Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Kele's Going to Box Your Ears Off!

Anyone who has followed Bloc Party’s progression from their debut album, Silent Alarm, through their 2008 release, Intimacy, knows that the band’s style has undergone somewhat of an overhaul. Few would describe Silent Alarm as a typical rock album, but fewer would fail to acknowledge that the band’s adoption of an electric, synth-heavy sound, made Intimacy and even more unorthodox work. However, Bloc Party did not maintain this updated sound throughout their latest album, instead choosing to give just a sample of this new direction while still incorporating songs that could easily fit in on either of their two previous releases. Such inconsistency in the album undoubtedly contributed to the mediocre reviews it received.

With his first effort as a solo artist, frontman for Bloc Party, Kele Okereke (a.k.a. Kele), learned from his band’s mistakes, and created the album that Intimacy wished it could be. Its title, The Boxer, is apt as it holds nothing back delivering punch after sonic punch (I apologize if that line was too cheesy . . . I couldn’t resist). Unlike Intimacy, Kele’s solo album is cohesive, with an electric sound throughout that manages to simultaneously feel melodic and fit for the dance club. This style of record comes as no surprise given the evolution of Bloc Party over recent years, and Kele’s decision to bring in electronic/hip-hop producer XXXChange (of Spank Rock fame) to work on the project.

While fans of Bloc Party who are hoping for the band to release another Silent Alarm-esque album may be dismayed by The Boxer, others will find solace in Kele’s total embrace of the dynamic electronic-rock he has been experimenting with for years. With The Boxer Kele has dived into the pool and left Bloc Party teetering on the springboard. We’ll have to wait to see if the band will follow their leader.



Okay, last night I may or may not have gone to a certain midnight premiere starring a certain vampire, hunky werewolf, and horrible actress.

I also might have waited in a line that wrapped all the way through Sycamore mall for 2.5 hours before showtime.

But, I don't really seem like your average TwiHard. I don't have millions of pictures of Edward or Jacob from Teen Bop magazines covering every inch of my bedroom wall, I don't own a single t-shirt with the cast of Twilight emblazoned on the front, and I most certainly do not possess any sort of cape or set or plastic fangs.

I do, however, own the first movie and all of the books.

I, like so many others, have become so baffled and intrigued by this vampire craze. Some think it's weird to be so obsessed and fantasizing over blood sucking creatures and wolves. I think, beyond sticking unrealistic ideas of romance into the minds of tweens, Twilight has unified a nation (and possibly the world...maybe).

If you think about it, Twilight has gone beyond the silver screen by positively influencing relationships. It's given middle aged women and their daughters something to talk about- whether it be about Jacob's flawless six pack or Edward's perfectly coiffed hair. Twilight fans of all levels always have that thread that binds them together.

I have a friend, Rebecca, who's helping out with a day camp in Bosnia this summer and on sports day, the kids asked if Rebecca could teach them how to play baseball. Rebecca asked them why and they said because they had seen it on Twilight.

-Joann Bautista

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Power of Celebrity

This Lebron thing has gotten out of hand.

For almost a month now, the world (or at least the world of the NBA) has eagerly awaited the decision of whether or not Lebron James would remain a Cleveland Cavalier or move on to the seemingly greener pastures of Chicago or New York. A decision can’t be made until at least July 1st, when Lebron becomes a free agent, but that hasn’t stopped the ever-increasing speculation.

And now even celebrities may be getting in on the act.

According to several sources, the city of New York is encouraging its more recognizable residents, like Chris Rock and Donald Trump, to woo the superstar athlete away from his Ohio roots to the razzle dazzle of the Big Apple.

Come to New York! It's been great for my career!
Just check out the preview for my new movie! Awesome!

So, really, this isn‘t even about basketball. It’s about using celebrity status to influence someone to do something. And it’s about celebs using a popular topic to make sure no one forgets your name

I mean, I’m sure that several of these celebs are hoops fans, but looking at the list of names, I find it hard to believe that all of those enlisted to entice James are big basketball buffs dieing to see the Knicks win a championship ring (Whoopi Goldberg? Really?). Instead, it just seems like a chance to gain publicity for themselves by getting involved in an “issue” that almost everyone is following.

And to be perfectly honest, when it comes to name recognition, Lebron can probably go toe-to-toe with almost anyone on that list.

Really all this does is further confirm the kind of emphasis our culture places on celebrities. Trying to get a superstar athlete to play for your team? Courting him with the promise of a talented team and coach and a rich basketball history just won't cut it now. Get Alec Baldwin instead.

