20 minutes with SOUL SAFARI

soul safari for blog

Originally published in Beat Magazine.


Soul Safari are a confident bunch. They’re about to release their new single The Weather and they are pretty damn proud of it. And so they should be – it’s fucking good. Boasting an impressive octet– led by the soul-drenched powerhouse vocals of Lisa Faithfull, these guys are doing everything they can to get their presence known and their music heard across Melbourne.

“It’s been a crazy week!” Taking a break from rehearsal, Faithfull and some of the boys took some time to discuss their new single and its anticipated launch party. Faithfull’s enthusiasm was tangible over the line, “We are really excited to release it. It’s been a long time coming. We’ve been recording the song since about May this year, so we’ve been in the studio, just sitting on it, waiting and waiting and waiting.” Even though the band have been playing together – not the same line-up – for five years, Soul Safari have only just found their niche and their new single The Weather personifies this re-defined sound, a sound which owes its influence to the likes of Badu, The Roots and The RH Factor.

The Weather tackles the universal struggle of balancing work and creativity, of pushing through the storm of routine in order to support creative pursuits. Faithfull elaborates, “I was sitting one night after work – cause I’d been working at a cafe at the time – and I’d worked all day and when I got home, my partner was in bed and the house was silent and I just sat there thinking ‘there’s this thing that you’re so passionate about but it’s quite a lonely thing, because when we’re creating, most of the world is asleep.’ You wonder if all the other musicians, artists and other creatives are feeling this way, you know, you work a normal job to make ends meet and then most of the money you earn from your normal job, you invest back into the passion you have. The bridge section is ‘dying to be alive’ and I sat there thinking ‘we literally kill ourselves to make ends meet.’  It’s a bit of an irony I guess, you have all these passions for something and you will kill yourself to get it, but at the end of the day you’re sitting there alone and no one may ever hear your music.”

An incredibly moving soul ballad, Faithfull is not shy in stating that it may be their best song yet. It’s honest, raw and universal; an ode to all those people who kill themselves every day to make ends meet. “We want people to connect with the song. People aren’t alone – whether you’re creatives or whether you’re someone working in a factory – you’re working your ass off and at the end of the day you get home and you’re questioning why you’re doing it. We just want people to be able to play this song and go ‘we’re not alone.’ It’s almost like an anthem for people who are trying to get by and trying to be noticed.”

In the months leading up to the release of their single, Soul Safari decided to shoot the music video in the Flinders street underpass, an event which coincidentally complemented the theme of the track. “We decided to film it there obviously because the song’s got that urban kind of feel. We also thought, ‘what better way to capture it than having business people walking past, kids on skateboards, etc.’ I’m singing like I would on stage and people didn’t even double back. I felt that everyone was going to stare and it was going to be really awkward, but it’s almost like they were so busy going about their day that even the things in front of them didn’t make them stop.

“One of the boys who did vocals in the male part of the song was dressed as a homeless person and we sat him in the spot with a sign that read WE WILL SING FOR FOOD. And the whole day, we were completely ignored, except for this one man who stopped and said to him ‘mate, I’ve got a bag of chocolate coated almonds you can have if you’re hungry’ and the guy sitting goes ‘oh nah mate, we’re filming a video, but thank you so much!’ The shoot proved to be an interesting little sociological experiment for the band and a complimentary visual for many of the ideas inherent within the song. “We wanted to capture that feeling of almost feeling senseless in the crowd,” Faithfull explains. With only one person acknowledging them, this feeling was more than manifested; as like many people out there, their art was mostly ignored and unappreciated.

On a more positive note, the upcoming single launch party is hardly something to disregard. Dominating the Espy’s Gershwin room will be Soul Safari and their stellar guests, which include funk queen Kylie Auldist, Cookin’ On 3 Burners and LABJACD, a mammoth outfit which will include 15 musicians, “a real hit you in the face set,” Faithfull enthuses.

“This one is going to be big. From start to finish we’re going to have people dancing. There’s going to be giveaways, like merchandise and promo cause we’re getting sponsored by some awesome companies. We’re going to have a walk of fame at the entrance, so when everyone comes in they can have their photos snapped and it will go up on our website. We just want everyone to leave the event going ‘Holy shit! That was the best line-up we’ve seen in Melbourne in a really long time.’ We want to show that live music and our style of music in particular in Melbourne is very much alive.”

