Another 3 months of COVID-19 induced lockdown has come and the world is still not back to normal. For us, that meant finding more ways to keep ourselves entertained and away from all the politicizing of things like wearing masks, washing your hands and keeping your mouth breathing disease factory 6 feet away from others.
With that in mind, here is what we feel is the best stuff we have been consuming in the second quarter of 2020.
Video Game: Final Fantasy 7 Remake
I have only finished one Final Fantasy game ever, and that was Final Fantasy 13. The rest I have tried and failed at completing. I just didn’t have enough time to commit to this type of game.
Now that Coroniamania is running wild, I have a lot of free time on my hands. So I decided to try my hand at playing the most recent of the Final Fantasy games, Final Fantasy 7 remake. I did play the original back in the day, but I never got past disc 1. So while parts of the game had a familiarity, the majority of it was a whole new experience. As of this writing, I have finished the game on Normal mode.
This game is graphically stunning for running on such old hardware like the PS4’s. Square Enix really did a phenomenal job maximizing what they could of the PS4 for this game. This is especially true when you start to reach the later chapters of the game.
Secondly, the gameplay is very fluid. There are no weird loading times, and you move from cut scenes to live-action in an instant. Each area of Midgar is expansive, and there are lots to explore. The only real issue I have with the game engine is the camera, which can be a real pain in the ass sometimes.
Otherwise, Final Fantasy 7 remake is a very immersive experience that really helps kill the hours away during this lockdown period.
Album: (G)I-DLE – I TRUST
(G)I-DLE’s profile rose significantly after their appearance on MNET’s Queendom. Their trademark uniqueness carries over from that program into their latest release, I TRUST. The previous 2 albums in this series were very pop-friendly. I TRUST, on the other hand, has more of an experimental feel to it.
The lead single Oh My God does an excellent job of showcasing what made (G)I-DLE so different on Queendom.
Album: K E I_H A Y A S H I – K E I_H A Y A S H I 1 EP
More random clicking on stuff in Apple Music resulted in the discovery of Kei Hayashi. This album can be best described as a blend of pop and soul music. It’s an engaging 22 minutes that is worth checking out.
TV Show: NIZI Project Season 2
The second season of NIZI Project started in April and is already proving to be entertaining. Spoilers from the episodes that aired, 4 contestants got additional cubes to add to their pendants. For those who watched the first season, one person should be prominent. The other 2 were a surprise to me as they didn’t show much in the Tokyo boot camp but really stepped up their game once they got some proper training in South Korea.
Single: Secret Number – Who Dis
Secret Number are a 5-member girl group who made their debut in May with the Hip-Pop flavoured song Who Dis. For me this got lost in the shuffle of the plethora of girl group releases in 2020.
Once I got around to listening to it I was pleased with what I heard. The song is quite catchy even if it might be considered a bit generic by North American standards. It caught my attention enough for me to be curious about whether they can have an equally good follow up or not.
Single: IU feat. SUGA – eight
I know who IU is but I’m not exactly a follower of her music. I first heard this song while browsing the new releases on Apple Music. It has a bit of dreamy quality to it. That feeling is further enhanced by the concept of the song’s music video.
The song left enough of an impression on me that I did seek a vocal track for it to remix. You can check that out here.
TV Show: NIZI Project
I found some time to watch the final episodes of NIZI Project and I was surprised at who made it into the group. Some such as the JYP trainees (with the exception of Yuna) were locks to get in. While others like Mayuka and Ayaka were not highly projected to get in, especially the former. To be fair, Mayuka did improve immensely in the final few songs so may be it is not that big of shock she made it all the way to the end. The final 9-member lineup of the group now called NiziU has a nice variety of members and their pre-debut single (discussed later) wasn’t too bad of a start.
Album: Heize – Lyricist
Heize has become one of my favorite female solo artists in K-Pop. Her latest EP Lyricist has her dropping some chilled out introspective tracks. Albums like this are a nice break from all the girl group material I normally consume.
Single: NiziU – Make You Happy
Speaking of girl groups, there is the latest one from JYP called NiziU (pronounced as “Need You”). Formed from the survival reality program NIZI Project, the group consists of 9 Japanese members who are trained under the K-Pop idol system with the goal of becoming a global girls group similar to their seniors TWICE.
Their pre-debut single is called Make You Happy and it either sounds childish and silly or is a pretty decent reject TWICE song. I am in the camp of the latter group. I am incredibly biased since I watched both seasons intently and had invested some hope that some of the girls I liked would make it to the end.
So yeah. I like the song and the timing for its release makes it a prime candidate for a summer type of tune.
Software: Ableton Live 10, Reason 10, Logic Pro X
I’m going to add these pieces of software in here since I have spent most of my free time over the past 3 months within them. It’s learning how to properly use these applications that has taken away some time from my regular group of articles.
For those who are not familiar with what these programs are they are basically music production and performance software. Ableton and Reason are my primary applications for music making. Logic for me is mostly used in the final mixdown and mastering of a track.
