Sunday, March 31, 2013

Second Chances: KAT-TUN

Surprisingly, it took me some time to like and accept Japanese pop music. I enjoyed a handful of jpop songs, but when it came to Johnny’s Entertainment, I was enamored by Jun Matsumoto through his acting and cute face. I looked into his group Arashi and labeled myself a fan, although I was extremely casual about it. Later I got involved with KinKi Kids through Domoto Koichi’s acting and handsome features. Both of these groups I stuck by because of the music. There wasn’t a purely shallow connection for me.

I remember talking to one of my former role play partners about her love for KAT-TUN. Similar to MBLAQ, I kinda teased her a little about it and, I believe, her favorite was Kamenashi Kazuya and in return she teased me for picking Arashi over KAT-TUN and the slightly contagious MatsuJun love. For the longest, I could not understand KAT-TUN’s massive appeal other than their good looks and Jin Akanishi and Kame’s acting. At the time, I only knew their skill set in Gokusen Season 2. Later, I developed an attraction toward Kame over Jin through a drama called Suppli. Before Jin left the group, I was addicted to “RESCUE”, a track used for Yuichi Nakamaru’s drama with the same name. If you were part of Muddy Cult since the beginning, you would have seen my first music video comparison between KAT-TUN and DBSK, before the split.

One day, I decided to give the group another chance as the title suggests and slowly their music and charm grew on me through “Love Yourself”. I wasn’t able to listen to LANDS, but I tried to listen to as much of Jin’s solo work before his major involvement in the U.S. I still kinda regret skipping out on his first solo tour in the U.S. It was saddening that his stops on the second tour consisted of only locations on the usual west and east coasts. Like everyone else, I mused myself with the fanfiction-like reports concerning him and his wife Meisa Kuroki. As for the rest of the group, I casually follow them. I even developed a love or attraction toward the other members over Jin. A strong emphasis on Koki Tanaka and Ueda Tatsuya somehow.

I’m not sure whether Jin will recover from his slump, but it’s interesting to follow both sides. I don’t think I’ll be a hardcore fan of KAT-TUN’s, but I have found the appeal of these young men. I might even like them a little more than Arashi.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Review: [Rec] ²

Starring: Jonathan D. Mellor, Manuela Velasco, Oscar Zafra
Directed by: Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza
Language: Spanish
Rating: R
Running Time: 85 minutes

If you’re curious about my thoughts on the first film, I encourage you to check my comparison post. Naturally, I wanted to see the continuation. With my goofy apartment connection and a much needed food break, I chose to watch this finally.

Following the events from the previous film, a SWAT team arrives at an apartment complex with their own cameras to document and keep track of each other. Once they arrive, a huge crowd of curious citizens and various authorities and news crews look at the complex with mixed emotions. One of the residents’ husbands pleads to get inside to deliver medicine, but is denied. The SWAT team is allowed to enter the seemingly empty complex. They immediately meet an unusual priest and join together to search the area for survivors and a cure.

As much as I enjoyed the first movie and even the American remake, I really disliked this sequel. I found myself frustrated a lot of the time. There were a couple of moments where I was peeking through my fingers in suspense and it ended up with nothing, but the scare came a little later. So, what frustrated me about this continuation?

Well, I was happy this was a “true” sequel and didn’t follow what America did with theirs. Unfortunately, this movie suffered from major conflict change and a ridiculous amount of character stupidity. From sequel to sequel, the antagonist may change, but there is a connecting conflict. Superheroes have to save the city from some villain while struggling with a personal or internal conflict, Resident Evil franchise is the fight against the Umbrella Corporation and the search for a cure for the T-virus, and Final Destination franchise is finding ways to cheat death. From [Rec] to [Rec] ², the conflict switches from people that have been infected with some sort of advanced strain of rabies to them being possessed by some random demon. This negative reaction toward the change may be slightly skewed by the “popularity” of possession and exorcism movies in America, but it is quite annoying.

Character stupidity was the other annoying factor. Now I can mostly excuse the behaviors and actions of the three teenagers who snuck into the complex, but the SWAT team was inexcusable. I know there is some sort of “standard” of horror movie idiocy that is expected in most horror films, but this went beyond the bar of requirement. Sadly, I think I would be safer with the teens carrying their own camera and some fireworks than the loaded up SWAT team. I don’t even know how they managed to qualify with the dumb choices they made! Let me give a couple examples. Just a little warning, these examples are minor spoilers to the movie, but I will exclude character names and it does not ruin the ending either if you proceed to read.

First example is when the team and priest encounter a possessed girl. One of the team members hold her back from attacking while the priest (and even myself) yell out to “shoot her in the head”. The team member argues that the girl is just a child while she tries to hurl toward them and gnaw on their faces. Eventually, the priest takes one of their guns and does the job himself. This point leads to the next example when the team becomes separated. One member gets trapped in a hallway between some possessed people and wastes all of his ammo with body shots, then locks himself in a bathroom. He finds a full clip of pistol bullets, sees the possessed breaking through the door, and decides to commit suicide instead.

Other problems I had was the lack of suspense throughout the movie, no sincerely likable characters, and the story got progressively less entertaining. I don’t even know where these possessed children came from either! I didn’t really like the multiple camera element. The whole premise seemed more forced than the first, but it was interesting seeing more than one perspective of the situation, so that’s one positive.

It’s probably obvious that I really I didn’t like this film. The conflict change was silly and a stretch, the characters were dumb, and the scare factor was low. End your journey with the first movie and ignore this one.

Rating: 1.5/5

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

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Quick Music Review

Litchi☆Hikari Club - Eragabarusu no ☆ Yume (2011, Japan) Rating: 2.5/5
Favorite Tracks: 666, Haikyo no Teiou

This is an old request I received and I personally wanted to do this one as well. I think Hakuei has too many projects going on, but this is definitely an interesting one. "666" starts off with an aggressive rock sound, but then transforms into an aggressive electronic song. Yeah, this is no Penicillin or machine, but it's not bad. It's kinda danceable and grimy in places. The music has an interesting contrast to Hakuei's soft vocals and the rap part surprisingly doesn't sound too out of place. "Haikyo no Teiou" was one of the promotional tracks for this manga inspired project. This falls more into the usual Hakuei sound. Chaotic, aggressive, and alluring sounds that just put your mind into an unavoidable trance. "Toraware no Shirayuri" has a deep bass sound with a raspy male vocal backing. It has an interesting stray guitar sound in the background. This is more of a usual female vocal anime track, but a little less cutesy. Yeah, no Hakuei in this one, guys. "Chikashitsu no Hikari" has a haunting piano sound accompanied by dialogue and rolls of thunder. Hakuei returns with a desperate vocal range that lingers in the air. It does pick up a little later with drums and a deep bass for conflict. "Shikkoku no Bara" is a more upbeat, jazz club sound with wild saxophone and a more sensual vocal style by Hakuei. It's an interesting sound for him and this manga theme. I'm sure it fits somehow within the lyrics. Yasu does this style better though. "Eragabarusu no ☆ Yume" returns on a more serious note and different vocalist steps in for certain parts. This song sounds very chaotic and unorganized. It has good parts to it, but overall it's a bit messy.

