Monday, March 20, 2017

Fair Shake Review: Nightride - Tinashe

Nightride - Tinashe
(Genre: Contemporary R&B/Trap R&B)

Tinashe was introduce to me by our cult leader, Miko, way back when "2 On" was on the verge of being a smash hit. I was enamored by her style ever since. It carried a cool, confident attitude similar to Aaliyah & Ciara and maintained a voice of her own. After some research, I found that she writes and co-produces much of her material at the time and that was another impressive aspect I found in her artistry. Therefore, Aquarius was my first exposure to a full Tinashe experience and I was left pleased. Her follow up mixtape, Amethyst, seemed to lean more toward the side of Aquarius that didn't interest me though. Regardless, the singles leading up to Joyride/Nightride concept did keep me captivated.

Nightride is the first to arrive to the fans, providing more of the dark, atmospheric mood music Amethyst delivered with a little more polish. That didn't prevent it from experimenting more with the limits of the R&B as songs like "Soul Glitch", "You Don't Know Me" , & "Spacetime". Her lyrics on this project poetically deals with themes such as moving on after a bad relationship, her own convictions, & her will to fight for love. Yet a few songs can bring some groan-worthy lines, for example boys "steaming like ramen soup" on "Party Favors". The tracks all still fit well together with a few short interludes, including the odd "Binaural Test".

The trap infused R&B production of the project definitely provides the soundtrack for a ride through night, smoking optional. For my personal taste, I have to be in a certain mood for this style which hinders its replay value for me. But I do have some I return to often like "Soul Glitch" & "Spacetime" that expand on the sound trap rap has popularized and have interesting vocal performances. My absolute favorite would have to be "Touch Pass" that has such a infectious beat and gives off a Janet Jackson vibe.

For people into artists like Frank Ocean, late Rihanna, & Bryson Tiller, I would recommend giving this a listen. With this project, Tinashe definitely went for a particular R&B aesthetic that a few others are playing around with that they haven't lyrically been as proficient at, save for Frank Ocean. It just doesn't suit my taste as much, though the execution is notably on point objectively. The singles, "Ride of Your Life", "Party Favors", & "Company" I believe are perfect club bangers and the album cuts provide the depth to warrant a purchase for those into this style. Tinashe is set to release the second half, Joyride, this year, though and it's proposed to adopt more of her pop sensibilities. So in conclusion, I must say her voice & writing will continue to have me make the "Sacrifices" to check her out in the future.

Ride these links for more Tinashe:
Company (Official Music Video)
Company Live on MTV (How I first heard this song)
Party Favors (Choreography by Jojo Gomez)
Touch Pass (Freestyle by Danceramous)
Nightride trailer (The song is only in the trailer)
Player (Joyride single?)
Superlove (Another Joyride single?)
Flame (For sure a Joyride single)
Power 106 Interview (During the Joyride Tour)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Two March Movie Reviews (2017)

 Get Out (2017, USA)
Genre: Suspense/Thriller

Get Out has been on my "to-watch" list ever since the first trailer came out. It seemed like a very compelling premise & the fact that it was written and directed by comedian Jordan Peele made me curious. After knowing that Keanu and the success of the Key & Peele series, I was intrigued by Peele's shift to a genre that can easily be ruined by too many laughs. Eventually, the critical praises it began to garner had me nervous that it wouldn't live up to the hype. Therefore, I went into the theater with caution.

What I beheld was a plot that had its small predictable moments and occasional unexpected twists. The dialogue was rather natural in the world it's built upon and brings to mind some racially-centric social issues. The thing is, the race relations in the film at first lead you to believe that discrimination is going be the theme, so an open mind can allow viewers to notice the true angle of the tale. The actors in this film really deliver very real characters and the leads, Daniel Kaluuya & Allison Williams, truly shine in their performances. Peele didn't forget to balance the tension with some laughs from who I'm sure will be a favorite, Lil Rel Howery, though.

I must agree that this was quite a fantastic film. Although you may have to suspend your disbelief a little bit with how the hypnosis affects characters, you can buy into the drama being played out on the screen. If you dig psychological thrillers, I can certainly recommend giving this one a watch in theaters. Since it's not necessarily a horror film, I can suggest seeing it on your own or with friends. I just don't hope it won't make my fellow black folk paranoid around those of Caucasian descent.

Logan (2017, USA)
Genre: Action/Drama

Growing up with the X-Men movies, I grew to bandwagon with Wolverine fans until my critical eye became more mature. X-Men Origins: Wolverine marked where I finally realized that they were entertaining movies, but not technical greats in the screenwriting department. Yet, being such a bandwagon fan led me to seeing the movies to follow in hopes of improvement. I was met with little improvements, but the final film's trailer gave me the most hope.

