Friday, 25 December 2015

2015 in Review: Looking Back

This is the final post in my 2015 in Review series. The series began on Monday, with a rundown of my favorite TV shows that aired during the calendar year. This was followed by a rundown of my favorite songs on Tuesday. On Wednesday, I revealed my favorite albums for the year, while yesterday I gave a rundown of my favorite movies. Today, I'll be wrapping up with a look back at the year as a whole.


Earlier this year, the internet seemed preoccupied with llamas running rampage as well as that one dress whose color no one could agree upon. But over here in Nigeria, all eyes were focused on the forthcoming general elections. Originally slated for Valentine's Day, the election was eventually moved to the 28th of March due to threats of terrorism in the north. On that fateful day, the Nigerian populace spoke volumes as they voted former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari its next president.


Not long after the elections, Nigeria suffered one of the worst fuel scarcities in its history, one that very nearly shutdown the entire nation. Keren Amaechi, a fellow Nigerian blogger, did a great job of capturing some of the madness that ensued; her post is worth checking out if you fancy a good laugh. Considering that we are one of the leading oil producers in the world, it is quite baffling that we should be suffering from fuel scarcities in the first place. But that's another discussion for another day.


About halfway into the year, I made the all-important decision to further my education with a masters degree. This was something I'd always had in the pipeline, but the final decision was inspired by my love for the TV show, How to Get Away with Murder. The idea was that the presence of a masters degree on my resume would boost my overall employability. It hasn't been easy balancing school with work and my writing, but I know it would pay off in the long run, so soldier on I must.

Speaking of my writing, I had set some writing-oriented goals for myself at the start of the year. One of them was that I would strive to have my current project published (read: finished) by the end of the year. Well, while I am yet to finish said project, I can at least rejoice in the knowledge that it is much closer to publication than it was then. This is due to some good news that I recently received, but that I'll be unable to elaborate upon for now, at least until an official announcement is made. So watch this space.

All in all, it's been yet another eventful year for me. I went back to school, learned new things, and most recently changed jobs. But most importantly, I had fun sharing my experiences with you guys right here on my blog. Here's hoping that next year brings even more opportunities and fun. Merry Christmas guys, and Happy New Year in advance.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

2015 in Review: Favorite Movies

Kingsman: The Secret Service



There was no shortage of spy movies in 2015, with movies like Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Spectre, Man from U.N.C.L.E, and the aptly-named Spy all finding various levels of critical and commercial success. Added to that list is Kingsman: The Secret Service, a comic-book adaptation that boasts some of the best action seen all year.

It Follows



It Follows is a love letter to the horror films of old, with its slow-paced narrative and attention to detail. The story itself is quite simple, almost deviously so as we follow a young woman who is followed (read: haunted) by a shape-shifting entity. What sets the movie apart from others of its kind is its production values, and its haunting soundtrack by video game composer, Disasterpeace.

Mad Max: Fury Road



Serving as both a sequel and a soft reboot to the franchise, Mad Max: Fury Road was one of 2015's standout action films. It stars Tom Hardy, who replaces Mel Gibson in the titular role, and he is supported by a talented cast that includes Nicholas Hoult, Zoe Kravitz and Charlize Therone, who pretty much stole the show as Imperator Furiosa.

Avengers: Age of Ultron



The Avengers once again assemble in this sequel to the 2012 summer blockbuster, which was itself a culmination of the various movies that made up Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This time around the heroes must fend off an artificial intelligence bent on bringing about the extinction of the human race.

Jurassic World



Chris Pratt proves his star power once again in Jurassic World, after breaking out last year with the success of The LEGO Movie and Guardians of the Galaxy, both of which were featured on my 2014 favorite movies list. The movie broke all manner of records upon release, besting the Furious 7 to become the highest grossing film of the year, a record it might soon have to relinquish to a certain movie further down my list of favorites.

Inside Out



Disney and Pixar have hit another home run with Inside Out, an animated film that explores the complexities of human emotions and the human mind through the eyes of a little girl. The movie features exceptional animation as well as a talented voice cast that includes Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith and Bill Hader.

Goodnight Mommy



Ever the fan of psychological horror films, I had rushed at the opportunity to watch Goodnight Mommy after I'd heard it was being compared to the likes of It Follows and The Babadook. But nothing could've prepared me for the pure mindf**kery of this Austrian movie that follows the misadventures of a pair of twins, as they suspect their mother of having been replaced by a complete stranger during facial surgery.

Dope



Dope is one of those few oddball movies that does not fall into the confines of any particular genre. It is a comedy, drama, and an art film rolled into one. The movie tells the story of an unlikely trio of close knit friends in high school, who through a series of unfortunate circumstances find themselves in possession of a sizable amount of drugs for which they must assume distribution duties.

The Martian



The Martian was one of the few surprise hits this past year, although truth be told, many had already anticipated some level of success for the movie, given its source material. The movie works because it is not afraid to be different from others of its kind, just like I'd detailed in this review.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens



J.J. Abrams delivers once again with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the latest installment of the science fiction franchise that has now spanned five decades and seven movies. This newest episode is arguably the best one of the bunch, even though many have chosen to find fault in the similarities it shares with prior episodes. Still, there is no denying that the franchise is back with full force. I mean, the box office numbers speak for themselves now, don't they?

And the winner is...

Mad Max: Fury Road



It was a close race this year. My choice for favorite movie could've easily gone to Star Wars, especially since it had the advantage of a recent release, as opposed to Mad Max that came out months ago. But therein lies the very reason I have chosen to give this year to Mad Max, the fact that I have seen it several times and the movie remains just as mind blowing as it had been on my first viewing. I'll be going to see Star Wars again soon though, preferably in 3D, so who knows, I might just feel inclined to revisit this post then.


Wednesday, 23 December 2015

2015 in Review: Favorite Albums


Fall Out Boy - American Beauty/American Psycho




American Beauty/American Psycho was the first album to strike a chord with me this year. Released all the way back in January, the album is probably one of Fall Out Boy's strongest cuts till date. It is one of those rare albums that hits the ground running, and doesn't lose steam by the end. Highlights include Centuries, Fourth of July, Favorite Record, and Immortals.

Madeon - Adventure



Adventure is the debut album of French DJ, Hugo Pierre Leclercq, who is better known by his stage name, Madeon. The most remarkable thing about Hugo is his relatively tender age of 21. Don't let his age fool you though, because this kid has got some mad skills, and the evidence just happens to be one of my favorite albums of the year. Highlights include You're On, La Lune, Pay No Mind and Technicolor.

