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Elektra
Elektra
by Yvonne Navarro
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
42 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars A Really Quite Good Adaptation of a Not-So Good Script, December 5, 2015
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This review is from: Elektra (Mass Market Paperback)
"Elektra" had many, many problems, which is unfortunate as it's still the only film outing for one of Marvel's most darkly interesting and intriguing female characters. The main problem with the story of the film is that it strove to dump the viewer into the near-end of Elektra's emotional journey. Picking up from her part in "Daredevil", Elektra had just had her family murdered in front of her and had two to-the-death duels, one with a man she loved and the other with a ruthless assassin who impaled her with her own weapon. "Elektra" picks her up after she's been resurrected and then sort of drops in the knowledge that she's spent some years honing her fighting prowess and rage into becoming the world's most lethal assassin, then immediately starts to segue into her journey for redemption.

Honestly, the story would have worked as a sequel to a story that we were never really told: who the Hand and the Chaste are, how either of them got their hands on Elektra in the first place, how she was resurrected, what really led to her expulsion from the Chaste and why the Hand would want her dead in the first place, her years as a contract killer...that's all pretty much glossed over. However, Yvonne Navarro did a very good job adapting the script into a more complete story. Including all of the deleted scenes regarding Elektra's troubled childhood, her complex relationship with her father, and her childhood memories of a loving mother murdered in front of her by a hideous demon conjured from the depths of her imagination, it gave more depth to Elektra's emotional turmoil and why she would seek redemption in the first place. Navarro also juggled masterfully the decision to give Elektra a case of obsessive compulsive disorder, and gave that more depth and meaning as well.

In the end, the same can be said for Navarro as could be said for Jennifer Garner in filming the role in the first place: she did the best with what she was given, and it made the story more enjoyable for us fans of the character.


Honeymoon [Explicit]
Honeymoon [Explicit]
Price: $12.99
70 used & new from $3.48

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too long, too slow, too rushed, and too not enough., December 5, 2015
This review is from: Honeymoon [Explicit] (Audio CD)
I...like "Honeymoon". That's the most I can say about it, which for me is pretty disappointing. Lana Del Rey is (or can be) a somewhat polarizing figure, musically. People have either worshiped her music or laughed it off as trite and passe. Me, I think I 'got' her early because she admitted that she wrote just poetry long before the music and songwriting came into the mix, and it shows in the way she expresses herself. I was lucky enough to catch the North Carolina leg of her "Endless Summer" tour, and I was impressed at her showmanship, song selection and performance. She's pretty amazing with a backing band behind her, and the outdoor venue was entirely on its feet.

What should be noted, then (and has been in other reviews) is that Rey's music can be slow and sensual, and her lyrics often deal with darker themes: depression, obsession, emotional and substance abuse. Most of "Born to Die", "Paradise", and especially "Ultraviolence" were themed around an unhealthy relationship and all three packed a real punch. The one drawback to any of these outings was that occasionally the listener can feel a little bogged down and wish for tighter editing on the slower songs, because they can get just a touch monotonous after a while...and that drawback is the true downfall of "Honeymoon".

"Born to Die" was packaged as Rey describing herself as 'a gangster Nancy Sinatra', and that one hundred percent worked. Songs like 'Born to Die', 'Off to the Races', 'Summertime Sadness' and 'Blue Jeans' weren't just interesting and beautiful, they were actually catchy. Her second studio album, "Ultraviolence", mostly traded in the dark urban hip-hop vibe for the weeping guitar work of The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, to masterful effect (see what is in my opinion her best song to date, album opener 'Cruel World'). That's *all* gone in "Honeymoon". The one - *one* - song that actually has any sort of beat at all is the best song on the album, lead single 'High By the Beach'. The album's close, a cover of Nina Simone's 'Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood', would have been a highlight for Rey's stronger by the album vocals alone...but she removed the beat from it. The album opener, 'Honeymoon', is so long and beat-less that (since I was listening to it the first time while driving) I actually didn't even notice that it had transitioned into the second track at all. This album is more than an hour long, and if she didn't already have an established fanbase Rey's career would never have started from "Honeymoon".

I gave this album three stars because lyrically I love this woman, and there were a few other songs ('Swan Song', especially, and a really interesting live poetry reading of T.S. Elliot's "Burnt Norton") that actually caught me from the words themselves, but even the lyrics of this album pack less metaphorical punch than her previous outings. This collection felt rushed, and considering that less than a full year passed since the release of "Ultraviolence" (and even shorter since her "Endless Summer" tour ended) it probably *was* rushed - and it really, really shows. My hope for her fourth album is that she can get back into the groove of her earlier work - that fine line she straddled so masterfully between lyrical depth and listenable rhythm. Unfortunately, the only descriptor I can think of for this "Honeymoon" is monotonous.


Rebel Heart [CD + Bonus CD][Super Deluxe Edition][Ex
Rebel Heart [CD + Bonus CD][Super Deluxe Edition][Ex
Offered by ImportMusic_T.K.Entertainment
Price: $18.99
95 used & new from $11.89

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rebel Heart, March 10, 2015
I love “Rebel Heart”, but I will admit that my initial reaction was mixed.

The album itself is a little scattered, and in that way is a strange follow-up to “MDNA”. When I think of “MDNA” and its original twelve-song version, I think of what one reviewer said: it is very well-edited; there isn’t an ounce of fat on the album. “Rebel Heart” is not like that at all; it’s almost over-generous in that it goes wherever it wants to. On multiple listens, that’s where it gets you: it’s like looking at a painting made by throwing paint balloons at a canvas covered by Madonna’s more than thirty year career, and stepping back to realize that you’ve gotten a startlingly beautiful portrait from the effort.

“Living for Love” is one of the most joyous singles Madonna’s released in years – it is sort of a break-up anthem, but it’s also got a wonderful “Express Yourself” vibe, lacking all of the bitterness from some of the harder club bangers off “MDNA” and sounding entirely triumphant, which is a fresh change from pretty much all four of her last albums combined. “Devil Pray” is a haunting track that features a throwback to “Don’t Tell Me” by fusing acoustics and club beats. “Ghost Town” is honestly a very pretty love song, even if it’s a touch forgettable.