Soul Safari are incredibly grateful to the artists joining them on stage and Faithfull is more than appreciative about this, “We feel so blessed to have them on board with us. As a band we’ve done some work with Cookin’ On 3 Burners’ drummer, Ivan. They’re awesome! I’ve done some work with Kylie through PBS. They did a Women of Soul series and I was on the line-up with Kylie. She’s someone we’ve respected for so long. Ivan gave her a call and she said she’d be happy to come along and have a sing. Having her as part of the show is such a blessing.”

Soul Safari’s humility is overwhelming and their unconditional love and belief in their music is inspiring. Their music is a movement, an image of perseverance and hope for all those artists out there struggling to share their voice.


Check out Melbourne’s neo-soul heavyweights SOUL SAFARI when they play the Gershwin room at the Espy on Saturday November 2. Joining them will be Kylie Auldist, Cookin’ On 3 Burners, LABJACD, plus DJ Vince Peach and DJ Mz Rizk.




Originally published in the AU Review.

The thrill of the unknown is not a new concept, nor is the notion of oppression and alienation. For the counter-culture anarchists of the 1960s, escapism was generally achieved through the use of psychotropic drugs. Following in the footsteps of his dissatisfied predecessors, electronic producer Mike Silver (CFCF) addresses this desire of escapism in his latest release, however the catalyst did not arrive through psychedelic substances, but through travel.

Back in 2010, when Silver began writing Outside, he was travelling frequently between Montreal, Toronto and New York. The Montreal-based producer’s girlfriend at the time lived in Toronto and he would often take the train into New York for work. On the train, he would lose himself in the changing scenery: the enchanting forests and mountains. The lyricism on Outside was simultaneously inspired by Silver’s intrigue with nature and new environments and his feelings of loneliness and claustrophobia as a result of stagnation and social restraints.

The LP is an ode to new environments, unknown and exciting beauties that represent stability and freedom. Outside solidifies Silver’s frustrated consciousness of feeling trapped, tiny and claustrophobic in his sterile world. The album’s artwork – a harsh, thick line painted across green bush – further epitomises this universal barrier between nature and social reality. Thematically, the record is a moving repertoire of songs personifying this yearning to escape, to “Jump Out Of The Train.” Sonically however – like its perception of social reality – it does stagnate and repeat itself.

The album is incredibly percussive, a nice touch that provides the LP with a primitive aesthetic. Throughout, Silver does his best to simulate the sounds of the forest. In “Beyond Light,” the train’s rail wheels can be heard through the repetitive percussion and its shrill siren wails through the sharp chords of an electric guitar. There’s the sound of twittering birds and footsteps in “Find,” an instrumental track with the addition of a real melancholy blues guitar. Both “Find” and “Transcend” in particular, sound like those old meditative tapes my teacher would play in high school during one of our “reflective naps.” Lyrically, “Jump Out Of The Train” and “This Breath” hit the nail on the head with their moans and groans of frustration. In “This Breath,” Silver loses all inhibition in the forest with the lyric “Let me go, abandon me/I will find my way.” “Jump Out Of The Train” is a particularly heartbreaking moment, with the lyrics “I can’t feel a thing…..I can’t help but feel so small.” The desire to escape convention and routine is reinforced in “I pretend I’m all alone….have no name, have no home.” In the final track “Walking In The Dust,” we hear the chirping birds again, followed by a soothing whisper telling us about “waking in a strange place/waking up alone/nobody around and no way home.” Silver tantalises us with this tale; it’s not meant to sound threatening. By the end of the record you’ve heard the same synths, rhythms, chords and atmospherics half a dozen times. There are the same birds, the same intonations and the same mediative bass lines. The only track that is remarkably different to the others is “Feeling, Holding,” a mid-tempo track that borders on synth-pop, yet the lyrics are so subdued that you can’t even hear the words.

Silver has delivered a record which simultaneously glorifies the unknown and turns its back on law and order. However fascinating fantasies of nihilism may be, these ideas are hardly original. We saw them through the Beatniks and through 60s psychedelic rock. We read about them in Huxley’s The Doors of Perception and listened to them in The Dark Side Of The Moon. Outside, although sonically repetitive, is pleasing to the ear and should definitely be included alongside Enya’s discography in a pregnant woman’s playlist.

