Friday, December 30, 2011

A Look at The First Half of Season 2 of The Walking Dead

When the first season of The Walking Dead premiered I was so excited to finally have a zombie themed show on TV. The first season of The Walking Dead was a blood soaked film grain filled rip roaring good time. During this season all the characters were established well and we saw a good range of situations that would probably happen in a post apocalyptic Atlanta, Georgia. Over all the first season felt satisfying and was exactly what I thought the show would be.

So due to the great run on the first season The Walking Dead was renewed for a second season. With a plethora of great story lines in the graphic novel that the show is based on it seemed to there was no way AMC could lose. Well in some ways they didn’t The Walking Dead turned in some super high viewer counts but does that necessarily mean this was a good season or just that the hype was good? Well in my opinion it means the hype was good because the first half of season 2 has just been far to slow and boring.

When the second season kicked off everything looked good the group of survivors were on the road and headed out of Atlanta to continue to purse their hope of finding a safe zombie free place to live. Eventually on the highway they run into an area where there are to many abandoned cars to continue so they stop and see if they can collect any supplies. At this point im still on board and excited to see what the season has in store. So after floods of zombies come through the highway of abandoned cars the little girl of the group gets chased off and sheriff Rick has to go save her. At this point Rick loses the girl while protecting her. It is this fatal mistake that sends the first half of this season of the series down the drain. How could one little thing cause the season to be so bad? Well its because after this girl gets lost the writers cant seem to get over it and instead of the story progressing or letting us see more of post apocalyptic America we get stuck at a farm house just outside Atlanta and look for this girl for the rest of the season.

Now before you jump to conclusions and think I am someone who needs constant action to like a series I am not. Some of my favorite shows are not very fast paced. But what separates the slower shows that I love from this season of The Walking Dead is character development. If you are going to place your characters in a very boring environment then that time should be devoted to developing the characters and their bonds and connections with each other. This is where the writers of The Walking dead fail this season. While the characters are interacting they never give us a pay off worth dealing with such a dull first half of the season.

However things aren’t quite all bad the season has had some good moments like the relationship between Glen and the farmers daughter, and when Ricks son got shot that caused worth while and realist feeling interaction. And of coarse finding a barn full of walkers but these things still don’t make up for an over all boring season.

To me the first season was like being on a cruise ship and constantly seeing new things and new places but the first half of the second season is more like stopping at a crappy motel along the way to a really good vacation and deciding not to leave. I really hope things pick up when The Walking Dead comes back in February but it will take a lot to make up for such a slow first half of the season.

By Jimmy Bishop

(Article has been edited: I realize when I posted this from insomnia that it was not very well written or thought out and I made some major accuracy mistakes that I know better than to do. Sorry for the issue. Thanks for reading.)

Maybe this could be a good new direction.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Album Review: The Chariot - Long Live

If you ever find yourself in a pit and you see the guitarist crowd surf by and then notice the bassist is right next to you in the pit throwing his instrument to the rafters then it is safe to assume you are at a Chariot show. Known for their intense live performances and cult like following of devoted fans The Chariot has created a legacy on feedback and destruction. 

Well it’s been almost 3 years now since the release of Wars and Rumors of Wars in late 2009 and The Chariot is back with a vengeance on Long Live.

Long Live is a 10-track monster of a full length laden with distortion, feedback, and all out fun. If you haven’t heard of these guys before the best way to describe the sound would be orderly chaos. Every song on this album seems to be held together by a thin thread that’s fraying at the edges. Every track is like a wall of dissonance and feedback ordered into a rhythm revolving around Josh Scogans guttural and emotion filled screams. But make no mistake this is not simple music there are time signature changes left and right and some great off time stuff on tracks like "The Heavens."  While being straight up heavy Long Live has lots of great fun moments and even comical parts like the random sample in the end of "Calvin Makenzie." But make no mistake there is a lot of really great lyrical work on this album like

