Thursday, December 26, 2013

Quick Music Review

Hey Monday - Hold on Tight (2009, USA) Rating: 1/5
Favorite Tracks: Homecoming

When Paramore was new and popular, there were a few pop/rock female fronted bands that had a similar sound to them. Hey Monday was one of them. I saw their video for "Homecoming" on the channel Teen Nick (f.k.a The N). I really liked it, despite it being nothing super special. Some time ago, I was curious what the rest of their music sounded like from that album and I recently found out...very boring. There is nothing memorable or redeeming about this album at all. "Homecoming" is still enjoyable and simple, but everything else sounds like a whiny and annoying version of Paramore.

M.I.A. - Matangi (2013, USA) Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: aTENTion, Exodus, Bad Girls, Know It Ain't Right

It's hard to stay consistent and remain fresh at the same time, but this latest album by M.I.A accomplishes that. Her collection of music on this album remains eclectic in sound like her previous albums and delivers strong, thought provoking messages in her lyrics. Some songs are still clashes and collisions of noises, some have an interesting vague dance beat, and others have this awe inspiring arrangement, but it all fits the M.I.A sound. I can't quite pinpoint why I like this album so much or even why I think this is her strongest work, but all I can say is just listen to it from beginning to end and let your soul flow free through the various shifts in melodies and tempos.

Icon For Hire - Icon For Hire (2013, USA) Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: Cynics & Critics, Hope of Morning, Pop Culture, Watch Me

I don't think I've ever pre-ordered a non-Asian album, but I believe this is the first. I got a little preview of a couple songs from seeing them live and it took me listening to it in the car to truly appreciate the shift in the band's sound. From what they said at the live, this was their opportunity to take control of their musical direction and sound. So, this is their true sound and something that represents them and I must say it's a very good representation. It doesn't remind me of other bands like Scripted, but it still has that signature sound that helps me identify the songs as Icon For Hire and no one else. I'm looking forward to what they have planned in the future for the next album.

Nocturnal Bloodlust - GRIMOIRE (2013, Japan) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: PANDEMIC, Sphere, Bury Me, A Day to Re:member

While I'm glad I gave this band a second chance, I will admit at times that some songs were too growly for my liking, but the music was thoroughly enjoyable. All the growls and double bass drums tend to make each track sound too similar. It's a problem I had with one of Dir en grey's albums, but I still enjoyed it. As I continue delve deeper into this band, I hope there is a better balance of singing and growling, because the vocals aren't that bad. He has a nice variation of alluring, haunting, and so on.

Pay money To my Pain (2013, Japan) Rating: 4.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Innocent in a silent room, God drive, Resurrection, Rain

Surprisingly, this was kinda hard to get through. I admit there were a couple or so tracks that grabbed my heart and squeezed it over and over again. Similar to Daisuke's last album, they treated the remaining unfinished tracks with respect and allowed close musical associates to finish up the vocal parts that K left behind. These tracks turned out wonderfully and carried the essence of K's spirit and high energy. I hope the band's last live of the year turned out as wonderfully as this album did. For PTP fans, I think this is a great album that they could cry over with pride and sorrow.

If there's something you want me to review, check out this post on how you can submit requests.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Quick Movie Review

Tormented (2011, Japan) | Rating: 1.5/5

I just saw this movie sitting on the shelf of Blockbuster and never heard of it before. The cover was ambiguous and the synopsis on the back sounded interesting. I believe the only movie I’ve seen from Takashi Shimizu was Ju-on and Reincarnation, so I didn’t really have any set expectations like I would Sion Sono or Takashi Miike. While watching the movie, I learned that there was an error on the box. It could be considered a spoiler if you really think about it. The movie itself was underwhelming. While the screencaps on the box looked intriguing, watching it was a different story. In short, the whole thing was odd…not even a good odd either. The story had good ideas, but it was poorly executed. I learned through the trailer on the DVD that this was originally shown in 3D, which explained the out of place, amateur CGI. It kinda brought down the visual aesthetic. There was a cross promotion inside the movie for another Shimizu 3D feature, The Shock Labyrinth, which doesn’t look that promising. There were some good ideas with the story and a few images, but it’s saddening that the movie tried to do too much all at once.

