Thursday, February 23, 2017

NERLENS NOEL TRADED TO THE DALLAS MAVERICKS

By: Connor Glowacki

Image result for nerlens noel     Ah, the NBA Trade Deadline is upon us. And until 3 p.m. EST rolls around, we will be keep getting more trades that will certainly impact the landscape of the NBA for the rest of the season.

     Earlier this week, we had huge news with the Sacramento Kings trade All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans.

Now, the Philadelphia 76ers have traded center Nerlens Noel to the Dallas Mavericks for center Andrew Bogut, forward Justin Anderson and a first-round pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
     The deal was reported on by The Vertical, which by the way has become the go-to source for NBA news over sports media heavyweights like ESPN, Bleacher Report, etc.

     The Vertical and other sites are now reporting that the 76ers are looking to find a new trade partner for Bogut because otherwise they will have to buyout his contract before he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Now let's try and briefly break down this deal.

     Noel is the centerpiece. And he has career averages of 10.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. But his overall numbers have dropped this season due to the emergence of Joel Embiid and the continued development of Jahlil Okafor at the center position. The 76ers wanted to move one of their three centers, so Noel is the one to go.

     But this could be a great pickup for the Mavericks because Noel is a 6'11" ballhawk who can protect the rim. He has improved slightly in his offensive game, in terms of his post moves, and can be an elite defender. He is also still just 22! Philadelphia drafted Noel sixth overall in 2013, but he still has tons of upside to improve.
     Dallas got younger at the center position by trading Bogut for Noel and I think will fit in nicely in that Mavericks frontcourt with long-time veteran forward Dirk Nowitzki and forward Harrison Barnes. And even though Dallas has underachieved with just a 22-34 record before the All-Star Break, they still are just three games out of the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. It's a move that can help short-term and long-term, provided they get Noel signed to an extension.

     The deal also makes sense for Philadelphia because it again allows them to focus on Embiid and Okafor as their two centers. Second-year pro Justin Anderson could end up being a nice swingman down the road for a young Philly team as he was currently averaging 6.5 points per game behind Barnes on the Mavericks depth chart.
     They also get a first round pick for a deep 2017 draft class and may be able to get some value for Bogut. Overall, this move means that Joel Embiid is officially the face-of-the-franchise. Trust the Process!


This deal looks good for both teams, to me. But what do you think? Let me know by leaving a comment below or on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.

Monday, February 20, 2017

DEMARCUS COUSINS TRADED TO NEW ORLEANS

By: Connor Glowacki

Image result for demarcus cousins     The drama with the approaching NBA Trade Deadline started out with a bang early in the morning Feb. 20 as the New Orleans Pelicans landed all-star center Demarcus Cousins, and forward Omri Cassipri, from the Sacramento Kings in exchange for guards Tyreke Evans and Buddy Hield, forward Langston Galloway, and a first and second round pick for 2017.
     The trade was reported and confirmed by several outlets, including The Vertical, ESPN and USA Today Sports, among others.

     Cousins is obviously a huge get for New Orleans as he is averaging a career-high 27.6 points this season, along with 10.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.3 blocks. He will be paired with current franchise cornerstone and dominant forward Anthony Davis, who has been averaging 27.7 points and 12 rebounds per game, on his own, this season.
     The Pelicans also were able to keep point guard Jrue Holliday on the roster, which makes an insanely scary trio for New Orleans, who are 23-34 this season and still in the hunt for a playoff spot.

Image result for demarcus cousins
Cousins will now be paired
with fellow All-Star Anthony Davis.
Photo by SB Nation. 


     Meanwhile for the Kings, this is a move to try to get the team into a total rebuild mode. Hield, who is a rookie this season, could be a potentially nice player for Sacramento long-term, but neither Evans or Galloway seem like they will be effective long-term options for the team. (Sacramento initially sent Evans to New Orleans).
     But deciding to trade Cousins also brings back memories of the Kings trading current all-star point guard Isaiah Thomas to the Phoenix Suns in 2014, before he landed up with the Boston Celtics.

     Bottom line: the Kings are a mess as an organization. But with Hield and potentially three first round draft picks this season, there is still a chance that they could turn this into becoming a respectable force in the NBA once again. But it's also important to remember that Sacramento didn't make the playoffs at any point of Cousins' tenure with the team. It is a shame because the Kings are currently only 1.5 games out of the final playoff spot right now in the Western Conference, but it seems that the team was also tired of Cousins' 'fiery antics' on the court.


