Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Oilers going to the Cup Finals

Hey all!

Well, the proverbial shit has hit the fan: the Edomonton Oilers are going to the Stanley Cup Finals! I'll tell you this much: as an Oiler fan, it's been a wild ride full of surprises. The biggest one, of course, has been Dwayne Roloson. Aside from a few bad periods in the middle of the Ducks series, the guy has been unbelievably steady. Always square to the puck, always in the right position. I mean, he hasn't made as many spectacular saves as Cujo did in the the '97 Dallas series alone, but he has been the backbone of this bend-but-don't-break team, so he deserves all the credit he can get.

Still, as good as he's been, I have a weird feeling that if the Oilers do manage to win the Cup, Chris Pronger, not Dwayne Roloson, will win the Conn Smythe trophy. And if you ask me, that's who I would give it as well. As good as Nik Lidstrom and Scott Niedermeyer were during the regular season (either one of those two will without a doubt win the Norris trophy), both were badly outplayed by Pronger in their respective series againt Edmonton. Indeed, the big man has reclaimed his throne as th best defenseman in the league, and he has done everything for the Oilers. Look at it this way: all throughout the playoffs, big time players like Shanahan, Datsyuk, Cheechoo, Thornton and Teemu Selanne all disappeared in their series against the Oilers. Pronger's been a physical force all through the playoffs (he and Jason Smith have made Craig Mctavish look like a genius for putting them together). He's been playing intelligently all along, never taking himself out of a play. And he's been the driving force behind the Edmonton power play. He is truly, in my humble opinion, the MVP of this Oilers team.

In the Eastern Conference, the Carolina-Buffalo final has been THE epic series of these playoffs. It's been great game after great game, and Game 7 promises to be even better. What's been surprising to me is that Buffalo has really taken it Carolina, but Cam Ward, when in net, has really stood tall. I would've thought that Ryan Miller would've been the busier goalie, but it hasn't turned out that way. Picking the winner of Game 7 is going to be real tough. Momentum has meant nothing in this series. Carolina has homefield advantage for the last game, but they might still be reeling from what was a dubious overtime call on Doug Weight. As far as predictions go, this one is a real tossup. And the coin says tails, so Buffalo will win, setting the stage for Mike Peca and Dwayne Roloson facing off against their old team, and Mike Grier getting reacquainted with his old Oiler friends.

By the way, this weekend I met with a guy named Ben in Montreal. Ben plays in a band called Black Waters. They are a young band, still unsigned, but a very good one to say the least. They are playing the O Patro Vys (365 Mont-Royal E.) on June 16th, and they'll be playing in Montreal again on August 12 (and I'll be there). I've been listening to their CD over and over again since Saturday (the day I met with Ben to purchase the album), and it's some of the best stuff I've heard in a long, long time. The songs "Found", "Clear", "Absinthe", "Timebreaker", "Kamera" and "Winterland" are all excellent tunes. But the real gem of the record is "Gone". I just can't get enough of that one. The album is, in my opinion, a work of art from start to finish. There is no real filler here, just good song after good song. This band has the chance to become something special, and I really hope that someone signs them at some point. Check them out at .

Next post will come on Friday night, when I post my preview of the Stanley Cup Finals... Until then, just remember that if you can't figure out if the glass is half-full or half-empty, just get a smaller glass.

Dwarf Out

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Ducks win 6-3 against the Oilers

Yesterday, when writing about the Oilers game 3 win, I mentioned that they came up with the victory in a game they should've lost, and that they looked like a team that didn't have their legs. Well tonight, the Oilers had absolutely no legs, and if it wasn't for another subpar performance by the Ducks goaltender (Giguere was in net tonight, not Bryzgalov), they would've never even been in the game.

The first period was as huge a dominance as I have ever seen, and I am not hyperboling here. The shots, at the end of the period, were 25-3 Anaheim. The score was 3-0, but without a couple of amazing saves by Roloson, it could've easily been 4-0 or 5-0.

The second period washard fought by both teams, and Edmonton did show a lot of heart. But Giguere couldn't come up with any big saves, and for a moment there, it looked like the Oilers might again get by on heart, great goaltending and opportunistic offense. But no, not this time. This time, Roloson, while still excellent, did look human. This time, the Oilers just couldn't muster up enough effort. This time, they suffered defensive breakdown after defensive breakdown. The truth is, while the Oilers still lead 3-1, they have only truly been the best team in one of those games. They need to wake up quickly, get their legs again, or they might wake up next Tuesday with the series tied 3-3.

