Favorite Song: ‘Toss a coin to your witcher’ is the bop I never knew I needed

Since I first dove into the sexy, camp but also surprisingly well made fantasy spectacle of The Witcher-Netflix-show, I could not get this bloody song out of my head and it makes me so happy every time. It’s the fantasy geek’s “Call me maybe” (and I do love “Call me maybe”). I just recently thought of writing about it because I am in the middle of watching The Witcher again, so don’t even start on how late I am, I KNOW!

The song was written by Sonya Belousova and Giona Ostinelli with lyrics by Jenny Klein, which is important because without that beautiful line “O valley of plenty”, I doubt that this would have turned into the epic earworm it became.

Now, Sonya Belousova is a Russian-born American composer and pianist who was a child prodigy and is now an adult prodigy who did the whole (gorgeous!) Witcher soundtrack together with Giona Ostinelli who is a Swiss-Italian composer who started to play drums when she was 5 – as young girls often do.

Now, the lyrics are thanks to Jenny Klein who is co-producer and writer for The Witcher and specifically wrote the second episode “Four Marks” which tells the story of how Geralt met that annoying but no doubt talented bard Jaskier which eventually led to this amazing composition. In an interview, Klein explained that she did write this song not just for merry dancing but also for plot reasons. Since Jaskier’s whole thing was the talkative hilarious sidekick, the question arose why Geralt would tolerate him, since, you know, Jaskier is talkative and hilarious and that’s not necessarily what someone like Geralt seeks for in a friend (with his best friend being a very quiet and good horse).

With Jaskier working as a PR person for Geralt, therefore leading to more jobs (aka more money), there was suddenly a real reason why they both still stuck together. It’s honestly a bloody brilliant idea and also shows the charming way that the show doesn’t take itself too seriously.

But wait, there’s even more humor to it. Apparently, the place of Geralt’s adventure in episode 2 has an Elvish name that roughly translates to “valley of plenty” and Klein thought ‘what, he doesn’t even get paid in the valley of plenty?’, hence the chorus.

There have been many versions of the music, since Belousova and Ostinelli tried out different styles (some more modern than others) but apparently during a Yoga session the muse struck and the melody we all cheerily hum was born. However, melody isn’t everything and it took 8 months till the final recording (apparently, there were up to 64 instruments involved, all played by Belousova and Ostinelli themselves). This is because the composers wanted to reflect the diversity of The Witcher-universe within the song which is a beautiful idea.

Also, let’s give it up for Joey Batey, who gives Jaskier so much life. I actually didn’t like the character much in “The Wild Hunt” but Batey’s interpretation is adorable and cheeky, it’s astounding how this baby face can sing the most vulgar lyrics and still seem like a little faun that needs to be protected at all costs. He also is in a band (The Amazing Devil) with Madeleine Hyland, so check them out if you like Batey as much as I do. Also: The Amazing Devil fit quite well into The Witcher universe, to be perfectly honest. So much so that I kinda wish that they would somehow write Hyland in as another musician who has a grudge towards Jaskier for some ridiculous thing he did. Let’s do this!!!

Favorite Song: Low “Congregation”

So, the other day, someone said that they didn’t like “Devs” because it had such a great sci-fi-idea but concentrated too much on just a few characters instead of thinking bigger and I thought ‘oh, nice, I love getting intimately close to a few characters and see how they reflect the world, whether fictitious or real’ and dived right in. First of all: “Devs” is weirdly unnerving, it has a certain constant uncanny feeling, like watching an Ari Aster movie.

From the looming statue of a little girl as a symbol for the silicon valley-like development campus that is the setting of the show to the use of music (the soundtrack is stellar) and the weird, sometimes out-of-rhythm cuts that are kinda jarring, I felt … odd … watching the first episodes. I am not yet through because it’s a little heavy and right now, I am not exactly keen to wallow in heavy but it peaked my interest and there is a certain warmth to it, in the middle of all this uncanny silicon valley.