May the history book read of all of our names?
Be it blood, be it ink, but at least we were free
This is only but a fraction of what I've got to say
It must be said, it must be sad
If I leave this earth tonight may it be said that I spoke my peace
I spoke with the wrath of his grace
Calm rose: come violent wind
Oh we stand hand in hand and we walk without fear
This is a revolution” –The Chariot  Song: The City

The Chariot also really likes keeping songs feeling fresh through their tempo changes and by never letting a song settle into one riff for to long. Songs like "David De La Hoz" really exemplify this because of how many times they change riffs and by the slow section with Dan Smith from Listener rambling passionately over a drum driven build up that ends up turning into a breakdown filled with some of the dirtiest guitar and bass tones you will ever hear. Honestly the guys from The Chariot are masters at making ugly sound amazing. You could desecrate amps for hours, detune your equipment till they fell to pieces, and still never create sounds as dirty as what the guys from The Chariot have crafted on this piece of art.

Long Live is yet another beautiful piece of dissonance created by the might Chariot and is beyond deserving of a listen.

10 / 10

Review By: Jimmy Bishop

The Shape Of (Horror)Punk To Come

A few years ago there was a band from New Jersey that went by the name of the Misfits. Maybe you've heard of them? From this tiny band spawned a small subgenre in the punk movement called 'Horror Punk'. Now, thirty years later, horrorpunk is still around with numerous bands, labels and 'zine's dedicated to the genre, but this is where my problem comes into play....most of these bands SUCK. Without calling any of them out, allow me to explain....
Had you asked me as recently as a year ago who the best horror band was, other than the Misfits, I would have undoubtedly nominated Arizona's own Calabrese, and up until this year when Bluefield, WV act Blitzkid released their new album 'Apparitional' I wouldn't have even given it a second thought. And the reason behind that is simple... Calabrese write good, catchy songs. They put a lot of money into the production of their albums. Their artwork is done by professionals, not kids using clip art in 'Baby's First Photoshop' classes. They sink money back into their band, promoting it, putting out new merch all the time, always doing things to stay in the minds of their audience, and they've spared almost no expense in doing so. And THIS is my problem. A lot of other horror bands wanna try and ride the wave that the Misfits have started, and that bands like Calabrese and Blitzkid are currently making. They make use of campy stage names, over-the-top gore in pictures or 'album art', and basically just try to out 'Halloween' each other giving no REAL thought to anything they're doing. Apparently at some point in time they forgot that they have to write songs that people want to listen to. I know it's supposed to be punk rock, but that doesn't mean you have to play the same three chords in the same progression in EVERY song. More importantly I can't tell you the number of horror bands that I've listened to that sound like they recorded their album in a closet, or on a stereo in the basement where they practice. Music muddled and barely audible...cymbals overpowering everything else whenever hit....vocals entirely too loud for a singer who can't hold a tune....seriously horrible lyrics that aren't even thought out, much less interesting or entertaining. How many songs can you write from one collection of Edgar Allen Poe's writings? Or how many obscure 80's B-movie references can you make in a feeble attempt to give yourself some extra credibility?
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not hating on these people entirely. I applaud the effort and attempts at continuing a genre that is often overlooked and not taken seriously. However, we, the ones participating in the scene, are just as much to blame for this. Why would anyone want to spend money to buy your record when it sounds like it was recorded on a cassette tape from a boombox and the artwork looks like something done by Uncle Jimmy's 8 year old son? Stop putting out an album of 13 songs that sound like shit, and instead put out a 5 song EP that sounds great! Instead of getting your artwork done by Uncle Jimmy's kid, hire a professional. Really spend some time to hone your craft and make everything look and sound its best! If you put your absolute best effort forward, and really take your time in writing good,catchy songs, and take your time preparing the album and accompanying merch, people will respond in kind. However, if you continue to dilute the scene with halfassed recordings, and hastily assembled releases, everyone will continue to ignore you, and not take you seriously. Stop scene suicide, before we really ARE dead.

By Jaysin Horror

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Album Review: Structures - Divided By

While listening to Structures’ debut LP Divided By, I was reminded of a review of Super 8 by Internet film critic The Nostalgia Chick. She didn’t like the film very much, and as she and her friend were leaving the theatre, he asked her, “What do you like? Do you like anything?” Her reply: “I don’t get paid to like shit! I get paid to bitch about shit, that’s what I’m doing.”

