Blogs > Tuned in to Pop Culture

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.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bayside: Live in Cleveland

By Nick Carrabine

Never has a Bayside show been so energized.

Sunday night was my fifth time seeing the band in the past two and a half years, and while their studio albums are always punched with fast paced, high energy hooks and riffs it never seemed to translate to their live shows for some reason unbeknownst to me.

Not saying they are a bad live band, because actually they are always very good live as far as actually being on key and sounding good. But their crowds always seem to be more subdued.

Sunday was not the case at the Grog Shop in Cleveland Heights.

Maybe it was the more intimate, smaller venue that did the trick, but the place was going crazy to the point where you could feel the building shaking, literally.

If anyone has ever been to the Grog Shop, they know the “stage” and microphones are only separated from the crowd by maybe a maximum of 3 feet. The roof is not much taller than the tallest person there. It’s almost like being in a big basement. Multiple times the crowd was pushed so far into the stage that lead singer Anthony Raneri’s microphone was either pushed into him, to the ground or at one point, even taken from him by a fan.

The New York band played only about a 65 to 70 minute set, which is par for the course for them. They didn’t play any new songs, because they don’t have any.

Their last album was released two years ago and they were just doing a few small club shows to “get out of the studio for a while,” said Raneri, adding that a new album should be released early next year.

As I said, this was the fifth time I’ve seen the band, and my only complaint is they almost always have the same setlist. “Devotion and Desire” has been their closer every single time I’ve seen them. Normally when a band goes on tour with no new material and play in a place similar to the Grog Shop, the band will tend to play more rarities or longer sets or even take requests. That was not the case with Bayside.

However, the place was so energized and the band seemed more interested than ever letting the crowd get more involved that it easily makes this show my favorite time ever seeing the band.

They ripped through songs from all their albums including Sirens and Condolences (“Masterpiece”), Self-Titled (“Hello Sh**y,” “Devotion and Desire,” “Tortures of the Damned,” “Blame it on Bad Luck,” “Montauk,” “They Looked Like Strong Hands,” “Existing in a Crisis”), The Walking Wounded (“The Walking Wounded,” “They’re Not Horses, They’re Unicorns,” “Duality,” “Carry On,” “I & I,” “Landing Feet First”) and Shudder (“Boy,” “The Ghost of St. Valentine,” “No One Understands,” “Roshambo”)

The opener was Hawthorne Heights who had a solid set as well although I don’t think most of the crowd noticed they were even in the building until their last two songs “Ohio is for Lovers,” (in which lead singer JT Woodruff dedicated to none other than LeBron James) and “Nikki FM,” both of which were off their first album The Silence in Black and White.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Jaws turns 35

I was just 5 years old when "Jaws" hit the big screen in 1975. I can only imagine how much fun it was to be as a moviegoer back then.

The reason is simple. The public had never seen anything like "Jaws." The summer blockbuster films we're so used to? "Jaws" was the first blockbuster summer movie event.

I wish Universal would re-release my favorite movie of all-time in theaters. Perhaps they'll do so for the 50th anniversary in 2025.

Until then, we'll celebrate the movie that changed the way we view films every five years. It was 35 years this week - June 20, 1975 to be exact - that "Jaws" was released. It never gets old. A few reasons why Jaws is my favorite movie of all-time:

-The film was casted perfectly. Robert Shaw as Quint, Roy Scheider as Brody, Richard Dreyfuss as Hooper was a spectacular trifecta, and as good as it gets.

-Less is more when it came to the mechanical shark, which hardly ever worked for the cast. Spielberg's use of the yellow barrels to signify the presence of the great white only added to the suspense.

-The U.S.S. Indianapolis scene by Quint, which is essential to the story and explains the character's disdain for sharks. Riveting stuff.

-Memorable quote: "You're gonna need a bigger boat."

- Mark Podolski

Friday, June 25, 2010

Ricky Vaughn coming back?

According to several online reports, another "Major League" movie is in development, and actor Charlie Sheen is interested in reprising his role at Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn.

David S. Ward, writer and director of the successful original film, is returning for the fourth installment of the franchise.

