Brief blogs for busy bees

Author: Alyce

Blog tour: Where The Truth Lies by M.J. Lee

Blog tour: Where The Truth Lies by M.J. Lee

Hello, and welcome to my stop on the Where The Truth Lies blog tour. I’ve teamed up with Canelo quite a few times this year, and I’m glad I was invited to participate in the blog tour for this book, because it’s a corker. It’s the first […]

Blog tour: Before I Find You by Ali Knight

Blog tour: Before I Find You by Ali Knight

Hello there, and welcome to my stop on the Before I Find You blog tour. Sorry for the radio silence over the past couple of weeks: we’ve moved home and trying to get WiFi installed has been a nightmare, so it’s been a blogless fortnight for me. […]

Blogtober Day 18: Ode to Trench

Blogtober Day 18: Ode to Trench

twenty one pilots released their fifth album, TRENCH, on the 5th of October, and I was too apprehensive to listen to it straight away, but now I’ve heard it a few times I wanted to get my thoughts about the album down. What better place to do that than here?

I had an adverse reaction to the release of Blurryface. It took months for me to enjoy listening to it from start to finish, and I still skip some of the songs three years later. The duo leapt from a subtle blend of indie, pop and rap (with rock undertones) straight to an over-produced style that led to them topping the charts, and I found it a little disillusioning (particularly with Tyler Joseph rapping, “There’s a few songs on this record that feel common,” during Lane Boy – if you think they’re common, why would you release them? I’m still filled with irrational rage by that one lyric).

Anyway, this isn’t about Blurryface, no matter how much I could go on about it. However, I did assume that the same thing was going to happen when I finally hit the play button on TRENCH.

I was wrong.

From the opening strains of Jumpsuit, it’s apparent that this album is a completely different beast to their previous releases. The bassline can only be described as meaty, thundering through your chest and catapulting you into the world that the band have created, set in the city of Dema.

Levitate ramps things up even further. In an almost ceaseless rap Joseph calls back to breakout hit Car Radio (“I got back what I once bought back/In that slot I won’t need to replace”) and briefly nods to Not Today, continuing twenty one pilots’ trend of intricately lacing all of their releases.

Morph sits beautifully in amongst the previously released singles, hinting that it’s likely to get an official release with a video sooner rather than later. With a chorus that veers from falsetto to slurring, almost indecipherable vocals, the constant dance beat in the background hints that this could be TRENCH‘s answer to Stressed Out: the song that will find itself played in clubs across the world, without too much focus on the surprisingly educational lyrics (with a shout out to Nicolas Bourbaki, the pseudonym for a group founded by nine French mathematicians – Nico and the Niners themselves).

If any of the tracks is competing with Morph to be the next big hit, it’s My Blood. Presumed to be written about Joseph’s brother, Zack (who lends his vocals to Kitchen Sink, one of the bonus tracks from 2013’s Vessel), it also leans towards the falsetto on the chorus, chanting “Stay with me/You don’t need to run/Stay with me/My blood/You don’t need to run,” enough times for it to be stuck in your head for days, but not enough for it to be overly repetitive. (It helps that the video is really cool, and perfect for Halloween).

I find myself surprised by the outro to Chlorine every time I listen to it. With an arena-ready chorus, it’s a surprise that the song isn’t appearing on the setlist for the Bandito tour (yet), but the outro adds a chilly, wintery vibe to a song that would otherwise excel on a huge festival stage. TRENCH is an album which keeps you on your toes, and despite listening to it on repeat all week while moving house, I still find myself surprised by the rapid shifts in pace and direction that it takes throughout the album.

Nothing startles me more than the contrast between SmithereensNeon Gravestones and The HypeSmithereens is a love song for Joseph’s wife, Jenna, in which he croons, “For you/I would get beat to smithereens” (ironic, considering she’s the one doing the beating in the video for Tear In My Heart). Meanwhile, The Hype is a summery anthem that screams windows down, wind in your hair.

That’s what makes the juxtaposition of those two surrounding Neon Gravestones so effective, yet so harrowing. Neon Gravestones is Tyler Joseph’s response to the recent increase in celebrity suicides, and the way that those who decide to end their lives seem to be celebrated more than those who live full lives and die of old age. It’s searingly honest and unbearably relevant, with Joseph using the bridge to beg, “Promise me this/If I lose to myself/You won’t mourn a day/And you’ll move on to someone else”.