“Unapologetic [B]” is a totally unexpected reggae/ska inspired groove, recalling the days when Madonna recklessly fused genres together to see what came of it and it’s kind of awesome. “Illuminati” is a gritty dance track that I’m not overtly fond of – the only reason that I enjoy it is that I have a co-worker who is an Illuminati conspiracy theorist, and if you don’t know one of these special individuals the joke falls a bit flat. This does, however, lead you to “[B], I’m Madonna”. I was a little terrified the first time I listened to this song, afraid that it was going to be a terrible, Mariah-Carey-esque throwdown with Madonna’s competitors, thus lumping her in as a has-been permanently. It’s not. It’s a ridiculously fun party song, with the coolest bass-drop Diplo has produced in years, with Nicki Minaj predictably spitting hilariously hard-hitting nonsense on her verse and if it can be cleaned up at all it’s destined for single-status.

“Hold Tight” is a lovely song, and “Joan of Arc” is probably Madonna’s most vulnerable ballad in years, a chink in the armor of the Queen that is surprisingly humanizing for a performer who seems bent on displaying nothing but invulnerability. “Iconic” is amazing. Not to try to throw back to the Lady Gaga vs. Madonna argument, but frankly “Iconic” is the inspirational ballad that the entire “Born This Way” album tried so hard to be. Opening on a fierce spoken intro by Mike Tyson, Madonna acknowledges that she got to be on top through hard work and sacrifice and that nothing in life is handed to you, encouraging listeners to never give up and never stop fighting for what they want, with a burning rap by Chance the Rapper to back her up.

“Heartbreak City” is another ballad, but it's haunting and gorgeous where "Ghost Town" was slightly forgettable; "Heartbreak City" features a backup choir and raw honesty over a burning piano. It does calm the tempo down enough for “Body Shop”, which is just an undeniably cool song – the beat and the instruments of it are as unexpected as the reggae of “Unapologetic [B]”, and it’s just a fun listen. “Holy Water” is the most unapologetically ridiculous sex song she’s done in a while, and you can tell that it’s more than a nod to her “Erotica” years, including sampling some lyrics from “Vogue” a la “Deeper and Deeper”. It’s ridiculous, but it’s fun. The album winds down with “Inside Out”, which (while lovely) is mainly there to lead to the album closer, “Wash All Over Me”. Of all of “MDNA”, I loved the ending ballad “Falling Free” the most, and that seems to be true for a few of Madonna’s albums (see “American Life” ender “Easy Ride”): the final ballad is amazing. “Wash All Over Me” is haunting and beautiful and really kind of perfect.

Madonna is not on top. It’s been awhile since “Ray of Light” and “Music” and the accompanying “Drowned World Tour”, arguably the pinnacle of her career. In fact, I’m not enough of a rabid fan to try to say that she’ll ever get back on top. But “Rebel Heart” is one of the most sheerly enjoyable albums she’s put out since, a mélange of everything that made her the Queen of Pop in the first place, both ruthlessly vulnerable and still an homage to her seemingly untouchable throne. It’s raw, it’s over-produced, it’s sad, it’s fun: it’s memorable. And most of all, it’s a reason not to forget about her, because she isn’t going away, she isn’t shutting up, she’s still rattling cages and providing inspiration for everyone coming after her.

Ultimately? She's Madonna, and you're never gonna forget it.

Four and a half out of five stars

Bonus Track Notes:

There are three versions of “Rebel Heart”: standard, deluxe, and super-deluxe. I’d go with the super-deluxe, because the bonus tracks are as crazy, fun, and all over the place as the album itself. “Best Night” and “S.E.X.” fall into the fun category, “Veni Vidi Vici” with rapper Nas is a rapped recap of her entire career and a reflection on the fact that, as the title implies, she came, she saw, she conquered. The song “Rebel Heart” itself is surprisingly fun, and “Messiah” is frankly haunting. “Beautiful Scars” and “Graffiti Heart” are pretty, “Borrowed Time” is beautiful, and “Addicted” is freaking awesome and should have been on the standard. The remixes of “Living for Love” are sort of forgettable, but they’re remixes, so whatever. The other bonus track floating around out there is “Autotune Baby”, and…just, listen to that song. It’s kind of completely totally ridiculous. Anyway, the super deluxe edition is worth it.


Bloodwitch (Book 1) (The Maeve'ra Series)
Bloodwitch (Book 1) (The Maeve'ra Series)
by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
Edition: Hardcover
21 used & new from $3.74

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful, thorny entry in the world of Nyeusigrube, June 2, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
As of late, I have not been impressed with Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. This is something that deeply saddens me; when I was younger, the novels of the world of Nyeusigrube (Rhodes' "Den of Shadows") ruled my shelves. When she expanded her world and created the astoundingly beautiful "Kiesha'ra" series dedicated to the warring shapeshifters, I was even more enthralled. It was after those books -- the original four Den of Shadows entries and the five Kiesha'ra -- that things changed. Her characters became more juvenile, the world itself less tightly bound together, and entries in Nyeusigrube became quite uneven; consider the dizzying shifts in perspective in the strange "Persistence of Memory" to the extremely well-written and grounded "Token of Darkness", the beauty in "Shattered Mirror"'s unexpected sequel "All Just Glass" to the extreme mishandling of the brutal Bruja guilds in the profoundly misguided "Poison Tree". The latest entry, "Promises to Keep", was extremely interesting and seemed a real return to form, but to be honest, I approached "Bloodwitch" with serious misgivings.

I am thrilled to report that she proved me wrong. "Bloodwitch" is the first entry in a new set within Nyeusigrube, and Rhodes chose an extremely good approach to this world by both starting over fresh with new characters, politics and intrigues but still featuring some of the characters we know and love from her previous work, set within the horrifically beautiful world of Midnight introduced in her excellent "Midnight Predator".

"Bloodwitch" follows the story of Vance, a quetzal shapeshifter who lives within a gilded cage in Midnight, the feared vampiric empire whose lifeblood is the trafficking of slaves, human and non-human alike. The reader is invited into Vance's world as the young man's eyes are forced to open past the shelter he's been provided with to the horrifying work that goes into keeping his world spinning, and it's a heartbreaking journey as Vance is as innocent and naive as any child who finally has to learn that his parents are not perfect. There is intrigue, danger, manipulations, lies, twists and turns aplenty, and to be frank, it's an adult take on the worlds that Rhodes has set up, something she seems to have abandoned since ending the "Kiesha'ra" series. The book is admittedly a bit slow at times, but once the finale nears and the body count racks up it ends in a satisfyingly tense note, and the front cover's warning to "fear those kept in cages" offers a chilling glimpse into this projected trilogy's future.

