Dark Station Premieres ‘Misery’ Acoustic Take, Companion Video

Courtesy: O’Donnell Media Group

Dark Station revisited one of its songs over the weekend.

The band released a reworked take of its song ‘Misery‘ and debuted a video for the song Friday. The band’s forthcoming EP, Afterlight, will feature the song and reworked versions of four other songs from the band’s 2019 debut album Down in the Dark. The EP’s release date and track listing was not announced in the distributed press release announcing the debut of the song and its video.

While ‘Misery’ was not one of the original singles from Down in the Dark, the album produced four other singles: ‘Villain,’ ‘No Life,’ ‘Obvious,’ and ‘Heroes.’

The musical arrangement featured in the reworked take of ‘Misery’ is a stripped down, acoustic take of the song, which is featured in full in Down in the Dark. That take is a heavier, emo/metalcore style composition.

The song’s lyrical theme centers on a serious topic, according to guitarist Kyle Ort.

“Nathan wrote this song about the relationship between Harley Quinn and The Joker, but I think anyone who has been in a toxic relationship will identify with the lyrics.” he said. “Instrumentally, we put everything together with Jeremy and Brandon Wolfe at Wolfe Studios. I really love how this version of the song turned out. I think it shows a different side of the band and I think a lot of people will appreciate that” said Ort.

The video for the acoustic take of ‘Misery’ features Ort, front man Nathan Spades and fellow guitarist David Bruno sitting in a candle-lit studio setting and around a fire pit late in the evening, performing the stripped down take of the song.

Of the song’s video, Ort had the following to say.

“We wanted the video to feel like a live performance, almost like the viewer was in the room with us, so we did the entire video in 2 shots with minimal editing. The film location was Big Bear, California and I remember the temperature dropped to around 20 degrees while we were filming the outside shot. I could barely feel my hands as I was playing guitar. It definitely wasn’t an ideal situation, but we did it!

More information about Dark Station’s new single and video is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and more at:

Websitehttps://www.darkstationband.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/wearedarkstation

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/darkstationband

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Father Before Me Debuts ‘Behind The Veil’ Video

Courtesy: Infecting Cells PR

Independent rock band Father Before kicked off the weekend with some new music.

The band opened the weekend by releasing its new EP Ruby and the video for the EP’s new single, ‘Behind The Veil.’ The song is the second single from the EP, following the premiere of the EP’s lead single, ‘Until Lambs Become Lions‘ in February. the band premiered its new video through Ghost Cult magazine.

The musical arrangement featured in ‘Behind The Veil’ continues the punk style approach displayed in ‘Until Lambs Become Lions.’  The distinct drumming and guitar styles exhibited throughout the nearly three-and-a-half-minute opus make that clear.  The quick, sharp beat in the chorus and the chords that are used in the guitar line pair with Catrone’s vocal delivery style to make that even clearer.  The whole gives this song a sound and sense that lends itself to comparison to works from the likes of Avenged Sevendfold.  The sense of frustration and anger exuded by the minor chords and the force in the overall arrangement helps the song connect with listeners especially when it is considered along with the song’s lyrical theme.

According to information provided to the media about the song, its lyrical theme takes on the familiar topic of what the average working person thinks and feels everyday.  This is made clear right from the song’s outset as Catrone sings, “Wake up/Work yourself to the bone/They sit comfortably upon their throne/Minutes go by/For you, it’s the entire day/Trying to speak/But you are put up on display/Hiding behind the veil/You’ve run out of options/You’re set up to fail/Take a break and exhale/Your mind’s not for auction/Your soul’s not for sale.’  This statement is a reminder to everyone of our self worth and that we need to remind ourselves of that worth, rather than just work ourselves to the bone and just constantly feel unappreciated in work and in life in general.  The message is continued in the song’s second verse, which states, “You give up yourself/They still want more/A tip of the hat/You’re kicked to the floor/Patience runs dry/This can’t be all that we deserve/They judge/They laugh/While all they do is observe.”  This is a straight forward message that will certainly connect with any listener.  It again reminds listeners to give themselves more credit and respect, because those above will never do either one.  It is another message that when combined with the song’s musical arrangement shows why this record succeeds.  The song ends with its subject reaching that calm, singing, “Now that I can finally breathe/It’s easier just to see/What has been in front of me all along.”  Once again, here is that reminder that once we take better care of ourselves and respect ourselves, it will help us to make it through our daily lives.  This is, overall, a familiar theme, but the accessibility – that straight forward delivery – makes it so strong.  All things considered here, it makes the song just one more example of what makes Ruby a successful new offering from Father Before Me.

The animated video for ‘Behind The Veil’ features its main character in a variety of situations, from riding on a subway train, to laying in bed clearly feeling stressed about something, to going into space. The whole thing finishes with a surprise ending that will be left for audiences to discover for themselves.

In other news, Father Before Me is streaming Ruby in its entirety for free through Metal-Rules.

