Album Review- Hamilton

A highly addictive and never tiresome listening experience!

 

Oh, only if I could accurately recount to you the amount of times I’ve listened to Hamilton the album over the past fortnight, I wouldn’t be surprised if the total equates to 10 times? Or even 15 times!? Working from home has definitely assisted in achieving this feat, as it’s so easy to have it playing low in the background while you work on an Excel spreadsheet. And although the album is almost 2 hours and a half in length, each listen has still felt refreshing and holey entertaining!

 

If you don’t have Disney Plus (I’ve heard that they’ve removed the 7 day free trial after the release of Hamilton), the next best thing is to listen to the album on Spotify- as the album pretty much contains 85% of the stage production’s content.

 

My favourite tracks have been:

 

Disc 1:

 

My shot- There’s something about the beat, the instrumentals and Lin-Manuel’s flow when he spits which has me grooving every-time! Yeah! “Like my country, I’m young scrappy and hungry I’m not going to throw away my shot!”

 

The Schuyler sisters- a soulful poppy track which introduces the Schuyler sisters who are looking for a “mind at work, work”. And who doesn’t love a shameless New York plug! “The greatest city in the world!”

 

You’ll be back- Although Jonathan Groff reprises the song on 3 separate occasions, the first appearance of King George is the best! “No don’t change the subject, you’re my favourite subject”…… “When push comes to shove, I’ll kill your friends and family to remind you of my love.” That line is absolute gold! Haaha. Mr Groff! Mr Groff!

 

Helpless- And don’t you love it where a musical track is able to progress a story-line between a couple from initial meeting, to proposal, until eventual marriage in less than 4.09 mins? While still able to mix in a love triangle into the midst? Brilliant!

 

Satisfied- And how does a song enable a flash back sequence to occur? Crazy! But ‘satisfied’ has allowed just that in a 5.29 min package. And the line “you strike me as someone who has never been satisfied” was a lyrical line which kept replaying itself in my mind over and over in the past 14 days. Perhaps we’re all someone who has never been satisfied?

 

Yorktown (The world turned upside down) – The reprisal of the line ‘I’m not going to throw away my shot’ reappears whilst being accompanied by an aggressive sawing cello? Or was it a double bass? And Hercules Mulligan’s equally aggressive rap solo accompanied by a DJ scratching on his decks (and Break Dancers in the stage production!). So much Grrrrr and attitude in this song! Woo!

 

Dear Theodosia- A music box/lullaby sounding song driven by two father’s love for their child. Aww. The highlight of this song has to be how it showcases the emotions captured in both Odom Jr and Miranda’s voices. Brings a tear to a glass eye.

 

Disc 2:

 

What did I miss?- And straight back from the intermission, we’re graced by the return of the prodigal son, Daveed Diggs a.k.a Thomas Jefferson- his entrance injects an additional soulful voice to the production which then transitions into his fun and whimsical cries of “What did I miss?” No wonder the live audience starts to cheer as soon as he makes his entrance.

 

Cabinet battle No. 1- Only if all political cabinet meetings feel like this NYC underground Rap Battle! I’m sure more people would tune in to Question time on the ABC. “You don’t have the votes!” Boy! Reminds me of 106 & Park. *Sigh*.

 

Say no to this- The minor key already indicated at the ominousness of temptation. Come on Hamilton! Say NO to this! But hey, if the bedspread isn’t the only thing that’s spread on the bed…….How can you say no to that? Stay?

 

Washington on your side- An absolute ear-worm! “It must be nice, it must be nice to have Washington on your side” kept looping itself around and around my mind. How can they make such a boring subject (political manoeuvring) into such an interesting catchy tune! #Make politics sexy again!

 

It’s quiet uptown- And probably the headline track of the entire album and the musical……… ‘It’s quiet up town’. A song about personal loss and a song which gives me goosebumps each time I hear it. Good goosebumps that is.

 

Ok, I’ll end it here, before I proceed to list out the remaining 40 odd songs from the album! Because they’re all great! If you haven’t had the privilege to watch the stage production and you don’t have Disney Plus, no matter, as you can always just experience the musical through its music alone.

