Indiepix Import Ships Sails Despite Syncing Issues

Courtesy:  Indiepix Films

Courtesy: Indiepix Films

Earlier this year, independent movie studio Indiepix imported the Turkish foreign film Ships for American audiences. The movie, which originally debuted in its home country in January 2014, is quite the interesting work. Coming in at just over the ninety-minute mark, its script lies at the heart of its interest. The movie’s script follows a young man named Ali (Ugur Uzunel–El yazisi) as he ponders his life in the port town that is he calls home in regards to his own future, his relationship with his father, and much more. As the story, penned by writer/director Elif Refig, progresses, it becomes more than just a story ruminating on one’s place in the world but one that even boasts just the slightest amount of romance. Luckily that romance factor doesn’t overpower the movie’s main plot. Rather it plays into the movie’s overall plot, leading to a deep philosophical (and psychological) concept that will definitely have viewers talking after the movie ends. While the movie’s script plays a powerful part in its surprising enjoyment, it can’t be said that the movie is pefect. There is a clearly noticable problem with the movie’s sync. The movie is not dubbed in English. So this is not just the standard English voice actor dubbing over the foreign original. The audio and video is at the very least a good second and a half off from one another. To some this may not seem like that much. But it is noticeable. And while it doesn’t necessarily kill the movie (or the bonus short included with the movie–it also has a sync issue)it is a hindrance that must be noted. Having noted the painfully obvious issue with the movie’s sync (and that of the movie’s companion short film) that noted bonus companion short film adds even more to the movie’s overall presentation. That is the case even with its sync issue. It abrely tops the twenty-minute mark. But in the course of that time, it achieves plenty. And even despite it having its own syncing issue it still combines with the presentation’s main movie to make Ships a must see indie fick and one of this year’s top new independent films.

Indiepix Films’ recently imported independent foreign film Ships is a must see for anyone wanting to escape the monotony of the material being churned out by Hollywood’s “Power Five Studios.” It is also one of this year’s best new independent movies. The main reason that it is worthy of holding both titles is its script. Penned by writer/director Elif Refig, the script behind this movie isn’t just some overly artsy forieng film that is artsy for the sake of it. Rather it balances that art film approach with a mainstream style story and presentation that is just as accessible to audiences as any human drama churned out by Hollywood’s “Power Five studios” in the last twenty years or more. The story that lies within the movie script follows Ali as he ponders his place in the world and comes to the realization that he needs to get out of his hometown and branch out. That realization becomes even stronger when he meets what will become his female love interest Eda (M. Sitare Akbas–Ada, Not Worth A Fig, Dila Hanim), who also feels the need to get on one of the boats (there is one in particular called the Vamos of which Ali dreams and thus thinks will be the pair’s ticket out of their town) and sail away. What is really interesting about all of this is that Refig flips the standard gender roles used in the movie’s American counterparts in the development of both Ali and Eda. Ali is a dreamer while Eda is something of a bad girl figure, painting graffiti, wearing the dark hood, etc. early on. And it is in fact her growing relationship with Ali that leads her, not him, to change. This is a subtle element of Refig’s script. But it is an element that proves quite interesting to those that pay close enough attention to catch it. Even more interesting are the philosophical and even psychological discussions that are certain to be generated by Refig’s script by the time the movie ends. It will raise discussions on whether Ali’s dreams about the Vamos were n fact real signs or if perhaps they were just the catalyst for the relationship between he and Eda that forms over time. It’s just one more of so many elements within the movie’s script that make the script so important to the movie’s success and enjoyment. There is potentially more that this critic might have missed in regards to the scripting. That aside, the elements that were in fact noted here and the expert manner in which Refig balanced each element within the body of the script shows even more so why the script behind Ships is so important to its enjoyment and overall success.

For all of the positives that Ships’ script presents, it is painful to say that in watching this movie, the script is its one major positive. In other words the movie (and its companion bonus short film) does have a noticeable problem. Audiences will note that both the central presentation and its companion short film both suffer from a noticeable issue of the audio and video’s syncing. Before anyone gets upset, automatically thinking that it is just a dubbing issue, that is not the case. The cast’s speaking parts were not covered by English-speaking voice actors. Rather the cast’s speaking parts were handled via English subtitles. This makes it painfully clear that there is a problem with the movie’s syncing. It is not relegated to just those speaking parts either. The audio and video appear to be out of syn from the movie’s opening scene to its last. Some will attempt to argue that this is a non-issue since English-speaking viewers will probably spend most of their time reading the subtitles. However, the rebuttal to that argument is that even those audiences will still be watching the movie at the same time as reading the movie’s subtitles. This problem isn’t relegated to just Ships. It is just as obvious in the movie’s companion short film Man To Be. In defense of those behind both presentations, the synching issue doest not necessarily eliminate any reason to watch either film. but it does have a noticeable impact on the movies’ enjoyment. That being the case, both Ships and Man To Be are still worth at least one watch even with that painfully obvious issue thus leading again to the argument that Ships is at the very least one of 2015’s top new independent movies. It just can’t be said that it is the year’s best because of that issue.

