Caleb McLaughlin

Everyday is Christmas: Album Review

For the last 5 years or so when it comes to Christmas, I’m the Scrooge. Christmas used to be my favorite holiday because I loved Christmas time and everything that came with it – the lights, trees, gifts, music, everything. Now, I lack Christmas spirit. Sure, I still shop for gifts and decorate and just go through the motions, but I lack the enthusiasm I used to have. Another thing I’ve stopped doing is listening to Christmas music. I used to search for Christmas music by bands I liked at the time instead of listening to classics. Although, I would listen to a few like “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” and “Dominic the Donkey”. It was something I always used to do until I got over the whole Christmas thing. I thought this year was going to be pretty much the same, but then Sia dropped a Christmas album filled with all original music.

Everyday is Christmas was released on November 17th. The album features 10 original Christmas themed songs. Sia also released a music video for the single “Santa’s Coming For Us” which stars Kristen Bell and her husband Dax Shepherd, Caleb McLaughlin, Sophia Lillis, Wyatt Oleff, Susan Lucci, Henry Winkler, and J.B. Smoove. It was released a few days after the album. The album, as well as several songs from it, have made their way on to music charts throughout the world despite receiving mixed album reviews. I can understand the mixed reviews though.

The sound of the album strays somewhat from Sia’s regular albums solely for the fact that it is a Christmas album. It’s jazzier at times. The lyrics are frivolous and kind of ridiculous (I mean she sings a song about puppies!). However, Sia’s vocals are so powerfully distinct that it saves the album. There’s also several Sia style ballads that stray from a few of the jazzier Christmas jams.

Personally, I love it. I’ve been waiting for a while for an artist I like to release a Christmas album like this. Most times bands or artists just sing Christmas covers or write a new song or two and the rest cover the classics. Not this. It’s all original. So even though, yeah it is ridiculous, it’s also Christmas music and Christmas music is ridiculous. As someone who hasn’t been vibing anything Christmas for a few years, this got me to listen to Christmas music this year. So if you’re up for a change from the regular Christmas stuff, this is a great refresher.

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She’s Our Friend And She’s Crazy

Last summer, Netflix released a series that transported viewers back to the 1980’s as part of a sci-fi drama set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana. The series, Stranger Things, was an immediate hit and rightfully so. The attention to cinematic detail and inspired story line is an ode to 80’s horror and science fiction films. Today Netflix released the second season of the Emmy-winning series.

The setting of Stranger Things begins when a young boy, Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), disappears through supernatural means to another dimension, “The Upside Down”, and follows the journey of the Will’s friends’ and mother Joyce’s (Winona Ryder) quest to find him again. Will’s friends, Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), also receive help in finding him from a mysterious girl they encounter with psychokinetic abilities who goes by the name, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown). The cast also includes David Harbour as police chief Jim Hopper, Cara Buono as Mike’s mother Karen Wheeler, Natalia Dyer as Mike’s sister Nancy Wheeler, Charlie Heaton as Will’s brother Jonathan Byers, Joe Keery as Nancy’s boyfriend Steve Harrington, Shannon Purser as Nancy’s best friend Barbara “Barb” Holland, and Matthew Modine as scientist Martin Brenner. The series was created by twin brothers, Matt and Ross Duffer, known professionally as “The Duffer Brothers”.

When creating the series, The Duffers used influences from other science fiction and horror films as well as from Stephen King novels. In fact the name “Stranger Things” was similar to the name of King’s novel “Needful Things”. The brothers also used influence from King’s novel “Firestarter” for the name as well. While filming the series, it was the Duffers’ intention to pay homage to as many 1980’s films as they could by creating similarities to the films like using every day objects and turning them into supernatural means of communication (the Christmas lights), using similar film shots, and using a Leica lens and 6K Red Scarlet Dragon (80’s film equipment) to shoot. The head of props also used eBay, flea markets, and estate sales to find as many 1980’s artifacts as possible to use for props for the series. Almost all of the props were authentic, aside from some pieces, like the Dungeons & Dragons books, that needed to be replicated for the show.

I began hearing about the show some time in late August-September of 2016, but I didn’t watch it for another 3 months. I started watching it in mid-December. I wasn’t sure if I’d be into it, but I decided to give it a chance because there was a lot of hype surrounding the series. It definitely hooked me, although I wouldn’t claim to be a super fan. I still don’t understand the hype over, “Barb” (to be honest, not even The Duffer Brothers anticipated that). The series is entertaining though and highly reminiscent of 80’s films. Honestly, it really isn’t something I’d normally watch, but I like the fact that the kids in the series play leading roles. I think that’s what attracted me to it, if anything. I like a good coming of age story. This definitely isn’t coming of age, but I attributed the kids as leads to that.

As I mentioned, the second season of Stranger Things, titledĀ Stranger Things 2, released today on Netflix. The second season begins close to a year after the first season began as it approaches the anniversary of Will’s disappearance. The characters are still dealing with the aftermath of what went down a year ago. The new season also sees some new faces join the cast with Sadie Sink as new girl Max, Dacre Montgomery as Max’s older stepbrother Billy, Sean Astin as Joyce’s new boyfriend Bob Newby, and Paul Reiser as Department of Energy executive Owens. I began watching it this morning. I’ve already watched the first two episodes. I love a good binge, but I’m going to try to savor these 9 episodes as much as I can, which is why I took a break to write this blog post. If you’re reading this, I guess you’re probably taking a break too, but if you’re not and you’re now interested in the series, log on to your Netflix account and give the acclaimed series Stranger Things a chance, mouth-breather.