Author: John Ford

Evan Ønly

No Matter What EP

Underwater Peoples

Records

Street: 02.01

Evan Ønly = Soft Cell + Pet Shop Boys

In his debut solo EP, Evan Brody takes an old sound and makes it new again. Most of No Matter What could easily be mistaken for classic ’80s music, which, as far as this writer is concerned, the world needs more of. “Take Me Back” is arguably the strongest track from the EP—the beat might be slow, but the song is powerful and gets your head rocking—though the title track, “No Matter What,” certainly earns its spot as the album’s first single. Fans of Family Portrait, a band fronted by Brody and made up of Underwater Peoples’ founders, will appreciate how much more Brody’s voice stands out on this solo EP compared to previous EP releases. No Matter What is fun to listen to, and Brody is certainly an artist to keep an eye on. –John Ford
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Sweet Tooth
Create Your Fate
Shock Collar Records
Street: 11.09.13
Sweet Tooth = Whitesnake + Marilyn Manson
 
Ogden-area local Logan Smith (aka Sweet Tooth) combines gothic style with an ’80s-era rock sound in his debut album, Create Your Fate. If Brian Warner had entered the music scene in the glory days of butt rock, he might have ended up sounding much like Sweet Tooth. Smith propelled his music career last spring through an appearance on Bravo’s The Kandi Factory, where he won a professionally produced music video for his song “Gotta Go” and a $5,000 cash prize. Create Your Fate contains some well-produced music, and Smith’s voice makes it clear why he won that episode of The Kandi Factory. “Somebody Died Today” and “Thief In The Night” were personal favorites, but the entire album is a fun combination of old and new styles of rock. –John Ford
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Elusive Parallelograms
Fragments EP
Self-Released
Street: 07.02
Elusive Parallelograms = Animal Collective + Deerhunter

This EP tears me in two different directions. I like half of it, but the other half makes me want to yank my headphones off and smash them into oblivion. Fragments opens with “Lucidity,” a mess of sounds and music—which would be impressive if there were two people creating all the noise, but, when you have six people all playing instruments, it becomes less so. Things start turning around with “Semantics” and “8-bit,” easily the best songs out of the six on the EP. “Semantics” drifts more into the rock side of things and, while it’s nice to see bands branch out genre wise, it’s clear this is where their six members merge together best. “8-bit” is fast and fun, and demands a little ass-shakin’. Unfortunately, the end of Fragments returns to the muddle it started with. I recommend checking Elusive Parallelograms out on Bandcamp before dropping any cash on their music—it’s hit or miss. –John Ford

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Nine Inch Nails
Hesitation Marks
Polydor Records
Street: 08.30
Nine Inch Nails = (Skinny Puppy + Puscifer) x Ministry
The first few times listening through Hesitation Marks, all I could focus on were the poppy, electronic-ish elements that must have rubbed off on Trent Reznor from spending so much time in How to Destroy Angels. It just didn’t feel like a NIN album. Perhaps it’s the lack of a “Head Like A Hole” or a “March of the Pigs” on Hesitation Marks—the shortage of anger leaves me wanting. But the more I listened to it, and the more I focused on Reznor’s lyrics, the more Hesitation Marks appeared to mature and develop. “Find My Way”—my personal favorite from the album—and “All Time Low” are hauntingly personal, and greatly reflective of Reznor’s search for self-approval. “Copy Of A” and “Disappointed” are beautifully complex, and instill a desire to see them performed live—which you won’t get unless you go out of state, because the Tension 2013 tour ain’t coming to Utah. As a decades-long NIN fan, it’s certainly not the album I wanted to hear from Reznor, but perhaps it’s the album I needed to hear. –John Ford
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David Bowie
The Next Day
Iso/Columbia Records
Street: 03.12
David Bowie = David Bowie
I still remember pulling Ziggy Stardust from the vinyl sleeve, the phrase “TO BE PLAYED AT MAXIMUM VOLUME” challenging me from the lower corner of the back cover. Every second of “Starman” forevermore altered my musical outlook. That said, I was skeptical as hell when I heard Bowie was releasing another album. Mainly because it’s been a decade since his last release, but also because his last album, Reality, fell a little short (in my opinion). Fortunately for us all, The Next Day meets the high expectations that Bowie sets by being, well, Bowie. “The Next Day” brilliantly uses religious imagery in a bit of satire about religion itself, “Where Are We Now?” offers up powerful emotion through Bowie’s reminiscence about Germany just after the Berlin Wall fell and “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” is an intelligent and catchy examination of the magnitude of the attention we pay to celebrities. I just might have a new favorite Bowie album. One thing is for certain, hearing that iconic voice break out of a chorus and barrel into the next verse will never get old. –John Ford

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The Walking Dead Volume 23: Whispers Into Screams
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artists:
Charlie Adlard, Stefano Gaudiano

