Review: Pentatonix – The Lucky Ones

Blog, Music, Written Posts

I stumbled across Pentatonix back in 2015 and it’s kind of wild to think about how much such a seemingly insignificant event has impacted my life since. Not only did it reawaken a love and appreciation for music that I didn’t really know was there, but it was a big part of what drew people in to my YouTube channel to begin with and led to many more opportunities and friendships as a result. They’re the only artist I’ve attended any concerts for and I’ve even met them a couple of times. They’re really the only artist I’ve ever actually been a part of the fan community for and that allowed me to meet a lot of cool people and then go to PentaCon in Texas where I met even more cool people (and even got to be on a panel there!). I don’t think anything will ever truly match my love of them around the 2016-18 time period and being very active right in the middle of the fandom during that time but I definitely still have a love for the group and the music that they continue to put out, and I probably always will.

After Avi left the group in 2017 I knew I would continue to support them but I always had this feeling that their music would never quite live up to the quality that it was when he was there. But I’m happy to report that I continue to be impressed by their albums, and in fact their most recent albums are some of their best ever. Their We Need a Little Christmas album, which they released in 2020, was stellar in spite of me previously feeling like maybe they should take a break from doing so many Christmas albums before they completely run out of material. Their latest album, The Lucky Ones, had no business being as good as it was. It’s a rarity that I don’t feel the need to skip any tracks in an album, and The Lucky Ones does that effortlessly. They managed to capture such a unique vibe with this album that is unlike any of their albums before it (and starkly different than their self-titled album back in 2015 which is their only other all-original album thus far). It’s this unique tone, in conjunction with the fact that all of the tracks seem to lead into each other so seamlessly, that makes the album so easy to listen to without skipping a track.

Happy Now is a song that I fell in love with as soon as I heard it for the first time back in concert before it had even been released. It’s a really feel-good song that has a fun energy to it. As their first original song in quite some time when it was released as a single, it really set the tone for things to come.

I feel like I’ve grown particularly sappy over the past year, so the message of Love Me When I Don’t really resonates with me now and it’s really important for that reason. Overall as a song I don’t know if it’s necessarily one of my favorites on the album but it’s nice enough and I tend to be partial to Kirstin’s voice so I like that she has such a big role in it for sure.

Coffee In Bed is a really nice, chill jam. The blend of Scott and Mitch as the leads works really well for the vibe they’re going for, and the backing vocals add a really nice flavor to the sound that sets the song apart from the others. It’s a nice vibe to ease you into the album.

Remember when I said that I tend to be partial to Kirstin’s voice? Well Be My Eyes certainly delivers on that front and again delivers a song with a sound that is quite unique from every Pentatonix song before it. It’s one of those songs that doesn’t break from its formula too much once it starts and more or less relies on that same sound throughout but the sound is so magical in a way that I don’t really mind it. There is also a nice little build-up towards the end of the song that I appreciate as well.

A Little Space is pretty wild, and it’s definitely a jam as well. It has such cool groove to it, and it really allows some of the other voices in the group to thrive, like Kevin, for example, who also provides a whole other layer to the song with the really cool vocal instrumentation. I love the whole vibe of this song and it’s one I can always jam out to for sure (the music video they released featuring ATEEZ was a really cool version as well).

Again, the songs really flow into each other well throughout the whole album, but it’s the cool subtleties that really set them apart and give them each a unique sound. Side feels more mellow than a lot of the other songs, but it provides a nice little contrast halfway through the album, and is really effortless for Mitch’s vocal prowess. As much as I love to hear Mitch belt out with his wild vocal range, this is a nice, warm side of his voice that is refreshing to hear every now and then for sure.

Scott and Mitch are the driving force of Bored, as they are a lot throughout the album, but they again combine to make a cool blend that works well, especially when combined with some cool vocal effects and the backing vocals from the others that compliment the sound as well. Overall this is perhaps the most repetitious of any of the songs in the album but it still works as part of the overall album’s vibe.

For whatever reason Exit Signs just really stands out to me. It’s another mellow song that isn’t exactly a fun vibe like Happy Now but it’s weirdly alluring. And hey, it’s a whole lot of Kirstin, so that’s always a plus. But I just really love the feel of the song overall and much like a lot of the album, it’s one I can just really chill out while I’m listening to it. And for what it’s worth, I love how Kirstin sounds particularly at the end of the song when she really goes for it. It adds a lot!

Never Gonna Cry Again is the obligatory “wow, this is a cappella?” song of the album, where it just feels so full and stylized that you almost forget this is all done with just their voices. Mitch thoroughly kills it with this one. Such a cool sound.

Oh, hey Kirstin, nice to hear you again. This album gives a sufficient amount of Kirstin love, never gonna hate on that. But as I listen to It’s Different Now, and as I’ve listened to each song as I type this, the realization is finally setting in that this album is super chill, so I could see how it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. You very much have to bring a similar chill energy for the album to work for you. It’s not the most hype-inducing album in the world, so you really have to be in a certain place mentally to fully appreciate it. But heck, I love It’s Different Now all the same, I guess I’m matching that energy pretty well right now.

