dan levy’s cinematic masterpiece good grief toys with conflicting emotions and comforts viewers

dan levy’s cinematic masterpiece good grief toys with conflicting emotions and comforts viewers

Dan Levy wrote, directed, and starred in his latest creative endeavor, an incredible feature-length drama (But comedy? And adventure? And love story? And platonic love story?) titled Good Grief. Upon first hearing the idiom used as the title of the film, you can identify the double entendre and understand immediately that this film will envelop you in detail. Written in the aftermath of the losses of both his grandmother and beloved dog, Levy’s investment in the film allows you to witness a perspective both so specific and yet incredibly relatable.

Good Grief brings us Marc (Levy) and Oliver (Luke Evans), a beautiful couple residing in London, together for 15 years and living a life of luxury and cohesion. Within the first few minutes of the film, so much attention is paid to Marc’s perfect life. As he hosts a holiday party in their home, his friends keep commenting on how perfect his life is, how attractive and amazing his husband is, and every other shining detail of his life.

The concept of the film is available in every trailer and description, so I go into this without fear of spoiling this detail. As Marc’s husband Oliver leaves the party for a work trip, his cab is in an accident — within sight of their shared home. The film is about how Marc approaches everything in the wake of Oliver’s death. Dealing with the harsh realities of loss, and struggling with the way grief can possess a person’s mind, body, and soul.

While I headed into my early-morning viewing of this impossibly emotional film with the complete understanding that I would weep, I was surprised to find that I did not – in fact – shed a tear. Perhaps this is because of the impossibly difficult pill to swallow that Levy’s character – Marc – is exposed to a year into his grieving process. As one would, he experiences a bevy of new emotions around his realization.

My brain almost felt like it couldn’t keep up with the conflicting pieces of the plotline. Everyone loves Oliver. You want to love Oliver. But Oliver wasn’t perfect, because no one is perfect. How do you rectify his actions, emotions, and thoughts before he passed, when conversations were not had, apologies were never made, and closure was not experienced?

Some of us haven’t had to deal with reconciling our memories of someone we can no longer have closure with. Some of us have. Either way, this film raises so many questions about how personal coping mechanisms can heal us, and how others can be a crutch at times.

Good Grief explores how other people related to the deceased handled the loss in the year that followed. Thomas (Himesh Patel), for example, is Marc’s ex who still carries a torch for him. His supportive behavior leans adoring throughout the film, and you know there will be conflict around it at some point. (How it resolves, and the feelings you go through while witnessing it, is so much more REAL than I had expected, to be honest.)

Sophie (Ruth Negga) is a very close, old friend of Marc’s – the one who initially set him and Thomas up back in the day – who seems to struggle with identity in the year following Oliver’s death. Though the characters refer to her troubled, “messy” ways multiple times throughout the film, it seems to be reaching its peak in that timeframe.

Scene stealer Imelda (Celia Imrie) pops in and out with lessons of her own as Marc’s financial advisor. Her brash attitude makes her all the more fun to peel back the layers on as the story unfolds. And those of us more familiar with David Bradley as Filch in the Harry Potter series will adore him as Duncan, Oliver’s father, who also makes some incredibly notable remarks in the wake of his passing.

Overall, this is a wildly enjoyable watch. It’s so real. Even without tears, I was a pile of emotions and confusion and thoughts. Good Grief is definitely a conversation starter and a story of redemption — for everyone.

the legendary john oates steers your emotions with new track “too late to break your fall”

the legendary john oates steers your emotions with new track “too late to break your fall”

The single “Too Late To Break Your Fall” by John Oates is filled with moments of steady beats, rustic-sounding instruments, and joyous high notes. John Oates sings with a voice that would be perfect to be played at a restaurant where people are looking for a date. His voice is slow and clear at the beginning. The guitar in the background creates a rustic backdrop that feels like a small town in the country. 

Oates’ voice becomes high-pitched as he sings, “I guess it is too late to break your fall.” His voice then becomes steady and quick in speed as he sings the next line, “You break your fall again.” This quick change of tone in his voice produces feelings of intense emotion as he sings in a high voice. Like those in a relationship, or when listening to this type of music as you would at a bar, you can have a moment of feeling suddenly happy. As quickly as you feel happy, you feel your emotions rapidly collecting into what is reality. After all, life can at times be bleak, and happy moments do not last forever. Singing in a high-pitched voice is him expressing that happiness must be savored because feeling happy can be very short-lived. Furthermore, singing at a steady cadence for the majority of the beginning of the song reveals that most of the time, he remains mentally stable while in a restaurant or a bar around other people. 