Review Score: 6.9 out of 10.



Originally published in the AU Review.


In a recent photo shoot for The Hollywood Reporter, Ricky Gervais is captured flipping the bird to the camera, whilst burning money with the smoke of his cigar. Say what you will about him, but I think he’s brilliant. His aptitude in developing comic relief which showcase the raw reality of banal existence is spot on. Where shows like The Office and Idiot Abroad were particularly cringe-worthy – focusing on mockery, dehumanisation and cruelty – Derek takes Gervais out of his comfort zone and into a brand new territory: sentimentality.

Successfully re-commissioned for a second series, Derek is a dramedy set in a nursing home. Parodying the documentary form, the series explores the interrelationships between residents and workers and ultimately, their relationship with the outside world. Derek –played by Gervais – is the nicest protagonist the latter has created, the polar opposite of David Brent and Andy Millman. When you see Derek for the first time in the nursing home, you automatically shift in your seat. He is slightly simple, socially awkward, meticulous and a hunchback. Immediately you assume, ‘Fuck, now he’s making fun of autistic people?’ But no, the show isn’t about that. Derek probably is autistic (it is never discovered), but Gervais’ portrayal is so sincere and beautiful that you quickly put aside your reservations and start enjoying the show for what it is. Derek is not a comedy in the sense that Gervais’ other works were. Yes, there are a lot of funny moments, but Gervais’ objective is a lot more sincere this time round.

Derek is a worker at the nursing home, but he goes beyond his job description to help those residents that he cares about. Unlike Brent, he is selfless, kind, popular and actually funny. His favourite person is Hannah – a colleague and friend who has worked at the home for 15 years – who he says would be the beneficiary if he won “Secret Millionaire.” Along with Hannah, Derek also has two other best friends: Dougie and Kev. Dougie – played by Karl Pilkington – is the caretaker at the nursing home, a handy man who pretty much does “everything.” Although this role is pretty much an inflated version of his character in Idiot Abroad, we can’t look past Pilkington’s skill of portraying self-deprecating, cynical guys. Typecast he may be, no one does it better. David Earl plays Kev, Derek’s homeless friend who hangs around the home like a bad smell (literally), making crude innuendoes and shitting his pants. In some respects, Kev is a lot like Gareth Keenan: inappropriate, sleazy and just plain fucking weird. They are both sexual predators and they are both mocked by their friends. Unlike Gareth however, Kev is genuinely liked and looked up to by someone: Derek, however misguided it may be. Derek loves everybody and is proud of his infinite kindness “It’s more important to be kind than clever or good looking. I’m not clever or good looking, but I’m kind.” Essentially, this is what the show is about: human kindness and Derek is the incarnation of this.

Gervais’ portrayal of Derek is extremely moving. Everything about Derek is sweet. His favourite things are Hannah, YouTube, reality programmes, animals and frog sculptures. In a recent interview, Gervais stated that Derek is his favourite character. With his nervous flicking of his fringe, his big grin and his shuffled movements, you can’t stop looking at him. Particular adorable moments include the episode where Derek calls the ambulance in an attempt to save a dying bird and the pilot which shows a particular scene where he is cutting the toenails of a resident. His incessant displays of kindness and child-like naivety make it impossible for the viewer not to fall in love with him. Hannah – played by Kerry Godliman – comes close to stealing the show with her expressions and selfless nature. She loves Derek unconditionally and stands up for him when he is being picked on by outsiders. There is one particular tear-jerker of a scene where she stays up all night at the home to supervise the animals that have been brought in to pacify the residents. Like Derek, she’s a real sweetie and goes way beyond her job description to help and befriend those she cares about.

If you want to feel really good and gooey inside, watch Derek. It is hardly pretentious and there is no hidden motive. Gervais has delivered a really beautiful story in an attempt to highlight all the brilliant aspects of humility and kindness. According to Dougie, Kev and Hannah, Derek is the best person in the world, a person who “chose kindness” and who “hasn’t got a lot going on in his head, but what he has got going on is all good.” Where Gervais’ other shows made you cry from laughter, Derek makes you cry for real. It’s about a kind, innocent man who loves life. That’s all it is and its brilliant.


