troian bellisario

A is Everywhere: An Ode to Pretty Little Liars

7 years. 20 days. That’s how long the television show, Pretty Little Liars, which airs its 2 hour series finale tonight at 8 p.m. ET will have been on the air for. I wrote about “PLL” once before, but it didn’t seem right to let today slip away without saying a proper goodbye to a show that has been a part of my life for over the last 6 years.

I watched Pretty Little Liars for the last 6 years and 3 months. In that time my life has changed tremendously. In a way, I like to think that PLL brought about some of that change. Truly it did though. It brought initial exposure to situations I needed to see to help me accept myself and for that I am eternally grateful. It goes beyond that too. I’m thankful for Pretty Little Liars for a lot of reasons and at this point it’s necessary to share them.

So here goes to the show full of secrets and lies:

Thanks for the laughs. Thanks for the headshakes. Thanks for the eyerolls. Thanks for the screams. Thanks for the scares. Thanks for the shocks. Thanks for the excitement. Thanks for the feels. Thanks for the smiles. Thanks for the crazy. Thanks for the madness. Thanks for pushing boundaries. Thanks for the music. Thanks for the nights spent watching with my two friends and the pizza orders, snacks, Hefty Hanna cookies, “Do you have a fork?”, and numerous other laughs and memories. Thanks for the pumpkin decoration idea. Thanks for the days spent trying to figure out the mystery of A’s identity and who killed who. Thanks to Warner Brothers for housing the show and Rosewood for existing during my first trip to California so I could see where all the magic happened. Thanks to Marlene for your creativity and to the rest of the producers, writers, and directors for making this show possible. Thanks to Troian, Shay, Ashley, Lucy, Sasha, Janel, Ian, Tyler, Keegan, Laura, Holly, Chad, Lesley, Nolan, Nia, Lindsey, Tammin, Andrea, Torrey, Drew, Brendan, Cody, Brant, and all the other stars and guest stars of this show for telling this story so well, for introducing me to cool things along the way like LCD Soundsystem, alt-J, Suits, tumblr, Amoeba Records, Crumbs, “Crave You”, Spring Breakers, Dimepiece, All Saints and the Virginia Beer Company to name a few, and for sharing a small part of your lives along the way. Thanks to the rest of the crew for doing all the small things to make one big incredible thing. Thanks for crazy story lines and hilarious one-liners. Thanks for the memorable scenes. Thanks for the tweets and being a social media game-changer. Thanks for the Season 1 binge watch. Thanks for the Halloween costume. Thanks for the coffee mug and key chain. Thanks for never wearing winter coats except in that one Christmas episode. Speaking of, thanks for the Christmas episode, the Halloween episodes, and the Noir episode. They were all special ones. Thanks for making Toby A so we were able to have the moment where Owen was proud of himself for calling it the first time he watched the show. Thanks for the hashtags. Thanks for the drama. Thanks for creepy Cousin Nate. Thanks for “Bitch can see!”. Thanks for “This next song goes out to Hanna from your best friend A! “I Don’t Need You Anymore””, or something like that (still my favorite moment of the show)? Thanks for the ships like Spoby, Haleb, Ezria, Paily, Emaya, Emison (Emily’s really had the most), and most importantly SPARIA! Also most importantly thanks to Sara Shepherd for your creativity, for your books, and bringing this world of a small town on the Philadelphia Main Line to life. Thanks Spencer Hastings, Hanna Marin, Aria Montgomery, and Emily Fields for being the OG liars through thick and thin from Seasons 1-7. Thanks to Alison DiLaurentis for dying, but not really. And finally, thanks to A and everyone who was A (and A.D.!) because without you none of this craziness would exist even though you’re all creepy stalkers. Most of all thanks for being my favorite TV show for the last 6 years and 3 months.

To quote Spencer, “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” That’s what tonight will be for me, but it’s undoubtedly time to move on for everyone. Yet I know many people out there, fans, cast, crew, and creators alike will always hold a piece of Rosewood in their hearts, me included and we all know that regardless of the show ending, A is everywhere. Goodbye Pretty Little Liars. Thank you for everything.

