Music, Playlist

smash cuts: feelin good again

bombay

By Nathan Smith

As of today, my sophomore year of college has been in session for one week. The stress hasn’t kicked into high-gear yet, but it will soon; I’m taking 16 hours of coursework (5 classes in total) and 3 of my classes have extra sessions in addition to their normal meeting times. I’m living with someone I don’t know in an apartment I’m still not completely used to, and overall, the experience of becoming an adult- or at least pretending to become one- is pretty weird. As you might have noticed, my schoolwork has prevented me from engaging with the activities that keep me sane, namely watching movies and writing for this site, but there’s one thing that helps make the day a little bit easier to swallow: music. Whether I’m hanging out with friends, writing papers, or walking to class, music helps fill the various voids that the stress of school leaves. We’ve had education-themed playlists in the past, but I’d like to think this one doesn’t just have to apply to college kids- it’s just about feeling good and leaving your worry behind. So let the music melt your troubles away.

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Music, Singles

Throwback Track of the Week: Lions’ “Stuck in Our Small Town”

Picture via Lions’ Facebook page

By Jack Evans

Two days ago, I moved into my college dorm room. That in itself has a pretty major cultural significance, but I think it’s an even bigger deal for me than it is for some people: I’m living six hours away from my hometown, Knoxville, Tennessee, the city where I spent the first 18-and-a-half years of my life (the last 14 in the same house). Over the past few weeks, I’ve made it a point to spend lots of time with my friends and family and to visit my favorite local businesses and restaurants. I got particularly lucky that the night before I left to drive up to Indiana was also the night of a house show headlined by my favorite local band (and one of my favorite bands, period), Lions, in what was, ironically, their homecoming show after a three-week tour.

I’ve seen Lions play somewhere around ten times since I first saw them last winter, in places from the hot, beat-up Longbranch Saloon to the inside of a brand new Urban Outfitters. And while seeing the same band that many times may seem excessive – or obsessive – to some, it’s one of the things that made my last year in Knoxville so special. I think that’s because, aside from being with friends and family, one of the best ways to find happiness is to find something amazing in the community and latch onto it, and because a Lions show, where dozens of people cram into a small living room to scream lyrics along with a band playing on the same floor space, is the definition of a community experience.

On Monday night, Lions closed with “Stuck in Our Small Town,” a track from their excellent 2012 EP MTNZ. I’d been hoping that they’d end with it, not just because it’s one of my favorite Lions songs but also because its lyrics (“I care about all of the people, but I’ll box up my favorite things”) have been resonating with me a lot lately. Even so, it was better than I ever could have anticipated: the song is always great with a crowd, as its bridge provides a top-notch sing-along moment, but at that moment, everybody near me locked arms around shoulders, and at the climax, someone jumped off a couch and crowd-surfed. It was a display of pure energy and community, two of the things I’ve associated with Lions from the beginning. And it was the perfect way to say goodbye to Knoxville.

Lions MTNZ EP is available on their Bandcamp, wearelions.bandcamp.com.

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Music, Playlist, Tape Swap

smash cuts: tape swap (the playlist)

shmoney dance

Alright, so we’ve already done a best of 2014 playlist- but that doesn’t mean we covered all the great music that’s been released this year. To help fill in some of the gaps, Tape Swap contributor Malcolm Baum has put together a playlist of the year’s best in rap and R&B. From Shabazz Palaces to Bobby Shmurda, Cam’ron to Kool A.D., the playlist takes you on a 50 song, 3 hour and 20 minute-long journey that covers the full breadth of both genres. Since so many of these tracks are only available in mixtape form, we’ve also got an exclusive download for you, instead of our normal Spotify link.

Download this week’s playlist here. Peep the tracklist below.

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Film, What We Watched

What We Watched: 08/16/14

Mother

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This week I moved into a new place to gear up for school starting soon; in other words, I didn’t have the chance to watch much. However, in addition to a few of Robin Williams’ films, which I talked about in our commemoration of the late and brilliant comic, I was able to round out Bong Joon-Ho’s filmography and catch the last of his widely-available films that I hadn’t seen, Mother. Although it shares the most similarity with Memories of Murder, Joon-Ho’s 2003 thriller and only other straight-up crime genre, Mother deals with elements that appear in some form or the other in almost all of his films, particularly parental duty, mental illness, and memory. After her mentally challenged son is arrested on faulty evidence for the murder of a schoolgirl, the mother in question goes to extreme lengths to exonerate- and protect- her boy. It’s probably the slowest burn of all of Bong Joon-Ho’s films, but still deftly paced and gorgeously composed in such a way that doesn’t call to much attention to itself. As proved by his more straight-up genre films, The Host and this year’s Snowpiercer, Bong Joon-Ho can more than handle quick action and complex set-pieces, but as Mother proves, he’s equally comfortable taking a longer look at his subject matter. – Nathan Smith

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Music, Singles

Track of the Week: Code Orange’s “Dreams in Inertia”

By Jack Evans

When Code Orange Kids formed in 2008, they were literally just kids – well, teenagers – but by their 2011 EP Cycles, they were already releasing impressively mature and complex hardcore informed by classic aggression and horror-movie doom-and-gloom, a combination they nearly perfected on their excellent 2012 debut LP, Love is Love // Return to Dust. Earlier this year, the Pittsburgh-based outfit dropped the “Kids” from their name and began a semi-mysterious marketing campaign for their follow-up, the upcoming I Am King.

