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27Apr2011 1730: Holiday Part Two

I'm ready to start work again; it is exhausting to do this much nothing day after day. Watching Youtube isn't as exciting without the illicit thrill of wasting employer resources. And since PSN is still down WTF I haven't been able to play Portal 2. I'm wondering if I shouldn't just plug a mouse and keyboard into my PS3 and get on with it.

Upshot is that I'm suddenly about 70% done with Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. It's most notable as an interesting artifact of the usual manga/anime timeline. When a manga gets super-hot and an anime seems profitable, companies jump on a story long before the manga ever finishes. Because 24 minutes of anime can eat a lot more story than 24 pages of manga, and weekly anime episodes eat that story even faster than a monthly book, it is almost always the case that the anime reaches the end of the published material long before the story is complete. This usually results in disastrous filler stories.

Fullmetal Alchemist had a full anime series eight years ago, after the books had gone on for three years...but that's only three years of an eventual nine-year span. Necessarily, the entire last half of the anime went in a wildly different direction from the manga. Now that the books are complete, this new series is double-dipping to hew closely to the "real" story. Basically this means an extra 13-week season of episodes, 75% more racism, and hopefully 100% less alternate-Germany in the ending.

I'm not sure what happened at Apple this week, but we have a cornucopia of seven free songs this week. [Title Fight - Shed] starts us off with some screampunk. Not in the way that some punk songs will have a guy screaming in the background during the chorus -- this song is what happens when that guy is given a whole song. I enjoy this about as much as the Cookie Monster metal genre.

[The Holdup - Miss You] starts us off with some NES title screen music and then whips out the reggae-rap. Google tells me that they are on the "Dub Rock Records" label, which is an apt a label as I can think of. Any music filed under "dub_____" is not for me.

[Cass McCombs - County Line] is music I haven't heard for a while, sort of an old Paul Simon or Billy Joel b-side, that kind of 70s slow-grooving pop. I can't picture anybody going out and looking for this kind of song without an established name attached to it, but when it shows up for free it just sits in the background and does its thing. I have a dental appointment in a couple weeks and this will probably be there. Cheaper and less fun than nitrous.

[Jarabedepalo - Para Enredar] hearkens back to a golden age of my adolesence, the embarassing age of Fastball and Sugar Ray and all that other ultra-clean 90s guitar rock. You know what I mean? Before the year 2000 and its Ademas and Maroon 5s muddied the amps again, there was a lot of upbeat poppy overprocessed guitar rock on the radio. Jarabedepalo is that all over again.

[Emmylou Harris - New Orleans] is country, but an older less-annoying style of country. I guess Emmylou Harris is kind of a big deal? People know her? I know her from the O Brother Whereart Thou soundtrack, and if you liked the style on that album maybe you'll like her here. Her most active career years were in the 70s so that might give you a clue as to the country employed.

Perched atop his wyld stallyn, [The Black Ryder - Grass] brings us a slow rocker that builds reverb atop reverb until you can't stand it...and then maintains it for a full minute of "breakdown". I'm fairly sure they're not singing about the kind of grass a stallyn eats, but I couldn't make out a goddamn thing they said so maybe?

Another staple of my station, [An Horse - Dressed Sharply] is a band in the vein of Mates of State; a man and woman sing indie things at each other and everybody leaves feeling disgustingly happy or incomparably sad. The female takes the lead on this one, something a little more rocking and aggressive than the usual fare.

20Apr2011 1230: Holiday Part One

I'm four business days into my lack of business before starting my new business, and my adult decision regarding Portal 2 (play immediately vs save $20) means I'm avoiding my usual Internet haunts for fear of spoilers. In about two days I'm going to be coding at home just to keep my mind off Minecraft.

You can all probably guess what genre [Winds of Plague - Refined In the Fire] is. And you are correct. Cookie Monster Metal is possibly my least favorite kind of metal -- mostly due to its inroads in the Rock Band franchise -- and the only thing of note here is the hilarious chorus of "evil fucking fears me!"

[Bam Bam - Ragatron] has some kind of bacterial rave on their album art. For some reason I can smell growl-metal from a few words in a title, but an album designed to be viewed in black light doesn't warn me about psychedlic rock. Which this is. Bam Bam are bringing the proper guitar licks and drum kicks to rock the B stage at a Woodstock festival that no longer exists.'s April 20th, isn't it? I'll allow it.

[Metronomy - The Bay] brings back the band from one of my favorite Free Videos. This song is...less good. Maybe these guys need to accompany all their music with wordplay, maybe this isn't one of their best efforts. This song has a more ghostly, menacing feel, but something about the repeated waverings of the synths started to give me a headache by minute three. It could be some kind of sonic weapon research for DARPA.

[Voxhaul Broadcast - Leaving On the 5th] is a band I vaguely recognize from my station. It's fairly solid rock music, and I suppose the lead singer gives it that "indie" quality to guarantee some public radio play. It doesn't do much for me personally. Sounds a bit too much like Oasis doing some U2 arena anthems.

[Sunny Sweeney - Staying's Worse Than Leaving] is modern country, which is the worst kind of country. Also the lyrics on this are just bad. Bad rhymes, bad meter to accommodate the bad rhymes, and super-slick production on a song that should really be Mrs. Sweeney in a room with one guitar. Put some heartbreak in that voice, y'know?

