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February 12, 2014 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 5A

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Wednesday, February 12, 2014 -

In defense of
January and
bad movies

"January is Hollywood's ver-
sion of sharting on the wall."
That's a word-for-word recap
of something I thought about,
said out loud and then tweeted
a little bit over a month ago

"I ain't afraid of no ghosts."
Too much angst
on confused 6ttt'

(for more
discerning
analysis,
reference @
NotAkshayS-
eth on Twit-
ter.)
I don't
care to recall
exactly what
ran through

AKSHAY
SETH

Crosses tries its
hand in "softcore"
synth punk
By HANNAH WEINER
DailyArts Writer
In pictures, China Moreno
has a big black goatee, spiky hair
and black t-shirts studded with
intense graph-
ics. So, from
these pictures, C.
it's not hard
to deduce that
Moreno enjoys Crosses
heavy metal
music and, in Self-released
fact, sings for
heavy metal
bands.
In his previous band,
Deftones, Moreno's vocals
pierced tracks with names like
"Nosebleed," "Knife Prty" and
"Rats!Rats!Rats!" From these
track titles, it's also not hard to
deduce that Moreno's voice has
a distinctive scream and growl
familiar to the genre.
That's why Crosses' debut
album, ttt, feels relatively soft
- even tender, at points. Loaded
with euphoric, glowing synths
and gently echoing vocals, tracks
like "trophys," "Thholoyghst"

and "Nineteen Ninety Four"
aim to dilute a hardcore sound,
boiling it down to slower beats
and unremarkable lyrics. Found
in the middle of the album,
these songs slow the momentum
and intensity of ttt but also
sonically gain complexity,
showing Moreno's versatility as
a vocalist. Essentially, Moreno is
saying, "Hey, I can do more than
scream." And he's right - his
voice can soothe, too.
But while the calmer songs
serve as the crux of ttt, the open-
ing tracks aim to ease hardcore
listeners into an ultimately (and
relatively, of course) "softcore"
album. "This is a Trick" and
"Telepathy" toe the line of emo-
punk revival, generating a sound
that could identify itself as "pro-
gressively emo." Yet, the third
track, "Bitches Brew" ends on a
screaming note, nodding toward
the hardcore listeners and thank-
ing them. But, it's exactly at this
point where the album appears
to muddy its sonic identity - and
not in an edgy, genre-mixing
way. Moreno's screams seem to
indicate confusion, both on part
of the listeners and the band:
"What genre is this? What sound
are we going for? Is this new or
old? Are we Deftones or are we
Radiohead?"
The perplexity probably stems

from a constantly changing tone
and shape. At points, the album
fuses hardcore energy into a
sound that feels less abrasive
than a metal production from
Deftones. At other points, it feels
as if Moreno senses a pressure
from his previous heavy metal
influences, channeling that
anxiety into screams that don't
quite make sense in terms of the
album's progression.
ttt doesn't repulse, nor does it
attract. Instead, it confuses - it
draws in a certain audience and
then throws a curveball, refusing
to neatly fit into one sound or the
other. Just as you feel comfort-
able in melodically pleasing, mild
tracks, a harsh driving guitar will
interrupt you, and then revert
back to an acoustic guitar ("Nine-
teen Eighty Seven"). Moreno has
found a new, serene tone that
suits his voice - perhaps he just
needs to embrace it and let go of
his Deftones persona.
It's a noble effort from a band
that badly wants to strip itself
of hardcore connotations and
enter the realm of synth-y, emo-
fueled music. But, the generation
that grew up with Relient K and
Hellogoodbye have (generally)
matured, losing the need for ang-
sty, atmospheric electro-pop, dis-
regarding albums like ttt along
the way.

