To be honest… December 2021
Dreams and gratitude
I started Actually/Certainly a few years ago to write more in-depth essays and analyses of my different media. But I feel like it’s a missed opportunity to not share my lighter thoughts on the media that I casually consume.
Welcome to a monthly newsletter of approved and disapproved pieces of media, from EPs to playlists, feature films to video essays, and articles to novels.
MUSIC: UNBOTHERED by Oompa - ⭐⭐⭐⭐
I learned about Boston award-winning artist Oompa from the posters of UNBOTHERED’s release party at Paradise Rock Club, which were plastered all over the Allston-Brighton area. After finally getting the chance to listen to the album, I regret not trying to go. The album is filled with much-needed positive energy and joy that it would have been amazing to witness live.
Oompa dominates the album with her deep and soulful vocals, making most of her featured artists unnecessary. It is difficult to match her energy, especially how her versatility as a poet, rapper, and vocalist shines all throughout the 12 tracks. Paired with gospel riffs, funky bass lines, and ethereal harmonies, Oompa creates a spiritual ride that starts out strong and inspirational with AMEN and settles contently and somberly with EVERYTHING GOOD.
Standout tracks are AMEN, DEEP, and GO. AMEN starts the album with a prayer of gratitude and instantly delves into the strongest chorus of the album and a prominent bassline that never gets boring. DEEP is a simple but seductive R&B song, a break from the previous high energy tracks, but highlights Oompa’s vocal ability and control. GO has the best groove and balance of energies, which is perfect as the penultimate song.
Although many of the tracks in-between slightly fall through because of unremarkable music production, there are no marks against Oompa for UNBOTHERED. I would say my own prayer of thanks for this spiritual journey.
BOOK: The Anatomy of Dreams by Chloe Benjamin - ⭐⭐
High school students Sylvie and Gabe find themselves entangled in their headmaster, Dr. Adrian Keller’s, research on the therapeutic potentials of lucid dreaming. For the next six years, the two of them follow Keller across the country in pursuit of pushing the boundaries of consciousness. Their research takes a turn when Sylvie begins to question the morals of their research and learns about the truth of her participation in Keller’s research.
As with dreaming, the book isn’t linear. I enjoyed trying to piece together the different timelines given to make sense of what happened in the past and the future. Other times, I began to question which dreams were real and which weren’t. Benjamin cemented her ability to craft a mysterious but compelling tone.
I am not sure how much truth there was behind the science presented. Regardless, I appreciated how their research was written with barely any jargon. Unlike some science fiction novels, it was easy to follow the logic of Keller’s research, which emphasized the novelty of his take on lucid dreaming.
But it was difficult to connect with any of the characters. Many of their dialogues and actions were questionable in terms of realism. I don’t think many literary Ph.D. students immediately recite Keats when meeting new people.
There also seemed to be no alarming conflict till the very end, which was revealed abruptly. The smaller conflicts that led to the main issue were based on mostly paranoia and speculation. Neighbors questioning the ethics of their work and a potential investigation on a patient gone wrong never develop into actual risk for the characters.
Lastly, the big revelation at the end undid the earlier parts of the plot that Benjamin worked hard on building. Beginning at Sylvie’s high school life would make readers hope to see her gradually develop over the next six years. Instead, Sylvie’s character was forced to instantly change in the last few pages of the book.