Solutions to high-rise fires like at Grenfell Tower






I was sickened by the recent Grenfell Tower fire in London. Obviously everyone was shocked and angered this could happen. From what I understand the fire was caused by a fridge, which the firefighters claim to have put out, but by that time the fire had spread up the building.


I’ve been wondering how a disaster like this could potentially be avoided. Clearly authorities are working on changes so flammable panels and fire sprinklers meet safety standards. Apparently the UK government confirmed that councils estimate 600 high-rise buildings could have similar flammable exterior cladding to that used on Grenfell Tower.




Of course, the matter of housing the victims is a priority, and many, firefighters, surviving residents, and onlookers, need aid and counselling. What was nice to hear was the outpouring of support by Londoners who offered food and clothes to those who lost everything in the fire.
In an interview with a solicitor, it saddens me the public enquiry doesn’t allow the victims to be heard, which an inquest would.
This is one of the richest boroughs who made £13m gross profit in 2016 and £12m in 2015, so you’d think they could afford to meet basic safety regulations.





Unfortunately, there’s also the question of political bias. Musician Lily Allen in a brave interview spoke of approx. 300 politicians with 72 of them landlords, a situation which conceivably might impact the voting for the passing of a law on fire safety.





I hope I'm not being insensitive, if so I apologize. I was reminded of the 1970s Hollywood disaster film The Towering Inferno. What lessons can be learned is the reason for mentioning it. Note, the IMDb description says the building was "poorly constructed".
Spoiler warning: The plot is a rescue operation, with Americans trapped in a burning skyscraper. A solution in the film (described in this clip) is allowing water tanks in the building to wash down over the flames. Perhaps wasn’t an option in London? Spoiler end.




A practical method I’ve become aware of is at skysaver.com, a $1500 product that could save you in an inescapable highrise fire like Grenfell Tower. I'm not receiving a penny to promote this rescue device. I'm just trying to find ways to save lives.



mr police man, I promise to go faster






I usually enjoy car journeys on the motorway, listening to music and without the stress of heavy traffic on smaller roads. Recently, I was going along as usual. Many others dangerously use the motorway as a high-speed race track and never seem to get a ticket. I was travelling at 80 km/h (50 miles/h), which is on the slow side, but with two lanes there is a chance to overtake, and I know cars with trailers HAVE to go max 80 km/h in our country. I didn’t have a trailer on but felt entitled to drive carefully, and it’s easier to listen to music at that speed, as there’s less engine noise. Then I find myself followed by a car. At first didn’t concern me, then went on for 30 minutes which is unusual as drivers usually lose patience and move past. When I reach my turn-off the car continues to follow and I’m feeling a bit uncomfortable. Are they going to follow me all the way home? I hope not.
A police car has been waiting by the turn, follows me for a while, then suddenly puts his lights/horn on. I’m wondering if he simply is busy and wants to overtake. Then he gestures for me to pull-over which I do at the next roundabout. Apparently someone had phoned the police to warn them I was coming. When I stopped, the policeman approached. I feared the worst, so said nothing. Asked for my driving license and if I owned the car. Apparently I was driving too slowly on the motorway and not in a straight line. The accuser had assumed I was driving slower because I was drunk, which I wasn’t. I was merely trying to save petrol as my 1,0 engine uses up almost twice as much if I go along at 70-80 miles/h. The motorway was very quiet.
Regarding the swerving from side to side, I didn’t mention to the police, but my car model is light-weight and the steering is the weakest aspect of the car. I’ve spoken to another person who owns the same model and with side wind and gusts it’s normal for a bit of turbulence, especially at higher speeds. Probably I should have explained this, but I didn’t want to make excuses. I just said I was sorry, wanted to save petrol, and wasn’t trying to bother anyone. It’s hardly my fault if a cheap car is not steady on the road. He still wanted me to blow into a breathalyser even though I said I hadn’t been drinking. I asked what the lowest speed you are allowed to drive is, the rules are murky as they can’t force you to go at a specific speed. He advised me to take the highway instead, if I want to go at that speed.

Who is right in this situation? I can understand someone worried about a drink/driver, but I think it’s an excessive overreaction for a random person to follow me for so long and deliberately slow down. If they want to go faster, why drive behind me? I’m 99% sure it’s the follower who phoned in my number plate. The accuser also 'beefed up' his story by claiming I was travelling at 70km/h (43 miles/h) which is dishonest.
Part of me thinks they got some pleasure from seeing the police catch me, and the policemen had no choice but to follow procedure. A misunderstanding that I’d rather have avoided. I guess there are people who have nothing better to do than complain. I never imagined I’d say to a police man, ”I promise to go faster…” . Was almost absurd saying that sentence out loud. Obviously the experience isn't as shocking as Spielberg's Duel pictured above, though my incident has left some mental scares.