All of these programs are used to compose the remixes I post on the site. Ableton is also used to create the monthly DJ mixes I put up since I don’t really have enough space in my home now for my full DJ setup.
Group: Red Velvet
I watched a lot of Seulgi and Sunmi together on the TV show, Secret Unnie.
Youtube Channel: Adam Savage’s Tested
One of the Mythbusters is a life-long builder and cosplayer. I’ve been going through the YouTube channel and watching a lot of his one-day builds. Not only do I learn some things, but it’s fun to see someone’s process. Plus, I’ve been following the channel years before Adam was even attached so it’s nice to see what they have been up to.
Album: Black Thought – Streams of Thought. Vol 2
Black Thought and The Roots have been in heavy rotation for me this year, and I find myself returning this solo effort from the frontman/rapper. Love that each volume is produced by a single person, and this album has a cohesion to it I really enjoy.
Playlist – House Focus
Shout-out to Greg! Although he didn’t direct me to this Spotify playlist, I’ve been meaning to listen to more house, and through this I was able to get some solid recommendations from him, so maybe in a future edition of this you might see some House from me!
Single: Gunjo no Sekai – Aozora Moment
Upon the music video release for Aozora Moment back in March, I have been a little more than obsessed with the song. After finally tracking down the full release on Spotify sometime in April, I was able to enjoy the release in full. It’s a classic, orthodox idol release if anything, but it’s a lot of fun, plus the coupling tracks are catchy, memorable numbers that will appeal to most fans of idol pop. Yume wo Katatte Ikite Ikuno is especially good, and probably the strongest track on here.
There are an additional four versions of the title track, all of which are solo renditions of the song from whichever member’s CD version you happen to pick up. It’s a nice addition, and gives the listener a better idea of what each singer sounds like. It’s definitely a favourite of mine from April, seeing as I haven’t really stopped listening to it.
Album: tiny little charm – 20204
With their first album release since their start in late 2019, tiny little charm delivers a release that aims to create a variety of feelings perfect for the spring season. From romantic tracks to those that speak about the difficulties of spring, this is a charming little album that will keep you entertained throughout its eight-track duration.
This is a new addition to my ever-growing playlist, however, I have taken to it very quickly upon discovering one of the groups songs, flora, which is also present on this tracklist. 20204 is extremely pleasing to the ears, and I can’t fault it in terms of its sound or its vocals.
Single: Halca ‘Toki Toshite Violence’
Best described as a whirlwind of energetic happiness, Toki Toshite Violence by hacla is a great single for fans of AniSong and sweet voices. With three different tracks to enjoy, this catchy and memorable single has been a staple of mine for the month of May, and continues to stand strong a few months after.
I simply love everything about this single, it makes me happy and I think that all of the songs can be enjoyed together or alone. It is nothing but a joy to listen to, and I am happy that this was my introduction to halca and her infectious energy.
Anime: My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!
It has been a fair few years since I was last watching a full season of anime, but there was something about the isekai anime, My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! That charmed me. Perhaps it was the nostalgia of the generic lead character’s traits (read: stupid and a glutton but cute nonetheless), or maybe it was the idea of someone being reborn as a certain character, and them doing their best to rewrite their story. Whatever attracted me to this anime, it hooked me, and I am already anticipating season 2, which is set for a 2021 release.
I simply adored this anime, and whilst it does have a fairly basic lead-heroine model for any given shoujo series, I can’t deny the amount of happiness and laughter this anime delivered. It was entertaining to sit through, and I would happily re-watch it if the mood arises.
Mini-Album: Kimura Yuka ‘rainy’
Made up of six fantastic songs, rainy has quickly become one of my favourite mini-albums released this year. Granted, I didn’t listen to it in full until the dead end of June, but I was already familiar with three of its tracks prior to its release, so had a good understanding of its sound and feel. It’s a beautifully put-together mini-album, and I love every song.
It’s a joy to listen to, and though it might not be everyone’s cup of tea when it comes to music, it’s one of my favourites of the year already. I think that I will continue listening to this throughout the rest of the year because I consider it to be such a strong and memorable mini-album.
Single: Houkago Princess ‘Shakunetsu no Mystery Eye / Zesse Cleopatra’
Released a month ahead of schedule, Houkago Princesses latest single is a great fusion of their past and present sound in two brand new songs. Themed around the Desert Queen Cleopatra, one song focuses on a more heated summer dance sound, whilst the second delivers a hit of nostalgia thanks to the return of Ishitani Hikari as a composer.
I really love this single, which isn’t surprising: it’s Houkago Princess. That said, it’s a damn good release from them, with Shakunetsu no Mystery Eye encompassing a new, refreshing sound in the form of a dance track that is already winning over the fans. Zesse Cleopatra is far more familiar, and my favourite of the two, but both songs manage to balance one another out, and they flow seamlessly between the other despite their differences in tone. It’s a wonderful single, simply put, and I have been playing it on a loop for far too many days (and weeks) since the single was released on digital platforms.
