Review: U2 Songs of Innocence

So, like 500 million other people, I’ve had U2’s Songs of Innocence on my phone for the last couple of days.

The thing is, I’m actually a fan of U2. Have been since I got my hands on The Joshua Tree back in 1987.

So, I’ve listened to it. The whole album, all 11 songs. I’ve been playing around with it in my head and listening in my car and at the office.

I’m not far from 40, so U2 is generationally appropriate for me.

But, how does it stack up?

First, the songs are all absolutely beautiful. The music is very nice and the lyrics are incredible, a return to Bono’s greatness in songwriting.

This is, in my view, the best U2 album since All That You Can’t Leave Behind. Maybe better than that one.

Here’s the thing: U2 may never again catch the magic that produced The Joshua Tree and then just a few years later Achtung Baby. Those are two albums that are pure magic from start to finish.

But, with Songs of Innocence, U2 has produced an outstanding album full of beautiful music.

The story behind the music is that this is U2 looking at the world when they were in their teens. What it feels like is a group of guys looking back on their formative years and recpaturing a few moments of innocence. In either case, the emotions it evokes are intense.

The album is very personal, introspective, and a bit haunting.

The last 5 songs (starting with Raised by Wolves) are simply superb. U2 magic. Like the way I felt when I heard the first 5 songs of War. If this were a cassette like the ones I bought in the 80s, I’d be playing side 2 a lot.

I’ve listened quite a bit in the last few days, and I’m coming to the conclusion that my favorite song is Cedarwood Road. First, the song kicks some ass. It opens with tremendous promise and when I first heard it, I turned the radio up. While it does not go full on with its rock potential, it has a driving beat and great guitar sound and it is worth playing loud. Plus, lyrically, it’s pretty interesting. The boy standing at home, waiting to face the world. Being defined for life by the years spent at home.

Raised by Wolves is U2 and political commentary. Ireland and war. And here again, the Edge is on fire.

Sleep Like a Baby Tonight may be the second best song on the album. It is haunting and dream-like and special. Plus, it ends with some guitar magic by the Edge.

The Troubles is also haunting and special. In fact, the album’s introspective nature makes it somewhat melancholy and maybe a bit angry. I guess not unlike a teenage boy trying to figure out the world.

Song for Someone (an early track), reminds me of nights spent in the car at the end of a date with someone special. Someone beginning to really like you. I can see myself hearing that song at 17 and melting under the emotion and excitement it conveys.

While I also enjoy Every Breaking Wave, which is lyrically brilliant and sonically interesting, it comes in the opening trio of pop songs that all run together. Sure, Miracle (of Joey Ramone) and California (There is no end to love) are individually good songs, but when you play Miracle, Wave, and California in order, they merge into a singular pop intro to the album. Fun, interesting, and perhaps forgettable.

Iris is powerful if for no other reason than the subject — Bono’s mother who died when he was 14.

Volcano is the “meh” of the group. Though I appreciate the chorus evoking the sounds of Glastonbury, a song the band wrote for the Glastonbury festival and played sometimes on the 360 tour. They should have just recorded Glastonbury as it was and left Volcano out.

All in all, the album is quite good. It gets into your head, and that’s what good music does. Some of the songs could be soundtracks to your life or to particularly fond or difficult moments. And, if there’s another album, as Bono has promised (Songs of Experience), the world could be in for some quite exciting U2 sounds for the next few years.

Review of Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille

Guest writer Lynn has a few words to say about Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille.

Any man aspiring to be a true gentleman must attend to details such as fragrance, and Tom Ford’s offering is certainly one to be considered.

Here’s Lynn’s take:

 

Remember the old-timey tobacco shops… shops with tables upon tables of loose pipe tobacco… rows upon rows of perfectly aligned cigars… the tobacco shop many  gentlemen would frequent after a hard week’s work?  This is what Tom Ford Tobacco and Vanille brings to mind immediately after spraying it on, and throughout the day.  The scent of vanilla is very, very subtle… almost undetectable other than enhancing the tobacco, hence the name, Tobacco Vanille, not Tobacco & Vanille.  A powerfully subdued scent of sweet tobacco that you would imagine wafting from Gregory Peck’s pipe.

It is sold as a men’s cologne; however, it is can easily be worn by a women without giving off a macho scent.  The finesse of the tobacco makes for an equality of femininity and masculinity.  It can be worn effortlessly by either sex and appreciated by both, so be prepared to have men and women alike to ask you what scent you are wearing!

SG Says: This fragrance is exquisite and can certainly be worn by a woman — but ONLY if you want to be tantalizing to those around you.

Find Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille and make it your own:

 

 

 

Dreadnought Shaving Cream

What is the best shave cream for men? Do premium shaving creams really offer a noticeable difference?

Here, I attempt to answer these questions.

I was first made aware of Dreadnought Shaving Cream by @HeyClurra.

While I’ve used some higher-end shaving creams before, I usually stick to the Aveeno Active Naturals stuff — it’s about $4, so a little on the higher end for the store.  There’s no added scent, and it smells a touch like an oatmeal cookie — a hint of vanilla and a fragrance that quickly dissipates post-shave.  It’s a good, solid shave and it’s not that expensive.

Dreadnought shaving cream comes in at $18.  Not the most premium price point, but not cheap, either.

Dreadnought shaving cream comes in a delightful canister.  It’s perfect for using a shaving brush, but I just added a dot to the palm of my hand and used some warm water to work up a lather.

I was impressed by how thick and rich the lather was.  The scent was definitely present.  It’s a light, soapy scent.  A traditional men’s shaving smell to be sure.  After working the stuff into my face, I shaved as I normally do.

