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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, January 25, 2010

2010 most anticipated albums

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

It’s 2010 and the music industry is in pure shambles.

Record labels are losing money left and right, people like Justin Bieber, Kesha and Miley Cirus are inexplicably today’s biggest pop stars and Nas hasn’t released an album in almost two years.

I’m sure you can imagine the horror.

Last January, I posted a list of 11 albums that I anticipated for release in 2009.

Eight of them were released while three of them were pushed back until 2010. In a age of iTunes, illegal downloading, file sharing and cd burning, albums are constantly being pushed back as many artists or bands are completely scrapping leaked songs and albums and creating new material causing setbacks.

So, here is a list of albums I anticipate in 2010. Don’t blame me when they get pushed back.

Nas and Damian Marley: Distant Relatives
Tentative Release Date: April 20, 2010. (although this has already been pushed back several times)
I’ve talked enough about this project and refuse to say anything else about it until I actually see it hit store shelves. I’ve been waiting a year for it. Enough is enough.

Lupe Fiasco: Lasers
Tentative Release Date: Spring 2010
Originally supposed to be a three-disc album released in the fourth quarter of 2009, Lupe scrapped plans on LupE.N.D. and started working on Lasers. Again, nothing really new to say about my anticipation for this album as its been in the works for almost a year.

My Chemical Romance: currently untitled
Tentative Release Date: Spring/Summer 2010
Another album originally intended to be released in 2009, but pushed back. According to Wikipedia (lead singer) Gerard Way said in a November 2009 interview with Rock Sound that the fourth album would be their defining work. “A friend who heard the record recently said he now had no interest in listening to our older work anymore, that we had made all our old material redundant. I took it as a compliment, the next thing you do should always make the last thing seem unimportant and I think that will happen when we finally release this album.”

Dr. Dre: Detox
Tentative Release Date: When pigs fly
Let’s face it, I have a better chance of releasing an album before Detox ever sees the light of day. Dre’s peers such as Eminem and 50 Cent promised this to be released in 2009 and it wasn’t. However, I’ll still include it on this list just in case hell freezes over so I don’t look like a buffoon.

Joe Budden: The Great Escape
Tentative Release Date: April 2010
Budden had a very impressive year in 2009 releasing two solo albums and a collaboration album with his new group, Slaughterhouse. He looks to keep the momentum going with The Great Escape which follows the appropriately titled Halfway House (2008) and 2009s Padded Room and Escape Route.

Jimmy Eat World: currently untitled
Tentative Release Date: Summer/Fall 2010
This band came up being compared to Weezer in the 1990s, however at this point in their careers, they blow Weezer out of the water and have been for the past half decade. They hit the spotlight in 1999 with the release of Clarity, which is considered by many to be their masterpiece, and their three albums following have gained both critical and commercial success.

Bayside: currently untitled
Tentative Release Date: Fall 2010
One of my favorite bands of the decade, Bayside had a rather quiet 2009 after releasing new material in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. Lead singer Anthony Raneri took some time off to go on a solo tour and work on an acoustic solo record that may or may not ever see the light of day. Nonetheless the band is back in the studio and preparing their fifth studio album.

Stone Temple Pilots: currently untitled
Tentative Release Date: Spring/Summer 2010
One of my all-time favorite bands, STP will release their first album in almost 10 years this upcoming spring/summer. This will be the band’s first album since breaking up in 2003. In the winter of 2008, Scott Weiland released a criminally underrated double solo album that went by almost completely unnoticed. Guitarist Robert DeLeo stated that the overall sound of the band’s new album will have a 1960s vibe, according to Wikipedia.

Slaughterhouse: currently untitled
Tentative Release Date: 2010
This hip hop group released the best rap album in 2009 and look to do it again in 2010, this time on a major record label. It’s been confirmed that the group has been in many discussions with Eminem’s Shady Records label and the group said they look to have a new album out this year.

Panic! at the Disco: currently untitled

Tentative Release Date: Spring 2010
The group is now just lead singer Brendon Urie and drummer Spencer Smith following the departure of guitarist Ryan Ross and bassist Jon Walker. I liked this band after their first release but didn’t start taking them seriously until their incredible sophomore album, Pretty. Odd. With Ross being the main inspiration behind Pretty. Odd., I honestly have no idea what to expect with the duo’s third album. But at the very least, I’m interested.

