I did not expect that an actor resembling the stereotypical homecoming king would’ve won me over with a killer performance. Bradley Cooper does all that and more in David O. Russel’s adaption of Matthew Quick’s breakout novel. Famous for hits like The Fighter, Russel was able to lure industry heavyweights like Robert De Nero and Jennifer Lawrence to a production bursting with Oscar potential. Silver Linings Playbook is a heartbreakingly realistic drama with enough comedic relief — or silver linings — to keep things optimistic.

 

Cooper plays Pat Solitano, a man who has just moved back into his parents’ suburban Philadelphia home after a stint in a mental institution. To put it lightly, Pat has a lot going on. His ex-wife Nikki has a restraining order filed against him for beating up the schlub she was having an affair with (seems fair, right?).

 

Pat struggles with a bipolar disorder and it’s questionable if he’d be better off back in rehab. Even reading his ex’s high school teaching syllabus gets to Pat, with Hemingway’s propensity for unhappy endings directly contradicting his “Excelsior” motto - ever upwards.

 

Lured to a friend’s dinner, Pat meets Tiffany (played by Jennifer Lawrence), a promiscuous widow who he bonds with after discussing the virtues of Xanax and Klonopin. Still delusional with thoughts of resurrecting his failed marriage, he agrees to join Tiffany in a dance competition under the impression that it will demonstrate to Nikki how well he is doing.

 

What transpires is a heartwarming tale of having the courage to confront one’s inner demons, as horrifying as they may seem. Russel expertly avoids cheesy, melodramatic indulgences —ahem, Perks, I’m looking at you —and gets Pat and his father (Robert De Niro) to click on a personal level.

 

I’m not going to apologize for this gushing review, but I will apologize on behalf of Ernest Hemingway, who would have probably preferred a darker ending.

By: Tomi Milos

Following the sprawling success of their critically acclaimed third album, Veckatimest, the members of Grizzly Bear each went their separate ways. Ed Droste, the intensely likeable lead singer, took some time to rekindle old friendships and venture on a few trips that lent themselves to dazzling Instagram photos (@edroste). Guitarist and vocalist Dan Rossen retreated to the countryside to record a stunning solo EP, Silent Hour/Golden Mile. Bassist Chris Taylor released a solo album under the moniker CANT, produced records for Twin Shadow and Blood Orange, and is working on a cookbook. Lastly, drummer Chris Bear went into hibernation — kidding.

 

The time apart seems to have given the band a new perspective, helping make Shields their best record to date. Grizzly Bear recorded the album in a yellow house in Cape Cod that will ring a bell for some, and for the first time Droste and Rossen worked on songs together rather than in solitude. To say that the pair is the music world’s Jordan-Pippen duo is not far-fetched; Droste’s vocals have the guile and finesse of the latter, while Rossen’s singing owns tracks like the former owned the air.

 

Though Shields doesn’t have a standout single, the record is rewarding because of the painstaking attention to sonic detail. “Yet Again” is the perfect example, with a swell of guitars mounts to a crescendo as Droste and Rossen harmonize throughout. Taylor’s twangy bass lends elegiac tracks like “Gun-Shy” a joyfulness despite the morose subject matter.

 

I imagine it must be frustrating for other bands to observe the apparent ease with which Grizzly Bear constructs beautiful ballads that have enough presence to fill cavernous venues. This happened at Massey Hall, where Owen Pallet joined them with his violin in tow for a soul-stirring rendition of “Half Gate”. It’s easy to forget the bashful drummer, Chris Bear, but on lengthy album-closer, “Sun In Your Eyes,” he provides reason to believe the song is a new high for the band. His frenetic drumming lent the track an even more manic quality at their Toronto show last September.

 

At this point in their careers, Shields is a scary indication of just how good the New Yorkers are and will continue to be - as long as album-ending proclamation of “I’m never coming back” ends up not being true.

By: Tomi Milos

Most people reading this article were probably introduced to music at a young age by their parents. For me, a cassette would be played as everyone went about their household business. Skipping tracks wasn’t allowed. My mom had a beat-up cassette of Paul Simon’s classic Graceland. I wasn’t old enough to understand the shady South African politics that governed the production of the album, and I happily spent many hours humming along to catchy songs like “Gumboots” and “You Can Call Me Al.” My love affair with the album came to a tragic end when I heard the dreaded screech come from my boom box and opened it to reveal the tape unspooled beyond repair.

Looking back, I realize that listening to an album was once an immersive experience. It was important to sit close by so you could flip sides when the time came. There was also something very moving about the general cohesiveness of the albums of yore. Artists relied on a strong record to sell and then tour behind, so they made sure to create a thematic release that could lend itself to drawn-out listens. Perhaps the best example is Radiohead’s Kid A. Full of ambient washes and mesmerizing loops, it deviated from the group’s prior material, but above all it played like a story — and a great one at that. Today, the music industry has become so commercialized that many people are wondering, what happened to the music coming first – coming above all else?

Musicians aren’t solely responsible for the blame. To keep their shifty “fans” attention, artists are forced to churn out single after single. The thought of creating a concept album might seem ludicrous to the financially struggling musician who more often than not has to retain a day-job in order to make ends meet. Even concerted efforts to please fans can bite them in the foot in this digital era where album leaks are the norm. Most artists aren’t even able to make the music they want to if they want to make a living.

That said, things aren’t quite as bleak as I’ve suggested. Frank Ocean, a singer who only recently caught the attention of the mainstream media, just released a stunning epic with Channel Orange. But it wouldn’t hurt to go crate-digging for records when you visit your parents for the holidays. You might find something surprisingly enjoyable.

 

Tomi Milos

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