Some will say I am too quick to jump at conclusions and that the series could also end Saturday night. Well, I hope so. But the reality is the Oilers have been badly, and I emphasize badly, outplayed in the last 2 games. In the last 4 periods, Roloson has given up 9 goals. And he cannot steal every game for the Oil. They Ducks have figured out how to get to him and how to put pucks in the net. At some point in this series, Edmonton are going to have to protect him better than that, and they are going to have to start playing like they did at the end of the Sharks series. Bryzgalov was adequate at best during this series, and tonight Giguere's play was shoddy. If the Oilers can get 30 shots on him, they could score 5 or 6 goals. But the Oilers have played a lot and very hard in these playoffs, and are now reeling from the flu. Here's to hoping they find the energy to win one more game!

By the way, I'm off to Montreal for the weekend, and it looks like a pretty packed one indeed. I'll be back with my next post on Tuesday night. Until then, remember to work hard, but play harder!

See ya kids!

The Dwarf

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Little Video...

Hey, you have to check this out:

Now, if anyone feels that these are not the best hockey fans in the world, please enlighten me...

The craziest 3rd period ever?

Last night, the Oilers won a game they should've probably lost. Talks about a part of the teambeing struck by the flu are making rounds in the Edmonton press. Well, they sure looked like a team that didn't have their legs last night...

The Ducks really took it to the Oilers in the first period. They dominated in the shots department, and they dominated physically. But Roloson was steady, as he's been throughout the playoffs, and he even pulled a couple of spectacular saves on one-timers. And, at the end of a brutal first period (something like 40 minutes of penalties combined for the two teams, as well as 2 fights), Edmonton led 1-0, on a goal by a guy I didn't even know was on the roster, Toby Peterson.

The second period, unlike the first, was uneventful. There were a couple of chances on both sides, but nothing too dangerous. What was amzing was that, even though they looked slow and couldn't really keep up with the Ducks, the Oilers kept fighting like mad for loose pucks and throwing themselves in front of almost every shot. I think Neil Smith, the analyst for OLN and ex-Rangers GM, summed up really well this playoff run of the Oilers when he said: "The Oilers look like they'd rather die than lose". Good stuff...

The 3rd period was absolutely crazy! Still leading 1-0, the Oilers started to apply a bit more forecheck. The result was Mike Peca pressuring the point, getting the puck and flying all alone on Bryzgalov. And in the same way he did against the Sharks in Game 6, he roofed it in the top-right corner. Beautiful goal. Not even a minute later, the Oilers came in 2-on-2, but Samsonov waited till the last second and made a beautiful drop pass to Staios will cutting across the slot. Bryzgalov followed Samsonov and Staios shot it into an open net. And then, another minute later, after the Ducks had taken 2 bad penalties, Pronger made a wicked slapshot to score on a 2-man power play. At that point, it was 4-0 and I was dancing in my appartment!

But I never saw it coming. 'It' being the Ducks comeback. After the Oilers scored 3 goals in 2:21 min., the Ducks responded with 3 goals of their own in 4 minutes. Just like that, they had a bunch of momentum and were back only 1 goal behind. Worst, for the first time in the series, Roloson looked vulnerable. In the end, the teams exchanged 2 more goals, and it stayed really close until the very end, when Roloson made a toe save on Justin Penner when Penner had a wide open cage.

When I went to bed last night, I was so happy to be 26 years old, and not 50 or 60. Because had I been that old, I would've surely suffered a heart attack. I don't know that this was the crazy 3rd period of all time, or even of the year, but it was really filled with excitement and drama. To all those who missed it, well... 'I pity the fool!'


The Dwarf

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A look foward to the 06 NFL Season

It's 6:30pm right now, Tuesday night. The Oilers are about to take on the Ducks in game 3 of the Conference Finals. The talk of the town right now is the flu bug that has hit the Oiler locker room. I'm a bit nervous at this point, but confident in my boys nonetheless. Check back tomorrow for my thoughts on the game. Now, onto some NFL thoughts...

Last year, we saw one of the better teams in the NFL for the last few years literally fall from grace. A team that was hurt by injuries and torn apart by turmoil, the Philadelphia Eagles took an unexpected tumble down the NFC East, going from first to worst in only one year. Obviously, the big storyline of the year was Terrell Owens, but not to be forgotten were the locker-room fight involving Hugh Douglass, the story about Donovan McNabb allegedly “losing” the team, and of course the several injuries (McNabb, Brian Westbrook among others) that erased all hope that the team had of saving its season.

As we look forward to the 2006 NFL season, one of the biggest questions will be whether the Eagles can reclaim their throne as the kings of the NFC. My first thought on the subject was that there was no doubt that the Eagles would be back as a Super Bowl contender next year. But when you look at the NFC East, one of the reasons for the Eagles’ dominance of it during the last few years (leading up to last year) was how weak all the other teams were. In 2004, the Eagles finished 6-0 in the division. In 2005, they didn’t win a game. While a lot of that is due to the Eagles’ own problems, the other teams in the division also got a whole lot better. So, with that in mind, can Philly really return to its old dominant self?

