Arcade Fire's newly-released album is anything but ordinary

The sounds of Arcade Fire’s fourth and latest album, “Reflektor,” are anything but ordinary.  As usual the band has pushed the limits of meshing genres, unique soundscapes and raw emotion.

The album leads with the driving title track, “Reflektor.”  The song immediately sets the mood for the majority of the album.  It has a strong ‘70s disco-era influence, while retaining dark overtones that give it an interesting quality.  The music is easily danceable but captivating enough that it’s hard to do anything but listen.

Arcade Fire as a band travels and tours a lot.  It definitely comes through in their music. Progressing through the album the listener gets to experience a whole range of different sounds from different parts of the world that all convey different a range of emotions from the happy vibe in “Reflektor” contrasted to the extremely dark tones in “Joan of Arc.

You can be swept from futuristic soundscapes and droning synthesizers, directly into tribal Haitian drum beats, but the production is smooth enough that it all sounds right.  The band recently spent some time in Haiti while creating this album, and the influence definitely comes through in some of the drum beats and almost child-like melodies.  This can be heard in the track “Flashbulb eyes”.

Even with these obscure influences, the songs on this album are still undoubtedly Arcade Fire.  Their unique sound cuts through it all.  The same dark themes in lyrical imagery come through as they did on all of their previous albums.

I would give this album a 4.2 out of 5 and recommend it to anyone who likes alternative/psychedelic rock.  Being an Arcade Fire album, it’s already bound to be great, but I think that they really pushed their limits and stepped their game up to something new.

American Hustle captures '70s culture in captivating manner

“American Hustle” is an awful film with terrible acting, terrible direction and a terrible story line.

If you believed that, then you can imagine what it’s like to get lost in the web of cons surrounding Irving Rosenfield (Christian Bale) in David O. Russell’s stylized, fantastic story of scandal.

It’s a film about lies, deception and the art of the con. A fictional story (loosely based on facts surrounding the ‘70s Abscam political scandal) bolstered by an historically-accurate backdrop, “American Hustle” is a unique, character-driven experience.

Bale plays a simple con-man who gets roped into pulling larger and more risky schemes by the seductive Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams). Eventually the two get caught by a broke and desperate FBI agent named Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) who agrees to let them go if they help him pull a few high-profile cons involving the incrimination of political figures such as Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner).

Every character gets in a little over their heads, and the result is an engaging and entertaining story throughout.

The hilarious script and impeccable cast are the strongest points of the film. Every actor involved sinks deeply into their role and pulls off incredible comedic timing. Jennifer Lawrence has a fairly strong performance as the eccentric Rosalyn Rosenfield to whom Irving is reluctantly “married.”

However, of the five main cast members, Lawrence’s performance was the weakest. I couldn’t get past the lurking feeling that I was just watching her playing a character, rather than truly seeing Rosalyn Rosenfield come to life. In addition, her accent didn’t feel consistent. While her character was well-designed and well-written, Rosalyn deserved a more immersive performance than Lawrence gave.

On the other hand, Bale, Cooper, Adams and Renner were all fantastic. Russell has worked with most of these actors in the past (Bale and Adams in “The Fighter,” Cooper and Lawrence in “Silver Linings Playbook”), and he knows their strengths well.

In addition, the cinematography, sets, costumes and lighting are all gorgeous. From extravagantly-decorated casinos to lavish hotels, the movie is a delectation to look at.

Russell is an experienced director, having been nominated for best director and best adapted screenplay at the 2013 Academy Awards for “Silver Linings Playbook.” His perspicacity as a filmmaker shines through in every shot and directorial choice.

The period costumes are captivating and beautiful. Adams and Bale both have near 40 costume changes each, and it works. Everything period-specific in the movie is a shining example of the most classy, grandiose aspects of the ‘70s.