60 minutes with JENNIFER KINGWELL

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Originally published in Lot’s Wife.


Meet Jen Kingwell. Born in Darwin, raised in Canberra and now based in Melbourne, Kingwell is gearing up for the release of her first single off her debut solo EP, The Lotus Eaters, due for release early next year. “Kissing in Tutus” is a bold declaration of resistance and love in the face of war and chaos and Kingwell is only a few weeks away from releasing it at the Empress Hotel in Fitzroy. Formerly known as one-half of the indie-cabaret sensation The Jane Austen Argument, Kingwell will be joined on the night by her new band The Garland Thugs. Sitting inside her cosy flat – complete with Film Noir artworks, scattered keyboards, an overstuffed bookcase dedicated to Jazz music and an adorable black pussycat named Maceo – Jen openly discusses her new tunes, The Jane Austen Argument, her nostalgia for Casio keyboards, her fascination with Greek mythology and her upcoming collaboration with Neil Gaiman, yes that Neil Gaiman.

It all started with a Casio keyboard, you know the one, that basic beginner’s instrument with the “cheesy backing tracks.” Laughing, Jen recalls her first instrument, the first medium that really kicked off her love for music. She even wrote her first song on it: a country love ballad. How old was she? “I was six,” she cackles. How cute. After graduating from the school of Casio, Jen went on to study classical piano, a study that evolved into the dream of wanting to play professionally. After high school, Jen was accepted into the Canberra School of Music. However, halfway through her degree, she dropped out. Her heart wasn’t in it anymore and she had lost her perseverance, “I didn’t have the disposition to stay in a music room by myself for eight hours a day, pumping out classical tunes.” She then did the polar opposite and began a degree in Electronic Music and Interactive Multimedia, where she stayed until graduation.

With a degree under her belt, Jen then took her boyfriend and bike to Central Europe, where she rode the streets, sightseeing with a delicious pastry under her arm no doubt. After doing a few odd jobs here and there, she returned to Australia, moved to Melbourne in 2006 and went back to school to study a Masters of Communication.

It was at RMIT where she met Tom Dickens, a cabaret aficionado who was in desperate need of a pianist for his upcoming show. They formed a duo and started performing under the name Tom and Jen, a temporary title that was officially replaced with The Jane Austen Argument. Did the name come to them whilst arguing about Miss. Austen perhaps? Laughing, Jen replies “I’m a huge Jane Austen fan and Tom can’t stand reading her. He is under the impression that all her novels are about doilies and balls. We needed a name and Tom came up with it I don’t know if he had been thinking about it for a while or if it just came to him – but we were at the pub and he was like ‘How about The Jane Austen Argument?’ and I was like ‘That’s a terrible idea!’ but it somehow caught on.”

A blend of cabaret and indie folk music, Tom and Jen were taken under the wing of the infamous Amanda Palmer, a kinship that led to the duo supporting Amanda on her Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under tour in 2011.

After three years together which saw the release of two EP’s and one LP Somewhere Under The Rainbow (2012) which was recorded in Seattle, Tom and Jen separated with the motivation of beginning solo careers. Will we be seeing The Jane Austen Argument again? “Absolutely! We haven’t officially stopped doing stuff.” So it’s like an indefinite hiatus? “Yep, exactly.”

In saying this, Jen emphasises the importance of moving away from the Jane Austen sound in her solo release, “I wanted to pursue something that wasn’t necessarily right for The Jane Austen Argument. I want to explore different sonic possibilities and weave in electronic elements. I want to push the limits of a three-minute pop song and I want to work with other musicians that are pushing the limits of their instruments.”

So what can we expect from the single launch with new band The Garland Thugs? Jen answers with a big smile, “Apart from the audience thinking ‘That was a fucking killer show!’ they can expect killer songs, a killer band and a really intense set with real audience connection. It’s also going to have a really lush, rich orchestral feel. Chad Blaster, my drummer, brings this real hip-hop element in, so there’s a real hard groove in there.” The band also features Jess Keeffe on electric cello and Adam Rudegeair – Jen’s partner – on bass.