**Spoiler Alert: The reasons why I gave this novel four stars rather than five involve spoilers for all of Rhodes' works.**
The only thing keeping me from giving this novel a five star is that there is not enough given to world-building. To be completely truthful, the only reason I was able to walk into this world as easily as I was is that I recently re-read the Nyeusigrube bibliography from start to finish. Jaguar plays a minor role in this book, but if you hadn't read "Midnight Predator" he was rather unimportant and his blind slave's inclusion means nothing to you. Also, as another reviewer pointed out, the inclusion (briefly) of the hawk Alasdair was confusing as to quite when this novel took place; that was a big thing to reveal without explaining.

Aside from that, it was a much more mature, enjoyable read than some of her recent works, and though it could have done with some more worldbuilding, relying more on familiarity with past works than with drawing in new readers, "Bloodwitch" was extremely interesting and I really do look forward to the book two in the "Maeve'ra" trilogy.


Beautiful Chaos (Beautiful Creatures)
Beautiful Chaos (Beautiful Creatures)
by Kami Garcia
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.49
173 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Stunning Installment in the "Beautiful Creatures" series, November 1, 2011
Not since Anne Rice have I found an author who incorporates the setting of horror/supernatural fiction so skillfully into the story that the setting is practically one of the main characters of the story. It's perhaps this phenomenon that sets the "Beautiful Creatures" series (previously known as the "Caster Chronicles") apart in the current rash of supernatural fiction -- from the moment one opens any of the three books currently in the series, one is practically breathing the air of small-town Gatlin, South Carolina. The rich culture of the south and its strange and particular way of being practically stuck in time lends a huge richness to the story itself, and I was blown away by this once more as I read "Beautiful Chaos".

Picking up immediately after the cataclysmic events of "Beautiful Darkness", "Chaos" begins with what is potentially the apocalypse. The consequences of the events of the previous novel are quickly apparent: a heat wave that is choking the life from the town, a plague of locusts invading everything, and a constant cloud of fear and paranoia follow Ethan Wate as he once more struggles to keep up with the quickly-moving events that his romance with powerful Caster Lena Duchannes set into motion.

One of the truly refreshing things about this particularly zany cast of characters is that none of them are perfect, and the mistakes that they make usually have far-reaching consequences; the authors chose to play upon this with aplomb as they fleshed out the already-strong supporting cast of characters this go-round. Link, who could at times be more annoying than anything in the first two novels, is hilarious as he struggles to compensate with a change that no one understands while his tumultuous relationship with Ridley leads her character through a wild stint as one of Jackson High's own cheerleaders. John Breed reenters the story from an entirely unexpected source, while Lena's brattiness (on full display in "Darkness") is both given into and overcome much like the traditional teenage girl. Amma and Macon's secretive ways over issues they dub too much for the teenagers to handle comes back to haunt them with unexpected power, while Abraham Ravenwood's Nazi-like beliefs gain more strength and are horrifying to encounter. But most important of all, Ethan's confusion over his own position as the mystical Wayward and a growing confusion due to a dark haunting only he can see lead him to hide his afflictions from Lena -- with devastating consequences.

And, on top of all of this, readers finally get to see the completely tragic transformation of the painfully Lena-like Izabel into the wicked witch now known as Sarafine.

As with both of its predecessors, "Beautiful Chaos" is a whirlwind of southern culture, fascinating magic, dark secrets, fascinating characters, a strengthening of traits from the first two novels and a building of new ones. It's a beautifully woven story that belongs on any fantasy-lover's bookshelf, the darkly woven plot threads fitting together into a beautiful spider web that catches readers before they realise the danger, leading towards a shocking twist ending that no one will see coming.

5 out of 5 stars.

Also recommended: The Hush, Hush series by Becca Fitzpatrick. Featuring an unorthodox romance, heart-pounding danger, and a fascinating paranormal world woven into our own, "Hush, Hush" tells the story of Nora and her fatal romance with Patch, a fallen angel whose only purpose seems to be to end Nora's life.


Evanescence (Deluxe CD/DVD)
Evanescence (Deluxe CD/DVD)
28 used & new from $2.64

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Swimming Home: The Return of Evanescence, October 11, 2011
It's been five years since the last release of a project by Evanescence. It's an almost unthinkable amount of time in this day and age where if any artist doesn't turn out new music within a year of their last album they're forgotten. And it certainly hasn't been an easy five years for the group, either: line-up changes, centre-woman Amy Lee's personal life, and a year's work with producer Steve Lilywhite eventually set aside as Lee's eventual solo project rather than a band working have plagued the group. With delay after delay announced, it was questioned by many whether Evanescence was truly, finally finished.

With the release of hard-hitting, defiant new single "What You Want", Evanescence has crushed that notion.

"Evanescence" is not a comeback album at its heart; it is a rebirth of Evanescence. While Amy Lee's operatic gothic mystique remains the heart of the project, the group's synergy has never been stronger: Lee's vocals soar over the loud crush of guitarist Terry Balsamo's shredding; each hard-hitting song burns with the intensity of Tim McCord's bass; Troy McLawhorn's rhythm guitar keeps the music at a subtle flow from track to track; and Will Hunt's blistering drums build a furious foundation for the album. "Evanescence" is perhaps Evanescence's first turn as a true *band*, each part working together as a whole to build something new. Retaining both the moody gothic aura of "Fallen" and building upon the lyrical beauty of "The Open Door", "Evanescence" is both an evolution of the band's sound as well as a firm strengthening of the foundations of stone at the very heart of Evanescence.

Opening with the brassy, defiant "What You Want", the band revels in its new, harder feel as Lee demands "Hello, hello, remember me? / I'm everything you can't control". It's an interesting tune that's almost arena-rock, both a call to the fans and also a new sound that's strangely *fun*. This segues into the equally strong "Made of Stone", a look at a failed relationship that is both hard-edged and freeing, recalling the elements of both "My Immortal"'s tragedy and "Call Me When You're Sober"'s kiss-off. Flying through the energy of "The Change", "Evanescence" really kicks off as the album's mid-section builds.

"My Heart Is Broken" is a soaring, epic combination of Lee's trademark piano ballad and Evanescence's dark rock sound; it is sweeping and moving and the perfect choice as the album's second single. This moves into the wonderful "The Other Side", a song which builds on the high-energy metal of "What You Want" and pairs it with powerful lyrics about crossing that final divide to reunite with one that you love - in a fresh turn for Evanescence, however, it's not actually a depressing tragedy but rather like seeing dawn break. "Erase This" continues this theme and amps the metal up another notch, keeping the album flowing at a good pace.

