Maurice & The Stiff Sisters
Welcome To Love
Speaking as a person who consumes a large quantity of new music, I’m especially partial to artists that put a smile on my face. That unconscious action is the undoubted precursor to what we humans call happiness. Maurice & The Stiff Sisters, a swell outfit hailing from Portland, Oregon, are particularly adept at smile inducing.
The opener, “French Exit,” heralds the following nine tracks with a ringing guitar figure that starts the excitement. It’s a peppy pop song complete with staccato horns, about wanting to be invited to big events, even though you wouldn’t want to go. It’s an anthem for introverts and misfits of all shapes and sizes.
“Our Old Haunts” borrows a Motown beat, once again covering a sorrowful subject with energetic aplomb. “Punk Rocker” and “Unlucky In Love” both match modern problems and relationships with vintage flare. This is new music that strikes just the right chord, sounding vintage without being too precious about it. Very well done.
One of the most entertaining YouTubers out there is guitarist R.J. Ronquillo (rhymes with “What’s the dealio?”). Ronquillo’s video career began long before most creative types like him had their own YouTube channels. Demoing guitars for the quirky Eastwood brand, he displayed chops that were a always a pleasure to watch, being an amateur guitarist myself.
He eventually diversified quite a bit, shooting more personal videos about life as a touring musician (He’s played with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Thompson Square, Ricky Martin, Stone Sour & Santana). He’s also added guitar lessons that, aside from giving tremendous insight into his style, help improve the playing of guys like me.
He’s also started a new series, “Between 2 Fenders,” a play on Zak Galifianakis’s Between 2 Ferns interview show. Recent guests have included Guthrie Trapp, Ford Thurston & Rhett Schull. If those names mean anything to you, tuning in for the great “inside baseball” talk is a must.
Another great addition to his channel has been the Saturday morning live Q&A’s that he does with viewers, who clearly enjoy the friendly interaction. If I’m not too busy myself, I grab a cup of coffee and hang out for a bit. The conversation never gets too heady, and it’s nice to spend time with fellow guitar nerds for a casual hang.
Drop in on R.J. once in awhile; like, subscribe, and ring that bell.
When someone who Taylor Swift felt was an online bully bought the masters to her back catalog, she was justifiably livid. Swift had tried to buy her own masters in the past, and been rebuffed. In a bid to devalue her past masters and regain control of her own music, she has vowed to rerecord her earlier work with bonus content.
She has also terminated her relationship with Big Machine Records, the entity that put all of this in motion. “Lover” is her first fully-owned release, having signed with artist-friendly Republic Records.
Anyone worried that all of this business muckery might destroy her creative inspiration, need not worry. These 18 tracks could each be hit singles. “I Forget That You Existed” is a great middle-finger song, and “Lover” is a haunting 50’s-inspired ballad drenched in reverb. A lot of this is intentionally under-produced, and it serves Swift’s crackerjack hooks splendidly.
Chloe Bennet stars as Yi, a young girl, who lives in a small Shanghai apartment with her mother and grandmother. Yi spends her days doing the worst of odd jobs, and secretly stashes her earnings away for an adventurous trip across China. Her nights are spent on the apartment’s roof, playing the violin that her father gave her before he passed away.
One night, she discovers that a yeti, on the run from the captivity of the evil Mr. Burnish, is hiding in her rooftop sanctuary. Yi feeds him, tends to a wound on his arm, and decides to call him Everest. Everest becomes the friend that she’s always needed, and the duo set out to return him to his family home in The Himalayas.
Along the way, friends Jin (Tenzing Trainor) and Peng (Albert Tsai) join them. Through the various legs of their journey, their friendship is strengthened, and they learn of all the wonderful, magic qualities their yeti friend holds. They also begin to consider the importance of their friendship, and the relationships with their families back home in Shanghai.
As you’d expect, the showing that I saw was mostly families with small children. It was a joy to hear them laughing throughout this movie, which clearly showed that the target audience was pleased. The adults laughed quite a bit as well, myself included, making this family film a real winner. I wish I could elaborate on some of the funniest parts, but I really don’t want to be a spoiler.
Beautifully rendered, Abominable finds DreamWorks giving Pixar a serious run for their money. There were a couple of flying sequences that had such depth, they almost seemed three-dimensional. I would highly recommend this film for families spanning all ages, as there is nothing objectionable for younger eyes or ears.
Abbey Road Remastered (Apple)
“Abbey Road” is the latest Beatles’ record to get the deluxe remaster treatment, and it’s a dilly. The version I’m reviewing is the two-disc set. All tracks have been lovingly restored by the late George Martin’s son, Giles Martin. Disc one contains the original record remastered, while disc two is a track-for-track match-up of alternate versions.
I’ve given several of these Beatle reissues a listen, and this one is hands-down the best. It’s bare and in your face when it needs to be, and dramatically-lush at other times. Martin has created new depth with these tracks, and some, particularly “Here Comes The Sun” and “Because,” are brilliant beyond words. It’s a shame that John Lennon and George Harrison aren’t here to take it all in.
Nothing could be more exciting to a kid who grew up in the 1970’s than a new entry into the Star Wars saga. It was from that vantage point, that I excitedly waited to watch The Mandalorian.
From Disney, “After the stories of Jango and Boba Fett, another warrior emerges in the Star Wars universe. The Mandalorian is set after the fall of the Empire, and before the emergence of the First Order. We follow the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy, far from the authority of the New Republic.”
While that official description might not elicit excitement in Star Wars fans, the serial itself will. It does play like a futuristic western, and the character of The Mandalorian (played with Clint Eastwood dryness by Pedro Pascal) is humanized far more than the Fetts. In his quest to obtain multiple bounties, he’s warned by Greed Karga not to bite off more than he can chew. Played with weightiness by veteran Carl Weathers, Karga offers up a bounty that must be done off of the books, and the adventure begins.
Created by director Jon Favreau, clearly a fan of A New Hope, this serial puts the viewer back into the worn-out galaxy that Han Solo and Luke Skywalker came from. The future shown isn’t covered in shiny stainless steel and glass, it’s full of underworld miscreants and horrible weather.
In a nutshell, that’s the thrill for me. As a fan himself, Favreau completely understands our need to not only see new Star Wars stories and characters, but the need to escape life for an hour or two and actually go to the places they inhabit. I’m in.