A Public Letter to Four Islanders

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This is going to be kind of a personal post, and really, I’m not sure how else to contact all of my old friends together. I’m not even sure if everyone still checks Four Island. Regardless, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and it’s come to my attention that as Four Island decreased in usage from 2009 onward, my depression increased. When The Fourm stopped being frequented altogether in 2011, which kind of corresponded with some negative real life events, things got worse, and then by 2012 I had joined Tumblr and things continued to decline.

The thing is, I never realized this before but Four Island isn’t a blog. It isn’t a professional website. All of the work I’ve been stressing over for years in making Four Island professional and using WordPress and all of this stuff is counterproductive to the point of Four Island. Four Island always was two things to me. First, it was a project. Rewriting Four Island completely to create Four Island 3 would be a joyful and fulfilling activity, especially if I insisted on implementing all of the insane ideas I had for it. The thing is, I always laughed at myself for thinking that those ideas were sensible, but I completely missed the fact that Four Island is not a professional website, it is a connection to my friends, and therefore things like FourChat make sense.

Second, it was a safe place. Lacking many real life friends, many teenagers turn to online communities, and it just happens to have turned out that I created one before being forced to leave my friends in Australia. I don’t know exactly what’s happened over the last few years, but I can assume that it’s a standard case of distance-separated friends drifting apart. At this point, Drifty is the only one of my friends I even occasionally talk to anymore, and things are kind of tense between us because of some things I’ve done. It’s the usual tragedy of growing up, except for me, it had other effects. Because Four Island ceased to be a community where I could hang out, I eventually turned to another community, Tumblr, to fulfill my need for involvement with other people. However, these people are unknowns, they are strangers, and they are mentally ill. Tumblr is not a safe place. Tumblr fostered the development of my depression and my anxiety. This is of course not to say that I wouldn’t be depressed if I hadn’t gone on Tumblr, but I think I can safely say that if I were still close with my Australian friends, and if we still hung out on Four Island, and I was still tweaking away at my code and adding useless stuff that no one cared about and people commented on my blog posts and we talked enough to actually have things to quote, I don’t think I’d be where I am right now.

At this point, I don’t really know what to do. All of my old friends have moved on to different communities and have made other friends, and I don’t have any friends left that I’m close enough to form a community with. I feel like this post has an accusatory tone associated with it and I apologize for that: I don’t blame anyone for my descent into depression and in fact I thank you all for helping me stay connected for so long, even though we eventually broke apart. I think the real truth is that I should shut down Four Island. It has no function anymore. I’ll never delete the data, but Four Island has lived a rich, full life and whether or not I realized it at the time, it served its purpose. With regards to where I will go communitywise, I do not know. I don’t know if I could create another community with people at Carnegie Mellon, especially because while I love my new friend, I think she’s too cool for me. I’m afraid that I can’t have that same connection that I had with Shaun when I first showed him my website and somehow, a community grew out of it. She’s not as desperate for friendship as we six teenagers in Australia were.

I’ll drift. I don’t know where I’ll end up in the end. But I thank you for making the golden age of Four Island the best time it possibly could have been. I wish you joy in your new communities. Goodbye.

Hatkirby on December 30, 2012 at 6:39 pm

On Numbers of Gryphics

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I was going through some old posts on the Fourm (which is to say, all posts on the Fourm :3) because I was bored and I found a post in which I inadvertently did some discrete math in counting how many different badly-named clones of Gryphic there were, given that a badly-named clone of Gryphic has 7 letters, they have at least one letter in common, and that letter is in the same position in “Gryphic” and the badly-named clone. I appear to have used the Rule of Product and came up with the number 2,162,410,431. However, having now actually taken a class in discrete math, I can see that this is very wrong and in fact overcounts the number of possible Gryphics. And because I’m still bored, I’m going to write out a proof. 😛