The album comes to a close with The Lucky Ones, which I feel like is a really good song to have the album named after because it really captures the tone and vibe quite well. I almost feel like a more up-beat song would be more fitting to book-end the album with Happy Now and take us out of our more somber vibe we have going on, but this is still a really cool song so I’m fine with it. Maybe a good song to end on in the sense that it eases us out of the album rather than leading us to expect more.

Overall I really love their latest album, which makes me all the more excited for everything they have planned for the future. It captured a style unlike anything they’ve done before, and is so wildly but pleasantly different from their first album of originals that they could go in any number of directions for their next album. The fact that they were able to come out with such an excellent product during these times we’re living in is particularly impressive and just reinforces my faith in their vision moving forward.

Videos I Posted This Week:

Survivor: Vanuatu Review – Tarqaron
Free Guy Review – Tarqaron
Dua Lipa: Future Nostalgia Review – Tarqaron
Checking out Sof’s Fruit Water Szn Movement
Just checking in
Reacting to the wonderful wacky world of Dhar Mann

Things I Enjoyed This Week:

The Rise and Fall of Paper Mario

Blog, Gaming, Written Posts

Tonight I decided to talk about what was historically one of my favorite series of video games ever: Paper Mario. While there certainly is a “fall” referenced in the title of this blog, make no mistake… Paper Mario as a series is beloved to me. Few video game series bring me as much joy just to think about. But the unfortunate reality is that I always have to preface my love of the Paper Mario series in saying that my love is for the older games in the series rather than the newer ones. I equate it a lot to a feeling that many Star Wars fans have when talking about the original trilogy versus the prequels. It’s almost a 1:1 comparison for me, really. The first three (Paper Mario, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, and Super Paper Mario) correspond almost perfectly to the original trilogy. Paper Mario on the Nintendo 64 is the equivalent to A New Hope in that it is a true gem and you can’t go wrong with the one that started it all. The Thousand-Year Door on the Nintendo GameCube is like Empire Strikes Back in that it is the GOAT and really perfected what made the series great. And lastly, Super Paper Mario on the Nintendo Wii is most like Return of the Jedi in the sense that it is the more off-beat of the trilogy and slightly more contentious than the others, but appreciated nonetheless. Although the correlation isn’t quite as direct, the newer trio of games (Paper Mario: Sticker Star on the Nintendo 3DS, Paper Mario: Color Splash on the Nintendo Wii U, and Paper Mario: The Origami King on the Nintendo Switch) would be viewed similarly to the prequel trilogy of Star Wars films in that they are so different stylistically from the first three and, in my opinion, lose a big part of that original spark and can’t compare in quality as a result. Hopefully that comparison is as apt for you as it has always been for me.

For me, the first two in the series stand head and shoulders above the rest. The Thousand-Year Door has always been my favorite but the original is almost equally timeless and is up there with some of my favorite role-playing games. The worlds, characters, dialogue, music and presentation of both games just ooze charm and in many ways can’t be rivaled in my eyes. Super nostalgic, for sure. At the time of Super Paper Mario‘s release, I definitely expressed my concerns with it in that it was quite a departure from what I wanted from the series and was a far cry from the legendary status of TTYD, but in retrospect and juxtaposed with what was to come, I have a much greater appreciation for it. It isn’t exactly what I want when I play Paper Mario, but it had its own charm and certainly had no shortage of clever writing, with a surprisingly detailed story and fun (but different) gameplay. That being said, I and many other Paper Mario fans naturally hoped the series would see a return to form with its next installment, and remained optimistic for the future.

Everything changed when Sticker Star attacked. Years had passed since SPM‘s release, and naturally hope for a revival of the series was dwindling. But lo and behold, Nintendo bring Paper Mario: Sticker Star out of the woodwork and raise fans’ excitement, only to have it come crashing down with an unbridled rage. Was it really that bad? Well, it is MAYBE a decent game by itself, but it is a horrible Paper Mario game, and that is a trend that the series will continue to have to date. The greatest artistic crimes it commits include completely disincentivizing battling enemies while taking out the really fun battle system of the original games as well as completely taking away the unique character designs and fun dialogue that made the Paper Mario series so special. It’s almost as if Nintendo had no idea why their fans took a liking to the series to begin with and just assumed they liked the haha funny paper gimmicks, so they decided to go all in on that. If you like being paper and that’s all you want from a Paper Mario game, then this is the game for you. It has it in spades.

Color Splash came along a few years later and while it was a noticeable improvement, it immediately reeked of Sticker Star in presentation as well as some gameplay elements. There was still no incentive for battling enemies, really, and the worlds were full of exclusively Toads rather than unique character designs. The dialogue was alright, I guess, but doesn’t even remotely resemble what fans have still been dying for since TTYD. I do want to point out that I thought Color Splash was genuinely a fun game, but it just doesn’t have any of what I want from Paper Mario. It’s an insult to fans to call it that just because Mario happens to be made out of paper in it. Get it outta here. Full disclosure, though, I barely played any of The Origami King, but from all that I’ve seen of it, it doesn’t in any way remedy the problems that I’ve had with the series since TTYD, so even though it may be a swell game in comparison to the previous two, I’m fine batching it in with the prequel trilogy here. At some point I’ll get around to playing through it, for sure, but for now I’ll stick to Bug Fables (an awesome indie game that shamelessly rips off the best qualities of the original games- almost like a spiritual successor for the fans).