And nothing exemplified the ‘70s better than the film’s soundtrack. With Elton John, the Bee Gees, Chicago, Santana and America, there are plenty of great artists from this era, some of which aren’t well known. Music Supervisor Susan Jacobs uses these songs in an incredibly effective ways to creatively amplify the action on screen.

“I’ve Got Your Number” by Jack Jones plays while Irving is describing his enduring love for Sydney. “Evil Ways” by Santana plays while Lawrence’s character walks towards a group of mobsters unaware of the danger that will follow.

Not all of the songs are perfectly period accurate (such as “Long Black Road” by Electric Light Orchestra from 2001), but they all fit in and work together to create sonic joy.

Perhaps the best example is “Jeep’s Blues,” a 1950s song by Duke Ellington that plays an important role in the film, appearing three times. The song becomes an intrinsic theme for the movie, and is a prominent illustration of the relationship between Irving and Sydney.

Despite the chaotic double-crosses and plot-twists, “American Hustle” is a love story at its core. The tumultuous relationship between Irving Rosenfield and Sydney Prosser is the focal point of most of the events in the film. Moments that are touching and introspective work in good balance with moments that are outrageous and comical. “American Hustle” is a tremendous success.

Dicaprio elevates his game to a new level in "The Wolf of Wall Street"

As most true Americans know, Leonardo Dicaprio is “the man.”  With his great looks, beautiful acting and overall Playboy status, he is one of the most desirable men in America. Man or woman, you would be foolish to not take his hand in marriage.

With his recent track record of acting in such roles as Jay Gatsby in the 2013 release “The Great Gatsby” and “Dominick Cobb” in the 2010 release “Inception,”  Dicaprio had his fan base (all of America) craving more.

The legendary producer Martin Scorsese heard America’s cry and this past December he sent us into the new year with the blessing of Dicaprio’s presence in his film “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

The film follows the rise and fall and true story of self-made billionaire Jordan Belfort.  He worked as a stockbroker and pioneered the trade of penny stocks.  Between a twisting series of events including corruption and greed, and a Playboy lifestyle of hard drugs and reckless partying, Belfort’s life spirals out of control.

For the first hour or so the film is extremely captivating, and really funny at times.  Vulgar and sharp humor delivered by supporting cast such as Jonah Hill, keeps the movie fresh.  However, as the plot builds, the movie becomes more stressful.  At about two hours in, I was ready for the movie to end.

There are parts where it could have been tied up and ended perfectly, but there always seemed to be “just one more thing.”  For example Dicaprio’s character is offered a chance to turn himself in, and then another chance to cut a deal with the police and turn his partners in.  Instead he keeps doing what he’s doing and it draws out the movie way too much.  It got to the point where I was exhausted and began to lose interest.

After all, this plot is nothing new.  It’s the same classic concept as in movies like “Scarface,”and “Blow.”  Money and power corrupts;  it’s not the most original of screenplays, but what it does have going for it is that it is a true story.

That being said, it’s still a great movie.  The acting is phenomenal, and it definitely has entertaining parts.  My advice to any viewer would be to just stop watching the movie when you feel like it should be done.

There are countless points throughout, where you could just leave the theatre and be completely content with that “ending.”

Not afraid to speak his mind

Detroit rapper Eminem has been a cultural symbol of media controversy since the release of his raw breakthrough album in 2000, “The Marshall Mathers LP.” Despite this controversy, he has 13 Grammys, eight #1-ranked studio albums and an Academy Award under his belt. He is the best-selling rap artist of all time.

Yet Eminem is constantly in the spotlight as a result of lyrics that some have said are both sexist and anti-gay. Even his most recent release in November, “The Marshall Mathers LP 2” has many lyrics people have called offensive.

In a changing world where the acceptance of homosexual and feminine rights is becoming the norm, Eminem’s listeners struggle to decide if his lyrics are too controversial. Containing insults and stereotypes from a culture rooted in the past, his raps have an angst and passion that have been present since the beginning of his career.

Private vocal teacher and hip-hop enthusiast John Hummel said that controversy is what fans should expect from the artist.

