Favorite Music of 2019

In no particular order, I present my favorite albums of 2019! For a mix of my favorite tracks, check out my playlist over at Spotify.

  • SPC ECO – Fifteen Dean Garcia of Curve’s current electro/gloom pop outfit. Spooky, ethereal stuff.
  • Melanie SandfordWonderland If you’re nostalgic for the heyday of ’90s Boston girl power, this album is for you.
  • Ladytron – Ladytron It took me a while to enjoy this album after the clusterfuck that was PledgeMusic. I lost money. Ladytron lost money. Ken Andrews lost money. Once I got past that sting, I found myself reveling in another synth-pop masterpiece from these Liverpudlians.
  • Wallows – Nothing Happens Sunny alt-rock from California. The best band with actors in it since Phantom Planet.
  • Piroshka – Brickbat Piroshka is a ’90s dream come true: Miki Berenyi (Lush), Justin Welch (Elastica), KJ McKillop (Moose), and Mick Conroy (Modern English) make up this supergroup.
  • Billie Eilish – When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? I’m dumbfounded by how much I love this album. My musical taste doesn’t usually stray so far into the mainstream. She’s worth all of the hype.
  • Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Ghosteen Another glorious, haunting release from The Bad Seeds.
  • Ex:Re – Ex:Re Ex:Re (pronounced ex-ray) is Elena Tonra of Daughter. I cannot express how much I love this album. It reaches every part of my being in a way I haven’t felt since Lisa Germano’s Happiness. This was the album I played the most this past year.
  • Sleater-Kinney – The Center Won’t Hold It received mixed reviews, but I dug this album. The Center Won’t Hold feels like the trio was into Nine Inch Nails’ The Fragile when they created it. Conversely, Ex Hex’s It’s Real was the best Sleater-Kinney album of the year that wasn’t by Sleater-Kinney.
  • Letters to Cleo – OK Christmas A truly excellent EP of Christmas tunes! (Disclaimer: I moonlight as their hometown merch girl.)

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    Greg Hawkes of The Cars, Diane Dupuis, Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz, and Kay Hanley of Letters to Cleo in November 2019. Photo by Amy Lordan
  • Harry Styles – Fine Line Go listen to “She” and tell me that you don’t like it.
  • Morrissey – California Son I feel so much conflict in my soul over Morrissey! Up until 2019, he’d been my church; my untouchable favorite! But then he wore that For Britain badge on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and he crushed my spirit. I’d love to chalk it up to Moz being contrary and “Morrissey being Morrissey,” but I just don’t know if I can. Can one separate an artist from the artist’s politics in order to still love their music? California Son, a slightly uneven covers album, didn’t help settle this quandary.
  • Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – Watchmen (Music from the HBO Series) Ah, sweet score work from this Oscar-winning duo. Thanks for making me forget about my Morrissey heartbreak. Initially, I felt weird about watching Watchmen because I interviewed Alan Moore in 2016 and he was an absolute delight. But once I heard these two were on board, I was all in.
  • The Darkness – Easter Is Cancelled Riffs! Glorious riffs!
  • White Lies – Five Interpol, if they were British. There’s no hiding that White Lies was heavily influenced by Joy Division, but I am still a sucker for their brooding yet poppy tunes.
  • The Chemical Brothers – No Geography My dance party album of the year.
  • Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow Both Barack Obama and I approve.

Tripp Review: Make Mine Music

By Jon Tripp

Not much to see here, folks. Basically a collection of Silly Symphonies with delusions of Fantasia‘s grandeur. The highlight is probably the segment “All The Cats Join In”, a jazz-era romp that looks like it features the Archie gang and contains some surprisingly ribald humor for a Disney production… It almost feel like a “this is your kid on jazz!” PSA for parents.

Side note: steer clear of the Disney Gold Collection DVD, which is not only abridged (missing “The Martins and The Coys” segment) but also features an embarrassingly bad transfer and is artificially transferred into widescreen, cropping the top and bottom of the frame. All around, an underwhelming viewing experience.

Tripp Review: John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

By Jon Tripp

For the first half or so, I thought, “This is the best John Wick movie!” Then he gets back to the Continental and I kinda checked out for the next 45 minutes. I know this is supposed to be the great action franchise of this generation, but I just can’t get behind it. It’s just good enough that I’ll eventually get around to watching each movie on DVD.

Rating: three stars

Tripp Review: Streets of Fire

By Jon Tripp

What even is this glorious 1980s mess?

