Monday, December 29, 2014

Best Books I Read: 2014

As usual, I've compiled a list of the best books I read throughout the year! I love making these end-of-year lists! I feel like I've read a ton of stellar ones this year, but, I've got to narrow it down somehow. This list consists of all the books I gave 5 out of 5 stars to on Goodreads. According to my stats, the two genres I read the most from this year are science fiction and classics, and for the most part, this seems to be represented in my list of favorites this year. Enjoy!

Marcelo in the Real World
by Francisco X. Stork

This book is perfect; I couldn't stop gushing over it! I loved everything about Marcelo in the Real World: The characters were crafted phenomenally, the general concepts were interesting (plus, this is the first time I ever read a POV of someone with autism), and oh my goodness, there was so much emotion! There were moments that sent butterflies fluttering around my stomach but there were also moments where I was fuming mad over the rudeness that some characters aimed at Marcelo. Hence, in this beautiful contemporary, Marcelo discovers that there are some people in the real world that are kind-hearted and make our lives better, but there are others that are devious and corrupt. It took forever for me to get around to this novel, but now that I've read it, it's one of my favorites.

Cloud Atlas turned out to be quite an intriguing read, which is what I was expecting based on what I'd been hearing. I heard it was a confusing story about reincarnation, but I honestly wasn't very confused. I thought Cloud Atlas was a brilliant idea; readers are essentially reading more than one story, but they're all connected. They're even different genres, so the book can appeal to just about any lover of fiction. (Personally my favorite story was that of Somni-451, which is a dystopian story.)


The Bell Jar
by Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath's only novel is a very depressing piece of fiction, and as I mentioned in my classics post, that fact isn't helped by how Sylvia Plath's life ended. But perhaps the biggest reason this novel won me over is through Plath's beautiful writing style. She has to be one of my favorites in terms of how pretty her prose was. And while I also mentioned in my classics post that I couldn't relate to the general story very well because I hadn't truly been 'under the bell jar,' I didn't specifically mention that this disconnection caused me to feel detached from the metaphor... But about a month or so later, I saw someone who looked as though they were indeed under a bell jar. Now I understand that Sylvia Plath picked the most accurate metaphor.

In the beginning, I had about zero ambition to read this book. Cinderella retelling? No thanks. I'm not into fairytale retellings. Sailor Moon retelling? People who live on the moon? Heavy on the science fiction aspect? Now we're talking. I can't believe I put this book off for so long; it's amazing! Cinder is a fantastic character and the world that this is set in is so interesting! For the first time in a long time, I wanted the sequel, Scarlet, ASAP (and of course, the bookstore never had Scarlet in hardcover, so I had to wait forever). I definitely recommend Cinder for those who haven't read it yet - whether you like fairtytale retellings and Sailor Moon or not.

by Marissa Meyer

I devoured this book in huge gulps and fangirled my face off. Scarlet, the second book in Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles series, may have even better than Cinder. The characters in this book are absolutely wonderful; more have been added since the first installment and the newbies are just as prominent as the characters we've already met. Cinder and Scarlet are both pretty badass in their own ways, Kai is sweet and troubled, Thorne is adorable and hilarious, and Wolf is so complex and sounds so attractive.

by Marissa Meyer
I also devoured Cress in huge gulps and fangirled my face off. It's been a while since I've read all of the available books in a series in one year instead of getting distracted by other books, and I must say, so far, all of the Lunar Chronicles books are grade A material. Cress is a fantastic character; I'm very happy she's on our little team of heroes, and it was so interesting to watch her relationship develop with Thorne - so cute! There was definitely a lot going on; putting the book down to do things like eating and sleeping was difficult. However, there's a messy situation at hand... Well, there are a couple of messy situations at hand, and I'm so stoked for the next book, Winter (which comes out next November) to find out what happens. 

Where do I even begin? I absolutely adored Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, which is one of my favorite novels of all time, and ever since reading it, I've wanted to read everything by the Bronte sisters. After reading Villette, Charlotte is officially my favorite author. Even though it was written about one hundred and fifty years ago, it is by far the most groundbreaking novel I've ever read. Even now, nothing about Villette is conventional, and I don't think a better picture of jealousy and loneliness has ever been painted. Our heroine Lucy Snowe must be an independent woman; she must learn to let go, and her love M. Paul Emanuel undergoes a series of changes before he can accept a woman like Lucy. Villette is one of my favorite books, hands down.

by George Orwell

I must say, I'm not easily frightened when it comes to books, but this one scared the crap out of me. I don't think George Orwell could've crafted a nightmare any more thoroughly. If I was an author I'd be so afraid of giving my book a year for a title, especially if that year isn't too awfully far into the future, but 1984 is far from dated; it's still sparking discussions and concerns long after its birth and futuristic date. Not only is our technology getting eerily similar to what's described in 1984, but no matter what time period we live in, the power of individual thought will always be praised and should never be taken from anyone.

Another book that took me far too long to get around to reading. I absolutely loved the first book in this series, Across the Universe, and A Million Suns lived up to the hype. Just when we think we've understood what's going on aboard the spaceship Godspeed, Beth Revis metaphorically slaps us in the face and challenges everything we knew by thickening the mystery. It's just as action-packed as the first one, too, and has a way of making me so nervous for our main characters Amy and Elder. I loved it!


The final book of the Across the Universe trilogy. Shades of Earth is by far the most different of the series, but I enjoyed it all the same. Tons of action, tons of mystery, and bits of romance - what's not to like? I loved every single book in this trilogy equally, easily making it one of my favorites. It's something that both guys and girls can enjoy; I highly recommend it to any sci-fi fan.

Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Neale Hurston
I picked up this one solely because a teacher recommended it, so I didn't really know what to expect before picking it up with the exception of some really solid writing. The dialogue of the characters is a bit difficult to get used to, but the narration itself is gorgeous, and I've never read a story quite like this. It follows a woman named Janie who never seems to find a perfect relationship, until she meets Tea Cake, who sees her as more than someone to work or just stand around and look pretty all day. I don't want to give anything away, but I've never read anything where characters happen to be in certain circumstances, particularly where nature is concerned. I actually cried a little bit at the end. Their Eyes Were Watching God is definitely an underrated classic.

Feel free to let me know what you think of my selections and pass on any recommendations based on what I've listed for 2014. Hopefully you also read a lot of fabulous books this year - let me know what you enjoyed the most in 2014!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Top 20 Musical Singles of 2014 Countdown

Last year I counted down my top thirteen of 2013, and as another year has come and gone, it is time again to count down the best singles of the year. (I don't do non-singles because I tend to prefer them and we'd be here for another year.) 2014 was an amazing time for music (especially for any fans of female-fronted metal) so I decided to expand the list size to 20 singles. Let me tell you, I changed my mind about which song to include as the final single at #20 about ten times (and I even considered making this a top 25 post), but right now I'm confident. A large range of genres is incorporated since I tend to listen to bits of everything, such as symphonic metal, alternative, indie, rock, pop, electronic, classical crossover, rap... and whatever genre Seinabo Sey is. No matter who's reading this, I imagine you'll find something you like. (Except for country fans - sorry!)

