Movement 2012

Music Reviews

March 22, 2011

Rate It: April

Rateit.King of Limbs Album Art

In April we reviewed Radiohead’s heavily anticipated new album “The Kingof Limbs” to no disappointment! We’ve also go the newest from Bright Eyes, “The People’s Key” along with The Dears newest “Degeneration Street”. Toss in a movie review of “The Adjustment Bureau” and that rounds out Rate It for April. Let us know what you think of our reviews and your thoughts on our selections.

Artist: Radiohead

Album: The King of Limbs

Rating: 4 out of 5

Review by Paul Kitti

“Don’t blow your mind with why,” warns Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke on the eclectically arranged album opener “Bloom.” Instead of asking why “The King of Limbs” was released within a week of its announcement, why the band chose to include only eight tracks, or why the album feels like an eerie mixture of all their previous work, Radiohead just wants you to listen. And maybe dance.

For some people, “King of Limbs” won’t initially sound like an album worth breaking into. When I first heard the single “Lotus Flower,” I was a bit perplexed. It was mysteriously beautiful in a very Radiohead way, but it was the type of song I would expect to find stashed at the bottom shelf, revealing its brilliance through repeat listens. Interestingly, the most formless, alienating single in the band’s history happens to be the most structured and inviting track on this album.

“The King of Limbs” is not passively ingested musical entertainment; it’s an album you have to break into, whereupon you will witness Radiohead surrendering their instruments to sonic turbulence, dancing wildly around the fires of psychedelic expression and pausing occasionally to catch their breath upon a bed of tranquil musical landscapes. The music video for “Lotus Flower” is a vital counterpart to this collection of songs, in which a somehow peacefully frenzied Thom Yorke dances and claps his way through the music, instructing listeners on how the album is meant to be experienced. “I would shrink and disappear,” he explains. “I would slip into the groove.”

The album often feels atmospheric and paranoid, with scattered moments of fantastical grooves and ethereal sound samplings. The lyrics unfold like an impromptu extension of the instrumentation, making perfect sense with the music but almost no sense apart from it. Deep, thumping bass lines and infectiously catchy, experimental percussion act as the anchor of these eerie dance-rock melodies. Songs like “Feral” and “Morning Mr. Magpie” are what you would most likely hear if Radiohead seized control of your local dance club. In the dreamlike “Codex,” perhaps one of the most beautiful songs Radiohead has ever recorded, Yorke fantasizes about an endless fall over leisurely progressing piano chords.

While the apparent lack of structure and the sparse, difficult-to-interpret lyrics can initially be frustrating, “King of Limbs” rewards those who just keep listening without questioning. This is the kind of music your mind can dance to—especially if you prefer not to have auto-tune, excessive noise, or typical lyrics about night clubs and belligerent behavior interfere with your rhythm.

*Thom Yorke photo courtesy

Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes

Artist: Bright Eyes

Album: The People’s Key

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Review by Paul Kitti

Sometime early in high school, I remember racing home after class with a huge stack of cds my friend had lent me. Excited about expanding my musical influences, I inserted disc after disc into my laptop, only allowing the music to play a couple minutes before deciding whether or not the cd was worth importing. I got to a cd labeled Bright Eyes, and frantically jammed it into the disc drive. Then something went terrifically wrong. This band wouldn’t let me make a quick decision and move on to the next cd. I listened intently as the entire album played through, then I started it again.

Conor Oberst has come a long way since “I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning,” the critically-acclaimed 2005 album from his brainchild musical alias, Bright Eyes. His rickety, adolescent vocals and modest, folksy acoustic strumming has since evolved into something a little more mature and accessible, yet no less powerful and emotionally captivating. He has graduated to playing in stadiums and on late shows, but somehow still sounds like a boy belting out his feelings in his bedroom. His latest release, “The People’s Key,” is yet another album that won’t let me take it off rotation.

The album begins with an unfamiliar voice rambling about amphibious aliens breeding with humans and starting a spiral of good and evil that will weave its way through history right up to our present time – which is typical Conor Oberst stuff, as he often opens his albums with cryptic musings. What’s not so typical is the subject matter that follows. He’s done describing cities and trains and shorelines; on “The People’s Key,” Conor is more concerned with spirituality, apocalyptic visions, and how it all relates to our own little personal lives. Lead single “Shell Games” finds him wrestling with his past while trying to make sense of his new direction: “I was dressed in white, touched by something pure, death-obsessed like a teenager; sold my tortured youth, piss and vinegar, I’m still angry with no reason to be.”

Musically, “The People’s Key” combines elements from 2005’s experimental “Digital Ash in a Digital Urn” with 2007’s “Cassadaga,” a beautiful album that alternated between down-to-earth and grandiose. What results is a mysteriously cohesive mixture of indie rock, folk, and punk, with Oberst’s self-aware sensibilities and rebel pride directing the orchestra. “I go umbrella under my arm into the green of the radar…” he optimistically sings over upbeat guitars and meandering wave synths on “Jejune Stars.” The haunting piano ballad “Ladder Song” contemplates death and friendship before the energetic, contented surrender of album closer “One For You, One For Me” (“One for the bread lines, one for the billionaires/One for the missing, one for the barely there/One for the certain, one for the real confused/One for me, one for you”).

There are rumors that this will be the last Bright Eyes album, with Oberst focusing more of his efforts on other projects. Until further notice, I refuse to accept this possibility. But if “The People’s Key” really is the last chapter of the Bright Eyes story, I couldn’t ask for a better ending.

