An Inland Voyage’s Best Music Of 2014 So Far …

We’re at the half-way point of 2014.

It’s as good of an excuse as any for talking about some of my favorite music to come out this year.

I’m going to follow the lead of NPR’s “All Songs Considered” for how I proceed with my list. I love listening to Bob Boilen, Robin Hilton and Stephen Thompson, so I’m going to join their conversation about the year’s highlights.

Favorite New Artist:

Post War Glamour Girls: I came across this band thanks to a shout-out they got from fellow Leeds musicians iLIKETRAINS. Artsy. Political. Aggressive. I’m hooked on their debut album, “Pink Fur.”

Biggest Surprise:

Future Islands: I’ve been listening to some scattered Future Islands songs for a while and really enjoyed them. However, I wasn’t prepared for “Seasons (Waiting On You).” The song is perfect from the opening, awkward electronic sounds to the heartfelt lyrics. The entire album, “Singles,” lives up to the name. Combine the music with their breakout performance on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” and Future Islands are definitely the surprise of the year so far.

Favorite Album:

Nothing – Guilty of Everything: This Philadelphia band combines 90s alternative rock with shoegaze to melt my heart and rattle my soul. I can use it to work out or chill out. I love their sound. This album is perfect.

Best Song:

Lykke Li – Love Me Like I’m Not Made Of Stone: It’s quite possible you’d have to be made of stone not to be crushed by this song.

Other albums I’ve fallen in love with this year:

  • Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire for No Witness
  • The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Days of Abandon
  • Conor Oberst – Upside Down Mountain
  • Sun Kil Moon – Benji
  • Mogwai – Rave Tapes
  • Mica Levi – Under the Skin Soundtrack
  • Royksopp and Robyn – Do It Again
  • Peter Murphy – Lion
  • The Faint – Doom Abuse
  • Liars – Mess
  • Metronomy – Love Letters

Here is a Spotify playlist of some of my favorite songs of the year so far from the above artists and more:

How Has The ‘Transformers’ Transformed The World?

I’ve gone to the theater to see the last three “Transformers” movies.

As a kid, my brothers and I loved the cartoon series. In the days before VCRs and DVRs, we would use tape recorders to capture the audio of the show. It was the only way we could enjoy the cartoon over and over again as the edicts of juvenile fandom demanded.

I went to the first installment of the current “Transformers” franchise with curiosity and excitement. I didn’t know what to expect. The world of the cartoon wouldn’t necessarily make a smooth transition to live action, so I expected some adjustments.

Well, I definitely did not care for it. As to why, I can’t say with much certainty any more. I watched in in the theater so long ago and never returned to it. It was just kind of big, dumb and messy. Certainly, there was a lot of technical mastery on the screen, but it didn’t grab my heart.

My friends and I went to the following two installments out of a sense of obligation. It was “Transformers.” It was one of the movie events of the year. Maybe they will get it more right …

This time around, we’ve decided to spare ourselves the three hours of bombast and ultimate disappointment.

Instead, we’ve entertained ourselves with the reviews:

Brian Orndorf: “Much like the other installments, if you leave the theater without a headache, you’ve disappointed the producers.”

Kirk Baird: “Even by the low IQ standards of the three previous Transformers films, Transformers: Age of Extinction is grave and exceptionally stupid, with a plot as bewildering and incoherent as a caffeinated 5-year-old’s explanation of the multiverse theory.”

Katherine Monk: “Turns out Transformers: Age of Extinction actually lives up to its title and chronicles not just the death of our bond with the Autobots, but the death of cinema, and that once-fearsome T. rex called American culture.”

Peter Keough: “One thing you have to give Bay credit for: He has a knack for bringing A-list talent down to his level.”

Peter Hartlaub: “Imagine if instead of creating new music, a recording artist kept putting out the exact same album, just playing the songs a little louder each time. That’s what it feels like watching “Transformers: Age of Extinction.”

James Rocchi: “Transformers: Age of Extinction isn’t a bad movie; it’s the worst possible product of a big Hollywood system drunk on a cocktail of fermented nostalgia and rancid profiteering while driving moviegoing into the ground.”

I think you get the picture. Ha.

But there is an aspect of a movie like “Transformers: Age of Extinction” that does intrigue me. How is an approximately $200 million film made and marketed around the world? This film was produced specifically with a Chinese audience in mind, for example.

This is where the “desktop documentary” “Transformers: The Premake” comes in to collate a lot of that information. It’s a fascinating 25-minute documentary. I’ll let filmmaker Kevin B. Lee describe his intentions:

Transformers: Age of Extinction, the fourth installment of the Transformers movie franchise directed by Michael Bay, will be released June 27 2014. But on YouTube one can already access an immense trove of production footage recorded by amateurs in locations where the film was shot, such as Utah, Texas, Detroit, Chicago, Hong Kong and mainland China. Transformers: the Premake turns 355 YouTube videos into a critical investigation of the global big budget film industry, amateur video making, and the political economy of images.

The Premake utilizes a “desktop documentary” technique that acknowledges the internet’s role not only as a boundless repository of information but as a primary experience of reality. It creatively depicts the process in which we explore a deep web of images and data to reach moments of discovery and decisive action. In a blockbuster cinema culture rife with insipid remakes of franchise properties, The Premake presents a critical counter-image in which personalized digital media asks what Hollywood is really doing in the world.

Do yourself a favor and check out this short film. I highly recommend it.

<p><a href=”″>TRANSFORMERS: THE PREMAKE (complete version)</a> from <a href=””>Kevin B. Lee</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>