IC2S Playlist Update 16/03/2016

I’m absolutely loving Jim Sterling’s new podcast, the Spinoff Doctors, where Jim Sterling and Conrad Zimmerman skewer video game movies. The most recent entry was for the 2007 Hitman film, which was disappointingly terrible. However, in the process of watching it I started thinking “man, this feels like a Skip Woods movie…” For the uninitiated, Skip Woods is a screenwriter responsible for some notoriously bad films, such as X-Men Origins: Wolverine and A Good Day to Die Hard. In addition to those 2 turds, I have also seen one of his “smaller” efforts, Sabotage, which was pretty much nonsense.

Anyway, as soon as the credits started rolling on Hitman, I checked the credits and it turns out that I had forgotten that this was indeed one of Skip Woods’ earlier screenwriting duties. I’ve seen 4 of Skip Woods’ movies now and they have been universally wretched, but the man himself has some very interesting elements which make me want to write about him. I might see about writing up a little analysis post about Skip Woods here sometime in the near future. After all, when you have to ask whether a major Hollywood screenwriter is even a real person, you know that there’s something up.

Oh, and speaking of awful writers, first up this week is “The Wrong Side of Heaven” by Five Finger Death Punch. Now to be fair, this is definitely one of their better songs. It’s not exceptionally well-written, but it is solid and far from the bro-metal misogyny, angst and whining which typically exemplifies FFDP’s catalogue. My second pick this week shows how you can pull off angst effectively and without sounding like a spoiled brat, with “React / Regret” by A Feast for Kings. I am still holding out hope that XXI will go back to their metalcore roots after the tepid reception of their debut album Inside Out. It was an okay debut, but it was severely lacking the punch that their previous EP, Hell on Earth, provided in spades, and even lacked the power of the “Memories” single.

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IC2S Playlist Update 23/09/2015

(Whoops, published this a day early!)

First up this week, we have “Alive” by XXI, from their debut album Inside Out. If you’re a regular reader of the blog*, then you’ll know that I’ve been following the rather tragic transition of A Feast for Kings to their current status as XXI. The Hell on Earth EP was fantastic, and their tribute to fallen singer Eric Gentry was fantastic, so I was hoping for great things with Inside Out. Unfortunately, the final product has left me a little underwhelmed. Now, to be fair, I have only listened to it twice now, and normally it takes me a few listen-throughs to really form a solid opinion on an album, but I do feel that I’m already getting a good grip on it. Overall, Inside Out is a technically proficient album, but it fails to live up to the promise that the band members set with their debut EP. Part of the reason for this is that very few of the songs really stand out (“Alive” and “Say It Again” being the two best imho) – most sound like typical teen angst/Christian hard rock and don’t seem to go beyond the basics of this sound. It also kind of stings that they toned down their sound slightly, but this isn’t a major complaint – they could have swapped to rhythmic bongo dance music for all I care as long as the music was good. This feeling was made even worse when I went right back to Hell on Earth immediately after finishing the album, and the difference in quality between the two products was night and day. I don’t regret purchasing Inside Out by any means (it is a decent album after all), but I can’t help but be disappointed that XXI seems to have taken a musical step down following the “Memories” single. Hopefully they learn from this and step back up for their sophomore effort.

Secondly, we have “American Dream” by Casting Crowns from their self-titled debut album. I would argue that, for their first 3 albums at least, Casting Crowns was one of the best bands to ever out of the contemporary Christian music (CCM) market. While they did their standard CCM duties and put out some really heartfelt, quality worship music, they also had a strong desire to call out the church and society where they saw things were problematic (hell, their first two songs on their very first album call out the church for not doing its duties, and they have a whole album dedicated to the inaction and judgmentalism of Christians). “American Dream” is a good examplar of this, and is actually subtle enough that a non-Christian could actually conceivably enjoy it.

However, by the time they released their fourth album, Until the Whole World Hears, something had gone amiss. Did they get too much power and influence within the evangelical church? Did they feel like they couldn’t bite the hands which fed them anymore? Did they end up in bed with American right-wing social politics? Did they believe that they had to neuter themselves to sell more records? Whatever the case, their music began to sound more generic and toned down, while also being far less critical (not that they were breaking ground anyway, but they were proficient and clearly sincere before). Until the Whole World Hears is basically just a generic CCM/worship album with only a couple good songs and no critical asides to show that they actually care about the health of the church. Their fifth album, Come to the Well is a little better, but it actually does do some milder social critiquing at least. However, it also has a distinctly, uncomfortably American-political vibe to it at times which makes me wonder what the nature of their criticism is coming from – issues within the church itself, or perceived political issues that require a religious voting bloc? Their most recent album, Thrive, is arguably their weakest effort yet, with generic, toothless worship music and a lack of conviction.**

Anyway, I guess that’s the theme for this week: disappointment, squandering of talent, failing to grasp your potential, etc. I hadn’t really intended for this to be the case, but it’s what we’ve gotten. So… uh… enjoy the music.

