s Home Brewed Elixir and Himalayan Yogurt. When they drink the elixir and eat the yogurt, they are transformed into hideous slime creatures driven to murder – an intermediate step as they are possessed by the spirits of Zachary Devon and the members of his Coven of Flesh, who committed suicide years earlier. When a greedy developer sets his sites on Slime City, he hires a team of mercenaries to wipe out the homeless population. It’s a battle royale between the Slime Heads, the mercenaries, and bloodthirsty mutant cannibals!”

I tried to make a double bill of both Slime City films at one point, but I never got around to watching this one. Waiting 22 years between sequels is certainly uncommon, though “Godfather of Gore” Herschell Gordon Lewis waited 39 years between Blood Feast 1 & 2, so maybe 22 isn’t so bad. I guess we’ll find out what 22 years of fundraising buys you.

7) Terror Train (1980)

terror-train-poster“A masked killer targets six college kids responsible for a prank gone wrong years earlier and whom are currently throwing a large New Year’s Eve costume party aboard a moving train.”

This was Jamie Lee Curtis’ fourth film, following the triple threat of Halloween, The Fog and Prom Night (which have all been remade, terribly). I remember the Scream channel playing this one regularly, though I never got around to actually seeing it. I’ve heard nothing but good things about it though, so my hopes are pretty high.

8) The Bird with Crystal Plumage (1970)

argento-ucello-poster“A writer is stalked by a serial killer after witnessing a murder attempt on one woman’s life.”

I must confess, I’ve never been a huge fan of Dario Argento. I was always more of a Lucio Fulci fan, which is borderline sacrilege. I don’t deny that Argento is the more accomplished filmmaker, I just always preferred Fulci’s over the top gore to Argento’s subtle mastery. That said, I’ve set out to rectify my lack of Argento viewings by loading up on his films in this years Horrorthon. With 3 titles on the list, it’s up to his work to speak for itself.

9) No One Lives (2012)

no-one-lives-movie-wallpaper-26“A gang of ruthless highway killers kidnap a wealthy couple traveling cross country only to shockingly discover that things are not what they seem.”

I’ve heard pretty good things about this one, though I didn’t get around to seeing it in it’s brief theatrical run. Director Ryuhei Kitamura has made some incredibly enjoyable films, including Azumi, Godzilla – Final Wars, Versus, Sky High and Midnight Meat Train. None of those films are perfect (with the possible exception of Azumi), but he has an incredibly kinetic visual style that often makes up for any shortcomings in his stories.

10) Stagefright (1987)

stage-fright-deliria“A troupe of struggling stage actors is rehearsing for a small-town production of a play. Everything seems to be as it should until one of the cast members turns up dead. In a panic, the others try to get out, only to find they are now locked in the theater with the killer! Which one of them committed the murder, and who will get out alive?”

This is said to be something of a lost gem of the 80’s slasher set. It was produced by Joe D’Amato, a director best known for quickly made and cheaply produced grindhouse films. He did direct the infamous Anthropophagus and Beyond the Darkness (also featured on this list), so maybe his influence paid off in the end.

11) The Night Flier (1997)

night_flier_poster_01“A reporter is on the trail of a vampiric murderer who travels by plane.”

This is one of the least discussed and highly regarded Stephen King adaptations ever put to film. I’d never even heard of it for years, but it’s legend has slowly grown over time. I’m a big fan of The Mist and The Shawshank Redemption, but as long as this is better than Under the Dome and Sleepwalkers I’ll be just fine.

12) Beyond the Darkness (1979)

beyondthedarknessposter“A young rich orphan loses his fiancée to voodoo doll mischief on the part of his housekeeper who is jealous of his attentions. He digs his girlfriend up, cleans her out, stuffs her, and puts her in bed at the mansion. Following this, he tries out and disposes of a series of young maidens, trying to find the right replacement for her, and the disapproving housekeeper helps him with the disposals.”

As previously mentioned, this is one of the few Joe D’Amato films that has actually received critical acclaim over the years. Much like Anthropophangus, much of the film’s notoriety lies in it’s extreme violence. In fact, its remained banned in Australia for the past 21 years due to its content. Challenge accepted.

