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They’re not standing around the watercooler, but Cheryl Sadler, Mark Meszoros, Mark Podolski and Nicole Franz are talking about what they’ve been watching, listening to and playing during their free time.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Used: Artwork

"Tuned Into Pop Culture" guest contributor Nick Carrabine is a News-Herald staff writer.

Following the accidental death of actor Heath Ledger in January of 2008, The Used’s frontman Bert McCracken recently admitted he could have just as easily suffered the same fate.

Not shy of having a near-death experience himself (He passed out on stage in Kentucky in 2003 and was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with acute pancreatitis — this was a day before they were scheduled to play in Cleveland, which was cancelled.) and also never meeting his unborn baby and never marrying his long time girl-friend (She died of a drug overdose while pregnant with their child) it’s no surprise that many of the songs on The Used’s latest release, Artwork — in stores today — deal with dying unexpectedly and never having the chance to say goodbye to loved ones.

Songs like “Kissing You Goodbye,” “Meant To Die” and “Men Are All The Same” all follow that suggested theme.

On “Meant to Die,” McCracken sings, “So maybe I took a little too much/Maybe life didn’t want this part of me/If it helps to know/I never let you go/Sure, I lost my mind/But I never really meant to die.”

Despite promises of a harder sound for this album, this actually may be the band’s softest album to date, which isn’t a bad thing. There are little to no McCracken shrieks on this album, which defined their sound throughout their first three albums. However the softer vocals can probably be attributed to McCracken undergoing throat surgery in 2007.

“Kissing You Goodbye” is the bands first piano laced ballad song of their seven year career although isn’t necessarily better than some of their softer songs released on 2002s Self-Titled (“On My Own”) or 2004s In Love and Death (“Hard to Say”).

Artwork is much better than 2007s release Lies for the Liars and is probably equally in line with 2004s In Love and Death.

It doesn’t touch their first release and I suspect nothing they do from here on out will.

Artwork is a step in the right direction for the band and should meet commercial and mainstream success as all of their past releases have been met with as well.

“Kissing You Goodbye”

“Empty With You”

“Men Are All The Same”

(*Note* This is the third album within the past year where a band has used the same lyrics in two songs on the same album. Not sure if this is the new trend but at the end of “Men Are All The Same” The Used follow suit by using the same lyrics from the chorus of “Kissing You Goodbye.”)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

'Rescue Me' to end in 2011

It had to end sometime.

The best show on TV, "Rescue Me" will end production in 2011, the Daily Variety reported on Aug. 28. Dennis Leary's brilliant portrayal of troubled New York firefighter Tommy Gavin has been clever, hilarious and emotionally charged since its first episode in 2004.

Variety reports "Rescue Me" has 19 episodes remaining after next week's season 5 finale. Speculation is 10 episodes will air in 2010 and nine more to close out the series in 2011. The show will close its book 10 years after the Sept. 11 attacks that inspired it.

- Mark Podolski

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Most anticipated music: The Redux

"Tuned Into Pop Culture" guest contributor Nick Carrabine is a News-Herald staff writer.

I’ll keep it short and simple. Here are a few things in the music world that has got me pretty excited.

Aug. 31, The Used will release their fourth album, Artwork. I’ve heard it front to back a few times already (the album is streaming on and I must say I’m pretty impressed. I admit, I was ready to turn my back on The Used after they released a trash of an album Lies for the Liars in 2007. Their first album (Self-Titled) released in 2002 remains probably one of the top 15 albums I have. Their 2004 release, In Love and Death, isn’t half bad either. They’ll never re-create their first album, but on Artwork, it seems they are at least returning to their earlier sound, which is nice. I’ll write up a full review sometime next week.

Sept. 1. Taking Back Sunday, Weezer and Blink-182 concert at Blossom Music Center. This is going to be an event. Blink continues their reunion tour all while bringing two of my favorite bands along as openers. This will be my fifth time seeing TBS live (however, I’ve never seen them in an opening slot, so not too pumped about a short set) and my fourth time seeing Weezer (have seen them in an opening slot when they opened for the Foo Fighters, however, that was more of a co-headlining tour.) I’ve never seen Blink live. In the era of YouTube, you can practically watch a whole concert with outstanding quality on the internet nowadays. I told myself when this tour started I wouldn’t read reviews for the show and more importantly, I wouldn’t watch YouTube videos of this show...I do each every single day. Although I’m off work following the four days of this show, I’ll still write a review the following day because well, I have nothing better to do in my spare time anyway.

Sept. 11. Jay Z will release his hundredth studio album, The Blueprint 3. Mr. Carter released his first Blueprint installment 8 years to the day which was obviously overshadowed by the biggest attack on American soil. None the less, the album became an instant hip hop classic. Many songs off this album have leaked, some good, some not so good. I have some problems with the veteran rapper enlisting Drake and Kid Cudi, two “up and coming” rappers, on this album. At 39-years-old, it appears Hova is riding the young guys to appeal to the younger audiences but I can assure you, Jay Z can do it all by himself still.