Phoenix albums reviewed and top 10 Phoenix songs




To celebrate the release of the new Phoenix album Ti Amo this June, below is a career retrospective. My thoughts on the albums and my top 10 Phoenix songs.




United (2000)
Thomas Mars has a distinctive vocal style, and Phoenix's debut sees the band finding their feet. There's a wide range of instruments and genre experimentation, although it all fits within a pop sound.
The opener "School's Rules" has an enjoyable guitar intro which sadly isn't a fully formed song. "Too Young" is a great single that has that fun-loving Phoenix-y sound and was included on Lost in Translation soundtrack. The blissful instrumental at the end of "Honeymoon" is beautiful. "If I Ever Feel Better" goes for fast spoken pop and is a bouncy, memorable track. "Embuscade" is a nice jazzy instrumental. "Summer Days" feels like a lesser variation of "Too Young". "Funky Squaredance" at almost 10 minutes might be the most ambitious track, opening with 3 min of vocal distortion, then becomes funky and Daft Punk-esque, and at about the 6 min mark there's a soaring guitar section. The closing track "Definitive Breaks" reprises Too Young, adding a saxophone.
8/10




Alphabetical (2004)
Sporadically good, but a patchy follow-up to 2000's United. The melodies are often uninspired and the word repetition on choruses to "Run Run Run" and "If It's Not With You" are annoying. There aren't really any big stand outs, with "(You Can't Blame It On) Anybody" the most pleasing to the ears.  "I'm an Actor" appears to be about addiction.
The track-by track order is lazy and hurts the listening experience. Why, for example, is "If It's Not With You" featuring the repeated lyric "together",  followed by "Holdin' on Together", another song with "together" in the lyrics? Also, the instrumental "Congratulations" is too similar to the track that precedes it.
"Victim of the Crime" and the title track "Alphabetical" are more melancholy than anything on their debut, and seem to be about life as a pop star. Kudos for trying something different. "Alphabetical" works as a sad ballad, but the rest of the album plays it safe, presumably not wanting to alienate the fanbase.
5/10



It's Never Been Like That (2006)
Rockier third album, the melodies are unmemorable. I initially liked the single "Long Distance Call" but after a few plays the word repetition in the chorus becomes irritating.
Favorite lyric from the track "One Time Too Many": "Hard to tell you kindly that ain't what I'm like".
4/10






Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (2009) 
Their 2004 and 2006 albums were patchy. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is a return to form and maintains its energy from beginning to end. Probably their most upbeat and well-produced since 2000’s United. Earned the band a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album. On the playful album title referencing Mozart, Thomas Mars said: ”almost like a childish thing, like you’re unleashing a child into the museum and he draws a moustache on the Mona Lisa or something”
Best tracks: Lisztomania, Love Like a Sunset Part II, 1901, Rome, Armistice
7/10




Bankrupt! (2013)
Fifth full-length studio release, and arguably the group's most underrated. The sound was described as "a peachy, fun vibe", in keeping with the sleeve, and there appears to be an Asian influence.  A couple of weaker moments are Drakkar Noir and S.O.S. in Bel Airhave, which have unconvincing lyrics. As another reviewer notes, perhaps the album tells a tale of the lonesome feelings of making it to the top and the conflicting emotions of stardom.  
Best tracks: Bourgeois, Entertainment, Trying To Be Cool, Bankrupt!
7/10



Ti Amo (2017)
Their latest released June 9. A light, summer pop album with Italian disco influences. I've listened a couple of times and plenty of replay potential, containing many pleasant moments. Best songs: Role Model, Goodbye Soleil, J-Boy, Via Veneto, Telefono
6/10






My top 10 Phoenix songs (in no particular order)
Too Young (Lost in Translation soundtrack)
If I Ever Feel Better
Bourgeois
(You Can't Blame It On) Anybody
Alphabetical
One Time Too Many
Love Like a Sunset Part II (Somewhere soundtrack)
Lisztomania
Funky Squaredance

