The penultimate episode of Season 3 wasn't its finest hour, but it laid groundwork for a strong finale. (John P. Johnson/HBO)

The penultimate episode of Season 3 wasn’t its finest hour, but it laid groundwork for a strong finale. (John P. Johnson/HBO)

Welcome to the first installment of “€œTres Notas,”€ which will be our weekly reaction to new episodes of HBO’€™s “Silicon Valley.”€ For “Game of Thrones”€ writeups, check out Scott McLaughlin’€™s “7 Points.

In the penultimate episode of Season 3, Silicon Valley got creative in finding a new problem for a company that seemingly can’€™t go find minutes without encountering a new obstacle. This time, three years of the show telling everyone what a genius Richard is has finally harmed his perfect platform, as the average person can’€™t understand it because it’€™s too good.

All in all, this might have been the most boring episode of what has been a nearly flawless season. That said, “€œDaily Active Users”€ teamed two of the show’€™s villain’€™s together and introduced some deception within the Pied Piper group to set up what should be an interesting season finale next week. It also featured an elephant.

Here are three notes (tres notas, for the billionaires out there) on season 3, episode 9:

– Big thumbs up to the show for keeping Gavin around despite him no longer being an active threat to Pied Piper. His dealings with the ‘€œgentlemen of who Hooli board, and lady’€ and his ‘€œconsider the [insert physically present animal here]’€ speeches will never get old.

With that said, I don’€™t know if he makes Jack much funnier or if anyone really can. If anything, Jack teaming up with Gavin might water down a lot of what Gavin does.

– A great part of the show is who interacts with whom. Gilfoyle, for example, has maybe spoken one line to Monica in the entire series (“I’€™m sure you can find your way out with one of your two faces”). Jian Yang pretty much has no interaction with anyone but Erlich. Dinesh speaking to anyone outside of the incubator usually results in Dinesh embarrassing the hell out of himself.

One duo that is a guaranteed laugh every time they interact is Erlich and Laurie. The latter can be hit-or-miss in her regular dealings with Monica or Richard, but Erlich’€™s nonsense bouncing off Laurie in the beginning of “Daily Active Users” was priceless. It almost makes it a shame that the show didn’€™t spend time actually showing how Raviga’€™s purchase of Erlich’€™s shares went down.

– As jokes went, the best part of this episode was that they brought back the focus group moderator. He could seriously just say people’€™s names for an entire episode and it would be the height of television.

Also, it was perfectly fitting that on the night that the Cleveland Cavaliers won their first NBA championship in franchise history, Comic Sans was used to make the Pied Piper version of Microsoft’€™s Clippy seem extra lame.

Unsung hero of the episode: Bernice

Best line: “You and I have never had much of a rapport, have we?”

Jian Yang watch: No Jian Yang in this episode. Undoubtedly off cooking up some killer prank calls.

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean
The guys briefly discuss the now complete ESPN 30-for-30 OJ Simpson documentary, including jurors reaction to acquitting OJ years later. The now-freed Gerald Amirault calls in to the show to compare the jury on his high-profile New England trial.
PGA pro Bubba Watson joins the guys from Traveler's Championship media day to discuss Dustin Johnson's US Open win and other tour issues, plus a preview of August's tour even in Connecticut.
Kirk Minihane's Monday 'Headlines' exploring the death of Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin and Gerry Callahan going back to a column writer.

[0:03:39] ... though you have it right. Yeah oh yeah those that watched the US open by myself right you're watching them. You know the Red Sox Red Sox and what's he was so open with him. We ...
[0:05:34] ... out whatever you can't. Wear your audio via paper that's what you new book the naked pictures only soft. She's she's she's a huge slopes with him in the kindly your disease figures you'd. My granddaughter ...
[0:08:52] ... sure I picked. Horry I'm happy for how much is a big box office hit she's the voice of stories we go off tonight so so kudos corporate owned jets Goodwin good things happen to good ...
[0:12:06] ... people who who who hate prequel rose as much as I do Bubba Watson Jones. ...

The guys continue the NBA Finals game 7 reaction, comparing how bad the choke job was for the Golden State warriors.