More information on Father Before Me’s new video, single, and EP is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/fatherbeforeme

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/fatherbeforeme

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Settle Your Scores Debuts New Single, ‘Meant For Misery,’ Companion Video

Courtesy: Mutant League Records
Courtesy: Mutant League Records

Pop punk band Settle Your Scores debuted its latest single and video this week.

The band premiered its new single, ‘Meant For Misery‘ and its companion video Thursday. The song is the second single from the band’s forthcoming album, Retrofit, which is scheduled for release Aug. 20 though Mutant League Records. The band premiered the album’s lead single, ‘1999‘ and its video last month.

The musical arrangement featured in ‘Meant For Misery’ is, as with ‘1999,’ another pop punk composition that takes listeners back to the pop punk sounds that became so popular during the 90s. It is easily comparable to works from bands, such as Sum 41, Blink-182, and All Time Low.

No information regarding the song’s lyrical theme was presented in the news release announcing the premiere of the band’s new single. A close listen to the soong reveals what sounds like the angsty feelings of so much music from the 90s, too.

The video that accompanies the band’s new song features two boxers in a ring. The smaller of the pair does everything that he can to defeat the larger boxer, but utlimately ends up on the mat, singing that “maybe I was just made for misery.” That would seem to echo the angsty vibe of the song’s lyrical theme.

More information on Settle Your Scores’ new single, video, and album is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:

Websitehttps://www.settleyourscores.co

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/settleyourscores

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/syspoppunk

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Illumination Road Debuts New Single, ‘It Looks Like They Got To You (Too)’

Independent rock band Illumination Road debuted its new single and music video this week.

The band premiered its new single, ‘It Looks Like They Got To You (Too)‘ Tuesday. It is available to stream and download through all digital platforms.

The song’s premiere comes more than two months after the premiere of the band’s then latest single, ‘the Modern World’ and its video. That song is available to stream and download through SpotifyiTunes, and Apple Music.

Courtesy: Earshot Media

The musical arrangement featured in ‘It Looks Like They Got To You (Too)’ changes things up from the band’s previous single. Instead of the classic rock approach and sound featured in that song, this song is more of a blues rock style composition. It is easily comparable in its sound and style to works from the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Bonamassa, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.

The lyrical theme featured alongside that blues-rock musical arrangement is left up to interpretation. Bassist Chad Shlosser discussed the song’s lyrical theme in a somewhat cryptic fashion during an interview with Elmore Magazine, stating, “This cut, ‘It Looks Like They Got To You (Too),’ is the smashing yet groovy second single. Following the story line from the first single, where we’re introduced to ‘The Modern World,’ we’re now feeling the effects of this new way of life and how it’s cutting to the core of all of us.”

More information on Illumination Road’s new single is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:

Websitehttps://www.illumination-road.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/IlluminationRoad

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Billy F. Gibbons’ New LP Is Certain To Earn Its Own Share Of “Hardware”

Courtesy: Concord Records

ZZ Top front man Billy F. Gibbons is set to release his third solo album, Hardware Friday through Concord Records. Coming less than two years after the release of his sophomore solo record, The Big Bad Blues, this 12-song record stands out in part because of its featured songs. This will be discussed shortly. The arrangements featured throughout the album are just as important to address as the songs themselves. This will be addressed a little later.  The songs’ sequencing rounds out the album’s most important elements. It will be discussed later, too. All three items noted here are important in their own right to the whole of the record’s presentation. All things considered, they make Hardware another successful new offering from Gibbons that his audiences and those of his band, ZZ Top will equally enjoy.

Hardware, the third solo record from Billy F. Gibbons, is another enjoyable offering from the longtime ZZ Top front man. That is due in no small part to its featured songs. The songs in question are original compositions, save for just one song, ‘Hey Baby, Que Paso,’ originally originally made famous by Augie Meyers, and later by The Texas Tornados. By comparison, Gibbons’ previous solo records, Perfectamundo and The Big Bad Blues were composed primarily of cover tunes, and far less of original works.  For Gibbons to take such a risk and rely more on original music this time around is a nice change of pace.  It shows Gibbons’ willingness to take more of a chance.  That in itself gives audiences reason enough to give this album a chance.