13) Cannibal Apocalypse (1980)

Cannibal_Apocalypse-1980-Poster“Giovanni Lambardo Radice and John Saxon are Vietman vets that bring back contagious virus that turn people into cannibals when bitten.”

I actually did have this on several weeks ago, but I tuned out the minute I heard the opening theme. It was so incredibly funky that I knew I needed to make a beat out of it. I spent the rest of the film creating the best beat I’ve ever made, at the cost of following the plot itself. All in all, it was totally worth it, but I would like to give it another go.

14) Dust Devil (1992)

dust-devil-movie-poster-1992-1020470855“A woman on the run from her abusive husband encounters a mysterious hitch-hiker.”

This is another film I’ve heard nothing but good things about. The original version of the film ran 120 minutes, which was later trimmed to 110. After that, a 95 minute version was tested, later trimmed to 87 minutes (much to the chagrin of the writer/director). Since then a 105 minute “Final Cut” and 114 minute “Director’s Cut” have surfaced, all making it extremely difficult to decide which version to choose.

15) The Beast Within (1982)

240984-1020-a“In the beginning of the movie you see a woman getting raped by a man-creature of some sort. The movie takes place years later when the child that was a result of that rape is on the rampage looking for a girl to rape to start the process all over again.”

Another favourite of the Scream channel, this film will be receiving a long overdue blu ray release by cult label Scream Factory (no relation to the channel). I’ve never been a huge werewolf fan, but if the transformation scenes are anything like An American Werewolf in London, this may well be worth the wait.

16) All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006/2013)

all-the-boys-love-mandy-lane-2006-poster-2“A group of high-schoolers invite Mandy Lane, a good girl who became quite hot over the summer, to a weekend party on a secluded ranch. While the festivities rage on, the number of revelers begins to drop quite mysteriously.”

Speaking of films being worth the wait, this was originally scheduled for release in 2006 ! It’s just now receiving a theatrical release (despite leaking online years ago). I’ve heard conflicting reviews on its quality, but my expectations are low enough that I may well enjoy myself.

17) REC 2 (2009)

rec2-QUADv4-final_RGB_LORES“The action continues from [Rec], with the medical officer and a SWAT team outfitted with video cameras are sent into the sealed off apartment to control the situation.”

I’m a huge fan of the original REC (possibly the best found footage horror to date) and have been trying to watch this well reviewed follow up for years now. I think both REC 2 and 3 were on last years’ Horrorthon list, but for whatever reason (likely subtitle reading laziness) they were bumped. I feel it’s finally time to get through these, just in time for next years’ REC 4 !

18) REC 3 (2012)

rec3“A couple’s wedding day turns horrific as some of the guests start showing signs of a strange illness.”

It’s borderline ironic that I’ve not seen this third REC film yet, as I’ll be getting married in June and will now know what to look out for if our guests start murdering each other. In their defense though, it’s more likely to be dessert bar related than demonic possession. Still, can’t be too careful these days …

19) Opera (1987)

Opera“A young opperata is stalked by a deranged fan bent on killing the people associated with her to claim her for himself.”

Our second Argento film is the highly regarded Opera, sometimes known as “Terror at the Opera” (probably to keep from confusing Opera fans who inadvertently rented the wrong tape). I’m a big fan of the iconic cover image and hope the ensuing film lives up to it.

20) Wicked Little Things (2006)

POSTER - WICKED LITTLE THINGS (2)“Karen, Sarah, and Emma Tunney are all moving to a small town in Pennsylvania where, unknown to them, in 1913, a horrid mine accident trapped dozens of children alive, underground. But there’s a problem. They’re still alive.”

The premise of this one always intrigued me, a sort of Night of the Living Dead meets Children of the Corn I suppose. One of the overseas titles for it was simply “Zombies”, so at this point I’m really not sure what to expect.

21) The Kindred (1987)

kindred_poster_01“Amanda’s deathbed request to her son, John, was for him to destroy all the lab notes etc. from her last experiment. She also blurts out he had a brother. At the funeral John meets Melissa, who claims to be his mothers biggest fan. Together with some of John’s friends they go to Amanda’s house, but none are prepared for what they find there.”

From what I can tell, this seems to be a film that relies mostly on creature effects to sell its story. The first film that comes to my mind in that category is the 1982 alien classic “Xtro” (released 4 days after I was born !). If this one comes anywhere close to that level of enjoyment, I’ll be pleased as punch.