Let L be the number of badly-named clones of Gryphic. First of all, we note that a badly-named clone of Gryphic has seven letters in its name, and at between 1 and 6 of those letters match those in “Gryphic.” If 7 letters matched, then it would not be a badly-named clone, and if 0 letters matched, the clone would have no relation to Gryphic at all. Next, we partition on the number of letters that differ. If we let A_n be the number of badly named clones of Gryphic with n letters in common with “Gryphic,” then by Rule of Sum:

L = \sum\limits_{i=1}^6A_i

To construct a badly-named clone of Gryphic with n letters matching, we first choose which n letters should match (there are \binom{7}{n} ways to do this), and then choose unmatching letters for the remaining 7-n letters. If we let B_n be the number of ways to choose the remaining 7-n letters, then by Rule of Product:

A_n = \binom{7}{n}B_n
L = \sum\limits_{i=1}^6\binom{7}{i}B_i

There are 26 letters in the alphabet, and for each of the 7-n remaining letters, we have to choose a letter that is NOT the corresponding letter in the original name, “Gryphic.” Therefore, for each of these positions, there are 25 possible other letters we could pick. By Rule of Product:

B_n = 25^{7-n}
L = \sum\limits_{i=1}^6\binom{7}{i}25^{7-i}

We want to use the binomial theorem to simplify this expression, but the bounds of our summation are slightly off. To remedy this, we can expand the range of the summation, and then subtract the new terms (which are simple edge cases). Therefore:

L = \sum\limits_{i=0}^7\binom{7}{i}25^{7-i} - \binom{7}{0}25^7 - \binom{7}{7}25^0
L = \sum\limits_{i=0}^7\binom{7}{i}25^{7-i} - 25^7 - 1

Then, by the binomial theorem:

\sum\limits_{i=0}^7\binom{7}{i}25^{7-i} = 26^7
L = 26^7 - 25^7 - 1 = 1928294550

This makes logical sense. 26^7 represents all possible 7 letter words, 25^7 represents all 7 letter words that share no letter positions with “Gryphic,” and 1 represents the number of words that are Gryphic. Therefore, there are 1,928,294,550 different possible badly-named clones of Gryphic, and in that original post four years ago, there must have been some clones of badly-named clones of Gryphic. Oh my. Imagine cleaning up after them. Ick.

Now, four years ago, I of course didn’t know what the Rule of Product or even discrete math were, but it appears my line of thinking was that there had to be at least one letter in common, so choose which letter it should be (7 ways to do this) and then choose any other 6 letters, possibly even correct ones, for the other positions (26 ways to choose each letter, so 26^6 by Rule of Product). The reason we are allowed to pick correct letters for the other positions is because more than one (but less than 7, which I had not taken into consideration) letter is allowed to match. However, this overcounts because it is far too loose. Take, for instance, the edge case of actually forming the name “Gryphic.” I originally subtracted one for this event, but it actually happens more than once. If we are to follow the above process, we can choose any of the 7 letters to be the same, and then for each of the remaining 6 letters, pick the correct letter. Therefore, there are 7 ways to actually choose the name “Gryphic,” this being only one of the many ways the old formula overcounts.

Well, this has been your discrete math lesson that you never wanted. It was fun for me. Being on break is relaxing, but it’s nice to think sometimes too, right? This was a perfect little exercise I could do that also had to do with Four Island. And Gryphic/Drifty is going to kill me. 😀

Hatkirby on December 30, 2012 at 12:30 am

Best of 2012 #2: Born To Die

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We’re almost at the end, folks. On the final days of 2012, I would like to reflect back to the final days of 2011, when, innocently browsing Tumblr, I started to see a lot of posts and pictures regarding some singer named Lana Del Rey. In fact, it was a year ago yesterday when I decided to give her a listen, when my ears were graced by the beautiful haunting melody that is Video Games, and I was immediately hooked. This mysterious woman who had come out of nowhere was suddenly breaking my heart, and I found myself amongst the many others waiting impatiently for her debut album, Born To Die, to come out. A month seemed like a very, very long time. I mean, how long could you wait for this to arrive in your mailbox?


