Welcome to What’s the Buzz, 25YL’s feature where members of our staff provide you with recommendations on a weekly basis. In our internet age, there is so much out there to think about watching, reading, listening to, etc., that it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, filter out the noise, or find those diamonds in the rough. But have no fear! We’re here to help you do that thing I just described with three different metaphors. Each week a rotating cast of writers will offer their recommendations based on things they have discovered. They won’t always be new to the world, but they’ll be new to us, or we hope new to you. This week’s entries come from: Carol Seeds, Bryan O’Donnell, John Bernardy, Rachel Stewart, and Will Johnson.
Carol: Orlando based metal band, Trivium, released their 8th studio album, The Sin and the Sentence, on October 20, 2017. This would be the first album with their new drummer, Alex Bent. More importantly, it would be the first studio release where vocalist Matt Heafy would be showcased post-vocal injury.
The title track is just epic, even with the corny music video. It doesn’t matter. The song didn’t need any help anyway. “The Heart from Your Hate”, the first single released, showed the progression of the album, while at the same time displaying the band getting back to their roots: harmonious thrash. Old school Trivium fans will hear sounds of an epic throwback; Ascendancy (2004) throwbacks to be exact. Watching them revert back to their old ways just shows that even in youth, Trivium were ahead of the game and the times.
Here’s the key to a great metal album. Are you ready for this? I hope you’re listening. You have to have hidden gems. Confused? Allow me to clarify. There has to be more to your album than the singles that are pre-released! If you are a metal band, or even just an alternative hard rock band, I have probably been tracking the release of your album ever since it was announced, which means I see the YouTube videos and the teaser trailers and I am always paying attention. By the time a band has released a single or two, I’ve already decided whether or not I am going to purchase the album. I have already decided if I’m going to make an attempt to leave my hermitic abode to get to a show or not. This is why singles matter. But I don’t spend my hard-earned money on an album just for one or two singles. I want the entire album to rip my face off.
That’s why the new Trivium album did not disappoint! “Sever the Hand”, by far one of my favorites, is also without a doubt one of the hardest hitting songs on the album. The guitar solo, played by none other than the Corey Beaulieu, is a duly mastered scale (although I can’t quite place which one) and it is beautiful nonetheless. Yes, a barre scale…nothing too hard to master but that’s what makes it so awesome. It doesn’t have to be technically difficult to shred.
“Beauty in the Sorrow” starts off beautifully and then annihilates with a three fret set of dominating chords. This is one of those “hidden gems” I was talking about. And let us not overlook that scream at the end of the chorus. It does appear that Heafy has recovered nicely. With this track and “The Revanchist”, I don’t even have to bring up the singles. From one metal head to another, support these guys. Give them your money because this album is sick!
Bryan: The English four-piece rock band Foals released a new album on March 8, and I’m enjoying it quite a bit. Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 1 is the group’s first album since 2015 and will be followed up by Part 2, which is scheduled to be released in August. The album features a good mix of grooves, looping vocals, and moments that make you want to get up and dance in the middle of your living room. Early in the album, “Exits” creeps and rages with a great beat and interesting vocal imagery. With the mood of the song and lead singer and guitarist Yannis Philippakis singing “I wish I could’ve come up, I could’ve shouted out loud. But they got exits covered, all the exits underground. I wish I could figure it out, but the world’s upside down, in a world upside down” it gives me visions of Neil Gaiman’s novel Neverwhere, which is about a secret underworld beneath London. Midway through the album, “Syrups” builds around a killer bass line until it kicks into high gear. And this is followed by “On the Luna,” which is a song that makes it impossible to not nod along with it. The true bright spot of Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost comes in the penultimate song. “Sunday” is a majestic and soaring piece of art that makes you want to belt along with with Philippakis: “Cause time away from me is what I need, to clear my sight and clear my head.” It even features an almost Radiohead-esque looping crescendo at the end, which is just amazing. The more I listen to Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, the more I like it—and I’m intrigued by the promise of a Part 2. Foals is currently on tour in the United States, and I’d say if you get the chance to see them live, do so. They are extremely high-energy and so much fun in a live setting. And I think these new songs will transfer perfectly to the stage.
Will: You know a movie has you when you can just sit and stare at the Blu-Ray menu screen in awe as it cycles through key scenes and images on a film you presumably are going to watch (if you haven’t seen it already).
Such is the visual power of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, a Sony Animation/Marvel co-production that does everything it can to turn your screen into an oft-read collection of Bristol Board so that you, just like the characters in the film, struggle with the concept of reality. Are you watching this, reading this, or living it?
While Marvel Studios’ Thor Ragnarok was successful in translating Jack Kirby’s colorful and grandiose designs into three dimensions, Into The Spider-Verse is not content with the mere physical adaptation of renown Spider-Man artists Steve Ditko and John Romita Sr. It wants ocular assimilation and standard-shattering innovation.