DIAURA - Dictator (2011, Japan) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: 奈落の花, Dictator

"奈落の花" has a somewhat generic introduction. It starts with drums and guitar pulling us in, then another guitar is added in along with piano and Yo-ka's vocals. The song is quite beautiful and has a very powerful chorus to break out of the deep bass notes. "Dictator" brings that feel good sound that I miss in newer visual kei bands. It's very high energy and reminds me of something 12012 would do live. This is a good crowd pleaser for fans to chant along. It also has some interesting break downs in it, both vocally and musically. Also, I really love the chorus lead up. "Master" is a headbanging song and sometimes you need one of those on your rock mini-album. The vocals are distorted and one of the guitars goes a little crazy in the background. "インフィネイト" goes the opposite direction and borrows some airy elements from Phantasmagoria to set a more emotional sound without going too far in the ballad category. If you waited around for the 2nd pressing of this mini-album, then you have the pleasure of hearing a quite dramatic, speaker thumping introduction called "深(SE)". "SISTER" is also added to the mini-album and shows a more mature sound to the band. Using those same borrowed sophisticated elements, the song puts Yo-ka's vocals in the distance and highlights the powerful instrumentals for the first part. Then it brings the vocals to the forefront to a smooth chorus transition.

RAMPANT - GREEDY MONSTERS WANT ALL (2011, Japan) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: Quattro, Love Spell, Greedy Monsters Want All

"Quattro" is a purely instrumental introduction. It's very upbeat and fun to just bounce around to it. This is a good song to show off what the other members are working with without Hiroko's vocals. "Need You" keeps the energy high and has a good rhythm guitar going along with the drums and deep bass sounds. Hiroko's vocals immediately stand out and it can be a little distracting in the beginning, but it settles in a little more in the chorus. "Love Spell" starts off with a bass introduction and a nice subtle drum tapping before the guitars step in. This is a good song to sway your hips to and fall into Hiroko's sensual vocals. "New Born" carries a more aggressive sound than the previous tracks. There's a slight vocal distortion or perhaps poor audio in places with Hiroko, but the chorus is quite good. "Greedy Monsters Want All" eases in with one instrument at a time. Hiroko's vocals weave into the music skillfully and with the right amount of power in her delivery. "SILENCE (piano ver.)" shows a softer side to Hiroko's vocal abilities. It's not perfect, but it suits her and the mood of the song.

umbrella - Samidare (2011, Japan) Rating: 2.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Gizagiza kairo

"Samidare" brings in a refreshing upbeat sound with a nice balance of piano, guitar, steady drums, a deep bassline, and airy vocals. I will admit that the vocals do sound a little strained on the high notes of the chorus, but the song isn't that bad. "Gizagiza kairo" enters the ring with an aggressive guitar and another guitar trailing behind in the background for added effect. The vocals seemed more relaxed, but confident as the music pushes it forward to the chorus. The chorus is a little less aggressive, but it's a welcomed bright sound to this harder track. "Haikei, ame hiyori." takes a safer route in the rock genre, but still brings a familiar and enjoyable sound to the table. For their first entry, this was a decent start for the band.

shiki∞project~志鬼陰謀~ - Kureha (2011, Japan) Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: Kyouen Ranbu, Utsushiyo, Zanki, Sakurasou

This might be a sensitive review for some, but this was requested during a time that this solo project was very much anticipated. This was also another request that I planned on doing for myself as well. "Jinju" introduces listeners to a heart pounding bass sound and a zen like aura with symphonic elements slowly intertwining itself. It's a very beautiful opener for an album. "Shiro no Kuro Kuro no Shiro" is a more upbeat sounding song that has all the musical elements associated with the late Isshi. It has a fun vocal composition, great bassline, and of course that signature Neo Japanesque sound. "Matsuri" delves into a old school electronic vibe that Yasutaka Nakata would be proud of. I'm a little weary with the robotic Isshi vocals, but it kinda works. "Kyouen Ranbu" incorporates orchestral strings, traditional Japanese elements, and a casual hard rock sound together. It's an interesting combination, but somehow it all works. "Kousa Uta" mixes traditional Japanese elements with a faint traveling circus sound. It's a slower song and features a softer vocal style from Isshi. "Utsushiyo" goes back to an electronic sound with a tiny bit of hip-hop elements. It's a different sound that I've never heard be utilized, especially in Japan. "Ai Santan" focuses more on the familiar Neo Japanesque rock that we're used to from Isshi. It's not boring whatsoever. It's quite an exciting song with clever ascensions and descends. "Zanki" is a beautiful acoustic track that shows off Isshi's range effortlessly. It's powerful, passionate, and soothing during the verses. "Kiran" is a little more aggressive than the previous tracks, but doesn't stray too far from Isshi's signature style. "Sakurasou" lightens up the mood with emphasized guitars, subtle traditional Japanese elements, and a beautiful piano balance in the right places. "Toki" is a lengthy track with a lot of beautiful elements including Isshi's passionate vocals. On type B, there are two other tracks not on the other version of this album. "Dokuhaku" mixes familiar fun rock sounds with a little accordion and Isshi's signature sound. It might cause you to dance a little with the melody. "Mourou" brings traditional Japanese sounds, turntable scratches, and very emphasized bassline. It's a very intriguing song and worth listening to at least once.

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

Monday, March 25, 2013

Top 7 Recommended Music Videos

"BALLAD" by lynch.
I know it's been a while since I've done one of these and I'm pretty sure you've already seen this masterpiece. You would think this band would have a hard time with such emotion filled songs, but Hazuki's voice effortlessly carries his passion through while tugging at your heartstrings. The band's signature rock sound works just as well with the bits and pieces of piano added in here and there. The PV is quite simple by focusing mostly on Hazuki and his movements while switching to artistic natural faded tones of the band and a woodsy atmosphere. If you haven't watched this, please give it a couple previews.