Logan was created to have all the grit that Wolverine's comic history is supposed to bring & they delivered that with the R-Rated aimed story. The action was as gruesome as necessary and blood-pumping as anticipating. If we put the storyline into question, though, I would say that missed a few marks to equate it to a B ranking. A few motivations seemed a little less worthy of its conviction and some parts I feel dragged too long. Despite that, the plot was rather well done and portrayed well by the actors involved. Dafne Keen, did a good job in action and body language, but the script definitely left her dialogue with more to be desired. The X-Men veterans Patrick Stewart & Hugh Jackman certainly brought their A-game as their chemistry was as great as ever.

In the superhero genre, I can say with confidence that this is a welcome addition to the collection. It's, in my opinion, the best solo Wolverine movie in the franchise because I feel it does the best to humanize this force to be reckon with. That's what makes a fantastic superhero movie in my mind, when you can root for the hero and still feel that you can relate to such extraordinary beings in the process. If you like these types of movies, I couldn't recommend it higher. Just be aware that the R rating is correct as the gore and language is very present. Hugh Jackman can finally put away his claws for good, and after this film I believe it's well deserved.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Quick Movie Review

Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016, USA) | Rating: 2.5/5

I think everyone's aware that Tim Burton's take on the classic tale of Alice in Wonderland had some...somewhat mixed reviews. I think most of the opinions I've seen and heard have been mostly unfavorable, but I thought the movie was alright. I admit it had some silly moments and Burton made some bizarre choices, but for the most part, I wasn't too mad that I saw it in theaters with my mother. When I heard that Burton was making a sequel, I kinda rolled my eyes to the idea, but intended on seeing it at some point. I halfheartedly tried to see it on the big screen, but ended up waiting until it was released on DVD. For most part, I thought the sequel was unnecessary. It barely connected to the first movie and it mostly focused on Johnny Depp's character as the Mad Hatter. Any silly parts from the previous movie seemed to be upped in the sequel, which usually fails to gain too many laughs from myself. There are some visual elements that aren't that bad, but overall, it's not that memorable of a movie and I still wonder why Disney and Burton bothered to create a sequel in the first place. The movie isn't terrible, but it's definitely nothing special.

Ghostbusters (2016, USA) | Rating: 3/5

One of many controversial movies of 2016 and really I have no idea why people were so upset over it either. "Ruined childhoods" is a phrase I hear too often when it comes to Hollywood taking liberties with old (or nostalgic) properties, when really they can't change the past. There are good and bad effects when Hollywood does decide to bring back nostalgic properties, like exposing a new generation to it...for better or worse. Of course, hardcore fans of nostalgia tend to take things too seriously and unfortunately this movie was subjected to that. There was so much debate about this movie and its critics that had to deal feminism, sexism, and of course the whole "ruining childhoods". Obviously, I was not phased by this. It had potential and it looked fun despite the cries of nostalgic fans (and also the asshole racists harassing Leslie Jones). One thing I agree with the critics I follow on YouTube is that it does retread the same story from the first movie, but I mean you can pretty much say the same thing about Rogue One. Anyway, I thought the movie was rather fun and entertaining. I did enjoy Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon the most out of the cast. They were definitely my favorite characters in the movie. I also enjoyed the little cameos here and there too. Overall, I wasn't turned off, offended, or anything by the existence of this movie. In fact, I'm looking forward to potentially having more Ghostbuster movies with this cast. Sure, it's not perfect and it's not your childhood's version of Ghostbusters, but it doesn't ruin the franchise in the least to me.

Doctor Strange (2016, USA) | Rating: 3/5

Closing out the year for Marvel, we have this lovely visual treat that takes a slightly different direction with its presentation. Since jumping into the comic book scene, I still wasn't all that familiar with Doctor Strange's character. The comics I read that he appeared in had a very brief appearance with little to no backstory or information on him. The only thing I knew was his appearance, but after the fact, I have read one of the newer comics. What makes this movie different compared to previous Marvel entries is the pacing and seriousness of the story. Strange is quite the egotistical character (see Dr. House) and he isn't the most likable character either, but somehow along the way, you manage to root for his surprising fight with Hannibal Kaecilius and really himself. The pacing could be a little slow in places and may turn off some viewers with its terminology and mythos, but I thought it was explained well enough for you to hop into this new world of the Marvel cinematic universe if you're not familiar with it like my mother and myself were when we watched it. I thought the visuals were pretty good, I enjoyed the supporting characters especially Wong and Mordo, and now I kinda wonder how the Ancient One was originally in comparison to Tilda Swinton's performance, which was...okay...? for the most part I suppose. Overall, not my favorite Marvel live action movie, but I look forward to seeing the egotistical Doctor Strange interact with Thor and the gang in his third installment.

