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Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short
Price: $5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Music for grownups...this is a good thing!, June 22, 2015
This review is from: Life's Too Short (MP3 Music)
I agree with other reviewers who call this disc music for grownups, and this is actually a good thing. I am glad I discovered this one as an adult, because the young rock fan I used to be probably wouldn't have understood it very well. The music is super-melodic, really classic Crenshaw, but the lyrics have a level of depth that wasn't present in his first few releases (as good as they were). Taking a page from the classic soul book, most of these songs are about sitting down and sorting out relationships with an eye toward making sure they continue to function. The best of lot in my opinion is "Stop Doing That," which is about fixing unhealthy/unproductive behavior patterns. From a lyrical standpoint, much of this material could have been lifted from a conversation held by a couple in a therapist's office (to me this is appealing). Crenshaw shows himself to be a wise scholar of life and what makes relationships function. Doesn't hurt that it also rocks pretty hard and sounds great blasting from car speakers. Just cuz it's rock for adults doesn't mean it's not rock. In summary, if you are a grownup (or someone who wants to understand some key things about growing up) and you love great, melodic rock, I can't recommend very many albums more highly than this one.


ASICS Men's GEL-Contend 3 Running Shoe
ASICS Men's GEL-Contend 3 Running Shoe
Price: $50.05 - $65.00

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A solid upgrade, June 10, 2015
I have always liked the Asics Contend model and I think this upgrade is a definite improvement to the predecessor. The cushioning is plush and responsive on this version, the fit is fantastic, and the shoe remains very breathable. It's surprisingly stable for a neutral model with a nice rigid heel cup. It's great that Asics makes a budget model for those who like to exercise but don't do a lot of heavy running (me for example). I pronate a bit so I need to add an aftermarket arch support to be able to wear these comfortably but that's no fault of the shoe design - it's a neutral after all. This is one of the best low-budget runners available (Saucony makes good budget shoes too) and is a good way to equip yourself for a basic fitness routine. If you do pronate, you may want to consider the Exalt model by Asics (another one of my go-to exercise shoes). It's very similar to the Contend but has some extra support in the arch. Happy exercising!


The Essential Bruce Hornsby
The Essential Bruce Hornsby
Price: $13.75
30 used & new from $10.71

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Largely superfluous for fans but a decent introduction, June 9, 2015
I have been a fan of Bruce Hornsby for many years now and own much of his recorded output including two previous "best of" collections as well as most of his albums. Glancing at the tracklist of this release, I have to wonder who the audience is intended to be. I definitely like that fact that this collection spans Hornsby's entire career rather than focusing mainly on recognizable hits from his first two albums. He has certainly grown as an artist since the early days and any good collection of his work will only do him justice by showcasing this. But in doing so, he has become more of a "cult" act who has traded the mass appeal for a smaller, more devoted fanbase. As such, most of the people who would be interested in a new Bruce Hornsby release probably have much (if not all) of this material in other places. Casual fans probably have his "Greatest Radio Hits" collection which focuses most heavily on the 1980s/early 90s and should be all they need. So who will want to buy this double-disc set? Perhaps casual fans who are curious about Bruce Hornsby's evolution since the hitmaker days, or people who want to skip "Greatest Radio Hits" for a more career-spanning approach.

No doubt that Hornsby deserves a collection like this after so many years following his own path, and everything that is here is well worth a listen. But I have to subtract a star for a collection which is probably only necessary for a small group of people.


The Desired Effect
The Desired Effect
Price: $9.99
98 used & new from $1.38

54 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something old, something new, May 19, 2015
This review is from: The Desired Effect (Audio CD)
Unlike other reviewers here, I am actually not an established fan of Brandon Flowers. I never got into the Killers and as a result have never tried listening to Brandon Flowers's earlier solo material. I actually discovered this stunner of an album when Bruce Hornsby mentioned at a recent concert that he had performed on some of its tracks. Being a huge Bruce Hornsby fan, I was very interested to see what this was all about because the idea sounded so wonderfully incongruous. I then read a very positive review of this album which name-checked a bunch of my favorite artists from my youth (U2, Peter Gabriel, Tom Petty) as influences, and decided to give it a shot. Am I glad I did.