"Beast" by Jolin Tsai
You would think videos for Jolin Tsai's latest album were done last year, but she makes another contribution that'll make kpop girls beg for mercy. The introduction music reminds me of the latest Robyn album with a few little updates for the new year. The visuals have an artistic Bjork vibe with subtle sex appeal and a pole dance that puts Gain to shame. Both the visuals and music are alluring or at least tempting to find out what the heck is going on. Either way, it'll be hard to tear your eyes away from this one.

"I.N.D.O" by Yankie feat. Tablo
Somehow I can picture this on Django Unchained soundtrack. It has a mixture of something Timbaland would produce with the looping Indian music. It makes me happy to see Yankie making music again. Don't let the black and white deter you from watching this abstract piece of fury. I like the abstract and quick cutting shots from Yankie and Tablo and random objects. I wish there were less vocal distortions during Tablo's verse, but nonetheless I am pleased.

"The art of seduction" by Heo Young Saeng
I was very reluctant to even watch this video, but I'm glad I did...with subtitles. This seems like a playful song that appropriately displays the mind of a kpop fan. It switches between reality and fantasy while showing off some slick and simple choreography. The song isn't that bad either. Nothing I would normally go for, but the video sold me to try this artist out. Hopefully, not all of his songs sound like something from an Eddie Murphy album.

"Just Go" by RANIA
I'm so happy that these girls are going in the right direction with their style and music. This is mature, catchy, and just plain good. There are a couple unflattering costumes that they should ditch: the white and black bodysuits. Other than that, this video is very polish and another huge step away from "Dr. Feel Good" and "Pop Pop Pop". I can't wait to listen to their new mini album. I hope they continue in this direction too.

"Standing Still" by U-KISS
The group is back...and with AJ! This video made me very happy. Not only is AJ back, but the song is amazing and consistent with their growth in the right direction. Whether South Korea wants to acknowledge it or not, this group has only been improving with each release. Ignoring the random girl, the video is quite simple and focuses on choreography by experimenting with flashing lights, polished settings, and silhouettes. Watch out, kpop boys, U-KISS is back to teach you a thing or two on the dance floor...and even some good vocal melodies.

"ie" by Yeti
If you haven't watched this from my last vlog or any where else, please give this band a chance, especially if you're a fan of aicle. or Emiru. This is his new band and it is far from oshare kei. It kinda has a Radwimps visual and musical style to it. I think Emiru's vocals have improved a little as well, but still has that unique sound that I can pick out from other vocalists. This video is very creative and fun with the different movable parts that the members change throughout the video. I look forward to more from this budding band.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Review: Oz the Great and Powerful

Starring: James Franco, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Language: English
Rating: PG
Running Time: 130 minutes

This is a movie I wasn’t completely in a rush for. I will admit that I had some concerns. Since I wanted to bond with my mother over the break with a hopefully good movie, we went on opening weekend.

Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs or Oz the Great and Powerful works as a magician or con man for a travelling circus in Kansas. He’s a bit lost in life and displays this by distancing his relationship with his assistant, letting the woman that he loves go, and getting into trouble with his flirtatious ways. When running away from an angry circus act after a disappointing show, Oz gets trapped in a hot air balloon during a tornado. Begging for a second chance to be a good and honest man, he lands in the fantastical Land of Oz. He immediately meets a beautiful witch named Theodora. She tells him of the land’s deceased king’s prophecy of a wizard sharing the land’s name falling from the sky to free them of the Wicked Witch’s reign of terror.

Everyone has heard and/or seen the story of The Wizard of Oz. Most have even gone into the backstory as well. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten around to the origin story. I have failed my native land. lol Anyway, I had some concerns with this movie. Like Eric of Pretty Much It on Youtube, the marketing for the movie was a little deceiving. There was too much focus on the visuals and the Alice in Wonderland copy of a poster didn’t help. During the movie, I wanted to reel back Danny Elfman with the Tim Burton-esque music. Once that went away, my worries faded.

Now for the important factors! The story was very good. It was a split focus on Oz’s beginnings and the witches’ origins and relationship with each other. This gave me more initiative to check out Wicked. At times, it leaned more toward the witches than Oz, but it was a good story nonetheless. There are a couple parts that tend to drag along and one of these parts I would've shortened or cut from the end.

I really enjoyed the characters and the parallel they created that is similar to The Wizard of Oz. It made certain moments very heartfelt and one scene made me want to tear up a little. The actors did a good job, especially the ones with double roles. James Franco was absolutely charming, funny, and had a convincing range as our leading male. The witches were really good as well. Although, Mila Kunis as Theodora was weaker than the others. She wasn't terrible or anything, but at times her emotions seemed over the top or forced. I also wasn't particularly fond of her make-up either. The supporting characters were brilliant and very likable. Even the background characters were great.

With limited timing, I saw this in 3D and it was good. They utilized the technology well. It really pulls you into the world. The CGI was very realistic when it needed to be. It really felt like they put a lot of effort into the environment and animated characters. I especially enjoyed looking at Little China Girl. I must admit I was nervous this was going to look like another Wonderland. I was glad I was proven wrong again. Don’t rely on the poster comparison.

Overall, I was pleasantly satisfied with this film. The characters were likable and expressive whether real or animated, the environments were beautiful, and the CGI and 3D were surprisingly good. I also enjoyed the parallel of ratio and color change from Kansas to Oz, tying in the classic elements from The Wizard of Oz. If you want something light and fun and entertaining for the family no matter what age, I encourage you to give this movie a chance.

Rating: 3.5/5

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

Friday, March 22, 2013

Miko's Music Connection: Aaliyah Ep. 1

Once again, I apologize for the delay of this video project. I will have a v-log discussing future episodes as soon as I can. I encourage you all to leave feedback as I want to keep improving for all of you. So, don't be afraid to leave your suggestions and constructive criticisms. Thank you for taking the time to watch! I will have the next part posted soon.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Quick Movie Review

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012, USA/New Zealand) | Rating: 3.5/5

I definitely can't compete with Ophelia's expertise in her review. I don't think I could make a full review of this epic story as I am not a Tolkien fan whatsoever. I'm just a casual moviegoer that just happened to see all the Peter Jackson re-tellings with her mother. It was quite enjoyable adventure and I'm sure many have heard the controversies surrounding it with the various screen options. I believe we had the normal frame rate and 2D all the way, of course. There were some great moments and most likely, I'll see the rest of The Hobbit films with my mom.

Samurai School: Be a Man! [Sakigake!! Otokojuku] (2008, Japan) | Rating: 3/5

Sadly, I found this more enjoyable than Death Trance. The main focus isn't on Tak Sakaguchi, which is good. He's not a bad actor or anything, but the script played to his strengths of being the action star. Granted the script was co-written by him...and directed by him too. Good grief, man! Anyway, this is more of a comedic action flick than something more fantasy and action packed like Death Trance. There's some amusing moments and very likeable characters. This is a good movie for good laughs.