Building on the appeal established through the album’s general presentation is the actual sound and stylistic approach to the songs featured throughout this album. While Gibbons (and ZZ Top’s) established audiences will find much of the album’s arrangements familiar in terms of sound and style, they will also find that Gibbons does branch out a little bit here.  The most noticeable change of pace comes in the contemplative ballad, ‘Vagabond Man.’ It is in this song that Gibbons takes on the all-too-familiar topic of being out on the road and away from family and friends.  So many acts across the musical universe have taken on that topic throughout the years.  In the case of the song’s arrangement though, Gibbons’ subdued approach tugs at listeners’ heart strings so much without trying.  He also tries something slightly different in ‘Spanish Fly.’  The song presents a distinct modern blues rock sound instead of the more typical southern rock sound for which Gibbons has been known for crafting during his career.  It is another welcome change of pace from Gibbons.  The steady tambourine beat and thick, rich bass drum beat against the backing choral vocals here collectively makes for so much interest.  ‘Desert High,’ which closes out the 37-minute record, is another example of the importance of the arrangements featured in the record’s songs.  The subdued arrangement here conjures thoughts of a specific song from The Doors at times.  As the song progresses and really gets heavier, it still maintains its blues rock identity, but still has a touch of hard rock about it.  It is really another change of style for Gibbons in this outing.  When it and the other songs examined here are considered alongside the more familiar southern/blues-based rock for which Gibbons has come to be known, the whole makes the album’s overall musical content just as important as the approach that Gibbons took to this record.

On a side note, the lyrical content that accompanies the album’s musical content is largely familiar.  As noted, there is that one contemplative piece in ‘Vagabond Man.’ Much of the record’s other lyrical content though, has to do with a woman in a variety of situations.  ‘She’s on Fire’ is clearly about a man who’s wild for a woman.  ‘My Lucky Card’ is also about a woman.  In this case, Gibbons compares the woman to…well…a lucky poker card.  ‘Spanish Fly’ makes reference to drugs and alcohol.  This should be noted.  But a woman is involved here, too.  ‘Hey Baby, Que Paso’ is a cover, but also has to do with a woman.  On another note, ‘Stackin’ Bones’ is its own unique song that is slightly familiar, lyrically, to ‘Spanish Fly’ just without the mention of the woman.  That is putting it lightly.  So considering all of this and the rest of the record’s lyrical themes, much of this record is lyrically just as familiar for audiences of Gibbons and ZZ Top as that in each side’s existing works.  That makes the record even more accessible. 

As much as Gibbons’ approach to the album and the album’s songs (and their
lyrical counterparts) does for the record’s appeal, they are only a part of what makes the album so appealing.  The sequencing of all of that content brings everything together, completing the record’s presentation.   A full listen to Hardware reveals the album to be a mostly up-tempo record.  There are a couple of moments that are laid back, but still manage to keep the album’s energy moving.  At the album’s center though, audiences get a nice break point in the pairing of ‘Vagabond Man’ and ‘Spanish Fly.’  The two songs collectively pull the record back significantly and then gradually build things back up before the record really gets back up to speed in its energy and emotion in ‘West Coast Junkie.’ From there on to the album’s end, Gibbons keeps things moving solidly.  This ensures listeners’ engagement and entertainment in its own right, too.  When this is considered along with Gibbons’ approach to the album and the album’s content, the whole makes Hardware another great record from one of the greatest names in rock and the blues.

Billy F. Gibbons’ third solo album, Hardware, is a successful new offering from the veteran singer/guitarist.  It is a step up from his first time albums.  That is thanks in part to the approach that Gibbons took to the record. Instead of relying mainly on covers this time, he instead opted to make his original compositions the star.  Only one of the record’s dozen total songs is a cover in this case.  The musical (and lyrical) content featured within the songs shows that the risk that Gibbons took this time out paid off, too.  It offered audiences something familiar and something slightly less so throughout.  The sequencing of that total content brought everything together here, completing the album’s presentation.  That mid-album break that was intentionally used here ensured that the record did not get monotonous and kept listeners’ attention and enjoyment.  Keeping all of this in mind, the whole of these elements makes Hardware a presentation that is sure to earn just as much hardware as its predecessors. 

Hardware is scheduled for release Friday through Concord Records.  More
information on the album is available along with all of Billy F. Gibbons’ latest
news at:

Websitehttps://www.billygibbons.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/BillyFGibbonsOfficial

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/billyfgibbons

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Ben Patterson Makes A Good “Push” For A Spot Among 2021’s Top New Jazz Records With His Latest LP

Courtesy: Origin Records

The year that was 2020 was a pivotal period for trombonist and jazz artist Ben Patterson.  That is because he saw so much change in his own career throughout the year.  After more than two decades as a member of the United States Air Force Band’s Airmen of Note (as well as its lead trombonist and musical director), Patterson stepped down from the positions and left the organization.  Then in March, the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down.  That ended any plans he had for rest and recreation in the form of travel.  Rather than let himself get down, Patterson instead made lemonade (so to speak) and crafted a number of songs, which ended up becoming the body of his new solo record, Push The Limits.  Those songs were recorded in September alongside Patterson’s fellow musicians Shawn Purcell (guitar), Chris Ziemba (keyboards, guitar), Paul Henry (bass), Todd Harrison (drums, percussion), and Dani Cortaza (guitar). Released March 19 through Origin Records, the 10-song record is an aptly titled presentation.  That is because the arrangements in question really do push the limits.  They will be discussed shortly.  While the musical content featured throughout the album makes for plenty of engagement and entertainment, the record’s presentation does have one misstep, that being the lack of any background information about the songs in the liner notes. This will be discussed a little later.  The record’s production rounds out its most important elements and will be discussed later, too.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the album’s presentation.  All things considered, they make the album an overall presentation that any jazz fan will enjoy.

