Hatkirby on December 27th, 2012 at 9:05:36pm
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 26th, 2012 at 11:26:29pm
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 Pony[1. To be clear, this happens when watching any show or even if you switch to TV Shows and then back to Music without watching anything.], 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:
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 26th, 2012 at 6:40:06pm
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 crimes. COHOSE 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 25th, 2012 at 10:00:30am
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 twice[1. I wanted the deluxe edition of Born To Die, and I was unaware that it was not being sold in the US so I purchased what I THOUGHT was the deluxe edition only to receive the standard version a few days later. It did contain an awesome 7" record with remixes of Video Games and Blue Jeans, though, which was so awesome I couldn't part with it. I later bought the correct deluxe edition internationally.], 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 24th, 2012 at 6:00:57pm
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 amazing[1. An avid Regina fan may have noticed that I skipped her first album, 11:11, here, and that's because I haven't actually listened to it yet. I know, shocking. It's because of the fact that it's impossible to obtain 11:11 on CD, because it was self-released by Regina, and my rigid music listening schedule hasn't allowed me a time yet to buy the digital release from iTunes. I'm sure I will someday find the time to give it a try, as I have heard it's a very beautiful, very jazzy album, and I will make it my goal to one day own that beautiful first-edition CD from Regina's own handiwork, just as I dream of owning other such rare works such as Enchant by Emilie Autumn and Mermaid vs Sailor by Marina & the Diamonds. Ah, a girl can dream. A girl can dream.].
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 23rd, 2012 at 6:21:08pm
Remember when I said that not all of my Best of 2012 albums were actually released this year? Well, here comes one of those. Lights Poxleitner (or just Lights) is a Canadian artist that I've really heard of before getting into Tumblr and making some Marina & the Diamonds friends. One of my Tumblr friends, who is probably below the age limit for having a Tumblr but whatever, seemed rather fond of this strange artist. Her most recent album (released October 4, 2011) Siberia seemed interesting--at least, it had cool looking cover art.
Wouldn't you agree? I also gave the title track of the album a quick listen, and it seemed pretty cool, throbbing baselines and such (yeah I have no idea what that meant but I hoped it would sound cool), so I put the album on my birthday list, and promptly forgot about it to the swirling vortex of other assorted nothings I have going on in my life. A few months later, however, I found a belated birthday package in my mailbox, and inside was good ol' Poxleitner, so I gave the album a whirl, and I'm quite happy I did.
Lights has a very electric, very synthetic sound to her music, and the album has a nice flow to it. The high energy of Everybody Breaks A Glass, as one of the album's singles, makes you want to dance (as do most songs on the album), but it also just has that element of beauty to it, especially in the chorus. In fact, it's one of my favorite songs on the album. My other favorite song is the slow, peaceful ballad Cactus In The Valley, which sweeps you up in its emotion and carries you off. This song is actually fairly unlike the rest of the songs on the album, however.
Some other standout songs are Peace Sign, a fast-paced pretty song, and Heavy Rope, a slower, gentler song that feels like a wave washing over you. Really, this album is pretty great, except for the Suspension, And Counting..., and Day One. I also dislike the rapping in Everybody Breaks A Glass and Flux And Flow. I've gotten used to it now and I can't say it really detracts much from the songs but I really don't feel like it adds anything either. Nonetheless, Siberia by Lights is a very good album for the most part and I would definitely suggest it for someone looking for some new music. I also feel like I should give her other album a look since I liked this one so much, so we'll see how that goes. :)
Hatkirby on December 23rd, 2012 at 3:58:44pm
Just a quick post to say, hey, I've finished the work I was doing on the website! Yesterday, after having spent some time looking around on the website after my Best of 2012 post, which was the only reason I've been on Four Island for six months, I decided that Four Island v6 was pretty ugly. I worked tirelessly through the night to produce the new layout that you can see with your very own eyes, Four Island v7!
While v6 was a heavily modified version of the WordPress theme K2, I wrote v7 completely from scratch, which was an interesting experience because I don't really think the WordPress Codex has enough documentation on how to make a theme. I had to pick through other themes to find out what I was doing at many times, and at others I just had to blindly feel my way around WordPress's Template Tags documentation to get a feel for what I was doing. I think it all worked out pretty well, though, and I think things look nice. Fun posts to check out include Annetenna, Using the Inflector, and Of Books And Memes, because they showcase some of the neat stuff the theme does like comments, pingbacks and syntax highlighting. Also, if you care to use the search box, it actually sort of works now. Thank you to Relevanssi, what a grand plugin.
Anyway, the Best of 2012 post will be coming up later (in fact I'll probably start writing it when I publish this) so keep your eyes peeled and I hope you all like the new theme! Leave comments, let me know, and try out the Wordpress.com-provided comment form which is kind of awesome! :D
Hatkirby on December 22nd, 2012 at 6:04:35pm
Nelly Furtado is an artist I have long appreciated but have never really talked. Her hits "Maneater," "Say It Right," and "All Good Things Come To An End" from her album Loose are pretty well known and have been jams of mine for quite some time. However, I never really gave either of her first two albums a formal chance, and I ended up waiting for her next album to come out, which ended up being completely Spanish. Don't get me wrong, I did quite enjoy the songs "Más" and "Fantasmas," but it wasn't quite what I was looking for. The songs "Girlfriend In The City" and "Night Is Young" from her greatest hits album were my New Years anthem, but still, I needed a full Nelly Furtado album experience.
