Episode 41: A 2016 Preview

Greetings, and welcome to episode 41 of the Mundanity podcast. This week we preview the TV and film that we are most looking forward to in 2016, I give you my most anticipated albums of the upcoming year, and we review The Revenant (spoiler-free), including input from our returning special correspondent, Emily. We wrap up with our weekly recap of Downton Abbey (S6, episode 3), including our list of those characters most likely to be killed off by Julian Fellowes before the end of the season.

Cheers all, and thanks for listening!

Jim and Shawn

 

Episode 40: Hans Gruber and The Goblin King

Greetings and thanks for checking out Episode 40 of the podcast. This week, we spend most of our time talking about the passing of two greats, David Bowie and Alan Rickman, and what they meant to us personally. As per usual these days, Shawn relays a story about Bowie that relates to another formative childhood trauma, but really, does that surprise you by now?  We wrap things up with our weekly visit to the Crawley household, discussing all the doings from last week’s Downton Abbey episode.

If you have not already, you check out our career spanning David Bowie playlist on Spotify.

Cheers, and thanks very much for listening!

Jim and Shawn

 

Episode 39: Welcome to 2016

Hello Mundanity podcast listeners. We here at pod HQ have a bit of a heavy heart today, as news broke this morning of the untimely passing of the great David Bowie. I am sure we will talk more about him next week on the pod, but suffice to say that we have lost one of few people who could rightly be called a genius.

For now, we present to you our first podcast of 2016, and it is a good one. We catch up on each others holidays, including Shawn’s epic haul of Lego sets and Pop Vinyls (remember people, he is 45 years old), debut a new segment where we talk about each episode of the final season of Downton Abbey, give some rather ham-fisted Golden Globe predictions, and finish off with some deep dive spoiler talk about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. That segment picks up around the 55 minute mark, so be sure to drop off when you hear us warn you about 300 times that spoilers are nigh if you are one of the 4 or 5 people left in the world who haven’t see it yet.

Thanks as always for listening, and happy New Year to you all!

Jim and Shawn

The Fab Forty

Last night the world got a bit of an early Christmas gift, as the entire Beatles catalog was deposited en masse on the streaming music service of your choice. Back when I was putting together the Best of… playlists for each year of the rock and roll era, the big caveat from 1963 to 1970 was that The Beatles were missing from Spotify, which quite frankly was a blessing since it saved from having to pick just one song from Rubber Soul and Revolver and Abbey Road, etc.

Well now that void has been filled, but rather than go back and adjust those mixes, I put together a playlist of my 40 favorite Beatle tracks for you in one handy playlist, the Fab Forty. (And yes, I’m primarily doing this to avoid making the aforementioned musical Sophie’s Choice. Thank you for pointing that out.) It is arranged pretty much chronologically, all the better to hear the unparalleled transformation that took place in the scant eight years that the band recorded music.

One note though, as convenient as it is to have the entire catalog streaming, please, please, please do not let this be the only way you listen to this music. Pretty much all of it sounds like a muddy, jumbled mess compressed into the minuscule streaming pipeline. If there was ever a stone cold case for physical media, this is it.

Enjoy the playlist. And Happy Christmas to you all.

spotify:user:jlo3133:playlist:38NsdspbvWbOWUiMzhntEI

Cheers,

JLo

Episode 38: The best of 2015

For our final podcast of 2015, we are pulling out all of the stops. That means another edition of Mundanity Podcast Live, recorded on the porch here at Casa JLo, with special guest appearances by Emily, Byron, Brandon, aka our kids, as well as Herbet the Hawk. We of course talk about the box office shattering phenomenom called Star Wars: The Force Awakens (no spoilers), as well as our favorite movies, music, and films of the year.

We wish you all the happiest of holiday seasons and a wonderful 2016. Thanks to all of you for listening, and we will see you next year!

Cheers,

Jim and Shawn

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Spoiler Free Review

Submitted by guest contributor Scott Damiano

NO SPOILERS. I PROMISE, NO SPOILERS.
I saw Star Wars Episode VII last night.
I had been avoiding much about the movie mainly because of there being too much marketing, especially for a film which has a large enough fan base that it seems they would not even need to show a trailer to promote it. So, I didn’t even have a loose idea of the plot. That being said…

I hate to kill a part of my childhood here, or to set anyone’s hopes too high, but it is by far my favorite of all the films.

First, it has a great story that is very believable within that universe and makes sense given the (roughly) 30 years since the last story. It is interesting, you want to see where it goes, and it sets itself up well both for this film and what will happen in future episodes.

Second, the pace and action were spot on. It had no dull spots yet also wasn’t go-go-go with endless action scenes (such as Transformers). Somehow they seemed to fit more than I thought they could in a movie that is only about 2:00-2:20.

