Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Steven Universe Episode Reviews: Season 1A

Episode 2: "Laser Light Cannon"
Plot: "When a menacing "Red Eye" is about to hit Beach City, the only thing that can destroy it is a Laser Light Cannon that once belonged to Steven's mother, Rose Quartz. Steven and his father, Greg, search through Greg's storage for the cannon." 

Comments: Mediocre first impressions. On the plus side, the story in itself was intriguing enough, and made nice use of tension in the right spots. And the final climax scene with them stopping the "red eye" was very nicely done, with very cool, artsy animation. As well, I am very fond of the scene of Steven dancing in the car. On the minus side, the pacing of the episode felt, for lack of a better word, thin. At this time it seems that the show hasn't yet made the best use of it's 11-minute runtime, and thus it felt pretty rushed and kinda flat. As well, I really didn't like the song ("Let Me Drive My Van Into Your Heart"), though maybe it was kind of the point.

As a whole, the episode gets a 6/10, as while the pacing was quite off, the story and very nice ending scene are good, and with the improved pacing of the later episodes it would likely get a much higher grade.

Episode 3: "Cheeseburger Backpack"
Plot: "The Crystal Gems go on a mission to place a Moon Goddess statue on top of the ruined Lunar Sea Spire, and Steven tries to prove he can be useful with the help of his new novelty Cheeseburger Backpack."

Comments: This was significantly better. The story was once again quite good, and unlike the last episode the pacing did not feel very rushed, which made it quite a bit more enjoyable, and had nice tension and excitement throughout. The animation was very good in this episode as well, the wacky facial expressions provided a good amount of humor throughout. The episode also made good use of music to enhance the atmosphere at some parts. 

Overall, not spectacular, but quite good. 7.5/10.

Episode 7: "Bubble Buddies"
Plot: "Steven forms a magic bubble around himself and a girl named Connie to save her from a falling rock, but he has no idea how to make it disappear."

Comments: Overall, this episode was mostly mediocre. I can't really say much more than that. There were some funny bits (E.g Steven's horrified reaction to Connie's donuts having Trans Fats) and nice emotion at the end, but as a whole, the episode didn't really do much for me.

Overall, it worked nicely as an introduction to Connie, plus Steven's bubbling abilities, but not much more. 5/10.

Episode 10: "Steven's Lion"
Plot: "Steven befriends a magical lion he finds in the desert during a mission."

Comments: This episode was quite similar to the last one, in that it served well as a character introduction (in this case, Lion) but not much more. But it was somewhat better than the last one. There were some funny bits, such as Steven making Lion say "I love you" or Ronaldo's "Steven's PREGNANT!" line, the background music was quite good, and there was a nice action sequence at the end.

But these nice parts weren't really enough to bring the episode to a good grade. 6/10.

Episode 12: "Giant Woman"
Plot: "Steven encourages Amethyst and Pearl to fuse together into a four-armed "giant woman" named Opal, but Amethyst and Pearl keep quarrelling."

Comments: This episode was good, though with one notable flaw. Said flaw is that Steven was really grating throughout the episode. His constant nagging for Amethyst and Pearl to fuse was quite annoying, even if it was the point? I dunno. But there were quite a few plusses. The main plot was entertaining, Steven's song "Giant Woman" was quite pleasant, the first of many nice ukulele numbers that would pop up in the show, even if Steven's singing sounds quite strained. The music was quite nice, as well, particularly the piano music that plays when Amethyst and Pearl finally fuse. The climactic action scene was quite nicely done, with good music in the background. And things also got entertainingly bizarre at the end, with Steven getting swallowed by a bird, and Pearl and Amethyst trying to bust him out.

While not one of my very favorite SU episodes, it was quite decent overall. 7/10.

Episode 16: "Steven The Swordfighter"
Plot: "Pearl's attempt to teach Steven the art of sword-fighting using a holographic version of herself goes awry when she gets injured and has to retreat into her gem to heal."

Comments: This was another mediocre episode. Once again it worked nicely as an introduction to a concept (namely, what happens to gems when they get injured) but as an episode it did not really rise above mediocre. There were some good bits. I liked some of the scenes of Steven doing activities with Pearl inside her gem (it reminded me in a good way of the scenes in Wall-E where Wall-E does activities with Eve despite her being inactive). Steven had some good facial expressions, and Pearl's return was nicely emotional.