Details of the story haven't been finalized, but Ward is reportedly interested in landing other actors from the original film such as Tom Berenger and Corbin Bernsen.

"Major League" came out in 1989 and was followed up with two dismal sequels, the last the forgettable "Major League 3: Back to the Minors."

As for the return of Sheen as Vaughn? I say keep him in the bullpen. The last two sequels are proof the original won't ever be duplicated. However, with Sheen attached to the project, there will surely be money to be made.

- Mark Podolski

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Eminem: Recovery

By Nick Carrabine

“This time around is different
Them last two albums didn’t count
Encore I was on drugs, Relapse I was flushing them out
I’ve come to make it up to you, no more (messin) around
I got something to prove to fans cause I feel like I let ‘em down”
-"Talkin to Myself"

I said last year after Relapse came out, I wouldn’t judge Eminem’s comeback until he released another album.

What was supposed to be released last winter, under the title Relapse 2, was released Tuesday as Recovery, and is Eminem’s second release since overdosing on prescription drugs.

While Relapse was technically his “come back” album, this is really his come back album.

Recovery is easily the best album the rapper has released within the past eight and a half years and is right up there with my personal favorite, The Eminem Show and The Marshall Mathers LP.

On Recovery, Eminem is passionate, painstakingly honest and more mature than ever.

With this album, there is no shock value, no childish skits found on all of his previous albums, no celebrity bashing and most importantly, none of those ridiculous Caribbean sounding accents.

Translation, this is about the most serious Eminem has ever been and he’s all about business.

After Relapse, Eminem experienced a bit of a backlash and trust me, he noticed. Several times on Recovery he blatantly disowns the album, never coming so forth as he does on "Cinderella Man" when he raps:

“(Forget) my last CD, that (expletive) is in my trash.”

What is different about this album than any other Eminem album he has released is the production. Never has the 37-year-old rapper used so many producers as he usually sticks to just himself and Dr. Dre.

Eleven different producers appear on the 17-track album, the beats are dark and the content is darker.

Many of the tracks deal with Eminem coming to terms that his last two albums weren’t good enough, admits being envious to other successful rappers and revisiting the death of his best friend, Proof.

On "Love The Way You Lie," appropriately collaborated with Rihanna, he talks about his abusive relationship with his ex-wife, Kim.

“Come inside, pick up your bags off the sidewalk
Don’t you hear sincerity, in my voice when I talk?
Told you this is my fault, look me in the eyeball
Next time I’m (mad) I’ll aim my fist, at the drywall
Next time? There won’t be no next time
I apologize even though I know it’s lies
I’m tired of the games, I just want her back, I know I’m a liar
If she ever tries to leave again, I’ll tie her
to the bed and set this house on fire”

Eminem has surely had his ups and downs this decade but he is still one of the most popular and most successful artists in the world and in my opinion, one of the greatest entertainers in pop culture history.

He has an uncanny ability to make you laugh while also making some of the more emotional songs that can be put on record all while backing everything up with loads of talent.

Recovery is what Relapse should have been.

Fortunately, fans didn’t have to wait too long for it.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Party crashers headed to prime time

Remember the White House party crashers? Michaele and Tareq Salahi attended President Barack Obama's first state dinner in November -- uninvited -- and stirred up some bad press for cable network Bravo and its "Real Housewives." Bravo was filming Michaele Salahi for "The Real Housewives of D.C.," and the network said today it decided to go ahead with Salahi and four other members of the cast to premiere the latest installment of the "Housewives" franchise, premiering Aug. 5.

