• Jonas Brothers are over

    The Jonas Brothers are officially broken up. 
    The Jonas Brothers are officially broken up. 

    It looks like The Jonas Brothers have sent out their final S.O.S.

    Less than three weeks after canceling their tour due to “a deep rift within the band” and deleting their official Twitter account, The Jonas Brothers have officially broken up.

    According to People magazine the group called it quits on October 3 after the youngest brother in the band, Nick Jonas, shared concerns about the band's future.

    "I was feeling kind of trapped," Nick Jonas told People. "I needed to share my heart with my brothers."

    Despite friction in the band, the singing siblings were on the same page when it came to announcing their split to People.

    “It’s really hard to say ‘forever’; we’re closing a chapter for sure,” Nick Jonas said.

    Middle brother Joe Jonas told People magazine that Nick voiced concerns that everyone in the band had; "it was a unanimous decision," Joe Jonas said.

    Speculation about what went wrong between the trio has circulated for weeks once the boy-band pulled the plug on their fall tour.  

    On October 29, the brothers made it official in a statement to People. So what does the future look like for the brothers?

    Questions about their newest album, Five, which was scheduled for release later this year have emerged. Will the album still be released? Most likely the release date will be pushed back, if it is released at all.  

    The Jonas Brothers signed with Columbia Records in 2005 and then Hollywood Records in 2007 and quickly became a pop sensation. After selling over 20 million albums worldwide, they took their musical talents to television, starring in two “Camp Rock” installments and their own Disney Channel show “Jonas.” After their show, the boy band dissolved as each brother explored their own avenues. Nick Jonas released a solo album Nick Jonas and the Administration and Joe Jonas released Fastlife. Kevin Jonas, the oldest Jo Bro, married and currently stars in a reality show on E! with his wife Danielle in “Married to Jonas.”

    Although the band of brothers are no more, perhaps we can count on seeing more solo projects from the Jonas family. 

  • Austin Film Festival: Winter in the Blood review

    Andrew and Alex Smith’s adaptation of James Welch’s “Winter in the Blood” accurately represents the narrative chaos of the novel upon which it’s based, but that does not make for a solid film. Its protagonist, Virgil (Chaske Spencer, best known as the werewolf leader in the “Twilight” series), is a Native American in his thirties who drifts through life in a drunken stupor, trying to avoid his painful memories. These memories dominate the Smiths’ film, and the writers/directors do a good job of reflecting the muddled existence through which their protagonist moves. Virgil finds himself on a surreal quest to retrieve his dead father’s rifle, and often cannot distinguish between his current surroundings and his memories.

    The blurred line between Virgil’s past and present is brilliantly rendered on screen; Spencer’s face nonchalantly acknowledges shifts in time and space as he is passed in the street by shades of his younger self. A man claims to have saved Virgil in a bar fight and recruits him for a secret mission involving a run to the Canadian border and he hardly bats an eye. 

    The Smiths deftly situate their audience within the mind of a man ravaged by guilt, memory and alcoholism. This strength also proves to be the film’s biggest problem. The narrative pulls away into this stream of past and present so often that it doesn’t give its audience time to register the emotional heft of a line or moment. “Winter in the Blood” is at its most potent when it is also at its most placid. Moments like the deafening silence following a violent sexual encounter, the trembling fingers of an old man removing a braid, or the smiling, effortless tenderness of Virgil’s short-term companion Marlene (a brilliant Lily Gladstone) carry the most emotional heft because they stick defiantly in the present. Other scenes with this potential end up drowned out by the noise of these transitions.

    Despite the confusion, Spencer serves as a powerful anchor throughout. His stoicism is expertly managed to show just the right amount of give. A slight quiver in Virgil’s carefully maintained mask says more than a lengthy flashback ever could. This skillful subtlety is matched by co-star Gladstone, who, in only a few short scenes, creates a character as damaged and haunting as Spencer’s. Saginaw Grant’s work as Yellow Calf, a hermit with ties to Virgil’s past, is a master class in minimalist intensity. With a few simple gestures, he hints at a lifetime of the same haze of memory and darkness that Virgil finds himself mired in.