I'm a middle-aged guy, probably not really the typical member of Brandon Flowers's fanbase. As I mentioned above, I spent my formative years listening to artists like U2, Peter Gabriel, Dire Straits, The Cure and Tom Petty. Perhaps that is why this music sounded so instantly familiar from the first listen. Brandon Flowers wears his influences on his sleeve here. The thing is, he somehow turns it all into a sound that is uniquely his own. Sure, had he not heard all the music from the 80s, this collection of sounds probably wouldn't exist. But what Flowers does is use the raw materials provided by the history of big pop-rock to channel his own muse and create some very compelling songs. I hear a lot of Peter Gabriel's huge worldbeat sound here (on virtually all tracks with backup singers) as well as bits of late-70s/early-80s Bowie ("Still Want You"), Actung Baby era U2 (virtually all tracks), Dire Straits ("Diggin' Up The Heart"), Bruce Springsteen ("Dreams Come True," "Untangled Love," "The Way It's Always Been"), and others which will probably hit me on future listens. But never does the music sound anything less than fresh and playful, not weighted down by all the influences so much as lifted up by them. It's simply the next step in the evolution of this loose genre. And yes, Bruce Hornsby is all over this set of songs! The musicianship here is uniformly excellent.

I recommend this album not just for younger people but also for anyone who grew up with the rock of the 80s like I did. It's a collection I will be listening to years from now, and one of the few new albums I have heard in the past five years that has absolutely knocked my socks off.


Sound & Color
Sound & Color
Price: $9.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Boldly moving forwards, May 8, 2015
This review is from: Sound & Color (MP3 Music)
Like many other reviewers I absolutely love this band's first album. I've been a rock fan for 25 years now, and it had been a long time since I had heard a band so raw, powerful and soulful as Alabama Shakes when that one came along. Probably also like a lot of other reviewers, I was initially a bit startled by the change in sound on the second release. Upon first listen I was a little underwhelmed and didn't feel like this new batch of performances truly showcased this band's strengths. Then I listened a few more times and found myself completely enthralled with these subtler, more diverse arrangements. The raw soul is still here but the band is delving into a wider array of feelings and emotions than they had previously done. This mostly works in their favor and showcases their crafts(wo)manship. I hear traces of all kinds of musical threads here, from blues to modern pop to progressive rock. What's amazing is that it all coheres. There's beautiful acoustic-based rock, a song that sounds vaguely Brit-poppish, the quasi-psychedelic opener, etc. etc. At each listen I discover something new. What keeps me from giving the fifth star is the feeling that this is a bit of a transitional work, consciously designed to step away from the "modern soul music" moniker which has been somewhat unfairly bestowed upon this band. I suppose at times it does sound just a little bit forced, like the band is still stretching its limbs to see how long they'll get rather than settling into themselves and their "sweet spot." But that's natural and I expect truly great albums to come from this group in the future. Far from a sophomore slump, this is a sharp and intelligent release that is deeply soulful and continuously intriguing. Very worthy of addition to your collection and belongs on the shelf right next to their breakthrough first release!


Hungry Ghosts
Hungry Ghosts
Price: $9.49

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Primo power pop!!, May 8, 2015
This review is from: Hungry Ghosts (MP3 Music)
I love power pop. It's one of those genres that's hung around since the early days of rock n roll because it's fun, deceptively full of pop craftsmanship, often slyly perceptive from a lyrical standpoint, and completely unpretentious. Power pop never really goes away, it just morphs to keep up with the times. You can trace a thread between the early Who and The Zombies in the 1960s to The Raspberries, Badfinger and Big Star in the 1970s, through to bands like The Knack and The Plimsouls in the 1980s, Teenage Fanclub and Matthew Sweet in the 1990s, and The New Pornographers and Ok Go in the 2000s. The sound stays true to itself yet keeps evolving and branching in new directions. The hallmarks are always catchy and immediate melodies, a willingness to embrace the poppier side of rock, and songs that are usually vaguely introspective about relationships and social situations.

This new album by Ok Go is, like much of their earlier work, modern power pop in its purest essence. Each song is short (3 minutes or so), and adheres to the general formula of melody-driven rock n roll designed to stick in your head and make you smile. However, there is a new reliance on synthesized electronic sounds here which I think really works in the band's favor as they continue to evolve. The sharp lines and immediacy of power pop are still there but it all sounds updated for the present. The little bleeps and bloops help carry the melodies forwards and add depth to each song to create a bit of a playful funhouse atmosphere. There's not a bad track on here but the first two songs as well as "Turn Up The Radio" and "Bright as Your Eyes" are the ones which are getting all the repeat plays from me right now. This album is on my gym playlist and I keep listening to it at work too. I'm just loving it.

