Posted in Books, Down the TBR Hole

Down the TBR Hole 5–The Empire Strikes Back

Happy Wednesday (my dudes), bibliophiles!

Thus continues my ongoing “spring” (it’s really just year-round, who am I kidding?)…

Now that I’m scouring the online library for books to read, I’ve been digging further into my TBR to find books to read, and with that, lots more books that I need to remove from the list or that I’ve forgotten about. Here we go again…

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The Rules

  • 1. Go to your Goodreads To-Read shelf
  •  2. Order on ascending date added.
  •  3. Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books.
  •  4. Read the synopsis of the books.
  •  5. Time to Decide: keep it or should it go

 

1. Blanca & Roja, Anna-Marie McLemore 

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Blurb from Goodreads: 

The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know.

The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan.

But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts.

 

It’s Anna-Marie McLemore. Of course I’m going to keep this one!

VERDICT: KEEP

 

2. Finding Yvonne, Brandy Colbert

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Blurb from Goodreads: 

Since she was seven years old, Yvonne has had her trusted violin to keep her company, especially in those lonely days after her mother walked out on their family. But with graduation just around the corner, she is forced to face the hard truth that she just might not be good enough to attend a conservatory after high school.

Full of doubt about her future, and increasingly frustrated by her strained relationship with her successful but emotionally closed-off father, Yvonne meets a street musician and fellow violinist who understands her struggle. He’s mysterious, charming, and different from Warren, the familiar and reliable boy who has her heart. But when Yvonne becomes unexpectedly pregnant, she has to make the most difficult decision yet about her future.

This one sounds like it tackles a lot of important issues, as well as weaving a complex story. Still in 🙂

VERDICT: KEEP

 

3. The Mind’s Eye (SYNSK, #1), K.C. Finn

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Blurb from Goodreads:

A girl with a telepathic gift finds a boy clinging to his last hope during the war-torn climate of Europe, 1940.

At fifteen, Kit Cavendish is one the oldest evacuees to escape London at the start of the Second World War due to a long term illness that sees her stuck in a wheelchair most of the time. But Kit has an extraordinary psychic power: she can put herself into the minds of others, see through their eyes, feel their emotions, even talk to them – though she dares not speak out for fear of her secret ability being exposed.

As Kit settles into her new life in the North Wales village of Bryn Eira Bach, solitude and curiosity encourage her to gain better control of her gift. Until one day her search for information on the developing war leads her to the mind of Henri, a seventeen-year-old Norwegian boy witnessing the German occupation of his beloved city, Oslo. As Henri discovers more about the English girl occupying his mind, the psychic and emotional bonds between them strengthen and Kit guides him through an oppressive and dangerous time.

There are secrets to be uncovered, both at home and abroad, and it’s up to Kit and Henri to come together and fight their own battles in the depths of the world’s greatest war.

Oooh, this one looks fascinating! Jean Grey, anyone?

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VERDICT: KEEP

 

4. The Life and Death Parade, Eliza Wass

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Blurb from Goodreads:

One year ago, Kitty’s boyfriend Nikki Bramley visited a psychic who told him he had no future. Now, he’s dead.

With the Bramley family grieving in separate corners of their home, Kitty sets out to find the psychic who read Nikki his fate. Instead she finds Roan, an enigmatic boy posing as a medium who belongs to the Life and Death Parade–a group of supposed charlatans that explore, and exploit, the thin veil between this world and the next. A group whose members include the psychic… and Kitty’s late mother.

Desperate to learn more about the group and their connection to Nikki, Kitty convinces Roan to return to the Bramley house with her and secures a position for him within the household. Roan quickly ingratiates himself with the Bramleys, and soon enough it seems like everyone is ready to move on. Kitty, however, increasingly suspects Roan knows more about Nikki than he’s letting on. And when they finally locate the Life and Death Parade, and the psychic who made that fateful prophecy to Nikki, Kitty uncovers a secret about Roan that changes everything.