Zedd - True Colors



Three years ago, I had included Zedd's debut album, Clarity, in my rundown of favorite albums for 2012. And earlier this year, I had dedicated one of my rare music reviews to his second album, True Colors. So needless to say, I am a fan of his music, and including that music in my list of favorite albums once again was a bit of a no-brainer. Highlights include Papercut, Daisy and Illusion.

The Weeknd - Beauty Behind the Madness



2015 is generally considered a great year for Canadian musicians, with the likes of Drake, Justin Bieber, and The Weeknd all scoring hit singles and albums. But the year is perhaps most significant for The Weeknd, because it was this year that he finally found the mainstream success he truly deserves. His second album, Beauty Behind the Madness, debuted at #1 on the Billboard Charts, and it has thus far produced four hit singles. Highlights include Often, Shameless, In the Night and Prisoner.

Years & Years - Communion



Years & Years released their debut album, Communion, in July of this year, following the success of their hit single, King, which as you can remember was also featured in my list of favorite songs yesterday. The album itself was well-received by fans and critics alike, debuting at #1 in the UK, where it became the fastest selling debut record ever. Highlights include Shine, Take Shelter, and Worship.

Fetty Wap - Fetty Wap



While Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly might be considered the best hip-hop record released in the past year, there is no denying the pleasures to be found while listening to Fetty Wap's eponymous debut album. The album elevates the New Jersey rapper past the level of one-hit wonder, even though most of the songs adhere to the same formula that made Trap Queen such a hit in the first place. The most remarkable thing about the album is a lack of big name collaborators, with the guest spots being reserved for his crew mates. Highlights include Trap Queen, My Way, No Days Off and Rewind.

Disclosure - Caracal



For their highly-anticipated followup to their 2013 album, Settle, the UK duo of brothers known as Disclosure chose to swap out the previous album's heavy reliance on deep house and garage, drawing influence from R&B. The result is a more downtempo album, with each track tailored to fit the various guest vocalists that were featured. Highlights include Omen, Holding On, Good Intentions, Echoes and Molecules.

Justin Bieber - Purpose



As far as comebacks go, there wasn't any more impressive in 2015 than the one made by Justin Bieber. Here was an artist who many had written off following a string of bad press and a prolonged hiatus. But following the success of Where Are U Now, my favorite song for 2015, he had not only scored his first ever #1 single on the Billboard 100 with What Do You Mean, but also put out one of the finest albums of the year. Other highlights include Sorry, Been You and Get Used to Me.

Adele - 25



It is no secret that Adele's 25 had been the most anticipated album this past year. This was especially true following the breakaway success of her previous album, 21. So when the album became the fastest selling in the history of music, pretty much everyone and their grandmothers saw it coming. But the album itself is every bit deserving of all the success and praise, being a more than worthy successor to her previous work. Highlights include Hello, I Miss You and Water Under The Bridge.

Troye Sivan - Blue Neighborhood


Troye Sivan is an Australian actor and musician that is perhaps best known for hosting a successful YouTube channel. His incredible voice first came to my attention earlier this year in the ZEDD song, Papercut. His debut album, Blue Neighborhood, just released earlier this month, and it is packed full of potential hits. Highlights include WILD, THE QUIET, TALK ME DOWN and COOL.

And the winner is...

The Weeknd - Beauty Behind the Madness



I've been a fan of The Weeknd long before he became a mainstream success. His beautiful falsetto and mature lyrics were two things that made his music catch my attention. In Beauty Behind the Madness, both those things are on showcase throughout, but packaged in such a way that embraces his just attained mass appeal. Put simply, this is what Michael Jackson would've sounded like if he'd started making music today, and I can't think of an artist more worthy of that comparison.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

2015 in Review: Favorite Songs

Fetty Wap - Trap Queen



It's amazing how Fetty Wap has gone from being a complete unknown to being quite ubiquitous in the 2015 music charts, all within the span of a single year. The rapper shot to fame following the success of his debut single, Trap Queen. He has since been riding the wave of newfound fame, with the release of a self-titled debut album, as well as a bevy of followup hits under his belt.

Major Lazer & DJ Snake - Lean On (feat. MØ)



Lean On is undoubtedly one of the most massive crossover tunes in years. The song is by Major Lazer, a dance-hall-inspired group/project led by American record producer, Diplo, with contributions by French producer, DJ Snake, as well as vocals by Danish singer, MØ. The result? A feel-good mishmash of cultures that defies categorization.


Skrillex & Diplo - Where Are Ü Now (feat. Justin Bieber)



2015 was a busy year for Diplo it seems, who is featured on my list of favorites songs once again in this collaboration with fellow producer, Skrillex. The duo, known formally as Jack Ü, are joined by none other than Justin Bieber. And from the first moment I heard the song, I knew there was something quite special going on here.


Disturbed - The Vengeful One



I'd spent the better part of 2015 rediscovering the music of Disturbed. And the catalyst for that was The Vengeful One, the first single off their most recent album, Immortalized. As such, I can't imagine having a rundown of favorite songs without at least acknowledging one of the songs that had helped shape my playlist this past year.

Years & Years - King



In a year already teeming with music made up of sing-along lyrics and danceable beats, King might just be the most infectious of them all. The song is by the British trio, Years & Years, whose music are a throwback to the House-inspired songs that filled the UK charts for the better part of the 90s.

Coldplay - Adventure of a Lifetime



To cap off my list of 2015 favorites, I have chosen the first single off Coldplay's A Head Full of Dreams album, Adventure of a Lifetime. Like most of the album, the song is so unlike what we are used to from the band, that you can't help but applaud them for expanding the range of their sound. Also, the song boasts a mean guitar riff that stays in your head for days on end.

And the winner is...

Skrillex & Diplo - Where Are Ü Now (feat. Justin Bieber)




Now, here's a pleasant surprise. I mean, who would have thought I would one day be singling out a Justin Bieber song as my favorite song of the year, right? But if I am to be honest, there was no other song that had managed to remain on my playlist as long as this one. Released all the way back in February, the song's longevity was undoubtedly helped by its inclusion on Justin Bieber's recent album, Purpose. It has also served as a vehicle for the troubled singer's much-needed comeback. I'll be talking more about that comeback tomorrow, when I highlight my favorite albums for the year.

Monday, 21 December 2015

2015 in Review: Favorite TV Shows

It's that time again apparently, when I rundown my favorite things from the past year. It's a little something I've been doing on my blog since I started blogging, and those of you interested in seeing what it was like in 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011 can find out by clicking on those links. This year's series, like previous years, would run all through the week, so be sure to come back everyday for more of the good stuff.

Right. Today, I'll be starting with a list of my favorite TV shows. I don't watch that much TV to say the truth. Okay, scratch that, I don't watch any TV at all. But thanks to the convenience of computers and the internet, I am still able to follow some of the more popular shows out there. And here are a few of my favorites for the past year.