"Fancy" - Iggy Azalea ft. Charli XCX
I ABSOLUTELY HATED THIS SONG. I hated it beyond belief. But remember how Emma Stone hated "Pocket Full of Sunshine" in Easy A but kept singing it literally all weekend until she obviously felt differently? That's a perfect depiction of my relationship with this song. One minute I hated it, then I was singing Charli's chorus in the shower, then before I knew it I was blaring my car's speakers having some sort of jam sesh as I was driving to the grocery store. Furthermore, this video is adorable; I love that it throws back to Clueless and Iggy's hair is fabulous.

"I Forgive (But I Won’t Forget Your Name)" - Lacuna Coil
 "I Forgive (But I Won't Forget Your Name)" is one of the more mellow Lacuna Coil singles though it isn't a ballad. Cristina Scabbia really owns the song's chorus and pre-chorus (which, sadly, is only present before the second chorus) with her strong vocals, and of course, with the fact that the vocal lines are quite catchy in these sections. It's just a great rock track overall; most fans of the genre will be quite content with it.

"Victims of Contingency" - Epica
 Metal fans, ever hear a guitar riff and think "OMG WHAT IS THIS AMAZING THING THAT'S HAPPENING TO MY EARS?" That was my thought process as I heard the heavy intro to this song. This Epica track features Mark Jansen growling in the verses with Simone Simons (and the choir) coming in between his lines and dominating the chorus. Keep in mind that if this is your first Epica experience, try not to mind some of the awkward arm movements in the video.

"The Heart Wants What it Wants" - Selena Gomez
Selena Gomez has the ability to really impress me with her catchy music, and she did it again in a whole different way with the raw "The Heart Wants What it Wants," which deals with her complicated relationship with renowned douchebag Justin Bieber. Hence, it's an emotional track with catchy vocals and a great instrumental. Gomez is certainly not the first woman to feel as this song describes, and unfortunately she won't be the last.

"Big Bad Wolf" - In This Moment
 In This Moment is the only band I can say I have followed throughout the entirety of their career right from the start in 2007, and unfortunately I'm overall extremely disappointed in them for their latest release, Black Widow, but I did really enjoy the second single "Big Bad Wolf." The vocals in the verses are unconventional and off-putting at first, but in the grand scheme of the song, I don't care. Maria Brink sounds invincible, whether she's half-muttering "Even in these chains you can't stop me" or completely screaming "PIG!" Plus, the chorus is incredibly catchy and always has me bobbing my head along.

(The video, however, is the epitome of what I don't like about Black Widow: it's not interesting and overuses sex and horror to the point that they're trying WAY too hard. I realize I'm hating pretty hard right now but I just had to spit that out.)

"Shake it Off" - Taylor Swift
 Taylor Swift is awesome. There, I said it. I liked some of her past country singles, and I really love her new pop direction as well. "Shake it Off" is just so carefree and fun... I have spent many a time in my car having a major jam session to this single every time it came on the radio. It's utterly infectious and makes me so happy with all of its prominent brass instruments and catchy vocals!

"A Lifetime of Adventure" - Tuomas Holopainen
 "A Lifetime of Adventure" is the beautiful first single from Tuomas Holopainen's (keyboardist and primary songwriter of Nightwish) concept album The Life and Times of Scrooge. With a light, classically-oriented instrumentation and whispy female vocals, this single really could've been on a Chronicles of Narnia soundtrack. It's perfect for winter. And if you don't like too much classical instrumentation, have no fear, there's a guitar solo for the last minute and a half.

"Hard Time" - Seinabo Sey
 I discovered "Hard Time" through a promo for the current season of Mob Wives, and apparently it was on an episode of Teen Wolf (I'm so far behind on that show it's ridiculous)... I was destined to find it somehow. And honestly, with its relaxing (yet sort of dark) vibe I'm surprised it isn't more popular by now. It manages to sound both classy and badass all at the same time, and I love it!

"Drop Dead Cynical" - Amaranthe
 "Drop Dead Cynical" is one of those songs that I thought I didn't like, but at one point I thought to myself "Why is this song always in my head? Why do I enjoy it being in my head when I don't like it?" From that point on I realized that it was freaking awesome. I know a lot of metal fans like to hate on Amaranthe because they use synths, but I love the combination of elements they use. I'm so excited that this energetic single is giving them recognition.

"And We Run" - Within Temptation ft. Xzibit
If you read my review of Within Temptation's Hydra, you're probably confused right now. I didn't like "And We Run" that much when I first heard it, but it slowly grew on me with its seemingly rushing piano line, gorgeous chord progressions, Sharon's vocals, and yes, even Xzibit. I wasn't into his rap styles at first, but the more I heard the song, the more I got it and understood how he really does fit this song. Weirdly enough, what was once my least favorite part is now my favorite: "Don't blink, you'll miss it / Lift up your head / We gotta get gone / Yeah, we outta here." Plus, the music video is fantastic; it's one of my two favorites of the year.

"Nightfall" - Xandria
The symphonic metal band Xandria has been on my radar ever since Dianne van Giersbergen joined. People were ecstatic about her vocal abilities and I had to see what all the hype was about. As it turns out, her voice gets all the credit it deserves, and form what I've observed so far, so does the music. "Nightfall" is an epic single, particularly with the operatic and choral chorus: "Here it comes / The story / Of mankind's final glory / Into the nightfall."

"Centuries" - Fall Out Boy
 So one day I was listening to the radio and this magic filled my ears... It was this song. Although I don't talk about them much on this blog, I've really loved Fall Out Boy's music throughout the years, but "Centuries" definitely stands out as a highlight of their career. The piano line of the first couple choruses creates so much anticipation, and I absolutely love that they sampled Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner." A lot of people are really entranced by the music video as well, but I don't find it to be quite as amazing. The song itself is obviously a different story; it's wonderful.

"The Power of Love" - Various Dutch Metal Artists
The Netherlands is the home of several talented metal artists, and in order to get people to donate to the Red Cross this holiday season, they treated us with a cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "The Power of Love." With so many amazing musicians involved, the cover turned out to be very bold. There's a choir, several vocalists of all types, from Dianne van Giersbergen's operatic high notes to George Oothsoek's growls and almost everything in between. I'm very happy with how it turned out.

"Best Friend" - Foster the People
This single helped define my summer. "Best Friend" was on repeat for a couple of solid weeks, and once in a while it gets stuck in my head. Even though it's different that a lot of what I listen to, I'm so drawn to this song, not only for the lyrics that seem so random at first ("When your best friend's all strung out...") and the weird-but-awesome video - those verses are genial and catchy.

