Top 3 Albums of 2016

We can all agree that 2016 wasn’t the greatest year. However, if there was one medium that got me through all the chaos, it was music. Nothing shortened the agonizing metro rides more than the sounds of MZShaidu and Casey Williams. There were three albums in particular this year that rose above the rest, proving that this decade has still got it when it comes to music. Here are my top 3 albums of 2015:

 

#3- RWBY Volume 3: The Original Soundtrack

Artist: Jeff & Casey Williams

Genre: Soundtrack

RWBY has the hands down greatest soundtracks of any piece of visual media. Not only does the music compliment the show perfectly, but each volume’s soundtrack stands alone as a fantastic album in its own right. Although RWBY Volume 1 still holds up as my favorite album of the trio, Volume 3 is a close contender. This album covers the gamut of genre and tone, ranging from upbeat pop tracks to somber orchestral pieces. Variety isn’t its only impressive feat. Each individual song is some of the best its genre has to offer. Divide is one of my all time favorite metal songs. Cold, with its beautiful orchestral backing, manages to make me tear up with each listening. Whichever genre of music you prefer, this album has it all, and at top quality for that matter.

 

#2- Bedroom Bedrock

Artist: MZShaidu (Vocals by Digibro and Endless Jess)

Genre: Rap

When I found out that Digibro and Endless Jess, my two all time favorite YouTubers and some of my biggest creative inspirations, were making a rap album together, I was ecstatic. This hype was only amplified when I learned that MZShaidu (Digibro’s brother), one of the best electronic musicians working today, was producing the beats. Despite my anticipation, Bedroom Bedrock did not disappoint. It quickly became my most listened to album of the year; I’ve probably heard it about 30 times all the way through. However, what stands out about Bedroom Bedrock to me the most is that it managed to make me appreciate a genre of music that I formerly hated- rap. The masterful writing of both Digibro and Endless Jess was extremely evident in the lyrics of every single track. It made me understand that rap wasn’t simply an outlet for artists to talk about all the sex and money that they have; rap can be poetry. Songs like Get Action! and ROTTEN are some of the most clever, well-written, and relatable “poems” I’ve ever heard. Listening to this album brought me back to the days where I was obsessed with poetry, reading legends like Edgar Allan Poe and Walt Whitman for the first time. If you don’t like rap based on the same assumptions I had, you should definitely give this album a listen.

 

#1- Sunset Memories

Artist: ODDEEO

Genre: Synth Wave & Vocaloid

Sunset Memories is an album that was meant for 2016. In a year full of stark pessimism, we needed this. The short, but masterful record transports listeners into a future of optimism. This is a world of sprawling metropolis, flying cars, and humans coexisting seamlessly and peacefully with robots. The biggest worry the album’s protagonist has to face is falling in love with her best friend. The fact that he is a robot isn’t even an afterthought. The best part about Sunset Memories is that everything I just mentioned isn’t even expressed through lyrics. The genius world building is all ingrained in the aesthetic of the music. This is especially made apparent in the fantastic music video for This Feeling is a Cliche, which is a must watch, regardless if you are planning to listen to the album in its entirety. That’s what makes Sunset Memories so genius; it builds an entire world without even saying a single word about it. I know this expression is thrown around alot, but sitting back and closing your eyes while listening to this album will transport you. You will forget about all of the stress and worry of your daily life, and, just like Retro Gumi and Chromo 2000, focus on love in a beautiful future. If that isn’t something that people need this year, then I don’t know what is.

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RWBY Vol. 3: Episode 2- Review

This week’s episode of RWBY, though not as intense as the premiere, was still fantastic. I have a feeling the sentence prior will be used to describe almost every episode this season (at least that’s what I can hope for). With only two major plot developments, which I will discuss towards the end of this review, this episode was really more focused on characterization. 

Returning to the animation upgrade I discussed in my review of the volume premiere, there was something I failed to mention. This episode really brought prominence to it, so I thought i’d discuss it here. With the improvement in animation comes major strides in battle animation in particular. The tournament matches of this episode were some of the most enticing, fluid, and all around fun battles i’ve ever seen in animation period. I give the animators props for making battles, which can sometimes be tedious and boring, to be some of the most interesting parts of the episode. However, I don’t think this feat is accomplished by the animators alone.

I believe that the writers are using these tournament battles as a vehicle for characterization. Although we are already familiar with team JNPR, we get to see their battle dynamic in a new light through in-battle dialogue and collaborative choreography. We are also introduced to the final two members of team SSSN. Both Scarlet David and Sage Ayana are very well designed characters, and we really get to know them through their actions in the tournament battle. This instance in particular seems to prove my point. I look forward to seeing what new characters we will meet this way, as well as how these battles will better characterize show veterans.