Ben Patterson’s new album, Push The Limits is a presentation that will easily appeal to most jazz audiences.  That is due in part to the musical arrangements featured throughout the 74-minute record.  The arrangements take listeners in a wide range of directions from start to end.  The whole thing opens in rather energetic fashion in its title track.  The song presents listeners with a sort of bebop approach in the early portion of its 10 minute-plus run time.  As the song progresses though, the addition of the full-on improve approach from the guitar (or is it keyboards?  They sound so similar that it is difficult to tell) takes the arrangement in a more free jazz style approach.  The two styles are polar opposites, yet somehow work so well together here.  The eventual blending of the two styles late in the song makes for even more engagement and entertainment.  By the time the song is over, audiences will not have even realized they sat through more than 10 minutes of music in this case. 

‘Hope,’ which serves as the album’s midpoint, is completely different from ‘Push The Limits’ in terms of its style and sound.  In this case, audiences get something more along the lines of a cool jazz type work.  It is such a simple, relaxed work, yet is just as certain to fully engage and entertain listeners.  Patterson takes the lead here with his slow, gentle performance on the trombone.  The relaxed feel and sound exhibited by his performance and Harison’s even more subtle backing does well to help illustrate what the group must have been trying to translate here.  The positive mindset that it establishes really does translate what one thinks and feels in getting that sense of hope in difficult times.  It is that simple, gentle clarity of mind.  The group in whole achieves its goal while also showing even more the diversity in the album’s musical content.

‘Road Trip,’ the album’s penultimate entry, is yet another example of the diversity exhibited throughout the record.  This time out, Patterson and company have opted for a more Afro-Latin-tinged sound from the 1960s and 70s.  That vintage sound is especially exhibited through Ziemba’s performance on the keyboard.  The sound and style that Ziemba presents in his solo lends itself easily to comparisons to works from the late, great composer Vince Guaraldi.  The guitar work does just as much to conjure those thoughts and sounds of so much vintage lounge style jazz.  That lounge style and sound, opposite the arrangement’s more Afro-Latin approach and sound makes for quite the interesting dichotomy.  That is meant in the most positive fashion possible.  The whole shows in its own way, the diversity exhibited throughout this record from song to song and even within songs.  When this composition and the others examined here are considered along with the rest of the album’s songs, the whole leaves no doubt as to the importance of that musical content.  For all of the engagement and entertainment that the record’s musical diversity ensures, the record is not perfect.  Its lack of any real background on the songs in the liner notes detracts at least somewhat from the album’s presentation.

The liner notes featured with Patterson’s new album lack any real background on the record’s songs’ inspirations.  The only song that gets any real attention is its title track.  Patterson explains in this case that the song is a reflection of his determination to get past his occasional writer’s block, in terms of composing songs.  He points out that when he hits those walls, he becomes determined to “push the limits,” thus the song’s title and energy.  Other than this explanation, there really is nothing in the way of that background information.  It is not enough to make the album a failure by any means, but being that instrumental jazz is so different from vocal jazz and from mainstream music, it helps to have that background information so as to help increase understanding of and appreciation for the arrangements.  Again, the general lack of any real background is not enough to doom the album.  It just would have been nice to have had that added information and thus, understanding and appreciation for the album in whole.  Keeping this in mind, there is still one more item to note here, in terms of the album’s positives.  That item is the album’s production.

As has already been noted, the musical content featured throughout this album is diverse.  It changes from song to song and even within the course of the songs themselves.  That means that a lot of time and attention had to go into balancing dynamics, instruments’ presence, and even more minute items.  Whether in a slower moment, such as that in ‘Easter Waltz’ and ‘Hope’ or in a more active tune, such as ‘Fear is the Mindkiller’ or even something that exhibits reserved and energetic feelings all in one – such as in ‘Almost There’ – every composition required its own share of attention.  The work to balance all of the noted elements paid off, as each song offers the utmost impact regardless of the intended result of the performers’ work.  That is a tribute to the work put in behind the glass just as much as in front of the boards.  Keeping that in mind, the production pays off just as much as the songs themselves to make this record mostly a successful presentation that most jazz fans will enjoy.

Ben Patterson’s new album, Push The Limits is an aptly titled presentation that lives up to its title.  That is proven in part through its featured arrangements.  The arrangements are so diverse within themselves and from one to the next.  They push the limits of what audiences expect from jazz records.  While the record’s musical diversity does plenty to make the record appealing, the lack of any real background information on the songs undeniably detracts from the record’s appeal.  It does not make the album a failure, but certainly would have enhanced the listening experience had it been there.  Moving on from there, the record’s production rounds out its most important elements.  That is because the production was responsible for assembling and balancing all of the performances with each song, bringing out the best of each work.  That painstaking effort paid off, too.  Whether in the more subtle, laid back moments or the more energetic moments, or even moments that have both moods within themselves, the utmost attention was paid to every minute detail.  The result is that the album proves appealing just as much for its sound as for its content.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the album.  All things considered, the album proves itself to be a presentation that most jazz fans will find engaging and entertaining.  Push the Limits is available now through Origin Records.

