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For more about Allison and her books visit her website at http://www.allisonsimon.com/. For now, please relax and brace yourself for the occasionally coherent ramblings of Allison's mind.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

More Little Known Bands You Should Know

Thousand Foot Krutch

Why this band didn’t make my first post (Bands You Should Know), I have no idea. TFK is my longest running favorite band, and the only one to survive my changing tastes since those fickle teenage years. Heck, they even made my random post on Tim Horton’s.

TFK is also one of the few bands I can confidently introduce to any fan of alternative music and witness an instant connection. They have uncanny ability to combine lyrics, vocals, and instruments into a unique sense of rhythm that’s as catchy as it is hard.

You can’t go wrong with any of their albums. If I had to give one favorite, it would probably be “Phenomenon” based solely on the merits of the title song, “Bounce,” and the iconic “Rawkfist.”

If you can sit still through “Bounce,” “Move,” “Rawkfist,” or “Smack Down” you’re probably dead. Their albums are stuffed with the adrenaline-infused car ride songs that make you want to clean your garage or rake leaves.

Check out “Rawkfist” if you can only sample one song and get a crash course in the rhythmic magic that is TFK.

Ok, now I have to go for a long drive with my TFK mix.


House of Heroes

Panic! at the Disco’s “Vices & Virtues” has officially reached gold status in my mp3-player (mainly because my preschooler has latched onto “Memories” and forces an endless loop of track 4 when he’s in the car). But this blog is about bands you don’t know, not bands you do, which brings us to one of my favorites: House of Heroes.

I have a thing for alternative bands with leads who can actually sing. Not just sing well enough for an alternative band, but actually sing sing. Think Incubus, not Weezer. I like a good Weezer song as much as the next person, but you’re not on board to be blown away by vocals.

House of Heroes can sing. They are also quirky and fun, similar to the style of Panic! at the Disco (hence the correlation). Yet, many of their songs have an edge missing from Panic! which better fits my tastes. Without hesitation I recommend “The End is Not the End.” It’s not their latest, but by far their best, and it’s the album that set-off our love affair. This is a band for those who like clever tongue-in-cheek lyrics, funky beats, and slick harmonies.

If you like Panic! at the Disco, you will like House of Heroes. If you don’t, you will probably still like House of Heroes.


Blindside

While we’re celebrating mp3-player gold status, it’s time to give proper accolades to Blindside and welcome them back after a short hiatus. This Swedish band had a bit of a stumble on their last album and then disappeared for a while which turned out to be a wise move.

Their latest offering, “With Shivering Hearts We Wait,” put them back into old form and reminded me why I never gave up hope.

“Silence” will always be my favorite album, with “About a Burning Fire” a close second. But the newest release stays true to their hard alternative roots as well and comfortably fits into my 80/20 singing to screaming ratio. (Ironically, most of the other bands I’ve mentioned on this blog do not, but I like them anyway).

Their lyrics are in English, so don’t let the Swedish background scare you away. They mix melody and alternative edge about as well as any band I’ve heard. Not every song on the album is a homerun (some are), but they’re all at least solid doubles.

Still, there’s some great music coming out of Sweden, and this is the band that’s hooked me.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

SciFi Movie Reviews

For whatever reason I found myself indulging in a SciFi weekend. So without further ado, here’s my take.

Tron: Legacy (2010)
What a pretty movie. I’m sure all the killer robots and egomaniacal minds would cringe to hear me say that, but it was. The world they created was stunning. I enjoyed the unique transportation of each scene and watching the place come to life. I also had no clue what was going on.

I guess that doesn’t matter. There was a Cute Guy and a Cute Girl and a Long-Lost Father and an Evil Villain. You already know the plot from that information alone. The rest I’m sure is Tron lore which probably made total sense to fans of the original film and the game. (Is there even a real game? I’m in my 20’s so I grew up on Mario Bros, not blinking dots.) Stuff happens, things blow up, people race around chasing each other. That’s usually not my thing, but when it was so darn pretty to look at, I forgot that for a while. For a while.

Was it weird watching Garrett Hedlund parade around in the same body pads my parents made me wear to rollerblade as a kid? Surprisingly, no. Am I glad I saw it? Yes. Would I see it again? No.


I Am Number Four (2011)

First off, I’ll say this: I didn’t think the first two-thirds were as bad as everyone said. (The ending: ok, yeah.) As a life-long fan of many escapist CW (formerly WB) cheese, I’d be a hypocrite to decry the familiar formula of 20-something beautiful actors pretending to do teenage things real teenagers don’t actually do.

Having said that, I got the sense early on that I’d seen this movie before. And it was better. Probably because I did. It was a series called Roswell and ran for a few seasons on the WB. I really liked it. I even have the first season on DVD. It made a whole lot more sense than this movie and the characters were much more interesting versions of the same clich├ęs.

Alex Pettyfer is a very attractive young man. A little old for a high school kid, but they all are. Hollywood has established a different conception of what high school “kids” look like so we don’t even notice anymore that the boys need to shave twice a day and the girls have figures like no 15-year-old I ever knew. John (Alex Pettyfer) also clearly isn’t from Sante Fe as he tries to convince his new classmates. The accent that slips out in several heated seats indicates he’s probably not even from this country. (Although England is a lot closer than whatever galaxy he’s supposedly from, so there’s that).

Still, young girls aren’t watching this movie for the superior writing and acting. They’re watching because there’s a totally hot alien in love with a totally hot non-alien and they can’t be together which totally sucks.