Honorable mention: Role Model




What do you think? As always, comments are welcome


Films and TV of the month: May




Twin Peaks: The Return (2017) (Review of Season 3, Episodes 1-4) (David Lynch)
E1-E4 of Twin Peaks S3 are slower than S1 and S2 from the 90s, but not as dark as the 1992 prequel Fire Walk With Me. As a fan of Lynch, a must-see return into this world, a fanservice revival ala Star Wars. The use of music is surprisingly sparse, keeping the original theme music in the intro, while relying on sound effects more so than score.
The guy in the building in NY watching the empty glass box looks like a young Agent Cooper, those scenes were an intriguing addition, Sam and Tracey have chemistry, and it works as a commentary on the passivity of TV.  Another memorable part of E1+E2 takes place in Buckhorn South Dakota featuring Matthew Lillard, whom I usually hate, in a good performance as a man accused of murder. Maybe he is guilty, maybe not.
My main problem with the first few episodes is the characters are not given much time to hang out together and reveal their charm, which was part of the appeal of previous seasons. There’s no coffee-and-pie house they meet at. I want more than just cameos.
For the most part, the quirky dead-pan humor is effective, the funniest of them in E3 with the bizarre casino visit, chocolate bunny discussion. In E4, the comedy happens in the pancake scene, meeting with Denise Bryson, and Wally Brando’s poorly written yet ultimately amusing speech about his shadow.
Hopefully as S3 progresses, it will flow more naturally and provide reasons to care. It’s nice to see familiar faces again, though the former Twin Peaks cast are disconnected and don't yet have much to do compared to the eventful main story involving Agent Cooper.
The opening four episodes have many intriguing loose ends, sometimes sexy moments, and Lynchian weirdness, but also needlessly slow and sometimes lacking in warmth. The characterization and story is not as novelistic, intimate and dialogue-driven as Twin Peaks from the 90s. In Season 3, we don’t really get under the skin of what they are feeling, thinking and dreaming about.
Funnier than anything Lynch has done before, even if the revival is a David Lynch greatest hits of sorts. A flawed return, but good to have him back directing after a decade-long absence since Inland Empire.
Check out Laura Hudson's spoilery review for The Vulture, she makes several interesting observations.
Favorite quote: “I had enough dirt on you to fill the Grand Canyon”





The Trip to Spain (2017) (6 Episodes) (Michael Winterbottom)
New location, same formula. Travel, food, conversations. culture, & the worrys of middle age. Coogan and Brydon, blurring reality and fiction, drive from the north to the south of Spain, making stops at restaurants. I binge watched the 3 hour TV-version. I recommend the first two 30 minute episodes especially, which are the most entertaining. The last four parts are weaker and I began to tire of the impressions and repetition.
If they do bring the duo back for a fourth series, it needs reinventing, as the concept is becoming a bit stale. The two hour film adaptation is probably better by trimming the fat. With the recent passing of Roger Moore, the Moore impersonations now feel a little inappropriate. That's not Coogan's and Brydon's fault as the filming of the series took place months ago, it's just an unfortunate circumstance. The Trip to Spain feels like it was made for the fans and is sporadically brilliant, though they could be running out of impressions as a few are rehash.
6/10

A few notes on the six episodes:
Best impressions: John Hurt as The Elephant Man talking to Anthony Hopkins, Elvis Costello battle, Marlon Brando reciting Monty Python, Mick Jagger battle, Mick Jagger doing Shakespeare, McCartney/Lennon

Worst impressions, mostly in episode 3: David Bowie, Captain Kirk, and John Hurt

Most overused impressions: Roger Moore, Marlon Brando

Funniest quotes:
 “-There are few things in this life worse than a tomato with no flavour.
-Well, bombing in Syria? That might pip it at the post”.

"My name isn't Roger Muslim, it's Roger Moore!”

Films: City Slickers (bull fighting), Laurel and Hardy

Books: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (bull fighting), As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, Spanish writer Lopadero? who wrote 500 plays.

Music: Human beatbox song(a highlight of the series), Windmills of Your Mind, Toledo by Elvis Costello, SOS by ABBA






The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970) (Basil Dearden)
Recently deceased Roger Moore considered this his best performance, which was what prompted me to give it a look. About a man who can’t explain why there is a duplicate of himself. A thriller that does a good job of building suspense by not revealing the mystery. Like the audience, Moore’s character Harold Pelham is in the dark and trying to find answers. You can definitely see why he was picked for Bond a few years later, Pelham has a similar presence and humor to Moore’s 007. He is not the most versatile, and the bowler hats are a bit dated now, but a screen actor I enjoy watching. Nice score by award winning composer Michael J. Lewis.
7/10



