WP Review: 7 Best Tracks of 2015

2015 was a year of grand triumphs for some, and of bitter defeat for others.  Hip-hop saw the release of an incredibly acclaimed album, and the pop scene soared with the triumphant return of Adele.  At the same time, indie veterans like Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie released LP’s to disappointment from fans and critics alike.

But all is not lost, as a new cast of characters appears to be emerging from the wings.  Some have fully embraced the 21st century’s gradual shift toward a more intense, electronic sound.  Others have rebelled into a sort of folk revival, painting lush and intricate scenes with the sparest of instrumentation.  Either way, the face of music may look very different in a few years as these artists continue to grow and the stars of the 2000’s slowly wave goodbye.

We’re now halfway into this decade, and while some decry the music of this modern era, 2015 was home to a handful of standout tracks.  Here are some of the ones I most enjoyed, in the hopes that you will enjoy them too.

Continue reading “WP Review: 7 Best Tracks of 2015”

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To the MOOOOOOONN! and the Official WP Photographer, F. Stop Fitzgerald

Welcome, good lords and ladies, to another edition of The Friday Review.  This week, we bring you a space shuttle of a masterpiece that will (possibly) make you cry, and a book widely revered as a classic this side of paradise.  So grab your ticket for the next bus to Princeton and a box of tissues, because it’s time for…

This Side of Paradise
F. Scott Fitzgerald | Scribner (1920)

F. Scott Fitzgerald is more widely known for his 1925 novel The Great Gatsby, but his debut novel, This Side of Paradise is worth the price of dinner too.  If you are a fan of classic literature, you ought to give this one a go.  If contemporary fiction is more your fare, or if you find romantic protagonists who can’t seem to grow up annoying (which is understandable), look elsewhere for your next read.  This Side of Paradise definitely has its shining moments, but its lack of an actual ending, or at least a decent one, removes it from my “most loved” shelf.

A novel that could use more direction, but a classic.  7 out of 10.

stars35

 


excellence-visualTo the Moon
Freebird Games | 2011

Oh, where to begin with this one…  Can video games be considered a work of art?  With the creation of To the Moon, the answer to that question has become a resounding “YES.”

Never have I played a game so firmly based on its story.  And what a story it is.  The setting: a future in which doctors can alter the memories of the dying to give them the sensation of having achieved their lifelong wishes.  But it gets so much deeper from there.  How it’s possible to connect with and care about characters rendered in 16-bit style graphics is beyond me, but it is.  I get chills just thinking about the ending.

Some have argued that To the Moon isn’t a game but an interactive movie.  I disagree.  Besides the fact that it lasts twice as long as the average film, it’s gameplay elements go beyond the mere advancement of the story.  Although, it is obvious that the most effort was put into the game’s storytelling.  It’s sparse, slightly repetitive gameplay is its only flaw.

However, the gameplay’s shortcomings detract nothing from the plot, which unfolds like a novel.  It can be played — nay, experienced is the word — in a matter of 4 hours, but it need be no longer.  Its touching story, poignant soundtrack, and multifaceted characters transcend any perceived limits of old-fashioned graphics, coalescing into an unforgettable experience that may find you reaching for that box of tissues.

tothemoon02

No longer need video games be ostracized from the world of art.  For that is truly what To the Moon succeeds in being.  9 out of 10.

stars45

Deathbed

Who says the Christian music scene can’t have 11-minute long epic pièces de résistance?

No one!

Granted, in my experience they are few and far between.  Okay, this is the only one I’ve found to date.  But Relient K gets major artist points for telling the story of an man’s entire life and conversion while holding your attention for over three times longer than most of the other songs on this record.  And they do so with few bumps along the way.

It would be really super cool to see some mainstream Christian artists taking that kind of risk.

(If you find it slow at first, things really kick into gear at 1:17.)

My Dear Ralph

Hey there, peoples of the blogosphere!  I wanted to dash off a quick post today about two extremely awesome things: independent films and the people who make them.

