My Social Standards
Live Up to Your Standards

Music Review - Duffy - Rockferry

By My Social Standards

Reviewed by Jeff Walker

My Alternative Music Standard – Radiohead – OK Computer
My Pop Music Standard – Kelly Clarkson – Breakaway
My Soul Music Standard – Sam Cooke – Portrait of a Legend: 1951-1964

The success of female British singer-songwriters with an affinity for soul music continues as Duffy’s stellar debut album delivers heartfelt and catchy tunes that capture classic Motown sounds, while still being fresh and original.

Release Date: May 13, 2008

Tracks/Length: 10 tracks / 37:50

Producers: Bernard Butler (The Libertines, guitarist from Suede), Steve Booker


Honest Opinion: While Duffy supposedly despises the comparison, it is almost impossible not to compare her to Amy Winehouse. Both are UK singer-songwriters with a penchant for throwback soul sounds that give unique spins to modern pop music. However, if they were two Catholic schoolgirls, Winehouse would be the bad girl smoking cigarettes in the bathroom, cutting class, and shortening her plaid skirt. On the other hand, Duffy seems like the girl who would sit in the front of the class, use pink pens for her lovelorn doodles, and sing in the school choir. In terms of the actual music, Winehouse’s major breakthrough Back to Black is more emotionally revealing in the lyrics as well as musically dynamic (thanks in large part to Mark Ronson’s production). Yet despite some drawbacks, Rockferry is arguably a more enjoyable listen and more consistent in the strength of its songs.

There really isn’t a bad song in the album’s ten tracks (though “Syrup & Honey” is a bit slow and “Mercy” is being played everywhere). After the one-two punch of “Rockferry” and “Warwick Avenue”, the pace slackens before picking up in the second half and ending quite strongly (which is one of my big keys for a great album). Duffy may not have a perfect voice (it cracks a bit in her higher register adding a dose of rawness and imperfection), but it is always front and center in the songs and complemented well by a mix of piano, guitar, and strings. With each listen, you discover more interesting textures adding to the re-listenability (not a word, but you get the point) of the whole album.

The biggest deficiency of Rockferry is the repetitive themes in the lyrics. Most songs either seem to be about her wanting more from her man or her finally deciding to move on. While there is diversity in the music, there are a few songs where you think, “wait, didn’t she just talk about that?”. The last song, “Distant Dreamer”, suggests that perhaps in both her personal life and as an artist she is ready to move beyond the back and forth games of modern relationships. If she continues to grow lyrically and if this album is any indication, Duffy could have a bright future that may just outlast the inevitable over-saturation of soulful Brit chicks.

1st Single Representation: Similar to Winehouse’s “Rehab”, Duffy’s “Mercy” is the most up-tempo song on an album dominated by many slower, soul-infused songs that take their time building to their climaxes. If you’re expecting an album full of “Mercy”s or were disappointed with Winehouse’s Back to Black, then avoid Rockferry and just download the single.

If You Are Going to Download Three Songs (legally of course), This Is What I Would Download: “Rockferry”, “Warwick Avenue”, “Hanging on Too Long"

Rule of 4 (if you like at least four songs the whole album is worth buying): I love the aforementioned three and think any of the four songs that follow “Hanging on Too Long” are pretty damn good as well.

Verdict: Overall, I really like this album and think that if you at all enjoy modern music incorporating elements of classic soul (as I enthusiastically do), then I recommend getting Rockferry. Don’t let the ad nauseam play of “Mercy” deter the discovery of the many gems this album possesses.

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Music Review – The Kooks – Konk

Posted In: , , . By My Social Standards

Reviewed by Jeff Walker

My Rock Music Standard – U2 – The Joshua Tree

The Kooks’ second album is fun, light and breezy and features one of the catchiest singles of the year, but is poorly sequenced, has a sound that becomes slightly redundant, and simply doesn’t seem destined to stick over time.

