Author Archive


Darkly Dreaming Dexter: Why We Root For A Serial Killer

Written by Chase Larson on . Posted in TV

“I can kill a man, dismember his body and be home in time for Letterman. But knowing what to say when my girlfriend’s feeling insecure … I’m totally lost.”

So laments the protagonist in Showtime’s critically acclaimed Dexter — originally based on Jeff Lindsay’s novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter — one of the most imaginative, entertaining and haunting shows on television.

From its intoxicatingly visceral opening title sequence and accompanying score to the haunting end credits, Dexter has held widespread appeal. Originally premiering in 2006, the show has garnered a record-breaking audience of millions, resulting in multiple awards and nominations  — as well as some naturally apropos criticism from naysayers. I’m a latecomer to the macabre cult bandwagon, which just wrapped up its fifth season. (I recently finished the second).

For those of you heretofore unfamiliar with the show, here’s a brief description, faster than you can say, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.”

Christmas Tree

The Evolution of Christmas Music

Written by Chase Larson on . Posted in Music

Picture this: amid the bedlam of the city — the hum of restless murmurs and bustling urgency — the din of Sinatra’s rendition of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” is playing.

Ephemeral and seemingly transcendent of our current sphere — dotted with street lamps, house-tops and building strewn about — carefully falls the season’s early sparkling snow, one of Mother Nature’s most powerful tools of change. Fleeting memories of simplicity and peace abound, alluring and familiar, like an old refrain.

Few can resist the electric draw of Christmas magic. The thousands of twinkling lights. The idyllic, Norman Rockwell-esque comfort of sitting in front of a fire with loved ones. The evolution of Christmas itself is reflected in the very music that supercharges the season.

Miles Davis

20 Important Songs You Should Hear

Written by Chase Larson on . Posted in Music

Anyone who truly appreciates music, appreciates it on a deep, visceral level and enjoys a wide variety of sound. No, we’re not just talking about listening to everything on the radio, but rather having an ear to admire how this art form has evolved and flourished over time. Whatever our musical commitment, we as humans each innately possess a unique inner sense of rhythm, melody and flow — whether it be witnessing a complex orchestration onstage or simply being outdoors.

As Scottish writer Thomas Carlyle once penned, “All deep things are song. It seems somehow the very central essence of us, song; as if all the rest were but wrappages and hulls! The primal element of us; of us, and of all things … See deep enough, and you see musically; the heart of Nature being everywhere music, if you can only reach it.”

Trying to establish a definitive, Rolling Stone-esque list of the greatest songs of all time would be foolish, and I don’t purport this list to be such since the pursuit is so subjective anyway. If it seems like I have the music critics’ version of commitment issues, that’s because I do. Even with this vague, waffling caveat, narrowing down a list was like trying to put my life’s wisdom in a one page, double-spaced sheet of paper using 14-point font.

Jess Smiley

Jess Smart Smiley: An Advocate of True Art

Written by Chase Larson on . Posted in Music

It was very dark one night in a local, dimly-lit neighborhood. The only real light came from the numberless clusters of stars above and the inconspicuous crescent moon peeking above the mountain’s ridge. A man was walking around soaking it in, tucking his shoulder-length hair behind his ears while celestial light glinted off his glasses, contemplating his seemingly insignificant place among billions of people — a speck in the midst of such vastness — wondering what he could do in his life to create more meaning.

Things like that keep him up at night.

Raised in Provo, 27-year-old Jess Smart Smiley is what many would call right-brained — and hopelessly so. Making music and art is his passion, his career, his life. Without an ounce of guile — and with an infectious twinkle in his eye — Jess possesses a unique, perpetual excitement that seems ready to burst out of his otherwise demure persona.

I first met Jess while I was writing for my college newspaper and got the the chance to interview him at his home in Orem where we sat down (during which time he told his son he’d be sent to the “police store” if caught as he struck out on the sidewalk wearing merely a diaper).

Imagine Dragons

MUSIC: Review: Imagine Dragons, "Hell and Silence"

Written by Chase Larson on . Posted in Music

Provo-born band Imagine Dragons delivers an energetic dosage of electronic synth-pop that soars on its second EP, Hell and Silence.