"Lost in Paradise" is the next to follow, an interesting tune that showcases more of Lee's pianist sensibilities than have been heard on much of the album; "Sick" is strangely eastern-tinged, bringing to mind the band's stomp-along approach to "Whisper" during the live production of the "Anywhere But Home" release. It's a strong track with a blistering tirade that relies more on the harshness of the chords, rather than Lee's darker snarl, to burn its message out. "End of the Dream" is the perfect echo of some of the darker lyrical musings of both "Fallen" and "The Open Door" ("As much as it hurts, ain't it wonderful to feel? So go on and break your wings / Follow your heart till it bleeds"), serving as a masterful entrance to the album's closing.

"Oceans" is both a blistering rock track, one of Lee's most powerful vocal performances in the album, and lyrically one of Evanescence's best looks at the end of a relationship since "Call Me When You're Sober"; "Can't find the road to lead us out of this / A million miles from where we burned the bridge / Cross the oceans in your mind / In the end you never can / Wash the blood from your hands", Lee snarls as the band crescendos behind her, ending on a practically trademarked orchestral ending that is the perfect echo of the days of "Fallen". "Never Go Back" is a hard-hitting, haunting melody that is one of the harder tracks on the album, again recalling the album's oceanic imagery as Lee laments "Tearing us apart until it's all gone / The only world I've ever known sleeps beneath the waves / But I'm the one who's drowning".

"Swimming Home" is the album's closing, and true to form Evanescence provides a powerful closer. "Swimming Home" is one of the band's best ballads - tying together the imagery of the album before it, "Swimming Home" is at once a lament and a joyful exclamation, relying on electronica rather than piano or rock to guide it. It's almost the story of a mermaid fading beneath the waves to return to the dark depths, soft and tranquil and wonderful.

The lush imagery of the ocean that the band drew its inspiration from is the perfect focal point for "Evanescence": it sucks one in like the receding water, drawing you down and then lifting you up like a cresting wave. While there are some filler tracks lost in the foam, it's an experience like surfing on that wave until crashing back to shore. It's a comeback for the band, an exploration of both roots and evolution of the original, and at its heart it is simply an amazing album, proving that Evanescence is once more worth the wait.

5 out of 5 stars.

DELUXE EDITION BONUS MATERIAL:

The deluxe edition of "Evanescence" comes with four bonus tracks and an extra DVD. The new music kicks off with "New Way to Bleed", a hard-hitting metal ballad that's a firm echo of "The Open Door", again renewing that distinctive flavour when Lee and Balsamo compose together, while "Say You Will" and "Disappear" are both new approaches with "Disappear" especially recalling the strengths of "Oceans" and "My Heart Is Broken". The real stand-out of this material, however, is the ballad "Secret Door", which is perhaps Lee's most stripped since "Good Enough" as she once more lets go on the harp, an approach began masterfully in both "The Open Door" and Lee's haunting rendition of "Sally's Song" she contributed to the "Nightmare Revisited" collection during Evanescence's hiatus.

The DVD is a collection of material that really can only be appreciated by a true fan of the band; other than the gritty comeback video for "What You Want", the DVD holds a plethora of behind-the-scenes looks at the band prepping for the video, for photoshoots, and interviews about several of the songs. It's a fascinating look at how "Evanescence" finally came together for its release.

*The iTunes only deluxe version also carries another bonus track, the "Elder Jepson Remix" version of "What You Want", a remix which focuses on the hook of the chorus more than the song itself.

**The Japanese edition of the album also features a thirteenth song on the album itself, the piano ballad "The Last Song I'm Wasting on You" that was initially released as a B-side to "Lithium" during the "The Open Door" sessions.

Bonus Songs: 5 out of 5 stars; Bonus DVD: 4.5 out of 5 stars

ALSO RECOMMENDED:
Ben Moody and some of the original members of Evanescence have since rejoined to form their own band with a new lead vocalist; the project, We Are the Fallen released their debut album "Tear The World Down" last year. A much darker and moodier turn, there are some real highlights on the album and it's worth checking out for any fan of Evanescence.

Also, Amy Lee's covers of "Sally's Song" from `Nightmare Revisited' and "Halfway Down the Stairs" from `Muppets: The Green Album' continue her explorations with mixing her gothic sensibilities with Bjork and Portishead-esque electronica as heard on "Swimming Home".

In This Moment, Breaking Benjamin, Flyleaf, Three Days Grace, Within Temptation, Linkin Park, Nightwish, Lacuna Coil, and Megan McCauley also recommended.


New York
New York
DVD
Price: $1.99

4 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Quite Literally the Worst Season Finale I've Ever Seen, August 12, 2011
This review is from: Glee Season 2 (Amazon Video)
While I've already given my review of "Glee"'s second season overall, I couldn't stop myself from providing a review of the ample disappointments chronicled in "New York", the season finale. While season two overall had its ups and downs, the good points mainly managed to balance out the bad points; while it was nowhere near the calibre of season one, it wasn't an enormous disappointment. That is *not* the case when one watches "New York". It can actually be summed up fairly easily:

This is, without a doubt, the *worst* season finale I have ever seen in over ten years of being old enough to watch and comprehend television.

Season finales serve three major purposes, and "New York" failed in all regards. "Glee" season finales should also deliver good ending music, which it managed to fail at as well:

1) Bringing a satisfying conclusion to the overall season's story arc. "New York" found New Directions in New York City for Nationals competition. They've decided to perform original songs rather than covers. The problem? Nationals is less than two days away, and the STILL HAVEN'T WRITTEN THE SONGS YET! Now, "Glee" has competently managed to mix suspension of disbelief with storytelling before, but this was so jarring that it completely ground the episode to a halt. There is no fantasy universe in existence where this would come to pass -- this *nationals*, not sectionals or regionals which we've seen before. You can't go to nationals without your music or your dance routines memorised to the point of wanting to forget them.

This doesn't seem to stop the kids, however; rather than writing the songs they choose to have the obligatory "frolicking in Central Park" scene, complete with a new mash-up they came up with on the spot (of course) for Madonna's "I Love New York" and "Our Town"'s "New York, New York". It was enjoyable, but it was another occasion where "Glee" has forgotten that it is not, in fact, a musical in the traditional sense and so it was both jarring and distracting. Once New Directions actually makes it to nationals, it's a massive disappointment. Firstly, we're only allowed to see three teams competing -- an all-girls school giving a ridiculously bad cover of Usher's "Yeah!", Vocal Adrenaline providing a good original song "As Long As You're There" but with absolutely lifeless choreography that doesn't even serve as a pale imitation of last year's epic "Bohemian Rhapsody", and two new songs by New Directions: Rachel and Finn's obligatory romantic ballad "Pretending", which wasn't terrible but wasn't notable either, and an actually quite good group number "Light Up the World" where once more the choreography didn't hold a candle to this season's sectionals performance.