Well, I don’t know if they can go back to being as dominant, but I still feel they will be back as one of the best teams in the NFC. Last year, while all the headlines were focused on the McNabb-T.O. drama, the underlying story was the departure of DT Corey Simon and all the injuries that their defensive line suffered. The Eagles have long had a defensive line by committee approach, with a regular rotation to keep everyone fresh. But last year, the d-line, one of the smallest in the league, was constantly outmatched by the opposition because of their lack of bodies. That, in turn, led to a secondary that got burned more than it had been in years. This year, Philly added standout DE Darren Howard through free agency and well-regarded DT Brodrick Bunkley through the draft. These two should fit right in on a line that already includes DE Javon Kearse and 2nd year DT Mike Patterson. And for so unlike last year, the Eagles can look forward to their season with a lot of depth on the defensive line.

In my mind, that is where everything happens. The defensive line play of the Eagles will decide how well the team will perform. I don’t think there is any doubt that Donovan McNabb is the leader of this team. Under the guidance of McNabb, the offense won’t miss T.O. too much. Brian Westbrook (the real MVP of this offense) will continue to create mismatch problems for defenses, and he will get his scores. Somehow, the receiving corps will be fine. No one will catch 90 balls, but McNabb will spread the ball around enough to keep defenses honest. But in the end, it is the defense that will dictate this season for the birds. If the defense can go back to its dominating ways, with its corners shutting down the opposition’s receivers, with Brian Dawkins playing head-hunter in the middle of the field, with Jeremiah Trotter patrolling the line of scrimmage, the team will be more than fine. But in order to do that, the defensive line must start to get some pressure on the passer, to get upfield on running plays, to create havoc once more. Without that, the defense is forced to blitz too much, and that’s when they get burned.

Howard, Kearse, Patterson, Bunkley, Rayburn… Remember these names. The Philadelphia Eagles’ season will hinge on them. The NFC East is not a division that is ripe for the picking anymore. And in what promises to be tough division battles all year long, the Eagles will need to be able to win the battles in the trenches.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Snoop Dogg - Rhythm & Gangsta: The Masterpiece

Well, I promised Veillotron his review of the Snoop Dogg album, and as ridiculous as this seems to me, here it is. But before I get on with it, let me state for the record that I tried to listen to the album as objectively as I could, even though it's well known that I am no fan of rap music.

Snoop Dogg - Rhythm & Gangsta: The Masterpiece

When I first saw the name of this album, I wasn't too impressed. "The Masterpiece"? Ok, we know that rappers, like pop and rock stars (and actors for that matter) tend to believe their own hype. But even The Beatles never had the audacity of naming one of their albums "The Masterpiece". But that being said, while "masterpiece" might be pushing it, the simple fact that I was able to listen to it from start to finish without cringing too much speaks volume about Snoop Dogg's work here.

Like any rap album that hopes to have any "street cred", this one is filled with sexual and "gangsta" references and non-stop dropping of the standards of rap vocabulary, more precisely the usual "shit", "ho", "bitch", "ass" and the unforgettable "nigga". But lame lyrical content aside (is it even called lyrics in the rap world?), there are some pretty good collaborations to be found here and some excellent beats too. 'Bang out', although it doesn't feature much Snoop Dogg, gives a rather weak beginning to the album a foundation to stand on. 'Promise I' shows some originality, showcasing a nice R&B groove that borders on jazz. The collaboration with 50 Cent, 'Oh no', possesses the characteristic that most good rap songs have: a great sample. 'Signs', a song that features Justin Timberlake, almost sounds like a Bran Van 3000 song with Snoop making an appearance. It has a pretty nice disco vibe. The album closer, 'No thang on me', is one of the strongest cuts here, and like 'Promise I', has a style that clearly shows some jazz influences.

But for all its strong moments, this album also features some ridiculous, pointless cuts. 'Drop it like it's hot' has to be one of the most annoying songs ever, no matter how popular it is. 'Step your game up' and 'Can you control your hoe' sound like their words were lifted right out of an Eminem album, but the music lacks the urgency of Eminem's. All in all, Snoop has managed to come up with a few good cuts here, but he has failed to support with quality "filler" material. Still, the record has enough to stand on its own.

3/10 (my taste); 7/10 (if I take an objective look at it)

By the way, as an add-on, let me here intrduce my good friend Huy with a contribution of his own for this review of Snoop Dogg's album:

"Snoop D. O. G. last joint was bangin yo......that shit be bringing down the crunk back to tha south side homies.......word. All my nizzles will be hearin that shit"

Alright... I feel like I just had an out-of-body experience. I never thought I would one day review a Snoop album. What wouldn't I do for my peeps? My ever loyal peeps... Anywhoo, check back tomorrow for my thoughts on Game 3 of the Oilers-Ducks series, as well as what I think we can expect from one of the biggest questions marks in the upcoming NFL season: the Philadelphia Eagles. Will the the departure of Terrell Owens hurt their offense, or will they be able to bounce back? I say they'll bounce back in the biggest way... See you Tuesday.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Need to get a few things off my chest

Hey all...

