08 September 2017

Music: Favorite Albums of August

I was thinking it'd be fun to talk about music here more. It's always been a big part of my life, but I never felt "qualified" to talk about the music I like in more detail. The more I thought about it, the less it mattered what "qualifications" I felt I needed. I came across old CDs from 2001, and a wave of nostalgia came over me. What matters to me more is remembering the music I love in the moment, so I'm sharing the albums I've been listening to a lot the past 30 days. I love scrobbling to last.fm for this very reason - it's a great way to track the music I listen to over the years (which I have been since Sept 2008!)

Peripheral Vision  Turnover

I'll start with a personally solid album from beginning to end. I first heard Turnover in my friend David's car on our way to the Miku Expo concert in Seattle. David's always down to go to concerts if our schedules line up, so we've seen Toe, the Kingdom Hearts orchestra, and Hatsune Miku as a group.  There were other concerts we went to at the same time too, notably Asian Kung-Fu Generation back in July. Eventually I want to finish those blog entries, as with many others in my drafts... Anyways, I always get great recommendations from him - Turnover being one of them. 

Peripheral Vision has this nostalgic, dreamy sound that's calming, upbeat and I love listening to it during work. I find it's really good commuter music too. The vocals are subtle, and nothing feels overpowering. When I want to listen to Turnover, I end up playing this album on repeat for a couple days. Their latest album, Good Nature, just dropped Aug 25th so I've been giving it a listen as well. I'd put both albums on here but I want to keep these posts somewhat short LOL!

Indie rock, Dream pop

Favorite tracks:

PURPLE — Spangle call Lilli line

Spangle call Lilli line has been one of my favorite bands for awhile. They were actually a very early recommendation when I was first getting into j-indie, but I could never remember their name. Finally someone mentioned it in late 2013, and I gave their SINCE 2 album a spin and thought "oh, here's what I was meant to listen to all along." 

PURPLE is a very haunting, ethereal album. "Sea" in particular is my absolute favorite track, perhaps even equaling my love for SINCE 2's "Daydreamer" (though I love both for different reasons). I like listening to this album when it rains, but mostly when I feel listless, laying in bed and watching the sun make its way across my ceiling as it begins to set. It's hard to think of more ways to describe how their music impacts me, but sometimes I feel like crying. It's very beautiful and melancholic.

Post-rock, Downtempo

Favorite Songs:

Future Friends (Part One) — Superfruit

Similar to Turnover, I first heard Superfruit's "Bad 4 Us" in Ellen's car on our way to 85c, I think. Some of my favorite bands were discovered listening in someone's car, or playing in the background at their house - something something impact something something memories and friendship. Superfruit is a music duo and comedy web show on YouTube, comprised of PENTATONIX's Mitch Grassi and Scott Hoying. I haven't seen any of their non-music videos, but I do remember watching PENTATONIX on The Sing-Off all the way back in 2011. It's amazing how time flies, and where life takes everyone. Another thing that's amazing is this album art -- it's SO pleasing to the eye. Their music videos are all very fun and visually appealing. 

Superfruit is probably a sound I wouldn't get recommended to outright. I have a soft spot for this type of music though!! The minute I heard their song I knew I'd enjoy playing it during an upbeat, jamming type of mood - whether a sunny day commute, or just Spring Cleaning Sundays. I enjoy making playlists on Spotify, so I added them into my "Summer Break" playlist that I made for The Strike, Neon Trees, MIKA, and WALK THE MOON to name a few. All of their songs are really catchy and I'm excited for Part Two. Coincidentally, their new song "Hurry Up!" just uploaded onto Spotify as I wrote this. Oh man! It's real good. 


Favorite songs:

PLAY - Mukai Taichi

Mukai Taichi was a model I casually followed during my tumblr days years ago. Between Sakaguchi Kentaro (my favorite!!), Sen Mitsuji, Park Jae-Hyun, Go Sang Gil, and Mukai Taichi, there was a very distinct look that I was fond of, and it heavily influenced my designs during college. I stress and emphasize calling myself a casual fan, as I didn't know that he was also a singer-songwriter. One late night, as I was flipping through instagram stories, I came across his album cover posted by someone I followed. His name and face was so familiar, and I couldn't sleep until I looked it up. Sure enough, the photos of him that I was so fond of back then were the top hits! 