This is a big shakeup in the NBA. Who do you think won this trade?

Let me know by leaving a comment below or on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

LINKIN PARK- 'HEAVY' FEATURING KIIARA (SONG REVIEW)

By: Connor Glowacki

Image result for linkin park heavy     Well, this review is going to be tough. But it's going to center around the idea of how we as music listeners may outgrow the music we loved when we were younger.

     That's the case for me with nu-metal/alternative rock band Linkin Park's new single 'Heavy', released as the lead single for their upcoming album 'One More Light.'

     Linkin Park was one of my favorite band growing up, as I was in middle and high school. Their first two albums, 2000's 'Hybrid Theory' and 2003's 'Meteora'  turned me into becoming a music fan for the first time in my life.
     The music was aggressive, the lyrics were honest and the melodies were extremely catchy. It was the perfect combination for an angsty teenager.
     I couldn't ignore the criticism of the band because it was obvious. Linkin Park used simple guitar riffs and instrumentation and didn't go too deep with their lyrics. The band has been called the poster-child for brining nu-metal and glossing it up for the mainstream in the new millennium.

     I agree with all of this, but I still don't care.

     Music can sometimes be an individual experience and that's the case for me and Linkin Park. Throughout the rest of the band's career, Linkin Park put out four additional albums taht featured some more hits, some more experimentation, changes of sounds and concepts, but also declining sales from album-to-album.

     That brings us to 'Heavy', which follows Linkin Park's 2014 album, 'The Hunting Party', an album that brought back rougher textures and sounds to their music. The lyrics are once again simple and direct and can be seen as relating to the inner struggle of one's psyche and emotions. In other words, it's about the fear of trying to let go of something and deciding instead to hold on to whatever it is that is bringing you down. It can be about the fear of the unknown and as someone who has always had to work with anxiety, I could relate to the lyrical subject matter.

     But the production, instrumentation and vocals feel so sterile, bland and unassuming that I had to remember this song was performed by Linkin Park. Sound-wise, it's the complete opposite of 'The Hunting Party' and perhaps the softest song the band has ever recorded.
Image result for kiiara
Guest singer Kiiara surprises in
a good way on 'Heavy'.
Photo courtesy: JustJared
     Lead singer Chester Bennington's vocals are so restrained that he almost gets overpowered by guest singer Kiiara, who I thought actually gave a solid performance. I wish Bennington was able to emote more during 'Heavy' so that I could truly feel his pain and the pain he exhibits in the song.
     And up until maybe the last chorus, there really isn't much in regards to guitars, bass or drums. DJ Joe Hahn creates an almost trap-like beat mixed with some snapping fingers and it feels awkward for a Linkin Park song.

RECAP:

      I don't think 'Heavy' is a terrible song.

     There are some things I like, including ideas in the lyrical content and Kiiara's vocals. But I was left feeling underwhelmed and a little disappointed. 'Heavy' may be the most 'poppy' song this band has ever made.
     Now you may say that Linkin Park is a band that pushes their musical boundaries with experimentation, like it did with adding electronic and techno elements to their sound with their 2010 album, 'A Thousand Suns.' But 'Heavy' doesn't feel like experimentation to innovate the genre of rock or to innovate music. It feels like a bit of a cash-grab to get the band back on the charts. And that is sad to see.

     I think 'Heavy' is a decent pop song. I would listen to it on the radio and sing along. But I have higher expectations for Linkin Park and they fell short, which gives me apprehension for the new album.

     Even though I appreciated the lyrics for 'Heavy', I kept wondering I couldn't connect to 'Heavy' as much as their older songs. Is it because I have grown older and matured? Perhaps. I will continue to listen to Linkin Park's discography, but I might not feel that same emotion and connectedness that I felt as a teenager.

     I think I've outgrown parts of Linkin Park's music. But I can still tell a great, catchy, energetic and memorable song for a dull, melancholic number that sounds more and more like Top-40 radio. I still am a Linkin Park fan, but I do have doubts for the quality of 'One More Light.'


RATING: 2.5 Out Of 5    (** 1/2)

What did you all think about the new song 'Heavy' by Linkin Park? Were you disappointed like me? Or did you really like it?

Let me know by leaving a comment below or on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

MAROON 5 - 'COLD' FEATURING FUTURE (SONG REVIEW)

By: Connor Glowacki

Image result for maroon 5 cold*This is just my opinion. If you feel differently about this song. That is OK.

