Archive for October, 2013

Toad The Wet Sprocket – New Constellation Review

Toad Art

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Toad the Wet Sprocket wants you to know they’re happy. On “New Constellation,” their first studio album in 16 years (and also their only album named after a song, not counting their best-of compilation “P.S.: A Toad Retrospective,” and I don’t), Glen Phillips, the lead singer/rhythm guitarist/main songwriter sings about happy accidents, love lost but then quickly regained, and just plain love of everything. (The chorus of the title track, which was once featured on the website of “Rolling Stone,” affirms, “Declare my love to all creation!”) Even on the country-tinged “California Wasted,” when he sings, “I still make the same mistakes,” he sounds downright enthusiastic. And unlike their last studio album, “Coil,” which featured a song with the line, “Life is suffering,” there’s actually a song on “New Constellation” titled “Life Is Beautiful,” sung and cowritten by lead guitarist Todd Nichols. Has the past decade and a half really been that kind to the band?

This, of course, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Most of the songs feature a sunny pop sheen reminiscent of their home state’s weather, and it’s difficult to get any of the melodies out of your head, even the ones that aren’t as rewarding. The only “bummer” track, if you can call it that, is the final one. Continuing their tradition of slower than usual songs to close out their albums, “Enough” groggily complains, “The day is short/The task is great/and I am idle.”

But let’s get down to brass tacks: Most Toad fans want to know, “Is the new album any good?” I would say it’s surprisingly good, at least better than their first two albums, “Bread and Circus” and “Pale,” though that might not be saying much. It’s not as good as their classic albums, “Fear” and “Dulcinea,” where all those ’90s radio mainstays such as “All I Want” and “Fall Down” sprang from, but I wasn’t expecting it to be. I’m still undecided if it’s better than “Coil,” though the songs are definitely happier.

It seems that after all this time, Glen and the boys haven’t lost their touch. “I’ll Bet on You” and “Get What You Want” are two of the best songs the band has ever written (I should know; I own all their albums and even some unreleased tracks), and had this still been the mid-’90s, you would hear these gems on constant rotation on your favorite radio station, unlike the unfortunate, ubiquitous Autotuned pop wonders of today’s scene. Likewise, the title track and “The Moment,” which I heard the band preview live 2 years ago, are equally catchy but still backed by lyrical resonance: “Every door you don’t kick open/there’s a million more to try.” These are hallmarks of the best Toad tracks. The album also boasts a few heartstring-pulling ballads; “The Golden Age” and “Last to Fall” are worthy of their best, including “Crowing” and “Windmills.”

Still, the album isn’t perfect. “Rare Bird” features a melancholy guitar intro that’s a little too reminiscent of “Chile” from their “Pale” album, and “The Eye” is probably the worst track in the bunch, suffering from such cheesy lyrics as, “If love is a hurricane/you are the eye.” Then, in case you didn’t hear him the first time, Phillips again shouts, “You are the eye!!” We get it, Glen. Weather metaphor.

Since I was a Kickstarter funder, not only did I get the album early, I was also rewarded with four bonus tracks, all of them as good as the ones on the official album (and, in the case of “The Eye,” better). “Finally Fading,” the last bonus song, is actually a remake of Phillips’ solo recording off his very Toad-esque “Winter Pays for Summer,” his best solo album and the only one that sounds like his Toad heyday. If anything, his lyrics are even truer today: “And the voices trailing doubt/are finally fading out.”

Whether their upcoming album, set to be officially released on October 15th, is a top seller or doesn’t move any units, it doesn’t really seem to matter; Toad is in a good place now, both musically and emotionally. That’s reason enough for music fans everywhere to rejoice.

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With John Cena Injured, How Will The Landscape Of The WWE Change?

John Cena Injury

So, as we all now know, John Cena has had to undergo surgery to repair damage to his elbow, something which is quite a big deal in the world of professional wrestling.

The damage, which Cena revealed to be a tear in his triceps, sees him sidelined for up to six months. Now, the WWE Universe are widely vocal when it comes to the former WWE Champion, and I’m sure it will be no different now, with Cena taking everything in from the comfort of his own home. We have seen for many years now a very mixed reaction to the sound of Cena’s entrance music as it hits the TitanTron, to the extent that a passive fan would be severely confused as to what was going on. However, no matter how badly he would be jeered by the crowd, he would put on a brave, smiling face and still try and prove the fans wrong (and he’s being doing this a loooooooong time now).

Furthermore, his rise to the top of the WWE has been met with one big massive sigh. He is a record breaking champion, whether you like it or not, who has surpassed the greats of years gone by.

