Tuesday, May 24, 2016

We've Moved!

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Merle Haggard, Country Legend: 1937-2016

Country legend Merle Haggard passed away Wednesday, April 6, in Palo Cedro, California. Haggard recorded more than 3 dozen number one hits over the past six decades; he will be remembered fondly by the music industry. 

Simple, American, working-man pride. That's the organizing theme of Hag: The Best of Merle Haggard, which features a generous 26-song track list spanning nearly 40 years. Released in 2006, the compilation features all of Merle's biggest hits, including: "Mama Tried," "Bottle Let Me Down," "Sing Me Back Home," and "Okie from Muskogee." As an introduction to Haggard's music-- or even to the Bakersfield sound that he helped popularize-- Hag may be unparalleled.

The New York Times said it best: "He had an immense influence on other performers — not just other country singers but also ’60s rock bands like the Byrds and the Grateful Dead, as well as acts like Elvis Costello and the Mekons, all of whom recorded Mr. Haggard’s songs. Some 400 artists have released versions of his 1968 hit “Today I Started Loving You Again.” 

Eric Church is the opposite of modern day country music, yet he still gets played on modern day country radio. His debut album, titled Sinners Like Me, was released in 2006- the same year that he was kicked off Rascal Flatts' tour only to be replaced by a not-yet-famous Taylor Swift. Here, Church raises a glass to Merle with his song "Pledge Allegiance to the Hag." 

Merle had plenty of friends in the music world, Willie Nelson being one of the closest. The two recorded and released a collaborative album together just last year; Nelson and Haggard cover each other's classics, rib each other about the girls they've loved before, and wrap it all up with the gentle mutual-admiration fest "The Only Man Wilder Than Me."

Django and Jimmie

From first to last on the tracks—whether singing together, as on that one, or individually, interpreting excellent but less-covered songs by each other (Merle Haggard on Nelson’s “Family Bible,” Willie Nelson on Haggard’s “Somewhere Between”)—there is a profound sense of the men’s ease with each other and each other’s creations. Yet there’s equally impressive evidence that both singers have stepped up their vocal game in the presence of the other. Django and Jimmie was one of the strongest, most engaging country albums of 2015. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Beyond Jane Austen: Period British Mini-Series & Movies

For fans of period British movies or mini-series, here's some titles beyond the Jane Austen fare. Hopefully some will be new to you. These are my title/version preferences; please share your favorites in the comments below! 

Jane Eyre
– 2007 version staring Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens. In high school I read Jane Eyre (by Charlotte Brontë) and wasn't enamored. Once I watched this version I finally understood the hype. Mark my words, Ruth Wilson will win many, many awards in her career.

North & South
– starring Daniela Denby-Ashe and Richard Armitage. Based on the book by Elizabeth Gaskell, this is a bit of a cult-classic (no, this is not the Civil War TV mini-series from the 80s...). The north and south in the title refers to the lifestyle of the more gentile south and the industrial north, which is of course, a metaphor for our main characters. The chemistry between the two is perfection.

The Buccaneers – starring Carla Gugino and Mira Sorvino. New-money American young ladies are brought to England to make matches with the cash-strapped ton. Carla Gugino shines in this early role where her character turns from a naive young lady to a morose married woman.

Little Dorritt – starring Claire Foy and Mathew Macfayden. Based on Charles Dickens' novel, Amy Dorritt (Foy) is one of the more sympathetic female characters in  Dickens' oeuvre. She braves the challenges of living in debtor's prison with her father, who is a bit of a high-maintenance diva really. Great ensemble work here. 

Wives and Daughters – starring Justine Waddell and Anthony Howell. Another story by Elizabeth Gaskell about the rocky relationship between a step-daughter and step-mother. The romance aspect is well-played.

Twelfth Night, Or What You Will - starring Imogen Stubbs and Toby Stephens. This is probably my favorite piece by Shakespeare (what can I say, I like farces). Also, Toby Stephens is really dreamy in this.