Third, the special effects were superb. A great mix of physical effects and CG. Things blended well not just compared to the previous installments, but even compared to a lot of recent films.

Fourth, it has a good ending to this installment. Although it makes you excited for the next one, it doesn’t feel like a real cliffhanger falling short and making you impatient to see what happens next. It holds up more like Episode IV, good on it’s own.

As for spoilers (which I will not post here), there are two major ones that could potentially get out. So watch what you read and honestly I would try to make it out asap. Not that it would ‘ruin’ the movie, but there will be much greater effect if you go in fresh.

 

The best of 2015 playlist

Allow me to be the millionth person to point this out, but 2015 was a pretty great year for music. And if you can put down your copy of 25 long enough to listen for a bit, I’ll prove it to you with this year’s best of playlist. There’s old favorites revived, established darlings exceeding the hype, new artists making a serious name for themselves, and world beating pop stars shattering sales records like it was 1983. It makes for an entertaining playlist, so please take a listen and do enjoy.

(Shout out to Joanna Newsom, whose Divers would have made the list if she didn’t think Spotify was evil.)

I Never Need Get Old – Nathanial Rateliff and the Night Sweats

This is the kind of stomping, horn-laden soul that Stax records solidified its reputation with in the late 60s. The DNA of Booker T. and the MGs permeates this track completely. Pure joy.

Surface Envy – Sleater-Kinney

When Sleater-Kinney called it quits 8 years ago, they were already one of the great bands in modern rock history. No Cities to Love was an unexpected affirmation of this indisputable fact, and they’ve never sounded better or more relevant.

King Kunta – Kendrick Lamar

Not only is Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly one of the best records of the year, he turned in one of the great television performances ever with his scorching medley of tracks on Colbert.

The Graduate – Speedy Ortiz

Certainly not a major departure from the sound of their debut record, but overflowing with tasty hooks at just about every turn.

If It Takes a Lifetime – Jason Isbell

A winning mix of country, blues and Americana, highlighted by Isbell’s rather deft observations of everyday life.

Violently – Natalie Prass

This slice of old school, soulful R&B was one of the best surprises of the year.

Dreams – Beck

After scoring surprise Grammy success with the dreamy Morning Phase, Beck returned with a straight up bid for jam of the summer with this track, which lead to one of the most surreal collaborations in many a year.

(We love you, Annie!)

Made My Mind Up – MCIII

While perhaps a notch below his first two excellent albums, MCIII delivers more power hooks than just about any other record released this year.

Pedestrian at Best – Courtney Barnett

Every write up I’ve seen of Courtney Barnett tries to compare her to another artist, usually early PJ Harvey, Sleater-Kinney, or even Sheryl Crowe, but whatever. Her debut album is just flat out great music.

You Satellite – Wilco

Leave it to Wilco to drop a record out of nowhere named Star Wars. Their show at the Hard Rock in April was just a lot of fun.

High By the Beach – Lana Del Rey

Haters be damned, this tune is a dreamy slice of pop perfection, best consumed at the edge of consciousness. Also, could not love the video more.

The Knock – Hop Along

Possibly the hardest band to classify in the list, Hop Along’s sophomore album brims with alt-rock, Elephant 6, and classic rock influences. It all adds up to something undeniably great.

Empty Nesters – Toro y Moi

Every Toro y Moi record is a bit of an adventure, and this one takes you down a sun-kissed, power pop rabbit hole that makes for some enjoyable listening indeed.

John My Beloved – Sufjan Stevens

Admittedly I am not the biggest Sufjan Stevens fan, but the biggest regret of my year as a penniless graduate student was missing his show here in Orlando last month.

Ship To Wreck – Florence & The Machine

This album is full of unapologetically big rock, and it does what it does really well.

You’re a Gem – Wolf Alice

I’m not overly thrilled with the album as a whole to be honest, but this track made a convincing case for track of the summer.

The Moment – Tame Impala

A dose of psych-rock brilliance that ended up being one the best records of the year.

Hello – Adele

You have to give credit where is due; this is Adele’s world and we’re just living in it. I wish the songs that I’ve heard on this album were more worthy of her ability, but there’s no denying her voice and ability to elevate the material she’s got.

I Love You, Honeybear – Father John Misty

Kudos to you, Joshua Tillman, for fronting one the great obnoxious rock personas ever. Don’t let the antics detract from how great the great is though.

Return to the Moon (Political Song) – EL VY

Hey, Taylor Swift likes it, so it can’t be wrong, right? Seriously good stuff though from National frontman Matt Berninger and Menomena multi-instrumentalist Brent Knopf.

