Thursday, July 26, 2012

Passion Pit - Gossamer

After 2009's very successful Manners, Passion Pit is back with their sophomore album, Gossamer. Trying to live up to their previous effort, this group might be experiencing a sophomore slump.

"Take A Walk," the opening track, is a beautiful song about dealing with tragedy by taking a walk, getting fresh air and clearing your head. It's one of the few songs on this album that doesn't directly speak about the master theme: love. "I'll Be Alright" is a hyper song about letting go of a relationship. It's my personal favorite on the album. "Two Veils To Hide My Face" is a short, a cappella song that feels a lot like poetry.

Lead-singer/songwriter Michael Angelakos writes lyrics that are very conversational; he's directly speaking to someone in most cases. Many of the songs on this album have group vocals on the chorus, a beautiful technique that grows somewhat old.

Although some tracks have serious lyrics, the pop melody of the instruments prevents me from taking them seriously. There are few exceptions to this rule, including "Constant Conversations."

Passion Pit's first album brought forth the glorious single "Sleepyhead." Gossamer feels as though the band is trying to reach that glory again, but not quite finding the same success. There are several great songs, but none are on the same level of excitement as "Sleepyhead." This album is good, but it's not great enough to be much of anything special. Gossamer is out now on Columbia Records.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man

It is not unusual for super-hero movies to be restarted and revisited with a new series. It is unusual to start a new one five years after the last one. That's exactly what Marvel did with The Amazing Spider-Man. Needless to say, I was slightly skeptical. Have they really learned anything? What will make this one different?

The plot develops slowly, something that I enjoy. I don't think the super-villain is actually seen until at least halfway through. This gives the characters much more development. When Peter Parker, played by Andrew Garfield, gets his powers, he doesn't master them quickly like in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man. In fact, it looks a bit like a bad LSD trip. He freaks out, accidentally breaks a ton of stuff, and almost accidentally kills himself a few times. This happens before he even puts on the costume. Speaking of costumes, this incarnation of Spider-Man actually showed the audience how he made the suit. Before, it was something like, "...and then he made a spider suit." In this version, we get a little more details. For some reason, this was a big deal for me. All things considered, this film seemed more real than the last series.

Garfield's acting is excellent, along with co-star Emma Stone. He believably portrays Peter Parker as a high-schooler. He acts awkward around girls, but not overly so. It's subtle. He's funny when he fights bad guys, but not too funny. And never punny.

The special effects were great, although it sometimes felt as though they were just showing off. Despite this, I was still impressed. The cinematography was also inventive. There were several very cool shots. The camera often told the story in a way that the characters didn't need to speak for the audience to understand.

If you asked me today what my favorite super-hero movies are, I would give you two answers. The Dark Knight and The Amazing Spider-Man. Yes, I've seen The Avengers, and it's great. No, I didn't forget it. It just doesn't compare.