22) Midnight (1982)

Midnight“A teenage girl runs away from home because police officer/stepfather puts the moves on her. Hitchhiking to California, she’s picked up by two guys who are also traveling cross-country. Along the way, they decide to camp out in the woods and run across a family of Satanists who keep their dead mother in the attic.”

This one is a bit of an odd duck. From what I can tell, the story has nothing to do with zombies, however, that poster would have you believe otherwise. This likely stems from the fact that its’ writer/director was the co-writer of Night of the Living Dead. Seeking to cash in on any remaining brand recognition seems to have brought on some very misleading marketing tactics. Still, it’s kind of a cool poster.

23) Come Out and Play (2012)

come-out-and-play-hires“A couple take a vacation to a remote island – their last holiday together before they become parents. Soon after their arrival, they notice that no adults seem to be present – an observation that quickly presents a nightmarish reality.”

This one is a remake of the lesser known spanish film “Who Can Kill a Child?”. While its long been known that no american studio would attempt a remake, this mexican made effort was willing to give it a try. From what I’ve heard, it’s essentially a shot for shot remake that pales in comparison to the original. Still, the subject matter is intriguing enough to give it a shot.

24) The Child (1977)

child_1977_poster_01“A newly-hired housekeeper in a remote area is alarmed to discover that her boss’s eleven-year-old daughter is using her supernatural powers to take revenge on the people she holds responsible for her mother’s death, with the aid of her flesh-eating zombie ‘friends’…”

I always think it’s wild when I find out a film like this was made the same year as Star Wars. I mean, the subject matter couldn’t be any different if they tried ! I’ve heard that this is quite an odd film, even more than the synopsis would have you believe. I’m kind of a sucker for lesser known zombie flicks though, so this one got the late add on.

25) The Boneyard (1991)

the_boneyard_german_custom-cdcovers“Children turned into zombies wreak havoc in a coroner’s building with just a burned-out psychic, an experienced cop and two coroners to stop the madness.”

I’m not sure what to think of this one. Apparently it starts strong but has a ridiculous second half, featuring an appearance by Phyllis Diller ! Still, it’s apparently saved by some excellent makeup effects that make the experience much more palatable. Here’s hoping.

26) The Bay (2012)

OR_The Bay 2012 movie Wallpaper 1280x1024“Chaos breaks out in a small Maryland town after an ecological disaster occurs.”

I was definitely thrown off when I heard that the academy award winning director of The Natural, Good Morning Vietnam and Rain Man would be making a found footage horror film. I mean, I guess it’s all the rage now, but it still seemed odd. Reviews were mixed, but the story is an interesting one, and not entirely unrealistic subject matter.

27) The Keep (1983)

aaaaaaa“Nazis are forced to turn to a Jewish historian for help in battling the ancient demon they have inadvertently freed from its prison.”

Speaking of well known directors, I’ve been meaning to watch Michael Mann’s sophmore effort for years now. Another casualty of last years’ list, this year I’m determined to get through it. As cool as the story is, I’ve learned to temper my expectations after years of mixed reviews.

28) The Orphanage (2007)

the-orphanage-poster-800“A woman brings her family back to her childhood home, which used to be an orphanage for handicapped children. Before long, her son starts to communicate with an invisible new friend.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum, this film has received nearly universal acclaim. Produced by Guillermo Del Toro, I’ve had this recommended to me countless times over the years. I’ve tried not to get my hopes up, but it has to at least be better than “Orphan”.

29) We Are What We Are (2010)

“When the patriarch of the family passes away, the teenage children must take responsibility for the family chores: the preparation of the rituals, the hunting and putting the all-important meat on the table. These newfound responsibilities are even more daunting, however, when you live in the city and happen to be a family of cannibals.”

This was recently remade, though I felt it best to watch the original before the american version is released. Supposedly they’re quite different takes on the material, but I still would have been upset had I seen Quarantine before REC.

30) The Innkeepers (2011)

ExclInnkeepersBig“During the final days at the Yankee Pedlar Inn, two employees determined to reveal the hotel’s haunted past begin to experience disturbing events as old guests check in for a stay.”

