Hello everyone, welcome to a new weekly series I’ll be doing here on my website. Unlike my weekly blog series that I did for months last year, this series won’t focus on my personal life but rather will allow me to highlight the different games, movies, shows, books, and musics I enjoyed from the past week as well as elaborate on any content I posted as well. This does not mean I have included everything I enjoyed from the past week, but rather specific highlights that I thought were most worth mentioning! These will be posted every Monday and I encourage you to leave a response if you have any opinions on anything I highlight here throughout the week! Feel free to leave a comment here or reach out to me on Twitter @_Zach_Archer_ ! I love talking about these kinds of things so I’m happy to add another outlet for me to regularly do so.
Highlights of the Week
438 Days by Jonathan Franklin:
This is actually the first book in years that I actually sat down and read through in its entirety! Despite always having an interest in reading more, the flashier trinkets like video games and YouTube videos tended to distract me and keep me from really committing to a good book, but now that I’ve had some extra free time on my hands I don’t intend on stopping after this one. This was actually a real-life story I knew about before, but I was so curious to read about in more detail. 438 Days follows the grueling 438 days that a man named Alvarenga survived lost at sea with nothing but his survival abilities and seemingly endless miles of ocean around him. It’s truly unfathomable to wrap your head around just how long 438 days is to be in even just one place in general, let alone stranded at sea in a survival situation. I highly encourage you to read this if you’re interested at all in hearing about this incredible survival story.
Fable II on the Xbox 360:
My relationship with the Fable series is an interesting one. I have always been a fan of the series, but weirdly enough, I have only beaten Fable III and have yet to make significant progress on the first two despite starting them over multiple times and enjoying them both. But for some reason I was feeling that Fable itch once again and I’m going to try to stick it through to the end this time. I guess I’ve accepted my non-linear relationship with the series and so I’m going through Fable II next, it was just calling to me more. So far I’ve been enjoying it, but as tends to happen with this series, I spent a few hours the other night getting distracted winning over many of the townspeople in Bowerstone, getting married a couple of times along the way, and as such haven’t done much in terms of progress recently. But the next time I play I plan on focusing up and moving forward with more of the story proper.
Big Brother 24 on CBS:
Watching Big Brother has been an annual tradition for my family for so many years that it is just a regular part of each summer at this point. This season has been delivering in a lot of ways because it has been a rollercoaster of ups and downs and despite a really rough start to the season it has picked up and led to some interesting dynamics, even in spite of a couple of awful twists imposed by the producers. This season is also the first one I’ve been able to enjoy and discuss with my girlfriend, so that has been a plus, too. Hopefully the endgame proves to be just as interesting and gives us more to enjoy.
The Lucky Ones (Deluxe) album by Pentatonix:
Recently it kind of slipped my mind that I hadn’t given the deluxe version of Pentatonix’s latest album quite the love it deserved. I had listened to it a few times, sure, but not as much as many of their other albums for sure. I’ve since realized that the additional deluxe tracks are some of my favorite Pentatonix songs period now, with You’re Out standing out to me this past week especially. Truly a treat to enjoy, and one I’m sure I’ll continue to appreciate for quite some time.
Content of the Week:
Box Art Battles! – Episode 6 | Tarqaron ft. Ryan
This episode was a lot of fun. As always in Box Art Battles!, we got up to a lot of fun shenanigans as we navigated a variety of video game box art. Most notably I feel like Winning Post 7 really defined this episode in a lot of ways, lest we forget the moments we shared.
Jamie’s parting words were almost too iconic not to be referenced in the title, especially after the dramatic downward spiral that we witnessed from him throughout the past few episodes. I know Alec was happy to see them finally actually go through with voting him out and I don’t blame him; it was a much needed change of pace. Had a fun time with this episode for sure!
Belle Review – Tarqaron
This was definitely an interesting anime film worth highlighting, and I knew there would be a good amount to get into, but I certainly never expected Alec to get so heated about one minor critique I made in the video (especially since we were more or less in agreement about everything else). Watch for yourself and let me know if I was really being that unreasonable with what I said, because it really took me by surprise.