 

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Coachella Band Preview: LCD Soundsystem

Coachella is almost exactly 3 months away. Since the lineup release over a week ago, the days until the annual festival in the desert are decreasing. That only means one thing. It’s time to prep. Start planning your festival attire. Get out the sun tan lotion and listen to some tunes by the bands playing the event this year. As I said last week, even though I won’t be attending Coachella this year (unless there’s some spontaneous miracle), I plan on previewing the bands playing Coachella 2016 in the same way I did last year. The first band on my list is one of the headliners this year, LCD Soundsystem.

Formed in 2001 from New York City, LCD Soundsystem is the brainchild of singer-songwriter, record producer, and DJ, James Murphy. Murphy is also the co-founder of dance music record label DFA Records. Until the 2005 release of their self-titled debut album, LCD Soundsystem only released singles. Their debut album however received much acclaim including a Grammy nomination for Best Electronic/Dance Album. The single “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” received a Grammy nomination for Best Dance Recording in the same year. LCD Soundsystem released their second album, Sound of Silver, in 2007 and it too received a Grammy nomination for Best Electronic/Dance Album. Their third album, This Is Happening, came out in May 2010. It received top-ten status in the United States and was the group’s first album to do so. It was also listed as the number two album of 2010 by Pitchfork and the number 10 album of 2010 by Rolling Stone. Then in early 2011 the band announced on their website that they planned to call it quits, but not before one last farewell show to be played at Madison Square Garden in April. The final four hour long show took place on April 2, 2011 and was filmed as part of a live concert documentary Shut Up and Play the Hits, which was released the following year. Such was the end of LCD Soundsystem…or so we thought.

In late 2015 rumors began swirling that LCD Soundsystem would be reuniting in 2016 and playing some major music festivals. Then on Christmas Eve, a mere 3 weeks ago, the group released their first single in over 5 years “Christmas Will Break Your Heart”. A little over a week later, on January 4, 2016, it was announced the group would be headlining Coachella. The following day, via the group’s website, James Murphy posted this message to fans confirming the reunion of the much loved electronic/dance/punk group.

I was late to the LCD Soundsystem party, first hearing of the group after their “final” show in late 2011. It wasn’t even until over a year after the “final” show that I downloaded any of their music to my iTunes. The first song I heard by the group was “Dance Yrself Clean” and it’s still one of my favorite LCD Soundsystem songs. I eventually listened to more of their music and purchased their self-titled album on vinyl (it’s great on vinyl by the way). I do have to say though that if it wasn’t for my favorite acting/Hollywood couple and fellow music enthusiasts, Troian Bellisario and Patrick J. Adams, I wouldn’t have known this group at all. Thanks guys for the great recommendations!

As I mentioned, LCD Soundsystem is an electronic/dance/punk/alternative style music group. They were around before a lot of today’s EDM artists. Their style is a little different than the current EDM style though. Their music has more of an alternative/punk element. I feel like recent EDM is more pop. Also unlike current EDM artists, LCD Soundsystem’s music features an assortment of instruments and electronic devices, hence the whole “soundsystem” aspect. The group also features a variety of members who played the live shows as part of the group over the years. The most notable members include, Nancy Whang, Pat Mahoney, and Tyler Pope, but include at least 9 more individuals who have played for the band.  Murphy played the majority of the instruments himself while recording the albums.