-Jennifer Downing

Photo taken from
Video taken from Youtube

Please Listen to Frightened Rabbit

About two years ago a friend of mine recommended that I should check out an indie rock group called Frightened Rabbit, and their recently released album The Midnight Organ Fight. Too many times before, friends suggested that I should listen to the latest band that was causing a stir on, only for me to discover that the hipness of the music sailed far over my head. Consequently, I approached this music recommendation with considerable skepticism. One listen through the album demolished this wall of skepticism, and a few more listens secured The Midnight Organ Fight’s place among my small group of favorite albums. What caused me to fall in love with the album was the unique way lead singer Scott Hutchison describes how he fell out of love. Yes, it is a breakup album, but it’s not like any breakup album you’ve heard before. Instead of using the various cliché “You broke my heart” phrases commonly found in breakup albums, Hutchison uses deeper, more disturbing lyrics to convey his pain. On one of the many highlights of the album, “The Modern Leper”, Hutchison holds nothing back when he belts “I am ill but I’m not dead/ And I don’t know which of those I prefer / Because that limb which I have lost / It was the only thing holding me up” (Some of the lyrics from other songs better emphasize the glorious gloom that Hutchison projects, but I’m not sure if they’re appropriate to directly put on this blog. So, here’s a link:

As it tends to happen when one become a fan of a band, I eagerly anticipated Frightened Rabbit’s next album, The Winter of Mixed Drinks, which they released this past March. Prior to the release of the album I repeatedly read articles online discussing how the new album’s lyrical content departs from the depressing themes of The Midnight Organ Fight; apparently Hutchison got over his love loss, and wished to tell the world about his newfound happiness. In addition to being skeptical of music recommendations from friends, I also approach style changes by my favorite bands with caution. Therefore, I originally listened to The Winter of Mixed Drinks with almost an expectation of disappointment. Once again, Frightened Rabbit proved I should have more faith in the musical world. Like how the previous album wasn’t a typical breakup album, The Winter of Mixed Drinks offered its own twist to the “reborn” theme. See, instead of describing how happy he is, Hutchison clings on to the unabashedly melancholy emotions that made the previous album a success, and chooses to about how he’s not miserable anymore. Actually, “Not Miserable” is the name of one of the standout songs from the album. The song opens with the more positive, but not really positive, “Well this is easier now / I found all the pieces I lost in the flood / And it wasn’t that much / And though it’s easier now / I will always remember the night that I almost drowned / All alone in a house.”

If you like honest lyricism and catchy hooks, check out the music video for their first single off of The Winter of Mixed Drinks, “Swim Until You Can’t See Land.”


Hassling Hasselbeck

Ok, who all saw today's episode of The View?? It was incredible.

In case you missed it, here's what happened: Comedian Kathy Griffins was on the show to promote her show "My Life on the D-List" (Bravo network) and got to talking about a little field trip she took to Wasilla, AK.

"When Sarah Palin was telling us that she should run the whole country the way she runs Wasilla, I just had to see for myself, and if you like crystal meth, you're gonna like Wasilla," Griffins said.

Politically conservative Hasselbeck just wasn't having it and retorted by saying, "You've said things about people here that are a) untrue and b) not so funny, so do you ever feel weird like coming here and sitting here and promoting things when you've said some stuff?"

Oh. snap.

In a 2008 interview with The Windy City Times, Griffins was quoted saying, "Elizabeth Hasselbeck has snowed American audiences into not knowing that she is a f***ing Survivor reject. I am sorry; I am going to listen to the political beliefs of someone who wore wacky scarves on Survivor?"

So what exactly did Kathy Griffins respond Hasselbeck with?
"This is what I live for, so bring it."

Suddenly The View had turned into an episode of Jerry Springer...and it was awesome! Maybe I'll have to tune in a little more often.
- Joann Bautista

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

America's Infatuation with the Old West

While playing Red Dead Redemption the other day, I not only realized just how artistically awesome video games can be (which made me think of this Medium by arts staff alumnus Tommy Morgan), but also how it seems like slapping anything with the "Western" tag, instantly makes it cool.

The Old West has always been a part of American folklore, and while kids probably don't play Cowboys and Indians as much as they used to, it seems like everyone gets told stories of the Gold Rush and exaggerated outlaw tales growing up.

Then of course you have the brilliant Dollars Trilogy by Sergio Leone (A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly), which saw everyone trying out their best Clint Eastwood impersonation (if you haven't seen those flicks, quit reading now and check em' out).

Ever since it seems like American culture is obsessed with tales of "The Old West," "The Wild West," or whatever else you want to call it. Slap that tag on something and chances are tons of people will buy it.

A lesser known Western themed gem is Stephen King's Dark Tower series opener The Gunslinger, also a great read, even if you aren't necessarily into King's horror writing.

And recently Rockstar (also the dudes that made the Grand Theft Auto series) came the closest a video game has come to experiencing the world that is built up during our childhood with Red Dead Redemption.

I don't think any video game has immersed me into its world like Red Dead Redemption and I hope there are more like it to come. Instead of watching Clint Eastwood in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, you can actually BE the badass that is Eastwood in those movies.

I won't forget the night after a hunting trip gone bad in the game, that I was awoken by the image of a Grizzly Bear chasing me in the forest.

Sure you could get picky and argue the game (and some of the other examples here) take place somewhere closer to the South (like Texas or Mexico), but the idea of it is the same.

Americans just wish they lived in a time when the law was created by the people around you, and outlaws ran wild. As long as this holds true, Western themed products are going to sell, and even I will probably keep buying them.