More information on Push the Limits is available along with all of Ben Patterson’s latest news at https://benpattersonjazz.com.  

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.  

‘Raya And The Last Dragon’ Is A Surprisingly Positive Presentation From Disney

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios

Audiences looking for a worthwhile movie to watch last year had a hard time of things as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The pandemic forced the shutdown of countless movies in production around the world, and delayed the release of others that were already completed.  That extensive list of movies delayed due to the pandemic’s impact includes Walt Disney Studios’ latest CG-flick, Raya and the Last Dragon.  The movie was originally planned for release Nov. 25, 2020 (the week of Thanksgiving), but ended up making its theatrical debut months later, March 12, 2021.  More than two months later – May 18 to be exact — the movie has made its way to home audiences on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K UHD/BD combo pack.  The movie itself is just as enjoyable in its home release as in its theatrical release.  Its bonus content adds to that appeal.  Though at the same time, it also raises at least one concern that deserves some attention.  That concern will be addressed later.  The pacing of the story featured here works with the story itself to make for even more appeal  It will be discussed later, too.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the movie and its presentation in its new home presentation.  All things considered, they make Raya and the Last Dragon a surprisingly welcome new offering from Disney.

Raya and the Last Dragon is a surprisingly welcome new offering from Walt Disney Studios.  The enjoyment comes in the fact that it is an original story.  It is not based on some book and is not yet another of the countless reboots that Disney has churned out in the past couple of years or so.  The story featured here centers on a young woman – Raya – who sets out on a quest to reassemble the “Dragon Gem” years after representatives of the nations of Kumandra fought over the gem and cracked it into multiple pieces, unwittingly freeing a group of evil beings known as the Druun.  The Druun turn everything they touch into stone, including Raya’s father.  That set-up leads to Raya’s quest, which is in her mind, solely focused on bringing her father back to life so to speak.  In the process, Raya meets Sisu, the last dragon, and a motley crew of friends from the nations of Kumandra.  Her new friends’ own strife, which was also caused by the Druun, leads her to increasingly realize the need to trust and to trust in the good in people.  While this (and the message of the need for unity and peace) is at the heart of the story, the movie’s creative heads do not allow any of that content to overpower the enjoyable action and adventure that makes up the rest of the story.  What’s more, the story does well in avoiding being just another coming-of-age tale (which is what Moana, Disney’s most recent “princess” movie, was).  Rather, it just culminates in Raya’s own personal realization and acceptance that she was limiting herself.  Given, that self realization is a familiar plot element that is used in other movies from other studios, but it is presented in a unique, fresh fashion here.  Keeping everything noted here in mind, the story featured in Raya and the Last Dragon serves as a strong starting point for the movie’s presentation.  It is just one part of what makes the movie so surprisingly positive.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its new home release enhances the viewing experience even more.

The bonus content featured in the home release of Raya and the Last Dragon is important to its new presentation because of the background that it provides to the story.  The background in question is largely the story of how the movie’s creative heads and cast overcame limitations brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic to make the movie still happen.  The cast and crew discuss working from home in the feature “Raya” Bringing It Home.”  They talk about the difficulties of trying to balance their work and home life as a result of being forced to work on the movie from home.  From the issue of everyone trying to log onto one of Disney’s systems all at once so as to work on the movie (risking bogging down the system), to dealing with the presence of family while working, to the very mental impact of having to stare at a computer screen for eight (and sometimes more) hours a day just to make the movie happen, the group addresses here, a variety of obstacles that it faced in bringing the story to life.  That alone makes for even more appreciation for the end product.

The noted bonus feature is just one of the key extras featured in the movie’s home release.  “We Are Kumandra” and “Martial Artists” serve to show the dedication that all involved had to making the story true to its source material so to speak.  Viewers learn through “We Are Kumandra” that the movie’s creative heads and voice cast traveled to Southeast Asia pre-pandemic as part of the movie’s pre-production to lean about the culture of the region so as to properly and accurately display it on screen.  “Martial Artists” meanwhile profiles the martial arts expert who displayed the martial arts used across Southeast Asia for the fight scenes.  Again, here is an example of the movie’s creative heads making sure the region, its people, and culture were honestly and honorably displayed.  This is hardly the first time that a Disney movie and its staff have gone to such lengths to make one of its movies as accurate as possible.  It just shows even more, that continued dedication.  That, in turn, leads to even more appreciation for the movie.