Ships is one of this year’s best new independent movies. This is even despite the noticable issue of its syncing between its audio and video throughout. It is so well worth the watch because of its largely original and creative script. Thanks to writer/director Elif Refig’s attention to detail, it proves itself to be anything but just another existential coming of age piece. Rather it is something much deeper that will keep audiences engaged throughout the course of its ninety-two minute run time. It is just one part of the whole that makes this movie worth the watch. The inclusion of its companion bonus short film Man To Be is one more reason that this presentation proves so powerful. Just as with Ships, Man To Be proves so enjoyable thanks to its script. The acting of its cast adds even more enjoyment to this deeply human story. It presents its young lead actor having to grow up very fast because of some very difficult situations. He lives at home with his mother, grandmother, and uncle, who happens to be a not so nice person. He plays a direct role in him becoming a man at a far too young age, as he is forced into situations to which no one at his age should be exposed. From seeing the girl he is crushing going off with his uncle, to having to save his uncle from some very bad men, to having to do his uncle’s dirty work trying to convince his grandmother to sell her house, the young man in this movie faces some very difficult situations. He is even forced to make a literal life and death situation in the film’s climax that no one will see coming. The ending won’t be given away, but he comes out okay. Though it can be said that as is evidenced in the film’s final scene how okay is debatable. It and the rest of the film will leave viewers talking just as much as they will in watching Ships. This being the case, the combination of both movies together makes Ships even more clearly a must see. This is despite both films suffering from a painfully obvious issue with the synching of their audio and video. Even with that problem noted, the movie’s scripts and the work of each movie’s cast together proves Ships in whole to be a must see for anyone wanting to escape the monotony of Hollywood’s endless lust for prequels, sequels, and reboots and in turn one of the year’s best new independent movies.

While not perfect (thanks to the issues with its production values) Ships is not an altogether awful movie. Rather it is actually a surprisingly interesting film that any true lover of the film arts will want to see. Its script and the work of the movie’s cast coupled with both noted elements of Man To Be make the presentation in whole one of this year’s best new independent movies. It is available now and can be ordered online via Indiepix Films’ online store at http://www.indiepixfilms.com/film/5945#.VeC0HvZViko. More information on this and other titles from Indiepix Films is available online now at:

Website: http://www.indiepixfilms.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/indiepixfilms

Twitter: http://twitter.com/IndiePixFilms

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Blanchard’s Debut LP Is A Solid First Effort

Courtesy: Cumbancha Music Publishing

Courtesy: Vis-a-vis

Francesca Blanchard is not the most well-known name in the music industry today. But the French-born singer-songwriter is no stranger to the music industry. She has been writing music ever since her childhood. And in 2011, she released her very first recording, Songs on an Ovation. The record, a six-song EP, was released via Emote Records. Now a little more than four years after its release Blanchard will finally release her debut full-length studio recording for American audiences. The aptly titled Deux Visions will be released Friday, October 2nd via Vis-a-vis. Deux Visions is such an aptly titled record because Blanchard presents both her French and American roots throughout the course of the album’s twelve total songs. She sings half of those songs in English and the other half in French. In doing so she is able to reach not just her French-speaking listeners but her American listeners, too. This is just one element of the album worth noting. In direct correlation to her dual vocal approach, the lyrics to each of her songs have been printed in the album’s companion booklet side by side in both French and English, too. Not only does this mean that she will reach both audiences even more but that she will also guarantee keeping her listeners engaged. She and her label made sure to not leave out anyone. And being that this record is her debut full-length recording that is an especially good choice. Having noted her dual approach to her debut album, the next logical element to examine in this record is the combined musical and lyrical content of her album in whole. That material in question is notable because it stands out from so much music from her more well-known pop counterparts. It stands out because it switches seemingly from song to song. And even the lyrical content of each of the album’s songs boasts its own depth in comparison to that of other female artists. The combination of that standout musical and lyrical content set alongside the previously noted albums leads Deux Visions to prove itself one more of the year’s best new world music albums.

The official release date of Francesca Blanchard’s debut album Deux Visions is still roughly five weeks out at the time of this review. Even being so far out from its release it can still be said of her new album that it is one of the best of this year’s new world music field. It proves this in more ways than can be noted in one sitting. So this critic will focus on just a few ways in which it proves itself so impressive beginning with her performance of the album’s twelve total songs. Blanchard, who is French by birth but currently lives in Vermont, splits the album’s tracks right down the middle, singing half of the songs in French and half in English. She is not the only bi-lingual artist to use this approach. Colombian pop star Shakira uses a similar approach as do the men of Los Lonely Boys, kindie rock act Future Hits and others. While the approach that she takes is not exactly new, it does not make it any less important. That is because as with the albums released by the previous artists and acts, it shows an attention to detail so as to not alienate one listener base or another. What’s more, some of the aforementioned acts (and others) don’t always balance the linguistic approach on their albums as much as she has here. In many cases, the foreign language performances seem to take precedence over the English-language tracks. Though, it can be said that Future Hits come close as they go through their album Today is Forever first in Spanish and then repeat each song in English. While Blanchard’s approach isn’t quite at that level, the equal balance of French and English performances rather than a random slathering of French and English presentations ensures that audiences of both English and French backgrounds will be able to equally enjoy her new album so to speak. That is a solid foundation for her debut record. And it is just one level of that foundation, too. The presentation of the album’s songs both in English and French within the album’s booklet strengthens that foundation even more.

Francesca Blanchard’s balanced, dual-language approach on her debut album Deux Visions makes for a solid foundation for this first effort. It is not the only element that allows this album to sit so strongly, either. Each of the album’s songs are printed both in English and French in the album’s companion booklet. This means for French audiences whose abilities with English might not be so strong will still be able to enjoy it just as much as those English-speaking listeners whose abilities with French are just as weak. Some might read this and ask why this would be so important. The answer here is simple. It is important because especially today, not every group, band, or act includes lyrics with their albums. That can easily lead to misinterpretation of lyrics in many cases. In the case of a foreign language record, not having lyrics greatly diminishes the interest that those not familiar with the album’s linguistic approach might have in the album. What’s more even those albums that do include lyrics are not always guaranteed to include translated lyrics for those not fluent with the featured artist’s/group’s/band’s language. It does not necessarily have to mean English, either. It can be any language. In the case of this album it just so happens that Blanchard has seen to it along with Vis-a-vis that the songs’ lyrics were printed in both French and English. This means that those English audiences not familiar the French language will be able to understand the lyrics to each song just as much as French audiences not familiar with English. What this means is that Blanchard’s French and English audiences alike will be able to take in her debut album in whole without worrying about missing out on any of it. Simply put, everybody is at the same level in listening to this record as a result. This takes the foundation established by Blanchard in her performances that much stronger. It is not the last element of the album’s success, either. The overall musical and lyrical content of Blanchard’s album sits atop the foundation set by her approach to the album’s songs and their presentation both on record and in writing in two languages.