     After releasing the dreadfully bland tropical-house top-10 hit 'Don't Wanna Know', which featured a surprisingly bad verse from Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar,  last October, pop band Maroon 5 have followed up with a new single called 'Cold'. And just like 'Don't Wanna Know', 'Cold' includes a guest rap verse, this time from Atlanta rapper/singer Future.

*Before continuing on this review, click here for my 'Don't Wanna Know' song review.

     With 'Cold', Maroon 5 have officially burned all bridges of any sort of rock semblance that the former California band once had. Their new song has been described by lead singer Adam Levine as being R&B influenced and will apparently be the main genre indicator for the group's next album, which is set to be released sometime this year.
     Now let me be clear, many bands have been able to incorporate elements of R&B and soul into their music and have been able to put together very good results. (See older acts like The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Hall & Oates, or newer indie acts like The Neighbourhood and Haim).

     But their has to be some kind of passion and some kind of soul coming from the lyrics, the vocals and the instrumentation and they are all completely absent on 'Cold'.

Image result for maroon 5 2017
Be honest. Do you know who is in Maroon 5
besides Adam Levine?
     The song features Levine crooning about essentially being in relationship-limbo. The girl feels so distant, yet kisses him. She, as Levine states, is leaving him in the dark. And Levine asks, "Are we taking time or a time out." Levine ends up in the chorus declaring that the girl is, "Cold enough to chill my bones. It feels like I don't know you anymore. I don't understand why you're so cold to me."
     These lyrics are juvenile and make the song sound entirely one-sided. Can relationships end up one-sided before they flame out? Sure, but I feel like Levine is leaving out examples of what he has failed to bring to the relationship that made his girl act as cold as she has.

     And then we get to the instrumentation... if you can call it that.

     I have said previously that Maroon 5 was at their best, as a band, with their first three bands. And while 2012's 'Overexposed' and 2014's 'V' were examples of the band officially selling out for more glossy, synthetic, Top-40 ready pop overtones, there were still moments where you could hear the other instruments and remember that this is a band.

     'Don't Wanna Know' was the beginning of where I could no longer here any immediate contributions from Maroon 5 band members outside of Levine.

     'Cold' takes it to a whole new level. The song takes such a minimalistic approach in the verses that it's Levine trying to sing in front of what tries to come off as a hazy, atmospheric backdrop. Even though a nice swell builds up into the chorus with a staccato rhythm and a pretty sounding string section anchoring the last few couplets of the chorus, you forget that this is a band.
     It's the kind of instrumentation that you could pull off of something like Adobe Audacity... and not in a good way.

     Levine is okay vocally, I guess.

     He sure has sounded a lot worse in other songs over the past few years. But his vocals sound so processed and so layered that they sound almost monotonous. Even with the falsettos, which is the exact opposite feeling you want to have when you hear a falsetto.
     There's no passion or soul coming from his voice, which is incredible to believe because he had passion and soul vocally earlier in his career with Maroon 5. You could give this song to any other male pop singer and I think that not only would it still be a hit, but the other singer would actually be able to sell what he is singing.

     As for Future, his verse doesn't really make sense lyrically, but you don't listen to Future for lyrics. People listen to Future to get hyped.
Image result for future
The instrumentation is too tame
for Future to provide any real impact.
Photo by: Spin.com

     And they get hyped through his punishing and defiant beats to go along with his drug-fueled bars of hedonism. Not surprisingly though, he comes across far more tame on a pop song like this and his influence is pushed far into the background.
     His chants of 'So fuck this cold world' are a series of flat insults that I think are directed toward the girl of his affection, but he declared earlier in his verse that he first wants to stay with girl, but then later also wants to give her space. Future is the same guy who in his 2014 song 'I Won' compared his at-the-time girlfriend Ciara, to a trophy. A reward for his conquest. Charming, bruh.

RECAP

     I gave a fairly harsh review to 'Don't Wanna Know' at the time for witnessing Maroon 5 embrace chasing trends and losing the aspects of what made them unique. But at least it was mostly harmless from a lyrical standpoint and had a decent enough tropical groove.

     'Cold' is not fun. 

     'Cold' showcases Levine and Future painting their lovers in a completely unflattering light without sharing all sides of the respective story and Maroon 5 have given up on rock and have move toward a new R&B/pop sound.
     If you want to evolve as a band, it's okay to subtly add different influences. But not if it gets rid of the band's entire identity to begin with. And without being able to notice any of the other members in the band besides the lead singer, I now can no longer call this band Maroon 5.