That’s a more extreme version of my philosophy on reviewing. After all, I am a professional (albeit in the sense that other people pay me to write these things). I don’t necessarily bitch for bitching’s sake, but when I’m listening to an album I try to remain as detached from the material as possible, to determine whether or not it’s good, bad, or ugly based on its own merits. 

Not so with this one. Because as much as I tried to distance myself from the hype – both leading up to and continuing after its release – it’s everything I want in a Canadian progressive hardcore outfit’s debut LP and more. 
It’s got plenty of time signature switches, infectious djent grooves, and enough breakdowns and blast beats to keep me warm at night. It runs the gamut from crushingly heavy to soaringly melodic, often in the span of the same song. It’s got tight production from the Machine Shop’s Will Putney, it’s fast (at a mere 32-minute running time), and, most importantly, it’s fun.

Serious fun. While some young bands struggle with the balance between technical proficiency, production values, and, well, enjoying themselves, these five kids from Toronto – “kids” is not a misnomer, as they’re all, according to their Facebook page, between nineteen and twenty years old – have it all figured out. 

Musically, everything is in top gear here, from Spyros Georgiou and Brendon Padjasek’s shredding guitar work to Andrew McEnaney’s bull-in-a-china-shop drumming. These guys are great at what they do, but they’re not bogged down by taking that too seriously. For every impeccably timed riff, there’s a rousing set of gang vocals to go with it. (“Our lives are nothing but a means to an end!” goes the first line of “Encounters,” which is easily in my personal top three.)

It’s difficult enough to find the right words when I don’t like something, but when I enjoy a record as much as I enjoyed this one, I’ve found it’s even harder to remain neutral. My one hope for Structures, in what will surely be a long and productive run for them, is that they don’t lose sight of the energy and spirit that makes this debut so damn good. While “spirit” may not be the right word, on multiple listens, it’s always the first one that comes to mind.

SCORE: 9.5/10

Review by: Julia Celtnieks

Must Have Apps For Android Users

So you have a shiny new Android phone but you want to get the most out of it? Well here is my list of The Blurs must have apps for any Android user.

1.     ADW Launcher EX By Anderweb
While there are lots of home replacement apps out there I always end up coming back to ADW. To me ADW is the fastest and most customizable launcher out there. Not to mention how many different themes there are for it. The new scrollable dock is also a very solid selling point for this app.

2.     Advanced Task Killer By ReChild
Anyone who owns an Android device needs to have a task killer unless they like a slow laggy phone. While there are a lot of task killers out there this is the most popular and is pretty light on system resources. Just remember to make an ignore list for all the apps that should continuously run.

3.     Double Twist Player By Doubletwist
Since the battle between iOS and Android first started Apple’s iOS had a solid leg up on Android due to its seamless integration with the users computer through iTunes. Enter Double Twist the first program for Android that allows seamless syncing between Android devices and the users computer. Double Twist is available free on the Android Market and has an accompanying free multi platform download for your computer on their website. This software runs like a tank. Also for a cheap price you can upgrade to Double Twist Air. Air let’s you sync wirelessly over your home Wifi and will make all iPhone users in the vicinity very jelly.

4.     Ice Cream Sandwich ADW Theme By Kovdev
This is my current favorite ADW theme and it is the perfect theme for anyone whose phone may not be getting an upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich anytime soon. Make all your friends jealous with this well made and attractive theme. Hater’s gon hate!

5.     LP New MIUI Icon Pack By TweetyPeety
This is hand down the best icon pack on the market and it’s free! All the icons match very well and this is the only icon pack that ive found that has a replacement icon for almost every app in my phone. The creator of this pack is also very good about constantly updating it with new icons.

6.     Handcent SMS By handcent_market
Handcent SMS is a great SMS replacement app and is the only one I use. Handcent just runs much better than the stock SMS app and has a much better look. Thanks to a wide range of customizability and well made themes this app will fit in with any phones theme. The way Handcent threads conversations is also very nice and can give users an iphone look if they so please.

