Hot and Cold: A Guide to Sazh and Snow

Sometime earlier this year, during playthrough one billion and one of Final Fantasy XIII, I realized that I really ought to consider writing a walkthrough of the game, since, having played through the game an almost indecent amount of times, I could give a lot of good guidance that would help new players. Then I realized that sounded like a lot of work, and really I would rather just do a character guide, explaining which characters work well together and which weapons to use, etc.

Final Fantasy XIII is all about synergy. Instead of focusing on which individual moves you’re going to use to win a battle, the trick to fighting in FFXIII is to have a party whose paradigm roles, weapons, accessories and abilities are going to compliment one another in order for them to win. In Final Fantasy XIII you don’t so much take on the role of the individual fighters as much as that of a strategist who delivers orders about HOW your characters should fight, rather than explicitly WHAT they should do. This is probably the central thing that throws off new players, and results in a lot of hatred for the game, along with the most cited grievance, the game’s incredible linearity.

Final Fantasy XIII is not quite as linear as it’s critics would have you believe, because they aren’t really looking at the game in context. I am something of a Final Fantasy XIII apologist because I think that if only a few important tweaks had been made to the game, it would have come out much better. People complain about meandering down endless corridors, but they aren’t realizing that exploring wide open areas isn’t really the POINT in Final Fantasy XIII. The point of the game is to experience the story, and the areas you move through are a vehicle for the story. Even the battles themselves are incredibly cinematic, the characters seem to be doing a lot of the battling on their own while the camera sweeps around them, and you as the player can’t spend that much time worrying about which actions your party leader is taking because you need to make sure you have a Medic to take care of any low-HP wimps on your team (if I’m just pulling a name out of thin air, let’s say, oh I dunno, Hope), or keeping an eye on your enemies chain gauge and making sure that you have a Commando or Saboteur to stabilize it so you don’t lose all your hard work in chaining.

At any rate, each character has versatility, and each character can be put to more than one use. Some characters, like Lightning, are so versatile that they end up in a sort of jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none category (although luckily this can be corrected with stat boosting items; I usually have my Lightning set up to be just as strong or stronger than heavy hitters like Fang), while others ought to be used for their intended purpose, like Fang, who is so built for physical attacks that the only reason she’s any good as a Ravager is that the majority of her attacks will be elemental strikes instead of spells. Hope can be a decent saboteur but he’ll never work as a Commando (and yes, I’ve tried. Long story short, you can give him all the attack power in the world but that won’t make his slow boomerang strikes and inability to Launch any less of a hindrance).

Basically my point is that there’s always a way to make every party work, somehow. What I originally intended to was to write up a full “character guide,” identifying each character’s strengths and weaknesses, and my recommendations for how to use them. I got as far as Sazh and Snow, but never really finished, and right now I’m in a tactical RPG phase so FFXIII has had some time to recuperate from my relentless playthroughs. So, it is with this in mind that I present to you my character guides for my favorite and least favorite Final Fantasy XIII party members, Sazh and Snow.

Okay, so Lightning is really my favorite, but Sazh is a pretty close second. As for Snow, I still find him incredibly annoying, and it baffles me that a lot of players complained about finding Vanille and Hope annoying, when Snow is so incredibly obnoxious. At any rate, I have warmed up to him a LITTLE after finally trying to use him in my party a few times, and seeing how his obnoxious hero thing softened up throughout the series.

 

Sazh Katzroy

Party Role: All-Rounder
Stats: High HP, average STR and MAG
Paradigm Roles: Commando, Ravager, Synergist (offensive)
Special Ability: Cold Blooded (Chain Booster)

Sazh is the oddball character in the party. Vanille and Hope are mages, Fang and Snow are physical attackers, and Lightning and Sazh serve as all-rounders, but he doesn’t pack the same firepower as Lightning. Like Lightning, his stats are evenly dispersed between attack and magic, and he has access to both the Ravager and Commando roles pretty early on. Unlike Lightning though, he is one of the slowest attackers in the game. His attack animations for magic and physical attacks are both fairly slow, and his attacks are unlike anyone else’s because he attacks with a rain of bullets, each one doing smaller amounts of damage.  You’ll notice early on that Sazh’s weapons have about half the potential attack or magic power as other characters, and even though the explanation might seem obvious, it actually took me a while to notice why: it’s because Sazh has two guns. So, his weapon might only increase a particular stat by 100 points, but in battle it’s really increased by 200 points, because he attacks with both guns.