13Apr2011 1830: No Ordinary Family

If I may say a few words about No Ordinary Family:

No show should spend twenty episodes figuring out how to be awesome. The NOF pilot was electric, kicking it off with supervillain fights right from the offing. They completely sold me on the premise -- a family dramedy with superpowers -- and then spent months convincing me I was a bad person. It immediately mired itself in the worst kind of network television; facile characters, stupid decisions, cliche family dynamics. There was rarely anything to point at and say "See, this is what the show should do." For the bulk of the season we didn't even have supervillains to fight.

The final two or three episodes finally got back into gear. Family members were starting to team up to fight crime, and the supervillains were starting to require it. The daughter's mind reading turned into mind control, leading to some hilarious (for me) flirtations with the Dark Side. The evil mastermind was replaced with an eviler mastermind. The super-speed wife started to run so fast that she merged with the Speed Force ran a hole in the fabric of spacetime. And the last episode brought everything together in a kind of slipshod apotheosis, wrapping up every single plotline from season one and rushing into the standard cliffhanger for a season two that should probably never be. Trust me, the finale was glorious for somebody who endured the previous eighteen episodes of screwing around; a fist-pumping vindication of the promise of the pilot. It's disheartening that TV writers only do their best work when allowed to burn the series to the ground; maybe character growth and meaningful action can only occur when jobs are on the line.

The Event is the flipside of this modern nonsense. It spent fifteen episodes creating and resolving new "mysteries" at a breakneck pace while still somehow dithering over whether or not to kill a goddamn Romulan. Then the President wakes up one day and decides to be a hardass (I am not making this up) and suddenly there's explosions and destruction and some vicious backbiting going on. It still lacks even the dramatic weight of No Ordinary Family but it's still racing in place.

[Brett Dennen - Suprise, Suprise] is the kind of dude-folk that somebody at iTunes must like. He sounds a lot like the previous Free Single Ain't No Reason... for an obvious reason that I hadn't considered. Okay. So Brett Dennen is Apple's go-to Dylan, to the point that he has enough money to afford a band this time around.

[Pentagram - Call the Man] continues a two-week iTunes theme of 70s bands releasing new albums. In this case you can tell from the name, album art, and even the album font that you are getting a metal song preserved in a time capsule. Pentagram carefully stowed this music in a metal box circa 1976 and only now are lifting the lid.

Oh hooray, it's an R&B love song. [Noel Gourdin - Beautiful] hits all the right funky notes, simultaneously praising his love target while never calling her anything but "girl". It's cookie-cutter dentist-office music except for the recurring synth sting that sounds like a laser gun. You've heard this sound effect before. Noel's getting into the key change and the overused metaphors and trying to set a mood, and then suddenly a space alien in the background is all "beeewwwwww".

[Beth Ditto - I Wrote The Book is...certainly a song. Do we need another disco dance song? I submit that we do not. This is not a dance song to be remembered fondly ten years from now when you discuss how you met your husband/wife at the club. This is a dance song to play over a Syfy Original scene in a future-bar, to quickly establish that future-dancing is going on, because hey listen to all that synth! If I may continue the callbacks to Free Singles past: not only has Beth Ditto never written a book, Beth Ditto has only read seven books in her entire life, and they all have the words "Harry Potter" in the title.

If Beth Ditto belongs in a Syfy Original, [Gaby Moreno - Ave Que Emigra] belongs in a Wes Anderson montage. Overly precious music to accompany Bill Murray doing precious things.

06Apr2011 1930: Fairly Accurate Representations

And that's how I choose to remember it.

So yes I have a new job starting May 1st, and yes it is making/polishing educational video games, and yes it is your tax dollars at work. The circumstances were surreal; I had just had the most frustrating week of bug hunting and task overload at my job in a cubicle at an insurance company, and then Slator swooped in (possibly on a dragon) with a fat stack of cash and wanted to hire me to follow my dream. That's the kind of bullshit dichotomy that Hollywood comes up with to sell the "hero's journey" in some bullshit romantic comedy. And let's be clear that the insurance job is still plenty awesome. And I hear they're hiring! games.

It looks like iTunes may have given up on the free videos. That's fine by me; they never did normalize them to the rest of the music. [Hot Tuna - Angel of Darkness] gets right down to 1970s business, instantly evoking that era of Creedence and Eagles. Apparently that's because they're actually a 70s band I've never heard of before. I thought with all those years of Dad picking the radio station I had heard all 70s bands ever anywhere. So now they have a new album and it sounds like their old albums.

[Diego Garcia - You Were Never There] is quite lovely folk-pop, finding a place nestled up in the shadow of The Beatles. Google says some of his stuff is "feat" Dhani Harrison, so there's a pedigree. Acoustic guitar and violins will help you chillax for three minutes and forty seconds while those backup singers from Five O Clock World keep time.

[The Kills - Future Starts Slow] is definitely The Kills being The Kills. Every song I hear is identical but I like them anyway. Lots of percussion, a little guitar, and duet vocals pound away in a studio carefully constructed to sound like a garage.

Holy Ghost! are wedding DJs, and this dance is just for the single robots. [Holy Ghost! - Say My Name] is insistent with its "lust language" and drum machines. I hope you like synthesizer! Because this song is going to take a while!

[Porcelain Black - This Is What Rock n Roll Looks Like (feat. Lil Wayne) (Clean Lyrics Version)] contains a hilarious commentary on the music industry right there in the title. It's like Gwen Stefani wanted to take a vacation on Heavy Metal Island but ended up in Linkin Park. I haven't heard a more disturbing genre misfire since last August's "Punk Rock Chick". I actually recommend that everybody listen to this song exactly once and then take a vow to battle this type of music forever.