Just a couple of days ago, I got to see Pentatonix perform in person for the first time in two years and they did not disappoint! But rather than talk about that here, I’m going to save that for a video I’ll be recording about it since I have talked about every other Pentatonix concert experience in video form and I don’t see any reason to stop now. Since PTX is at the top of my mind at the moment, though, I wanted to at least share my thoughts on the Evergreen album. Just like I did with The Lucky Ones, I’m going to go track by track, giving my opinions on each song along the way.
There’s not much to it, but they nailed it with It’s Been A Long, Long Time. The contrast between Scott and Mitch’s voices is really what made this one work, but it’s also nice that both Kirstin and Matt had moments to chime in as well. The song had a pretty unique tone in comparison to what we usually hear from their voices. This acted as the perfect short intro song for the album, and was the perfect choice to tie in with their tour announcement, too. I really liked the nice touch of hearing them light a candle, which they then blow out at the end of the album.
There is nothing noticeably remarkable about Wonderful Christmastime, but it has grown on me a bit since my first time hearing it. I mean, that’s basically the case with the original version, too. It’s more or less just a catchy song with not too much going on with it. While I don’t think Pentatonix’s version is quite as catchy, I still enjoy it and it has enough charm to be worth listening to when going through the album. Scott’s voice in particular complements the song well.
I Saw Three Ships surprised me with how much I ended up liking it. I had never heard the original before, but even from the name of the song, I feared I was in for a bit of a bore. I really did not expect it to have as much energy as it did, so I’m glad that I was wrong about that. They really do a great job of not only coming in with a good amount of energy but also building on that energy as the song progresses, which naturally makes for an exciting arrangement. Scott is again the heart of this song and I really love hearing him go all out as he sings about these damn three ships, but Mitch, Kirstin, and Matt all had great moments to shine as well. That tends to be the impetus for my favorite Pentatonix arrangements, any time we get each member shining in different ways is exactly what I want to hear.
I’ve gotta be honest. And I’ve always said this because no one is brave enough to say it. Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You is the greatest Christmas song ever made. So Pentatonix’s version, featuring Christina Perri, was very disappointing in that I was expecting high-energy holiday goodness but got a really slowed-down version instead. Upon further listening, I have a lot more respect for the bold departure, but I can’t help but wonder what it would have sounded like with a similar approach to the original. So while I appreciate what they did with this, and it’s swell enough by itself, I can’t help but be honest when I say that they essentially took out the heart of the song and why I love it, so this didn’t quite work for me as much as it could have.
I don’t know why I love the very beginning of Home For The Holidays so much, but I really do. Just the right amount of reverb as Scott calls on each member by name to join in the song and add another layer to the arrangement. That twenty seconds is just enough to add some charm and set it apart from what is otherwise a pretty rote classic Christmas song. Overall it’s nothing to write home about but that intro gives it some personality.
Another song I hadn’t heard of, River was really pretty though it’s not one of my favorites. It’s very folksy in style which is so interesting because it really doesn’t feel like a Christmas song as a result. That’s probably the biggest issue for me, not only is it not my preferred style of music in general but it’s definitely not the kind of music I want to listen to during Christmastime either. So this one didn’t really do much for me but that’s okay.
Over the River is the much much better river-based song on this album. I really fuckin’ love this shit. Lindsey Stirling killed this and added such a badass, much-needed layer to this arrangement. It’s mostly the same violin sequence being replayed throughout but I love it so much and they use it so creatively to switch up the pace of the song in fun and exciting ways, so it doesn’t really matter. This easily could have been just another beat-for-beat classic holiday cover, but I’m glad they decided to do something much more special with it.
Okay, so The Prayer is the best song on the album and it’s not close. This takes up the show-stopping mantle of songs like Hallelujah and Amazing Grace in past albums and it did not disappoint in the slightest. These tend to be my favorites in every album that they do because they not only are heaven to the ears but are brilliant at showcasing their talents both as individuals and as a group. Words cannot express how much I love and appreciate this cover from Pentatonix. It’s truly one of the best they’ve ever done, period. From Kevin’s excellent percussion to Mitch’s killer range, they all deliver brilliant all-time performances. It’s truly a pleasure to listen through as Scott, Mitch, and Kirstin each give us chills at least once. This will probably go in my top five favorite songs from Pentatonix ever!
