Monday, April 21, 2014

Rant: What is a "True Fan"?

There are many types of fan labels out there. Some describe the dedication level put into a fandom and some may describe the enjoyment of the artist, group, or whatever. In this little rant, I'm mainly going to focus on music fans, but some of these instances can apply to fans outside of music as well.

When looking deeply into two of my favorite bands, Linkin Park and Dir en grey, and even glancing over kpop fan comments, I tend to see pretentious claims of true fanaticism. Usually people base true fan status on CD ownership, the amount of merchandise collected, artist/band knowledge, years of support or involvement, shows attended, and perhaps other various attributes. To me, I think a true fan has certain attributes of all these things, but the main point is that there is no measurement. Once numbers are incorporated with these traits, elitism is formed and new fans may be discouraged to join the fanbase or even label themselves as a "true fan". So, what do I believe makes a true fan?

Historical Acknowledgement
You don't necessarily need to know what age Taeyang and G-Dragon were when they were trainees or that Kai was not the original drummer of the GazettE, but I believe that a true fan should at least acknowledge a band's past. Don't start an argument about Dir en grey not being a visual kei band, because they were and it will forever be part of their history despite their musical and visual transformation. Don't claim you know everything about a band when all you know is what America puts out or your knowledge is based on recent material, like the last 2 years recent. I've seen a lot of fans like this.

Financial & Emotional Support
Not everyone has a disposable income to splurge on discographies, rare items, and attending nearly every show, but everyone is capable of giving emotional support. So, you want to buy the new limited edition Alice Nine album, but you don't have the money for it right now. Don't worry, your heart is in the right place and maybe that album will still be available when you do have the funds for it. Another way to support the band is to tell other people about them. Show them where they can buy their CDs and DVDs. Imports are expensive, but as long as you're trying your best with emotional support then it's okay. Musicians are usually overjoyed when overseas fans know their lyrics, names, and costumes. This encourages them to continue forward. Even your attendance at shows and fan events is great emotional support. If you own something of theirs, that's great, but don't be all high and mighty because you own all of these obscure cassettes or vinyls and you've attended more than 30 shows.

Music Appreciation
Musicians' styles change and evolve (and sometimes devolve), this can't be helped. Not everyone is going to like these changes and that's perfectly fine. Just because you disagree with an artist/groups' direction or you dislike some songs that does not make you a bad fan. Musicians are not perfect and some experiments don't go as planned sometimes. If you look back at my post about Miyavi, I mentioned how much I love him, but I openly admitted that I wasn't particularly fond of the direction he was going with his Kabuki Boiz and even some of his current style [pre-Miyavi era]. Honestly, I think it's good to be critical of the music you love, especially when the musician sets a certain expectation with each release.

Level of Seriousness
It's okay to make fun of an artist in a positive, loving way. Musicians say and do silly things all the time. Kyo and Ruki's English isn't the best, so there have been parody videos made with fake subtitles of what the words might sound like to native English speakers to laugh at . KPop artists do silly things on variety shows and even poke fun at each other like Big Bang's Seungri imitating his bandmates. There's even performances of trot versions of popular kpop songs and parody subtitles of new kpop music videos. If artists can laugh at themselves, why can't fans? You can make fun of musicians you enjoy in a non-malicious manner. I do it all the time. Just remember there's a difference between bashing and making a joke.

All Around Respect
This might be the most important factor of being a true fan. If you claim that a musician holds a high place in your heart, then you can show them that by respecting their craft and personal wishes. Let's say that you've obtained some leaked music and you want to share it with the fandom. It's best to wait until the release date and don't outwardly expose the news to the musician. Or even better, don't share it at all! During lives, don't grope the musicians or damage their costumes or instruments. During softer songs or acapella moments, show some self control and don't yell out your love confessions or disapprovals. Have some common sense! If you see your bias offstage somewhere, don't harass or stalk them. It's fine to approach them, but there's a time and a place. They are human just like you and me and you wouldn't want some random girl peeking through your windows, harassing your family, or interrupting your dinner with a long time friend. Along with the musicians, show respect for each other. We all share one common love and that is the band/artist/group. Everyone has to start somewhere, so don't make fun of new fans who are just getting into them. As a fandom, we should support each other and together show our love and appreciation for music. Also, show respect for other fanbases even if you dislike what they like.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Horror Movie Annoyances: Jump Scares