Eh…this one doesn’t look very original…

VERDICT: LET GO

 

5. Because of You, Pip Harry 

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Blurb from Goodreads: 

Tiny is homeless. Nola has everything she could ask for. They meet when Nola is forced into volunteer work for the writers’ group at the homeless shelter where Tiny is staying, and at first it seems impossible that two people who are so different could ever be friends. But despite her initial prejudice, Nola quickly learns that there isn’t much separating her from the people who live on the streets. And Tiny begins to see that falling down doesn’t mean you never get back up. Because of You is a story about homelessness, prejudice and the power of words to provide a little hope.

This one looks rough, but it still sounds wonderful.

VERDICT: KEEP

 

6. Ingo, Helen Dunmore

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Blurb from Goodreads: 

I wish I was away in Ingo, Far across the sea, Sailing over the deepest waters, Where love nor care can trouble me…

Sapphire’s father mysteriously vanishes into the waves off the Cornwall coast where her family has always lived. She misses him terribly, and she longs to hear his spellbinding tales about the Mer, who live in the underwater kingdom of Ingo. Perhaps that is why she imagines herself being pulled like a magnet toward the sea. But when her brother, Conor, starts disappearing for hours on end, Sapphy starts to believe she might not be the only one who hears the call of the ocean.

I’m all for mermaids, but there really doesn’t seem to be much plot here…at all…

VERDICT: LET GO

 

7. Drum Roll, Please, Lisa Jenn Bigelow

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Blurb from Goodreads: 

Find the confidence to rock out to your own beat.

Melly only joined the school band because her best friend, Olivia, begged her to. But to her surprise, quiet Melly loves playing the drums. It’s the only time she doesn’t feel like a mouse.

Now, she and Olivia are about to spend the next two weeks at Camp Rockaway, jamming under the stars in the Michigan woods.

But this summer brings big changes for Melly: her parents split up, her best friend ditches her, and Melly finds herself falling for a girl at camp named Adeline. To top it off, Melly’s not sure she has what it takes to be a real rock ‘n’ roll drummer. Will she be able to make music from all the noise in her heart?

Aah, this sounds so cute! And it’s shelved as LGBTQ+…YES!

VERDICT: KEEP

 

8. The Rising Storm (Paradigm Trilogy, #1), Ceri A. Lowe

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Blurb from Goodreads: 

What if the end of the world was just the beginning?

15-year-old Alice Davenport was a loner and an outcast before the Storms swept away everything she knew. Saved from the ravaged remains of London by the mysterious and all-powerful Paradigm Industries, her fierce independence and unique skills soon gain her recognition from the highest levels of command. But their plans to rebuild civilisation from scratch mean destroying all remnants of the past – no matter what, or who, gets left behind.

Alice must decide if she will fight for the old world, or the new…

Decades later, 15-year-old Carter Warren is woken from the Catacombs after years of cryonic sleep. He’s determined to do whatever it takes to climb the ranks to Controller General – until he realises the Industry’s control methods have become harsher than ever. The Barricades make sure nothing from the Deadlands can get in to the Community – and no one can get out. And a shocking discovery about his own family causes Carter to question everything he’s ever known…

As Alice becomes entangled in the Industry’s plan for the future, and Carter delves into the secrets of his past, they must make sacrifices which threaten to tear them apart. And both of them are forced to confront an impossible question…

Would you dare to risk it all for the perfect world?

…aaaaaaaand it’s another cliche-ridden dystopia. Oops.

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VERDICT: LET GO

 

9. Scales of Empire, Kylie Chan

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Blurb from Goodreads: 

An exciting new adventure filled with diverse characters, strong heroes and heroines and wild creatures from the bestselling author of White Tiger.

Corporal Jian Choumaliis on the mission of a lifetime – security officer on one of Earth’s huge generation ships, fleeing Earth’s failing ecosystem to colonise a distant planet.