If I were attending Coachella this year, the LCD Soundsystem set would be one of my most anticipated sets. They join the 2016 festival as a main headliner with Guns N’ Roses, who are also reuniting for Coachella, and Calvin Harris. Murphy and his pals play Saturday night. The LCD Soundsystem set should draw a huge crowd, especially with the large contingency of dance music fans who attend the festival. Not sure if I’ll be able to stay up to watch them perform, but I definitely have planned to try to find a video of their set afterwards. I’m a little jealous I won’t be at Coachella to see them live. Guess I’ll just have to catch an upcoming show somewhere else since the group is getting back together. To get you ready for Saturday night on the main stage though, play these hits:

  1. Dance Yrself Clean
  2. All My Friends
  3. Daft Punk is Playing at My House
  4. Drunk Girls
  5. Someone Great
  6. New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down
  7. Tribulations
  8. I Can Change
  9. Yeah
  10. North American Scum
  11. Tribulations

The Greenback Boogie

When you’re a big fan of something, whether it be a band, song, movie, TV show, actor, team, athlete, etc., you tend to want to know more about whatever it is you’re a fan of. When I became a Pretty Little Liars fan in March 2011, I did just that. I started learning about the show, the crew, the books, and the actresses who play Emily, Aria, Hanna, and Spencer, the show’s main characters. I learned that Ashley Benson is a huge jokester on set. I learned Lucy Hale has a dog named Jack. Shay Mitchell loves pizza and Troian Bellisario has the best taste in music (according to my definition of best). What does that have to do with anything? Well I also learned about who the girls were dating at the time and how Troian’s boyfriend, Patrick J. Adams, was actually a guest star on Pretty Little Liars in the second episode of Season 1. Not to mention, he’s just as cool as she is so I started following him too.

Shortly after his guest appearance on PLL, Patrick landed a starring role on the USA Network legal drama, Suits. The longer I followed both Troian and Patrick on social media the more I realized I should probably check Suits out, especially since Troian spoke so highly of it. Fortunately I had an unbiased friend who also watched Suits so I asked him about it. He had the same response and encouraged me to watch. I bought the first season on DVD (the show was on its second season at the time) and I was captivated from the very first episode.

Created by Aaron Korsh, Suits is about the workings of a powerful New York City law firm, Pearson-Hardman (which is now known as something else but I didn’t want to post spoilers) and how a bike messenger named Mike Ross (Adams), who has an exceptional memory of anything he’s ever seen, heard, read, etc., convinces one of the best attorneys at the firm, Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht), to give him a position there as an associate even though he never went to Harvard Law (or any law school for that matter) and acquired a law degree. From there, drama related to every day and not-so-every day law firm life ensues, while the very few who know Mike’s secret stand to protect it and him from being figured out.

Suits is now in its 5th season and has been renewed for a 6th season. Through its run on USA Network, Suits has received several award nominations and has garnered positive reception from critics and fans alike. For me, it’s one of those shows that you need to pay attention to. If you don’t, you could miss something since much of the drama involves legal practices. However, it’s doesn’t go above your head if you know nothing about law. Plus, there are plenty of funny moments in the show that keep it from being all drama all the time. Fans of the show have come to love the movie line banter between Harvey and Mike, Harvey’s awesomely confident and clever secretary, Donna Paulsen (Sarah Rafferty), the strange and sometimes annoying antics of Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman), another top attorney at Pearson-Hardman, and the mystery of what exactly the can opener ritual is. Like in any good drama, there’s also the element of romance. The chemistry between Mike and fellow co-worker/paralegal Rachel Zane (Meghan Markle) is some of the best I’ve seen on television. Their scene in the copy room at the end of Season 2 is one of the show’s most memorable.

Suits really has it all. It can be serious, nerve-racking, funny, sad, sweet, and totally badass all in one episode. For those interested in legal dramas, this isn’t one to miss. Even with five seasons in the books, it won’t be difficult to catch up because the story will hook you. Suits currently airs on USA Network, Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. ET. Watch and be prepared because at some point you’ll get Litt Up!

Coachella Band Preview: Alt-J

With 43 days left until Weekend One of Coachella 2015, music prep time continues to run out. That’s why today I’m previewing another band playing a bigger role in this year’s festival compared to the last time they played in 2013.

