The Savage Animal 02.20.13 First Impression of Grizzly Bear
Jack Swagger won the Elimination Chamber match. So what? Didn’t we learn from this before? They gave him the Money In The Bank case, they put the belt on him for a little while, and they put him with the heat magnet that is Vickie Guerrero. It did NOT work. He might be an awesome person. He might be a talented wrestler. He just doesn’t connect with the crowd. Why are we being force fed Swagger AGAIN? Why can’t someone else get a shot? I’m going to be open minded, but this will be shit in the long run.
Alberto Del Rio won. That’s cool, I guess. The Rock won again too. That’s fine with me. I expected both titles to change for some reason. Instead, two lack luster title matches. They were good matches, but nothing that’s going to be memorable or worth EVER rewatching. They had some filler matches in there too. Dolph Ziggler and Kofi had a good 1450th match and there was a Divas match.
The 6-Man Tag match was fun. It was cool to see The Shield in there. It just felt like it should have been a main event on RAW except it had a few of the signature PPV “big match spots” like the table, the ring post, the ringside area being broken, and all of that shit. It happens EVERY PPV now. What was with Ryback taking the pin? That was probably the most shocking part of the night. I know people will say Swagger winning was shocking, but it was so lame that the shock of it is pretty much numbing.
I know I sound bitter and angry. I’m not. I watch the show with no high expectations. I went into it not expecting anymore much more than a some solid action. There was some solid action, but it felt hollow and like a filler show. They advanced some stuff going into WrestleMania, but all in all this is a show that I’m going to forget about completely come summer. I really hope WrestleMania is better than this…
Indie Rawk! It’s the same old song and dance. If you’re new to this, the “First Impression” series is pretty much a monthly installment where I dedicate this column into expanding my musical lexicon. I’ll find a band or artist that I’m just not familiar with. Sometimes it’s an iconic band that I’ve never officially crossed paths with and sometimes it’s a new up and comer that I need to get caught up on. I go for artists with three to six studio albums to keep it a little easier for my ears. Sometimes I love the new band and appreciate the experience of a “first impression” and other times I’m two albums in and want to stab my ear drum with a rusty ice pick. Regardless, I share my honest assessment based on my own personal preference. If you’re a fan or know the work of a band then I’m sure it’s interesting to read a newbie’s first take on it. If you’re curious or clueless about a band I’m covering then you’re in the same boat as me. Regardless, we all need to be listening to more and stepping outside of our audio comfort zones.
Why Grizzly Bear?
Why not Grizzly Bear? I’ve heard plenty of positive things about this band. I know they’ve appeared on talk shows I’ve seen, can be heard in shows and movies I’ve watched, and I’m sure I’ve probably heard at least one or two of their songs. I just don’t know it yet. They have four studio albums for me to absorb. They have four albums and seem to be doing great. Their value is not going to change based on one new listener. I know it’s not fair to assess a band before you listen to them, but I’m under the impression that they’re a low-fi, plaid wearing indie rock band. That judgment doesn’t mean I’m thinking this is going to suck. I’m going to be completely open-minded and optimistic. Why wouldn’t I want to enjoy four albums I’ve never heard before? If I like it, hate it, get bored by it, get reminded of another song or band, or anything at all I’m just going to be honest about it.
Here goes the next three hours and twenty minutes of my life…
Horn of Plenty
(2004 – 49 minutes) – The band’s debut studio album starts off “Deep Sea Diver”. We fade into an eerie and distant tone. It slowly builds up into a really stripped down and staticy down tempo track. After a droney two and half minutes it breaks and we get a richer sound. It then breaks down again into a trippy atmosphere before fading back into a stripped down indie-like song. What a weird and interesting opener. “Don’t Ask” comes on next. It’s another stripped down indie song. It sounds like that breathy vocal-indie stuff that you’d see in a really dramatic scene in a Wes Anderson movie. It’s not Elliot Smith though. I loved the music in “Alligator”. It was a wandering little ditty that just left you to drift. My problem is that it wasn’t even a minute and a half long. “Campfire” is more of the same, basically distant and droney vocals with scratchy and quaint strumming and noise underneath it. There is some weird layers and background noise, but it doesn’t really go anywhere. I like how it sounds, but 4 plus minutes of the same thing with no change up kind of sucks. “Shift” is another floater. It puts you at drift as the music slithers through a few minutes of the same tones and moans. “Disappearing Act” starts up with a more melodic tone, but it slowly fades into quaint whimpers of distant nothings. I’m half way in and I’m sleepy. Oddly enough, “Fix It” does what its title does. This song has more to it than the same shit. The vocals are understandable; the music has variation and distinct melody. “Merge” came and went before I could think of anything different to say about it than any of the other songs so far. It’s stripped down, gritty, and has quiet droney vocals. “A Good Place” mixes it up with whispered vocals. “I woke up understated” is a cool line. The weird background noise that comes in about half way is a little jarring, but this is for sure my favorite track so far. I was curious about the unique sounds coming from the start of “Showcase”, but it breaks down into really REALLY lame whiney moans that makes think this song is a prank for my ears. Who the hell appreciates this kind of groaning? Holy shit, it’s annoying. I can’t share the same hate for “La Duchess Anne”. It gives at least something to nod a long to and is one of the better produced tracks for sure. “Eavesdropping” sounds like what music would be if those chanting monks were hipsters, but the last minute or so of music is beautifully done. The two minute long “Service Bell” is another example of hipster monk music. The album wraps up with “This Song”. Not ‘that song’, but “This Song”. Its way more polished and produced than the other songs. It’s the same drifty music and the same distant droney vocals, but it all comes together in a very enjoyable and accessible way. Promising, but not great finisher to a messy album. Sadly, I think coining the term “hipster monk music” is my favorite part of the past 49 minutes. I question the substance of this album. It sounded like it was trying really hard to be “cool” as opposed to anything genuine. I’m sure it came from an inspired place and was made with care, but it seems to sound like a lot of indie rock stuff. The difference is that in a Shin’s song or an Elliot Smith song you can hear the passion and feel the substance of what you’re hearing. As I was listening I learned that this was basically a solo project by the founder of the band as he was cutting his teeth. In terms of a “demo” this is cool, but as a “debut album” it’s not up to par. I appreciate what’s going on here and some of the efforts, but there is nothing about this album that I’ll remember tomorrow or want to listen to again.