"Nothing Stands in Our Way" - Lacuna Coil
Lead single "Nothing Stands in Our Way" is one of my favorite songs from Lacuna Coil's latest album Broken Crown Halo. The band truly does sound invincible with its powerful riffs and fierce vocals from Cristina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro. To this day, it's still hard for me to listen to this song and not bang my head a little, especially when the chorus breaks down and pulsates for the middle eight. And Scabbia's last line? Perfect.

"Unchain Utopia" - Epica
 "Unchain Utopia" is the melodic (though still heavy) second single from their masterpiece album The Quantum Enigma. The choir dominates the powerful chorus and Simone Simons' pretty voice takes control of the verses, but in the final chorus, she gets to show off and it sounds incredible: "We won't succumb to your deceiving games / Conquer the insane / Time to free ourselves once more from the ball and chain." Go figure, Epica made another amazing song.

"The Mute" - Radical Face
Radical Face is one of the most underrated artists out there, so if you haven't heard his music yet, you need to. If you haven't heard "The Mute" yet, you need to, because it's remarkable. Every time I hear it, I love it a little more. The music video is one of my two favorites this year - and it's homemade by Radical Face and his friends and family. The video truly fits the song, for they're both simple, but they're so well done and oh so indie.

"Chandelier" - Sia
 Sia has worked on some great pop songs throughout her life, whether she was just writing for other artists, singing with other artists, or producing her own solo material. I'm sure many would agree that "Chandelier" is one of the best songs of the year and one of her personal best tracks. Sia's songwriting ability and vocal ability both shine - because we all know the explosive chorus of this song is NOT easy to sing (seriously, this single should have come with a warning label: Do not try this at home). This is definitely my favorite pop song of 2014. I just let it play and let loose (though not with as much enthusiasm and talent as the girl in the video... her performance was just as amazing).

"The Rains of Castamere" - Jackie Evancho
Jackie Evancho blew the world away on America's Got Talent with her gorgeous voice, and she did it again with the Game of Thrones cover of "The Rains of Castamere." Fans of both her and the fantasy series were raving over this single when it was released, for it is an extremely impressive cover in ever way, shape, and form. The instrumentation is beautiful, her voice is beautiful... It's an incredible first single that will undoubtedly stand out as one of the best of her career. Rather than show off her higher notes, Evancho shows the world she can hit haunting low notes as her voice has matured even more since her debut.

"The Essence of Silence" - Epica
 Lo and behold my favorite single of the year, "The Essence of Silence." This powerhouse is the lead single from The Quantum Enigma and it's utterly flawless. The verses are exemplary of beauty and the beast contrasts as the two vocalists sing every other line, with Simone Simons at her operatic best and Mark Jansen on growls and screams. Heavy riffs fill the song but the band's classical element is definitely still there with strings, choir, and piano making appearances throughout (especially that piano line in the second verse - perfection). I was stunned when I first heard it and I still love it just as much - what an amazing track!

...and that's a wrap! Let me know what you think of my list and tell me what some of your favorite singles (or just songs in general) were this year - I'd love to know! As usual, I'll be posting a Best Books list and a book-related survey sometime soon.
Here are my 2013 music links, if you're interested:
(I made this Excluded post because there were a lot of fantastic songs in 2013 that I either didn't find in time or forgot about and I wanted to acknowledge them in some way... but I'm never doing this again because you know what I did? I forgot songs to put on it and remembered a month later. FAIL.)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing This Year

I hope you've all been having a fantastic holiday so far! The holiday season is my favorite time of year (along with summertime) in general, but I also really love the end-of-year blogging rituals we do like making fun lists and surveys. This week, I'm participating in Top Ten Tuesday, a fun and popular bookish meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. Our topic for this week is a festive one for the holidays:

Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing This Year
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
The Bone Clocks is David Mitchell's latest album which was released just a couple months ago. So far, the only novel I've read from him is Cloud Atlas, and I was really impressed by it. Apparently The Bone Clocks also displays how people's lives are connected in strange ways, but it follows a psychic. Sounds promising. P.S. - Am I the only one who absolutely adores this cover?
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
 This one seems to be a favorite of a fair amount of blogs and vlogs, and the more I hear about it, the more I need to read this book as well as the rest of the trilogy. From what I've heard, it's a really complicated paranormal... As we all know, sometimes paranormal novels can fall into a bit of a pattern. I'm eager to see how this is different.
Redeemed by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
Yes everyone, this is the last one. The twelfth and final book of the House of Night series was released last October and I really hope I get it for Christmas. But no matter when I get it, I will be reading it eventually, and I will be reading it happily... Please tell me I'm not the only one who actually really likes this series.
Alien Secrets by Annette Curtis Klause
I've been trying to find this book forever, but it isn't easy to get a hold of. I adore Klause's books The Silver Kiss and Blood and Chocolate; I've read them both a couple times. Her plots may be supernatural, but there's something about them that flows like contemporary... I don't know how she does it. I think her writing style is beautiful.
Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
 I've wanted to read this since it came out in 2010. Every review I read sounded really promising and I've never read anything with this sort of description. Santa should totally bring this because it sounds really good and I don't really have any unread contemporary in possession at the moment.
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
 Badass female assassin? Fantasy? New pretty covers? Sure, I'll read this! To be honest, I don't even know much about this book or about the others in the series, but it's always sparked my interest for some reason... Probably because even though I love fantasy, I don't think I read enough of it. (I suppose the same could be said of contemporary too.)
A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Grey
I've never read anything by Claudia Grey before, but one day I saw this beautiful book cover and I was intrigued. After reading the synopsis I added it to the TBR. It just sounds so interesting since it deals with all the possibilities of multiverses. Hopefully it ends up being as cool as it looks.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
This is one of those books where I've heard tons of amazing things about but haven't gotten around to reading yet. It's pretty much always been on my TBR but I somehow just never end up buying it and get distracted by all the other cool books I also need to get around to reading. But lately, the synopsis itself has really been screaming "THIS WILL BE AMAZING" louder than usual.
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Don't yell at me. I know. It's ridiculous that I haven't read the well-beloved If I Stay yet, but I wasn't sure if I'd like it for a little while. Now that I've seen movie trailers, I think I more than likely will, and one of my closer friends really recommends it. However... I'm just worried that it'll make me cry. Because it probably will.
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
There are a lot of people that really, REALLY love this book, but there are also quite a few who just couldn't get into it because of the main character. So... I suppose this could go one of two ways for me, but I'd like to give it a try. If Santa brought it this year, I wouldn't complain.
Do you like any of the books I listed? Do you dislike any of them? As always, let me know and feel free to leave the link to your own Top Ten Tuesday lists. Hopefully we get and give some great books this year!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

2014: The Year of Female-Fronted Metal

From left to right: Sharon den Adel of Within Temptation, Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil, Simone Simons of Epica, Dianne van Giersbergen of Xandria, Elize Ryd of Amaranthe.