Palindromes (2004, USA) | Rating: 3/5

So, I saw this last semester in class and I must say that this disturbed me and a lot of the class at the end. It is a very interesting piece and has many interpretations to it too, which makes it even more enjoyable and worth a re-watch. We probably had a different perspective than most viewers as our teacher gave us a paper of each scene and what kind of actor played the main character Aviva. I was going to do a full length review, but I don't think I have the energy to. Nonetheless, it's up for request if anyone's interested. Anyway, in my experience, the actor change might've been an element of whether the audience might change their feelings toward Aviva if she was younger, older, black, white, male, female, etc. There's many reasons for why the director chose to do this, but I welcome anyone to check it out. I do warn you that you might feel uncomfortable during certain scenes as the plot involves opinions on abortion.

Born into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids (2004, USA) | Rating: 2/5

As I mentioned before, there's going to be quite a few documentary reviews in this section from me unless I really have something to say. Anyway, this documentary had some controversy surrounding. Zana Briski, one of the directors, gets involve with these children that are living in the red light district of Calcutta and she tries to provide a better life for them. The criticisms came from the translator, at first, and some other people by saying that Briski actually made these children's lives worse with her involvement. To me, it felt like a Hollywood movie where "white people save the day" kind of thing. This affected my sympathies for these children and their families. It felt like a false advertisement when reading the title and the synposis of it as it's really about Briski's attempts to "better" these children's lives instead.

Death in Gaza (2004, UK) | Rating: 4/5

If you're unsure of the situation between Israel and Palestine, then this is a great documentary to see, especially through a child's perspective. It is graphic in certain parts and there's so many hard hitting reality moments that I wish I can mention in detail. Vaguely, there's a part with one of the boys hanging out with this secret group that definitely tugs at your heartstrings and another scene with boys playing with fake weapons. It's informative and heartbreaking. I recommend 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.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Quick Music Review

Dok2 - Love & Life, The Album (2012, South Korea) Rating: 4.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Best Time (In Our Life), Let Me Love U, 비밀 2, Can't Let You Go

"Love & Life" opens this album with a different tone that I'm not used to with Dok2. He has done songs like this before, but this is a different trip than previous albums. Anyway, this has a simple little R&B sound and nice sprinkle of piano as well as guest vocals from a previous collaborative partner Rado. Their voices still compliment each other very well. "Best Time (In Our Life)" is a little less upbeat R&B than the first track. It has more of a piano emphasis with a nice snap effect. It's very smooth and it works really well with Dok2's voice. I'm really impressed with this track. It shows a softer side to this normally cocky rapper. Only criticism is the voice effect that throws off the mood a little. "Let Me Love U" brings it back up to the upbeat R&B sound from the first track. It still maintains a nice mellow beat and the chorus is kinda catchy. "비밀 2" strips away a lot music to the simplest form which allows Zion.T's sensual vocals shine with the subtle beat. Dok2 doesn't overdo it with his flow, so both voices work together well. "Plenty" shares a similar minimal sound and brings back the sounds of 90's love making music of America, especially with Jinbo providing his voice for the chorus and the ascending keyboard effects. "They Love Who?" departs from the romantic R&B sound to a more softer hip-hop sound. The music is more subtle, but the delivery has a slightly quiet aggressive edge to it. "Leave Me Alone (Fuck You)" maintains a balance between R&B and hip-hop. The music is minimal, but Dok2 attacks his subject while the chorus seals the deal on the message of this break up song. "Can't Let You Go" falls back into atmospheric, minimalistic R&B sound. The aggression is exchanged for a more pleading delivery by Dok2 while Bumkey adds a little more sympathy with his soulful vocals. "It's Alright" drops the R&B sound for an acoustic pop type sound and optimistic delivery by Dok2 which is a little odd, but not completely uncomfortable. "Lonely Nights" continues with an acoustic sound, but exchanges the pop for R&B and a female vocalist to carry on the chorus. This goes back to the sensitive Dok2 style that goes quite nicely with this sound. "어제 같은 오늘" jumps into 90's keyboard R&B territory and dramatics. It feels like a soothing blast from the past who are familiar with this sound and a great way to close the album off. I'm still not fond of the vocal distortion, but this song is really good. As a casual fan of Dok2's, I think this is his strongest album yet. It has a surprising emotional, sensitive direction to it, but it works really well.

Infinite - INFINITIZE (2012, South Korea) Rating: 2.5/5
Favorite Tracks: The Chaser

"INFINITIZE" opens up with wild, belting guitars and some electronic and symphonic entwining elements as well as a preview of the boys' wonderful vocals. So refreshing~ "The Chaser" was used for promotion and I don't blame them for this pick. The song takes a few elements from the introduction, balancing subtle electro-pop elements, horns, guitars, bass, and drama. The chorus is powerful and the verses are slick, allowing the vocals to shine. "Feel So Bad" has a playful piano sound and a slight symphony sound to it. It’s a light, airy like song that highlight the chemistry between the members’ voices. “In The Summer” continues the playful, light sound but with an acoustic guitar. This is a song that will make fans’ hearts flutter and give you the urge to run through a field of fresh flowers. “Only Tears” goes into the sorrowful sounds of piano and strings. The vocals are softer and tugs at your heartstrings bit by bit. “니가좋다” jumps back up to upbeat territory with an electric guitar and a poppy tone musically and vocally. “With...” closes the album off with a soft, perhaps pleading tone.

Ulala Session - Ulala Session (2012, South Korea) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: 아름다운 밤

"URBANIC (울랄라 Prologue)" brings an optimistic, refreshing a Capella opening with some very strong vocals that can be compared to the legendary Boyz II Men. "울랄라" begins with a gimmicky showcase of horns and an upbeat pop sound, but the vocals still remain strong. This gives a great amount of energy and interest for listeners to just let loose. "아름다운 밤" is the song responsible for me trying out these guys. The song begins off romantic and slow with a swoon worthy piano backing, then it picks up to a fun pop tune that could easily be found in some sort of bright musical. You'll have a hard to resisting this one. "다 쓰고 없다" slows down things with a few strings and piano accompanying these soft, skillfully controlled vocals. "DYNAMITE" goes in a more electro-pop sound that reminds me of the latest KAT-TUN for some reason. This is definitely different from the previous tracks. Perhaps to keep up with what's trending with using a simple, generic beat and auto-tune. It's not a terrible song. It's still fun, but a bit out of place and a downgrade for the vocal skill set. "WEDDING SINGER" opens with a Sandford & Son introduction on the horns, then abandon it temporarily for a very simple beat and a lot of vocal pauses that remind me of older Japanese male vocals in old songs. It's a little strange and islandy. "난 행복해" closes the album off on a soft note and retreats back to their strength of vocals. This is definitely one of those drama OST type songs or at least an ending.

