Music Review: Dreamcatcher – Alone in the City

Wudup, fellow Somnias?! Dreamcatcher is back to grace us with yet another comeback today!

With the huge success of Escape the Era and its lead track YOU AND I attracting even more fans than ever before, does What continue to build on the Dreamcatcher legacy?

Well let’s take a look and find out by first enjoying the music video together (if you haven’t already spammed it a couple times this morning like I have):

What? What. Wat? Wot? What!

What is a very breathtaking thrill ride! No that was a statement, not a question. What do you mean, “what’s a breathtaking thrill ride?” What is! The song What! By Dreamcatcher.

Okay, I had to get that out of system. Excuse me.

Go to any YouTube comments section for a Dreamcatcher video, and I bet you’ll find a handful of comments saying their music sounds like anime music. If we’re going to think along those lines, then this song sounds like the appropriate fresh new sound an anime’s 5th season should sound like.

You know, the cast has gone through so much together and have grown a lot since the 1st season. They have a brighter outlook on their journey realizing how powerful they can be, so it sounds brighter, but not too bright as to imply their journey is over. There’s still a hint of much more ahead, but they have even that much more confidence in taking it on.

All in all, strong intro to the song and I welcome the change more, surprisingly much more than say how Fly High kind of threw me off guard at first. For What, my enjoyment of it was more instantaneous.

The verses are mostly identical sounding to me and that’s okay. Notably for the second verse, I like how the distorted guitars come back immediately rather than being built up to as they are in the first verse. They’re sparse with a couple power chord strums as to not overshadow the vocals and busier synth and violin combo. And of course give space for the vocals to shine as they should.

Melodically I don’t think the verses are that interesting. Every member definitely gets the job done when it’s their time to shine. We’re still treated to a very short Handong moment in the second verse and it makes me sad that they didn’t give her another line for the bridge because hearing her sing in that range I realize her vocal timbre does seem to fit better with the more laid back sections of songs.

And now while it’s easy to fanboy about Siyeon and Yoohyeon’s power vocals, Jiu’s soothing yet hauntingly soft voice, Sua’s badassery, Gahyeon’s innocence and charm–I think it’s time to admit that I’m a closeted Dami bias. My growing fondness for her is growing the way it has for Moonbyul of Mamamoo where they both started off as the underutilized rapper now allowed to reach their potential by getting some actual vocal lines, and by golly does Dami own both of her sections in this song like a bawss!

The chorus is composed a lot simpler than previous tracks, but that doesn’t take away from how catchy it is with its 90’s sounding dance melody, and the syncopated What’s help keep the song going. After all, who doesn’t love a little syncopation and accentuated break beats that the “break up my dream” part provides. It goes well with the lyrics like moments in a nightmare where you think you’re about to wake up, but there’s still more to haunt you because the second post chorus treats us to a nice chuggy riff.

This could just be the metalcorefag in me, but I want to hear more chuggy riffs in Dreamcatcher songs. I felt they were too short in Fly High (why do I keep comparing this song to that one?), but even if they’re short in What as well, it’s a nice smooth transition into the bridge. We get that intro piano riff again with Jiu singing over it this time before we’re blasted with the final chorus.

It’s strange that this is the second longest lead single by Dreamcatcher, but it doesn’t feel that long at all. It actually moves along at a brisk pace, none of the parts drag on, and ultimately feel like they transition together quite smoothly. Though it’s not structurally or even compositionally complex as their other songs (as far as I can tell), What gets the job done in introducing us to a new era in the Dreamcatcher world.

For delivering the goods, feeling shorter than it actually does, and somehow manages to impress me even if it had less dynamics and simpler verse construction than previous releases I give it a 5/5


What vs Alone in the City

I actually love What just as much as any other lead single Dreamcatcher, and I definitely welcome Happy Face Entertainment wanting to experiment with their sound a little bit. But it’s for that reason that I feel a bit conflicted about the rest of the album.

Intro: Epic as always and builds the expectation that Dreamcatcher will continue to deliver the rock sensibilities that distinguish them from their peers. And this time with more electronic sounding synths, dare I say EDM and dubstep-ish even if ever so slightly. It would be a nice welcome changed from the more classical strings sounding synths from previous releases.

By default I usually love short instrumental intros that build up the hype and tension for the title track that follows them so it gets a score of 5/5!

Wonderland: The track following What on the album is a nice dark sounding R&B track. It’s a nice pallete clenser after the adrenaline rush What is as it does slow down the pace a bit. It has some nice wub wub wub sounds for the chorus and I generally EDM and dubstep so that stuff is pretty cool.