The Young Veins: Take a Vacation
Tentative Release Date: Summer 2010
Speaking of Ross and Walker, this is the band they went on to create after quitting Panic. Again, I have no idea what to expect from this duo, but I think they’ll be worthy of at least checking out.

Bright Eyes; currently untitled
Tentative Release Date: Fall 2010
My heart skipped a few beats when Conor O’Berst said this would be the band’s final album (although to be fair, Oberst pretty much is the band. It contains two other members but mostly a variety of rotating guests round out each album. So I’m not entirely sure what this means.) Oberst, over the past five to six years, has taken a more folk/country route in his past several releases. No idea, what genre this album will fall under.

Sum 41: currently untitled
Tentative Release Date: Summer/Fall 2010
I look forward to hearing the follow-up to 2007s Underclass Hero, which I thought was the band’s best work. Lead singer Deryck Whibley was recently divorced from Avril Lavigne, so I’m sure this album will be a big F you to her.

Cake: currently untitled
Tentative Release Date: Summer 2010
While never releasing a album that is great front to back, this band does have plenty of extremely great material. A few years ago, I made a mix of their 20 greatest songs from their first four albums and it’s one of my favorite CDs of all time. By the time this album comes out, it will have been six year since their last release and lead singer John McCrea describes the album’s sound as “very different” from previous Cake records, also indicating that he will be playing piano much more than usual.

Red Hot Chili Peppers: currently untitled
Tentative Release Date: Late 2010
Not much is known about this album, other than the group went into the studio in October without guitarist John Frusciante, who left the band last fall for the second time in the bands 20 plus year career. However, the formula with the past three albums over the past 11 years has been the same, and I hope they stick to it.

Linkin Park: currently untitled
Tentative Release Date: 2010
It’s hard to believe that not only has this band stayed relevant since their debut 10 years ago, but the fact that they are still one of, if not the most popular bands on the face of the planet. The reason I say that is because 1.) there style is so vastly different from anything else that has been around in the past few decades and 2.) they take so much time off in between records that it’s hard to believe people just don’t forget about them. Regardless their fourth studio album is slated for a release this year and the band’s emcee, Mike Shinoda said it will be more experimental and cutting-edge. It will also be produced by my favorite producer, the legendary Rick Rubin, who also also produced their last album, Minutes to Midnight.

Blink 182: currently untitled
Tentative Release Date: Late 2010
A year after announcing their reunion and four months after touring for the first time in six years, the band is back in the studio working on their first release since breaking up in 2004. Little is known about the project as they did not debut any new material on the summer tour but guitarist Tom Delonge has this to say about it on a trailer that was released online for a future Blink 182 documentary: “No one really knows what to expect from the next Blink record, but I don’t think anyone thinks it’s going to be a straightforward rock record. I think everyone expects it to be the work of our life and probably the most ambitious song writing and art that we’ve ever made. I think that now we’re ready for it.” Delonge also said it’s possible the record won’t come out until 2011.

Eminem: Relapse 2
Tentative Release Date: 2010
As I said last May when Relapse came out, I won't judge Eminem's comeback until I hear this album. I thought Relapse was OK, but nothing extraordinary by any means, which by all accounts his first three albums were. This album was supposed to be released near the end of 2009, but instead, the rapper opted to release a deluxe version of the original Relapse with seven additional songs.

It’s only January, throughout the next few months, many more releases will be announced. Aside from that, I can only hope 2010 is a better year musically than 2009, which I thought was very weak.

I simply cannot stomach another year listening to Justin Bieber, Kesha and Miley Cirus.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Damages Season 3: Shaping up as the best yet

TV's most clever show, "Damages," hit a bit of lull last season, but Season 3 could be its best yet.

Simply put, "Damages" draws you in - big time.

High-powered lawyer Patty Hewes (Glenn Glose) is back to tackle another huge case. This time, she's been appointed by the U.S. government to recover billions in stolen assets from the largest investment fraud in U.S. history. It's a storyline sure to involve suspense, betrayal and manipulation from all angles.