I wish I could pinpoint a specific time when jump scares became the prevalent source of fear in horror movies, but my mind is overwhelmed with various information and tidbits that I can't think. Sure, jump scares have been around for decades, otherwise we wouldn't have my favorite cliche: the bathroom mirror. The bathroom mirror jump scare is when, usually, the main character goes into the bathroom for whatever reason, opens their medicine cabinet, and closes it, revealing someone is behind them or inside the mirror that's either a friend of foe. This cliche has been modified in some instances such as building suspense for the cliche and nothing happens until the character moves elsewhere for the scare, the rule of threes where the character experiences the same action 3 times and nothing happens until the third time, or nothing happens at all.

While I don't dislike jump scares as a whole, my annoyance with them is how movies have relied on them for majority, if not all, of their scary parts. Because of this, they lose their initial effect on the viewer and simply become that annoying person who jumps out from around the corner and yells "Boo" to get a cheap thrill.

Aside from cutting down the usage, jump scares lack build up to be legitimately scary. Like I said, they're just irritating. Good build up requires a certain tone and atmosphere. It also helps if the viewer and characters have a close relationship to experience the tension together and it does not have to rely on a musical sting to make it scary. A simple scene of a character wandering in the dark with a tiny source of light for a long moment ends up being scared by the antagonist is usually an effective jump scare. Running away from a cult into an amusement park and looking at a bloody bunny mascot that eventually moves, then suddenly have the character waking up to realize it's a nightmare and the scene fades to black then opens to a PopTart coming out of a toaster is an annoying jump scare.

Good sources for effective ways to build proper suspense is to check out The Strangers and Sinister. Movies like Silent Hill: Revelation, which is described above, and Jeepers Creepers 2 are littered with ineffective jump scares.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Live: TOUR13 GHOUL

TOUR2013 GHOUL
[2013.11.04] Scout Bar in Houston, TX
featuring: Dagoba & Dir en grey


Dagoba

I didn’t know much about this band, except that they’re a metal band from France. I looked up their stuff beforehand, but it didn’t leave much of an impression on me. It just seemed like typical metal. Of course, I went into listening to them with an open mind. I did read lots of comments that their singer Franky was a good looking guy and...he is. Most of you know that I’m picky about metal, especially non-Japanese metal, and I must say I really enjoyed this band a lot more live. I have a feeling that Franky tried to bring the same energy they had in Dallas, but Scout Bar is smaller than Trees, so you can’t get too crazy without breaking something or someone. Franky talked to the crowd a lot and even tried to initiate the Wall of Death. The look on the guys’ faces was priceless. They just had this look of “Is this guy serious?”, so a handful of them started moshing a little, but they were aware of everything around them. I was very happy this wasn’t a repeat of the Human Abstract with their asshole, inconsiderate fans recklessly moshing all over the place. The crowd seemed pretty receptive, even though they seemed hesitant at times, but they did respond to Franky and the other members when they gave us attention. I wouldn’t mind seeing them again. I believe they played majority of their latest album, Post Mortem Nihil Est. In short, Dagoba had a ton of energy and they were a really great opener for Dir en grey. I enjoyed the interaction between the band and the crowd and I felt they tried to encourage us to get a little more crazy for them. I wish there was more hype like I picture Dallas was, but for the intimate [a.k.a cozy] setting, I think we did the best that we could.


Dir en grey

We weren’t waiting for too long for the roadies to have everything prepared for the band. Of course, the crowd was excited and you could subtly feel the tension surrounding the room. The crowd didn’t appear as big as before in the House of Blues, but I think it was the location. Yeah, I’m gonna blame location for a lot of things that kinda made Diru’s set go a bit downhill. Majority of the crowd seemed younger than usual. Either that or I just haven’t been observant enough at their previous shows, but it definitely felt different compared to other visits. The opening music was something new, at least I didn’t recognize it nor did anyone else. Still kinda miss the amped up “G.D.S”, but I understand they want a more ominous tone to their tours. According to a friend, Kaoru wasn’t very happy backstage. Apparently they messed up the intro music and he was complaining about it. I kinda wish I could’ve witnessed that in person. Learning about it after the fact explained a few things though. The first half of the set, something felt off with the band. They didn’t seem...happy. Kaoru suppressed whatever was pissing him off, Toshiya was on half bouncing energy, Shinya was pretty neutral, you can’t really tell with him, Kyo seemed annoyed every now and then, and Die didn’t seemed too please either. I don’t know about other fans, but when the band isn’t happy, I’m not happy either. I end up having this need to rush in and help fix the situation, whatever it may be. They still carried on, trying to give every emotion to us despite their sour moods, but there was a tiny disconnect here and there.