Sept. 22. Brand New will release their fourth album, Daisy. Again, I told myself I wouldn’t listen to any leaked songs on the internet so when I buy this record all 11 songs would sound fresh to my ears. So far, three songs have leaked, and I’ve listened to each at least a dozen times. Brand New continues to amaze me with their evolving sound and mysteriously transform into a different band with each release. It seems as though they listened to a lot of Nevermind and In Utero while recording this record, because front-man Jesse Lacey is doing his best Kurt Cobain impersonation.

Their first single: At the Bottom can be seen below:

Oct. 1. Brand New concert at Tower City Amphitheater. I’m more excited for this show than the concert I previously mentioned. This will be my second time seeing Brand New live and the first time blew my mind as they had a stage presence like no other band I’ve seen live equipped with two drummers, six guitarists and many other people standing on stage handling instruments not normally associated with a rock concert. This is by far the biggest venue they’ll have ever played in Cleveland and I’m exicted to be apart of that atmosphere. It’s also the first stop on their tour and in the dozens upon dozens of concerts I’ve ever been to, I’ve never been to the first one of a tour. So, I got that going for me.

Oct. 6 Dead Man’s Bones will release their first album, which will be self-titled. You are probably asking yourself, who is Dead Man’s Bones? I’ll embarrass myself by answering that question. It’s actor Ryan Gosling’s band, and before you laugh, they are quite good. The band describes themselves as “Disney haunted mansion, doo wop and 60s girl group.” Ok, laugh. The band uses a children’s choir in most of its songs. Gosling plays the keys and guitar and does the vocals in a voice that sounds half Johnny cash-half zombie. Are you still laughing? It’s weird, it’s different, it's eerie, it’s good. What else can I say? Laugh it off while watching the below video of their first live performance of In the Room Where You Sleep:

Oct. 13, Joe Budden will release his third official studio album, The Great Escape. Budden, who I mentioned in a previous blog almost fell off the face of the earth a few years ago has been practically living in the studio. This will technically be his fourth release in the past eight months, which is unheard of. He’s released two full EPs, Halfway House and Escape Route, and a LP as part of Slaughterhouse earlier this year.

Oct. 20, Royce Da 5’9 will release his fourth official studio album, his first in four years, called Street Hop. This has been pushed back numerous times throughout the past year, but if the album is anything like the first two singles already released (Shake That and Part of Me) then look out. Royce and Budden remain two of the more underrated rappers of the past four to five years and I expect big things out of these two releases. Royce was also a part of the Slaughterhouse album released earlier this month.

Oct. 27. Weezer will release their seventh studio album, Ratitude. Note to die-hard Weezer fans, this isn’t 1994 or 1996 anymore. Don’t expect another “Blue” album or my personal favorite, Pinkerton. Just enjoy the fact that these lovable nerds are still making music 15 years following their first classic release. It’s still poppy, it’s still catchy and although not nearly as good as they were in the 90s, Weezer is still relevant. So new music is certainly welcome. And just when you thought frontman Rivers Cuomo couldn’t get anymore hardcore, Cuomo has co-written two new songs with rapper/producer Jermaine Dupri for the upcoming album (although, one of these songs was already released as a demo on River’s solo album titled “Can’t Stop Partying”). Hey, everyone needs some street credit and I guess Cuomo, at 39-years-old, isn’t any different.

To hear the demo of Can't Stop Partying, check the video below (the actual song doesn't start until the :15 second mark):

The following albums have no official release date but are expected to be tentatively released in the “fourth quarter” of 2009.

Eminem will release his seventh studio album, Relapse 2. Eminem’s return to music after a five year hiatus was a bit of a disappointment with the first installment of Relapse released in May. I thought it was good, but expectations for an Eminem album are supposed to be high, and after several listens to Relapse, it quickly fell out of rotation and lost its replay value within the first five weeks I had it. I said in my original review for Relapse that I wouldn’t fully judge Eminem’s return until after Relapse 2 was released. So once again, I am expecting some pretty high quality music from the Detroit rapper. I think this is a make or break album for him. Note to Eminem, quit using the childish and inexcusable Caribbean accent (or whatever you want to call it) while rapping.

Lupe Fiasco will release his third album, Lasers. This project was originally supposed to be a three-disc album titled LupEND but he has since scrapped plans for that and will release a single disc album. The 27-year-old rapper also backed off the retirement talk (which no one believed anyway). Lasers stands for Love Always Shines Everytime Remember to Smile. As I’ve said before, Lupe’s first two albums were a breath of fresh air and I don’t see any reason why this album can’t be as good.