 

To start streaming Hamilton the album, click HERE! Enjoy!

 

 

 

Album Review – Cats: Highlights from the Motion Picture Soundtrack

It may be a flop in cinemas, however ‘Cats: Highlights from the Motion Picture Soundtrack’, is a pretty good album indeed!

My wife and I don’t have many family traditions, but one tradition we do practice each year is to watch a movie in cinema during that period in between Christmas/New Year’s, before going back to work for another year. And this year, with our one movie quota we watched CATS! (Although we’re dog people)…….

The Motion Picture

From all accounts, the motion picture adaptation of the popular stage production ‘Cats’ has been a real flop – as unimpressive as a once nice and fluffy cat, but now wet and all shrunken after a bath. However all the bad reviews still didn’t stop us from handing over hard-earned cash to watch it, and at George Street cinemas, there was actually a reasonably sized audience joining us – made up mostly of retirees and teenagers (you-know, the types of kids you’d expect to be performing at a high school’s production of ‘Cats’).

The film itself? I have to admit I totally fell asleep between minute 8 and minute 20 of the film (largely due to already having been made to sit through 30 minutes of back-to-back pre-screening adverts *Yawn*). While my wife found the middle portion of the film quite slow and hard to endure.

The film itself and the sound quality in our opinion, is best appreciated in a cinema, compared to watching it later on the small screen (ooh, it would be utterly horrible on DVD). And we have to agree with the critics and stack up criticisms on this fact – the CGI was distracting, which took away from the viewing experience, and the scaling of the set was baffling at times. However if you’d previously had the pleasure of watching the live stage production of Cats, you’d probably agree that the motion picture follows the musical numbers and storyline very closely. The only differences between the stage and motion picture productions was the larger role of Victoria (young white cat), her new song ‘Beautiful Ghosts’, a more star-studded cast (in no particular order except from oldest to youngest…… Judi Dench, Ian Mckellen, Rebel Wilson, Jennifer Hudson, Jason Derulo, and Taylor Swift), and of course the main difference between the stage and motion picture versions was the distracting CGI used to transform man and woman into cats (in our opinion, echoing the thoughts of other critics, Lycra bodysuits and face paint would have been enough for 2019).

But for those who criticised the film for its storyline, or the lack thereof, if they entered the cinema remotely educated from reading up on the theatre production of Cats – they would’ve already known that Cats in all renditions lacks a storyline. In a nutshell, the storyline sees the new young white cat drop in on the night of the annual Jellicle Ball, where one cat is granted a new life after a competition (like having 9 lives isn’t already enough). The majority of the film is spent showcasing different cats (through song and dance), putting forward their individual arguments of why they should be the chosen one. And after a failed attempt by the villain to undermine the fair selection process, a cat is chosen. And somewhere along the way is the singing of the most iconic song number from Cats (‘Memories’). And after a pro-cat (anti-dog) direct appeal to camera, the film fades to black.

On the whole I walked away satisfied enough, as I’ve always enjoyed musicals, and my expectations when walking in were so low, it was quite easy for the film to meet and then exceed them.

The Soundtrack

As expected, the soundtrack of an onscreen musical was unable to capture all 100+ minutes of music from the film. Thus the soundtrack is titled ‘Cats: Highlights from the Motion Picture’, time limited to 59 mins. But we can only hold our breath and hope, that like Les Mis, in time they’ll release a deluxe 2-disc version that will include all 20+ songs featured in the film!

But if you’re still tossing up whether or not to watch the film, why not first give the soundtrack a go? The soundtrack contains the major tracks like:

Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats; The Rum Tum Tugger; Old Deuteronomy; Macavity; Mr. Mistoffelees; Memory; and Beautiful Ghosts – both Victoria’s and Taylor Swift’s versions.

