Monday, June 27, 2011

New O.A.R. Single Heaven

It is no secret that one of the favorite musical groups of Stars and Slights has long since been Of A Revolution, aka O.A.R.

As they have grown as musicians we too, as a blog, have continued to grow as... bloggers? Just go with it.

In fact, it was a behind the scenes look at the makings of "In Between Now and Then" that heavily influenced Cutting Room Floor's album and song lineup for quite possibly our most successful album ever, In Our Luck.

From that fateful encounter we learned the keys to achieving balance on a full length album - necessary for our first concerted attempt at writing one. According to frontman Mark Roberge maintaining balance between 'light' and 'dark' songs is paramount to keeping listeners engaged throughout an album.

With this as the framework, immerse yourself with the latest 'light' from O.A.R. Heaven is the first single off of their upcoming August 2 album release, King. It seems like a stylistic cross between the prevailing themes of their most recent albums, 'All Sides' and 'Stories of a Stranger.'

A new drum kit or recording style is prominently displayed on Heaven, giving the tune an almost techno layer smoothed out with R&B notes.

Heaven was actually the final track written and recorded for the album. You see, midway through the recording sessions Roberge's wife was diagnosed with cancer. Mindfully, the group decided it was prudent to put their latest production on hold while they allowed Mark to focus on his family.

In a letter to fans posted on the band's website Roberge reveals insight on the journey to finish King and the role Heaven played in its completion.

I finally understood what this life and this album was really about. At some point we have to realize all we have is right here and we can either own it or let it own us.
As 2011 moved along things got better every day. And as the world started to make sense again, we decided as a band that it was time to brush ourselves off and finish the album. We revisited some of the very first songs written for the project. “Back To One,” “Gotta Be Wrong Sometimes,” and “Taking on the World Today.” They all made a lot more sense now.
But it wasn’t until we wrote the very last song that the entire picture snapped into place. It’s always funny how that happens. We knew we had one more spot to fill and it needed to be the one that summed up everything we’d been through. I remember the first time I heard the beat for “Heaven.” It immediately spoke to me and the song came together quickly. It reminded me of all that confidence and hope we had in the very beginning of making this record, positive energy jumped off the track. We finished “Heaven” and the album was done.

Maybe, as one of the lyrics goes, 'we all should take some time and build our lives on our own design.' Needless to say, O.A.R. seems to have a really strong grip on the balance between 'light' and 'dark' in their own lives.

Heaven by Ofarevolution

Out of Contention, Natalie Gulbis Goes Backwards

PITTSFORD, N.Y.—The thumping of basketballs pounded out a staccato rhythm in the steamy evening air of late June.

My brain had long since turned to jelly and my spine resembled a slanted question mark.

As I sipped on an Arnold Palmer, I thought back on the frustrating afternoon of Natalie Gulbis.

The Wegman’s LPGA Championship at Locust Hill Country Club in Pittsford, NY was the site of a disastrous day for Gulbis, who fired a 5-over 77 to close out the tournament tied for 68th.

This was our first sojourn to the Rochester tournament as adults—I went once during my childhood—and there were a number of differences from our days under the sun at the LPGA Corning Classic.

The patrons were a bizarre cross-section of society as one would expect at any public event of this magnitude.

Every manner of dress was on display from over the top frat boy preppiness representative of the wealthy suburb we were in, to tank top-clad rednecks toting garbage bags filled with free loot from the courtesy tent.

The course itself appeared far more challenging than Corning Country Club with significant elevation changes and devilish greens that confused nearly all competitors not named Yani Tseng, who finished with a ten shot victory in the LPGA's second major tournament of the year.

There was a group of about ten people following Natalie’s group decked out in official Gulbis gear. Everyone had all black outfits, which made it impossible not to pay attention to them.

The group seemed comprised of Natalie’s host families from Rochester and elsewhere, but one individual stood out.

There was a twiggy young man, likely in his late teens or early twenties wearing his hat crooked complete with a popped collar, “diamond” ear rings and buzz cut that made him look like a cast-off from some thankfully lost episode of Jersey Shore.

That would have been enough to annoy me for a few minutes, but the reason I bring it up is to mention the tattoo he proudly displayed by rolling up his short sleeves.

In prominent view was a sizable likeness of Natalie’s official logo, minus her name as seen here.

The only reasonable explanation for such a life choice is that he’s related to Ms. Gulbis. That’s the only way to explain to a woman later in life why he got a tattoo for a professional golfer.

The aforementioned group started not one, but three slow claps while also sporting rally caps at one point. Acceptable for baseball games, but at the very least mildly insulting to a golfer not playing well.

Despite the odd makeup of the gallery and the travails of Ms. Gulbis, Mr. Sienkiewicz and I pressed on and attempted a rally of our own.

By the time Natalie finished out on the 18th hole however, our backs were in shambles and we were overtaken by pangs of hunger that could only be silenced by Chinese Buffet—Jones knows the place.

