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Exploring the deep thoughts of one Jon Allen, one crazy opinion at a time!

My Top 10 Albums of 2012

Posted January 27th, 2013 by jallen

Alright,
now that we are a month into 2013, I figure it is about time to get a “top 10” of 2012 list out there. So, without further adieu My list of the top ten albums of 2012! Also, as a bonus, some of my favorite songs from albums released in 2012, but didn’t make my “Top 10” list.

10. Night Visions by Imagine Dragons:

I first heard these guys 2 years ago when they opened for Weezer at their “Blinkerton” show in Las Vegas, you can see what I thought about them way back then here. I have been following them from with high expectations ever sense since. Those expectations have not been let down – since I first heard them, these guys signed with a major lable and released this, their first, major lable label album which has taken the world by storm. This is a good album and I would have hoped it to be in my top 5 if not 3, but compared to their “pre major label” work, this album is just not their best. If this is the first you have heard of them, it is really pretty good. But since I had such expectations coupled with all their pre major label stuff, this one barely made it into the top ten at #10.

9. Come Back As Rain by Good Old War:

These guys were in my last list (2010 – Yes, I skipped 2011) and I feel they probably will keep on making the list if they keep on pumping out the jams – Fantastic musicians!

8. Good Blood: EP by Good Blood:

As the first official release under the new moniker, these guys have really set the bar high for themselves, and all with just a simple 4 song EP. Formerly known as BattleSchool, this Logan/Provo “local” band has always had a great sound and would always find a spot on my iPod, but this new album has set these guys on a new level in my book. I could not stop listing to these 4 songs for at least a month. Good Blood has improved all aspects of their sound from the BattleSchool days – the songs have more structure, more depth in sound, and hooks that get stuck in your head and don’t want to leave. I love this album and would have ranked it higher had it been a LP and not just a 4 song EP. Can’t wait to see what more is coming from these guys – If you have not heard these guys, do yourself a favor and give them a big fat listen.

Good Blood: EP

7. Penny Black by Further Seems Forever:

One of the two “Reunion” bands on this list. FSF has been around for a while and before this album, they had released 3 other albums; each with a different front man at the vox – their original singer, Christopher Ender Carrabba, left the band for Dashboard stardom after their first album was released. This first album, The Moon is Down, was by far their best with him at the helm, and because of it, every time I heard a Dashboard song, I would always think about FSF and what could have been… However, back in August of 2010 FSF announced that Carrabba would be joining the ranks again – This sent ripples of excitement through many spheres of the music world. This excitement soon faded as time went on with not much more news coming from the band. Fast-forward to October 2012 and we finally get this masterpiece – Carrabba as he was meant to be!

6. Vital by Anberlin:

I had a hard time listening to this one, I honestly was bored by it at my first listen through – but after giving it a redeeming try, I fell in love with it. I think this one is much better than their last two albums and very deserving of the 6th spot this year – I still like their second album, Never Take Friendship Personal, the best from these guys. Regardless, this album is well worth a regular rotation spot in your noise maker of choice.

5. Strange Land by Yellow Ostrich:

These guys are quickly making a strong case to be one of my top bands. Period. Their first album was so different and raw and this one feels so much more polished. I love both albums for what they are and this one still has enough aspects in it from their first album that it feels like a good progression for the band. Also, this is the first of 2 albums that they released in 2012, the other being an E.P. with a song towards the bottom of this post.

4. Don’t Panic by All Time Low:

Never did I ever think I would have an “All Time Low” album on a year end “Top 10” list – this album has really blown my mind (Partially since it is so good, and partially since it is All Time Low and so good). This has definitely established All Time Low as a serious legitimate band in my book, when before I just thought of them as a flash in the pan “14 year old sister’s favorite band” – This album has taken much time in my listening bank and almost every song has enough draw in it to keep you listening.

3. In Currents by The Early November:

Here is the other “Reunion” band of the list – The Early November, headed by Ace Enders, has always been a favorite of mine. Since their split, I have followed everything that Ace has done and he has become one of my favorite musicians out there – when I heard that they were getting back together I pretty much let everyone I saw know about it, and why they should care. This album is a great listen and has a bunch of hits.