Formed in 2007, English indie rock band Alt-J has exploded on the indie music scene within the last two and a half years since the release of their first album An Awesome Wave in 2012. Their name comes from their symbol ∆ (the delta sign) which can be typed on a Mac by pressing alt-j (I actually did it to type the symbol in this sentence…so cool). Members Joe Newman, Thom Green, Gus Unger-Hamilton and former member Gwil Sainsbury (replaced by Cameron Knight this past year) created the band while studying at Leeds University. They eventually signed a record deal in late 2011 and released An Awesome Wave that following spring (although it wasn’t released in America until September 2012).

I first heard of Alt-J one Saturday morning in October 2012 right before heading out of the house. One of my favorite actresses, Troian Bellisario (star of TV’s Pretty Little Liars), had posted about the song “Breezeblocks” to some form of social media. I listened to it and downloaded it right after while I was waiting for my mom to be ready to go to where ever we were going that morning. I remember being in the process of downloading it when my mom said she was ready to leave. A day later I downloaded the song “Something Good”. Since that time I would hear an Alt-J song here or there and download it. It wasn’t until this past September when Alt-J released their Grammy nominated second album This is All Yours that I decided I needed to get the album on vinyl (ended up getting it for Christmas).

Although I knew about Alt-J for a little over 2 years I never went through a major phase when I listened to them constantly. I feel like they’re the kind of band you put on when you’re just relaxing in your room. Their sound is basically indie music with electronics that create this (at times) Arabian-like style especially in songs like “Fitzpleasure” and “Taro”. It could partially be Newman’s vocals that create that effect as well. Its definitely something to listen to. The hit off their latest album “Left Hand Free” has more of an indie rock feel, but still has that same unique Alt-J sound that is evident in all their music.

This year at Coachella they’re playing the Saturday date on Weekend One and Weekend Two in more of a headlining role. With their rise in the indie scene and the amount of sold-out shows they’ve played, it’s only natural to see them on the main stage this time around. It should be one of the highlights of the weekend for sure. With not much prep time left, it’s time to start checking these guys out.

Song recommendations:

1. “Breezeblocks”

2. “Left Hand Free”

3. “Fitzpleasure”

4. “Something Good”

5. “Warm Foothills”

6. “Tessellate”

7. “Every Other Freckle”

8. “Pusher”

9. “Hunger on the Pine” (As a side note, this song features Miley Cyrus…so let that sink in.)

10. “Taro”

Two Can Keep A Secret If One of Them is Dead

In the television world, every once in a while there’s a show that has a greater impact on its viewers than the rest of programs on TV. I guess if you’re a fan of any TV show you could probably make a case for that to be true. That being said, I might be a little biased here but the numbers and TV ratings don’t lie. Since its pilot episode 4 1/2 years ago, Pretty Little Liars has continued to change the television game.

The show is based off a book series by Sara Shepherd, set in the fictitious Philadelphia mainline suburb, Rosewood, which tells the story of four best friends, Spencer (played on the show by Troian Bellisario), Aria (Lucy Hale), Hanna (Ashley Benson), and Emily (Shay Mitchell), who get stalked, bullied, and tortured through a series of mysterious text messages and notes from an anonymous person who refers to him or herself as “A”. Of course the girls started to receive the messages after the body of their other best friend, Alison, who was missing for a year was found buried in her own backyard. Sounds like an interesting plot line right? Well it only gets better from there. This show is filled with more than just secrets and lies as it confronts the topics of sexuality, adultery, mental illness, drugs and alcohol to name a few. Pretty Little Liars, or “PLL” as referred to by some (myself included), pushed these risky topics over the last 4 years and almost 5 full seasons since it debuted in June of 2010. It most likely won’t stop either as the show has already been picked up for two more seasons making it ABC Family’s longest running original series.

While touring the Warner Brothers lot in September 2013, I caught some of the outside sets.

While touring the Warner Brothers lot in September 2013, I caught some of the outside sets.