All in all, it was a good day wandering the grounds that were haphazardly laid out by Scottish golf course architect Seymour Dunn in 1928. I just wish Natalie could putt.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Look at Warren Zevon: Part One

Damn it! Every time I apologize for a post hiatus, I manage to come right back with a magnificent lull. The only proper way to deal with this seems to be to stop apologizing and take no responsibility for any wrongdoing.

Anyway, my latest adoration in the singer/songwriter genre is for the genius of Mr. Warren Zevon.

Zevon's macabre humor and way with words helped forge some of the most lyrically intriguing songs in music history. His penchant for "hard-boiled" narratives told stories that were at once hilarious and heartbreaking.

Politics, the music business, celebrities; no one was off limits from the might of his pen, the growl of his guitar or the tinkling of the ivory keys on his piano.

His career spanned over four decades—not including the release of his 1969 debut album Wanted Dead Or Alive which Zevon said was released "to the sound of one hand clapping."

While Warren had only one "hit" in terms of solo chart success, 1978's "Werewolves of London", his albums created a cult following and he was respected throughout the business for his unique style and talents.

Zevon had a penchant for mischief and led a very hard life, struggling with substance abuse much like good friend Hunter S. Thompson, seen above giving Warren a mock check-up after he'd been diagnosed with terminal mesothelioma in the fall of 2002.

As Zevon told David Letterman during his final appearance on TV, "I might have made a tactical error in not going to a physician for 20 years."

During the same broadcast, Zevon also gave one of his most famous insights on life proclaiming that he learned to, "Enjoy every sandwich."

Below is his final public performance, the classic "Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner." This song still gives me goosebumps when the dual vocals come in once poor Roland has lost his head in the narrative.

Also below is the studio version of the track from 1978's smash album Excitable Boy.

It's much crisper obviously and the vocals are stronger, but the emotion of the moment in Zevon's last television appearance is palpable.

Since I mentioned it earlier, I've included "Werewolves of London" from the same album. It essentially sums up Zevon perfectly, and you should absolutely know any song with a chorus consisting of a wolf howl.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

500th Post

Excitement abounds here at Stars & Slights as we celebrate our first 500 posts.

To mark the occasion, I've put together a little photoshop featuring some of our favorite characters. There could be many, many others, but space was limited and I chose mainly based on the pictures I found and what I thought I could do with them.

We'd like to thank everyone who actually reads this blog regularly, and even the people who randomly stumble upon our little corner of the Internet.

During our time sporadically posting, we've managed to attract over 31,000 unique visitors literally spanning the globe, and a great many of you have chosen to keep coming back.

We hope you enjoy the things we find to bring to your attention, and your patience is beyond appreciated.

I hope in the coming posts we begin to really challenge you intellectually and perhaps see what kind of a sense of humor everyone has. Content will continue to vary based on our personal whims and while certain individuals don't post often enough (AHEM!) we will continue to strive for an enjoyable, unexpected read every time you stop by.

Keep reading and leave some comments to let us know what you want and think. Just remember, I relish tearing apart dumb/ignorant/insulting comments so be true to yourselves and comment intelligently.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Turning Up The Heat on Lebron James

Self-inflicted or not, the backlash experienced by the Miami Heat is just as unprecedented as the lineup they assembled in South Beach.

Most of the jabs and open criticisms are being hurled at Lebron James.

As one ESPN story put it in the lead, “DeShawn Stevenson admitted that beating self-proclaimed king LeBron James made the Dallas Mavericks' championship even sweeter.”


Certainly, James has done little to temper the exultations of some observers, though he did dismiss recent comments by Scottie Pippen stating Lebron was better than Michael Jordan.

Lebron is in many respects a creation of the modern sports media. He was hailed as a king a decade ago, appearing on both ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated before his senior year of high school.

His games were plastered all over ESPN and regional pay-per-view in Ohio.

His teenage ego was stroked and massaged, then thrust into the spotlight as an 18-year-old kid.

Yes Lebron is cocky. Yes he seems to have no problem letting everyone know how important and talented he is. I can’t imagine where that came from.

He was a chiseled athlete right out of central casting. He’s charismatic, good-looking and has no problem joking around even earning acclaim for some television appearances.

Selected by the hometown team of Cleveland, he was the local boy making good for a moribund franchise in a city that hasn’t known joy in ages.

But then he left town, and that didn’t fit the narrative at all. Now Lebron has been recast as the villain, and the criticism grows louder and pressure increases.

As celebrity scholar Chris Rojek has stated, “the mass-media who build up celebrities are often unable to resist engineering their downfall”.

It’s too good a story. Awesome player #1 joins #2 and #3 to form a super team. The most unbeatable thing in the history of sport we’re told.

Sure the Heat players made no secret that they expect to win multiple championships, but what should they say when asked?

INTERVIEWER: “Lebron, how many titles will you win in Miami?”