Moana (2016, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5

I'm not sure, but I want to say that my mother was more excited about this movie than I was, but it still looked quite intriguing to check out with her. I wasn't opposed to seeing it in the least, but I think some Disney movies kinda lost its appeal of excitement for me like it did with its older movies. Whether that's just growing up or lack of quality, I have no idea, but I do not regret seeing this movie. First of all, the visuals are absolutely gorgeous and vivid and made me want to jump into and explore the oceans of Hawaii with our main character Moana. I already have dreams of visiting Hawaii some day, but seeing all the culture, color, and warmth that the community shared among each other really appealed to me and made me feel welcomed in this universe. The story and soundtrack made me think of Disney classics The Lion King and Pocahontas, which are very good things, in my opinion. When I thought of those movies at certain points in this one, it awaken my nostalgia and touched parts of my heart that my childhood identified with my own family. While some of the humor with Moana's sidekick Heihei can be a little too silly for me, I enjoyed her interactions with her grandmother and relationship with Maui the most in this movie. I will admit that the story isn't anything new from Disney's catalog of self discovery, but I enjoyed this vibrant and comical journey with a new set of characters.

Finding Dory (2015, USA) | Rating: 4/5

I wasn't able to check out this other beautiful ocean adventure in theaters like I did with Finding Nemo, but watching it at home did not lose its visual appeal for me. Disney/Pixar are just really good at capturing the beauty and mesmerizing atmosphere of the ocean and ocean life. It's quite fascinating to watch these characters interacting and traverse these lovely blue and green hues of water, whether above or below the ocean. I was a little more excited about this sequel than I was about Moana and I was curious to learn more about everyone's favorite fish Dory. I felt like the story tackled self identity, self confidence, disability, and the importance of relationships very well. Who would've thought a story about a fish with short term memory lost could be so deep and emotional, right? I enjoyed the wild journey both Dory, Marlin, and Nemo had to go through in every setting they traveled through. While it could seem as a slight retread of Finding Nemo, I feel like there's a double meaning in the title as Dory is not only trying to find her parents and Marlin and Nemo are trying to find her, but she's also trying to find herself and the strength within her to pursue anything she desires and trust herself to be on her own. I think this could speak to millennials and those about to embark that mysterious world of college and adulthood. A couple of the supporting cast can be a little silly like Moana's Heihei, but for the most part, I enjoyed their interactions and connections with Dory as well as seeing some old favorites like the sea turtles.

If there's something you want me to review (or want a more in depth review of the movies above or previous ones), check out this post on how you can submit requests.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Muddy Cult Monthly Favorites - February 2017 Pt. 1

I'm so happy to see that you, our lovely Cult followers, have been enjoying this new addition to Muddy Cult! We shall be continuing with our monthly favorites and this time we have our February favorites. Feel free to leave your comments below about our picks and share some of your favorites with us from last month!

BlipMasta5's Favorites

Anime Recommendation:
Interviews with Monster Girls

I'm watching quite a bit of shows on Funimation this season like Tanya the Evil, Acca, Fuuka, Mob Psycho 100, & more. Yet, I wanted to share this show strictly due to this dub's fantastic scripting. In my opinion, it's last season's Keijo when it comes to writing & acting. The performances are so believable and incredibly hilarious when it needs to be. Otherwise, it's a very heartwarming story about being able to accept the differences everyone has and still being able to find your place in society, especially in the quintessential time of your life when that discovery truly manifests itself: high school. Even in its original sub form this point is well executed, but as discussed in the Sub VS Dub article it's nice to see that it can be enjoyed in both formats that way the work never suffers. I'm looking forward to continuing this with more laughs and smiles expected to come. Maybe you could, too!

My Guilty Pleasure Recommendation:
All things Poppy related

If you haven't heard about Poppy yet, I'm sorry I may have just allowed you to be entranced by this enigmatic figure in the weird side of YouTube. Her channel and music is almost like the social experiment that works all too well, while satirizing what makes pop figures and pop culture so influential in the first place. The music isn't that bad in that it truly is "Poppy", but the content surrounding the popstar itself is disturbing and infectious at the same time. It truly gets you to question how the industry machine affects the stars and who they influence or just leads you deeper into the dark black hole of "what is this and why can't I stop watching?"

Favorite Music Performance (Non-Hip Hop):
Spicy Boyfriend - Shawn Wasabi

I know, I listen to more than Hip Hop and R&B! Haha. I caught wind of Shawn Wasabi through a Facebook video a while back and decided to subscribe to his occasional uploads to YouTube. This video is a great display of why I made this choice. He makes really great happy electronic tunes that make you want to bounce along to! Plus, being able to see him do all the work live makes it the skill more apparent than from a stage where it seems likes a simple button push on a laptop. Yet, that's a whole other conversation about the EDM craft itself. Hope you can enjoy the video, though!