Overall, far from the worst the show has to offer, but far from the best as well. 6/10.

Episode 17: "Lion 2: The Movie"
Plot: "Steven and Connie try to ride Lion to the movie theater, but Lion instead takes them to a mysterious Gem armory."

Comments: Not good as a whole. The story was once again really thin, and didn't really contain much that was engaging. But it had a few saving graces that kept it from getting a lower score. The action scenes at the end were very nice, as is the standard for the show. The opening "Dogcopter" movie trailer was quite funny, it parodied many movie trailer cliches very well. And there was also some nice instances of facial expression humor.

But once again these nice moments weren't able to lift the episode too high, so I could only give it a 5/10.

Episode 24: "An Indirect Kiss"
Plot: "Steven tells Connie about his mission with the Gems to heal Amethyst when she cracked her gem."

Comments: Now this is the kind of episode that makes me keep watching the show. The premise was very interesting throughout, with a lot of tension and a "race-against-the-clock" plot that kept me engaged. Amethyst was on top form, providing some good laughs in the first part and her getting more and more messed up due to her gem cracking was super-nicely done, and aside from providing some funny moments also provided some really creepy ones. Her screams at one point in the episode were almost legitimately scary, something that I don't really say about shows often. It also did a nice job with emotional weight, with some nice scenes of Steven questioning his power and ability, and the climax was also quite emotional as well.

Overall, the best episode to that point of the show. 8.5/10.

Episode 25: "Mirror Gem"
Plot: "Steven befriends a magical mirror that can mysteriously communicate with him, and ends up freeing its prisoner: Lapis Lazuli, another mysterious Gem."

Comments: An average episode, but it makes sense, since it was mostly a table-setter for the following "Ocean Gem". The first half of the episode was quite dull, and was also marred by a few fart jokes (I think?) at one point, which I was not fond of. However, things really picked up around 6 minutes in, with Steven obtaining a magic mirror, which starts communicating with him and leads to some wonderfully creepy bits with the faces in the mirror going "no!" over and over again, and things got very interesting from that point on. There was also some nice facial expression humor throughout.

But as a whole, mostly an average episode, and worthy of a 6.5/10. But while this was average, the next episode was far, far, FAR from it...

Episode 26 "Ocean Gem"
Plot: "Lapis Lazuli disappears after reigniting a past conflict with the three Crystal Gems and takes the ocean with her, leaving Beach City in a panic on the first day of summer. Steven, Connie, Greg, Lion and the Gems go on a mission to confront Lapis and set things right."

Comments: Well, here it is, the absolute BEST episode the entire show has to offer. The beginning of the episode, with the oceans being drained, sucked me in right away, and the high stakes did not let up throughout the entire episode. We also got some good jokes in the opening bit, such as Garnet rolling out of the car because she didn't like the song being played, and Greg's "This is a good idea for an album cover" line. And then, we got a great fight scene, the animation and music combining exquisitely to create a very exciting moment. And if that wasn't enough, the scene where Steven meets Lapis, and she explains the situation, was possibly the best scene in the show, ever. The music, action, animation, dialogue, and the overall atmosphere and "epic" aura surrounding not just this but the episode as a whole were all amazingly well-done, and the way they all combined together was pretty much perfect. By the time the credits were rolling, I had been completely sold on the show.

While the later seasons of the show were much better than this, and there would be many more awesome episodes, this, the first truly excellent ep, is still the best. 10/10. 

Time For A Change Of Pace

While i've mostly stopped my music reviews (lack of passion, busyness, and general laziness), there are quite a few other things I have thoughts about. And one of those is Cartoon Network's Steven Universe.

