Friday, June 24, 2011

So Far This Year: Grant's Top 10 Albums of 2011

The first half of 2011 has already proven to be one full of incredible releases and if the year continues at the pace we're going then one can only imagine how these lists are going to shape up at the end of 2011.  Between the big names who stepped their game up for highly anticipated records and the pleasant surprises that have popped up, this year's been an excellent one thusfar for new releases.  Halfway through 2011, here are my favorite releases for 2011:

10) It's A Corporate World by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. made a name for themselves with their Horse Power EP that was released back in 2010, but with a few of the songs from that EP honed and crafted the band came back in 2011 with a full-length that was packed full of catchy summer tunes that showcase the unique style of Dale Jr. Jr.  Their infectious melodies and meticulously crafted songs make for an easy listen through that fits perfect with the summer vibes needed to get through these warm, warm days.  It's A Corporate World is a great display of pop perfection without a weak moment on the record.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

"Torches" By Foster the People

"Torches" was released on May 23, 2011 on Columbia Records.

Talk about a band immediately blowing up! Foster the People's debut album, "Torches," has already spawned a summer hit, "Pumped Up Kicks." I couldn't let my knowledge of the band stop there, because frankly "Pumped Up Kicks" is one of the best carefree summer dance jams in recent memory. Of course, a read through the lyrics reveal a story that seems on the surface to be about a murderer. Regardless, Foster the People bring a sparkly, jangly twist on the 80's inspired-indie-synth vibe that sets the the perfect stage for a summer of jumping and chanting. Sometimes, however, the album sounds a little bit overproduced and there's some songs that entirely lack staying power. You'll find yourself skipping through some tracks to find the tunes you're looking for. For a debut effort, I am thoroughly impressed with Foster the People and I'm excited to hear their sophomore album, where they will hopefully fine tune the sound they very obviously have a knack for.

From the 'Net: The Galactic Empire Times

Lord Vader announced the killing of Obi-Wan Kenobi
at the Imperial Palace on Coruscant.
A pretty brilliant Star Wars-themed satire of the New York Times headline the day Osama Bin Laden was deftly dispatched, The Galactic Empire Times takes a look at a VERY well known execution from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Yes, Lord Darth Vader steps up to the podium to announce that "Obi-Wan Kenobi, the mastermind of some of the most devastating attacks on the Galactic Empire and the most hunted man in the galaxy, was killed in a firefight with Imperial forces near Alderaan." The article is rather lengthy, and dips in to the expanded universe at times, but it is definitely worth a look. Unfortunately, this is not a functioning paper, rather just a brief article, but it is infinitely recommendable. Link is here.

So Far This year: Terry's Top 10 Albums of 2011

10. Bright Eyes - "The People's Key"
Conor Oberst's latest outing under the Bright Eyes moniker is a welcome return to form. Though not his best by any means, The People's Key strikes a balance between the vastly different sounds on two of his most iconic albums: I'm Wide Awake It's Morning, a collection of more traditional folk offerings in the signature Saddle Creek style, and the sparse digital sounds of the bleak Digital Ash in a Digital Urn. The two styles mesh better than expected to create a well-formed album, perfect for inquisitive listeners willing to go below the surface and experience the true depth of Oberst's songwriting.

09. The Mountain Goats - "All Eternals Deck"
There is no such thing as a bad Mountain Goats album. The mad genius John Darnielle has shown time and time again that he is not slowing down any time soon: after making music for two full decades, he still manages to weave albums chock full of punchy, hyperliterate anthems that no other singer-songwriter can quite seem to execute.

Moogfest Rolls Out Additions to 2011 Lineup

Dan Deacon, one of many new artists added to the Moogfest lineup
A mere three weeks after announcing an already strong initial lineup including the likes of the Flaming Lips and Crystal Castles, a Youtube video posted today announced further acts whose presence will grace Asheville, NC this October for this year's Moogfest. The new acts include ambient music pioneer Moby, the Antlers, and the perpetually entertaining Dan Deacon, among others. Also announced was a performance by Baltimore's Wham City Comedy Collective, a live variety show of sorts combining comedy, bizarre costumes, avant-garde performance art, and musical performance (in which Deacon is prominently featured). Other exciting add-ons include Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox performing under his solo Moniker, Atlas Sound, and powerhouse dubstep producer kode9. The official website for the festival promises that the "final Moogfest 2011 lineup will ultimately feature performances by over 60 internationally acclaimed artists," with the current lineup sitting at an even forty after today's rollout, so it's safe to say we can expect another major announcement in the near future. In the meantime, you can check out the Moogfest website at for tickets, a lineup with artist bios, and general festival info, and you can see today's announcement video after the break.

News: J.K. Rowling Explains "Pottermore"

Last week, a cryptic web page launched at, bearing only pictures of owls and J.K. Rowling's signature beneath a message that read simply: "Coming Soon." Today, the page has been updated with a video of Rowling thanking fans for years of support and briefly explaining what the Pottermore site would become. Though details in the video were mostly rather vague, Rowling seemed to hint that Pottermore would be a social network where "fans of any age can share, participate in, and rediscover the stories." She also confirmed Pottermore will come equipped with an online store, which will contain exlusive downloads of the Potter series as digital audiobooks and, for the first time ever (but we knew it was coming eventually), eBooks. Additionally, Rowling states that she will be contributing new stories to the potter canon available only on Pottermore. The full site is scheduled to launch this October; however, fans can sign up for an email list now and will receive further details and possible early access on Harry's birthday, July 31st. The email signup has been experiencing technical problems with the site administrators acknowledged through the Pottermore Twitter account, but head on down to to give it a try anyway.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

So Far This Year: Kyle's Top 10 Albums of 2011

10. Bright Eyes "The People's Key" - Any new output from Bright Eyes is always exciting. This, in particular, stands as an exquisite blend of his "Digital Ash" days and his newer turns with the Mystic Valley Band. If you add in, of course, a rambling paranoid (Denny Brewer of Refried Ice Cream (please, do yourself a favor and click that link)) and the Oberst's unmistakable voice, you have the makings of a fantastic album.