Oldboy (2003, Japan) | Rating: 4.5/5

I thought about writing a full review for this movie, but I think its probably received enough praise over the years. I was very pleased with this movie and I wasn't expecting to be so impressed by the stories, the characters, and the cinematography. This movie definitely deserved all the hype I've heard about it, before watching it. You're probably wondering why this didn't receive a perfect score. Well, there were a few odd camera moments toward the end that were a little off putting during such an intense scene. It's a very small flaw in this masterpiece. I don't think Spike Lee's remake will capture the essence of greatness of the original. I'm skeptical for sure, but even before I felt that way. I'm not sure if I'll go see it or not for comparison sake, but we'll see what happens.

Thor: The Dark World (2013, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5

I must admit I wasn't all that thrilled with the first movie, but I went into this movie with an open mind and I must say that I was very pleased. I really enjoyed this sequel a lot more than the first. The story was simple, but I believe the characters and the action made it entertaining. To take a little detour for a second, I'm really enjoying these strong female characters. In this movie was Thor's mother, which had several dimensions to her that made her likeable and someone you can easily attach yourself to. Thor became a more interesting character and wasn't completely dumb downed either. He loosened up some and brought more chemistry, not only with the audience, but with Loki. My only complaints with the movie was the villain's motive which seemed pretty typical and wasn't expanded enough to make him a real threat (especially compared to mortality) and the slight unspoken tension between Jane and Sif. Hopefully, they'll do something more with that in the future.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013, USA) | Rating: 4.5/5

I debated whether I wanted to write a full length review like I did last time, but I figured I could sum up my thoughts shortly instead. This might seem like a repeat of the first movie, but it's not. What makes this movie great is that you get to see the harsh realities of a "celebrity", the aftermath of the victory. To me, it feels like there's more at risk for the main characters and I found myself gripping a little tighter to the seat for characters I liked in the previous movie and even characters I wasn't attached to. The visuals are stunning and the character development is what kept me hooked. I even had those moments where I had to beat down my emotions. Anyway, if you want a full length review, you guys know what to do. ^^ This is worth seeing and I enjoyed it a lot more than the first.

A Madea Christmas (2013, USA) | Rating: 3/5

It's that time again for the end of the year Tyler Perry movie featuring Madea. Well, this was quite enjoyable. It had some interesting and encouraging commentary on bullying and interracial relationships...kinda. If you've read previous reviews on Madea movies, you already know that I don't review these set of movies as seriously as others. As a movie, there's a lot of problems, but just comparing it to previous Madea movies, it fits right in. Madea was a little toned down and it had some good intentions like most Madea movies, but I still believe that Mr. Perry should take a break from the cinema for a while and gather his creativity for something great later. If you like Madea, you'll enjoy it for sure. No disappointments. Slightly unrelated to the movie, I think I might make a special post about Tyler Perry and his work, but I have some catching up to do before I can work on it.

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.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Top 5 Recommended Music Videos

"Paradise (What About Us?)" by Within Temptation feat. Tarja
I think this is one of those dream vocalist mash-ups that people wouldn't think would happen in real life. Well, it happened and I'm glad it did. A really good friend of mine shared this one and she's responsible for getting me familiar with these two talented ladies. This is nothing short of perfection with an interesting story and balanced out shots of the band and Tarja performing together. The vocals don't overpower each other either and it's just something to experience.

"Get By" by Delta Heavy
I've learned something about dubstep mid-year to now, that there are different types of dubstep sounds. Anyway, I found this on my Tumblr dash and the nostalgia had a field day with not only the visuals, but the sound. The music has a mix of late night 90s dance music and vocals mixed with not too overpowering dubstep sound. I thought the visuals were very creative and it was fun naming all the different games seen in the video.