And it achieves this by using the literal tools of the comic book, from interactive splash pages, drastically changing perspectives and shading, word balloons, onomatopoeic sprites, and, in an inspired touch, old fashion half-toning (“in which dots and patterns of color in different sizes convey shade and light”) and Benday Dots. As co-director Bob Persichetti told the New York Times, “if it looks and feels like something from an animated film, it’s not our movie.”
The result of this approach is a living, vibrant comic book that just so happens to be in perpetual motion. If you hit pause at any time, you’ll have, down to the details of the “ink” used and the style of “paper”, a perfectly replicable comic book page itself. For comic nerds riding on nostalgia, or for film buffs looking for the next big thing, Spider-Verse delivers an unexpected tour-de-force of artistic bravura.
But style is not the only goal, as substance plays just as important a role in the film as it’s innovative visual approach does. And while not as game-changing as the visuals, which look toward the future, Spider-Verse goes back to the past to embrace what makes Spider-Man himself (or, possibly, herself) the relatable cultural icon that has flourished for six decades across all media.
A large complaint of comic book films is the dreaded origin story. Usually, if you know a character enough for them to get the big screen treatment, the origin is essentially common knowledge. And if it isn’t someone popular, most audiences are keen to just get past the origin part and see the titular superhero at full strength. Spider-Man, who has suffered through numerous reboots and re-tellings, has an origin story that even people who have never read a comic book can explain.
And the producers of Into The Spider-Verse use this to twist your expectations. Without going into specific spoilers, Into the Spider-Verse actually offers multiple origin stories and instead of running from this concept in dread, you eagerly anticipate the arrival of each new incarnation. If there is anything outside of the visual appearance of this film that exceeds expectations it is the ability of the creators of the film to make origin stories not only fun again, but original.
And within those origin stories, the one known by so many, is the very simple concept: with great power, comes…well, you know the rest. Into the Spider-Verse explores a more diverse world where Spider-Man is actually black/Latino Miles Morales, not white Peter Parker, who struggles to embrace his studies, impress his police officer father, and not fall into the possibly criminal habits of his beloved uncle. Into the Spider-Verse essentially uses the same template of the classic Peter Parker tale but flips the details on their head, from the skin color of the hero to even the idea that maybe Morales beloved Uncle is a bad guy, unlike Parker’s Uncle Ben, who was a paragon of virtue.
When you combine the film’s visual style, which effectively changes the game for the future of animation, the throwback approach of an origin story, and the complete embracement of diversity, you get a movie that is both cool and meaningful. Fresh off an Academy Award win for Best Animated Feature, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is available now on Blu-Ray, 4K, and Digital. I highly recommend it.
John: This week’s can’t-miss podcast is the Imaginary Worlds episode “Slaughterhouse at 50.” Host Eric Molinsky takes a work of fiction from any media and talks to real people about how it is made and why the fiction speaks to us. This week was exactly what I was hoping for: a look into my favorite author, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., and his most recognized work, Slaughterhouse Five.
Molinsky spoke to three Vonnegut scholars and one war veteran to paint a picture of Vonnegut, his time in World War II, and his writing career up to then.
Between a want for his “science fiction” being taken more seriously and having no idea how to write about his war experiences through PTSD, this podcast takes us on a 30-minute journey of what’s great about Vonnegut as a person and as a writer.
We get to learn about his family life, motivations, and why war vets love his book so much. I knew a lot of the info already, but the show never got boring because of that.
This was a great refresher, and it really reminded me of what I love so much about the author. Now I want to re-read Slaughterhouse Five!
Rachel: Amanda Palmer is a polarizing musician. Some people love her, others love to hate her. I’ve adored her since I discovered The Dresden Dolls in college, and have followed her solo and side projects since the Dresden Dolls initially parted ways. Earlier this month, she released her latest album entitled There Will Be No Intermission. It’s brutal and beautiful and messy, much like life and the multitude of topics it contains: motherhood, death, abortion, strained relationships, feelings of not measuring up or being lonely or lost. Interludes weave themselves between long meditations on what it is to be human. Not every song has wormed its way into my brain yet, but one particular song has taken up space in my heart. Every time I listen to “Judy Blume,” it makes me cry at the exact same refrain:
All of them saying ‘Amanda you know better
You are not to blame
The world’s a frightening place
So go on and think how you want
You will not be alone with your thoughts
Well you will but you won’t in a way
‘Cos a girl thought it too in a book that the library bought’
After years of hearing this song in concert or that song in demo via Patreon, to finally have the finished collection shows there’s a masterful method to Palmer’s madness and that it was worth the wait.
Those are our recommendations this week, what would be yours? Let us know in the comments! You never know, maybe we’ll check it out and end up writing something about it!