7.     iPhone VO Theme Lite By Sangmin,Han
If for some reason you ever feel inclined to make your Android phone look like its running iOS then look no further than this theme. The iPhone VO Lite theme is by miles the best iOS theme on the market and it’s free.

8.     Beautiful Widgets By LevelUp Studio
Beautiful Widgets is an all inclusive widget pack that features some of the best looking weather and time widgets on the market. Their home screen clock is my favorite on the market and I have it skinned with a great Gingerbread style theme. All of the widgets are highly customizable and BW has a huge selection of skins.

9.     Pure Calendar Widget By Francois DESLANDES
Pure Calendar Widget is exactly what its name implies a well made calendar widget. This widget has lots of different sizes and even support for tablets. It also features a handy timeline option. Like any great app this is also very customizable and has a large selection of skins.

10. Remote for iTunes By Hyperfine
Remote for iTunes is an awesome simple app that allows you to control iTunes on any computer on the same Wifi as your phone. However is this a lot more than just next, stop, and play this app actually lets you browse your whole library on your phone just as if you were in front of the computer yourself. This app is also great for controlling music during parties.

11. Vignette By neilandtheresa
Vignette is the very best camera app out there. It has a ton of different effects and photo frames to choose from and even has options like steady shot. Vignette will get the most out of any cameras phone. Even on phones with very poor quality cameras vignette will make photos look far better to anything shot on the stock camera app.

12. Where’s My Droid By alienmanfc6
Have you ever lost your phone and went to call it when you realize its on silent? Well get out of that fetal position and do something about this problem! Go download Where’s My Droid. This app works very simply once it is installed on the users phone it helps you find your phone whenever its lost even if it is on silent. Where’s My Droid works by having a keyword whenever another phone texts your phone with this keyword where my droid will automatically start up and turn your phones volume to full and then emit a loud noise until you find your phone.

Album Review: Tycho - Dive

Since I was first introduced to Tycho when Sunrise Projector was released I have become a huge fan of his super smooth style of IDM and after hearing the Costal Brake single I was very excited for his new full length.

Well Dive is finally here and I’m here to give my breakdown of the new album. On Dive we are seeing a strong progression of Scott Hansen aka Tycho as a composer. For this album Scott used a much wider range of interments including guitars and real drums. Talking about the new album Scott said he decided to use more real instruments to allow his live shows to have more personal feel. Without seeing a live show I personally feel this choice adds a lot of depth to Dive and really sets it apart in the IDM world.

Dive starts off with “A Walk”. This track is a great precursor to the album and really lets everyone know what to expect. It features some great synth work and drums that really drive the track before some guitars come in later in the song. If you aren’t already in love with the album by the time the grove at the near end of the song hits then this album isn’t for you. “Hours” brings in some airy synths and is exactly the kind of mellow grove we expect from Tycho. “Daydream” kicks off with guitars and progresses from there into a realm only Scott could create with synths drums and bass all weaving into a beautiful electro nirvana. “Dive” opens up with a great sample of a women’s voice and an overall upbeat synth grove interspersed with the same reoccurring sample. The track steadily builds into a blissful crescendo. “Costal Brake” was released as a single prior to the release of the album but still fits in perfectly with the rest of Scott’s newer material. This track is a buttery smooth IDM take on house and trance. This is an all around feel good track that seems tailor made for a video montage. On the track “Ascension” we are seeing a solid progression of the kind of tracks produced on Past is Prologue. This track is 100% classic Tycho and has some great big sounding synths that let up for a pan flute inspired interlude that seems reminiscent of the music of the Native Americans. The next track “Melanine” is my personal favorite on the album. This slow and reflective track is heavy with soulful guitars rifts and a simplistic arrangement that gives almost the feeling of a ballad. “Adrift” is a track Scott has previously released in 2008 on the Adrift / From Home EP. Not much is new here but the track is still as smooth and mellow as ever and cleanly blends with the rest of the album. Epigram is another upbeat jam with all the elements we would expect. This track seems very reminiscent of Send and Receive and Past is Prologue from his previous work. However that does not mean it is a bad track because those were some of my favorite tracks off the previous full length. Dive finally ends with “Elegy” an absolutely flawless final track. This track really shows off Scotts composing skills. The track uses some very original rhythms for an IDM producer and is interspersed with beautiful guitar work. The entire song is a slow glistening reflective track driven along by solid guitar work, bubbling synths, and a great bass line. The guitar leads in this song are absolutely prefect and must make a great impact at live shows.