Game of Thrones



2015 was a good year for Game of Thrones fans. Not only did we get a fifth season of the popular HBO show, we also got the video game series by Telltale Games, with five of its six episodes spread throughout the year. And while we are yet to get the long-awaited sixth book in the series, we are at least rest assured that the story would move forward come next year, since the show has finally caught up with its source material.

Better Call Saul



From the makers of Breaking Bad come this better-than-average spinoff of the highly-acclaimed show. It centers upon the transformation of struggling lawyer, Jimmy McGall, into the titular character, Saul Goodman, whose seedy practice Breaking Bad fans are already familiar with. The best thing about the show is that it not only serves as a prequel to Breaking Bad, but still succeeds as a stand-alone show.


Daredevil



The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has spawned quite a number of successful movies and TV shows, from Avengers to the Agents of Shield. But until the introduction of Daredevil earlier this year, none of those properties had pushed the boundaries in terms of the depiction of violence and other mature themes. Unlike the 2003 movie which was heavily panned by critics, this is clearly not family-oriented entertainment. But with high production values and arguably the best villian in the entire MCU, Daredevil has raised the bar for superhero-themed shows.


Fargo



For some reason, I had totally failed to watch the 1996 Coen Brother's movie, Fargo. This changed of course earlier this year, after I'd binged the entire first season of the TV show inspired by events of the movie. And much like the movie before it, the series was packed with quirky characters whose mundane lives were quickly spiraling out of control. The second season just wrapped up last week, and it was even better than the first one, a feat considering how well-received season one had been.

Ash vs. Evil Dead



Once upon a time, I used to be scared s**tless by the 1981 movie, Evil Dead. So much so that I never bothered to give any of the sequels a chance. It wasn't until I'd seen the 2013 remake did I decide to give the franchise another try, and it was only then that I discovered its unique blend of comedy and horror. The TV show, Ash vs. Evil Dead, perfectly captures that blend, finding that perfect balance between gratuitous bloodshed and side-splitting jokes.

The Man in the High Castle



Based on the alternative history novel of the same name by Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle is an Amazon original series that explores a dystopian version of 1960s America, one where the axis powers won World War II, and the United States has been conquered by the Japanese and Nazis. The first thing that grips you about the series is the high production values. But ultimately it is the struggle of the resistance movement that draws you in, whose cause hinges on the successful distribution of certain film reels made by the titular man in the high castle.

And the winner is...

Game of Thrones




While it can be argued that the latest season of Game of Thrones had quite a few missteps, there is no denying the overall satisfaction the season brought to fans. Much of that satisfaction can be attributed to Episode 8, Hardhome, during which we got to witness the first full-on battle with the white walkers. The payoff from that episode alone more than compensates for the slower opening episodes. It's a shame (Get it? Shame!?) the season had to come to an end shortly thereafter, and in such a manner so gut-wrenching. Season 6 can't come soon enough.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

IWSG: What is Passive Voice?


It's the first Wednesday of the month, and time for members of the Insecure Writer's Support Group to share their writerly insecurities. The group was started by Alex J. Cavanaugh, and those interested in joining in can visit www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com for more information.

We've entered the last month of the year, a time when most writers can be found tallying their NaNoWriMo word counts. But as I am sure you already know, I'd elected not to take part in last month's NaNo. Still, I usually do some tallying of my own every December, in the form of a week-long, year-in-review-themed series of posts; be sure to join me on the week of Christmas, as I recount my favorite songs, albums, movies and more.

Right. Now that the shameless plug is out of the way, we can touch upon a topic I am sure most writers are familiar with by now, namely the use of active voice vs. passive voice. I was talking with a non-writer acquaintance the other day, when the topic came up, so in a way, this post is written for her benefit, assuming she happens to stumble across my blog somehow.

While I haven't been writing any fiction books lately, the nature of my day job finds me doing other forms of writing, such as advertisement copy. And even in the realm of content writing, writers are advised to avoid using passive voice. Which begs the question, what exactly is passive voice?

Rather than lunch into a lengthy one-sided explanation, I'd like to leave the question open to any IWSG members who might be willing to contribute to a discussion on the subject matter. After all, I am far from an authority on the subject, having once been accused of using too much passive voice in some of my earlier works. So I ask again, what is passive voice, and why is it considered less engaging than active voice?

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

IWSG: NaNoWriMo 2015


It's the first Wednesday of the month, and time for members of the Insecure Writer's Support Group to share their writerly insecurities. The group was started by Alex J. Cavanaugh, and those interested in joining in can visit www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com for more information.

And yes, it is that time of the year again, when writers all over the world come together in a bid to churn out 50,000 words of a brand new novel in the span of one month. Last year, I was forced to take a pass on the challenge, with the caveat of getting some writing done from the sidelines. This year? It's looking like another pass, with zero to minimal hope of getting any kind of writing done.

I could spend the remainder of this post lamenting the various reasons why I am unable to set aside time for writing. But I'll spare you the rhetoric. Instead, I'll leave you all with something somewhat random, but at the same time more inspirational (not to mention pleasing to the ears) than my lamentations. Enjoy.

Monday, 26 October 2015

The Listing Fest



So I totally managed to forget today was The Listing Hop blogfest. Guess that's what happens when you try to juggle work, school and some form of a social media presence. The blogfest is being hosted by Bish Denham and Alex J. Cavanaugh, in commemoration of her eighth year of blogging, and participants are expected to come up with a list of, well, anything really.

Needless to say, I haven't given my list much thought before now, and as such, I am forced to keep my list short and at the same time try to come up with something that isn't too random/convoluted. So on that very note, I present to you my list of:

Top 5 Nigerian Actors making waves in Hollywood


5. Nonso Anozie



Born in the UK in 1979, Nonso Anozie is perhaps best known for his supporting roles. One of his first major movie appearances was in the 2007 British war drama, Atonement. He subsequently starred in the 2011 films, Conan the Barbarian and The Grey. His recent appearances include Pan, Cinderella, and the popular TV show, Game of Thrones.

4. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje



Another Game of Thrones alum, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is the oldest, at 48, of the 5 Nigerian actors I am highlighting on this list. He has been in movies as varied as The Bourne Identity, The Mummy Returns, and Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls. His recent appearances include Pompeii, Thor: The Dark World, and the upcoming DC Comics adaptation, Suicide Squad.