(2006 – 50 minutes) – The second album starts off with “Easier”. It’s already cooler than the last album. It sounds way more polished and less sloppy. There is a fun melody and it pulls you into the album with a graceful sway. “Lullabye” continues the pull with more melody and a full rich sound. The vocals are distant, but not off-putting. The song breaks down into some cool experimental areas. Good start so far. There are odd surf-like crooning and moaning. On the first album one song attempted this and it made me want to pee in my own ears just to muffle the sound. On “Knife”, with the electronic tones, the melody, and structure; it works nicely. “Central and Remote” has a calming, yet assertive vibe to it. It reminds me of a Simon and Garfunkle-ish song, but with the full advantage of electronics and atmosphere. “Little Brother” almost feels like you’re in a really cool Disney movie before expanding into a wandering landscape. “Plans” is a more “conventional” track compared to the rest. It stands out, but isn’t necessarily better. The real winner here is “Marla”. There is an undeniable groove to it, the vocals pull you in, and the melody is kick ass. So far it’s my favorite song by Grizzly Bear, but there is a long way to go. I kept reading they were “indie folk”, but I didn’t really hear that until listening to “On a Neck, On a Spit”. It has a clean bluegrass vibe to it, but still has that atmospheric wander that seems to be their “thing”. It’s a pretty cool tune and a definite bright spot thus far. “Reprise” is a pleasant song, but it doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s a lot of soulful crooning and harmonizing, quaint acoustic guitar strums, and not much else. It’s not a bad song, but it’s also nothing that connects with me. The sophomore album closes out with “Colorado”. It’s more of the same. Distant vocals, swooping and often beautiful melodies, and an overall subdued vibe. This was a huge step forward from the first album, but nothing here really grabbed my ears, my soul, or my interests. If the difference between the second and third album is as big as the gap between the debut and second then this next album should rock…
(2009 – 52 minutes) – The band’s third effort kicks in with “Southern Point”. It’s a “snazzy” tune. It’s got a pretty cool bouncy and catchy melody. It breaks down nicely and takes stuff they’ve done before but refines it into something grander and fuller. It’s like they switched into a higher gear. Finally! A song I’ve heard. I think you’d have to be living under a rock to not have heard “Two Weeks”. It’s a cool song. The repetitive piano, the harmony, and the catchiness of this tune works well together. It doesn’t sound like anything else I’ve heard on these three albums so far. “All We Ask” fades in with static strums of a faraway guitar as the vocals ever so quietly sneak into your senses. They’ve done songs like this before, but this just seems well structured and is enjoyably pleasant. It’s still making me want to put my head down and take a nap Kindergartener style, but I survive. “Fine for Now” has a lot going on, but I really dig the semi-chaotic nature of the guitar noise. On top of that, it’s a five and half minute song that puts you a trance that’s somewhere between “date rape” and “warm cocoon”. Good stuff.
“Cheerleader” starts off with a funky groove that pulls you in to another atmospheric journey. “Dory” is an interesting song. The vocals are outstanding, but half way in I’m wanting to go to sleep, possibly forever. I don’t automatically get into “Ready, Able”, but the catchy as hell melody got me wrapped up in it. It took me off guard and is my favorite track so far behind the obvious hit single “Two Weeks”. I get pulled into “About Face” because it sounds interesting and like it’s building up to something, but all it does is end. Man. “Hold Still” kind of drifts in before it’s joined by vocals and then more and more layers of instruments and echo. It’s another cool sounding song that doesn’t take you anywhere. Things get a little “folksy” on “While You Wait for the Others”. The stammering guitar that builds into the chorus is kind of awesome. This leads into a chorus that is reminiscent of “Two Weeks”. Not bad at all. “I Live with You” starts off sounding like the background score to an old Disney movie and dramatically blends to a soul absorbing piece of music. It breaks bigger than any other Grizzly Bear song so far and is epic as hell. I’m surprised I’ve not heard this song before. The third album wraps with “Foreground”. It’s a painful ballad that’s not complaining, but just letting go of the flow. Nice ending. This album was pretty good. I can see why they have a big following after hearing this one. The first two albums aren’t bad, but just didn’t have a “complete” feeling to them. This had that. Sometimes it worked to my preferred liking and sometimes it didn’t. It was really polarizing. I found myself really enjoying some stuff on here and other stuff was unpleasant to my senses. It’s a clear step forward and they’re obviously evolving. I’m optimistic going into this last album….
