Posts Tagged ‘2013’

I know I have posted Yellowcard before, but in celebration of the 10 year anniversary of the band’s debut album Ocean Avenue and the subsequent release of the Ocean Avenue – Acoustic album (my signed copy of which arrived late last week!) I am sharing them with you again.

This is the official video for the acoustic version of Ocean Avenue from the new album. Honestly, I don’t really dig the video. I think using the crowd was a cool idea, but hearing the band sing the whole song on the album – as well as all the other songs – is far more enjoyable.

I will be seeing these guys in Brisbane at the end of September – they’re performing the acoustic album in its entirety – so watch out for a review from the show when the time comes!

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Requiem Requiem. The conclusion of the Delirium trilogy. The book where everything that has been building, everything that has happened so far in this amazing story, comes together and we get to see how it finally ends.

I haven’t so eagerly awaited the release of a book, or gone into a book with such high expectations, since the final three Harry Potter books, so poor Requiem was under a lot of pressure right from the beginning. I read a few reviews before I even bought the book and that may have been a mistake because all of them criticised the ending and thought it was the worst book of the trilogy, but of course I had to make up my own mind about it.

If you are reading this thinking “what on earth is she talking about?” then I suggest you go and read my reviews of Delirium and Pandemonium then come back. There will most likely be spoilers from those two books in this review, which I can’t really avoid since Requiem is the final book of the trilogy, but I just thought I better give fair warning.

I went a bit crazy taking notes while I was reading this book because I was so invested in the story and there were so many “OMG!” moments that I sort of just wrote down every little thought or feeling I had as I read. As a result of this excessive note-taking, this review may be a little bit all over the place, so I apologise for that. It’s not often that I get so passionate about characters and their stories, so this was a pretty special experience for me.

The biggest way Requiem differs from the previous two books is that it features alternate chapters from Lena, our protagonist, and Hana, Lena’s best friend in Delirium. I haven’t read Hana’s Story (available as an e-book only) so I hadn’t seen or heard from Hana since Delirium. I was excited to be able to fill gaps and see what was going on back in Portland both with Hana personally and the city in general.  I was also very curious to see how she and Lena would inevitably come together again – why would they include the Hana chapters if that wasn’t going to happen?  It was particularly difficult to put down because I so desperately wanted to see how it would all play out.

Using alternate chapters was probably one of Oliver’s best decisions for this story¸ because I can’t even imagine how she could have included so much information from both sides – the Wilds and the controlled cities – without them. They did interfere with the continuity a little bit, because you were forever jumping from Lena to Hana then back to Lena again, but it didn’t negatively impact the overall story. They also enabled so many questions to be answered, particularly about Hana who played such a huge part in Delirium.

[Side note: It kind of blew my mind that Hana had grown and changed so much in such a short amount of time – it’s been less than a year since we last saw her – but then, so had Lena.]

From the fifth Lena chapter I could already feel something building, especially with the evidence of the governments ever-growing presence in the Wilds. This tension continued to build right up until the climax of the story when an all-out war broke out. I did note, though, that even though there was a rising tension through the story from both Hana and Lena’s sides, I felt like it should have been more intense considering the war that it was leading up to had the potential to change everything. I did get emotional around page 268 (yes, I actually cried) and there were many emotional reveals and scenes, so the lack of intense rising tension was easily redeemed by the emotional tension.

I was so torn between Alex and Julian that I did not envy Lena actually having to be in that situation one little bit. I loved Julian by the end of Pandemonium but Alex is Alex, the first boy, the first love, so I felt Lena’s pain as she loved both of them, struggling to figure out who she loved more. I’m glad about who she ended up with; I think that’s how it was always meant to be. Speaking of the end, despite many negative reviews, I loved it. Yes, it left HEAPS of unanswered questions, but it was perfect anyway.

The description and word choices are as beautiful as ever. I know I have said this before, but Oliver is a truly talented writer who has a way with words that I can only aspire to. After reading Before I Fall and now the Delirium Trilogy, I will definitely be checking out her other work.

Hello everyone!