I began watching the show one late afternoon in March 2011 while I was flicking channels on the TV for something to watch. A Pretty Little Liars marathon happened to be airing that day in preparation for the first season finale later that evening. It caught my eye and reeled me in shortly after. I ended up watching about 4-5 episodes to the point where I was dying to watch the season finale at 8 p.m. that night. The season premiere of Dancing with the Stars also aired at 8 that night and my plan before any of this happened was to watch that (yeah I watch Dancing with the Stars…thanks mom). Luckily I saw the finale aired again at 10 and was able to watch it then. I didn’t realize it at the time but watching Pretty Little Liars was a complete game changer in my life for multiple reasons.

That same evening of the finale it was announced that the second season of the show would be premiering in early June and I did everything in my power until the premiere to watch the entire first season of the show. The first season wasn’t available on DVD yet so I ended up purchasing the first 6 episodes on my Playstation. I planned to eventually buy the first season on DVD so purchasing all the episodes was entirely unnecessary. That’s when I was finally able to find some internet site that had the episodes available to watch. So watch them I did. It was also my last semester of college and I used to reward myself for studying/doing schoolwork by watching episodes. I couldn’t always binge straight through either because the website I watched them on would make you take a half hour break or so before it allowed you to watch another 90 minutes or something like that (I forget the exact amount of break and watch time now as you can tell). It was a pain but still it allowed me to get caught up on Season 1.

During those 2-3 months until the premiere I also convinced my very close family friend, Sarah (aka Beans) to get into the show. She had friends who watched it but never gave it a chance until I explained how good it was and showed her the first few episodes. She got into it too. We planned on watching the premiere together/getting together every week to watch Pretty Little Liars. Thus, PLL nights were born. Towards the end of that summer (mid-season of season 2) I invited our mutual friend Owen to join us in watching the show since we hung out a lot on Tuesdays and always had to take him home before Pretty Little Liars (he never watched it until then). That night he became a mainstay in our PLL nights and we’ve been getting together to watch the show ever since.

Another outside set on the WB lot.

Another outside set on the WB lot.

Pretty Little Liars has had a huge impact on my life and the lives of many others. It’s nothing short of amazing as it’s continually referenced as the most tweeted about show on television. With an average audience of over 2.5 million viewers, it’s easy to see why. The season two finale which promised a reveal of the true identity of “A” grossed around 3.69 million viewers and generated around 645,000 tweets at a peak rate of 32,000 tweets per minute (we lost it when the first “A” was revealed). The dedicated fan base consists of mostly girls and women between the ages of 12-34. To pull in this crowd, there are many romantic moments and relationships (the ships…Ezria forever) and an emphasis on fashion despite the plot focus on the mystery surrounding the death of Alison and the stalker “A”.

As Pretty Little Liars gets set to begin the second half of its 5th season this evening its audience can only be set to expect more mind-blowing plot twists, steamy moments between the show’s most loved couples, and maybe a final reveal of this “A” character who was thought to be revealed several times before (but probably not as there will be at least two more seasons of this creeper’s antics). You really never know what can happen on Pretty Little Liars. Two things about the show are for sure though. The first is that Pretty Little Liars’ cultural impact through digital and social media and the risky issues it wasn’t afraid to cover will be remembered by its viewers for years to come (not to mention it will be remembered by all the fun nights I shared watching it with my two favorites) and the second is that “A” is everywhere.

The famous PLL pink golf cart. (Bitches is censored)

The famous PLL pink golf cart. (Bitches is censored)

(FYI if you were wondering where those numbers came from:

Bibel, Sara (March 20, 2012). “Monday Cable Ratings: ‘WWE RAW,’ ‘Pretty Little Liars’ Top Night + ‘American Chopper,’ ‘Basketball Wives,’ ‘Lost Girl’ & More”. TV by the Numbers. Retrieved March 20, 2012.

http://www.thefutoncritic.com/ratings/2012/03/20/abc-familys-pretty-little-liars-finale-generates-the-most-social-media-buzz-in-television-history-networks-number-1-telecast-ever-in-women-18-34-144411/20120320abcfamily01/ )