The instruments playing in this song flow with blues sounds that dance with the trumpets. Oates’ song sends the message that there are times when joy is felt continuously. But even during good times, there are moments of sadness or when you need silence to process happiness. 

Tour Dates
July 14 – Boone, NC – The Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts
July 26 – Old Saybrook, CT – The Kate
July 27 – Old Saybrook, CT – The Kate
July 28 – Newport, RI – Newport Folk Festival
August 19 – Rifle, Rifle, CO – Ute Theatre
September 2 – Nashville, TN – Grand Ole Opry
September 6 – Nashville, TN – Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
September 9 – Hopkinton, MA – Hopkinton Center for The Arts
September 11 – Decatur, GA – Eddie’s Attic

ryan bourne cranks up the emotions in new video for “wasted world”

ryan bourne cranks up the emotions in new video for “wasted world”

Have you ever been intoxicated by how in love you are with someone? 

Canadian bedroom rocker Ryan Bourne certainly has, as he declares on his latest single “Wasted World.” The new track is one of many from his upcoming album Plant City that Bourne orchestrated with beloved psych-folk singer-songwriter Chad VanGaalen and JUNO Award-winning drummer/producer Chris Dadge.  

The melody for “Wasted World” came from a dream, with lyrics playing on the theme of being hopelessly love-sick. “I got this sickness” – all the ecstatic, chaotic, nauseating overwhelm of being “in love”. Groaning synths off the top embody the anticipation of excitement to the point of nausea; bleak lyrics are juxtaposed with thumping toms and power chords because let’s face it, it can also be fun as f*ck.

Watch the video for the song co-directed by Bourne and Rebecca Reid below!

space fish’s “ringtone” is impressive for a band still finding themselves

space fish’s “ringtone” is impressive for a band still finding themselves

Part of the fun of having a job like this is being able to write about tiny local bands you know personally or might have a friend or two in. It gives you the opportunity to give their work some exposure and you also get to count it as part of your hours. This brings me to Newport News’ own indie rock band Space Fish (or “Spish” for short), who recently released their new single “Ringtone”, which came out just this April. 

The band comprises Alex Arena (lead guitarist/vocalist), Joey Bartoo (rhythm guitar), Kemari Effiong (keyboards, backup vocalist), Lauren Tudahl (bass), and Matthew Conner (drums), each of whom met while studying at Christopher Newport University. They have been releasing music since 2020, with “Ringtone” being their third single after 2020’s “It’s Never the Same” and 2021’s “The Warm Up Legend”.

In a way, “Ringtone” is a new beginning for the band as it’s the first single with its current lineup. With two years between this single and the previous one, there are immediate signs of improvement. The lead vocals are stronger and more confident, the already strong guitar work is even better, and it just has a fuller sound overall with clearer bass and drum fills. Space Fish’s sound was already built out of folk and indie rock, and here it’s a perfect blend as a focus on driving guitars and drums doesn’t overpower the emotions and confessional storytelling present in the lyrics.

It’s a good song, especially for a young band still finding their voice. As of now, the band is working on a new single and eventually plan to release an EP containing “Ringtone” and other new tracks.

razor braids’ new LP “big wave” is anguish and insecurity wrapped in a 90s indie throwback

razor braids’ new LP “big wave” is anguish and insecurity wrapped in a 90s indie throwback

Brooklyn’s own indie rock band Razor Braids just released Big Wave, their sophomore LP after 2021’s “I Could Cry If You Want Me To”. The new album is of a concept record about the timeline of going through a breakup, and lyrically it’s very personal. It goes into the narrator’s (which could be any of the members of the band, or multiple writing from shared experiences) feelings about their insecurities, self-doubts, and feelings of anguish within themselves. The lyrics are one of the strong points of the band, being clear, relatable, and easy to identify with as a listener.

