Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Fame Monster | Lady Gaga

After Lady Gaga's explosion of success with her debut album, The Fame, hopes were set high for her 2009 album, The Fame Monster. Although there are huge differences between The Fame and The Fame Monster (mostly lyricwise), this album will not let you down, no matter what.

The Fame Monster opens nicely with the quirky but serious "Bad Romance". This song is about loving someone for EVERYTHING, even the ugliest, most bizzare parts of their personality. That's probably one of the coolest things Lady Gaga could have done - open her new C.D with a song that tells you, the listener, that she loves you for ever one of your flaws.

"Alejandro" opens with a pretty but sad violin part, leading into a build up of an electronic sound. Even though this is definately not the peppy song on the album, it's one that you'll dance around the room to while croaking out the lyrics as loud as you can. In this song, Lady Gaga says goodbye to past lovers, and corrects them: "Don't call my name, don't call my name..."

The third track is called "Monster". It has most interesting lyrics... Lady Gaga sings "He ate my heart" throughout most of the song, making it better than most pop songs with its unusualness. It's filled with overlapping vocals and has a bouncy and repetative chorus.

"Speechless" follows, and I was surprised when I heard it. The main instrument is piano, and the whole song has a very pleasant vibe - it's classy, out of decade, blues meets The Beatles, mixed with Elton John. What's not to like? It's a great song for everytime of day, chilling out and doing nothing. Lady Gaga's voice is soothing, yet still fierce.

"Dance In the Dark" has a build-up of an intro. It's a meaningful song that you can dance to, just like the other tracks on The Fame Monster, but to me, it's more special than the others, mainly because I can relate to it more. "Dance In the Dark" is the anthem for girls like me that may not be too comfortable in their skin and want to hide (or dance) in the dark. The first time I heard this song and knew what Lady Gaga wrote it about, I wondered if Lady Gaga wrote this just for me. The whole feeling kind of overtook me and I cried during its amazing ending.

The party song of this album is "Telephone" and it's a duet with Beyonce. I'm not a fan of Beyonce, but she did well in this song. It's full of repeated vowels and has cool vocal effects. It ends with a sort of 'finale' of sections of vocals, and finishes with the harp tune it began with. This is the most difficult song from The Fame Monster to find the true meaning to. (Good luck, poets!)

Even though the lyrics to "So Happy I Could Die" are beyond strange and make me worry, it reminds us of something we can all relate to: Being so happy and relaxed. This track is very mellow and quite calmer than the other Gaga songs.

The eighth and last track of The Fame Monster is called "Teeth". An unusual song title for a very bizzare (but very cool) song. I'm not really sure how to describe this song, so bear with me. "Teeth" definately has a sound of its own. In a way, it's like poppy jazz, and somehow Lady Gaga can pull this off, like "Speechless". Not many artists could sound so good doing different styles, but she definately pulls it off without hesitation. One thing I find interesting about it is that Lady Gaga doesn't use stupid metaphors like other pop artists do when they try to talk about sex - she makes it obvious; clear as crystal.

The Fame Monster is full of sounds, styles, and meanings. Each song is completely unique and creative, and I loved it.

4.5/5 stars

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Blood and Chocolate by: Annette Curtis Klause

Vivian just lost nearly everything in a fire. Now in the suburbs of Maryland, she struggles to fit in with outsiders and longs for friends, since her family seems to be falling apart. Then she finds Aiden, a guy especially interested in the unknown. Since they're in love and he longs for the paranormal to be true, she believes she can trust him in knowing the truth about what she really is. She believes he'd understand and still love her despite she comes from a family, a pack of werewolves, loup-garoux, to be specific.

But to tell a human is to betray her family. And Vivian is sure that Gabriel, the one who could be the pack's new leader, would not stand for it and make her live up to what she's done - despite his constant interest in her.

Choosing between werewolves and humans can equate to choosing between blood and chocolate.

Annette Curtis Klause's writing is still a form of magic in Blood and Chocolate. But, this book itself does not live up to her first novel, The Silver Kiss. To be honest, sometimes this book could be too hormonally charged for me to handle. It seemed all the main charecter, Vivian, thought of was sex. This could be quite irritating. At first, I also found annoyance in Vivian's egotistical personality, but later I could see that that was her strength. Her empowerment. She contains the confidence we all long to have.

In the end, even though her hormones are a little out of control, Vivian is nothing but caring to everyone. She tries to do what's best for everybody and doesn't pick sides, making her a memorable heroine.

There are some things about this book that I don't like, trust me. But with Annette's more than impressive writing style and an ending with such meaning, it's worth it. All in all, I really liked this book. It was empowering and showed what it means to be true to what you are, and to love people for the good and the bad.