Both Blanchard’s dual-language approach to her new album both on record and in writing do plenty to make it an impressive first effort from the talented, young artist. For all of their importance to the overall structure of this record, the actual content of the album in regards to its musical and lyrical content is just as important to its whole. In regards to both elements, Blanchard manages quite well to stand out from so many of her more well-known counterparts. Listening to the album’s musical content, the first comparison that this critic came up with was to Mazzy Star. That is at least in songs such as ‘Mon Ange,’ and ‘Rame.’ At other points, listeners can hear hints of Vanessa Carlton (at least in her vocal delivery style), Norah Jones (both vocally and stylistically) and others. The combination of such comparisons in regards to both Blanchard’s own vocal delivery style and the overall stylistic approach to her album’s songs shows its ability to hold its own against said artists. The same can be said of the album’s lyrical content. Each of the songs present lyrical content that can be best described as being deeply personal and just as moving. ‘Rame,’ the album’s opener is just one example of how the album’s lyrical content helps the album to hold its own both in the underground realm and against more well-known mainstream acts. Blanchard presents a subject that is in a very dark place. Yet being in such a dark place, her subject still holds out hope, singing that “All is not lost/No/All is not lost. In the case of this song, Blanchard uses the metaphor of a person out at sea in a sinking boat. Despite the situation looking hopeless, her subject receives a sign of hope; a sign that everything will be okay. It is definitely an interesting approach to the topic of maintaining hope and even a partially optimistic outlook on things in those dark times. ‘Le Blues’ is another good example of how the record’s lyrical content helps it to stand out. Blanchard writes in this song of how the blues make her happy. What is interesting about this is that she is not necessarily referring directly to the blues that many might think. She refers seemingly to the different shades of blue in the world as well as the blues as a musical style. The gentle tones of the song’s piano line and the song’s overall somewhat jazzy style accent those lyrics so well. The combination of her play on words and the song’s musical content makes this song yet another prime example of why Deux Visions lives up to its title. ‘Papa…Pere’ is one more example of how the lyrical content of Deux Visions makes it such an original, standout recording for Blanchard. This deeply emotional piece presents Blanchard’s subject apparently singing to her father. It is inferred as she sings, “I looked up at the sky/And I said your name/Papa…Father/Where are you/And that’s when I saw you/Your star/Dancing across the sky/Flying over the atmosphere’s horizon/And just like that you heard me/And you came to me/Papa.” This is just one small portion of the song’s lyrical content. But it is a strong example of why this song helps to make the album in whole stand out. Those lyrics (and the rest of the song’s lyrics) alongside its gentle musical backing will move to tears every person that hears it. Any person that is not so moved is either heartless or not human. It is just one more example of how the combination of Deux Visions’ lyrical and musical content together serves to make it a standout recording both against music produced by Blanchard’s more well-known counterparts and for herself. Together with the presentation of its songs in both French and English both musically and on paper, all three elements show without argument why Deux Visions is a solid start for Blanchard and why it is also one of the best of this year’s new world music records.

Deux Visions is an impressive first full-length effort from Francesca Blanchard. The twelve-song record presents its songs both in French and English both on record and in print. The combined musical and lyrical content of the album’s songs add even more to the album’s benefit. All three elements combined, they prove that this record is just as enjoyable for audiences as those released by her more well-known counterparts in the mainstream pop and rock worlds. Being such a strong effort, the album in whole also goes to show that it is without argument one of the best of this year’s new World Music records so far. It will be available Friday, October 2nd and can be ordered direct via Blanchard’s official bandcamp website at http://francescablanchard.bandcamp.com/. It can also be pre-ordered via that website now. More information on Deux Visions is available online now along with all of Blanchard’s latest news at:

Website: http://www.francescablanchard.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/francescablanchardmusic

Twitter: http://twitter.com/cheskablanch

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Shout! Factory To Resurrect Another Hidden Classic This Fall

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Fabulous Films

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Fabulous Films

This fall, Shout! Factory will resurrect another piece of hidden television history that was long thought forgotten when it releases the short-lived ABC action-comedy Automan.

Shout! Factory, in partnership with Fabulous Films, will release Automan: The Complete Series on Tuesday, November 10th. The 13-episode series originally ran on ABC from December 15th, 1983 to April 2nd, 1984. It starred Desi Arnaz, Jr. (The Lucy Show, Here’s Lucy) in the series’ lead role of Walter Nebicher. Nebicher was an IT professional with dreams of being more than just a tech man for his local police department. Though, his superiors have other ideas. So he creates the artificial intelligence program Automan (Chuck Wagner—General Hospital, All My Children) to help fight crime in his city. Automan is accompanied by a small, floating droid named Cursor much as Clu did in Disney’s surprise hit 1982 movie Tron. Speaking of the similarities between Automan and Tron they are not coincidental. Automan was co-produced by Donald Kushner (Tron, Tron: Legacy).