Dalmatian - State of Emergency (2012, South Korea) Rating: 2.5/5
Favorite Tracks: E.R, Drive

I remember not liking this group, but something about "E.R" made me give this group another chance. This is definitely more mature than their debut and has some great elements. It has a nice, toned down dance beat with some piano points cleverly placed with various levels for emotional effect. This song also shows off the boys' vocals more than the stuff they were given in the beginning too. "Drive" has a nice R&B beat to it and probably would provide a smooth driving song. This definitely continues that maturity displayed in the previous song. "Hurt Me" has the same feeling as "Drive", but a little more simplistic. I almost like this song just as much as the previous but the drums or whatever pack too much punch that becomes a bit distracting during the quiet moments. The chorus is a little weak too. Sometimes it feels like it doesn't match the sweet tone of the verses and the auto-tune is unnecessary. "Still By Ur Side" pulls in some guitar work and a little English dialogue before the song begins. It's a decent song, but it feels like it's missing something I can't put my finger on. I'm quite pleased with this growth and it seemed like the guys carried this mature image to their new name DMTN.

2NE1 - Scream (2012, Japan) Rating: 2/5
Favorite Tracks: Scream

I think this is the first original Japanese track that these girls have made. I'm completely ignoring that catastrophe with m-flo. Anyway, the song isn't that bad. Although, I felt that everyone's voices seemed stifled and too soft, except Bom's. They always crank up the volume for her for some reason, which is really annoying. Somehow the song remains enjoyable, but nothing extremely new or quite the same from their previous tracks. The next track is a Japanese remake of one of their hit singles, "Fire". Originally, I really liked this song, but once you hear certain tracks too much they tend to fade. The song's still not that bad, but the transition from Korean to Japanese seems a bit awkward. I don't know if it's just me because I'm so used to listening to this track in Korean, but it's odd. Last track of this single, excluding instrumentals, is a remix from m-flo of "Scream". It's a pretty good remix by mixing piano elements and electronic sounds. Although, I could've lived without the beat dropping and Verbal's vocal input in the song.

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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Review: Drop

Starring: Hiroki Narimiya, Hiro Mizushima, Yuika Motokariya
Directed by: Hiroshi Shinagawa
Language: Japanese, English
Rating: R
Running Time: 122 minutes

This was another random convention buy. I saw Hiroki Narimiya on the cover, flipped the box around to read the story, then proceed from there.

Hiroshi Shinanogawa was once an ordinary student in a private school, but one day he decides to drop out to attend a public school and ditch his plain life to become a delinquent. To his surprise, Moriki, Lupin, and Wanko drag him away to meet their leader, Tatsuya Iguchi. Hiroshi is shocked by Tatsuya beating up two guys, one of them almost to death. Moriki, Lupin, and Wanko introduce Hiroshi to Tatsuya and thus his life of a delinquent begins.

If you watch the FUNimation dubbed trailer, which I don't recommend, you might be fooled into thinking that Hiro Mizushima is the star, but Hiroki Narimiya takes the role of the protagonist. We get a look into his bond with his sister, sister's boyfriend, and a few other characters that have been part of his life since the beginning. The main story is his bond with Tatsuya and his gang in his transformation to delinquency. This broke my assumptions of a school-type movie and it reminded me of a more comical Crows Zero. It's probably more or less as violent and Tatsuya is the son of a former yakuza leader.

Drop does present an entertaining experience with an amusing set of characters. The main cast is quite likable and unique and it's easy to attach yourself to Hiroshi and sympathize with, especially when the bond with his sister and her boyfriend proceeds forward. Each gang member has a distinguishing trait as well. Tatsuya is a strong street fighter, Moriki is a skillful strategist, Lupin is a very sneaky thief, and Wanko usually fights by biting people's faces. The action is quite intense as well and some of it is a bit brutal and other times it's intentionally silly.

Unfortunately, I had a few problems with this film. If you haven't noticed, this is a long film and the length is unnecessary. There are a few parts that just drag along without progressing and simply repeating actions. Some of the characters' choices and reactions seem unnatural too. A couple major examples are the loose love triangle involving Hiroshi, Tatsuya, and Tatsuya's girlfriend and Hiroshi's reaction to a last minute conflict. I also think the actors' characters were a little young for them. One criticism I read from a user on IMDB mentioned that this movie encourages delinquent behavior and none of the characters face any consequences for their actions. I can agree with that, especially since the resolution is a bit of let down for Hiroshi.

In the end, the movie isn't terrible. I did enjoy it for what it is, but the two hours stalling storyline and unsatisfying, easy resolution brought it down a few notches. On a positive note, I enjoyed seeing Hiroki and Hiro in roles that are new to me and the characters were mostly fun. If you can handle the brutal and sometimes comical action with a hint of drama and comedy, then check this out with a bit of caution.

Rating: 2.5/5

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Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Duckie and Miko Show Episode 2

Click here for Part 2

Forgive me once again for the delay. Here's the second episode of "The Duckie and Miko Show". I know, I know. This isn't Dailymotion, it's Vimeo. Well, I had some issues with the site. So, take what you will. Hopefully, I will have the next episode up soon for you guys, so keep a look out for it and thank you for watching these old videos.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Review: Sukiyaki Western Django

Starring: Hideaki Ito, Yusuke Iseya, Kaori Momoi, Quentin Taratino
Directed by: Takashi Miike
Language: English
Rating: R
Running Time: 121 minutes

I'm not really obligated to tell any of you this, but I actually bought this movie way before Django Unchained was released. It was a curious convention purchase. I eventually watched it this year with my mother too, since she was interested in what Japan's take was on the classic spaghetti western.

In a remote western town there is a hidden treasure buried somewhere. Two rivaling clans, the Genji and Heike, both come to this town in search of the treasure. When a skilled unnamed gunman visits the town, both leaders of the clan notice his skills and try to bribe him to their side and perhaps help them find the hidden treasure.