The ship encounters a technologically and culturally advanced alien empire, led by a royal family of dragons. The empire’s dragon emissary offers her aid to the people of Earth, bringing greater health, longer life, and faster-than-light travel to nearby stars.

But what price will the people of Earth have to pay for the generous alien assistance?

Okay, listen. I love space. I love dragons. But I’m not sure if I’m on board with dragons in space.

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VERDICT: LET GO

 

10. Lotus and Thorn, Sara Wilson Etienne

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Ravaged by a plague known as Red Death, the planet Gabriel, a former colony of Earth, is a barren wasteland. Since being abandoned by Earth 500 years ago, resources are scarce and life is cheap. To stay alive, the survivors, the Citizens, scavenge the remains of a now dead city, trading for food with the resource-rich Curadores, the only other survivors on Gabriel. Every old computer, every piece of wire, every scrap of metal counts. To steal is the ultimate sin. So when tough-as-nails seventeen-year-old Leica is caught doing just that, she’s exiled and left to the mercy of Gabriel’s unforgiving desert for the rest of her life.

While in exile, Leica discovers a mysterious shuttle, which may not only lead her home, but even more impossible—reestablish contact with Earth. Then Red Death rears its head again, killing her entire work crew, leaving Leica all alone until a handsome Curador offers her refuge in the Dome—the only place on Gabriel untouched by Red Death, where a decadent and sultry life awaits. But there’s a catch: Leica can only enter the Dome as his concubine—his Kisaeng. When a rogue group of Citizens see their chance for revolution in Leica’s good fortune, she finds herself unraveling a deadly mystery with chilling answers to the true origin of Red Death and the reason Earth really abandoned them so long ago.

THERE IS NO ESCAPE FROM THE DYSTOPIA RIPOFFS…

VERDICT: LET GO

 

RESULTS:

KEPT: 5

LET GO: 5

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Another successful cleaning, and another 50-50 split! Glad I cleaned out some dystopian cliches from my TBR, and I discovered some that I’ll have to read soon!

Today’s song:

I discovered Oppenheimer Analysis via a Snail Mail interview, and I liked most of this album!

 

That just about wraps up this post! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

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Posted in Books, Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday (2/3/20)–The Girl Who Could See

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Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme created by Lauren’s Page Turners. All you have to do to participate is pick a book from your Goodreads TBR, and explain why you want to read it.

I haven’t been giving much love to the middle reaches of my TBR, so I figured that it would be good to delve a bit deeper into that area. Luckily I managed to find this gem hidden there…

 

GOODREADS MONDAY (2/3/20)–THE GIRL WHO COULD SEE by Kara Swanson

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Blurb from Goodreads: 

All her life Fern has been told she is blind to reality—but what if she is the only one who can truly see?

Fern Johnson is crazy. At least, that’s what the doctors have claimed since her childhood. Now nineteen, and one step away from a psych ward, Fern struggles to survive in bustling Los Angeles. Desperate to appear “normal,” she represses the young man flickering at the edge of her awareness—a blond warrior only she can see.

Tristan was Fern’s childhood imaginary hero, saving her from monsters under her bed and outside her walls. As she grew up and his secret world continued to bleed into hers, however, it only caused catastrophe. But, when the city is rocked by the unexplainable, Fern is forced to consider the possibility that this young man isn’t a hallucination after all—and that the creature who decimated his world may be coming for hers.

 

So why do I want to read this?

Ooh…I’m definitely getting some Legion vibes from this one. Always a good sign…but definitely not for the protagonist.