I have spent the last few weeks trying to motivate myself to get back to blogging and I think I finally have my mojo back. Thank goodness for that!

This song of the week is by a pretty awesome up-and-coming Australian band from Sydney called Strangers who recently played at SXSW – if you don’t know what that is, I suggest you check it out here – and did a little tour around America before heading home to start work on their second album. They couldn’t lock themselves away to write and record without a tour of home first, which is how I came to see them at Brisbane’s Crowbar on May 16.

But before I go on about that: the song!

It’s called Bred For Breeding and while it isn’t my favourite song from Strangers’ debut album Persona Non Grata (that you absolutely have to find and listen to) it’s still a damn good song.

Strangers just wrapped up their ‘Closer to Nowhere’ tour (their new single from the album which happens to be one of my favourites) and as I mentioned, I was lucky enough to catch them in Brisbane. It was the third time I have seen the band live and they have consistently put on a fantastic show. They’re a very tight live band who you know will at least reach, if not exceed your expectations every time. They give the same amount of time and effort to their performances whether they have a crowd of 500 or 50 – the latter of which would best describe the attendance on this particular night – which I think is an admirable quality. Many bands reach a point in their career where they believe it is beneath them to perform to a small crowd. but I don’t think Strangers will never be one of those bands. After the show the guys are always happy to have a chat to everyone and show their appreciation for those who have taken the time to come and watch them play.

I took a few photos on the night – iPhone only – and here is my favourite of lead singer Ben Britton:

Ben Britton. Brisbane, May 16, 2013.

Ben Britton. Brisbane, May 16, 2013.

I also got a set list, yay!

strangers set list

 

If you ever get the chance to catch a gig, do it. Even if you don’t leave as a new Strangers fan, I can promise that you will have witnessed one hell of a rock show. Oh and please check them out on Facebook, I’m sure they’d appreciate it.

Just for something a bit different, I have two songs of the week this week. The first is My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light ‘Em Up), the debut single from Fall Out Boy’s fifth studio album Save Rock and Roll which was released in April this year. Check it out:

The second song of the week is also by Fall Out Boy and is the second single from Save Rock and Roll. This one is called The Phoenix. I felt obligated to share both of these videos with you because they follow on from each other – apparently all of the videos from this album will do the same. If you watched the first one, you have to watch this:

Fall Out Boy – consisting of Patrick Stump, Pete Wentz, Joe Trohman and Andy Hurley – formed in 2001 and released their first studio album Take This To Your Grave in 2003. (Just for a little side note, this album celebrated its 10th anniversary this week – pretty awesome stuff.) The album won several awards, achieved double platinum status and featured top ten singles Sugar We’re Goin’ Down and Dance, Dance. The band followed this success with the release of From Under the Cork Tree in 2005, Infinity on High in 2007 and Folie a Deux in 2008. In late 2009, they announced an indefinite hiatus, leaving fans worldwide wondering if they would ever hear from Fall Out Boy again.

Fast forward four years to February 4, 2013 and Fall Out Boy announced that they were back! I am yet to pick up a copy of Save Rock and Roll but from what I have heard so far, their new sound is fresh and very different to the Fall Out Boy of old – in a good way. I can’t wait to give it a good listen through and, of course, here’s hoping they make the trek down under again soon!

When my Mum asked me if I would like to join her on a 10-day tour of Vietnam, I did hesitate. I had never really had any interest in visiting the country – or any Asian country at all actually, other than Japan – but a number of friends had been, some multiple times, and said that it was beautiful. So, I decided to go.

We toured with Wendy Wu – who are a fantastic company, if anyone was wondering – joining our guide Tom and 18 fellow travellers in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) for the trek. The leg of the trip from Australia to Saigon was probably the worst international travelling experience I have ever had, topped only by the trip home. But I won’t bore you with those little details.

As I said, our tour started in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). We weren’t sure which we were supposed to call it, but our guide seemed to favour calling it Saigon so we went with that. If you don’t know the story of why it is technically called Ho Chi Minh City these days, look it up because it’s quite interesting. My first impressions of Saigon were that it was dirty, there were millions of motorbikes and it kind of smelt weird. As the tour went on I came to discover that those three descriptions basically summed up the entire country, or at least, all of the parts that we visited.