But all that aside, how do the fans of the WWE really feel about Cena’s injury? Some will tell you that it is a blessing in disguise. The current main event scene sees Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan in a war in which Triple H (and a new-look Corporation) holds an iron fist over the company, stamping out any form of revolt to this new regime. Prior to this years SummerSlam, the landscape of the company was as it has been for some time, with Cena at the helm as WWE champion, and the actions of the McMahon’s and Triple H limited to bookings, GM firings and hirings, and so on. But at SummerSlam, it all changed for the better.

Daniel Bryan fantastically beat John Cena in the main-event for the WWE title, in an outright contender for match of the year. The Staples Center was electric, as ‘The Beard’ overcame ‘The Champ’; the arena flooded with confetti as it dropped down from the rafters, and finally, the WWE Universe were granted their wish with Bryan as champion. Daniel Bryan had finally reached the top of the mountain, and beat the champion emphatically. However, we were all waiting for something… something I’ve labelled the ‘California Screw-job’.

About a million WWE fans’ faces around the globe turned sour, as Randy Orton’s music boomed out in Los Angeles. It was an overwhelming sound, as the Apex Predator appeared at the top of the ramp, Money in the Bank briefcase in hand, whilst Bryan stood in the ring, clutching onto the one thing that his entire career was building up to.

Will he/won’t he? The question on everyone’s lips.

Orton slowly slithered down to the ring, and at that moment, you knew instantly why Triple H had involved himself in all of this. Seconds later, the COO of the WWE taps Bryan on the shoulder and before you could say ‘NO! NO! NO!’, Triple H hits Bryan with the patented Pedigree and hands the title to Randy Orton.

And that moment, however obvious it may have been to some, has changed the direction of the company considerably; a passing of the torch from Vince McMahon to his son-in-law, a new era – The second coming of the McMahon-Helmsley faction.

Thus far, it has been exciting to watch, and has allowed the WWE to take on a new chapter in its illustrious history. The die-hard Cena fans will be upset, but will accept that every once in a while a superstar sustains injuries. However, had Cena’s injury happened further down the line, would we all still be talking about and questioning what Triple H thinks is ‘best for business?’ In my opinion, it may have taken a while longer for the WWE to integrate this angle which sees Triple H, Randy Orton and The Shield pummelling superstars left, right and centre. If Cena were eligible to carry on performing past SummerSlam, would he still be the champion? Would Randy have cashed it in regardless? There are so many possibilities that could have stemmed from SummerSlam in that regard.

So, with Cena firmly out of the picture until roughly January or February of 2014, how will the WWE adapt without him? His time as the face of the WWE has been a long reign, and possibly one of the longest of all time. It’s time to take a look at what could be be dominating RAW, Smackdown and beyond, for the next few months with Cena licking his wounds.

(Note: These are ranked in no particular order.)

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London Grammar – If You Wait Album Review

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

London Grammar are a trio from London, England comprising of Hannah Reid, Dan Rothman and Dot Major. To date they have released three singles and EPs: Metal & Dust, Wasting My Young Years, and Strong. If You Wait is their debut album and was released on 9th September. London Grammar are one of the few bands I have heard of late who have really dragged me into their musical spell. A combination of ambience, trance and a classical aura create an intoxicating blend which somewhat demands you to listen to them. Their Soundcloud page and them featuring on Disclosure’s No.1 album pulled me into their sound – demanding my attention, and subsequently my adoration.

‘Hey Now’ is the first track we encounter and sets the mood for the whole album. It is chilled, relaxing and enthralling. Hannah’s vocals are similar to those of Florence Welch from Florence & the Machine if you haven’t heard of them before. ‘Stay Awake’ features mellow guitar riffs alongside a powerful cymbal and snare combination carrying the track through. ‘Shyer’ offers a main picked guitar riff and subtle synths in the background pushing the song forward. Hannah’s voice is uniform throughout all the songs meaning they flow excellently between one another. ‘Wasting My Young Years’ is an orchestral ambient masterpiece and one of the best songs from this glorious album. Slow mellow guitars combined with piano and violins thrown in for good measure. The song lifts in tempo in the middle and then drops back into the acoustic for the latter part. Brilliant. ‘Sights’ starts with piano chords and echoing guitars fading in the background as more instruments flow in creating an atmospheric backing for the vocals to punch through.

‘Strong’ is the true masterpiece here though. It has everything they have to offer in spades: amazing vocals, fantastic instrumental parts and just screams excellence throughout the 4:35 duration. One of the best songs of the year by far. ‘Nightcall’ is a simpler song – a cover version of French house artist Kavinsky – featuring mainly piano and Hannah’s voice pushing through and commanding the song. Towards the end it features a more upbeat drum section than previously heard throughout the album. ‘Metal & Dust’ was the band’s first single and is more upbeat compared to some of their songs, but works well as an up-tempo number. ‘Interlude’ combines piano, vocals and a light drum exploit and shows off their talent as a live act as well as a recorded one. ‘Flickers’ has a South American vibe with the inclusion of bongos which add to the overall sound and progression of the song – slightly different to the rest of the album, but works incredibly well. ‘If You Wait’ is the final track on the standard album and starts off chilled and ambient. The sound of the piano cuts through the echoing backing with the vocals piercing through. A great way to end an album.