ANYWAYS! In episode two, the last few scenes are held together by this beautiful song “Congregation” by Low. I am not quite sure what to make of the lyrics.
Sung, they are beautiful. But reading them, there is a lot of rhyming for the rhyme’s sake (it feels like). Still, I like to think of the song being about deeply ingrained thoughts, ideas and rituals of a group (congregation) being shaken up by the group itself that holds them. “An inquisition of familiar lies”, like something that always has been, finally reaches a breaking point in the present, can’t live on tradition anymore and needs to face the truth, or another truth.
The second verse sounds more sinister, like how even small doubts can confuse the group and upset it (“the implication is its own device in the middle of a salient fight”).
And in the third verse, there’s a certain sense of disruption in the differences of ages, how the young and the old sometimes just can’t get together because the young need to look forward, while the old ones often prefer to look back (“generations like their ways and times”).
It’s like how weird group think moves, sometimes in harmony, sometimes in dissonance and sometimes in clear, parallel lines, easy to be distinguished but still part of the same group.
Or maybe, it’s about something completely different.
But where’s the fun in not even trying to find meaning in a song you like?

Guilty Pop pleasures: The Masked Singer is joyful surreal weirdness

When I read about the US version of The Masked Singer, I was immediately intrigued. I am all for singing talent shows but to add colorful costumes and Mystery-Person-guessing? A dream (phone) come true.

I was therefore quite startled when I read Doreen St. Felix’s review on the show in the New Yorker. Now (!), the New Yorker is probably the last place where I want my guilty pleasures reviewed. Although their TV reviews are usually amazing, these tend to focus on high quality TV dramas and not glam-glittery peacocks singing musical tunes. The Masked Singer, St. Felix writes, is a rebrand of “the dystopia as wacky”. But what kind of dystopia does she mean?

Continue reading

Let’s look at my favorite movies, tv shows and games of 2017

You already got to read the few albums and artists I discovered last year (and liked), so here’s (part of) the reason why I didn’t have more time for more music. Yes, I am a couch potato and I couch potatoed my way through last year.

  1. Claws

If I had to describe “Claws” to anyone, then I would say it’s a crime story centered around a nail salon, told with the ridiculous twists and drama/comedy-tonality of “True Blood”. So yes, it wouldn’t make much sense. I try not to think too much about the plot of “Claws” because for one, Niecy Nash, who plays the protagonist and nail salon owner “Desna” is so good that I actually don’t care about anything else. BUT! The styling of the show, the plot twists and especially the cast of women are so good (“True Blood” Kelly Preston, Judy Reys from “Scrubs”, Jenn Lyon and Karrueche Tran are such a good team, I could watch them without any crime stories or other plot just minding their business in the nail salon every day).

Usually, I am really not into these kind of shows. Did not get into “Breaking Bad”, didn’t care for “Weeds”, did not get into “The Wire”. The whole money laundering, drug, mafia-stuff is really not my cup of tea. But “Claws” really got me.

  1. American Gods

Like many, I really love the Fullerverse (the usually intertwined universe Bryan Fuller creates with his TV shows) and especially his aesthetic and use of music. The soundtrack for “Hannibal” and “American Gods” is absolutely amazing and so is the one for “Pushing Daisies”, for completely different reasons, though.

I read the book “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman about 10 years ago in a library sweep of all his graphic novels and novels but had forgotten a lot of details. So, I was generally interested to renew my memories. But the real reason why I eventually stuck with it were to cast-choices I absolutely adore: Kristin Chenoweth and Peter Stormare respectively as Easter and Czernobog. I first saw Chenoweth in “Pushing Daisies” (and actually would have preferred her as the love interest because of her intense, overwhelming charm). And I basically watch everything with Peter Stormare in it because that’s an actor who gives it his all and is always so mesmerizing, no matter the movie. I still would recommend “Smalltown Murder Songs” as THE Stormare-movie because it’s such a good performance and an overall perfect movie (the soundtrack, people!, is the perfect metaphor of the protagonist’s inner rage).

Ok, but “American Gods” is generally cast perfectly and all those little stories between the main plot are incredibly beautiful and occasionally transcending. I can’t wait for season two because I actually forgot how the novel ended.

  1. The OA (and particularly Alice Krige)

This weird, fantastic realism take on an abduction story is one of the oddest entries in this list because I still don’t know whether I liked it or not. Is it too ridiculous? Is it too cheesy? Still, it had an impact, a very emotional and visual impact on me and when I think of that show, I feel things and that’s, after all, something, isn’t it?