I’m not really a huge Ti West fan, though he gets a lot of respect for his throwback-style of filmmaking. I tried to love The House of the Devil, but it was a bit too slow moving for my tastes. Here’s hoping West wins me over with this one.

31) Tenebrae (1982)

tenebre_poster_01“An American writer in Rome is stalked by a serial killer bent on harassing him while killing all people associated with his work on his latest book.”

Our third (and final) Argento film is the classic Tenebrae. It was a bit tough to pick and choose which of his films to watch, though I’d already seen Inferno, Suspiria and Deep Red (my personal favourite). I’m not a huge Giallo fan, but I do love a good mystery. Fingers crossed for this one.

002And there you have it ! Another dreadfully delightful list of 31 terror-riffic treats to fill my head with visions of rotting sugarplums and severed limbs and the like. I’ll do my best to update my reviews daily throughout October, but it’s gonna be a bit of an odd Horrorthon this year, just the way I like it !

Till’ next time, smoke em’ if you gut em’ !

– e

10 Great Lesser Known 60’s Psych/Pop Albums You May Love

One thing I love about music is the thrill of the hunt, the crate-digging (virtual or actual) that eventually pays off in the discovery of a previously unknown gem. Of course, the gems are often few and far between, sandwiched between Moe Koffman comps and Lithuanian hip hop albums (if you’re lucky).

It can often be discouraging when one thinks of the onslaught of albums already released and the plethora still released on a weekly basis. It can be exhausting and nearly impossible to wrap your head around, yet all the more rewarding when a new gem is unearthed.

I’ve always taken it upon myself to pass on such gems to those I felt would glean that same joy from them. It began with passing along mixtapes, emailing mp3’s, even swapping vinyls with like-minded individuals. One of my favourite things about working at HMV was the ability to pass on recommendations to those who would otherwise not have enjoyed them. Well, that and the deep discount on vinyl.

All of this leads us to today’s (long gestating) post. I pride myself on having a wide breadth of knowledge and tastes when it comes to music. I love Folk, Rap, Rock, Blues, Electronic, (old) Country, even Classical. To me, a good song is a good song, regardless of genre.

That said, arguably my favourite style of music is 60’s/70’s Psychedelic Pop. A lot of it is the production, the feel of the music itself, the inherent catchiness of oh so many “Beatle-esque” groups to follow the wake of mania. For me, there’s just something about a catchy 3 minute 60’s psych-pop track with gorgeous harmonies and interesting production. I can’t explain it much more than to dub it a sort of aural magic, rarely mastered but always welcome.

Over the years I’ve sifted through countless of these albums, 90% of them subpar or good for 1 or 2 decent tracks. In a genre championed by many Nuggets-type compilations, finding a lesser known front to back quality album is next to impossible.

For that reason, and of course my love of passing on great albums, I decided to compile a list of 10 great lesser known 60’s Pop-Psych albums that you may love (thus the title). Obviously I avoided well known classics like “Odessey and Oracle” or “Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake”, but in my opinion all 10 of these underrated classics deserves a place in your heart.

1) Nirvana – The Story of Simon Simopath (1967)

Nirvana - The Story of Simon Simopath (1967)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nl2ygWrUhw

Not to be confused with that “other” band (who they later sued), this 1967 gem was one of the first concept albums (and not the only one to be featured on this list). It tells the story of Simon Simopath, from life to death. Running a scant 25 minutes in length, TSOSS races by, but never feels rushed. It plays as a complete experience rather than a collection of tracks, though “Lonely Boy” and “1999” are enjoyable standouts.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xoG7BZnfvKE

nirvana2Nirvana was essentially a duo who hired extra studio musicians to complete their albums and play various shows / television appearances (including a memorable one in which they were covered in black paint by Salvador Dali. Weird). They’ve since regrouped and have continued to play shows to this day (much to the chagrin of confused grunge fans everywhere).