It's no secret that 2014 was a huge year for female-fronted metal bands. Nearly all of the biggest names ranging from metalcore to symphonic metal released an album this year, with the exception of Nightwish, who are preparing to release their first studio album with Floor Jansen next year. I listen to so many of the groups that had new releases this year, so my ears were made quite happy by a portion of these albums. Even when an album seemed to fall flat in my opinion, it's always wonderful to anticipate new releases from favorite artists.

Right at the beginning of the year symphonic metal fans had a reason to be excited with Within Temptation's Hydra. With a killer lead single and a tantalizing album trailer, I was counting down the days until a copy would be in my hands. Every one of Within Temptation's albums tend to sound different from one another, and Hydra is no exception. The sound is heavier than the previous album and there's plenty of variety; between "Silver Moonlight," a song with growls like in the days of Enter and The Dance EP; "And We Run," a duet with rapper Xzibit; and "Edge of the World," an extremely powerful ballad with an intense second half. Within Temptation impressed me once again.
A few more albums were released in the spring, starting with Lacuna Coil's Broken Crown Halo. I overall have respect for Lacuna Coil, but a lot of their songs are hit-and-miss for me. This was generally the case for Broken Crown Halo (that poor, unfortunate album title) though I see it as a step of improvement from Dark Adrenaline, with highlights like "Nothing Stands in Our Way" and "I Burn in You." Epica, on the other hand completely floored me with The Quantum Enigma. This album is phenomenal. It's easily my favorite of 2014; it was in my CD player for two months straight and has made plenty of trips back in there since then. I'm not exaggerating. Catchy and complex tracks fill this album in a way that puts it in the same league as even The Divine Conspiracy and Design Your Universe, and the way everything is mixed sounds so crisp!
Also in the spring, Xandria released their latest album, Sacrificium. Unfortunately I haven't had a chance to really listen to this album yet aside from three tracks, but from what I've heard thus far, I'm sure it's a great piece of work. While I'd always heard of Xandria, I never heard many of their songs. I know they've had quite a few singers in their past, and I'm sure they were all fine musicians, but I never heard them receive so much unabashed praise until Dianne van Giersbergen joined. Based on what I've heard, I can understand why. Her voice is very well-honed and very beautiful.
Fast forward to October: the still up-and-coming modern metal band Amaranthe released Massive Addictive, the third studio album they've recorded since their debut in 2011. I only began listening to their music this year, and while Massive Addictive has a number of incredible tracks, like "Dynamite," "Digital World," "Massive Addictive," and "Drop Dead Cynical," I just don't hear enough variety between many of their songs. Not bad, but they could be better.
The final major release of the year is the one that manage to truly disappoint me: Black Widow by In This Moment. I've been listening to this metalcore band since 2007 and have therefore been a fan for seven years, but I only liked about two songs from Black Widow. They're trying too hard to form an image and I find the music under par for my taste.
In addition, metal fans were treated to a wonderful cover of "The Power of Love" that we were to donate money to purchase in order to raise money for the Red Cross. This single consisted of several Dutch metal artists, including Simone Simons, Dianne van Giersbergen, Anneke van Giersbergen, Floor Jansen, Charlotte Wessels, and more. Within Temptation released their fourth live DVD of two shows in late fall called Let Us Burn: Elements and Hydra Live in Concert, and DVD releases from them will always get me pumped since they're one of the best live acts EVER. Delain and Tarja also released albums this year (I don't listen to either much), and even though she isn't part of the metal world, many fans of female-fronted metal enjoy Amy Lee's music, and she released Aftermath (containing songs from a movie she scored called War Story). Unfortunately nothing new from Nightwish was released in 2014, but their next album is scheduled for the first half of 2015. This will be their first album with Floor Jansen, and while I always get excited to hear new music from them, I am especially excited to hear how their music will evolve with Floor.

But alas, 2014 completely spoiled female-fronted metal fans so much that I'm afraid next year may seem anti-climatic in comparison. Just think of the loads and loads of new music we got this year! I can't imagine a niche audience ever being so pleased. 2014 will certainly be remembered for its remarkable set of releases.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Dutch Metal Artists Collaborate for a Cause: "The Power of Love"

Epica, Floor Jansen, Within Temptation, George Oothsoek, Dianne van Giersbergen, Anneke van Giersbergen, Delain... The Netherlands has produced some of the most talented artists in metal, particularly in symphonic metal. But now, these musicians (along with several others) have come together for the 2014 Serious Request to create a cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "The Power of Love." Fans can donate just about any amount they want (starting at two euros) to purchase the track, and the money will go to the Red Cross to help victims of sexual violence. You can read more details about the cause and donate to get the track here. It's a perfect holiday gift for Dutch metal fans and provides a simple way for us to get together and support a cause.
As a fan of Within Temptation, I knew that "The Power of Love" could become really epic in this setting - WT actually covered it themselves on their Q-Music Sessions cover album and it blew me away. This specific cover takes a different, more bombastic approach. The entire song brings out a lot of nostalgia for Dutch metal as a whole in both instrumentation and vocals. Of course, the blend of classical and metal elements is ever-present, but the verses are very mellow, reminding me of some of the 90s and early 2000s European metal (not just the Dutch). But the chorus, particularly the end, is absolutely powerful. The choir and the huge list of skilled vocalists make such a bold statement. As one would expect, there's a good blend of both male and female vocals throughout, and different vocal styles shine throughout: Operatic, whispers, growls, choirs, belted vocals with a grungier side... Everything one could ever ask for. This Dutch metal fan is certainly pleased, and I'm sure many will be with an amazing lineup like this.
All you have to do is donate and enjoy.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Massive Addictive | Amaranthe

Amaranthe is one of the newest female fronted metal bands to enter the scene, starting with their self-titled debut in 2011 and their sophomore album The Nexus in 2013. Their pattern of releasing albums is reminiscent of pop sensation Rihanna: They don't keep fans waiting for very long. They've already released their third record, Massive Addictive, which holds true to their unique sound: An energized electronic version of metal music. While many bands will have one male and one female vocalist, Amaranthe has three: Elize Ryd (who sounds like a more versatile Celine Dion), Jake E. (who does the clean male vocals), and Henrik Englund (who screams and grunts). A lot of heavy metal elitists will probably hate the band's modernized sound, but the open-minded will love it. Considering the sound of their musical associates, the direction Amaranthe takes is bold and interesting; however, as I said about UnSun's Clinic for Dolls, I find myself wishing for more variety between their songs.
The first song, "Dynamite," is a show-stopper. Heavy, pulsating riffs are interwoven with fleeting synths - if I could imagine Pink Floyd's "On the Run" mixed with a metal band, this is what it would sound like. The middle eight has the song's heaviest moments with a guitar solo and chugging rhythm guitars that help give the band such a thick, choppy sound. Elize Ryd radiates confidence when she sings, belting it out in a way that's unusually soulful for the genre. "Drop Dead Cynical," the first single from Massive Addictive, is also exemplary of this vocal technique in the chorus, and Englund seems to particularly shine on this single even though one may initially think that it might not be heavy enough for him. While I wasn't very impressed by "Drop Dead Cynical" on the first listen, it has definitely grown on me - it's so fun!