Quite a contrast from The Prayer, Evergreen delivers in a much different way. Though it’s not my favorite in the world and not one that I’m really eager to listen to on repeat, it is definitely a really sweet and heartfelt song. And I loved hearing just a little bit of Kevin’s singing voice in this one, it really suited the song nicely!
Frosty The Snowman is one of those classic Christmas songs that was inevitably going to be covered by Pentatonix at some point, it was just a matter of when. What I didn’t expect was for Alessia Cara to be involved. Look, I’m a big Alessia Cara fan and I will be the first person to sing the praises of her voice. She’s great. But my grievance with this cover is pretty much the same as my grievances with most Pentatonix songs that “feature” artists like this. The fact is that this is much more an Alessia Cara song featuring Pentatonix than it is a Pentatonix song featuring Alessia Cara. So while I think that Alessia is brilliant and her voice actually really suits this song, it’s simply not what I’m looking for when I listen to a Pentatonix album. I really wish that they would have more of a back-and-forth with their featured artists rather than just taking the back seat every time. That would make songs like this a lot more fun and engaging for me to listen to.
I Just Called To Say I Love You is really beautiful. One of my favorites on this album for sure. The blending of their voices in this song in particular is so tastefully done, and all of their voices individually shine in soft and pretty ways. I’ve become a lot more of a sap in recent times, so I have much more of an appreciation for the messages of songs like these too, so combine that with heavenly vocals and you’ve got a recipe for melting me as I listen to this album. Love it. Wonderful arrangement.
Not much to really dissect here but Little Saint Nick is a lot of fun. All it really took is a nice effect on Scott’s voice and this cover really captured the essence of the song well. So while it’s a brief and simple holiday trip, it’s a pleasant one for sure. Good stuff!
Similarly to I Saw Three Ships, they do a great job at building up the song as it progress with It Came Upon The Midnight Clear. But there is a break from the build when Matt comes in for his solo (which is really nice and pretty, by the way) and then it just kicks into tenth gear and goes all out with an insane finish. Mitch and Scott kill it with bringing this one home and they all bring the energy to a whole other level that is so fun to hear. This one is great!
I’ve never heard a song as raw and as barebones from Pentatonix as My Heart With You. The immediate impression I got from hearing this song is that it would be the one they sing at the end of their concerts when they put down their mics as they always have in concerts past (and I was right). The thing that really sets this one apart from those other songs they’ve done that for is that this one basically already sounds like it’s being performed in that way. There is essentially no instrumentation being replicated here so it’s not only all vocals but it’s all singing so it feels even more pulled back than usual. So that right there sets this song apart from anything they’ve really done before, and it’s definitely really pretty.
They end it with a really soft and more predictable one to go out with and that’s We Wish You A Merry Christmas. Nothing too remarkable for me, not a standout from the album by any means, but I don’t hate it as a way to ease out of the album. And of course hearing them blow out the candle they lit with the very first song shows just how purposeful the whole ordering of the album was so I’m willing to give them kudos for that. Matt’s moment is a highlight for me in this cover, but overall it’s more by-the-books and less exciting than some of their other covers on this album.
And that’s it! Overall I enjoyed the album, though it doesn’t reach the greatness of most of their other Christmas albums for me. To be fair, their last few Christmas albums were all excellent so it’s probably just a high bar, but this album just didn’t reach that tier for me in the pantheon of Pentatonix greatness. The Prayer is by far the greatest that this album has to offer and I’ll always be grateful for that at the very least. The few other standouts make this album worth it for me and of course it is always great to hear new Christmas music from Pentatonix again. Even when it’s not their best Pentatonix are excellent, it’s just the fact that their best is so good that it makes anything less than that particularly noticeable.
Videos I Posted This Week:
Things I Enjoyed This Week:
Pentatonix: The Evergreen Christmas Tour Survivor 41 Smash Summit 12 CEO 2021