Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Top Albums of 2015

Richard's Top 10 Albums of 2015


Time to get back on my ranking everything I can think of in blog form and not just in my head.  How about my 10 favorite records from 2015? Hope you enjoy this countdown (though the descriptions were written #1-10 so spoilers inherent):

10. Snoop Dogg - "Bush"

This is going to seem like an insane 10th pick in the year of music we've had but honestly, I just wanted this up there because this album was criminally underrated in my opinion. It was a summer party album, nothing fancy, but it was amazing as that. Snoop was witty, the songs were catchy, and as a whole, I just found it a fun listen. If you don't mind some new age disco-funk meets west coast hip-hop, listen and don't think too much. Enjoy yourself. "California Roll" with Pharrell and Stevie Wonder is great and "R U a Freak" is my second favorite.


9. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard -"Paper Mâché Dream Balloon"

Impulse buy of the year paid off. I had read something about them being a lesser known band to check out on a music post but never had. Saw they had a copy of the limited edition of their new record in Grimey's and it came with an awesome Flexidisc. It was the best decision I've made in a long time and I quickly went back to check out their back catalog. Some awesome psychedelic music for anyone interested in a cool new band. "Trapdoor" is definitely my favorite song, though the title track isn't far away.


8. Ben Folds - "So There"

One of our Nashville heroes (who graciously did a record signing event), Ben Folds released "So There" this year in support of the concerto he wrote and then performed with the Nashville Symphony. That is the second LP but the first contains what he calls "chamber rock songs" with yMusic and they are super cool. One of my favorites of his in a long line of great albums. "Phone in a Pool""Long Way to Go" and "Capable of Anything" are my favorites.


7. Diane Coffee - "Everybody’s a Good Dog"

Speaking of of Montreal, this was their opening act and put on an incredible show. I rushed over to the merch booth and was not the only one trying to snag a copy of this at the show. They are classified on Facebook as "Psychedelic Motown" and that's a pretty apt description. Shaun Flemming, who is Diane Coffee, started as a voice actor (Tim and Jim Possible from "Kim Possible", as well as others) and is also part of Foxygen, but his solo project is simply one of the coolest things I've discovered this year. Both this and their 2013 album "My Friend Fish" are worth checking out. "Spring Breathes" and "Soon to Be, Won't to Be" are my favorites. (Also, he has a wonderful signature and drew like this on both of my albums)


6. Of Montreal - "Aureate Gloom"

This one gets here mostly because they are my favorite band (unless Bowie counts as a band) but this really was a great album. I've loved the direction Kevin Barnes has taken the past few albums with recording to tape and the less produced feel that allows for the rest of the band to shine and for the songs themselves to be the focal point (as opposed to the texture and production from the mid-2000's oM). "Bassem Sabry" and "Empryean Abattoir" are my favorites from this one. 
And I got my copy signed by the touring band including Kevin which was awesome.

5. Beach House - "Depression Cherry" and "Thank Your Lucky Stars"

I know these are two different albums that happened to come out in the same year but they are probably my 5th and 6th albums of the year so why not combine and sneak an extra in? "Depression Cherry" is my favorite of the two and sounds a lot more like classic Beach House in its simplicity, with songs like "PPP" and "Wildflower" being the standouts. "Thank Your Lucky Stars" wasn't as consistent in my opinion, but was still amazing and had one of my favorite songs of the year, "All Your Yeahs".


4. Lord Huron - "Strange Trails"

I didn't know much about these guys but they put on a free show and after seeing them I had to pick this up. It was a great decision. My favorite thing about this album is how cohesive it is. A melody or guitar line will be used in songs on different sides of the album in totally different ways and in the end you feel like you've listened to one big composition as opposed to a group of songs strung together. "Meet Me In The Woods" is far and away my favorite, but "Frozen Pines" and "Fool For Love" are also great.



3. Steven Wilson - "Hand. Cannot. Erase."

Here's where I begin to divert off of the typical Top 10 lists from 2015. I grew up loving Porcupine Tree so I'm a little biased, but the incredible four solo albums that Wilson has put out so far are truly incredible, each in their own way. This one is actually the most accessible, so if you were ever looking for some dynamite modern Progressive Rock, this is a good starting place (I've seen subs referring to his work as "our generations Pink Floyd"). Overall, it's just a great melding of excellent pop sensibilities, great instrumentation on the extended jams and Wilsons intricate skills as a producer (his credits in the Prog. community are ridiculous). "Perfect Life" isn't very representative of the album or his style even though it's my favorite, but "First Regret/3 Years Older""Happy Returns" and the title track are other standouts.


2. Tame Impala - "Currents"

I was among those who thought that "Currents" is the best thing Tame Impala has done so far. In complete contrast with my top album, the excessive production really adds to every song. I feel like this is one of those albums that in 10 years we're going to look back and see a thousand other bands unsuccessfully try and recreate this style; It's just one of a kind. The day it came out I had a day off and caught myself hitting the end of side D countless times and going straight back to side A. It just flows incredibly well as an album. Similarly to "Carrie and Lowell", every song is a standout, but "Eventually""The Less I Know The Better" and "Yes I'm Changing".