Nas and Damian Marley will release a collaboration album titled, Distant Relatives. Before we go any further, yes, Damian — a reggae artist — is the son of the late Bob Marley. In typical Nas fashion, this album was announced in February with plans to release it in the summer and here we are near the first week of September with no official release date scheduled. The two have been headlining the Rock the Bells tour all summer, so I am confident the project will see the light of day, whether it will be this year is another question. The two said the album’s content will heavily revolve around Africa, from ancestry and poverty. Proceeds of the album are expected to go towards building schools in Africa. Although it may sound corny, The 35-year-old rapper has always been socially and politically conscious so the content shouldn’t be vastly different from most of his previous material.

P.S. I Fully realize many of these albums were on my first “anticipated list” back in February. Obviously, many of these albums have been pushed back to the winter time, where record labels get more bang for their buck entering the holiday season.

P.P.S. I fully realize I didn't exactly keep this short and simple.

-Nick Carrabine

Friday, August 7, 2009

Favorite John Hughes movies

If you're like me, in your mid- to late-30s, you grew up with John Hughes movies.

Hughes made it fun to go to the movies in the 1980s. His movies had a little bit for everyone, but mostly for teen-agers. Some are true classics that will forever stand the test of time.

In honor of Hughes, who passed away this week at age 59 from a heart attack, Ten in the Morning counts down the best Hughes movies he wrote, directed or produced:

10. "Christmas Vacation" (1991) - It was all downhill for Chevy Chase after Clark Griswold.

9. "Sixteen Candles" (1984) - Long Duk Dong.

8. "Home Alone" (1990) - Fun from start to finish.

7. "Pretty in Pink" (1986) - James Spader as a rich prick steals the show.

6. "Some Kind of Wonderful" (1990) - What guy didn't have a crush on Amanda Jones?

5. "Uncle Buck" (1989) - John Candy as a babysitter is hilarious.

4. "Mr. Mom" (1983) - Before he was Batman, Michael Keaton was a stay-at-home dad in this underrated Hughes comedy.

3. "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" (1987) - Favorite line as Steve Martin and John Candy are hitching a ride in the back of a pick-up truck in the winter: Steve Martin, "How cold do you think it is? Candy, "1."

2. "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (1986) - Still waiting for the perfect time to pose as Abe Froman, the sausage king of Chicago.

1. "The Breakfast Club" (1985) - The first Hughes movie I ever saw at a theater, and definitely the best.

- Mark Podolski

Monday, August 3, 2009

Get ready for the Slaughter

There are few hip-hop artists left that demand my attention anymore.

Off the top of my head it’s only Nas, Lupe Fiasco, Atmosphere, P.O.S., Kanye West, Eminem, Jay-Z and Talib Kweli.

The members of Slaughterhouse also belong in the category

Despite what one of my Co-workers wants to hear, Slaughterhouse may just be one of the more refreshing acts in music right now.

The hip-hop supergroup consists of four talented underground lyricists such as Royce Da 5’9”, Crooked I, Joell Ortiz and Joe Budden.

They will be releasing their self-titled debut album on Tuesday, Aug. 11.

I have a feeling this album will push these four artists into the mainstream.

All four of these rappers have had years and years or trials and tribulations that barricaded them from that one push they needed to break-out into successful solo acts.

All of them were written off and considered rejects by many, they never did pan out to the high expectations that were set for them.

Until now.

Consider this the resurrection of four rappers that were left for dead.

Crooked I was signed to Suge Knight’s Death Row label (formally home to Dr. Dre, 2-pac and Snoop Dogg) but he left after his albums were never released.

Joell Ortiz was signed to Dr. Dre’s Aftermath label, but left after he was informed his album wasn’t going to be released until Eminem and Dr. Dre released their albums first (which we all know, Dr. Dre’s Detox has been in production for nearly a decade)

Joe Budden went from a successful debut in 2003 to nearly falling of the face of the earth. Once a promising artist on one of hip hop’s biggest record labels — Def Jam — Joe Budden fell out of favor with at the time, head of label, Jay-Z. Budden’s second album, “The Growth” was never released. Finally Budden left the label with virtually nothing to show for himself.

Detroit rapper, Royce Da 5’9” rose to fame with Eminem in the late 90s and early 2000s and wrote for Dr. Dre on his “2001” album. Due to an increasingly rocky relationship with Eminem (the two since have re-kindled) Royce fell out of the public eye.

The latter two artists have been criminally underrated for the past four to five years.

On Aug. 11, the four rappers that no one wanted on their label, and no one wanted to hear, will get the last laugh.

The hip-hop super group is currently on the Rock the Bells tour opening up for such legends as Nas, the Wu-Tang Clan, Ice Cube, The Roots and many other hip-hop heavyweights of the past 15 to 20 years.

If you enjoy quality hip hop music, and skillful, thoughtful lyricism, check out Slaughterhouse.

If nothing else, they are the first rap group to name drop Cleveland Cavalier Anderson Varejao in a song.

That’s got to count for something.

-Nick Carrabine