Posted in Music, Sunday Songs

Sunday Songs: 1/8/23

Happy Sunday, bibliophiles!

I probably should’ve said something before tweaking my blogging schedule without warning, but I’ve decided to do a little something new instead of my weekly updates. I figured that I ended up saying most of the stuff I said in my weekly updates in my monthly wrap-ups, so this seemed like a more fun and creative use of my time.

Since last summer, I’ve been making graphics of songs that I’d been listening to during the week and shared them every Sunday, inspired by my brother. I’ve wanted to write about music more on this blog for a while, so I figured that I’d move my Sunday Songs to this blog as well to get the chance. As I said, these will probably replace my weekly updates, but you’ll be able to see everything that I’ve been reading in my wrap-ups at the end of each month. I know I’m going to enjoy writing about music more, and I hope you all enjoy the results!

the background format for this & all further Sunday Songs comes from a close up picture I took of the massive section of David Bowie CDs at Amoeba Records in San Francisco!

SUNDAY SONGS: 1/8/23

Gorillaz – “Left Hand Suzuki Method”

I can’t say anything about the whole album, but you know a band has endless talent when even the B-Sides (or G-Sides, in this case) sound just as good—if not better—than the original album material. I’ve been a huge fan of Gorillaz for years, but I didn’t hear about this one until it showed up in my YouTube recommendations out of the blue. And of all the things I expected to get from a Gorillaz song, Suzuki flashbacks was not one of them. I feel like I got whiplash the second I heard the sample of “Long Long Ago”, and suddenly, I was experiencing every piano lesson that I had from ages 5-7 (or something) as well as every recital that I ever attended at my old music school all at once. Whew.

But the way Damon Albarn utilizes this sample in “Left Hand Suzuki Method” is a testament to his creativity as a musician; building off a creaky sample that’s meant to teach kids how to play music, he creates a collage of funky keyboards and thick, punchy guitar intervals that transform a simple song into a collage of instantly catchy sound. Genius. Again, how was this a B-Side? (Sorry, G-Side…)

David Bowie – “All the Madmen”

I forgot up until a few days ago that this Sunday also happens to be what would have been David Bowie’s 76th birthday, so I’m glad I’m writing about him today. Happy birthday, sir. ⚡️

This one’s a bit lesser known than most of his (extensive) catalogue, but it’s crept up to become one of my favorite, underrated songs of his. Taken from The Man Who Sold the World, it’s loosely based on his schizophrenic half-brother, who was in and out of the institutions that the song fictionalizes. As you’d imagine, it’s appropriately chilling in that sense, but it has a lighter, almost nursery rhyme feel to certain parts of it—flutes and light drums that almost sound tinkling—before launching into epic, sweeping electric guitars that have come to define much of his early 70’s material. It all culminates into one of the most simultaneously creepy and catchy outros that I can think of in any song—as the guitars blend into synths as the song closes, Bowie begins a clapping chant of “Zane, zane, zane/ouvre le chien” (open the dog), a line which he later confirmed to be nonsense, seemingly the final nail in the protagonist’s loss of sanity. “All the Madmen” makes me appreciate Bowie so much more a songwriter—with his combination of sharp lyricism and musical craft, every song is a story.

Missy Elliott – “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”

At last…I finally know what my mom was referencing every time she said “Beep beep!/Who got the keys to the Jeep?”…

And my mom is also the reason why I found this song, after I told her about how I rediscovered “Get Ur Freak On”, and I’ve been listening to it nonstop ever since. Hip-hop isn’t usually my go-to, but even from the two songs I know her from, Missy Elliott is masterful at making a song so smooth and seamless that you miss the samples within—I just found out that the main structure of the song was sampled from Ann Peebles’ “I Can’t Stand the Rain.” Like “Left Hand Suzuki Method,” “The Rain” creates a collage of smooth, instantly catchy sound out of a single, looped sample, creating a wider soundscape that keeps my head nodding through all 4+ minutes of the song. This phrase is definitely going to come up constantly in these posts, but…yeah, I need to listen to more Missy Elliott. So good.

Fontaines D.C. – “I Love You”

I know shamefully little about this band—before hearing this one on a friend’s Instagram story, the extent of my knowledge of Fontaines D.C. came from their glowing Pitchfork reviews (I think this album that this song is from came out on the same day as Everything Was Beautiful and got best new music instead of it? Come on, Spiritualized deserved it…I digress…why am I so fixated on these things?) and some guy’s hoodie that I saw in passing at the Smile show (“oh, the album with the elk on it?” – my internal monologue). I’m liking this song enough to explore more, though; through my first and only exposure so far, I love how “I Love You” slowly builds tension and breaks it just as quickly. With the faint bass and twinkling guitar notes in the quite first few minutes, the drums build to a slow, tight crescendo as the vocals intensify and then return to the peaceful, strangely sinister place where the song came from just as quickly, fading to nothing but a few strained strums in the very end.

So thanks, anonymous friend, for the new song and possibly new band to listen to! Maybe another album to add to my hydra-like list of albums that I have yet to listen to?

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Despair (Acoustic Version)”

Going back to a mainstay favorite of mine for several years, here’s a beautifully uplifting song to take us into the rest of the new year. I know, look at the title, but stay with me: the song is more about overcoming despair than the despair itself, don’t worry. We’ll save my sadgirl songs for later. Although the original makes the uplifting message all the more prominent (because how else would Karen O. dancing on top of the Empire State Building in a rhinestone-studded jacket make you feel? Really?), there’s a certain intimacy that I glean from the acoustic version; whereas the original is a rallying cry for optimism and hope in spite of the darkness that life brings, this feels like a gentle comfort, a reassuring word whispered as you’re tucked into bed, promising that the monsters under your bed won’t hurt you after all. “Through the darkness and the light/Some sun has gotta rise.” Leave it to Karen O. and company to keep the light going in these uncertain times.