First off, Veillotron, I looked up Snoop Dogg's recent output, and there isn't much to review here. Apparently his last couple of releases are just tapes of outtakes where you have a million collaborations, but not much Snoop... But if your wish is to have my input in regards to those releases, I'll gladly oblige. Keep me posted.

Now, tonight the Oilers won again and are now leading the Series 2-0. Better yet, they are winning convincingly. Yeah, the Ducks are getting their chances, but Roloson is standing tall, the defense is constantly clearing the front of the net, and the fowards keep scoring timely goals. And so the Oil is making me look like a dork for predicting the Ducks would win in six. But boy are they making a believer out of me. Throughout these playoffs, I've been hoping for the best and preparing for the worse. Well, at this point, if the worse ever comes, I think I won't be ready for it. This team really looks like one set on going the distance. And I can honestly say that I am now 100% on the bandwagon. I'm a believer baby!

That being said, I need to let something off my chest. It's about this whole Da Vinci Code thing going on right now. We've all read the "Breaking the Da Vinci Code" books or seen the "Beyond The Da Vinci Code" shows on History Channel. So we know that the book (or the movie for that matter) are works of fiction, and that no real fact in the story can actually be proven. So then what is all the controversy about and where is it coming from? Well, I'll tell you where it comes from: from an increasingly nervous Catholic Church.

The Da Vinci Code, the book itself, is written a like a good suspense movie, and so it's a very entertaining read. So it's no wonder it was such a success. But it's based in what I have come to see as one of the great conspiracy theories of our time. Really, when you look at it, none of the facts stated in the book can be proved, nor can they be totally disproved. So we're looking at theories that don't have enough to stand on to become facts, nor can they be swept with the back of a hand. And isn't that what a conspiracy theory really all about? I mean, maybe Flight 93 was gunned down by the army, or maybe it was crashed intentionally by the passengers on board. Maybe there was a second shooter in the JFK assassination, or maybe Oswald acted alone. And maybe Aliens do exist, as the X-Files suggested for more than 5 years. But the fact is, there was never any such outrage at any movie that dealt with those subjects. Yet, every time a movie dealing with Christianity comes out, it's the same thing all over again (see Stigmata, Dogma, The Passion of the Christ). But this time it's bigger than ever, because of the popularity of the book.

The fact is, these are tough times for religion. Religion's presence has forever been linked with explaining the unexplainable. Pagans used to justify climate changes by linking them to the ever changing moods of a God or Goddess. Everything in life had a corresponding God or Goddess. And because we couldn't explain much, it all made sense. Then monotheist religions came around. God, Jahve and Allah were seen as the Creators of the world, and its forever ruling King. But as the world has evolved, these beliefs have come to be put in question. The theory of evolution came around, as did countless other discoveries and scientific advancements. What we know today has made religion in general a much more useless entity. But instead of taking a backseat, religions have struck back in the biggest way. And so, along with the rise of science and technology in the last 50 years has come the rise of Fundamentalism.

In America, we see Christian Fundamentalists blame the attacks of 9/11 on Americans, saying it was God laying down his wrath upon the country for being too tolerant of gay people. We see the President saying he would like to see the concept of "Intelligent Design" (God created the world, the whole Adam & Eve thing) thaught alongside evolution, because both "could be true", even though there is no debate here. We see constant discrimination against gays emaning from the Catholic Church. The Church still says that no woman can be priest, nor should they be able to decide when to have a child or not. And then, you have your Bin Ladens and your Talibans. The reality is that while the world keeps evolving, religion doesn't. And thus the need for Fundamentalists. But while these Fundamentalists are being heard loud and clear, the fact is less and less people are agreeing with the beliefs that they hold, perhaps because it doesn't fit the intellectual mindset of today's societies.

Let's face it: 50 or 60 years ago, towns were empty on Sunday morning, as churches filled up. Nowadays, it's rare to see a church half-full in the same hours. The Catholic Church has lost a large portion of its following, and so it is understandable for it to feel threatened by a book such as The Da Vinci Code. But why is the Church following the lead of Fundamentalists? Or if not following their lead, at the very least condoning their speach, by claiming the book and the movie are discriminating against their religion? Why is the Church being so radical?