Even though he has a few drawbacks, Sazh should not be underestimated. Because of his unusual attack setup, Sazh is sometimes able to deal more damage cumulatively during an rain of bullets than a character like Lightning would with a single slash. He also has an incredibly useful Blitz ability that unleashes a hail of bullets across a wide range of targets. His starting element is fire, but like all the other characters he quickly learns other elemental abilities like water and lightning. His unique full ATB ability is called Cold Blooded, and it’s something of a cross between Lightning’s Army of One and Hope’s Last Resort. Sazh unleashes a flurry of magical explosions and gunshots, which are not really all that strong on their own, however, they’re not meant to be. The purpose of Cold Blooded, like Army of One, is to boost the chain gauge of an already staggered enemy. And not only does it do this well, it does this OUTSTANDINGLY well. Sazh has the highest chain boost potential of any character in the game. This effect is really brought to a head if you combine Cold Blooded with his weapon Antares Deluxes that increase Chain Bonus Boost, and upon upgrade grant Chain Bonus Boost II. Together, a single use of Cold Blooded can bring certain enemies’ chain gauge almost all the way up to 999% once they’re staggered.

For some reason, Sazh has the most HP in the entire game, even more than Snow, whose role in both battle and the story is to literally be a giant damage shield. You won’t notice Sazh’s high HP early on, but later in the game he outclasses everyone in HP. Interestingly, he’ll also be one of the first characters to completely finish the Crystarium. One of his weapons attempts to take advantage of his high HP by trading off great stats for the “paper tiger” and “silk tiger” abilities, but honestly even with his incredibly high HP, that paper tiger ability is so debilitating that you need to equip Sazh with HP accessories to offset it, and when choosing a weapon it’s important to consider whether or not you’ll have to waste any open accessory slots offsetting a weapon’s downsides. In my experience it’s usually better to settle for a weapon with average stats and a good effect, or good stats but no special effect, than to choose a weapon with great stats but a debilitating effect like Silk Tiger, Stifled Magic or Stagger Lock.

Final Fantasy XIII Drinking Game: Take a drink every time Sazh shouts “Vaniiiiiiille!”

Sazh can hold own as a Commando, particularly when he’s the party leader and you have the freedom to employ his Blitz ability at will for maximum enemy coverage and several extra hits. Sazh is also capable as a Ravager, but as an all-rounder he isn’t actually designed to excel in either role, but to boost an enemy’s chain gauge into oblivion so that a heavy hitter like Fang or Snow can deal the most damage. As with any character though, you can turn him into a heavy physical or magical hitter with a combination of weapon choice and accessories.

Sazh’s third role is Synergist, and he’s far and away the most useful Synergist for most of the game. Hope’s Synergist abilities focus on casting protective buffs and guarding against elements, whereas Sazh gains access to offensive buffs like Bravery, Faith and Vigilance almost immediately, and in my experience these buffs are just more useful than defensive buffs most of the time. Be advised that his AI and auto-battle script prioritizes using Vigilance before buffs like Bravery of Faith, so if you need one of those quickly you’ll have to do it manually. Hope’s significance as a Synergist shouldn’t be downplayed, but defensive buffs are most useful during boss fights, and offensive buffs tend to be better suited to random enemy encounters, which obviously you’re going to have way more of.

As a Sentinel, Sazh is one of the three characters who use the “guard” abilities rather than “evade” abilities. I see why they did this for symmetry amongst the characters (three using guards and three using evades), but it seems to me that it would have made more sense. I can’t say too much about it because I rarely use Sentinels at all and even more rarely have ever used Sazh in the role. As a Saboteur, he learns mostly the same abilities as Vanille in mostly the same order, focusing more on the standard abilities like Deprotect and Impreil than area-of-affect abilities like Deprotectga and Imperilga. As a Medic, he is capable of learning Curasa, which not all characters can do, and can heal well enough, but not until you’ve traveled a very long way through his Crystarium path. For the most part, if you’re playing through the game for the first time and unlock his Medic role shortly after arriving on Gran Pulse, he’ll only have access to the cure spell.

