Best Musical Moments of 2017 (So Far)

It's been a great year for music so far, so I've rounded up some of my favourite personal musical moments from the past five months (and I'm looking forward to seeing what the rest of the year will bring!).

January: 8123 Fest

Basically, I flew to Phoenix to celebrate 10 years of a band called The Maine and it remains one of the greatest things I've ever done and I'm probably never going to stop talking about it. In fact, you can read my (lengthy) recap here

February: Waterparks

At the end of February, I won tickets to see Waterparks (literally four hours before doors opened), and, in doing so, I ended up finding one of my new favourite bands. Seriously, I can't stop listening to Double Dare because it's so dang good (also, my sister discovered Creeper and LOVES them now, so it was a win for both of us). 

March: 3 Concerts in 4 Days

Concert-wise, March was pretty epic. I went to three shows in the span of four days (Simple Plan, Bring Me the Horizon, and Moose Blood). And then a week later, we saw Bastille. So I didn't sleep for month, but it was hella worth it.

April: Biffy Fuckin' Clyro

I was absolutely honoured to interview Biffy Clyro for idobi in April. I had talked to their lead singer Simon Neil in March over the phone, but it was so cool to meet the other two members (twins Ben and James Johnston) in real life. They were an absolute delight, and you can read my interview with them here

May: (Un)Covering All Time Low

I write a weekly column for idobi about cover songs, and my first post in May was about All Time Low's INCREDIBLE cover of Lorde's "Green Light". And then their drummer, Rian Dawson, retweeted my post and I screamed for about an hour straight because THEY FINALLY ACKNOWLEDGED ME. 

But seriously, the cover is AMAZING, please do your ears a favour and listen to it.

Kinky Boots: The Soundtrack

When I heard that Brendon Urie was going to be on Broadway this summer as the lead in Kinky Boots, I a) bought tickets almost immediately and b) looked up the soundtrack on Spotify.

With a songwriter like Cyndi Lauper behind the music, you expect big hooks and she delivers. One of the first songs, “Take What You Got” is an actual jam with the almost country-esque guitar line, while the very next song, “Land of Lola” is a sexy eighties-inspired synth pop tune.

While listening to the soundtrack, I obviously paid closer attention to the songs that heavily featured Charlie Price. His first solo song, “Charlie’s Soliloquy” is a mellow intro to the rock ‘n’ roll jam “Step One”, and I CANNOT wait to watch Brendon Urie prance around the stage singing his heart out. I can totally picture it, and if you don’t think I’m going to dance in my seat when it starts, you obviously haven’t watched me listening to a Panic! at the Disco song before.

I’ll also admit that Lola has some FABULOUS songs, so it’s possible the drag queen will be my favourite character. But most importantly, I want to know if Brendon Urie is going to fake an English accent during the show (it takes place in England), because I might actually turn into the heart eyes emoji.

I Really Wanna Be Grateful For Dancing Around Alone

I've been absent from this site for awhile. I haven't really felt like writing. Or I have, but I haven't been able to actually sit myself down so that I can. This won't be a particularly insightful post about taking time for yourself to become bigger and better. No, this post is about how I still feel self-conscious dancing by myself. 

I don't know what it is. Even alone in my apartment, no one around, I can never fully let myself surrender to the music. The last time that I can unequivocally remember that I could was when I went to a Bleachers concert in December of 2014. 

I've recently taken up listening to Bleachers again after a bit of a hiatus from pretty much all music other than things written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. I still maintain that Strange Desire is one of the greatest albums ever produced. I was listening to the first few tracks, the ones that get you moving, the ones that if you don't get up on your feet and move, you're pretty much dead. I had my big headphones on, nothing else distracting me, it was just me and the music. And I started to bop. And bounce. And sing. And suddenly I was dancing like no one was watching, except I was, sort of, in my head and in the reflection I could see in my windows. And I tried really hard to just be, and not think of anything except the music and it worked for maybe 10 seconds but that's all I needed because I knew then that I could do it again, I could get lost in the music once more. 

27 Songs

I turned 27 yesterday, so I'm celebrating the only way I know how: with a playlist of 27 songs I love/songs that have affected me in some way. Spoiler alert: it's pretty pop-punk heavy, but take a listen and maybe it will explain a lot about me. 

Good Grief, You Should Listen to Bastille

So you probably know by now that I like recommending music, and today is no exception. If you haven’t already been introduced to Bastille via the radio, please do your eardrums a favour and check them out now. 