I just have to take a moment out of this review to say that this cover is a piece of art. Everything, right down to the fact that you can see her bra through her shirt, is perfect. If you listen to the album, you’ll understand why.

Lana has one theme that she knows dearly and which she can expound greatly on: old-fashioned love. Whether it’s the fiery, upbeat passion of Off To The Races, or the slow, cold death that is Born To Die, Lana delivers a catchy tune and a moving story. Lana’s sultry voice works combines beautifully with all the different productions thrown at it, be it the summery, happy banger of Blue Jeans or the cascading, nighttime pain of National Anthem. All of these songs are brilliant and have earned many a night of being played on repeat. Lana exudes insanity (huh…), heartbreak, and nostalgia.

National Anthem is perhaps my favorite song, and what’s amazing about it is that it’s not actually the beautiful backing violins that make the song—while the album version is very dark, the demo version of the song is very upbeat and happy and it still manages to blow me away. Her lyricism really shows in this song (in fact, I like these lyrics so much that I sang? some of them in a Gates of Sleep song).

Other notable tracks include the soft swaying sadness of, well, Summertime Sadness, the banging midnight fiesta of Lolita, the relaxed, light, poppy ditty of Diet Mountain Dew, and the shining, barely constrained happiness of Without You. This album has very few low points—in fact, the only song I really outright dislike is Million Dollar Man, because it’s boring and not that interesting musically or lyrically. Other than that, this is a bona fide indie pop album which had a large bearing on me this year. It’s definitely worth a listen. Just get ready for some emotion.

Hatkirby on December 29, 2012 at 9:40 pm

The Fad of Mental Illness

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There’s something to be said of the desire for attention. It’s a basic human need, and yet rather similarly to sexual urges, society has made the subject taboo. One thought to be doing something solely for attention is ridiculed and shunned. We as a people make it clear that you should feel bad for wanting attention, and if it’s a basic human need, well, you should feel bad for being human.

I often find myself embodying these dilemmas. One of the reasons I left Tumblr was the lack of tact almost everybody had with their desire for attention. It’s truly a mystery how an online community made up of teenagers with varying degrees of depression and other mental illnesses can turn against human nature itself. Tumblr claims not to judge and to accept all, but the need for attention is not pitiable, it is shameful. The degree to which Tumblr is not an accepting community is in fact rather astonishing, but that’s a topic for another time.

The need for attention is poisonous, too, however. I have found myself embracing my small, but strange, illnesses, cautiously but nonchalantly complaining about very worrying things. I have found that I want people to worry about me, and yet, I have to make sure they don’t know I want them to worry about me. It’s gotten to the point that I was somewhat interested recently when I discovered that I’d developed trichophagia over the last few months, because it’s strange, would probably worry people, but I myself don’t find it to be much of a problem. That’s right, I don’t think much of the fact that there’s a hairball developing in my stomach and that I can die from it.

There’s something to be said on the topic of Tumblr. Teens leap with excitement when they realize that there is a place that they can talk about the teen problems that society forbids them from openly talking about, but the truth of the matter is that Tumblr as a community encourages illness. You’re not cool if you don’t have depression. Who’s going to talk to you if you don’t have social anxiety disorder? You’re certainly not going to get any attention if you don’t have some debilitating disease. It’s handicap envy on a much larger level, and it’s scary. Kids pretend to be ill in order to fit in and it gets to the point when they actually develop the symptoms that they fabricate, and suddenly you find yourself with a community of depressed, suicidal teens and not enough attention to go around.

This post started out as a musing on society’s odd behavior regarding attention, and developed into a full-blown rant about Tumblr society. It just goes to show that we as a society need to erase the taboo of needing attention. We need to understand that everybody needs attention, and people who aren’t getting enough are going to do things that very obviously seem like they’re attention-seeking. We need for there to be healthy ways for teenagers to attract the attention they need, and not the attention that will steer them down an unhealthy path.