While in Saigon we visited the Reunification Palace which was an absolutely beautiful old building. This was the scene for the final stages of the American War in Vietnam when a North Vietnamese tank bulldozed through the gates and the commander ran to raise a North Vietnamese flag from the rooftop. From there we drove to the War Remnants Museum. The outside was interesting as they have quite a large collection of American tanks, planes and helicopters left behind from the war. The inside, however, was awful. We had been warned that it would be confronting but we lasted only minutes inside before deciding we didn’t want or need to see anymore.

At the Reunification Palace in Saigon.

At the Reunification Palace in Saigon.

I found it particularly interesting to hear about the war from a Vietnamese perspective. Here we are raised to call it the Vietnam War – while the Vietnamese call it the American War of Vietnam because there had been a huge war with the French prior to this war – and to, for the most part, mindlessly accept that America was doing the right thing. Now I find myself wondering if Vietnam would have been much better off if everyone else had stayed out of it. Something to think about.

After lunch we went to the famous (although I had never actually heard of it) Ben Thanh Market. It was huge, loud, stinky and very overwhelming. It would have been nice to have a casual wander around and check everything out, but that wasn’t an option. You couldn’t look at anything outside of a stall without the salesperson thrusting things at you, grabbing at you, or trying to force you to stay there until you bought something from them. And if you did buy something they’d try and look in your wallet or convince you to give them more money. Bartering was a must and we did get a couple of good bargains, but it was exhausting and we didn’t stay very long.

The following day we drove down to Ben Tre, a southern province located in the Mekong Delta. The drive through the countryside was quite lovely; much nicer than inner-city Saigon. Everything was green and you could see families out working on their farms. In Ben Tre we were paddled in sampans (the worst possible mode of river transportation, I was absolutely freaking out the entire time) through a maze of small canals until we reached the place where we would board a larger boat to take us down the river to Turtle Island for lunch. Between boat rides we passed through a family home where they run their own business making coconut candy. I found the process quite fascinating and the end product was delicious. I even brought some home with me!

A family-run coconut candy business in Ben Tre, Mekong Delta.

A family-run coconut candy business in Ben Tre, Mekong Delta.

The Cu Chi Tunnels were definitely one of my highlights of the trip. We had the opportunity to hear a first-hand account of what it was like to live in the tunnels during the American War while being led around the site by a Cu Chi Veteran. For those who don’t know, the tunnel network was hundreds of kilometres long and extremely well-hidden. So much so, that even once opposing troops became aware of them they were only able to destroy approximately 10 kilometres in total. In some parts the tunnels are several storeys deep and they include trapdoors, living areas, storage facilities, weapon factories, field hospitals, command centres and kitchens. We were able to see how they hid the entrances, the traps they used in fake entrances to maim or kill the enemy and what the insides of some of the bunkers and tunnels looked like. I took the opportunity to crawl through part of a tunnel. It wasn’t very long, but it was hot and the air was quite thin even though that particular tunnel wasn’t very deep. I couldn’t even imagine having to live underground with little to no ventilation the way they did.

Where I entered the tunnel...

Where I entered the tunnel…

...and where I came out!

…and where I came out!

The following day we flew to Danang and made our way south to Hoi An. We visited China Beach, where the American Marines had a huge R&R base during the 1960s and 70s. We could easily have stayed there for the remainder of the trip. The weather was beautiful, the beach was beautiful and it was a very peaceful place. On the way to Hoi An we also went to Marble Mountain, where there was a fantastic view of China Beach and surrounds. We also climbed up a bit further from the lookout and went into a cave that had been turned into some kind of temple. It was quite beautiful with the slivers of light coming in through spaces in the natural ceiling.

The view of China Beach from Marble Mountain.

The view of China Beach from Marble Mountain.