my mind
moments before it happened.
If I had to guess, the reasoning
stems from the sudden
perceived drop in quality of
content hitting theaters weeks
after studios are done parading
around their prestige babies,
getting ready to purge all the
shit (ideas) they hope will
be flushed and forgotten in
the looming shadow of Oscar
season. Given the rest-stop-
bathroom-level lack of effort
wafting from every crevice in
last month's box office slate,
it's a surprise Ann Arbor
moviegoers weren't advised
to bring along plungers when
venturing out to catch a new
release at Rave or Quality 16.
Enough. All poop-related
imagery and crappy sense of
humor aside, the point emerges.
It's understood that January is
the calendar equivalent of Hol-
lywood's white flag, and in the
eyes of most sane audiences,
movies released in those 31
days are unanimously deemed
inconsequential wastes of time
and money. But what if that's
not always a bad thing? What
if January is the metaphorical
manure patty we must toss into
the flames to keep our film-
oven burning?
It's an interesting question -
one I posed when running the
early stages of this column by
one of my closest friends. Like
most skeptics, her response
was a resounding "Please stop
saying 'manure patties' out
loud." So I'll convince you
guys like I convinced her -
with cold. hard. feels* (the
phrase "cold. hard. feels" is
a registered trademark of @
NotAkshaySeth).
Before we begin, it's
important to establish some
context. Think: When was the
last time you sat down with a
group of friends and spent more
than 15 minutes discussing a
movie? And I'm not talking
about cursory declarations of
"Oh my god, give (insert name)
an Oscar right now" or "Oh
my god, give (insert name) a
plunger right now." I mean
actually discussing - direct
quotations flying around
everywhere, references to
specific scenes, inside jokes
gradually peeking out through
natural bends in conversation.
In short, the type of talk that
finds you comparing seemingly
unrelated films, and in the
process, discovering opinions

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An i
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the medium you never by considering those films
you had. that polarize critics and
last such debate viewers. Like last year's "Only
ned "I, Frankenstein." God Forgives" or 2008's
at "I, Frankenstein," the "Synecdoche, New York,"
hich currently holds a 4 these movies are this column's
it on Rotten Tomatoes - version of the classic buy one,
e in which Mary Shelly's get one free - the two in one
creation goes barhopping of how people can respond to a
fighting giant stone work of art. There are fanatics
yles. The one I saw two populating both ends of the
If you're confused, don't spectrum: those thumping
sounds like a shitty their chests, screaming "pure
because it is. genius" and others unable to
I yet, the times I've really stand the films' apparent excess
d talking about film have of pretension or violence. But
up when the film in ques- they talk, and we listen to them
either earth-shatteringly not just because of the obvious
nt or truly, plainly awful. disagreements, but because
cre ones, the ones I regardless of the "right"
'nsigning to that nether opinion, the passion on either
of "meh-diocre," are side resonates.
t always the cases which, January is passion. Does it
riefs, elicit no more than matter if that passion usually
ated "whatever." stems from mocking hatred?
Probably, but all I know is that
the extended conversation
Hlow nany about".people unnecessarily
jumping off of buildings in
op jokes can "I, Frankenstein" is the most
entertaining 20 minutes I've
le colum nist spent talking about movies
in a month. Intense debates
make? decrying wolf-punching, ass-
kicking Liam Neeson's turn as
an animated, con-artist raccoon
in "Nut Job" (named Raccoon,
e, for example, "Ely- just as a reminder that the
Neill Blomkamp's luke- people who wrote the film are,
follow-up to the infinitely in fact, writers) comes in at a
poignant "District 9." The close second. I'm never one
as its requisite badass for masochism on weekends
sequences and a blister- (that's why we have Masochist
rformance by Sharlto Mondays), but my housemates
y as psychopathic merce- and I reveled in the pain of
ssassin Agent C.M. Kru- watching both films on Friday
t the entire affair is so nights, because we knew the
so safe, that after leaving aftermath would be protracted
ats, my friends and I had tete-A-tetes about nothing.
ig to comment on other- Our discussions were silly,
lomkamp's decision to on the same philosophical
e an Indian person in a and rational level as the
in of power (President films themselves, but there's
represent!). Unsurpris- something freeing about really
Prez Patel turned out to ripping into a piece of shit,
most idiotic, bald Indian analogous to the sensation
r set foot in a space that accompanies writing a
rary, though the novelty particularly scathing review.
ed. Just in case you're still won-
he end of the day, "Ely- dering, no, I didn't like either
accomplished what it set of the two movies and neither
delivering the obligatory did anyone else I dragged along
and dynamic story-arcs with me. Both films, from a
nised it would. But going critical and technical stand-
'es has to be more than point, aren't, nor will they ever
sed ticks on a check- be notable achievements.
t's an experience, which But the crucial difference
I include being able to sit lies in the experience, and
with friends over dinner extended, hilarious rants about
ke about what made a film shit brings me closer to the
ir what didn't, because medium than any tepid, so-so
ce it, speculations con- film ever could. January is and
g Matt Damon's suppos- probably will always be awful.
iray-painted six-pack can Awe-full. It's just a matter of
discussion for only so perspective.