Starting in June 2017, and going through last month, I caught up on this TV show, though I skipped several episodes which were deemed "filler", the list of which is below:

Season 1A: Gem Glow, Together Breakfast, Frybo, Cat Fingers, Serious Steven, Tiger Millionaire, Arcade Mania, So Many Birthdays, Lars And The Cool Kids, Onion Trade, Beach Party, Rose's Room, Coach Steven, Joking Victim, Steven And The Stevens, Monster Buddies
Season 1B: Keep Beach City Weird, Garnet's Universe, Open Book, Shirt Club
Season 2: Say Uncle, Rising Tides Crashing Skies, Sadie's Song
Season 3: none
Season 4: Future Boy Zoltron, Onion Gang, Rocknaldo
Season 5: none

As a whole, the show so far is generally good, but quite patchy overall. In my opinion, the show excels best at fast-paced, actiony episodes, more emotional episodes, ones with engaging/high-stakes stories, and atmosphere. The main problem with the show comes with the slower, more character-based episodes. Usually, these episodes lack engaging premises, and when a show has that, it needs something else to lift it up, like good humor, or good emotion, or good action scenes. And usually, these episodes don't really work in that. There are a few exceptions to this, which will be covered.

But as a whole, the show is good, and has steadily improved over it's run. So now, onto the reviews.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

I made an album!

Hey guys! Sorry for the absence, i've been working on exciting new projects, and here is one, called Mild Thematic Elements, my first album!
This is an electronic rock album with metal elements, featuring 10 songs. It can be purchased here:
Buy it, it only costs six dollars.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Rush- 2113

Rush- 2113: Shelved album!
Best song- All are lit

Well well well, what a treat we have here! An unreleased album from the Rush vaults! This album was going to be released in 1977, continuing the story of 2112, who's open-ended conclusion left fans confused. However, after tumultuous recording sessions that among other things included Geddy Lee joining a Wiccan cult, Alex Lifeson playing guitar so hard his fingers literally fell off, and Neil Peart hiring a moon landing truther as a guest vocalist, the album was shelved and left to rot. However, during a impromptu Facebook chat I managed to get in touch with the album's producer, Jim Shady, and he gave me MP5s (An innovative new audio format) for the album. So here is le review.

The album is a fascinating experience beyond any other. The album is a full on concept album, not just a concept side. Geddy Lee took primal screaming lessons before the album, and thus his raw singing is brutal beyond belief, Alex Lifeson's finger-falling-off guitar playing is out of this world, and Neil uses tons of innovative techniques in his playing, such as punching drums with his fist, banging his hands on a table, and putting the drum on his head, walking around, and seeing what happens. Couple this with the wide variety of instruments and we get an amazing work of art.

The suite starts off, like all good suites should, with "Overture". Frentic sackbut and hurdy-gurdy playing is followed up by constipated moans, 100-tracked throat-singing harmonies backed by even louder screaming in pain, and the body of the track consists of a variety of guitar themes with heavy use of 1024th notes, backed by a guest vocalist muttering about how the moon landing was a soundstage. The disembodied child vocals in the background are a nice touch. Overall, an incredible use of 4 minutes.

The first lyrical song comes next, in "I Ain't Dead", where the protagonist, who was presumed to be dead, is actually alive and living in a secluded farm with all the crops he wants. Geddy's guttural vocal style is in top form here, as he literally makes me crap myself with how raw he sounds, and Neil's forceful table-hitting, Alex making a prank phone call in the background while smashing the guitar on the phone, as WELL as playing the contracontracontrabassoon at the same time (what a talent) and guest vocalist's muttering about the Coca-Cola bottle below the moon landing broadcast while playing the electronic harmonica is an incredible music background. I especially dig when 6 minutes in everything cuts out except Alex counting to 10 backwards in Ukranian on loop for the next 10 minutes, backed by an increasingly louder string of profanity and excerpts from Manos And The Hands Of Fate.

Next up on the list is "Into The Underground" where the protagonist seeks refuge in the London Underground where he inexplicably ended up. The track is an aural collage of train sounds backed by Neil punching holes in his drum kit, bass-boosted and pitch-shifted to make it sound demonic. A delightful experience, especially when the tortured moans of pain start creeping in.

"Why Am I Fat and Gassy?" comes afterwards. Geddy laments about his body weight and flatulence problem, in a demonic proto-death-growl. Over which, the guest vocalist and Neil, in a sped up, muted voice, duet the entire transcript of "Duck And Cover", which gets progressively higher pitched until it's unhearable, though my dogs went nuts while I was listening and barked for about an hour. But that's a story for another day. I also think the ending part where Alex untunes his guitar is epic.

