I am not one that is moved easily and emotionally by watching films. Not to say I don’t love films or I don’t appreciate the craft or technique that goes into making films. From the very first frame of Alfonso Cuarón’s ‘ROMA’ something switched in me. This film was different, a good different and I knew I was in for what would be an emotional journey. Told through harrowing film making, acting, unique and dynamic choices in storytelling and plot line. All of this from the perspective of two domestic workers of a politically charged 1970’s Mexico. Although as the movie progresses the storyline focuses more so on one domestic worker than the other (there’s a reason).
Cléo (played superbly by newcomer Yalitza Aparicio in her first acting role no less!) as a central character shines throughout the movie where a story such as this could get boring or trite. This doesn’t. Yalitza with just the smallest of gestures shows how aptly she ingested this character coupled with brilliant acting from the rest of the cast as well. You feel as if you’re not watching a movie but getting a sacred glimpse into a family’s home. This also holds true to Alfonso Cuarón’s editing style and choice of film. The use of a Kodachrome black and white style make the film have a simple look and feel, akin to a 70s home movie. To a viewer these choices may seem pointless as they are quite minute. Cuarón’s choices no matter how big or small serve us the viewer two major things watching this … To put you into a nostalgic mood and in the perspective of Cléo’s character. In real is a person who often goes nameless and faceless in society. Cuarón by doing so allows the viewer to relate to Cléo the most as we draw empathy for her and her situation with the use of Nostalgia. Cléo represents not only herself but countless others in her position. So Cuarón drew less upon a backstory per se unlike other characters in the film, most notably Sofia, the wife and maternal figure of the family Cléo worked for (who is played by the brilliant, Marina De Tavira). All in all I got exactly what Cuarón was trying to convey across the screen and that’s the goal of a filmmaker. Especially from a film that is so well acted across the board and with so many tiny intricacies you could write a term paper on it. This also was the first film I’ve seen from Alfonso Cuarón so you can bet I will be watching more.
Here it is after careful consideration and many many rewrites. These are my top ten albums of 2018. This year my list features a lot of EPs so that’s a big difference than previous years. So without further ado and of course in sequential order from the number one on …
“Other People’s Heartache Part 4” caught me off guard in the most fantastic way. The EP opens onto one of the most beautiful covers of the Cat Stevens classic “Wild World”. It ties a thread between the last Bastillerecord “Wild World” to next one “Doom Days”. We then segue into the next cover of a somewhat obscure song “Would I Lie To You?”. To which Bastillegave it a much-needed update leaning towards a more RnB and Trap music sound. The next song is “Grip” which is a fun and straightforward EDM track. My only criticism is it just seems a bit out of place on an EP filled with RnB, Hip-Hop and Trap-Pop jams. But the song is so good though. The two stunners for me are the En Vogue cover of “Don’t Let Go (Love) and “Flowers” where the music and vocals by everyone (in particularly Dan Smith) are so on point oozing just enough sex appeal to not overdo it. The EP ends on “The Descent” which is just such a badass track and has the most heart aching surprise towards the end. We rightly close out on the “Warmth (Outro)”. The fact that Bastille uses these “Other People’s Heartache” mixtapes as a thread between records is so brilliant. I love that they also wanted to feature new British talent as well. The artist on the opening track is Kianja and her vocals blend so well with Dan’s. She’s featured prominently on this EP, along with the likes of Jacob Banks, Moss Kena, Lily Moore, Charlie Barnes, S-X, Craig David, SEEB, Swarmz, Rationale, and James Arthur. All in all Dan’s vocals, the production, and Bastille as a band have never been better on this very diverse and very unique mixtape style EP. That is why it’s still ‘On Repeat’ for me.
Standout tracks:“Would I Lie To You?” , “Don’t Let Go (Love)”, “Flowers”, and “The Descent”.
I don’t think there has been a more inspiring album for me this year. “Church Of Scars”has a vulnerability to it that’s raw and Bishop Briggsvocals pack so much emotion throughout each and every track. For a debut album, this is a stunner, one that hits you in the heart lyrically and melodically. Having seen her twice this year; where I heard this album live in both a quiet acoustic setting and full throttle live show; just adds another dimension to “Church Of Scars”. Therefore making Bishop Briggs not only of one of my favorite new voices and artists currently, but “Church Of Scars” my number two pick for favorite albums of 2018.
Standout Tracks:“Tempt My Trouble”, “River”, “Hi-Lo (Hollow)”, and “Wild Horses”.