Musically, the band’s style has its inspirations in 90s indie and alternative rock. There are many obvious comparisons like the lo-fi sound of Liz Phair, some Mazzy Star-style touches of psychedelia, as well as heavy grungy guitars that occasionally pop up. The production and guitar work on the album is consistently good, with a hazy but dreamy atmosphere composing many of the songs. Lead vocalist Hollye Bynum gives a lot of great performances throughout, showing her singing as more confident than the band’s earlier singles like “Nashville”. The backing vocals (contributed by rhythm guitarist Jillian Karande) are just as strong, though some of the best sounding parts of the album were when both vocalists harmonized, like on “B26” and “Windy Gap”. It’s an element of the band’s sound that I wish they used more.

My favorite track is the lead single, “She”, which is an upbeat pop-rock song that easily has the breeziest and most danceable groove on the album (with the drums provided by former member Sid Nichols). The band’s irresistible energy and chemistry here shines through, accentuated by brief giggles by the band as the song closes. However, while “She” is a great single, it differs a bit from the rest of the album in terms of its accessibility and focus on a pop chorus. Not that this is a bad thing, as mellow and downbeat songs like “It Goes Quiet” and the title track are still strong because of the earnest performances and lyrics, and especially from the lush guitars (from lead guitarist Janie Peacock) in the second half of the latter.

Big Wave is mostly a storytelling album rather than one that’s song driven. There’re points where the tracks can feel more about expressing emotions rather than structure and rhythm. This is most apparent on “JR”, which seems to explode with intensity as a musical emotional breakdown in the second half, as psychedelic guitars bury the vocals before they come crashing down on themselves. The vulnerability given from Bynum’s performances helps make this seem rawer and more effective.

All the songs are good, and the album is easy to recommend to fans of modern indie rock that are more into lyrically driven music. It’s not perfect, as I think it could’ve used another good hook or two and better pacing. Still, the album ends on a bittersweet but hopeful note on “There’s No Sound”, and I think the band still has a lot of talent and potential to build on based on the more promising parts of the album.

Big Wave may end up just being a steppingstone for a band that’s still evolving, but it’s captivating enough to look deeper into it.

byland’s heavy for a while will actually leave you feeling free

byland’s heavy for a while will actually leave you feeling free

With her first, deep inhale at the top of the title track – which just so happens to be the first on Byland’s new release, Alie Byland signals a deep sigh of relief for us all. “Heavy For A While” is the vulnerable, soft intro to this 10-track masterpiece release, which is officially out now.

Byland – officially a duo comprised of Alie and her husband Jake, surname Byland – has chosen to create an album so beautifully relatable, especially post-pandemic. Says Alie, “It’s more so my own unfettered journey of finding a sense of home and comfortability with myself, wherever I am.”

With songs like “Postcard” and “Settle My Mind,” Byland addresses isolation in an expansive and thought-provoking way. The dissonance toward the end of “Settle My Mind” feels almost like the chaos that has been occurring inside of every human over the past 4 years, as we all grapple with our emotions and identities in the wake of so many mind-blowing global issues.

Alie and Jake, in particular, zoom in on emotions and thoughts from the darker COVID days, and a time when they were contemplating a cross-country move. They both worked separately, then married some of their ideas together and refined their work as a team to really work through the aforementioned isolation organically. And you can feel it in the songs – the composition and the lyrics. Melodies and lines serve as organic puzzle pieces building toward the whole picture – a true masterpiece of an album. To extract us from the humbling events of today, Alie’s voice carries us to another plane.

“Two Circles” addresses space and time itself, and was one of the first tracks I connected with upon first listening to Heavy For A While. Explains Alie: “[The track] feels like it changes meaning each time I get to sing it. I see myself in this song. I see others. I see love, pain, anger, frustration, joy, shame, angst, everything and nothing.” Its simplistic lyrics are open for interpretation, though each version feels like it addresses a relationship — with yourself, another, an emotion, an event in your life.

The pace of “Temporary Everything” wakes you up out of the gorgeous melody in “Two Circles,” giving sonic momentum to this section of the album. It grapples with the acceptance that everything in life is temporary. Alie gets a bit cheeky with the line “The end of the fucking world,” but she’s only saying what we are all thinking.