2. Little Mountain by Said The Whale:

Number 2 comes in with a Canadian band. I have been following them for a while, they have never picked up too much steam in the US, but they are getting pretty big in the 51st state up north. If you have a listen, I would bet you would be hard pressed to not be able to find a jam on this little album that doesn’t get you wanting more.

1. Beacon by Two Door Cinema Club:

Coming in at number one is another foreign “not U.S.” band. These guys are from the England land, and when I first got this album, I got it at the same time as the Imagine Dragons album (the number 10 spot) I had them both going on my iPod on shuffle and I was surprised at how much they sounded alike (instrumentally, not necessarily vocally) – It almost felt like I was listening to an all Imagine Dragons album, the only thing was that all my favorite tracks were actually by Two Door Cinema Club. Trust me, these guys are good, and this album is good.

Excellent songs from albums not mentioned above:

(in no particular order)

And there you have it! Here’s to a grand 2012 and hoping that 2013 is even better!

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Les Misérables: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly…

Posted December 27th, 2012 by jallen

LMB_31_5_Promo_4C_4F.indd

Even though it is social(media) suicide to “blaspheme” anything bearing the title “Les Misérables” I must resist the peer pressure to gravel grovel at the feet of this movie.
It seems that with most fans of Les Mis, they would let you crap on a baguette, call it “Les Misérables” and they would eat it gladly as if it was an Hors d’oeuvre served at a $12,000 a plate fund raising event to “stop” global warming.

Although I did not hate the movie by any means, I didn’t love it, so now I must defend my reasons…

The Good:

Anne Hathaway (Fantine) – After seeing this, I can only conclude that she is the most talented actor/musician in the whole cast – she did it all well in this film and if anyone deserves accolades from this film it is her. I didn’t think I would, but the more I listen to it, the more I think that her spin on “I Dreamed a Dream” is the best I’ve heard.

Hugh Jackman (Jean Valjean) – He is in “the good”, yes, but below he is also in “the Bad” Category as well. As far as strengths of the movie, his acting is amazing, that is about all I can say about the good with regards to him…

Isabella Allen (Young Cosette) – Her version of “Castle on A Cloud” is perfect, she was cast well for the part!

Sacha Baron Cohen (Thénardier) – Another perfect casting for the part and he was the needed humor to get me through the film. Also, he was the only one that attempted to do a French accent (for part of the movie at least)

Still of Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen and Isabelle Allen in Les Misérables

Photo by Laurie Sparham – © 2012 – Universal Pictures

Eddie Redmayne (Marius) – I didn’t think he was the very best, but he did well. He was also able to carry a tune pretty well. He struggled a bit on “Empty Chairs At Empty Tables” specifically on the lower parts of the song, but with that being said, it was this song and scene in the movie that stole the show! Closely followed by Anne’s “I Dreamed a Dream” this was the most powerful piece.

Samantha Barks (Éponine) – She did well and could sing. Not much more really to say – Good casting choice.

Colm Wilkinson (The Bishop) – Great to see that tribute was given to the original London cast Jean Valjean.

The Bad:

Hugh Jackman (Jean Valjean) – I really struggled with his vocals the whole movie, sometimes he did well and it fit with how he was acting the scene, but on other parts where the song is supposed to be strong, he simply lacked the vocal chops to give Jean Valjean justice. Specifically; he had way too much of an old man’s vibrato, and he really struggled with the soft high notes – who am I kidding, there was no such thing as soft high notes, he yelled anything that was high and out of his range and just added the old man’s vibrato to mask the yelling as “singing” – His singing was bad, but not bad enough to land him in “the Ugly” category as some others have been banished to. I will not bother with adding the link to his song because I don’t want to taint anymore what should sound like this:

Everyone (Yes Everyone) – I know this is a simple nit-picky thing, but it drives me nuts that this is a movie that takes place in France, yet everyone is speaking English;
I am okay with the English part as it would be terrible to have to sit through a bunch of subtitles for this movie, but the thing that bugs me is that all these”French people” are speaking English with British accents. Is the British accent the universal accent to imply “Foreign Country?”
Kudos to Sacha Baron Cohen for actually trying his part with a French accent for some of the movie, but even he eventually goes back to the British accent.