"Massive Addictive" also took a couple of listens before I could really appreciate it. It has a bit of a slower flow, so instead of having the bounce-off-the-walls energy that Amaranthe always seems to have, it soaks in its own epicness, and I have no problem with that. It can still amplify a movie trailer's action sequence, without a doubt. Ryd and Jake's voices so well in the chorus (their duets dominate most Amaranthe choruses... it just seems a little more effective than usual here). Honestly, once the chorus is in your head, good luck getting it out.

"Digital World" comes in at nearly halfway, and it's definitely one of my favorites from Massive Addictive. The electronic elements lead in the guitars and die down so we hear Englund's harsh vocals synthed (an unlikely but fantastic combination) so that he sounds stuck in a time warp or something, trapped in the "Digital World." His voice is fully unleashed in the middle eight (as is every instrument the band uses... It's so heavy). Ryd's voice is delicate and pretty in the pre-chorus... And that chorus - THAT CHORUS! I cannot sit still when I hear it and replay it until I have virtually transformed into the Energizer Bunny. It's incredibly catchy and the execution is just epic: "You don't ever have to cry 'cause the future is sold / You can never die and you'll never grow old / But everything surrounding you is digital."

Overall, I find the first half of Massive Addictive to be much more impressive than the second half, with the exception of the third song, "Trinity," which doesn't do much for me musically and the chorus strikes me as really corny. "True" has a pretty piano line and has potential, but nothing manages to wow me. This is the case for quite a few. "Over and Done" is more of a power ballad, and I do like that one (let's face it - Amaranthe has too much energy to slow things completely down), but I'm not sure if it's something I'll be listening to quite a bit in the future. The same goes for "An Ordinary Abnormality," which is the heaviest track.
So, in total, there are four songs from Massive Addictive I love, one that's sort of in a "I like" category, and another that's on the borderline between "I like" and "Meh." (If that makes sense.) The album doesn't blow me away because there needs to be some more variety, a little more of that WOW factor. This album will get just about anybody pumped with its metal-electronic mesh and will appeal to fans of both clean and harsh vocals, but they just need to think outside the box in terms of structure for the future.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part One | Directed by Francis Lawrence | Screenplay by Danny Strong and Peter Craig

*This contains SPOILERS for those who haven't read Mockingjay AND some minor stuff for those who have not seen the movie yet.
Katniss Everdeen has already been through the Hunger Games. Twice. But danger for her - and all of Panem - is far from over. A revolution is beginning because of her spark, and now she must accept her role as the face of the rebellion. Violence is taking over. And Peeta, who Katniss has always strived to protect, is still in the hands of the Capitol. Mockingjay Part One, like the other films (and books) of this series is packed with emotional turmoil and action, making it an excellent (though 100% accurate) adaptation.
In my review of the book in 2011, I talked about how strongly impacted I was by the book. In fact, I even mentioned having no intention to see the films when they'd come out because I loved them too much to see anything go wrong. But, the first movie's trailer convinced me that everything would work out, and it did. Jennifer Lawrence is a perfect Katniss and Josh Hutcherson makes a great Peeta. But weirdly enough, they've decided to split this movie into two parts as they did with the Harry Potter and Twilight series. I wasn't thrilled about this decision: How could they possibly make a 300-something paged book into two effective movies? After all, even though they improvised well with Breaking Dawn, that 700-something paged book could have been one single film.
The thing to remember is that the films show more than what's going on in Katniss' head, the books do not. It demonstrates the difference between what works for a book and what works for a movie. That being said, it definitely works here. In fact, some of the parts I thought would be less-effective on screen were cut down and the ones that would work best on screen were amplified. I was surprised, however, that they cut out certain things like the mystery behind District 13, but in the grand scheme I can see why it was necessary for time constraints and to really get the ball rolling right away.
I definitely think they split Mockingjay in two in just the right spot... If I was a person who hasn't read the books and just watched the movies, I'd be SO PISSED about such a cliffhanger, but as someone who has read the book, I'm primarily just worried about Part Two. I'm not worried that they'll mess it up or anything; I'm worried about the general content overall. My emotional reaction to the last half of this book was off the charts (perhaps the strongest reaction I've ever had to any book, along with Yann Martel's Life of Pi coming in second), and there have been plenty of times where my initial response doubles when I see a film adaptation because the actors in my head as I read weren't as effective as the ones on screen. Jennifer Lawrence does an amazing job at conveying raw emotion... And I know what's coming next... I don't think I'm going to handle it very well. Even in Part One, I became sad remembering the fate of a certain character.
I suppose in some ways this can hardly even be considered a review because I'm hardly reviewing anything... And really, there's not much to critique. Everything was done well, from the acting, to the script, to the special effects and everything in between. The only two things these movies haven't done as effectively as the books is really make me love Gale, be able to picture him with Katniss, and make me adore Finnick as much as I did when reading Mockingjay... They probably could have squeezed in a few more moments with Katniss and Finnick; those two characters could really relate to each other in the first half of Mockingjay and were able to struggle together. So, not perfect (because absolute perfection is impossible in the world of book-to-film adaptations), but it's still one hell of a good movie. There won't be much disappointment.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Concerts I've Attended (2012-2014)

Over the years, I've been becoming a bit of an avid concert-goer. This has basically been a life goal for myself ever since I was little; the loud, energetic concert environment seemed to call my name. Granted, I don't go to too many shows: I see an average of one or two per year, but I've never really talked about them around here before with the exception of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, who I've had the pleasure of seeing five times. I'd never be able to review a concert because they all make me extremely happy, so I figured I can put up a post discussing my most recent experiences every so often.