Favorite Dance Video:
Love on the Brain - Galen Hooks Choreo

I have loved Galen Hooks (choreography) for a very long time...even before her days working with Ne-Yo, or the Legion of Extraordinary Dancers (LXD), or her cameo in La La Land. I believe it was Janet Jackson's Rock With U that I first remember noticing her. Anyway, anytime I can see something new from her passionate and versatile choreography, I jump at the chance to watch it. This here is a perfect example of how she can take simple movements and still express so much. Check her own channel out for more and I promise you won't be disappointed!

Favorite Live Performance (Hip Hop):
D.R.A.M. (Tiny Desk Concert Series)

D.R.A.M. is one of the many rap singers of this generation of hip hop. Yet there is something that sets him apart from them: his genuine positivity. That energy he brings to his music permeates your soul and just makes you jam along with him. You can tell that he's just like your friend from church singing with a smile on his face. He just now became your friend who makes music you can jam in the car and club too. That's how you get hits like "Broccoli" & "Cash Machine" and their live renditions are just as fun along with his other selections. Hit play and vibe out!!

Favorite Music Discussion
The Needle Drop: Rap's Punk Phase

Anthony Fantano of The Needle Drop occasionally does think pieces on music and this one had me thinking. As a big fan of hip hop music and a person raised during the golden era of the genre, a lot of the "mumble rap" has irked me. Yet Anthony's perspective, by way of parallels to rock music, had me second guess if it's really just the growing pains of a genre. I, along with a few of my friends, know that Lil' Yachty gets the brunt of the "mumble rap" hate since he's the most outspoken, but with the game being as flooded with similar artists, it is concerning. But I guess I may be like a rock purist who will have to see if my mentality can outlast a trend or join the new norm.

Best Verse from a Disliked Album:
Big Sean feat. Eminem (Bar for Bar Breakdown)

I know this may be an odd category, but I just couldn't pass up talking a little about this song. Also, I'm sorry YouTube wouldn't let me embed the video here. Now, this song comes from Big Sean's new album, I Decided, that I chose to skip reviewing in depth since it boils down to him still being a mediocre rapper that leans on the corny side. I admit that he's still improving, but he's still has a lot of room for improvement. Despite that, he still managed to get a technically vicious verse from one the best to ever rap: Eminem. I do have to agree with Andre of Lyricology 101, though, in that Em did not fit the song well and Big Sean didn't really slouch on his end. Ultimately, when it comes to the craft of wordplay, Eminem is winning there.

Favorite Release of the Month:
Christ Crunken Commentary - Brail

Brail is my favorite artist of all time. Yeah, I'm not afraid to say it without hesitation. It's just been hard to promote him lately, though since he has released a new full length project in a few years. Therefore, the announcement of his new EP Christ Crunken Commentary was had me ecstatic! That does mean I will give this a Fair Shake Review soon, meaning an unbiased opinion first with bias coming second. Its release is just around the corner as I write this, but should be available by the time you see this post. So I'm going to leave my main thoughts on this artist to that review and leave you with a single from the CCC project to whet your appetite. Be warned: once you go Brail...something that rhymes with that!

Buonaventura's Favorites

Now that I’m up-to-date with the No Sleep Podcast, I find myself looking for other spooky podcasts to fill my time at night before bed. One in particular is The Black Tapes Podcast. I’m hesitant to share it with you for a variety of reasons; it’s kind of a mixed bag.

The Black Tapes is a serial-like mockudrama podcast of a journalist researching a collection of “unproven” paranormal documents owned by a professional skeptic who is offering a million dollar reward to someone who can show irrefutable proof of ghosts. Think of the X-files but if Scully was the optimistic aliens-are-totes-real newb and Mulder was the cynical one. I found that aspect to be really appealing and is the main reason why I’m sharing this with you.

I didn’t like that it was so similar to Serial. I LOVED Serial; it’s what started my foray into Podcasts.  For some reason, I just didn’t like the style here. It seemed too…manufactured and Alex came across as kind of a dick. She is patronizing to the people she interviews and is a bit unethical. Meanwhile, I found myself constantly siding with Dr. Strand, though the show goes out of its way to try to cast him as unhelpful and dodgy.  Alex doesn’t trust his constant skepticism and is frustrated that he has a rational explanation for everything (the horror!) while her dupey self takes everything at face value.  The last thing that made me think twice about sharing is that it is currently on hiatus, until the group finalizes a new podcast they are working on. Boo.