Image Comics
Street: 05.12

On a scale of One to Rad, this latest volume earns a solid “meh.” The sad thing is that this is actually a fairly decent volume, but after the set up at the end of Volume 22 (my review of which began with, “HOLY. FUCK.”), this feels like a massively missed opportunity by writer/creator Robert Kirkman. Just when it looked like we were going to get a set of villains to rival even Negan and his Saviors from the newly-finished All Out War storyline, Kirkman sets out instead to humanize the new-to-the-series group—which feels odd considering the goddamn horror this group provided at the end of the previous volume. The amount of explaining away that takes place is mind numbing and, worst of all, most of the motivation that gets thrown behind this new group doesn’t seem to fit. Perhaps if this group was smaller in numbers some of it would be passable, but given their large numbers, a lot of their revealed motivation feels forced. I remain hopeful that Kirkman can steer the current storyline back into Awesomeville, but he’ll need to get Carl to stop being a damn hipster first. From what I can tell, the title Whispers into Screams references the terror readers experience as they watch the badass that was comicbook-Carl turn into season-2-Walking-Dead-TV-Show-Carl for no good reason. “Stay in the house, Carl!” –John Ford

batkid begins

Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard Around the World

Director: Dana Nachman
New Line Cinema
In Theaters: 06.26

Opening with a poignant cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes” by Scala & Kolacny Brothers while scanning (also poignant) footage from the day-of Batkid event, you should just be prepared to cry your way through this entire film. Back on November 15, 2013, the hashtag #SFBatKid took over the Internet in the viral-est of viral movements—San Francisco’s Make-A-Wish Foundation put together 5-year-old Miles Scott’s wish to be Batman for a day, an event that went from 200 anticipated attendees to a massive, city-wide crowd of over 25,000 people. But, as amazing as that day was, and even with how much this doc focuses around that day, Batkid Begins is not about the Batkid story. Batkid Begins uses Miles Scott’s incredible adventure as Batkid and the viralness of the situation to tell a much bigger story: the story of what is possible when people work together, care about each other and create true community with one another. Batkid Begins won’t make you cry because Scott is pro-level cute (but he is totes cute)—it’ll make you cry because so many people on so many different levels came together to create something truly good and hopeful. Batkid isn’t here to save us from villains or tyrants or monsters—he’s here to save us from ourselves, from our cynicism and our constant lack of optimism. Batkid is a reminder that we should all be a little more childlike, be a little more trusting, be a little more caring and start giving more of a damn about each other in this world. We need you, Batkid. Save us. –John Ford

Newsroom 3rd Season

The Newsroom: The Complete Third Season

HBO Home Entertainment
Street: 06.14

That’s right, folks. It’s all over. All of Will McAvoy’s (Jeff Daniels) beautifully crafted sarcasm is gone forever … but wait! Through the magic of technology, you can watch Will, MacKenzie (Emily Mortimer) and the whole Newsroom staff be witty and journalistically ethic everyday until forever—and in beautiful HD! I kid, but the idealized “news” within this show has provided a nice standard with which to judge the news shows you enjoy—I’m much more likely to call bullshit when I see bias in a news story than I ever was in the past, and that’s a very good thing. As a fan of The Newsroom since the epic first 8 minutes of the pilot episode, I have to say I’m disappointed that the final season was shortened to just six episodes. It was mostly enjoyable, but felt rushed in places and certainly was not the sendoff that a show of this caliber deserved. The character development that takes place in this final season only makes the show’s end all that more bittersweet—it’s so worth watching, and re-watching, but it’s all gone … all gone. If you’re on the fence about finishing the series, I recommend following this one through to the end—let it be your call-to-action to be more informed, more honest, more ethical, more attracted to Jeff Daniels and less likely to put up with bullshit reporting. What else are you gonna do, sit through Rachel Maddow pretending she’s Olivia Munn? –John Ford

The Book of Mormon Musical

The Book of Mormon

It’s been over four years since The Book of Mormon opened on Broadway. Four long, drawn-out, dry, laughless years. But the floodgates have been opened and the comedic rivers now runneth over through the “Sal Tlay Ka Siti” valley: The Book of Mormon is finally playing in Utah! If you haven’t seen it yet, there’s still hope: Though every show is sold out, a ticket lottery is held a few hours before each show at the Capitol Theatre. Lottery winners will pay only $26 per ticket, but know that it’s a cash-only situation if you’re going to try your luck.