Back in December, I had the pleasure of being invited to a Christmas party, and among the other guests was a friend of mine and an very talented individual, Benjamin Dawson.  Now, besides being a composer and a fine musician, Benjamin has directed a handful of short films, culminating in what is to date his biggest project, a film called My Dear Ralph.

I happen to have it on DVD, but what I did not know until our conversation that evening was that it had in fact been posted on Vimeo.  So, naturally I had to share it with you all!

I admire My Dear Ralph for a number of reasons: a) yes, a good many people I know personally were involved in its making; b) it’s a wonderful, well-made adaptation of a wonderful story by O. Henry; c) it’s a testament to the fact that one needn’t have 50 million dollars to make a fine film with good cinematography that tells a story worth hearing.  Plus, it’s an accomplishment.  A heck of a lot of work goes into making a film.

So, without further ado, here is My Dear Ralph.  Enjoy.

AND SIT THROUGH THE CREDITS, PEOPLE.  It’s a gesture of respect to everyone involved in its making.  😉

Peace.

Let It Snow

Let it snow!

No, sadly it is not snowing where I live today.  50’s and rainy.  And it may or may not be raining where you live.

BUT, I just discovered I can make it snow on my blog.  XD  XD  Yay!  So in the spirit of the season, I have done so.  Now you can stare at my blog and pretend it’s snowing at your house, if you’re weird like that.  Or you could just put this video on repeat.

If you wanna join in the fun, go to Dashboard >> Settings >> General and click the little box that says “Show falling snow on my blog until January 4th”.  🙂  I’ve also changed the color scheme to an Advent purple just for fun.  It’s violaceous!  (Love that word.)

Thanks to Bill Hayes at matteringsofmind for the inspiration.

May your Christmas be a white one… if that happens to be within reason.  Don’t let the rest of December stress you out too much.  😉

The Best of October

BEHOLD, October is past, ready or not, and the year is quickly drawing to a close.  It is against a sky which has in the past week driven me alternately to t-shirts and to mittens with its sun and snow that I bring you the best of my forays into music, literature, and the arts in general from the month past.  Cue majestic drum roll.

Books

  • Who: Rainbow Rowell
  • What: Eleanor and Park (St. Martin’s Press, 2013)
  • Why:  I’ll be honest, I have tried repeatedly and always unsuccessfully to like Young Adult literature.  I find these novels too often to be short on believable character development and enough pages to pull off anything intricate.  Enter Eleanor and Park.  It’s not a masterpiece, but it’s the finest book I’ve read of its genre.  For starters, yes, it’s a love story, but I found the plot of these two misfit kids in the 1980’s applaudable, and not as narrow as some.  Its subtleties could have been brought out more, but it made one think a little, and Rowell’s way of portraying each character’s perspective is interesting and effective.
  • For: Anyone remotely interested in YA lit, those looking for something not terribly intellectual but not crappy, people who read really fast.

 

  • Who: Peter Kreeft
  • What: Three Philosophies of Life (Ignatius Press, 1989)
  • Why: For anyone who has never read Peter Kreeft, you must.  He is an outstanding contemporary philosopher.  In this book, Kreeft sets forth three main possible philosophies of life, as demonstrated by what Kreeft says are the most profound books of philosophy he has ever read.  These three are the biblical books of EcclesiastesJob, and Song of Songs.  What follows is a wonderful examination of life as vanity, life as suffering, and life as love, and the connections and pathways between these ideas through the lens of biblical Christianity.  An insightful and yes, enjoyable read.
  • For: Philosophers, Christians, people who have never heard of this Kreeft character but want to see if he lives up to my claims of his awesomeness.

 

Film

  • Who: Nancy Oliver (writer), Craig Gillespie (director), starring Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer, Paul Schneider
  • What: Lars and the Real Girl (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 2007)
  • Why:  I have something of an affinity for quirky independent films, and this film most definitely fits that description.  The story of a socially inept young man who purchases a life-size mannequin to be his girlfriend, Lars and the Real Girl is at times funny, at others touching, and throughout, a very interesting character study.  The way that “Bianca” helps change Lars’ way of interacting with the world and the way in which his family and friends react to her makes for a memorable hour and a half.
  • For:  Those looking for something both thought-provoking and enjoyable to watch, appreciators of film as an art form, lovers of the quirky and slightly bizarre.