Most of the party’s eidolons function the same. Brynhildr will heal you if you’re damaged, stabilize the enemy’s chain gauge with physical attacks and boost it with magic (mainly fire elemental). In Gestalt Mode Brynhildr turns into a car, which has some pretty good spinning area-of-effect attacks, plus one really cool ability that grinds sparks into an enemy’s face and can be used repeatedly back-to-back for excellent chain gauge boosting. And in case your wondering, it’s pronounced “Broon-heel-door.” And also in case you were wondering, she’s female. The more modern version of the name is Brunhilda.

Like Lightning, Sazh has the potential to be a strong physical or magical fighter, or to excel at neither but provide support in both. Unlike Lightning, he doesn’t have access to the Medic role, so his usefulness in a party is somewhat diminished. If you’re planning on using Lightning in your central party, be careful if you choose to include Sazh. You absolutely cannot function without having at least one of the two, Hope or Vanille, in a party. This means that if you choose to use Lightning, a mage, and Sazh, you’re down one powerhouse Commando, so you’ll need to either turn Lightning into one (which is pretty easy to do with a weapon like Gladius and a few Power Wristbands), or try and turn Sazh into one. Unfortunately, Sazh is just really difficult to include in your party right when you gain the ability to switch members because of how balanced he is. Even if you don’t like Lightning (in which case the door is that way) and don’t want to use her, you can’t really replace her with Sazh because doesn’t have the Medic role, and relying purely on Hope or Vanille to heal your party can prove to be very dangerous.

Really, Sazh is best suited to advanced players who have their final party destinations set in their mind and know how to offset his flaws. If you’re a beginner, it’s better to stick to Lightning as your all-rounder. Whether you choose to play offensive or defensive if a consideration too: if you prefer to be defensive, you’ll want to use Hope for protective buffs and healing, if you prefer to go on the offensive, spending the time in battle to buff your party with Sazh can provide an advantage.

Personally, I love the Sazh-man. He’s the game’s most well-constructed character with the most emotionally compelling storyline, his voice actor did something few are able to do, which is to channel Eddie Murphy without being an embarassing ham, and he has that adorable chocobo hanging around him (choco-boco-LEE-NAAA!). He is very tricky to include on a party, but if you’re willing to put in the effort, he pays off as a great all-rounder with access to the best chain gauge boosting potential in the game. Just don’t make the mistake I made and think you can just throw together a party of Lightning, Sazh and Fang because they’re your favorite characters right after you get to Gran Pulse. You NEED a capable Medic. Never forget this.

Snow Villiers
Party Role: Physical Attacker
Stats: High HP, high STR, average MAG
Paradigm Roles: Commando, Ravager, Sentinel
Special Ability: Sovereign Fist (Massive Damage)

Oh, Snow. The big lug. I hate this character so much, on so many levels, and for such a wide variety of reasons. For one thing, he’s a thoughtless, arrogant, chummy douchebag whose unnering optimism and positivity is both inappropriate and uncomfortable, and for another it’s difficult to make sense of just what the hell to do with him in battle. He’s the only character apart from Lightning to start out his career as a l’Cie with both Commando and Ravager unlocked, but he isn’t an all-rounder, and mostly should only be used as a supporting Ravager, never as your main magical damage-dealer or chain booster.

Snow’s role in both the story and battle is to stand there and take damage. He’s a walking and talking Sentinel if there ever was one. FF13 Drinking Game: take a drink every time Snow falls from an incredible height and doesn’t die. Warning: you will be drunk quickly. He takes so many hits and so many falls that it’s a wonder he doesn’t die of internal bleeding halfway through the game. He wears that ugly tan trenchcoat and covers his hair with that ridiculous bandana, and his punching attacks just don’t FEEL as nice as anyone else’s. With Lightning you get that satisgying slash, with Fang you get the pummeling noise, but Snow just punches people, and for some reason it feels out of place to me. Luckily, Lightning hates Snow as much as I do for most of the game, so she punches him in the face several times, and every time she does, an angel gets it’s wings.

FF13 Drinking Game: Take a drink every time Snow shouts out “Serah!” or says “We can SAVE Coccoon!” Again, you’ll be drunk well before chapter 3.

But now that I’ve diatribed enough about how much I dislike Snow, let’s get into his actual usefulness as a character.