Album: Awesome City Club – Grow apart
I have always loved their chill beats for years and this one doesn’t disappoint. It’s a great compliment to some Animal Crossing shenanigans.
Video Game: Final Fantasy 7 Remake
Game of the Year (so far). Went hard into my FF7 fandom with so many callbacks and expanded the world of Midgar not only in its environment but it’s characters as well. Combat is so good and I felt like I could lay down some punishment with any character. Hard Mode is no joke. The music is the real killer for me, it has such an influence on the story, cutscenes, battles, and all the little subtleties. I haven’t had such an emotional attachment to a game in a long time; laughter, tears, hype and intrigue for what will happen next. As for my theory level for the future of the series, I’m at level five.
For those who want to see a playthrough from a hardcore admirer of the original game, I suggest checking out Maximilian Dood. He shares some of the same feelings and emotions I did during my gameplay journey.
Anime: Hi Score Girl | Netflix Official Site
Set in the 1990s, Haruo Yaguchi was a hardcore gamer that loves to play fighting games but meets his match when a quiet girl Akira Ono beats him at Street Fighter II. Haruo decides to make Akira her rival and challenges her to a bunch of other videogames. What attracted me to the series was the use of the real sprites and graphics for the different games. You see Haruo geek out about what, what is now the classic videogame systems and arcade games. The characters also grow up and you get to see the new games and systems as they come out during the run of the show. Throw in a love triangle, arcade gang rivalries, and lovable characters, you’ve got an endearing slice of life anime series that stands out. Hopefully the rumors of a third season somes soon.
Docuseries: The Last Dance | Netflix Official Site
My love of basketball has been defined by two teams: the 93-94, 94-95 Houston Rockets and the 90s Chicago Bulls teams. Watching Michael Jordan as a kid was watching Superman and I got to relive that feeling watching The Last Dance. Now I get to see all the behind the scenes stories I didn’t know growing up like how Jerry Krause got along with the team or Dennis Rodman’s Las Vegas trip, Jordan’s gambling issues, or Steve Kerr’s father. It was great to see how Nike scored Jordan on his shoe deal when he wanted to be at Adidas and also the pick up games he did shooting Space Jam. They tackle a lot more, Jordan playing baseball, the death of his father, the Dream Team, and every story was great to watch. It was sad to see Kobe and Michael going at it at the All Star Game knowing that Kobe’s death had happened earlier this year. Now the whole series is on Netflix and I highly recommend it to everyone.
EP: TWICE – More & More
After a nine month absence, TWICE returns to record breaking preorders and overall sales with the release of More & More. OT9 is at full power with a sultry tropical house summer song backed up by an intense dance. As much as I prefer the previous title track, Feel Special, over More & More, I’m enjoying the album more as a whole over the previous one. My favorite B-sides are Oxygen, Sweet Summer Day, and Make Me Go. With over 700 scrobbles, TWICE was on repeat for two weeks until…
EP: IZ*ONE – Oneiric Diary
After the massively delayed release of the album BLOOM*IZ, IZ*ONE returns after five months with Oneiric Diary. I remember staying up to watch the comeback show and falling in love with the funky smooth Merry-Go-Round and Secret Story of the Swan. What I do appreciate is that there are Japanese versions of these songs. I’m generally not a fan of their ballads but I really liked With You. With over 1500 scrobbles, I enjoyed listening to this EP more than their BLOOM*IZ album. Their only blemish is the SSS music video, I found it to be a huge step down over Fiesta. I’m actually glad they delayed the release, if I saw the video first I know I wouldn’t have bought the physical versions of Oneiric Diary.
K-Drama: It’s Okay to Not Be Okay | Netflix Official Site
One of the hobbies I picked up being on extended staycation is watching more Korean dramas. I’ve seen a bunch of stinkers before so I had a bad taste going into this summer. Netflix has a bunch of recommendations so I’m bound to find something. It was around the end of June where It’s Okay to Not Be Okay got recommended and I knew I heard about the show before. Jang Gyuri from fromis_9 was going to make an appearance as one of the nurses on the show, so I thought to at least try to find her.
I’m glad to say that I became a fan of the show right off the bat. Seo Ye-ji plays Ko Moonyoung, a beautiful children’s author with a crazy personality disorder. Her costars are Kim Soo-hyun and Oh Jung-se, Moon Gang Tae and Moon Sang Tae respectively. Gang Tae becomes the object of her affections while he tries to take care of his autistic brother Sang Tae. What we get to see is a great supporting cast that all interweaves with our three main characters. What we get besides the main love story between Moonyoung and Gang Tae is underlying stories about each of their lost mothers.
Plus we see a very well respected depiction of dealing with people with mental health issues from the hospital patients to Sang Tae’s evolution. This was my main summer show, I couldn’t wait to see every new episode every Saturday and Sunday. If I had to recommend a kdrama to anyone, it will be It’s Okay to Not Be Okay.