August 2012: Evanescence
Support: Chevelle, Cavo
Carnival of Madness Tour

I had only ever gone to Trans-Siberian Orchestra shows before seeing Evanescence, so this is technically my first real concert where people actually stand up and whatnot. One of the perks of this specific tour was that I also got to see Chevelle. I had always liked Chevelle beforehand, but I never truly got into them until seeing them live; I was quite impressed and really enjoyed their set. They're great performers. (Cavo performed a small set before Chevelle, but I've never been concerned with their music, personally.)
But, of course, I was most excited to see my favorite band since I bought their debut Fallen in 2005, Evanescence... I fangirled so much to the point that I probably should have been embarrassed. I probably did a little too much rocking out... especially during "Whisper," my favorite live Evanescence song that I have always wanted to see and hear I person (thus convincing me I would fit in better with a metal crowd), and I literally cried during "Lost in Paradise" and the final song of the night, "My Immortal," which caused a group of guys to stare in awe and point me out: I probably looked like a hot mess. It was an emotional rollercoaster overall, really. Evanescence was my go-to band for the vast majority of my teen years. Sure, their music is fantastic, but they're also my angst in a way. If something would go wrong, I'd put on an Evanescence song and suddenly I'd feel better. I've listened to their songs a million times, but seeing and hearing it live was a reminder of every connection I've made with the music, every moment I've looked up to Amy Lee as a human being... And there they were, close enough that I could distinguish the difference between Amy's sweat and body glitter. I was starstruck. Completely starstruck. I had major post-concert depression afterwards. And probably suffered damage to my vocal chords.

Other associated memories: One of the workers at the venue let me move from row CC to M for Chevelle, and then to row I (that's the letter, not the number) for Evanescence! I went to Joe's Crab Shack after this concert... They serve food in a bucket. A freaking bucket. It was awesome.

May 2014: Lady Gaga
artRAVE: The ARTPOP Ball
It took a little while, but I finally got to see Lady Gaga. My real-life bestie Nick at Aural Fixation Reviews and I were supposed to see her during the Born This Way Ball in 2013, but she had to cancel the tour a few days before our show due to injuries. Fortunately, Gaga became healthy again, released ARTPOP, and could go back on the road so Nick and I could see her. And she puts on one hell of a show! She has clearly moved on from the past, for she only played one song from Born This Way (the title track itself, acoustic) and a selection of the biggest singles from her first two albums. Everything else was from ARTPOP. I must say, her voice sounds even better live than in the studio, and of course, her dancing and general performance level were on par. Heck, I didn't even just buy my tickets for the performance, I also just wanted to hear her talk! She's such a sweet, high-energy person. Since she loves clothes so much, many fans were throwing some stuff they brought (whether they made it or not) on stage and she'd wear them all... She was like a small child excited to play dress-up, and it was adorable. She also read a fan letter aloud on stage.
However, if I ever go see her again, I'm dressing up. Everyone around me at this concert was so glamorous covered in glitter... And there I was in jeans, Converse, and a t-shirt. I looked dull in comparison to those around me.

Other associated memories: Nick and I were semi-stranded for a little while after this show and then we got lost in a scary-looking side of town.

October 2014: Within Temptation
Support: Amaranthe
Hydra World Tour

Within Temptation is my favorite band along with Evanescence, and their lead singer (Sharon den Adel) has been a vocal idol for me, so I was certainly counting down the days until I could see them. It seemed that they'd always skip my general region for every tour, but not this one! Furthermore, I was in an entire venue full of people who actually knew who they were... OMG! Amaranthe opened, and while I'm not exactly crazy about them, I enjoy a few of their songs. They did a pretty good job, but I think there was something up with their  microphones so it was harder to hear the vocalists.
Since the venue was completely general admission and didn't have seats (if you ever have to go to one, be very patient and don't be too polite so that people don't shove you out of the way), I got there early and was in the second row for Amaranthe. I was in the front for every Within Temptation song except for the last three. THE FRONT ROW. It was a perfect scenario. They are top-notch performers: They bring plenty of energy and the songs sound perfect! The screen backdrop was actually broken for a good portion of the show, but I didn't even notice until someone brought it up later. I headbanged my earplugs out during "Stand My Ground," was completely mesmerized by Sharon den Adel's vocals during "Angels," and went bananas during "Mother Earth." I was able to make eye-contact with all the band members (except their drummer) and can barely be seen in the photo the band took in the crowd when you zoom in at about 300%. It was fantastic; I was in such a good mood for literally days afterward.
Other associated memories: Traffic sucked on the way to the venue and brought on some major anxiety. Got home at two in the morning and went to university at eight in the morning... It was worth it!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Family Tree: The Branches | Radical Face

The one-man indie band Radical Face released The Family Tree: The Branches a short while ago, thus being the second installment in his Family Tree series of albums. I was quite excited for The Branches since I thought The Roots was really special, but honestly, I wasn't fond of The Branches on the first listen last year. For some reason, it seemed different than The Roots in a way I didn't like. But, my feelings have changed a bit since then.

"Gray Skies" kicks the album off as a melancholy intro before getting into the first proper track, "Holy Branches." Radical Face has still keep the raw, acoustic sound he's known for, but already, I can tell that we're in a different time period from the first installment, The Roots. Each installment gets closer to the present; The Roots starts in the 1800s. He really is accomplishing what he set himself out to do, and even though "Holy Branches" represents the new time period well by being a little more upbeat and having a jazzier vocal line, it still has a relaxing flow (as most of his music does). It's about a discontented existence... That's really the beauty of Radical Face's songs - they may not be happy, but they manage to represent the ever-human feeling of being unhappy but dealing with it because it's all we can do.
"The Mute" follows, and I must note that this is the reason why I decided to give The Branches another shot. I love this song. It's a recollection about how the speaker felt misunderstood by all when he was young and eventually ran away... While most of us don't run away, it's a topic that we can all easily relate to from one point of our lives or another. There are a couple Radical Face songs that deal with the idea of not belonging, and he does it so well. The piano dances over driving acoustic guitars, and there really isn't a proper chorus aside from Ben Cooper (the man behind the magic of Radical Face) vocalizing.

The volume goes down a bit for the fourth track, "Reminders." Something about the guitar in the chorus reminds me of the band Daughter as it's so subtle, comforting, and even somewhat haunting. There's a peculiar sound effect off and on throughout (it kind of scares me for whatever reason yet it isn't off-putting), even aside from the natural static heard throughout. It picks up as the song goes on, adding more instruments and intensity. Once again, Cooper sings of any oddities or seemingly undesirable personality traits, and its a lonesome-sounding track altogether: "So it's better if you were on your way / If you were somewhere far from me / So you could dream I turned out well / And I... I could just go to sleep."

"Summer Skeletons" is definitely the most 'innocent' song on the album, as it paints a vivid picture of how summertime is characterized by children with its swaying vocals and piano line. It has a distinct mood as it includes pretty violin sections (stuff like that always makes me swoon). "The Crooked Kind" also features violin, and while there isn't anything for me to complain about in this song, it just doesn't catch my ear. The lyrics are beautiful nonetheless.

"Chains" is by far one of the most 'modern-sounding' songs (even adding electronic elements) on The Branches, and with the sound of rattling chains and the daunting, repetitive backing vocals, it's unique. I absolutely hated it at first, and I'm still not crazy about the beginning, but over halfway through, the piano really becomes prominent and the song becomes very melodic, very nostalgic. It puts me in the mind of Blue October.