Oh, and I just realized that the original is almost 10 years old now, OW…

Since this post consists of all songs, consider all of them to be today’s song.

I hope you all enjoyed my first time doing Sunday Songs! I love writing about music almost as much as I like writing about books, so hopefully you can enjoy it too. I look forward to writing more about music in the future outside of just album reviews (although I’m VERY excited to review Cracker Island when the day comes). Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

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Posted in Monthly Wrap-Ups

April 2022 Wrap-Up 🎫

Happy Saturday, bibliophiles!

I keep saying things along the lines of “this week has been low-key…” in my updates and in my journal, fully knowing that it’s the calm before the storm (read: AP tests), but it’s been good to enjoy the calm nonetheless. And if I could get through three AP tests last year, then I can do it this year too. At least they’re all in one week again this time.

GENERAL THOUGHTS:

Looking back, April was somewhat busy, but it never quite felt that way. Going to three concerts in a month was certainly a plus, however tired I got the day after the second two. I have less than a month left of high school (!!!!) and it certainly feels like things are slowing down…it’s all coming into perspective…

April’s been a great reading month as well! Aside from one DNF at the beginning of the month, I haven’t read anything below two stars. I found some great books in the bunch too, both from new-to-me authors and from tried-and-true authors! A good batch, I think.

Things have been slowing down as far as writing goes; since I shared my WIP, I’ve been in a sort of limbo where I’m not sure what to write next. For now, I’m outlining for said WIP’s sequel, but it’s been…rocky. I forgot how frustrating the beginning stages of outlining can be sometimes. Figuring out the playlist has been fun, though…Other than that, I’ve just been drawing, learning a few new songs on guitar, finishing Raised by Wolves (w h a t) and Severance (season 2 can’t come soon enough), watching Spirited Away, listening to an excess of Wet Leg, Spiritualized, and Jack White, and seeing Spiritualized, Snail Mail, and Ben Folds live. (All three were lots of fun, but Spiritualized was hands down my favorite!!)

READING AND BLOGGING:

I read 18 books this month! I can chalk that one up to several lengthy books that took me longer than usual to read, but that’s okay. Still on track for my goodreads goal of 200—78 books as of now!

1 – 1.75 stars:

Witches Steeped in Gold

2 – 2.75 stars:

The Conductors

3 – 3.75 stars:

One for All

4 – 4.75 stars:

The Weight of Our Sky

FAVORITE BOOK OF THE MONTH: Extasia4.5 stars

SOME POSTS I’M PROUD OF:

POSTS FROM OTHER WONDERFUL PEOPLE THAT I ENJOYED:

SONGS/ALBUMS THAT I ENJOYED:

now THAT is an impressive high note
this was so beautiful live 😭
in which my dad and I try to catalogue all of the songs that they played at the Spiritualized soundcheck
such a fun album!
also a very fun album!!
every day I get more and more excited about the new Soccer Mommy album
such a haunting ending to a beautiful album
this was so much fun live!! the whole concert was so fun and interactive

DID I FOLLOW THROUGH ON MY APRIL GOALS?

  • Read at least 20 books: 18, but it’s all good.
  • Try not to spontaneously combust at the Spiritualized concert if/when they play “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space”: …well, no “Ladies And Gentlemen,” but nonetheless, I spontaneously combusted. Hands down, one of my favorite concerts I’ve ever been to. Thanks again, J Spaceman!

GOALS FOR MAY:

  • Get through the AP tests
  • Finish high school strong! (aAAA STILL CAN’T BELIEVE I’M GRADUATING—)

Today’s song:

That’s it for this month in blogging! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Weekly Updates

Weekly Update: April 18-24, 2022

Happy Sunday, bibliophiles!

It’s been another fairly low-key week on my end; we had the day off on Friday, so I’m getting way too used to shorter school weeks. After last week, I’ve been on a streak of great books! So many unique books in particular—I can’t decide which one I’ll review next week! I’m nearly finished with the whole Heartstopper series too—I’ve got vol. 4 ready on my Kindle, along with my other library books!

Writing-wise, I’ve been attempting to outline for book 2 of my sci-fi WIP, and…it’s been…it’s going? It’s going. I have a clear picture of the beginning and the ending, but the middle is still hazy, so I’m trying to figure out what goes in between. Making playlists always helps get my sense of direction going, and it’s certainly helping now, at least.

Other than that, I’ve been listening to the new Spiritualized (AAAAAH), drawing a little, and playing some guitar. I also saw Snail Mail for a third time on Sunday night (great!) and Ben Folds with the Colorado Symphony last night (amazing!!), so there’s been a lot of concerts this month!! I’m tired now, but it was worth it.

WHAT I READ THIS WEEK:

Mexican Gothic – Silvia Moreno-Garcia (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Heartstopper, vol. 3 – Alice Oseman (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

The Library at Mount Char – Scott Hawkins (⭐️⭐️⭐️.75, rounded up to ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Extasia – Claire Legrand (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5)

The Chandler Legacies – Abdi Nazemian (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

POSTS AND SUCH:

SONGS:

CURRENTLY READING/TO READ NEXT WEEK:

Heartstopper, vol. 4 – Alice Oseman

One for All – Lillie Lainoff

Warrior of the Wild – Tricia Levenseller

The Weight of Our Sky – Hanna Alkaf

Today’s song:

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

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!