I’m posting this the morning after Election Day. I don’t intend to go on a political rant on here because you’ll get enough of that today as is. But I hope that if you’re taking the time to read what I’ve put down it distracts you for a little while from whatever else is happening out there. This is The Good Bits, after all.
Bon Iver, 22, A Million (Jagjaguwar)
Released: September 30th, 2016
Gambles don’t always pay off for artists who make a dramatic change in musical direction. Sometimes it just flat-out backfires and then all the fans wait for some return to form. This is not the case with Bon Iver’s third album, which makes the transition from indie folk to glitchy folktronica. There’s something so fascinating about this album as it could have failed on every level for mastermind Justin Vernon. Instead,we got a goddamn masterpiece. Granted, not everyone is going to be into switching from acoustic guitars to autotune and other electronic standbys, and I get that. But if you’re hesitant, give “8 (Circle)” a listen, and if you like that, you should dive into the rest of the album. I know I’m mostly a metal guy, but I’ll be damned if this doesn’t end up in my overall top 10 of the year.
Insomnium, Winter’s Gate (Century Media)
Released: September 23rd, 2016
Insomnium made quite an impact with their 2014 release Shadows of the Dying Sun, and I believe their new album is even better. It’s a single song album (split into seven parts for digital release) that runs for forty minutes. The continuous forward movement of the album never gets boring, moving through heavy but melodic passages that help depict the vast, frigid landscapes and seas of the album’s story that revolves around (what else?) vikings. I slept on this band the last time around, but I’m glad I didn’t do that with Winter’s Gate.
Thy Catafalque, Meta (Season of Mist)
Released: September 16th, 2016
Tamás Kátai, the man behind Thy Catafalque, put out a really weird but intriguing album last year called Sgùrr that utilized electronica, folk, and black metal. It may sound vexing, but I’m not one to shy away from experimentation, and I enjoyed the album enough that I kept an eye out for future doings. Apparently I didn’t do that great a job since he put out another new album in September and I missed it the first time around. Meta is a tad more straightforward than its predecessor, with a larger reliance on heavy guitar passages early on, but there are plenty of other experimental elements on the album that keep things interesting. In refining his sound, Kátai offers an album that is more accessible but is far from generic. I would call it avant-garde black metal, but I’m not sure any one label is going to do this album justice.
ELEL, Geode (Mom + Pop Music)
Released: October 21st, 2016
The only album on here actually released in October is from a local Nashville band whose album release party I had the pleasure of attending. If you ever get to see these guys live, don’t miss out. If you can’t, there’s always their debut album Geode. Now, most of the music I post about on here is not happy. At all. But ELEL write some of the happiest, most lively indie pop I’ve heard, and it just feels good to listen to. “When She Walks” and “Kiss Kiss” are the two I would try first, but I think you’ll want to sit down with the whole thing to understand why these guys are the real deal. You’ll probably be seeing their name a lot more in future.
The Girl on the Train (Emily Blunt)
Director: Tate Taylor
Released: October 7th, 2016
I normally like to read a best-selling novel before the film adaptation comes out; I did so with The Martian and Gone Girl. I missed that opportunity with Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train, so I wasn’t sure how my experience would be impacted as a result. Luckily, I quite enjoyed the film and, like everyone else, I have to applaud the always formidable Emily Blunt.
The film’s pace is a tad slower than its thriller contemporaries, and while many reviews have cited this as a negative, I enjoyed the time the film took to fill us in on the different character perspectives. Rachel Watson (Blunt) is the star of the show of course, and Blunt’s performance is highly captivating as we the audience wrestle with our sympathy for her. But seeing the perspectives of Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and Megan (Haley Bennett) fleshed out their characters to the story’s benefit. I can’t speak to how it compares to the book, but it’s still impressive for a film adaptation that clocks in under two hours.
Of course, a mystery thriller can fall apart depending on its twist, but The Girl on the Train sidesteps that particular pothole. The twist is as it should be: natural, able to be figured out by context clues, not contrived. It helps tie the movie into a nice package rather than going off the rails like many mystery thriller twists do. If you missed this one because of the mixed reviews, I’d give it a chance if for no other reason than to watch Blunt’s performance.
Devil’s Advocate (Keanu Reeves, Al Pacino, Charlize Theron)
Director: Taylor Hackford
Released: October 17th, 1997
Rosemary’s Baby is one of my favorite horror movies, and I was told The Devil’s Advocate is similar. That and it’s considered essential Al Pacino viewing. This is some of the best acting I’ve seen from Reeves and he has great chemistry with Theron. Pacino is, of course, incredible, saving the real fireworks for the final minutes of the film. It’s a great mix of genre that might be a tad overlong, but certainly delivers a satisfying tale.
Edward Scissorhands (Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder)
Director: Tim Burton
Released: December 14th, 1990
File this one under movies that fellow 90’s kids can’t believe I’ve never seen. Look, I like a lot of Tim Burton’s movies, I just had other priorities when I was a kid, alright? Anyway, the movie is great of course, with an overly colorful 1950’s suburbia clashing with the doom and gloom now chiefly associated with Hot Topic. It reminds you why Burton, Depp, and Ryder became such stars in the first place.
The Sixth Sense (Bruce Willis, Hayley Joel Osment)
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Released: August 9th, 1999
File another one under movies that I’m insane for not having seen. Of course, I went into this movie knowing the twist, but I feel like that actually enhanced the experience for me. I looked for tells by watching certain scenes while thinking “Okay, if I didn’t know the twist, what here would tip me off?” It’s also interesting to watch this moving knowing that director M. Night Shyamalan would go on to be mocked for essentially making self-parody movies.
The Village (Bryce Dallas Howard, Jaoquin Phoenix, William Hurt)
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Released: July 30th 2004
Okay, in this one I didn’t know the twist, but I’m not sure it would’ve made a difference if I did. I’m kind of split on this movie because I liked the concept and it boasts a great cast, but I feel like the movie doesn’t know what it wants to be. Is it a monster horror movie? A psychological thriller? A failed utopia? True, it’s possible for a movie to be all of these things and be stellar, but not for one that wants to pad itself out with boring stuff until it can reveal the twist.
Maggie (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin)
Director: Henry Hobson
Released: May 8th 2015
Here’s an under the radar film that I’d recommend if you’re not tired of zombies yet. In the film, Arnold’s daughter (Breslin) has been bitten by a zombie and is set to transition into one herself over the course of eight weeks. This is not the kind of movie you’d expect to find Arnold in, but you’re going to be genuinely surprised when you see his acting alongside Breslin. It’s a quiet, beautifully shot movie that adds its own noteworthy touch to the overtired zombie genre.
Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
Not much left to go on this one (page 1124). Expect to hear my final thoughts on it next month.