We’ve been playing the soundtrack on our Google Home almost daily since we watched the film, and at times I’ve caught myself whistling to tracks from the album as they’re super ‘stuck in your brain’ earworms! If after you’ve listened to the album from Spotify, and you’re still left wanting, wondering ‘what am I missing out on?’, ‘which songs didn’t make it into the highlights?’ Then you’ll just have to watch it in cinema! The missing songs from the soundtrack include:

The Naming of Cats; Grizabella: The Glamour Cat; Growltiger’s Last Stand; The Jellicle Ball; The Moments of Happiness; and The Journey to the Heaviside.

So don’t just stand there! Go! Go! If Cats is doing as poorly as people claim it to be at the box-office, then it won’t be in cinemas for much longer- so go! Go! Don’t walk but run and catch it before it’s too late!

Album reviews- Taiwan Top 50

Ok, it’s been a while since I’ve come across a really good music album, but I’ve been listening to some pretty good Spotify playlists though! The most recent playlist which I’ve got on a constant rotation on the Google Home has been ‘Taiwan Top 50’ by SpotifyChart.

I’m not sure if this playlist actually reflects the current Top 50 chart in Taiwan, but either way it’s a great cross-representation of the popular Mandarin and popular English songs currently playing on the airwaves!

The playlist is almost a perfect 50/50 split of Mandarin to English songs- I’ve actually analysed the 50 songs and it’s a 26 Mando V 24 Eng split – so a pretty even representation hey? So best of both worlds! And what best encapsulates this perfect bilingual marriage is the Artist OSN- a Mandarin rap artist who seamlessly blends mandarin rap and hooks with English lyrics! It’s so seamless that sometimes you can’t even tell if he’s spitting/singing in a language that you can or cannot understand. Haaha. Currently OSN has 4 tracks doing the rounds on Youtube e.g. ‘Without you’, ‘Why you gonna lie’, ‘the last time’, and ‘Be alright’.

And the notable English tracks which have made it into the  Taiwanese Top 50 are – Memories by Maroon 5, Dance Monkey by  TONES AND I, Circles by  Post Malone, 10,000 Hours feat. Justin Bieber and much much more….. Well, 20 more songs at least.

So if you want to treat your ears to a pretty cool and eclectic playlist, click HERE to check it out! 

Album Review- Joshua Band

A couple of weeks ago my wife and I attended a friend’s wedding and during their reception they had a non-stop playlist going on – made up of Christian songs we were familiar with (Hillsong stuff), but all of which was sung in Mandarin! Crazy! And the surprising thing was this, the recordings, vocals, and bands performances  were just as professional/high quality as Hillsong’s! So throughout the banquet, we were bopping along to music we were familiar with, but less familiar with the lyrics being sung (neither of us can speak Mandarin).

At the end of the night when we were saying our congratulations & goodbyes, we asked the newlyweds, what was the playlist they were spinning all night long? Was it Hillsong branching into the largest growth market? But the answer was no, the group is called ‘Joshua Band’, a Taiwanese Christian group who performs covers of popular English Christian songs, but all of which are re-written in Mandarin (we were told that they have permission from the English artists to do so).

So the last few weeks I’ve had Joshua Band on in the background all the time!  The Spotify playlist is utterly huge! I’ve had it on during breakfast, when I’m cooking, even when I’m working from home! It makes for an awesome background playlist when you’re doing other things. It’s like Mandopop meets Hillsong!

If you’re interested to check out brilliantly recorded, melodic, and I’m sure lyrically meaningful tracks.……..Check out Joshua Band! Just ask your smart speaker to “Play Joshua Band on Spotify!” Enjoy!

Perhaps even recommend the playlist to your Mando speaking friends? As I’m sure the songs will be more meaningful if you can actually understand the lyrics? Haaha.

Album Review- #6 Collaborations Project, Ed Sheeran

I think Ed Sheeran has to be in conversations when discussing ‘Who is the hottest Musician at the moment’, as anything and everything Ed is involved in, is a winner! And his 6th album, Collaborations Project, is his latest Grand slam HOME RUN!

There were a couple of weeks in May and June where it felt like every week Ed was releasing a new single. And the reason why there was a flood of his music streaming onto our radio waves, all made sense when his Collaborations Project album was announced.