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(Great show, if you haven’t watched it. All three seasons are on FX.) By that, I mostly just mean the concept of a character who believes that they’re crazy, but actually and/or also have special powers. That, and a few “imaginary friends” peppered in. Judging from this synopsis (and the GORGEOUS cover), I’m on board. 😈

Today’s song:

That just about wraps up this week’s Goodreads Monday! Have a great rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

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Posted in Music

My Favorite Songs of 2019 (So Far)

I promised a whiiiiile ago that I’d post some non-BRT content, and here you are! I’ve been putting this one off for an embarrassing amount of time, but what matters is that it’s here now, okay? 😉

 

Anyway, it seems like 2019 has been a really good year for music! Whether it’s newer artists perfecting their craft, or established ones polishing off some of their best work, we’ve gotten a slew of great songs this year. For once, I had a hard time choosing which five to put in this post; normally, I have a hard time picking out more than three. (And then, of course, the year passes, and then I find even better music from that year. Oof.)

So, without further ado, my favorite songs of 2019 (so far)!

 

1: “No Bullets Spent”-Spoon

 

I’ve always had a special spot for Spoon, especially after seeing them live (opening for the Shins about two years ago). They’ve always been able to deftly create near-perfect rock songs, with catchy basslines and poetic lyrics.

“No Bullets Spent” is certainly no exception. It was released as a single, and later added to a Best Of album that they put togehter recently. I have no doubt that it will become a classic, with it’s mesmerizing instrumentation and fascinating lyrics.

 

2: “Shine the Light On Me”-The Raconteurs

 

 

Much of Help Us Stranger was an interesting departure from the Raconteur’s usual style–and for the most part, in a good way. “Shine The Light On Me” is, hands down, my favorite song off of the album; deeply reminiscient of Queen, with introspective and wistful lyrics paired with a beat that sticks with you instantly.

 

3: “The 2nd Most Beautiful Girl in the World” (cover)-Snail Mail

 

If I didn’t know that this was a cover, I totally would’ve passed it off as one of Lindsey Jordan’s masterful creations. I haven’t listened to the original (I haven’t been able to find it, for some reason), but I can already tell that this cover does it justice, or even surpasses it. With her heartstring-tugging vocals and raw guitar, Jordan makes “The 2nd Most Beautiful Girl in the World” not only stick in your head, but in your heart, too.

God, that sounded really sappy. But that’s just what happens when you listen to Snail Mail.

This is your brain.

This is your brain on Snail Mail. 

 

4: “Traffic”-Thom Yorke

 

Whooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooa.

I initially listened to this song because of Anima (which you should all watch, I’M BEGGING YOU). The scene that it played in really stuck with me; the sets and costumes were simple yet ethereal, and the choreography…I could go on for days about the choreography…

The hook refused to get out of my head until I downloaded the song. A creepy, electronic masterpiece, with just the right amount of Thom Yorke’s signature style.

 

5: “Cell”-Calpurnia

 

Alright, I’ll admit it. I got into Calpurnia because of Stranger Things and Finn Wolfhard.

Unlike several other artists/bands that stemmed from acting careers, Calpurnia is destined to be an indie classic. With wailing and unforgettable guitar riffs and punchy lyrics, they’ll always be the band that makes you want to get up and dance. I’m really looking forward to them releasing an LP at some point…hopefully soon. Fingers crossed. 🤞

 

 

Aaaaand that just about wraps it up! Thanks so much for reading, and have a great rest of your day! 🙂

Posted in Music

My 5 Favorite Songs of 2018 (so far)

Hi, everyone! I hope you’re all having a good Monday! (Well, as good as a Monday can get. Hopefully that’s better than my standards for Mondays.)

Let me just start off by saying that boy, this has been a pretty fantastic year for music.

I’ve already reviewed two albums that came out this year (See Twin Fantasy Re-Release and Lush), but now, there’s even more awesomeness out there to listen to! Also, I did end up seeing BOTH of the artists whose albums I’ve reviewed this year (Snail Mail and Car Seat Headrest. Best nights of my life. I met Lindsey Jordan, who was incredibly sweet, and Will Toledo said that we were the best crowd he’d seen on this tour 😭), which has further increased my appreciation for those bands. Some of my opinions have stayed the same, but others have grown on me since I first listened to them. But I’ll get to that later; here are my five favorite songs so far!