So, I’m gonna take a little detour and add my complaints to why the disconnect was happening...and part of the reason I blame the venue for this new set of people. First complaint was the odd security procedures. I know in this day in age that concerts have evolved to people holding up their cameras and phones to take pictures and video of the show. I have no problem with that as long as you’re not being an asshole about it or having your arms raised up the whole show blocking people’s view. I try to be quick and considerate and enjoy the show. I don’t use my camera the whole time. But security was very confusing. One of them called me out for something. I guess not to take pictures even though there was a bunch of other people doing it before me. I believe one of my friends mentioned something about them not wanting the fans to take pictures until the professionals were done or something, but the way they went about it was rude and confusing. Second complaint was that young crowd I mentioned. I know pushing is inevitable and you just have to accept it, but sometimes there’s no need for it when nothing is happening and you’re just being a prick because you want to be in the front. Just don’t do it! But the thing that bothered me and I want to believe Kyo is that they wouldn’t shut up! In the setlist and even looking back at the previous tours, “Inward Scream” is part of the transition. There was none this time. Kyo attempted it, but with the constant yelling and noise, he decided to leave it out if no one would listen, which is sad. One thing I like about the Houston crowd is that they know when to be quiet, but since this was a different venue with a different crowd, we didn’t get that. There was also some technical issues on Kyo’s end that he ended up throwing the mic down on the floor and talking to one of the roadies while the rest of the band finished up the song. I’ve never seen him so mad before. It was a little scary. Die seemed to have some minor issues as well. I can understand their feelings though. Diru are perfectionists! I know a couple members of the Human Abstract could attest to that.

During the second half, after the guys went off stage for a little break, it seemed like the members were a little happier or at least less upset. Even though the crowd was still lame, I could feel more positive, relaxed energy from the stage compared to the beginning. There weren’t many songs left in the set, but it was nice to enjoy the moment as much as the band was. I know I didn’t mention much about the performance with explicit detail, but the band’s mood does factor into the enjoyment of the whole show. Whether they were pissed off or not, there was still a lot of pure passion given to the audience, whether they accepted it or not, and I expected nothing less from them. It’s what keeps me coming back for more. Kyo has his ghoul make up, revealed it to us, and he really became that character. Watching him on stage is still like a performance art. Once he gets in the zone, the whole set and song goes into a whole new universe. Hopefully, next time he gets to fully engulf himself in his ghoulish character or whatever the next concept he wants to take on. I just wish the immaturity of the crowd and technical difficulties, but mostly the crowd, didn’t ruin the harmonious atmosphere I’m used to.

Setlist

Intro
REIKETSU NARISEBA
Unknown.Despair.Lost
KARMA (2013 Ver.)
RED SOIL
DOZING GREEN
Bottom of the death valley (2013 Ver.)
INWARD SCREAM
THE BLOSSOMING BEELZEBUB
dead tree
VINUSHKA
RINKAKU
-karasu- (2013 Ver.)
DIFFERENT SENSE
KASUMI (2013 Ver.)

Encore:
OBSCURE (2011 Ver.)
THE FINAL (2013 Ver.)
HAGESHISA TO, KONO MUNE NO NAKA DE KARAMITSUITA SHAKUNETSU NO YAMI




Friday, April 11, 2014

Horror Movie Annoyances: Excessive Profanity

Aside from unnecessary nudity and sex, nothing kills a movie more than excessive profanities. If every other word is a curse, then the screenwriter is truly lacking in vocabulary to express whatever the character is feeling or the ability to create a character based on cliches and stereotypes.