[0:00:50] ... night on Twitter. Was winning 73 and losing in the NBA finals LeBron James and the cavaliers. Worse than the patriots going sixteen and oh and losing in the Super Bowl I say not even no ...
[0:04:02] ... reminds him in the scores of course point guard of all the Cleveland Cavaliers who do you think got the drunk. Who's sick it's a dog right now on I got again. All the all I'm ...
[0:05:56] ... you this morning I'm talking about hangover levels would you rather be LeBron James. We're Dustin Johnson this morning after championship father. A rather be wholly Saunders now. So much out single bronze wife hours in ...
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PGA pro and Fox golf analyst Brad Faxon checks in on the Monday after Dustin Johnson's win in the US Open.

[0:00:34] ... us Saudi AT&T outline as he makes his way home. For an Brad Faxon good morning facts. Compared to try to exercise a get some good for all of think about. This if you didn't know ...
[0:07:18] ... think we were we are way better and it starts with a golf course it will. Any crude it would've done that's restraint if it would have been a disaster begin with and the whole crew. ...
[0:11:18] ... you feel you or him or anybody. The morning after. Playing the US open at a place like Oakmont. Any different on that Monday morning mentally and physically that you would after I don't know some random tour stop on the yep PGA. Well absolutely you eat your you know I think. Physically all these players they can handle it you know it is it was a tough week as the rain early and I when he around the guys had decision the next morning and make. You know Lee Westwood made a comedy get up at 5 o'clock in the morning or. Reported in a row which isn't gonna make you I ...

John, Gerry and Kirk open the show talking about the two big Sunday events, Dustin Johnson's win at the US Open and LeBron James leading the Cavs to the city's first title in 52 years.
Billy Joel made a career out of using different voices. (Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

Billy Joel made a career out of using different voices. (Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

Billy Joel is like the “Friends” of musicians for me. Whenever someone has a take on either, I cringe because I don’€™t trust that anyone was ever as obsessed as I was and therefore might not be qualified to opine.

This piece on Vulture ranking all of Joel’€™s songs, for example, is garbage. It criticizes the production of “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” while not understanding that “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” was intentionally meant to sound like it was produced by Phil Spector in the early 60s. “Poorly recorded,” as the author writes? No. Accurately recorded.

Much of Joel’€™s charm is his fascination with seeing how much like another artist he can sound (which is why, down to the drum pattern, the author of the aforementioned piece should have been able to tell he was trying to sound like the Ronettes. OK, last time ripping that piece. We all turn in crummy work now and again). Like John Lennon, some of this was rooted in him not being totally comfortable with the sound of his own voice.

Yet where Lennon would call for effects and production tricks to mess with his vocals, Joel simply just tried to sing like other artists. The result was a career full of hits with remarkable vocal inconsistency. It’€™s a big reason why Billy Joel’€™s greatest hits albums will elicit many a “HE sings this?” from non-devotees. Despite him being one of the best-selling artists ever, there’€™s probably a large contingent of music fans who can’€™t pinpoint what his voice actually sounds like.

So, because I feel that I am qualified, here is a ranking of Billy Joel’€™s various voices, along with songs where they can be heard. Please note that just because a song is mentioned, it doesn’€™t mean that’€™s the voice he uses for the entire song. Another amazing thing about Billy Joel is that he could jump around with these voices from syllable to syllable, as he did in “€œThe River of Dreams.”€ Listen to the line “And I’€™ve been searching for something”€ in the second verse. He’€™s uses plain ‘€˜ol Billy Joel voice on “€œsome”€ and then goes full Ray Charles on “thing.” One word, two voices.€ He’€™s a crafty cat, that Billy Joel.

15. Uncomfortable bass — “The Night is Still Young”

Producer Phil Ramone did some amazing work on Billy Joel’€™s albums. Letting him double the verses an octave lower on “The Night is Still Young” is not an example of this. If you can, get some good headphones and listen to how the lower of the voices sings the word “side” in the first verse. That’€™s college cappella I-can’€™t-sing-the-note-so-I’€™ll-kind-of-whisper-it-and-it’€™ll-fool-‘€˜em at its finest. Then he tries singing lower!

14. New Wave baritone “No Man’s Land,” “Pressure”

13. Couldn’t-decide-which-Beatle-to-be voice “Laura”

12. Billy Joel as Frankie Valli“Uptown Girl”

A passable impression, but anything tied to “€œUptown Girl” loses points because it’€™s from an album full of tribute songs and the best of the bunch (“Tell Her About It,” an ode to The Supremes) didn’€™t need an impression at all.