Hoi An is probably the tourist capital of Vietnam. It is very tourist-friendly and much more pleasant in general compared to Saigon. It was still dirty and it still smelt awful, but the shopkeepers were friendlier and far less pushy and we felt quite comfortable wandering around the streets on our own, where in Saigon we had felt very unsafe and unsure the entire time. If shopping is your thing, Hoi An is the place to visit. Every, single person on our tour bought clothes or shoes in Hoi An, with most of us getting things tailor-made. My Mum and I bought pants, matching sandals that took only hours to be made to fit our feet perfectly and were then delivered to our hotel for us, and we each got a dress made by two lovely ladies just down from our hotel. Mum’s is a lovely blue and white sundress, while mine is a bit more formal in black chiffon with little red bows all over it. Now I just need somewhere to wear it!

We drove from Hoi An to Hue and this was again an area we could easily have spent more time in. Even though Hue is quite a large city, it wasn’t anywhere near as dirty or unpleasant as Saigon. We visited the Imperial Citadel and the Forbidden Purple City where we enjoyed a cyclo ride (like a tuk tuk for those that have been to Thailand etc). Most of the cyclo drivers were older men, but of course I ended up the passenger of the only young one. He was trying to teach me to say ‘thank you’ in Vietnamese but kept laughing when I got it wrong so I gave up. He was very friendly though and pointed things out to me as we went along. That afternoon we took a cruise on the Perfume River and our boat driver fell asleep! We almost ran-aground but he woke up just in time. It definitely make for an entertaining afternoon!

From Hue we made our way north to Hanoi, which was the hometown of our guide Tom. It was nicer than Saigon, but we still didn’t particularly like it there. We visited Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum which was an interesting experience. He’s actually in there, frozen or preserved somehow, which we didn’t expect. And the security! Wow! We had to go through metal detectors and once you were inside there were guards with guns making sure you didn’t make any noise or break out of the line. All very strange. There would have been thousands of people there too, all wanting to visit Ho Chi Minh. We learnt a bit about exactly who he was and what he did, and he was far from the most upstanding guy. He changed his identity countless times and made a lot of enemies. But when he returned to Vietnam after his worldly travels he changed the country in ways nobody else has ever been able to.  

On the final day of the tour we went to Halong Bay. It was a good end to the tour to spend the day on a relaxing cruise around the bay. There are said to be over 3000 islands (or giant rocks for the most part) within the bay. We saw floating villages – houses all joined together near the islands where people live and fish and sell their catch to the mainland. It would have been interesting to be able to get off the boat and see what the houses were like, but we didn’t get that opportunity.

Relaxing on our cruise around Halong Bay.

Relaxing on our cruise around Halong Bay.

Everyone always raves about how amazing the food is in Vietnam, but I didn’t find it particularly delicious at all. We did get to try a few things that stood out, but for the most part it was all the same. That may have had something to do with the fact we were on a tour and didn’t get to choose our meals, but I can’t be certain.

I am glad that I went with my Mum to Vietnam. It was a very interesting and educational experience like nothing I had ever done before. But there is absolutely no way I would ever go back. I really can’t understand why people do. But to each their own I suppose.

Soundwave. One of the days I look forward to most every year. It’s a day of live music, crowds, moshing, dancing, craziness and fun. This year marked my fourth Soundwave festival and I arrived with high expectations – the past three years I had such an amazing time, so this year had to be the same, right? Wrong.

I’m not saying that I wish I didn’t go, or that I didn’t enjoy myself, because of course I am glad that I went and overall it was a good day. It just wasn’t the amazing day I have come to expect from Soundwave after my previous experiences.

I started the day at Dragonforce, who I had never heard of, but I was with a friend who wanted to see them. They were far from something I would usually listen to, but they were entertaining so it was a good start. Even that early I noticed that the crowd seemed thicker than usual but couldn’t figure out why when there are only a certain amount of tickets that can be sold. I realised on the walk across the grounds to see Periphery – who were absolutely fantastic, so I’m glad I made it to their set! – that it was because unlike previous years, the bars were not fenced off so that 18+ patrons who wanted to drink were secluded from the rest of the crowd. They could walk into a bar, buy drinks, then wander around from stage to stage drinking them. While I’m sure these people appreciated not being caged like animals, it took away from my experience because I was almost constantly surrounded by drunk people behaving like idiots.