I was surprised to find his music on Spotify, and despite it ruining my scrobbling with his name written in Romaji, I stayed up a little later than intended just playing everything on repeat. He's got this firm grasp on a groovy electro feel-good sound that you can't help but smile while listening to the first track, "FLY." The album ends with "Bridge," very beautiful and anthemic, evoking a sense of hope and moving forward on a journey. At least that's what comes to mind when I listen to it - I'd like to read the translated lyrics sometimes. Something about the strength and conviction in his vocals makes me feel like I can take one step forward, over and over. Oh! And his rougher vocals at certain parts is so nice. It's really refreshing, and something I wouldn't expect from his very introspective, quiet modeling photos. This was such a serendipitous find. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a YouTube link for Bridge and 朝が来るまで, but it's all on Spotify!

R&B, Pop, Electro

Favorite Songs:
朝が来るまで (feat. Joyce Wrice)


WEDNESDAY CAMPANELLA came up while I was exploring recommended/related videos on YouTube. I can't remember how I got there - there was MONDO GROSSO, EGO-WRAPPIN', and suddenly WEDNESDAY CAMPANELLA. The first song that played from them was Ikkyu-san, which was a pretty strange but visually exciting MV. I also listened to Aladdin, and from there I was thinking about Ikkyu-san so much (I mean who doesn't?), that I checked out SUPERMAN in its entirety.

The band is comprised of vocalist KOM_I, musician and lyricist Kenmochi Hidefumi, and director Yasuhiro Fukunaga (Dir.F). I had to do a doubletake when I looked up who made up the group -- sure enough it's Hydeout Productions' very own Kenmochi Hidefumi, who I listen to alongside Nujabes, Nitsua, Uyama Hiroto, and many others. It's funny how life works that way. Maybe it's no surprise to those that are very involved and up to date with the music scene, but I found it a happy coincidence, like with Mukai Taichi's album. Their songs are incredibly catchy, especially coupled with KOM_I's soft and confident vocals.

Pop House, EDM, Electro

Favorite Songs:

15 July 2017

Victoria, BC: The Butchart Gardens

Back in 1904, with the North American cement industry thriving, Robert and Jennie Butchart moved from their home in Ontario to the west coast for its rich limestone deposits. There, they developed a quarry in order to facilitate the demand for Portland cement. Near their quarry and cement plant, they also established their home. These were the foundations of what is now known as the Butchart Gardens, a National Historic Site of Canada.

Getting to the Butchart Gardens from downtown Victoria was unbelievably easy when you compare it to Seattle's popular tourist spots. Although we have the link rail and metro/community transit, more often than not the really cool sights take 2-3 transfers and a whole lot of waiting. We took a bus across from our hotel that got us directly to the gardens in 40 minutes! We also found out that they hold fireworks every Saturday during the summer, so we opted to stay later than planned. Fun and impromptu as it was we were severely unprepared, but more on that later.
Wanting to experience every inch of the Gardens during our short trip, we set about our course! A few gardens later we actually flipped through our free pamphlet and saw that it had the best viewing order outlined already (lol...). Luckily we were all on the same page!
 We first went to the Sunken Gardens, which was absolutely breathtaking!
That very same quarry pit I mentioned earlier, abandoned and exhausted of all its limestone deposits, was eventually lined with local top soil and became the beautiful Sunken Gardens, pictured above. Jennie Butchart was dedicated in turning the pit into something beautiful, and eventually she began opening up their home to visitors, friends and strangers alike. She didn't stop here, though, as we soon discovered.
Surrounded by tourists from different countries and languages is always an incredible experience -- the world is so vast, full of so many different ways people can be brought to the same place. This can be said of any popular destination spot, but it's fun to think about nonetheless. 
Daniel's outfit matched my Treesizeverse backpack really well. :)
The lantanas were Daniel's favorites -- he said they reminded him of tiny fireworks.
My first time seeing zinnias! So colorful!
From 1906 to 1929, Jennie Butchart added the Japanese Garden, Rose Garden, and Italian Garden to their property. We made our way to the Rose Garden, formerly the Butchart's vegetable garden, which was designed by Seattle-based architect Butler Sturtevant in 1929. 
Much of the garden reflected the aesthetic of the English Arts and Crafts Movement, which consultant to the gardens, Samuel Maclure, was known for. When I imagine English gardens or cottages, I think of the gardens made in this style.
There were so many arbors in this garden!!! Everything was so pretty here, but it was insanely crowded. Peak season for the gardens is July and August, when everything is in full bloom -- and we were in the thick of it.
While Jennie Butchart collected plants, Robert Butchart collected statues and ornamental birds. This one in particular is the Fountain of the Three Sturgeons, purchased by their grandson, Ian Ross, in 1973. Ian Ross was given the gardens for his 21st birthday (wow!), and after his service in WWII he devoted 50 long years to its development and operation, transforming it into the self-sustaining tourist destination it is today. Later on, he and his wife Ann-Lee produced and choreographed summer shows with their children, as well as holiday-themed events, like the Magic of Christmas. Their son Christopher took over production in 1977, adding on the intricate fireworks show we saw that night.
Next we headed to the Japanese Garden, designed by world-renowned Japanese landscaper Isaburo Kishida.