But don’t let that detract you from checking it out. The story is intriguing and creepy and it’s fun to see how everything starts to fit together. The other cast members are believable enough to where you get the itch to google some of the oddities mentioned to make sure they’re completely fictional (like the unsound). Overall, I give it a B.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Fair Shake Review: Christ Crunken Commentary - Brail

Christ Crunken Commentary - Brail
(Genre: Hip Hop/Rap/R&B)

Brail is a artist from my hometown that I've been a fan of since his first project in 2006. He's a versatile musician that sings, raps, and produces across many styles of hip hop, R&B, and pop music. This alone has made him one of my favorite artists, but add the fact that his content has been curse word free (except the "N" word) through majority of his discography is the cherry on top. This is due to his more Christian-minded approach to songwriting, & it's delivered in a way that isn't too preachy to the average listener. Over the past few years since his last album, Brand New: The Director's Cut, released in 2012, he's only released songs sporadically over the net. The announcement of a full-length project was welcome news to fans like myself who patiently waited for the next collection of tunes we could financially support. Christ Crunken Commentary is that album.

CCC is an EP that's goal is to provide music that you can bang to without the idiocy of current hip hop. Hence the production, primarily done by Brail himself, ranges from club bangers, contemporary R&B, trap rap, & dance pop. This broad range of beats match the content that covers how to use catchy music, pursuing true love, taking action against social ills, living a Christ-like life & much more. What's fascinating about the project is not only how it covers so many topics, but how seamlessly he brings them together in the listening experience. Even the featured artists never detract from the playlist as they fit comfortably into each song's themes.

"Waddle" being one of the first official singles speaks on how past experiences with alcoholism affected his opinion of drinking and the environments it can create. Another single "Old School Love" featuring Lindsey Alderman showcases the most soulful vocals about searching for a more mature love than most pop songs would ever discuss. The use of skits like "Handle with Care" & "Reading" invite interest in their following song's topic like the use of the N-word and the positive influence of reading, respectively. Also songs like "All Around the World" lay down an infectious groove, through the help of the Daft Punk sample, encouraging the listeners about the benefits of Christian life from his own experience.

All of these songs are presented with a strong, yet respectful tone that could be a little offsetting, but I believe most people would be able to turn on and play it from start to finish without complaint. I, personally, couldn't love it more with the album truly embracing it's namesake: Christ, Crunk, and Commentary. For example, "Make Me" being a personal dedication to God, "Jump Jeans" praising the womanly figure, & "Frienemies" providing an urgent message to communities to aid each other to do better. I highly recommend this to anybody, because I assure you that there will be at least a few tracks that will be your jams. Brail's talent is undeniable and I must say that heaven-sent gift is a treat for the world of music to enjoy.

If you're feeling Brail:
Christ Crunken Commentary (Intro) (Commercial-like skit)
Jump Jeans (Three Hops, Three Hops...and it's on tonight!)
Old School Love (Like you ain't never had)
Tup Tim Thai (Watch me dance to this!)
Brail Live at the Boobie Trap (The last show I personally saw)
15 Minutes (Brail Live in Spain)
Let's Move (The Berklee Version of the Brand New hit)
Let it B (Live Performance at Berklee Spain)

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Muddy Cult Monthly Favorites - January 2017 Pt. 2

Here is the second part of our Monthly Favorites for January. Please enjoy!

Miko's Favorites

DJ Snake - Encore (2016, USA)
I think I've become that person that's constantly trying to catch up on stuff. There's evidence from this blog, my iTunes library, YouTube watch later list, and so many other things. This is one of those albums I jumped ahead of the order to listen to after listening to a certain surprising track. Most people know DJ Snake for his collaboration with Lil' Jon and it's possible they might recognize his signature sound in "Lean On" with Major Lazer and MØ, which was easily one of my favorite songs of 2016. While checking out related videos in YouTube, I fell in love with the video for "Middle" featuring Bipolar Sunshine, then backtracked to a song not featured on the album with AlunaGeorge in an attempt to procrastinate looking at his collaboration with Justin Beiber. Eventually, I clicked it and I was surprised that it was the mysterious dance track I enjoyed on the radio. It totally didn't sound like the Bebs! It was really hard to admit that it was my favorite song on the album. It has such an enjoyable music video and the song is addicting. As for the album, it stays true to the sound I'm used to from "Turn Down for What" and "Lean On" while mixing Euro dance, somewhat abrasive electronic dance, and trap beat elements in a very enjoyable package. In 2017, DJ Snake released a new music video for "The Half" featuring Jeremih, Young Thug, and Swizz Beatz. Some of my favorite tracks from the album are "Pigalle", "The Half", "Middle", and "Let Me Love You".