Friday, February 5, 2016

58th Annual GRAMMY Award Predictions: Taylorpalooza

Via Tumblr

The 58th annual GRAMMY Awards are set to air on February 15 on CBS and the ladies of Information Services are psychedddd. We've taken the time to predict the winners of all the big categories so you don't have to. Fair warning: we're pretty sure Taylor Swift is gonna clean house this year.  

Record of the Year 
"Really Love" D'Angelo and the Vanguard
"Uptown Funk" Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars
"Thinking Out Loud" Ed Sheeran
"Blank Space" Taylor Swift
"Can't Feel My Face" the Weeknd

Kate: As cute as Ed Sheeran is, there's no way he's going to trump Swift's infectious hit "Blank Space." Seriously- I bought a shirt that says "I can make the bad guys good for the weekend" on it. Please don't tell anybody.   

Jessica: Any record with the title "Can't Feel My Face" deserves to be Record of the Year. Plus, I love a guy who sounds like MJ and wears hair like Basquiat. 

Jasmin: Taylor’s “Blank Space” music video made the song a huge hit. With over 1 billion views on Vevo, it’s safe to say Taylor is going to win this GRAMMY.  

Album of the Year
"Sound & Color" Alabama Shakes
"To Pimp a Butterfly" Kendrick Lamar
"Traveller" Chris Stapleton
"1989" Taylor Swift
"Beauty Behind the Madness" the Weeknd

Kate: Chris Stapleton is the man. I've known that since 2008 when he was the lead singer and guitarist of the SteelDrivers. His first solo album Traveller was released last year and it's flawless as far as I'm concerned.

Jessica: Taylor Swift's got this one in the bag. I look like her... at least that's what strangers tell me. My mom and I don't see the resemblance, but I'll take it. I chose Taylor out of pure vanity. 

Jasmin: 1989 was THE jam of 2015. No matter what your stance is on Taylor Swift, we can all agree that she killed it with this album.  

Song of the Year 
"Alright" Kendrick Lamar
"Blank Space" Taylor Swift
"Girl Crush" Little Big Town 
"See You Again" Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth
"Thinking Out Loud" Ed Sheeran

Kate: Is there a difference between song of the year and record of the year? Can somebody explain that to me? Anyways, "Blank Space" all day (this is not intended to be a Kanye West pun).  

Jessica: If I vote for "Thinking Out Loud", will I seem cool? It seems like the kiddies like him. B96 plays this song on REPEAT, 

Jasmin: Swift managed to make crazy seem alluring and turn comments about being a man eater into a ground breaking hit song with “Blank Space.” Without a doubt Tay wins this round; better luck next time Ed Sheeran!

New Artist
Courtney Barnett
James Bay
Sam Hunt
Tori Kelly
Meghan Trainor

Kate: Being a huge fan of country music, you think I would be supportive of Sam Hunt. But I'm not. His definition of country isn't quite on par with mine, so I'm definitely pulling for Courtney Barnett in this category. Her album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit proved Barnett to be one of the sharpest, most original songwriters around. 

Jessica: Tori Kelly, hands down. And she looks like she could be on the Disney Channel. YAY! 

Jasmin: My hope is that Sam Hunt wins this category. His entire album is phenomenal and if you haven’t heard “Single for the Summer” go pick up Montevallo and be ready to dance.     

Pop Vocal Album 
"Piece by Piece" Kelly Clarkson
"How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful" Florence + the Machine
"Uptown Special" Mark Ronson
"1989" Taylor Swift
"Before This World" James Taylor

Kate: Florence + the Machine’s How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful is one of my top five (okay, maybe top ten) albums of 2015. I listened to it religiously on repeat for weeks after its release. Chances are good, however, that Taylor Swift will walk away with this award.

Jessica: I’m pulling for How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful because Florence has a killer set of lungs....pun intended. I love a great melody and this album provides a lot of them.