Finally, the point you have all been waiting for, Qrow. Firstly, from the two scenes showing him drinking at a bar, as well as the extremely clever animation technique used when he walks, it is revealed he is an alcoholic. My personal theory is that his alcoholism is due to the loss of two people he loved and cared about more than anyone else (excluding Taiyang obviously), Summer Rose and Raven Branwen. However, it was also revealed that he is not at Beacon to watch the tournament, but to either rendezvous or intercept with Winter Schnee, who was shown at the end of the episode to be arriving at Beacon.

Speaking of Winter, I was surprised at Weiss’ reaction to Winter’s arrival. I thought it was hinted at in the past that the two had a bad relationship. However, it is clear that they either love each other, or that Weiss idolizes Winter in an unhealthy way. The latter would make an interesting character development for Weiss, so i’m hoping for that. However, Winter’s arrival may have something to do with the dynamic between Weiss and her father. Maybe winter has come to Beacon to convince Weiss to reconcile with her father. However, what we do know from both the opening and Qrow’s dialogue, is that Qrow and Winter will be meeting up sometime very soon.

It’s episodes like these that exemplify why RWBY Volume 3 is the most excited I’ve been for a TV season in a while. Every episode leaves me on the edge of the seat, and has me counting down the days until the next one. I doubt there’s going to be a bad episode this season, so please don’t read these reviews if you don’t want to hear me gushing about how much I love this show.

RWBY Vol. 3: Episode 1- Review

After over a year long hiatus, RWBY is finally back, and better than ever. With what can be seen on a technical level to be one of the best premieres in online series history; it is clear that this volume s going to be the best yet. As it is nearly impossible to review this episode without giving away content, this will be a spoiler filled review. Therefore, if you have not yet seen the episode, be sure to watch it before reading this.

The episode begins with Ruby talking to her mother at her grave stone. In a way, I saw this scene as an indirect tribute to the passing of the creative mastermind behind the series, Monty Oum. However, we learn a lot about the personalities of both Summer Rose, and Taiyang Xiao Long; whom we get to see for the first time, as he is standing behind Ruby.

This shot in particular brings me to my first major point, background character design. Rather than using black figures, or stock models; the animators decided to use detailed stills. These stills have a differing style from the standard character models, making them extremely unique and detailed. The animators use this mechanic to their advantage throughout the episode, and I look forward to seeing how they handle this skillful technique in the future.

We then cut to the highly anticipated Vytal Tournament itself. Unfortunately, we are treated to an exposition dump with regards to the rules of the tournament. While somewhat jarring to the viewing experience, it wasn’t a large enough flaw to hinder my overall opinion of the episode. In this battle we see some of the best character facial reactions in animation to date, especially coming from Blake, who if you did not know, is my favorite character in the series.

This battle in particular showcases the massive upgrades that Rooster Teeth made to their animation engine. Everything is much more fluid, crisp, and bright; and is a true pleasure for the eye to look at. If you put this action scene side by side with an action scene from early volume 1, you could definitely see a major difference. However, a con of pioneering this animation engine is a slight bug that I noticed on multiple occasions throughout the episode. When characters are standing completely still, they tend to slightly vibrate. This causes a jarring effect that takes me out of the scene immediately. I am very forgiving of this flaw, however, as this is a new technology that they are pioneering with this episode. With time, this bug can easily be fixed.

During a conversation slightly further in the episode between team RWBY and Emerald, it is revealed that the fourth member of Cinder’s team is indeed Neo, wearing a very convincing disguise. It was great to see one of the most intriguing characters in the show for a third time, and this scene definitely got the biggest reaction out of me for this episode. I cant wait to see more Neo this season, and maybe even hear her voice.

Speaking of voices, lets talk about Ren’s new voice actor. If you did not know, Ren was voiced by the late Monty Oum. Therefore, he was re-casted to be played by Monty’s brother Neath. The new voice, although not identical to Monty’s, is perfect for the character. From Ren’s minimal dialogue in this episode, it is clear that Neath is an extremely talented voice actor. I cant wait to see how he handles this character, and I have complete faith that he will do it well.

Further developing Ren’s character was a piece of dialogue from Nora. In a fit of insecurity, Nora reveals that her and Ren do not have any parents. Knowing that the two have been inseparable since an early age, this brings a lot of speculation to their backstory. Were they living on the streets? Were they raised in an orphanage together? I like this ambiguity, but I would like to know a bit more. I have a feeling before the series ends, we will be able to put the puzzle pieces together and figure this mystery out.