First of all, my reasons for blindly purchasing this movie was because 1) Takashi Miike directed it and I love him, 2) the story sounded interesting, and 3) Quentin Tarantino was part of the project. I believe Takashi and Tarantino have worked together before, so it seemed like an interesting mash up since they have somewhat different directing styles. To my surprise were some familiar and slightly less familiar faces that showed up in this movie. Although it was a small part, Shun Oguri played the father of little Heihachi in the movie. Masanobu Andou, who most know from Battle Royale, was mostly unrecognizable with his less than flattering make-up job as one of the right hand men of the Heike clan. There's some mistakes I've noticed on the internet, especially Tumblr, where he is tagged at the Genji clan's leader, but it is actually played by Yusuke Iseya, another face I didn't recognize so easily. I reviewed Casshern shortly and he was the star of that. Mom and I quickly became a fan of his. So what to say about the movie?

Unlike Django Unchained, this is a slower paced film and the time is more obvious to viewers. There is a lot of downtime for dialogue and spurts of violent action here in there. Occasionally, my focus would wane a little as it is a little confusing, but somehow you can piece everything together. The characters are interesting and the main cast have some intriguing layers to them that keep you invested to the end. There is a little more to the story than two clans warring with each other. Intertwining this rivalry is little Heihachi's story of his family and how things have fallen apart. This subplot opens up more character develop for audiences so they can be a little more invested in each of them whether positive or negative. Not that it really matters, but hands down my favorite characters were Ruriko and Yoshitsune (and not because of his good looks either).

The biggest praise I have to give this movie is the directing and visuals. I sat through the behind the scenes part of the DVD and saw all the trouble the cast and crew faced with weather conditions, strict special effects, and the challenge of learning every line in English. Yes, this movie is completely, originally in English. Tarantino's role is to narrator the story, or just begin it, and the rest of the cast delivers their lines in English. May I point out that more than half of the cast is not fluent in English. The reason for this is stated by Takashi Miike in the behind the scenes stating that he didn't feel right filming a western movie where the characters spoke Japanese. He compared it to a period piece that's completely in English (or perhaps another language other than Japanese) and how awkward that would be. He also carefully co-crafted the script to parody famous lines in American films to make it more comical. So, be prepared to hear some negative or confused criticisms on that choice. As for the visuals, they are absolutely stunning. From the sets, action moments, and scenery, it has very bold and warm tones to it for the most part.

As for negatives aside from the slow pace of dialogue and some confusing moments, I wasn't particularly fond of the ultimate climax. It was full of emotion, violence, and visually appealing action, but the final duel should've been between a different set of characters. Although, the reveals were a nice touch and regained my interest.

So, this movie isn't going to be on my top five favorites from Takashi Miike, but it wasn't terrible or scarring. I commend him for taking risks on doing an all English movie, which is more or less successful compared to Imprint, and just doing a western this way from an iconic figure. Westerns aren't for everyone, even myself, but I found this quite enjoyable. It is a little slow, so you'll have to have some patience with it.

Rating: 3/5

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

V-log: YG Stalls, PoC Cosplay, & Bro Talk

This was film on March 1, 2013. My apartment's connection was being picky once again, so please enjoy.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Review: Singersen's "Sirens"

Singersen - Sirens (2011, China) Rating: 5/5
Favorite Tracks: Sirens, Snow Queen

In my last review I mentioned that my focus on music had declined in favor of other hobbies. That wasn't exactly the case. In reality, for a while I no longer had interest in discovering new bands and new genres - unless they were somehow directly linked with things I already liked. Sometimes I think our tastes do tend to solidify as we get older, and we get complacent where we are. However, I'm not entirely content with that mindset, and I know my perceptions of music can benefit from some fresh input. So I still make an effort, even if in but some small degree, to push myself outside my comfort zone - which surprisingly might branch out from a genre in which my favorites originate and into a genre pleasantly new to me.
During my time of reduced interest permeated with contemplating and searching, several artists struck a note with me and aroused my curiosity. I hope to discuss those artists in future posts, but for now I'll begin with SingerSen, the musician that I discovered browsing through my recommendations on She has a beautiful voice that bonds and weds with the many sounds, be they instruments or animal 'impressions', incorporated into each of her songs. This artist has broken new ground, and I definitely can't wait to see what she puts out in the future.
Sen was born in Liaoning, China, and started performing at age 4. She accredits much of her musical talents to her dad, who, though professionally unlearned in music, learned seven types of Chinese instruments by himself and could write down a music's score after once hearing it on the radio. As a youngster she became accustomed to playing alone, had a vivid imagination and loved day dreaming, some of whose aspects she incorporated into her music. She won the 10th CCTV National Young Singers competition and also the 14th Voice of Asia International Pop Competition with a perfect 10 score and is naturally talented with a unique voice covering over three and a half octaves. Her talent drew internationally known producer Guy Sigsworth, who has worked with Madonna, Britney Spears, Bjork, and Imogen Heap, and Chinese music producer He Qi into her music entourage, and the combination seems to be extremely impressive.
I decided to give an overview of the songs on this album but not be too detailed because I encourage you to listen to them to decide what you hear. You can tell Guy Sigworth had his hand in the production of "Drunk," as the heavy emphasis on electro dubstep gives the song a boost but doesn't overpower her vocals. Her voice, which is bursting, colorful and expressive, takes the melodies to an even higher level. My most replayed song from the ep is "Sirens". It incorporates mass orchestral strings, yet has haunting, trance-inducing sound effects and a music box style melody while her voice expands and soars above the instrumentals. "Wolf" is another electro-based song that includes the usage of traditional instruments and wolf howls that modulate in pitch then blend in with her natural singing. This track really shows the impressive command she posesess over her range and tone.  "Longing" reminds me of something I'd hear in a jazz lounge but that doesn't make it any less original. The piano led melody and glitchy beat pairs up nicely with her crooning vocals. "Miss Spider" completely switches gears with a fusion of rock and electro-synth. Here she shows off the widest variation of flexibility and versatility in her voice. I can't help but think she had the most fun recording this song, especially given her playful giggling strategically placed throughout the song that actually sounds more like another clever vocal technique. "Snow Queen" is an amazing soundscape that really was an excellent sonic representation of a frightening snow queen: hypnotic, glacial and beautiful. The places she takes her voice within just one song is amazing as her vocals weave between crazy electronics and jagged riffs.
This album is for people who are interested in a singer whose music transcends many genres while still maintaining her roots, takes on the unexplored, experimental, techno-flavored side of Chinese indie-rock, and has complex vocal arrangements. Yes, she's similar to a certain Icelandic songstress. While I think it can be a great disservice to the artist (and a huge pet peeve of mine) to compare the two since each is special in her own right, SingerSen's voice certainly carries the same vitality, intensity, and strength but is a little more polished. Her music tells you a story worth listening to again and again. Its definitely music you want to lie in bed and dream to. I highly recommend you check her out, regardless of which genre you usually listen to, and enjoy this treat!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Movie Review: Sinister (2012)

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, James Ransone
Directed by: Scott Derrickson
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Rating: R
Run time: 110 minutes
Synopsis from IMDB: A true-crime writer finds a cache of 8mm "snuff" films that suggest the murder he is currently researching is the work of a serial killer whose career dates back to the 1960s.