Release Date: April 15, 2008

Tracks/Length: 13 tracks / 42:50

Producers: Tony Hoffer (Beck, Fratellis)


Honest Opinion: The Kooks do one thing really, really well and that is create songs that are extremely catchy. “Naïve” and “She Moves in Her Own Way” (both from their debut album) managed to lodge themselves in my head for extended lengths of time, and Konk’s first single “Always Where I Need to Be” does the same.

When you listen to Konk, you can’t help but put a smile on your face. The melodies are sweet and sunny, and even the more thoughtful, acoustic songs at the end feel optimistic (“Tick of Time” gives you the feeling of good friends, drinking beer and having fun). Konk is perfect for a drive down the coast on a Sunday afternoon. The problem is that once you get stuck in traffic and are forced to give more attention to the album, its weaknesses become more apparent. The songs are all pretty simple, which causes them to blend together too much. You hear one song and think “damn, this is pretty good,” but three songs later it’s forgotten.

Another issue with Konk is that the order of the tracks seems amiss. The three slower, acoustic tracks are all at the end and while any one of the them would be perfect album closers, having them sequenced consecutively makes the tone of the whole album seem very uneven. Incorporating some of the acoustic songs earlier could have reduced the redundancy of the faster songs. Instead, the acoustic ones stick out like thumbs hit with sledgehammers.

On the whole, there’s nothing wrong with Konk. It is enjoyable and keeps your feet tapping, but the lack of lyrical depth (“Do You Wanna” is particularly juvenile) and the simplicity of many of the tracks make it a bit forgettable. In short, this doesn’t seem like an album you would consider for the year’s best, let alone still remember it in December.

1st Single Representation: The first single “Always Where I Need to Be” gives you a great idea of the sound of the rest of the album. It is upbeat and catchy, and in my opinion, the best song on the album.

If You Are Going to Download Three Songs (legally of course), This Is What I Would Download:See the Sun”, “Always Where I Need to Be”, “Love It All”

Rule of 4 (if you like at least four songs the whole album is worth buying): Despite liking more than four songs (the previously mentioned three and “Tick of Time” are my favorites), the stated reservations would still make me hesitate plopping down the cash on the whole album.

Verdict: If you want to put the top down and have some good music to keep you company, Konk delivers. If you’re looking for something that resonates or will be an album you may listen to years or even months down the road, look elsewhere.

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Reviewed by Steven Frith

My Ultra Lounge Standard – The Park (Sacramento)

Visited: Saturday, April 5, 2008
Location: 1200 K St., Sacramento, CA 95814 (map) (site)
Phone: 916-878-8344

Much like its newer sister club, Dream, Cabana is a fun, stylistic lounge/dance club that is satisfying if you get there early enough.

Deeper Insights:

While offering a younger crowd than Dream with a similarly cramped setting, Cabana still pulls off a fun night. I attended this lounge for my birthday and while there were some issues getting everybody in because of the long wait outside, once all of that was taken care of, our entire group had a good night. The overall atmosphere created by the staff and the décor of the lounge were inviting, and the drinks were strong yet didn’t require long waits.

I do have trouble categorizing Cabana as an ultra-lounge even though they call themselves that. I would say that it is more of a small dance club as there is an area where you can get drinks, an area where you dance, and a roped off, VIP, curtained cabana area - but that’s it. I think of an ultra-lounge as somewhere that has areas to “hang out” as an option, and Cabana only has this if you have VIP privileges. There are some benches along the dance floor with tables that may or may not have been VIP, but it was so pushed up against the dance floor, it wouldn’t be a place to “lounge” and talk – but more a place to rest for a second before the people dancing around you have a chance to fall or trip on you.

In the VIP area, there are supposedly video game systems available for people to play on the plasma TVs. As cool as that sounds, I don’t know how I feel about paying so much for drinks and the VIP area to play some Madden though – I can get a 6-pack, wear shorts and do that at home.