 

For those of you late to the game, The Book of Mormon follows Mormon missionaries Elder Kevin Price (Billy Harrigan Tighe) and Elder Arnold Cunningham (A.J. Holmes) from the Missionary Training Center in Utah to Uganda, where they’ve been called to serve. Upon their arrival, all their dreams of bringing massive converts to the LDS faith are stolen away—along with their luggage, as they get mugged by militia from the Ugandan warlord, General Butt-Fucking Naked (Corey Jones) and find that the local villagers are far more concerned about real world dangers (AIDS, genital mutilation, being put to death by local butt-fucking warlords, etc.) than they are about religion. Elders Price and Cunningham lose further hope after meeting the other resident missionaries, who’ve had zero luck converting even a single person, but the reality of their situation fully sets in when, on their first trip out to proselytize, the General kills one of the villagers right in front of them. Elder Price decides to run away and attempt to get a transfer to his fantasy mission location: beautiful Orlando, Florida. Elder Cunningham, on the other hand, decides to “man up” and keep trying to teach the locals about the Mormon faith—the only trouble is he hasn’t actually read the Book of Mormon, so he decides to make up what he doesn’t know to make it more entertaining and applicable to the African people. After a “spooky Mormon hell dream,” Elder Price realizes the error of his ways and returns to find that Elder Cunningham is on the verge of converting a record number of people, though some of the other Elders are concerned that the potential converts won’t fully commit with General Butt-Fucking Naked still in control of the area—which causes Elder Price to believe that his true calling in Uganda is to convert the General himself. Will Elder Price be able to succeed in this calling? Will the people of Uganda convert to the Mormon faith? Will Elder Cunningham’s mistruths (i.e. lies) catch up with him? This is one musical you absolutely need to see to believe. There’s a reason The Book of Mormon swept the Tonys—winning nine of the 14 it was nominated for—and it’s hands down the funniest thing this critic has ever seen on stage.

 

Given my own personal history with the Mormon church—I was raised LDS, but parted ways with the religion for a variety of reasons shortly before I would have ended up going out on my own Mormon mission—I found the content to be greatly relatable, but even non-Mormons or non-ex-Mormons will find a little of themselves within The Book of Mormon. The struggles that Elder Price and Cunningham experience with their own faith are battles that a person from any religion may wrestle with. The hardships experienced by the Ugandans express how no religion will ever be capable of fixing all of our problems; it’s the relationships that we build with those around us that truly creates the changes in our lives. Mormonism is the focus for this musical, but the ideals and principles laid out in the story and songs translate across the board (no Urim and/or Thummim needed).

 

Sure, there’s plenty of offensive content. It was, after all, written by the trio of Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park and Team America: World Police fame, along with Robert Lopez, who makes up half of the creative team behind the adorable-yet-filthy Muppet-based musical Avenue Q. There’s swears and arguably racist portrayals of Africans and violence and real-life problems and Jesus Christ calls one of the characters a dick—but it all has a point. Nothing within The Book of Mormon is offensive just to be offensive—though plenty of people have and will be offended by the musical—it all comes down to being nice to others and helping each other and treating those around us as they would like to be treated. I can’t recommend seeing this musical highly enough, but watch it objectively and with an open mind. Tomorrow is a Latter Day, brothers and sisters. Let’s work together and make it a day that we can all enjoy—and remember, some people still have maggots in their scrotums.

Monopoly: Game of Thrones Edition

Monopoly: Game of Thrones Collector’s Edition
Hasbro/USAopoly

usaopoly.com
store.hbo.com

 

Are you a low-to-moderate Game of Thrones fan and an average fan of board games? Then you are gonna lose your shit over this new Monopoly Collector’s Edition. Any above-moderate Game of Thrones fans, on the other hand … perhaps not so much.

 

The edition is brand new, but don’t expect any up-to-date references within the content, the majority of which doesn’t get past the second season, with a few exceptions. A minor qualm, to be sure, but let me address the two main issues with this Collector’s Edition: the bank and the Iron Throne. While the Game of Thrones Twitter account referenced the Iron Bank in their announcement of the GOT Monopoly, the game itself makes no such reference—a massive missed opportunity, at the very least the Banker should have been called the Master of Coin. Also, the money for the bank looks like it was designed in Word on a computer operating on Windows 95—in other words, its design quality looks exactly like all other Monopoly money.

 

This brings me to the other main issue. While the rest of the game pieces look decent enough, the Iron Throne seems more like the back end of a turkey than a seat for the King of the Seven Kingdoms. I’ll take the direwolf or the dragon’s egg over that messed up seat any day (the three-eyed raven, Baratheon crown and White Walker are the other collectible tokens available in this edition). Though it might seem like nitpicking, given the game’s hefty price tag ($59.99), these are certainly issues worth mentioning.

 

Now that I’ve talked about the issues, let me tell you why you should buy this Collector’s Edition: the board is goddamn gorgeous. Each property square and title deed card contains a beautiful depiction of various locations from around Westeros, and the center of the board is a stunning map of Westeros itself. This thing is pretty as fuck to play on. Fans of the book and/or TV show will have no difficulty looking past the problems to win or die as they play the Game of Thrones … Monopoly.