Also back is the underrated Rose Byrne as Ellen Parsons with guest stars Martin Short, Campbell Scott and Lilly Tomlin.

What makes "Damages" so clever is each season begins at the end. Then we're taken back to the beginning for one heck of a ride. Confused? If you've missed the first two seasons, good luck. Faithful viewers won't be. You'll be at the edge of your seat, especially during Season 3's first episode, which airs on Jan. 25 on FX.

Viewers will be thrown for a loop when Hewes' lawyer sidekick Tom Shayes, played by Tate Donovan, pops up in the most unexpected spot. Then again, "Damages" always seems to be full of surprises.

- Mark Podolski

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Mark me down for Team Conan

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

Although he is a total screw-ball, I love me some Conan O’Brien.

I find the guy hilarious and he is one of maybe three to four comedians/actors that I can just look at and laugh without him even needing to say anything.

I watched Late Night with Conan O’Brien nightly in college (well DVR’d it nightly, because I was running around doing other things at 12:35 a.m. which may or may not be appropriate to discuss in this blog. I'm going to stick with the "may not" because I'd like to keep my job.)

O’Brien’s sense of humor is right up my alley, it’s off the wall, bizarre, exaggerated and most importantly, he doesn’t take himself too seriously.

I was extremely excited back in 2004 when they announced O’brien would be taking over the Tonight Show following the conclusion of Jay Leno’s contract.

To be honest, due to me having to get up in the middle of the night (6 a.m. Yes, contrary to popular belief, there is a 6 a.m.) Monday through Friday to come to work, I haven’t watched the Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien as much as I’d like.

I know the ratings aren’t as expected, but in fairness, the show has only been on for seven months. With a new host, a new personality and a complete set of new writers, I’d expect NBC to give Conan some time (and support) to establish viewers.

What NBC is doing right now is completely uncalled for and I stand behind O’Brien who has refused to push the Tonight Show to 12:05 a.m.

O’Brien may be a goofball, but he is actually also a class-act.

On his final Late Night show, he shed tears as he thanked the dozens upon dozens of people who helped him get to where he was and which led him to the Tonight Show gig. He thanked David Letterman for putting him under his wing and he thanked Jay Leno for his continued support.

He thanked fans for putting up with his oddball humor and for coming to understand and appreciate him for who he is.

Throughout his time on Late Night, he constantly gave up-and-coming bands, actors and comedians a shot on his show, even though he could have easily enlisted A-list celebrities as guests. Almost every single night on his show, there was a no-name band performing as the musical guest. Why? Because Conan himself has said, he was in a position to give people a chance to shine, which people like David Letterman did for him when he was young. It was his chance to give back and let others have their moment.

O’Brien’s humor may not appeal to an older generation — a generation who watched Leno’s safe, more dull, sense of humor for nearly two decades — but it's too early to pull the plug on him.

In a statement released on Tuesday, O’Brien said he won’t participate in the movement of the Tonight Show, because it would destroy the show’s legacy. He also talks about how hard he worked throughout his career to sit in that chair.

I don’t blame him.

NBC gave Conan a contract to host the Tonight Show at 11:35 p.m. They should have to honor it.

Below is Conan O’Brien’s full statement:

“People of Earth:

In the last few days, I’ve been getting a lot of sympathy calls, and I want to start by making it clear that no one should waste a second feeling sorry for me. For 17 years, I’ve been getting paid to do what I love most and, in a world with real problems, I’ve been absurdly lucky. That said, I’ve been suddenly put in a very public predicament and my bosses are demanding an immediate decision.

Six years ago, I signed a contract with NBC to take over The Tonight Show in June of 2009. Like a lot of us, I grew up watching Johnny Carson every night and the chance to one day sit in that chair has meant everything to me. I worked long and hard to get that opportunity, passed up far more lucrative offers, and since 2004 I have spent literally hundreds of hours thinking of ways to extend the franchise long into the future. It was my mistaken belief that, like my predecessor, I would have the benefit of some time and, just as important, some degree of ratings support from the prime-time schedule. Building a lasting audience at 11:30 is impossible without both.