Most of those feelings and most of the reasons why I really loved the show came from Alice Krige’s acting. She plays the mother of the protagonist who sees her daughter after she has been missing for seven years. Every scene with Krige is absolutely beautiful and devastating.

In fact, she ranks amongst the most memorable acting scenes in the last few years for me:

(in no particular order):

Alice Krige – The OA (2016) (every scene in season 1)

Peter Abernathy – Westworld (2016) (episode #1, season 1)

Peter Stormare (see #26) – American Gods (episode #2, season 1)

Viola Davis – How to get away with Murder (episode #4, season 1)

  1. Insecure

I wish I had this show when I was in my twenties because it’s so funny and fun without dodging serious issues when you’re young, broke and full of self-doubt. I also love how the issue of racism is prevalent but never on the nose. There is a subtlety to it that is really effective because it portrays the micro aggressions that are difficult to address because “they’re not really racist, but …”.

Issa Ray’s fashion is also the best thing I’ve seen this year on TV (it’s a close race with that one Niecy Nash bodysuit in “Claws”, though).

  1. Survivor

My boyfriend and I got into “Survivor” recently and I have to give it to Jeff Probst and Co: this show is so well executed and thought out. I can live with the evil editing of some characters (I mean, that’s basically what makes reality TV interesting) and can tolerate some of the more forced emotional moments. But it’s in generally an excellence example how great editing can make the most inane premise thrilling and how devilish you can create drama with simple twists in the game formula.

  1. Channel Zero

I love this show. “Channel Zero” takes on a different creepy pasta (basically an urban legend born out of reddit or tumblr threads) each season and runs with it. The acting is amazing, the atmosphere is throughout unnerving and super creepy and the make-up and special effects are never over the top. The plot generally is pretty tight, so no “American Horror Story”-going-off-the-rails with this one. This is the horror anthology I expected when AHS started out.

  1. Big Little Lies

Ok, so, I will start with a disclaimer: Given the ending, I feel like one particular actress should have been featured a lot more often and not pushed to the sidelines that much. But that actress also was able to tell her story in one singular scene without even speaking. Which means: if there is a season 2, give that woman more to do because she obviously is capable enough to even work with an undercooked character and breathe life into her.

“Big Little Lies” was so mesmerizing because despite its sometimes pretentious-leaning look it was so well made from the set, the camera, the soundtrack, the lighting and obviously, the acting.  I loved the fact that the scenes were given time to play out, that the characters could breathe and really get everything out of the performances. There are certain scenes with Nicole Kidman that convey so much that it breaks your heart (it reminded me of “Birth” where she was equally amazing).

I still wonder whether reading the book will actually expand that great impression or minimize it, that’s how good that show was.

  1. GG Gab and MrKravin

I have these weird phases were I can’t be bothered to watch TV or read a book but want to just lie there and watch Let’s Plays. But I generally prefer horror games and non-problematic Let’s Players who are not too loud and annoying which really decimates my choices. This year, though, I discovered GG Gab aka Evelien from the Netherlands who is not only a lady (hurray!) but also fun, swears without slurs and is entertaining without putting on a show. Plus, she plays a lot of games, so even when I want nothing but watch Lets Plays for a whole weekend, I will not run out of material. Thanks for that, Gab!

And it’s Evelien’s own fault that I discovered MrKravin aka Mike through her because she recommended him a couple of times. MrKravin is equally one of the more low-key players in that you can watch him and not get your ears shattered with every jumpscare-scene because the player just screams in your face in (mock) surprise. He’s also pretty funny and tends to go for even the shittiest horror games which can be quite entertaining.

(also: wordless commentary on tired clichès)

  1. Horizon Zero Dawn

I finally brought myself to buy a PS4, because I want to have it when “The Last of Us 2” comes out (don’t fight me on this, Muriel, I know you didn’t like the first one but that’s just how it is!). The first game I decided on was “Horizon Zero Dawn” which is basically an open world game with robot animals and dinosaurs. It’s visually striking, has a good storyline and a pretty awesome protagonist. You can’t get lost in it that long which was a shame once I really got into it but generally that’s quite good because as a working adult in a happy relationship and numerous interests I really don’t have the time to ever finish stuff like the Witcher ever (EVER!).