The single in question, “Kissing in Tutus” is an ode to radical love in the face of revolution. Jen’s poignant lyrics focus on the powerful image of love as a tool of resistance. The words are supported by a beautiful piano composition, a string section and light percussion. An anarchist’s anthem, “Kissing in Tutus” celebrates infinite, universal emotion in a chaotic and uncertain reality. The idea came to Jen when she was recording The Jane Austen Argument’s debut LP in Seattle. “We lived in Seattle for around six weeks and it was just when the occupy wall street movement was kicking off. It was really inspiring to see this totally like, complete grass-roots swelling of resistance. I was really fascinated. The single came to me because I had the idea of this power of people who come together to resist something and want to change something rattling around in my head.” When she was at University, Jen was also a radical cheerleader for the G20 protests, another image of resistance that inspired the theme of the single. One particular image of the G20 protests stands out, “A while ago, I discovered a photo – which I haven’t been able to find since – of me and my partner at the time kissing in the street in our tutus. I just remember one of the cheerleaders saying that that was her favourite moment from the whole thing.” The beauty of “Kissing in Tutus” is further solidified by this deeply personal recollection.

While “Kissing in Tutus” sees its official launch in a couple of weeks, Jen’s debut solo LP The Lotus Eaters teases us a little more with its release date. Expected in March, maybe even early April, The Lotus Eaters takes its title from a much-loved story which Jen discovered as a child. The Lotus Eaters, a short retelling of Homer’s original story of the same name from his classic the Odyssey, tells the tale of what happens to Odysseus’ men on a small island dominated by lotus plants. These plants are narcotic and cause the men to become stoned, happily content in their apathy. By using Odysseus’ men as a metaphor, Jen’s EP is fundamentally about overcoming obstacles and temptation, avoiding indifference and lethargy and being enlightened about a specific purpose, “waking up from a dream that is keeping you down.” Funnily enough, most of the tracks off the new EP came to her in a dream, hence the essential themes of the record: Dreaming and awakening.

Before we round up our interview, Jen lets slip of a little teaser that is only mildly exciting, “One of the tracks on the EP is going to be an instrumental improvisation to a spoken word piece that I wrote and which Neil Gaiman will narrate.” Seeing as Mr. Gaiman is married to Jen’s good mate Amanda Palmer, this collaboration really doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Oh man, March/April is too far away, what a tease.


Jennifer Kingwell will be launching her brand new single “Kissing in Tutus” at the Evelyn Hotel on Friday October 25. Her debut EP The Lotus Eaters will be released next year. Tickets for the show are available via http://music.jenniferkingwell.net/album/kissing-in-tutus-single.

EP REVIEW: CHINA RATS, Don’t Play With Fire


Originally published in the AU Review.


Imagine this. 70s punk fucks British indie rock. The spawn of two distinguishable sounds, China Rats plants one foot in the British Invasion and the other in a well-known paradigm ruled by Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand and Oasis. China Rats are a revivalist band; four boys from Leeds whose fuzzy lo-fi riffs and bombastic drumming are catchy and agreeable, yet recycled.

The boys’ sophomore EP Don’t Play With Fire says it all in its title. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this record, but it’s a safe one. Rather than trying to sound like a new band called China Rats, the boys are sounding more and more like their fathers and grandfathers. They are pigeon-holing themselves into a sound that has been done to death, rather than expressing a post-post-post punk one. Rather than moving forward with British punk, they are going backwards. Yes, they may not be playing with fire in the sense of creating something subversive to music, but they are most definitely being burnt as a repercussion of their unoriginality. But hang on, maybe their intention is to be a revival band; a collective who stitches together every aspect of the latter part of the twentieth century and makes a sound out of it. There’s the Ramones in one corner, Oasis in another, The Clash over there and The Kinks over here.

Within this cacophonous memorabilia package are the expected wry lyrics, dirty guitars, fuzzy bass and enthusiastic drumming. There’s Alex Turner’s self-deprecating lyricism in pretty much all of the tracks and most of the harmonies sound like lost Oasis ones. “N.O.M.O.N.E.Y.” is a great opening track. It’s a fast-paced head banger about being broke, “She got no money and neither do I” and “Take me to the money.”

“Deadbeat” and “Get Loose” are pretty forgettable and stagnant, but the record recovers in “Reeperbahn” and “Green Tears,” two tracks with versatile chord changes and distinctive melodies. “Green Tears” concludes with an extended instrumental jam that is unmistakeably British. Have a listen, you’ll know what I mean.