“Eminem built his career on making controversy,” Hummel said. “That’s what his identity is. He has to be inflammatory, because if he wasn’t, people wouldn’t listen to him.”

Many of Eminem’s lyrics target very specific groups of people, though, criticizing their beliefs and cultures.

An example of this is in his 2000 song “Criminal,” in which he writes, “My words are like a dagger with a jagged edge / That’ll stab you in the head / whether you’re a f– or l– / Or the homosex, hermaph or a trans-a-vest / Pants or dress – hate f—? The answer’s ‘yes.’”

Hummel takes the stance that Eminem is simply portraying what he knows and grew up with in a satirical way.

“While I think that some of his lyrics would offend people, I think sometimes he’s being a satirist, and I think sometimes he’s being very honest,” Hummel said.

But senior Jimmy Messmore, President of the Queer-Straight Alliance of Dexter High School, said that the homophobic slurs in Eminem’s music are not acceptable regardless of whether they’re meant as satire or not.

“Inside of his songs he includes homophobic slurs, yet outside of his music he expresses support for the gay community. For that reason, it’s hard to have any strong feelings against him, but at the same time, he still includes the slurs in his music which is inexcusable,” Messmore said.

For Messmore, if Eminem wants to support the gay community, then it seems unclear why he would include these slurs in his songs unless he wishes to cause controversy willingly.

But this controversy is what draws senior Sierra Lakey to Eminem’s music.

“My favorite Eminem album is probably ‘Relapse’ (2009) because it’s really disgusting, and I love how he just goes crazy on it,” she said. “The sexist or homophobic lyrics never offend me because I feel like it’s sort of an act that he plays along with, and it doesn’t bother me.”

For Lakey, Eminem’s music has much more to offer than just offensive remarks.

“I’m drawn to Eminem’s music because I feel a connection to him. I can relate to him and what he’s saying,” she said. “I feel like he’s more genuine than other rappers with his lyrics. There’s a message behind every song.”

Senior Evan Burke has a similar opinion about the positive aspects of Eminem’s music, regardless of the controversy surrounding his lyrics.

“Even though some Eminem songs have offensive lyrics in them, he also has many songs that help people as well. For example, ‘Lose Yourself’ has helped thousands of sports teams get pumped up over the years,” Burke said.

However, Burke also didn’t fully agree with everything that Eminem has to say.

“I think that the homophobic remarks may be going a little far. He could leave those out, because it could offend some people,” Burke said.

Despite the controversy that Eminem causes, many can still find positive and artistic messages in his music.

“He has many insecurities about himself that all pertain to his music,” Hummel said. “His failed marriage, his children, his mother, all of those things kind of add up.”

Hummel also said that Eminem is a perfect example of what hip-hop can offer to the musical world. Because of the value of Eminem’s music, Hummel said that people should look past the controversy, and view the art with an objective gaze.

For Hummel, Eminem does hip-hop justice.

He said, “The thing that I find most interesting about hip-hop is that it takes something from the past, rebuilds, and puts it in a new cultural lense by giving new ownership to the whole idea. At the end of the day, Eminem is both the hero and the villain in every one of his songs.”

"Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron" soundtrack is a refreshing mix of pop and Hans Zimmer

The other day while cleaning my room, I stumbled upon my old DVD collection with all the best movies of my childhood. Flipping through the stack, I recalled all my favorite characters and storylines: “Shrek,” “The Iron Giant,” “Toy Story,” “James and the Giant Peach,” and undoubtedly my favorite of them all “Spirit Stallion of the Cimarron.”

Immediately I ran to my TV room and popped the movie in.  The movie was as wonderful as I had remembered. However, one thing stuck out to me this time that I had never noticed before: the music.

The music resonates beautifully with every theme and emotion that the story line conveys.  Upon further research I found that the score was produced by none other than the legendary Hans Zimmer.