Snow’s individual storyline is actually really weird, and he spends most of the game away from the rest of the party. Even when he rejoins the main team, he stays behind as an extra character that the game  doesn’t allow you to swap into your party until you gain that ability on the Palamecia. He’s on his own for a chapter of the game, and is the first character to unlock an Eidolon, though not the first Eidolon you’re allowed to use. When he does resurface his only ally is Hope, and the two of them make an incredibly awkward team with only average damage-dealing or chain-boosting ability.

Mostly, he falls short in the roles he’s expected to play: as a Commando, he has great damage dealing potential but is severely outclassed by Fang, whose slightest touch can obliterate small planetoids. As a Ravager, he can work well if you give him a weapon with high magic but then you’re missing out on his much better Commando abilities, including his ultimate ability Sovereign Fist, which we’ll get to in a moment. As a Sentinel he does very well, having the highest HP for most of the game before Sazh unexpectedly beats him at the Crystarium finish line.

In his secondary roles, he mostly learns big area-of-effect abilities. His Synergist path is complete with abilities like Bravera and Faithra, and his Saboteur path has Deprotectga and Deshellga. As with most other characters he’s a competent Medic later on, but shouldn’t be relied on as one.

Soverign Fist works exactly the same as Fang’s Highwind ability, excepting that Fang is far superior in every way. Basically you wait until the enemy’s chain gauge is really high, or they’re about to lose their Stagger entirely, and then use Sovereign Fist for one big powerful wallop. Use it carefully though, because it resets the enemy’s chain gauge. This means you’ll miss out on any character using Scourge or Smite, but Sovereign Fist will most likely be stronger anyway.

I have played Final Fantasy XIII more times than I can actually count, and have almost never included Snow in my party, even in passing. I tried it once, but not for very long. I know I’m hard on him, but he really isn’t that bad. If you put in the effort he can be an incredibly capable physical attacker, I just really don’t like this guy. Every time he says something corny and cracks a smile I just keep hoping Lightning will deck him for me one more time. Let it be known that even though the sound of his voice makes me roll my eyes, I actually like his voice actor. It isn’t the actor’s fault, he portrayed Snow the way he is: a cringey parody of the hero archetype. He thinks he’s a hero, but he consistently fails at everything heroic he tries to do, and is so fond of throwing himself in harms way or offering to take someone else’s punishment that you start getting the feeling that being a Sentinel really turns him on. He also has a habit of saying EXACTLY the wrong thing at the wrong time. Like bragging to Hope, whose mother died saving Snow, about how he’s going to have a big happy family one day, about how he’s going to save everyone, and accidentally using her name in a sentence. I get it Hope, I hate him too.

And if his abduction by the cavalry is any indication, the army really is more than a match for NORA.

Side note: am I the only one who thinks that his character design is a weird amalgam of Seifer’s two designs from Final Fantasy VIII and Kingdom Hearts? Just take Seifer’s central outfit from Final Fantasy VIII and add his bandana from Kingdom Hearts and bam, you’ve got snow. Except Seifer knew when to quit.

He’s, uh… he’s a terrible… uh, character… I uh, I hate him… I’m not… I’m, uh, not attracted to him… Nope… Definitely not. What?

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Another Day

Today is not a very good day.

I always begin my writing by talking about how I regret not writing more. I’m working on that. I’m working on a lot of things.

I get the feeling this little journal entry is going to be scattered.

Oh well, at least I’m writing.

My anxiety appeared yesterday. Not that it ever went anywhere, but it just kind of showed up and decided to reek havoc. It does that. It tears apart foundations, it sinks it’s teeth into life rafts, it finds the broken locks and fixes them back up again. It’s weird to think about it that way, actually, because I usually think of anxiety as a friend.

If Anxiety were a creature, a personified person, I would think of him as a friend. Kind of a shadow of me, and he’s all curled up and he’s sad, and scared, and I sit with him. When I put my arms around him they sink into his shadow skin, and inside he’s warm and wet and dark chocolate black, a safe place deep underwater where you can breathe. So it actually makes me feel guilty now to describe him the way I just did, as a snake, a serpent trying to devour me and keep me locked away with it’s fangs.

I have a feeling I’m making less and less sense the more I write. But I’ll keep writing. Sometimes that’s all you can do is keep writing.

The anxiety is worse some days than others. The depression is the same. It’s not the same disease though. It’s weird, actually, to think of it as a disease. Like, if you speak English, you don’t think of English as a disease, it’s a part of you. My depression and anxiety are a part of me, so I don’t know if I’m comfortable thinking of them as a disease. My coping mechanism has always been to embrace them, make friends with them.