The first track released from the album was ‘I Don’t Care’ feat Justin Bieber (and we do care); followed by ‘Cross Me’ feat Chance the Rapper (with one of the most repetitive and annoying hook lines ever!); to be followed by ‘Beautiful People’ feat Khalid (don’t sell yourself short Ed).

And as crazy as it seems, then Ed released songs 4-5 from the album on the same day! Dropping ‘Best Part of Me’ feat Yebba (is probably your bank account Ed!); and ‘Blow’ feat Chris Stapleton and Bruno Mars (very Lenny Kravitz-esque); and as I write this post, the 6th single to be released from the album has been ‘Anti-social’ feat Travis Scott (ok, ok, you don’t like to shake hands).

And since the album’s release, the other tracks which have found their way onto the popular airwaves have been ‘South of the Border’ feat Camila Cabello (and I don’t think they’re referring to Trump’s border wall? *shrugs*); and ‘Take Me Back to London’ feat Stormzy (spending too much time in the States? Hey?).

And tracks which haven’t made it to the radio yet (and I say yet) are ‘Remember the Name’ feat Eminem and 50 Cent (more like 73 Cents, according to today’s US to Aus dollar conversion…..”Yeah! Way to go 73 Cents!” Doesn’t have the same ring to it????), ‘Feels’ feat Young Thug and J Hus (aka Not-so-young-thug); ‘Put It All On Me’ feat Ella Mai (we can always count on you ED!); ‘Nothing On You’ feat Paulo Londra (ok…. Requires translation please); ‘I Don’t Want Your Money’ feat H.E.R (but you want my time?); ‘1000 Nights’ feat Meek Mill and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie (aka A Boogie Wit Da thongs, t-shirt and shorts……..What? There’s a heat wave in the Northern hemisphere!); and the final non-airing track is ‘Way to Break My Heart’ feat Skrillex (that’s a little melodramatic Ed?).

And in my honest opinion, I reckon all 15 tracks are radio-single worthy! And the diverse styles? Just shows how versatile Ed is! The only one critique is perhaps the over-use of voice synthesisers? So much so that Ed doesn’t sound like himself in half of the tracks? And in the latter half of the album, the songs sound a bit same-same.

But #6 Collaborations project will go down as a modern classic! Bravo team! Bravo!

To listen to every track on #6 Collaborations Project, just ask Google to Play Ed Sheeran on Spotify!

Album Review- A trip down memory lane

As people, we can be myopic and be only drawn to what is shiny and new, and forget all about the ‘old stuff’ which we used to hold dear to us…….

For a couple of years now, I’ve been on a music streaming fever! First it was Pandora, and now it’s all been Spotify this, Spotify that! Charmed over by the instant gratification of hearing exactly what I wanted, when I wanted it!

Then recently, I was cleaning and I found my old iPod Shuffle – naturally it was out of battery, but I wondered if after a charge it would still turn on? After all these years of disuse and neglect?

Woohoo! It still turns on! And after swiping through the dated user interface and tapping the song which had been paused mid beat all those years ago……It actually started playing where it had been left off, and oddly enough the clock was still on time (although Wi-Fi was turned off).

Another victim to the progress of technology, was our old Yamaha stereo system – the thing which we had dropped like $700 on in 2012 and was now just gathering dust (the Yamaha being a victim to the portability of Bluetooth speakers and the compatibility to apps and streaming services).

But oh yeah! Dropping the iPod into the Yamaha’s docking station, the beats still played through the speakers (I’d forgotten what real stereo sounded like. And the sounds of a real bass got me laughing hysterically! And the ability to crank up the stereo to only a third of its capacity and still have my wife striding over with purpose and turning it down…..You just can’t get that level of sound from these dinky SMART speakers!

So for the few past weeks I haven’t been listening to Spotify, because I’ve been thoroughly entertained by my iPod placed on shuffle! Perhaps it’s been long enough for you as well to dig out your once loved iPod, check if it still works after a charge, and if it does – join me on a trip down memory lane! #Old beats baby!