For those of you who are not familiar with Zimmer, he created the scores for such films as “The Dark Knight,” Gladiator,” “Inception” and “The Lion King.”  It was all starting to make sense now.

I went online and purchased the soundtrack to “Spirit,” and I’ve been secretly listening to it ever since.  While it may be hard to admit to listening to a soundtrack from a kids movie, I have to make the argument that these musical scores are not just for kids. Great music knows no age, race or gender.

The album starts with alternative rock and pop songs with a driving beat, sung over by Bryan Adams.  A few tracks in we receive a guest appearance from Sarah McLaughlin on the song “Don’t Let Go.”  About two-thirds through the album, the content changes entirely.  However it’s a smooth enough transition that it works, especially in context to the movie.  This is where the work of Hans Zimmer appears.  Epic and nearly overwhelming scores finish out this album strong.

The music on this album really needs to be experienced in order to understand what I’m talking about here.  It’s as epic and touching as the movie itself, which is also worth a viewing.  I would recommend that everyone, regardless of age or gender, immediately purchase both the movie and its soundtrack.  You won’t be disappointed.

This is an absolute 5/5 in my book.

PS4 is the obvious choice in next-generation consoles

Fuel has been thrown on the fire that is the competition between Microsoft and Sony with the long-awaited release of two new gaming consoles, The Xbox One and the Playstation 4.  The Playstation 4 was released on Nov. 15, and the Xbox One will be released on Nov. 22.

Both systems offer new features and better graphics.  While the Xbox One has built in motion capture technology, it falls short to the new Playstation in terms of resolution.  The PS4 has stepped up its display, making it remarkably clearer and the new vivid colors add to it. When it comes to aesthetic and design, the PS4 really takes the cake.  It’s build is sleek and elegant compared to its much larger and boxy competitor.

With Christmas nearing, people will have to decide what console is going to be under their tree.  Microsoft’s “Xbox 360” created a bit of a cult following that will have a lot of buyers leaning their way.  Another thing they have going for them is that there is almost twice as many games to be released with the console than the PS4.

The new Xbox One retails for roughly $400, whereas the PS4 is $100 less.  Both systems require a monthly fee in order to play multiplayer games online.

For my money the PS4 is obvious choice.  I generally go for quality over quantity, and while the Xbox One boasts a lot of great features, the PS4 seems to be a better console for a cheaper price tag.

Review of Eminem's newly released album MMLP2

To understand Eminem’s eighth studio album, “The Marshall Mather LP 2,” you must first travel back to 2000 and listen to Eminem’s raw, emotional and controversial effort “The Marshall Mathers LP.”

The fastest selling hip-hop album of all time upon release, “The Marshall Mathers LP” was insulting, loud and extremely explicit. And it’s a classic.  Tracks such as “Kim” and “Amittyville” showcase an inner anger and passion that are prominent in what is one of the most honest and cutting rap albums ever made.

The album also contained some of Eminem’s most recognizable and popular songs including “Stan” and “The Real Slim Shady.”  So the question is, does “The Marshall Mathers LP 2” capture the same rage, emotion and twisted sense of humor that the Eminem from 2000 was able to create?

Unfortunately, the answer is no.  If you are expecting to hear the same style and unmitigated force that was in “The Marshall Mathers LP,” you will be disappointed.  But this isn’t surprising considering that it has been over a decade since the album’s release and Eminem is a completely different person and artist now.

So why did he choose to name the album “The Marshall Mathers LP 2?”  From what I can tell, the album isn’t about being a direct sequel to “The Marshall Mathers LP: and sounding exactly the same. it’s about nostalgia.  From this standpoint, the album works well, with many nods to Eminem’s old music including lyrical references and even snippets of old songs within certain beats (such as the reference to “The Real Slim Shady” within the song “So Far… “).

Eminem even writes lyrics about his father who left him as a child in several songs as well, which was also a recurring theme in “The Marshall Mathers LP.”  So let’s go track by track and look at what makes up this album (not including deluxe version tracks).