3. David Oyelowo



David Oyelowo is yet another Nigerian actor that has been quite ubiquitous in recent years. And he's got the acting chops to warrant it too; in what was perhaps one of the biggest snobs of the 2015 Academy Awards, he was not given a Best Actor nod for his portrayal of Martin Luther King Jnr. in the biopic, Selma. His other recent appearances include Interstellar, The Butler, Lincoln, and 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

2. Chiwetel Ejiofor



Chiwetel Ejiofor is no stranger to the silver screen. One of his earliest performances was in the Steven Spielberg movie, Amistad. He was also part of the ensemble cast that starred in the 2003 romantic comedy, Love Actually. He also starred in one of my favorite science fiction movies, Children of Men. His recent appearances include The Martian, Salt, and the Academy Award Best Picture recipient, 12 Years a Slave.

1. John Boyega



Of all the actors on my list, John Boyega is the one with the least number of acting roles under his belt. He also happens to be the youngest at 23. So why have I placed him at number one on my list? Two words: Star Wars. After all, not many actors today can boast of a leading role in one of the biggest film franchises of all time.

He scored his breakout role in the 2011 British science-fiction film, Attack the Block. He also appeared alongside Chiwetel Ejiofor in Half of a Yellow Sun, even though his character was criminally underutilized. But the current pinnacle of his fledgling acting career is undoubtedly the latest chapter in the Stars Wars saga, The Force Awakens.

If you haven't already seen the trailer, then I suggest you drop everything you're doing and head over to YouTube right away. And in case you still don't understand why you need to see it, here's a clip of John Boyega himself as he tries to absorb the pure awesomeness.


Wednesday, 14 October 2015

The Martian (Movie Review)


Every now and then, a movie comes out of left field and completely blows you away. I had heard about the impending arrival of The Martian, but I didn't really look into it until the reviews started pouring in. I quickly found out it was based on a bestselling novel which was originally self-published on Amazon. And just like that, I was immediately compelled to go see it at the cinema.

The movie tells the story of NASA astronaut Mark Watney, who is stranded on Mars after he is struck and impaled during a severe sandstorm. He is thought dead by his crew mates, and a funeral is even held in his honor down on Earth. He awakens after the storm and is forced to grasp with just how dire his situation is; he is not only wounded, but without means of contacting his crew or NASA. And with limited food and supplies, it is only a matter of time before he either starves, suffocates or freezes to death.

But rather than curl into a ball and wait for death to find him, Mark decides to take matters into his own hands. This he does by devising a string of clever solutions to the various problems the red planet throws at him, all of which he documents in a series of video logs he hopes would be recovered someday. His activities are eventually picked up by satellite images, and soon the whole of NASA is committed to bringing him back home alive, with the whole world watching and rooting for him from the sidelines.

Before going to watch the movie, I had read and quickly devoured the book, which was awesome by the way, if you don't mind all the extraneous information about the various sciences that it explores. A lot of that information had to be dumbed down or abstracted away for the movie of course, but thankfully, they kept the source material's lightheartedness, for therein lies the movie's overall appeal.

The movie features an ensemble cast, with each one having his or her own role to play in Mark's rescue. And while they were no stand-out performances to speak of per say, I especially loved Donald Glover a.k.a. Childish Gambino, who played Rich Purnell, the scientist that comes up with the daring maneuver behind the rescue attempt.

It's nice to see a resurgence in realistic, space-based science fiction movies. This was started by Gravity in 2013, and followed by the success of Interstellar in 2014. And now we can add The Martian to that list. But of the three movies, this is the one I would recommend the most, if only because it is the only one to carry a particularly strong message of hope in the face of adversity.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

IWSG: Anthology Contest


It's the first Wednesday of the month, and time for members of the Insecure Writer's Support Group to share their writerly insecurities. The group was started by Alex J. Cavanaugh, and those interested in joining in can visit www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com for more information.

Well, the cat's been out of the bag for about a month now, but just in case you missed it, the IWSG is celebrating the success of its crowd-sourced Guide to Publishing and Beyond by putting together a short story anthology contest. The competition is open to all active members, and submissions end on the 1st of November, so be sure to send in your entries, if you haven't done so already.

I was finally able to put in my submission earlier this week, after sitting on it for the better part of the past month, though truth be told, I'd been working on the story for something more in the tune of the past two and a half years. It is an idea I'd been playing around with, and it draws inspiration from sources as varied as the graphic novel Watchmen, the video game series Fallout, and the Philip K. Dick novel, The Man in the High Castle.

Needless to say, it is a work of speculative fiction and alternative history, much like the stories I have highlighted above, which by the way also happens to be the theme of the anthology contest. There's no saying whether or not it would make the cut, but it's been nice getting some actual writing done for a change. I'd almost forgotten how exhilarating it feels, watching my words come together on a computer screen to form a story.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

IWSG: Back to School


It's the first Wednesday of the month, and time for members of the Insecure Writer's Support Group to share their writerly insecurities. The group was started by Alex J. Cavanaugh, and those interested in joining in can visit www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com for more information.

Today is the day of the big IWSG announcement that has been alluded to since the last round of IWSG posts. It's been a somewhat lengthy month-long wait, but I have no doubt that whatever the Ninja Captain has in store for us would make it worth it. You'll need to head over to his blog for the answer though, since this post was written and scheduled before the announcement was made.

But while you're here, I also have an announcement of my own to make, one that I have equally been keeping close to the chest until the right moment. And as you may or may not have guessed from the title of my post, it has something (read: everything) to do with school, or my higher education to be precise. That's right, this IWSG member has decided to further his education with a master's degree.

The degree in question is in Computer Science, a field that has always been a huge part of my evolving interests, and the course itself is to be delivered online, which means I can still continue to work and whatnot. The decision was made a few months back, even though this is a move that has been in the pipeline way before I started this blog or decided to publish any of my writing. In fact, one of the reasons why it took this long for me to pursue it was because I had decided at the start of 2012 to focus exclusively on my writing, a year that resulted in one of my most productive as a writer.

But I guess there comes a time in every writer's journey when you need to weigh the difference between what you want to do and what needs to get done. Getting my master's definitely falls in the latter of the two categories. So I guess my biggest insecurity right now is where this would leave my fledgling writing career. Would I still be able to squeeze time out to write, as unrealistic as that sounds, or does this mean I would be putting everything on hold for the entire duration of my course?

Monday, 17 August 2015

Immortalized (Music Review)



Two months ago, the heavy metal band known as Disturbed took fans by surprise when they announced the August 21st release of their sixth studio album, Immortalized, an announcement that was sweetened by the instant availability of its lead single, The Vengeful One. This was following a rather lengthy gap since the 2011 release of their compilation album, The Lost Children, and it effectively brought an end to their hiatus.

In readiness for the awesomeness that was sure to come, I had spent the past two months listening to their entire back catalogue, starting with their hard-hitting debut, The Sickness (2000), before moving on to Believe (2002), the album that marked the start of their gradual shift from heavy metal to hard rock, a trend that became more glaring in their subsequent albums, Ten Thousand Fists (2005), Indestructible (2008), and my personal favorite, Asylum (2010).