1. Sufjan Stevens - "Carrie & Lowell"

I'm sure this is on a lot of people's top 10 lists. I honestly hadn't listened to much Sufjan before this (except for "Illinois") and bought this one on a whim. I then proceeded to listen to it on repeat for about a month. This is some of the very best pure songwriting I've heard out of this decade. I love how the simplicity and sparseness allows for the emotion in every song cut through. This is what a folk/songwriter album should sound like. Favorite songs are "Should Have Known Better""Fourth of July" and "The Only Thing" (though really all of the songs are favorites).





What just missed it? How about Kacey Musgraves "Pageant Material", The Bird and the Bee's "Recreational Love", Dr. Dre's "Compton", and Father John Misty's "Love You, Honeybear". 

And yes, I know I left out every other publication/person's favorite album of 2015, Kendrick Lamar's "To Pimp a Butterfly".  Honestly, I couldn't totally get into it. Listened about 5 or 6 times. Was impressed with the production, lyrics, flow, everything really, but didn't find myself wanting to listen again. I personally enjoyed "Compton" a lot more in terms of things Kendrick worked on, though I was likely the only one. I also personally think "Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City" is a better Kendrick album. 
Top 20 album of the year, but not top 10.  Its great, but not exactly my style. 

Hope you enjoyed and maybe discovered something you hadn't heard yet!







Sunday, February 22, 2015

87TH OSCAR PREDICTIONS



Today is finally the day!  The 87th Academy Awards will honor the greatest films of the year and some of the greatest films of the past decade.  Below are my predictions for what WILL win, what COULD win (sadly there is no 2nd place) and what SHOULD win (as in my biased favorite).  For the big awards there will be a brief club but most awards just predictions.

Best Picture
Nominees:
American Sniper
Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Selma
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash

This is easily the closest Best Picture race in memory, with all the usual predictors split evenly between Birdman and Boyhood.  While both ambitious in concept, I think that Boyhood, which was filmed over 12 years with the same actors and its great emotional pull will end up losing out to the one continuous shot of Birdman, partially due to the idea of Hollywood voting for Hollywood.  Birdman has already taken top prizes from the Producer's Guild, Director's Guild and the Screen Actor's Guild.  I honestly have trouble picking my favorite film in this category between Birdman and Whiplash.  Also sad that Foxcatcher, Nightcrawler and Gone Girl missed out here.

WILL WIN: Birdman
COULD WIN: Boyhood
SHOULD WIN: Whiplash or Birdman




Best Actor
Nominees:
Steve Carrell in Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper in American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton in Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything

This is the only difficult acting race to predict, with Michael Keaton for Birdman going head to head with Eddie Redmayne for Theory of Everything.  After a late season resurgence in a big way and for portraying the great Stephen Hawking, an incredibly difficult role, I think it will go to Redmayne.  I also think this race might look differently if David Oyelowo had been nominated for Selma.

WILL WIN: Eddie Redmayne in Theory of Everything
COULD WIN: Michael Keaton in Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
SHOULD WIN: Eddie Redmayne in Theory of Everything



Best Actress:
Nominees:
Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night
Felicity Jones in Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore in Still Alice
Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon in Wild

This race has pretty much been decided since September.  Julianne Moore is incredible in Still Alice, just as she is in everything, and it is finally time for her to win her Oscar.  Felicity Jones is probably the closest to unseating her, but its not very close, even though she was extraordinary in Theory of Everything.

WILL WIN: Julianne Moore in Still Alice
COULD WIN: Felicity Jones in Theory of Everything
SHOULD WIN: Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl



Best Supporting Actor
Nominees:
Robert Duvall in The Judge
Ethan Hawke in Boyhood
Edward Norton in Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons in Whiplash

J.K. Simmons is the most deserving winner of the night.  He has long been improving movies with his presence and he will finally be acknowledged.  Edward Norton in Birdman is an easy second.

WILL WIN: J.K. Simmons in Whiplash
COULD WIN: Edward Norton in Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
SHOULD WIN: J.K. Simmons in Whiplash



Best Supporting Actress
Nominees:
Patricia Arquette in Boyhood
Laura Dern in Wild
Keira Knightley in The Imitation Game
Emma Stone in Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Meryl Streep in Into the Woods

If Patricia Arquette had been nominated in the Actress and not Supporting Actress field, this would be a very different race.  As it is, this award is Patricia Arquette's to lose, for her wonderful 12 year transformation in Boyhood.

WILL WIN: Patricia Arquette in Boyhood
COULD WIN: Emma Stone in Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
SHOULD WIN: Patricia Arquette in Boyhood



Animated Feature Film
Nominees:
Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Song of the Sea
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

This award became silly when they didn't nominate the previous frontrunner, The Lego Movie.  Without it there, this is suddenly harder to pick.  While it is rare for a sequel to win, this one likely goes to How to Train Your Dragon 2.  Look for Big Hero 6 to surprise.