The Spirit Indestructible came out September 14th and it can't have been much later (though it was definitely in October) that my best friend and I ended up in a Target buying giant bags of candy on account of the fact that we're (by which I mean I am) massive candy whores. The CD section of the store enticed me. "Hello Starla," it whispered. "You haven't purchased a CD in a while. We've got some pretty little jewel cases for your shelf."
Still, it was only a 50/50 chance that I purchased The Spirit Indestructible: while I was dancing around the CD section of the store, I also noticed No Doubt's new album and I made my friend choose which album I should buy, and I proudly left the store with The Spirit Indestructible by Nelly Furtado, and a giant bag of sickening Wonka candy that I ended up throwing out a few days later because I'm a whore.
If you've been missing Furtado's catchy hits from Loose then The Spirit Indestructible is for you. It mixes her old, urban style from her first two albums with the modern pop style from Loose. Banging tunes like "Parking Lot," "Big Hoops (Bigger The Better)" and "High Life" make you want to get up and dance, while songs like "Miracles" and "Enemy" really set an emotional, yet still catchy, tone for the experience. The album has a very distinct feel to it and no song feels out of place. This is indeed the Nelly Furtado experience I've been looking for for quite a while.
Hatkirby on December 21st, 2012 at 5:45:53pm
Has everyone had a happy (and uneventful) end of the world? Well you're not quite safe yet: if I'm posting, it MUST be the end of the world. Actually, for a while I've been listening to music, yah know, and there's so much music out there that I enjoy. Last year I attempted to write a "Favorite Albums of 2011" post and... got a little sidetracked. Or lazy. Or busy applying to colleges. Who knows. Well, this year has been a very good year in music and I want to share the albums that I enjoyed the most. I just want to note, however, that this is not a list of the best albums of 2012, it is a list of the top albums that I experienced this year. Most of the albums on this list did in fact come out in 2012, but a few did not, so keep your eyes peeled.
We're going to start out with a shocker. I first got into Emilie Autumn way back in March of 2010 when my good friend Amelia taught me the ways of being an Opheliac (really, Mad Girl was the first song I heard, but I digress). I listened the heck out of that album, and I still do, as it's quite a fantastic album and one of my favorites of all time. However, after a few months, I thirsted for more Emilie. Where would I get my fix? Clearly I was too stupid to listen to her first album, Enchant, or listen to any of the scads and scads of extra material and oddities she had released. Oh no, I had to wait. But what was I waiting for?
I was waiting to be able to Fight Like A Girl. I had long known that Emilie's third album would be called FLAG, but through 2011, I was forgetting her. With nothing happening, she simply slipped my mind. My first shock came on April 11th when out of nowhere, the songs Fight Like A Girl and Time For Tea were released as a double A-side single and I gobbled them up like warm oatmeal. My second shock came on July 24th when also out of nowhere, Fight Like A Girl, the album itself, was released! It was a joyous day, and I purchased it almost immediately, and what was in fact quite nice about this transaction was that fact that not only did I get a digital copy of the album, but later I received a physical copy in the mail. How nice.
This album is a real doozy. You could compare it to Opheliac, but it's both lighter and harder at the same time. Beautiful songs like Gaslight wrap you up in a cozy blanket of fear, and, well, let's just say that I was very scared the first time I heard the song Time For Tea. This album is difficult to explain on its own. It's a concept album, telling the story of Emilie's stay in a psych ward after her suicide attempt, only the story is dramatized as if it occurred in the Victorian era.
Standout songs include Fight Like A Girl, If I Burn, Gaslight and Goodnight Sweet Ladies. The latter is especially interesting because it quotes both If I Burn and The Art of Suicide (from Opheliac), the latter of which is perhaps my favorite Emilie song. Regardless, this is a very good, very crazy, and very mixed album. I must say that I did not enjoy it as much as I enjoyed Opheliac, but nonetheless, it satisfied my craving for the very talented Miss Emilie Autumn. For a while. You'll see.
Hatkirby on June 5th, 2012 at 6:29:59pm
Whoo, sorry I'm a bit late with today's post but today was a pretty busy day. Hopefully tomorrow is less so because Friday will probably be pretty busy and as Thursday is my birthday, it will be very busy :P. Didn't I just pick the perfect week to write a 7 day roguelike? Anyway, I did not get too much done today, but I did get the two things I mentioned yesterday done: you can now advance to higher floors than one, which get progressively larger in size, though the monsters do not yet get harder (need to make new monsters!), and I have also added an item system! Such fun! Let's see that picture!
Nice. As you can see, in this screenshot, I have pressed "i" to activate the inventory screen, and in the top left corner there is a list of my inventory items! You can press enter and use one, which means different things for different items: for the clothing, it means equipping the item (which can grant you defense and attack power (except for the crocs lol they're there for the lulz)), and the scroll of healing grants you 20 HP! How nice. There's also a wooden helmet on the floor right next to me.
Anyway, that's all I really have to announce at this point. Day 4 will likely consist of adding new monsters and items to the game. Until then, ciao! :)