  1. The Big Sick

The weirdest thing about “The Big Sick” on this list is the fact that the last romantic comedy that I loved as much was “Obvious Child” and it’s equally about a stand-up comedian. Maybe that’s my kind of genre? I don’t know. Kumail Nanijani’s kind of autobiographical love story is really funny, very well plotted and superbly cast (give me Holly Hunter every day, even though I will have to scrunch up my face sometimes in concentration to really understand her). What I also love: at least for me, it didn’t have those weird, lengthy moments where I am wondering how long the movie might be till the end. That’s a good thing!

  1. Prey

“Prey” is a PS4 game set in space but without the great saga element of “Mass Effect” which somehow really puts me off (it sounds too time-consuming!). Instead, it’s a pretty fun sci-fi-dystopian story and you’re basically trapped on a space ship and have to fight an unknown (and evolving) evil. I know that it was originally supposed to be a remake of an old game with a similar premise and that fans of that old game were not too happy with the result but since I haven’t played that original game and don’t really care, I’m like … yeah, whatever.

Disclaimer: I played the game in easy-mode after two attempts to hack it in the normal mode. I am a casual player and can not be bothered with investing hours on end honing my gameplay before I can finally beat a single, measly boss. Shame me for it, I don’t care.

The game is beautiful, it plays up to my hoarding-tendencies that I have by making collecting crap to make other crap necessary to survive and the story might not be mindblowing but it is interesting, somewhat unique and makes for a fun 20-30 hours. In a way, it was a bit like “Horizon Zero Dawn” since it also is a somewhat open world with a very clear cut main storyline and a few fun side quests.

I also liked that I could choose between a male and a female protagonist, even though promo material and most reviews picked the male “Morgan”.

Best of 2016: 30 things that delighted me last year

I wanted to write this weeks before New Year’s Eve and then I didn’t, so now I have to use the last free day before work begins to hurl out this stupid list just because tradition. Hrmpf. Anyways, as my last entry already stated, from a world political point of view, 2016 was horrendous. Not the worst year ever (seriously, that’s a bad thing to say) but definitely a year that marked a lot of changes that will affect the rest of the world immensely this year.

But I was blessed enough to have a pretty good year personally, I didn’t lose any friends, I even made some new ones, my family is alright, my cat is alright and I still don’t regret moving in with my partner (for someone who needs to rest after a three hour event with people, this still amazes me). But what else made 2016 a little more tolerable? Continue reading

Cake Box #1: 3 Things I loved in May

Hey Fans of the Soap Box, I know it was a great run and maybe if I ever feel like it again, I will post another one but for a few months now I thought that it would be so much nicer to have a monthly (maybe) blog post that doesn’t always feature rants but rather cool stuff that I discovered, found, read, heard, saw, etc.

I mean, I started the Soap Box when I was working with gossip and news sites daily and yes, there is a shitload of material to get your knickers in a bunch but now that I don’t do that anymore, I actually discover more nice and cool stuff and I would like to promote it to the handful of readers I have.

Beware the Portal-spoilers…

So, I hope you enjoy it and if I get enough material, I promise to publish the occasional Soap Box. Continue reading

Let’s do the thingy-awards

To commemorate this year’s award season, my colleague and I had the idea for an award show for things, people and stuff that don’t matter that much that you would have to remember their names, you know, like pretty much all the nominees in all these award shows (I am not hating here, by the way, I love movies and music and tv but seriously, the Oscar-hype is hands down one of the weirdest over-exaggerated things in the world of pop culture).

So, the styling for the event is simple, just grab something random that looks like it could be retail but also high fashion but no one can really tell because it is just so incredibly plain. Of course, you don’t really remember where you bought it, so if a journalist asks you, you say something like: “It was this designer/brand who does these really nice suits/dresses/panda overalls, you know who I mean?” And because they are too scared to actually confess that they don’t know who you mean, the journalists will nod and gush about that ominous designer/brand-thingathon.