 

•Bad Guy:  The story behind this song (spoiler alert if you haven’t heard it yet) is that the narrator, Matthew Mitchell, is the little brother of Stan Mitchell, a character from The Marshall Mathers LP.  Matthew decides to murder Eminem as revenge because Eminem caused the death of Stan many years ago.  Though “Bad Guy” is a sequel to “Stan,” it does not capture nearly the same amount of emotion and powerful lyricism.  A common theme in this album is the more pop-like production that seems to detract from the raw emotion behind the lyrics.  The story-telling is great, but Eminem never really seems to get into character during this song, making it a little bland.  However, the idea behind the song and it’s powerful conclusion make up for these things.  One other thing to note is that the simplistic rhyme schemes and over-exaggeration of the last words in sentences seem to be Eminem’s attempt to mimic the juvenile and inexperienced rapper that Matthew Mitchell would be, which is an incredibly creative effort on his part.  3.5/5

 

•Parking Lot (Skit):  This one minute skit is a direct continuation of the final song on “The Marshall Mathers LP,” “Criminal.”  There’s not much to say about this one. It contains many references to lyrics from “Criminal” and serves to further link the two albums.  Near the end of the skit, Eminem shoots a dog and himself, acts which are commonplace in the satirical and outrageously over-the-top mind of Marshall Mathers.  While the shooting of the dog almost feels like an attempt to capture the old, offensive Eminem that we know and love, it feels forced and might be going a little too far for no reason.  It’s not that I’m offended by it (it’s not real of course), but I feel like he could have come up with more funny or entertaining things to put into the one skit on the album.  It’s just a little empty.  2.5/5

•Rhyme Or Reason:  I am a total sucker for the sampling of old classics for use in rap songs.  Eminem samples The Zombies “Time Of The Season” for this track, and it works wonderfully.  That alone makes this song a winner.  Eminem’s lyrics are also ace as always, though I will admit the chorus is a little awkward.  Eminem’s yoda impression is slightly jarring and out of place, but despite this “Rhyme Or Reason”  is a very solid entry to the album and it is one of my favorites.  4/5

 

•So Much Better:  The beat on this song is SO wonderfully reminiscent of the old Dr. Dre production that graced “The Marshall Mathers LP.”  With similar themes to “Kill You” from The “Marshall Mathers LP,” this song is the closest that you will get to the Eminem from 13 years ago on this album.  The hook is catchy and outrageous at the same time, and shows us that the same mad genius is still alive and well within Eminem.  4.5/5

 

•Survival:  This is where things start to go a little bit downhill for me.  With a cheesy guitar-line in the background and an uninteresting and generic chorus, this song is just boring.  This is the promotional “Call Of Duty” affiliated track on the album, and it sounds like something that could be straight off of Eminem’s 2008 album “Recovery.”  For this reason it feels incredibly out of place on “The Marshall Mathers LP 2.”  I understand that it’s supposed to be a high-energy anthem, but it just doesn’t have enough energy to interest me.  It’s like a carbon copy of the last “Call Of Duty” Eminem track, “Won’t Back Down.”  2/5

 

•Legacy:  The first song on the album with more serious and introspective tones, “Legacy” is an honest look by Eminem at himself and his past.  A nice and simple piano riff combined with slightly muffled vocals weave a sad and nostalgic atmosphere.  This song feels genuine and comes from a real place.  However, this song commits one of my largest pet peeves in music:  The cheesy rain sound effects in the background.  It’s a sort of cheap way to make your song seem sad and depressing rather than just rely on the music to do so.  That knocks it down a few points.  Also the loud uttering of “Italian sausage” really breaks the otherwise captivating theming of the song for me.  The chorus is a little boring too, and the singer never really gets to shine because of this.  3.5/5

 