Automan: The Complete Series will be accompanied by a handful of extras for even more enjoyment including a forty-two-minute documentary titled: “Calling Automan – The Auto Feature,” which includes interviews with series stars Chuck Wagner, Glen A. Larson, Desi Arnaz, Jr., and heather McNair. There will also be a feature focusing on “The Story of Automan,” a trailer for Manimal: The Complete Series, which will be released alongside Automan: The Complete Series by Shout! Factory and Fabulous Films, a number of picture galleries and more. The complete list of bonus features included in Automan: The Complete Series is noted below.

Special Features:

  • “Calling Automan” – The Auto Feature – 42 minutes

An all-new documentary featuring interviews with Chuck Wagner, Glen A. Larson, Desi Arnaz Jr. and Heather McNair

  • The Story of Automan
  • Feature Story
  • Original Cast and Crew Biographies
  • Collectables Gallery
  • Stills Gallery
  • Manimal Trailer

Automan: The Complete Series will be available on DVD in stores and online on Tuesday, November 10th. It will retail for MSRP of $26.99 but can be pre-ordered for a discounted price of $21.99 via Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/tv/tv-sci-fi/automan-the-complete-series. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

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Lenny Kravitz Teams Up With Eagle Rock Entertainment For New Live Recording

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment

Forget that song from Disney’s megahit movie Frozen. This fall, veteran rocker Lenny Kravitz will release his latest live recording Just Let Go.

Just Let Go will be released Friday, October 23rd via Eagle Rock Entertainment. It will be released on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital formats. The twelve-song recording features a collection of performances was recorded throughout Fall of 2014 during the European leg of Kravitz’s world tour. The tour was in support of his latest full-length studio recording Strut. It was released September 23rd, 2014 via Roxie Records/Kobalt Label Services.

Just Let Go includes some of his biggest hits and some lesser known pieces including: ‘Fly Away,’ ‘Are You Gonna Go My Way,’ ‘It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over,’ ‘Let Love Rule,’ and his cover of The Guess Who’s hit song ‘American Woman’ among others. The complete song listing for the recording is noted below.

The tracklisting for ‘Just Let Go’:

1) Fly Away

2) Dirty White Boots

3) American Woman

4) Dancin’ ‘Til Dawn

5) Strut

6) It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over

7) New York City

8) The Chamber

9) Sister

10) Dig In

11) Let Love Rule

12) Are You Gonna Go My Way

Along with performances by Kravitz and his band mates, there is also behind-the-scenes footage included in the presentation, interviews, and soundcheck footage. Eagle Rock Entertainment has also included as bonuses for Kravitz’s fans live takes of ‘Sister,’ ‘Always on the Run,’ ‘Sex,’ ‘I Belong To You,’ ‘New York City,’ and ‘Let Love Rule.’ In discussing the upcoming recording, Kravitz noted that it gives fans a good look at his relationship with his band mates and the effect of touring on their lives both as individuals and as a traveling family of sorts. “I am a solo artist but Just Let Go reflects on the relationship with my band and the camaraderie that develops between us while out on the road,” he said. “The film takes a deeper look into what it’s like to be on tour and also gives an intimate perspective into my life with my band, both on and off the stage.”

Just Let Go will be available in stores and online on Friday, October 23rd. It will be available on DVD, Blu-ray and digital formats. Pricing information on each platform will be announced as its release date nears.  Audiences can check out a trailer for the upcoming release via Youtube now at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjeNHfoNX1Y&feature=youtu.be. More information on this and other titles from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online now at:

Website: http://www.eagle-rock.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt

Twitter: http://twitter.com/EagleRockNews

 

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Nathaniel Rateliff And The Nightsweats Surprise In A Big Way With Their Debut LP

Courtesy:  Stax Records

Courtesy: Stax Records

The self-titled debut record from Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats is one of the most intriguing albums to be released so far this year. The Denver-based band’s eleven-song set mixes classic soul and R&B sounds with modern lyrics to make an album that will grow on audiences increasingly with each listen. And with each respective listen, audiences will increasingly agree that this album is in its own way one of the best new albums of 2015. One song that proves that argument is the album’s lead single ‘S.O.B.’ This infectious, up-tempo piece was a perfect choice for a first impression for the band and if the band lives on past its debut album, will most certainly go on to be a fan favorite years down the road. That is the case thanks to both its musical and lyrical content. The album’s opener ‘I Need Never Get Old’ is just as enjoyable of an example of how much this album has to offer listeners. It does so in exactly the same way as the album’s lead single, too. The same can be said of ‘Look It Here.’ The song’s steady 4/4 tempo and its pleading lyrics stand out against so many songs of lost love that one can’t help but note its enjoyment. It’s just one more example of what makes the self-titled debut LP from Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats a solid start for the band. That is not to discount the album’s other songs by any means. Any one of the songs included in this record could be used as examples in their own right. It just so happened that these three are the ones that this critic found served as the album’s best trio of representative tracks. Collectively speaking, all eleven songs (S.O.B. is actually included both in a “clean” version and a regular version making for twelve tracks but eleven songs) come together to complete an album that is one of the year’s best new overall albums.

Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats’ self-titled debut album is one of the year’s best new overall albums and one of its most intriguing to be released so far. That is thanks to the mix of soul and r&B influences that flow throughout the record’s eleven songs. Given the Denver-based band is not the first to exhibit such influences in its music. But there is something about the combined talents of the band’s members–Nathaniel Rateliff, Joseph Pope III, Patrick Mese, Luke Mossman, Mark Shusterman, Wesley Watkins, and Andy Wild–and those of the album’s production that make this record feel like it was sent through time direct from music’s golden era. That is made clear in the album’s lead single, ‘S.O.B.’ The infectious, up-tempo pieces instantly conjures thoughts of Little Willie John, The Temptations, and so many others from that era right from the song’s outset. The steady humming and clapping will have listeners do the same along with Rateliffe and company while happily tapping their feet in time, too. Rateliff’s gravelly vocal style makes the song even more enjoyable as he sings, “I’m gonna need someone to help me/I’m gonna need somebody’s hand/I’m gonna need someone to hold me down/I’m gonna need someone to care/I’m gonna writhe and shake my body/I’ll start pulling out my hair/I’m going to cover myself with the ashes of you and nobody’s gonna give a damn.” When one really takes the time to examine this verse (and the song’s second verse) the song really takes on a whole new identity. That is especially considering the driving energy exuded in the song’s verses and even more frantic energy released in the chorus. The combination of that varied energy and the song’s lyrical content leads one to interpret this song less as just an upbeat, radio ready single but something much deeper. Rather, the combination of said elements presents the song as one that presents a subject at the point of revelation, realizing that he (or she) has a problem. It is inferred that said problem is addiction via the song’s chorus in which Rateliff sings “Son of a b****/Give me a drink/Won’t more night/This can’t be me/Son of a b****/If I can’t get clean/I’m gonna drink my life away.” If this is indeed the case–that the song is centered on a person that is battling some personal demons–then the musical content set against such lyrics is an original approach to such a topic. One can almost see this person on the verge of going through withdrawal as he or she sings the noted lyrics. Of course this is all just the interpretation of this critic. Other listeners could easily make their own conclusions in hearing it for themselves. Speaking of which, audiences can hear it for themselves online now via the band’s official website http://www.nathanielrateliff.com. Regardless of the song’s true meaning it can be said that its ability to catch listeners’ ears, hold them from start to finish, and generate so much discussion around its mix of musical and lyrical content shows exactly why it is such a solid first taste of this record and an equally solid example of why the record in whole is one of the year’s best new albums overall.

‘S.O.B.’ shows via its combination of musical and lyrical content why it is such a solid example of how much Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats’ debut LP has to offer audiences. It is just one example, too. The album’s opener ‘I Need Never Get Old’ is another clear example of what the band’s new album has to offer. That is because even with its equally clear old school soul and r&B influences, it still stands out both musically and lyrically from ‘S.O.B.’ and the rest of the album’s remaining tracks. The use of the horns and drums set against the song’s guitar line harken back to legends such as The Temptations, Ray Charles, and The Four Tops just to name a few. Just as impressive is the fact that Rateliff shows he isn’t just a one trick pony in regards to his vocal style. His delivery here is much smoother yet still has just as much strength as is exhibited in ‘S.O.B.’ All things considered here, the musical content presented in this song shows even more the breadth of the band members’ collective talents and in turn shows even more just how much the band (and the album in whole) has to offer audiences. It’s just one part of the song that makes it so impressive, too. The song’s lyrical content must not be ignored. In regards to its lyrical content, the song comes across as something of an introspective piece that looks back in an almost celebratory fashion of a one-time love. That can be argued as Rateliff sings in the song’s lead verse, “Can we be there/Oh, just think of the time/Thought of love so strange/Said you never knew/While I try my best/To cover our eyes/It’s a common way to blame and hide the truth.” The song’s second verse serves that argument even more as he sings, “Taking our time/ah/Just standing in the rain/Meaning what you said/ah/And mean it to me/All of these lies/oh/And never again/Come on say it now/It’s a game.” It’s as if Rateliff (or his subject) is looking back on a past relationship and rather than being sad about what was, the subject opted to look back with a more positive outlook. That is driven home as he sings in the song’s verse, “I know that some will say it matters but little, babe/But come on and mean it to me/I need it so bad/I needed to try/I need to fail/I needed your love/I’m burning away/I need never get old.” It could be the wrong take but it seems almost like Rateliff’s subject is telling the other person that she(?) kept him young and how much she both meant and means to him. Yet again, this could be wholly off the mark. Though, it can be hoped that it is at least somewhere in the ballpark. If it is at least close, then it can be said that it is a rarely taken approach to such a subject. And in turn such approach makes the song all the more enjoyable and that much more of an example as to what Rateliff and company have to offer listeners on their new album. It is not the last example of how much this record has to offer audiences, either. ‘Look It Here,’ which comes late in the album’s sequence is one more strong example of how much this record has to offer audiences.

Both ‘S.O.B.’ and ‘I Need Never Get Old’ are clear examples of how much Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats have to offer audiences on their debut full-length studio recording. While both songs are clear, solid examples of how much it has to offer, there is still at least one more example that can be cited. That example comes late in the album’s sequence in the form of ‘Look It Here.’ This song boasts just as much classic soul and r&b influence as any of the album’s other songs including those previously noted here. What’s really interesting though, is that even with its old school influences, it also boasts a more modern style sound throughout its verses while that old school influence is more evident in the song’s chorus. The song’s steady 4/4 tempo and its pleading lyrics in which Rateliff’s subject sings, “Look it here baby I’m coming out/On my knees begging please/Look it here baby I’m calling out/Crying now hear me, hear me plead” is completely unlike other songs today of its kind, lyrically speaking. It isn’t one of those run-of-the-mill, oh-woe-is-me songs about lost love. Rather the band’s approach here brings about thoughts of James Brown. That is made even more clear as Rateliff sings in the song’s main verse, “I got a love so hard I can’t stand it/And with a heart so weak and abandoned/You’ll have to bury this man/And if that’s what it takes for a love that must be proved/Look it here baby I’m coming out/On my knees beggin’ please yea/Look it here baby there’s no one else/Come on now hear me out.” It would have been so easy for Rateliff and his band mates to take that easy route and make a standard song about lost love. Being that they didn’t, it makes this song stand out proudly as yet another example of what makes the band’s self-titled debut such a strong first effort. Audiences can hear the song for themselves online now via the band’s official website along with ‘S.O.B.’ at http://www.nathanielrateliff.com.

