Kesha – Gag Order
This is a difficult record to discuss. Not just because of the music, but because of everything surrounding it. This is Kesha’s final record on Dr. Luke’s record label and as the title implies she is unable to directly discuss their ongoing legal battle. The album, instead, looks at Kesha’s personal struggles internally. There is a genuine sense of anxiety and depression throughout this, with moment of lightness few and far between. The songwriting is strong and Kesha’s vocal deliveries are even stronger. The sheer range she displays from front to back is worthy of praise and once again proves she is capable of so much as performer. Rick Rubin’s production is the main thing holding this project back. While sleek, Rubin never pushes things into more dynamic or weird places, something Kesha’s voice is begging for. Nothing sound bad, per se, but there were absolutely wasted opportunities across this project. I still feel there is an absolute classic left in Kesha and this just confirms she has the talent to do it.
Aminé & Kaytranada – Kaytraminé
The sun is finally out, it is time for summer music and Aminé and Kaytranada are here to deliver. Individually, I think both of these artists are great. Aminé has proven to be one of the most interesting young rappers of his generation and Kaytranada has continued to deliver as a producer. Together, things go about as smoothly as possible. Both artists put things on cruise control to an extent, but if you enjoy the vibe you’ll be satisfied. Aminé’s verses are all entertaining, showing off his humor and personality. Kaytranada’s production is light and bouncy, playing off all the vocalists well to create a breezy vibe. Some of his beats are a bit underwhelming, but when they hit hard when they need to. Every feature also shows up, especially Freddie Gibbs and Big Sean who get the spotlight on some of the best songs here. This project is very transparent about what it is and for something to lay out in the sun to, I’m digging it.
Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie
Despite his limited time in front of the camera over the last few decades, Michael J. Fox is still one of the most iconic actors of his generation. His accomplished career and battle with Parkinson’s Disease are all well-known to people but we have not had an intimate look into Fox’s life until now. Still takes a very simple approach to its subject matter. The entire movie is told from Fox’s point of view, as he recalls his entire life from his childhood to his continued struggles with Parkinson’s. The story is expertly cut together, incorporating both clips from older Fox projects and filmed sequences, blending them seamlessly. It is also touching to get to see Fox’s vulnerability and honesty firsthand. Even at moments that look like rock bottom, he is able to spin positivity and kindness. The only issue with having this entire documentary told from Fox’s perspective is there are no opportunities for the people around him to tell their sides of the story. There are moments where Fox is interacting with his wife and kids but hearing them talk about what it has been like living with and caring for Fox could have really added some extra dramatic weight. That being said, this is still fantastic and tells its simple story in an engaging and creative way.
I have no idea how wide of a release this will get so I figured I would use whatever platform I have to encourage people to rush out and see this whenever they can. The film has a deceptively simple premise, focusing on a night between a successful hotel heir and a dominatrix, but over the course of the quick 96-minute runtime it grows into something much more. Without spoiling anything, our two leads are the main attraction here. Both Christopher Abbott and Margaret Qualley disappear into their roles and play off of each other fantastically. You quickly understand the extent and context of their relationship which helps fill up the limited locations used. And despite this only being his second feature, director Zachary Wigon is able to use his few locations to the fullest extent. Nothing ever feels constrained as he lets the camera capture every intimate details between the characters. Despite the simplicity of this film, there is so much to reflect on and enjoy, making this one of the year’s best hidden gems.
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