"Seseragi" by ADAMS
I hope in the near future I can talk about this duo, because I really like them and I hope they continue to grow next year. Anyway, PV to PV there's improvement and risks. Their whole theme revolves around homosexuality and honestly this PV is quite...depressing. Depressingly beautiful, actually. The simplistic music, soft vocals, and powerful visuals definitely provoke some strong emotions when you're watching it, at least it did for me.

"Let's Talk About You" by M.I.B feat. Yoon Bo Mi (A Pink)
It's interesting seeing a softer side of these fine young men. They have good control and wonderful singing vocals. This song definitely displays it more properly than their previous promotional efforts. The story is pretty simple and I like the editing. It reminds me of a couple Korean rappers and the music sounds a little late 90s R&B. I hope the group continues on this wonderful momentum, because they've been going in a good direction and pace.

"Shh" by After School
This year has been a strong one for this group and I know I'm repeating myself, but I'm glad I gave them another chance thanks to an After School loving friend. Anyway, this video brings back that creative shadow and black and white style seen in Madonna's iconic "Vogue". The music is even retro and amazing. I don't think the choreography is as tight as their previous videos, but it is refreshing compared to other kpop female groups. I hope Japan appreciates it and the fact that it isn't a translation of a Korean song.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Quick Music Reviews

Normally I would go into detail from track to track with these music reviews, but this will be a less detailed version. I feel like these albums need to be mentioned, but I honestly don't have much to say from track to track. I guess that's what a "quick review" should really be, but hey, it's my blog and I think there's enough difference between my individual and quick reviews. Anyway, until I get my stuff together properly, here's something to hold you guys over for my lack of consistence. One more thing...thank you all for checking this place out even when I'm failing on the posts. I really appreciate the support!

Ariana Grande - Yours Truly (2013, USA) Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: n/a

I've been hearing a lot of good things about the "ditzy" actress Ariana from Facebook and college friends that I got curious. I looked up couple videos for "The Way" and "Baby I" and I thought both were pretty good, excluding the fact that I thought Mac Miller was completely pointless. Listening to the album was like a blast from the past and revived those feelings of 90's R&B. I know in this day and age it's hard finding your own sound and all, but I couldn't help but noticing the music sampling in "Right There" and how much she sounds like Mariah Carey. The vocal similarities did bother me a little bit in certain songs, but she does have an amazing vocal range for her age. I'm curious what direction she'll take on her next project. Despite my criticisms, I really did enjoy this album and it's difficult to pick favorites as everything seems to fit together on the same level of enjoyment.

Lorde - Pure Heroine (2013, USA) Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: Tennis Court, Team, Glory and Gore, A World Alone

I heard about Lorde through a commercial on TV. I guess everyone else was exposed to repeated plays of "Royals" on the radio and little old me doesn't really listen to the radio. Honestly, I don't. Anyway, after seeing said commercial enough times, I decided to YouTube her and watched "Royals" and "Tennis Court". I immediately understood her subtle popularity as that "artistic" singer like one-hit wonder Gotye. She has something odd about her musically and visually and she's only 17. The whole album has this indie/mainstream mix with lots of atmospheric sounds. It reminds me a little of old Fiona Apple. The whole album is worth experiencing. Yes, experiencing not listening.

Lady Gaga - ARTPOP (2013, USA) Rating: 2.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Applause, Swine, G.U.Y, Jewels N' Drugs

Some of you may know that I wasn't overly excited about this new album. I stalled a little, but when it was time to listen to it, I went in with no expectations and an open mind. Well, I guess I'm still in the process of completely formulating a concrete emotion toward it. It's not as great as The Fame, but definitely not as bad as Born This Way. It somehow falls in between in the neutral area. It's definitely not cohesive and it seems like it tries to please fans of the first and last album by mixing the sounds together. It also tries to step out of the usual Gaga box and reach out to those who enjoy her piano work. In other words, it's all of the place. I guess Gaga is trying to find her place in music again or something. I have to mention one specific track though, "Jewels N' Drugs". This is where most of my confusion lies. It sadly reminds me of that horrible "23" song with Miley Cyrus, but way more tolerable. I don't think I want Gaga to be delving into this genre too much...or that R&B track she did with R. Kelly (ick!). I guess it's a guilty pleasure track. It's definitely gimmicky, the rap lines are decent overall, and there's just something intriguing about it that keeps me coming back to it. Final verdict, if you haven't listened to this album yet, listen to it if you're really curious what it sounds like. Otherwise, you can just listen to those 4 favorite tracks and call it a day.