Though I can’t help compare its post chorus vocal melody to Loona’s track Perfect Love off of their OT12 debut album. Because my ear is accustomed to Perfect Love’s pre-chorus, my brain tries to fill in the gaps during Wonderland with Perfect Love’s fuller sounding melody. Then before I know it, the song ends on a very abrupt note. It could have benefited from a short instrumental outro that sounded different from the rest of the song, but it didn’t.

Maybe this song needs more time to grow on me as its own entity, and it does have a nice overall vibe, but its abrupt stop and its similarities to Loona’s Perfect Love it gets a 3.5/5

Trap: After Sleepwalking, everyone seemed to want Dreamcatcher to explore what they can do with a more EDM sound and I’m actually happy we got that with Trap. The chorus has some decent wubbing and the vocals and their melodies are pretty good. I actually do like this song’s clean guitars comboing with the piano for the verses and outro, but that chuggy riff at the start kind of pisses me off!

Wait, didn’t you say you wanted more chuggy riffs in Dreamcatcher songs?

Yes, I did say that!

But it kicks so much ass that it’s so disappointing that it never comes back later in the song, nor do the distorted guitars at all. You know, the instrumental element that sets Dreamcatcher apart from other K-Pop groups? It’s a huge let down that they didn’t employ any more rock into this otherwise decent EDM track.

I would probably love it more if I wasn’t deceived by that distorted guitar riff at the beginning building up an expectation for me. And once again a very very abrupt stop to the song doesn’t give me time to savour the other good stuff that has going for it. I mean, I know What ends very shortly after the vocals do, but so far Wonderland and Trap both have that problem of ending with not much of a bang or climax. Or since they are softer songs than the rock infused lead track, they could have easily faded out instrumentally or have just a few seconds for us to savour the beat with a more definite finish.

Did I mention how much it pisses me off that they only used distorted guitars for the coolest part far too early and far too sparsely in this song? I mean with the tom drums pounding for the pre-chorus they missed an opportunity to put a palm muted riff! Why you gonna play me like that?

Sorry, but Trap gets a 3/5

July 7th: Is the date that Love Shake was released back when Dreamcatcher was Minx and had five members instead of seven. Hence it has a bit of a tropical kind of sound that takes a bit getting used to, especially after how much dark, aggressive, and fast paced music we’ve gotten so far from Dreamcatcher.

Yes, yes, I know. There were the ballads of course and those were nice contrasts to the heavy lead singles.

And speaking of the ballads does the July 7th chorus sound familiar?

If it does, then you would notice that it’s the same vocal melody as Lullaby, but slightly altered to better fit this tropical house track that I suppose also needs time to grow on me. But once again. What is up with the abrupt endings to the songs on this album?! July 7th does it also…

It’s a shame too because the bassline to this track is quite groovy and does well to compliment the swankier vocal style they were able to experiment with. I would give this song 2/5 because reggae and the whole tropical feel is not really my cup of tea…because…it’s a glass of pineapple juice instead–

(Yeah let’s pretend I didn’t make that shitty joke…)

BUT! I do like the vocal melody and style of this song as well as the nods to Lullaby by not only borrowing its chorus melody, but also having a piano riff that’s similar to Lullaby’s that is snuck into the end of the bridge. So that much I can give them credit for 4/5


Final Thoughts

Like any other Somnia I am proud of what Dreamcatcher has accomplished in the past year and a half since they’ve redebuted. They took the K-Pop world by storm with a unique rock and horror concept with powerful choreography that can only contend with the likes of GFriend whose only similarity to them is the anime intro shtick. But otherwise, the two groups are drastically different from each other in genre.

Despite of the negative criticism I’ve given to this album I think it is still a nice step forward for Dreamcatcher to continue expanding their genre range. It’s interesting to hear what their voices are capable of adapting to, they can do it all; they can rock out, soothe us with a lullaby, or get us to rave dance very embarassingly by accidentally knocking things off your desk, which is something I totally didn’t do when I first heard Sleepwalking off of Prequel.

But yeah…the rocker in me is sorely sorely disappointed from the lack of rock tunes and sensibilities the group is meant for. I loved Escape the Era for them totally owning that sound and I love that the company delayed its release as it gave us a much more polished product with better overall song structures and dynamics, whereas Alone in the City feels a bit rushed to me. There weren’t any memorable moments where I feel like constantly rewinding the song to re-experience them.