As I mentioned, you may have heard Bastille on the radio – a few years ago, their first single, “Pompeii”, was playing everywhere. I don’t really listen to the radio, but I didn’t mind hearing it any time I happened to be tuned in: it’s hella catchy, and it’s only too easy to choreograph an interpretative dance to it (not that I’ve done that or anything...)

Since then, the band has released a second full-length album, Wild World (not to mention a deluxe edition of their debut, All This Bad Blood), and gone on multiple tours. I caught them at their first Canadian show in 2013, and saw them for the fourth time a couple of weeks ago. I always love seeing Bastille live because they put on such a fantastic show: not only are they full of energy and enthusiasm, but, more recently, their stage setup has been a visual treat. 

Probably my favourite part of a Bastille show is the way the lead singer, Dan Smith, often finds his way into the crowd, usually during a rendition of “Flaws”, weaving through the people on the floor and even venturing up through the seats (depending on the venue). The last two times we saw them live, Dan sauntered right past us, and if you don't think I flailed around fangirling, you probably don't know me very well. As my cousin mentioned, watching bands interact with the crowd creates a positive connection with the audience, bridging the gap between artists and fans for a few minutes a night and leaving a lasting impression.

I guess the best way to describe Bastille’s sound is electropop – they have that indie pop vibe but their use of synths, etc lead them more into the electronic end of the spectrum. All I know is that every so often, there’s a bass drop that delivers a shock to my soul in the best way possible. It’s also wild because a lot of their songs are quite sad in terms of lyrics, but they’re presented in such boppy, poetic ways that you don’t really realize how depressing they are (I also like that Dan’s accent comes out even when he’s singing). In addition to their own songs, they’re also pros when it comes to giving other people’s songs the Bastille treatment – one listen to their Miley Cyrus cover, and you’ll never listen to “We Can’t Stop” the same way.

Sing Street

I've heard a lot about Sing Street, so I finally got around to watching it on Netflix, and it did not disappoint.

Set in 1980's Dublin, it tells the story of Conor, a kid from a down-on-their-luck family who ends up being pulled out of his private school in favour of a (cheaper) state school. While there, he meets Raphina, the enigmatic aspiring model, and, in an attempt to impress her, he claims that he's in a band and needs a model for an upcoming video. One problem: Conor can barely play an instrument, never mind be in a band. 

Of course, that doesn't stop him, and hijinks ensue when he recruits a bunch of other students from Synge Street CBS to put together a band aptly called Sing Street. At first they play covers, but after a chat with his older brother, Conor starts writing original music, most of them with lyrics inspired by Raphina.

You can never do anything by half; do you understand that?
— Raphina

It's a cute movie, but it's not all sunshine and good vibes - the characters don't always have the easiest lives, but they channel those feelings into their music. While the plot mostly revolves around the band and Conor's relationship with Raphina, most of the characters have extensive backstories and side plots that add emotional depth At about 100 minutes long, they pack in a whole lot of information and detail - Conor's parents' failing marriage; the friction that causes with his older brother; the way he feels out of place at school; and, of course, the school bully.

It's also fun to see how different each boy in the band is, and how they all come together. And, of course, the soundtrack is amazing - a mix of classic songs that clearly influenced Sing Street's sound (Duran Duran, The Cure, and Hall & Oates all make appearances), and original songs that I can't stop listening to. Please do yourself a favour and listen to "Drive It Like You Stole It", though, really, I'd recommend just watching the whole movie. 

If You're Listening... Jimmy Eat World is Still Killing It On My Spotify

I deleted my iTunes Music account and swapped it for a Spotify one. Because of that transition, I lost all my music on my phone and had to start again from scratch. It's been quite a while since I've listened to Top 40 songs regularly and I'll often find myself going back to the music of my youth. There's comfort in it, there's a predictability and a hominess. I know where I stand with that music. 

These past few weeks, I haven't been able to stop listening to Jimmy Eat World. I'm not sure why that is, other than the fact that they're a superb band that is still going strong. When I listen to them, I feel that comfort, I know exactly when each key change will happen, I can tell the difference between two slightly different versions of "23"... it feels like home. 

In honour of my favourite Jimmy album turning 10 this year (yeah, I said it, I fucking love "Chase This Light"), here are my top go-to Jimmy tracks:

Obviously. I mean... obviously.