‘S.O.B., ‘I Need Never Get Old,’ and ‘Look It Here’ are all clear and solid examples of how much Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats’ self-titled debut record has to offer audiences. They are not the only songs included in the record that could be chosen as representatives for the record, either. Any one (or more) of the tracks included in this record could just as easily be used to exemplify just how enjoyable this collection of songs is from start to finish. That being the case, it can be said of Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats that this album is one of the year’s most intriguing albums released so far this year as well as one of the year’s best new albums overall. It is available now in stores and online. Rateliff and company are currently touring in support of their new album and have a pair of dates scheduled in North Carolina on Tuesday and Wednesday November 10th and 11th in Carrboro and Asheville respectively. More information on the band’s debut album is available online now along with its current tour schedule and all of its latest news at:

Website: http://www.nathanielrateliff.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/nathanielrateliff

Twitter: http://twitter.com/NRateliff

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://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.

Out Of The Vault: Halloween Is A Frightfully Fun Treat For Every Nicktoons Nostalgic

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Shout! Factory Kids/Nickelodeon

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Shout! Factory Kids/Nickelodeon

August is almost over and September is about to begin. That can only mean one thing: Halloween is right around the corner. With the unofficial start of the annual holiday season nearing once again audiences are going to start seeing any number of seasonally-themed DVDs and Blu-rays hitting store shelves if they haven’t already. While many of the DVDs and Blu-rays are the same ones that are seen every year, there are some new additions each year. One of the most notable of this year’s crop of new holiday-themed DVDs is Nickelodeon’s new Out Of The Vault: Halloween collection. This new collection of Halloween-themed classic Nicktoons episodes is one that audiences of all ages. The main reason for this is the collection’s episodes. The collection features sixteen classic Nicktoons episodes pulled from five classic Nicktoons series. Their presentation is relatively well-balanced over the course of the disc’s roughly three and a half hour run time. The writing behind each of the featured episodes is just as important to the collection’s enjoyment as the episodes and their distribution. The writing incorporated into each of the episodes equal amounts and frights and fun. Rounding out the reasons that this brand new compilation is so much fun is the various animation styles of each series. It is a subtle factor. But it really shows in the bigger picture one of the most important parts of what once made cartoons great. That will be discussed at more length later. But it is just as important as any of the other reasons noted here. All things considered, Out Of The Vault: Halloween shows in the end to be one of the best of this year’s crop of new holiday DVDs and Blu-rays and one more collection that any “Nicktoons Nostalgic” will want to have in his or her own home collection.

Nickelodeon’s new holiday DVD Out Of The Vault: Halloween is one of the best of this year’s new crop of holiday DVDs and Blu-rays. Holidays aside, it is also another collection that any “Nicktoons Nostalgic” will want to have in his or her own home collection. The main reason that it is such an enjoyable watch is its featured episodes. The episodes are not limited to just a small handful from one classic Nicktoon. Rather they are pulled from a healthy spread of the network’s classic animated series. Those series include: Hey Arnold!, Angry Beavers, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, Rocko’s Modern Life, and CatDog. Each series is well-represented, too with four of the series being represented by three episode each and the fifth—Rocko’s Modern Life—being represented by four episodes. That brings the episode total to sixteen episodes and roughly three and a half hours of programming. In an even larger sense, what such a balanced representation does is give those that might otherwise not have any of the series’ previously released box sets the chance to finally own at least a part of the featured series and kick-start their collections. Keeping this in mind, the episodes presented in Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory’s new Nicktoons Halloween collection show that on their own, they collectively make a solid reason for this collection to be part of any Nicktoons Nostalgic’s home library.

The episodes featured in Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory’s new Nicktoons Halloween collection by themselves why this collection is one of the best of this year’s new crop of holiday DVDs and Blu-rays. Of course the episodes themselves are just one part of the reason that the collection proves to be so impressive. The writing that went into the episodes is another reason that this collection proves to be such a solid new release. “Arnold’s Halloween” is just one example of how the writing behind the collection’s episodes makes the collection in whole so much fun. This episode playfully pays homage to both to Orson Welles’ classic radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds. It just adds a little bit of a spin that will have audiences of all ages laughing throughout the episode and will ultimately leave them wanting to watch it again not just during Halloween but during any time of the year. The Angry Beavers episode “The Day The World Got Really Screwed Up” shows doubly just how important the writing behind the collections episode is to the presentation in whole. The first way in which it does so with this episode is the very title of the episode. The title is a playful poke at the classic 1951 sci-fi flick The Day The Earth Stood Still. the episode itself pays tribute to all of the classic sci-fi/horror flicks that were churned out throughout the 1950s. Having Dag and Norbert actually become part of one of those classic films puts its own spin on those classics that will have older audiences and younger viewers alike laughing together at the inanity of it all. “This Is Your Brain on Ickis” is yet another example of how the episodes’ writing makes this collection so enjoyable. As with the noted Angry Beavers episode, the title of this episode of Aaahh!!! Real Monsters in itself an example of how its writing makes it so fun. The title is a playful homage to the 80s anti-drug campaign that told viewers “This is your brain on drugs” as it showed an egg frying in a pan. The episode itself shows the strength of its writing as Ickis shrinks down and takes over monster hunter Simon’s brain. The end result will have viewers laughing tears of joy. It is just one more example of how the writing behind the episodes featured in this collection makes the presentation in whole so enjoyable. There are plenty of other episodes featured throughout this collection that could be used as examples of the strength of the episodes’ writing. Those episodes and the ones noted here together show in whole why the writing behind each episode together with the episodes themselves makes Out of the Vault: Halloween a must have this Halloween for any Nicktoons Nostalgic.