*And if you are then, holy shit, make a comment below because I’m under the impression that no one reads this thing…

**I actually had a bit of an increasingly depressing day because of this. I decided to listen to Casting Crowns’ discography from start to finish to ensure that my recollection of their music was accurate. If anything, post-The Altar and the Door Casting Crowns was actually worse than I remember. Their music just gets so much worse as you go on and shows a really pronounced difference between their good-bad split… especially with the incredibly dull Thrive thrown into the mix (I had not listened to it before this), which makes the weakest bits of The Altar and the Door sound absolutely inspired.

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IC2S Playlist Update 01/07/2015

I’m just going to get right into it this week, so without further adieu, our first song is “A Man for All Seasons” by Robbie Williams from the Johnny English soundtrack. I have a bit of a weird relationship with Johnny English. For one thing, I think it was one of the very first movies I saw as a kid which left me feeling profoundly disappointed. On the other hand, it’s enjoyable enough that feels like it has all of the makings of a comedy classic, if not for the overly-silly third act and a non-sense plot. In any case though, the film’s theme song, “A Man for All Seasons”, nails the spy spoof tone with a very deadpan delivery, hyping up the hero to be a generic super-spy (which he obviously isn’t). It’s a pretty great song in its own right; it makes me want to sing along whenever I hear it.

Secondly, we have “Memories” by XXI (formerly A Feast for Crows), which was recently released as a single. I mentioned this song a few weeks ago when XXI announced their rebranding, but I hadn’t realized it was on Spotify yet until this past week (for whatever reason, a lot of Christian bands either don’t tend to utilize Spotify, they take longer to utilize it, or have huge chunks of their catalogue completely missing from it). As I said before, this song rocks and is a very fitting tribute to former lead vocalist Eric Gentry, who died in a construction accident. The song just plain bleeds emotion, and nails everything it needs to: as a eulogy, as a signifier of the band’s future and just as a really epic metal tune. I can’t wait for some news from XXI about their coming album, but I’m confident that “Memories” is going to be a fitting preview of what is to come.

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IC2S Playlist Update 27/05/2015

Before we start this week’s IC2S Playlist update, I have a bit of timely good news. Last week I mentioned that A Feast For Kings’ lead singer, Eric Gentry, had died in an accident about a year ago and was hoping that they would be able to keep going without it hurting their sound. Well, not even 3 days passed between me writing that and a news article about the band popping up on my Facebook feed. The band has officially signed with Tooth & Nail records and has rebranded themselves as XXI. Most importantly, they have released a new song as a tribute to Gentry, and it ROCKS. The music video is in the link, I really recommend checking it out, it’s both heartbreaking and face-melting at the same time. All fears I had for the band’s future have been laid to rest, so you can expect more from XXI when their debut album drops.

First up this week is a cover of “Habits (Stay High)” by David Unger. You might know David Unger from his parody videos on Youtube where he takes a pop culture subject (eg, Home Alone, The Walking Dead, Star Wars, etc), then writes a really heartfelt love song about it, and then superimposes the band’s faces onto scenes from the movie/show. They’re pretty funny, while managing to be good songs on their own merits. He also does covers, and I really like this one in particular – in fact, I prefer it over the original version by Tove Lo, partially due to Unger’s really emotional singing, and partially because the song makes more sense to me when it’s sung by a man (might just be bias on my part, but the lyrics just come across as something a guy would be singing rather than a woman IMHO).

Next up is “Set It Off” by P.O.D. from their best album, Satellite. I have an embarrassing confession – for some reason I thought that I had already put the acoustic version of “Panic & Run” on this playlist, because of that post I had made about how much I liked The So-Cal Sessions. If I had realized this earlier, then I would have thrown in some P.O.D. within week 2 or 3. And speaking of surprises, I was also surprised this week when I discovered that P.O.D. has a new album coming out this August. I might have heard some rumblings a while ago, but if I did then I totally forgot about it because of all the buzz surrounding The So-Cal Sessions. Naturally, now I’m totally stoked and can’t wait til August rolls around!

Anyway, as for the actual song, “Set It Off” is just plain kick-ass from start to finish. Appropriately, this song is the one that kicked off quite a few things for me. In the summer of 2002, my parents had sent me off to a Christian camp for a week, and my counselor would listen to this album all the time. This song served as my introduction to, and started my love for, hard rock/metal and P.O.D., and has had such a massive impact on my life that I have a hard time truly quantifying it. I can’t really say what direction my life would have gone without that week at camp; I wouldn’t like half of the bands I do now, and who knows what sort of music I would be listening to. So, um… yeah. Great song, I love listening to it, and am glad that it’s finally getting its due on the IC2S Playlist.

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