Jen Janet is Dangerous

Jen Janet is no stranger to making music. As the lead vocalist for alternative rock band Blind Revision, she’s used to belting out lyrics over heavy bass and percussion. But that doesn’t mean she’s stuck to one genre. 

As a solo artist, Janet is exploring the pop and EDM side of music. Her new EP, Dangerous (out today) is four tracks of her soaring vocals over pulsing beats. 

Check out the title track “Dangerous” below, as well as an interview with Jen Janet herself! 

When/how did you start making music?

I started singing in front of people when I was four years old. I’ve been singing pretty much as long as I can remember. It was something I always loved to do, but I started making music professionally about two or three years ago. 

How would you describe your sound?

This EP is very pop and EDM influenced. If you like Tove Lo, Lady Gaga or Marina and the Diamonds, you’ll probably get into it. I wanted to get people dancing with this project, and I hope I’ve done my job!

What are some of your favorite bands? Who (or what) else inspires/influences you?

I listen to a lot of different genres of music, so these will be all over the place. But my influences include Deadmau5, Nirvana, Pvris, Avril Lavigne, Florence and the Machine, The Pretty Reckless, Paramore, Lana Del Rey, New Year’s Day and many others. I’m inspired by anything I hear. 

Who in the music industry would you love to work with (other bands/musicians/producers, etc)?

I’d love to work with Obeson someday. He is a producer and musician based in Toronto, Canada, and he creates very atmospheric, strong electronic music. It’s some of the most unique electronic music out there now, in my opinion. 

Do you have any tour plans in the works? What would be your dream tour line-up?

Currently I do not have any confirmed tour dates for the Dangerous EP. However, I will be going on an east coast tour with my band Blind Revision in May. We will most likely be playing dates in New Jersey, Maryland, Connecticut, Maine and Massachusetts. 

As for my dream tour line-up, I think it would be awesome to tour with Sevdaliza. I’ve been listening to her for a while now, and she’s a very artistic and creative electronic musician.

What kind of advice would you give someone who just started a musical career? What was the best piece of advice you’ve received?

My advice would be to do as much networking as possible! Opportunities will come to you if you meet the right people. As with any industry, there’s always some people who have ill intentions, but you’ll be able to find people who genuinely enjoy the music you’re making. And of course, make sure you cut out the toxic people from your life. If someone is manipulating you or causing you problems, that will continuously stress you out and hold you back. 

My second piece of advice would be to try to become as self-aware as possible. If you are indecisive, it will take you a lot longer to do things in the industry. You need to set clear goals and stick to them. If you have a big work ethic and you can motivate yourself, you’ll be fine. But you definitely need to work hard, and be cognisant of who you are and what you want in the future. Get to a point where you can understand what you will or won’t sacrifice for success. 

Some of the best advice I have gotten was from Ash Costello of the band New Year’s Day. She told me to remember that music is a business, and you need to understand the business aspect of it in order to be successful. That is definitely true. I know a lot of talented musicians who deserve to be heard, but they can’t focus on the business aspect of their craft. They only want to focus on the art. I understand it’s difficult, but in order to be successful you need to know both. If you don’t know something, do your research or ask for advice. 

Who are some of your girl crushes (real or fictional)?

My girl crush growing up was always Natalie Portman. I think she’s gorgeous, and of course, very talented. 

I’m also obsessed with pretty much all the female characters from the Batman franchise: Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, etc. I’m a nerd!

Get to a point where you can understand what you will or won’t sacrifice for success. 

If You're Spoiled for a Movie, Can You Ever Fully Enjoy It? A Look at Get Out

Soylent Green is people. Bruce Willis was dead the whole time. Keyser Soze is Kevin Spacey. Major twists can make a movie go from good to great. But what happens if you go into a movie already knowing the twist? Is it possible to still enjoy the movie, despite knowing what’s going to happen?


Scanning Twitter a couple weeks ago, I came across a headline saying something to the effect that Allison Williams was playing a horrifying kind of villain in the new 100% Fresh Jordan Peele flick Get Out. I didn’t click onto the article as I was planning on seeing the film and didn’t want to learn more about it than I already knew. With this headline, I put together what I had seen in the traiIer and figured that Allison Williams, along with her creepy parents were some sort of weird cult that hunted black people.