Their follow up album “All of Us” (containing their two best known tracks, “Rainbow Chaser” and the title track) is enjoyable in its own right, but for my money, “Simon” is where it’s at.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g62F3iUI8yM

2) The Family Tree – Miss Butters (1968)

buttershttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4i78Qoaa7M

“Miss Butters” is an album that should really have a much larger following than it does. It’s catchy and well written (one of the songs is co-written by Harry Nilsson himself), truly a delight from start to finish. The first time I discovered it I couldn’t believe it had eluded my ears for so long. Much like Simon Simpopath, Miss Butters is one of the earliest concept albums and tells the story of its title character, from birth to death.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBcQYbjoGog

84135The Family Tree was the brainchild of Bob Segarini, a man I was lucky enough to speak with and properly thank for creating such a gem of a record. “Miss Butters” was their only full length record, though they did record a handful of other singles before disbanding. It’s interesting to note that “Miss Butters” was produced and arranged by the same two men who worked on Nilsson’s “Aerial Ballet” (another favourite of mine). Their skills certainly lend a wonderful, almost ethereal quality to the proceedings.

In my mind “Miss Butters” is one of the greatest lesser known 60’s pop records of all time. The story is interesting and well told, the music is timeless and the harmonies can’t be beat. Simply put, “Miss Butters” is the kind of record you spend a lifetime digging crates to find.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45W6wQiy6RU

3) Grapefruit – Around Grapefruit (1968)

Grapefruit - Around Grapefruit [1968]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNO9KXAm23c

I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t come across this record until earlier this year, but it’s easily one of the best albums on this list. The production, the vocals, the hooks, the weird cover art, it’s all here ! I remember listening to this for the first time and praying that it would maintain its quality throughout the entire record. Luckily for me (and you), it’s not only an enjoyable record from start to finish, it even has a great b-side (“The Dead Boot”) !

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ZzFif7tSt4

Grapefruit-Around-the-BBCGrapefruit were an interesting band for a number of reasons. One of their members (George Alexander, born Alexander Young) was the brother of AC/DC founders Malcolm and Angus Young as well as George Young of The Easybeats (impressive family). In addition to this, they were named by none other than John Lennon himself (after Yoko Ono’s book “Grapefruit”). They were originally signed to Apple Records, though the label was not up and running in time and “Around Grapefruit” was released by Decca instead.

Despite releasing a few relatively successful singles, the record was not nearly as successful as all involved had hoped it would be. For their second (and last) record “Deep Water” they ditched their psych-pop sound entirely, favouring a harder rock sound (much to the chagrin of their fanbase). Again, success eluded them and Grapefruit disbanded, leaving behind a gorgeous pop masterpiece just waiting to be discovered.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V920QCpX3LU&list=PLFBA375907CCA4341

(Sidenote – In their defence, “Deep Water” did have the awesome “Universal Party”, which really should have been a hit. Truly a band gone too soon)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7osvKNBR2Q

4) The Idle Race – Birthday Party (1968)

bpartyhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhLs4Q8OguQ

Unlike most of the groups on this list, The Idle Race are somewhat better known. This is mostly due to their singer/songwriter, the incomparable Jeff Lynne. Before he jumped ship to join The Move, ELO, The Traveling Wilburys or write/produce Tom Petty’s biggest hits, Lynne anchored The Idle Race and made this incredible record. The Beatles influence is undeniable, but never comes across as subpar or ripped off. Lynne’s ear for melody and songwriting chops are incredible, making this genuinely feel like a lost Beatles album at times.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUfMre3-Kg0

idle_bannerIt’s ironic that Lynne is the least recognizable of The Traveling Wilburys, as he was arguably the most prolific. He was in no less than 4 groups who released multiple albums, he released 2 solo albums, wrote and recorded for countless artists (including re-invigorating the career of one of his heroes, George Harrison) and when someone needed to sift through and produce the 2 “lost” Beatles Anthology tracks (“Free as a Bird” and “Real Love”) it was Lynne that was brought on board to essentially be the 5th Beatle.

The results of those sessions were astounding, especially considering what he had to work with. It all began with The Idle Race, and even then his talents were easy to hear. Lynne left the group after their second album was released. The Idle Race soldiered on with a Lynne-less third record (which actually wasn’t bad), but “The Birthday Party” was truly their masterpiece.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLlBCLYO0FU

5) The Move – The Move (1968)

the-move-the-move-1968http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5izMtCJTno

Speaking of “The Move”, one could argue that they were actually not so lesser known. They had 9 top 20 UK hits in a 5 year span and were actually quite successful there. That said, and like countless british bands before and since, success in the United States always eluded them.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-HOUJGHVrUg

themoveFounded in 1965, The Move are probably best known for eccentric singer/songwriter Roy Wood. Wood had become friends with Jeff Lynne and offered to bring him on as a member of The Move, though Lynne initially declined, preferring to focus on The Idle Race instead. While Lynne would eventually join The Move for their third and fourth albums, it’s their self titled debut album that’s always stuck with me.