JAMES: “I don’t know. I’m just happy to be here.”

INTERVIEWER: “Aren’t you confident in your new team’s abilities with you involved?”

JAMES: “Well sure, but I just don’t think me coming here is that big of a deal. I’m not the first person who’s taken a pay cut to get out of Cleveland.”

What makes the story sweeter is when the unstoppable force falls short of its goal. The jilted former lovers that are Cavalier fans can rejoice and everyone else takes pleasure in avoiding, for a season at least, a frighteningly powerful new NBA dynasty.

While a Heat loss means complete failure to many, I find it fairly impressive they came as close as they did to winning in one season. Just ask the New York Yankees how easy it is to blend a number of highly compensated stars together to win a championship. It’s almost impossible in one season. The most talent doesn’t always win.

Maybe the Heat needed to lose once in the NBA Finals before a slew of championship rings can be handed out. Maybe being so close will help form a tighter bond and make them unstoppable.

There’s no question Lebron James will be even more eager to silence his growing number of critics. The Heat should be better and that might be enough, but who knows.

You have to look no further than Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki to realize how tough it is to win championships even with good teams. He’s led the Mavericks to eleven consecutive playoffs and only now have they finally won the elusive ring.

The Heat will win a title at some point, maybe even several. It might come next year, but it could just as easily take three or four seasons.

The only thing that’s certain is that it will be difficult because of the nature of the task at hand, and because of the scrutiny of fans and media continuing to turn up the heat on Lebron James and Co.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Notre Dame Unveils Throwbacks for 'Under The Lights' Game at Michigan

On September 10, 2011 Notre Dame will Michigan in the first ever night football game at Michigan Stadium. To celebrate the event, the two teams and their apparel sponsor Adidas, partnered to honor past uniform designs.

The throwbacks were unveiled on Friday for both Notre Dame and Michigan and if the designs are any indication of how the teams will perform on the field I must say Notre Dame is primed to send Wolverines fans disappointedly back to their homes.

For the Irish, the uniform alterations are modest at best. The traditional blue numbering will change to green and two green stripes will be added to both shoulders. Additionally, they will wear white socks with two green stripes along with white and green shoes.

The biggest change will come on the helmet as shamrocks will be added to both sides for the first time since the 1960s.

For the Wolverines, a block 'M' will replace the typical numbers shown in their uniforms along with the addition of maize and blue stripes along the sides, which remind me of Marquette's basketball jerseys. Numbers will be added to their helmets and a small number will adorn the upper left chest. Also, according to their press release the block 'M' and numbers are marked with a "quilting stitch design" that, quite frankly, looks like shattered glass.

Ultimately, while the intent is to commemorate the first night game at Michigan Stadium this is certainly an added way to generate revenue for the two schools and the adidas brand.

That said, I could honestly care less what the motives behind the move are as I find it refreshing and nostalgic to celebrate one's history.

After all, the only thing fans on either side will find fashionable after the game is a win. Here's to an Irish victory while looking sharp doing it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ohio State Had Pryor Knowledge

It would appear that Ohio State was fully aware of all the tomfoolery going on in its athletic programs. This excellent gif courtesy of LSUFreek, a kind Bayou Bengal fan, illustrates the inner workings behind the scenes at THE Ohio State University.

That's school president Gordon Gee as the bellhop, Former Buckeye QB Terrelle Pryor handing out cash and former head football coach Jim Tressel looking on.

Remember, this is only a dramatization.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Canada's Best Export: Neil Young

You're all in for a treat thanks to my most recent random musical kick.

Once again spurred on by watching a random concert on television, I started listening to any and all Neil Young that I could find.

The Canadian singer-songwriter, has churned out an unbelievable amount of material during his more than 50 years in the music business.

Young has released 33 studio albums (number 34 drops in September) encompassing a Hall of Fame career. Plenty of his songs are well known including some of the ones below. It's hard to pick just a few, but these are great starting points.

"Heart Of Gold", "My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)", "Rockin' In The Free World" are all classic cuts from the masterful Young. "Rockin'" is a ripping version of the classic tune featuring Pearl Jam with Eddie Vedder sharing in the vocal duties.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dave Matthews Band: Shake Me Like A Monkey

I guess it goes without saying that we are seriously apologetic about the month of May here at Stars & Slights.

As is sometimes the case, we neglected our blogly duties in favor of other endeavors. I would however like to point out that I still posted more than my associates during this regrettable period. Let's just forget it happened OK?

Anyway, today's song is by the esteemed Dave Matthews Band. I'm not one of those crazy Dave fans, but having seen them play live once, I'm not sure there are too many bands that play that hard for that long. Crazy show. I totally understand why people see them so many times.

"Shake Me Like A Monkey" is a cut off their most recent studio album, Big Whiskey And The Groogrux King.

It has some really funky percussion, accented in this performance by a rather heavy intro to the song.


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