The Wombats’ “Turn” ended up being one of my absolutely favorite songs this year. “Turn” is also track number three from “Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life” which has landed at the number three spot on my songs list. The Wombats are a trio hailing from Liverpool, their 2018 release is a fresh and lively rock number with guitars reminiscent of 90s Brit Rock and Pop. It’s chock full of quirky and fun lyrics relating to the aches and pains of love that just scream The Wombats. The numerous danceable melodies and catchy hooks populate songs like “Cheetah Tongue”, “Lemon to A Knife Fight” and “Lethal Combination” from start to finish. On the extended version release, we got new songs like “Bee-Sting” (which is fantastic live) and “Oceans”. By the end of “Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life,” The Wombats had me fully converted. This is an album worth hearing and also a band you should definitely see live if only to hear this record.
Standout tracks:“Turn”, “Cheetah Tongue”, “Bee-Sting”, “Lemon to a Knife Fight”, “Out Of My Head”.
Though I had been following his musical career since I heard “Stitches”, I thought the song was catchy but I never thought that same guy would come to create this Soulful Pop Rock gem. From the massive stadium rocker and first single “In My Blood”which speaks to the frustrations of anxiety and social pressures of being young. To the funky and come hither “Nervous”, and the acoustic ballad “Like to be You” which features Julia Michaels. But the super funky smash “Lost In Japan” is the stellar standout. The song has a super cool “Lost In Translation” inspired video to go with it and an EDM remix from Zedd. Overall, this was my favorite “Pop” album this year featuring, great hooks and choruses, fantastic production, and Shawn’s guitar and songwriting skills amped up several notches. We should also take into account Shawn’s creative and business savvy in choosing to continue to work with the perfect people on this album, most notably his longtime songwriting partner, Teddy Geiger.
Standout tracks: “Fallin’ All In You”, “Lost In Japan”, “Nervous”, “Particular Taste”, “Why”, and “Mutual”.
MAY is someone that truly only comes around once in a blue moon. I used this phrasing because she evokes that type of nostalgia and so does her absolutely mesmerizing EP, “Phantom”. Harkening back to days of Frank Sinatra and The Rat Pack and when jazz standards were the Pop hits. MAYand her Phantom EP brought some of those ghosts forward in the most heartbreaking and beautiful manner. With elements of gothic charm strewn throughout, the “Phantom” EP was not dated whatsoever. Her voice was a siren call to anyone who has ever felt any type of loss or heartbreak. The personal interludes from her life interspersed on the EP were a lovely and thoughtful touch. The only other thing I would tell you to do besides listening to MAY is too see her live, as that is a special experience all on its own.
Standout tracks: Falling, Last September, Northern Lights, and Baby Save Me Tonight.
James Bay is the third artist of three on this list I saw twice this year live (the other two being Bishop Briggs and Bastille). “Electric Light“ really was all over the place but in the best way possible. We saw James dip his musical toes into so many other genres such as RnB, Pop, Soul, Electronic, and even a bit of edgier Rock on “Electric Light” and for what it’s worth it made a solid effort that grew on me as the year wore on. Seeing him play these songs live from the record and hearing how hard he worked on these tracks gave me a new perspective on the album. Edgier cuts like “Pink Lemonade”, with its punk leanings, “Fade Out” with soul and RnB swagger, “Us” and “Wild Love” in there soft beauty stand out the most for me. “Slide” and “Wanderlust” and “Stand Up” are all also great moments. The album despite its confusing genre blending moments turned out to be a favorite of mine because of the talent behind all of it. Something that is still quite hard to find.
This soulful EP by Childcare bassist and newcomer Emma Topolski truly came out of nowhere for me. If you follow this blog you know I have previously reviewed it but as the months wore on and after repeated listens it just stayed with me. The overall haunting and forlorn vibes flow throughout the EP. Although the genre leans towards Electro and Indie you can very much hear other elements and genres that Saint Clair found inspiration in. The EP opens up with the groovy electro-pop jam “Human Touch” and Saint Clair’s smoky sexy timbre sets the tone for the rest of EP. On the utterly tragic “I’ll Stay” you can hear echoes of nightclubs and smoky jazz clubs amidst the track. The pumping 80s like synth beat you hear dropping in and out only adds to the dark mystery of the song. “D2” for being something that came out of nowhere was certainly a welcome and beautiful surprise.
Standout tracks: “I’ll Stay”, “I’m Still Standing”, and “Human Touch”.