I was reluctant going in to Sinister due to a common horror movie problem. It's one I'm sure that you've noticed as well. To draw in more horror fans, the trailers are often filled with glimpses of the 'horrifying' elements. Sinister is a film that suffers from that problem. The trailer showed the demon at least six times in two and a half minutes. It's this oversaturation of the intended scares that, in my opinion, detract from the actual horror of the story. There is a way to draw your audience in without revealing so much before they even get into the film.

With that said, Sinister is not your typical horror movie despite it's usage of the usual horror patterns. Think of this one a bit more like The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Like that movie, this one is part horror and part something else. Emily Rose was part courtroom drama where Sinister is part psychological thriller (although a mild version of it). The downfall for this movie is where the line between reality and supernatural is drawn. The effect of blending the two falls flat where in Emily Rose, you could choose to believe she was possessed. All comparisons aside, the two films don't share any of the same attributes aside from genre and a writer/director.

I'm usually not a fan of movies that make use of 'found' footage. I won't go into how bad Paranormal Activity and The Last Exorcism were. Usually, I find that filmmakers use this medium as an excuse for being lazy. They can 'show' things happening in blurry or grainy tones that accent their jump scares without having to do much of anything on their own. You can see prime examples of this in the the two examples above.

However, in the case of this film, the 'found' footage works to their advantage. Each of these instances work because that footage is what drives the main character forward. He's a true crime novelist desperate for a hit after years of mediocre sales. What he uncovers in this footage leads him to believe that he's just found the biggest story of his career. This might be the one that puts him back on top of the bestsellers list. Of course, he has to pursue it no matter how gruesome the footage is. He needs his new novel to be a success.

There were parts of this movie that were genuinely unsettling for me. Most of those actually came from the 'found' footage. They're the type of scenes that you're disturbed by, but you can't quite look away. I wasn't frightened by them. It was just disturbing to see the murders play out in such a way. The addition of the Super 8 film gives it a grainy, often unfocused, first person perspective of every murder. Watching those scenes, you really can't blame the main character from drinking a bit more of his scotch.

There are a few questionable moments that you'll have. Why doesn't he report the films he's found to the police? For this one, you have to remember that he's desperate for a hit. His marriage isn't in the best shape. If he can't pull off a hit, then most likely he's going to lose his wife and children. This is a desperate man who has been drinking heavily from the point he finds those films. It's in this character's performance that you're really drawn in. He does do a lot of stupid things, but those can be easily explained once you factor in the presence of that desperation and alcohol.

He isn't alone in his research of the murders. The research is aided by a local police deputy who happens to be a fan of his novels. While some may have just resorted to googling the murders, our main character goes the logical route and gets help from an actual reliable source. You know, those actually exist in real life. Police databases aren't full of wikipedia entries. This help leads him to a university professor who's consulted for the police department before. The cameo of Vincent D'Onofrio as the occult specializing professor was quite nice. It was even more interesting that it was uncredited.

Sinister isn't without flaws. The jump scares are fairly obvious. The trailer reveals far too much. Once you see the movie, you'll realize what I mean by that. There are, of course, corny and silly moments as every horror suffers from. The strength lies in Ethan Hawke's performance and the Super 8 footage. The weakness for me was actually in the supernatural bits. The demon could have used a bit less exposure. He was far creepier when we didn't see him up close.

On a side note, the use of an actual Super 8 camera and film stock was very refreshing. I'm a big geek for all types of film from 70mm all the way down to 35mm and everything in between. It's not difficult to fake the look of Super 8 film with the technology that's out nowdays. Yet, the real thing still holds a nostalgic, creepy feel in the end. This isn't something you may know unless you've experienced that feel of having it right beneath your fingertips.

It's better not to get me started on talking about that subject though! Back to Sinister, don't go into it expecting to be scared out of your mind. You're not going to find that here. Think of it instead as an unsettling psychological thriller with supernatural elements. When it gets a bit corny, take it with a grain of salt. This movie could be far worse. In fact, I've seen far worse recently. If you liked Exorcism of Emily Rose and Insidious, then you'll enjoy this one.

Rating: 2.5/5

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Quick Music Review

2Yoon – Harvest Moon (2013, South Korea) Rating: 2.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Why Not, Black Swan

I must admit that I was a little hesitant to listen to this duo from 4minute, but let’s see what happens with this little experiment. “24/7” was a little off putting, even when watching the music video. It’s definitely a new approach in kpop by incorporating country elements into a pop sound. After a few listens, it slowly grew on me, but it’s still a little too upbeat and cutesy for me. “악몽” sounds like your typical mid-tempo ballad in kpop. It consists of piano, acoustic guitar, and a typical dramatic pop sound to convey hurt or pleading emotion that female artists use, but it’s still enjoyable. “Why Not” is nothing special, but it’s a little more upbeat with a lot of emphasis on a dramatic electro-pop sounds. It booms out in the introduction and chorus, then quiets down during the verses, but somehow this has become my favorite track on this mini-album. “쎄쎄쎄” slows down to a pseudo-R&B sound with the help of Kikaflo who sounds a bit too relax on this track to me. The lyrics from what I can pick out seem silly. Definitely 4minute level. “Black Swan” tries to be hard with the droning electronics and dubstep parts and a hint of hip-hop pieces that are tied with NassuN, but it’s not. Somehow I tolerate it and enjoy it more than I should. Collectively this mini-album is a mesh-mash of genres, but it’s passable for a first attempt.

Kreayshawn – Somethin ‘Bout Kreay (2012, USA) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: Gucci Gucci, Left Ey3, Twerkin!!!