For instance when Yoohyeon blasts her power vocals back in after Dami and Handong’s vocal trade in Good Night’s second verse, or when Mayday goes for a soft rendition of its chorus after the bridge right before the full band kicks in. And let’s not forget the pre-chorus of Chase Me, the song that started it all, surprising the hell out of everyone with the distorted guitars there being introduced for the first time ever.

Anyways those are my initial thoughts on Alone in the City. My opinions may change upon more relistens, but that’s how I felt upon a first impression. I am usually conscious of how my expectations for artists cloud my objectivity to enjoy any new music from them, but it always goes three of the same ways:

  1. They defy expectations and I am instantly in love with the new direction.
  2. They defy expectations, but I’m on the fence about it and need time to let it sink in.
  3. They defy expectations and I can’t stand it because either my expectations were too high and/or they simply failed to top what they delivered before no matter how much I try to re-listen to their new stuff

Let’s hope for option number 2 because I like to retain some amount of optimism in life.


Be Sure to Support Dreamcatcher By Purchasing Their Music Through:

  1. iTunes
  2. K-Pop Mart
  3. Yes Asia

 

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The Role of Sympathetic Villains

They’ve been around for as long as stories have existed; bad guys who are just sad guys taking their anger out onto the world.

Now while it’s easy to write off villains, especially stock villains as modes of being to be avoided, what I don’t hear often is how their malice and/or ignorance can very well mirror our own. We are so used to trying to identify with the clearly identifiable hero of a story and live vicariously through their experiences in standing up for what they believe in and triumphing over evil.

So I have a suggestion: next time you consume a story, try rooting for the villain as if it’s you. Because let’s face it, no one’s perfect and we all make mistakes. And while it’s really really easy to say “I would never behave like that,” in regards to whatever evil deed a character enacts, I think the true purpose of sympathetic villains is to have us think “I could have been like that.” Or even better. “I could be like that.”

Obviously, not in a way in which you would want to be blowing up buildings or drowning puppies, but just the simple admission that you have some malice in you, whether large and aching to burst out in a fit of rage, or benign like a tiny flicker in a well lit lightbulb–we are susceptible to negative emotions, thus the possibility of thinking some negative thoughts to go along with those emotions. Some of those thoughts can include wanting to harm others or yourself.

There’s a scene in Daredevil where he and The Punisher have an argument over ethics. Daredevil doesn’t kill or wants to kill any criminals because of his moral code. The Punisher on the other hand has no problem killing them and thinks he’s justified since it does seem to end crime in Hell’s Kitchen, if not only temporarily until even bigger stronger villains come on the rise and challenge the established order.

One of my favourite lines of all time comes from The Punisher when he tells Daredevil, “you’re just a bad day away from becoming me.”

And I think that says a lot for all of a us. Please don’t mistake this as me acting like a priest telling you that you are all full of sin and should repent. All I’m saying is that it’s important to recognize your own capacity for malice, whether you’ve acted it out or not, and view villains as the expression of that malice.

You know you can empathize and sympathize with some of their reasons for causing mayhem, so empathize and sympathize with yourself whenever you catch yourself wanting to run those bad drivers off the road that cut you off or honk their blaring horns at you for tiny little mistakes. How you want to shove your boss’s face through the paper shredder because they’ve gotten your case about your work ethic or how your break lasted two or three more minutes longer than you’re allotted.

Silly examples, of course, but you know what I mean.

Within each and every one of us resides good and evil, whether you like it or not. Some things we do to hurt each other can either be due to ignorance or pure malice. Whatever the case is, sympathetic villains serve as a template of not only how not to be, but also how we bad we could be, just as much as heroes serve as templates of how good we could be.

So give it a shot; next time you consume a story see yourself through the villain’s eyes and see what it does for you. How does it make you feel? What steps have you taken, or should start taking, to avoid being vanquised by those who stand for virtue? Not to say that you don’t, but more often than not, there are dark motivations for good deeds. Something we can discuss another time, but for now let me know what you think and how the little experiment goes!

Write What You Like

It’s so bloody obvious and simple, yet it’s hardly ever uttered: Write What You Like.

A lot of writers, especially myself, often contend with the creative process like it’s a wild dragon to tame. We get so obsessed with deliberating our ideas that we forget to experience our own creations in the shoes of our potential audience.

Write what you know is common advice, even better advice is write what you don’t know as it would give you a reason to explore an idea you’ve yet to educate yourself on. After all, what is a story but an educational experience disguised as entertainment?