*Conor Oberst photos courtesy

Artist: The Dears

Album: Degeneration Street

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Review by Paul Kitti

The only thing harder than making it to the top of the world is surviving the fall back down. After 2003’s “No Cities Left,” Montreal’s energetic indie rockers The Dears were cast under the international spotlight, selling out shows in stadiums and receiving widespread critical acclaim. After a string of dazzling live performances and another successful album, The Dears were poised to occupy the spotlight for some time. Then came the comedown.

It could have been the pressures that tag along with success, the question of what new direction to take, or the clashing of ideas among band members, but something shook up The Dears. The band went through numerous lineup changes and would have disappeared entirely if not for the perseverance of frontman and founder, Murray Lightburn. He managed to reorganize the band, and returns with “Degeneration Street,” an album that sounds like an exhausted group of individuals trying to find their sound.

Album opener “Omega Dog” layers a somber but incredibly catchy guitar progression over a casual drum loop with Lightburn’s mournful voice leading the track into an instrumental breakdown. It’s a promising start, but it blends into an album full of sound-a-likes. There are fourteen tracks here, most of which sound determined to top the alternative rock charts. This type of ambition is admirable, but it’s also a shortcoming: The Dears sound too intent on crafting anthemic masterpieces and regaining their steam, the songs become detached and formulaic. Still, there’s some great moments within the orchestral, atmospheric “Degeneration Street.” The Dears seem confident on “Thrones,” pairing sardonically-themed lyrics with a triumphant sound, and the refreshingly upbeat “Yesteryear” finds the band enjoying themselves, with Lightburn almost sarcastically recalling their shaky history (“What the hell just happened here?/A falling out of favor since yesteryear,/ain’t no doubt about it.”)

As a whole, however, the album is rather exhausting. Somewhere beneath the sixty minutes of cryptic lyrics, angsty vocals and indulgent instrumentation is a band capable of making a great album. “I heard there’s no rest for the wicked,” Lightburn aches on the album’s self-titled closer, “so I won’t be sleeping when I’m dead…” Considering all this band has battled through, it seems  natural that they won’t rest until they’ve regained their position in the spotlight. Hopefully “Degeneration Street” is a just a detour on the way back up.

*The Dears photo courtesy

Film: The Adjustment Bureau

Director: George Nolfi

Starring: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt and John Slattery

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Towers

Review by Joseph Stromski II

When they meet by chance in the men’s room of a New York hotel, David Norris (Matt Damon) and Elisa Sellas (Emily Blunt) share an irresistible chemistry right from the start of “The Adjustment Bureau,” George Nolfi’s directorial debut. However, as fate would have it, the two lovers are kept apart from each other as the result of the plan of the Chairman—a powerful force who runs the Adjustment Bureau.

The Adjustment Bureau is a team of supernatural agents who keep the Chairman’s plan on track by making little changes to the daily lives of unknowing humans. When David accidentally stumbles upon the bureau and becomes aware of the Chairman’s plan, he does everything within his power to reconnect with Elise and write his own destiny.

At first, “The Adjustment Bureau” seems to be your average secret government program flick as it has all the classic elements: unknowing politicians, attractive female leads and plenty of mysterious men in fancy hats and suits. But as it turns out, the film includes a much appreciated twist that literally kept me guessing about what was coming around the next corner for the entire length of the film.

Both Damon and Blunt do a fine job in their roles, and their romantic connection is very convincing, but the real star of the film is the man behind the camera, writer-director George Nolfi.

Nolfi started his career in Hollywood as a writer with “Timeline,” starring Paul Walker, but quickly redeemed himself with the plot-driven scripts of “Ocean’s Twelve,” “The Sentinel” and “The Bourne Ultimatum.” And, with two films starring Damon under his belt and his success as a writer in the thriller genre, Nolfi was perfect for the task at hand.

In the end, even though this flick wasn’t as action-packed as “The Bourne Ultimatum” or as star-studded as “Ocean’s Twelve,” it still succeeded at roping me in from the beginning and taking me on one wild ride through the streets of New York—ultimately leaving me with a renewed appreciation for a fine fedora.

Film: Battle: Los Angeles

Director: Jonathan Liebesman

Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez and Bridget Moynahan

Rating: 4 out of 5 towers

Review by Joseph Stromski II

Amidst a worldwide alien invasion, “Battle: Los Angeles” follows a group of Marines as they fight their way through the outskirts of Los Angeles to rescue a group of civilians stranded behind enemy lines. With communications limited to command, the Marines find themselves battling an enemy unlike anything Earth has ever seen—then, even worse, they battle each other as their heads butt and opinions collide.

I must say “Battle: Los Angeles” is a true man-movie; it’s full of explosions, nonstop action, aliens and has little to no romance in it. Unlike most man-movies, however, “Battle: Los Angeles” doesn’t lack strong, dialogue-lead character development, a predictable plot line and a cast with the knack for getting every gritty detail right.

Even though this film is action-packed, it wasn’t what kept me interested in this movie; it was the character development, as subtle as it may have been. I’m mean, sure, any actor can put on camouflage and pretend to play a soldier, but it takes true talent to make an audience forget that it’s watching a movie. However, this cast, led by Aaron Eckhart, was so strong that that’s what it did: The film’s actors and actresses took a highly unbelievable situation and made it seem so real that I honestly forgot I was sitting in a movie theater staring at a screen for two hours.

After really letting it stew, I’d wager to say “Battle: Los Angeles” wasn’t even about an alien invasion. It was about the relationships soldiers form with each other with faced with an all but impossible situation. Sure, it’s no “Saving Private Ryan,” but given that World War II is so last century, the alien invasion provided a very welcoming change of scene.

About the Author

Tim is the publisher of iSPY and co-founder of Pakmode Media + Marketing. He's a social, vegetarian geek who recently welcomed a beautiful baby girl into his family. For any questions or suggestions in regards to design, ad sales, web, content or anything at all related to iSPY, Tim's your guy.

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