The spoken word outro in particular is thought-provoking, with Joseph expressing his fears that the glorification of suicide could tempt desperate people to use it to their advantage: it’s worth keeping in mind. When you look at how many inspirational figures in the scene have passed at their own hand throughout the writing and release of TRENCH – most notably Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington – it’s not surprising that these thoughts were plaguing him.

While Neon Gravestones is the standout track on the album, the second half of TRENCH doesn’t let up. Nico and the Niners‘ reggae-influence is a throwback to Ride, showing the duo taking their exploration of the genre even further. Cut My Lip is probably the weakest track lyrically, bumbling along and not particularly getting anywhere, while Bandito is understated musically but jam-packed with the story of Dema and the Banditos, putting as much narrative into one song as is laced through the rest of the album. If I was less invested in twenty one pilots and this storyline, I might find it to be too much exposition, but as someone who has been following the story since the mysterious website first launched back in April I love the theatricality of it.

Those songs both give you a break before the surprise that is Pet Cheetah. Another theme which has been tackled on their previous releases has been Joseph’s struggle with writing under pressure (“I do not have writer’s block, my writer just hates the clock,” from Migraine being the most memorable example), and Pet Cheetah brings this struggle to life, veering from a slow and steady chorus to a whiplash-inducing rap introducing his pet cheetah, Jason Statham. It doesn’t sound like it’ll work in theory, but my god it works.

Legend is a bittersweet penultimate track, included as a tribute to Joseph’s grandfather who passed away in March. The lyrics of the first verse – “You were here when I wrote this/But the masters and mixes/Will take too long to finish/To show you” – speak for themselves, and despite the happy, House of Gold-esque backing, it’s hard not to want to weep for Joseph’s loss.

Final track Leave The City is unsettling, because it feels unfinished. Repeating “They know that it’s almost over”, it’s quite clearly the end of the album, but the track fades out and Jumpsuit fades in quite subtly, it doesn’t feel as though you really escape from the world of TRENCH before getting launched back into it. I think this is why I’ve listened to it on repeat so many times: it’s a journey, but it’s a pleasurable one, and one that it’s impossible to resist retaking.

I wasn’t planning on reviewing TRENCH, as I said at the start of this post, and I certainly wasn’t planning on writing over 1,000 words about it, but this is a masterpiece. I have a feeling TRENCH is going to be my album of the year for sure, and I hope that – if you were like me and found yourself falling out of love with the band thanks to their previous release – you’ll give them another chance, because TRENCH more than makes up for it.

Alyce

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Blogtober Day 17: Review: Rosie Loves Jack by Mel Darbon

Blogtober Day 17: Review: Rosie Loves Jack by Mel Darbon

Rosie Loves Jack begins with a newspaper article detailing the story of a teenager with Down’s syndrome who has gone missing after running away from home to be reunited with her boyfriend. When we join Rose, it’s before she embarks on her cross-country adventure to Jack, […]

Blogtober Day 16: Top Ten Tuesday: Bookstores I want to visit

Blogtober Day 16: Top Ten Tuesday: Bookstores I want to visit

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish, but was recently relocated to That Artsy Reader Girl.    Every bookworm has a list of bookstores that they want to visit. Whether they’re renowned for their amazing events, have amazing social media accounts or are […]

Blogtober Day 15: Review: City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

Blogtober Day 15: Review: City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

‘In the end, I guess Mom was right.
I have one foot in winter and one in spring.
One foot with the living, and one with the dead.’

Cassidy Blake has a pretty interesting life, but it’s not for the reasons you’d expect. Daughter of The Inspectres – a ghost-hunting team who combine storytelling with historical facts in an unsurprisingly popular blend – you might think that her famous parents (and their upcoming TV show) are the most fascinating things about Cass, but she has a secret.

Cassidy Blake can talk to ghosts.

Well, one ghost in particular: Jacob, the dead boy who saved her life by pulling her out of a river when she almost drowned. Ever since that day Cass has been able to talk to Jacob, and he’s been able to talk to her as well (although he hasn’t been able to touch her since). She’s also been able to step through the Veil, where she can see other ghosts reliving their deaths over, and over, and over again.

It isn’t until she gets to Edinburgh, where her parents are filming the first episode of The Inspectres, that she realises that there might be more to her gift than she first thought. Cass discovers that she might have a purpose: it might be her responsibility to make sure that ghosts are able to pass to the other side.