What I liked most about this garden was that it was very quiet compared to the other areas. Wth the way the long, winding paths led you to an enclosed space surrounded by trees, you could only hear the soft murmuring of other visitors, the water running, and the trees rustling gently. While not very authentic (as with most Asian-inspired works of art back in the day), it gave me a sense of calm compared to the hustle and bustle of tourists elsewhere.
There was a tiny window where you could catch a glimpse of the Tod Inlet on the other side. Apparently those boats take passengers on a trip to what's left of the old cement factory, though I only found out long after we had come back home.
The Italian Garden, built over their former tennis court, also had a gelato shop! Since we ate ice cream already we had to resist, though, but it was pretty difficult. Everyone had ice cream... so we worked really hard. haha!
There was a restaurant up here, but daylight was running out -- so we pressed onwards
I think this would've made a lovely witch's balcony - a certain witch named Kiki, perhaps? :)
There's a cafe near the entrance of the gardens, so we went back to buy some sandwiches and hot cocoa for the fireworks. By then the temperature was dropping rapidly -- and we were without any coats or blankets. We were wholly unprepared, watching everyone on the viewing hill bundle up for the strong night winds, so we sat shivering in the dark trying to use my skirt as a blanket! 

The fireworks were gorgeous under the summer night sky. I always try to capture fireworks with my camera, but the photos never turn out how they really look. I think it's just one of those things that are most beautiful in the moment, like sunsets. The depth of the sky and sea and the sense of wonder they bring are always just out of my camera's reach... 

What stayed with me the most were the flickering firelights that spelled out "Good night, Christy" at the end of the show. We had a few theories on our way home, but ultimately the connotation of an address and a farewell implied someone who's no longer with us. After doing some research, I found out that "Christy" was the very same Christopher, son of Ian and Ann-Lee Ross, who designed, produced, and executed the fireworks shows of Butchart Gardens. That salute to him began in 2000, when he passed away, and has been seen by every fireworks viewer every Saturday in summer since. I found it a beautiful way to be remembered by, illuminated by the very work he dedicated himself to bettering with each passing year. The gardens are now owned by his sister Robin, keeping the Butchart Gardens within their family of gardeners for over 100 years.

What a marvelous garden Jennie Butchart created. That her family, for generations, devoted their life's work into making the gardens better and better is a testament to their passion for the arts and nature. I would love to come back in the winter to see the Magic of Christmas, with the garden lit up like multi-colored stars -- and an ice skating rink too!

A bit of a funny story, but after the fireworks ended, we rushed back to the buses and waited about 30 minutes for our bus to arrive. Our bus ended up stopping right by our place in line and everyone swarmed to get on, which was crazzzyyy. Suddenly a lady was shouting that it was unfair that the front of the line didn't get priority (understandable). She continued to shout, saying she was from Montreal, throwing phrases like "I am so unimpressed with you BC people" and "this would not happen in Montreal." It was definitely a sight LOL! I don't know if I've ever experienced something like that between West Coasters and East Coasters.