To complete the trifecta you should also write what you like.

That means writing in such a way that if you were not the creator of your story, but a customer in a bookstore looking for the next best read, you need to consider what it would take for this other you to bring that book to check out counter.

Sounds easy, but how do you actually do this?

You start by becoming acutely aware as to why you love the other stories you love; from books, video games, and movies/TV shows. It’s easy to know that you simply like it, but it’s actually quite difficult for people to define their reasons as to why a story resonates with them.

Then on the flip side you also need to understand why you have certain dislikes in other stories, if not things you outright hate (like Mary Sue characters or forced love triangles for me). Whatever your dislikes are just don’t put them in your work unless you’re putting a unique twist on a dislike to transform it into something likeable.

The last thing I would suggest is being as objective as possible about your work as if it’s somebody else’s. Be hyper critical about what you know is not working and kill it off, and in the same vain milk all you can from things that are working in your story during the editing process.

So write what you like, and only then can you tame the dragon and ride it to leave a blazing trail in your wake.

Being Ready For Never Being Ready

We come into existence safe and secure, hugged snugly by the womb

We start off as the largest and only thing in a tiny cozy world only to become one of the many tiniest things in a world much larger than ourselves.

We are born naked and crying in a room full of strangers, and apart from its complete opposite (death), it’s actually the scariest thing we have to experience in our lives if you stop to think about it.

Being put in the world is a pretty daunting thought because we are tasked with the responsibility of creating an effect in the world just as much as the world has the responsibility of creating an effect in us. We come into this world knowing nothing but what our environment will allow us to know, and then we have to learn how to unlearn some of the limiting beliefs we’re fed as we grow.

I think everybody is born with tremendous potential and due to circumstances out of their control, along with mindsets and choices that are, that potential wanes and the world misses out on whatever unique gifts some people possibly had that could have been contributed to the world.

This is the perspective I come from when I try to battle my own self doubt.

I’ve often felt unready to take on the world throughout my life. Whether it was going to school, finding a job, and fast forwarding to now; running my own business. There’s no safety and security in entrepeneurship like a normal job offers; I am not bound by a schedule other than what I grant myself to work in, and there’s definitely no expected amount of money on a regularly scheduled paycheck. My income rests solely on the amount of work I’m willing to put into making sales at my workshops and coaching spots.

It is now near the end of 2017–and after spending the first half of the year in solitary seclusion, writing the 3rd draft of It Starts at Home and for the most part living like a hermit spending the rest of my days gaming and listening to music for countless of hours–I have finally officially launched my business and still feel unready to do it. But I am doing it, which is the crazy thing.

The only difference now compared to my hermit days is that I feel just a tad more ready than before.

It has taken a lot of my own will power and discipline to realize that I am capable of so much in my life, especially if I have been able to provide value to the coaching clients I had in the summer of 2016. Knowing that I possess this rare gift of active listening and questioning that makes writers geek out about their stories, it reminds me that I do have value in the world after all.

Furthermore, when it came to booking and preparing the writing workshops I’ve been hosting the past couple of months, a lot of resistance came up due to feeling unprepared in several areas. I worried that I wouldn’t have content, attendees, let alone the confidence to talk about writing for 2 hours biweekly–even though I spent the past couple of years in customer service jobs where I had to speak to hundreds of customers on a daily basis.

What helped me push onward was to prepare myself as best as I could.

That meant buckling down to write up the workshop presentations, refining it over and over again until every point was succint and important, cutting all excess. It also meant putting the work into inviting people to the workshop and even more work into reminding myself that I’ve done so much public speaking in my life already.

From hosting escape room introductions to talking about writing concepts that came solely from within was a hard transition because now I was sharing something that wasn’t created by anyone else but myself. But nonetheless I persisted.

And when it all came down to it, on the days I have hosted workshops, I still felt unready.

In fact, many times I wanted to cancel on the account of nervousness.

Now whether or not there was a huge turn out or not, in the end I decided to just go with it. I am thankful for the times that several people came, and even more thankful for that one workshop where nobody showed up because that was my biggest fear, and to have it manifest and not actually feel all that bad, it has been an incredible experience being prepared for either outcome.

That’s the most we can ever do for ourselves in this life. To prepare ourselves for the best and worst case scenarios because even it only softens the blow of disappointment, it at least teaches us to prepare better next time. And of course when things do go our way, we can also be grateful to ourselves for having put the effort into preparation in the first place.