Linkin Park - Recharged (2013, USA) Rating: 2/5
Favorite Tracks: A LIGHT THAT NEVER COMES, I'LL BE GONE (Vice Remix)

This was another album I wasn't looking forward to, but I kept an open mind when listening to it. I must confess that I had no idea it existed, until a hardcord LP fan and close friend told me about it. I heard some samples from him and my heart instantly sunk. Well, mind completely rejected this as canon to their discography, if that's possible. With Reanimation, I expected the usual remix tactics everyone else was doing but somehow LP took their original tracks to a different direction and level. With Recharged, it falls into the typical remix territory which makes it disappointing. Some tracks sound like something from Dance Dance Revolution or novice dance remixes for a small club. Sadly, I'll be breaking my consistent purchases and skipping out on this one for the collection.

KoRn - The Paradigm Shift (2013, USA) Rating: 4.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Love & Meth, Never Never, Lullaby For a Sadist

The Path of Totality was a complete misstep for KoRn, despite enjoying a couple songs from it. I didn't have any expectations for this album, but it was nice that they took the good parts from their previous album and mixed it in with their signature nu-metal sound. I really, really enjoyed this album and I've been using it to stall on the two albums above. In short, it's a solid album and makes up for the dubstep experimentation. It also makes me feel nostalgic for a live. Hopefully, they'll keep up in this direction.

If there's something you want me to review, check out this post on how you can submit requests.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Top 5 Recommended Music Videos

"Sphere" by Nocturnal Bloodlust
I think I've given this band a try in the past or at least I've seen their name a lot in various places I check. Anyway, I'm not completely sure what I think of the band, but I do know that I really like this song and video has just the right atmosphere to match the tone. It's haunting, dark, and alluring. I guess I'll have more concrete feelings on the band once I listen to Grimoire.

"I Kyou You" by Uwakimono
I'm still a little unsure what I completely think of this PV. It is visually appealing and matches everything that Takeru is more than SuG, so in the end, this solo project was a good idea. His style wouldn't leak into the band like it has for several releases. It combines choreography, pop, dance, goth, and fashion. The song is upbeat enough, but doesn't feel out of place with the muted color palette of the PV. Curious what I'm gonna hear on the mini-album.

Clean ver.
Surprisingly, I've seen a lot of comments saying this video might be too gory, but I don't think it is. I don't know if it's because I'm desensitized by it as a horror movie fan or what, but it does go beyond the standard kpop creep factor. Anyway, when this first came out, I spazzed pretty hard. I love everything about this video, song, and concept. I might have to call myself a STARLIGHT now. They're really good with dark concepts compared to a lot of rookies. Their choreography has been consistently theatrical, so whether you watch it in the video or on stage, it still tells a story just like "Hyde". Anyway, I'm so pumped for this first album!

"Touchdown" by Koda Kumi
I'm surprised I didn't post this one. Well, if you follow me on Tumblr, you would've seen my teasing comment about this video...and the fact that CL released something around the same time. I won't repeat it here. Anyway, I wasn't expecting something like this from Koda Kumi. She always brings something new to add onto her mature, sexy image. It's a very minimalistic video with her and another guy. It looks like she has fun in it and the song matches the fun, confident, and sensual tone of the video.

"Icarus" by JAURIM
I'm not really into Korean rock, but when I saw this band on MAMA 2013 I wanted to check them out. I wasn't expecting to see a krock band with a female vocalist and she has a really beautiful and unique vocals too. There's a nice balance between her singing and giving some instrumental moments, especially with the simple imagery. I'm looking forward to checking out their latest album and maybe they'll gain a fan in me.