One movie that stands out in my mind as an offender is The Blair Witch Project. I remember cringing along with my poor mother every time a character opened their mouth. Every curse uttered felt uncomfortable and out of place. I'll even admit that the Saw franchise suffers from this from time to time, mostly when characters are angry or try to appear threatening to their enemy. While the actions and story pull you in, hearing Eric Matthews yell at Jigsaw or Amanda never fails to kill the mood for example. Forgive me for the expletives, but I want to give a clearer example of what I mean. The scene pops into my head with Eric in Saw II is when he gets trapped by Amanda and he yells at her with a line that kinda goes like, "I'll fxxkin' kill you, you stupid bitch!" repeated over and over until the credits roll. I know Eric has high temper gauge, but there are other ways to portray this without silly or easy go to lines like that.

Yes, people tend to curse when they're angry or trying to sound tough, but it usually comes off awkwardly and disrupts the flow of the story and sometimes the character who delivered it. Writers shouldn't depend so heavily on profanity to create a prevalent character personality or express emotion, especially anger or intimidation.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Quick Movie Review


R.I.P.D (2013, USA) | Rating: 2/5

I'm probably one of the few people that wanted to see this movie in theaters. Although, I didn't make it there and I didn't regret it. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't a movie that I had to see right away. Anyway, I recently picked it up from work and I expected it to be a fun little comedy that seemed similar to Men in Black. My predictions were indeed correct. Even though the movie brought nothing new to the table, it was entertaining and had a couple laughs here and there. It's no Men in Black, but it wasn't boring.



The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug (2013, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5

Love it or hate it, I enjoyed this second installment of The Hobbit. I think I enjoyed it a little more than the beginning. There was plenty of action and build up for the conclusion. I also had an easier time following the story. Although the love triangle was completely unnecessary, the other bits of character development was intriguing and I'm curious what is going to happen in the last installment. Lastly, similar to Catching Fire, the ending of the movie stopped at the perfect point for suspense.



The Lords of Salem (2012, USA) | Rating: 1.5/5

Ever since Rob Zombie jumped into the horror movie seen, I've been curious to see what he does in the director's chair. Unfortunately, every time House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects always happened to come on around 3 or 4 am when I had to go to work the next day or even class. So, aside from the remake of Halloween, this is the first original work I've seen from Zombie. The concept had promise and there were some great visual moments, but overall the structure was the movie's downfall. Well, there's also the weak factorial elements about witchcraft or at least the illusion to me. Lastly, even though I haven't seen the other movies, I'm going to join the bandwagon and agree that putting your wife in movies is a bad idea.



The Lego Movie (2014, USA) | Rating: 5/5

The beginning of the new year has consistently been a slow one, since things have changed in cinema. The only thing I was looking forward to was this movie. I had some high expectations and I avoided reviews until I saw the movie for myself. I went on opening weekend as planned and I can honestly say that this movie...completely exceed my expectations. This movie was pretty awesome! This is a great movie for both adults and children with a mix bag of humor, great action, a simple story, mindblowing animation, and nostalgic feels. I really, really enjoyed it. I'm considering seeing it again in theaters and then waiting for the home release. I highly, highly recommend anyone to see this movie, because it is simply awesome.



Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014, USA) | Rating: 4/5

Similar to Thor, I wasn't completely invested in the first movie, but this second installment definitely amped it up. I enjoyed the character development, expansion on the backstory, and interactions among each other. After watching this movie, I desperately wanted Man of Steel to have this same style and tone. I also wanted more Falcon and Winter Soldier, but I really enjoyed this movie. It didn't feel 2 hours long either, although there might've been a couple scenes that could've been shorter, but I'm just being a little nitpicky about it. In the end, I feel really pumped about the next Marvel installment.


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.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Top 5 Recommended Music Videos


"Spellbound" by DBSK
Compared to the overproduced "Something", I enjoy this song and video way more. It still has that fun jazzy sound and keeps the theme of that gangster era. Sorry, I can't think of the proper label for it. Sure, this is more choreography focused, but it's still amazing in its simplicity. The choreography is sleek and synchronized. The box set is simple and fits the tone of the song. Although, it is too illuminated in places. It was nice that they borrowed their one-shot techniques from EXO's "Growl" for this video, but the awkward zooms are a little distracting at times. Fortunately, it doesn't take away too much from the overall entertainment factor of this video.