4/5 stars

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Star-Crossed Wasteland | In This Moment

In This Moment has been one of my favorite bands for a short while now. I first heard the amazing single "Beautiful Tragedy" from their debut album (also called Beautiful Tragedy) and enjoyed that album, despite it's flaws. Their second album, The Dream, really showed me what this band is capable of. In This Moment is every extreme - from heavy to melodic, and from softness to screaming.

In This Moment's third album released yesterday, A Star-Crossed Wasteland, did not fail to show these extremes.

The first song and single from A Star-Crossed Wasteland is the heaviest song In This Moment has ever done - that is not only my opinion, lead vocalist Maria Brink has said the same thing. In fact, this song actually managed to give me a headache. It's called "Gunshow" and its heaviness isn't the only thing that makes it different. It's lyrics are also extremely different than the typical poetry of In This Moment - cowboys are the center of the whole thing, and no singing is heard. That's right. It's all screaming. Despite Maria is probably the best screamer I've ever heard, this song isn't the most tolerable if you're not in the mood to hear her make up for the loss of screaming in the previous album all in one song.

"Just Drive" is the next track. This song reminds me a lot of older In This Moment songs, and it's good to have a bit of their old sound back. Even though they've evolved, In This Moment can still pull off showing off the style used in Beautiful Tragedy.

Third comes "The Promise"; a combination of singing and screaming. The guitar riffs are especially cool in this song, and we all get a surprise. Fabulously sung male vocals from one of the guys! Both voices fit together perfectly.

Next, we have "Standing Alone". Something about this song is empowering, yet it is sort of saddening. Heavy, epic riffs echo behind Maria's strong vocals (and occasional screams).

The title track of the album, "A Star-Crossed Wasteland", is my favorite track of the ten, and the very middle of the album. Heck, it may even be their best song EVER, to my opinion. It opens with sweet, dark piano, and slowly picks up the pace. Maria's voice is especially haunting, sewing itself into the fabric of the music. And somehow, the chorus, though with more major chords, winds itself in just as well. If you were to combine In This Moment with Evanescence, it could sound something like this.

The sixth track is entitled "Blazin'". In all honesty, the bubble-gum title made me afraid of this song at first. But, In This Moment still remains hardcore, with plenty of screaming in store. This is what I would call a metalcore party song. "We're not gonna stop tonight, we're gonna burn this city down!"

"The Road" is definately not the heaviest track, but it is still In This Moment. Again, we have more backing male vocals that fit well with Maria's voice, which is quite sweet in this song. This song fades out during an impressive guitar solo that would probably blow us away during a live performance.

"Iron Army" is addictive. It's quite powerful, in term of lyrics, melody, Maria's vocals, and even the additional male vocals. It's machine-like rythm gives a Tool feel, but since it's melodic, it makes it In This Moment.

As I mentioned for "Gunshow", cowboys seem to be the center of attention. In "The Last Cowboy", you know right away. No surprise there. But, Maria does a lot of narrating in the verses, speaking of one particular cowboy. She does this very well; she should do something with narration in films. Of course, she does not narrate the entire thing. When she sings, it's the same Maria we know and love. She holds notes out and does very well, as usual.

The last song is opened with a pretty piano part. "World In Flames" is the mellow song from A Star-Crossed Wasteland, even though its title makes it seem like it would be a heavy apocalypse theme. Instead, it's about having someone there for you, even when the world is enflamed. I really should have known, because this In This Moment always ends their albums delicately with a slow one. At the end, you hear Maria below it out like never before. Between her voice and the guitars, I got a couple chills.

A Star-Crossed Wasteland is In This Moment like never before. Maria is like Superwoman, being able to both sing and scream so well. Each song is very different, whether it's about cowboys or something so, so much deeper. It is a mixture of sounds that all speak for themselves, yet they are still threads of In This Moment.

I think this may be the best of In This Moment's three albums.

5/5 stars

Monday, July 5, 2010

Spells by: Aprilynne Pike

After falling in love with Aprilynne Pike's Wings, I was very excited for Spells. I had high expectations, and Spells lived up to them, for the most part, but I don't think I felt as happy with it as I felt with Wings.

Laurel is being split in two as she tries to live in both the human world and in Avalon (the faerie realm). She doesn't want to choose between the two, especially if choosing one world over the other means choosing her human boyfriend, David, or Tamani - the faerie that has loved her ever since the beginning. But she can't remember her past with Tamani. In her mind, she's only known him for a short while, and has barely spent enough time with him to love him. Still, she feels attracted to him, but she loves David so much. And the human world.

I was really into this little love triangle in the making, and I even got frustrated because I was not as confused about it as Laurel. She did not know what to do about this problem, but my mind kept screaming: "Tamani!" Which brings me to another issue I had with: Laurel doesn't treat poor Tamani very well. Unlike in Wings, I found myself angry at Laurel during this novel, yet I can connect with her problems.