Another interesting plot development was Weiss’ relationship with her father. When he tried to call her after her match in the tournament, she declined his call. It is clear that there is some sort of strain in their relationship, but it would be interesting to know what. We later see that he most likely cancelled her credit card, as she could not pay for her team’s ramen. As Weiss’ sister Winter will be coming into the story at some point this volume, I believe we will find out what is going on in this dynamic very soon.

The final plot development I will be discussing is a particular scene involving Mercury, Emerald, and Cinder. Cinder reveals that the three know the outcomes to each match of the tournament. Therefore, it can be inferred that the tournament is rigged in some way. Could it be that Cinder, or one of her unknown higher ups has skewed the tournament in order to fit into their plans? Only time will tell.

Evidently, this was one of the most dense RWBY episodes to date. With massive improvements in storytelling, writing, and animation; it is clear that this was the best premiere of the series yet. If this episode is any indicator, we are in for a great volume.

Update: 10/14/15

As you can tell, this blog has been lacking in frequent content over the past month or so. As I am a college student who has course work, social life, and media consumption to balance, I have had a very hard time keeping up with blog posts in a timely matter. Not to worry, some changes will be made in order to keep this blog up and running.

Firstly, I apologize, but weekly reviews of Dragon Ball Super will no longer be posted. It is simply too time consuming for a show that is very slow paced and repetitive. Instead, I will be reviewing the show on an arc by arc basis. If the show turns out not to fall into such neat boundaries, I will modify my review style as I see fit. To summarize, still expect Dragon Ball content in the future, just not as frequent.

You are all probably wondering about three series that have been a staple to this blog since its inception; Rick and Morty, Steven Universe, and Doctor Who. Reviews of these on a weekly basis wont be going anywhere. As Rick and Morty recently aired its season 2 finale, I will be prioritizing those reviews first. Expect a conglomerated review of episodes 6-9 of the season, as well as a stand-alone, in depth review of the season finale. Doctor Who will be reviewed on a biweekly basis, since I have been lead to believe that season 9 will be comprised of only two-parters. If the show proves otherwise, it will be returned to weekly status. As for Steven Universe, expect stand alone reviews for each episode in the near future.

Since Rick and Morty season 2 has come to a close, the TV season replacing it will be RWBY Volume 3. Expect weekly reviews for each episode once the season begins in a little under two weeks.

Also, here’s something to look forward to in the somewhat distant future. I have begun my delve into One Piece. At the time I am writing this post, I am on chapter 310 of the manga. Once I catch up to where the anime is, I will be switching mediums and consuming One Piece that way. Expect weekly reviews once I catch up; however, if my progress is any indication, this wont be for quite a while.

I hope this post gave you some indication as to where I have been, and what is in store for the future of this blog. I hope you all continue to read and provide constructive criticism in the comments.

RTX 2015- RWBY Volume 3 News Recap

RTX 2015 came and went, leaving us with some exciting news for volume 3 of RWBY. Although we didn’t get an official trailer, we were treated to some interesting footage. With design reveals of new characters, as well more production news to accompany that, it is clear that we are in for a treat with this volume.

Firstly, we were shown a five minute long scene from volume 3. This footage confirmed that a major part of the show’s third volume will be the highly anticipated Vytal Festival Combat Tournament. Reminding me of the the Triwizard Tournament in Harry Potter, this is bound to be one of the best story arcs in the show yet. This footage also introduced a new team comprised of interestingly designed characters. However, it is unclear which of the four kingdoms of Vytal this team is from. It might have been said in the audio, but, as this was leaked footage, the audio was hard to make out.

However, the biggest RWBY news of the convention came in the form of images. We were shown images of both the arena that the combat tournament will take place in, as well as the festival grounds themselves. However, the revelation that got me most excited were the new character designs. We were shown images of both Qrow (Ruby and Yang’s uncle), and Winter (Weiss’ sister). Based on her character design alone, Winter Schnee is shaping up to be one of, if not my favorite RWBY character. Winter will be played by Elizabeth Maxwell, and Qrow will be played by the legendary Vic Mignogna.

On a more tragic note, information was released on the situation with the character of Ren. There were three options as to what they could have done with the character. They could have made him become mute after an accident, killed him off in between volumes, or changed his voice actor. It has been officially announced that Monty Oum’s brother, Neath, will be replacing the late Monty as the voice of Ren. I am glad they went with the third option, and chose someone so close to Monty for that matter.

In conclusion, it was confirmed that RWBY Volume 3 will be released in the last quarter of 2015, though an exact date was not given. Although I was disappointed that we didn’t receive an official trailer, I completely understand the situation the RWBY team must be in after Monty’s passing, and am grateful that we got anything at all. Although I don’t expect it to, RWBY Volume 3 doesn’t seem like it will disappoint.