I didn’t realise that this was a middle-grade novel until I was about halfway through, because the language used feels mature. A young audience will understand every word – and the ones that might be confusing are subtly explained – but the magical way that Victoria Schwab puts words into sentences makes it feel like it’s aimed at an older audience.

A girl who can talk to ghosts isn’t the most unique concept, but because it’s been done before it’s all the more impressive that Schwab has a twist for her tale. Her descriptions of the Veil are haunting, and I had chills due to the intense descriptions of some of the scarier ghosts. If I’d been any younger when I’d read this it would have given me nightmares!

As an introduction to the series, City of Ghosts does everything you can ask it to. It introduces the characters well and poses questions about them that you can’t resist wanting the answers for. I’m excited for the next book in the Cassidy Blake series, and I’m looking forward to seeing where The Inspectres end up next. I hope it’s somewhere that matters as much to Schwab as Edinburgh does, because you can feel how much she cares about crafting honest descriptions of the location.

 

If you’re interested in learning more about City of Ghosts, check it out on Goodreads. If you decide to buy a copy, please consider using my Amazon affiliate link: I’ll earn a few pennies from your purchase. Thank you!

 

Alyce

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Blogtober Day 14: Review: You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

Blogtober Day 14: Review: You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

I don’t know why I keep picking up Megan Abbott’s novels, because they never impress me as much as I hope they will. I’ve already read The End of Everything and The Fever, and although I enjoyed Abbott’s writing style throughout both novels, I’ve constantly struggled with her […]

Blogtober Day 13: Review: The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill

Blogtober Day 13: Review: The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill

“Why would they be afraid of us? We have no powers.” “Of course we don’t,” she says, looking away from me. “But the humans do not understand that. They fear that their men will be overcome with madness and dive into the depths of the […]

Blogtober Day 12: Review: Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

Blogtober Day 12: Review: Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

‘You can plot a course that will get you to your destination, but you can’t predict what you’ll find along the way.’ 

Zorie has a plan for the summer, and it involves staying as far away from the Mackenzie family as physically possible. But when some of her mum’s mail is incorrectly delivered to their address, she’s the one that has to go and pick it up. In the process she finds herself face-to-face with her ex-best friend Lennon – the boy who broke her heart last year by ditching her at homecoming with no explanation – and discovers that her dad is having an affair. Awkward…

With no idea what to do with this information, Zorie accepts an invitation to go on a glamping trip. Little does she know that Lennon is also invited – double awkward!

After an explosive argument breaks out amongst the campers, the two of them are abandoned in the middle of nowhere. They find themselves with no choice but to hike back to civilisation, and on the way they begin to fix their fractured friendship, but what will happen when they get back to reality?

It was impossible to choose a word other than ‘perfect’ to describe Starry Eyes, as this is one of the best contemporaries I’ve ever read. Not only was the romance between Zorie and Lennon a slow burn, enemies to lovers situation (one of my favourite YA tropes), the entire cast of characters was very well crafted. Both Zorie and  Lennon’s parents were realistic, bringing their own personalities and issues to the story, and it made things far more interesting.

The setting was gorgeous, the hiking was described well and it was both entertaining and educational: I never knew that you needed to store food in a special container to stop bears from being attracted to it!

I don’t have the words to say how much I loved Starry Eyes. I laughed, I cried, and I cheered Zorie and Lennon on more and more with every page: it’s impossible not to ship them by the end of the story. I’ve seen a lot of rave reviews for Jenn Bennett’s other novels, and I won’t be surprised if I enjoy them as much as I did Starry Eyes. She has a brilliant writing style and a skill for crafting lifelike characters who really step off of the page, feeling remarkably real.

 

If you’re interested in learning more about Starry Eyes, check it out on Goodreads. If you decide to buy a copy, please consider using my Amazon affiliate link: I’ll earn a few pennies from your purchase. Thank you!

 

Have you read any of Jenn Bennett’s novels? I’m looking forward to reading Alex, Approximately – I’ve heard so many good things about it.

Alyce

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Blogtober Day 11: Top ten LGBT+ reads

Blogtober Day 11: Top ten LGBT+ reads

To celebrate #NationalComingOutDay, I thought I’d share the ten best LGBT+ books that I’ve read. I have so many rapidly piling up on my TBR, but these are my favourites of the ones that I’ve already gotten through. It took me a long time to […]