Hidden Figures (2017, USA)
Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe | Directed by: Theodore Melfi
As we transition from 2016 to 2017, there was one movie I felt obligated to see in January and it was Hidden Figures. Normally, I don't get too excited about these historical/biographical stories, but because this was one of many untold black stories that focused on women, I felt like this would be a very important movie. I saw this movie with my mother, a co-worker, and her granddaughter the week after its release on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the theater was surprisingly packed for an 11 am showing. Despite the two hour running time, I felt like my knowledge on that era of American history had greatly expanded and I felt so inspired about the feats these women overcame (and a bit dumb because I'm not the greatest with math). Seeing this star studded cast of amazing black female talent also contributed to my excitement. Hidden Figures managed to balance education, encouragement, and entertainment with its content. It also knew how to show off each characters' struggle and how they overcame it to meet one major goal. I seriously hope that every woman, no matter their race, felt significantly empowered and that men also encourage this feeling for every woman they encounter in their life. In short, this movie features some truly effective and believable acting, informative and inspiring content, good pacing, and a great mix of era appropriate and modern soundtrack provided by Pharrell.

Sweet/Vicious (2016, USA)
Starring: Eliza Bennett, Taylor Dearden, Brandon Mychal Smith | Episodes: 10
While watching the occasional Catfish marathon last year, I saw advertisements for this show and it seemed a bit vague, but interesting. It was definitely something I don't think I've seen on television before. The show premiered in November 2016 and slowly lured me into its narrative. The show's main focus and drive revolves around a triggering topic of sexual assault and how society handles it. The story follows our two female protagonists Jules and Ophelia, who are quite the opposite when looking at their lifestyles. Jules is a proud sorority sister and Ophelia is a carefree student and hacker that sells weed on the side. These two individuals come across each other while Jules is in action as her "alter ego"; someone who fights for rape victims by attacking their attackers. Her motivation for seeking vengeance or correcting injustices is caused by her painful past of being a rape victim herself by someone she knows and trusted. All in all, the show doesn't just focus on the various aspects of sexual assault, but touches on trust in relationships, whether romantic or platonic. I really enjoyed the rollercoaster ride I experienced with Jules and Ophelia. They got into a lot of trouble, but they also made a lot of significant growth over each episode, which made me really enjoy these characters. I also liked how they handled such a sensitive topic by exploring different perspectives and injustices related to it. There was also a movie short they featured after one episode starring Zoe Kravitz, which was both infuriating and eye opening, but drove the point across very bluntly. As I type this recommendation, there has not been a confirmation for a second season, but there are talks with the creator and MTV on a potential continuation. Honestly, the way the season ended it looked like there was so much more to come for our fierce vigilantes and I'm looking forward to it!

Nanbaka (2016)
Episodes: 13
Since I started watching new series as they become available through each season, I make sure to go through the release list on MyAnimeList and pick what sounds the most interesting to me. I'm usually pretty good at keeping up with these new additions along with my own personal rotation, but recently I've been slacking, which makes me sad. Nonetheless, I was determined to finish this series to give a proper recommendation for this post. When I started this series, I was unsure how I felt about it completely. I knew I enjoyed the vibrant colors and animation, even though I have no idea why everything's so sparkly and I really enjoyed the characters, even though at times I felt like I wasn't sure if they had much depth to them. Once I started seriously watching it to finish it for this post, the story started to tap into the dramatic areas, giving Jyugo some traumatic and mysterious backstory that made me enjoy him more as a character. The New Year's tournament weaved in and out of its comedy by mixing that backstory with some of the new characters the show introduced with some crazy and meta action, especially when it came to my favorite character Nico. I must admit that in the beginning I wasn't sure where the story was going as I had a hard time taking it seriously with its almost nonexistent plot, but things slowly came together around the tournament and the story behind Jyugo's shackles. Although, I must admit I feel like this series could tackle certain elements a little more cohesively, I still managed to enjoy this ping pong story of comedy and drama. I don't think that everyone would enjoy such an outrageous and a bit unstable storyline, but I'm looking forward to delving into the second season and possibly cosplaying Nico in the near future.

Kamisama Kiss (2008)
Author: Julietta Suzuki | Volumes: 25
Obviously reading manga takes quite some time to complete, especially if you're not fluent in Japanese. You have to wait for publishing and distributing companies to release series in your native language, for me that would be English. So, this series has not been completely released, but it is slowly coming to an end this year. As I type this, I'm currently on volume 22 and awaiting for the library to receive the last three volumes. When I started this series years ago, it made me think of InuYasha and Black Bird, since they're both fantastical romance stories with bits of comedy and drama here and there. Of course, these three stories do have their differences and simply share similar elements to them. Kamisama Kiss features Nanami Momozono who is abandoned by her father who is escaping from gambling debts. She somehow manages to continue her schooling and is taken into a shrine by a kind man. The stranger ends up passing on his shrine to her, giving her a place to stay and a sense of purpose, but with this shrine is a dog guardian (or something like that) by the name of Tomoe. Throughout the series, Nanami learns the ways of taking on the responsibilities and powers of caring for a shrine as well as learning about Tomoe and the other mystical entities that cross her path. While at the beginning, it seems like this story will be all cute and fun filled, but as the story progresses, it does get a little dark, especially when Tomoe's backstory slowly reveals itself to both the reader and Nanami. Currently, where I'm at I have no idea where things are going as it doesn't look too good for our main characters, but I'm hopeful since usually shoujo manga leave on a fairly good note. Even though at times I do kinda mix up this story with Black Bird's, they do have a different feel to them and are distinctly enjoyable in their own way. So, if you enjoy stories like InuYasha and Black Bird, you might enjoy this manga series. It also has an anime, which I'm looking forward to checking out soon.