Alfie (1966) (Lewis Gilbert)
Michael Caine, in a star making performance, plays a charming yet cold-hearted ladies man, who treats women as disposable objects he describes as “it” and “bird”. Not wanting to attach himself to anything serious, he moves from one affair to the next, whether the women are married or not.
In its time, the film was praised for its sexual frankness and persuasive rendering of Swinging London, although the situations seem mild by contemporary standards. You could be envious or disdainful of Alfie, maybe even both. While he beds a number of women, it is a sad film in which I shed a tear for his hollow life and temporary relationships. But he only has himself to blame. The song “Alfie,” by Burt Bacharach was Oscar nominated, and heightens the emotional impact of the last scene.
I will say though that the womanizing is overdone and overemphasizes its point. The bar fight and medical examination could have been trimmed.
7/10




Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) (Taika Waititi)
An unlikely duo (Sam Neil, and newcomer Julian Dennison) venture into the wilderness. An adventure-comedy that has an 80s innocence and characters you care about. Pure fun without the need for making the story overly gimmicky. The two leads have good chemistry and further proof the New Zealand director is a talent to look out for. Also enjoyed Taika Waititi's previous film, vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows (2014).
8/10





Silence (2016) (Martin Scorsese)
A timeless historical film about 17th-century Portuguese missionaries. Rodrigo Prieto’s cinematography is stunning, especially the landscapes. Most of the key scenes involve suffering and persecution, so I wouldn’t call it “enjoyable”.
I was interested to see how would play out, and was moved by the characters plight. But it’s a flawed epic, repetitive in its storytelling, and quite long-winded.
There’s something to be learned that even in the darkest times, Christianity will endure and give us hope and courage. Faith is so important that some people are willing to suffer for it. But why the Japanese villagers have put aside Buddhism and devoted themselves to Christianity I felt was unexplored? I couldn’t grasp their motivations. You could say their unwavering faith is admirable, but you have to be able to compromise to fit into the society you live, and they didn’t. The real issue is intolerance and the Japanese not accepting different beliefs.
The film showcases that the export of religion is dangerous in how it creates division. Spreading Christianity in Japan was not ideal, the Christian priests and Japanese villagers seemed naive to the conflict their steadfastness was causing. The title is about the silence or non-silence of God.
Was alluded to on What the Flick! review that you can regard the theme of ‘identity against the law’ as an allegory for all times, could be Jewishness, sexual orientation, or mental illness, where you have to decide how you are going to face society.
For me, the film is about not blindly following a certain path, and staying critical whatever life throws at you.
7/10






One More Time With Feeling (documentary) (2016) (Andrew Dominik)
Follows the template of previous documentary 20,000 Days on Earth (2014), with music segments from the album in question, intertwined with moments of revelation and reflection. Like aforementioned doc, the studio sessions feel a bit like padding.
Details Cave’s decision to write non-narrative lyrics. Says this new direction allows his songs to have a prophetic nature like a dream can foretell situations, and he admits: “I don’t think life is a story, we all hope that it is” His interviewer begs to differ, that we all are born and gradually decay.
Cave ponders the creative process on his latest album. Wanting to write songs that connect with people and don’t alienate. Searching for a magical place with his friend Warren Ellis when the jamming isn’t to do with knowing where you’re going, but collaborating as a team.
Doesn’t directly discuss the trauma of his son’s death until 65 minutes into the film. The emotional state influenced the recordings, leading to a sense of helplessness and nakedness in the music. Cave and his wife bravely reveal their insecurities, grief and uncomfortableness about the interview situation, especially in the second half. He is right that somebody has got to “sing the pain”.
Quite affecting and sporadically interesting, but I didn’t feel the insights on loss are breaking new ground. There was nothing here that made me go, wow, I’ve never heard that before. A life changing event for the Cave family which I can empathize with, but not a life changing viewing experience. Without any info provided on Arthur, Cave’s son, the viewer is at a distance. Skeleton Tree (2016) is a sad yet beautiful album that stands on its own without the need for a documentary.
6/10




Demolition (2015) (Jean-Marc Vallée)
While we are not given an opportunity to get to know and care about his deceased wife, I did empathize with Gyllenhaal’s painful situation. Everyone deals with loss in different ways. There's both a predictableness and an unpredictableness going on. I felt I had seen the plot before in other films, but held my interest throughout.
7/10





Gimmie Danger (2016) (Jim Jarmusch)
Documentary about the influential hard rock band The Stooges. Expected a bit more offbeatness from Jarmusch. Entertaining enough, and Iggy Pop is a good storyteller. But very by-the-numbers and the anecdotes are soon forgotten. On a positive note, there are some interesting references to other bands.
6/10