To absolutely no one's surprise, New Directions lost.

2) Character resolution for the main characters. This really boils down to being tackled couple by couple. "New York" served as an ode to Finn and Rachel. To recap, Finn has been nothing but a hypocritical dirtbag all season and Rachel has alternated between being a strong solitary character and a pathetic Finn-obsessed sycophant; "Finnchel", as they are known, are meant to be the show's central couple and yet even hardcore 'shippers simply didn't care by the end of this mess. Finn had decided that he wanted Rachel back, and despite his long history of brainless fumbling and complete lack of Broadway knowledge (and money), he managed to take Rachel to a famous Broadway diner, have her meet Patti LuPone, and provide a musical-perfect date. Rachel, for once showing backbone, had an interesting subplot when she rejected Finn as she realised her true love was being a star. Since this was far too interesting, she backed away from this almost at once and lost all sense of professionalism by making out with Finn onstage after the aforementioned "Pretending" ballad, a contributing factor to New Directions losing. Also there is a wasted appearance by Jonathan Groff as Jesse St James, which is not really worth mentioning.

Next we have the more background characters. Quinn's angered threat to hurt the glee club? Amounted to next to nothing, and her jealous rage was soothed by, of all things, a new haircut. Yeah, it made about as much sense as her cheating on Sam with Finn -- which is to say, none. Brittany and Santana, who were one of the only true good points of the back half of season two, had absolutely no character resolution or knowledge of what happened to them. Mercedes and Sam had all of five seconds of screen time to reveal that at some unknown point in time, they had hooked up. No one knows how or why, and we'll likely never get an answer. All other characters faded to the background, except for Kurt. Kurt has apparently reverted back to his shallow bitch persona of the first episodes of season one, back before he had any character-building, and doesn't seem to care about anyone but himself. He and Blaine say the big "I love you," which rings hollow. Kurt has been bullied, sexually assaulted, and stomped on all season, his father nearly dies, and yet he remarks casually "It's been a good year for Kurt Hummel." Yet another favourite character, down the toilet.

3) Ending the season and setting up the next. "Glee" provided no resolution for any character, storyline, or dangling plot thread (except for New Directions' losing and settling the issue between Rachel and Sunshine, which was useless as it occurred in episode 1 and then was never mentioned again until now). This would be fine if "New York" was a cliffhanger to be wrapped up in episode 1 of season 3, but it wasn't a cliffhanger. It was just really, really poorly done.

4) The Music:
a) "My Cup" -- As no real explanation can ever be given for showing up at nationals without any songs written, "Glee" decided to rehash the first quarter of vastly superior episode "Original Songs" and provide a silly ode to a plastic cup. Lacking all of the laughs of "Trouty Mouth" or "Big Ass Heart", this was a useless minute of an already bloated hour. * 1/2

b) "I Love New York / New York, New York" -- If it was purely on music alone, this was a fun song. As this was performed as a spontaneous musical with no backing band ever shown when the kids should have been writing their stuff (something they were mocked for by the Vocal Adrenaline coach, and rightly so), it was completely jarring and should never have happened. ** 1/2

c) "Still Got Tonight" -- In a shameless plug for Matthew Morrison's new solo album, Mr Schue gets on stage and belts part of his new song. As with the mashup, if it were purely on music alone this would be a winner; instead, this was used as a truly sloppy and hastily done way to end Mr Schuester's dreams of Broadway and to try to provide some much needed tension. It failed. ** 1/2

d) "For Good" -- Literally the sole truly good moment of the episode. Kurt stops being a shallow bitch long enough to give Rachel some truly good advice about following her dreams, when Rachel is still interested in not reverting back to a Finn-obsessed zombie. Taken from "Wicked", "For Good" was amazingly well-performed and recalled two episodes of "Glee" that were actually very good: "Duets" and "Wheels". The long-suffering security guard who allowed them fifteen minutes on the stage before booting them out managed to be funny without being too dues ex machina, and the music itself was amazing. *****

e) "Bella Notte" -- As with most of the episode, this was just sort of...there. Rachel and Finn have their date, and the other glee boys (mostly ignored this episode) serenade them with the "Lady and the Tramp" tune. It's a good performance that both Rachel and Finn completely ignore and has absolutely no lyrical nor logical sense in the episode as Finn is never shown requesting the song from the boys. It's a nice listen on its own, but should never have happened. ** 1/2

f) "Yeah!" -- Ridiculously bad, but hilarious; rather like the Jane Addams Academy in season one performing "Bootylicious" or the resulting New Directions mashup of "Crazy in Love / Hair". This was performed by nearly all white girls in white church style dresses complete with wretched would-be hipster dancing. Thankfully only one minute of this was shown; no real choir would do this at a nationals competition and it loaned more of the idea that nationals was a complete disappointment and lacked all of the tension that last year's regionals competition provided. * 1/2

g) "As Long As You're There" -- Once more, Charice's vocals blow us away, and the song itself (an original) is rather good; however, the same story as above -- Vocal Adrenaline's ridiculously good choreography is nowhere to be seen, the production is slow, and it lacks all of the stage power that a nationals piece should have, making it unbelievable for the competition. The song was good, though. ****

h) "Pretending" -- An ode to Rachel and Finn's relationship, which fails. Using the same choreography from regionals of last year (which was an insult to their knockout duet of "Faithfully) which Mr Schuester also copied (and was rightly mocked by Emma for) at sectionals earlier this year (and yes, we're all very tired of seeing the same damn thing over and over), the two lament about how their relationship hits the same curves and the same drama both years they've known each other. It's an extremely yawn-worthy performance and even Jesse, who is inexplicably there, comments on the fact that it won't win them the competition...and that's *before* the inexplicably (in Rachel's case) unprofessional kiss. *

i) "Light Up the World" -- Ridiculously fun, the best choreography of the night, and both a sequel and successor to "Loser Like Me", the lyrics are perfect for both Santana and Brittany, and Kurt and Blaine -- arguably the only two couples whose drama was handled well by the writers this entire season, so it's really hard to swallow that after soloing on "Pretending" that Finn and Rachel both sing nearly the entire song, with some backup by Artie and Brittany. Despite some shortcomings, one of the best moments of the night, and something that actually feels like a competition piece (aside from "For Good", the only one of the night, sadly enough). *****
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 3, 2014 10:33 PM PST


Elektra: The Album
Elektra: The Album
Offered by Bridge_Media
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark, Moody, and Character-Driven, July 27, 2011
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This review is from: Elektra: The Album (Audio CD)
While the film "Elektra" certainly did not meet the heights of its graphic novel origins, at its core it remained a compelling story of an unwilling struggle for redemption. There were quite a few strengths to the film and quite a few weaknesses, but the compilation "Elektra: The Album" highlighted nearly all of the strengths.