The food will be the kind of stylized small portioned food that you’ve seen being made in a cooking show once but only once, so you have it on the tip of the tongue how it is called and/or only remember crudely slurred versions of the actual name like ‘Croque en Bish’, ‘Connissimet’ and ‘this foam cake that smells like peas’.

The music will consist of a generic poprock band with a name that is so easy to remember that you will have forgotten it before they finish their song, an RnB-singer who reminds you of an ex-girlgroup member and whose name begins with a ‘C’ (you are at least 40% sure of that) and a young dude with a guitar and a raspy voice who could be British or Canadian, you’re not quite sure because his accent is dubious.

The award will look like something but it will be just abstract enough to make people wonder whether it actually looks like that something or is just supposed to be abstract art. It will also be way too heavy to carry with one hand, so all winners have to awkwardly juggle it while adjusting the microphone for their acceptance speech and it will break incredibly easily, in case someone drops it (hopefully, someone does, the media loves that)

The nomination-categories are as follows:

– Favourite ‘It’s this guy/gal from that movie’

– Best crime series with a tough female detective and a charming yet morally ambiguous male companion

– Best comedy series with a bunch of goofy friends and whose title refers to something that happened in the first couple of episodes but then never was mentioned again and/or played any particular role in the following three to eight seasons.

– Best drama with a twist (vampires, big city-people in smalltowns, Sci-Fi or historical) that actually reveals itself to be a soap opera as cheesy as “Dynasty” but will be treated like an HBO-series but no one knows that because everyone watches the series only sporadically.

– Favourite ‘Isn’t that the guy/gal from that movie? – ‘No, that’s the one from the Chuck Lorre-series’

– Favourite talented British actor/actress casted for a ridiculously small and degrading part in a US-sitcom or as a villain in a really bad Action movie

– Best Reality show where it is “really about the talent and not about the drama”

– Best movie that clearly plays for the critics

– Best movie that clearly plays for the box office

– Best foreign movie artsy yet simple enough to pander to the Academy Awards

– Best song in a movie that you really liked when the credits rolled and totally wanted to look up at home but then forgot or that you looked up and then didn’t like as much because it worked really well in the movie but is somehow super-boring on its own

– Best soundtrack that people will buy because they liked the movie but never will hear because it is a fucking soundtrack and therefore lacks a cohesive narrative without that movie

– Best technical thingy about a movie that no one outside of that profession is actually interested in, so don’t even bother to listen to the nominees and just clap politely when the winner enters the stage, oh my, no wonder he is only a cameraman and no actor…

– best script written by someone who was the tenth person to tackle that monster of a story, had to rewrite most of it and was constantly scared that producers, directors and the big actors wouldn’t like it and again hire someone else to “smooth out the edges” and who is not necessarily proud of the script because it is the literary equivalent of Frankenstein’s monster

– best speech by someone who either broke down crying or was really funny or embarrassing, therefore making the headlines for the next two weeks and rendering all wins and losses uninteresting for most viewers and medias

The event will be roughly 7 hours long and will be hosted by an actor/actress who has been funny in movies but really lacks the fundamental skills to pull of stand-up and therefore will have no comedic timing whatsoever to make any of the pre-written gags work.

It will be glorious.

There can be only one: The League of Gentlemen

I recently watched “Sherlock” and the always wonderful Mark Gatiss reminded me once again of the one favourite thing of a number of things that I am absolutely certain about. I am usually not one to give Top 10-lists in a particular order when it comes to anything but ask me about my favourite Comedy Series and the answer is 8 out of 10 times clear: The League of Gentlemen.

What follows is a very long, very dull ode to the best comedy-series of all times, the individual Gentlemen and my first aspirations as a writer. Seriously, it’s dull and nothing more than the self-indulged babble of a wannabe-writer whenever they reminiscent about their heroes. So…to prevent you all from roughly 30 pages of boredom, let’s just cut it here, just skip this entry and you won’t regret it. Everyone else who is apparently mad, enjoy the entry.

But watch the show, it’s so amazing. Plus, Joby Talbot does the soundtrack and he is amazing. Everyone involved with this show is amazing.

