Posted in Music

Everything Was Beautiful – Spiritualized album review

Happy Saturday, bibliophiles, and happy world book day as well!! You’d think I’d have a book-related post today, but…nope. No thoughts, only Spiritualized for the next 3-5 business weeks.

Normally, I wait for a few days to a week after an album’s release to review it, but…well, between my listening to it yesterday and my dad playing it the whole way through in the car yesterday evening, I’ve probably listened to it three or four times in its entirety already, so…

Spiritualized has been one of my favorite bands for around two years—even longer, if you count when I first heard “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space” for the first time and listened to it on repeat to fall asleep on vacation. Their music, if I had to describe it in one word, is all-consuming; J Spaceman has built a stunning career out of making a song into a vast cosmos of sound, making themes of heartbreak, addiction, and new love into the dictionary definition of larger-than-life. That’s what I’ve always loved about his music—his songs never feel like just songs, but experiences.

By the time I’d really gotten into Spiritualized, I’d accepted that I wouldn’t be able to see him live or experience a new album of his; he’d said in several interviews that And Nothing Hurt would likely be his last album. But in late 2021, we were gifted with the best kind of surprise: we would be getting more Spiritualized after all!! Now that it’s here, I can say with certainty that there isn’t a single bad song on this album. It’s probably impossible to re-achieve the genius of Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space or Sweet Heart Sweet Light, but Everything Was Beautiful comes very close, even at just seven songs.

Enjoy this album review!

EVERYTHING WAS BEAUTIFUL – SPIRITUALIZED ALBUM REVIEW

TRACK 1: “Always Together With You” – 10/10

This was the first single to come out of this album, and it singlehandedly provided all of the serotonin that I needed to get through the rest of 2021, so there’s that.

It’s not hard for me to say that this is easily one of Spiritualized’s best songs. Expansive and cosmic, I feel as though I’ve been lifted into the air and through the clouds every time I listen to it. I was texting my family about it when it first came out, and I jokingly called it “‘Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space’ but happy,” and as much of a joke it was, it feels true; “Always Together With You” feels like a more matured, more hopeful version of its predecessor, down to the morse code sounds and J Spaceman’s daughter (😭) saying the album’s title at the very beginning. Absolute masterpiece.

TRACK 2: “Best Thing You Never Had (The D Song)” – 8.5/10

Smoothly transitioning from “Always Together With You,” “Best Thing You Never Had” keeps up the momentum set up by the first track with classic Spiritualized elements—catchy guitars, a backing choir, and what sounds like a good-sized brass section. Just as spacey as ever, it’s the perfect song for rolling the windows down in your car, and it’s sure to cement this album as one of Spiritualized’s best.

TRACK 3: “Let It Bleed (For Iggy)” – 9.5/10

When I saw Spiritualized back at the beginning of the month, this was one of my favorites of the new songs they played. Now that I’m hearing it through my headphones, it’s one of my favorites off the album! Here’s where the momentum sustained by “Best Thing You Never Had” picks up once more, with another sweeping, all-consuming thing of pure beauty.

TRACK 4: “Crazy” (cover of Nikki Lane’s “Out of My Mind”) – 8.5/10

(so apparently this is a cover?? took me a while to find out…I guess because the original has a different title)

“Crazy” is one of my least favorites on the album, but it’s beautiful nonetheless. Even as a cover (I’ve only listened to the original once, so…), it’s indicative of the quiet, genuine tenderness that J Spaceman is capable of amidst all of the heartbreak and darkness that’s prevalent in so many of his other songs. Lovely.

TRACK 5: “The Mainline Song” – 9.5/10

This is another Spiritualized piece that seems more like a journey than a song—all of the train sounds layered in only adds to that effect. With J Spaceman’s airy vocals and rushing instrumentals, it’s another song that seems to physically carry you somewhere else, watching the clouds rushing by. It doesn’t even matter that it’s chiefly instrumental—it’s an unmistakable highlight of the album.

TRACK 6: “The A Song (Laid In Your Arms)” – 9.5/10

Like “Best Thing You Never Had,” “The A Song” is a persistent, powerful march reminiscent of Spiritualized’s harder side. For Spiritualized, longer songs are a common sight, but at over seven minutes long, this song never loses its impact or momentum, delivering guitars and brass that crash against you like waves on the shore. Nothing short of a masterpiece—and another song that was phenomenal live!