On yet another note, the deleted scenes bonus are important to the overall presentation, too.  They are important because in watching them, viewers will agree that they are scenes that were not needed considering what made the final cut versus that content.  What’s more, that the deleted scenes show the Druun as some kind of supernatural entity type creature that can inhabit suits of armor and become evil warriors is also troubling.  It creates the sense of some kind of anime type presentation, especially as Raya uses her sword (which is also part axe in the deleted scenes) to break through the Druun’s armor and “kill” them.  The more subdued use of the Druun in the final product is so much better by comparison.  So here again is more proof of the positive impact of the bonus content. 

As a final touch, the “Taste of Raya” virtual dinner adds its own touch to the bonus content.  The cast and creative heads enjoy a virtual dinner via Zoom as they talk about the work that went into the movie’s creation.  The dinner in question features real Southeast Asian dishes as part of the event. Learning about those dishes and the importance of the representation of Asian culture and peoples in the movie industry adds its own touch to the presentation.  All things considered, the bonus content featured in this movie adds quite a bit of engagement and entertainment to the movie and the viewing experience.

While the bonus content featured with the movie’s home release is its own overall positive, there is a concern tied to the bonus content.  That concern comes in the reality that it is not featured in the movie’s DVD presentation.  That is the only platform on which it is not presented.  This leads one to feel that this is Disney trying to force viewers who want to watch the bonus content to have to pay even more mainly for that content.  This is hardly the first time that Disney has gone this route, either.  Keeping that in mind, it makes for even more frustration toward Disney on top of the frustration already caused by the company basically double charging viewers to watch certain movies on its streaming service, Disney+.  It paints Disney even more as a company that cares more about money than the audiences.  Maybe one day, Disney’s officials will come to their senses about all of this.  In the meantime, audiences who want to watch the movie’s bonus content will have to pay anywhere from $25-$30 (and more counting sales tax).  Even with that in mind, it thankfully is not enough to make the movie’s home presentation a failure.  It is just something that really needs to be addressed by Disney.  The pacing of the movie’s story rounds out its most important elements.

Raya and the Last Dragon clocks in at one hour, 47 minutes.  That is just under the two hour mark.  For families with young children, that is important to note because of the attention span of those younger viewers.  Thankfully, the movie’s creative heads must have taken that into consideration.  That is because even at that run time, the story moves along at a relatively stable pace.  Even in the “slower” moments in which Raya and her growing group are on board Boun’s boat, the story manages to make the dialogue engaging and entertaining.   The result of that solid pacing is that audiences of all ages will remain engaged and entertained throughout.  That maintained engagement and entertainment results in that much more enjoyment in and appreciation for the original, action-filled story.  That, coupled with the engagement and entertainment ensured through the movie’s bonus content, makes the overall presentation a rare positive presentation from Disney that actually deserves a spot among this year’s best new movies.

Walt Disney Studios’ movie Raya and the Last Dragon is a surprisingly enjoyable offering from the studio.  That is due in part to its featured story.  The story is an original work that follows a young woman’s quest to bring her father back to life.  In the process, she learns a valuable lesson about trust and trusting in the good in people.  The story also incorporates an equally important message about the need for peace and unity.  This is all done without either aspect becoming preachy, and overpowering the rest of the story.  What’s more, the story does not just rehash Moana’s whole coming-of-age story.  All things considered here, the story proves to be a solid starting point for the movie.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its home release adds its own enjoyment to the viewing experience.  That is because of the background that it offers audiences.  The story’s pacing rounds out the most important of its elements.  It ensures that even though the movie runs almost two hours, even young audiences will remain engaged and entertained throughout.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of this movie in its home release.  All things considered, they make the movie a surprisingly enjoyable offering from Disney.  Raya and the Last Dragon is available now on DVD, Blu-ray/DVD/Digital combo pack, and 4K UHD/BD/Digital combo pack.

More information on this and other titles from Disney is available online at:

Website: https://waltdisneystudios.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WaltDisneyStudios

Twitter: https://twitter.com/disneystudios

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.  

Shout! Factory, eOne Partner For 35th Anniversary Re-Issue of ‘Transformers: The Movie’

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/eOne

Shout! Factory will celebrate the 35th anniversary of the original release of Transformers: The Movie this summer.

The home entertainment company, which last re-issued the movie on Blu-ray in 2016, is scheduled to re-issue it again Aug. 3 on a new 4K UHD/BD steelbook presentation. It marks the first time that the movie has seen release on that platform. Additionally, the movie will see release on a standard edition 4K UHD/BD package and separate 35th anniversary BD combo pack platform.

The BD and 4K UHD/BD combo packs will feature the movie in separate HD fullscreen and widescreen presentation. Additionally, the 4K UHD/BD combo pack will feature new bonus content that was not featured in the movie’s previous 2016 BD re-issue as well as the bonus content featured in that release.

The full list of the movie’s bonus content is noted below.

