E.Ps

Her Tape 2 by Her

Her Tape #2 is a six-track E.P. released by ‘Her’ in April of 2017. This E.P. was one of those random finds that I now couldn’t imagine not having in my regular playlist. All of the songs on here are made up of an eclectic mix of instruments and singing styles, expertly woven together.

After a french-spoken introduction, ‘Blossom Roses’ begins with a soulful voice singing over a simple organ melody. The chilled out nature of this music just welcomed me into it like a huge wool blanket. Like the one my lady knitted for me at Christmas. The song soon flowers into what I can only describe as being influenced by Zero 7. ‘Blossom Roses’ was such a great escape from the monotony of my regular commute that I had to hear the whole E.P. before I started work that day.

The next song, ‘Queens’, mixes up the singing style from the previous and has an awesome little guitar riff throughout. Just with ‘Blossom Roses’, the song builds up brilliantly to its crescendo. ‘Queens’ gave me some vibes similar to the band Arcade Fire in parts.

‘Jeanie J’ helped the band’s knack for effective arrangement really sink in for me. Just like with the rest of the songs, none of the individual parts of ‘Jeanie J’ appear to be particularly complex, yet they come together to create a beautifully-arranged song.

If you find yourself with twenty minutes spare nad not sure what to do, check out Her Tape #2. After listening to it, it left me wanting another twenty minutes from them.

Games

Life is Strange: Before the storm episode 1

Going back to the coastal Pacific Northwestern town of Arcadia Bay has been a joy. So many familiar places and people made it welcoming once again. As to did the game’s visual style and character development.

One of the central points of Life is Strange was Max Caulfield’s new power – the ability to rewind time, allowing the player to pick an alternate choice to their original. I was interested to know how a new game, a prequel in the case of Before the Storm, would hold up without this huge key component.

As it turns out there is so much more to these games than just the ability to rewind time. In fact the more I played Before the Storm, the more I realised that – although it is key to the original’s plot – Max’s ability isn’t the most memorable thing about her and Chloe’s adventure. The most memorable things for me were the characters, their relationships and the world they all live in.

Chloe’s special ‘gift’

Although Chloe doesn’t have Max’s power, she does possess the gift of ‘Backtalk’.

Stay with me.

Backtalk is when you engage in a battle of words with another character, with each of your responses having to be chosen before the timer runs out. It feels great to win an argument in this game and a lot of Chloe’s comebacks had me genuinely laughing out loud.

Chloe Price rocking out to firewalk
Chloe Price rocking out to firewalk in the game’s opening scenes

More of a coming of age story

Where a lot of the plot of the original was a mystery / detective story, Before the Storm is more of a coming of age story. There is no mystery to solve here. You, as Chloe Price, are going about your business and quickly befriend Rachel Amber. Their relationship advances nicely given the relatively short time frame and number of locations they have. By the end of the episode I could feel the strength of their friendship quickly becoming love.

I also loved how we got to experience life as Chloe, seeing her subconscious and how she’s coping with the loss of her father. We also see the early stages of David, her mom’s new boyfriend, moving into her life. I have to say that I couldn’t dislike David at all since I knew how heroic he became in the climax of the first game. Saying that, her comebacks to him when engaging him in backtalk are golden.

Still a game of exploration

Before the Storm is just as fun to explore too, as with it’s predecessor. You should talk to everyone and walk everywhere, because you never know what cool little conversations you will have. Each scene also has areas where Chloe can tag with her black marker pen. These are rewarded with achievements too so make sure you find them all.

On the whole I really enjoyed this game. I didn’t miss Max or feel the game needed anything else like another magic power or anything like that. Before the Storm felt smaller in scale to Life is Strange, but the characters and situations still helped to flesh out the world of Arcadia bay much more in my mind.

Films

You’ll die if you try – Thoughts on the film IT

I will always remember the original TV mini-series of IT with fondness and nostalgia; it was the first thing I watched that scared the crap out of me. I was extremely wary, I might even say pessimistic, about the new theatrical version to come out this year. However, after deciding to give it a chance I found that I came out of the film very happy.

From what I’ve gathered, this newer version stays closer to the source material than the aforementioned TV series. This isn’t really of any importance in my enjoying of it as I’ve never read the book, but thought it was worth a mention.

