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26May2010 1815: Dry Bones

The Swinger is the best thing I've heard all week, and I would recommend Sweet Child o' Mine over any of the iTunes tracks.

This week on Monty's Behind the Curve: I am really into Bones on Netflix Streaming. This is probably also how I'll catch up on Lost, eventually. Yes, it's a cookie-cutter police-lab procedural, but it stars an atheist robot playing the part of Emily Deschanel. My issues with Zooey Deschanel have been brought into sharp relief here; while Zooey keeps trying to play different characters and inevitably plays them as "stoned woman", Emily has found a role that plays to the emotion-deficient Deschanel strengths and is riding it all the way to the bank. The next Terminator movie could do worse than to build an army of Deschanels...not easily, but it could.

Do you like Camera Obscura but wish they were a little less comprehensible? [La Bien Querida - Corpus Christi] is there for you, my friend. Let's pour some lemonade and get mellow on the sun porch with La Bien Querida and her crazy underpink dress.

[Freelance Whales - Hannah] is indie pop -- which is made quite clear in the "adjective animal" band name. This makes two ephemeral summertime feel-good songs today, which is good because Fargo has gotten way too hot (80 F) since last week. I've never understood how people can fall asleep with TV or music on, but if I was going to fall asleep to a song it would be a song like this.

Time to wake up! [Debi Nova - Drummer Boy] wants to move your booty with a "bom bom bom bom". Debi shakes her own ass for three minutes in the desert and various skimpy dresses. The song will do well for a week or two in clubs, let's say. If you're really jonesing for a song about drums, you'd be better served to look up the old iTunes song Percussion Gun.

19May2010 1805: Dreaming in Dtny'a

I survived Heavy Rain, and so did everyone I was controlling, so I guess all my Paragon practice in Mass Effect paid off. It's an interesting experiment and I support the developer's further endeavors...definitely a better endgame than Fahrenheit.

That freed me up to play some hours of 3D Dot Game Heroes and oh man this is good. The music and gameplay are lifted straight out of Zelda, but I didn't expect all the sound effects lifted out of Dragon Quest -- "critical hit" and "magic use" especially. Or the villager who taught me about the map using the same spell from Final Fantasy. Or "GET EQUIPPED WITH DASH BOOTS".

Am I Dot or Not came through on day one with the character I will use forever: Cthulhu from Kevin Pacheco. There's a secret code (that you all know) to turn off the shield graphic so my big C walks around, claws wide, bouncing arrows and fireballs off his sliminidous hide.

I'm not sure if AIDoN is intentionally bad web design to go along with the whole retro nostalgia chic, but it is seriously bad web design. This from a guy who edits all his posts by hand over a terminal session. The only sorting options are "Date", "Creator Name", and "Popularity" (disabled)? Really? It took me three minutes to find Cthulhu again and that is unacceptable. And note the page navigation at the bottom: there's a link to the very page you're on, both a "previous" and a "9" link, and a "..." link that goes to 7 instead of the index.

[Moenia - No Importa Que el Sol Se Muera] features some kind of horrifying, sea-urchin-milking machine on their album art, and the album titled "En Electrico". Naturally I was expecting some Spanish house beats. That is nowhere near what actually came out of my speakers; this is a low key New Wave ballad duet. It wouldn't be out of place over the closing credits of El Ladyhawke. The movie, not the band.

[Holy Ghost! - I Will Come Back] is more like the electronica I expected. The video opens in a Korean pizza parlor and follows a girl on a trip into the mysterious world of 80s discotheques. Is today some anniversary for the synth invasion or something?

[Sleigh Bells - Infinity Guitars] doesn't live up to the promise of its title. There are at most two guitars, stripped-down angry things like the White Stripes. What we may have infinity of are cheerleaders; Sleigh Bells takes their vocal cues from high school football sidelines.

[The Rolling Stones - Plundered My Soul] is a bonus video this week. It's a Stones song.

[Erik Hassle - Hurtful] balances the rest of the weirdness this week with some limp radio rock. You might almost have convinced me that the record industry had collapsed over the weekend: 80s synths? Random Stones? But no, their continued dominance is confirmed with this vapid trifle.

12May2010 1815: A Time of Heroes

By now everybody has seen Iron Man 2, right? Unless you're in Fargo and waiting for a real theater to get it, which I can't fault you for. You never notice stadium seating until you miss it. Anyway, my short nonreview is: worth it, but it seems like the improv got away from the director in a few places. Iron Man was full of bon mots between all the players; Iron Man 2 has these as well, but far too often people are talking over each other.

I guess I can't say that Heavy Rain is wholly depressing any more. On Monday night, one of my characters made scrambled eggs. So I guess it has that going for it. Mind you, within five minutes we were wandering through a graveyard looking for the children's section.