And now that the new album is almost upon us, fans are being treated once again as the entire album has been made available for streaming on iTunes and Spotify. I've listened to the album a couple of times now, and while I don't consider it their finest, I still think it is a worthy addition to their catalogue, with its fair share of highs and lows.

Just like with Asylum before it, the new album opens with an instrumental track that foreshadows and segues into its title track, Immortalized. This is followed by The Vengeful One and Open Your Eyes, the latter boasting one of the heavier guitar riffs on the album. Thereafter, the album quickly devolves into Nickelback/Theory of a Deadman territory with songs like The Light, You're Mine and the somewhat head-scratching ode to marijuana, Fire It Up.

Equally as head-scratching is the slow-paced cover of the Simon & Garfunkel song, The Sound of Silence. I know it really wouldn't be a Disturbed album without one such cover, but this one would've probably been better served as an album closer or dare I say a bonus track. I mean, the song allows lead singer David Draiman to shine like never before, but you can't shake the fact that it is still essentially a piano ballad in the middle of what is supposed to be a heavy metal record.

The deluxe edition of the album contains three bonus tracks, the strongest one in my opinion being Legion of Monsters. Another standout from the album that is quickly growing on me is Who, with its simple yet poignant sing-along chorus. In summary, if you're a fan of the band, then there's perhaps enough material here to justify the 5-year wait between Asylum and Immortalized. But if you're not, and are looking to get into their music, then I'd advise you start with Asylum or The Sickness instead.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

IWSG: Selling Out


It's the first Wednesday of the month, and time for members of the Insecure Writer's Support Group to share their writerly insecurities. The group was started by Alex J. Cavanaugh, and those interested in joining in can visit www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com for more information.

Today, I would like to touch upon a topic I've found myself thinking about from time to time. I was having a discussion with a coworker of mine the other day, about his blog which he'd been trying to monetize with Google AdSense. The blog in question is a celebrity gossip blog, and he has been running it, on and off, for more than a year. But for whatever reason, his application for AdSense keeps getting declined, with what appears to be a form-letter response triggered by Google's bots.

According to the form letter, the decline had something to do with Google's policies and standards, but the letter was rather vague and it failed to pinpoint exactly what area of their policy or standard that wasn't being adhered to.

Anyway, I also spoke to my coworker about my blog, and the fact that I have been maintaining it for close to 4 years now, during which time it has somehow managed to amass more than 1,250,000 views. I'm not quite sure if those numbers are below or above average, but my coworker seemed to see nothing but dollar signs at the mere mention. He asked why I hadn't tried to monetize my blog, before proceeding to lecture me about real-life stories of bloggers earning considerable money off their blogs.

I must confess that I have indeed considered placing ads on my blog prior to this discussion. But the thought has always left me feeling conflicted. I mean, the original purpose of this blog was to chronicle my journey as a writer, even though it seems that has been relegated to these monthy IWSG posts. So I guess what I am asking is would placing ads on my blog compromise my integrity as an artist or writer?

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Ant-Man (Movie Review)



Marvel has done it again. They've taken another one of their lesser-known comic-book heroes and brought it to wondrous life on the big screen. Last year it was the Guardians of the Galaxy, this time around it is Ant-Man, a hero whose powers come from a suit that enables him to shrink down to the size of an ant (as well as communicate with/control the ever-present ants), all the while retaining his full, human strength.

The movie opens in 1989, where we see a scientist known as Hank Pym (the original Ant-Man and creator of the Pym Particle) refusing to let his shrinking technology get militarized. This results in a rift between him and his protégé, Darren Cross, the movie's villain, who in the present day is in charge of Pym Technologies and has managed to replicate the technology in a shrinking suit of his own, the Yellowjacket.

This prompts the present-day Hank to recruit a new Ant-Man, the much younger Scott Lang, a skilled burglar who is fresh out of prison and determined to turn a clean slate for the sake of his young daughter. His plan is for them to steal the Yellowjacket suit from a heavily-protected vault deep inside the Pym Technologies building. They are aided by Hope van Dyne, Hank's estranged daughter, who is working with her father to foil Darren Cross, despite seeming loyal to him on the surface.

And that right there is the basic premise of the movie. So in other words, you can think of it as a heist movie with a superhero twist, one that works as both a standalone movie and a bonafide addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It also works as a family comedy of sorts, and as such, is one of the funnier entries in the MCU, even though it is nowhere near as quirky (read: brilliant) as Guardians of the Galaxy.

Paul Rudd does a more than decent job as the titular character, bringing to the table his distinct flavor of comedy gold. But I think it is ultimately Michael Peña, who plays Luis, the talkative former cellmate and friend of Lang's, that garnered the most laughs in the cinema where I watched the film. The biggest highlight of the movie though was the shifting perspectives, and I think this is where the movie truly shines.

Whenever Ant-Man shrinks, we are treated to a view of the world that makes the typically mundane seem grand or epic. So while the action (and the movie as a whole) might be taking place on a way smaller scale than other movies in the MCU, it is nonetheless visually-stunning and breathtaking, in a refreshing sort of way.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

IWSG: Getting Social, the Professional Way


It's the first Wednesday of the month, and time for members of the Insecure Writer's Support Group to share their writerly insecurities. The group was started by Alex J. Cavanaugh, and those interested in joining in can visit www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com for more information.

Recently, I've found myself spending a lot of time on LinkedIn. And for the two or three people out there who don't know what that is, it is yet another social network where writers tend to hang out; just think Facebook, but instead of friends, you've got connections, the professional kind. I opened an account years ago, but I'd never really been active on the platform, until now.

What was it that rekindled my interest you ask? Well, the answer to that question has more to do with advancing my career prospects than with writing, not that I don't consider writing a full-time professional endeavor in it's own right. I've heard stories of people being poached by giant tech companies based solely on the strength of their LinkedIn profiles. And between you and me, I feel like I could really use some giant-tech-company love right about now, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, so I've been on LinkedIn these past few weeks, trying to grow my professional network, all in a bid to hit that 500+ connections that is supposedly meant to signify how well-connected you are. And since most of my early connections were writers themselves, basically 95 percent of the requests and suggestions I've been receiving are writers as well. I presently have over 800 connections, but you are more than welcome to add to that number by sending me a request:

https://ng.linkedin.com/in/michaelabayomi

Contrary to how it might look, I am not just trying to gather as many connections as I can. I genuinely feel that I've learnt a lot from the writers in my network, just by reading their posts and observing their various interactions. Granted, some of them were too busy shilling their wares to say more than a cursory hello. But even that is being done in a professional, non-spammy way, which is more than can be said about their counterparts on Facebook and Twitter.