There is also much danger for Laurel to worry about as well. The trolls are always waiting to make their next move, and they'll stop at nothing to get what they want. Even if it means hurting others to get to her. So she must learn about how to defend herself and do her duties as a fall faerie as quickly as she can in Avalon, and use what she knows in the human world.

If you read my review of Wings, then you know that I thought that book was so incredibly innocent. Since the focus of Spells has shifted to more of a romantic feel, most of the innocent mood is gone. But, some of it remains. In fact, I think this book had a nice blance between its sweetness and its romance.

I loved how there was always something happening in this book. There was no big long break for a climatic part, because in Laurel's life, chaos is sort of the norm and happens off and on due to the trolls. But, at the same time, the trolls were also a setback for me. I can't take them seriously with their deformation and strangeness. They seemed more than a little corny to me, but it's really nothing to fuss about because it was a great read!

Like Wings, Spells is very fascinating and interesting, filled with love of all sorts and action. I really enjoyed it, and cannot wait for the next one!

4/5 stars

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Wings by: Aprilynne Pike

Wings is the debut book of Aprilynne Pike, and the first installment of its series that is to be four books long.

Laurel isn't a typical teenage girl, but she hardley realizes it. Sure, she eats fruit all the time, and doesn't care for candy bars. She also feels uncomfortable when she isn't around the sun, because she loves sunny weather. Are these idiosyncrasies or are they a sign of something... unnatural?

When she discovers petals growing out of her back, she and her friend, David, search for answers. But no one in this world as we know it would be able to explain this, because none of them know about the existence of faeries. Laurel and David are uncovering the truth about what Laurel is, the past she can't remember, and the dangers that await Laurel in result of what she is.

I loved this novel. Aprilynne Pike is truly a great writer; nothing written in this book bothered me, and we all know that I have pet peeves. At some points, I found it difficult to put down; I had to know what would happen next. The faerie realm that Aprilynne Pike created is very interesting and described as very pretty, full of the best parts of nature.

What stuck out above anything else about Wings is how sweetly innocent it is. The focus on love isn't as unmistakable as the focus on friendship. Laurel is scared of being in love with David, because she never wants to lose him as a friend. She wears sundresses and is around fruit and flowers, since after all, she is a faerie - the most innocent creatures I've heard of. When I finished this book, I wanted to eat a can of peaches while wearing a sundress.

4.5/5 stars

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse | Directed by David Slade | Written by Melissa Rosenberg

Fans of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Saga pre-ordered tickets and waited in line inside and outside movie theaters yesterday, in rush to see the third film, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. (I pre-ordered my tickets and waited in line for about an hour) Eclipse is directed by the horror film director, David Slade, and that is obvious throughout the film, and it gave it a darker side than the previous Twilight films, but there was still plenty of romance in store.

Bella, the wolf pack, and the Cullens all have to worry about a couple of things. First, they have the vengeful vampire, Victoria, trying to kill Bella (the usual). But now, there is a new problem... a big problem. Murders are skyrocketing in Seattle, and people are missing left and right. This is no work of a serial killer, but an army of newborn, bloodthirsty vampires.

And of course, you have the love triangle between Bella, Jacob, and Edward added to the mix. This is the main reason why males do not get into the Twilight sort of thing... but I am a girl that does not typically take love triangles seriously, so this is coming from a strange viewpoint: In the movie, I really did get into the love triangle thing, but sometimes it can be a bit overdramatic, for one reason and one reason only: Taylor Lautner. No, Jacob/Taylor fans, I am not picking on him. He has good intentions and so much to bring to the films. I really can't picture anyone else as him, to be completely honest. But at times, his acting can really make things kind of dramatic and corny, as if he's trying too hard.

So, with a perfect balance of romance and action, the Cullens and the werewolves team up into stopping the army of vampires, and all the while, dealing with Victoria. This movie has something for just about everybody. Not only that, but Kristen Stewart's narrations are amazing as usual, as well as her acting. Well, everyone played their parts really well just like any other time (except Taylor could be a bit irritating at times).

Since I have read the entire Twilight series, and The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, I do have a biased opinion of the film. There are some parts that I think should have still been included or improved, like Bree Tanner saying that she surrendered to the Cullens, and the better parts of this love triangle, but that's the way movies go. Books are better than movies majority of the time, and that fact stands its ground here. There, I said it, I liked the book better...

But, I loved this movie immensly! It is a great compainion with the book, but I don't think people that see the movie and didn't read the book would have gotten the same effect. That goes for all of the Twilight Saga films.

I loved it. I loved it. I loved it.

However, my opinion is biased, and in my head I'm always going to think: "I loved the movie, but I the book was better." That is why I don't want to give this film a rating, because my opinion changes every minute. I encourage all to go see it (and maybe read the book first), because it is probably the best of the films, it's worth it... AND IT'S JUST AWESOME!

4/5 stars