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30Nov2011 1035: All Saints Days

Welcome to the holiday season! Are you ready to celebrate that most secular of religious holidays? No? Then maybe you'd care to spend some time with the Saints. If you've ever had any affection for Grand Theft Auto 3, and especially if you felt that Grand Theft Auto 4 bollocksed it up, you should get your hands on this game. I'm very nearly done with the story missions and have no less than three Star-Wars-looking hoverjets in my garage. My character is a Russian Martian Gangster...y'know, like a proper supervillain. But for all the crazy things that exist in the game, it's still constrained by the framework of a GTA clone. They've amped up the exxxtremeness of all the individual components, but added together they are still just a crazy GTA clone. It's only in the "boss fights" for each gang faction that truly bizarre things start to happen; each of those is a delight and is probably what I will remember from the game five years from now.

If twenty hours of carefully cultivated GTA madness aren't your thing, how about two hours of carefully cultivated musical madness? The Muppets is amazing as both a comeback film and a framework for future Muppet work. After this one, we can shove Jason Segel into the back room to work on scripts and go with pure Muppet onscreen. Please?

On this side of Thanksgiving, it's nothing but Consumermas in American music. It's plastered all over Amazon and firmly entrenched in the Top Free Tracks. In fact, the only thing more powerful than Buymas turns out to be my archenemy, [Liam Finn + Eliza Jane - Honest Face]. I'm not even linking it this time: Amazon has slapped that track on my list for months now and I'm sick of seeing it. The only upside I can see is that the track is still free, which means nobody is willing to pay money for it. Good for us.

There are three tracks left from the November batch of Rising Artists. This month has been more disappointing than not; maybe [James Vincent McMorrow - We Don't Eat] will be good? I can't agree with the sentiment this soon after Thanksgiving. I guess I would classify this as a soul song; James gives it all he can within the confines of the extremely understated everything. Seriously, his voice could lead a giant brass band in a gospelized version of We Don't Eat, but instead he spends five minutes with what seems to be one violin and a bass guitar. Eerie. Most songs would use this technique for the first minute and then break into a huge chorus, but not McMorrow. He brings in instruments at literally the last minute, and the main difference is that suddenly there's a snare drum.

[Dan Mangan - Post-War Blues] seems a little premature, as we are always and constantly at war. Also it's not a blues song, it's indie rock. It's got some nice music in it, but the political call to action just doesn't work with peppy fuzz guitars and such a laid-back vocalist. Also this should be a blues song.

[Nero - My Eyes] wraps up the month with some elektronik beatz. This is not the super-pumping dancey kind of techno; this is the deliberately-paced synth beat that accompanies 80s walking-down-city-streets montages. This song made me want to walk down dark alleys in parachute pants, is what I'm saying.

16Nov2011 1545: Behind the Scenes

You may not know this from my blog, but I'm not just a vapid consumer of video game media. I'm also a vapid consumer of cinematic media. I keep tabs on the SlashFilm podcast to know stuff, and today it paid off in a big way. Their latest podcast pointed me to another podcast dealing with a subject matter dear to my heart: how the hell do these movies even get made? And the specific episode highlighted, the Punisher: War Zone episode, features both the actual director of the actual movie and affable comic-book geek Patton Oswalt. And from the actual director, an apparently secret behind-the-scenes story. Freddie Prinze Jr. came in to audition for the role of Jigsaw, the main villain. And the audition was apparently amazing.


[Newsboys - God's Not Dead (Like a Lion)] was the only non-Christmas song in the top five that Amazon fed me. The title sounded like a pretty rocking concept; lions are pretty badass. But this is just another band that wants to play safe arena rock at halftimes across America. They're probably a full-out Christian Rock band, as their concept of god+lion is less "savage carnivorous ass-kicker" and more "Aslan was neato".

09Nov2011 0830: Lobstergiving

Lobstergiving is this weekend. I could write up my hopes and dreams for all the food I'm going to stuff in my face. I could detail my family relations. I could research tourist opportunities in Milwaukee.

Or I could distract you with a kitten carousel and blow this town. So long, suckas!

All the top tracks this week are either perennial thorn in my side [Liam Finn + Eliza Jane - Honest Face] or music from the Rising Artists. So I'll just keep working my way down that list instead.

My dentist appointment isn't until next week, but [Diego Garcia - All Eyes on You] is bringing me the full waiting-room experience here at my desk. Eschewing the decades of folk-pop that followed, Diego Garcia believes strongly in the multitrack self-vocals and violin of the 1970s. This is not a soulful indie man in a scarf and tight jeans. This is a man in rhinestones and soft focus.

[Civil Twilight - Next To Me] was over before I knew it was on. It's insubstantial quiet-verse-loud-chorus radio rock, all its rough edges smoothed over in post-production. Tell me if you've heard this one: Coldplay. Okay? Coldplay, and the long line of inoffensive rock bands before them.

I'm not sure how to describe [City and Colour - Weightless], especially after Civil Twilight. It's less generic than the last song, but still pretty mellow. It's a safe song from the 80s rather than the 00s, a Genesis album's D-side. Musically I like it better than Civil Twilight -- it has that harsher metallic edge to the guitar that puts me in mind of the Age of Synths -- but it's still nothing to get excited about.

Screw it, I'm just going to go buy [Caravan Palace - Caravan Palace]. That'll get my feet moving.

02Nov2011 1600: The Best Month

We are now in the best month. There are leftover pallets of candy at fire sale prices. There is an upcoming holiday all about stuffing my face with the finest of foods and wines while visiting with family. And then there's Thanksgiving. Christmas has slowly lost its luster for me over the years, and especially now that I get all my TV and movies and music on a cloud-drive subscriptiony basis. Toys are out, video games are pricey, and I no longer require DVDs or CDs...what does that leave? Books are good, I guess; I don't have a Kindle. Did you whittle me an ocarina? That's cool. Christmas is turning into "Thanksgiving but with ham". But man! November! I can still drive on the roads!

A new month usually means a rollover in the available Amazon Free Songs, but they are continuing to troll me with yet more duplicates of last month's stuff. Seriously: enough Honest Face. Fortunately we have a new set of Rising Artists at a typically obtuse Amazon URL. I'll just pick tracks out of there until Amazon decides to churn their hot tracks.

For a brief second, I thought [Part Time - Cassie (Won't You Be My Doll)] was going to be a total ripoff of [Queen - Another One Bites the Dust]. You'll see what I mean. But no, then it turns into a mild synthy indie-pop confection. A little too mild, if you ask me. It features no emotion, three chords, and no deviation in its jangly little progression. I couldn't even pick out a significant amount of lyrics's just the title question over and over again oh hold on the next track just started AAAAAA

AAAAAGH what is [Zomby - Things Fall Apart] doing? They took the Final Fantasy prelude, slapped a breakbeat in there, and then totally didn't make a song about Final Fantasy. Judging from the wordy album cover and the song title, there's something in here about The Man keeping them down and fascism and stuff. I couldn't understand word one because of the floaty vocal effects that are mixed way underneath the Final Fantasy tune. Totally terrible.

Hooray for some normal-sounding rock music. On any other week that wouldn't be something to celebrate, but [Telekinesis - Car Crash] brings us back to normalcy with a completely okay little ditty. It's like a dude-fronted version of Tegan and Sara. It's the shortest song in the Rising Artist playlist at a mere 2:40, so its only-slightly-peculiar style doesn't have a chance to grate.