From Periphery I ventured over to the main stages for Bullet For My Valentine – one of my must-see bands of the day. It was the third time I had seen them live and they definitely didn’t disappoint. They played more songs off their new album ‘Temper Temper’ than I expected, considering it only came out in Australia a week or two before the festival, but the crowd responded well. The big hits were there and the performance made me wish I had been able to afford to attend their sideshow the night before to see them play a headline set. I eagerly await their next tour down under.

I had a bit of time to kill before my next band so it was nice to wander around a little bit and see what was around. There were more little stores set up than I recall previously, so I looked around a bit, but it wasn’t really practical to buy anything – even if I had the money to – because you’d have to carry it around all day. I’m sure other people didn’t mind though. Eventually I made my way over to stage 2 for Billy Talent.

Billy Talent did a headline tour of Australia just last year, so I knew what to expect from their set. It was high-energy and a little wild, and they played all of the favourites. I hung back out of the mosh so I could just enjoy them and I think that was a good idea. They had played Soundwave back in 2009 and referenced this fact a couple of times. Hopefully they’ll be back sooner rather than later.

I left my festival buddy at stage 2 after Billy Talent and made a mad-dash across to the complete opposite side of the grounds for one of my other must-see bands: All Time Low. These guys get a lot of hate for being a ‘kiddy band’ but they’re fantastic pop-punkers and I adore them. At some point I had started feeling quite disheartened. Even though the bands I had seen were fantastic, I wasn’t enjoying the atmosphere and the whole day felt off from what I had expected. All Time Low basically saved my day. I decided that I had to cheer myself up, so I made my way right into the middle of the mosh, determined to have my mood improved and within a couple of songs I was feeling much better. I regretted the fact that I still haven’t bought their new album, but it didn’t matter too much. They played a few of my favourites and I had a great time.

From there I went back to stage 2 where I remained for the rest of the festival, apart from a brief visit to the main stage to see a bit of Metallica before heading home. I saw Paramore, who I have never been a huge fan of, but they played such a tight live set that I think I’ll have to give them another chance. Lead-singer Hayley hit every, single note and I was very impressed. After Paramore was Garbage, who I couldn’t recall actually having heard of before, but after a few songs I recognised I realised I did know them after all. They were surprisingly good – and when I mean incredibly good – so I’m glad I saw them, even if it wasn’t intentional. Next was my number one must-see band of the day: Blink 182.

The last time Blink 182 toured Australia I was 16-years-old and lucky enough to attend their Brisbane show. I have never forgotten that night and watching them perform again at Soundwave made me feel like I was 16 all over again. They played a few songs from their most recent album ‘Neighbourhoods’ which was awesome, and then they played all of their biggest hits. My favourites were there, my friends favourites were there; I’m pretty sure everyone in the crowd had an amazing time. There was a fair amount of online hate directed their way over the whole Travis not being able to come saga (you can read what I wrote about it here) but in the end I don’t think it really made any difference who their drummer was for the night. Obviously having Travis there would’ve been great, but they managed just fine without him.

The only band I regret missing was Linkin Park because I have heard nothing but good reviews. Overall it did end up being a good day, but it wasn’t a great day. I left on my Blink 182 high and I think I’m still coming down from that. Not sure when/if they’ll ever be back again, so I’ll be holding onto these feelings as long as possible!

Song of the week time!

This week I share with you Time Bomb by All Time Low. I chose this as my song of the week mostly because Soundwave 2013 was far from my favourite Soundwave experience and All Time Low basically saved the day for me. But you can read all about that when I post about it in the next couple of days!

It took me quite a while to get into All Time Low, despite a couple of my friends regularly telling me that I would love them. I don’t know why I resisted, but eventually I had a listen and realised they were right. Are they generic pop-punk? Absolutely. But they are so damn good at it!

This song is from their 2011 album ‘Dirty Work’. Their fifth album, ‘Don’t Panic’, was released last year but I haven’t actually listened to it yet. Should probably get onto that!

Anyway, enjoy!!