In producing a soundtrack to such a character-driven film, it helps to bear in mind the source material -- something that Wind-up surprised nearly everyone by being almost entirely successful with this set list. "Elektra" tells the story of a woman whose life has been ripped apart by tragedy and has allowed herself to sink into the darkness, using her prodigious fighting skills to become the world's deadliest assassin. When circumstances force her to confront her past, her inner self, and her own demons, she finds that she still has the potential for redemption. While the film didn't quite live up to the potential power in this story, the soundtrack follows the character's journey quite nicely and "Elektra: The Album" is a perfect addition to any alternate rock fan's collection.

1. "Never There (She Stabs)" -- The perfect beginning; Strata's stark, moody track is a forceful introspective look at an unbearable relationship and the inability to remove oneself from the situation.

2. "Hey Kids" -- Punk Australian band Jet's new track is a catchy tune that's a perfect middle finger to a crazed world one feels trapped in, much like Elektra and her ongoing battle with both her OCD and her childhood trauma.

3. "Everyone Is Wrong" -- In another surprising punk turn, The Donnas come forward to offer their own sarcastic, caustic commentary from the perspective of one all too aware of the world's disappointments.

4. "Sooner or Later" -- Switchfoot lowers the tone a little in this catchy, almost country-rock tune that is just upbeat enough that the lyrics (which mainly focus on mourning a loss of innocence) really stick with a listener and bear thinking about.

5. "Thousand Mile Wish [Elektra Mix]" -- Finger Eleven moves the album along into a further darkness with a mix inspired by the assassin herself of their song, a moody and introspective acoustic-rock take on wishing for something impossible.

6. "Wonder" -- Newcomer Megan McCauley offers the next dark, acoustic-driven alternative rock track. With powerhouse vocals that sound like Amy Lee meets Courtney Love with a splash of Janis Joplin, this moody tune is absolutely breathtaking.

7. "Your Own Disaster" -- Emo-kings Taking Back Sunday step forward next, but rather than offering some would-be punk fare the band offers a surprisingly aching piano ballad wishing for a loved one to understand that the mess they've made can be laid at their own feet.

8. "Breathe No More" -- Quite possibly one of Evanescence's most moody, haunting piano ballads, Amy Lee's soaring vocals describe a tortured soul's desire to finally be laid to rest.

9. "Photograph" -- 12 Stones provides a new, caustic tune with a catchy beat and inspired lyrics that seems to catch Elektra stumbling from emotion to emotion without a place to rest.

10. "Save Me" -- Alter Bridge, the scion of Creed, once again displays a growing aptitude for a ballad that could be far too moody and yet it isn't; the song's description of a soul who's realised that they can't go on the way they've been is spot-on.

11. "Beautiful" -- The Dreaming lift the mood of the album with a fresh New York underground theme about seeing through the facade of beauty to the ice underneath.

12. "Hollow" -- Submersed offers quite possibly one of the best songs in their catalog; the song picks up on the theme began in "Save Me" to describe someone who can't take in the darkness in themselves any longer.

13. "Angels with Even Filthier Souls" -- Hawthorne Heights steps in with a surprisingly tuneful and catchy track about prickly goodbyes and the stirrings of hope for a new beginning.

14. "5 Years" -- The Twenty-Two's provide the album's sole misstep; the song really has nothing to do with the characters nor the rest of the album. However, '5 Years' is a throwback to Blondie and '80's underground punk and is a surprisingly enjoyable listen -- still, in the grand scheme of the album, it can be skipped over.

15. "In the Light" -- Full Blown Rose ends the album full-circle with a heavy metal ballad of a soul who has finally accepted that she can fight to redeem herself; featuring crunching guitars, sick drums, and soaring vocals, the ending ballad is perhaps one of the strongest songs in the collection and effortlessly captures every facet of Elektra's journey in the film.

Ultimately, "Elektra" can be enjoyed as two separate things -- the first is a extremely well-mixed, sleek collection of alternative and punk rock with a splash of metal thrown in, each song having its own merits and fitting into an overall theme that is never discordant; the second is as an extremely well-fitting compliment to the film it evolved from and perfectly detailing the title character's journey. Either way, it's a solid addition to any music collection and is another strong offering from Marvel's partnership with Wind-up Records.

5 out of 5 stars overall.

**Additional Note: Of these songs, "Sooner or Later", a remix of "Hollow" not featured here, "Wonder", "Photograph" and "Thousand Mile Wish [Elektra Mix]" are the only songs actually featured in the film. The movie's true soundtrack is composed by veteran award-winning composer Christophe Beck and is available on CD from Varese-Sarabande classical recordings.

**Further Interest -- Many of the strengths of "Elektra: The Album" are echoed in other offerings from the Marvel/Wind-up team, including but not limited to Daredevil: The Album, Fantastic Four - The Album, and The Punisher.


Glee: Season 2
Glee: Season 2
DVD ~ Cory Monteith
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Price: $10.99
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173 of 210 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Like "A Midsummer Night's Dream"...For Better or Worse., May 31, 2011
This review is from: Glee: Season 2 (DVD)
There's been quite a bit of truly justified criticism of "Glee"'s second season. I myself had to force myself to wait a few weeks after the airing of the "New York" finale to actually try to write a coherent review on this sophomore season. Bearing that in mind, let's take the route of this season's first episode and recap what was the first season of "Glee":

"Glee" tells the story of a tiny, bullied glee club (a show choir where the participants sing and dance to either pop or showtunes or both without actually performing a musical) and how both the power of music and a kind mentor who believes in them helps twelve misfits forge a family and strive to share how special they are with the world, no matter how much is stacked against them. Although it sounds like a strangely cheesy premise and an unlikely TV show, "Glee"'s madcap formula, amazing music performances, terrific acting, intriguing characters, and potently quotable one-line zingers launched it into the stratosphere and it quickly became an international sensation and success. Within these plot lines, "Glee" tackled the sensitive issue of teen pregnancy (and how religion can impact that issue) wonderfully, along with showcasing the struggles of teenagers with body issues, the confusing adolescent world of sexuality, popularity, friendship, family, loyalty, bullying and peer pressure. Although there were a few misses in the first season, overall the season itself was one of the brightest and freshest new shows around, and it won several awards for it as well.