11. Nasally young singer/songwriter croon“She’s Got a Way” (studio version), “Why Judy Why”

10. Billy Joel as Paul McCartney“You Can Make Me Free”

9. Billy Joel as a singing Christopher Walken“The Stranger,” “Sleeping With the Television On” 

8. Billy Joel as Sting“Running on Ice,” “Shades of Grey”

These two could have been bandmates, as they once discussed a supergroup with Don Henley. Instead, Billy had to settle for doing his own frantic mumble-singing on “Running on Ice” and sitting at the tippity top of notes during the verses of “Shades of Grey.”

7. Normal baritone – “Until the Night,” “Lullaby, Leningrad”

Until the Night is an amazingly romantic song until you realize it’€™s Billy Joel singing a duet with himself. Then it becomes an amazingly creepy song. Still great.

6. Billy Joel as Steve Winwood as Ray Charles“When in Rome”

5. Seventies scream — “Los Angelenos,” “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)”

4. Billy Joel voice“Half a Mile Away,” “Only the Good Die Young,” “This Night”

If I had put this No. 1 and made some sort of “Just the Way You Are”€ joke, my computer would have burst into flames and I would have deserved it.

3. Billy Joel as Ray Charles“Everybody Has a Dream,” “52nd Street,” “Stiletto,” “New York State of Mind”

“You can do a lot of voices just trying to be Ray Charles,” Joel said on MTV back in 1982. Some of his other voices (such as the aforementioned Steve Winwood one) stem from his Charles voice, but none of them are better.

2. Billy Joel as Paul McCartney doing Paul McCartney’€™s ‘€˜out of college’€™ voice — “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” “I Go To Extremes”

If you haven’€™t clenched your neck while singing along with a Billy Joel song in the car, you haven’€™t sung along to a lot of his songs properly. The line “you could ever look so nice after so much time” is Joel’s best use the “out of college” voice on an album, though he added it to a ton of songs in live performances as well.

1. Mid-to-late 80s-early 90s scream — “Modern Woman,” “That’s Not Her Style,” “Storm Front,” “The Downeaster Alexa,” “Two Thousand Years,” “All About Soul,” “Famous Last Words”

Billy Joel’€™s intonation was never particularly good. Flat notes are common enough in his studio recordings that you have to wonder why Ramone and Joel’€™s other producers didn’€™t either push him harder or commit to punching in a whole lot of lines.

From “The Bridge” on — and especially in his final two albums, perhaps Jole just decided that if he wasn’€™t not going to nail every note, he might as well just scream the hell out of them and hope for the best. That was a good call.

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean
Who let the dogs out? (Helen Sloan/HBO)

Who let the dogs out? (Helen Sloan/HBO)

Another classic episode nine for “Game of Thrones.” “Battle of the Bastards” immediately enters the conversation of best “Game of Thrones” episodes simply because of how amazing the action was. Major props are in order for director Miguel Sapochnik, who also directed last season’€™s “Hardhome” and is now the foremost expert on directing battles as far as I’€™m concerned.

The storytelling in and around “Battle of the Bastards” was not quite as excellent as the action, but more on that in point three. First, let’€™s appreciate that action some more.

1. Dany and the dragons came to play

We’€™ll get to the Bastard Bowl in a minute, but since the episode started in Meereen, we’€™ll start there too. Daenerys decided to keep Tyrion around even though he screwed things up and stuttered like a fool while trying to explain why things were OK. That’€™s good because Tyrion then regained his composure and gave a great speech about why Dany shouldn’€™t just burn entire cities like her father wanted to (hello, more wildfire under King’€™s Landing foreshadowing).

Instead Dany hopped on Drogon, joined up with Rhaegal and Viserion, and started burning the masters’€™ ships in what may have been the best dragon scene yet. The Dothraki storming in and Grey Worm’€™s double throat slash of the two masters who tried to sacrifice their friend capped off a satisfying turn of events in Meereen and hopefully moved us much closer to Dany leaving and going west.

2. The Battle of the Bastards was so good

“Game of Thrones” already had a few entries in the “greatest battles we’€™ve seen in shows/films” discussion (Blackwater, Castle Black, Hardhome), and I think it’€™s safe to add the Battle of the Bastards to that group.

The pre-battle meeting between Jon, Sansa and Ramsay was great. Ramsay’€™s “game” with Rickon offered one last reminder of just how sadistic Ramsay is (by the way, did anyone else think Ramsay was actually going to shoot at Jon there?). It was heartbreaking to see another Stark die, but not unexpected. Rickon had never been a huge part of the story and we pretty much knew he was done for the moment Smalljon Umber turned him over to Ramsay. Jon wanted to believe he could save Rickon, but Sansa knew better.