WILL WIN: How to Train Your Dragon 2
COULD WIN: Big Hero 6
SHOULD WIN: How to Train Your Dragon 2



Cinematography
Nominees:
Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Ida
Mr. Turner
Unbroken

WILL WIN: Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
COULD WIN: The Grand Budapest Hotel
SHOULD WIN: Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)



Costume Design
Nominees:
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Inherent Vice
Into the Woods
Maleficent
Mr. Turner

WILL WIN: The Grand Budapest Hotel
COULD WIN: Into the Woods
SHOULD WIN: Inherent Vice



Directing
Nominees:
Alejandro G. Inarritu for Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Richard Linklater for Boyhood
Bennett Miller for Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel
Morton Tyldum for The Imitation Game

This is a hard one to predict.  I deep down think that Best Picture and Best Director might split between Birdman and Boyhood, so to be safe I'm picking Birdman for both.

WILL WIN: Alejandro G. Inarritu for Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
COULD WIN: Richard Linklater for Boyhood
SHOULD WIN: Alejandro G. Inarritu for Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)



Documentary Feature
Nominees:
CitizenFour
Finding Vivian Maier
Last Days in Vietnam
The Salt of the Earth
Virunga

WILL WIN: CitizenFour
COULD WIN: Virunga
SHOULD WIN: CitizenFour



Documentary Short Subject
Nominees:
Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
Joanna
Our Curse
The Reaper (La Parka)
White Earth

WILL WIN: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
COULD WIN: Joanna
SHOULD WIN: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1



Film Editing:
Nominees:
American Sniper
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Whiplash

WILL WIN: Boyhood
COULD WIN: Whiplash
SHOULD WIN: Whiplash



Foreign Language Film
Nominees:
Ida (Poland)
Leviathan (Russia)
Tangerines (Estonia)
Timbuktu (Mauritania)
Wild Tales (Argentina)

WILL WIN: Ida
COULD WIN: Leviathan
SHOULD WIN: Ida



Makeup and Hairstyling
Nominees:
Foxcatcher
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Guardians of the Galaxy

WILL WIN: Foxcatcher
COULD WIN: The Grand Budapest Hotel
SHOULD WIN: Foxcatcher



Music - Original Score
Nominees:
Alexandre Desplat - The Grand Budapest Hotel
Alexandre Desplat - The Imitation Game
Hans Zimmer - Interstellar
Gary Yershon - Mr. Turner
Johann Johannsson - The Theory of Everything

WILL WIN: Johann Johannsson - The Theory of Everything
COULD WIN: Alexandre Desplat - The Grand Budapest Hotel
SHOULD WIN: Johann Johannsson - The Theory of Everything



Music - Original Song
Nominees:
"Everything is Awesome" from The Lego Movie
"Glory" from Selma
"Grateful" from Beyond the Lights
"I'm Not Gonna Miss You" from Glen Campbell... I'll Be Me
"Lost Stars" from Begin Again

WILL WIN: "Glory" from Selma
COULD WIN: "I'm Not Gonna Miss You" from Glen Campbell... I'll Be Me
SHOULD WIN: "Lost Stars" from Begin Again



Production Design
Nominees:
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Interstellar
Into the Woods
Mr. Turner

WILL WIN: The Grand Budapest Hotel
COULD WIN: Mr. Turner
SHOULD WIN: The Grand Budapest Hotel



Short Film - Animated
Nominees:
The Bigger Picture
The Dam Keeper
Feast
Me and My Moulton
A Single Life

WILL WIN: Feast
COULD WIN: The Bigger Picture
SHOULD WIN: Feast



Short Film - Live Action
Nominees:
Aya
Boogaloo and Graham
Butter Lamp (La Lampe au Beurre de Yak)
Parvaneh
The Phone Call

WILL WIN: The Phone Call
COULD WIN: Boogaloo and Graham
SHOULD WIN: The Phone Call



Sound Editing
Nominees:
American Sniper
Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies
Interstellar
Unbroken

WILL WIN: American Sniper
COULD WIN: Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
SHOULD WIN: Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)



Sound Mixing
Nominees:
American Sniper
Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Interstellar
Unbroken
Whiplash

WILL WIN: Whiplash
COULD WIN: American Sniper
SHOULD WIN: Whiplash



Visual Effects:
Nominees:
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy
Interstellar
X-Men: Days of Future Past

WILL WIN: Interstellar
COULD WIN: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
SHOULD WIN: Interstellar



Writing - Adapted Screenplay
Nominees:
American Sniper
The Imitation Game
Inherent Vice
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash

WILL WIN: Whiplash
COULD WIN: The Imitation Game
SHOULD WIN: Inherent Vice



Writing - Original Screenplay
Nominees:
Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Boyhood
Foxcatcher
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Nightcrawler

WILL WIN: The Grand Budapest Hotel
COULD WIN: Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
SHOULD WIN: The Grand Budapest Hotel