There's the rub, however: "Glee" is handled by three showrunners (Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan), all of whom apparently decided that they could do no wrong. They flatly refused to bring in other writers or directors for season two, and since they were still selling massive amounts of music from the show and getting millions of views from their devoted audience of "gleeks", every single thing that was wrong about season one got blown out of proportion in season two, while everything that was right fairly faded to the background. The result? Season two of "Glee" started off strongly but by the second half meandered into sloppily handled plotlines that were often began and concluded in the space of one episode, characters acting severely out of character just for the sake of an episode's "theme", "theme of the week" episodes that were no longer touching or interesting but instead cheesy PSA-type episodes, bloated importance of guest stars, and a season finale that failed in every way that season one's finale succeeded.

Where on earth did "Glee" go so wrong? Season two's worst mistake was the characters acting out of character as "Glee" committed the worst mistake that any sophomore effort of a creative work, be it a film, television show or novel, can make: it completely erased any and all character development from the first season and started the characters off fresh. Rachel Berry, the club's star, who learnt the mistakes of her selfishness and made friends and learned how to lead a team in season one? Back to being a self-centered and often downright mean diva who stepped on each of her teammates to get what she wanted. Finn Hudson, the loveable popular dummy with a heart of gold who learned how to be a star and effectively lead the glee club and also learned that popularity was meaningless because he liked the glee club losers better than the popular football jerks? Right back to being a selfish, obsessed-with-being popular jerk to all of his friends.

However, the two characters this affected the worst? Firstly, Mr. Schuester. Mr. Schue was once the teacher everyone wished they could have: he put his students above everything, he pushed them, he motivated them, he guided them to being the best that they could be. Season two saw our once-beloved Schue essentially hitting a midlife crisis, using his glee club as an excuse to try to get closer to his now-unavailable crush Emma Pillsbury the guidance counselor, acting like a spoiled brat, and continually believing himself better than what he was. The second character was, of course, Quinn Fabray. Quinn began as the pretty and mean popular girl who became pregnant and became part of the heart of season one as she made true friends amongst the glee club, learned the value of family, and overcame her own meanness when the club rallied around her during the pregnancy issue. Season two saw absolutely no mention of her being pregnant anywhere ever. She inexplicably broke up with Puck (no explanation was ever given) and rejoined the Cheerios because she suddenly (like Finn) needed to be popular again. Although some of this damage was repaired by her new boyfriend Sam (newcomer Chord Overstreet), that repair was itself destroyed even worse later on. I won't even mention the destruction of Sue Sylvester, who transformed into a meaningless, cartoonish villain who was rarely even funny by the end and required a brutal character death just to reign her back in.

Despite all of this, however, season two began on a strong note (with the exception of the hot mess that was the "Britney/Brittany" Britney Spears tribute episode; despite some truly hilarious one-liners courtesy of Brittany (Heather Morris), this was likely one of the worst episodes of "Glee" to ever air) as it took a central theme: bullying and its impacts. Openly gay Kurt (masterfully played by Chris Colfer) took center stage as the school's relentlessly homophobic popular crowd was highlighted, leading to the explosive "Never Been Kissed" episode. Rachel's newfound (or oldfound, as the case may be) selfishness led to other glee club members to fight for their chance to shine and wounded the glee club badly when her bullying led to new student Sunshine Corozon (a criminally underused Charice) defecting to New Directions' mortal enemies Vocal Adrenaline, and Schuester's selfish and out of character behavior led to his kids whole-heartedly choosing hilarious new substitute Holly Holiday (wonderfully played by Gwenyth Paltrow) over him, and Santana's mean insistence on hiding from her feelings by attacking other people blew up spectacularly in her face.

In fact, despite two truly terrible episodes ("Britney/Brittany" and the wretchedly badly done "Rocky Horror Glee Show"), season two was off to a wonderful note, until the hiatus. When "Glee" returned after its touching Christmas episode, however, to the spectacularly overwrought Superbowl episode, things began going downhill fast, and they stayed that way for the rest of the season with a few notable exceptions. The biggest mistakes?

1) Rachel and Finn's Story: While I myself am not a "Finnchel" shipper (in "Glee", the portmanteaus of the couples are so important an episode was named after one), what was done to their relationship was criminally bad writing. Rachel wanted revenge on Finn for something he had done and so kissed his friend Puck. Finn broke up with Rachel and refused to forgive her for cheating on him...while he convinced Quinn to cheat on her boyfriend with him. Finn then went on to string both Rachel and Quinn along by emotionally cheating on Quinn with Rachel, then dumping Quinn out of the blue to return to Rachel. None of it made sense.

2) Quinn's further character murder. See above.

3) Kurt's storyline. What began as a heartwrenching display of how bullying gone too far can have devastating consequences quickly turned mind-numbing. While not to give away too many spoilers, Kurt was physically, emotionally, and verbally abused, which escalated into something like sexual assault and physical intimidation, before his life was threatened, causing him to leave the school for a different school with a no-bullying policy. Despite the wonderful plotline of Blaine Anderson (newcomer Darren Criss), Kurt rapidly reverts back to his selfish season one "bitch" persona from the first few episodes, then under one flimsy excuse switches right back to McKinley and goes back to being bullied, essentially rendering his entire plotline meaningless, and then goes on to remark "It's been a good year for Kurt Hummel" at the end of the season. Did I mention his father randomly had a heart attack and almost died in one of the season's better episodes? Really, writers?

4) The finale. The finale (it bears repeating). As I've said, season one's finale was wonderful. Season two's finale was essentially one giant episode centered around Finn and Rachel -- which in itself wouldn't have been so bad, except for it was wrapped up very badly -- while giving us some bad music, a wasted appearance by Jonathan Groff as Jesse St. James, and absolutely no resolution for any of the characters, particularly Kurt or his chief tormentor Karofsky. The ending was predictable and somewhat dim, and was generally an uneven end to an uneven season.

5) The self-contained episodes: NO MORE PSA episodes, please. Deal with an issue for teenagers over a two-episode arc where the lesson is meaningful, like season one did. Also, the plotlines such as Blaine's sort-of-maybe bisexuality that were introduced in one episode and wrapped up a half an hour later were just sloppy and useless.