Oddly enough, The Move had arguably better non-album tracks than album tracks, especially for their second and third albums. Tracks like “Blackberry Way”, “This Time Tomorrow”, “Curly” and “Tonight” were among their strongest. I would also reccomend Wood’s 1973 solo album “Boulders”, another underrated gem.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3f9t_ia3FE

6) The Paper Garden – The Paper Garden (1969)

The Paper Garden album by Paper Garden-1968http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjI9ywWOUMY

The Paper Garden is another band that I only recently discovered. Unlike most of the other bands on this list, The Paper Garden were an american group, hailing from New York. This obscure album was to be their only release, though that almost adds to it’s appeal.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQRR5s6yLcE

bThe sound of the album is something of an amalgamation of Grapefruit, The Zombies, Nirvana and even a bit of Pink Floyd. While not nearly as flawless a release as, say, “Miss Butters” or “Around Grapefruit”, the production is excellent and some of the songs are absolute gems (especially “Gypsy Wine” and “Mr. Mortimer”). All in all, a pleasing listen with a bit of clutter here and there.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjI9ywWOUMY&list=PLAFE464A2A135C113

7) The Poppy Family – Which Way You Goin’ Billy? (1969)

poppy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7F94g9EaXO8

The lone Canadian act on this list, The Poppy Family were best known for the title track of this album, the worldwide smash “Which way you goin’ Billy ?”. Oddly enough, it’s the one track on here that I don’t really care for. I mean, it’s okay, but a bit sacchirine, and nowhere near as good as the rest of the album.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlke44q6JIg

tumblr_m4ystfOlzW1rvvx1oo1_500The Poppy Family were essentially husband and wife duo Terry and Susan Jacks. This album featured two additional musicians, but they were both released following this record. The Poppy Family released one more album before divorcing and heading off into solo careers, but it was much more of a country record than a psych-pop one (sadly).

I first heard their music when I discovered a stack of records in a vacant lot near my apartment. One of those records was their “Beyond the Clouds / Free from the City” single. I really dug the sound of it and quickly tracked down the surrounding album. Interestingly, I realized that I’d heard elements of two tracks (“What Can the Matter Be?” and “Of Cities and Escapes”) sampled on the classic debut hip hop record by Deltron 3030. Neat !

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbaDQyfDlRM

8) The World of Oz – The World of Oz (1969)

Oz - Fronthttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JA-zKzB5ujM

Don’t let the name or cover art fool you, this album has nothing to do with the L Frank Baum stories. Like most 60’s psych-pop bands, The World of Oz faded into obscurity after releasing their lone album. Unlike most of those bands however, they were signed by the famous Deram label and given the use of a 33 piece orchestra. The results sound amazing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PiFwvsK9ny4

hqdefaultWhile lyrical depth is not something they were known for, the lush production and angelic vocals really set this record apart from the legions of other pop offerings. Their best known track, “The Muffin Man”, is a bit silly, but damn if it doesn’t lodge itself into your brain. There’s certainly a “Twee” element to a lot of their material, but the harmonies and orchestral backing are transcendant at times.

Despite releasing a few moderately successful follow up singles, The World of Oz faded into obscurity. Likely they were hindered by listeners who confused them with some sort of Oz tie-in soundtrack. The album has since become a highly sought collectable. In addition, they too had a great b-side (“Peter’s Birthday”). All in all, the album may not be high art, but it sure tastes sweet to the ears.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjcbkgSDrMo

9) Honeybus – Story (1970)

Honeybus-Storyhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmXN_5pXYjo

Much like “Around Grapefruit”, “Story” is an incredible record that deserves to be known as a classic. Honeybus are mainly known for their hit song “I Can’t Let Maggie Go”. As good as that song is, it certainly doesn’t prepare you for their full length record. Oddly enough, it isn’t even ON their record, though it certainly doesn’t suffer for it’s exclusion.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btHlHDWyXd0

Honeybus-2

Honeybus are a bit of an odd case. The man who wrote their biggest hit (Pete Dello) left the group before they began recording “Story” and doesn’t even feature on the album ! Essentially, the group was forever linked with a song that someone no longer part of the group had written. You’d think his departure would have an adverse effect, but as it turned out, members Ray Cane and Colin Hare were both gifted songwriters in their own right.