Hatkirby on December 29, 2012 at 9:07 pm

Best of 2012 #3: Give Me The Money

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I’m going to be a little cruel, today. You will not be able to easily obtain the album I’m about to discuss. It’s also a little amusing to call it my third favorite album of 2012 because not only was it not released it 2012, but it in fact wasn’t released at all. Around June of this year, a stir shook the Marina & the Diamonds fanbase when someone discovered a secret album, an album older than Mermaid vs. Sailor (the self-recorded EP she made 70 copies of and gave out at concerts before she was even on a record label), an album hidden from the world for years until it somehow leaked. I am talking, of course, of the one and only Give Me The Money.


Give Me The Money is Marina in her rawest form, it exudes her strange outlook on things and, sadly, her depression, that had been much more noticeable back in the day when she was still performing Are You Satisfied? in bars and she called herself Marina & the Diamonds even though she had no diamonds1. Therefore, this album may be a little hard to take in, especially for a first time Marina listener. In fact, if you haven’t listened to Marina before, I would suggest you step back and listen to The Family Jewels a few thousand times before trying this masterpiece.

The first track is Starlight, a familiar name to a hardcore Marina fan. A demo by the name of Starlight has been available on the internet for a while now, but this version of the song is much more stripped back and raw. Marina’s heavily equalized voice cries over an expertly played piano, comparing lost love to the light of a dead star. You’ll find that Marina is quite the queen of comparison on this record; the next track, my favorite, is called The Common Cold and after a chorus of sneezes ushers you in, Marina hits you with a zinger: “There is no known cure for the common cold.” The most emphatic verses ever combine with the saddest chorus ever to spin a comparison between heartbreak, and that one common, incurable disease. Heavier production could not do it justice; the audio clipping simply enhances the pain in Marina’s voice.

Love isn’t the only topic this fledgling singer has opinions on. Supermodel’s Legs (the precursor to Electra Heart’s Teen Idle) wonders how society can get away with its hegemonic ideals of beauty when in reality, no one can live up to them, and Lonely Bones backs it up by arguing that the fakeness that people imbibe into their bodies (e.g. collagen) won’t travel with them after they die. The former track is upbeat and angsty, the latter, sad and ominous.

It’s clear that society’s got Marina down, however. In her most telling song, Happy Meal, Marina says she feels like a happy meal trying to get noticed in a crowd of steak. She sings about the tendency toward self-destruction, preferring to help others, and the ease of judgement, and in this way, it is a very relatable song. This simple, raw, piano ballad exudes the fears that she covers up on The Family Jewels, where she cries that success is all she needs. Once again, the format enhances the art, and the rough quality makes it even more moving. This is not an album to be taken lightly.

There are so many other standout tracks, such as Perfect-oh, a cheery cry for help buried in obsessive-compulsion, Hubba, a repetitive ditty about leaving bubblegum in your mouth overnight which I theorize is a metaphor for suicide, and Hot, Cross Bun, a mysterious but incredibly catchy song about a pregnant mother being denied the food she needs to live. This really is one of the most personal and moving albums I’ve ever heard, and it just radiates that style and that meaning that resonates within me and which makes me love Marina & the Diamonds so much. This album was never meant to see the light of day, but it leaked and I enjoy it so much. This is the one album, however, that I cannot recommend you listen to. It is a masterpiece, and it is very dear to me, but it is not casual listening material. Someday, you may be ready to get the money, and when you are, it’ll change your entire life.

Hatkirby on December 28, 2012 at 8:27 pm

Best of 2012 #4: Enchant

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We’re in the final four, folks, which means the going’s getting tough and the reviews are getting more intense. So to speak. Today’s album comes from a beautiful enchantress that I’ve already discussed this week: Emilie Autumn. You may have noticed I’ve put the album art to the right instead of letting you bask in its glory below. The reason for this is that there doesn’t actually exist a high-definition copy of this album art. Why? This is a very old album.