With the Deluxe edition you are lucky enough to receive six extra tracks: ‘Help’, ‘Darling Are You Gonna Leave Me’, ‘Help Me Lose My Mind’, ‘High Life’, ‘Maybe’ and ‘When We Were Young’. The best track out of these has to be ‘Help Me Lose My Mind’ which is their collaboration with Disclosure. I spoke about how good this song was in my Disclosure review.

This is one of the best debut albums of the year – fantastic from start to finish, and should see this small trio go far in the world of music. Simply stunning.

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Ukraine 0-0 England – 5 Reasons Three Lions Aren’t The Superpower Some Think They Are

Media Image Ltd

Media Image Ltd

It’s Tuesday night. I’m sat at my laptop scrolling through enraged tweets and furious Facebook updates when it occurred to me that England really aren’t the massive superpower that we are dubbed to be by some. On the face of it, England have lost just 8 times in just over 60 games since 2008- but delve deeper into that stat and it’s grimmer reading than was first thought- especially when you consider this worrying stat from Opta.

“@OptaJoe: 2 – England have only beaten two teams in World Cup 2014 qualifying so far; Moldova and San Marino. Timid.”

In fact the best team England have beaten in a competitive game since 2008 is Croatia, a team who’s only player of any real note is Luka Modric- the man who managed just 4 goals for Real Madrid in the whole of the 2012/13 season. Granted, Croatia are 8th in the world rankings but they aren’t exactly the big name that England should be looking to beat on a regular basis.

It’s all well and good being able to beat the likes of Italy, Brazil and even Spain in friendlies, but when it comes to it, England don’t have the bottle to see it out, even in the 2010 World Cup against Germany, England were drubbed 4-1, a side they had beaten 2-1 less than two years previous. So why is it that England just can’t perform to the same level as these national teams?

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Amy Poehler Keeps It Simple At The Emmy Awards

But in this case, simple is a good thing!

Amy Poehler brought her HIGHlarious self to the Emmys, but there was nothing funny about her dress.

Because funny dresses are not the goal here, people!

Instead, Amy wore a black Basler dress with gold accents at the hips, which fit her tiny frame perfectly.

We’re also so glad that Miz Poehler’s up ‘do allowed us to see her gorgeous orange earrings, which her manicure happened to match!

Orange is the new black!

Hmm. Black and orange? It looks like someone is excited for Halloween!!!

[Image via Getty Images.]

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Lena Dunham Has Lost All Sense Of Fashion In A Pile Of Flowers At The 2013 Emmy Awards!

What is this??

We know it’s Lena Dunham, but we’re not sure what’s going on with her dress or her makeup at the 2013 Emmy Awards.

The Girls star showed up in a Prada pile of flowers dress that is neither flattering nor right for this glam night out. And the makeup?? Is this the Grammys?!

Lena better hope her Girls have a nip slip; that might be the only way viewers will forget this unfortunate look.

[Image via AP Images.]

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Jimmy Fallon Welcomes Daughter Winnie Rose

Jimmy Fallon Nancy Juvonen Welcome Daughter Winnie Rose

Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Update: “I’m the father of a beautiful baby girl. Her name is Winnie Rose Fallon and she’s so cute. She’s 5 lbs., 9 oz. Me and my wife are so happy,” Fallon said during his monologue Wednesday. “Thank you all for all the well-wishes on Facebook and Twitter and the blogs. I’m just so happy.”

Originally posted July 23: Surprise – Jimmy Fallon is a dad!

The Late Night host, 38, and wife Nancy Juvonen Fallon welcomed a baby girl on Tuesday, July 23 at 6:21 a.m., his rep confirms to PEOPLE exclusively.

The first-time parents are “overjoyed about the arrival of their beautiful daughter,” the rep tells PEOPLE.

Fallon, who will take over The Tonight Show from Jay Leno next year, and his producer wife, 46, were married in December 2007.

Juvonen Fallon, who runs Flower Films with Drew Barrymore, has been referred to as “the coolest girl in the world” by her husband. Perhaps there’s now another lady in the running?

The couple’s latest addition will join Gary, the pair’s female golden retriever who often appears on his Emmy-nominated talk show.

– Sarah Michaud with reporting by Julie Dam

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