Somewhat like The Zombies after the completion of “Odessey and Oracle”, Honeybus broke up before their record had a chance to catch on. Dello would later re-join the group for a second album (which was recorded but never released), but further success was sadly not to be. Both Dello and Hare released excellent solo albums in the early 70’s, but the feel of the original record may never be topped.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yF61kPhqvwM&list=PLB933A41659C76EFE

10) The Pretty Things – Parachute (1970)

170786http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnGNDJvZS_w

While technically a cheat (since this was released in 1970), this album was just too good to omit. I’ll also admit that the album isn’t exactly “pop”, though it features enough hooks and catchy material to at least flirt with that title.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlk1m6LOuCU

7358

The Pretty Things are a bit of an odd duck. They were quite prolific and dabbled in many different genres. That said, I can’t say I’m a huge fan of theirs in general. Oddly enough, my first exposure to their music was very likely their track “Cause I’m a Man” from the original Dawn of the Dead. Of course, I didn’t know it was them at the time, but I suppose that goes to demonstrate their versatility.

Their previous album, “S.F. Sorrow” was another concept album (and actually would make more sense in this list since it was released in the 60’s). Apart from their contribution to Dawn of the Dead, these two albums are the extent of my interest in their output. “Parachute” opens with two 3-part suites that flow impeccably and set the tone well. The album is a mix of rock, pop, psych, blues and more. For me (and many others) it was their swansong, but what an album to go out on (technically they had 7 more albums, but anyway).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDLr9dKnN4Y

And there you have it, 10 (9) catchy 60’s albums well deserving of your attention. I’ve been meaning to get this typed up for months now, but I never really got around to doing it until today. I suppose when you’re writing for fun and without deadlines it becomes much easier to shirk and avoid finishing. That said, I hope this has been somewhat informative and will lead even one of you to discover and enjoy something new, as I have. When it all comes down to it, that’s what music is for, and what makes it all worthwhile.

Thanks,

– e

My Favourite Movie Posters

Almost more than movies themselves, I’ve always been a huge fan of poster art. As a child I was fascinated with the lurid and enticing art on video covers, generally horror and sci-fi. The art often outdid the film itself, but it always stuck with me and enticed me enough to become a poster fanatic.

I decided to compile a list of some of my favourite posters I’ve found over the years. Many of the movies I’ve never seen, and I only actually own a couple of these posters, but I thought I’d share their grindhousey goodness with you all, in honour of Halloween !

Creepshow

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My favourite horror film, I eventually got a hoodie with this poster on the back. I’ll never got the VHS “big box” of this one.

Jaws

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Easily one of the most iconic posters of all time, it conveys so much with a simple image. Equally thrilling and terrifying.

The Evictors

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I first saw this poster as a shirt on a the Fright-Rags website. There’s an eeriness to it that really intrigued me. Sort of a gothic tone to it that I like.

The Mutilator

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I actually really like this movie, but the poster is awesome. Great tagline, and pretty much sums up the whole movie nicely.

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman

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Another classic poster, this one is amazing because of two things. First, she’s CLEARLY more like 50 stories tall rather than feet. Secondly, whenever someone sees this poster at my house they inevitably make a crack about looking up between her legs. People are strange.

Piranha

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Pretty much a Jaws knock off in poster and movie form, it’s easily the best one. Much like the Jaws poster I certainly remember this one from my childhood. Great flick.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

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Another classic poster / movie, I love how the tagline really leaves you frothing at the mouth to see how the movie unfolds. Another “big box” classic at its finest.

Transmutations (aka – The Freakmaker)

20121021-172524.jpg
This movie was originally on my “Horrorthon” list for last year, then got bumped to this year, then dropped off the list. I found this sweet poster by accident while looking for another poster for one that DID make the list. Oddly serendipitous.

The Burning

20121021-172554.jpg
This is an alternate poster that Mondo made for this excellent Friday the 13th knock off (featuring Jason Alexander ! With hair !). I absolutely love this poster, the colour, balance, everything about it. A classic.