But sadly, we were never given that chance. After only seven months, with my Tonight Show in its infancy, NBC has decided to react to their terrible difficulties in prime-time by making a change in their long-established late night schedule.

Last Thursday, NBC executives told me they intended to move the Tonight Show to 12:05 to accommodate the Jay Leno Show at 11:35. For 60 years the Tonight Show has aired immediately following the late local news. I sincerely believe that delaying the Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn’t the Tonight Show. Also, if I accept this move I will be knocking the Late Night show, which I inherited from David Letterman and passed on to Jimmy Fallon, out of its long-held time slot. That would hurt the other NBC franchise that I love, and it would be unfair to Jimmy.

So it has come to this: I cannot express in words how much I enjoy hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is for me to consider losing it. My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of The Tonight Show. But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction. Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the Internet a time slot doesn’t matter. But with the Tonight Show, I believe nothing could matter more.

There has been speculation about my going to another network but, to set the record straight, I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next. My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work.

Have a great day and, for the record, I am truly sorry about my hair; it’s always been that way.”


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Update (Thanks a lot, Conan)

So what do I get for returning to blogging? An almost-immediate announcement from Conan O'Brien that he will not accept a 12:05 a.m. time slot for "Tonight."

Read it here.

-- Mark Meszoros

Shifting thoughts on working late

Hey Blognation, how have you been?

Been awhile since any of us have made time for this blog – I don’t need to tell you how busy the holiday season is, what with the shopping and the eating and the more eating – but things are beginning to calm down. (In other words, I’m on a diet, and with less time spent eating, there’s more time for other things.)

The goings-on over at NBC in the late-night division seemed like a good jumping-back-in point. Unless you’ve been living under a rock – or some other heavy thing that blocks you from the news – you’ve heard there’s trouble for the Peacock network in terms of late-night programming.

Basically, Jay Leno at 10 p.m. hasn’t worked – at least not for the local affiliates. In other words, the fact that “The Jay Leno Show” isn’t a ratings bonanza isn’t a huge problem for the network – the cost of producing the show is relatively low, so the ratings don’t have to be huge for NBC to make money – but it is for the local affiliates, such as Cleveland’s WKYC-TV 3. These channels make money on their 11 p.m. newscasts, so a weak lead-in five nights a week is no laughing matter.

And, while also not a disaster, “The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien” hasn’t exactly set the world on fire, either. Moving from 12:30 a.m., where O’Brien used to reside on NBC, to 11:30 p.m. is tougher than it sounds. The show needs to maintain the traits that made it a hit while also making it appeal to a broader audience. (There may be only one person who could give O’Brien solid advice, but the fact that CBS’ David Letterman competes with him at 11:30 probably nixes that idea.)

NBC’s recent decision, as you’ve likely heard, is to kick Leno out of prime time, move him back to 11:35 p.m., for a half hour. If the other parties agree, O’Brien’s “Tonight” would follow at 12:05 a.m., with “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” stopping by your television an hour later. (You’ll have to let me know how that goes; I probably won’t be awake.)

People wonder, is Conan furious? He should jump to Fox, folks say.

Maybe … but I’m not so sure. Fox already has expressed interest in O’Brien doing an hour-long show at 11 p.m., where he could become the next Arsenio Hall! (Is that, um, a good thing?) If being moved back 30 minutes is the ultimate insult, maybe he should jump ship. On the other hand, there’s still some prestige left in the “Tonight” name, and if O’Brien is having trouble working at 11:35 ….. why would he play better on another network at 11?

If you ask me, the plan makes sense and is worth trying for NBC. I don't find Leno -- surely a good guy who'd be great to have a beer with -- that funny at 10 or 11:30, but many folks did enjoy him at that later hour. You can't blame NBC for trying to get the most out of its talent.

What I don't like about the plan: I'm going to have a real problem with the idea of show called "Tonight" starting the next day.

A couple of late-night hosts with no dog in the race have weighed in on the whole deal. Check out ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel cutting up (and scarfing down) the late-night-TV pie here, and Letterman giving his opinion here. (Watching the Letterman clip is worth it if only for the Leno impression.)

I’d like to write further, but all this talk of pie has made me realized it’s past my lunchtime. Hmmm, this diet could be in danger.

-- Mark Meszoros

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