   *New Feature-Length Storyboards, including deleted, alternate and extended sequences

·        *New Fathom Events 30th Anniversary Featurette, including Stan Bush’s acoustic performances of “The Touch” and “Dare”

·        ‘Til All Are One – A comprehensive documentary looking back at THE TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE with members of the cast and crew, including story consultant Flint Dille, cast members Gregg Berger, Neil Ross, Dan Gilvezan, singer/songwriter Stan Bush, composer Vince Dicola and others!

·        Audio Commentary with Director Nelson Shin, story consultant Flint Dille and star Susan Blu

·        Featurettes

·        Animated Storyboards

·        Trailers and TV Spots

*exclusive to the Limited Edition SteelBook and 4K UHD releases

Audiences in theUK will see the movie’s re-issue come in September. An exact release date is under consideration. Viewers who pre-order the movie now will receive a bonus 18″X24″ lithograph with new art by Matt Ferguson while supplies last.

More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available along with the company’s latest news at:

Website: https://www.shoutfactory.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Of Mice & Men Continues Its Success In The Second Of Its Three Planned New EPs

Courtesy: Sharptone Records

Veteran metalcore band Of Mice & Men returns this week with the second of its three planned new EPs for this year. 

Bloom is scheduled for release Friday through Sharptone Records.  The three-song EP picks up right where its predecessor, Timeless left off both musically and lyrically.  Speaking of that musical and lyrical content, each does its own part to make this latest offering from Of Mice & Men engaging and entertaining.  They will each receive their own attention here.  The record’s production rounds out its most important elements.  Each item noted does its own part to make this latest offering another positive offering from Of Mice & Men.  All things considered, they make Bloom a strong follow-up to Timeless that the band’s established audiences will enjoy just as much as metalcore fans in general.

Of Mice & Men has succeeded for the second time this year with its new EP, Bloom.  The second of the band’s three planned new EPs for this year, it stands out in part because of its musical arrangements.  The arrangements in question seem to show the band…well…blooming and growing.  Case in point is the musical arrangement featured in ‘Levee,’ the record’s opener.  The song exhibits the band’s familiar heaviness.  At the same time though, the stylistic approach in this case also lends itself to comparisons to work from the likes of Unearth (which ironically is more metal than metalcore), Atreyu, and Slipknot (which is also more metal than metalcore).  The full, wall of sound approach taken here shows the band as a unit willing to take that chance and grow more in another direction than just continuing on the same path yet again.  The risk paid off, too.  It ensures listeners’ engagement and entertainment throughout its nearly five minute run time.   ‘Pulling Teeth,’ which closes out the EP, is another example of the importance of the EP’s musical content.  It exhibits the band’s familiar classic metalcore elements even more here alongside a more metal leaning.  The djent style added to the mix adds so much to the mix.  The whole here makes this song just as solid a closer for the EP as ‘Levee’ is an opener.  Much the same can be said of the arrangement featured in the EP’s title track.  The more melodic moments, balanced against the heavier choruses makes for another solid musical presentation that will keep listeners engaged and entertained.  All three arrangements collectively give listeners more than enough reason to take in this record.  It is only a portion of what makes the EP successful.  The record’s lyrical themes add their own touch to the EP’s presentation.

The lyrical themes featured in Bloom are notable because of the range of themes featured in the songs.  That is even considering that the EP features only three songs.  The band takes on the familiar theme of mental health in ‘Levee.’  Front man Aaron Pauley makes that clear as he sings in the song’s chorus, “It’s cold, cloudy, windy and wet/I see the sun inside my head/It’s warmer/And I need the warmth/More than ever.”  He adds in the chorus’ refrain, “It keeps raining/Down, down, down/It touches everything we love.” Eventually Pauley screams, “It can only rain for so long/Before it washes us away/The levee’s gonna break before long/I can only swing for so long/So maybe it’s our time to drown.”  The song’s verses are difficult to decipher sans lyrics to reference, but the choruses are clear enough that it is easy to make an inference about the topic here.  This is a song that takes on the familiar topic of mental health.  It is presented in a unique fashion here that will definitely resonate with listeners. 

The EP’s title track offers its own deep topic.  According to Pauley, the song focuses on the loss of a loved one.  “It’s about understanding, through that loss, that grief is not only love in its most visceral and wildest form, but that it’s also the ultimate price we pay to experience such love,” said Pauley in a prepared statement about the song. “To know profound grief is to have known profound love. Nothing and no one lasts forever. Love isn’t a bouquet of plastic flowers; it’s watching the petals fall.”  This is a powerful statement both from him and from its delivery within the song.  Yes, it is familiar, but is always welcome since loss is something we all have to experience.  To that end, the theme here shows even more the diversity in the EP’s lyrical content and the importance thereof.