"The Temples Of Syrinx II" is an interesting track, taking the original "Temples of Syrinx" but pitches it up an octave, slows it down, and adds tons of screaming, screaming, and moon landing conspiracy screaming. And the hurdy-gurdy and sackbut are back too. 

Finally, it ends with a "Finale" which mixes all of the best elements of the prior tracks. Disembodied child vocals, screaming, throat-singing, sackbut, Moon Landing drabble, and it keeps building and building until my computer literally exploded from the amazingness.

Overall, a simply killer album. 6.5807482375098237950847380957345870780/5.

Oh, and also, APRIL FOOLS!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Queen- Sheer Heart Attack

Queen- Sheer Heart Attack: Released in 1974 for EMI
Best Song: Now I'm Here
After the success of Queen II (Number 5 in the UK, though only 49 in the US) with "Seven Seas of Rhye" being a number 10 hit, Queen went on tour, with the UK leg of March followed by a US leg supporting Mott The Hoople from April through June of 1974. The tour was successful and they frequently got more cheers than Hoople.

However, the tour was cut short in May of 1974 after Brian May developed hepatitis AND a stomach ulcer. And yet despite all that the band went into AIR, Rockfield, Trident, and Wessex Studios to work on their third album, Queen III- nope just kidding it has the much more creative name Sheer Heart Attack. The album, released in November, would be a smash hit and rocket Queen to superstardom.

The album would be so successful thanks to being more accessible than the previous ones, the hard prog roots giving way to a poppier sound. Queen's genre diversity is in full swing here, there's hard rock ("Brighton Rock", "Now I'm Here", "Flick Of The Wrist", "Tenement Funster") Balladry ("Lily Of the Valley", "Dear Friends", "In The Lap of the Gods... Revisited", "She Makes Me") Quite possibly the first thrash metal song ("Stone Cold Crazy") jaunty music-hall stuff ("Killer Queen", "Bring Back That Leroy Brown") Soul ("Misfire") and a prog song ("In The Lap Of The Gods"). Unfortunately, with this diversity comes the fact the album is much patchier than previous efforts, there's several moments of bad stuff on here. The band's playing is still strong, as are Mercury's vocals, but there's quite a few of lame filler songs. Thankfully there's still lots of good stuff to be found.

The album starts off with a mixed bag in the live staple "Brighton Rock", penned by Brian May. On the plus side, the song is driven by a GREAT chugging guitar riff, with the band plowing along at 100 miles an hour to create a killer hard rock experience, and the harmonies in the chorus are classic Queen, and there's also a top-notch instrumental break/guitar solo with Brian shredding it up and Roger Taylor rocking it on the drums. On the minus side, the carnival intro is completely out of place, Freddie Mercury delivers a genuninely BAD vocal performance, as he sings in a ridiculous girly falsetto, and the instrumental break quicky gives way to a pointless "show-off" solo that lasts way too long. Still, I like the song more than not.

Next up we have the mega-hit "Killer Queen", penned by Freddie, which is an awful lot of fun despite the fact the lyrics are apparently about prostitutes. The piano driven melody is jaunty and fun, the harmonies are stellar, especially in the chorus with tons of layering, Freddie's playful vocal performance is delightful, especially his juggling of full voice and falsetto effortlessly, the guitar solo is top-notch, and the little touches (The phasing effect on "Dynamite with a laser beam") add a lot of depth to the layered sound. Overall, a nice fun music-hall number deserving of it's hit status.

The next three tracks are combined in a medley, a throwback to their progressive roots. The first one, "Tenement Funster" is Roger Taylor's vocal showcase on the album, and it's a typical Roger Taylor song, a great rebellious rocker. It starts with a strong repeating arpeggio riff on acoustic guitar before it gives way to a simple two-note repeating passage, before the song picks up, as Taylor goes into his raspy higher register (which fits well with this song). We also get another superb guitar solo from Brian May. Overall a strong rock song, who's ending segues into...

Freddie's angry "Flick of the Wrist", an attack on their manager, Norman Sheffield. It starts with a complex classical-inspired piano part before going into an angry, scathing rocker. The riff, played on guitar and piano to great effect, is menacing as can be and sounds awesome, Freddie sings the pissed-off lyrics (It's not every day you find a song that starts with the line "dislocate your spine") with venom, and we get some classic Queen harmonies in the disarmingly happy chorus, we also get yet another awesome solo. Afterwards, things calm down significantly, as we segue into... 