    The Smith brothers and co-writer Ken White have worked very hard to channel the degree to which remembrance rules the narrative structure of their source material, but this dedication to emulating the novel proves taxing on the film. Spencer’s performance centers “Winter in the Blood” in a way that reveals serious acting ability, but the film’s reliance on portraying the surrealist power of memory holds it back from the full impact it could have had. 

  • Playlist of the week: Week 7

    In this weekly feature, I make a playlist of some of the best and most important new songs from the week before. Each track is supplemented with a short commentary, giving a reason for why you should check them out.

    Anyone who found themselves in the campus and West Campus areas this past weekend knows that Halloween celebrations have already started. Even though the trick-or-treat days of our youth may be long gone, this holiday brings students a nice respite from midterms, and a simple excuse to dress up and party hard. Here’s a spooky playlist to accompany the coming week of festivities.

    The Crazy World of Arthur Brown – “Fire”

    Starting off the playlist is this psychedelic rock classic from 1968. Beginning with the proclamation, “I am the god of hell fire, and I give you…FIRE,” the organs come in and Arthur Brown’s best Lucifer impression breaks through. Although some of its shock value might have been lost in the past 45 years, it’s an Oct. 31 staple.

    Salem – “King Knight”

    Salem almost single-handedly made witch house a viable genre, and it goes perfectly with Halloween in this modern age. Piercing synths, harrowing occult choral vocals and a heavy shoegaze atmosphere create a song that is scary and hypnotizing. “King Knight” is best enjoyed loudly in a dark room. A Ouija board is optional, but recommended.

    Ghost B.C. – “Secular Haze”

    Swedish theatrical metal group Ghost B.C. keeps an elusive image to go along with their music. The band features the demonic pope-like lead vocalist Papa Emeritus II — he usurped the first Papa in between albums — who is accompanied by “nameless ghouls” that form his backup band. This might seem like a joke to some, but I assure you it’s not. “Secular Haze” is the standout single from their second album, and its haunting sound promotes the image of this band perfectly. There’s a great vintage-feeling music video too.

    Crystal Castles – “Plague”

    Coming off their third self-titled album, “Plauge” is a witch house-influenced track from Canadian electronica duo Crystal Castles. The haunting noise that opens the track sounds more like it’s from the world of Prometheus than Earth, and once Alice Glass’ vocals pierce through your ears with the beat and cutting synths, the song itself sounds more alien than human. What is she even screaming about? Who knows, but this song is all sorts of eerie and awesome.

    Death Grips – “I’ve Seen Footage”

    Death Grips are known for their subversive nature, and oddly enough, “I’ve Seen Footage” is probably one of their tamer songs in that department. The industrial chainsaw-like sound that forms the riff to this track is addictive and chilling, and coupled with MC Ride’s yell rapping, this song is full of wild energy. Blast it at a party near you, and craziness is guaranteed.

    Purity Ring – “Cartographist”

    Back to the witch house-influenced music, Purity Ring is another Canadian duo full of heavy synth and deep bass, though perhaps a bit poppier than their contemporaries.  “Cartographist” is a song that is both unnerving and beautiful. It’s nice to chill out to, especially after something like Death Grips.

    Lightning Bolt – “Dracula Mountain”

    How could I not put a song named “Dracula Mountain” on a Halloween playlist? A deafening track from experimental noise rock group Lightning Bolt, it’s hard to believe all of it was made with just a drum set and bass guitar. Oh, and those screeching noises you hear are actually vocals…The drummer wears a mask with a microphone in it, and screams along to the music. If that isn’t scary, I don’t know what is.

  • Sleigh Bells at Stubb's

    The last time I saw Sleigh Bells, about a year and a half ago in Georgetown, I was elbowed in the face in the first two minutes of their set. My contact popped out and the rest of the night was literally a blur. One thing I remember clearly though, was the intensity, the same kind they brought to Stubb’s last night for a crowd of about a thousand.

    The night opened with Doldrums, the experimental electronic act from Canada who have collaborated with Grimes, and they sounded pretty solid. I saw them a couple times at SXSW, where they entertained much smaller crowds, but last night they seemed a little lost. There’s a myth of sorts going around the Internet of disrespectful crowds in Austin who spend the whole time talking loudly with their friends or buried in their phones, and it kind of felt like that tonight. The band tried their best though, with the singer in a crazy looking polyester jacket yelling out “Austin” every few minutes to try and get the crowd hyped up, but they just couldn’t get the audience into the set.