Jasmin: I really hope Florence + the Machine wins this one. Welch needs to be recognized for her haunting music and strong vocals. Still -Taylor Swift will probably win this award. Sigh. 

Rap Album
"2014 Forest Hills Drive" J. Cole
"Compton" Dr. Dre
"If Youre Reading This Its Too Late" Drake
"To Pimp a Butterfly" Kendrick Lamar
"The Pinkprint" Nicki Minaj

Kate: If it were up to me, Drake, J. Cole, and Kendrick would share this GRAMMY. Almost like how Cady Herron, Regina George, and Gretchen Weiners shared the Spring Fling crown in Mean Girls. Unfortunately, there can only be one winner and it’s sure to be To Pimp a Butterfly.   

Jessica: Apparently, I read this a little too late, because I had no idea the name of Drake's latest album. I hope he wins though.

Jasmin: I’m not exactly an expert in this genre, though I’ve heard that Drake’s album is great. Or maybe  Nicki Minaj should win…girl has to represent.

Country Album
"Montevallo" Sam Hunt
"Pain Killer" Little Big Town
"The Blade" Ashley Monroe
"Pageant Material" Kacey Musgraves
"Traveller" Chris Stapleton

Kate: Both Musgraves’ and Monroe’s albums are GRAMMY worthy, there’s no doubt about that. But Chris Stapleton has taken the music world by storm and he’s sure to come out on top this time around.   

Jessica: Little Big Town sang the National Anthem for the NFC championship game....so I think they meet the requirements for releasing the best country album of 2015. Because, honestly, what’s more country than America and football at the same time?

Jasmin: Kacey Musgraves! Pageant Material! This album is fun to listen to and I absolutely love it. Honestly, Sam Hunt might win, but please let it be Kacey.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Alan Rickman

We are not off to a great start this year. First David Bowie, and now Alan Rickman.

You know when you hear that someone famous has passed and then for the first time realize how much you truly liked them? I've always liked Alan Rickman, but his death has put this into sharper perspective: why did I like him so? Rickman was an every-man, not classically handsome, but attractive; he was British and his delivery measured, which gave him a slightly sophisticated air; and he worked on stage and screen, which gave him pedigree. He may have been made famous to audiences playing Hans Gruber in Die Hard, but it is his softer performances that get me, specifically Truly Madly Deeply. What always stood out to me was his ability to make every character, even the villains, sympathetic or, at the very least, understandable. In my book, that is the mark of a good actor.

Selected filmography:

Die Hard

Truly Madly Deeply

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

Sense and Sensibility

Galaxy Quest

Harry Potter movies

Love Actually

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Alice in Wonderland

Lee Daniel's The Butler

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust

David Bowie--more than any other pop artist--exemplified the necessity of change and metamorphosis. In his six decade career he has inhabited staggeringly diverse personae: extraterrestrial glam rocker; blue-eyed soul singer; cabaret-style Thin White Duke. This overwhelming impetus to redefine himself is perhaps the sole constant of Bowie's oeuvre. Attempting to define his influence is nearly impossible, as it extends well outside the musical domain, into fashion, film, and the art world. Like the Beatles--his early contemporaries--glimpses of Bowie's influence can be found in virtually every aspect of modern music and pop culture. His songs have been covered by a veritable who's who of iconic musical acts; Nirvana, Tina Turner, Beck, White Stripes, Tegan and Sara, etc. It would be impossible to write a comprehensive encomium of David Bowie; an artist whose myriad lives have somehow survived his time on earth. I would encourage all our readers to delve into David Bowie's legacy, via any of the links below, and celebrate his mutable genius.

Selected Discography

Space Oddity

The Man Who Sold the World

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and Spiders from Mars

Aladdin Sane


Five Years: 1969-1973

Station to Station



Selected Filmography

The Man Who Fell to Earth


Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

Best of Bowie