Raising Arizona (1987) (Joel and Ethan Coen)
Probably the funniest Coen brothers comedy I’ve seen. Very quotable too.
Cochroches like popcorn
"What was he wearing? A dinner jacket! Wuddya think, he was wearing his damn jammies!"
9/10





Faraway, So Close! (1993) (Wim Wenders)
A disappointing and overlong sequel to Der Himmel über Berlin (1987). An angel becomes human and struggles to choose between good and evil. There's a clever transition between color and black & white, but this aspect becomes needlessly confusing. Many scenes go nowhere and it's tough to care about any of these characters, as the impatient camera keeps hopping from one situation to the next. Fails to recapture the atmosphere of the original. Everything interesting about this universe you can find in the first film.
4/10






Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) (Stephen Herek)
Sillier than Back to the Future. The filmmakers probably stole the phone booth idea from Doctor Who, but the ”excellent” quote with air guitar is iconic, and is repeated many times in the movie. Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter are believable as high school friends. I liked the story included what these historical figures would do in our modern world, although some of them were too easy to kidnap. The house cleaning scene is laugh out loud.
While superficial and basically a kid’s movie, it is funny and crowd-pleasing, and could inspire you to look deeper into the history.
The 80s soundtrack has some obscure gems, especially I Can't Break Away by Big Pig from the intro. Father Time by Shark Island & Dancing With A Gypsy by Tora Tora are entertaining hard rock songs. Play With Me by Extreme even samples Mozart's Rondo Alla Turca, in reference to the film character.
8/10





The Running Man (1987) (Paul Michael Glaser)
Based on a story by Stephen King who wrote under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. Pretty much an 80s Hunger Games or Battle Royale, set in an Orwellian police state. In The Running Man, many citizens are seemingly happy. Comparable to Roman times, the audience is pacified and entertained so they are less likely to rebel.
Interestingly, the story is set in futuristic 2017. Looks nothing like today’s society, although foreshadows the popularity of reality-tv, a reality show host/president with military authority, fake news stories used to manipulate public opinion, and predicts the world economy would collapse. Art, music and communications are censored, which is still the case in China, and at the time was happening in Eastern Germany.
Unfortunately I find the game show aspect unrealistic. Would audience members over 60 years old really be cheering on violence? There’s also a twist in the last third which I found implausible.
Worth a look, but not as well-paced or memorable as other Schwarzenegger movies from the 80s. The kiss scene is cringe-worthy.
6/10





One False Move (1992) (Carl Franklin)
Neo noir crime thriller. Cops (including Bill Paxton) are hunting down a group of dangerous criminals (Billy Bob Thornton and others) on the run.
Tonally changeable, with violent moments, and unpredictable twists. Also tackles interracial love.
Probably the best scene involves two LAPD detectives belittling the ambitions of small town police chief (Paxton), claiming amongst themselves he wouldn’t last 2 minutes in the big city. Paxton’s character Dale "Hurricane" Dixon happens to hear this which causes an awkward situation. It’s interesting he has that nickname. Better than average low-budget independent film.
8/10




Bedazzled (1967) (Stanley Donen)
Considered among the best of the Peter Cook/Dudley Moore movies. Manages to present potentially dry discussions about god and the devil, good and evil, in a fun, entertaining way. The argument that God is withdrawn to give us freedom of choice makes sense. The story isn’t entirely their own, but a 1960s interpretation of Faust.
About being in love, with your feelings not reciprocated. George Spiggott / The Devil (Peter Cook) gives sad Stanley Moon (Dudley Moore) the chance to live out his imagined happiness, but amusingly even the fantasies falter when realized. A commentary on how we try and be a different person to achieve our goals.
There are surprises and original ideas such as the fly on the wall and pop star performances, although not all of it works and some sequences feel like variations of the same. Isn’t laugh-out-loud funny. His inability to escape the nunnery got a few chuckles out of me, even if that sequence goes on too long. The final speech is eerily relevant in its attack on capitalism.
A remake was released in 2000 with Brendan Fraser and Elisabeth Hurley, which I haven't seen.
7/10




Out of Sight (1998) (Steven Soderbergh)
I believe I rented this neo-noir crime/romance in the late 90s, all I could remember is the car trunk scene, so a rewatch was overdue. George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez have good chemistry, the movie is best when they are both in the same scene. Her discovering him in the bath is very sexy and surprising.
Most of the supporting characters didn’t interest me. The dialogue is sharp and witty, but the story is all talk and little action. There are clever flashbacks, though the film is style over substance. The diamond heist isn't as captivating as it could have been.
6/10