If you enjoy power pop at all, I recommend giving this little gem of an album a spin. For me it's been addicting, I just can't stop playing it!


The Waterfall (Deluxe)
The Waterfall (Deluxe)
Price: $12.17
31 used & new from $6.17

25 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A contrary opinion, May 6, 2015
This review is from: The Waterfall (Deluxe) (Audio CD)
3.5 Stars...decent but didn't knock my socks off.

My Morning Jacket's album At Dawn quickly became a favorite for me when I bought it back around 2002. At the time I was very much enamored with the so-called alt-country sound, artists like Wilco, Old 97s, Lucinda Williams, Whiskeytown, Steve Earle, etc. (I still love all those artists). MMJ provided a unique spin on that loose genre, with an echoey style reminiscent of Daniel Lanois's production on albums by artists like Robbie Robertson and Emmylou Harris. The rich texture of the sound is what brought me to the table, but the strength of the songs and feelings with which they were imbued is what made me stay. To this day At Dawn is one of my favorites, as is the follow-up album It Still Moves. I remember seeing MMJ perform around this period, when they were making peanut butter sandwiches for the audience (or at least those in the front row) and giving away free concert tickets with album purchase at the local indie record store (wow things have changed). They had fire and grit, clearly ready for a bigger stage than they were on.

So here I am four albums later (and quite a bit older) listening to The Waterfall. In the interim, MMJ has branched out a lot. First came the very modern-sounding Z, which began to shed the grain-silo-alt-countryish sound for something more slick and progressive. I really liked that album, perhaps not as much as At Dawn but still quite a lot. The songs were strong and anthemic, with the beautiful 10-minute sweeping epic called Dondante (at the time a concert staple) closing the album. After that came Evil Urges, a bit of a schizophrenic effort which didn't fully cohere but nicely showcased the band's restless nature and refusal to be pigeonholed. Again I didn't love it but I liked it quite a bit. With the follow-up Circuital, MMJ moved away from the overt experimentalism of Evil Urges but kept searching for new sounds. At the time it was released, I liked it about as much as Z. However, the songs didn't really stick with me nearly as much over time. By now we were clearly pretty far from the early days.

I had read some reviews for The Waterfall which touted the album as something of a return to the band's roots. Given my inability to fully warm up to Circuital, I wasn't so sure. But I gave it a chance. To start with the positive, this one certainly has strong moments. The catchy "Compound Fracture" is one of the best songs I have heard from this band, and "Get To The Point" is a clever song which sounds very connected to the band's roots. "Big Decisions" is interesting and lyrically more challenging than much of the band's prior work as well, which opens up a new facet of their style. I also found myself really enjoying the mystical "Tropics (Erase Traces)" quite a lot. I think this is my favorite track on the album and for me successfully captures a lot of what makes MMJ great. It's simply spellbinding. However, the rest of the album just doesn't do it for me. The opening track sounds like generic arena-ready anthem rock designed to appeal to the masses. Beyond that there's just a lot of meandering mid-tempo experimentalism which to me isn't very interesting or memorable. What's missing is the (Tennessee) fire and grit I remember from the early years. Ultimately the whole experience didn't cohere and just fell flat for me. I downloaded the songs I liked and left it at that.

I certainly can't fault this band for trying to keep their sound fresh and pushing in new directions. It would have been all too easy to keep making At Dawn and It Still Moves over and over, touring with bands like Band of Horses which have pretty much built entire careers from imitating that sound. What separates The Waterfall from the far more engaging Evil Urges and Z is the general dullness of about half of this material. Maybe I am just missing it. Maybe I should keep trying. But to me, this album doesn't represent a return to roots at all. It's another new direction, but one which doesn't fully deliver on this great band's promise. Again, just my opinion, please give it a listen and see what YOU think!
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 25, 2015 11:23 AM PDT


