Category Archives: Opinion

Weighing in with the Best of 2015

Although 2015 didn’t turn out exactly as director Robert Zemeckis predicted in his hit film Back to the Future Part II, it was still quite an exciting year.

So, we haven’t exactly figured out how to manufacture flying cars or self-adjusting clothing, but we did celebrate 50 years of the Grateful Dead; we witnessed “The Killer” Jerry Lee Lewis embark on his final U.K. Tour; we watched the Foo Fighters perform despite frontman Dave Grohl’s broken leg; we scoffed as presidential candidate Donald Trump fought with artists such as Neil Young, Method Man, and R.E.M.; and laughed at the many different parodies of Drake’s “Hotline Bling” music video.

But, like every year, 2015 had both its “ups” and its “downs.”

Following the Nov. 13 terrorist attack on a Paris nightclub, which claimed the lives of 89 victims attending an Eagles of Death Metal concert, people all over the world came together in a show of solidarity for the victims and their families.

This year, we also said goodbye to such incredible musicians as legendary Blues guitarist B.B. King, New Orleans R&B icon Allen Toussaint, former-Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland and Motörhead founder and frontman Lemmy Kilmister.

Now, as we prepare to bid adieu to 2015, let us reflect one more time on some of the best new music that this year had to offer.

Here are my picks for the Best albums of 2015 (by genre):

Yonder Mountain’s New Album Is No ‘Black Sheep’

Since the progressive bluegrass band’s last studio recording—The Show, which hit no. 1 on Billboard’s bluegrass charts back in 2009—the Yonder Mountain String Band has focused most of its time and energy on tour, performing at different music festivals and concert halls across the country.

Now, six years later, the five-member string outfit returns with the release of their sixth studio album Black Sheep.

5 Things to Love and Hate about Jurassic World

The newest chapter in the Jurassic Park saga follows two brothers who return back to Isla Vida years after the park has been developed into a state-of-the-art facility where dinosaurs are put on display as a public spectacle.

Warning the following contains some spoilers, but I do my best to try and keep them at a minimum.

A New ‘BadAzz’ Emerges

TD2CH_album_coverREVIEW: Touch Down 2 Cause Hell – Boosie BadAzz 

It’s hard to believe that the new album, Touch Down 2 Cause Hell, is only the sixth studio LP from the biggest “BadAzz” in the hip-hop game.

But you have to imagine it would be damn near impossible for anyone to get in some studio time when they’re facing the death penalty on murder charges… Not to mention that even though he was found “Not Guilty” in 2012, Boosie stayed in prison, where he would serve three years of an eight-year sentence for possession.

After being released from Louisiana State Penitentiary in 2014, Boosie hit the ground running, producing his first album since 2010, which just skyrocketed to No. 3 on the Billboard 200 charts in the first week of sales.

Rockatansky Rides Again

With gossip blogs buzzing over what is perhaps one of Director George Miller’s best scripted and best cast films, I figured I’d throw my two cents on the latest chapter into the world of Mad Max Rockatansky and the chick-heavy casting choices.

Until I did some research I was unaware that Miller “decided that the reboot will take place in the post-apocalyptic Australia, years after the new Max (Tom Hardy) lost his family, because he did not wish to do a remake or retell the story that had already been told and had wanted to update the universe and the wasteland and wanted new moviegoers to remember Max as a man with nothing to lose after losing his family,” according to IMDB.

This really peaked my interest, so much so that I started to rewatch the old Mel Gibson ones to better understand this dystopian universe.

Alabama Shakes’ New Album Is A Monster

2015AlabamaShakes_SoundAndColor_100215.galleryThe Alabama Shakes clearly did not succumb to the typical “sophomore slump,” after the overwhelmingly successful release of their second full-length studio album, Sound & Color, earlier this week.  According to reports from Billboard.com, music industry forecasters say the new album is expected to move more than 90,000 copies, which would place the roots-rock group at the top of the Billboard 200 charts for the first-time.