Michaele Salahi, left, is interviewed by Ariuka Ulziibayar at the America's Polo Cup Championships, which the Salahis hosted, by the National Mall in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

From Associated Press reporter David Bauder:
The network could either go ahead with the series or scrap the season altogether, Andy Cohen, the top programming executive, said Tuesday. There was no way at that stage to simply replace her, he said.
“It was a long, engaged process” to decide on going ahead, he said. “There were many, many serious conversations. I think when everyone sees the show they’ll agree it was the right thing.”
Cohen said Bravo was as surprised as the rest of the country to find out the morning after the dinner that the Salahis had gone somewhere uninvited; the gate-crashing was not encouraged or suggested by Bravo. Its production company had filmed them getting ready for the event.
He rejected the view that Bravo was rewarding Salahi for bad behavior.
A state dinner, particularly a new president’s first, could be considered the Super Bowl of power events in the political city. Much of “The Real Housewives of D.C.” series focuses on how influence in the city is derived as much from proximity to power as money, Bravo said.
The gate-crashing incident will be dealt with in the series toward the end of its run, Cohen said.
“It’s not the Salahi show,” he said. “She’s one of five women.”
Other “Real Housewives” joining Salahi are Mary Schmidt Amons, the granddaughter of TV personality Arthur Godfrey; Lynda Erkiletian, the founder of a modeling agency; Catherine Ommanney, a British import who’s an interior designer; and Stacie Scott Turner, a real estate agent who started a charity for teenage girls in foster care.

I don't have time to watch much TV, but "Real Housewives" is my guilty pleasure when I do. I like each of the locations (Orange County, New York City, Atlanta and New Jersey) for different reasons, and my favorite characters (because, let's face it, that's what they are) change with every episode. The shows and their stars are trashy and entertaining. I get a good laugh and feel better about myself for not being simple-minded, shallow and money-hungry. I'm really looking forward to "D.C.," and I have a feeling Michaele Salahi is exactly the kind of character I'm going to find fantastically fascinating and unbelievably ridiculous.

-- Cheryl Sadler

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Travis McCoy: Lazurus

By Nick Carrabine

For those that don’t know, Travis McCoy is the frontman of the Gym Class Heroes and unfortunately, is probably most famous for dating Katy Perry for three years.

Now, Perry is engaged to Russell Brand (she's going from dirt to mud, no offense), which McCoy is none to pleased about. So much so, that most of this album is obviously directed towards her.

When I listen to solo albums, the first thing I usually ask myself is, did the artist do anything on their solo project that is significantly different than what their band generally would do. The answer here is no. When the answer is no, I ask myself, what’s the reason for going out on your own if you are going to create such a similar project to what your band probably would have created?

Gym Class Heroes is a unique band. McCoy is a rapper/singer who enlisted three musicians around him in GCH. He raps and sings over live guitars, drums and bass. It’s alternative rock/rap.

I expected Lazurus to be more of a rap album, however on most of the 10 songs, I hear McCoy rapping/singing over what else, live guitars, drums and bass. In short, Lazurus sounds like a typical GCH record.

Regardless, McCoy has scored a massive hit with his first single “Billionaire” ft. Bruno Mars (on acoustic guitar) and there are a slew of other potential chart toppers on this album.

McCoy, with both GCH and the solo album, wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s not afraid to go into personal issues or discuss his relationship with Perry (the guy, afterall, released a mixtape titled Forgetting Katy Perry)

“Don’t Pretend,” while a little bit over the top, is about as clear cut as can be when it comes to discussing the end of his and Perry’s relationship.

“Little miss teary eyes, you have no reason to lie to me
Put your coat down, why you waving goodbye to me?
I’ve been reassessing the situation sitting silently
And finally realizing how you can’t look eye to eye with me
And I knew about him the whole time, the hotels, phone calls, the whole nine
But I guess that’s what friends are for, and I’ve come to a conclusion that you’re nothing but a very selfish person
...Open up my chest and you’ll see a hole cavity where my heart use to be
Makings amends is out of the question, when you look into his pupils and I’m the reflection.”

I guess after listening to this multiple times, I can see why McCoy felt the need to put out a solo record even though it sounds so much like a GCH album. The answer is, probably just to vent about this personal problems, where as in the band, everyone has a say into the writing process and how the songs are formed and the content of them.

Perhaps, McCoy didn’t want anyone having any input into what he was going to talk about or how he wanted the songs to come across, while still not straying too far from the sound that is expected of him or GCH.

This was McCoy’s outlet, where he admitted he was in a dark place and needed to get something out and it’s a decent album to hold me over until GCH releases the Papercut Chronicals II.

