At the start of a new year, one can’t help but reflect on what’s going on in their life. I’ve got a fairly long drive to get to work, which means a lot of time every day to just listen to music and let my mind wander. Several weeks ago, I added Speak Low If You Speak Love’s Nearsighted to my library for these drives, and since then it has been an essential part of these gloomy winter commutes. I was already familiar with Ryan Scott Graham’s songwriting from Speak Low’s previous album, Everything but What You Need, but that didn’t prepare me for this album, which took what we already knew Graham could do and elevated it all into something truly special.
Nearsighted is an example of how self-reflection can help you to make sense of yourself and how to move forward from difficult feelings. The album opens with “Have I Changed,” a song in which Graham is trying to figure out why it is that he feels so skeptical and apathetic. The song opens with ambient synthesizers rather than the familiar acoustic guitar of his previous work, already signaling a departure from his previous sound. As the song goes on, the instrumentation builds, adding guitar and piano before stripping itself back for the song’s thesis, “I cannot put my thumb on when I went so numb.” From there, he spends the rest of the album trying to figure that out. Continue reading Album Review: Speak Low If You Speak Love – Nearsighted
Stranger Things season two premiered on October 28th. Set in a time when nerd culture — D&D, video game arcades, Ghostbusters — was an underground club of passionate people so devoted to their obsessions they were willing to be bullied incessantly for it, Stranger Things celebrates the creativity and drive of its central characters, Mike, Dustin, and Lucas. The boys solve puzzles mostly because they can connect the dots between D&D and real life. Stranger Things finds success not just from nostalgizing the past, but by being juxtaposed by what nerd culture is today. As evidenced by everything from the Zuckerbergs of the tech world to the multi-billion dollar Marvel franchise, it’s now as lucrative to be a professional nerd as it is fun to be a nerd footsoldier.
But this season we don’t just get the boys — we get a new character who is as real today as she was in 1980: the nerd girl.
The girl in question is named Max. A skateboarding ginger with anger issues, her game of choice is the 1982-classic Dig Dug. Upon discovering Max has beaten their high score at the arcade (Max’s pseudonym: Mad Max), Dustin and Lucas instantly fall for her. After all, she’s a gamer. She’s not like most girls they know; she’s like them. Continue reading Stranger Things’ Problem with Mad Max
On December 15th, Darren Criss played a show at the Globe Theater in downtown Los Angeles in which he took the audience on a journey through his life of songwriting, acting, and performing. Spanning a little over a decade of work in the public eye, the concert showcased never-released favorites like “The Muse,” revitalized a few songs from the catalogue of his time on Glee, and even reached back for classics from his college theater company’s viral sensation A Very Potter Musical, in which Criss played Harry Potter himself.
The concert also doubled as a debut party for his latest release, the Homework EP. Homework is Criss’s first solo project since the self-released Human EP seven years ago, which he wrote at fifteen and published at 22.
Consequently, it was exactly seven years ago—almost down to the day—that I had last seen Criss play in L.A., at the Roxy in Hollywood on December 18th, 2010. Continue reading The Return of Darren Criss
After its December 15th debut, The Last Jedi has proven to be one of the most divisive Star Wars films of all time. New problems are pointed out every day, only to be met with disagreement from someone else. The weirdest part about this, though, is where those lines are drawn—and typically, from the bizarre complaints about the modern humor to the cultural anxiety around the diverse main cast, the crack reveals itself to be positioned between the old fandom and the new fandom, not the critics and the fans.
Speaking of fandom: What does the Star Wars fandom look like these days? One might typically interact with two types of people in their daily fandom life: First, the hardcore fan who grew up with the Luke Skywalker as their hero and who hold the original trilogy up as perfect cinema, and second, the equally as hardcore fan who had their awakening sometime between the prequels and Carrie Fischer’s death, who embraces the evolution of the media with open arms. Continue reading The Last Jedi is Damn Near Perfect Fanfiction Material. Here’s Why.
Once known for their raucously anti-suburban anthems and untamed, feverish post-collegiate angst, The Wonder Years have proven time and time again to be a band that grows with its audience, maturing alongside fans while keeping alive the ember of heart-wrenching honesty and candidness that make their sound so deeply personal and raw.
This past September, the band released Burst and Decay, an acoustic reimagining of selections from their discography, from Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing’s “Coffee Eyes” to No Closer to Heaven’s “Cardinals”. Alongside this release, they also announced a fifteen date tour, playing an entirely acoustic set at various intimate venues across the United States. On October 8th, 2017, they played not one but two shows at Le Poisson Rouge in New York, NY.
The show I attended was entirely new territory for me: a pop-punk matinee.
Continue reading Live Review: The Wonder Years at Le Poisson Rouge in New York, NY