Overall, it is a good place to go to have a fun night out. It isn’t horrible in terms of a meat market mentality (both guys and girls) of people trying to hook up, but people are dressed well and the bouncers and doormen do a good job of not allowing the inside to become too packed.


Attire: Normal club-wear. No tennis shoes! They won’t let you in. Cabana has a slightly more up-scale environment compared to most Sacramento nightspots.

Attitude: A place for early to mid-twenty-somethings to congregate, dress up, drink, and dance, but feel more sophisticated while they do it.

Bar/Bartenders: One bar immediately to the left when you enter. Another smaller bar with just beer and select hard-alcohol outside on the front patio. Three male bartenders manned the inside bar and were friendly and very efficient. Was able to get drinks very quickly.

Bathrooms: Located in the rear of the club, the bathrooms were not the easiest to get to. There was a stall and a urinal in the guys’ bathroom (may have been two stalls, having trouble remembering now). Was small and nothing special about it. There was, of course, a line for the ladies’ room, but only a 2-3 minute wait for the guys.

Bathroom Attendant: There was none on the night we were there. Space would make me wonder if having one would even work.

Bottle Service: You can go to the website ahead of time to reserve a Cabana in their VIP section where bottle service is available. Special packages exist for celebrations. With the limited VIP space, I doubt you could pay to get in VIP once you get there.

Cover: $10

Crowd: A younger crowd than Dream. Wasn’t too bad though. For the most part, it was made up of people aiming to look nice and spend some money. The guy-to-girl ratio was actually fairly close to 50/50.

Dance Floor: The entire open area in the back of the facility was the dance floor. There was a raised DJ booth that overlooked the area. Not huge, but big enough for the crowd they allowed in.

Décor: Trying to go for an intimate and secluded feel. The “cabanas,” reds and other dark colors and lighting give it a very warm, seductive feel.

Drinks: Your normal over-priced bar drink variety. Not too much over the top, but no $2 well drinks either.

Hours: Thursday-Saturday 9:00 PM – 2:00 AM

Line: Almost none if you get there before 10:30, but if you get there after 10:45, it can get long. Once one-in-one-out starts, you might as well find somewhere else if you aren’t among the first 15 people or so.

Varies by night, check the website to see what kind of music is there that night. We had your normal top-40 dance music with your average number of “classics” thrown in.

Parking: Street Parking along J St. or L St. You can't park on K St. though (where Cabana is located), as it is blocked off as part of K Street Mall. Park close to 12th Street on either side though.

People Watching: Many good-looking people were there and a few were very scantily dressed.

Seating: Not much in terms of seating. I think you needed to be part of VIP to be able to sit anywhere.

Smoking: I think you could smoke on the front patio, but with no in-and-out privilege, that was your only option if you do.

Water (Free): Yes

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Reviewed by Steven Frith

Visited: Saturday, March 29, 2008
Location: 1804 J St., Sacramento, CA 95814(map)(site)
Alternate Location: 649 East Bidwell St., Folsom, CA 95630(map)

My Bar Standard – **Streets of London** New Standard

Without ever having been to England, I imagine that this fun, low-key bar is the closest to the feel of a real English Pub you can get in Sacramento, but thankfully, without the warm beer.

Deeper Insights:

With all of the ultra-lounges and dance clubs popping up in Sacramento (trying to give Sacramentans the illusion that this is actually LA or Vegas), it is getting harder to find a fun place (forget the tiny dives) to go to have a beer and just chat it up with your friends. Streets of London is there to fulfill that need. I must admit that I am biased toward the pub, as I will always have the good memories of having a nightcap there on my first date with my soon-to-be wife. But in a way, it shows exactly why I like it. We had a good time at dinner and wanted to be able to talk some more, and “Streets” gave us that opportunity.

Streets has a vast selection of both American and, if you are feeling adventurous, British beers to try. But once it gets busy, you will probably be waiting a while to get your drink as the service can be slow as the bartenders are overwhelmed with orders at some points of the night.