The episodes featured as part of Out of the Vault: Halloween and the writing behind each episode both make for plenty of reason for any Nicktoons Nostalgic to add this DVD to their personal home DVD library. While both of the noted elements are clear reasons that this collection shines so brightly, the animation presented in each series proves to be just as important to the set in whole. Most people probably won’t pay that much attention to the animation style of each series presented in this DVD. But the reality is that the animation style of each series is just as important to the enjoyment of this collection as anything else. That is because it serves as a reminder of the artistic originality that once made cartoons so great. By comparison there is a troubling lack of that artistic creativity and originality in today’s cartoons. The series on television today by and large don’t even deserve to be called animated series being that they are cookie cutter creations made by computers rather than the human hand. Looking at the animation style of each presented series, it reminds audiences of the importance of putting one’s heart and soul into a cartoon rather than just moving a mouse and using a bunch of desktop tools. From the somewhat grainy look of Aaahh!!! Real Monsters to the softer design style of Hey Arnold! and CatDog to the rigidity of the animation in The Angry Beavers and even the almost free-flowing style of Rocko’s Modern Life the different animation styles within each series serves to give each series just as much of its own identity as the writing behind each series’ episodes. Both of those elements come together with the episodes themselves and their balance from one series to the next to make fully clear why Out of the Vault: Halloween is a must have for any Nicktoons Nostalgic and one of the best of this year’s crop of new holiday DVDs and Blu-rays.

Out of the Vault: Halloween is not the first Nicktoons compilation to be released this year by Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory. It is however, just as enjoyable as the companies’ previous compilation disc. The episodes featured in this collection and their balance from one series to the next are collectively one reason that it is so enjoyable. The largely laugh-inciting writing behind each series’ episodes is another reason that the collection proves so enjoyable. And the original, hand-drawn animation at the base of each episode rounds out the presentation. Each series’ animation reminds audiences of what once made cartoons so great. All three reasons considered together, they make Out of the Vault: Halloween one of the best of this year’s crop of new holiday DVDs and Blu-rays and a frightfully fun treat for every Nicktoons Nostalgic. It will be available next Tuesday, September 1st in stores and online. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon is available online now at:

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

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Pop Evil Sits Among Rock’s Elite Again With Its Latest LP

Courtesy:  eOne

Courtesy: eOne

Last Friday, veteran rock band Pop Evil released its latest full-length studio recording Up. The album, the band’s fifth (and its third released via eOne), continues the band’s long-running tradition of producing top-notch mainstream rock albums. The album’s mix of hard rock arena anthems and equally radio-ready rock songs together make it an album that just as with its predecessors is one of this year’s best new rock records. That is evident right from the album’s outset. ‘Footsteps’ is one of those radio ready rock songs whose catchy hooks and choruses come together with its equally thoughtful verses to make for a solid opener for the album and an equally solid example of what makes Up yet another enjoyable new release from one of the biggest names today in mainstream rock. ‘Take It All’ is another solid example of what makes Up another success for Pop Evil. It is one of those aforementioned hard rock arena anthems that is sure to have fans singing along just as proudly by themselves as they would in an arena with thousands of their fellow fans. That is thanks both to its high-energy musical content and its equally inspiring lyrical content. Just as ‘Footsteps’ and ‘Take It All’ both show in their own way what makes Up such a solid slab of rock so does the ballad style song ‘If Only For Now’ show in its own way what makes this record so enjoyable, too. These are just a few examples of what makes Up yet another enjoyable recording from one of today’s leading names in mainstream rock. There are other songs included in this record such as the hard rock opuses ‘Vendetta’ and ‘Dead in the Water’ and the rather emotionally moving acoustic work ‘Seattle Rain.’ These three songs each do just as much by themselves and collectively why Up is yet another impressive album from Pop Evil. Whether for these songs, the prior trio noted or any of the others not more directly noted, fans and audiences in general will agree that this album in whole is one of the best of this year’s new rock records.

Counting August, there are only five more months left in 2015. Over the course of the past seven months, audiences have seen quite a few impressive new mainstream rock records released in stores and online. Artists and acts such as Joe Satriani, Finger Eleven, Everclear, Barenaked Ladies and others have already proven themselves worthy of being added to the list of the year’s best new rock albums with their new recordings. That’s a pretty wide swath of names. So it is safe to say that Pop Evil is in pretty comfortable company with its latest full-length studio recording Up. That’s right. This album is, just as with Pop Evil’s previous albums, one of this year’s best new mainstream rock records. That is proven through every one of the album’s thirteen total tracks (fifteen in the case of the album’s Deluxe Edition) including its opener and latest single ‘Footsteps.’ ‘Footsteps’ is a solid opener and just one clear example of what makes Up one of this year’s top new albums. Just as with songs included in previous Pop Evil albums ‘Footsteps’ is one of those songs that is a perfect fit for any mainstream rock radio station. It isn’t one of those standard, formulaic, copycat pieces that sounds like so many others. For that reason alone, it is well worth the listen. It also doesn’t just rehash any stylistically similar songs from Pop Evil’s previous LPs either. It is just a good, solid mainstream rock song that will entertain audiences from its musical content alone. Its lyrical content gives it even more punch. Front man Leigh Kakaty and Dave Bassett teamed up to write this song’s lyrical content. Their efforts led to some rather inspiring material. The pair wrote for this song, “Starting over once again/This is where it all begins/It’s right in front of me/Down is not where I belong/This aching heart won’t turn to stone/There’s a fire inside these bones/It was meant to be/I see a world still full of light/How could I’ve ever been so blind/I still haven’t lost my fight/That haunts ne in my sleep.” Examining these lines alone audiences see just how powerful and inspiring these lyrics are. They are just part of that proof, too. The song’s closing verse is just as inspiring with Kakaty and Bassett writing of staying optimistic despite the uncertainty of the future. That parallel of that positive message and the song’s upbeat musical content makes clear why this song was chosen to open Pop Evil’s new album and why it is just the latest representation for the band’s new album, too. Audiences can hear the song for themselves and see the song’s new video online now via YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXvkTuMyZpM.