Discrimination is what the Holocaust was. Discrimination is what slavery was. Discrimination is what racism is all about. Discrimination is a woman being paid less than a man would for the same job. Discrimination is gays being refused to right to marry (in a town hall, mind you, not a church) because of some other people's spiritual beliefs. Discrimination is being pointed at and being laughed, still today, because of occult spiritual beliefs, such as withcraft and wicca. And as hard as I'm trying to find it, I still can't point my finger to how The Da Vinci Code does this to Christianity. This book offers an alternate way of looking at the historical "facts". Sure, it paints Opus Dei as a bunch of lunatic extermists. But the monk who commits murder is also an albino, and you don't see the albino community plastered all over the newspapers. Sure, it paints the Catholic authority as hiding some sort of huge secret, but isn't this the same church who pretended for hundreds of years that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute? I mean, really, where does it say that Christians are terrible people, that they shouldn't have the same rights everyone else has? And where does it say that Jesus Christ was a fraud? The fact is, it doesn't.

The Catholic Church has become more and more weary of people putting the scriptures in doubt, and given the fact that they're losing followers to atheism or other religions every year, I can understand that. But to lash out against people who disagree with their teachings or beliefs is not the way to go. Didn't Jesus preach that everyone, people of all faiths, rich or poor, were children of God? Didn't he preach tolerance? The Catholic Church should've taken a calmer, more rational position. It should've proclaimed it didn't support the book or the movie, not attack it. By doing so, it has portrayed itself as a intelorant and hypocrit organization. But it's not the first time, and certainly not the last. And the one thing we can learn from this is that while Jesus, married or not, was a great man, one who spread a word greater than himself, the men who have followed in his footsteps have once again failed to live up to him. And when we see all the hatred that is spread in the name of religion, all the wars that have been fought because of it, it's a real shame to see that the very men who are the embodiement of religion probably even can't look at theirselves in the mirror with a straight face. THAT is a real shame. And while the Christians all around keep babbling about how horrific the way they are being treated is, all I see is a bunch of people who are so narrow-minded they can't even realize how intolerant and self-centered they are. If being like that is the gateway to Heaven, I'm more than ready to welcome Hell.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Conference finals and stuff...

Hey Dudes and Dudettes from all around the globe... (yeah, I wish)

Well, the Oilers are now in the Western Conference Finals. I thought that towards the end of the series, especially games 5 and 6, the Sharks just ran out of gas. Now I don't know if that's a tribute to the Oilers, who simply outworked them, or if it's just the Sharks just lacked the same resolve. I guess it must be a little bit of both. But to anyone out there who hasn't much of the Oil in this year's playoffs, I have to tell you that you're missing out on something great. It's not that the Oilers are making eye-opening passes, or beautiful tic-tac-toe goals, but the intensity and the heart they are showing on each and every shift is truly something to behold. Rarely have I seen a team, a whole team, put their bodies on the line like the Oilers are doing. And I hate to say it, because I'm not sure I believe, but this looks like a team of destiny.

But, in the end, I believe the Ducks are cut from the same fabric. They work hard on every shift, and just might be a bit more talented than the Oilers are. Their only question mark is in net, where Bryzgalov has been hot and cold all year. Right now, he's red-hot, burning-hot, and the question is will he falter somewhere in the series like Toskala did for the Sharks. Well, I don't think he will. And so I predict the Ducks will win in 6.

In the other conference, the Sabres will meet the Hurricanes. It's been said everywhere that both teams are mirror images of each other. I think that's true in the type of game they play, which is a sound defence, stretch-pass and speed down the wing up-and-down type of hockey. Another similarity is that they both have rookie netminders. But aside from that, when you look at the list of fowards, Carolina has some big name talent in there (namely Staal, Brind'Amour, Weight, Recchi, Whitney, Stillman) but Buffalo, a bit like Edmonton, has few names that are recognizable, yet it features some real scrappy guys with a knack to put the puck in the net at the right time. And unlike in the western finals, I think the team that will prevail here is the scrappy, hard-working team. I think Buffalo's fowards will prove to be too much to handle for young Cam Ward while, at the other end, Ryan Miller will stand tall. Buffalo in 7.

Now, on to other stuff... Some guy named Veillotron would like me to review Snoop Dogg's new album. Well, I pretty much think that would be a waste of everyone's time, as I don't know much about rap. Not only that, I don't necessarily like the genre. But you know what? Power to the people! And so, in my next edition of "The Dwarf's Musings", I will review Snoop Dogg's new album. Mr. Veillotron (weird guy that Veillotron), check back on Sunday for the review! Also on Sunday, I'll discuss a band I've been listening to a lot on the last few months, Stars. See you then!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

CD reviews

Hey all!

Just finished a great night of TV. Scrubs was awesome, as usual, and a double dose was very welcomed. Yup, it was the season finale, so we got a full hour! It is, without a doubt, the best show on TV right now. I just can't believe that NBC will put it only in their winter lineup again next year. So now I have to wait till January 07 for the next new Scrubs... the only good thing about it is there never any reruns. But I digress... Law & Order: SVU was pretty good. They didn't save their best show for the finale, but it was good nonetheless. "Above par" is how I would put it.