 

1. “Bodys”, Car Seat Headrest 

Nobody can match Will’s moves. Really.

 

My original rating for this song was about a 7/10. But it has grown on my a significant amount, not only from increased listening, but from this performance as well. That, and the fact that I found out that the “need-to-know-basis” thing at the end was Andrew Katz. Hysterical. 

This is my go to feel good song, one that you can bop to no matter what mood you’re in. And I won’t deny that when Car Seat Headrest played this when I saw them, I danced so much that I feared that my new glasses would fall right of my nose and plummet from the balcony. I sang myself hoarse, too. But it was totally, 100% worth it. ❤

 

2. “Heat Wave”, Snail Mail 

After watching this video, there’s basically no need for an explanation. 10/10. Five stars. ALWAYS YES. Also, this was the first song that they played when I saw them, and THEY ABSOLUTELY NAILED IT. I WAS SO HAPPY!!!

 

3. “Everybody Thinks They Know (But No One Really Knows)”, Naked Giants

(The video’s just as weird and fun as the song. Trust me.)

I first got introduced to Naked Giants through Car Seat Headrest. They opened about an hour before CSH, and they were INSANELY TALENTED. Spectacular job.

We bought a few of their songs a few weeks after that performance, and this is the one I fell in love with the most. The perfect balance between light, dancey pop and alt-rock, that isn’t so cringey that you immediately switch the station. (Also, I’ll admit to listening to it on repeat in the first week of high school to remind myself that the other freshmen were just as confused as I was.)

 

4. “No Going Back”, Yuno

(Cute little video as well. Simple, but somehow perfect for the song.)

I first heard this song through Sirius XMU, and even though the DJ made a terrible pun about the artist in question, I couldn’t get the song out of my head. Kind of like #3, where it struck the perfect balance between pop and rock. A bit like the child of Tame Impala and…something I can’t quite place. Either way, such a fantastic little song. 🙂

 

5. “Valley of the Dolls”, Santigold 

I swear, Santigold has become the ultimate “blast-this-song-out-the-car-window-at-full-volume” artist. No matter what, her music has the uncanny ability to make you dance, no matter what mood you’re in. (Or, at the very least, nod your head or tap your foot.) “Valley of the Dolls” was no exception. Out of I Don’t Want: The Gold Fire Sessions, this was my favorite. The perfect balance, the goldilocks. Also, it just brings back this funny memory of my family talking about a completely different, really depressing album (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, if you’re dying to know 👌), and this happened to be playing in the background.

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Well, I hope I exposed you to some new music through this post! Enjoy the rest of your day, and stay tuned for the next BRT tomorrow!

Posted in Music

Lush Album Review

I don’t think I’ve mentioned my new obsession with Snail Mail.

 

I initially got into them in April, when I saw an article about them on Pitchfork. After listening to Habit on iTunes, I decided to buy it (along with “Pristine”). And I LOVED it. Snail Mail has now earned their place in my top three favorite bands: in no particular order, David Bowie, Car Seat Headrest, and SNAIL MAIL.

Slowly, more songs were pre-released for Lush, and I got more and more excited. Two days ago, it finally came out.

I’m going to do what I’ve done for my other two album reviews (Masseduction and Twin Fantasy): my thoughts for each track, then my overall thoughts afterwards. Enjoy the review!

 

TRACK 1: “Intro”: 8.5/10

The first track of the album feels like a dream; a strange fantasy mixed with nighttime worries that keep you staring at your ceiling. It also provides a little foreshadowing for the last song. “Intro” is something of a smooth transition from the fuzzy, angsty musings of Habit to the raw lyrics of Lush. It’s only a little over one minute long, but I love it!

 

TRACK 2: “Pristine”: 9/10

“It just feels like the same party every weekend, doesn’t it?”

