Album Reviews: Katy Perry, Lorde, Portugal the Man

Katy Perry – Witness

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Had I listened to this album based solely on the singles ‘Bon Appetit’, ‘Chained to the Rhythm’ and ‘Swish swish’ I would have been take aback. However, I was ultimately brought to listen to Katy Perrys new album because I spent a half sober night watching her have a one hour therapy session in a live YouTube video. Through listening to her spill her guts about the pressures of functioning as a human being in the chaos of international stardom, I have come to understand her better. Though I almost let the YouTube comments alter my judgement- it struck me as very sincere and very brave-so much respect to you, KP!

‘Witness’ hits a sweet spot between 80s and 90s dance pop, but somehow manages to sound modern. Though even the most upsetting song lyrics are backed by a catchy beat, it embodies the essence of Katy Perrys best assets-her unique voice and her clever, versatile songwriting. Her lyrics have taken a turn from the goofy and become more about urban slang (Swish swish bish?)-but her ability to capture and convey an idea in a song is still strong.

‘Witness’ shows its greatest strength with its soul-as it is also Katy Perrys most relatable piece of work. With songs that cover everything from self love to lost love, it feels mature. It feels open. It feels honest. There is plenty of fun and playful, but there is a lot of human behind all of that.

I may be gushing, but I really fell in love with this album in its entirety moreso than any of her previous. It speaks to me at this point in my life-and I’m sure that it will speak to many others as well.

Lorde- Melodrama

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Not to be silly, but Melodrama is a perfect title to define the vibe of this album- mellow and dramatic.

Lorde gracefully rides the hype train to an album that maintains her unique sound and boasts a maturity and class that justifies her recent once in a lifetime compliment from David Bowie┬áin which he was quoted as calling her “the future of music”. No pressure!

‘Melodrama’ is a moody, vibrant portrait of a hot summer night in the throws of young relationships. It is poetic without being pretentious and it is wise beyond its years without losing its youth- which is a perfect description of the woman herself. Songs like ‘Sober’, ‘Green Light’ ‘Supercut’ and ‘Perfect Places’ are groovy dance anthems that meld perfectly with the brooding, introspective songs like ‘Liability’ and ‘Hard Feelings/Loveless’. It is a journey through the ups and downs of love that is guided by Lordes soothing tones and funky beats.

If you were a fan of ‘Pure Heroine’ and the independently released songs that she has released since then-like ‘Yellow Flicker Beat’ and ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’ from the Hunger Games-you will take to ‘Melodrama’ right away. There is growth here, but there is no mistaking that you are listening to a Lorde record. She is such a rare talent who utilizes her deep vocals in a way that feels natural-and it rides the line between alternative and mainstream pop music in an interesting way. ‘Melodrama’-much like its predecessor-is a knockout.

Portugal the Man – Woodstock

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It was a breath of fresh air to finally have a new record from Portugal the Man-since our household has been playing their 2013 album ‘Evil Friends’ half to death in the past few years. Since then, we have seen a couple of random songs popping up-like the deliriously infectious ‘Noise Pollution’ and the equally as addicting single ‘Feel it Still’-both which made their way onto the album. With a short 10 song tracklist filled with their trademark falsetto vocals and hypnotic indie rock style-‘Woodstock’ is less rebellious than their 2013 album, but it is a perfect record to bring into your summer rotation.

While this blend of high vocals and upbeat tempos with an alternative rock edge is barely unique at this juncture-with bands like Foster the People sounding nearly identical-there is something special about Portugal the Man that I cannot quite put my finger on. Their sound has become more refined over the years-arguably leaning more towards the mainstream-and they have really nailed down their offbeat approach to putting together a song. ‘Woodstock’-like ‘Evil Friends’ is solid all the way through and keep your interest piqued with catchy riffs and choruses. You’ll feel good listening to this one.

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Review: Wonder Woman

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Still buzzing from viewing Wonder Woman last night, I find myself in the rare position of being seduced by a film even after sleeping on it. The magic that I had hoped for in Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and (slightly) Suicide Squad was finally realized in the passion project that is Wonder Woman.

Yes, of course, as a female as I went into this experience with a far different perspective than what studios may consider to be the “audience” for these films. Yes, of course I entered with my girl power flag flying. However, I went in as a woman scorned by a couple of disappointing entries in this ever growing universe of DC films. My feelings were very conflicted.

The great news here is that Wonder Woman was everything that I wanted, and more. It is a story of a woman sculpted from (genetic lottery winning) clay and brought to life by Zeus who leaves her utopian homeland of amazon warrior women with a strange man to help end Earths great war by killing Ares-the god of war. This mix of Greek mythology, historical drama and fantasy proves to be a winning combination in the hands of Patty Jenkins-known widely for her Oscar winning film ‘Monster’.

The film spends a generous amount of time in the hidden paradise of Themyscira showcasing the rigorous training, impressive agility and compassionate society that the amazon women embrace. Their culture is one of love, support, dedication, loyalty and respect-but it is also one that teaches every member of its community to be strong enough to fight for themselves. Literally. In this environment Diana is drawn to be a warrior like her mother and auntie Antiope (say that 10 times fast). Though she faces conflicting support from her family, her strong will and fighting spirit proves to be her most defining trait.

When Steve Trevor-a British spy escaping from a pack of German soldiers with incredibly important intel in tow-crash lands in Themyscira, Diana learns for the first time that there is a world outside of her own, and one that needs her help. Her motivation to rid the world of Ares evil influence is her driving force throughout this film-while love gives her the strength to carry it through to the end.

Though her relationship with Steve Trevor is certainly central to the story, it is not the type of love story which causes the lovers to sidestep their initial motivations. It gets tiresome to hear every man who she comes into contact with telling her how beautiful she is- but it reflects on the time period. Nobody wants to hear her, only to look at her. Despite all of the obvious jabs at her beauty, Dianas most beautiful and emotional scenes come when she faces evil directly in its face. Every combat scene is expertly shot, expertly choreographed and rivals anything else that I’ve seen on screen in a fantasy setting. Her physical capabilities are displayed with absolutely nothing held back-and it makes for some of the most intense and heart pumping fights in any superhero film to date.

Wonder Woman certainly has its flaws, but I was very impressed by the attention given to every aspect of it. From the accurately devastating portrayals of ground and biological warfare, to the care that went into its characters. Everyone in this diverse cast has an identity and everyone has their contribution to the big picture. Only the villains of this tale are one sided in their beleifs. The story is well paced and never dull, and it gives little screen time to the “fish out of water” tropes that it could so easily have fallen back on. Diana doesn’t learn how phones work, or learn how to walk in heels. When it comes to quality acting- Chris Pine was the star for me here. His portrayal of both a fearless and passionate soldier, as well as a man lovestruck by a woman with unflinching independence-is convincing on all accounts.

Of course, my most beloved takeaway from Wonder Woman was the woman herself. Her compassion is not weakness, and her heart is not her Achilles heel. She persists in the face of opposition and she will be silent for no one. She stands in the way of any danger-gunfire, gas or genocide. She is driven by the idea of peace and inspired by the women who made her, but she is never blinded by the past. She looks to the future.

She is a woman, and a hero, that every woman would love to be. I walk away from this film wanting to be a better woman for this world.
Sidenote: Wonder Womans theme music is LIQUID GOLD