Now, I said you (whoever is reading this, if you're out there) would get some CD reviews, so here they are...

Pearl Jam - Self Titled

Without a doubt, this is their best release since Vitalogy, if not better than that one. It starts off with a vengeance, which is very refreshing. In their last few releases, the band seemed to have taken a more progressive, somewhat expiremental approach. But for the first half on this record, that's all out the window. We're talking full-on 70's infused rock n' roll here. Rockin' riffs, guitar solos, and Eddie Vedder yelling out his lyrics like only he can. Indeed, he is singing with a purpose here. His lyrics are politically challenging, if not confrontational, but in a more universal way than what Green Day or Neil Young have managed to come up with. Check out these lines form the song 'Marker in the sand': those undecided... Needn't faith to be free/And those misguided, there was a plan for them to be/ Now you got both sides claiming to be killing in God's name/But God is nowhere to be found, Conveniently. This is some good stuff.

The second half of the album is a bit more mellow, and takes us back to albums like 'Yield' and 'Binaural'. But still, the songs have an urgency that we haven't heard from Pearl Jam in a long time. There are rumors that this might be the band's last album, and they are truly playing like a band with nothing to lose, trying to leave one last mark on rock music before they leave the scene. This is a record that is filled with highlights. 'Life Wasted', the lead-off track, begins the album in force. The first single, 'World Wide Suicide', is one of the best rockers I've heard this year. 'Marker in the sand' has a melody that will hook you and you'll find yourself humming those notes before you know it. 'Army reserve' is a mid-tempo rocker featuring almost The Cure-ish guitars and Vedder at his best, both lyrically and vocally. 'Inside Job', the album closer, is an epic 7 minute journey that builds like a crescendo and, in the end, leaves you wanting for more. 'Severed hand', 'Big wave', 'Come back' (that one reminds me of 'Black', one the band's biggest hits ever) and 'Unemployable are also very solid songs.


Red Hot Chili Peppers - Stadium Arcadium

When I heard the Chili Peppers were coming out with a double album, I was ecstatic. Now that I've listened to the record a few times, I wish they had put back about half these songs in a desk somewhere and released a single album. A lot of these cuts sound like a variation of one another. Make no mistake, the Chili Peppers are one the best rock bands out there today. They mix funk and beautifully crafted melodies better than anyone else out there. And like on 'Californication' and 'By the way', John Frusciante guitar work is at his best once more. He is truly the star of this band, even though he doesn't get half the attention Flea gets. But unlike their 2 previous releases, this album seems stretched out for too long. By the time it ends, you've had enough. Anthony Keidis' vocals haven't lost a step, but he seems to be stuck in the same place. His lyrics still sound like juvenile poetry at best, and he doesn't seem to be gaining any range either.

Still, there are some very solid cuts in there. 'Dani California' is clearly a single, and a good one at that. It hooks you and doesn't let go and features a great guitar solo at the end. 'Snow (Hey Oh)' has such a beautiful melody you want to put it on repeat and listen to it time and time again. 'Charlie' starts off as a simple, funky number and grows into this wonderful, beautiful sonic attack led by Flea and Frusciante. And Keidis' vocal harmonies act a sort of a glue that holds the whole song together. 'Stadium Arcadium' is a slower number that stands as one of the band's best, as does 'Wet sand'. On the second disc, 'Desecration smile' is clearly a standout number. Frusciante's acoustic work is amazing, as is his electric guitar work. And he provides great depth to the song with his backing vocals. 'Tell me baby' has some addictive hooks. 'Hard to concentrate' is another beautiful cut in the vein of 'Dosed' (By the way) and 'Californication'. 'She looks to me' is a pretty good mid-tempo rock song that is made so much better because of Frusciante's presence alone. 'If' is a very slow number featuring Flea's great bass work, and it's a good one. 'Especially in Michigan', 'C'mon girl', 'She looks to me', 'Make you feel better' and 'Animal bar' are also worth checking out.

In the end, this is an album that lacks the kind of "make-you-fall-out-of-your-seat-this-is-so-amazing" songs like 'Under the bridge', 'This velvet glove' or 'Minor thing'. But again, the Chili Peppers are clearly in the prime of their career, continuously coming up with great songs. It just makes me wish they would've been a little less adventurous and made this a very solid, excellent 1-disc album.


Tool - 10,000 Days

Tool are known as the premier metal band, mixing the genre with alt-rock and progressive rock better than anyone else can. And with '10,000 Days', they prove they are still on top of all 3 worlds.