I’m sorry if this post was very scatter brained, I’ve probably rewrote it several times and I’m still unable to put it as concisely as I wanted to.

But if there’s one take away from it all, it would be this:

Trust in yourself.

Trust in your own abilities.

Trust in your ability to recover and take it easy on yourself if you “fail.”

You have tremendous potential and just because you miss out on a single chance  to share your gift, it doesn’t mean you are completely barred from ever getting another opportunity in the future. You pick yourself up and try again. If you need time to recover like I granted myself, you give that to yourself too, but always be back to reengage with the world.

 

Wudupdate: January 2017

Well it’s been a while, everybody, but I have returned from a two month hiatus. Here I explain what went behind my decision to pause BSBS Reviews for now and rebrand my channel. I completely forgot to mention NaNoWriMo in my Wudupdate so I’ll make a whole separate video talking about NaNoWriMo tomorrow! For now enjoy this Wudupdate.

Kick Ass

Comic books count as literature too!

After tackling the young adult stuff, it was time to get back into my natural element as a kid…but with a bloody and gory, violent twist!

Kick Ass is a very unique take on the superhero genre in that they have no super powers and their costumes look like something anyone can throw together if they shopped around e-Bay enough. I loved superheroes since I was a kid, and it was nice to see the genre grow up with me to the point that the stories they tell now would be more honest: it’s tough work!

There’s plenty to say, and this is one of my longer videos, so I’ll let it speak for itself.

 

Mental Movies and the Method of Madness

Intentionally blank pages at the end of a book.

Intentionally blank pages at the end of a book. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was a kid, I used to staple stacks of blank paper into a book-like form, and write my own novels for my own entertainment. I would just spend countless of hours illustrating and writing among the pages after happily drawing a cover and slapping my name at the bottom.

Structuring the story according to how many more pages I had left, I knew that when I got to the 3 staples in the middle of these makeshift novels, it was the halfway point of the story and the stakes had to increase. These stories would usually follow a group of super heroes fighting the most dastardly villains, who eventually reformed to join the good side until there was no one left to fight.

I fondly remember writing these novels so vividly because little did I know back then, I was already living out my dream of being a writer. For as long as I could remember, I have had a fascination with playing mental movies in my head, and most of the time, I excluded my self from the action as a huge array of fictional characters would play out their roles in dire situations.

For years, this self entertainment would keep me up at night and it actually took a while to register for me that I should start jotting these mental movies down. Finally! I could have a place to contain all the insanity that went on in my head, and I would bleed it all out through ink onto a page, which would serve as a film if you will, to create a method for all the madness.

I always knew this fire of creativity erupting within me could never be stifled, for in elementary and in high school, every time we were assigned to write short stories for English class, teachers would be dismayed by how drastically I would disobey the 2-5 page limit. I could never, ever conceive the idea of being able to tell a whole story within such a short amount of pages.

I would end up writing a 20+ page story that would contain much more vivid descriptions and bits of dialogue than any of my classmates’ work. And I try to say that with the utmost humility, because of course to most of them–most of them, but not all of them–it was just another assignment to get done. For me on the other hand, I took as an opportunity to challenge myself and actually give my all to a school assignment, which was something of a rarity for me throughout my life because I never found school work to be all that rewarding to do.

Hello and welcome to Your Write to Live! I am Marlon Manalese, and I am an author and bookworm whose taste in literature has transformed drastically throughout the years. Where I once started with an interest in medieval fantasy, I have gravitated towards contemporary fiction (both adult and young adult novels) because I find it more pleasurable, valuable, and relatable to read about the modern life and everyday people–as opposed to the battle hardened badasses you would find in the Dungeons and Dragons and urban fantasy novels I used to read.

It is my belief that we are drawn to fiction because we see like to see ourselves in legendary protagonists who overcome insurmountable challenges in order to achieve their goals. No matter what genre or age range, usually the best novels are the ones people can relate to because they invoke empathy in not just the protagonist, but also the antagonist and supporting cast.

My intention with Your Write to Live is to provide practical writing tips that can also be applied to life. From my years of study in crafting a novel, I have gathered that authors do a ton of organizing in terms of character development and understanding the conflicts that challenge their goals and motivations. As someone who is heavily invested in self knowledge and personal development, the idea clicked: why can’t we use these tools to help improve our own lives?

Perhaps through this blog, like I did with the makeshift novels of my youth, I can help ally with the superheroes of your mind to reform the villains of your subconscious.