The Ugly:

Russell Crowe (Javert) – Well… Russell was simply terrible. I tried so hard to like his adaptation of Javert, but every time he was on screen I immediately began thinking to myself:
“Self, here is Russell Crowe trying to be Javert”
when I should have been thinking to myself:
“Self, Javert is one driven and dedicated dude.”
Just about everyone in this movie had some sort of skill with combining acting and singing, but it seemed that Russell was concentrating so hard on actually hitting the notes, that he threw all acting out the window.
Finally at the end when he jumps to his death, I was so detached from his character and supposed character emotions that I was confused why this Javert would kill himself.

Helena Bonham Carter (Mademe Thénardier) – Really all I have to say about this one is: “ENOUGH OF HELENA BONHAM CARTER!

Amanda Seyfried (Cosette) – Wow her voice drove me absolutely insane! It instantly reminded me of two things and every time I heard her, instead of Cosette’s songs, I heard these songs:

The Takeaway:

There was definitely much to be impressed by this movie, but for me the things that bugged me were just to too big for me to ignore while I tried to enjoy the rest of the good stuff.
Ultimately, I am glad I saw the movie, but I don’t see any reason why I would ever see it again, which is why I say:

Les Misérables = Meh…

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Weezer Memories Las Vegas

Posted February 17th, 2011 by jallen

Okay, I realize that this is a little late, but it is worth it. There are some priceless videos embedded at the end here that are sure to tickle the ear hairs…

The concert started with a very pleasant surprise. The Opener was a band called “Imagine Dragons” and you can check them out here.
They are a local band and when I say local, you can take that to mean that they are from the Vegas or Utah, as they are from vegas, but got their start in the “happy valley” of Utah.

I was next to their family in the crowd and that was interesting and fun. I ended up buying their music, I enjoyed their live performance so much!

On to the show!

There was not much room for the imagination to roam with what the set-list was going to be as we already knew that it was gonna be the Blue and Pinkerton albums. They had previously stated that there would be other stuff played and right before the show, Rivers tweeted that Rachel Haden was back stage with the band. This led to immediate speculation between my sisters and I that they would play “I Just Threw Out The Love Of My Dreams”

The show began with them playing the whole blue album and it was flawless – Only in dreams was better than Ever, and it is simply amazing to see Rivers Play lead guitar.

Rivers of Weezer

Rivers During “Jonas”

This was crazy though as everyone was going crazy in the crowd for pretty much the whole show. Some creep even tried to pull some moves on my sister Nicole – to the point that my other sister Karyn and I felt that we needed to intervene… But all in all A GREAT Blue album set!

Rivers Solo - Pat on Drums

Rivers Solo – and Full Band

Intermission was similar to the shows in LA as Karl did an Intermission slide show and then moved on to the 2nd set of Pinkerton!

Pinkerton was great because everyone was so worn out from the blue album set, that we were able to stay a little more calm and enjoy the performance (of my favorite album ever, mind you) and we were so close – So I got some cool pics too! Such a great experience.

Rivers and Pat - Pinkerton

Rivers and Pat – Pinkerton

Rivers and Brian - Pinkerton Cool Colors

Rivers and Brian – Pinkerton Cool Colors

Rivers and Pat again - Pinkerton

Rivers and Pat again – Pinkerton

Brian and Rivers Rocking Out - Pinkerton

Brian and Rivers Rocking Out – Pinkerton

Here are a couple videos that I got from that second set:

Rivers Solo on: “Butterfly”

And for the encore… Full band with special guest Rachel Haden on:

“I Just Threw Out The Love Of My Dreams”

*all pictures and video taken by me – Jon Allen

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Romney or Huntsman Jr.

Posted February 1st, 2011 by jallen

Recently a friend of mine posed a simple question:
Romney or Huntsman Jr…
This is referencing to the republican Presidential candidacy for the 2012 election in the light of recent events in the news. These events tend to lead to much speculation that John Huntsman Jr. will make a bid for the office (see article here.)

Thinking about this for only a few minutes I decided: Neither.

I would not choose either of the two, and following is my reasoning.

First off, I think an important thing to consider is the following:
Who has the better chance of winning between the two?