"Billionaire" Ft. Bruno Mars music video

"Don't Pretend"

"Need You"

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Hawthorne Heights: Skeletons

By Nick Carrabine

About five years ago, Hawthorne Heights were on the verge of becoming one of the biggest bands on the scene.

Their first album released in 2004, The Silence in Black and White, sold just under a million records on an independent label and sparked a huge debut single, “Ohio is for Lovers.”

While their second album, If Only You Were Lonely, debuted at No. 3 on the billboard charts and sold just under 500,000 records, their time was already ticking.

The band was unhappy with how their record label, Victory Records, handled the release of their second album after the record label urged fans to go into record stores the day of the release and hide all of the other new releases.

Choosing integrity over record sales, the band decided to sue Victory for their actions that reflected poorly on the band.

Things only got worse when in 2007, the band’s guitarist, Casey Calvert, died following an accidental overdose of prescribed drugs.

Their third release in 2008, Fragile Future, came and went with little promotion, little sales and a departure of sound from their first two albums.

Things started to look up in 2009 when the band signed to Wind-Up Records, a major record label and on June 1, the band released its fourth album, Skeletons.

Skeletons kind of picks up where Fragile Future left off, with a softer popier sound than their first two albums. Calvert, who provided the heavier vocals on the first two albums, has not been replaced and lead singer JT Woodruff said the band never will add another member to replace him.

Hawthorne Heights is not a great band, never have been and probably never will be. They don’t bring anything new to the table. Lyrically, they are probably below average and truthfully speaking, they sound like a lot of other punk/alternative bands that are out right now.

So why do I keep buying their albums? They are undeniably catchy. And to be honest, I pay a little bit more of attention to them just because they are from Ohio.

With that said, Skeletons is actually a decent album, especially from a band who has been to hell and back in the past two to three years.

Most of the songs deal with the loss of Calvert, but never get too depressing. There is some experimentation on tracks like “Drive,” which almost brings in a techno vibe, and “Gravestones” which is almost like an acoustic folk song.

While the album probably won’t blow anyone away, it’s a nice stepping stone for the band who seems like they are trying to mature and get past all the hard times they’ve seen in the past few years.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Reflection Eternal: Revolutions Per Minute

By Nick Carrabine

Smooth is the first word that comes to mind when describing Reflection Eternal’s first album in 10 years.

Reflection Eternal is made up of rapper Talib Kweli and DJ/Producer Hi-Tek. Since the duo’s first album , Kweli has made a name for himself as being a conscious rapper and released four solo albums with the highlight being his first (and arguably best) solo record in 2002 titled Quality. He is also best associated doing an album with rapper/actor Mos Def in 1998 as well as working with a young and at the time, up and coming unknown producer in Kanye West.

Hi-Tek has stayed busy producing music for such big names as 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg and The Game, among many others.

The two released Revolutions Per Minute on May 18, a day which was overshadowed by the release of Nas and Damian Marely’s Distant Relatives.

While Kweli may not be a household name (he has enjoyed moderate mainstream success), he is among one of the better emcees out there and is one of the more respected artists within the genre. So much so, that in 2003 Jay-Z paid this line of homage to the New York rapper:

“If skills sold, truth be told/I’d probably be, lyrically, Talib Kweli.” -Jay-Z’s “Moment of Clairity” off The Black Album.

Don’t think Kweli didn’t notice the respect the living legend had just paid to him.

On Revolutions Per Minute’s fifth track, “In This World,” they use that exact line from Jay-Z as a sample in the song.

“(Jay-Z sample)
I get respected by the best emcees
the recipe for my success
One part, pain and suffering
Two parts, brains and hustling
Sprinkle it over Hi-Tek production
We bubbling like volcanic eruption.
...You know we did it like no one has ever did it
You got to get with it.”

What I enjoy thoroughly on this album is the chemistry Kweli and Hi-Tek have this time around which is far and away more noticeable then when they first hooked up a decade ago.

The production is so smooth and has a very laid back, slick feel to it which is perfect for Kweli’s effortless flow to ride a top of it.

