Last night we went to see the Austin based Explosions in the Sky. These guys don’t come around often so we jumped at the chance. They’re perhaps best recognized for their brilliant soundtrack work on the film (and tv show) Friday Night Lights but they wield lots more power than that – especially live on stage.
Their sound doesn’t fit neatly into any box but it’s instrumental rock that mixes soft, fluid melodies with raging guitars and raw emotion. They refer to it as “cathartic mini-symphonies.” We call it mesmerizing. If this were the 70’s, they’d be major guitar heroes of FM radio. Though their low-key masters-of-their-universe style seems to suit them just fine. Here’s a small taste of what we saw last night.
Explosions in the Sky albums to own:
We loved Captain Fantastic. It’s the movie that Viggo Mortensen could have easily won the Oscar for, had more people seen it. He slays as the head of this unconventional family that’s keeping-far-away-from-the-Joneses, living off the grid and literally fending for themselves.
It’s beautifully written and directed by Matt Ross (who plays Gavin Belson on Silicon Valley). He’s crafted a story that’s smart, funny and poignant and takes a thought provoking look at the messy job of being a family.
And then there’s the icing on the cake: the soundtrack. It’s from Alex Somers with the help of his partner Jonsi (who we told you about here). It’s not the pop hit variety…though there were some nice moments of song in the film. It’s more sit back, chill and let the soothing sounds take over. Something we could all use a little more of these days.
We’ve been pounding the drum for The National along with the rest of the world since they exploded with High Violet. We talked about them when the record first hit and then again, with their contribution to the Win Win soundtrack and once more, with Sharon Van Etten, a frequent collaborator who also appears on their latest.
So naturally, we’re pleased to report the newly released Trouble Will Find Me lives up to their reputation. It’s more refined and introspective than the previous, giving it a more mature or perhaps, clean shaven feel. But never veering far from the indie Brooklyn gruff they wear with authority. Bottom line, they’re a good old fashioned rock band that continues to advance and once again, they have fully delivered.
The part 2 to this story is that there’s even more of The National to love with the release of the new documentary Mistaken for Strangers. It came as a result of lead singer Matt Berninger, flanked by a pair of twins and a set of brothers and feeling left out, inviting his own metalhead brother Tom to join the crew of their breakout tour. Good thing the wannabe filmmaker packed the camera because what could have ended with a failed roadie gig evolved into this unexpected tale of two brothers. While the popularity of one was skyrocketing, the almost famous one floundered in his shadow. That is, until the spotlight was turned. Be it dumb luck or happy accident, Tom Berninger managed to make good and create a touching film that took him from sleeping on his parent’s couch to being introduced by Robert DeNiro at the Tribeca Film Festival and gaining respect as an artist in his own right. The film is out in limited screenings so it’s best to throw it on the queue for safe keeping.
Here’s The National on Letterman with their summer anthem “Don’t Swallow the Cap” (Oh and really, Dave? “You can pick up the CD in stores….” Is that still a thing?) followed by the trailer for Mistaken for Strangers by Tom Berninger who seems pretty ready for his closeup.
If you’re not up to date with Breaking Bad, you’re majorly missing the boat. It will go down as one of the baddest TV shows of all time. The good news is that you have a chance to redeem yourself. AMC is currently rerunning the series from the beginning or you can binge watch on Netflix. All in burning anticipation of the final eight episodes coming August 11.
It’s the kind of show that once you start, you’re hooked and soon joining the throngs of fans jonesing for more. Second only to Tony Soprano, Walter White is the most likable psychopathic family man to ever command your attention. It’s storytelling and acting at the highest level with some great use of music thrown in for good measure.
The series is not overly soundtracked but when they slip in a choice nugget like the one below, it takes on a role of its own. Without giving too much away, it comes at a pivotable moment early in Season 5, marking the beginning of the end…of the series. This cookin’ 1968 version of ‘On a Clear Day You Can See Forever’ from The Peddlers, no less, finds Walt and Jesse doing their thing and it’s sure to be remembered. Well played, gentleman. Well played.
Netflix has been on a roll with their streaming offerings. First with their highly addictive original political series House of Cards and now this. The Zen of Bennett is an up close look at Tony Bennett and the making of his recent Duets ll record. Lovingly produced by his son, we’re treated to watching the master at work who is equally at home in the recording or artist studio, and in the process we learn a little more about what makes him tick.
He’s extremely likable and can relate to just about anyone as proven in his interactions with guests Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole, Andrea Bocelli, John Mayer and even Lady Gaga. The film’s most bittersweet moment comes in watching him help nurture the crazy talented Amy Winehouse and then learn of her untimely passing just shortly thereafter.
He’s been at this a long time and takes great pride in transcending generations and though admittedly old fashioned, he’s still very much young at heart. If it weren’t for the great stories spanning more than five decades in show business, we’d have a hard time believing he’ll soon be turning 85.
He’s built his life and career on following his heart and living his passions and he credits his longevity to his commitment to quality or as he warns to never scrimp on a suit or a song. They don’t really make ‘em like Tony Bennett anymore which is all the more reason to savor his words of wisdom. Here’s the preview for The Zen of Bennett now streaming on Netflix or available on DVD:
Unless you’ve been living on another planet, you’ve caught some of the buzz surrounding the long awaited release from Daft Punk. If you’ve missed the free stream on iTunes, Random Access Memories is officially available and you can also listen on Spotify. The French electronic dance pop duo fondly known as the robots have once again broken the mold. What makes this record most notable is the interesting choice of A-list musician producer types they tapped to transport them back in time to the 60’s and 70’s to help carry out their mission. The arrival of this record has generated a lot of excitement and we’re right in step. They had us at the very first synth and it completely lives up to the hype.
But what’s also newsworthy are these choice nuggets we’ve unearthed on their site: the Collaborator Series video interviews. They play like mini behind the muse documentaries with each collaborator sharing their connection to the men of mystery as well as the little touches of magic that unfolded throughout the creative process. We’ll take any opportunity to explore how music inspires…and this is solid gold.
You’ve got Paul Williams taking us back to the crazy days of Phantom of the Paradise and Nile (Chic Le Freak) Rodgers talking about his work with everyone from Bowie to Madonna and once again landing at Electric Lady Studios. The first single to hit the airwaves that plays throughout is “Get Lucky” from rap mogul Pharrell Williams who also shares his own time travel story. Producer and sampler Todd Edwards was so moved by the whole experience that it caused him to actually move….all the way cross country.
The overriding sentiment throughout is that these guys wanted to deliver something modern so they looked to the past for inspiration (which is very much in keeping with our own sort of like then but so right now theme). Or as Nile Rodgers beautifully points out it in his segment below, they went back to go forward and in doing so brought something to music that has been lacking for awhile. Ironically, it took a couple of androids to create something organic and bring some soul back to music….and people are feeling it. So even if you’re like Daft who? Punk what?, this is as good a time as any to get on board and into the groove. Helmet sold separately.