At any rate. The day before yesterday I was off work, and had a pretty decent day. Then yesterday came around and I felt nervous about going to work. This is common. Lately the hours leading up to going to work have been pretty stressful, and I’ve had to do everything I can to keep myself feeling positive, listening to positive music and doing relaxing things while I wait for the afternoon to roll around. I try and make the most of the my day, even if it’s not always terribly productive.

One thing I’ve been wanting to do more is write. I used to do these kind of mashup blog posts where I’d talk about myself, my life, everything I was interested in, what music I was listening to, things I was into, all of that. I’d like to start doing it again. Creating those blogs gave my life some meaning, made me feel like I was doing something productive. I don’t really go back and read them but I know that one day I will, and they’ll be important. Just as this will one day be important.

I’ve gotten so used to the dread, the anxiety, the depression. It’s almost drab to describe them now (I’m pretending to be smarter than I am, I don’t know what drab means, but it probably works. Okay I googled it, it means dull, that’ll work). Everyone describes their anxiety the same way. Maybe I’m only thinking of it as a friend because I just want to be special, I always want to be special.

This is getting very rambley.

Anyway, yesterday I was getting ready for work, and I lay down in bed and realized I just felt shitty. I couldn’t specify what it was exactly. My throat has been somewhat hoarse, which I haven’t helped by doing a lot of singing, and I have a feeling I may be coming down with something but not for a few more days. Anyway I decided to call out of work, and I had to lie to my boss that I threw up in my car, which I felt very guilty about. I was relieved, but I know from experience that running from the thing that gives you anxiety only makes the anxiety more powerful.

I have medication but it doesn’t work very well. One is an antidepressant and that works okay, the other is supposed to relieve panic attacks. The panic medication doesn’t REALLY work, but I’ve discovered that it helps calm me down a bit, usually at the cost of making me feel incredibly melancholy and lethargic. In fact, that’s probably why this post is so melancholy, and why I feel so unmotivated. I was pretty excited to write earlier, and now here I am.

Anyway, I took a nap. I didn’t do much with the rest of my day. It occurred to me that I needed to clean my room, I always feel better in a cleaner space. I’ve been watching Doctor Who recently, I started with David Tenant (I’ve seen the first three episode of Christopher Eccleson’s Doctor, I’m sure I’ll come back to him). Parts of the show are very sad.

So today I’m off again. I’ve not done much with my day. I haven’t cleaned. I played video games for a bit. I came here, to the coffee shop, to download some more Doctor Who. I played a bit in my iTunes library. I thought about my future, about where I am. I went to the craft store to look for a nice journal, couldn’t find one. I want a journal to use as a lyric book. I can’t write by hand very well because it hurts my hand and I have too much to say, but I would like to have a physical book with lyrics. It would be a fun project, a fun thing to have.

I’ve been writing a lot of lyrics lately. I think some of them are good. Maybe I’ll post them here soon.

I don’t think I’ll have a panic attack tomorrow because of work. But I am dreading going. I know that means that I have to go, in order to beat the dread. But I am so tired of fighting it. I’ve decided that it would probably be good for me to start looking for a therapist, trying to get medical aid if I can, and looking for a new doctor as well. I don’t have insurance but I do have a job, and that’s a good first step. Maybe I’ll start getting enrolled in school too.

I’ve thought about studying I.T. and getting a job in that field. I’m not crazy about computers but it’s something that would allow me to work at a desk, and what I would like most is to have a desk job, preferably one with benefits. I also need a gym membership.

There’s so much to work on that I don’t work on anything. My diabetes, my anxiety, my health, my job, my music, my writing, my blog, my novel. Usually I just stay in bed. I masturbate and watch porn, or play video games, and eat. I eat a lot of sugar free ice cream. It upsets my stomach but I eat it anyway.

This isn’t what I wanted. I wanted to live in Delaware with my new family, with Zack and Robert and the dogs. I want to go back. But I can’t. Not yet anyway. I want to, though. I just… don’t know where to begin. I have to stop fantasizing about going back to Delaware. I’ve accepted that this is where I live now.

But some part of me still won’t accept it. I don’t know. I wish the future were bright, like it was in Delaware. I wish there were promise, and hope.

I wish I weren’t near my mother. I wish she didn’t drain my will to live with her presence. No matter how nice she might be, still, being near her is terrible for me. It hurts me.