But just as the 5 years between 'Aenima' and 'Lateralus' provided growth and maturation for the band, making 'Lateralus' a more melodic, polished record, this last 5-year hiatus seems to have had little effect on the band's sound. Make no mistake, this is a Tool album, and so it is a great one, but one that seems to rehash the same ideas and sounds we have heard before. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. The songs still flow seamlessly from one to another, making this a true record, and not just a collection of songs, like most bands have gotten us all used to. Danny Carey is still the best rock drummer out there, supported more than adequately on guitar by Adam Jones, he is the driving force behind this record. Maynard James Keenan, one of the best singers out there, is more subdued this time around. His lyrics are more direct and personal that they have ever been. And while anger still is a part of his repertoire (on 'Vicarious': The Universe is hostile/So Impersonal/Devour to survive/So it is, so its always been), his lyrics have grown to be a lot more personal and introspective (on 'Wings for Marie, Pt. 1': Vacant, Broken/Fell at the hands of this moment so I couldn't see/It was you who prayed for me so/What have I done/To be the son of an angel?/What have I done/To be worthy?).

It is amazing again to hear how Tool can continue to shift from slower, more subdued moments to absolutely bombastic and hard-rocking ones in the blink of an eye, seamlessly. And not just from song to song, but within the confines of one song as well. They've been doing it for years, but it never ceases to amaze. 'Wings for Marie, pt. 1' is a perfect example of that. So is 'Ring in two'. But where Tool is at its best here and where the whole band truly shines is on the heavier numbers. 'Vicarious' is the first single, and it is probably the best song of the lot. 'The Pot' is also excellent. But Tool's best attribute is not in being able to craft songs, but in crafting a true record, a body of work that truly stands as one, from start to finish, like so few bands are able to do. And in this light, this record is a smahing success from a band we've come to expect no less of.


Jeff Martin - Exile and the Kingdom

When Jeff Martin left The Tea Party, I wasn't too concerned. I had always thought of The Tea Party as "The Jeff Martin Band", being that Martin was the main creative force behind the band's work and that the music always put his guitar and vocal work front and center. And while I still I think I wasn't completely wrong, I have found that I wasn't completely right either. Clearly, the material on this record is still very strong. This album is full of beautifully crafted songs, as one would expect from Jeff Martin. But while Michael Lee's (Page and Plant) drum work is solid, it is nowhere near as spectacular as Jeff Burrows' used to be. And even though Stuart Chatwood's bass work was always understated, it was clearly superior to Martin's, who plays all stringed instruments here, including bass. But the one thing that The Tea Party's last few records had (Triptych, The Interzone Mantras and 7 Circles) and that is truly lacking is the superior quality of the production. And that is particularly confusing since Martin produced all his previous band's records. But while this album does have its weaknesses, it is still an above average output compared to what the music world is giving us year in and year out.

The lead-off track, 'The World is calling', is a typical Tea Party song, reminiscent of numbers such as 'Walking Wounded'(Tangents) and 'Luxuria' (7 Circles). The time signatures are unusual, to say the least, and this is truly where Michael Lee shines the most. Also, the string arrangements are marvellous, and this is also where Martin does his best work behind the console. 'Butterfly' is the first song that takes us to where the heart of the album lies, in folk-rock land. While it is far from being one of the best cuts here, it does feature a nice guitar line and some fine lyrical work. 'Where do we go from here' again veers back into later Tea Party work. Originally set to appear on '7 Circles', it has a bit of a pop rock feel to it (a la 'Heaven Coming Down'). And towards the end, as the song builds, martin's vocals truly shine.

'Daystar' is one of the real highlights here. This song takes us back 10 years in The Tea Party's catalog, featuring a mix of Tabla, sitar, sarod and acoustic guitar we haven't heard in years. The melodies are absolutely beautiful, and the lyrics, while simple and understated, are quite touching (this song was written for Martin 1-year old son). 'Lament' takes us to another country, namely Ireland. This song has irish folk written all over it, and again, Martin's guitar melodies are at their best here. 'Angeldust', a song that deals with the breakup of the band, takes us back to Led Zeppelin's 'Bron-y-aur', off of Physical Graffiti.

'Black Snake Blues', a delta-blues number in the vein of Robert Johnson, is not for everyone, but fans of the genre will find this is a good one. The album also features a collaboration with Jenny Laws on the song 'Stay inside of me', and it works relatively well. And in a bit of a departure for the former Tea Party frontman, the album closer is called 'Good Times Song' and is a hillbilly styled hoe-down featuring Ritesh Das (who plays Tabla all throughout the record) on table. Yes, he plays on a table. And while it is somewhat weird and unexpected, it does have a nice, happy feel to it and a nice hook to top it off. But clearly, the standout track is the epic 'The Kingdom'. Written with his new home (the Irish countryside) and his old friends in mind, this song is as beautiful as they come. Oddly enough, it is perhaps the only overproduced track on the album. While the string arrangements are beautiful and most welcomed, the choir seems to be a bit of a stretch. Yet, the song features such a nice, gentle melody and some of Martin's most touching and moving vocals.