The lyrical theme featured in ‘Pulling Teeth’ is difficult to decipher sans lyrics.  However, Pauley’s statement in the song’s closing bars that “I thought I was prepared/That I was up to the task/I said I’ll be okay/But my world collapsed/Piece by piece by piece/Like slowly pulling teeth” infers the matter of dealing with a serious matter.  He notes in the song’s opening, “Time stops for no man/The end awaits us all…I tried to fight off/The belly of the beast” builds on the overall statement.  Even with this and what little can be deciphered in the chorus, the theme is still somewhat up in the air.  It certainly comes across as being somewhat existential.  The discussions that will come about from what this song may or may not be about shows in its own unique way, the importance of the EP’s lyrical content.  When this is considered along with the impact of the EP’s musical arrangements, the two sides join to make for even more appeal here.  Even with that in mind, there is still one more item to address.  It comes in the form of the EP’s production.


The production of Bloom is important to discuss because of how much is going on in each song.  From the sound of the falling rain in the opening bars of ‘Levee’ and the transition into the much heavier body, there is a lot going on here.  The subtlety in the falling rain serves well to set the initial mood of depression.  That depression transitions into a much more intense mixture of anger and frustration along with that depression throughout the rest of the song.  That combination serves well to translate the wide range of emotion in the speaker’s mind.  The fact that those two distinctly different moods are so well balanced along with the full instrumentation here is a prime example of the result of the work that went into the production.  Even as heavy as the song is, each musician’s part is well-balanced with the others, and with the vocals and added effects.  The overall impact is a song that fully immerses the listener in the song.  ‘Bloom’ and ‘Pulling Teeth’ obviously required just as much attention as ‘Levee’ in terms of the songs’ production.  ‘Pulling Teeth’ is so heavy and plodding. It is heavier perhaps than anything that Of Mice and Men has ever crafted.  Luckily, the painstaking efforts to balance the heavy, crunching guitars, bass, and drums paid off here with each part complimenting the others in its own way.  The result is a song that will prove to be a fan favorite if only for this aspect.  All things considered, the production of this record required lots of attention in terms of production, and that attention paid off throughout.  When the positive impact of the record’s production is considered with the role and importance of the musical and lyrical content, the whole makes Bloom a solid follow-up to Timeless and gives great hope for Of Mice and Men’s third and final EP of the year.

The second of three new EP’s planned for release this year from Of Mice & Men is a strong new offering from the veteran metalcore outfit.  That is due in part to the EP’s musical arrangements.  The arrangements exhibit just enough of the band’s familiar metalcore leanings while also delving into more pure metal influences than on Timeless.  That growth is such that any audience will find it appealing in all three songs featured here.  The lyrical themes featured in this record do their own part to show the EP’s strength.  That is because where the themes featured in Timeless were all clearly existential, they are more diverse in this case.  From dealing with the loss of a loved one, to taking on the equally familiar topic of mental health, to something else, the band opted this time to “bloom” and expand on its lyrical content.  The production of the songs rounds out the EP’s most important elements.  It shows that even with so much going on in each song, the best of each song is brought out through the attention to every detail in each song.  The result is that the EP proves appealing just as much for its sound as for its content.  Considering this, the EP overall proves to be just as successful as Timeless and gives hope for the next EP from Of Mice & Men.  Bloom is scheduled for release Friday through Sharptone Records.

More information on Of Mice and Men’s new EP is available now along with all of the band’s latest news and more at:

Websitehttps://www.ofmiceandmenofficial

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/ofmice

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/OMandM

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Crashing Wayward Takes On The Political, Economic Establishment In New Single, Video

Courtesy: Crashing Wayward

Independent rock band Crashing Wayward premiered its latest single and video this week.

The band premiered its new single, ‘Disco Kills‘ and its video Tuesday through v13.net. The song features a musical arrangement that will appeal to any guitar rock purist.

The composition presents a sound and stylistic approach that shows influences from the likes of Stone Temple Pilots, Audioslave, and even Filter. Yes, that is a disparate mix of influences, but a close listen reveals the influence of all three bands, along with many others. The song was produced by MIke Gillies (Motley Crue, Metallica, The Cult).

The lyrical content featured in the song is meant as a sociopolitical commentary, according to front man Peter Summit.

“’Disco Kills’ was lyrically written as a metaphor about the politicians/big businesses who abuse their platform, disco being the metaphor,” he said. “It speaks in sequence to the effect that Disco music had on Rock in the late 70s, but its subject is a politician/big business who is enjoying the party. How about: It’s really a modern-day Marie Antoinette “Let them eat cake” story that takes on a duel meaning open for interpretation.”

The video for ‘Disco Kills’ puts the band — Summit, David Harris (guitar), Stacey Blades (guitar), Shon McKee (drums), and Carl Raether (bass) — into an empty building that perhaps was once either a warehouse or apartment building as it performs its new single. The video was directed by Vincent Cordero for Industrialism Films.

More information on Crashing Wayward’s new single and video is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:

Website: https://www.crashingwayward.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/crashing.wayward

Twitter: https://twitter.com/crashingwayward

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.