Romney: One thing that Romney has going for him is that he has better name recognition throughout the United States. Because of this, he has a more “Clout” outside of Utah which is a huge advantage. Also, he has a more established campaign as he has been through this before. I think that it should also be noted that when he did go through this before and lost the nomination, he conceded respectfully to John McCain unlike other competitors such as Mike Huckabee who fought to the bitter end – I think that the American People look kindly on the “Class” that Romney showed in defeat.

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney

Huntsman Jr.: Huntsman’s biggest obstacle is that he really has not done much in the public eye (besides in Utah) and has a much bigger hill to climb in both getting the name recognition as well as getting a solid campaign infrastructure set up. He will most definitely get the vote of the more liberal Utah conservatives, but outside of Utah he will have a much tougher time proving a track record that coincides with the GOP, as all his work has been with china and really has not been publicized well (props to Obama for successfully silencing possible competition). One thing that Huntsman does have going for him is that he does have the “Fresh Face” that many commentators feel the GOP needs right now; worried that all the current major players for the party are “has-been” or washed up and don’t provide a spark that the party needs, and Huntsman could possibly provide.

John Huntsman Jr.

John Huntsman Jr.

Ultimately between the two, I feel that the candidate who has the better chance of winning is Romney because of both his name recognition and his solid campaign infrastructure already in place.
On a side note: I really don’t think either will win, even if they ultimately would offer the best option for the overall well being of the United States. The whole LDS thing, which both will have to battle, will be too much of a roadblock for either one. Like it or not, being LDS is just not too popular in the United States – at least in a prominent position such as president.

But based on the fact of “Who has the better chance of winning between the two” alone and the evidence listed above, if you really want the Office of the President to be held by a Conservative – and if the GOP Candidate came down to these two, Romney is the one to go for.

Now that the “chance of winning” is established – On too the goods:
Who I personally think should win?

The reason I originally said “neither” is; being a conservative, I feel that neither of the two have represented my conservative ideas very well.

Romney: In 2006 Romney famously introduced a Massachusetts State Health Care Bill that is eerily similar to “Obama-Care” especially with regard to the “Individual-Mandate” and that will undoubtedly be a major obstacle he will have to face for most of his campaign (check this pretty interesting article to see more about this). Although he is a proven business man and does have a better economic “resume” than Obama ever had (which is obviously my opinion).

Huntsman Jr.: When elected as Utah Governor he took a $8.94 billion budget and grew it to $12.4 billion in the 3 1/2 years he was in office. In a society where the Budget is such an issue, someone who increased spending is NOT who we need right now (source). The obvious argument to this is that the budget will always grow and Utah is hailed as one of the better managed budgets in the union, which is true, but the growth that this represents is roughly a 38.7% increase. I feel ANY budget growth right now from the federal government is just too much. If time permits, I would also suggest that you look at this article here as it is seen that Huntsman’s budget is more of a Liberal budget and not so much of a conservative budget even though he would run on a conservative ticket.
Also, from my personal observations on his Governorship, I feel that he undermined the voice of the people and did what he wanted in spite of what the “voice” said (such as when he allocated Utah taxes to pay for a soccer stadium that the people voted they did not want their tax dollars to go to). Also, he has never completed his terms for different positions in public office – quitting the governorship to be the ambassador before his first term was over, and now quitting the ambassadorship to run for president. (will he quit president when he finds something better?) Although, same as Romney, he is a proven business man and does have a better economic “resume” than Obama ever had (once again, opinion).

So because of that, it really comes down to the fact that both have enough Liberal histories that it would be hard for me to vote for either given the current needs of our country.
But… If I did have to choose between the two, I would have to say Romney.
Reasoning: Although he has shown Liberal tenancies with his health care bill, he has never undermined the voice of the people as I have seen Huntsman do, which of all their faults, I feel that Undermining the people is the most unforgivable political taboo.

Ultimately I would like to see who else is actually running because, as of now, no one has officially declared their candidacy and if there ends up not being a better choice, then the above opinion will then actually have weight.

I am not picking who I would like to support for president until the choice is real…

With that being Said….
I am still researching this, so if you feel I have missed something or misrepresented an issue, Please let me know so I can learn and make a better educated decision; as well as keep you up to date with this.

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