•A–hole (Feat. Skylar Grey):  On this track, amidst a wild and raucous drumline, Eminem admits that he is a bit of a hypocritical a–hole.  He relishes in this fact, and always has throughout his career.  The lyrics are absolutely stuffed with references to “The Marshall Mathers LP,” and it is wonderful.  Also, the Insane Clown Posse diss is wonderful and shows that Eminem still isn’t afraid to call out celebrities in outrageous ways just as he always has.  Once again though, the chorus is boring and unimpressive for Skylar Grey.  I don’t see the point in getting a good singer to be on your song if you aren’t going to give them anything interesting to do.  4/5

 

•Berzerk:  This song is an attempt to pay homage old-school rap, with a very Beastie Boys-esque beat and feel.  The problem is, it’s not old-school rap, and it’s not the Beastie Boys, and it just doesn’t work.  Eminem messes around with record-scratching effects and other trade-marks of a time long past, but this doesn’t really do anything to improve a generally boring and uninteresting song.  The sample of Billy Squier’s “The Stroke” doesn’t really do much to improve things because it is watered down and drowned out by all of the other effects and vocals happening around it.  The song just feels disjointed and full of too many ideas, and the lyrics aren’t engaging enough to distract from this.  2/5

 

•Rap God:  A six-minute barrage of rapid-fire lyrics and absolutely no breaks or choruses, this song is impressive.  Lyrically, this song is amazing and probably the best display of Eminem’s raw skills on the whole album.  Eminem even spits 101 words in 16 seconds during one section, rapping “Uh, summa, lumma, dooma, lumma you assuming I’m a human/  What I gotta do to get it through to you I’m superhuman/  Innovative and I’m made of rubber/  So that anything you say is ricocheting off of me and it’ll glue to you/  I’m devastating, more than ever demonstrating/  How to give a motherf—in’ audience a feeling like it’s levitating/  Never fading, and I know the haters are forever waiting/  For the day that they can say I fell off, they’ll be celebrating/  Cause I know the way to get ’em motivated/  I make elevating music, you make elevator music.”  Unfortunately, from a production standpoint, this couldn’t be further from The Marshall Mathers LP.  This point in the album is where we are the furthest from the Eminem of 2000 and it becomes unclear why this is a sequel at all.  Nothing about this song is reminiscent of “The Marshall Mathers LP” besides a few referential lyrics.  Stylistically, it is new age Eminem.  The beat is so repetitive and boring that it gets a little grating after a while.  3.5/5

 

•Brainless:  The production of this song is refreshing after the awful beat of “Rap God,” and is once again more reminiscent of a classic Dre beat.  Eminem is nostalgic and introspective within the lyrics of this track.  Eminem reflects, “It’s like you grew up on drug street, from jump street/ But if I had just kept my head up my a–/  I could accomplish any task, practicing trash talking in a trance/  Locked in my room yeah, but I got some plans Momma.”  The chorus is catchy and works well and the lyrics are great, but this is nothing new.  There isn’t much that stands out about it, bad or good.  3.5/5

 

•Stronger Than I Was:  Eminem sings a lot on this one.  That’s not really a good thing.  The lyrics are cheesy, and it seems out of character and out of place.  I understand that it’s supposed to be a genuine and heartfelt ballad, but the weird beat ruins any chance of this, as well as the fact that Eminem isn’t exactly the most experienced at singing ballads.  The great rap verse at the end makes up for this a little bit, but I would have rather just had three great rap verses.  2.5/5

 

•The Monster (Feat. Rihanna):  I hate this song.  Why?  It’s another generic, bland, radio-friendly pop tune that doesn’t belong on this album.  Eminem probably needed something good to sell as a single and decided that he would just repeat the success of his last collaboration with Rihanna, “Love The Way You Lie.”  This song is boring, uninspired and has no shock value.  This is everything that I hate about the Eminem of today in one neat little package.  This could go right onto “Recovery” and nobody would notice the difference, and I truly feel like it has absolutely no place on this otherwise nostalgic and introspective record.  To the casual listener it is catchy and fun, and it does contain a somewhat interesting message, but it never reaches the level of profundity or draws nearly enough uniqueness to keep me engaged.  1.5/5