Now hailing from Las Vegas, the group draws stylistically from its new location with catchy hooks and melodies, danceable grooves and showy anthems with mainstream appeal. On one of their tracks, lead singer Dan Reynolds repeats the title of the group’s latest venture — in a quasi-chanting fashion — singing “Hell and silence/I can fight it/I can fight it,” encapsulating the record’s positive, upbeat sound.

They definitely avoid silence.

It’s hard to pinpoint one genre Imagine Dragons comfortably fits into since they borrow from such an eclectic array of musical inspiration — moving from synthesizer-dominated tunes to driving beats to arena rock anthems. The band’s grandiose and sometimes quirky sound makes it seem like they mixed musical elements picked from groups like The Killers, Blue October and Good Charlotte.

Some highlights of Hell and Silence include “Selene,” a funky, playful number with a disco-infused beat, and “I Don’t Mind,” a more contemplative tune but one that will still get your toe tapping. Chock full of synthesizer licks, “Emma” is reminiscent of a 1980s new wave ballad with a seemingly misplaced guitar solo that sounds like it’s straight off an Eagles’ album, which oddly works.

“Hear Me,” easily the catchiest song on the EP, begins with a driving beat that builds as an infectious guitar riff paves the way for Reynolds’ growling verse. However, soon the song transitions into a glossy chorus that will stay in your head for hours, akin to something you’d expect from The Killers.

Although some will say Hell and Silence is somewhat inconsistent at times and lacks a true identity, many will enjoy the band’s diverse, eccentric nature. One thing is for sure — Imagine Dragons has talent, an infectious second record, and a promising future.

Parlor Hawk

MUSIC: Review: Parlor Hawk, "Hoarse and Roaring"

Written by Chase Larson on . Posted in Music

Listening to “Hoarse and Roaring” is like driving alone down a long, open road off into a sunset tinged landscape, leaving plenty of time to contemplate life’s hopes and struggles. Parlor Hawk’s distinct brand of Americana folk-rock permeates the effort with a tight sound featuring steadily strummed guitars, an achingly bluesy twang and frontman Drew Capener’s desperate vibrato on every track.

The band successfully creates a contemporary take on an antique sound with a salt-of-the-earth vibe — but that’s not to say there’s anything ordinary about this music. The evenly-paced drum beats and clean harmonies are both intimate and personal in their everyman quality. The sound produced is at times melancholy but more often contemplative — simultaneously nostalgic and forward-looking. Utilizing instruments such as a pump organ and slide guitar, Parlor Hawk generates a vintage sound. The music and lyrics are unpretentious and fervent; simple yet rich and layered. Stylistic comparisons can be easily drawn to artists like Damien Rice, Ryan Adams or early Wilco.

“Home,” the album’s opener (embedded below), has a catchy chorus and sparse percussion with the duo of a bass drum and tambourine that eventually break into handclaps at the peak of the action. Capener careens in and out of the guitar riffs, channeling an old-timey, saloon feel as you envision an antique piano being played in the corner. Parlor Hawk’s country roots show through in “Every Bone,” a track laden with the twang of a steel guitar as the reluctant rhythm trudges forward with a message of love lost.

“Julian” the album’s most melancholy tune, utilizes Capener’s wounded voice well as he croons about faded love: “I’ll give you my canvas/Paint cracked and dry/Might lead you to question/But reason can’t ask reason why.” The album’s dream-like “Lark” is a swaying melody that plays like a bittersweet lullaby, with the ethereal chorus floating in the night sky as Capener’s voice intertwines with the female harmony. The more upbeat “Flowers” contains a bluesy guitar hook and a steady, toe-tapping beat, while “Saddest Song” is a melancholy campfire sing-a-long, featuring only vocals and an acoustic guitar.

All in all, “Hoarse and Roaring” is an album that you’ll want to pick up and sing along with, no matter what mood you’re in.

Listen to: Parlor Hawk, “Home”

Check out Parlor Hawk’s MySpace page to hear more tracks and learn about the band. Also, check out their recent interview with 21st and Ivy here.