Streets has a sister location up in Folsom that I spent a lot of time in as a restaurant worker when I lived up there. Both locations are popular places amongst locals that want to have a few too many beers and just hang out and be able to sit at one of the many round wood tables and/or play some darts while listening to the all-British jukebox. In Folsom, pool and foosball are also available. Oh yeah, and it is a great place to watch some football…err, I mean soccer.


Attire: Come as you are.

Attitude: Most people just want to relax, have some fun, and are very friendly. There is no certain way you need to act to fit in.

Bar/Bartenders: 1 bar inside, most people drink beer, although other full-bar choices are available. 4-5 bartenders/bar backs were behind the bar. Depending on your timing, drinks took from a couple minutes up to 10-15 minutes. Service can be slow.

Bathrooms: There are two bathrooms in between the back patio area and the inside area. One is for each sex. It is a single room (slightly dirty as you would imagine in a pub) that has a lock that may or may not work. There is usually a line for each though, so most of the time you are safe from someone just walking in. Girls commonly try to get in the guys bathroom as the line is usually shorter (yea, I know, shocker). A couple people from our group (after a few beers) decided to by-pass the line and just get their hand stamped and find somewhere outside to relieve themselves. Not recommended however…

Bathroom Attendant: Never. If someone claims to be, you might be filing a police report later.

Bottle Service: Unless you mean a bottle/pitcher of beer, nope.

Cover: I don’t believe there is ever cover. (Someone feel free to correct me if I am wrong)

Crowd: Mostly early to mid-20’s. I’d say 65/35 guy to girl ratio. And single guys: It appeared most of the girls there were with guys, so don’t go there expecting to find your long-lost love…but hey, I guess miracles happen.

Dance Floor: None

Décor: Old English Pub decorations, a lot of wood. Several plasma TV’s grace the walls to watch sports though.

Drinks: I don’t have exact prices for you, but very reasonable. You aren’t going to pay $10 for a beer or anything. There is a vast selection of both American and European beers.

Extras: Every Sunday evening is “Trivia Night” (as they call it, “pub quiz”). There are also parties, DJ Nights, and other events held occasionally. It (as you would imagine) is a great place to watch World Cup Soccer Matches. The location in Folsom also occasionally has live music. A favorite of mine that plays there is called “The BBC”, a fantastic Beatles tribute band that has a large following. (Here’s a plug for them…they even dress the part: wigs, costumes, accents, and the guy that plays McCartney learned to play guitar left-handed. Yeah, and as what is most important, the music is right on for the most part. You should check them out if you are at all a fan of The Beatles.)

Food: If you get there early enough (before 10:30 pm), British food is available for you. When’s the last time you’ve had Bangers and Mash ($5.80 lunch, $7.95 dinner), Steak and Mushroom Pie ($6.65 lunch, $8.95 dinner), Fish and Chips ($6.70 lunch, $8.95 dinner), or a Corned Beef Sandwich($7.95)? It is all very tasty too.

Happy Hour: There may or may not be happy hour, I went at night. You should call to check. They do have Pint Nights at 6 PM on every Wednesday. You pay $5 for your first brew (the specific brew changes every Wednesday, check the website for details), and you keep the glass and pay $4 for any refill.

Hours: Opens at 11 am everyday. The bar closes at 2 on Fridays/Saturdays, at 1 Monday-Thursdays and at midnight on Sundays.

Line: There is occasionally a short line on weekend nights, however most of the time you can get right in.

Music: An all-British jukebox plays the Brits’ hits. This includes the British invasion era stuff with The Beatles, Stones, Who, etc, but also more modern stuff like Oasis. Live music occasionally takes over the Folsom location (more groups then just the previously mentioned “BBC”). There are also occasional DJ nights at both locations.

Parking: Street parking.