 

•So Far…:  Wow this track comes out of nowhere.  I’ve never heard anything like it to be honest. It goes through a huge variety of transitions and styles with several distinct samples from Joe Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good,” to a sample directly pulled from “The Real Slim Shady” from “The Marshall Mathers LP.”  Somehow it all works wonderfully as the song remains entertaining and throws unexpected turns throughout.  4.5/5

 

•Love Game (Feat. Kendrick Lamar):  This unique song samples “Game of Love” by Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders.  Like I said earlier, I love it when rappers sample old classics, so this is another winner for me.  Lamar is an up and coming rapper who has garnered a large following by dissing other rappers.  It seems like a bandwagon move to have him featured on the album, but I will admit that he offers a solid verse that fits perfectly into the track.  4/5

 

•Headlights (Feat. Nate Ruess):  While “Stronger Than I Was” didn’t work as a genuine and heartfelt track, this track triumphs as such.  This is the most genuine and touching song on the album as Eminem talks directly to his mother, apologizing for all of the insulting and dated references to her such as the track “Cleaning Out My Closet” from his fourth album “The Eminem Show.”  Nate Ruess from the band fun. offers a great chorus and verse because his voice and style perfectly compliment the atmosphere of the track.  This is an emotional peak for the album and is my personal favorite track on “The Marshall Mathers LP 2.”  4.6/5

 

•Evil Twin:  Eminem finishes off the album with another track that disses many celebrities and has many references to pop culture packed into every line.  The lyrics are great, but once again the beat is repetitive and uninteresting.  Rather than going out with a BANG, Eminem goes out with a bang.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a solid track, but it doesn’t stand out.  By this point in the album, it’s easy to glaze over it because it just doesn’t engage the listener.  I almost think it would have been better if Eminem had just ended the album with “Headlights,” or put this track before “Headlights,” because this song does not feel as emotionally conclusive or effective with this placement.  3/5

 

There are definitely many solid efforts on this album, and it holds a great deal of self-referential nostalgia towards Eminem’s career as a whole.  That being said, it seems that Eminem has lost the fiery passion and rage that set him aside from all other rappers back when “The Marshall Mathers LP” first hit the scene.

The quality of the lyrics is still there, but the delivery somehow feels slightly hollow or disingenuous.  That combined with the more “pop-oriented” production makes for a slightly forgettable album with solid highs and glaring lows.


3.25/5           

'Martians over Brooklyn' recreates infamous radio broadcast

A radio series drama called “The Mercury Theatre on Air” had a Halloween special on Oct. 30, 1938. The special, narrated and directed by Orson Welles, was titled “War of the Worlds.”

The plot of “War of the Worlds” was that aliens were attacking Brooklyn. Some listeners misunderstood and believed that extraterrestrials were actually taking over the world. The broadcast was followed by a widespread panic over the city.

The drama club’s latest production, “Martians Over Brooklyn,” told the story of both the infamous radio broadcast and the reaction of the local citizens.

Tomi Dres was the director, and Erin Palmer was the technical director for the show. Palmer has directed over a dozen productions for the Dexter Drama Club.

She says this set design was especially unique.

“Our set is actually split between a neighborhood in New York and a radio station for the entire show,” Palmer said.

Orson Welles was played by senior Tyrus Caldwell. He, along with the rest of the actors in the radio station, had to work with live props to make it sound as though aliens were invading for the “broadcast.”

Palmer was excited to see Caldwell in his first main-stage production.

“He’s kind of a character in everyday life,” she said. “He’s got so much energy; it just brings the whole play to life.”

According to Palmer, Caldwell and senior James Fischer, who played an unhinged grandfather, “had the time of their lives up there.”

Palmer found Fischer’s character especially interesting.

“(The grandfather) is kind of crazy. He thinks he’s a civil war veteran,” Palmer said. “Then he starts yelling about martians, and it’s like the boy who cried wolf. Nobody believes him at first.”