I know this isn’t anything new, but it took me some time to convince myself to listen to Kreayshawn’s debut album that apparently flopped. “Blasé Blasé” starts us off on a throwback, crazy track of random effects and vocal distortions. It’s very playful and you can really see it in the lyrics. “Ch00k Ch00k Tare” has a minimal sound to it and Kreayshawn gives a stomping delivery with her lyrics which reminds me of a weaker M.I.A. “Gucci Gucci” is the song that started it all. It has a warped sound to it, but the lyrics definitely contend and maybe even conquer the mainstream rappers. “Summertime” features her partner in crime (at the time) V-Nasty. It has a nice throwback, smooth beat to it that makes a good cruising song. The lyrics match the mood of the music with a playful tone. “Left Ey3” is a song I've been waiting to hear in a long time. It’s always nice to have a good revenge song from a female. It has some clever pop culture references and some cold one liners. It goes hard and I wouldn't mess with her after this track. “Like It Or Love It” has a marching band drum feel to it. The delivery is a little off with the lack of music. Not one of her strongest songs. “K234YS0NIXZ” returns to that fun sound that the first track brought. Nothing serious, so take it for what it is. “BFF (Bestfriend)” is probably the weakest track on the album, so don’t feel guilty about skipping out on this upbeat pseudo-pop, auto-tuned song. “Twerkin!!!” is definitely a guilty pleasure track on this album as it is so ridiculous, but you can’t help just getting you “swag” on to this Diplo collaboration in the club, the car, or just in your bedroom. “Breakfast (Syrup)” is not that great of a song, but it’s not that bad compared to some other songs. It has a minimalistic sound to it and kinda copies the same formula of “Gucci Gucci”, although I could’ve lived without 2Chainz’s contribution...or lack there of. “Go Hard (La.La.La)” has this weird auto-tune effect on Kreayshawn’s not so perfect singing vocals. The song’s kinda fun with this reminiscent 8-bit sound, but lyrically is quite weak. “The Ruler” has an awkward sound to it. From the music to the lyrics, it just doesn’t work in this cocky piece. “Luv Haus” ends this album with an 80’s electronic sound and some echo effect on Kreayshawn’s flawed vocals. It sounds a bit lazy, but the chorus is slightly less lazy. This doesn’t fit her style though. This album isn’t perfect, but I still believe she has potential.

HyunA - MELTING (2012, South Korea) Rating: 2/5
Favorite Tracks: 흐트러지지 마

I'm sure you're wondering why I'm reviewing another HyunA mini-album if I don't like her. Well, once again, there's one specific track that led me here. "흐트러지지 마" doesn't have the most promising of introductions with it's military sound, but this song is quite decent for a HyunA song. I kinda like the descending vocals and the music isn't that bad. "Ice Cream" is the promotional track for this mini-album and tied up what was left of the "Gangnam Style" wave in South Korea. At least this song is less nauseating than "Bubble Pop", but HyunA's overplayed girlish singing style and weak lyrics still makes me cringe. "풋사과" is a Taylor Swift acoustic pop leftover featuring a talent from BtoB. It seems like they've been utilized in mediocre 4minute projects lately. This is a fairly safe song and I can hear something like this playing on the radio here in America. "내 남자친구에게" shows a softer side of HyunA's voice which surprisingly isn't that bad. It's pretty generic with its keyboard, acoustic guitar, and musical ascensions accompanied with soft, subtle "ahs". "Very Hot" displays a more electro-hip hop sound than "Ice Cream". HyunA attempts to show off her rap skills, which is really a bored sing-talk sound with a lazy chorus that just repeats the title and breaths in your ear awkwardly.

Miyavi - SAMURAI SESSIONS vol. 1 (2012, Japan) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: STRONG, DAY 1, SILENT ANGER

It's been a while since Miyavi has released anything full length, so this is a nice sample of some collaborative pieces. "GANRYU (vs HIFANA)" starts off with some DJ scratches and a preview of what's to come with Miyavi. It features Miyavi's skillful slap guitar and paired it off with some impressive drumming in a very high pace. It's very simple, but enjoyable in the short amount of time. "STRONG (vs KREVA)" was the first preview of this project. Fortunately, I came at a time when I was really getting into KREVA and he really improves this song greatly compared to the solo version. Sorry, Meevs. The guitar has a nice balance of acoustic and electric. I also didn't mind Miyavi's vocal input either. "DAY 1 (vs. YUSEK)" kinda loops the same guitar riffs that I complained about in a previous post, but it's not a terrible song. Miyavi doesn't overdo it with the vocals too much and the electronic contribution makes this track shine, especially around the chorus. "SILENT ANGER (vs TAKESHI HOSOMI)" was the third promotional pick and hands over the vocal spotlight to Takeshi Hosomi which was a wise choice as I don't think Miyavi's could pull off this emotional track. It's definitely a change of pace to a more emotion filled and experimental, atmospheric sound. This is something that might have to grow on you. "PLEASURE! (vs H ZETT M)" has a chasing sound between Miyavi's guitar and piano. It's an upbeat sound that also strays away from the electronic wave that Miyavi has been into. It reminds me of the "Gigpig Boogie" era in some ways. "HA NA BI (vs HIROMITSU AGATSUMA vs JIN OKI)" retreats back to the slap guitar sound and tambourine, but it has a jungle-esque mood to it. There's not much to it, but it's an alright song. "祈りを (vs SEIJI KAMEDA vs MIU SAKAMOTO)" slows the mini down with a deep electric guitar and highlights Miyavi's strengths more than any of the other tracks, while allowing the guest vocalists to sing over Miyavi's work.

Epik High - 99 (2012, South Korea) Rating: 2.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Up, DON'T HATE ME, 춥다

I was very weary about this release, since Epik High was moving to YG Entertainment. I love Epik High and YGE is a decent label. I think I like them the most out of the Big 3, but they have their flaws too. "Up" was chosen as the second promotional track for this mini-album. Unfortunately, it features 2NE1's overpowering vocalist Bom which kinda ruins the song. Someone turn the damn volume down on her! The song has a video game feel to the music and it's a simple little fun tune. Nothing extraordinary. "DON'T HATE ME" was the first promotional track. It features acoustic guitar and yet another playful tune. I like the message a lot, but the vocal presentation seemed very toned down for the mainstream acceptance. "사랑한다면 해선 안될 말" has this slight break beat sound straight from the 80's. It's another safe vocal track for the radio. Very casual cruising music. "춥다" is probably technically the first promotional track, but it didn't have a video to it. It features guest vocals from new YGE talent Lee Hi. It's a really sober, mellow song and shows off Tablo and Mithra's strengths more than the previous tracks. This is the Epik High that I know. "아까워" takes it old school sound with beat boxing and freestyle flow between the rappers. It feels more natural and leans toward what they normally would be doing when they're not catering to mainstream air play. "악당" brings in the lounge music with a hint of Bond-esque chase scene sounds. It's another fun tune, but different from the previous fun tunes. I can sway along with this one a little more easily. "KILL THIS LOVE" brings in the dubstep and slightly poor dramatics with a repetitive chorus. The verses delivery is the most interesting part of this track than anything else. "NEW BEAUTIFUL" recycles this pseudo-piano sound and layers on the electro-pop to close off this debut mini. It feels like this should've been used for Big Bang and not Epik High, although they pull this track off decently.

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