The album has an old school feel to it, and I don’t mean old school like 1980s hip hop. Many of the songs feel like they could have been produced well before hip hop was even around, like the 1950s and 60s (see the below video “Midnight Hour ft. Estelle).

Of course, you can’t listen to an album that Kweli is associated with without him spitting some knowledge.

“The fiscal, conservatives, don’t know what they purpose is
Put money on the war then they cut your goods and services
Murderous corporate monsters is breakin records, Exxon
is at 40 billion a year, they rakin in record profits. Stop it
How they bankin while the auto industry is tankin?
Leadership is sankin, oil pollution in the water stankin
Loyalty, to petroleum royalty spoil the economy
We won’t get it poppin til we oil free
If you’re oil rich then we invadin
They call occupation but we losin jobs across the nation
Drill baby drill while they make our soldiers kill baby still
The desert where the blood and oil spill.”

-“Ballad of the Black Gold”

Overall, I could honestly say this may be one of my favorite releases Kweli has been a part of, which is saying a lot as he has been one of my favorite rappers for the past decade. His solo records are too mixed and his past collaboration albums are too inconsistent, or at the very least, short-lived.

Revolutions Per Minute is strong proof that no matter what garbage you hear on the radio, MTV or at the club, real hip hop will always live on with artists like Kweli.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

B.o.B. Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray

By Nick Carrabine

“I don’t really know why I’m here
I guess I’m just here for the ride
I swear, it feels like I’m dreaming
It’s vividly defined
So call me whatever you want
Tie me to whatever you like
But let’s get one thing straight
You know my name
so I run this town when I’m on this mic”

-”Don’t Let Me Fall”

I didn’t want to like B.o.B.

I didn’t even have any interest in hearing his debut album, The Adventures of Bobby Ray, after hearing his breakthrough single, “Nothin’ on You” which has been extremely overplayed over the past two months.

When the album came out last month, I was intrigued by the guest appearances on the album as well as the various genres that I read about B.o.B. experiencing with.

It also doesn’t hurt that he released the album under T.I.’s Grand Hustle record label either.

So when I was scrounging through a friend’s iTunes the other day and saw the album, I figured I’d give it a listen and even go as far as putting it on my iPod. (*Sidenote* I don’t condone not buying albums. Support your favorite artists, however, when you’ve purchased more than 500 CDs in the past 15 years, you deserve a break every now and then.)

With one listen, I was instantly hooked.

The 21-year-old is a rapper first, but isn’t afraid to use his vocals to sing choruses or even sing full versus on many of the songs. Most of the album contains a large amount of electric guitars, He enlists two rockers as guest appearances from Paramore’s Hayley Williams to Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo.

As for other guest appearances on the album, well, those include Eminem, T.I. and Lupe Fiasco. Pretty impressive list for an up and comer’s debut record.

If there is any problem with this album, it may be there is actually a lack of B.o.B. on the album. On many of the songs, he only has one verse and on other songs, his verses are so short. The songs themselves, for a rap album (although, at this point, it’s sort of hard to call this a straight rap album) are short in general as half the songs come in under 3 minutes and 40 seconds.

Come to think of it, the above may not be that bad of a thing because it’s really the production and the guest appearances that carry this album with the diversity of genres and beats.

Nonetheless, it’s a solid and rather unexpected impressive debut album.

"Past My Shades" Ft. Lupe Fiasco

"Ghost In A Machine"

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Another "Lost" blog post

Even though "Lost" has been done for a week, I can't get over "The End." I might be in the minority as one of the fans of the series who was fine with the finale and isn't growing more angry about the unanswered questions.

If you're still scratching your head about the show (or want to know just what in the heck happened without wasting six TV seasons of your life), check out the Idiot's Guide to Lost from E! Online.

And if you want a reason to hate the show and everything you missed out from it, check out College Humor's video of "Unanswered Lost Questions":

--Cheryl Sadler

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The Simpsons meet Ke$ha

This video is from a few weeks ago, but I didn't want to let something so simultaneously awesome and annoying go without an appearance on the Pop Culture blog.

Yes, this ran as the intro to the show.

Credit to fellow copy editor Danielle Capriato, who showed me this gem.

--Cheryl Sadler

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