Next, we encounter "Letters Home," which is one of my least favorites as it doesn't leave much of an impression on a musical level. It begins in a very watered-down form before all the other guitars make their entrance. I feel similarly about the following songs, "From the Mouth of an Injured Head" and "Southern Snow" (although I am intrigued by the instrumental second half with its dreamy synth that overlaps the slow, full guitars and backing vocals).

Just when I'm feeling pessimistic about this album, "The Gilded Hand" comes along. This track is quite different than the norm for Radical Face; it's so much more serious and dark with its wistful, repetitive piano line that goes on for nearly the entire song, no matter if the moment is softer or louder, which seems to exemplify a life of working on an instrumental level as well as a lyrical level: "Time is lost, found cracks along my bones / This metal god is all I know." There's even a little bit of electric guitar starting in the second half of the song, giving it an especially full sound (Radical Face's music has oftentimes been rather stripped down instrumentally). Without a doubt, it's one of my favorites.

The last song, "We All Go the Same," begins with a choral blend of Ben Cooper's vocals along with breathy sounds, but that's not the only different thing it has going for it. I believe there's an accordion (I'm not an expert on what those sound like, so I'm sorry if it's actually something else), and eventually a slow, simple series of piano chords as Cooper sings about death. The ending verse actually puts a few tears in my eyes before it cuts off and the album's over... "We All Go the Same" ranks among the most beautiful of Radical Face's songs.

As I said in my review of The Roots from two years ago, The Branches is also a difficult album to describe. It's strange... The songs are different, but not too different altogether, just in some feelings they emanate. I've said it in my review of The Roots and I'll say it here: Radical Face has a talent for describing emotions in the most realistic way. It's what makes him stand out among other artists. In my world, this is the definition of indie in its purest form.

Not every song single song resonated with me, but I enjoyed most of the songs from this new installment of The Family Tree. There is some very sincere musical content on this album that's certainly worthy of any praise it receives.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books That Were Hard for Me to Read

Once again, I'm participating in Top Ten Tuesday, a fun and popular bookish meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. This week, we're talking about books that we found hard to read. My list is split up into three categories; when I find that something's hard to get through, it pretty much always has to do with emotional content, the writing style, or the pace and characters. I didn't include books I didn't finish in order to narrow the list down, and keep in mind though that just because some of these books were difficult for me to get through doesn't mean that I didn't like it. Some of these books are favorites of mine... And others are least-favorites that I didn't care much for at all.
Top Ten Books That Were Hard for Me to Read

The content and the emotions:
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Life of Pi is split into three parts. The first part has a lot of tidbits of Pi's childhood, his beliefs on certain things such as zoos and religion... The need-to-know stuff before you get to he second part. I didn't find any difficulty with reading this first part. I also didn't find it hard to get through the second part, which is the primary part of the story. But then part three happened AND I COULDN'T SEE PAST MY TEARS AND WAS CONFUSED AND DISTURBED, which caused me to read very, very slowly. It was hard to get through that last part.
*I gave this 5/5 stars on Goodreads.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
I feel like I'm the only one who found it kind of difficult to get through this one. It's universally acknowledged that The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a masterpiece and has a lot of feels, but the themes of this book just really hit me unlike any other novel. I've known people who have experienced similar types of trauma described in this, and Charlie's raw narrations hurt my heart.
*I gave this 5/5 stars on Goodreads.
Night by Elie Wiesel
*I gave this 5/5 stars on Goodreads.
This is such a small book; anybody would be able to read its 100-ish pages in a setting theoretically; however, the content is just... It's a lot. And its awful. It's a Holocaust autobiography, so that's to be expected. Someone's account of their time in concentration camps is bound to stir a lot of emotions, and even though I had to read it chapter-by-chapter for school, I don't think I would've read a lot of it in one sitting anyway because it would've overwhelmed me.
*I gave this 5/5 stars on Goodreads.
The writing style:
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
I love The Lord of the Rings. Granted, the books were written in a passive style and I prefer the masterpiece movies, but I still enjoyed the trilogy. The Hobbit, on the other hand... I just couldn't get into it. It had potential, but it just wasn't written to be vastly entertaining as much as it was written to be descriptive, and the stronger plot points were glossed over.
*I gave this 2/5 stars on Goodreads.
'Salem's Lot by Stephen King
This book sounded like a fantastic idea. I mean, come on, Stephen King and vampires? That's got to be awesome, right? Unfortunately the combination didn't work for me. It felt very slow-paced and ramblesome throughout the book, and it caused me to not like it as much as I probably could have had it been written and generally executed differently.
*I gave this 2/5 stars on Goodreads.
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
I enjoyed The Scarlet Letter. It's a fantastic idea and has plot twists, but I struggled with it at times. Nathaniel Hawthorne's writing didn't try and reflect his own time period; instead, he tried to embody the language of the Puritans, since that's who he was writing about. It was... well, kind of dull. Very ramblesome. It took a while for me to read despite being a small book, but like I said, I liked it overall.
*I gave this 3/5 stars on Goodreads.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Their Eyes Were Watching God basically has two different writing styles: The style used for the narrative and the style used for the dialogue. The writing in the narration is absolutely beautiful; I had no trouble at all getting through that. Even though the type of dialect depicted in this book is found off and on throughout literature, the way it's presented in this novel is different. I don't mean that in a bad way, but it just took some getting used to before I could read through the dialogue at a decent pace.
*I gave this 5/5 stars on Goodreads.
The pace and characters:
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
It took me a really long time to get through Wuthering Heights. Like, a really long time. A lot of people seem to discuss how awful Heathcliff is, and even though Heathcliff certainly is flawed, the only character I had a major problem with was Cathy. I didn't understand her at all and she just kept ruining everything! So between her and the slower pace... It was definitely a project. But I liked it in the end; I just had to wait until I could finally grasp Cathy.
*I gave this 4/5 stars on Goodreads.
Dark Flame by Alyson Noel
No comment.
*I gave this 1/5 stars on Goodreads.
Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
Linger is the second book in Maggie Stiefvater's Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, and I must say I definitely enjoyed this one the least. There wasn't enough important stuff going on for me, and Grace was driving me bananas... yeah. (Although Cole and Isabel were quite interesting.)
*I gave this 2/5 stars on Goodreads.