    The crowd itself was fairly diverse, leaning toward members in their 20s. They rushed the stage as soon as Doldrums finished, and then '80s pop started playing from the PA, reminding me how Derek Miller indicated their new album was influenced by those styles. Right before they came out, the PA played “Walk On The Wild Side” to honor the memory of the late Lou Reed, who had died earlier that morning. It was an emotional moment and a classy move by the band to take a minute to honor the legend.

    The main set began with flashing lights and marching band music, before the band stormed the stage to “Minnie” off their latest record. Vocalist Alexis Krauss came out in a boxing robe, which she threw off as the band jumped into “Comeback Kid,” the first highlight of the night. The biggest change the band showed was the addition of its drummer, who added another dimension to the live aspect of their set. The band played a good mix of songs off its latest record, Bitter Rivals, but the ones that sounded best with the new drummer came from its 2012 record, Reign of Terror. Maybe the band was just more comfortable playing them, but tracks like “Demons” and “Born To Lose” sounded excellent in this environment. Newer tracks were solid, too, especially the title track and “You Don’t Get Me Twice."

    The biggest hits came when they reached back to their first album, Treats. “Crown In The Ground” came midway and brought crushing momentum to their set that resonated for the rest of the night. They played a few older songs during their short set and closed it off with “Infinity Guitars,” one that had the crowd going nuts. The strongest quality of Sleigh Bells is the ferocity they bring to their live performances, and last night was no exception. 

    The band encored with two more new songs before launching into “A/B Machines,” which is easily its most thrilling song live. Pretty much everyone in the front half of the crowd was jumping nonstop as the band rocked out. Krauss jumped into the crowd during the last verse and everyone was having a great time. Sleigh Bells may have lightened up a bit on their latest record, but it was evident that they have not backed down an inch when it comes to their intense live shows. 

  • Texas Book Festival: Day 1

    Day one of the Texas Book Festival was marked by sunny skies and excited crowd members of all ages. The festival took place in and around the Capitol building and featured vendors, delicious food, musicians and of course authors. With every type of author present from prestigious non-fiction authors to children’s writers, there was something for everyone to attend.

    I began my day at the C-Span 2/Book TV tent where I listened to a discussion called “Where We Went Wrong.” The conversation, about the state of the union and our nation’s economy, was held between George Packer author of “The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America” and 
Erica Grieder  author of “Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right: What America Can Learn from the Strange Genius of Texas.” Both authors are also journalists who wrote their books as a way to break the traditional mold of journalism. Their discussion was centered on what we need to improve on in the U.S. and the various perspectives about Texas stereotypes. They engaged in playful jest about Texas politics. Packer joked, “Part of the success of Texas is that you’ve exported the worst politicians.”

    Next I went to hear former Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson speak about influential Texas women. Her presentation about her newest book “Unflinching Courage: Pioneering Women Who Shaped Texas” consisted of stories of strong women during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Though Hutchinson's talk was informative, it was best suited for history buffs.

    Back at the C-Span tent I heard Howard P. Willens, 
Allen Childs and 
Hugh Aynesworth talk about the JFK assassination and the conspiracy theories surrounding the event. All three men are experts on the JFK assassination in their own respect: Anyesworth is the leading journalistic expert, Willens served on the Warrens commission and Childs was at the hospital Kennedy was brought to after the attack. A variety of panelists who do and don't believe the conspiracy theories made for a passionate discussion.

    At the “For Your Next Book Club” discussion, Julie Kibler 
and Dianne Dixon offered useful tips about how to approach a book club. Both authors frequently attend book clubs over their novels. They gave insider info about the stylistic choices to look for and discuss in books. Kibler and Dixon encouraged book club members to reach out to authors since most will appreciate the support.

    The final event I attended was “Families in Crisis.” Panelists Thomas Zigal, Mary Kay Zuravleff and Ben Dolnick, spent most of the session reading sections from their books: all of which addressed the idea of what constitutes family. Each book was intriguing in its own way, and all seemed like good reads. Most notable was Dolnick’s reading of “At the Bottom of Everything” where the entire room seemed captivated by his story of how people, in this case two old college friends, change overtime.  The Q&A session after the readings then transformed into a conversation about the authors different approaches to writing their books. 

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