Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle

Julien-Baker-Sprained-AnkleIn a stunning debut, Julien Baker offers 9 songs of heartbreak,  sorrow, loneliness and loss. Remarkably, Baker is just 20 years old; much too young for anyone to experience what she has.

The songs on Sprained Ankle are sparse: Baker accompanies herself with solo guitar and a looper pedal with no other added instrumentation. Large splashes of ambient reverb and delay accentuate the spaciousness of the songs; sometimes it seems as if she is playing and singing in a vast cathedral.

Raised in the South in a religious home, a thread of spiritual doubt weaves its way through her sparse songs. But rather than beating the listener over the head with her religious views, Sprained Ankle is a testament to surviving the horrors of drug addiction, loss, and self-harm at such a young age. Sprained Ankle is her catharsis; going through hell and not only surviving but coming through it stronger.

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Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle




Once is the story of an unnamed Irish busker (Glen Hansard), who plays for money in the streets of Dublin to supplement his day job as a vacuum cleaner repairman. A chance meeting with a Czech immigrant (Markéta Irglová) sets them on a path to romance and collaborative songwriting/performing.

Irglová’s character (also unnamed) is a classically-trained concert pianist who practices at a local music shop during the day. At night she does odd jobs and takes care of her daughter and mom.

As the story progresses, the two collaborate on songs and eventually record a demo record for Hansard’s character to take to London to help secure a record deal. As their personal lives intrude on their budding romance, the movie concludes with bittersweet (and realistic) resolution.

Writer/director John Carney cast real-life musicans Hansard and Irglová rather than actors, which gives the film a natural, realistic quality; they seem to be real people caught on camera by chance, rather than big-name actors pretending to be musicians.

However the real star of this film is the music. The  songs are heartfelt, melancholy, and moving. In fact, Hansard and Irglová won an Oscar for best original song, “Falling Slowly:”

Worth a look if you like touching, realistic romances or achingly beautiful music.

Skip it if musicals are not your thing.

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MV5BMjQwNTI2MTA0NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODc1NzkzMjE@._V1_SX214_AL_Rudderless is the story of Sam (played by Billy Crudup) whose son dies in school shooting. Sam goes from being  a successful, highly-paid advertising executive to living on a boat and painting houses.

Through happenstance, Sam discovers a box of his son’s recorded songs. He listens to them and begins to learn them, eventually working up the courage to play one of them at an open mic in a  local dive bar.

Sam catches the attention of Quentin (played by Anton Yelchin) who is about the same age as Sam’s son would have been. Quentin is a local small-time musician and is duly impressed with the song Sam had played. Quentin wants Sam to form a band, and after some considerable pestering, Sam relents. Soon after, two more musicians join the band, which achieves some local success playing the songs written by Sam’s deceased son. Unfortunately, Sam does not initially inform his band members of the source of the songs.

A startling revelation in latter third of the movie forces the viewer to look at the circumstances of Sam, his son, and Quentin in a different light. The revelation darkens the tone of an otherwise uplifting movie about a father coming to grips with the death of his son.

Rudderless is the first film directed by William H. Macy (who also as a small supporting role in the movie). A stunning debut, and hints at great things to come.

The songs in the movie stand out; they are catchy, funny and poignant, sometimes all at once. Crudup and Yelchin give credible musical performances.

Rounding out the cast is Laurence Fishburne as a music-store owner.

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Worth a look if you like movies about music.

Skip it if school shootings upset you.

– Steve







Music Review: Lights Out by Ingrid Michaelson


71VV-kAvR4L__SL1500_.rLights Out by folky/indie, singer/songwriter Ingrid Michaelson took me completely by surprise; this is not the type of music that I normally listen to. But it snuck up on me with its infectious, catchy beats and joyous, heartfelt lyrics.

Much pop music is vapid, forgettable, and ultimately disposable. Not so with Lights Out, which has an ear-worm quality, but in a good way. The songs play in my head even when I’m not listening to the album itself.

My first introduction to Michaelson’s music was from the above video.  The video is truly a wry homage to Robert Palmers “Simply Irresistible” which I remember fondly from my college days. I like Michaelson’s twist on Palmer’s stylized models.

The song itself is very catchy as well and led me to investigate more of Michaelson’s music, most of which is available for streaming on YouTube. Kudos to her for allowing people to listen to her music before purchasing it. Her music stands on its own and it seems to me that she is confident enough in it to let listeners listen first and then pay for it later.

Other standout songs from Lights Out are “Wonderful Unknown,” “One Night Town,” “Over You,” and “Everyone Is Gonna Love Me Now. ”

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Lights Out

Give it a listen if you  like infectious, catchy pop music which is more complex than it appears on the surface.

Skip it if you don’t want these catchy songs playing in your head even when you’re not listening to them.


Broken Crown Halo by Lacuna Coil

Lacuna-Coil-Broken-Crown-Halo-800x800Broken Crown Halo is the seventh studio album from the Italian goth-metal band, Lacuna Coil. For trivia fans: Lacuna Coil means “empty spiral” in Italian.

Lacuna Coil has a track record or releasing a great album, followed by a weaker one. Unfortunately, Broken Crown Halo is a weaker one. While not a bad album per se, it doesn’t have the hooks and the songs are not as good as their previous effort, Dark Adrenaline.

The primary draw of the band is their captivating lead singer, Cristina Scabbia. Her vocals never disappoint but the material does not give her much to work with. The guitars, bass  and drumming are heavy and crushing (as they should be on a metal album), but the song writing is weak and there really aren’t any memorable songs on the album.

I was disappointed in Broken Crown Halo, particularly after their spectacular previous release, Dark Adrenaline. Broken Crown Halo is not a bad album, it’s just not up to the level of their previous efforts. Hopefully the next one will be as good as or better than their best  (Comalies and Karma Code come to mind.)

However, Broken Crown Halo is worth a listen if you are a fan of the band. Click on the following link to place a hold:

Broken Crown Halo

For a better representation of the band’s dark, goth-metal sound click on the following link to place a hold.

Dark Adrenaline