What about you? Are you on LinkedIn? If so, then what has your experience been like since the day you joined? And if not, then what other social networks do you tend to gravitate towards, and why?

Monday, 15 June 2015

Jurassic World (Movie Review)



Yep. The poster says it all really. But as preposterous as the scene depicted on the poster might seem, the latest entry in the Jurassic Park series proves that watching a bunch of dinosaurs running loose and causing havoc is still as fun today as it was 22 years ago, when the first movie was released.

Jurassic World is the fourth movie in the franchise, but it serves as a direct sequel to the original film, choosing to ignore (for the most part) the events of the second and third movie. According to its timeline, a second dinosaur theme park (the titular Jurassic World) has been in operation for several years, but it has recently come under the threat of declining attendance levels, as the novelty of having a park full of living, breathing dinosaurs continues to fade.

This prompts the owner of Jurassic World to seek out a way to rekindle public interest in the park, by asking his chief geneticist to engineer a new breed of dinosaurs that would do just that. Their answer to the problem is the dinosaur dubbed Indominus Rex, a dinosaur hybrid that was specifically engineered to be the most ferocious of its kind. And the dinosaur lives up to that claim when it breaks out of captivity, to appropriately spectacular and chaotic effect.

It didn't take very long for me to realize just how closely this movie has been modeled after Jurassic Park. Much like the first film, this one starts slowly, taking the requisite amount of time to establish its premise and introduce its key players, with lead actor Chris Pratt failing to make an appearance until about thirty minutes into the film. But once the chaos begins, the action never let's up, and we get to experience the same level of tension we saw in the first film.

And therein lies the movie's greatest shortcoming, that sense of déjà vu that seems to pervade every other scene. Some might call it simple fan service though, and if that is the way you choose to look at it, then the movie-makers have achieved precisely what they set out to accomplish. They've created a worthy successor to Steven Spielberg's original vision, and a viable starting point for a new chapter in the Jurassic Park saga.


Wednesday, 3 June 2015

IWSG: Under the Weather


It's the first Wednesday of the month, and time for members of the Insecure Writer's Support Group to share their writerly insecurities. The group was started by Alex J. Cavanaugh, and those interested in joining in can visit www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com for more information.

I am writing today's post from the confines of my bed, and as I write, the rainclouds hang heavy in the sky. This serves as a perfect metaphor for how I am feeling right now. I'd been nursing a cold for about a week, which turned into a full-blown fever over the weekend. The good news is I am already on the mend, but I still have to endure the side effects of the drugs I have been taking.

Needless to say, I haven't gotten any writing done recently. But don't worry, I won't be whining about that today, as tempted as I am. The funniest thing here is I am feeling too lightheaded at the moment to feel bad or beat myself up about it, all thanks to the aforementioned side effects. So I guess that every cloud does have its silver lining.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road (Movie Review)



It is barely one month into summer and we are already being treated with one of the finest action blockbusters to come along in a long time. I am of course referring to the latest installment in George Miller's post-apocalyptic series, Mad Max: Fury Road. It's been 30 years since the last movie, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, was released, and as such the new movie serves as a soft reboot of sorts.

To prepare myself for the movie, I had spent the last few days revisiting the original trilogy. That said, I don't think anything could have possibly prepared me for the edge-of-your-seat awesomeness that is Fury Road. The action grabs you by the throat even before the title card is shown, and it doesn't let go until the credits roll. Who knew that life after the apocalypse could be that intense, or look so stunning?

The movie opens with Max (now played by Tom Hardy, who replaces Mel Gibson in what was essentially Mel Gibson's breakout role) being chased by the War Boys, a gang of pale-skinned psychopaths. He is captured and taken to their hideout, the fortress-like Citadel, where we are introduced to their leader, Immortan Joe. We are also introduced to Imperator Furiosa, a hardened one-armed woman whose decision to steal Immortan's "five wives" in a makeshift armored tanker kicks things into gear.

The bulk of the movie is spent on the titular Fury Road, as the women, aided by a reluctant Max, try to elude capture by Immortan and his army of road warriors. And it is here that the movie truly shines, as we are treated to the aforementioned action, which takes place across a beautiful post-apocalyptic desert landscape. The stunts are simply insane, and the fact that most were done practically makes them even more so. The only exception to this was one breathtaking scene that took place inside a sandstorm.

The movie isn't all high-speed chases and explosions though. As simple as the story sounds, it is amazing how much depth it allows its characters. This is especially true of Furiosa, who is played by Charlize Theron in what is sure to be yet another landmark acting role in her already highly-regarded acting career. Tom Hardy also does a more than adequate job as Max, as well as Nicholas Hoult who plays the overzealous War Boy, Nux.

Overall, the movie manages to blow all recent action movies out of the water, and should stand as a template/standard for all future reboots; I can't recommend it highly enough.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Blood, Boobs & Carnage



It's time for the Blood, Boobs & Carnage blogfest, hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh and Heather Gardner. As a participant, I am required to post about a movie, book or TV show renowned for its depiction of, well, blood, boobs and carnage, or any combination of the same. And so I have chosen to highlight a movie that exemplifies all three facets of the blogfest, the 2005 graphic novel adaptation, Sin City.



The movie was directed by Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller and Quentin Tarantino. It starred an ensemble cast which included Bruce Willis, Clive Owen, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Mickey Rourke, Brittany Murphy, Devon Aoki, Benicio Del Toro, Alexis Bledel, Josh Harnett, Michael Clarke Duncan and Elijah Wood. It was not only renowned for its depiction of sex and violence, but for its stylish black-and-white visuals which was often punctuated by dashes of color to mesmerizing effect.

This came as a direct result of the movie's source material, which was itself a sort of homage to film noir. The movie was shot entirely against digital backgrounds, much like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow before it. From the very beginning, director Robert Rodriguez had sought to recreate the look and feel of the comic books, and the result is an almost frame-for-frame replication.

Praise for the movie extends beyond its technical achievements. In terms of acting performances, the actors all did a great job in bringing their various characters to life, especially the point-of-view characters, most of whom tended to launch into monologues which were more often than not laden with strong metaphors. But I feel the show was stolen by Elijah Wood, who plays a cannibalistic serial killer named Kevin, a character that failed to utter a single word during the entire movie.

Ultimately, it is the directors that should be given most of the credit for Sin City's nearly flawless transition from comic book to silver screen. They successfully translated the comics' singular vision, without losing any of its essence along the way. I have always had a soft spot for movies like this, with enough blood, boobs and carnage to satisfy my unending appetite for the same.

