August 2022 Murfreesboro Pulse

Page 14



Underestimating an album, no matter the reason, can go forever unchecked, leaving billions of us unknowingly unaffected by an artist’s message thrown back into the racks. Fortunately, One Last Thing, the 11th studio album by Middle Tennessee’s Jason Lee McKinney Band, breaks the boundaries of the Christian rock section as “life-affirming, modern-day roots music” with a big, Southern blues/rock/gospel fusion that is very much straight-up praise, performed by a properly produced funk/rock quintet. The intro track, “Cross Over” features a youth minister-like singing McKinney on guitar as the choir and band claps in the big unison style of The Lumineers and responds for the verses, then seamlessly transitions into a solid funk band—with a full horn section, thicker bass lines and all—for the choruses and bridge. The production is immaculate and leaves listeners with a feeling that only a choir and horn section can provide. It’s great, right off the bat, and following with a similar sentiment, the midnight-funker “Sing a Prayer” could play on secular club’s PA as dancers ask who it is, instead of noticing its praise-rock. McKinney says that with One Last Thing the band brought “the message of the Gospel to the foreground. The Gospel was always part of our foundation, but now it’s front and center.” On “Freedom,” a Foghat-like Hammond organ-and-guitar intro explodes right into a Black Keys-

ALBUM tinged gospel feel—loud, fuzzy blues with a choir yelling “Freedom!” Plenty of folks are into that stuff. With McKinney leading on vocals and rhythm guitars, Barry Strauser on keyboards and backing vocals, Billy Wright on bass, Sam Berce on electric and acoustic guitars, and Logan Todd on drums and percussion (with other guests throughout), the band has produced a range of praise songs that fit anywhere from local Sunday sermons to convention centers. Other sweet spots on One Last Thing include McKinney gearing towards the vocals of Bad Company’s Paul Rodgers in the rocker “Make No Mistake,” the why-is-this-onesexy “Song of Songs,” and the piano-driven “Liturgy,” evoking strains of the country hymn “May the Circle Be Unbroken.” While listening to “When I’m Gone” for the first time, following the uplifting horned intro, it turns into an indie song from a random North Californian couple; a pop album song. But wait. Here comes a half-time bridge with horns. So many layers! Then the electric guitar kicks in, an organ moans to match as they keep climbing! This band is too good. Many tracks evoke a sentiment like that (among hints of a wide variety of artists from Eagles of Death Metal to Scissor Sisters to Hall & Oates on some tracks), minus a couple of obvious, crowd-hypnotizing convention songs. It doesn’t matter how many tries or releases or genres it took to get there, the Jason Lee McKinney Band has reached a pinnacle with One Last Thing, where there’s plenty more to praise, for praise. Find One Last Thing, along with past albums, show dates and Jason Lee McKinney Band merch, at — BRYCE HARMON





NOPE DIRECTOR Jordan Peele STARRING Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Brandon Perea RATED R

Jordan Peele’s third film comes with a lot of expectation behind it. Peele’s directorial debut, Get Out, was a smash hit that has solidified its position in the modern horror pantheon. His follow up, Us, was met with milder acclaim, that, while not diminishing its quality, has since faded from its honeymoon glow. For better or worse, his latest film, Nope, received the Cloverfield and M. Night Shyamalan advertising treatment, promising unparalleled mysteries and thrills that are all but impossible to live up to. I’m happy to report that Peele manages to not meet those expectations, and in fact sidesteps them altogether with Nope, an Amblin Entertainment-style throwback to Spielbergian summer spectacles. Nope is set in a secluded valley in Agua Dulce, California, where the descendants of the cowboy rider in Eadweard Muybridge’s famous photographic series “The Horse in Motion” own and operate a horse training ranch for horses in movies. After his father is killed by seemingly random falling debris, O.J. Haywood (Kaluuya) is left to run the family business with his energetic but disinterested sister Emerald (Palmer). Steven Yeun plays former child star Ricky “Jupe” Park, who now runs a Western theme park called Jupiter’s Claim. Jupe’s involvement is limited to small dealings with O.J., but he is given the biggest AVERAGE

backstory in the film. Nope is told in short chapters, one of which deals with a traumatic and intense episode during Jupe’s childhood starring in a ’90s sitcom. It may seem incongruous, but it ties in directly with the themes of the film, and provides one of the movie’s most haunting scenes. Jordan Peele pulls together many themes and ideas in Nope, but whether you pick up on how the Haywood’ legacy in Hollywood is symbolic, or how advancement in camera technology connects to what we watch and how we watch it, or the themes of man’s place in nature, an exciting and enjoyable spectacle is still there to behold. Peele’s writing and directing are sharp as ever, and cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema’s lens beautifully frames the desert landscape at magic hour, or O.J. racing on his horse mirroring his great-great(great?)-grandfather’s legacy. Everyone is excellent in Nope, but it’s Keke Palmer as Emerald who is the buoyant soul of the film, the perfect foil to Kaluuya’s down-toearth O.J. Her and her brother’s investigation into the oddity in the sky, the mystery in the clouds (I’ll say no more), is a delightful journey. Whereas Get Out was an intense thriller with moments of tension-relieving levity, and Us was a downright scary semi-slasher, Nope is a lighter affair: a joyous adventure. There are plenty of intense and even terrifying moments, but the overall feel of Nope recalls the thrilling spectacles of the late 20th. That there’s so much more to mine from Nope is a bonus, but at this point it is to be expected from Jordan Peele. — JAY SPIGHT



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