 

Music

  • Who: Death Cab for Cutie
  • What: We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes (Barsuk, 2000)
  • Why:  We Have the Facts is a strong entry in Death Cab’s discography.  It’s style is a bit of an acquired taste though.  For those who don’t mind the almost lo-fi instrumentation, the dynamic and emotional ebb and flow, especially on the second half of the album, make for some beautiful moments in music.
  • For: Professed Death Cab fans, lovers of independent bands, those who want something different from most contemporary music.

 

  • Who: The Postal Service
  • What: Give Up (Sub Pop, 2003)
  • Why: Give Up is an interesting portrait of a surprisingly successful side project.  I’ve never encountered another album with quite the same feel, at times introspective and dreamy, at others optimistic and extroverted, and always an interesting blend of Ben Gibbard’s expression and Dntel’s eccentricity.  Quite an enjoyable album, and unique.
  • For: Fans of Death Cab or Dntel, folks who need cheering up, those who are willing to try something new.

Songs of the Month

Jumping back to music real quick for October’s picks:

A Movie Script Ending – Death Cab for Cutie

A fine song, not their most polished, but neat tune and lyrics.  Was horribly stuck in my head at one point, and we were out of town, so it kind of reminds me of Gainesville, VA now.

You’ve Got a Friend in Me – Randy Newman (from Toy Story)

How can one not love this song?  To all my dear readers, this song is for you.  I love you guys.  ❤

o.0  heh,

I almost wrote “dead readers” instead of dear.  *creepy music*  Maybe I’ve been thinking about Halloween too much.  If I do have any dead readers out there, I’d love to hear from you!  That would be freaking creepy actually.  Maybe I don’t want to hear from you.  Tom, have you been reading my blog?

“R”, left index finger, we type “R”, not “D”.

Oh boy…  It’s been a long weekend.

Setting Stuff on Fire (Literally and Figuratively)

Lessons learned in Chemistry today:

  1. Light behaves both as a wave and as a particle.
  2. Particles of light called photons are emitted from electrons when they lose energy.  These changes in energy occur in degrees measurable by integers, with no intermediate level (like a step function.)
  3. If you pour methane on random crap and set it on fire IT GLOWS IN ALL SORTS OF WEIRD COLORS.

Number three will be the most memorable moment from the class I daresay.  Rest assured this demonstration was carried out by Professor and not by us pyromaniac young’uns.  I was sad that I did not have my camera…  But yeah, next time you put fuel in your lantern, add some strontium chloride and let me know what happens.  You can get it on Amazon.  *nods excitedly*  (‘Cept no one uses lanterns nowadays unless their power goes out.)

I dunno.  I felt like blogging today, so here I am.  I guess I ought to make an attempt at writing something interesting.

Well… today I opened my Bible just to see what I would land on (always an interesting endeavor).  It happened that I came across Mark 4:21:

He said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand?”

There’s a practice known as Lectio Divina which involves taking a verse from the Bible and examining it word by word, meditating and praying over it.  I found this verse to be a good one for it.  I mean sure, we’ve all heard it before.  “Jesus is saying don’t hide the fact that your a Christian or whatever, I don’t remember, whatever the Sunday school teacher said it was about.”

But really, there’s a lot to look at here.  What is the lamp?  What does it mean for the lamp to be “brought in”?  Why would one place it under a bushel basket?  Do I?  How can I better ensure that its light spreads throughout the house?  And then you pray about it.  Contemplate it.

I could tell you the answers I had to these questions, but that would be beside the point.  The point is to discern what it is God is trying to say to you at this moment in your life through the Scriptures.  For example, I found this particular verse to have a particular meaning to my life right now, and I just opened to a random page.  (Further cementing my belief that happenstance does not exist.  Everything happens for a reason the way I see it.)

So give it a try.  You may be surprised at what you find.  I wish you all a splendoriffic evening, and as the year draws so quickly to a close, enjoy whatever remains to you of Autumn.  And don’t forget to be awesome.

Bye!