A Finale, But Not the Final Word

As an avid viewer of Sense8, my excitement for the finale kept me up last night until I realized I had to work in the morning. So, I was forced to wait until this evening to watch the conclusion of the psychedelic, confusing, groundbreaking, condensed final chapter of the beloved Netflix original series. It’s probably a good thing I waited though considering the amount of screaming and clapping I did while watching…

this is the best gif

SO, obviously, if you haven’t had a chance to watch the finale yet and you plan to, be warned that there are spoilers ahead!

First things first: I’m upset the finale had to be pared down to a 151 minute feature-length film style piece. One of the best things about the series is the carefully constructed plots in the short term episodes and their eventual piecing together to create a seasonal story arc. While attention was still given in this manner, the shorter story arcs were forced to develop and resolve themselves in a much more condensed time frame. I’m certain many avenues would have been developed over the standard hour long episodes if that were an option.

gimme more

That being said, “Amor Vincit Omnia” managed to include the staples of the first 2 seasons: Sun’s daybreak tai chi sessions on the roof, flashbacks through the cluster’s pasts, international jumps, and the manifestation of remarkable shared skills and the accompanying body swapping. Oh, and how could I forget the ORGY???? Girl, buckle up, the finale sexy-time scene rivals season one’s “Demons.” And by rivals, I mean takes to a whole new level of taking standard Hollywood taboos and doing literally the opposite. It is. SO. GOOD.

More in the realm of what watchers expect to see: BPO attacks, double crossing, rooftop chases, plots and counter plots, and random video game style new skill acquisition. That sounds bad, like all they did was reuse old scenes from the past seasons (coughStarWarscough), but Lana Wachowski and her co-writers kept the action fresh and the characters grew throughout the….episode? Still not sure what to call it besides finale.

Wachowski

The queer-friendly scenes and boundary pushing logic (for standard Hollywood at least) did not disappoint either. That’s really what Sense8 is all about, how people relate to each other. And relationships abound in the latest installment; heterosexual, gay, lesbian, and polyamorous partners all make an appearance within the cluster. Some of them we already know, like Hernando and Lito or Amanita and Nomi, but others are new, like the (not-so) surprise twist in Kala’s love interests Wolfgang and Rajan. It’s so important to see non-heterosexual couples represented in mainstream media, and trans people too!

To the Sense8 team’s credit, they represent the queer community in a way that doesn’t add to the litany of ‘inclusive’ pieces that use the bury your gays trope over and over again. Remember the episode in season two, where Lito comes out in a big way at Sao Paulo Pride? Between the near death experiences with BPO, the show continues to impress with conversations like the ones in that episode among the cluster and their friends and family. They focus on accepting yourself as you are, and not being ashamed of what you want. Sense8’s quiet acceptance and inclusion of ‘alternative lifestyles’ juxtaposed to and folded into its radical (sexual) scenes is a step in the right direction and a model that other mainstream media outlets would do well to follow.

sense8 pride

The aural, visual and thematic plaudits given to the first two seasons of Sense8 remain applicable to the finale, perhaps even more so due to the shortened length. Best of all, “Amor Vincit Omnia” was released in Pride month and celebrates what it is all about: Love.

pride flag sense8

Wombat Style Shines on in “Glitterbug”

With six successful albums and several additional singles, The Wombats have fully established themselves in the indie-rock scene. Formed in 2003, the three-man group has developed its sound with the talents of Matthew Murphy on guitar and vocals, Tord Øverland Knudsen on bass and Dan Haggis on drums. Their latest album, Glitterbug, pulls evocative lyrics and unique vocal and musical style together to form 13 tracks that shine.

In classic Wombat style, even the track titles are outside-the-box, including “Greek Tragedy,” “Be Your Shadow” and “Sex and Question Marks.” “Be Your Shadow” maintains lyrics that rub against the grain of the quick beat and guitar line with lines like “Kiss me with your fist it’s all right/Wrap your hands around my throat I won’t mind.” The album is filled with paradoxes like “Be Your Shadow;” beats that beg dancing with lyrics that taken out context could be poetry or a suicide note. Many of the songs could use more than one listen to fully comprehend the lyrical nuances.  

“Isabel” breaks the paradoxical trend and matches its musical style to the depressed lyrics. The almost acoustic vocal style pairs with an ethereal score and group vocals. It is reminiscent of a music video of a teen staring forlornly out the window while rain pours outside. Despite its differences from the rest of the album “Isabel” maintains the Wombat style in its double edged meaning. Initially, the song runs parallel to standard recent breakup songs. Fortunately, they cut through that haze to make listeners question what exactly Isabel means, who she is, and why the singer needs her so much. A risky move, but it pays off for the Wombats and results in a worthwhile track to listen to.

The standout song on the album is a bonus track called “Flowerball.” Beneath the vocals, everything sounds like it’s slipping through radio static, fuzzy, but bright and upbeat. It is a song for the end of summer, lamenting things that were not accomplished but celebrating the overall joy that came with what was. With lyrics like “You’re my work of modern art/ And I want more,” the song is the best note to end the album on.

Though the Wombats have a distinct sound, it becomes a bit tired when every beat is the same. Glitterbug proved that, as it found 11 different ways to use the same pulsing, dance-step beat and up-tempo speak-singing that happens in most indie rock albums. What redeemed the reuse of the beat were the guitar lines, but even those shadowed each other in style if not in note. Somehow, they have also figured out how to use their somewhat electronic filter to make their vocals sound different for each song. While the overall pitch remains the same, the tone of the songs’ background vocals swing from hard rock in “Your Body is a Weapon” to top 40 in “This Is Not A Party.”

The Wombats’ Glitterbug brings together the electronic sound of Awolnation and the lyrical style of Bastille to make a sound that finds levity in even the most depressing words. Claims that the album is a bit repetitive would not go unfounded, but the overall impression it leaves resonates. The sheer creativity the group has shown in using the same style 13 different ways makes the album interesting and certainly worth a listen on Spotify.

Photo is the copyrighted album cover of “Glitterbug” by the Wombats. 

Critical Thinking, Critical Writing

This semester, I’m taking four journalisms courses. In other words, I’m constantly writing. As a result, I haven’t put much work into this blog. But, I have been blogging for JAM, writing reviews and compiling Q&As with artists from interviews. Thankfully, one of the four classes is a review writing class. It didn’t take long to put the skills I’ve been honing in class to use in my work for JAM.

So, in lieu of generating new content for this blog on top of coursework, I plan on posting the reviews I write for this critical writing class. I genuinely enjoy doing this kind of work, and it is still my original content, so I feel it deserves a place on this site outside of my portfolio. Look forward to theatre, music, visual art, and other types of reviews in the coming months.

See my other current work at JAM Art & Supplies blog.