Oh, and they’re both outcasts. Right. Like anyone would believe 25-yr-old blond bombshell Dianna Agron is an outcast. I don’t care who dumped whom or who said what about whom “way-in-the-past-so-you-should-just-take-our-word-for-it-that-she’s-an- outcast.” There’s no high school in this country where that girl would be sitting on her own at lunch scribbling in a notebook. That’s where I was in high school and there were no supermodel blonds nearby. (Well, figuratively. We weren’t allowed outside.) 

And sorry, Alex Pettyfer wouldn’t have found himself in loner purgatory either. If you’re super hot and mysterious, coming to the aid of the weird kid only bumps you into the extra-super hot and mysterious category. Hottness elevates the status of your non-hot friends. Not the other way around.

But again, why am I even trying to insert logic into a plot that doesn’t pretend to be anything but ludicrous. Well, maybe it does. Maybe that’s why I struggled with the ending. It took itself very seriously and even tried to convince me I’d want a sequel.

No thanks. I’d rather watch Season 1 of Roswell again.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Message to the Texting Driver on Route 309

 Look, I get it. You’ve been making googly eyes at Tommy all summer at the Subway where you both worked and he finally noticed you. That’s awesome. Really. He’s totally cute and I’m sure if I were 10 years younger, I’d think so too. Plus, he wears those cool graphic tees that make him look hot, but not at all like he’s trying.

And yeah, I know Tabitha has to know what he said in the parking lot at school which could mean, like, 500 different things. Only a 4hr conversation with her is going to sort out the true meaning behind “I like your shirt.” That’s so cryptic. I bet it means he wants to marry you or something.

But here’s the thing, I’m guessing you’re not one of those rare people whose brain has the ability to separate and direct visual stimuli from each eye. I can tell this because you almost killed three people in the last two minutes. If you’re looking at your phone to spread this delightfully confusing message to all your friends, you’re not looking at the road.

You know how you said your new iPhone is magic? You think it’s so awesome that ever since you got it there’s no traffic on the road. You’re queen of the highway. Sorry to ruin the royal fantasy, but we’re still there. We’re just scared to death of you.

You don’t notice us because you’re too busy typing on your phone as we hang back an extra 600 yards or so. We’ve been watching you ride the shoulder every ten seconds for the last four miles, and then swerve back into the other lanes as you overcompensate. Shoulders are for cars in trouble or kids who have to pee. The D.O.T. gods aren’t smiling down on you, they’re terrified.

I get it. I do. The crap in your life is so important that it can’t wait until you get home to call your friends. If you don’t sort out Graphic Tee Tommy’s comment now, it might be too late to connect with your obvious soul-mate. The problem is, the crap in everyone else’s life is important too and we’d really like to get to our own destination to deal with it.

Get. Off. Your. Phone.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

September Movie Reviews


Best Movie I Saw in September: Black Swan (2010)

This film was captivating and visually stunning. It was also terrifying. Sure the concept’s been done before: writer/musician/artist/actor goes to the brink of madness and obsession for their craft, but it still felt fresh, edgy and dark. That’s an accomplishment in itself.

I was thinking about why I found it so scary. There were some intentional bumps in the night and deliberate camera angles to generate scares, but it was mostly a psychological terror. That’s even scarier.

It occurred to me that watching a dark side emerge is instinctively horrifying because there’s a small ember of conscience that we’re all vulnerable. Anyone striving to be the best will have to walk a fine line between dedication and obsession, devotion and madness.

Some tread it well, usually those grounded elsewhere. But those are probably the ones who are very good at something, not the best. Can you truly be the best without falling into obsession with your craft? Without delving into insanity to some extent? I don’t know the answer to that. History’s common theme of the big names and madness must mean something.

I think even though most of us strive for accomplishment, we’re not truly dedicated to the pursuit of being the best at one particular goal. And that’s a good thing. We need people to be the best and advance our society, even if slightly crazy. But for our world to function, most of us need to stay well-rounded, and yes, sane. That means striving to be good at a lot, but not insane about anything.

And that’s why Black Swan was so disturbing and so beautiful.


Worst Movie I Saw in the Month of September: You Again (2010)

This actually wasn’t a terrible movie, but made the list because of lost potential to be a good one. The premise is interesting and relatable. Who doesn’t have someone from their high school days they’d rather not see again. Ever. If you don’t have one of those people, you probably are one of those people.

Toss that premise with Kristen Bell and it should work. I love Kristen Bell. If you’ve never watched Veronica Mars, rent Season 1 now. You won’t be disappointed.

The problem I had was the way they squandered the premise. A better movie would be Bell’s character meeting a truly reformed bully from her past. Joanna (Odette Annable – who is unbelievably beautiful by the way), should have been legitimately sweet, regretful, and striving to make amends. In that movie a paranoid Marni (Kristen Bell) keeps reading into each situation the duplicitous nature of each well-intentioned gesture only to learn in the end that people can change.

Instead, we were given several reasons to believe Joanna hadn’t changed and was just as cruel as ever. Automatically the jokes became less funny. It killed the obligatory “change of heart scene” at the conclusion. Nothing even remotely rang true or seemed cathartic in any way.

The other major problem I had was the moms’ past feuds. Even after a few flashbacks, it wasn’t clear to me whether Gail (Jamie Lee Curtis) had reason to hate Romana (Sigourney Weaver) or the other way around until the final flashback that rehashed the whole story. It made the tension between both women awkward because we couldn’t identify the aggressor and the victim. Whose motives do we question? Who do we root for to be vindicated?

This could have been a good movie. It wasn’t.