From the opening notes on “Explosions”, I can tell that the “High Hopes” EP has Rationale in a much different head space and form. His influences have gone far beyond his home base which is London and cultural influences of Africa (in particularly Zimbabwe). The opening track opens with sounds that any touring musician is familiar with, sounds from an audience before transitioning into a throbbing bass line. A sound that is more familiar in Hip-Hop and RnB songs in America. The rest of the EP unfolds at a lovely pace with Rationaledigging in quite well to what he’s great at …creating heartfelt and emotional songs with lyrics that can be felt amongst a cross-section of people. On the title track “High Hopes” his voice is strongest I’ve heard and “One by One” we see him fuse London, African drums and beats as well as the influences gained from touring to create an absolute banger. No wonder this EP stood out for me garnering repeated listens.
Standout tracks: “Explosions”, “High Hopes, and “One By One”.
This is such a heavy set of songs lyrically that you would not expect it to come from someone so young, 16 to be exact. Akine is a wise artist and old soul, something you find out quite quickly as the EP plays out. The use of electronic instruments is not drastically overdone so Akine’ slightly raspy and haunting vocals are not drowned out. Songs like “Money In Your Mouth” can speak to anyone having to deal with a certain type of guy that uses his fame (or power) and wealth to show off. The track also has a slight disco feel to it. My favorite tracks “No Gold” and “Pray for the Prey” stays with you long after you’ve heard it. The vocals have a pleading feeling to them, making the messaging behind those lyrics all the more urgent and Akine well aware.
Standout tracks:“Pray for the Prey”, “No Gold”, and “Money In Your Mouth”.
Technically a playlist/album but I think one of the most cohesive yet underrated albums this year. Lauv had a banner year with his mega-hit “I Like Me Better” that seemed like it came out of nowhere. That song is also how this album playlist opens up, introducing you to Lauv‘ “Blue World”. So through beautifully layered vocals, melodies, electronic elements combined with live instruments and lovelorn lyrics, Most notably in songs like “Reforget” and “Paris In The Rain”. Lauv creates a world with this album, that not only has encapsulated young love and heartbreak for this era but beautifully tells his story. It’s no wonder people have been flocking to his shows.
Standout Tracks: “I Like Me Better”, “Paris In The Rain”, “Reforget”, “Comfortable”, and “Easy Love”.
So there it is a little late then normal but done with care. Let me know you thoughts in the comment section or on social media! 🙂
It has been 54 years since the beloved original had it’s Disney debut on the silver screen. Now Mary Poppins is back and finer than ever, drawing inspiration from the P.L. Travers book series. Director Rob Marshall (Into The Woods, Chicago) brings the film some 20 years forward to Depression Era London with the Banks children, Michael and Jane Banks now grown up and requiring some much needed help and possibly a bit of magic…
In Mary Poppins Returns we see the beloved nanny (played by Emily Blunt in a role where she absolutely shines!) return to sprightly form to help out the Banks children who are now adults in London. Jane Banks (played by Emily Mortimer) has moved back in to the Cherry Tree Lane family home to help out her Brother Michael Banks (played by Ben Whishaw) after a recent tragedy. Michael now has three small ones of his own (played by Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh and newcomer Joel Dawson so adorably and brilliantly). After several losses including what could possibly be the loss of their home. Mary Poppins re-enters the Banks family life when they most need it, when all of the hope and magic from their childhood has long gone.
Along with the help of a street lamplighter named Jack (played by Lin Manuel Miranda superbly in his first movie role) who just so happens to be a friend of Mary Poppins herself. Through the teachings of Mary, many friends along the way (be on the lookout for some fun guest appearances including Dick Van Dyke who was in the original from 1964), and lots of fun sing-along song and dance numbers. The absolutely grand spectacle that is ‘Trip A Little Light Fantastic’ and the teary and beautiful ‘The Place Where The Lost Things Go’ which is so well suited to Emily Blunt’s voice, are absolute standouts in the film. Mary slowly but surely works to restore the magic and joy that once was at Cherry Tree Lane with the help of the three younger Banks children coupled through the elder ones and all that seemed impossible becomes practically perfect in every way. It got me thinking that maybe we should all go and fly a kite.
As I stated before it’s that time of the year again. Yes, it’s definitely Christmastime but also that lovely time of the year where all of us music bloggers and journalists reminisce via online media, about all of the fantastic music that has been released this past year. So yesterday I posted part one of my 50 and as promised here’s part two of my top 50. Please enjoy and I hope you came across some songs you never heard of as 2018 gave us some pretty fun, innovative, creative, unique and just all around great music if you looked or listened hard enough. So without further ado here is The Reclusive Blogger’s Top 50 Songs Of 2018 …. Part Two
P.S. This list is in sequential order!