Enchant was released some time in either 2002 or 2003 (it is legitimately unknown) on Emilie’s own record label, Traitor Records, which no longer exists. Not only is this album old, but it’s also out of print. My inability to procure this CD in a physical form is perhaps why it took me so long to listen to it—as stated before, I listened to Opheliac in early 2010, and yet I only finally wised up and gave Enchant a listen a little less than a month ago. Regardless, it’s become one of my favorite albums of the year!

Enchant is different from Opheliac. Enchant is very different compared to Opheliac. Enchant shows a side of Emilie that is hidden by her insanity in Opheliac, it shows a side capable of love, a side entrenched with beauty and entrapped in a mystical world of faeries and fairy tales. This album is legitimately a story: the first track is labelled as a prologue and the last track is labelled as an epilogue, and they introduce/end the album so perfectly.

It’s hard to choose favorite songs from such a wonderful album, but I’ve whittled it down to three. Epilogue: What If was the song that attracted me to the album to begin with, and when I heard it I was so shocked because it didn’t sound like any Emilie Autumn I knew. She sings about freedom and independence and she warbles and she harmonizes and it’s simply astounding. It also feels like a goodbye. It is the perfect end to a perfect album, but what’s the use of talking about the end when I’ve barely talked about the middle?

One of my other favorite songs is Juliet, which is obviously named after a famous Shakespearian character (which she returned to when naming Opheliac!), and in this song Emilie serenades us with her violin and sings about true, star-crossed love. The chorus is so catchy and yet moving, and she concludes the song with a violin rendition of Greensleeves. If you like her violin, you’re in luck because she has a whole album of her playing the violin, but that’s for another time.

Then, of course, there’s Heard It All, the most hardcore song on the album and the one that most reminds me of Opheliac. The uptempo cymbal sets the mood for the strangest and most intimidating song about suffocation I’ve ever heard, and the raw choruses are so singable that this song has been on replay for days.

Other mentionable songs include Rapunzel, a harpsichord-y melody about persistence, Ever, a slow piano ballad about eternal love, Castle Down, an uptempo piano song about savagery, and Prologue: Across The Sky, a dark space-like musical inferno. Of course, every song is notable, but what I’m trying to point out here is that Enchant encompasses a very broad range of musical styles. This album is not monotonous, but neither does it sound confused. It flows like a story, and what a beautiful story it is.

Enchant is a fantastic album, and it in fact has quickly become one of my favorite albums ever, even though I only first listened to it a few weeks ago. I would definitely recommend it to a first time Emilie Autumn listener. As to the age-old question of “Enchant or Opheliac?” all I can say is they’re both amazing albums and it’s a crime to try to compare them because they’re both so different. This is Starla, signing off until tomorrow, when we’ll take a look at an album the Earth was never meant to see.

Hatkirby on December 27, 2012 at 9:05 pm

iTunes 11 Shows Signs Of Old-Age

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iTunes is, of course, an aging program. It was created nearly 12 years ago, long before the introduction of the iPod, as a simple music player. It’s grown a lot in the past 12 years, clearly, but it’s definitely starting to show signs of old-age. iTunes 11 came out recently and while people have had a lot of complaints about slowness and reduced functionality, I haven’t really shared the same grievances. However, I’ve been having one rather major problem that is really starting to tick me off.

iTunes appears to have become incredibly forgetful. I have a large music library, with almost 1900 tracks. I also use iTunes to watch TV shows and I will frequently switch back and forth between the two activities, especially now when I am on break. Because my music library is fairly large, I will often be scrolled almost halfway down (say, when listening to Marina & the Diamonds). If I then go to TV Shows, watch a gripping episode of My Little Pony1, and then decide to go back to Music to continue listening to Marina, I will suddenly find myself back at the top of my music library, forcing me to scroll all the way back down to M. iTunes 10 did not have this problem.