I personally found the jump scares to not have too much of an effect on me. What did leave an impression on me were the relationships between the main characters – the losers club, and the absolute creepiness of Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise.

The Losers Club

The actors and actresses playing the losers club did an awesome job and had great chemistry on screen. It was good to see the blossoming, and sometimes damaging, of their friendships before ultimately coming together for the final showdown against Pennywise.

The Losers Club
The Losers Club from the film IT

But aside from the kids versus clown, the story also did well in telling the group’s stories as a coming-of-age tale – these aren’t just a bunch of one dimensional characters; these are fully-realised people who are all dealing with the stress and anxiety of growing up, as well as added parental pressure. Never mind the killer clown that wants them dead.

Pennywise the dancing clown

Speaking of Pennywise, Bill Skarsgård was so frickin’ awesome in this part. Even though I knew the story and knew the general series of events, he still creeped me the fuck out from the get go. His eyes that weren’t quite right; the subtle shifts from being a friendly clown to showing the expressions that betray his underlying motives; the downright terror that ensues when his real self comes to the forefront.

It was genuinely scary to just see him talking in the opening scene – the opening scene that goes further than most other popular horror films do. Even though I knew what was coming in that scene, I still found myself sitting there, anxiously awaiting the climax.

Chapter 2…

I thought it was interesting to only see the events of the group’s childhood; leaving the adulthood and final showdown to its own film entirely. I don’t think it would actually be possible to cram the whole book into one film – at least not without cutting huge chunks out.

I’m looking forward to seeing the conclusion of IT sometime in the near future, all being well with all of the same writers and creators.

Films

Thoughts on the film mother!

I had zero knowledge of ‘mother!’ when I went in to see it, other than it was directed by the same guy who had made Black Swan (which I love). This is always my preferred way of experiencing a film – without knowing what it’s about. Little did I know I would be led down the garden path into the ever-increasing darkness.

Mother! is a film that I find defies classification. I think if you’re going into it expecting a horror film, as some have, you may be disappointed. Similarly if you go in expecting romance, or thriller, you may also be disappointed. Instead, remain open-minded; think of ‘mother!’ as being a unique story that slowly unravels; keeping its cards close to its chest.

Jennifer Lawrence & Javier Bardem posters for Mother!

When I watched it I didn’t quite know what I was seeing. I mean, yes it’s a seemingly straight forward narrative about a couple in the early stages of dissolution of their relationship, but the narrative is a veneer for a whole slew of metaphors – I’m just not smart enough to have spotted them. All I know is that I enjoyed the journey I was taken on, the mixed feelings it conjured up, and the challenges it often presented me.

There were some moments in the film that were quite difficult to watch, with the mother having an increasingly bad time as the story progresses. But I think that’s what films should do – challenge us; confront us with things we wouldn’t normally experience; shock us out of the rhythm of everyday life and give our brains something new to process.

It’s great that we live in a world with directors like Daron Aronofsky, who just have a story and they tell it, staying true to the original kernel of the idea. They don’t pander to any pre-decided notions of what a particular story should or shouldn’t be, or even what a story should be, they just do their thing; everyone else is just along for the ride.

If you are looking for something different and are open-minded to be taken on a different kind of journey, you should check out mother!

Journal

Birmingham Marathon 2017 – 30 days to go

Today’s run left me feeling a lot more confident for the upcoming marathon than the previous Sunday’s. Last Sunday I attempted this route but ran on an empty stomach which, amongst other factors, caused me to stop at the 8.3 mile mark.

This time I made sure I had a good meal one hour before running as well as being hydrated. Also I took one of my new energy gels with me to have one hour into the race. I think it worked. I mean, I didn’t feel a boost of energy or anything like that, but I did stay at the same level of tiredness throughout the run.

Finishing this run left me feeling a lot more confident, but I still have no illusions about the marathon itself – it’s gonna be a killer. If I had kept to my original training regime I should be running a 22 mile distance today. I ran half that.

You can see my run results here if you want. I think next weekend I may go for a 15 mile distance but I think that’ll be the furthest I do before the actual day, for fear of injuring myself.

Journal

“Visits” are real people too.