“Darts” comes back in slowly, almost like a lullaby when juxtaposed against the tracks that come before and after it. Then “Monstera” comes in wielding a whole different energy, a song Alie wrote about her childhood best friend – the first person she had musical dreams with – and how she grappled with the change of a big move – and a lifelong dream together. This track has a sense of urgency about it, a bit more grit, and also a sense of beautiful acknowledgment of those people who helped to set you on your trajectory. Alie took such a liking to the track that last fall’s tour (2023) was titled the “Monstera Tour.”

Sonically, “Like Flies” feels like a Tim Burton movie, especially when compared to its predecessors. There is almost an eery tone to the melody, cinematic and beautiful in its own right. Last track “End Scene” comes in like a brisk walk a the end of a daunting journey. The piano is the centerpiece of the track, the simplicity establishing a sense of peace – a firm ending to this whirlwind of emotions (and talent).

Upcoming Shows
3/29 – Seattle, WA – Easy Street Records (Album Release Celebration)
5/2 – Tacoma, WA – New Frontier Lounge
5/3 – Portland, OR – Alberta Street Pub
5/7 – Reno, NV – Cypress
5/8 – Eugene, OR – Sam Bond’s Garage
5/9 – Seattle, WA – The Crocodile (w/ Noah Gundersen & His Band)
5/11 – Santa Fe, NM – The Mystic (Alie solo)
5/16 – Everett, WA – Fisherman’s Village Music Fest 2024

cole gallagher’s the confluence is a mellifluous and stunning, yet understated, collection of tracks perfect for the change in season

cole gallagher’s the confluence is a mellifluous and stunning, yet understated, collection of tracks perfect for the change in season

The song “Lines in the Sky”, which starts Cole Gallagher’s EP, The Confluence, has a soft sound. It makes you feel like you are at the beach, as he compares the person in his song to the sea. Emotions of excitement flow through the song, expressed through high notes. He is truly enjoying a fun time with this person at the sea.

As I contemplate more, I realize the sea is also a metaphor for his dreams being as vast as the sea when he is with this person, as they make him believe he can do anything he wishes. He is living in a world that is twisted, expressed through his voice. Deep and raspy, it captures emotions of anger, freedom, and pain, in a melody that flows smoothly and makes you feel like you releasing all of your emotions into the world. As he lets go of all his pain and anger, he finds that freedom is hard when you do not have the person you relied on to encourage you to see your dreams as vast as the sea. 

As Gallagher sings the song “Stumbling in the Dark”, he goes through emotions of struggling to impress the person he is singing about. He believes he cannot live up to their expectations of how to act, and who to be. Despite feeling he cannot be his true self, he follows this person because he loves them too intensely to emotionally leave them. She is the only girl he will ever truly love. He is desperately searching for her so he can look into her eyes again. He is unsure how to show her that he cares about her forever and he hopes that her life is free of pain and worries, as he expresses by singing that he hopes the skies are blue for her. 

During “Delilah”, the listener discovers the name of the person the lyrics to his EP has been flowing about. Delilah’s joy is his joy too, because her emotions are connected to how he feels. They are like a string, so when he or Delilah gets pulled or twisted a certain way, they are impacted by each other’s emotions. As expressed in his lyrics, his heart is open to her eyes, because he is open to looking deep into her soul and understanding life from her perspective. His heart will beat to her emotions and what she goes through in life. 

In Cole’s song “Chatting Through Steal”, he struggles that his dreams have been packed up by people refusing to believe in him, and rejecting him. It is melancholic and contemplative, stirring pause in its listener.

In “Sugarland”, the melody intertwines as words enter this song, with emotions of helplessness. He wonders about what it would be like to see beyond the fields he lives in. Loneliness overwhelms him and he feels trapped in the fields. Hope fills his soul as he watches the bluebirds flying in the sky and “the flames rise up,” as articulated through these descriptive lyrics. 

“The Ocarins of the Tennessee” starts with a slow, calming melody. As he is floating away, he continues to keep the attachment of this person whom he loves in his heart, vowing to never forget the sound of their voice. The sound of this person’s voice brings him both comfort and grief. He compares this person’s voice to the sounds of the sea because the sea is where he has had many memories with them. His heart is floating away with this person in his mind and away from this person in reality. At the end of this song, his high notes repeat in a steady flow in a pattern, capturing the emotions of being content with this person at the sea and the pain of losing them. 

irontom rocks the world with “SUPER//STAR”

irontom rocks the world with “SUPER//STAR”

Get ready to crank up the volume and dive into the electrifying world of rock with IRONTOM‘s ‘SUPER//STAR.’ This high-energy track is a rollercoaster ride of emotions, fueled by edgy guitar riffs, pulsating rhythms, and a captivating vocal delivery that demands your attention from the get-go.