"2 On (Explicit)" by Tinashe feat. SchoolBoy Q
I first heard about this video (and Tinashe) through a post on Arcadey. I queued it up on my YouTube watch list and when I got around to watching the video, I surprisingly really enjoyed it. The music is very minimalistic and doesn't really offer anything new to the genre, especially since a lot of artists are using the same elements in their crappy songs. What makes it enjoyable is Tinashe's voice. It's confident and smooth as silk. She's like a combination of Mya and Ciara. I really enjoyed watching her dance. Unfortunately, SchoolBoy Q's "contribution" is unbearable. It ruins the mood with dumb sexual lines, but Tinashe's Sean Paul reference made things happier for me. Looking forward to listening to more of her music in the near future.



"Turn Down for What" by DJ Snake & Lil' Jon
Oh. My. God! This is the most ridiculously awesome thing I have ever seen and heard. I never thought I missed Lil' Jon so much, but I forgot how much energy he brings to such a simplistic, bass driven beat. The video is crazy. Literally. Nothing makes sense at all. Yet I can't help but grin like a crazy person and revive all the crunk from the early 2000s in my living room. I'm surprised I haven't heard this everywhere. This is the greatest thing ever, people! Make it happen. #MikosGraduationAnthem



"The Worst (Explicit)" by Jhene Aiko
I'm glad I checked out this video, because I've ignored for years after debuting with her cousin, I believe, on a B2K album. Whoa. Her voice is absolutely beautiful. Without watching the video, you can feel the conflict, pain, and desperation through her voice. The video has a simple story that vaguely tells you what happened. It matches the subtle dark tone of the music with the horror-like camera angles, unstable effects, and darkened color tones. Forgive me, Jhene, for ignoring you for all these years. I'm gonna listen to your new album real soon.



"Mr.Mr." by SNSD
It pains me to admit that...I actually genuinely like this song and the video is surprisingly good. It's a different look or at least concept I've seen from them. Please don't try to argue that with me either. The song is subtly earwormy and has an easy electro-pop beat. It might sound a little droney, but the high vocals lighten it enough that the song doesn't end up in the gutter. It has a deceively sweet tone to the vocals and even in the imagery, but it also has a tiny dark undertone. Something that makes it feel that this song isn't as sweet and cute as it seems. Despite my praise and repeat abuse for this song, I still don't see myself falling for SNSD's "charm".

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Promo: BNR


[from left to right] Heo In Chang and Master Key

Here's a little secret about these promo posts. I have a list of artists and bands that I feel should receive more attention and, obviously, BNR made it on my list after listening to their second mini-album, Irreversible. While trying to gather information about the group for this post, I ran into a few dead ends, which means that there isn't much information on this group. Brand New Radio, or BNR, debuted in October 2010. They released their first mini-album, Purple Sunset, the following year and a promotional video with labelmates Lyn and Verbal Jint. In March 2012, BNR released a single called Gone Crazy After Crying and Laughing and the following year, their second mini-album, Irreversible, was released. Of course, there have been miscellaneous collaborations with labelmates here and there as well.


Unfortunately, I can't really comment on Purple Sunset and "Gone Crazy After Crying and Laughing" due to the fact that I couldn't find it anywhere. Although, watching their first music video was quite lovely and comparing it to the video I first saw from them, "Did not say anything", was a nice step in the right direction in the duo's sound and visuals. Irreversible is an amazing mini-album and I highly highly recommend you guys check it out. I'm assuming their first release was just as good. BNR combines R&B and hip-hop together like their labelmates Verbal Jint and Phantom, but maintain their own unique sound. So, obviously I want you, my lovely followers, to check out BNR and I hope they continue creating more amazing music.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Review: EXO-M's "XOXO [Hug]" (Repackage)


EXO-M – XOXO [Hug] (Repackage) (2013, South Korea/China)
Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Baby, Don't Cry, Black Pearl, Heart Attack, Growl

First, everyone who is tired of hearing about EXO, whether positive or negative, please do not leave your trolly little messages on this review. I don't care if you're sick of them getting attention or they don't deserve any sort of praise. Second, I am not reviewing the Kiss version of this album (a.k.a Korean version), so don't request it. Third, thanks for putting up for this late reviews. I truly appreciate it. I've been really looking forward to reviewing this album. Similar to G-Dragon's One of a Kind and Big Bang's ALIVE reviews, I'm going to be including videos with each appropriate song. Some may be the Korean version as some of the songs were used in their gajillion teasers. When you watch the [Korean] teasers, keep in mind that I might not have the same opinion about the sound while you're reading this review. So, let's jump into it!