My initial impression was positive. The glide was smooth and nice and the stubble cleared nicely. Plus, the scent made me feel fresh and clean.  I noticed less irritation than normal, so that’s a plus.

I applied my normal aftershave balm and went about my day.

I noticed my skin felt soft and smooth, seemingly more so than usual.

I used Dreadnought Shaving Cream for a full work week and found it pleasant.  Certainly, a good experience.

But, worth $18?

I decided to return to my old standby.  I used the old stuff for the weekend.  Still, a good, rich lather.  But the shave was slightly painful.  The irritation post-shave more apparent.  After two days, I went back to Dreadnought.

I love it! The shave is clean, the glide is great, the irritation is minimal, the scent is welcoming and I’m imagining will be even better on a warm summer morning.  I’d also imagine a woman leaning in for a kiss or to whisper something sweet might find the aroma inviting.

Is it worth 3 times what I used to pay for shave cream? I think so. It is supposed to last through 50 shaves, so about 2 months.  If it does, it’s definitely worth it.  For now, I’m using Dreadnought and loving it every single day.

 

 

For more on the gentleman’s lifestyle, follow @SterlingGent

Winter Cocktails

It’s cold. It’s a vortex of cold, even. And it’s not even February yet.  Places that have never, ever seen snow are getting hit hard with freezing rain and ice.

Nothing warms your better on a cold winter evening than a warm fire and a well-made cocktail.

Here, I outline four great winter cocktails all made with bourbon. Because, what else would you make them with?

The Old Fashioned
This is a classic, with a twist.  The original was crafted at The Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. 80% of the world’s bourbon is produced in Kentucky, so it’s no surprise the Old Fashioned would find it’s home there.  While the traditional version doesn’t contain any muddled fruit, newer variants do. And, in my view, it’s the muddled fruit that makes this cocktail amazing.
Place one orange slice in the bottom of an old fashioned glass.  Top with a dash of sugar. Add a splash of Sprite. Use a spoon to muddle this until the sugar is well-blended with the juices.
Top with ice. Add 1.5 oz of bourbon. Stir. Top off with Sprite or water. (Sprite will make it sweeter, of course). Garnish with a lime wedge and a cherry.
Whiskey Sour
Old Fashioned Whiskey Sour
Another classic, this is very simple to make and simply delicious. Very nicely warming on a cool winter night.
2 oz. bourbon
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. lime juice
1 TSP brown sugar
place in a cocktail shaker. Add ice. Shake.
Pour over ice in an old fashioned glass.
Egg Nog
Four Roses® Egg Nog
  • Beat separately yolks and whites of 6 eggs.
  • Add 1/2 cup of sugar to yolks while beating.
  • Add 1/4 cup of sugar to whites after they have been beaten very stiff.
  • Mix egg whites with yolks.
  • Stir in 1 pint of cream and 1 pint of milk.
  • Add a pint of bourbon and 1 oz. Jamaica Rum. Stir thoroughly.
Makes 5 pints — perfect for your any winter gathering, not just for the Holidays.
Serve very cold and top with grated nutmeg.
The Toasty Tobaggan
The Toasty Toboggan bourbon cocktail
A winter favorite, for sure!
  • 2 oz bourbon
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • Hot Water
  • Fresh Grated Nutmeg

In a saucepan, heat 4 ounces of water, maple syrup and bourbon. Remove from heat. Add butter and stir until butter is melted. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg and whipped cream.

For more on living the gentlemen’s lifestyle, follow @SterlingGent

 

What Do Women Notice About Men?

If you’re a true gentleman (or aspire to be so), you want to dress and act in a way that exudes confidence.  And of course, you want ladies to notice you.

We asked the question: What Do Women Notice About Men? And @ThePreppyBelle was kind enough to give us some insight.

Gentlemen, when a lady talks, you listen! So, here goes.  Some advice from a woman on what you can do to get noticed.

Here are her 5 tips:

1) BE CRISP! I can’t say it enough. A good pair of ironed and creased khakis is very impressive to a woman. Always iron your clothes properly (that’s right, even a t-shirt).

SG Says: Sure, you’re probably NOT wearing a t-shirt and trying to impress a woman, but the point is well-taken. GET AN IRON! And learn to use it.  Women are impressed by details.


2) Buttons. When you’re at a formal gathering and you’re wearing a suit here are the rules: when you stand up, you button your suit. When you sit down, you unbutton it. I learned that back in 5th grade at my cotillion class. When I go to more formal occasions, I can always pick out a man who knows what he is doing.

SG Says: The basics! Learn how to button your suit! On a two-button suit, you only button the TOP button.  Get it right.  Women are watching.


3. Pants. Make sure your pants are long enough (to the top of the foot). And if they aren’t, make sure your socks match what you’re wearing  (and each other!) if they are visible.

SG Says: Basics and details, guys.  Socks ARE an important detail!


4. Sunglasses. I find a man wearing croakies with sunglasses attractive. For both men and women, I think it’s essential to have two pairs of good sunglasses; one brown pair and one black pair. Try to wear the brown ones when you are wearing clothes in that color scheme and black when you’re wearing black.

SG Says: Basic stuff, sound advice.  And if you’re in the market for sunglasses, check this out!


5. Cologne. Cologne adds a statement what you’re wearing. Do not let your scent wear you, you should wear it. Simply meaning, don’t bathe in it. Just squirt the air and walk through the mist. Be considerate to the others around you (especially if you’re traveling with them). Some of my favorite scents on men are: -Nautica – Black by Kenneth Cole – Polo by Ralph Lauren – #2 Big Pony Collection by Ralph Lauren

SG Says: More on men’s fragrance here.

Thanks to @ThePreppyBelle for her words of wisdom.

For more advice on men’s style and fashion, follow me @TheSterlingGent