There’s a similar bug with TV show seasons. In iTunes 11, both albums and TV Shows are shown in a cute little popout that is color-coordinated with the cover art of the album/show, which is fancy but not incredibly important. With TV shows, the season that you are watching is choosable in the top right corner of the popout:

Screen Shot 2012-12-26 at 11.14.13 PM

The problem comes when you want to watch an episode in something other than Season 1. If you watch a Season 2 episode of a show, for instance, when the video finishes, you will find yourself looking at the Season 1 list of episodes, rather than Season 2, which is what you were looking at prior to watching the video. In order to watch the next video, you then have to scroll to the top of the popout, choose “Season 2″ again, and then scroll back down to where you were. This is incredibly inconvenient and is once again a problem that iTunes 10 did not suffer from.

Another issue with memory can be seen with playlists. I have a playlist of Homestuck music that I like to listen to in a random order, so I turn on shuffle. In iTunes 10, when I then returned to the main Music library, shuffle would turn itself off. The shuffle status was associated with the specific playlist or lack of playlist that I was on. In iTunes 11, shuffle carries over from playlist to playlist. If you listen to a playlist with shuffle on and then go back to Music, you will hear your music played in a random order. This one isn’t as frustrating as the previous two bugs, but it’s still pretty annoying to have functionality change on you.

I really hope Apple fixes at least the first two bugs in the next version of iTunes. Their concept for the new version of iTunes appears to be simplification, but they’ve made navigating my large library more difficult to do.

Hatkirby on December 26, 2012 at 11:26 pm

Best of 2012 #5: A Profoundly Sick Society

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Oh my, this is embarrassing. Through careful play count and funtime analysis, it has been discovered that my fifth favorite album of 2012 was the one that I created, A Profoundly Sick Society by The Gates of Sleep. Stay tuned for a massive advertisement. In all seriousness, however, this album made my list not because I think it’s a musical spectacular (in fact I have a bad case of creator’s dismay), but rather because I had such a good time producing this album. Of course, by producing, I mean shitting around in Audacity, but, details.

This album wasn’t a completely solidary project, however, like the first one was. For instance, there were several prospective cover arts for A Profoundly Sick Society, including the original random Flickr one, some weird Tellytubbies, and a vial of a dubious substance, but in the end, the final cover for the project was one created by my good friend Drifty, who combined these covers and several other pictures relating to work on the album. I really appreciate her work there, and I think you’ll agree that the final cover came out very nicely:


Following the release of my first album, I Might Be Wrong, I almost immediately set into working on two new tracks: a playful ditty on drug abuse called A Cupcake In My Head and a mashup of an unfinished Imogen Heap song and a Lily Allen song called Back To The Song That Never Was. Production then ceased for about two years. How fun. It all started again, however, when I was listening to Valley of the Dolls by Marina & the Diamonds and playing with repeating the first second of the song. That’s how Frigid Earth came to be.

The album itself is quite a doozy. While the name “A Profoundly Sick Society” was randomly generated back in 2009, it wasn’t actually until I started creating music again (and in particular, I think, after the song Poland was created) that I really came up with the concept for the album being the cruelties of society. For instance, Poland is ostensibly about World War I, but it’s actually about LGBT hate crimesCOHOSE YUOR CLOOR seems to be an insane song on dyslexia, but it’s actually about the pressure to conform. The Breakfast Professionals appears to be a fairly innocuous ditty about buying cereal, but it’s actually a propaganda ad for mind control cereal. You’re loving this, aren’t you?

Some tracks, like These Days, were created using the standard I Might Be Wrong formula of mashing up songs into something insane, and other songs, like Skinny Dipping 4 Love, were entirely written and recorded by me (though Skinny Dipping 4 Love also features the beautiful voice of Drifty). Some of the production I did was incredibly fun. Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society is both badly autotuned and somewhat dubstep, and if that’s not enough reason to listen to it, well, it’s about vampire pumpkins, which are A Real Thing or so I have read.