Turns out… that is true. But we don’t learn that until about three-quarters of the way through the movie. Because Allison Williams is actually presented as the “good guy” and her reveal as “villain” is the twist. So when I started watching the movie and she was presenting so well, I assumed I must have it wrong. But as the movie went on, I couldn’t stop thinking about that headline. Why would they have said she was a villain if she wasn’t? Did I misread it? I found that I was focusing less on what was happening and just letting it happen, and only focusing on when this reveal would happen.

Luckily there were some bits in the film that were GENUINELY shocking (i.e. the grandma/grandpa reveal and the TS-motherfuckin’-A finale) but I felt robbed of the full effect of the film. I didn't get to feel the shock that the rippled through the rest of the theatre when we find out about Williams' character. All in all, I really enjoyed the film. But maybe I could have loved it without that seedling of a spoiler niggling in my head.

The question remains: even if you know if a twist is going to happen, can you still appreciate the twist as a good plot device? And I can. It was truly executed perfectly. Williams deflected any possibility of her involvement in her parents' devious plans in every instance... until she didn't. I never felt too many steps ahead of the film either, despite having the notion of what was coming up next.

But of course, Jordan Peele's film is truly masterful no matter what you know going into it. The perfect blend of horror and thriller, Get Out will withstand the test of time as it will remain relevant for a very long time (fortunately and unfortunately). For future reference though, if anyone has a way of selectively forgetting information, Eternal Sunshine-style, please let me know. 

La La Land

I know La La Land came out two months ago, but, seeing as the Oscars are this weekend, it seemed an appropriate time to talk about it. 

The other day, I realized that I rarely see movies (in theatres, I mean) that aren't somehow adapted from books or comics. But - since I have a girl crush on Emma Stone and, like every other person, love Ryan Gosling - I've wanted to see this whimsical musical as soon as I saw the first trailer. 

I liked everything about it: the sets, and the timeless vibe, and how it was split into seasons, and, of course, the music. I liked how Mia (Emma Stone) had to work so hard to achieve her dreams (#sorelatable) and how it all paid off in the end (still waiting for that to happen to me). I liked how she doubted herself when she couldn't catch a break because it hit me in the heart (I feel you, Mia).

Here’s to the ones who dream / Foolish as they may seem. / Here’s to the hearts that ache. / Here’s to the mess we make.

I liked that Seb (Ryan Gosling) was so passionate about music (even if I don't love jazz) and I like how he made an effort to spread that passion. 

I also, admittedly, liked how he looked in a suit (who didn't?).

I liked how Seb supported Mia, especially when he tracked her down to give her the good news about her callback. I liked their whirlwind relationship in general. 

I did not, however, like that they - SPOILER ALERT - did not stay together. 

Sure, it was more emotional and probably more realistic, but that doesn't mean I was happy when she went home to another man, five years later (even if it was Tom Everett Scott).

And when they did the flashback scene to what could have been if Seb had't been so dismissive the first time they met, I'm not ashamed to say I teared up a little (my sister actually cried, which made then made me cry). 

Yes, it was super white, but it was a visually and sonically pleasing escapist experience and for that, I'm glad it's getting so much recognition. 

#selfcare music

It's been a rough few weeks for me emotionally, so I've been in the business of trying to find as many things as possible that make me happy. That's why this week, all my posts are going to be all about #selfcare, and what that means to me. Today: music.

Quite honestly, I listen to more podcasts than I do music, but sometimes I just need to listen to something that I know all the words to, can twist and shout and let it all hang out. For me, #selfcare music is pretty much the music I listened to in high school and musical theatre. I need to be able to belt it out, dance around to it, and be able to forget my worries for about 3 and a half minutes. 

Right now, my #selfcare playlist is pretty small, but here are a few tracks that are currently keeping my smile from turning upside down.

A song that has the lyrics "I bring whimsy and forest fires" has to bring your mood up.

All pop-punk. All the time. This can easily be subbed for anything by All-American Rejects, The Academy Is... and Blink 182.

Just... so much musical theatre.

So what music makes you feel safe and happy?

8123 Means Everything to Me

8123 is a management team/independent label that supports bands like The Maine, Beach Weather, The Technicolors and more. But, as I've recently learned, it's more than that. 

8123 is convincing your sister to take a trip miles away to Arizona in the middle of January to see one of your favourite bands celebrate their ten year anniversary (even though your managers give you grief about missing inventory. #sorrynotsorry). 