"Wolf" is the first promotion track to EXO's first full length album. Some liked it and others hated it. I actually like this song. I don't remember my initial feelings toward it when I first watched the video, but I listened to this track quite often. I can admit that this song (and video) has its problems, but the pure enjoyability for me is not one of them. The beat is kinda heavy, in weight not in sound, and the pronunciation is laughable at times, but not too distracting. It's a very dubstep driven song with some pretty good vocal variations in it.


"Baby, Don't Cry" is a big shift from the booming dubstep sounds of "Wolf" and let's the vocals shine with some piano accompaniment. I really, really like this song. It's soft, beautiful, and has enough energy to keep my attention. The lyrics are sweet and simple and delivered in that same way with tons of heart poured into every long note. Surprisingly, the rap section doesn't sound out of place either. It has good transitions and everyone gets to shine.


Looking back at this teaser using "Black Pearl", there's way too much dubstep and it totally makes this song unappealing. Listening to this on the album is quite the opposite. It has a nice gradual build up from the subdued introduction and hints of violin during the verses, then the music bursts through for the chorus. I really like this song. It has a good balance of beauty and energy. The musical and vocal transitions are very smooth and the dubstep break isn't too harming to the ears. Maybe because they calmed it down some and put the rap part over it.

"Don't Go" is a song I hear too much, at least that pseudo-piano intro, from TV appearances. The song is pretty standard and sounds a little awkward after hearing partial artificial sounds of "Black Pearl". It's almost too natural. It's not a terrible song. It has good vocals and it is refreshing to hear some actual instruments, it's just a track I don't listen to that often.


"Let Out the Beast" is more processed music. It mixes some booming electronic elements with orchestral elements. It's interesting that they start off with the rappers of the group and they seemed to have more of part in this song while the quickly delivered vocals bridge the gap between the parts. At times, it feels like they're struggling to keep up with the vocal pacing set for this song.

"3.6.5" is an upbeat pop song. So far, it stands out a lot compared to the electronic mixtures, dubstep drives, and beautiful piano songs. It reminds me of a One Direction song, which isn't a compliment coming from me. It still has heart, but too cute for me.

"Heart Attack" is a surprising track that I couldn't help but repeat over and over again. It has a pretty simple hip-hopish beat. You would think the rap section would take over this, but it's mostly singing and it works pretty well. The chorus is moderately catchy and the overall transitions, musically and vocally, are smooth.

"Peter Pan" is a simple, slow pop song that doesn't quite fit with everything else like "3.6.5". It just seems too...basic. It does kinda have this whimsical feeling around the chorus, but something doesn't quite stick for me.

"Baby" slows things down with this vintage 80s R&B leftovers. There are random keyboard drum beats and sound effects litter the background. The vocals are pretty strong, but this song is kinda bland and the chorus is cringe-worthy generic.


I remember hearing "My Lady" in one of the various teasers and it sounded pretty cool. It was one the teaser tracks I was kinda looking forward to hearing completely. It starts off minimalistic with a nice guitar melody, rhythmic snapping, and strong vocals echoing, then a stronger beat kicks in for the remainder of the chorus and verses. It just went downhill from there for me. The beat began to drone a bit and I didn't enjoy the vocal arrangement.


"Growl" brought on a repackaged version of XOXO and also more discussions of whether it was good or not, similar to "Wolf". Well, I liked this song slightly more than "Wolf" and on somedays I like it about the same. Aside from the creative film style of one of the videos, it has a simple R&Bish, pop sound to it. It's one of those beats you can't resist. The transitions are nice from the upbeat parts to the more softer sections to highlight the vocal section. It sounded like a better group bonding effort compared to "Wolf".