Freddie's ballad "Lily Of The Valley", which while very short (1 and a half minutes) is nonetheless strong, it's a pretty ballad with lovely piano, great use of falsetto from Freddie, and more beautiful harmonies from the band. A song which perfectly defines the phrase "Short and sweet".

The second big hit of the album, their most played live song, and my pick for  the BEST song on the album comes up next, in Brian's headbanging "Now I'm Here". It starts with a quiet chugging riff in the background with Freddie doing delay effects with his voice, and then we burst into high-pitched, screaming guitar parts that lead into a top-notch hard rocker. The main guitar lines are absolutely top-notch, Freddie delivers a strong agressive vocal, Queen's harmonies are top-notch as always, and the instrumental break is great, with nice soloing from Brian backed by some good piano parts. Definitely deserving of being such a hit.

Next up is a throwback to the band's prog roots, in Freddie's complex "In The Lap Of The Gods". It starts off with a bang with Roger Taylor using his really high falsetto to great effect, leading into an eerie intro with some creepy harmonies and guitar, which fades out after 40 seconds only to come back in. After a minute of chaos, we fade into a gentle piano ballad, which is sadly marred by a stupid-sounding pitch-shifting of Freddie's voice. Freddie then starts using his natural falsetto, and the song picks up with strong drumming from Roger Taylor, and the band repeating "leave it in the lap of the gods" over and over, with Roger Taylor doing some insanely high pitched falsetto, and a great guitar solo as well. Described as a test-run for "Bohemian Rhapsody", it can definitely be heard in this great track.

Next up is the third big hit of the album, one of Queen's heaviest, and possibly the first thrash metal song, the group-composed "Stone Cold Crazy". The song plows along, with a excellent chugging riff leading the way, with some wild soloing, and it's an overall great tune, but very simple. 

Another 1-minute song follows, "Dear Friends", sung by Brian. Even though it's very short, it's still a lovely piano ballad with nice singing from Brian May. It's an incredibly simple song, but it's a nice reprive from the heaviness of "Stone Cold Crazy". 

Unfortunately the album takes a turn for the worse in the next three tracks. John Deacon's first piece, "Misfire" has nice vocals, but the main melody is pretty mediocre, cheesy, and doesn't really grab me in any way. 

Freddie's "Bring Back That Leroy Brown" is bland, saccharine, cheesy show-tune fluff, that lacks and substance to grab onto and wouldn't sound out of place in a episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (That's not a compliment). 

And the last in this three song stretch is the Brian penned and sung "She Makes Me" MY GOD is this song boring and dragging, just repeating the same three notes over and over again for four minutes until at the end the song breaks down into noises. Many hail this as one of Queen's worst songs, and it's not hard to see why. 

Thankfully, the album ends on a high note with Freddie's ballad "In The Lap Of The Gods... Revisited". It has nothing to do with the first one, but is a top notch track. The verse piano parts are quite pretty, and the verses also feature more lovely Freddie falsetto, and the chorus has a great amount of anthemic power which made it a popular live closer. The harmonies are also strong, with some nice counterpoint at times. A great improvement. 

Overall, while the good stuff is good (But not up to the highs of the previous albums) the three track stretch near the end drags it down, and some of the good songs have flaws, so I can only give it a 3/5. Get it for the goods.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Pink Floyd- More

Pink Floyd- More: Released in 1969 for Columbia Records
Best Song: Cirrus Minor for atmosphere, The Nile Song for rocking out, and Green Is The Color for beauty

A Saucerful of Secrets was a big sucess, charting number 9 (Made no impact in the US, though) and after a tour they were asked by film director Barbaret Schroder to compose the soundtrack for his film, More. So they went into Pye Studios in February of 1969 to record the soundtrack, released in June of 1969.

The album is entirely sung by David Gilmour, and he shows the full range of his vocals on the album, going from soft falsetto to gritty belting with ease. Roger Water's star is shining, as he writes all the songs except Nick Mason's "Up The Khyber" and Gilmour's "A Spanish Piece" (Though all the other instrumentals are group composed) However, quality wise, this is another patchy early album. Good stuff abounds, but it's bogged down by filler and avant-garde crap. 