8123 is losing your mind when that same band premieres a new song on the radio the day you land in their hometown (technically next door to their hometown) and then listening to it non-stop for two weeks.

8123 is having heart palpitations when your number one girl crush walks past you while you're waiting for food.

8123 is silently weeping when a beloved band reunites for the first time in four years to play a forty minute set packed with their best songs. 

8123 is standing in a parking lot in Phoenix (where, by the way, it was not nearly as hot as I hoped it would be) with almost 3000 other people, all of you screaming the same lyrics. 

8123 is losing your voice two songs into the headlining set and walking around with a scratchy throat for the next two days.

8123 is humming the closing song to yourself for a week after the show is over.

8123 is lining up for three hours to meet a band you've already met three times before. 

8123 is hugging every member of that band while both of you genuinely thank the other for existing. 

8123 is planning your next tattoo as a memento to this experience, and this band, and this company.

In short, 8123 is everything to me.  

It’s about a number you can’t really explain but you don’t really have to, because the people you love already feel it too.
— John O'Callaghan

Kings of Leon Live is Better Than Kings of Leon Recorded

No, Kings of Leon isn’t a new band. In fact, they released their SEVENTH album in October. So I’m sure you’ve heard of them, but since they were my first concert of 2017, I figured I’d talk about them. 

My sister is actually the one who is a big KOL fan. I know their singles, and live for the bass in “Beautiful War”, otherwise I’m really more of a casual listener. I didn’t even know they had released Walls until a week later when I was talking about buying concert tickets with one of my friends!

I can’t pretend to be an expert on their music (all I know is Caleb Followill has a distinctive voice), but as a concert enthusiast, I can tell you what kind of performers they are. 

The first time we saw them in 2010 for Come Around Sundown, they lacked stage presence and enthusiasm. It felt like they were phoning it in, and I was a little disappointed - I thought for sure I’d end up their number one fan if their live show was phenomenal. Despite the letdown, we saw them again in 2014 for the release of Mechanical Bull, and they were MUCH better. More lively and they actually looked like they were enjoying themselves.  

This time, they were just as enthusiastic. They're still not a really talkative bunch - no long-winded stories in between songs and no banter between the members - but when they do talk (and it's mostly Caleb Followill), it's to genuinely thank us for being there and filling up so many seats. More importantly, they actually sounded like they were having fun. They're polished musicians, no hitches or mishaps, and they're entertaining to listen to. I'd argue that they're better live simply because it's more dynamic to listen to them while watching them (and also because I forget that I actually enjoy KOL until I'm standing in a venue). 

In short: I'd recommend seeing Kings of Leon the next time they swing through town. If you're already a fan, you'll love hearing your favourite songs live. And if you're not already a fan, you'll walk out of the venue with a deeper appreciation of their music and talents. 

Learning to Listen to Music Again

I think it's safe to say that on this website, Sam is the music aficionado. I like to stay in my little realm of podcasts and listening to the same music I've listened to for years. The new music that  I hear is in my many Uber rides and it seems that there are only about 5 songs that are ever played (if I never hear the song "Closer" by the Chainsmokers for the rest of my life, I would be okay with that).

Despite my lack of music listening, I decided to treat myself to a Play One Sonos speaker. The small but mighty speaker would connect to my computer or phone via wifi and I could listen to anything I wanted. The thing is, I have no idea what I want to listen to. The speaker's sound is so incredible and I feel totally overwhelmed by all the musical possibilities. I purchased a Spotify account in the attempt to become more in the know but it's only made me more confused. I don't know what I like anymore. New music feels either too complex or too simple for me. I find it difficult to give anything a chance.

So I'm beginning my musical education again. I'm opening myself up to all genres and all types of music. I've become stuffy and stuck-up in my opinions and I'm determined to loosen myself up and let the sound waves float through me in the hopes that I can reignite my own inner music aficionado.  

Best Albums of 2016

Most of 2016 was pretty awful, but it was a fantastic year for music! I chose 16 releases that I really enjoyed in 2016 (more or less in order and probably missing someone that I won’t remember for another few weeks), and made you a playlist for your listening pleasure (you’re welcome). What music blessed your eardrums this past year?