     From now on, they will be known as 'The Adam Levine Experience.'

     The decent swell in the chorus allows 'Cold' to get some kind of a rating, but this song is awful and marks the unfortunate debut era of The Adam Levine Experience.

RATING: 1 Out Of 5 (*)

**

Do you like 'Cold'? Love it? Hate it? And why?

Let me know by leaving a comment below or on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

IMAGINE DRAGONS- 'BELIEVER' (SONG REVIEW)

By: Connor Glowacki

I'm not going to lie here. I root for Imagine Dragons.

Image result for imagine dragons believer     I loved Imagine Dragons' 2012 debut 'Night Visions', which featured the bombastic 'Radioactive', uplifting numbers 'It's Time' and 'On The Top Of The World', to the moody deep-cut rockers like 'Amsterdam', 'Tiptoe' and 'Hear Me'.
     Imagine Dragons was able to deliver on a successful template of arena rock that had been missing in the mainstream music consciousness due to U2 taking extremely long breaks in between albums and Coldplay putting out more 'popish' material as of late.
     'Night Visions' was a huge commercial success, selling two million copies in the U.S. and over seven million worldwide. Even though Imagine Dragons' 2015 followup, 'Smoke + Mirrors' didn't feature a hit single or sell as well as its predecessor, I appreciated how the band incorporated folk and gospel influences into their alternative rock rhythmic sound. To this day, 'Night Visions' remains the better album, but 'Smoke + Mirrors' is a solid record that  didn't do as well commercially.

Check out my review of 'Smoke + Mirrors' here

Well. Two years later and Imagine Dragons have released 'Believer' as the lead single for their upcoming third album. How did it turn out?

...I'm kind of torn on this new track.
Image result for dan reynolds 2016
Reynolds sells the lyrics
with a passionate vocal performance.

     I like SOME of the lyrical content. At points, the lyrics seem to be describing lead singer Dan Reynolds overcoming depression and anxiety when he was young and using his songs and music as inspiration to try and make an impact and a connection toward others going through similar situations.
     And I like how the chorus defiantly states that Reynolds is going to confront the pain from his past or his present. But it's not clear to me what exactly the pain is making Reynolds a believer of.
     Is it a believer of the rials and tribulations of life? Overcoming self-doubt? I'm not sure it will come across as clear for the listener. The rest of the verses are filled with a bunch of cliches, but Reynolds on-point flow through several of the couplets created a nice groove and allowed the verses to flow into one another.

The thing I don't like about this track is the instrumentation.

     I know that Imagine Dragons have utilized beats and other hip-hop stylized instrumentations since they formed a working partnership with producer Alex Da Kid on their 2012 EP 'Continued Silence.' A song like 'Radioactive' is the perfect example of what those kinds of beats with an electronic buildup and drop, can add to a song. It can add aggression, urgency and a layer of musical depth that can potentially match well with the lyrical content.
     But the difference between 'Radioactive' and 'Believer' is that 'Radioactive' had an instant melody with the vocal structures and the interweaving guitar and bass lines, which was able to connect with the background beats and create such a gut punch for the listener. At the time, nothing like this was being played on the radio. It was raw and aggressive, but also catchy.

There isn't a catchy enough melody for 'Believer' to stand out.

     I rarely hear any riffs or progressions from guitarist Wayne Sermon and bassist Ben McKee. 'Believer' feels like a Reynolds and drummer Daniel Platzman collaboration because those are the only contributions that I can hear consistently throughout the song. When the song grow into its explosive chorus, even though Reynolds is doing a great job at belting out some of those high notes, the rest of the instrumentation can't catch up and the song leaves me wanting more, not in a good way.

     Even with their early success. I root for Imagine Dragons as I would root for an underdog football team. There are times when they don't receive much respect from the rock community and others where they don't receive much respect from the pop world. I enjoyed their first two albums so I'm going to give Imagine Dragons the benefit of the doubt for their upcoming third album. I like the electronic buildups they are continue to create, but there has to be some kind of melody associated with it.


RATING: 2.5 Out Of 5 (**1/2)

Don't let us down, Imagine Dragons. You are one of the few acts that can help keep rock on the charts and on the radio.


Let me know what you thought about Imagine Dragons' new single, 'Believer.' Leave a comment below or let me know on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.