(2012 – 48 minutes) – Grizzly Bear’s most recent studio album begins with “Sleeping Ute”. There is a lot going on in this song. It sweeps you up and spins you in all directions through layers of sound. It warps into a quiet flutter and fades out. Cool start. I like “Speak in Rounds” a lot. It starts slow, but it lifts you up with the melody and gives you something more than adequate to tap your foot along with. Catchy goodness. I don’t get why it wasn’t a single. “Adelma” comes and goes before the minute long song makes any impression at all. “Yet Again” is another nice mid-tempo tune. It reminds me of The Cure. “The Hunt” is a cool song that’s worth checking out mostly because of how cool the slow howl of the vocals are. Very cool. “A Simple Answer” could almost be passed off as a track by The Killers. “What’s Wrong?” sounds familiar, but I don’t think I’ve heard it until now. It’s a slow fizzle into a swooping under tow. It’s a trippy lullaby that I wish wouldn’t end. Outstanding. “Gun-Shy” has a rockstastic melody on top of another melody. It has a surfy sound, an 80’s electro vibe, and still manages to maintain the band’s recurring sound. The break beat is what does it for me and then the echoed vocals about two minutes in seals the deal. This is another “single-worthy” song on this album. “Half Gate” throws a lot at the listener and I’m not sure what all sticks. It’s a pretty big song, but it doesn’t quite connect like you’d hope. The album closes out with the seven minute long “Sun in Your Eyes”. It’s a roller coaster of a song. It’s almost like a collage of their entire run so far. This album was probably my favorite album of theirs so far. As a whole it’s a full sounding album and everything works complimentary. It’s the best produced, best structured, and just a solid outing. I’m curious to hear what happens next.
(2004 – ????) – The first two albums were hard for me to get through. I tried to make the best of it and find reasons to like it, but I just had a lot of problems finding any connection to it. It just felt diluted. The third album blew them up with “Two Weeks” and had some cool stuff, but it also had some duds. The latest album didn’t have any singles on the level of “Two Weeks”, but it was a really good listen. If you’re new to the band I’d suggest checking out the third and fourth albums first. If you really like those, hit up the back catalog. I’m not saying I hated this band, but I just didn’t get that into them. After hearing the latest two albums I get their appeal, but it’s just not for me. Too often I found myself getting sleepy and wanting tracks to end. There are some definite bright spots and they really did grow as a band from album to album. They’re someone I’d check out again in the future, but not necessarily go out of my way to do so.
The trailer and cast for “Killing Them Softly” made me want to see this movie. We have a hit man/crime story involving Brad Pitt, Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta, and a slew of familiar and talented performers. I finally saw the movie and it wasn’t really what I expected. The plot isn’t too out of the ordinary. Some lower level criminals hold up a poker game of bigger criminals and money men. The lower level criminals get a hit put out on them and… “something” ensues. The direction and editing of it was that indie slow-mo gritty style. The storytelling didn’t spoon feed the viewer, but it really didn’t provide enough substance. There is this pretentious “this is so artsy” attempt at substance with tons of 2008ish Bush and Obama speeches and hoopla in the background of everything. Is that supposed to be “reflective of society” or some bullshit? I have no problem with pretentious statements, but this felt so forced and tacked on. It wasn’t all bad though. I enjoyed what I saw; I enjoyed the performances, the action, the style, and all of that. It just didn’t connect. I’d watch it again and I’d recommend people to watch it at least once and make up their own mind. What am I missing here? C+
“IRON MAN 3”
I was never an Iron Man fan growing up. I would get into certain comics, but that phase in my childhood passed rather quickly. Then a few years ago the first Iron Man movie came out and I was hooked. Jon Favreau did a great job with the first two movies and made me care about a superhero I pretty much knew nothing about. Robert Downey Jr. is talented and did a good job with the character, but the world built around him had to work for the movie to work. It more than worked. The first Iron Man movie is one of the best superhero movies from the past ten years which says a lot considered 5 out of 3 new movies released are superhero movies. In the third movie Shane Black is taking the helm of director and writer and the cast sees the awesome Guy Pearce and Ben Kingsley added. The trailer looks awesome. Tony Stark sees all of his toys and riches destroyed and is forced to start from scratch and fight on his own. The whole battle of “does the suit make the man or does the man make the suit” is interesting and should make for a solid third in this series.