Complicated Game
Complicated Game
Price: $11.99
68 used & new from $5.98

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing storyteller, May 1, 2015
This review is from: Complicated Game (Audio CD)
Somehow I must have slept on James McMurty's music. I have been vaguely aware of him over the years through songs of his that have made their way to various recording company compilations, but I never until now heard one of his albums in full. Clearly my loss. One listen was enough to let me know that McMurty is a major talent in an area which I particularly appreciate - telling the story of everyday lives. I say "lives" rather than "life" because he's not simply journaling here, he's writing in-character. This is becoming something of a lost (or less frequently found) art. McMurty deftly employs just the right combination of words against the backing of solid Americana-folk to paint pictures of tricky relationships, the power of memory, the experience of growing set in one's ways, and lessons learned the hard way. All of these songs are memorable long after hearing them and gave this listener something to think about. That, again, is a rarity in popular music nowadays. The feeling I got from this record was similar to how I felt after hearing Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks for the first time. There were so many turns of phrase that just captured my imagination and pulled me into the world created by McMurty. I found myself chuckling at times and touched at others. Not to lapse into hyperbole but I really find McMurty to be a unique talent whose music is timeless and sits nicely alongside anything created by other classic folk/Americana artists. If any of this sounds like something of interest to you, please do yourself a favor and give this one a listen. I humbly believe that you won't be disappointed.


Purina Fortiflora Canine Nutritional Supplement Box, 30gm/30 Count
Purina Fortiflora Canine Nutritional Supplement Box, 30gm/30 Count
Offered by All Veterinary Supply
Price: $27.99
34 used & new from $22.45

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Does what it's supposed to do, April 14, 2015
As with previous reviewers, be forewarned that I am about to talk dog digestion. But you wouldn't be reading this if that weren't of concern to you.

My dog has a sensitive digestive tract. She also loves to scarf food that falls off the table, which happens often with a toddler in the house. If you combine those two facts, you get some unpleasant situations. Dog also loves to eat things she finds outside. More unpleasant situations. You get the idea. Dogs will be dogs.

So I figured that if probiotics work for humans, why not for dogs? Or was it just a gimmick. I bought some of this Purina supplement to see what would happen. Turns out it was a big success. My dog now gets a little sprinkling of Fortiflora on her food a few mornings a week. The reward is a comfortable dog. Obviously if she eats something she really shouldn't (like broccoli!) there is only so much this product can do. It's not magical, but it helps stabilize things on an average day.

One thing to note - and this impacts cost-effectiveness as well as your dog's health - the amount you use depends on your dog's size. My dog is small, under 20 pounds. So she only gets a light dusting with her morning meals, and the rest of the pack goes in the fridge to be stored till next time. That means it lasts a good long while. The only people who should be dumping out the whole package with each feeding are people who take care of large dogs. The rest of us can save $ and not overwhelm our dogs' digestive systems by using the right amount.

So in summary - good product - does the job for my dog.


Eventually
Eventually
Price: $9.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Far better than I remembered, March 26, 2015
This review is from: Eventually (MP3 Music)
Sometimes I like to give a listen to an album that I haven't heard in a while to see how it's held up over time. This one actually was a disappointment for me when I first heard it. 14 Songs, this album's predecessor, is one of my favorites. 14 Songs has a kind of rootsy charm that was present in the better work of the Replacements, but with a more grown-up feel. Westerberg's trademark facility with words (and the ease with which he expresses deep sentiments with a few seemingly tossed-off phrases) was in top form on 14 Songs, and Westerberg sounded assured and confident with his new place in life. Stacked up next to 14 Songs, Eventually just seemed thin on content to my mid-90s ears. Although some of the songs stood out, the whole thing just seemed too geared towards mainstream (read: produced) middle-of-the-road rock to really hold my interest. I think I gave it a few chances and pretty much shelved it.

Recently I was working up some playlists of music that mattered most to me during my 20s (Paul Westerberg, Old 97s, Golden Smog, Wilco, John Hammond Jr., Uncle Tupelo, Lucinda Williams, etc.) and stumbled across "These Are The Days" from Eventually. It was catchy, not half bad. So I gave the rest of the album a listen and was pleasantly surprised. I was able to hear through the dated production this time around to the solid songs underneath. The highlights here are all the ones called out in some of the other reviews (although for me, the last track "Time Flies Tomorrow" is the favorite, at least for right now). Sure there's filler here, but most mid-90s rock records had filler. At least Westerberg's album-padders are pretty interesting as experiments of a sort. Sure Westerberg was trying to figure out what his sound would be as he continued stepping into a more mature place in life, but hearing an artist evolving is part of the fun (at least for me). Overall this is an enjoyable listed and, while sometimes lacking the depth of 14 Songs, it certainly has its highlight moments of timeless songcraft.

Overall I am very happy that I had the chance to rediscover Eventually as an adult. It has more relevance for me now, and I can appreciate Paul Westerberg's attempt to find a happy medium between maturity and youthful spirit. It will be more regular rotation from now on.


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