Giant Days (2015)
Author: John Allison
2016 was the year I decided to really explore the world of graphic novels and comic books. Despite having one unsuccessful attempt, the rest of my findings have been rather positive and now I've invested more time and money into the medium. This simple series was one I looked forward to checking out and anticipated releasing. This comic follows three female college students Esther, Susan, and Daisy. These three ladies come from different backgrounds and are very different in personalities, but quickly become close friends within weeks of the school year. Giant Days doesn't follow a strict storyline, but simply lets its characters live out their everyday lives and organically lets them grow with each relatable and sometimes bizarre chain of events. Aside from the entertaining characters, I really enjoy how much the author has fun with their environment and takes the main characters' personalities to almost bizarre extremes such as Esther bringing Susan back to reality after depriving herself from sleep for multiple days. At the same time, it does touch on parts of reality such as reuniting with old friends from your past and trying to relive the glory days, unrequited love, sexual identity, and just the crazy rollercoaster that is university life.

Ophelia's Favorites

Starring: George Blagden, Alexander Vlahos, Tygh Runyan
Status: Ongoing (2015- ?)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Synopsis: In 1667, 28-year-old all-powerful king of France, Louis XIV, decides to build the greatest palace in the world - Versailles. Drained budget, affairs, and political intrigues complicate things.

There's a multitude of shows based on historical events. Versailles is more than simply another in a long line that includes Downtown Abbey, The Tudors, and The Borgias. The show depicts the beginnings of what would become a lavish period of history with the 28-year-old Sun King deciding to turn his father's hunting lodge into the new seat of power. Of course, the first few episodes are slow as they must introduce the viewer to the cast of characters they'll be spending ten episodes with. However, the series quickly picks back up as it heads toward season 1's conclusion. Another highlight is that the scenery and costumes are as gorgeous as the people wearing them.

Marvel's Daredevil
Starring: Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll, Vincent D'Onofrio
Status: Ongoing (2015 - ?)
Genre: Superhero action, crime drama
Synopsis: Matt Murdock, with his other senses superhumanly enhanced, fights crime as a blind lawyer by day, and vigilante by night.

Netflix is the perfect place to revive Daredevil after the terrible Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner film from 2003. This series is much grittier and serious than the campy 2003 effort. Perhaps this is entirely due to the involvement of Netflix where shows like Orange is the New Black and House of Cards have thrived. Where else could a superhero do more without the restrictions of a two-hour plot? It's the perfect formula to explore Matt Murdock's interesting story. He was blinded as a kid due to an unfortunate accident. This doesn't leave him powerless though as the character has graduated law school and opened a firm with his best friend, Foggy. These are characters I loved as a comic reader brought to life in a fulfilling way. Charlie Cox is instantly likable as he switches from lawyer to vigilante. It's not just the hero who's more complex in this form. Vincent D'Onofrio (Law and Order: Criminal Intent) plays Wilson Fisk, the criminal mastermind known as Kingpin. This version of the character is damaged and flawed, which is exactly what makes D'Onofrio so fun to watch. Season 2 brought in a familiar face for fans of The Walking Dead. Jon Bernthal plays Frank Castle, better known as the Punisher.

Artist: Inaba Koshi, Steve Salas
Album: Chubby Groove
Release date: January 18, 2017
Label: Vermillion Records

It's common knowledge that I'm a fan of Inaba Koshi and his work with B'z. I was really looking forward to the album once I heard that Inaba was teaming up with Salas. They're both accomplished musicians in their own right. This isn't the first time that Salas has worked with the B'z duo. Salas' 2008 album, Set it On Blast!! featured a song that included a collaboration with Matsumoto Tak. He had also guested on Inaba's solo albums, Hadou (2010) and Peace of Mind (2004). Inaba sang a cover of The Clash on Salas' 2010 album, Jam Power. This album is my latest favorite to listen to on repeat. There's not a single song that I dislike or would skip. The genre is more varied like Inaba's solo work rather than the rock, blues style of B'z. Give it a try! 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Three February Reviews

 Catastrophic Event Specialist - Ces Cru
(Genre: Hip Hop/Alternative Rap)

Ces Cru from Strange Music started gaining my attention every since their collaborations started on Tech N9ne's projects a while back. I eventually sold on them after their first EP on the label, 13. Their approach to rap was something I heavily enjoyed due to their respect for the craft of hip hop, while also daring to push its boundaries as well. I looked forward to this after hearing "Gridlock" from the Deluxe version of The Storm by Tech N9ne. It seemed that they were going to be even more socio-political than before and I was intrigued.