China Rats have done an excellent job of stitching together every aspect of the punk and indie scene. Have they created something refreshing and innovative? No. Have they created something comforting and enjoyable? Absolutely. To say that China Rats are the new Arctic Monkeys is erroneous. Yes, they are an indie band, but they have not done with their debut and sophomore what Arctic Monkeys did with Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. Arctic Monkeys were fresh and exciting, creating a sound that was distinctly their own and influencing a whole generation of indie music. I can’t say the same for China Rats. But who knows? They might deliver a killer debut LP that defies everything I have just written. We’ll have to wait and see.

Review Score: 7.0 out of 10.



Originally published in the AU Review.

Opera has never sounded so disturbing. Hold on, pause. It would be ridiculous to pigeon-hole Oliver Mann’s latest release as Opera. Let me re-phrase. In Slow Bark, Mann uses a number of conventions and acoustic arrangements, including his bass-baritone voice to orchestrate an LP that is simultaneously chilling and perplexing.

Sonically, Mann has abandoned melody and convention, with the absence of rhythm, verses, choruses and bridges. Slow Bark‘s beauty lies in its deliberate randomness and its idiosyncrasies, a peculiar record comprised of four twin tracks, two remixes and one single coda. Initially, the lack of logic may put you off, but after a second, third and fourth listen, you will begin to appreciate and perhaps enjoy its beautiful absurdity. Turn off your critical ear, as Slow Bark is not meant to be an easy listen.

Mann’s prevalent use of field-recording, space and sharp acoustics takes his listener into a rather disturbing setting, a world where sound has become almost threatening. His deep voice and vibrato reinforces this reality and he sings with a potent omniscience that forces those listening to stay put. His lyricism is melancholic and resigned and he brings this emotion into his production, often using wailing harmonica as a substitute for his vocals in instrumental tracks.

The opening track “Tin Power, Pt. 1” will most likely scrunch your noise and furrow your eyebrows for you, but remember what I said about listening a second, third and fourth time. The eerie acoustic guitar takes you into a Coen Brothers film; a real western, Jose Gonzalez-esque sound. Mann’s voice takes you by surprise and initially raises those tiny hairs, but you get used to it after a while. “Tin Power, Pt. 2 Then & Now” plays the same guitar chord as its twin, but on a different scale. Harmonica is brought in – a melancholy substitute for Mann’s absent voice, followed by what sounds like a violin being tortured by a sadistic kid with a massive saw. Mann’s use of space between chords is sombre and considered; using pauses to create suspense.

In “A Country Wedding, Pt. 1,” Mann sings “Come lie with me” and “Come run with me,” two directives issued that cause a certain listener to accept willingly. It’s that voice, damn it! Again, he uses space in between chord changes to induce suspense. This song is an ode to his country town, a track rich with homesickness: “Cause I can’t shake it, even though I’ve wandered far away.” In “Pt. 2” of its twin, there is the additional sound of light percussion, perhaps a triangle.

“Deepest Temple, Pt. 1” is particularly chilling in its banality. There is the brief sound of a pick-axe chopping ice and a saw chopping wood, along with the sound of sandpaper on bark.

The following four tracks are pretty mediocre, in that nothing particularly remarkable stands out. The Super Melody remix of “Puff Puff, Pt. 2 Puff of Smoke” however, is very different to everything preceding it. The acoustics are still there, but synths are added to change its properties, giving it a electronic ambience. It’s a digital alternative and a refreshing one at that.

The coda sends the album off on a sad note. In “No Good Reason,” Mann sings “Five good reasons why you aren’t going to come back,” followed by “four good reasons/three good reasons” etc. The title of the song is self-explanatory: the subject is unable to give the protagonist a reason for leaving him. Like all the other tracks, Mann uses vibrato in both his voice and instruments as a means of demonstrating intense emotion.

Slow Bark is not a simple journey, nor is it a particularly enjoyable one. It is however, an original experiment and a refusal of generic form. Mann has taken his opera background and infused it with an avant-garde aesthetic, deliberately choosing acoustics in a confronting manner to evoke some sort of feeling in his listeners. These feelings, whether positive or negative, will be undeniably powerful. This record certainly won’t be forgotten.

Review Score: 7.9 out of 10