Following the success of their 2013 debut album, Boys & Girls, the Shakes went on to receive three Grammy nominations for best new artist, best rock performance for their song “Hold On,” and best recording package. In 2014, they were even asked to perform at the White House alongside Steve Cropper and Booker T. Jones.

Blur ‘Whip’s Up Their Best Album Yet

71I-hyX91XL._SL1426_Following a more than decade-long hiatus, 90s-era British rock group Blur recently resurfaced with a new album, The Magic Whip, the band’s first studio recording since the release of Think Tank back in 2003.

The album was written over a five-day span in 2013, whilst the band was scheduled to perform at a music festival in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, the concert was cancelled, but the extended layover resulted in 12 new tracks from the band, which has reunited on-and-off since 2007.

But, perhaps this seven-plus year break paid off.

Prank Shines New Light On Neglected Park

IMG_5014.JPGIt may have been an April Fool’s joke, but what made the prank work isn’t as funny.

On April 1, the blog ilovefreeconcerts.com, which serves as a calendar for free concerts in New York City, announced that the Walt Disney World Resort purchased the World’s Fair grounds at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park from the New York City Parks Department, with plans of hosting a yearly music and technology festival.

“I can’t believe anybody took that joke seriously,” Kim Ohanian, Community Board 7’s parks committee chairwoman, said.

This story originally appeared in the April 14, 2015 edition of the Queens Tribune. 

2 new categories

In addition to my traditional Best of 2014, I decided to add two new categories to this year’s list of honorees.

guardians-of-the-galaxy-soundtrack-570x570Best Soundtrack of 2014:
Guardians of the Galaxy
Despite being one of the better superhero movies ever made, the Guardians of the Galaxy movie wouldn’t have been as fantastic as it was if it wasn’t for the soundtrack.

Featuring a line-up of 1970s chart-toppers, including 10cc, Blue Swede, some Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie and the Five Stairsteps classic “ooh child,” the Guardians of the Galaxy OST really kicks some serious ass.

Jack_White_-_LazarettoBest Rock Album of 2014:
Lazaretto – Jack White
Apart from the crazy angel hologram printed in each vinyl copy of the album, Lazaretto may be the finest example of the many talents that Jack White possesses.

Ranging from folk rock to blues riffs to some good old rock’n’roll, White’s ability to play guitar really shines through on his second solo album.

White said he was inspired to return to the studio after stumbling across a collection of short stories, poems, and plays that he had written at just 19-years-old. Brushing off the cobwebs, White reworked his old compositions into what is arguably one of the best compositions in the 39-year-old’s career.

When the album surfaced, last June, Lazaretto soared to number one on the Billboard Top 200 charts, selling approximately 138,000 copies in the first week. Lazaretto is currently nominated for a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album.

Ebola: Don’t Believe the Hype

With only 11 confirmed and 114 potentially exposed to the West African ebola virus, should our nation of more than 316 million people live in fear of a potential outbreak?

According to the Center for Disease Control, while the 2014 Ebola epidemic is the largest in recorded history, impacting multiple countries in Western Africa, the risk of an Ebola outbreak in the U.S. is very low.

Although the Ebola virus can be spread in a number of ways, it cannot be transmitted by air or by water. A person can only be infected through direct contact with another person who has been contaminated with the virus.

The CDC also said that healthcare providers, family and friends of Ebola patients run the most risk of coming in contact with infected blood or body fluids.

So, if there is such little risk of an outbreak, why has Ebola become such a hot-button issue in the United States?

Perhaps it was the widespread transmission of the disease in countries like Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone? Perhaps it was the first laboratory-confirmed case of Ebola in the U.S.? Or, perhaps it was all the attention from politicians and celebrities, like President Barrack Obama and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who have taken a vocal stand on fighting the epidemic?

But with all of the buzz surrounding Ebola, its easy to see why so many Americans have succumb to the fear of widespread outbreak.

— Daniel Offner

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