 

This was the first song that was pre-released off of the album, and the one that got me initially excited for Lush. It’s a song full of musings, longing, and unanswered questions. “Don’t you like me for me?” On some level, I feel like “Pristine” could speak to all of us. We make friends, we feel loved, but deep down, there’s that possibility that haunts us: are we really loved? So thank you, Lindsey. This is beautiful.

 

TRACK 3: “Speaking Terms”: 7/10

This song wasn’t my favorite on the album, but it still has that raw, melancholy quality. It almost feels a little restrained as far as the music goes, but if it were a little harder or louder, I might have liked it more.

Dang, I don’t think I ever would have imagined myself saying that.

 

TRACK 4: “Heat Wave”: 10/10

This. Is. The. Best. Video.

“Heat Wave” is, without a doubt, my favorite song on this album. Lindsey Jordan’s voice brings me so much joy, the guitar is spectacular, and plus, it’s the perfect song to blare out of the car with the windows down. (My mom and I did this once. It was REALLY fun.) Unlike “Speaking Terms”, this song feels like Lindsey Jordan truly poured her heart and soul into everything, and I enjoyed it immensely.

 

TRACK 5: “Stick”: 9/10

”Stick” was originally the final song off of Habit, a melancholy, heartfelt song. On Lush, it’s taken to the next level with the volume turned up all the way. We now have similar guitar to ”Heat Wave” and drums, making it more emotional and resonant. Needless to say, I loved Habit “Stick”, but Lush ”Stick” is truly memorable.

 

TRACK 6: “Let’s Find an Out”: 8/10

This was the last of the pre-releases for Lush. At first, I wasn’t really blown away, but it slowly grew on me. Like “Intro”, it’s a very dreamlike song, filled with longing. For some reason, it always brings to mind very peaceful images; people lying down in a field, dandelion seeds blowing in the wind, meadows, etc. Yellow flowers, too.

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Why not?

 

TRACK 7: “Golden Dream”: 7/10

I have similar feelings about “Golden Dream” and “Speaking Terms” (see track three). Though I like how catchy it is while still having depth and emotion, it still didn’t blow it out of the water for me. I liked the last minute or so a lot, though.

 

TRACK 8: “Full Control”: 8.5/10

If you listen to this album back to back, it would be a little tricky to distinguish this song from its predecessor, “Golden Dream”. But once the chorus arrives, I assure you, the two are now two different songs. It’s like Lindsey Jordan took “Golden Dream”, pumped in more emotion, awesome guitar, and resonant, beautiful vocals. “Full Control” is a bit like the baby of “Golden Dream” and “Pristine”, and it’s one of my favorites on the album.

 

TRACK 9: “Deep Sea”: 8.5/10

At this point, the album begins its transition into a beautiful finale, bringing out the best, somber qualities from some of the material off of Habit. This song radiates images of darkness, but not necessarily negative ones. Starry skies, a descent to the bottom of the ocean, and a mind on the brink of sleep come to mind for me. This is, without a doubt, some of Lindsey Jordan’s best work.

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TRACK 10: “Anytime”: 9.5/10

Out of the songs that weren’t pre-released, this has to be my favorite song on the album. If I include the pre-released songs, this is a close second to “Heat Wave”. This is what we’ve all been waiting for, hinted at by “Intro” and mimicked by “Deep Sea”. Like “Pristine”, it’s a song of raising questions, longing. The absence of almost all other instruments give it a more emotional quality, as though it was recorded in the dark, in a moment of intense emotion and secrecy. Beautiful finish to a beautiful album. Encore.

“They don’t love you, do they?”

 

Alright, I’ve averaged out all of my ratings for each song, and it’s a solid 8.5! That’s pretty great, in my book. Lush was, unfortunately one of those instances where they released some of the best songs first and left the others until last, but despite that, I loved this album overall. It’s so crazy how Lindsey Jordan just graduated HIGH SCHOOL, and released Lush soon after. So, in conclusion, bravo, Lindsey! Thank you for a remarkable first full-length album. 😊