I have to power through the end -- a friend tells me I'm within an hour or two -- because it is time for 3D Dot Game Heroes to rock face. Do you like Zelda 1? Do you want to play a Zelda 1 that was built by other people who like Zelda 1? Sweet. Do you want to be swayed by an awesome parody ad campaign, from the very recent to the very 80s? Perfect. Do you ever wish Link was a banana on a skateboard? Got you covered.

The only misstep in their nostalgia-heavy parody campaign is that the afore-linked character database is not at Am I Dot or Not? Remember when that site was the newest fad? Man.

[Furland - Colores Colores Colores] must mean something different in Spanish, because saying "furland" on the Internet leads to only one thing. If I were being kind I would compare Furland to the Beatles; they aim this song firmly at a Sgt Pepper target, with a few guitars weaving in and out over some kind of electric pipe organ and a crescendo to an abrupt end. Not bad, after all.

[The Expendables - Wells] does not feature Sylvester Stallone. They better make hay while the movie is in everybody's mind, because we don't need another toothless folk band. Jack Johnson has that covered. Minor points for use of a harmonica, though.

[Chiddy Bang - Opposite of Adults] carries its promise in the still frame used to represent the video: some kid in awesome cardboard armor with an adult's face digitally added under the helmet. It then immediately squanders it by taking thirty seconds to ramp up to its paint-by-numbers rap introduction song. I think Chiddy Bang is the band name rather than the frontman, because some dude with a keyboard is featured prominently as well. There may be a future where these guys make a song I like, but it's not this one.

Man, what? [Outasight - Catch Me If You Can] starts with some fuzzy rock riffs, veers into more rap leadup, brings in some jazz horns, and then sits down square in the middle of all of these. My hip-hop knowledge is severely limited, but imagine some famous rapper being backed up by Black Sabbath and accented by some Motown funk horns.

05May2010 1745: Asleep On My Feet

My ass is dragging today. I place the blame squarely upon our game-group's new obsession with Titan Quest. Today on Monty's Behind the Curve: Titan Quest rules. I've been a big fan of Diablo II since the day it came out; Titan Quest is like discovering your favorite supermodel has a hot cousin. Long story short, I've spent about 8% of my past two weeks playing TQ and stayed up too late last night. We really should have knocked off earlier but that Minoan Labyrinth wasn't going to solve itself. And by "solve" I mean "kill every damn creature in the place".

I'm sure the recent spate of blustery rainy weather hasn't helped, but I just can't find it within me to play Heavy Rain. I mean that as the highest praise possible. Other games kill interest through linear levels, poor controls, spotty graphics. Heavy Rain kills my enthusiasm by essentially making me play Sophie's Choice every time. It wears against my very soul, grinding me down with a relentless parade of bleak imagery and despondent characters. Its main concession to the whole of videogamia is its reliance on quick time events, but while most games use QTEs in the form of "press X to not die", Heavy Rain is more like "press X to cheer up your son because you only have him until tomorrow and your estranged wife is looking for any excuse to cut off contact." That is a real scenario from the game...from very early in the game.

I stopped playing the game for an entire week after I walked in on a young single mother trying to commit suicide in her bathtub while her infant daughter squalled with hunger in the living room...stopped playing because that was the most positive thing that had happened for two hours and I wanted to end on a high note. If I don't stumble upon an absurd plot twist soon -- like Indigo Prophecy's sudden appearance of Internet cyborgs and Matrix shenanigans -- this game might destroy me utterly.

But you know what always cheers me up? My new desktop (1280x720), adapted from the original at The Big Caption. Or this take on one of my favorite current memes.

[Francisca Valenzuela - Muerdete la Lengua] has a super Spanish name but is bringing a truckload of American country-rock. The opening of the song had me worried this was going to be some Shania Twain clone, but really it's a lot closer to Bree Sharp. Compare and contrast.

[Josh Ritter - Change of Time] is mellow solo-folk in the vein of Jack Johnson or Sufjan Stevens. He sings a simple melody about a dream he (probably never) had and stuff. The backing instruments explode a couple verses in but it never gets out of control. Let Josh Ritter sing you to sleep tonight.

It's very obvious from the beginning of [Greg Laswell - Take Everything] that we're watching a video running backwards. The song itself is mellow radio rock that is just varied enough to be interesting, but this video style seriously needs to die already. C'mon guys: Sugar Water, you lose. Greg does a very poor imitation of lipsynching but damn if I don't want his hat. Can I take his hat?

[Nikki Yanofsky - Cool My Heels] is today's second close call with country, but then the horn section kicks in and saves it. I don't like her voice so much but overall it's a decent jazzy tune.