I’m hurting.

I’m afraid. I’m always so afraid. All this time has passed since I was that boy in 2010, writing about discovering Tori Amos. And really, where have I gotten? What’s changed?

Today I feel useless. I hope tomorrow I don’t feel so useless. I hope that one day it won’t all be so hard. I hope one day I can do something I’m proud of.

I hope one day I can have a friend who’s close by, who I can touch and hug and kiss and fuck. A boy who I can love. Someone I can come home to. Someone I can look forward to things with.

Today, I’ll just survive.

If I were to die, I would want someone to know about my writing. All the work I’ve done on my book, even if it’s all notes in emails and Google Docs.

But I shouldn’t talk like that. I don’t want to die and I’m not feeling suicidal. I guess maybe I just wanted to write it down just in case. I’m not going to delete it. I’m just going to keep going.

Some days your writing is good, some days it’s awful. Same with your mood, with your voice, with your achievements. But if you keep moving, something will change, for better and worse. And the promise of change, maybe that’s what hope is.

Keep moving.

I Have A Weird Hobby

Having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder my whole life has led to some strange interests and fascinations. For one thing, I’m one of the few fantasy role-playing game enthusiasts who actively loves level grinding for hours on end. It’s a great way to relax, let out stress, and concentrate on listening to audiobooks, podcasts or music, while doing the same monotonous task for hours and growing my characters.

Over the years my collection of music has grown from a few CDs to a massive iTunes library of 50+ GB of music. Much of it is legitimately purchased, and much of it has been torrented, although I do make an effort to still support the artists I like, and buy physical copies of albums I love.

Since I have so much music, one of my favorite activities, apart from keeping it all meticulously organized (and it is: my library is organized alphabetically by artist, then chronologically by release date, and I have several B-Sides collections for artists like Tori Amos, organized by era, and I try to always have high quality album artwork, as well as properly formatted song and album titles), is making playlists. My enjoyment of making playlists has led to a strange new hobby: creating fake Greatest Hits albums.

There are some incredible musicians whose catalogue is not exactly newcomer-friendly. Case in point: Tori Amos. When I discovered Tori, she had at the time released 11 studio albums, along with various collections and EPs, and I had no idea where to begin. I started with her own greatest hits collection Tales of a Librarian, but it turned out to be a pretty terrible collection for a newcomer, and then got her box set A Piano: The Collection, but that was 86 tracks long so it wasn’t exactly easy to digest. I ended up just going through albums as I chose, mixing in new Tori with old Tori, but there’s never been a Tori collection that I feel really encapsulates her entire career and gives newcomers a good place to start.

Kate Bush is an even more difficult situation, because she has only one small greatest hits collection, and it’s from halfway through her career, with only a few of her best songs on it, plus the audio quality is pretty bad because it’s never been properly remastered. Her box set This Woman’s Work contains almost all of her albums, plus B-Sides, but that’s not a very place to begin either.

So, I’ve had a lot of fun organizing playlists to create fake Greatest Hits albums for artists I like. Sometimes I keep them in playlists, and sometimes, like recently, I actually create disc-length mixes and give them their own album in my library. I’ve had so much fun creating these that I decided to share them with you, and hey, if you’re a newcomer to these artists, you can feel free to use these as a place to begin!

As it happens, I kept them all within standard CD length, so they should all be mixes you could burn to a physical CD if you like.

The Essential Tori Amos

I based this collection on “the essential” album series. You’ve probably seen them in Wal-Mart or other stores before: they always have a black and white cover, with white and red font, and usually contain two discs, spanning an artists entire career, in chronological order. If you’re unfamiliar, take a look at The Essential Heart, The Essential Sarah McLachlan, the Essential Sade, or something like that, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. I actually really love this image of Tori, it’s from The Beekeeper era tour book, and it was used as the album art for A Piano The Collection’s bonus DVD, but I think it works perfectly for something like this. I also looked up the actual font used on the cover of “the essential” series and used it on this photo, so I think it actually came out looking pretty official. The selections span Tori’s entire career, mostly important singles or landmark songs, although there wasn’t room to include any B-Sides because of the limitations on length, but I think that for a 2 disc collection of an artist who’s released 15+ albums, I did a pretty good job. Track listing is below.