"XOXO" is another addition to this repackaged version and...it was kinda unnecessary. It's not that exciting. It has a standard beat with pounding bass and a sprinkle of piano during the verses. The rap sections are a little lazy and the singing has this sweet sound to it. It's not bad, just...no, I don't like.

"Lucky" is the last addition to the repackaged album. It's a more upbeat sound than "XOXO". It's a fun track and the vocals reflect that in this electro-pop tune. It could easily be a fun little summer song. Despite the exciting, happy tone to this song, it doesn't create any sort of spark for me. It's not a bad song. I can easily see a lot of fans enjoying this, especially live.

Despite my lack of description for some of these tracks, I enjoyed this album and it had some really good songs. When they're good, they're really good and addictive, but when they're bad, it's usually painfully boring or generic. Nonetheless, I think this was a good start for a first full length album, which I was surprised that they hopped on so quickly. I hope their next release is a little more solid and shows more growth, variety, and cohesiveness.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Quick Music Review


San E - 'Not' Based on the True Story (2013, South Korea) Rating: 4.5/5
Favorite Tracks: 더 불행했음 좋겠다, 전 여자친구에게, 어디서 잤어

You have no idea how happy I was to see that San E was finally releasing something, especially after his departure for JYPE. This release starts off with a phone conversation skit and proceeds to a very blunt track called "더 불행했음 좋겠다". This is a really good track and you can definitely feel that lyrical freedom soar away in this seemingly sounding break up anthem. "전 여자친구에게" takes a more somber tone with a little dialogue interlude and rain and traffic sound effects in the background. This shows a more pain filled side to San E with Seon Woo Jung Ah enhancing the tone and story with her soft, beautiful vocals echoing for the chorus. I also really enjoy this song and I enjoy the emotional shift in San E's delivery as the song progresses. If you don't listen to any other track on this album, I urge you to listen to at least this one. "지영이 어머니" pulls out of the sorrowful mood with some upbeat acoustic guitar and quick rap delivery. It's a fun sounding song and a stark contrast from the previous two tracks. "어디서 잤어" was used for promotion for this album. It mixes the fun side of San E and his sarcastic style in delivering insults or, in this case, accusations. It keeps the beat up from the previous track and brings a little more hip-hop feel to the sound. Also, there's some good contributions from Verbal Jint and Swings. "이별식탁" was another choice used for promotion. It utilizes the beautiful, soulful vocals of Phantom's Sanchez and gives more of an R&B feeling, which is a nice change up and transition from the previous track. "아는사람 얘기" closes off the album with more smooth R&B acoustic guitar, piano, and bass while continuing the whole theme of this album. There are three instrumental tracks included as well. I must say that this release was worth the wait and San E's departure was a good move on his part. This is definitely a solid release.



AYABIE - Kakusei Syupurehicoru (2012, Japan) Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: Kakusei Syupurehicoru, SICs

"Kakusei Syupurehicoru" is a high energy, electronic track that comes at you right off the bat. It has a good bass line, catchy melody, and fun vocals. You could easily bounce around to this song with a big grin on your face. "HERO" continues that fun, upbeat sound, but takes away the electronic sound for a more pure rock sound. It has a simple, familiar sound and is easy to dance or rock out to. "SICs" steps away from the light, fun rock sound that "HERO" has and goes all in for something more heavy with a mix of traditional Japanese elements. It reminds me of original Ayabie's "Brownie". I could definitely see myself doing furi to it with a tambourine or something.



Rain - Rain Effect (2014, South Korea) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: 30 Sexy, LA SONG, Marilyn Monroe, 30 SEXY (East4a deeptech mix)