From the moment the first chords hit, ‘SUPER//STAR’ sets the stage for an exhilarating musical journey. The lyrics oscillate between bold self-confidence and introspective vulnerability, creating a dynamic contrast that draws listeners in. The repeated chorus, declaring the speaker as a ‘superstar,’ echoes with anthemic power, making it impossible not to get caught up in the hype.

IRONTOM‘s masterful fusion of rock elements and electronic textures adds a modern twist to the song, creating a sound that’s both familiar and fresh. The band’s tight instrumentation, combined with the lead singer’s charismatic delivery, captures the essence of rock ‘n’ roll energy. The way the track builds, combining catchy hooks with an explosive chorus, makes it an instant earworm that’s bound to leave you singing along.

What makes ‘SUPER//STAR’ truly shine is its ability to encapsulate the allure and complexities of fame in a single track. The lyrics dive into themes of love, betrayal, and the pursuit of recognition, painting a vivid picture of the highs and lows that come with the superstar lifestyle. The song’s clever blend of sarcasm and genuine emotion adds layers to the narrative, inviting listeners to consider the various facets of the ‘superstar’ identity.

Overall, ‘SUPER//STAR’ by IRONTOM is a rock anthem that doesn’t just rock your speakers—it rocks your world. Its infectious energy, magnetic lyrics, and skillful musical arrangement come together to create a track that’s as hype-inducing as it is thought-provoking. Whether you’re a rock enthusiast or simply a fan of high-octane music, this song is a must-listen that will have you hitting the replay button again and again.

9/22 – Grand Rapids, MI – 20 Monroe*
10/3 – Boulder, CO – Boulder Theater*
10/7 – Ventura, CA – Majestic Ventura Theater*
10/19 – Los Angeles, CA – Moroccan Lounge (album release show)
10/31 – San Jose, Costa Rica – Estadio Nacional #
11/4 – Rio De Janeiro, Brazil – Estádio Engenhão Nilton #
11/7 – Brasilia, Brazil – Arena BSB Mané Garrincha #
11/10 – São Paulo, Brazil – Estádio Do Morumbi #
11/13 – Curitiba, Brazil – Estádio Couto Pereira #
11/16 – Porto Alegre, Brazil – Arena Do Grêmio #
11/19 – Santiago, Chile – Movistar Arena #
11/21 – Santiago, Chile – Movistar Arena #
11/24 – Buenos Aires, Argentina – Estadio River Plate #
11/26 – Buenos Aires, Argentina – Estadio River Plate #

scott fisher blends 70s disco, classic rock, and indie for his spunky release “still the same”

scott fisher blends 70s disco, classic rock, and indie for his spunky release “still the same”

For two decades, Scott Fisher has crafted musical fusions of his own design, with works featured in popular TV shows such as Shameless, Parks & Recreation, and Gossip Girl. His groovy rhythms are infectiously catchy and are right at home in these comedies and dramas. If his new single “Still the Same” were in a show, it would accompany a protagonist returning to their old hometown, expecting friends and family to have changed—only, they find that everything has stayed the same.

Funky jazz chords and a guitar riff hook the listener from the start, evoking 1970s production styles. Fisher’s voice echoes with reverb, infusing the song with a contemporary indie-pop spin. The lyrics are contemplative, as the speaker observes the inherent constancy of people despite ever-changing surroundings. Fisher observes that “the same old thoughts” are “in different brains” and “the gray in your beard is all that changed.” It’s a timeless feeling, as we move from one place in life to the next and realize that human emotions are, at their core, changeless.

“Still the Same” is the third single from Fisher’s upcoming album, Kingdom of Ego. Fisher is currently based in Los Angeles, where he has worked on acclaimed television shows  (Shameless, Parks and Recreation, Better Call Saul, The Good Doctor, etc.). He has opened for Brandi Carlile, Augustana, and Pink Martini, in line with their genre-crossing musical styles.

Get “Still the Same” stuck in your head now!