Friday, 15 May 2015

True Colors (Music Review)



We're barely 5 months into 2015, and already the year is shaping up to be an awesome year for electronic dance music, or EDM as it is more popularly referred to. We've had impressive debut albums in the form of Hardwell's United We Are and Madeon's Adventure, which dropped in January and March respectively. And now, True Colors, the eagerly-anticipated sophomore album by Zedd, appears to be the next in line to set the clubs and dance floors across the world on fire.

Those of you who happen to know me should already know my affinity for the music of Zedd. His debut album was shortlisted as one of my favorites in 2012, and he was more recently highlighted as my final entry for the 2015 Blogging from A to Z Challenge. So needless to say, my expectations for his second album were high. Thankfully, having listened to the album about a dozen times now, I can categorically state that it not only met my expectations, but exceeded them too.

True Colors manages to feel both familiar and progressive at the same time, showing the level of growth that is to be expected from a sophomore effort. Zedd is clearly not afraid to juxtapose more standard EDM anthems like the album-opener, Addicted to a Memory, with his more somber, introspective songs, like the title track, which finds Ke$ha at her most vulnerable as she declares, "I won't apologize for the fire in my eyes," against a backing instrumental that wouldn't feel out of place in a Sergio Leone western.

I especially love the song, Papercut, which features guest vocals from Australian actor/musician, Troye Sivan. At 7 minutes and 23 seconds, the song is the longest on the 11-track record, but that length is put to good use as the song gradually builds up to its awesome climax, with plenty of time to breathe thereafter. I also love how some of the songs segue into one another, a trick that while not particularly novel, is still used to wonderful effect here, easing the transitions from up to down-tempo and vice versa.

True Colors is slated for release next week Monday, but has been on pre-order for about a month now. So if you like EDM or you're into one of its many sub-genres, you should definitely check this out as soon as you can.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

IWSG: Getting Back to Business


It's the first Wednesday of the month, and time for members of the Insecure Writer's Support Group to share their writerly insecurities. The group was started by Alex J. Cavanaugh, and those interested in joining in can visit www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com for more information.

Last month (as most of you undoubtedly know) was the 2015 Blogging from A to Z Challenge, and I had opted not to post as part of the IWSG, mainly because I felt I didn't have anything related to my writing worth sharing at the time. I'd spent my last two IWSG posts talking about the Challenge, and it is somewhat unavoidable to mention it again today. The Challenge itself was a success, and I had a lot of fun meeting new bloggers and reconnecting with old ones, but it all came at the expense of my writing.

I didn't get much (read: any) writing done last month, and there's a lot going on right now, some of which I might announce on this blog when the time is right, but none of which has anything to do with writing. I stated at the start of the year that my sole writerly goal for 2015 was to complete my next book. Well, it's now four months later, and I am starting to wonder when and how exactly that book is going to be written.

I know I have said all this or some variation of the same before, but this is precisely where I am as a writer right now. Perhaps it is a position that can't be avoided, or completely overcome. I'd like to believe that even the Stephen Kings of this world go through the same thing from time to time. Or maybe I am just here trying to justify my recent lack of meaningful output, instead of using my precious butt-in-chair time to, you know, actually write something. Either way, I could really use a turnaround right about now.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Reflections on the 2015 A-Z Challenge



The 2015 Blogging from A to Z Challenge has come to an end, and right now, it is time for participants to share their experiences with one another in the form of a reflections post. This was my fourth straight A to Z Challenge, and my first one as a minion to one of the amazing co-hosts. So unlike previous years, I was determined to have all my posts scheduled ahead of the start of the Challenge, to enable me devote enough time to my duties as a minion.

Doing so has left me with one burning question though: is it still a "challenge" if the actual challenge of blogging everyday has been taken out of the equation? I mean, I know the point of it all is for participants to discover new blogs, but isn't the act of writing your posts on a daily basis an important part of the overall experience? Well, whatever the answer may be, I am still glad I was able to schedule my posts as planned, because it really allowed me to visit more blogs than ever.

There were many great themes on display this year. I especially loved those bloggers like Annalisa Crawford and Nick Wilford who chose to write flash fiction, mainly because I didn't know what to expect from them each day. I equally enjoyed voting on S.L. Hennessy's movie smackdowns. Then there was Keren Amaechi's medical-themed posts, which were not only informative, but loads of fun to read. But I think of all the themes I encountered this year, my favorite one has got to be Mithila Menezes' Harry Potter and Hogwarts theme.

I would like to use this opportunity to thank all the co-hosts for making the 2015 Blogging from A to Z Challenge a resounding success. I would also like to thank everyone that visited my blog during the Challenge, especially those that left a comment on one of my music-themed posts. You guys are the very definition of awesomeness, and to you all I dedicate one of my favorite songs of the moment. Enjoy.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron (Movie Review)



First off, I'll try to make this review as spoiler free as possible, for the sake of those of you who are yet to see the movie. In other words, I wouldn't be touching upon any specific plot points, beyond what can already be gleaned from watching any one of the movie's trailers. Secondly, I'll do my best to answer the all important question: is the movie as good or better than the first one?

To answer that question, we would first need to put things in proper perspective. A lot has happened to peoples' expectations since the first Avengers movie was released in 2012. Man of Steel has raised the bar in terms of superhero action. Captain America: Winter Soldier has raised the bar in terms of intelligent storytelling. Guardians of the Galaxy has raised the bar in terms of comedic performances. So you should understand why expectations are high for the Avengers sequel.

Right off the bat, the movie opens with the Avengers doing what they do best, avenging. This time around, it is against the Hydra villain, Baron Strucker, who had been conducting experiments using Loki's scepter. After retrieving the scepter, Tony Stark decides to conduct some experiments of his own, having discovered what looked like code for an artificial intelligence inside the artifact. This inadvertently gives birth to Ultron, the titular villian who is hellbent on bringing the human race to extinction.

One of the highlights of the first Avengers movie was in the strength of its villain, the brilliant Loki. So it is almost impossible to avoid comparing him with Ultron, even though comparing the two of them is like comparing apples to oranges. That said, I think that Ultron more than holds his own, having been depicted as a surprisingly altruistic robot with a touch of a superiority complex. He is beautifully voiced by the ever-amazing James Spader, and stands as a highlight in his own right.

In terms of action, the movie more than delivers, with the Iron Man and Hulk fight being one of the most memorable. The action might prove difficult to follow for some though, with too many things happening at the same time and barely enough room to process it all. In terms of character development, we got to learn more about the somewhat mysterious Clint Barton (aka. Hawkeye). We also got glimpses into Black Widow's back story, even though her character had already benefited from being featured in three different movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

But perhaps the movie's greatest shortcoming is the presence of too many players. Aside from the Avengers themselves, there were a number of supporting characters from other movies in the MCU. I'm talking about Nick Fury, Heimdall, War Machine and Falcon. Add that to the introduction of new characters like Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, not to mention a certain key player who I would say nothing about (other than the fact that he is quite possibly the most awesome character in the entire MCU), and you have a movie that often felt like it was bursting at the seams.