The album is split into three acts: Calamity, Entropy, & Scourge, all of which have their own lounge instrumental track to introduce the section. What follows are songs about the grind the duo partake in, hate for those who disrespect the craft, some thoughts about the political climate, & the daily struggle of life in the city. This is all over their usual style of beats that are of an alternative hip hop variety. The heavy bass is infectious while the surrounding melodies are inventive and promote the head nod effect. The ride is rather smooth as they maneuver through all the tracks with ease and lyrical prowess.

Those who still hold lyricism with high regard can find this project up to par. If subject matter has the high watermark, the few topics may need to be your cup of tea. The few songs that stray from the rap game in general like "Purge", "Gridlock", "Slave", & "Hero" bring their view on social issues and are the small reprieve from the usual topics. "Hero" is the one that may stand out as the one that is meant to have pop appeal which could turn off some due to its prevalent optimism. I personally enjoy it though, but it's not among my favorites: "Tidal Wavy" & "Metal and Flesh". Any Strange Music fan could heavily enjoy this entry, but I'd also recommend this to people who enjoy hip hop that isn't focused on radio play.

Slave (Music Video)
Average Joe (Music Video)
Hero (Audio Single)

 Drogas Light - Lupe Fiasco
(Genre: Hip Hop/Alternate Rap/Trap Rap)

The dichotomy of Lupe Fiasco's album approach is polarizing. The thing that makes it interesting is the fact that Lupe knows this exists as well. Therefore, he announced that he was planning on dropping around three more projects that will separate each side of his style. Drogas Light is supposed to bring the mass appealing Lupe while the following projects, Drogas & Skulls are going to be the more complex and conceptual sides of himself. I still looked forward to it as a person who enjoyed Lasers and his tracks for the hood, despite preferring the intricate lyricism Lupe possesses.

Drogas Light certainly delivers the mainstream acceptable sound by starting off with a trap and hood anthem vibe that eventually ends with a few pop/dance joints. The songs are built to get hype to, make some social commentary, & even tell unorthodox sci-fi stories. Although this is "light" Lupe, the rhymes rarely devolve to a groan-worthy degree since it's more likely like the song's topic to be puzzling. This structure of the album can once again polarize listeners making it easy for people to easily cut tracks from their playlist.

In my opinion, I only would be one of the people cutting tracks due to some of the songs either not connecting to my taste or needing to be in the mood for certain songs. Yet, songs that definitely enter the rotation include "Dopamine Lit", "Made in the USA", "JUMP", "Kill", & "It's Not Design". I'm slightly disappointed that I wasn't able to take more away from it since I loved Tetsuo & Youth, but I can really only vibe with half of the tracklist and find "Pick Up the Phone" & "Wild Child" generic songs that I wish weren't in his catalog. I still would recommend giving this a listen to see which tracks hit you, due to its shotgun approach to popular rap music.

Made in the USA (Audio Single)
Pick Up the Phone (Music Video)
Drogas Light Review (The Needle Drop)

Loverboy - Pryde
(Genre: Contemporary R&B/Hip Hop)

From past reviews, you may know that I'm an avid fan of Pryde despite his similarities to contemporaries I don't enjoy as much. My "version of Drake" announced that he was going to release a brand new project for the ladies in February and I was curious ever since the single, "Left Field" was released. Then he proclaimed that this project would be singing-centric, so it piqued my interest even more. His past efforts toward singing hasn't been anything spectacular, but never anything I didn't abhor either.

Loverboy certainly stayed true to Pryde's claims to be focused on singing because only 2 of the nine tracks feature a rap verse. Though his singing performances still weren't particularly impressive save for "When the Lights Turn On", he still manages to carry the project over various radio ready production with songs about his woes with the girls he comes across in bad relationships (as usual). His ability to deliver these typical themes in his music are still the deciding factor of his likability, though, which I feel are similar to Drake's & Tech N9ne's problem.

I truly find this to be a jam-worthy project due to Pryde's uncanny skill to fit into any style of hip hop he sets his mind to. His genuine writing is what gives me the appeal that Drake can't, and the production of this project is top-notch as it's mainly handled by K-Beatz. My favorite, "Not Winning" is just that perfect blend of atmosphere and lyrical intent. From start to finish are palatable songs, except "West End Rebound"'s borderline "Marvin's Room" theme. Yet, I believe that you have to be in a certain mood for the slow songs "When the Lights Turn On" & "Globe". Either way, I recommend this project to any fans of PARTYNEXTDOOR, Tory Lanez, & Chris Brown.

Left Field (Music Video)
Things to Do (Music Video)
Take it Easy (A live rap track)