Fatal Flaw – Titus Andronicus

The Most Lamentable Tragedy is one of the best and most emotionally charged records of the year. A true album in ever respect.

TV – Colleen Green

A raised by TV anthem that rock has been clamoring for since the first parent discovered that the tube could double as a babysitter. A terrible, terrible babysitter.

Give Me a Sign – The Vaccines

This record is unabashedly a great throwback to early 80s pop and rock. It should be right in the wheelhouse for much of the class of ’88.

California – Grimes

Grimes most certainly isn’t for everyone, but I don’t think you can deny the quality of this end of the year entry.

Loud Places – Jamie xx

A fantastic, mellow, atmospheric end of the night house jam. And a great way to close out this year’s mix.

Here’s the playlist in Spotify form for your listen and subscribing pleasure.

spotify:user:jlo3133:playlist:2RhTYfoFj7czo0pVIvxCrJ

Cheers everyone and enjoy the movie tonight!

JLo

Episode 37: Return of the pub

Hey listeners, guess what? It is the week you have been waiting for. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is out this week. Are you exited? You can bet your lightsaber that Mr. Tabor is. In honor of this momentous week, we return to our conversation at The Pub in Tampa with our good friend, Nick Parrucci. We continue our discussion of the commodification and commercialization of geek culture, what makes a “geek” or a “nerd” and how those definitions have changed over time, and get Nick’s long-time fan take on the new film, and what his hopes and fears are for the series going forward. It is a really fun conversation, and one that we had a blast doing.

Our thanks again to the fine folks at The Pub for putting up with us, including our fantastic server, Brittany. And a very special thanks to our special guest and voice of the listener, Nick.

Cheers, and thanks for listening. And enjoy the movie!

Jim and Shawn

Episode 36: Soiled kimono

Soiled kimono. How is that for an enigmatic title? Well, once you have seen Bill Murray’s gloriously bizarre Christmas special, A Very Murray Christmas, it will make perfect sense. We talked about that slice of holiday fried gold, as well as the unfortunate but unsurprising demise of Scott Weiland, our favorite Christmas specials, the underwhelming Batman v. Superman trailer, and the uneven wrap to this series of Doctor Who. Would somebody please get Peter Capaldi some scripts worthy of his prodigious talent? There are some spoilers here for the season finale of Doctor Who, so you have been warned.

As always, we thank you for listening.

Jim and Shawn

A Christmas playlist

Let me admit something to you right here and now that will likely cause my hipster music snob card to be permanently revoked: I love Christmas music. Absolutely adore it. I keep a couple of dozen Christmas songs in my Spotify library year-round and never forward past them when they pop up on random. I like classic lounge singer tunes, choral renditions, and modern rock and roll takes, just about any way it comes I like.

What makes a great Christmas song? Like all great music, great Christmas songs are heartfelt, emotional,  genuine, and, often, a bit sad and melancholy. A great Christmas song can make you feel all the feels in a short amount of time, but by the end, they usually leave you feeling optimistic and hopeful. See for example Christmas Baby (Please Come Home), Good King Wenceslas, and A Fairytale of New York, the greatest Christmas song there ever was, or ever will be.

Then again, like other all other types of music, there’s some really awful holiday songs, usually made all the more awful by the fact that they are nothing more than transparent money grabs. I’m looking at you everything by Mannheim Steamroller and 90% of the pop/country versions of classics that flood the airwaves these days. You can tell within about 30 seconds when a performer doesn’t have their heart in it and are simply recording something at the suggestion of the manager or producer. And don’t even get me started on “novelty” songs.

Anyway, here’s my annual Christmas playlist, updated for 2015, and perfect for your next holiday party, sitting in traffic on the way to the mall, or just a quiet night at home by the tree.

spotify:user:jlo3133:playlist:6tcNZT3yI1EJwVuMETDnQe

As a bonus, here’s a couple of favorite versions that aren’t on Spotify.

Good King Wenceslas – Mel Torme

Thematically this has always been one of my favorite Christmas songs, especially the line “Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing, Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing” (a sentiment that many an alleged Christian of wealth and rank could probably stand to heed more often.) The problem with the song is that traditional versions tend to be sung be serious men with deep voices in the style of a funeral dirge. Enter the Velvet Fog, who gives it a bopping jazz makeover that transforms the song completely. Hallelujah.

The Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth – Bing Crosby & David Bowie

A stone cold classic, this one. The awkward Christmas special banter at he beginning makes it all the better. Legend has it that the Thin White Duke balked initially at singing Little Drummer Boy, so the Peace on Earth counter melody was added literally a few hours before taping. And voila, a classic is born. (apologies for the ad before this one)

Cheers, and Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all, regardless of how you celebrate the season.

Jim