  1. Blush - Moose Blood
  2. Death of a Bachelor - Panic! at the Disco
  3. Stories for Monday - The Summer Set
  4. I like it when you sleep for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it - The 1975
  5. Dissonants - Hands Like Houses
  6. Echoes - Young Guns
  7. Wild World - Bastille
  8. Ellipsis - Biffy Clyro
  9. I Will Be Nothing Without Your Love - The Ready Set
  10. GLA - Twin Atlantic
  11. Backbone - Roam
  12. Limitless - Tonight Alive
  13. Throw Your Head to the World (EP) - Boat Race Weekend
  14. The Cabin (EP) - Foxtrax
  15. Merge (EP) - Heirsound
  16. Sincerely, John the Ghost (EP) - John O’Callaghan

Resolution: Watch More Movies

I kind of have a standing resolution where with each passing year, I want to ingest more pop culture. I'm only two days into the year and am already feeling completely overwhelmed with everything that's out there, and how little time I have to enjoy it all. Yesterday, I made a tiny bit of headway by watching four incredibly different films in a row. 

The Hunt for the Wilderpeople - This Taiki Waititi feature starring Sam Neill and Julian Dennison is as heartwarming as it is gory, which is a shocking amount of both. It was a very fun adventure film, sweet and hilarious, with great chemistry between the protagonists. Highly recommend.  

The Big Short - I honestly understood maybe half of the film but I absolutely adored the way it was told. Well acted, upsetting movie, hard to understand all the technicalities, but great overall.

Man Up - A case of mistaken identity where the truth comes out a whole lot sooner than expected = a fantastic movie in my books. Much better than I would have imagined, and Lake Bell displays a flawless (to my Canadian ears, anyway) British accent. Very sweet and fun movie.

 John Wick - This. Movie. Was. So. Good. I don't even want to talk about the plot, it's so good. Just watch it.

Introducing Isabella

A couple of weeks ago, singer-songwriter Isabella released a single from her upcoming EP called "Ole". It's a fun song, with a great story behind the lyrics, and if you're looking to diversify your playlist, you'll want to keep an ear out for this Puerto Rican/French powerhouse. Scroll down for a short interview with Isabella and to give the song a listen!

The song tells the story of a king who is willing to sacrifice everything for the love of the world. It is influenced by gypsy culture and flamenco in southern Spain. The percussion reflects the sounds of Puerto Rico, the diversity of the culture and Isabella’s other musical influences that have surrounded her since her youth. 

When/how did you start making music?

I started making music after being encouraged to song write around the age of 14. It then became a habit to record melodies, then sit at the piano and write.

How would you describe your sound?

I would describe my sound as pop soul and Latin. I like exploring different genres. My writing style engages with my cultural upbringing even when the songs are in English. 

What are some of your favorite bands? Who (or what) else inspires/influences you?

I like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, No Doubt and many alternative bands. There is eclectic and bohemian influence in the music I create. In particular, I’m inspired by relationships within any social context under the confines of love. 

Who in the music industry would you love to work with (other bands/musicians/producers, etc)?

I want to work with Bruno Mars and Ricky Martin!

Do you have any tour plans in the works? What would be your dream tour line-up?

I would like to tour the east coast, Latin America and Spain. There are many inspiring indie artists who could do great tour collaborations with established pop stars. It would be very inspiring to cross over genres and languages in one tour. 

What kind of advice would you give someone who just started a musical career? What was the best piece of advice you’ve received?

Stay focused, persevere and endure. Have discipline in your craft and boldness with your passion. The best advice I've received is "just do it”.

You can follow Isabella on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!

Hamilton Mixtape - The Soundtrack of the Year, With a Twist

It's coming up on a year and a half since I have been listening to, engaging with, and sobbing along to Hamilton. I still have yet to see the show, despite my best efforts at attempting the lottery when I was in New York, back in January, but the most consistent music for me this past year, without a question, has been the Hamilton soundtrack. I thought I was lucky enough just to be able to revel in those 46 tracks, but then came another 23 on Dec. 2... The Hamilton Mixtape

Once again, I was awash with genius works, but now they were genius works I recognized but had been taken, updated, blended, re-worked, re-jigged, and remixed by incredible artists. I do admit that there are stronger songs on the mixtape than others. I could live without John Legend's cover of "History Has Its Eyes On You" and it pains me to say, but Usher's cover of "Wait For It" simply pales in comparison to the original. However, getting to hear tracks that were dropped from the show like "Congratulations", performed with incredible power and sass by Dessa, and "Cabinet Battle 3 (Demo)", with each debater played by Lin-Manuel Miranda, felt like being let in on a delicious secret. It feels selfish to want even more, now that we've been given this treat, but Hamilton Mixtape has made me hungrier than ever.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them


With Cursed Child being less than impressive, I was a little worried that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them would let me down too. But I needn’t have worried - it lived up to the hype and left me stoked for more new material in the next few years.