‘Footsteps’ is in itself a solid example of why Up is one of 2015’s top new rock records. The mix of its upbeat musical content and optimistic lyrical content makes this clear. It is just one example of what makes Up such a solid collection of songs, too. ‘Take It All’ is another clear example of what makes Up so enjoyable. This high-energy song is an instant fan favorite that is just as certain to be a favorite at the band’s live shows as on disc. That is thanks to its own mix of musical and lyrical content. Musically speaking, ‘Take It All’ is the polar opposite of ‘Footsteps.’ It shows another side of the band with its much heavier riffs, low-end from bassist Matt DiRito, and concrete strong drumming from Chaci Riot. It shows musically that once again, the band refuses to rest easy on its laurels, opting instead to show the breadth of its abilities. While this song proves to be the polar opposite of ‘Footsteps’ stylistically, its lyrical approach is very much the same, which is in this case not a bad thing. Kakaty and Bassett co-wrote this song’s lyrical content, too. Kakaty sings here, “You got that fire burning your eyes/LIghting up the sky I see you coming/You got desire running through your brain/Ice in your veins I see you coming/So what do you say.” Kakaty and Bassett leave little room for doubt in examining this verse. It is someone addressing a rather strong-willed individual, motivating said person. It’s one of those pieces that is perfect for a workout session or game prep session especially with football season now under way at every level. If there is in fact any doubt left in any listener’s mind from that verse, the song’s second verse makes even clearer the message being presented by Kakaty and Bassett. That is the case as Kakaty sings in said verse, “Got that drive way deep inside/Keeping you alive it’s all or nothing/There ain’t no shame just playing the game/No pain and no game just rise about it/So what do you say.” The energy in those lyrics coupled with the energy in the song’s driving musical content is sure to get any listener’s blood and body moving. The same can be said of the partnering of the song’s lead verse and its musical content. All things considered here, ‘Take It All’ proves to be one of the best examples of what makes Up so enjoyable if not the single best example. Even as great of an example as it is, it still is not the last example of why Up is one of this year’s best new rock albums. The more reserved ‘If Only For Now’ is one more example of what makes it a solid record.

‘Footsteps’ and ‘Take It All’ each serve in their own way to show just how much Up has to offer audiences. It is not the first time that the band has ever included a ballad-style song in any of its albums. And while not being the first time that the band has ever included a ballad on any of its albums, listeners that are familiar with the band’s body of work will be happy that the band avoided repeating its previous ballads all the way around in the case of this song. That is made clear first and foremost through the song’s lyrical approach. The song, co-written by Kakaty, Bassett, Joshua Marunde, and bassist Matt DiRito, the song surprises by tackling the subject of a person hoping for love. As Kakaty sings, “Streets crowded with voices/Thousands of faces but you’re all I wanna see/Lights reflections of yesterday/Days thrown away cause you’re all I wanna keep.” These are the words of someone not longing for a lost love but of someone singing to another of his or her yearning for another. That person goes on in the song’s second verse to say to that person, “Here the world’s at our fingers/So live in the moment I’m not gonna say goodbye/So why don’t we for now forget tomorrow/Let me be the only thing you need/If only for now.” The song’s subject is saying, “Let me make this moment about us if only for now.” Sure, it’s mushy. But it could have been even more so. Thankfully Kakaty and company didn’t let that happen in the case of this song. because they didn’t it makes the song all the more enjoyable. Being that the subject of a person hoping for love is tackled far less than the subject of love lost, it becomes that much more enjoyable. The attention paid to the song’s musical content adds another level of enjoyment to the song. The band builds the song in each verse right up to the song’s chorus to make for the fullest possible emotional impact. It succeeds in this goal, too. The attention to the tone of the song’s musical content gives the song even more of a positive impact. It serves to even better illustrate the song’s upbeat, optimistic outlook. And in doing so it rounds out the ways in which this song shows itself to be another solid example of what makes Up so impressive in whole.

‘Footsteps,’ ‘Take It All,’ and ‘If Only For Now’ are all prime examples of what makes Up yet another impressive release from Pop Evil. All three songs show a different side of the band both musically and lyrically. They are only a small handful of examples of that diversity, too. ‘Vendetta,’ ‘Dead in The Water,’ and the emotionally moving ‘Seattle Rain’ could just as easily be used to exemplify how much this record has to offer fans. The same could be said of any of the album’s other songs not directly noted here. Regardless of which songs one choose, listeners and long-time fans alike will agree that all things considered, Up proves to be not just another enjoyable record from Pop Evil but another one of this year’s best new rock records overall. Up is available now in stores and online. And the band is currently touring in support of Up. Its next slated date is Tuesday, September 8th at the Rose Music Hall (formerly Mojo’s) in Colombia, Missouri. The band is also scheduled to perform live at The Fillmore in Charlotte, North Carolina alongside Three Days Grace on Wednesday, September 16th. Tickets for that and all of the band’s other shows are available now. All of the band’s latest tour dates are available online now along with all of the latest news from the band at:

Website: http://www.PopEvil.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/popevil

Twitter: http://twitter.com/popevil

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://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.