Based on the songs released so far, the name change isn’t just a move to a more “serious” aesthetic; it’s also a signifier of how the band is expounding on what they did two years ago. Both of the first two singles have been heavier than anything on Love is Love, and “Dreams in Inertia,” the third, makes something new of a different approach. The track amplifies a moody atmosphere that the band explored both on Love is Love and on their 4-way split with Tigers Jaw, Self Defense Family, and The World Is… and pairs it with abrasive, slow-paced heaviness (appropriately, the creepy, grainy Max Moore-directed video recalls 90s metal offerings) that also allows co-vocalists Reba Meyers and Jami Morgan’s disquieting cleans to succeed. “No boxes. No boundaries. No fear.” has been the slogan surrounding the marketing campaign for I Am King; musically, Code Orange seems to be able to take its own advice without going overboard.

Code Orange‘s I Am King comes out September 2 via Deathwish, Inc.

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Film

Robin Williams: A Commemoration

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Note: This piece was originally going to be a Kids’ Stuff about one of the author’s favorite films, Dead Poets Society. However, due to the school year beginning, Kids’ Stuff is now a bi-weekly series. The author also felt it more appropriate to regard Robin Williams’ career in full, instead of through the lens of just one film.

By Nathan Smith

It seems like whenever someone well-known and important passes on, we misremember how much they affected us. You may not have appreciated them while they were alive, we say, but I did. So let me be brutally honest for a moment. I don’t want to pretend like Robin Williams was my favorite actor while he was alive; to do so would be to unfairly lay claim to his memory and legacy. Although he was without a doubt an actor and comedian whose presence I cherished, I don’t know if I ever really thought of Robin Williams as one of my “favorites.” But let me say this: rarely have I seen an outpouring of emotion and affection over the loss of a public figure so heartfelt, so genuine, and so sincere as I saw Monday night after the death of Robin Williams. It may have had in part to do with the way he went, but I know it’s mostly because Robin changed lives, for people of all ages.

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Music, Playlist

smash cuts: good grades

higher learning

By Jake White

It’s nice to finally be at the age where I’m not in a constant state of frustration around this time of the year. I remember when I was a child I hated every bit of going back to school, but it’s not that bad now. Here in about 3 weeks I will reunited with the rest of my best friends, partake in, um, after-class activities, and, of course, study. The playlist I have created is great for writing papers, studying written material, and even napping. So far I’ve only actually used it for napping, but I am prepared to put it to good use as soon as we all go back to school. I suggest you should too. Some of these artists have already helped me study. I cited John Fahey on an English paper, finished an entire 25-page thesis to Boards of Canada, and would not have passed my Journalism 200 class without Knoxville natives Best Friend. I really hope it gives the rest of you the same results.

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Film, What We Watched

What We Watched: 08/08/14

I Declare War

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I don’t have a lot to say about I Declare War, a lower-budget Canadian alternative to The Hunger Games, other than that it wasn’t quite what I expected it to be. The film’s central premise, of kids playing “war” with sticks that gradually turn into real weapons by way of their imaginations, intrigued me, even if it did make me a little nervous; I’m not one who typically enjoys seeing kids blow each other up. However, I Declare War doesn’t actually make that big of a deal about the fact that its child soldiers use real weapons, or even really give much of an introduction into the game itself. While the film serves as a nice showcase for some unknown child actors, most of the kids wear the affected swagger of middle school theater students, and a little pointless thematic fluff about the dangers of bullying doesn’t do much for the film’s overall weakness. It all makes for a very intriguing plot summary, but unfortunately, its one to which I Declare War doesn’t seem all that dedicated. – Nathan Smith

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Music, Singles

Throwback Track of the Week: Eminem’s “Rap God”

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By Nathan Smith

I know, I know. Making “Rap God” your track of the week is like giving Man of the Year to Hitler- but sometimes the villain deserves the award. I’ve never liked Eminem; in fact, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t out-right despise him. I understand that in a certain time and a certain place in my childhood he had some value in the greater cultural consciousness, and he probably still does, but I’d be completely fine if we could just forget him. Alright, I know. He probably did a few good things. 8 Mile? Maybe a masterpiece, or at least better than Get Rich or Die Tryin’. The Spartacus-like MTV video awards performance with the Million Slim Shady March? Legendary. I’ve tried again and again to give Eminem a chance, but I just can’t do it, especially after his most recent album, last year’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2.

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Features, Film, Kids' Stuff

Kids’ Stuff: The Big Chill

By Nathan Smith

Like so many of the movies in this series, I never saw The Big Chill as a child. That was probably a good choice on my parents’ part. However, The Big Chill still shaped me, as its 15th-year anniversary soundtrack, a collection of Motown and other 1960s pop hits, was the first piece of music I ever remember loving. What stands to many as a hallmark of Baby Boomer self-involvement represents to me an important part of my cultural identity. I have, over time, become nostalgic for other people’s nostalgia, weaving borrowed memories into my own. From “The Tracks of My Tears” to “A Whiter Shade of Pale” to “Natural Woman,” The Big Chill‘s soundtrack exposed me to what music- and art- could be. As a movie, it also seems so specific to a certain time, a time before my parents were my parents and they struggled with the trappings of adulthood, as I struggle with those same trappings now, that I find it hard to write about The Big Chill. The Criterion Collection recently reissued The Big Chill, and as part of their packing included an appreciation essay by Lena Dunham. I struggled to find the right words, especially after reading Dunham’s. She encapsulates so breathlessly, so effortlessly, what this movie and its associations mean to me, that I’m not sure if I even qualify to write about them. I made the mistake of waiting to watch The Big Chill the day this post was meant to go up. Give me a few days to collect my thoughts, but sometimes it’s just best to admit your failure when it comes to criticism. As a critic, I have failed, but maybe someday I will be to express these feelings in a way that you can understand. Until then, I have no choice but to let Lena Dunham speak for me.

Here’s her essay.

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