Willem Dafoe busts up a Face To Face concert and kidnaps the lead singer (Diane Lane, apparently having left The Stains) in a scene that reminded me of the opening of Double Dragon. Rick Moranis is cast hilariously against type as her asshole manager/boyfriend. Enter Michael Paré (the Scott to Lane’s Envy), who agrees to rescue her, armed only with a shotgun that can blow up a vehicle with each shell. Also, Lee Ving is here! And Bill Paxton with a psychobilly pompadour! And the dancer from Flashdance! And Dafoe wears leather overalls, shirtless! And then there’s a rock-hammer duel! Why not!?

If you ever thought that The Warriors would be the perfect movie if only there were five or six musical interludes, or that Buckaroo Banzai would be better without the science fiction… Well, you’d be wrong both times, but at least you will enjoy the hell out of Streets of Fire.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2

Tripp Review: Mary Poppins Returns

By Jon Tripp

The Royal Doulton Bowl sequence was top-notch, with the animation reminiscent of the Disney Classics of the 1950-60s, a solid chase scene, and one of the best songs in the movie (“The Cover Is Not The Book”). The ending is good, too; “Nowhere To Go But Up” could easily have been an outtake from the original — it really strives for the exuberance of “Let’s Go Fly A Kite”. And the race to Big Ben was okay too I guess. But I’m sad to say, the rest was kind of a snooze. Especially the Topsy Turvy scene, during which I did actually start to doze off.

I think it needed more Emily Blunt which is certainly not a criticism I ever expected to have… After helping out at Big Ben she pretty much disappears for the last 20 minutes of the movie.

I went in hoping to love it; came out only liking it, and that’s disappointing. Definitely not my favorite London-based children’s fantasy movie of 2018.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Tripp Review: Mom and Dad

By Jon Tripp

If you ever wanted to see Nic Cage try to level a pool table while listening to Reagan Youth, and then immediately demolish that pool table while scream-singing The Hokey Pokey, then boy do I have the movie for you.

Flavors of 28 Days Later, Pontypool, and The People Under The Stairs blended with a liberal dash of grade-A Cage Rage, and a good time is had by all.

Random cameo by Grant Morrison as a cable news talking head, because why the hell not.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2

#MalCrushMonday on a Wednesday

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Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios

Captain Malcolm Reynolds and his crew of Browncoats are returning! On Monday, BOOM Studios! revealed this gorgeous variant cover by legendary artist Bill Sienkiewicz. It was the second variant highlighted for the forthcoming new Firefly comic book series, which is scheduled to hit stores in November.

I’m pretty excited about this series. Why? According to a press release from BOOM! Studios, we’ll learn the “definitive story of the Unification War — the intergalactic civil war that divided friend and family alike.”

Firefly will be written by Greg Pak (Battlestar Galactica, Mech Cadet Yu) and illustrated by Dan McDaid (Judge Dredd). Some guy named Joss Whedon is listed as the story consultant.

JC Is My Co-Pilot

One of last year’s more remarkable collaborations came from Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker and Canadian pianist Chilly Gonzales. Their Room 29 was released on the consummate classical  label Deutsche Grammophon. Cocker’s witty and droll lyrics were inspired by room 29 at the infamous Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles.

The following video is a live recording of one of my favorite tracks from the album. To dive deep into the lyrics, check out this Chilly Gonzales fan site.

Tripp Review: Dead or Alive

{Me after the first 4 1/2 minutes} “Oh my god this movie is 100% montage and it’s going to be GREAT!” Sadly the montage only lasted another 60 seconds(!), but the film as a whole was still a blast. After the bonkers opening, the story settles into somewhat standard cops-vs.-Yakuza fare, but with plenty of Miike’s depraved flourishes to remind you where you are. (Remind me to leave any nightclub with a kiddie pool on the premises.)

This middle portion (aka the plot) will inevitably be given short shrift in capsule reviews because it can’t possibly live up to the hype of the first 10 minutes without the audience’s hearts exploding. But it does have plenty to offer even if you have seen every other east-Asian gangster picture to cross the Pacific.
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That said, the crime drama in Dead Or Alive is pretty much like the love story in Audition: you’re going to forget all about it once it pays off with the final set piece. The last ten minutes are so hilariously over the top, I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard at bloody violence since Meet The Feebles. I hope one day to see this in a theater full of people who don’t know what’s coming.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️