25. Troye Sivan // My! My! My!
24. Blinky Bill // Showdown
23. Marian Hill // Subtle Thing
22. Eliza Shaddad // My Body
21. Olivia O’Brien // Care Less More
20. Lauv // Paris in the Rain
19. Saint Clair // I’ll Stay
18. King Princess // 1950
17. St. Vincent // Fast Slow Disco
16. Avonlea // Cars And Boys
15. Florence + The Machine // Big God
14. Ariana Grande // No Tears Left To Cry
13. Arctic Monkeys // Four Out Of Five
12. AFI // Get Dark
11. Kendrick Lamar + SZA // All The Stars
10. The 1975 // Sincerity Is Scary
9. MAY // Falling
8. Twenty One Pilots // Chlorine
7. Khalid & Normani // Love Lies
6. Rationale // One By One
5. Shawn Mendes // Lost In Japan
4. Amy Shark // Don’t Turn Around
3. James Bay // Pink Lemonade
2. The Wombats // Turn
1. Bastille // Quarter Past Midnight
[Special shout out toDon’t Let Go (Love) from Bastille’s Other People’s Heartache EP for being so darn good and an absolute favorite of mine but … a Quarter Past Midnight just blew me away from the beginning and is my most played song this year! Thanks Spotify!]
And that’s it for this the list for 2018. Thank you for reading, watching, listening and please comments below and Tweet me back your faves from this year or faves from my list. Just get involved with me here and on my socials! Click that follow blog button. I want to make this upcoming new year bigger and better. Also, of course, listen to all of these artists as many of them are fairly new and indie and would very much appreciate it. Plus stay tuned for my top ten albums of 2018 list which is coming very very soon!
It’s that time of the year again. Yes, it’s time for me to reminisce via blog post all of the fantastic music that was released and that I listened to this past year. Trying to narrow down and figure out which tunes stayed with me and stuck out the most has proven to be quite the challenge but I finally completed it. I also ended up supersizing the list to 50 songs (posted in two segments) since 2018 had so much fun, innovative, creative, unique and just great music. So without further ado here is The Reclusive Blogger’s Top 50 Songs Of 2018 …. Part One
P.S. The list is in sequential order! Also be on the lookout for my Top 10 Albums Of 2018.
Here we go with part one numbers 50-26 …
50. Childcare // Man Down
49. Leon Bridges // Bet Ain’t Worth Hand
48. Moss Kena // Square One
47. Loom:gs // Fault Line
46. Kiiara // Gloe
45. Bebe Rexha // I’m A Mess
44. Meg Myers // Numb
42. Robert DeLong + K.Flay // Favorite Color Is Blue
41. Tsar B // Rattlesnake
40. Ella Mai // Trip
39. Akine // No Gold
38. Virginia Wing // Glorious Idea
37. The Regrettes // Come Through
36. Kilo Kish // Elegance
36. Hozier // Nina Cried Power
35. Haux // Heartbeat
34. Charlie Barnes // Will & Testament
33. Jacob Banks + Seinbo Sey // Be Good to Me
32. CHVRCHES // Miracle
31. Kacey Musgraves // Slow Burn
30. Jorja Smith // Blue Lights
29. Bishop Briggs // Tempt My Trouble
28. NAO // Another Lifetime
27. Imagine Dragons // Natural
26. S-X, Nevve // Stay
And that’s it for part one stay tuned for part two coming up tomorrow! Comment below and Tweet me back your faves from this year or from my list. Just get involved with me on my socials! Also stay tuned for my top ten albums of 2018 list coming very very soon!
“FROM CONGO REFUGEE TO ‘AMERICAN IDOL’ BREAKOUT TO INDIE SONGWRITER; RON BULTONGEZ …”
Singer-Songwriter; Ron Bultongez has just released his first major label single debut and it’s quite the heartfelt one. If anything about him rings familiar … you’re right. Ron was a contestant on this past season’s American Idol that stood out for not only his unique perspective, his story and of course his talent. Despite being cut at the Top 24 it was obvious his journey as an artist was not over it was just beginning.
The singers’ debut single Learning to Love out now is from the EP of the same name due out in August, finds Ron settling in quite well into a genre that is having a major resurgence right now. The blend of folksy singer-songwriter music plays well together with the slightly gritty and earnestness to his voice, which allows for a song that could easily turn sappy or boring to not. The softly strummed acoustic guitar rounds out this soulful track and makes for a bright debut for this promising young star.
Stream Ron Bultongez – “Learning to Love”– SPOTIFY