People Watching:
There are some interesting characters and a lot of college kids to find entertainment in, but there won’t be many “revealing outfits” if that is what you are looking for. At least this America, therefore most of the patrons will have good teeth…(bad stereotype joke, sorry).

Seating: If you get there early, it isn’t much trouble, but as things pick up you have to hover around tables/seats when it looks like people are leaving. There is seating on the patio, as well, if you head outside and want to deal with cigarette smoke (or smoke yourself).

Smoking: Outside in the back patio or out front.

Water (Free): Yeah, they’ll give you free water if you want to wait for it.

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My Idol Standards (Final 4)

Posted In: , , , , , , . By My Social Standards

A Chat by Steven Frith, Jeff Walker, and Danny Walker

Down to the final four and our contestants get to pick from the extensive list of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's Top 50 Most Influential Rock and Roll Songs. Will we have an all men final 3 - or will Syesha send one of the boys packing?  No Paula drama this week, but still an eventful show, see what My Social Standards had to say about it all.

Jeff: ok, let's get rollin...
Jeff: so finally some songs we're all more familiar with
Steve: Familar songs was a nice change of pace.
Danny: for sure, expect when the life is sucked out of them by archiebot 3000
Steve: First of all, was it just my TV or was the background music really quiet
Steve: the vocals were fine but you could barely hear the rest
Jeff: didn't notice it specifically
Steve: oh ok
Jeff: maybe we just had the volume really loud
Steve: Really it's been more of the same though. Cook was solid, but not excellent like he had been a few weeks ago.
Danny: thought david cook was solid but forgetable
Jeff: yeah. hungry like the wolf was too karaoke. baba o'reilly is such a classic and an epic, but the minute and half isn't enough time
Steve: I didn't like Hungry like the wolf. Not a huge fan of the song anyway, but he didn't give me a reason to like it
Jeff: yeah, i don't think he felt confident - based on the interview - and it showed
Steve: I was expecting him to blow up this week too
Steve: So that disappointed me
Danny: felt like he put more interest and time into baba oriley and phoned in hungry like the wolf a bit
Jeff: for sure
Steve: Castro was gawd-awfulSteve: I felt that the only way Syesha had a chance was if Castro completely sucked and she was awesome and that MAY have happened
Danny: I thought besides the lyric f-up mr tambourine man was his best he's had
Steve: I still wouldn't be surprised to see him move on though
Jeff: yeah, jason has a lot of songs, and while i don't care for I Shot the Sheriff as a song, i agree with danny
Steve: But that's a pretty big f-up this late in the game...PLUS it's not a vocally challenging song
Jeff: but he never picks tough vocal songs
Steve: no he doesn't, but if you are going to go easy, you can't f - up.
Jeff: yeah, but his voice may have been the best. had bob dylan's tone, but his voice was pretty good
Steve: and he was HORRIBLE in his first song, I shot the can't do that to a song that Marley sang then covered by another great with Clapton
Jeff: yeah, and add nothing new while trying to look like Marley
Steve: I have a theory that I started to think last week
Jeff: what's that?
Steve: I think that Castro decided to get high before last week and thought to himself that it would be funny to push how bad he could be and move on...
Steve: last week, it was just not have a good week, this week he was like, okay, I'll just suck on one and forget the lyrics to another, laugh it off and see what happens...
Steve: he probably saw both Brooke and Archie get through with forgetting the lyrics, and thought it was his best chance
Jeff: don't know about your last point, unless he's getting paid to promote don't forget the lyrics
Steve: It's not a real theory, you're taking it too literal
Jeff: but i think the judges are so pissed at him, b/c he doesn't seem to care
Steve: he doesn't
Jeff: he always seems embarrassed
Steve: Syesha is up there crying and he is laughing when he should be getting kicked off the show
Jeff: i didn't care for the crying
Steve: Amy started crying right with her though and voted for her actually - her and Cook
Jeff: wow
Steve: I thought she was great in both songs
Jeff: i agree with randy that she messed up the Sam Cooke song
Danny: and the talking about the origin of the song and felt fake as all hell