I can only hope this isn’t the end of the Paper Mario story. There have been persisting rumors over the years of a true return to form for the series, but I continue to be disappointed, time and time again. One day, hopefully, I can be a Paper Mario fan with pride once again.

Videos I Posted This Week:

Box Art Battles! – Episode 5 [Shrek Edition] – Tarqaron ft. Rusty
Black Widow Review – Tarqaron
Survivor: Vanuatu Ep. 11 Reaction (The Leann Blindside) – Tarqaron
Smash Summit 11 was absolutely insane
Loki: Season 1 Review – Tarqaron
Is Dimash the greatest singer in the world?

Things I Enjoyed This Week:

My 2018 in Review: Gaming

Gaming, Written Posts

I love video games. In fact, video games have been my greatest passion for as long as I can remember, really. Yet, despite that, my priorities seemed to shift from gaming to television and film for much of 2018. In many ways, video games kind of fell to the back-burner for the year. The fact that I was studying so much television and film in college throughout the year probably had something to do with that. Not that it’s a problem, really, but I would like to finish more video games in 2019 while continuing to enjoy television and film as much as I have as well.

Ultimately, I only finished 7 games in 2018, which is a pretty lousy number all in all. Obviously I played much more than that throughout the year, but for the sake of a brief recap, I will just list those few that I finished.

My 2018 in Review: Film

Film, Written Posts

Hey y’all, it’s time for a bit of a hoot and a holler. So basically I’m going to go over the films I watched in 2018. Just to preface, this is all of the movies watched for the first time in 2018, meaning that this list includes not only new releases, but any oldies I watched during the year as well. Hence why this post is called MY 2018 in Review and not something like “Here Are Some Movies That Came Out in 2018”.

All in all, I watched 32 movies for the first time in 2018. Here they are! I’ll share any specific comments I have along the way. If you have any questions, feel free to comment them!

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Film, Written Posts

Okay, wow. I really just felt like I had to talk about this somehow, somewhere, so here I am. I just watched this film for the first time ever, thanks to my Survey of American Film and Television class. I don’t know how I managed to avoid this movie for 14 years now, without anyone recommending it to me or even mentioning it to me. It was great seeing both Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet in roles that were not the norm for them as actors, and to see them perform these roles extremely well.

“You Were The One” – Mario Jose review

Music, Written Posts

Hey! If you haven’t watched my initial reaction and review of this single, you can do so here.

I had the great pleasure of getting to meet Mario at PentaCon this past weekend and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the person I met. His fun-loving and caring soul made for contagious laughter and smiling all throughout his presence at the event. It is truly inspiring just how genuine and passionate he is with everything he does.

Why Rick and Morty fans love Rick and Morty

TV, Written Posts

It’s amazing to form a mutual love and respect for something. For once to forget the negativity and just gush over something you are truly passionate about with other like-minded people. So, I figured: Why not bring together said like-minded individuals and ask them to write up a bit on why they love said something.

In this case, Rick and Morty. A show which I have only recently grown to love when I finally took the plunge and binge watched the first two seasons to be caught up now.

Below, 6 people have come together to discuss why they love Rick and Morty as much as they do. Bask in the positivity and enjoy.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Film, Written Posts

Hey, so Spider-Man: Homecoming was pretty good. Some stuff that I feel should be brought up (I will warn you when I am about to enter spoiler territory):

  • Not quite Avengers quality, but still pretty enjoyable.
  • Tom Holland is perhaps the most believable of the Spider-Men we’ve seen. I can actually believe that he is a kid (probably helps that he is so young too). They might have gone a bit over-board with the whole “I’m a millennial, so I vlog and stuff” style, but hey, if they want Spider-Man to be a vlogger, then so be it.
  • I was not a big fan of Ned as a character. Overall he just feels like an embodiment of the funny nerdy friend cliche, and he wasn’t all that funny. There were a few scenes where I felt like Batalon’s acting for Ned wasn’t up to snuff, especially when one-on-one with Tom Holland playing Penis Parker.
  • I was a fan of the suit customization and Peter’s interactions with the suit throughout the back half of the film. I hope we can see more of that going forward!
  • Aunt May’s attractiveness is distracting. Marisa Tomei needs to chill. Aunts can be attractive I guess, but I actually found it genuinely distracting in some scenes. Forgive me. It’s especially jarring if you recall what Aunt May looked like in Toby Maguire’s Spider-Man series. Talk about a Transformation Tuesday am I right???

aunt may 1.jpg

Now be warned. You are about to enter Spoil Town!!