Graduation (2016) (Cristian Mungiu)
Not as powerful and harrowing as the director’s masterpiece 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days (2007), but an interesting conflict of a teenager daughter (Eliza) who is attacked before her important exam. There are slight similarities with The Salesman (2016), in how there is a post-traumatic stress factor for a female character, and the attack is not directly revealed.
Granted the over-protective father (Romeo) is passionate in his way, but I found the characters rather cold and lacking distinguishing traits, so tough to have much attachment to them. The muted palette is also very colorless with its greys and blues. Obviously these are conscious choices by the filmmakers. Engaging on an academic, ethical level, and as a study of life in Romania.
Romeo is desperate for Eliza to take a scholarship abroad and lead a better life. But in his actions the father is negating the values he has instilled in her. The title has layers, with him also put to the test regarding his actions. As another reviewer pointed out, his “moral compromises ultimately make him not that much different from the societal forces he believes he's fighting against”.
I’ve met Romanians and it seems to be a common thing for them to want to escape poverty and seek their fortune in other parts of Europe. The writer/director has said Graduation is about people who live in a corrupt country and “feel they don’t progress or advance in society based on their own merit.” Cristian Mungiu is quoted as saying that most of his generation, “decided to just leave”. He talks about migration as “an individual solution”, in some ways easier than sticking around and trying to effect social change, the “collective solution”.There’s suspense in the last third. The ending is both clever and frustrating, and may divide audiences.
6/10



What do you think? As always, comments are welcome

Old and new albums of the month: May 2017



Pure Comedy by Father John Misty (2017)
Rol at My Top Ten would possibly enjoy this album better than I did, with its wit, anti-Trump message, and elaborate lyrical content. Granted the song Ballad of the Dying Man is a highpoint, but the rest didn’t grab me as music.

In fact I prefer the video from XPN Festival in which he talks to an audience about his views on society, which is more straight-forward than what he is presenting in the lyrics. Here’s a summation:
Entertainment is making us stupid and making us make bad choices, by picking a stupid president who is just entertaining us.

Favorite lyric, from the track The Memo:
“Oh, caffeine in the morning, alcohol at night
Cameras to record you and mirrors to recognize
And as the world is getting smaller, small things take up all your time
Narcissus would have had a field day if he could have got online
And friends it's not self-love that kills you
It's when those who hate you are allowed
To sell you that you're a glorious shit
The entire world revolves around
And that you're the eater, no not the eaten
But that your hunger will only cease
If you come binge on radiant blandness
At the disposable feast”






Windswept by Johnny Jewel (2017)
It's atmospheric and dreamy, paying homage to the Angelo Badalamenti Twin Peaks soundtracks of the early 90s. I like the jazzy tracks Windswept, The Crimson Kiss, Motel, and The Flame, even if doesn't have the emotion and impact of Badalamenti. An album that could fit nicely with Season 3 of Twin Peaks.
7/10





Bob Dylan by Bob Dylan (1962)
His debut album. You can't tell what he's thinking on that sleeve. Many of his album covers have a sense of mystery.
A sign of things to come, Dylan's folk style, harmonica and guitar skill, giving you a glimpse into his songwriting potential. Many are covers. Dylan's high-pitched vocal is unusual on "Freight Train Blues".
The most interesting are his self-penned Song To Woody (dedicated to Woody Guthrie who was a friend and inspiration) and Talkin' New York. According to the sleeve the latter is "with a certain sarcastic bite, very much in the Guthrie vein", "a comment on his reception in New York", "satirizes his troubles in gaining recognition", "a diary note set to music".
6/10



Please Please Me by The Beatles (1963)
Debut album. I wouldn’t listen to this often, hasn’t aged as well as their mid-to-late 60s releases. The lyrics don’t appeal to me on an emotional level, I find the writing a bit cheesy and dated. However as I was told by a couple of commenters on my blog, The Beatles were considered groundbreaking in the early 60s compared to what other groups were doing.
I Saw Her Standing There, Please Please Me, Love Me Do, and Twist and Shout (cover) are Beatles classics and timeless for the pop melodies.
7/10






With The Beatles by The Beatles (1963)
Like their debut, a collection of original compositions and covers. All My Loving is the stand out.
Lesser known highlights: Don't Bother Me (George Harrison), and You Really Got a Hold on Me (Smokey Robinson cover)
6/10



White Album by The Beatles (1968)
I want to rate White Album higher, but it's bloated and lacking the cohesiveness of Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt Pepper. Maybe the experimentation and genre-confusion is part of its charm?
The second disc is definitely weaker. That said, the lesser-known tracks are still better than most contemporary music. Not many records have this many classics. The gold standard for double albums.
Best songs: Dear Prudence, Julia, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Blackbird, Helter Skelter, Revolution 1, Back in the U.S.S.R.
Lesser known highlights: Birthday, Sexy Sadie
9/10