The Mummy

20121021-172636.jpg
This is another (recently released) Mondo poster. They did one for each of the Universal Monsters, and despite being more of a Creature from the Black Lagoon fan, I really like the sand-effect in this poster. Very well done.

The Prowler

20121021-172756.jpg
Another overlooked slasher gem, this is an excellent use of black and white. Despite the abundance of black, it conveys a lot about the movie itself.

American Gothic

20121021-172831.jpg
One of my favourite b-movies, the poster is pretty obvious. Still, I like the tongue in cheek nature of it, and the trapped kids in the background is a nice touch.

Horror Express

20121021-173130.jpg
I really dig the almost 3D effect of the movie title as well as the train going through the middle of the poster. Very well put together.

The Thing

20121021-235631.jpg
I’d never seen this alternate poster until a week or two ago. Obviously the movie is a classic, but this poster is simplistic and amazing, especially if you’ve seen the film.

Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2

20121021-235712.jpg
No, it’s not the “Breakfast Club” poster this movie is known for, but I always preferred this one. It would look great on a door.

Reptilicus

20121022-171644.jpg
I’ve always liked this one, despite clearly being a Godzilla knock off. I’ve never seen the movie, but you know it can’t be as good as this poster.

Violation of the Bitch

20121022-171726.jpg
I found this one in an awesome poster art book I got called “Shock! Horror!”. It’s so over the top, but the tagline and the fact that the gun seems to have been fired already really makes your mind wander. Probably a terrible movie though.

The Stepfather

20121022-171808.jpg
This is actually from the (presumably terrible) remake, but I always thought it was an awesome poster. So simplistic, but quite menacing as well.

Jurassic Park

20121022-171831.jpg
Another Mondo alternate poster, being a huge fan of this movie really did my heart good to see this fun take on the poster.

Slugs

20121022-171853.jpg
Admittedly pretty gross, it probably sums up the movie well. I haven’t seen it, but this is a well done poster, for what it is.

The House by the Cemetary

20121023-151057.jpg
Another Mondo gem, this one is actually better than the movie itself. I mean, I like Fulci, but this movie sort of blows. Amazing birds-eye poster though.

The Dark

20121024-131108.jpg
This is a really cool sci-fi poster, but I highly doubt there are ray-shooting giant aliens in this movie. I could be wrong, but nothing can be as fun as this poster is.

The Corpse Grinders

20121027-115301.jpg
This poster is sweet not simply because both cats look like my two cats (although it helps). It has such a great title, and the idea of being overpowered by two cats is kind of great. Or is it terrifying ?

Die Sister Die

20121027-115326.jpg
Don’t run towards the severed arms !! What are you thinking ?! Although they almost look more inviting than that asylum-esque building behind you. Carry on.

The Street Fighter

20121027-115346.jpg
Not horror or sci-fi, but there’s something about this one that I’ve always liked. Mostly that you KNOW he’s gonna beat them all up after this is over.

Invasion of the Blood Farmers

20121027-115409.jpg
Classic poster for a (supposedly) awful movie. This is the epitome of why I love horror posters. Colourful, macabre and intriguing (in a sick way I suppose).

Schoolgirls in Chains

20121027-115441.jpg
There’s a lot going on here. Don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll escape eventually !

Inseminoid

20121027-115513.jpg
Speaking of a lot going on, I found this one by accident, but it’s out there enough to make you wonder what’s going on here.

The Astro Zombies

20121027-115534.jpg
That’s a pretty big knife !! I was hoping to find the version of this poster in blue, but it’s basically the same. I bet the zombies look terrible in the actual movie.

Dracula has Risen from the Grave

20121027-115602.jpg
So simple, so effective. Amazing poster.

The Mummy

20121027-115621.jpg
This one sort of reminds me of “The Dark”. It’s definitely more special effects heavy than the movie itself, but still, cool poster.

When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth

20121027-115656.jpg
This is another one that looks a lot cooler than it probably is. Still, you’ve got dinosaurs, scantily clad cave girls, a straightforward title. What more could you want ?

Well, that’s all for now. Look forward to more of my favourites in the future ! Or don’t, but either way there’ll be more.