Steve: I think she has the most star presence and talent of the group
Jeff: i get that syesha really felt the song, but yeah, it was too much
Steve: you are so cynical danny...u never believe what anyone says haha
Danny: I think she should remain in theater
Jeff: she seems well-suited for the stage
Steve: Yea, I'm not sure about her having a pop career, but I don't think so for anyone else either
Steve: Cook has been less then impressive for several weeks now
Danny: I think cook has the best chance with pop rock
Steve: Archie was actually good tonight I HATE to admit
Danny: I thought he sucked the life out of his songs
Danny: and anything else he touches
Steve: He could lip sync to your favorite song and you would think it was awful though
Jeff: i'm still annoyed that he and a lot of the other contestants all season seem to have no concept of music history
Jeff: archie picks elvis, then says that he didn't know the song
Steve: that I agree with completely
Jeff: like why even say that - you just look like an idiot and don't seem like you connect with the song as well
Steve: I did think about that too as they show them (apple product placement here) listening to the song
Jeff: yeah. and cook got crap for his covers, when apparently this was a norah jones version and it was never mentioned
Steve: the one he did today was? which song?
Jeff: Love Me Tender
Steve: How do you know all of this?
Jeff: that one i looked up
Danny: we were sitting here looking things up
Steve: ahhhh....were u doing that during Castro too to miss just how bad both of his performaces was and missed how good Syesha was
Danny: ummmmm castro's first was awful yes
Danny: but outside of the lyrics f-up the second was his best he's had, albeit not saying much
Jeff: didn't mind Syesha's first, but it was too much like two different songs - never flowed
Jeff: and Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come" is one of the best songs ever and she tried doing too much with it. emotion is fine, but the runs and rearrangements destroyed it
Jeff: and what the hell was with Archie throwing in the "beautiful girl" to "Stand By Me"
Jeff: Sean Kingston already destroyed the song, why do further damage
Danny: like syesha doing a "tina turner" song which was originally CCR
Steve: Take the performance as is...the whole entertainment genre is someone copying someone else
Steve: very very little is original
Steve: Anyways this is getting really long, who's out...
Steve: bottom 2 as well
Jeff: Has got to be Castro and Syesha, right? even though Cook wasn't on his A-game
Danny: castro and syesha bottom two
Steve: Yeah, has to be
Steve: who goes?
Danny: castro
Jeff: however, Daughtry went home when there were only 4 left and one of his songs wasn't so good, so who knows
Steve: I think Cook has too much of a following
Steve: this has turned into a total popularity contest
Jeff: that's what it pretty much always is
Steve: I am 50/50 on who I think goes
Jeff: i don't know if syesha has the fan base, but can castro really stay?!
Steve: Exactly
Steve: Castro deserves to go and has so for several weeks now, but he continues to find a way to keep staying. Syesha has been good for several weeks now but is always in the bottom group.
Jeff: i'm going castro is gone
Steve: I think I'll lean that way too having hope that America might actually get it right, but only 51/49 believe so
Danny: jeff brings up a good point, back early in the season josiah's stand by me had more emotion than archie
Jeff: may not have been sung as well, but was more heartfelt
Steve: I hadn't started watching yet
Jeff: yeah, he should've made it to the top 24 and was cut
Jeff: any idea what next week's theme is?
Steve: No theme, 3 songs each, contestant choice, judge choice, and producer choice
Jeff: ah, yeah
Steve: are they new songs or one's they've already done?
Jeff: i think they're new - maybe one isn't - contestant choice
Steve: oh ok
Jeff: final two week they definitely sing a repeat song
Steve: gotcha, that's lame - we already have heard that
Jeff: but hopefully castro will be at home stoned the hell out
Steve: as a kite
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Movie Review – Iron Man

By My Social Standards

Reviewed by Steven Frith

My Superhero Movie Standard – X2: X-Men United

Viewed on: Saturday, May 3, 2008

This clever, quick-witted, tightly scripted adaptation of yet another superhero movie may actually turn into one of the most respected and highest ranked movies in this genre’s increasingly impressive collection.