Let It Be by The Beatles (1970)
As with other late-career Beatles albums, there's filler. I Me Mine should have been cut, but we get defining classics Let It Be, The Long and Winding Road, Across the Universe, and Get Back. Lesser known highlights: Two of Us and I've Got a Feeling. The interludes are too short to make a big impact.
I've read Let It Be... Naked (2003) presents the songs "naked" – without Spector's overdubs and without the incidental studio chatter featured between most cuts of the original album.
8/10




Past Masters, Volumes One & Two by The Beatles (1988)
A number of these, Hey Jude for example, were stand-alone singles and not featured on the studio albums, although I was familiar with many because they are so ingrained in our culture.
A highlight on disc 1 is the melody of I Feel Fine. The Ballad of John and Yoko was a great discovery on disc 2.
Across the Universe is a beautiful song but I find this version to be a weak vocal performance by Lennon. Volume Two of this 2-disc compilation has the most replay value.
8/10




Dear Catastrophe Waitress by Belle and Sebastian (2003)
Arguably the most beloved UK indie band since The Smiths. Plenty of strong melodies, especially the first half, and the closer.
Best songs: Stay Loose, Step Into My Office Baby, Dear Catastrophe Waitress, If She Wants Me, Piazza New York Catcher
8/10




Push Barman to Open Old Wounds by Belle and Sebastian (2005)
2-disc compilation that includes seven of their EPs. There's a lot of good-but-not great material, but even on the lesser tracks I enjoy the lyrics.
Most memorable melodies: Dog on Wheels, I'm Waking Up to Us, Marx and Engels. Judy Is a Dick Slap is a nice instrumental.
7/10



The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd (1973)
Among the most acclaimed Pink Floyd albums. The artwork is iconic. The only track I disliked is On The Run, which is why it doesn't achieve a perfect score. Definitely has me curious to listen to the rest of their discography.
9/10


The Doobie Brothers, albums reviewed 1974-1978 (see seperate post)
Slowdive, albums reviewed 1991-2017 (see seperate post)

Phoenix, the albums, and top 10 songs (upcoming post to tie in with new album in June)




What do you think? As always comments are welcome

The music of Slowdive




A band I've been recommended and who were a key part of the shoegazing scene that emerged in the United Kingdom in the late 1980s. With the news of their new album getting a release this spring, I decided to look into Slowdive's discography. Below are my brief thoughts on the four studio albums.




Just for a Day by Slowdive (1991)
Atmospheric shoegaze you can get lost in. For the heart rather than the intellect. The openers Spanish Air and Celi’s Dream pull you in with their beauty and bring back memories of The Cure’s 1989 album Disintegration and the ethereal production of 1980s Cocteau Twins. The noisy Catch The Breeze is too jarring for my ears.  Ballad of Sister Sue and Erik’s Song are very melancholic.
The overall production impresses, while the dual vocal is less distinctive. There aren’t any big hits, and no really weak moments. All of a similar quality. A cohesive set, albeit a bit samey.
I've read the real standout here is disc 2 on the reissue, which brings together Slowdive's first 3 EPs. I'm not counting those EPs in this review.
8/10




Souvlaki by Slowdive (1993) 
Has more variation than their debut. Machine Gun has a pop song struture, which some listeners may feel is selling out. Album highlight When the Sun Hits is very powerful.
Here She Comes and the three closers don't hit me as hard. Definitely an album that demands investment and multiple spins for it to reveal its layers. I'm convinced the entire album may prove to be valuable with further listens.
Best tracks: When the Sun Hits, Sing, Souvlaki Space Station, 40 Days, Machine Gun
8/10



Pygmalion by Slowdive (1995)
Have to be in the right mood to sit down and listen to Pygmalion. Very different to Just for a Day and Souvlaki. Hardly sounds like the same band, goes in an unexpected post-Rock/ambient direction, similar to what Talk Talk did in the late 80s and early 90s. A divisive, risky, non-commercial album. Tracks 1-4 are especially haunting. The Blue Skied an' Clear might be the best song and a definite highlight of the second half.
8/10





Slowdive by Slowdive (2017)
We exist in a revival/homage era designed to please the fans. This self-titled return after a 22 year absence is for me their weakest, although it has been praised by critics.
Star Roving, Don't Know Why, and Sugar for the Pill stand out, but the album doesn't give me chills which their 90s albums did.
6/10



What do you think? As always, comments are welcome 

The Doobie Brothers 70s albums (ranked)








Certain band's fit nicely into a specific decade. The Doobie Brothers is such a band, whose most revered albums were released 1971-1978. In 2004, they were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, and many believe they should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for their contributions to music.