The New York apartment has many different characters, each of whom have a unique reaction to the “alien invasion.”

Some lead actors in the neighborhood included senior Havah Roussell, the owner of the apartment complex; freshman Owen Brooks, the comic book-loving kid who thinks there could be nothing cooler than an alien invasion; and sophomore Alexis Benson, who wishes to marry an alien.

The multitude of leading roles is an aspect Palmer thinks viewers enjoyed during “Martians Over Brooklyn.”

“A lot of people have a lot of lines. It’s very much an ensemble piece,” Palmer said. “Who wouldn’t want to come and watch a bunch of their friends have fun on stage?”

 

 

Declination release strong new album, Human Blood

The stage lights dim, the monitors hum and tension builds as Joe West prepares to take the stage. He tunes his guitar and checks over his setlist, as he has hundreds of times before. West has been at it for years now, playing rock/metal shows, self-recording and releasing albums under the project name “Declination.” However tonight is special. For the first time he will be playing songs of his newly released album “Human Blood.”

Following the lead of his first E.P. “Abyss” (2012), “Human Blood” contains brutal, invigorating riffs, with technical breakdowns and dark, disturbing lyrical imagery.

“He is definitely stepping his game up with this album,” senior Chris Richter said, “The overall production quality of this album is fantastic, from the song structure and transitions, right down to the album art.”

The first track of the album “Prelude” offers a ghoulish and completely unnerving monologue to set the theme for the rest of the album in its twisted and tortured nature. The lyrical content throughout the next 13 minutes that make up the rest of the album is a combination of harsh social commentary and almost maniacal fantasies.

“The album (to me at least), is a reflection of human life, nature, and habits,” West said.

As someone who is not generally a fan of thrash metal, I have been surprised by Declination time and time again. I’ve known West personally for several years and have had the privilege to watch him grow as an artist. The musicianship displayed on this album, (and in live performances), is phenomenal and inspiring. Even if you are not a fan of metal or rock in general, I would definitely give this album a listen.

The album can be streamed offline for free at here or purchased for a donation of a dollar or more.

Despite murderous rampages, GTA V is captivating

Upon its release Rockstar Games “Grand Theft Auto V” sales broke $800 million globally within 24 hours.

Divide that number by 60, the average price of the game, and you get the number of people who jumped at their first chance to virtually assume the role of a hardened gangster.

Virtual gangster and senior Tim Ewen said, “The whole GTA series makes up some of my favorite games. I really like the upgrades from IV to V.  The graphics are better and the gameplay is more intuitive.”

Countless people gave the game such great reviews that I had to give it a try for myself.

Upon putting the game into my console I was greeted by a hooker on the load screen, followed by flashing photos of sketchy looking people.  To some one not seasoned by the cold hard streets of GTA I, II, III, and IV, this might seem inappropriate or even offensive.  I wasn’t too surprised.

The game started with some captivating and high-action missions intended to give the player a feel for certain new controls and give a little back story.  After completing the setup to the story mode, I got to dig into what I really enjoy: wreaking havoc on the city of Los Santos.

I noticed while playing that the driving is a lot more sensitive than previous Grand Theft Auto games which gives you more control over the things you can do.

Like the previous games, there are five stars in the upper in right hand corner of the screen.  A star illuminates for every level of how wanted you are by law enforcement.  I started my rampage by stealing some cars and plowing down people.

The fuzz came after me with full force.  My streak ended in a bloody shoot out with the police.  It sounds terrible, but there is definitely an addictive element to this game.  The release of the game caused many absences in school for a day or two to come.

“I didn’t sleep any more than five hours for the first three days,” Ewen reported, “It’s too addicting.”  The game takes about three days to complete if you’re a go hard like Ewen.

The game play is captivating, and the story is great.  We all owe Rockstar Games a thank you, for once again allowing kids and young adults to let out their murderous rampages virtually. My overall rating:  five out of five.