Most of you know I've been dying for a release from Rain and I finally got it, around my birthday no less. XD "Rain Effect" gives a little sample of an intro to what we're getting into, that's when "30 Sexy" transitions in. It's a very electronic/R&B driven song with a subtle alluring melody weaving in and out of the beat and claps. Rain's vocals definitely tests itself out with mid to high range vocals, which I'm sure took some time to exercise back to a comfortable position. "LA SONG" takes a different direction with a brass driven party sound that's unique to kpop. The lyrical delivery is admittedly a bit sloppy in the verses, but you can't resist how fun and simple the chorus and beat are. I know a lot of people don't like this song, especially the video, but I enjoy it for all its carefree silliness. "어디 가요. 오빠" is minimalistic trap song with way too much bass and an annoying guitar whaling in the background. The song would be decent if Hyuna's breathy voice of try too hard sexiness wasn't trying to milk out the "oppa" vocal fantasy. It makes me feel icky listening to her beg this way. "Marilyn Monroe" cleans up the sleaziness of the previous track for something more mature and sophisticated. This is the Rain that I'm familiar with. Deep, adult sounding R&B beat and smooth vocals that feel a little more natural compared to "30 Sexy". "차에 타봐" continues that mature musical sound with some unnecessary pounding drums...or something. It's an okay track, but it feels like there's something missing to make it jump a bit more, mostly in the beginning. The build up is good, but meh. "SUPERMAN" experiments with some electro-pop, but doesn't go too crazy to sound like the younger groups. There's not much lyrical substance and I wish I could forgive it as easily as "LA SONG" as it feels like the same vein of delivery, but it just doesn't stick, especially with those high notes. "알아버렸어" mixes electro-pop and funky fresh sounds of the 80s together. It's not all that exciting, but it is different. I have a feeling I would've enjoyed this beat if it was set up for this song a lot more with actual instruments. "DEAR MAMA DON'T CRY" is a more heartfelt song with a very simple beat. It kinda works for this song, but I wish there was a little less bass and more soul in the melody. "30 SEXY (East4a deeptech mix)" ends this album with a surprisingly fun and more danceable beat. I don't know whether I like this remix more or less than the original. I find myself alternating between the two. Added recently was "사랑해" for the special edition version of this comeback album. It's nice to hear some real instruments on this, assuming, tribute/thank you track. It's sweet and the vocals are pretty good. Unfortunately, I found myself a bit underwhelmed by this comeback, but not completely let down at the same time. I'm happy it's something new, but it wasn't quite the sound I was looking for Rain's catalogue.



Dir en grey - SUSTAIN THE UNTRUTH (2014, Japan) Rating: 4.5/5
Favorite Tracks: SUSTAIN THE UNTRUTH, 流転の塔 (Acoustic Ver.)

Similar to Rain, I was really looking forward to this single. Well, mostly the full version of the title track. I've already expressed my love for "SUSTAIN THE UNTRUTH" and surprisingly [or unsurprisingly] I got a new feeling and enjoyment while listening to it without the visuals. The melody, transitions, and vocal shifts sink into my ears very naturally that it instantly stuns my heart to stop beating. Upon listening to it for maybe the third or fourth time, I noticed that Kyo utilized splitting up certain vocal parts from one speaker to another, which I love when it's done right. [ex. deadman's "bodybag NO."] At the moment, I can't help but be drawn back to this song and lose myself on this musical journey. "流転の塔 (Acoustic Ver.)" was an interesting choice to include on this single as this song isn't that old and there's an unplugged version that already exists, but you know what, I really don't care. Not because I love Dir en grey, but because it's a really good and well composed acoustic track of an already great song, whether you're listening to the original or the unplugged version. I would say this was a rather bold choice on their part. One thing that hasn't changed about the recent Dir en grey singles, live tracks. This single features a live track of "凱歌、沈黙が眠る頃". It's just as good as the studio version, if you're a live track fan, or hearing it in person.



B2ST - Sad Movie/Christmas Carol no Koro ni wa (2013, Japan) Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Sad Movie, Christmas Carol no Koro ni wa

It's rare to find a good Japanese release from a kpop group, so I gave this single a try. "Sad Movie" is upbeat track that immediately starts off with its chorus. It has an interesting melody and annoying whining that comes in and out of the track. Despite the weird voice and odd placement of violin noises, the song isn't that bad. The beat is simple and the vocals are deliver well. "Christmas Carol no Koro ni wa" somehow mixes the sounds of kpop with the subdue sounds of jpop. Something about it makes me want to demand parapara choreography to this melody. When I pay more attention to the structure of the music, it does sound a little odd in places, but I can look past it and enjoy it for what it is. The vocals are nice and a bit too soft that it tends to occasionally get drowned out by the music. The only other track on this Japanese single is an instrumental version of "Sad Movie".


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