Disc 1

1 Precious Things
2 Crucify (Unedited Single Version)
3 Silent All These Years
4 Winter
5 Pretty Good Year
6 God
7 Past The Mission
8 Cornflake Girl
9 Talula (The Tornado Mix)
10 Hey Jupiter (The Dakota Version)
11 Mr. Zebra
12 Caught A Lite Sneeze
13 Spark
14 Raspberry Swirl
15 Jackie’s Strength
16 Playboy Mommy
17 Bliss
18 Concertina
19 1000 Oceans

Disc 2

1 A Sorta Fairytale
2 Taxi Ride
3 Gold Dust
4 Angels
5 Snow Cherries From France
6 Sleeps With Butterflies
7 Sweet The Sting
8 Marys Of The Sea
9 Big Wheel
10 Bouncing Off Clouds
11 Welcome To England
12 Maybe California
13 Star of Wonder
14 Pink and Glitter
15 Carry
16 Flavor
17 Programmable Soda
18 Trouble’s Lament
19 Invisible Boy

 

American Doll Posse EP’s

Tori’s ninth album American Doll Posse is told from the point of view of five personas, representing different elements of the divine feminine, and utilizing goddesses from the Greek pantheon. The album is great but suffers from being a little too long, simply because of the album’s variety. Tori herself commented on it “Either I was making five seperate albums, or I was speaking with different voices.” So these fives voices are all jammed together as tightly as the one hour and twenty minutes a CD will allow, meaning that the album is more than a little cluttered. Although I think it still came out fine, the final album is 23 tracks long, which is pretty staggering. There are also three bonus tracks available on different versions of the album. I thought it might be fun to separate the songs into 5 individual extended plays based on the Posse personas. Even though I like the album the way it is, I can imagine the excitement fans would have felt as she released the five EP’s in sequence, each one about five tracks long, with fans devouring the songs, comparing the EP’s, discussing the themes present in them, and wondering what would come next. I created my five Doll EP’s just as a fun little project, and then actually made some album art for them too. By the way, Tori’s EP begins with an Isabel song, which I chose to do because I think it’s a good opener, and Isabel already has another “interlude song.” Clyde is the only one who didn’t get a brief opening song.

 

Tori (EP)

1 Yo George
2 Big Wheel
3 Digital Ghost
4 Father’s Son
5 Code Red
6 Posse Bonus

Clyde (EP)

1 Bouncing Off Clouds
2 Girl Disappearing
3 Roosterspur Bridge
4 Beauty of Speed
5 Miracle

Pip (EP)

1 Velvet Revolution
2 Body and Soul
3 Fat Slut
4 Teenage Hustling
5 Smokey Joe

Isabel (EP)

1 Devils and Gods
2 Mr. Bad Man
3 Drive All Night
4 Almost Rosey
5 Dark Side of the Sun

Santa (EP)

1 Programmable Soda
2 You Can Bring Your Dog
3 Secret Spell
4 My Posse Can Do
5 Dragon

The Essential Kate Bush

You really can’t be a fan of Tori Amos without hearing Kate Bush’s name bandied about. There is an unfortunate tendency in music reporting to compare EVERY female singer-songwriter (particularly the quirky eccentric ones) to Kate Bush, and to a lesser extent, Tori Amos herself. The way in which I first heard of Tori Amos was through reviews of Evanescence’s albums comparing Amy Lee to Tori Amos (the only real connection between them is that they’re women who play piano and sing, sometimes about dark and gritty subject matter). Then, when I got into Tori, I couldn’t read an interview or review of her music without hearing about Kate Bush. As it happens, despite this weird tendency in music journalism to compare every woman to the same two women who came before them (as though there can be only one weird alternate female singer-songwriter), as opposed to men who do NOT all find themselves being compared to David Bowie or Prince, it is for the best that I learned about these two women, as their music is not something that should be missed.

Kate Bush’s catalogue, like Tori’s, doesn’t offer a lot of easy entry for newcomers. You can ask around and you’ll probably hear that the best place to begin is Hounds of Love, as it’s sort of the midpoint of her career, combining the quirky weirdness of her first three albums with the pop sensibility and melodic hooks of the next three. I decided to try and put together a two-disc Essential Kate Bush, and I’m pretty proud of it. A lot of things had to be left out (I struggled over how and whether to include Un Biser D’enfant, Army Dreamers, and Hounds of Love), and the latter half of her career is difficult to represent because most of her newer work is very lengthy. As a consequence, disc 2 is a lot shorter and spans less material, but overall I’m pretty happy with how it came out, even though I had to leave out a couple of her duets and most of her soundtrack songs (I included Lyra though, because it’s never been included on any of her official collections, due to coming out after the release of her box set.