TRACK 7: “I’m Coming Home Again” – 10/10

For a lot of Spiritualized albums, the final song is either a sweeping ballad or a mournful, soft ending. “I’m Coming Home Again” is neither of those—and it’s almost more powerful than some examples of both. It’s the longest song on the album at almost 10 minutes long, and like “The A Song,” never loses its momentum all that time. But unlike the former, it achieves its affect more in its consistent feeling of foreboding. It’s a haunting song—I have an oddly specific feeling that it would mesh perfectly in the second-to-last episode of a TV show, in a scene where the main character gets their revenge, walking away from lighting something on fire. From the first notes to the final strains of the choir, “I’m Coming Home Again” is a looming masterpiece, and an unexpected but perfect ending to a near-flawless album.

I averaged out all my ratings for each track, and it came to about a 9.4! Absolutely accurate to how I feel about Everything Was Beautiful—it’s hard to touch some of Spiritualized’s other albums, but this album establishes itself as one of J Spaceman’s masterpieces. It’s the perfect melding of the sound of 90’s Spiritualized with the hope of 10’s Spiritualized, and it makes for an album with a lasting, haunting, and eternally memorable effect. Thank you, J Spaceman, for another religious experience. 💗

“Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

Since this is an album review, consider the entire album today’s song.

That’s it for this album review! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (1/11/22) – The Kindred

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Ever since I read The Sound of Stars back in 2020, I’ve been eagerly anticipating Alechia Dow’s next book. I preordered The Kindred last year knowing that I’d love it, and although I didn’t enjoy it as much as The Sound of Stars, it was a wonderfully sweet and rollicking novel.

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Kindred by Alechia Dow

The Kindred – Alechia Dow

my copy ft. some more purplish sci-fi books & a cool filter

After a violent, class-based revolution ravaged the Monchuri system, the Kindred program is introduced to quell the chaos; in order to ensure equal representation within the kingdom, mind pairings between citizens from all over the system.

Felix and Joy are paired by the Kindred, but their backgrounds couldn’t be more different; Felix is the Duke of the Monchuri system, while Joy is a commoner in the poorest planet in the system. But when the rest of the royal family is assassinated and Felix is put under suspicion, they escape together—only to crash-land on Earth. With the galaxy hunting for them and targets on their backs on Earth, the two must find a way to return home and prove Felix’s innocence.

Download this awesome wallpaper - Wallpaper Cave

TW/CW: violence, racism, fatphobia/bodyshaming, murder, kidnapping

The Kindred wasn’t quite as potent as The Sound of Stars was for me, but in no way does that mean that I didn’t enjoy it. In fact, it’s solid proof that if I see Alechia Dow’s name on a book, I’ll probably read it.

Despite the trigger warnings I listed, The Kindred is fairly light-hearted; even with all of these topics discussed (all with aplomb), it still manages to be a feel-good, tender read throughout. The themes of racism and fatphobia (mostly with regards to Joy) are handled in a sensitive way that doesn’t dull their importance, but the book is consistently light-hearted and warm. It hits the perfect balance of not diminishing these themes and keeping levity within the book, and it’s the perfect book if you want sci-fi that will cheer you up!

Everything I loved about The Sound of Stars was in The Kindred in spades! Felix and Joy were such endearing characters, and their chemistry together was perfect. They had conflicting personalities on the surface level (with Felix being the more reckless one and Joy being more sensible and reserved), but as they bonded, their relationship became the textbook example of “opposites attract” done well! Plus, it’s always wonderful to have queer couples like them front and center. Joy is demisexual/asexual, and I believe Felix is pansexual or queer? (Felix’s sexuality wasn’t specified, but it’s mentioned that he’s been in romantic relationships regardless of gender so I’ll say queer for now.) Alechia Dow never fails to give us the diverse stories we need.

As far as the plot goes, I wasn’t invested in it as much as I was the characters. Most of it was a bit predictable—not much subtext, surface-level political intrigue, a neat and tidy end to the conflict, and all that. But I didn’t mind this time; the focus was supposed to be on Felix and Joy’s romance, after all. The Earth part of the story was funny most of the time; I didn’t get as many of the music references this time, unlike with The Sound of Stars (definitely not a Swiftie here haha), but the fact that there’s a black cat named Chadwick sold me. BEYOND CUTE.

My other main problem with The Kindred was the aliens themselves. It’s one of my main pet peeves in sci-fi in general: aliens that look like humans, but with a few very minor differences. Although there were some side aliens that were described as non-human, Joy and Felix and their species were just…humans with better technology? Eh…I will say though, at least they’re not white this time. In particular, Joy is plus-size and Black-coded, which was a vast improvement from the white-coded aliens that usually end up in the aforementioned trope. I’m willing to let it slide this time (sort of) because a) Alechia Dow is a great writer and b) diversity.