The first song on the album is the best. "Cirrus Minor" starts off with ONE MINUTE of birds chirping (No joke!) but when the song starts it's GREAT, featuring a incredibly haunting acoustic guitar theme coupled with eerie singing and spooky organs in the background, and creates an awesome atmospheric piece which is also quite simple, before giving way to an EPIC, majestic slow chording from Richard Wright that gives me chills, coupled with creepy atmospheric sounds. Yep, this is one great start to the album. "The Nile Song" is just as good, however. The most interesting thing about the song is that it is almost grunge, released over 20 years before Kurt and Co. launched it onto the world. But not only is it innovative and ahead of it's time, it's awesome. The main, ultra-distorted riff is crushing, Mason's drums are powerful, and Gilmour's near-screamed vocals show he could sing metal surprisingly well, also cool is how the main verse melody changes keys SIX times! We also get a ripping guitar solo as well. So far, so good.

Unfortunately, the following "Crying Song" is not good at ALL. MY GOODNESS, is it one sleeeeeeeeeeepy song. The song is SO quiet, you might not even notice it's playing if you're listening in the background, and the melody is just bland acoustic strumming. It works as a cure for insomnia but nothing more. "Up The Khyber" is better though, a neat little jazz piece with frantic drumming from Mason mixed in with some neat piano parts from Wright and some wild organ noodling. I can't say much more than that, it's a pretty simple song, and short, at only 2 minutes. 

The third pick for "best song" on the album comes after that. "Green Is The Colo (u)r" is another acoustic ballad, but it's BEAUTIFUL. The acoustic melody, coupled with the flutes in the background, is positively gorgeous, and Gilmour's falsetto singing and Rick's piano solo adds to it perfectly to create a incredibly lovely atmosphere. A terrific song, one of their prettiest. 

"Cymbaline" is also good, creating a wonderfully creepy atmosphere from it's sparse arrangement of just piano and faint drumming, and it also boasts great singing from Gilmour. The slow organ themes are great too (In terms of slow atmospheric sequences i stand by that NO ONE was better than Rick Wright). However, the end of side one, "Party Sequence" is completely dispensable, nothing more than drumming.

The second side is all group-composed instrumentals (sans one) and they very in quality. "Main Theme" is very good. A panning gong intro gives way to MORE spooky atmospheric playing by Rick (My favorite keyboardist, honestly), a neat booming drum track from Nick, with panning gongs in the background, and a great slide guitar solo to close things off. I also want to point out the wah-wah effects on the organ are REALLY cool. 

Up next is "Ibiza Bar", another proto-grunge song similar to the "Nile Song" and it's pretty close to the standard. The main guitar riff and singing aren't as strong as "Nile Song" but still awesome, and the organ parts are neat too. The guitar solo is also a ripping one. 

Unfortunately, the album falls off with the last four tracks. "More Blues" has pretty much no melody to speak of, it's just guitar noodling (I guess some of the noodling's good, but...) "Quicksilver" is another awful avant-garde song, with no rhyme, reason, or cohesion, just noises and atonal organ parts, and of course it lasts SEVEN minutes, easily the longest track on the album, and to make matters worse while "Interstellar Overdrive" and "A Saucerful of Secrets" had good bits, this doesn't. Easily one of Floyd's bottom 10.

 "A Spanish Piece"  is the VERY DEFINITION of filler, just about half a minute of flamenco guitar while Gilmour whispers Spanish phrases. Thankfully, "Dramatic Theme" ends the album on a high note, a neat funky jam with cool wah-wah soloing from Gilmour. 

You may notice this review's very short compared to others, but that's simply because lots of songs are simple, short instrumentals. Overall, while it could be a good album, the presence of five tracks I don't really like really weighs it down, so I can't give it any more than a 3/5. Get it for the good stuff.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Why Reviews are so rare

You might notice that my reviews only come out once or twice a month. You might wonder, why is that?

It's simply because of two reasons:
1. School gets in the way, I often have very little free time to work on my reviews
and 2. Album reviews take time, they're pretty long.

So I hope you understand.