When trying to write every day, I find myself looking at my WordPress dashboard to see how many visits I’ve had up to that point. When the bar chart goes way higher than the average I get excited; when it is lower or completely empty I get down.

Sitting down to wait for my dinner today I thought to myself that these numbers on the bar charts are real people. Flesh and blood people who have landed on my website by chance. I have the opportunity to share something real with them.

I had recently tried maintaining a music-focussed blog, which I managed to keep up for a few months before leaving it to go stale. Those old reviews and interviews have now been brought under my personal website domain and I’m no longer writing to just “get views”.

Of course, the more people I have visiting me the better, but I’m not going to go out of my way to write things I don’t want to just because I think more people will want to read it. From now on I will try and just tell the truth; my truth.

Along with writeups/reviews of various things I see and do, as well as keeping a journal of sorts, I aim to make this an honest account of my experiences. Anyone who comes along for the ride is a bonus.

Thanks,

Dave.

P.s. if any of you reading this have your own website, let me know in the comments below. Cheers.

Journal

Birmingham Marathon 2017 – 32 days to go

After last Sunday’s run that kept me feeling ill for the rest of the day, I began to doubt my chances of completing the marathon. However, although I am still in no way fully confident in my abilities, I have had a slight confidence boost with my latest run tonight.

Distance: 6.7 miles

Time: 1 hour 4 minutes.

I kept my pace, starting slower and maintaining that speed as best I could, as opposed to my starting quicker before. What resulted was a consistent-feeling run throughout; I didn’t really hit any “wall” as I made sure I just took it easy.

For my dinner earlier on I had a chicken curry with rice, then and hour before the run I ate a banana for the extra slow-release energy.

I will try and get another run in, albeit shorter, this week before Sunday. Then on Sunday I’m going to try and accomplish a 10 mile run, with the aid of one of my new energy gels I bought today.

I was talking with a new person at work today and he mentioned how he had completed a marathon in about 3 hours and 45 minutes (I forget the precise time). I seriously need to up my game.

 

Check out my run on Strava here.

TV

American Horror Story: Cult (Episode 1 – Election Night)

American horror story is back for is 7th series this week and not a moment too soon. I really enjoyed the slight departure in last series’ Roanoke story, however it feels good to be back in the familiar horror story format along with the title sequence.

Only now we see a new kind of horror

Election Night

Sarah Paulson in American Horror Story CultWe open the story on Election night in the United States – the actual election night we witnessed last year with the election of Donald Trump. This event sets the story off for the two principal characters: Evan Peters’ Kai Anderson, and Sarah Paulson’s Ally Mayfair-Richards.

Both American Horror Story veterans, Paulson and Peters portray their characters brilliantly as always. Paulson plays one of two women in a same sex marriage with a son, whilst Peters plays a hard line Trump supporter who couldn’t be more excited that Trump got into power.

Clowns Everywhere

The result of the election causes Ally (Paulson) to relapse into phobias that she had since conquered – the most notable of these being her fear of clowns. Not only have the series creators took inspiration from the clown sightings of late last year, but they have also brought back an old favourite: Twisty the Clown from series 4 (Freak Show). Although Twisty does only get shown through the visualization of a comic that Ally and her partner’s son is reading, I really hope he somehow makes it in the flesh.

Twisty the Clown from American Horror Story

A new type of horror

American Horror Story has always been known for its graphic display of violence, in all its forms. However, for me the real horror in this episode wasn’t necessarily from the clown gang, or the butchering of a young couple by Twisty, but in the actions and attitudes of people. To be precise, people who now feel authorised to take negative actions against those they consider to be outsiders.

Another aspect of the horror, and the one that really got under my skin, was when Ally’s new babysitter, who also has a personal connection to Kai, shows her son graphic images of real deaths on the “Dark web”. Essentially explaining to him that it’s good for him to watch it in order to build up his immune system to it. This girl, played by Billie Lourd in her first AHS role, is completely sick in the head: A perfect fit for the show.

In Closing

I have good feelings for this series and love the nucleus of the story idea. There have always been elements from our own world in American Horror Story, however, this is the closest the show has felt to being right on our doorstep.

This could be one of the only good things to come as a result of Trump in power.