It’s unfortunate Paul McCartney died in 1966, unable to see the impact of the final years of the greatest rock group in music history through classics like Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Abbey Road, and The Beatles (The White Album). An utter certainty for a career that would have ascended to new heights should he have chosen to form another group or go it alone given his songwriting prowess, he might even have earned a place among the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. In the future, his record company would have released a compilation devoted to tracks that were culled from a post-Beatles canon that showed he was a unique individual talent who wasn’t just reliant upon a little help from his friends, and we’d be rejoicing upon a heralded career.
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Though this is admittedly a gross oversimplification of one of the most complex genres of music ever, jazz can generally be separated into two camps. In one is the sedate, steady groove of early Davis and Coltrane, poised and collected over technically masterful solos and iconic melodies. In the other is the wild, kinetic funk of Mingus and Hancock, the kind that continues to exert massive influence on artists like Flying Lotus and his Brainfeeder cohort. Lucky Chops fits pretty solidly into the second camp. Their pelvis-swinging style of funky horn music is a genuine joy, present and hungry. “Buyo” waltzes forward with a rump-shaker of a sousaphone line, the upper-register instruments chorusing brilliantly on top. Topped off with a ripping baritone sax solo, it’s the kind of fiercely alive jazz which appeals to almost all music fans, regardless of jazz taste.
Combat is expressive. You can tell a lot about a character based on the way that he fights. I wrote about this idea some time ago regarding Assassin’s Creed. I considered how the fighting styles of Altair and Ezio changed over time and how those changes reflected on each character.
In retrospect, I wrote that piece based on an assumption that went unspoken at the time. Combat is at its most expressive when it changes. Seeing Ezio’s techniques, arsenal, and skills evolve over the course of three games was far more interesting than simply analyzing Altair based on one game.
Emmanuel Elone: “You’re like drugs / You’re like drugs to me.” It’s 2016; when will the drug/love metaphor finally die? On “Misery”, Gwen Stefani’s latest single, the pop star seems to be trying (and failing) to regain the relevance and popularity that she lost by the late 2000s. Along with the aforementioned love/drug metaphor, Gwen Stefani’s lyrics are a hodgepodge of cliches and hyperboles wrapped up in a bowtie made up of false emotions. “Put me out of my misery”, “I’m in trouble”, and “I’m trying not to care” are just a few of the generic lines that Stefani beats her listeners over the head with as the verses transition into the chorus. It’s pretty sad, actually, since not only does Gwen Stefani have a great voice for pop music, but because the beat was actually spectacular in its own right. As the boomy drums provide the heartbeat of the song, finger snap sounding snares give it an extra kick, making the song even flirt very slightly with a funk-inspired rhythm at points. So while I’m pretty sure that “Misery” isn’t going to bring Gwen Stefani back into pop relevance, it has enough good things going for it to be an average listen at worst, and decent at best. [6/10]
Chris Ingalls: After all this time, John Doe has earned the right to take it easy. Moving away from the punk sounds of X to a solo career more geared toward bluesy roots rock, he seems to enjoy settling into something considerably more laid back. Here, barroom piano and aching steel guitar anchor this lovely track. Doe’s voice is well-worn and relaxed but never complacent. “A Little Help” is a simple, gorgeous country ballad and Chan Marshall’s harmonies provide the perfect boost. [8/10]