Each track of this album is equally insane, and I almost worked hard on them so I think you should give the album a listen if you want you know don’t feel pressured or anything it’s okay I don’t mind. There’s also a plethora of album related work: These Days, Skinny Dipping 4 Love and Poland were all released as singles and have at least two B-sides each, and after a few more months I released a remix album containing surprisingly little remixes, and containing more really weird shit.

A Profoundly Sick Society was an intense project, as well as a personal and kind of depressing one, but in the end I had fun and I can actually enjoy some of the fruits of my labor. ThreadStop, in particular, is my favorite song. It also occupied a great portion of 2012, and this is why it fits into my favorite albums of 2012: because you can’t help but love your children.

EDIT: This is my 400th post! Whoo!

Hatkirby on December 26, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Best of 2012 #6: Paradise

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Merry Christmas everyone! I’m shivering in my fuzzy robe and slippers here as I bring to you my gift: a review of a lovely EP by a lovely lady. Lana Del Rey, oh, how do I begin? Well, I’m certainly not going to start with how I got into her—that’s a story for later. Hint hint. Anyway, after the massive success of her début album, Born To Die, Lana shocked the world by announcing that she didn’t think she would be making any more music. Children cried. How could we go on?

Thankfully, she later changed her mind and announced that she would be rereleasing Born To Die as Born To Die: Paradise Edition with 8 lovely new tracks. Now, for people who already own Born To Die twice1, this was a bit annoying, but in another stroke of good luck, Lana also released the new tracks of Born To Die: Paradise Edition on its own cute little EP named Paradise. How fun. Let’s appreciate that cover art, shall we?


She’s beautiful, isn’t she? The cover art really does make you think of paradise. Now, since this is an EP with not that many tracks, and because so many of the tracks are standout tracks, I’m going to talk about all of them! We’ll begin with the first single from the EP, Ride. Ride has been both praised and criticized as being very reminiscent of the Del Rey style we saw on Born To Die, and indeed I do not like Ride very much because it just doesn’t seem to mean much. Her smokey vocals and flowery music just does not seem different. The second track, American, however, sets a better tone for the rest of the EP: it feels contained, yearning to explode into passion in the chorus and her usage of her voice as an instrument in American works far better than it did in Ride. It feels more like a subdued, beautiful paradise than the forced one of Ride.

Now, of course, there’s the infamous Cola. It starts off with the hook “My pussy tastes like Pepsi cola,” and her sultry voice carries you through the rest of the banging tale of homewrecking. It of course has all of her standard Del Rey symbols like American flags and Daddies (the latter of which I must say really does unnerve me but whatever), but what I must say really gets me is the high-pitched warbling she does during the middle-eight—listening to it I was so shocked that she was able to hit those notes. It’s really quite beautiful and impressive. Now, the next track, Body Electric, is one she’s been performing at concerts for a while now. Body Electric sounds scared. She sings about Marilyn, Jesus, suicide and opulence, and while she then brings it back partying at night, that haunting line still repeats itself in our minds, “I sing the body electric.” Of course, I Sing The Body Electric is a Walt Whitman poem about the human body, so we may infer that this song is about Lana’s body insecurities and America’s tendency to inflict body issues on young girls being the reason America is not Paradise. The song itself is very haunting and it does indeed grow on you.

Blue Velvet, of course, was not written by Lana—it is a cover of a 1954 single from The Clovers. Lana’s rendition of this classic song, however, is simply beautiful. It sounds very different from the original because she adds her own personal paradisiacal flair to it. It takes you back, man. Grooving out of this mellow tune, however, we enter into a dark land, the land of Gods & Monsters, one of my favorite tracks on the EP. This celestial banger enters your soul and threatens to take it away, but as Lana sings, “No one’s gonna take my soul away.” It is perhaps the most powerful track on the EP, brimming with “innocence lost.”