So, while this album does not stand shoulder to shoulder with The Tea Party's best work, it does deserve to be mentioned in the same breath. One has to wonder what would have become of these songs with Jeff Martin's former bandmates standing behind him, or if the same attention to detail had been put in the production process. But this collection of songs still manages to stand well on its own, and provides great hope as to what the next record will bring.


Come back thursday, as I will review what I hope will be Edmonton's 4th win in their series versus the Sharks.

Monday, May 15, 2006

My first post...

Hey everyone!

Well, here I am writing my first post in what I hope will become a regular thing as I take my first steps into the world of bloggers. Indeed, it was only a matter of time before I got that bored and in need of attention...

Now, I must say, last Friday I was treated to the best meal I've had in a long, long time. Actually, "was treated" is a wrong choice of words, because I did participate (ever so slightly) in the preparing of this wonderful dinner. I was at my good friend Jean-Francois', in Sunny Isles, and his girlfriend, the ever charming Marie-Eve, was at the helm in the kitchen. The menu included cheese souffles (my goodness were those tasty!) as the appetizer. I can't tell you what the name of the entree was, but it was basically lamb and onions covered with sliced potatoes. And although J-F complained that there wasn't enough salt, I thought it was excellent. And for dessert, Marie-Eve had prepared grapes that had been marinating in Port for 2 days (or something like that). Now THAT was amazing!! In the end, we wound up going upstairs to a friend's appartment where we smoked a couple of La Aurora cigars which were wisely accompanied by a Hennessy XO cognac. All in all, given that Oilers won 6-3 that night, it was truly a great evening!

On another note, I was once again very much entertained by another intriguing weekend of Hockey. The Oilers have now won 3 games in a row to take 3-2 series lead back to Edmonton for game 6. So far, their series with the Sharks has been, without the shadow of a doubt, the most physical, emotional and hard-fought series the Stanley Cup Playoffs have had to offer. Game 6, on wednesday night, promises to be another thriller.

Now, you all know I'm a big Oiler fan, so I won't bore you with how happy I am with their performance so far. Instead, let me turn to what I think are the biggest news to have come out of hockey this weekend:

1. The NJ Devils are out in 5. I knew that Carolina was going to be good. I had actually predicted that they would beat Montreal pretty easily, probably in 5. But when I saw the Devils sweep the Rangers, I truly thought that the Carolina-New Jersey series would be a long one, probably going in 6 or 7 games, with Martin Brodeur coming out once more as a hero... Boy was I ever wrong. Instead, aside from 1 game where the Canes barely showed up, all they did was bitchslap the Devils into next season. They dominated from start to finish, and the Devils never came close to looking like a playoff team. Still, I believe that Carolina's quest for the Cup will end in Buffalo, who also easily disposed of Ottawa. Which brings us to point #2...

2. Ottawa out in 5. Even though I wanted Ottawa to win, I thought Buffalo had a better playoff team. But not because I thought Ray Emery couldn't do the job. The problem with Ottawa has been the same for years: they are not built as a playoff team. In every team that goes to the Cup finals you have true leaders that come through in crunch time: Brad Richards or Dave Andreychuk with Tampa, Jarome Iginla with Calgary, Brodeur with New Jersey, Yzerman in Detroit, Sakic in Colorado, etc... The fact is, Ottawa was built around a second-year center who had yet to experience the playoff atmosphere (Spezza), a sharp-shooter who disappeared during the Olympics (Heatley) and a captain who has never been able to rally his troops during tough times (Alfredsson). They had more grit this year, but grit means nothing if it doesn't spread to the rest of your team. And that starts at the top; it starts with your leaders. And once again, Alfredsson dissapeared during the playoffs. I think it speaks volumes that night in and night out, their best player was often Martin Havlat. I think that this summer, Ottawa's priority has to be to acquire a true leader. They have to go get someone who will rally the troops when they fall behind, someone who will sacrifice his body to block a big shot, or pay the price in front of the net for a big goal and then tell his teammates to follow his lead. Andreychuk did it with Tampa in 2004, as did Iginla in the same year. Koivu was the guy doing it in Montreal in their first round comeback against Boston in 2004. And if you're looking for a reason why Edmonton has had so much success in this year's playoffs, look no further than guys like Ryan Smyth, Jason Smith, Fernando Pisani, Ethan Moreau, Chris Pronger, Shawn Horcoff and Raffi Torres. These guys, and everyone else on the team, are constantly putting their bodies in harm's way to help the team. But again, it all starts with their leaders, Ryan Smyth and Jason Smith. That's what the Senators need.

Check back later this week, as I'll review a couple of the best music releases in the last couple of months... there's been some good ones!


The Dwarf