All in all, a romantic, diverse, and all-around feel-good sci-fi from an author that I’ll be sure to watch in the future. 4 stars!

Thor 3 Ragnarok : Le film de tous les changements pour Thor ? | melty
The Kindred summed up in a single gif

The Kindred is a standalone, but it is set in the same universe as The Sound of Stars, Alechia Dow’s debut novel. You don’t have to read one to understand the other, but there are nods to The Sound of Stars throughout The Kindred. Alechia Dow is also the author of the forthcoming Sweet Stakes (expected to be released in 2023), and contributed to the anthology Out There: Into the Queer New Yonder.

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (9/1/20)–On a Sunbeam

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles! I can’t believe it’s already September! All the better, the sooner we get 2020 over with, the better…

But to take your mind off of everything, here’s a review of my most recent 5-star read! I had piled most of Tillie Walden’s graphic novels on my TBR a year or two ago, but after a family friend mentioned Are You Listening?, I looked for everything on my library. On a Sunbeam was available, and I jumped at the chance to check it out. Though I had high expectations, I didn’t expect for it to be such an emotional and atmospheric graphic novel.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: On a Sunbeam (9781250178138): Walden, Tillie: Books

On a Sunbeam–Tillie Walden

My library copy ft. Abe Sapien and a crystal, because I NEEDED to make all that lovely teal pop

Mia has her reasons for joining the crew of the Sunbeam. It’s an easy job–hopping through the galaxy and restoring structures of all kinds to their original glory. But Mia isn’t here for the money–not completely, anyway.

Her main objective? Find Grace, her long-lost love who she was separated from five years ago. When a job lands Mia and the rest of the crew on Grace’s secretive homeworld, she jumps at the chance to reunite with her girlfriend. But will the rest of the crew be willing to go to such lengths?

Tillie Walden on | Aesthetic art, Art drawings, Cool art
Art by Tillie Walden

On a Sunbeam is the comic equivalent of a Radiohead song; hauntingly beautiful and atmospheric, with a story that will never truly leave your mind. It is “Motion Picture Soundtrack,” it is “Sail to the Moon,” it is “Videotape,” and it is very nearly everything I could ever want in a graphic novel.

I’m not normally a fan of more simplistic art styles like Walden’s, but she makes it work in all the best ways. The character’s facial features are simple, but are able to show such a wide range of expression. There’s so much detail and care put into the backgrounds and settings, with carefully picked color schemes that make for an immersive, lived-in sci-fi world. I kid you not, both the desktop wallpaper of my laptop and the home screen of my phone are both panels from On a Sunbeam now. That’s how much I loved it.

The design of the vast reaches of Walden’s universe is beautifully atmospheric, a sci-fi with a fantastical twist. Each planet that the crew visits is so unique, and I ADORE the design of all of the ships–all inspired by fish! What’s not to love?

On a Sunbeam is a Beautiful Love Story in Space | A Place to Hang Your Cape
WHERE. CAN. I. BUY. ONE.

Beyond the beautiful artwork, On a Sunbeam boasts a tender romance that spans across the stars. It alternates between the past and present fluidly without any confusion, and through both, you come to love the whole cast of characters. And speaking of that cast–there is diversity aplenty here! In the group of main characters, there is not one but two multiracial wlw relationships (including Mia and Grace). Most of the Sunbeam crew is POC (Black, Latinx, etc.), and there’s also a nonbinary character who plays a crucial role. There’s also several background wlw relationships and…not a single man in sight? I simultaneously love that but also recognize that it raises a few questions. Walden makes her cast effortlessly diverse, making On a Sunbeam a tale for the ages.

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…FOUND FAMILY VIBES! The chemistry between Mia and the rest of the crew is impeccable, and I can’t help but adore every single character we come across. Grace was wonderful as well. They were all so distinct, and I managed to love every single one of them.

All in all, On a Sunbeam is a graphic novel that hits all the right spots, whether it be in the worldbuilding, the art, or the characters. Seriously, if you haven’t already read it, you are missing out. 5 stars!

Orson Krennic Star Wars GIF - OrsonKrennic StarWars ItsBeautiful - Discover  & Share GIFs

On a Sunbeam is a standalone, but Tillie Walden has several other graphic novels out, including Are You Listening?, I Love This Part, The End of Summer, A City Inside, and her graphic memoir, Spinning.

Today’s song:

Also, because this was in a meme that brought immeasureable joy to this grim year…

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!