Continue reading

Lazy Sunday: Adventure knitting Time

So, last night I was actually planing to go to a party but then my party-buddy had to cancel and I have a rule that I don’t go alone to a party where I only know the host (it’s in the top 10 rules of every socially anxious person, I guess), so I had to cancel and therefore had a lot of time to do some knitting and maybe or maybe not preparation for a Halloween costume. So…

 

Knitted Jake
Knitted Jake

I really love “Adventure Time”, it’s one of those great children’s cartoons that work for adults as well because despite being really charming, joyful and perky, it also features a lot of adult themes, off-putting humor and really beautiful stories (“Thank You” is a gorgeous stand-alone story about friendship and sacrifices that it melts your heart – without any real dialogue even!).

I also really appreciate that in this post-apocalyptic weird world of weird creatures, there’s not really any character that is just evil without any reason, so even someone like Ice King (who keeps on kidnapping princesses) is pretty likeable and has a sweet backstory that – again! – will drive you to tears.

It’s cool to know that the good old days of cartoons actually are not over but are still going strong and that the weird people in this world can create this for the mainstream audience. We need more weirdos on mass media, they do a lot of good.

 

VMAs 2013: People! Y U NO talk about Bruno Mars?

I know. Lady Gaga and Miley, especially Miley, did you see Miley? Man, that Miley. Look, I get it, no one expected Miley Cyrus – who has been twerking in skimpy pants since months now – to twerk in skimpy pants because apparently we treat the VMAs like some sort of Oscar-ceremony for music videos (AHAHAHA) where you can only strip with a snake, like Britney or pretend to be artsy by writhing around like Madonna/Lady Gaga. But over all this chaos why Miley Cyrus is the worst (answer: She isn’t, that girl didn’t even attend her aftershow-party because she was shooting a music-video, so whoever compares her to Lindsay Lohan – you know nothing Jon Snow!), a lot of people overlooked something amazing: A truly impeccable performance that reminded me of the yesteryears of MTV (that’s a good thing, the yesteryears of MTV are for once no nostalgic romanticization of the past but actually glorious). I am not talking about Justin Timberlake here because although that was very entertaining, he did what nearly all the other artists did (heavy on choreography and a lot of backing vocals to cover the lack of actual singing because, boy oh boy, do choreographies leave you out of breath), NO! I am talking about Bruno Mars. Did you see Bruno Mars? Bruno Mars sang “Gorilla” which is about sex like 90% of all Bruno Mars-songs but that fits because his performance reminded of the greats of the early 90s, late 80s, you know who I am talking about, Prince and George Michael…SEXEY! There was a gigantic light-show and Bruno just standing there and singing beautifully and it was fantastic because like Prince he is this tiny person that can sing like a diva. In my opinion, his performance brought the house down.

Look, I’ve been watching the VMAs irregularly in the last couple of years and I have to say, this year’s performances were all pretty entertaining. Maybe because I write about these people daily and therefore – for once since years – knew who the hell those people were but maybe because there was – despite a little lack on the rock-department – a nice mixture of different pop-sounds (Macklemore and Co were pretty sweet too with their gay-hymn “I can’t change”). But Mars was the only one who brought a Beyoncé-level of epicness to the stage. The kind of performance that is so impeccable and impressive (and darn timeless) that all other performances (even Justin’s, sorry bro) fell to the wayside.

Just to prove that this is no one-time coincidence. This guy is the real deal.

And I really like his style, even though most of his songs are kind of sleazy-sex-hymns because he is pretty blunt about it and doesn’t try to wrap it up in cheesy romance-lyrics. This is one hell of an emancipated songwriter and his songs are fantastic popsongs, I say it again, this music is timeless pop to awkwardly sexy-dance with each other. Plus, the overtness of his lyrics adds a much needed humor to today’s male pop-artistry where people like Justin Timberlake might be awesome but also a little too earnest when it comes to their music (I know that Timberlake can joke about himself but that doesn’t keep his music from being a little too arrogant).

Plus (it only gets better), he is one hell of a good interview partner as can be seen on numerous examples. He is interesting, funny, cool and seems pretty straight-forward with his answers. I guess every artist of his caliber somehow plays a certain role but his is pretty believable, so I allow it!

Shut up, Jonathan, it’s not about you!