So, the big question. Is it better than the first one? Well... it depends on how you choose to look at it. It definitely felt like a logical progression of events from the first movie and the other movies in Phase Two of the MCU. Although I must confess that I was one of those who was initially disappointed that the movie wouldn't deal with the Thanos threat. So on that note, the whole thing felt like excellent buildup to Phase Three and the next movies in the Avengers franchise, Infinity War Part I and II.

Now drop everything you're doing and go out to see the movie, if you haven't already. But not before you prepare to have your mind blown.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Z is for Zedd



Zedd is a Russian DJ and music producer who rose to fame for his remixes of songs such as Lady Gaga's Marry the Night and Skrillex's Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites. Born as Anton Zaslavski, he grew up in Germany where he was classically trained. He developed an interest in electronic music after listening to by French electronic duo Justice. His debut album, Clarity, was released in 2012.

While the album itself was met with mixed reviews, its title track would help bring his music into the limelight, peaking at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and earning him a Grammy for Best Dance Recording. A deluxe edition was later released, and it contained the song, Stay the Night, a collaboration with Hayley Williams that served as the reissue's lead single. His other production credits include Justin Bieber's Beauty and the Beat, Ariana Grande's Break Free, as well as the Lady Gaga songs, G.U.Y., Aura and Donatella.

His second album, True Colors, is slated for release on the 19th of May. Its lead single is a collaboration with Selena Gomez, his rumored girlfriend. The song, titled I Want You to Know, was co-written by Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic. Its video was inspired by 70s disco and music videos from that era, like ABBA's Dancing Queen which I'd highlighted at the start of the 2015 Blogging from A to Z Challenge, and as such it serves as a perfect close to my month-long, music-themed posts.


Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Y is for Yeasayer



Yeasayer is an American rock band made up of Chris Keating, Ira Wolf Tuton, Anand Wilder and Cale Parks. They are known for the experimental nature of their music, which showcases worldbeat and psychedelic pop influences. Their debut album, All Hour Cymbals, was released in 2007. It was met with critical acclaim, with Pitchfork placing it at #197 on their list of top 200 albums of the 2000s.

Their second album, Odd Blood, was released in 2010. It contained the singles, Ambling Alp, O.N.E, Madder Red and I Remember. It was also met with critical acclaim, placing high on many year-end lists, including a number one placement on MySpace Music's list. Their third album, Fragrant World, was released in 2012. It contained the singles Henrietta, Longevity and Reagan's Skeleton.

While they are yet to score the kind of breakthrough success they surely deserve, Yeasayer continues to record new music, with their as-yet-untitled fourth album expected to drop sometime this year. Their second album remains one of my favorite records, after more than four years since its release. And of the ten songs featured on the album, I have chosen to highlight Madder Red, whose odd yet powerful video features Kristen Bell of House of Lies and Veronica Mars fame.


Tuesday, 28 April 2015

X is for Xzibit



Xzibit is an American rapper best known as the host of the MTV television show, Pimp My Ride. His debut album, At the Speed of Life, was released in 1996. This was followed by 40 Dayz & 40 Nightz in 1998. Both albums were well received by critics, but his breakthrough didn't come until his third album, Restless, was released in 2000. It contained the singles, Front 2 Back, X, and Get Your Walk On.

Since then, Xzibit has branched out into other fields of entertainment like movies and video games. He has starred in films such as 8 Mile and xXx: State of the Union, as well as lent his voice and likeness to characters in video games such as Def Jam: Fight for NY and Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. But his most well-known venture remains Pimp My Ride, a TV show in which cars that are in a deep state of disrepair are fixed up and customized to fit the tastes of their owners. The show was cancelled in 2007, after a 6-season run.

Xzibit continues to split his talent between multiple ventures, with his most recent release being the 2012 album, Napalm. But none of his recent albums have been able to capture the same level of success as 2000's Restless, despite a boost in his overall popularity. So it is there that I have chosen to highlight his music, with the song Get Your Walk On, whose video is noted for featuring the popular hip-hop dance move, the Crip Walk.

Monday, 27 April 2015

W is for White Lies



White Lies is a British indie rock band comprised of Harry McVeigh on lead vocals and guitar, Charles Cave on bass guitar and backing vocals, and Jack Lawrence-Brown on drums. Their music is a blend of indie rock and post-punk revival. Their debut album, To Lose My Life..., was released in 2009, debuting at #1 on the UK album chart. It contained the singles, Death, Unfinished Business, To Lose My Life, and Farewell to the Fairground.

They released their second album, Ritual, in 2011, and it was accompanied by the release of a short film of the same name, which featured three songs from the album, Bad Love, Holy Ghost, and the lead single, Bigger Than Us. Their third album, Big TV, was released in 2013. It debuted at #4 on the UK album chart, and it produced the singles, There Goes Our Love Again and First Time Caller.

They released a 5 track EP titled Small TV in late 2013, in support of their 2013 tour. It featured reworked versions of their own songs, as well as covers of songs by Lana Del Rey and Prince. They also contributed vocals to the track Embrace by electronic music duo, Chase & Status. But of all the songs in their catalog, my favorite remains the title track from their debut album, To Lose My Life.


Saturday, 25 April 2015

V is for Vampire Weekend



Vampire Weekend is an indie rock band made up of lead vocalist Ezra Koenig, guitarist/keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij, drummer Chris Tomson and bassist Chris Baio. They are renowned for their unique blend of punk rock and African music. Their self-titled debut album was released in 2008, and it contained the singles A-Punk, Mansard Roof, Oxford Comma, Cape Code Kwassa Kwassa and The Kids Don't Stand a Chance. Its release was met with critical acclaim.

Their second album, Contra, was released in 2010. It debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, and was also met with critical acclaim. It contained the singles Horchata, Cousins, Giving Up the Gun, Holiday, White Sky and Run. It was nominated for Best Alternative Music Album at the 53rd Grammy Awards, but lost to Brothers by The Black Keys. They would eventually win in that same category with their third album, Modern Vampires of the City.

Released in 2013, their third album also debuted at the top of the Billboard 200, marking the first time that an independent rock band has managed to score two back-to-back #1 debuts on the chart. The album was ranked #1 for the year by several publications including Pitchfork and Rolling Stone. It produced four singles, Diane Young, Ya Hey, Unbelievers, and my personal favorite, Step.