Most agree on the decline began in the 80s. One Step Closer (1980) is a bland album which I barely remember. Michael McDonald decided to pursue a solo career in 1982 (which I haven't listened to so can't comment on). The Doobies didn't make another LP until 1989.

This post is about the 1970s, which is generally considered the heyday of The Doobie Brothers. Similar to what happened with Genesis, the Doobie Brothers went from rock to pop. That's oversimplifying their music though, which I will elaborate on in the mini-reviews below.

Michael McDonald’s vocal (from 1976-1980) is more distinctive than Tom Johnston's, who was forced to take a break from singing in the mid 70s due to heal issues.
The McDonald era is pleasant, but some argue is a bit tasteless, with the occasional catchy radio hit standing out. There are fans of both eras, I prefer the earlier rockier stuff.





The Doobie Brothers by The Doobie Brothers (1971)
Yacht Rock / Country Rock. A harmless debut from their pre-Michael McDonald days. Passable entertainment. Not much variety, but a few good tracks such as Nobody, Travelin' Man, and my personal favorite Greenwood Creek.
6/10




Toulouse Street by The Doobie Brothers (1972)
More ambitious than their 1971 debut. There's quite a nice variation throughout the album with genre detours, and faster and slower tracks. The two openers Listen to the Music and Rockin' Down the Highway get a lot of love, but I find them too similar back-to-back.
Of the two, Rockin' Down the Highway I prefer, which is suitable for a road trip compilation.
Mamaloi goes in a surprising reggae-styled direction. The title track Toulouse Street is vocally Cat Stevens-esque, which I like for the horn midway. Don't Start Me to Talkin' is very bluesy. Jesus Is Just Alright is the album highlight, with its catchy foot-tapping melody and sing-along lyrics. Also enjoyed Disciple, a long-ish jam with an infectious riff.
8/10





The Captain and Me (1973) by The Doobie Brothers 
Considered their best album. You can’t fault the musicianship, nothing is out of place and the players work very well together. Long Train Runnin' and China Grove are two Doobie Brothers classics which still get radio play. The album has plenty of replay potential and is more cohesive in its rock sound than the experimental Toulouse Street (1972).
8.5/10





What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits (1974) by The Doobie Brothers
Not instantly accessible and less commercial than The Captain and Me (1973). Black Water has the catchiest chorus, while Road Angel is strong for the guitar work. Some of these songs, such as Eyes of Silver, want to be hits, but don't quite get there.
The quality dips a bit in the middle with the trio of songs, You Just Can't Stop It , Tell Me What You Want, and Down in the Track.
Another Park Another Sunday and Daughters of the Sea are a step up. As with other Doobie Brothers albums, the lyrics are probably the least interesting aspect. Not a perfect record, but more potent than the albums that would follow.
8/10





Stampede (1975) by The Doobie Brothers
Goes in a country-rock direction. Their weakest so far. The somber outlaw ballad I Cheat the Hangman is quite haunting, but most tracks are unremarkable. There's a burst of energy towards the end with I Been Workin' on You.
4/10





Takin' It to the Streets (1976) by The Doobie Brothers
A transitional album, with Michael McDonald stepping in as vocalist. Would mark the beginning of their pop direction. The singles Takin' It to the Streets, It Keeps You Runnin' and especially Wheels of Fortune are the highlights. The non-singles disappoint and are forgettable.
5/10





Livin' on the Fault Line (1977) by The Doobie Brothers
Surprisingly, the opening three tracks are the worst. Gets better, and probably my favorite of the Michael McDonald albums. The enigmatic sleeve has a hint of mystery.
Best songs: You Belong to Me, Livin' on the Fault Line (an adventurous jam), Chinatown
7/10







Minute by Minute (1978) by The Doobie Brothers
What a Fool Believes is catchy and the Doobies biggest hit. The album won four Grammy's.
Best songs: What a Fool Believes, Dependin' on You
6/10





Ranking:
The Captain and Me (1973)  8.5/10
What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits (1974)   8/10
Toulouse Street (1972)  8/10
Livin' on the Fault Line (1977)  7/10
The Doobie Brothers (1971)  6/10
Minute by Minute (1978)   6/10
Takin' It to the Streets (1976)  5/10
Stampede (1975)  4/10



What do you think? As always, comments are welcome

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