The battle itself was just packed with great, gory action, starting with Jon going from alone and seemingly screwed to quickly surrounded by a brutal clash of cavalry. The center of the battlefield quickly turned into a massive killing zone, with Ramsay’€™s forces firing arrows indiscriminately and dead bodies literally piling up. Jon getting buried under bodies and gasping for air was nightmare fuel, and the envelopment and slow strangulation of Jon’€™s forces was some straight Battle of Cannae stuff.

Thankfully, Littlefinger and the Vale showed up just in time (more on that in point three), Wun Wun broke down the gate of Winterfell in heroic, tragic fashion (goodbye to the last of the giants), and Jon gave Ramsay the pounding we all would’€™ve liked to have given him.

3. Why didn’€™t Sansa tell Jon about the Vale?

If this ends up being explained, I’€™ll eat my words. But as of right now, it’€™s hard to figure out why Sansa never told Jon anything about the Vale. It started with her lying about how she found out the Blackfish had retaken Riverrun — she told Jon she overheard Ramsay when in actuality she found out from Littlefinger.

Then, while consistently scolding Jon for not listening to her (and rightly so, by the way — her warnings proved prescient) and insisting they need more men, she doesn’€™t say anything about the fact that there may actually be more men on the way. I get that Sansa didn’€™t know for sure if the Vale was actually coming, but either way, I don’€™t see how it makes any sense to not loop in Jon.

My other issue with some of the storytelling here is that we once again had an army swoop in to save the day when all hope appeared to be lost. Tywin Lannister’€™s army did it at the Battle of the Blackwater, Stannis Baratheon’€™s did it at the Battle of Castle Black, and now the Vale’€™s forces do it here. The Vale’€™s arrival was set up fine and it was still cool to see, but I do think we’€™re getting a little repetitive with how these battles play out.

4. Ramsay got the death he deserved

I think we’€™ve still seen more good main characters die than bad ones, but occasionally we get one of these satisfying villain deaths. Joffrey’€™s death was probably the most satisfying to this point, but Ramsay tops it in my mind. He was evil turned up to 11 and we had to suffer through one torturous scene after another (all the Theon/Reek scenes, Sansa’€™s rape, feeding Walda and her son to his dogs) as the writers went above and beyond to make it clear just how awful he was. Having his death come at the mouths of his beloved dogs was a nice touch, and Sansa’€™s little smile to end the episode matched mine and probably most other viewers’€™.

5. Dany and Yara could be fun

Dany seems to like the idea of having another powerful woman on her side, and Yara seems to enjoy not-so-subtly hitting on Dany. Their deal makes sense for both sides, although Tyrion’€™s concern over other powerful houses wanting independence if they see the Greyjoys granted independence is a valid one. That can come later, though. For now, I’€™m just happy that Dany has more ships and finally seems close to being ready to make her move to Westeros.

6. What’€™s next for Sansa and Littlefinger? Davos and Melisandre?

Sansa was rightfully pissed at Littlefinger for leaving her with Ramsay, but she was still willing to turn to him when she absolutely needed help and couldn’€™t find it anywhere else. And Littlefinger was still willing to help despite having his first offer to help rejected. Now what? Based on the preview for next week’€™s episode, it seems like Littlefinger now believes he is owed something — “I thought you knew what I wanted,” he tells her. The most obvious guess is that he wants Sansa to marry him, which would certainly complicate things since it’€™s hard to imagine Sansa going along with that.

Elsewhere in rocky relationships, Davos discovers Shireen Baratheon’€™s little stag at the remains of a pyre and puts two and two together. The preview for next week shows him confronting Melisandre with Jon present — “Tell him what you did to her.” So that should be fun.

In other Melisandre news, she still doesn’€™t know why the Lord of Light allowed her to bring Jon back to life. You would think at some point she’€™ll start to see Jon as Azor Ahai reborn the way she once saw Stannis that way. Maybe she’€™s not ready to see it yet (she still seems pretty down on herself), or maybe she’€™s being more cautious this time. Or maybe she’€™ll only see it after we find out who Jon’€™s real parents are, which I hope is next week (you can’€™t have the Tower of Joy tease and then wait a full year for the reveal, right?)