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, and Gwyneth Paltrow

Rating/Length: PG-13/ 2 hours 6 minutes

Directed By: Jon Favreau (Elf)

Written By: Mark Fergus (Children of Men), Hawk Ostby (Children of Men), Stan Lee (X-Men trilogy, Spider-Man trilogy, Fantastic Four series), Jack Kirby (many of the same as Lee), and other writers too (see Iron Man webpage).

Synopsis: After a POW experience that nearly cost him his life, brilliant playboy weapons designer, Tony Stark, vowed to destroy his extremely potent weapons that fell into the wrong hands. To destroy his weapons, he will have to use what is actually the most powerful weapon he has ever created.


Honest Opinion: I almost skipped seeing Iron Man because the trailers made it look like another Fantastic Four. When I walked out at the end of Fantastic Four, I felt like I just lost two hours of my life I wouldn’t be getting back. Not even Jessica Alba in her undies made that one worth watching…Anyways, what I’m trying to say is that I’m glad the good reviews of Iron Man caught my eye and I ended up going to it because I loved this movie.

I should say that I like the more “realistic” comic book movies, and am not a fan of the borderline cartoon ones. For instance, I am not a fan of, really, any of the Spider-Man movies. Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst just completely blow that whole series for me, I just can’t get over their atrocious over-acting as well as the cartoonish characters. On the other hand, I loved Batman Begins and the first two X-Men movies (I have yet to see the third). They had good stories and were well-cast.

For those that are unfamiliar with Iron Man (as I was not four hours ago), Tony Stark has no super powers. He, like Batman, is extremely intelligent, but unlike Batman, he is also a rich, womanizing playboy. Those subtleties that are his flaws are what make his character so likeable. He is quick-witted, a smooth talker, and seems to get what he wants. It’s a refreshing change that our hero doesn’t have to start as a nerd or as someone that is dark and mysterious – he is just a really cool guy in a James Bond kind of way.

It isn’t a perfect movie, but it is wellcast, well-written, has very impressive special effects, the characters have a lot of chemistry, and the overall story is very entertaining. Isn’t that what you want from a movie?

Directing: I was very nervous about what I was going to be subjected to as far as the directing of this movie. I had seen Elf before and liked it, but that is the extent of my Favreau directing repertoire. (who doesn't love him in Swingers though?) I think he did a very solid job moving the story along and getting the right amount of emotion from his actors. I also like how a lot of the story was told almost sub-consciously. Instead of spending half the movie setting up what was happening, as Stark was handling other business, news reports in the background kept us up-to-date with what we needed to know. You realize at the end, you knew why things happened, but can’t really put a finger on when they told you.

Writing: A very good superhero script that allowed the characters to develop. They left out the corny lines, and allowed humor to fit in the movie naturally instead of forcing it. The final scene could have had a little more for me, but I get the feeling they were just trying to give us a taste because this will probably turn into at least a sequel or trilogy.

TIP: This is especially for you comic book nerds. Make sure you stick around for the final scene after the credits. A special cameo reveals something that excited many of the others that stayed around with us to the end. For non-comic book nerds, the cameo itself was pretty cool to wait the 5 minutes for…plus you should be staying to show your respect for all the little people in the movie anyway.

Acting: Favreau was rolling the dice by signing a 43-year old, recovering drug-addict to be the lead actor for his movie, but Downey Jr. did anything but “crap out.” In reality, he was brilliant and the perfect match for the role. His version of Tony Stark was witty, funny, but could still be serious when he had to be. Paltrow and Howard had smaller roles, but you could get the sense that their roles will increase in future projects. Bridges was a solid close friend turned villain that comics are famous for.

