Album Reviews, Arts & Entertainment, Books, Film and TV

What we liked this winter break

Amid a well-deserved break from classes and assignments, here is what the Arts & Entertainment section was reading, watching, and listening to over winter break. 

Lust for Life by Lana Del Rey – Lily

As a fan of Lana Del Rey, I have every single one of her songs memorized. But, I usually only listen to the same two albums, NFR! and Ocean Boulevard, due to their similar production style and strong lyricism. This break, I decided to change things up and listen to Lust for Life, an album from 2017, which I often describe as my least favourite. The middle chunk of the album, with its cliché lyrics and uninspiring instrumentals, doesn’t necessarily stand out to me.

I noticed on this listen how strong the majority of these songs are—despite a few duds—especially in context of the entire album. Part of why I now enjoy it so much is because this album marked a change in her discography. Lana opens herself up to happiness and she is, as the title suggests, lusting for life. Closing with “Get Free”—arguably one of her best songs—I’ve always interpreted it as her singing about growing up and learning how to see life through a less idealistic lens than in previous albums. Lana is moving on from painting her world in a way she wishes it would be and instead begins to sing about it in the way it actually is. Lust for Life marks Lana’s exit, in her words, “out of the black, [and] into the blue” in her own life, but also in her music career. 

Percy Jackson and the Olympians – Mia

Among the wave of shows released this winter, Percy Jackson and the Olympians (2023) stands out as a heartwarming and nostalgic adventure, based on the beloved book series of the same name. In a world filled with the gods, monsters, and mayhem of Greek mythology, 12-year-old Percy Jackson (Walker Scobell) must journey across the United States with his questmates Annabeth (Leah Sava Jeffries) and Grover (Aryan Simhadri) to free his mother (Virginia Kull) from the Underworld and retrieve Zeus’ stolen lightning bolt. The trio faces new monsters and deities from the mythos, aligning Percy with Theseus, Perseus, Bellerophon, Orestes, and many more legendary heroes. 

Instead of being stuck in the novels’ mid-aughts past, the series updates iPod-Touch and side-swept-hair Percy to floss-dancing young Percy, letting him resonate with the show’s Gen Z audience. Percy Jackson, in all its mediums, revives ancient stories for contemporary audiences, reflecting the spirit of evolving storytelling.

Although the pilot was fast-paced, subsequent episodes honed in on the friendship between Percy, Annabeth, and Grover. Amid all the action, chemistry-laced scenes among these three heroes wove an emotional heartbeat into the story. If you’re looking for an engaging show that brings you back to your childhood, Percy Jackson and the Olympians awaits. 

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden – Isobel

Katherin Arden’s debut novel, The Bear and the Nightingale, the first book of her Winternight Trilogy, offers a mesmerizing journey set in a fantastical medieval Russia that blends Russian classics, folklore, and mythology. Arden’s lyrical prose creates an enchanting tale perfect for winter.

At the heart of the story is Vasilisa “Vasya” Petrovna, the stubborn and quick-witted protagonist who can communicate with ancient spirits of the land. Through them, she helps maintain harmony between her village and the formidable wilderness. However, when her father marries a devout noblewoman, which disrupts the balance between modern religion and ancient beliefs, Vasya becomes the family’s sole hope against impending evil spirits. 

Arden’s rich description paints a vivid portrait of life in medieval Russia, immersing readers in the atmospheric northern landscapes. She captures the essence of classic Western fairy tales, managing to seamlessly integrate spirits from Russian folklore and to evoke the coldness of the setting as a character in its own right. Vasya stood out to me because of her gentle strength and determination. Her connection to the landscape immerses the reader into the story. Though the novel progressed gradually, I was still gripping the pages to see what would happen next, and I can’t wait to read the next book.

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