Can I just say that Eddie Redmayne is flipping adorable???? I can't even cope with how precious he is (the freckly face!) and how perfectly he fits the role of Newt Scamander. I loved his suitcase and all the creatures he kept inside it (the Niffler and his favourite Bowtruckle really captured my heart) and there's a certain magic to seeing an Oscar winner perform a mating dance in Central Park Zoo.

The supporting cast is just as charming: bumbling Jacob who is as enchanted by the Wizarding World as we are; the delightful Legilimens Queenie (she’s almost a grown-up version of Luna but slightly less whimsical); and headstrong and sassy Tina who can't help being intrigued by Newt even when he's (accidentally) wreaking havoc with his case of creatures. I SHIP BOTH THESE RELATIONSHIPS SO HARD.

I’m trying not to spoil it for you in case you haven’t seen it yet (though really, what are you doing that you haven’t run to the nearest theatre??), but I’ll admit I partially saw some of those twists coming. They were still well done and classic J.K. Rowling, but I’m going to need another movie (or three) to convince me that [redacted actor] was really the best choice for [redacted character]. 

I’m also trying to work out what roles some of the minor characters will play - that one senator’s son, and the creepy child, and MERLIN’S PANTS, I JUST REMEMBERED THE NAME DROP THAT HAD ME CHOKING ON MY POPCORN. If I ever lost faith in JKR’s imagination (not possible, but IF), this movie would be the very thing to bring me back from the brink.  

Shameless self-promotion: here’s a slightly more coherent review where I didn’t use a lot of capital letters. 

The Music of Moana

There wasn't a chance that I wouldn't love a movie that involved The Rock, Lin-Manual Miranda, Polynesia, and Disney. Moana is a piece of art, from the gorgeous animation and visuals to the sweeping score and soundtrack. It's truly the best thing to come out of Disney Studios since Tangled, which has a far less solid soundtrack, and many skippable tracks. 

I've only seen Moana once but with the power of reprise and Apple Music, I feel like I know the songs inside and out, and yet also feel like they have more to teach me. I went for a run yesterday by forcing myself into some gym clothes and stuffing earbuds into my ears and blasted the Moana soundtrack and for a brief moment, I didn't quite feel like my legs would give out and my lungs would burst: I felt hopeful and happy and free, like the precocious protagonist of Disney's latest flick. With original songs written by Miranda and Opetaia Foa'i, the songs are philosophical and fun, and already feel as if they will stand the test of time in Disney's legacy.

This is the breakout "Let it Go" track of the movie, which, I will just say, hits me much harder emotionally than any song in Frozen did. Through every reprise of the song, Moana comes more and more into herself and into her power, something that I, as a 26-year-old woman, still struggle to do. It's thrilling and uplifting and will make you run that little extra bit, that you didn't think you could.

A sweeping anthem that starts in Tokelauan and ends in Lin-Manual Miranda, this song tells the story of the world that came before Moana, when her people were voyagers. It sets the tone and theme of the movie perfectly, and it was an inspired choice to not have it open the film, unlike other movies with similar introductory songs like Frozen and The Lion King.

Rock "The Dwayne" Johnson gets to show off his completely non-surprising singing chops in this snappy Broadway-like number, which, of course, has a bridge of Miranda-penned rapping, that Johnson pulls off with ease. It introduces us to our antagonist/reluctant hero Maui in a cocky, manipulative ditty that has Moana, and the audience, completely entranced... before we realize it's all a lot of bullshit. But he does sing it in style.

The other big number is sung by a massive gold-loving crab (lobster?) played by Jemaine Clement. It's a taunting tune that messed with Maui's head but stole my heart. The song is playful and ridiculous, perfect for the former Conchord, whose parody-folk I had missed. Clement brings a Bowie-ness to the glamorous song, which may have been Miranda's intent (in Miranda's demo version, he puts on a Bowie-esque voice), or may have been an ode to this. Either way, with one song, this crab/lobster/shellfish completely stole the show.