Roberts keeps it cool and classic

By ADAM THEISEN
Daily Arts Writer
While mostly a stranger to the
American charts, Sam Roberts
will sound familiar to those who
grew up in the
Detroit suburbs
and were able
to catch the Lo-Fantasy
radio signals
that were Sam Roberts
beamed from Band
across the river
from Canada. Paper Bag
The Juno
Award winner
has been featured on professional
hockey TV broadcasts and his
singles like "Brother Down" and
"Them Kids" have garnered solid
radio play north of the border.
With his most recent album,
Lo-Fantasy, Roberts proves that
there will always be a place in the
music world for throwback rock
'n' roll.
Roberts' style is character-
ized by charismatic, catchy
vocals and prominent guitar
work designed to fill arenas.
There are plenty of "whoa-oh-
oh"s and bouncy, active drums.
At its worst, this sound can be
uninteresting and grating, but at
its best it rocks with energy and
power. The first single, "We're
All in This Together," is inof-
fensively built for radio. Roberts
could've written a catchier hook,
especially when it's repeated so
often, but the song somehow
finds a way to stick in your head
for days on end.
The album's highlight is the
third track, "Human Heat," the
fastest and toughest rocker on
Lo-Fantasy. Energetic guitars
pound and Roberts's voice is
nice and loud. The song probably
isn't quite enough to be a cross-
over hit, but don't be surprised if
you hear it atla sports stadium in

nteresting way to
ne the sietin is

"Anyway, here's 'Wonderwall.'"
the future.
After "Human Heat," the
album settles down into a softer
groove.;A misguided, fad-chasing
disco experiment is followed
by "Angola," which could be
a breezy, enjoyable, walking-
down-the-street-on-a-sunny-day
kind of song if the lyrics weren't
so dark ("Listen to the gunshots
echo through the treetops").
But when the heavy, fuzzy
guitars arrive, they lend a very
effective and complimenting
cover of darkness to the track.
Roberts and his band do a great
job of arranging guitars and
drums to achieve the desired
mood or pace for their songs,
showing that even seemingly
straightforward rockers can
hold surprises. Roberts expertly
crafts crescendos and keeps
the songs twisting and turning
into different territory; the first
minute of each track rarely
sounds the same as the first.
The second half of the album
is a great batch of singer-song-
writer rock songs - often memo-
rable, smiley and fun. None of
the band members really take a
back seat; everyone is active and
letting loose. The last stretch is
pretty slowed down and laid-

Seth is awe-fully good. E-mail
seoumich edu if you disagree.

back; it's music to listen to while
drinking a margarita. There are
more keyboards present and the
band gives the songs a little more
breathing room. The music is
relaxing even if it's not too musi-
cally challenging. Sometimes
Lo-Fantasy loses its momentum
when Sam Roberts gets a little
too experimental, when it's obvi-
ous that he's trying to be more
than just a rocker, but nothing
is ever terrible, just occasionally
overdone and bland. Regardless,
listeners should be left satisfied.
Good ol'
rock 'n' roll.
Lo-Fantasy is a difficult album
to define. It's groovy and charis-
matic, but neither heavy nor soft.
It's just solid music, a group of
talented people coming together
to create well-crafted songs. Sam
Roberts Band is the type of artist
that often gets 'dismissed - not
poppy enough for Top 40, not hip
enough for the critics - but there
will always be a sizable audience
for good music like this.

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