Best Albums of 2019

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It’s been a few years since I’ve made an Albums of the Year list, but I really felt compelled to make one for 2019. Here are the audio compilations from the recent past that really made an impact on me:

14. Camila Cabello, Romance – Fun and bouncy.
13. Harry Styles, Fine Line – I like where Harry is headed.
12. Beck, Hyperspace – Reliable Beck.
11. Brittany Howard, Jaime – Great, big rockin’ voice goes solo.
10. The Black Keys, Let’s Rock – They never stopped rocking.
9. Ariana Grande, thank u, next – Lots of adventure from Ari.
8. Sleater-Kinney, The Center Won’t Hold – Band broke up, music’s still great.
7. Tyler, the Creator, IGOR – I feel so comfortable inside this album.
6. FKA Twigs, MAGDALENE – FKA reminds me of Bat for Lashes.
5. Vampire Weekend, Father of the Bride – Those Vampire Weekend guys have still got a hold on me.
4. Lana Del Rey, Norman Fucking Rockwell! – What a soundscape!
3. Billie Eilish, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? – Just plenty of fun.
2. Lizzo, Cuz I Love You – I love you, too!
1. The Chemical Brothers, No Geography – Apocalyptic concept album.

Jeff’s Wacky SNL Review: Harry Styles (Season 45)

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CREDIT: Will Heath/NBC

It was a big family weekend for me this … weekend. Birthdays, food, and candles galore! So if it sounds like I’m writing this review after staying out all night partying, you know why. Hosting AND musical guesting this mid-November SNL outing is millennial Harry Styles. The last time we had someone pulling double duty was Chance the Rapper just two episodes ago. Is this a record for the least amount of time between double duties? Almost certainly so. I don’t think it’s even legal for it to happen two episodes in a row.

The opening sketch, as surely expected by anyone with expectations, centered around the congressional impeachment hearings. the formula for most SNL political sketches is: here’s our version of what we all saw happen on the news earlier in the week. But I wish more often it were: here’s this imaginary scene featuring the people in the news. I suppose this story was too big to sidestep, but at least they spruced it up a bit by turning it into a soap opera. So I give Days of Our Impeachment a Grade of a Few Fainting Spells. Anyway, then Harry Styles pranced out for his Monologue (Grade: 3 out of 5 Suspicious B-Camera Shots) and with those wonderful yellow pants and open-collar blue shirt, I’m tempted to say he’s promoting his fashion sense much more so than any of his music. And I must say, I think Harry and his episode started out strong as he played an office intern sent out on a Lunch Run (Grade: 3.5/5 Frederick Douglass Boulevards) who’s intent to get some Popeye’s chicken sandwiches in another example of SNL astutely commenting on racial American stereotypes.

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This Is a Movie Review: Dunkirk

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This review was originally posted on News Cult in July 2017.

Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, James D’Arcy, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, Barry Keoghan

Director: Christopher Nolan

Running Time: 106 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for All the Moments That Make You Duck and Cover

Release Date: July 21, 2017

Christopher Nolan has established his reputation as filmmaker by tweaking the genre formulas of noir, superheroes, and mindbenders, inventing new dialects within pre-existing cinematic language. A war movie would not seem like the most obvious next logical step for him, as it would not seem to invite such inventiveness. But Nolan does indeed apply his puzzle-box approach to Dunkirk, and the end result makes perfect sense. The rescue of hundreds of soldiers after a massive military defeat is an attempt to impose order on a fundamentally chaotic situation, and accordingly, what Dunkirk accomplishes is a union of control and constant unease.

Nolan’s method of choice for dramatizing the 1940 World War II evacuation from the titular French beaches is ingenious, but it could have just as easily been a folly in less steady hands. There are three intercut portions: taking place over a week, the boys on the shore waiting to be rescued; taking place over a day, a mariner navigating his fishing vessel across the English Channel to provide support; and taking place over an hour, Air Force pilots clearing the skies to make the rescue easier. The order of events is accordingly difficult to keep track of, and ultimately beside the point. Dunkirk is about the overwhelming experience, as it asks the audience to simultaneously intuit both sustained and short-burst tension.

While the acting is uniformly solid, no single character makes much of an impression, unless you count the music as a character. The dialogue is perpetually difficult to parse: the accents are thicker than your average Brit, the constant dusk and frequent profile shots make it hard to lip read, Tom Hardy wears a mask. But it is Hans Zimmer’s relentlessly thrumming score that gets most in the way. A constant tick-tick-tick is the new BWAHHH. According to Christopher Nolan’s analysis of war, the fight to defend ideals is often cacophonous and rarely allows for relief.

Dunkirk is Recommended If You Like: Saving Private Ryan crossed with Inception, Their Finest

Grade: 4 out of 5 Open-Faced PB&J Sandwiches

SNL Review April 15, 2017: Jimmy Fallon/Harry Styles

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My letter grades for each sketch and segment is below. My in-depth review is on NewsCult: http://newscult.com/snl-love-itkeep-itleave-it-jimmy-fallonharry-styles/

White House – C+

Jimmy Fallon’s Monologue – C+

Celebrity Family Feud Time Travel Edition – B-

Legally Blonde The Musical – B

Take Me Back – B

A Message From the White House Easter Bunny – B-

Harry Styles performs “Sign of the Times” – B

Weekend Update
Michael and Colin – B+
Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy – B-
Bruce Chandling – B+

Union Army Camp – B+

Turtle Shirt (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – B+

Boston Teens – B

Harry Styles performs “Ever Since New York” – B

Basketball Film Shoot – B+