7. How crazy will things get in the finale?

In addition to the two storylines above, we also know from the preview for next week that we’€™ll see both Bran and King’€™s Landing, as well as a white raven, which signals a change of seasons and the arrival of winter. We haven’€™t seen Bran since episode six, but it’€™s safe to assume he, Meera and Benjen have been moving toward The Wall. What happens once they get there should be interesting. Will that mark left on Bran’€™s arm by the Night’€™s King come into play again?

Then there’€™s King’€™s Landing, where it looks like we’€™ll get at least one trial and maybe two (we see Loras in the preview, but we know Cersei is also due for a trial). I don’€™t think Cersei ends this season quietly, and there’€™s been plenty of foreshadowing about the wildfire stored under King’€™s Landing (including more this week).

Blog Author: 
Scott McLaughlin
Brian Wilson performed "Pet Sounds" with his band and the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall on Friday and Saturday. (Photo by Winslow Townson)

Brian Wilson performed “Pet Sounds” with his band and the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall on Friday and Saturday. (Photo by Winslow Townson)

The title of “greatest album ever”€ is obviously subjective. When someone says “greatest album ever,” what they usually mean is, “€œmy favorite album ever.”€ But there are some albums that are objectively in the conversation, because they are so widely regarded as great, innovative and/or influential by critics and other musicians, and because they appear at or near the top of one greatest albums list after another. The Beach Boys’€™ “Pet Sounds”€ is one of those albums.

“Pet Sounds”€ also happens to be one of my favorite albums ever, maybe my favorite depending on the day. I listen to it and just marvel at Brian Wilson’€™s arrangements and production, at the use of so many different and often unusual instruments, at the introspective lyrics that were so different than those on The Beach Boys’€™ early hits, and of course at the classic Beach Boys vocal harmonies.

On Saturday night, I got to watch Wilson perform “Pet Sounds”€ (along with 19 other Beach Boys or Wilson solo songs) backed by a 10-piece band and the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall. The 73-year-old Wilson’€™s voice isn’€™t what it once was, he needed help getting on and off stage, and he did more sitting at his piano than actually playing it.

Yet the music was still great. Wilson’€™s backing band is full of talented musicians who nailed not just the drum, guitar, bass and keyboard parts, but also most of the other cool instruments you hear throughout “Pet Sounds” (the train and barking dogs were left out, which I guess is understandable). Matt Jardine, son of original Beach Boy Al Jardine, was great as the falsetto vocalist, both in lead and backing capacity. And the Pops provided the full orchestral sound an album like “Pet Sounds”€ deserves while also adding a nice twist to earlier Beach Boys songs like “I Get Around.”

That “Pet Sounds”€ could still sound great despite Wilson not being what he once was as a musician shouldn’€™t be surprising. Wilson is a genius songwriter, arranger and producer, and part of his genius is that he allows others to thrive.

He had one of the best studio bands ever assembled at his disposal while recording “Pet Sounds”€, and he didn’€™t just boss them around. He listened to their feedback and suggestions and was willing to tweak his music. He sometimes liked their mistakes more than what he originally had, so he went with the “€œmistakes.”€ He gave the lead vocals on “€œGod Only Knows,”€ probably the best song he ever wrote, to his brother Carl because he thought Carl would do it better than he could (and he was right).

The musicians and singers are different, but Wilson is still doing that. He doesn’€™t try to sing notes he can’€™t sing anymore, because he has others (specifically Matt Jardine) who can do that instead. He doesn’€™t try to play anything complicated on piano, because he has better piano players in his band. Wilson wanted “Pet Sounds”€ to sound as good as it possibly could, and it’€™s clear that’€™s still the case. Wilson has always set the bar high for himself, and you get the sense that he wouldn’€™t tour “Pet Sounds” if the live performances weren’€™t going to clear that bar.

Wilson says this tour is the last time he’€™ll ever perform “Pet Sounds” live, and he seems like the kind of guy who sticks to his word. I feel fortunate that I got to see one of those performances. When you’€™re someone like me who’€™s 27 years old but whose favorite albums came out mostly in the ‘€˜60s and ‘€˜70s, you accept that you’€™re not going to have a chance to ever see too many of those albums performed live.

Performances of entire albums start to finish are rare enough anyways. Performances of albums that are 40-50 years old by the original artist (and let’€™s be clear- “Pet Sounds”€ is more of a Brian Wilson album than a Beach Boys album) are much rarer. So getting to see “Pet Sounds,” which turned 50 in May, performed live in 2016 and having it sound as true to the original as could possibly be expected is something special that I’€™ll never forget.

Blog Author: 
Scott McLaughlin