St. James Winery – 2008 Chambourcin (Wine)

The St. James represents our first foray into Chambourcin, and we could not have gotten a more solid introduction to the varietal. From when we first brought it out of its shipping crate, the presentation of the ’08 Chambourcin is classy, with labeling that calls forth the seventies and early eighties while maintaining a current sort of flair. This red wine can be enjoyed on a number of levels, be it as a perfect companion to a home-cooked meal or through careful dissection by even the most veteran of wine tastes. Continue reading “St. James Winery – 2008 Chambourcin (Wine)”

Sherwood – Qu (CD)

It’s a bit surprising Different Light, the 2007 sophomore release from Sherwood didn’t help make the California band a household name. With their Pet Sounds-era harmonies and a sound the evoked everyone from the Beatles to ELO, the album was pretty damn close pop rock perfection. Their latest, Qu is almost as good. It’s a bit cliché to talk about a maturing sound in record reviews, but it’s true with this outing. The band is certainly feeling more comfortable with their writing and has never sounded tighter. Tracks like “Not Gonna Love” sound better than anything the band has recorded in the past. Here’s hoping QU helps the band reach the larger audience they so clearly deserve.

Rating: 8.4 out of 10

Top track: “Not Gonna Love,” “Around You” and “Maybe This Time”

Sherwood – Qu /CDs/12 tracks/2009/MySpace Records/www.myspace.com/sherwood

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (Nintendo DS)

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 is the latest in the Kingdom Hearts series and focuses in on Roxas, giving players the opportunity to take on different RPG elements through both single and multi-player modes. The panel system is the most interesting element here, in that players are given the ability to customize different item sets, magic, and weaponry. Adding more to the customization that one can have, the multiplayer mode allows the party present in the single-player mode to be filled out with human components. Thus, players can finally feel what it is like to play as Xion and Larxene. Whether in single or multi-player mode, the inclusion of limit breaks (insanely powerful attacks that each of the characters have) gives players a final line of defense should the enemies prove too challenging. Continue reading “Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (Nintendo DS)”

Absolut Boston (80 Proof)

Where most of our experiences with Absolut have been with traditional types of flavors (Save for last year’s Absolut Los Angeles) Absolut Boston is truly something to come from left field. One need only look at the blend of different elements that comproise the vodka, which take elderflower (imbibers might be familar with elderflower as the basis of St. Germain) and link it together with black tea. When individuals get a chance to take down their first swig of the Absolut Boston, what results is a chiaroscuro that does not fail to present itself throughout. What is meant here is that there is a decidedly sweet opening provided by the elderflower that is followed up with a slightly bitter and biting tea taste.
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You Weren’t There: A History of Chicago Punk Rock 1977-1984 (DVD)

There’s no denying that New York and Los Angeles get all the good press. When punk music finally made its way to the U.S. in the late 70’s, both coasts were claiming the title as punk rock capitals – with New York citing The Ramones and Los Angeles touting X. Though hundreds of miles away from both cities, Chicago – ever the modest mid westerner – was quietly hosting it’s on Punk Rock coming out party at the same time. Continue reading “You Weren’t There: A History of Chicago Punk Rock 1977-1984 (DVD)”

Morphine – At Your Service (CD)

If any 90’s band warranted the anthology treatment it’s Morphine. It took a decade, but Rhino has given the Boston-based “low rock” band the treatment and the result is a wildly impressive look at band’s output. The refreshingly original band – name one other alt rock band from that era that sounded so good with a saxophone – ended suddenly in 1999 when singer Mark Sandman died of a heart attack on stage. Though there’s been one or two Best Of CDs over the years, At Your Service is 35 songs spread out over two discs. All of the songs in this collection are previously unreleased tracks, alternate takes, and a few live ones. The collection spans the band’s career from their 1992 debut up to their last album in ’97. Alternate takes of “Take Me With You” and “You’re an Artist” sound even better than the originals. The collection, a must-have for fans of the band, is also a pretty decent primer for those who don’t own any of the group’s formal releases.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Top track: “Take Me With You,” “Good” and “Shoot ‘Em Down”

Morphine – At Your Service /2 CDs/35 tracks/2009/Rhino

Ola Podrida – Belly of the Lion (CD)

On his second release, Belly of the Lion, Texas native David Wingo – under the moniker Ola Podrida – delivers not quite a dozen beautifully written, sweeping tracks that evoke the desolate landscape captured on the album’s cover. Known best as a music composer behind movies like George Washington and All the Real Girls, it’s not surprising that Belly of the Lion sounds a bit like a movie score. Bringing up influences like Nick Drake and Elliott Smith, Ola Podrida’s sound can tend to be a bit predictable about halfway into the album. That’s not a bad thing; just don’t expect much variety beyond the moodier singer songwriter tunes Wingo is known for. All in all, a quite beautiful escape.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Top track: “Lakes of Wine” and “The Closest We Will Ever Be”

Ola Podrida – Belly of the Lion /CD/9 tracks/2009/Western Vinyl/ http://www.myspace.com/olapodrida

Nip/Tuck – Season 5 Part 2 (DVD)

Anyone who writes off Nip/Tuck as “too much” or “unbelievable” clearly stopped watching the wildly entertaining series long ago. Once those tepid viewers were scared off, the rest of us were free to enjoy the basic cable soap in peace in all its outrageousness. The beautiful thing about Nip/Tuck – about to start its sixth season – is the manner in which it manages to top it’s already way over the top plot lines year after year. Continue reading “Nip/Tuck – Season 5 Part 2 (DVD)”

The Casualties – We Are All We Have (CD)

It took 19 years and seven albums, but The Casualties – one of the few bastions of classic, aggressive punk rock – have released their most accessible and arguably best record to date. The 14 tracks that make up We Are All We Have are still as confrontational as the band’s earlier work and will still satisfy most of the diehards, but everything from the guitars to the vocals seem that much more appealing this time around.

The title track, with its gang vocals and finger blistering guitars is among the collection’s best. Reliable themes of alienation, exploitation and war are front and center on songs like “War is Business,” Depression – Unemployment Lines” and “Apocalypse Today” and the reggae-tinged “In the Tombs”. Jorge Herrera, one of the best hardcore vocalists today, still barks his lyrics giving the songs a sense of immediacy; it just seems he has a lot more to say this time around.

Rating: 8.7 out of 10

Top track: “War is Business” and “We Are All We Have”

The Casualties – We Are All We Have/CD/2009/14 tracks/2009/Side One Dummy/ http://www.myspace.com/thecasualties