Music: A solid soundtrack of a lot of hard rock/metal groups. The music fit perfectly into the movie. Apparently Iron Man already has a cartoon theme that I had never heard that is in the movie somewhere, but real bands that are part of the soundtrack include: Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Linkin Park, Aerosmith, Sugarcult, Metallica, and Guns ‘n Roses.

To Quote the Movie: Virginia “Pepper” Potts (his assistant): (After walking in on him taking off the suit that she had yet to see) What’s going on here?
Tony Stark: (with a “busted” look on his face and a shrug) Let’s face it, this is not the worst thing you’ve ever caught me doing.

Verdict: SEE IT TONIGHT. Because of the special effects, you have to see this in the theatre. If you like any of the X-Men, Superman, Spider-Man, or like movies, you will love this one and be looking forward to the next installment.

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Reviewed by Jeff Walker

My Alternative Music Standard – Radiohead – OK Computer
My Electronic/Dance Standard – Goldfrapp – Supernature
My Singer-Songwriter Standard – Damien Rice - O

Seventh Tree is like waking up on a Sunday morning next to someone you really like – it’s warm and relaxing, maybe not as sexy as the previous night, at times even sleepy, but ultimately makes your heart soar and you want to savor every bit of it.

Release Date: February 26, 2008

Tracks/Length: 10 tracks / 41:36 (Web Site)

Producers: Alison Goldfrapp, Will Gregory, Flood (The Downward Spiral, Violator, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb)


Honest Opinion:
If you’re at all familiar with Goldfrapp’s previous albums, this one will come as quite a surprise. Gone are the throbbing dance beats, pulsing synths, and seductive vamping from singer Alison Goldfrapp. Instead, Seventh Tree has a sort of folk-acoustic-electronic sound that may even invoke comparisons to Enya and is the kind of music you would hear on Grey’s Anatomy (in fact, “Some People” was played in the first new episode following the strike).

At first listen, I didn’t think I’d be able to stay awake, as many of the early songs are rather slow and take some time to engage. Fortunately, Seventh Tree really grows on you, so even the slower songs become contemplative and subtly moving. The vulnerability and fragility that Alison Goldfrapp projects in her voice and lyrics make you want to give her a hug. Softly swirling strings, ambient synths and piano complement the vocals to create a consistent sound that slowly enraptures the listener.

I always think that a great album needs to have a strong finish, and Seventh Tree fits the bill. The last half is brilliant in working you into a dreamlike euphoria that also picks up the pace a bit from the first half, and features the best songs.

Seventh Tree is definitely not an ideal album for cruising down a coastal highway as only the bouncy “Caravan Girl” seems like a candidate for a DJ’s spin. However, this is a great album for making out, waking up, or just yearning for the one who touches your heart.

1st Single Representation:A&E” is indicative of the acoustic and electronic mix that makes up most of the songs. It has a bit more melody and a stronger climax than a lot of the songs, but represents the mood and style of the album really well.

If You Are Going to Download Three Songs (legally of course), This Is What I Would Download: “A & E” – probably the best song on the album, “Caravan Girl” – upbeat and catchy as hell, “Monster Love” – perfect end to the album and cathartic in a way.

Rule of 4 (if you like at least four songs the whole album is worth buying): Listen to one song and if you like it, you’ll probably like most of the album, especially if you give it more than a few listens. The first song, “Clowns,” is the only one I tend to regularly skip over. It’s not a bad song, just soothing and quiet, and never achieves the flourishes that many of the other songs do. I definitely like more than half the album and think it is worth a purchase or download.

Verdict: If you like Goldfrapp, you may not care for this, since the shift from dance to slower acoustic-electronica is pretty dramatic. But, it has some hypnotic songs that transport you to another place. Give it time and attention, and it can be quite rewarding, even if it’s not adrenaline-pumping or easily accessible.

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