In February, I found myself listening to two albums that aren’t exactly brand new, but were instead released a few months ago. To balance it out, there are two movies on here released in February: one you’ve probably heard a lot about, the other…maybe not as much.
Coldplay, A Head Full of Dreams (Atlantic)
I’m late to the party on this one, but I’ve listened to it quite a bit this past month which is more than enough reason to include it. Coldplay is often ridiculed for whatever reason, but I love ’em. Those who also enjoy the band offered mixed reactions to 2014’s Ghost Stories, presumably because of its stripped down nature and lack of big, catchy singles (“A Sky Full of Stars” being a notable exception). I, on the other hand, enjoyed the mostly quiet, depressing nature of the album (because why wouldn’t I?) and the break from the big spectacle that was Mylo Xyloto.
Admittedly, my first impression of A Head Full of Dreams was so-so after hearing “Adventure of a Lifetime”. It was fine, though the more poppier nature of it threw me off a tad. So I shrugged and told myself it was a new sound and I’d either grow to like it or I wouldn’t. Obviously, I grew to like it. The album builds upon the foundation of Mylo Xyloto but adds a touch more eccentricity like in the audio samples on “Kaleidoscope” or the inclusion of Tove Lo on “Fun”. There are other staples to be found here like the ballad “Everglow” (which reminds me a little too much of U2’s “Stuck In a Moment”, though it’s still good), and the big crowd sing-along “Up&Up”. My personal favorite is “Army of One”, which contains the heart of the band’s early material and the big production of their recent works. It’s obvious I should’ve checked this out sooner and I’m happy I got around to it.
Good Tiger, A Head Full of Moonlight (Self-Released)
Another album that came out in late 2015, Good Tiger’s debut is the pleasant surprise of the month. The band features a mix of ex-members from notable acts such as The Faceless, TesseracT, Architects, and The Safety Fire, so right off the bat you should know a superb display of musicianship awaits on this crowd-funded album. I’d liken the band’s band’s overall sound to a pinch each of The Mars Volta, Tesseract, and Periphery blended into one smooth mixture.
Unlike other prog rock/metal acts, Good Tiger eschews long noodly passages in favor of excellent songwriting supplemented with the virtuosity of each band member. What’s more, the album runs at just under 35 minutes, so it manages to leave an impression without overstaying its welcome. “All Her Own Teeth” and “Snake Oil” are the two tracks I’d check out first to test the waters, but by all means jump in feet first if you think this album sounds like your kind of deal.
(Side note: Didn’t even notice the similarity of the album names until I wrote this up.)
Hail, Ceasar! (Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich)
(Directors: Joel & Ethan Coen)
There’s an undeniable charm to films about making films. Perhaps its the Hollywood, aficionado in-jokes, the amusement of big name actors portraying different big name actors, or just the overall meta nature of it. Whatever the reason, it’s a premise that always manages to spark intrigue. Luckily for Hail, Ceasar!, it follows through on that intrigue with a film that both revels in and satirizes 1950’s Hollywood.
First thing you should know about this movie going in is that the plot is not center stage here. If you’re familiar with the Coen brother’s work then you know they have more than a few films that don’t follow the basic film structure, so this shouldn’t be a surprise. I say this mainly for the benefit of people going in blind who might be expecting the film to be completely centered on rescuing a kidnapped George Clooney as the trailers suggest. It’s a plot point to be sure, but the film is really all about Hollywood archetypes running around 1950’s Los Angeles. It’s very amusing, not just because of its portrayal of Hollywood’s golden age, but because it’s still relevant to Hollywood now. Cover ups, scandals, horrendous miscasting; these are things we laugh about when we watch Hail, Ceasar!, momentarily forgetting that that’s all we seem to hear about nowadays. The film is an acquired taste, but it’s certainly worth trying.
Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds)
(Director: Tim Miller)
Like many other Marvel fans, this is not a movie I thought would ever come to fruition, let alone turn out as good as it did. In 2009, we were treated to five glorious minutes of Wade Wilson in the colossal cock-up that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine. And then later on we got that walking katanas for arms piece of garbage blasphemously referred to as Deadpool. Still, those five minutes of Ryan Reynolds wisecracking and sword-fighting was enough to make people hope and pray a solo Deadpool movie would happen. Rationally, we all knew that there were many hurdles the film would have to clear (R rating anyone?) and even then the odds were that the finished product would be another disappointment.
But it wasn’t, and now, following a brilliant marketing campaign and monstrous opening weekend, Deadpool has already established itself among the greats in an era where comic book films are popping out left and right. Reynolds is perfect every way in the title role and I’d go so far as to say that he joins the ranks of Hugh Jackman and Christopher Reeve in terms of “I-can’t-see-anyone-else-playing-this-character.” The best part is that you don’t even need to be super familiar with the X-Men to enjoy this movie. You can just jump in for a hilariously good time. Sure, the plot is basic. Yeah, the villain is kind of one note. But in a movie where the title character wonders aloud why the movie studio couldn’t afford to put more X-Men in the movie, do you really care? No, you don’t
Outlander by Diana Galbadon
I’m almost done with this one. I may or may not write up a full review.