Can you guys relate to any of the problems I described? Were any of these books hard for you to get through? Let me know in the comments and feel free to leave me the link to your Top Ten Tuesday list.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Emma Watson Speaks for the HeForShe Campaign... Amen

Emma Watson, who most of the world knows as the actress who portrayed Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter film renditions, has recently become the UN Women's Goodwill Ambassador. She recently spoke about gender equality at a United Nations event. If you haven't seen it, I beg of you, whoever you are, to watch her speak in this video:

I have always been a proud fan of hers. I've always been proud when people have told me in the past that I look like her, for even though that comparison deals with our exteriors, I've always been happy to be compared to a woman with such a good head on her shoulders. I've always been happy that this child star seems to only rise in respectability and never decline. But now... I don't know if it's possible to be more proud.
When discussing the HeForShe movement, Watson calls for men to join in the movement for gender equality, for she doesn't only acknowledge how women aren't treated fairly; she also speaks quite a bit about male stereotypes. A lot of what she's enforcing deals with the fact that it should be acceptable for women to be strong, to have big dreams and opinions, just as it should be acceptable for men to show signs of vulnerability, to talk about their feelings. She wants to destroy all of the gender stereotypes and expectations that keep us from achieving true equality.
She's a feminist, and so am I. And she speaks the truth:
"And the more I've spoken about feminism, the more I have realized that fighting for women's rights has been too often become synonymous with man hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this. Has. To stop. For the record, feminism, by definition, is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes."
I am so sick of the tarnish that seems to stick to this word and I know that I'm far from the only one. Unfortunately, I have met a couple of women that do suggest male inferiority without realizing it, but let it be known that that is not feminism. I have also met a young woman who has argued on several occasions that men are naturally superior. Both are rather sickening points of view.

She really took the words right out of my mouth here:
"Apparently, I am among the ranks of women, whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, and anti-men... Unattractive, even. Why has the word become such an uncomfortable one?"

The word has become uncomfortable because there are a lot of men and women who don't know what it really means. I've seen people indirectly advocate without any real knowledge of the concept. Because if people really did know its definition, wouldn't more people associate with it? Don't people want equality? Aren't most people largely feminist as most people can agree that gender equality is ideal? It's time to cut the cord on the ignorance that surrounds that word, to educate the people who are confused about the true definition.

Anyhow... Out of everything I said, Emma said it better, so watch that video above.

And thank you, Emma, for being such a fantastic person. You've made the Potter fanbase proud.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Oops! The Best Singles I Excluded in 2013

For the past couple years I've compiled my list of my favorite singles of the year, and of course, I made one for 2013 last December. It was pretty cute - Top 13 Singles of 2013. There were some other singles I liked last year and considered for the list that didn't make the cut, and later this year, I realized there were a lot of other songs I didn't include because I either forgot about them, but more commonly, I hadn't run in to them yet. There's so much music in the world; it's easy to get caught up in some aspects of the spectrum and kind of lose touch with others. A little more pop music is on this list; I don't listen to much pop music, so when I find something I actually like, the discovery is made long after everyone else knew about it. If I remembered/discovered these songs in a timely manner, my top 13 list would have some songs switched around, and honestly, it probably would've been a top 20 list because I love them all so much.
Without further ado, the great songs I left out - countdown style... There are only nine and that isn't a nice number for a countdown, but alas, that's just the way it's going to go: 
"Not Gonna Die" - Skillet
I really got into Skillet when their album Comatose was released x-amount of years ago, and then I bought Awake when it was released... And then last year, their newest album Rise came out. I just wasn't feeling it. It seemed to draw from the elements I enjoy the least about Skillet. However, "Not Gonna Die" is a really solid track; I loved it as soon as I heard it last year... And then I kind of sort of completely forgot about it when I was making my list last year... Oops. Anyhow, I really love the blend of male and female vocals in this song; it reminds me of their single "Hero."
"Rap God" - Eminem
 Um... Did you guys hear that middle eight? How is it even possible to say anything that fast? In all four years of blogging, I think this is the first time I've really expressed any love for rap music. That's because I don't listen to much rap music - except Eminem. I love his style, and "Rap God" shows a lot of the different spins he can put on his voice. I think I may have heard this song once back in 2013 but other than that I just got caught up with other music. I didn't realize how cool this song was until this year - I know, shame on Critica!
"Dark Horse" - Katy Perry ft. Juicy J
 This is definitely my guilty pleasure track... It's so freaking catchy! I can't help it! Once in a while Katy Perry will a release a single that makes me happy, and "Dark Horse" is probably my favorite of all the songs she's released. So what kept this single from making my initial 2013 list? Well, I never heard it. As I've mentioned, I don't listen to that much pop music, which means I don't listen to a lot of pop radio, so that's how I managed to avoid it. 
"Wake Me Up" - Avicii
  I heard parts of this song off and on in 2013, but I never paid too much attention to it until this year. I never expected to love it as much as I do now. It's definitely not what I normally listen to between the guy's voice and some aspects of the instrumentation, but I really came across this track at the perfect time. I got to sing it in choir - the final song of my final high school show. Tears, people. Tears.
"You (Ha Ha Ha)" - Charli XCX
Like many, I discovered "You (Ha Ha Ha)" through the Vampire Academy movie trailer. So, at first I just had the fabulous instrumental in my head before looking it up; I wasn't disappointed. This song reminds me so much of Mean Girls for whatever reason and brings me a lot of nostalgia. Honestly, it never gets old either... And I would know because I've heard it about a million times by now and still love it.
"Dangerous" - Within Temptation ft. Howard Jones
Such heaviness! Within Temptation is my favorite band (along with Evanescence, of course) and their single with Tarja "Paradise (What About Us?)" was at the very top of my 2013 list... Which was posted just before "Dangerous" was released. Honestly, I kept putting off posting the list because I knew "Dangerous" would be out soon and would likely be on the list somewhere, but then I decided I was being ridiculous and put the post up anyway. But, this single is so energetic and fun! (The video, however, does not meet my approval. Just saying.)
"Recover" - Chvrches
CHVRCHES! I've only recently discovered how awesome this electronic-based alternative band is, and "Recover" is certainly a standout track out of all the songs in their discography. The verses are sung in a really cool staccato, making lead singer Lauren Mayberry's high voice sound robotic, but she's very melodic in the first half of the chorus. It kind of reminds me of the band Metric in some ways. I'm also in love with their 2012 single "The Mother We Share."
"The Nexus" - Amaranthe
I'd only heard a couple of Amaranthe's songs before listening to "The Nexus," and while I thought they were a decent band, I wasn't particularly thrilled by those couple songs. But since they're going to be opening for the Within Temptation concert I'm going to attend in October, I figured I should look up some songs that will likely be on their setlist... And let me tell you, "The Nexus" is awesome! Synths blend with heavy guitar riffs to create one of my favorite intros/outros of all time, and that chorus is just so magical with the blend of vocals and beautiful lyrics! "I break with the past / Set the nexus free at last / As the future will be there to save us..."

"Say Something" - A Great Big World ft. Christina Aguilera
Tearjerker of the year. Seriously, why didn't I ever run into this song in 2013? It's beautiful and I love it. I love how simplistic the piano is, I love the vocal line, I love how Christina Aguilera shows us the softer side of her voice (I honestly didn't even recognize her when I heard this song for the first time), I love the sad video... "Say Something" is utterly flawless.