09. R.E.M. "Collapse Into Now" - As a dyed-in-the-wool R.E.M. fan, I was trembling with excitement with their latest "return to form," having been moderately unimpressed with their last "return to form," "Accelerate". That is not to say that R.E.M. has released a bad album, as they certainly have not, but "Collapse Into Now" is like running into an old friend.

Bruce Campbell's 53rd Birthday

Today, June 22nd, is screen legend Bruce Campbell's 53rd birthday. Rocketing out of Michigan with 1983's "The Evil Dead," the controversial horror film debut of both Campbell and fellow Michigander Sam Raimi, he has been an ever present part of the alternative culture of the United States. His popularity has risen in those almost thirty years as now even our old, conservative relatives get a huge charge out of his character Sam Axe on USA Network's Burn Notice. But those are only bookends on what is an incredible career for Mr. Campbell, working with Coen Brothers on The Hudsucker Proxy and Fargo, taking a turn as Elvis in Bubba Ho-tep, as well as bit parts in The Majestic and Sky High. You can catch his voice in Cars 2, playing Rod Redline, and as previously mentioned, catch him on Burn Notice on USA Network, starting its new season Thursday, June 23rd 2011 at 9pm/8c.

Duke Nukem Forever: A Cautionary Tale

Duke Nukem Forever was r

eleased on June 14, 2011 by 2K Games.

Until very recently, Duke Nukem Forever had become a creature of legend in the video game world. The game proved itself to be an elusive mythical beast in the vein of Bigfoot or Daniel Day-Lewis, spending years at a time in seclusion while emerging once every so often to remind society that it was still at large. Sadly, instead of a blurry picture in a local newspaper or Oscar-caliber performance in a new movie, all we got when Duke resurfaced was a half-hearted release date and a screenshot of what seemed to be an amazing game we would never get to play. Then, this year, Duke Nuken Forever's creators apparently got serious. A firm release date was set: June 14th, 2011. There were in-store displays, TV commercials, the whole nine yards, all bearing 6/14 as a firm release date. Some, like myself, were skeptical. Around Summer 2009, I had come to terms with the fact that Forever was never coming out. When I was proven wrong, I lined up to buy a copy only to find out that I really wish it hadn't.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Sims 3 Expansion Pack "Generations"

The Generations expansion pack was
released May 31st, 2011
The Sims 3: Generations is latest expansion pack in the 22-title Sims empire. Released on May 31st, 2011, the expansion focused on bringing the social experience of your Sims more to the forefront of game play. The tagline is "Live your life to the fullest," which is exactly what the game is designed to help your Sims do. This expansion pack expands social options for every generation, from imaginative play for children to cane-shaking anger at the world as an elder. There are a few other upgrades that come with it as well, such as the ability to adjust Sim's body hair in the Sim creator, new sliders that specifically adjust the life cycle length, the return of the "memories" system that more or less gets in the way and, of course, a myriad of new objects.

Television: AMC Releases Teaser for Season 4 of Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad returns to AMC on July 17th, 2011
In case you'd forgotten, Breaking Bad is one of the greatest cable television dramas in the history of the medium and it is returning to your living room on July 17th. AMC figured they'd remind you of the drama and excitement that you'd been missing in this far-too-long interim between seasons by releasing a teaser trailer. Though there is no new footage from the season, this is a nice minute long reminder of the ways the previous three seasons have chronicled the fall of Walter White, the meek science teacher, and the rise of Heisenberg, the sociopath meth dealer. Myxem will spend the remaining weeks between now and the new season glued to AMC's website for any new developments, and also do season and important episode recaps. The video (from AMC) is after the jump.

"Weird Al" Yankovic Releases "Alpocalypse"

The Alpocalypse arrives bearing accordions and Hawaiian shirts
on June 21st, 2011.

"Weird Al" Yankovic returns today with his latest effort, Alpocalypse. This is his first release in almost five years, preceded by 2006's Straight Outta Lynwood and rhe associated hit "White & Nerdy." Alpocalypse is exactly the music we've come to expect from the parody legend; it is the master of his craft adroitly mixing a dry cocktail of witticisms, parody and polka. In other words: Ray Manzarek plays the organ and Yankovic provides a surprisingly convincing Jim Morrison in a satirical look at Craigslist, Taylor Hanson guests on a Hanson style parody about a person who obviously knows nothing of love, "Whatever You Like" plays on T.I.'s hit of the same name with a cheerful recession-based theme, and about a million instances when the album is delightfully predictable. No, there is nothing new on this album other than the songs Yankovic chooses to lambaste but, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. While comprised mostly of top 40 hits, Yankovic pays tribute to deserving bands via style parody, tackling the White Stripes, Queen and Meatloaf, as well as the Doors (and for some reason, Hanson). I would not call this album remarkable, though I can't find anything bad to say about it.  It's the sort of album that people who enjoy listening to Weird Al will enjoy listening to. For people who are ambivalent, I recommend trying it. For those who entirely dislike Weird Al, I don't assume you've read this post.