Disc 1

1 Moving
2 Wuthering Heights
3 Them Heavy People
4 The Man With The Child In His Eyes
5 Hammer Horror
6 Wow
7 Symphony In Blue
8 Breathing
9 Babooshka
10 Army Dreamers
11 December Will Be Magic Again
12 Sat In Your Lap
13 The Dreaming
14 There Goes A Tenner
15 Suspended In Gaffa
16 Ne T’enfuis Pas
17 Night of the Swallow
18 Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)
19 Cloudbusting
20 Hounds Of Love

Disc 2

1 Wuthering Heights (New Vocal)
2 Experiment IV
3 Be Kind To My Mistakes
4 The Sensual World
5 This Woman’s Work
6 Deeper Understanding
7 Love And Anger
8 Rubberband Girl
9 The Red Shoes
10 Eat The Music
11 And So Is Love
12 King of the Mountain
13 Aerial
14 Lyra
15 Flower of the Mountain
16 Wild Man
17 And Dream Of Sheep

That’s all for now! I’ve got a lot of exciting stuff I’m planning to write and post about soon, so I hope to have more to tell you all soon about life, projects, and what I’m up to. Happy listening!

Wave

The antidepressants steal sensation away. Most often you don’t notice it. But I noticed it today because I was feeling sad and alone all day, and there were chills up and down my back and neck, and it felt good. It was sadness, but it was a trembling sadness that felt good.

I finally found my meds because I knew it would help. I took one and twenty minutes later I felt the familiar wave of sorrow come to wash over me. And I embraced it, because when your existence consists mostly of sorrow you embrace it, it would be foolish not to. Our bodies are 70% water, my soul is probably at least 50% sorrow. It’s silly to push the sorrow away when it is itself your very existence. I reached out to take the wave in my arms and feel the chills run along my skin again.

But the antidepressant snatched me away from the sadness. It’s like jerking off, and then suddenly your hand is pulled away, and your cock is screaming out for more, but there’s only one small fraction of a second that it still feels pleasure without your hand, the rippling leftover waves of pleasure, and then the sinking combination of disappointment and frustration and anger that comes from not being allowed to continue, the receding of the pleasure, the bar was almost full and now it’s sunk to zero and you have to start again. That’s what it’s like when the antidepressant opens it’s mouth and eats the sorrow. It doesn’t eat the pain, or the damage to your nerves and your muscles. No, you still have to keep those. But it eats the sorrow, it eats the fun part. You do all the work of living with the pain and the antidepressant takes the solace of at least FEELING the pain.

But if you don’t have the antidepressant you can’t walk outside or go in public without the rolling waves of fear and panic. You can’t work a job. And before you know it you’ve gone from being 19 and living with your mother to being 27 and living with your mother, and if you don’t get out now then eventually you’ll be 35 and living with your mother, and then you’ll have begun to exhaust your options

The antidepressant is a necessary evil but it is an evil, because I love my waves of sorrow, and I want to catch it in my arms and feel my body tremble with a feeling that is not unlike an orgasm, where the sadness reaches deep into my stomach and even further past what I can pinpoint into an area in the back of my head where my best memories are kept. The best memories are not just the happy ones. The best memories are the ones where I feel most acutely. It’s easier to pinpoint the sad ones than the happy ones. Happy memories are difficult to find because happiness is difficult to notice. You don’t realize you were happy until you’re not anymore. Happiness is a pulse, it has to recede so it can keep beating. Happiness is a heartbeat.

You deal with the sinking in your chest. You feel violated, because that sadness I was about to feel was mine, and the medicine had no right to take it, and here it is inside of me, because I swallowed it of my own free will (but really, when you’re given a choice between functioning without a soul, or suffering with one, how is that even a choice? There is no answer), and it’s in places it shouldn’t be. I put the pill in my stomach but it’s made it’s way into the deeper places, into the cathedral that is my private place, and it’s snatching away my sadness which was never part of the agreement. I did not permit it to take the sadness.

You don’t realize you loved the sadness until it’s gone.