Lana completely takes it away with the next track, however. Yayo is a remake of a track from her fledgling record under her original name, Lizzy Grant. I have not been fortunate enough to hear the original recording of this track (though here is a very adorable live performance of it!), but this recording simply blows me away. It is so raw, so smoky and so sad. I also just learned that “yayo” is slang for cocaine. Okay. That’s interesting. Finally, there is Bel Air, my favorite, favorite, favorite Lana song ever. The chimes, the children playing, the ambience is perfect. Her vocals, her lyrics, “I know your name.” This song FEELS like paradise. Her voices manages to trail off in the most beautiful ways in this track. It is simply amazing, and it wraps the EP up so perfectly.

Paradise is truly an impressive EP, and it is a beautiful addition to Born To Die. 2012 truly has been Lana’s year. Let’s hope 2013 works for her as well.

Hatkirby on December 25, 2012 at 10:00 am

Best of 2012 #7: What We Saw From The Cheap Seats

Hatkirby No Comments

Regina Spektor has long been one of my favorite artists—in fact, before Marina & the Diamonds took over early this year, Regina Spektor had reigned as my favorite artist for over a year. From the quiet, soul-punchingly perfect imperfection of Songs, to the warm melodies of Soviet Kitsch (my personal favorite album of hers), to the chipper piano ditties of Begin To Hope, to the luscious, flowing production of Far, all of Regina’s work has been absolutely amazing1.

For the longest time, however, for some reason I can’t even explain, I have been afraid that Regina Spektor had stopped making music. I do not know why. I can recall listening to Far for the first time (it was already out by the time I discovered Regina, and I discovered her through Begin To Hope) and thinking it sounded so strange that there was new work by her. You can imagine how surprised, albeit overjoyed, when Regina Spektor announced on Facebook the name of her new album, What We Saw From The Cheap Seats. I was even more overjoyed to see Regina release yet another breathtaking album cover.


If you couldn’t tell, I’m quite into album art. Regardless, when I took a trip down to the music store on my birthday to buy Regina Spektor’s new CD, I was very excited, yet I didn’t really know what to expect. Here’s what you should expect: the sound on WWSFTCS is very happy, very excited, but very contained. It feels very well produced, especially considering the fact that Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas) is a remake of a song from her second album. My favorite tracks on the album were the darker, more electronic sounding ones: All The Rowboats and Ballad of a Politician. All The Rowboats compares museums full of paintings to tombs full of protected corpses and Ballad of a Politician compares important men shaking hands and doing nothing to prostitutes on the street. Both songs are beautiful. When I say that these songs are “electronic,” I don’t mean in a Lights kind of way. Regina customizes her style to each song. In Ballad of a Politician, she uses a vocoder to give the song that extra mysterious, sad feeling, and the effect, I must say, is stunning, and All The Rowboats emphasizes her classic piano melody with sounds and effects that make you feel like you’re in the museum at night listening to the violins dying in their coffins. It’s really quite beautiful.

Patron Saint is another of my favorite tracks on this album, but contrasting with the previous two, this is a very upbeat song with nonetheless a sad meaning. This song isn’t upbeat in a similar style as Begin To Hope, however, the usage of other instruments like drums along with her classic piano gives the music an entirely different feel which is just lovely. Also mentionable is The Party, a short, happy song at the end of which Regina breaks into making trumpet noises with her mouth like in Lounge from Songs, the beauty of which makes me tear up sometimes. It’s really an uplifting song. Listening to this album just makes me feel good.

I never really got into How, however, which many have praised as one of the highlights of the album, so your mileage may vary when listening to this album. I still recommend this as one of the best albums released this year, and if you’re a fan of Regina you should definitely give it a listen: it’s classic Regina while also going off in a completely new direction, and that’s just the way we like her.

Hatkirby on December 24, 2012 at 6:00 pm