We finally made it back to our hotel after a stressful bus ride... we didn't even change out of our day clothes before passing out lol! 

Thanks for reading!

Victoria, BC: The Bug Zoo!

Daniel has a great love of bugs, something I've grown to be fond of as well in a broader scope. I have a big soft spot for butterflies and caterpillars,  but it wasn't til we started hanging out more that I came to appreciate other types of bugs and insects. When you spend time with people who are passionate about something, I think it's easier to appreciate that thing on a more personal level. Watching someone you care about having fun with a subject you're not familiar with is a very humbling experience -- the world is full of so many things I haven't learned about.

One of the sights we wanted to see while in Victoria was their Bug Zoo, so while we waited for our room we took a walk over!
I think we went through a backway on accident, because we had to go through a few hallways and up a couple stairs. But because of that, we stumbled across a super pretty outdoor walkway. There was only the soft rustling of trees while the sunlight danced along the path -- one of my favorite things. 
We bought our tickets, and immediately got to hold bugs!! This one is a Thorny Devil Stick insect. They grow up to 12 inches and, as their name implies, they're great at camouflage in the forests for resembling sticks.
Here's a mantis peeking out~
We also got to hold a Malaysian jungle nymph. They're one of the heaviest insects in the world! Female Malaysian jungle nymphs can grow to a little under 10 inches, while males are much smaller and skinnier.
What I really liked about this zoo was that everyone, children and adults alike, quietly waited for their turn to hold the various insects in wonder. The tour guides created an atmosphere of positivity on a subject that most people are "creeped" out by, and it was nice watching everyone's faces light up when they saw the insects up close.
It was so cute how it slowly climbed up on people's hands

I was feeling a little lightheaded and warm from the humidity and temperature in the room (gotta keep them in the proper climate!), so I sat down for a few minutes and watched these sunburst diving beetles. You can see in this photo that they have a little air bubble -- they use it to stay underwater for several minutes at a time, and when it's all used up they swim back to the surface to grab another one. We watched them go up and down every so often (so cute). At first, they kinda looked like they were sleeping, with a little nose bubble haha.

After we were done, we saw a cute chihuahua named peanut at the register!! The staff told us that his mom had a chihuahua much smaller named Cassie, to which Daniel laughed and we had an awkward conversation about me having the same name as a chihuahua...
On our way back to our hotel, we stopped by for some ice cream at the soda shoppe!!
We got raspberry chips and espresso flakes~
We also walked through the Empress Hotel for a little bit~ it'd be so nice to come back and have high tea here. It looked so fun!
By then our hotel was ready, so we checked in and freshened up to head to Butchart Gardens!! Thanks for reading. 

A weekend in Victoria, BC

Before Daniel left for Japan, we wanted to take a trip to Victoria, BC. I've only been to Vancouver, so I was really excited to go! It is surprisingly very easy to travel to Victoria from Seattle, thanks to the Victoria Clipper rides. I spent 5 years watching the boats come and go from class, and now it was my turn!

On the day of, we woke up early and had a delicious breakfast sandwich at the Clipper cafe. Both of us were exhausted, so as soon as we boarded and grabbed our seats we passed out lol!

We were worried about the weather, but as we docked into Victoria the sun was shining, and everyone was out and about. Since it was such a nice day we started walking towards our hotel.
As soon as we started walking, we heard music playing and decided to follow it. Along the marina, a water ballet was going on! The Victoria Harbour Ferry has been putting on performances for the past 25 years, every Saturday and Sunday during the summer.
You can read more about the water ballet here.
As we kept walking, I kept stopping to snap photos of all of the beautiful buildings (sorry Daniel!) 

It's completely different from Seattle, and I was immediately smitten.
We stopped for lunch at Frankie's Diner. I was feeling a bit nauseous so I stuck with clam chowder and salad.
There was still a lot of time left til our room was ready, so we walked around The Empress Hotel garden
These hydrangeas were such cute shades of pink and blue, it was like cotton candy flowers.

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