But what did season two do right?

1) When it was handled well, season two's episodes were wonderful. From the good parts of Kurt's storyline to the heartwrenching religion episode centered around Burt Hummel's heart attack, to a surprisingly impactful episode centered around sexuality, season two's good moments shone like diamonds.

2) New characters. The initial cast of "Glee" will graduate by the end of next season (or some of them at least). Rather than do something terrible like getting rid of all the old cast members and introducing new ones in one fell swoop, the integration of Sam and Lauren into the existing was well done. The introduction of Kurt's new boyfriend(!) Blaine was wonderfully well-handled and the a capella Warbler's group was a fresh voice to the music; in fact, Kurt and Blaine's relationship was the only one really handled well this season.

3) Original songs! "Glee" took a chance and came up with original songs, ranging from the silly ("Trouty Mouth", "My Cup") to the downright good and fun ("Hell to the No", "Loser Like Me", and the epic "Light Up the World"), to the emotional power ballads ("Get It Right"), to the very bad attempts at emotional power ballads ("Pretending").

4) Character journeys. While I have been disgruntled at some character developments, Santana and Brittany were heartbreaking to watch; when left alone from Finn Rachel became a truly sympathetic character; Sam and Blaine and Lauren were all wonderfully well-done; and despite its flaws the episode "Born This Way" dealt masterfully with the characters confronting their flaws and fears.

In the end, what can be said of season two? It failed to live up to season one, that much is obvious. But the writers are actually hiring a new team of staff writers, so clearly they are learning something. Ultimately, it was still an enjoyable season despite its flaws. If anything, season two was a lesson in itself -- no one and nothing is perfect. "Glee" has succeeded despite this to show that in its imperfections some of the characters became even more interesting. What's in store for season three? None of us are demanding a perfect show. But if some of the problems of this season can be learned from and the first season can be used as an example, we might get something truly remarkable.

One thing is certain: "Glee" certainly isn't going anywhere anytime soon, and despite all of its flaws we just can't stop believin'.
Comment Comments (14) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 14, 2012 11:19 PM PST


Goodbye Lullaby
Goodbye Lullaby
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55 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple, Solemn, and Wonderful, March 10, 2011
This review is from: Goodbye Lullaby (Audio CD)
Avril Lavigne built a strong fanbase and then caught herself in something of a conundrum: her first album was a pop/rock fusion with catchy radio tunes such as "Sk8er Boi" and "Complicated" mixed in with darker fare like "Unwanted" and "I'm with You"; her second album was a raw, darker rock sound with excellent hooks and still one or two pop sounds ("He Wasn't", anyone?). Then, something changed -- literally, everything. "The Best Damn Thing" was Lavigne's third album and saw her with blonde hair streaked with pink, and every song on the album drenched in goopy bubblegum pop. With this move, Lavigne's fanbase seemed to split itself in two: those who were perfectly fine with the 'new Avril' and those who desperately wanted to see her 'return to herself.'

"Goodbye Lullaby", the oft-delayed, much-anticipated fourth album from the challenging singer-songwriter, is both a rich return to roots, a powerful maturation of what we've already seen, and also a simple look at life.

There's been some genuine criticism of "Lullaby" from critics who decry the simplicity of the songs, but one of the complete charms of the album is that it genuinely feels like Lavigne invited listeners into her living room while she sat at her piano or strummed her guitar. There's no grand procession of chords because Lavigne cannily realised, she didn't need them. "Lullaby" is not just a song detailing her failed marriage, it's a firm introspection on how far she's come from the teenage mall-punk she started out as. The singer stated herself that most of the songs were written in her bed or whatever hotel room she was staying in, and it truly, truly shows.

But there's still so much of the Avril that we all have come to know and love over the years as well. "What the Hell", written with Max Martin, could have jumped right off of "The Best Damn Thing", while the Alanis-like kiss-off "Smile" reaches back to the feel of "Under My Skin", and for those thirsting for the innocence of "Let Go" tracks such as "Things I'll Never Say" is echoed in "Darlin'", a song written by Lavigne when she was still fifteen years old. Opening up with the oddly eerie piano tinkle "Black Star" written for Lavigne's new fragrance line before moving into the rest of the album, "Goodbye Lullaby" has proven itself to be perhaps Lavigne's best album yet.

Intimate, beautiful, and above all simple, "Lullaby" lets go of all of the old tricks while still echoing everything that made Lavigne likable in the first place. Sad and introspective yet never whiny, gorgeous tracks like "Wish You Were Here" and "4 Real" are longing ballads, while "Not Enough" is perhaps one of the best musings of the album as Lavigne comes to grips with the fact that some relationships fail, despite love still being there, through no real fault of the participants. Her ex-husband Derrick Whibly is a member of Sum 41 and his presence was overpowering in the music of "The Best Damn Thing"; on "Lullaby" he is a gentle guider and also a phantom hovering over the most longing ballads while still allowing Lavigne to poke a bit of fun with "Smile" and "What the Hell".

"Goodbye" is the true lullaby of the album and the sweeping piano ballad that provided the album's name, bringing everything to a close as Lavigne stretches her vocals beyond what we've really heard before. An extremely good decision was to provide a bonus track of sorts and close the album with the power ballad "Alice" that Lavigne wrote for the 2010 film "Alice in Wonderland". The song puts Lavigne in the point-of-view of Alice, tumbling down the rabbit hole to Wonderland and making the decision to control her own fate and take charge of her life. It's a powerful song and the extended version with a whole new verse provides an uplifting, beautiful end to the album as she assures the world that she is, indeed, alright.

"Goodbye Lullaby" is far from a perfect album - the chords aren't too terribly original and the lyrics aren't going to be winning any awards for poetry anytime soon. But the simplicity of the album is its true strength, as Lavigne wrote every song herself (or at least had a heavy hand in them). She invited her listeners in on the most intimate record she's yet produced, and while critics may not have been impressed it was everything that her fans have been waiting for, perhaps joining the fans of the split-personality-Avrils together again and proving that this is one artist with true staying power. If anything, "Goodbye Lullaby" is a powerful break-up album with quite a few standouts, and a marvellous entry into Lavigne's discography.

I eagerly await her fifth album and I, for one, feel justly rewarded in waiting for the release of "Goodbye Lullaby" after skipping out on "The Best Damn Thing".

Five out of five stars.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 22, 2016 1:51 PM PST


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