If you have been a fan of Tychos previous work then you will instantly love Dive and it will find a solid place on your IDM shelf. Even if you have never listened to IDM before Tychos ultra smooth style makes his work appealing and easy to digest for any listener.

For me this album is a solid 10 out of 10

- Jimmy Bishop

Album Review: Substructure - Monolith

St. Louis, Missouri’s Substructure (David Bruno, Jordan Sanders, Kevin Dannerman, Joey Harrel and Joey Nichols) is a group of five guys crafting a sound that they prefer to refer to as “Intergalactic Space Djams.” After a thorough listen, I’d have to agree that the label is pretty accurate. “Monolith,” released in late August of 2011, has set the group on a definitive path to respect and attention.

“Monolith” starts off with “Cassiopeia,” a brilliant piece of art that transcends from extraterrestrial to extremely heavy within a matter of second. Much can be derived from the overall concept of the album in this first two minutes of the EP. A flawless transition leads into the second track, “Canis Minor.” A whirlpool of intricate guitar and drum work are held together by a constant lyrical theme of lost sight and camaraderie, reaching a crescendo with the line “Rise up, this disunity is killing us. We must bond together or this world will bury us.” An interlude at the end of the second track leads right into the third. “Canis Major” is as beautiful as the first two are heavy, retaining the concept with lyrics such as “We must end this constant struggle: awaken the ghost in the shell. We must end this constant struggle: revive mankind from hell.” Over twice as long as the first two tracks, ranging from smooth and jazzy to hellishly intricate and complex, this number is refreshing and unique. “Canis Major” displays ingenious harmonies, effects, beats and leads, highlighting the musicianship and compositional prowess these lads possess.

As the EP begins its final descent into “Telescopium,” Substructures flexes their undoubtedly powerful minds again, pulling some massive tonal shifts without even thinking about asking for permission. “We have fallen to the ground, but the truth it we have the strength to abound” rings out as “Monoceros” roars into sight. Staying in the form of the previous songs, the EP’s fifth track breaks into a groovier side of Substructure’s sound which keeps the listener guessing – as always. With the end unfortunately in sight, “Cephus” rears its head, igniting a salvo of jazzy leads, otherworldly synth pads, opulent ghost notes and rampaging “djent” riffs. After a moments respite, searing leads sweep in and carry you into a Born of Osiris-esque savvy synth break before bringing an apocalypse of low-string open note strikes and palm mutes, complimented with off-beat snare shots and guttural vocalizations that brings “Monolith” to a close.

My first listen to Substructure’s EP was ground-breaking, personally. I listened to it multiple times a day for the first week afterwards and still listen to it regularly. While “Monolith” packs in six songs (one more than most EPs have), there is so much thought put into every single riff and section including a variety of stylistic exploration within each song that makes it all but impossible to deny the strength and quality of their musicianship. Any enthusiast of extreme music will be able to find something to applaud on “Monolith” – be it the perfectly places interludes, dazzlingly original synth pad usage, amazing guitar work, incredibly drumming chops or brilliant vocals.

You liked Born of Osiris’ “The New Reign,” The Faceless’ “Akeldama,” and Structures’ “All of the Above” – you are going to love this brilliant piece of Intergalactic Space Djamage.
10 out of 10, on all fronts.

--Donnie Vitanovo

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Welcome To The Blur

For a while now I have been contemplating the idea of starting a blog. The Blur is the manifestation of these thoughts. This blog will cover almost everything I find interesting. Some of the main focuses will be Music, Film, Graphic Design, Architecture, Hookah, and Tech.

Jimmy Bishop