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29Aug2012 1900: A Solitary War

I've been hitting the Guild Wars 2 pretty hard, to the exclusion of pretty much everything else. Guild Wars 1 took the MMO formula and scaled it down into an 8-man game, where you could get together with a reasonable number of bros and stomp some lizard demons. Trying to synchronize everybody's missions was a pain, but picking a quest leader and following them around was simple. Guild Wars 2 has, so far, been a mostly 1-man game. There are hundreds of other people running around in the world, but none of them are my people. My people are stuck in some nebulous other-realm, parallel to my own and containing many of the same frog enemies. The metagame of Guild Wars 2 is getting their world to coincide with my world.

This is an acknowledged bug, and it wasn't always working in the Beta either, so we'll give it a couple weeks. Because when we do all get together and start stomping lizard demons in a coordinated manner the game explodes in glory. Just a shame that we spend more time trying to find each other than we do hammering mosquitos into paste.

It's fairly rare that we get full-out pop music on the Rising Artist list. That's one of the reasons I like it so much. Pop ladies don't "rise" as much as they get "payolaed". But [Marina and The Diamonds - Primadonna] is here on the list and I survived it. It's full of the overproduced fuzz-synth beat and drum machines that get teenagers jumping around and cause me to break out in hives. The lyrics tread some well- worn ground, trying to mock vapid celebrity culture despite being spewed from the same hellish corporate maw. I wish I could burn an mp3.

In comparison, the jazz-country sound of [Micah Dalton - Bad Blood] is a treat for all the senses. Very very occasionally I can stand the country sound, most notably on the Red Dead Redemption soundtrack. Micah Dalton does not have the luxury of being associated with such an amazing video game, but at least this song was tolerable. I need to go wash my ears out with some Cake.

22Aug2012 0930: Abuse

I'm dealing with my latest earworm the same way I usually do: by spreading it around. As usual, the pop version doesn't really do the underlying song justice but is far more virulent. This song is probably not going to get famous, but it deserves to be up there with all the previous decades' pop hits about unhealthy relationships. I don't have an example from the 00's because I had checked out of radio by then. I guess you can just pick any love song from Rihanna. Too soon?


Looks like Amazon was not content to simply drive me away by promising to delete 95% of my music. I popped back on there to look at the week's Rising Artists and they were buried under a long list of music I didn't remember buying. Well, not exactly; I remembered some of the songs vaguely existing at some point in the past. It wasn't until I came upon the two Extreeeem Party 4nimalz tracks that the answer dawned upon me: Amazon had restored every single song I had ever deleted, all at once. Criminy. I'll have to find some constant source of free Google songs, because this Amazon shit is out of hand.

Hey, do you guys dig Eisley as much as I do? But every now and then, you just kinda wish they played bluegrass instead of indie rock? [Vespers - Close My Eyes] is that.

[Twin Shadow - Five Seconds] wants us to spend four minutes celebrating all those Flock of Durans for Fears 80s songs that blur together in my mind. Which is to say, it's not equivalent to any of the famous songs from that era, but it's a solid b-side from any of those bands. Man. Remember b-sides? What would the b-side of an mp3 even be?

Huh, we're starting and ending the day with girl harmonies. That's just fine by me. [Allo, Darlin' - Capricornia] is an anthem to get mild to. This is the pop to Eisley's rock or Vespers banjo pickin'. Even the album art, with a circle of windmills on an abstract pastel background, is calculated to soothe. No sharp corners here to hang your hat on.

15Aug2012 1030: The Valley of Death

Darksiders 2 is out, it is here, and it is somehow impossibly improving on their grimdark Zelda gameplay. I played 90 minutes last night, which broke down into about 15 minutes of overwrought doom and gloom narration, 10 minutes of chopping dudes into paste with glowing scythes and hammers twice as tall as I am, 55 minutes of jumping around a castle opening treasure chests, and 10 minutes of staring at inventory items comparing stats. And it is amazing.

That is everything I wanted from a game; this is an unapologetically video gamey video game. Damage numbers explode out of dudes, wall-running paths are marked with scuffed stone, you have to find keys to doors; there is nothing in this game you haven't seen before. The genius lies in the fit and finish on display here, the careful balancing of all the elements. The kind of game where I'm not pushing it on all my friends, but in two years when I think back on it I'll nod my head and be all "That was a game, man."

In short, more than sufficient to carry me through to Guild Wars 2. 9.5 days until the gamepocalypse, the End of All Games. SOON.

[Cory Chisel and the Wandering Songs - I've Been Accused] doesn't waste any time shouting out the song's title before he starts putting some moves on a hypothetical lady. These moves consist entirely of the assertion that "nobody wants you to leave [tonight]", which I'm sure is very convincing. When your big play is weaker than "baby it's cold outside" you only get laid by accident. Which is all too bad; the music behind these lyrics is pretty good, a bluesy rocker with organ backing.

[Barcelona - Slipping Away] sounds just the barest bit like Beck, without the intense focus on being weird. Beck verses with loud refrains. I could probably play the guitar part for this song, but at least this guy puts some effort into the seduction. He's probably stealing Cory Chisel's gal pal right now.

[The Rocket Summer - 200,000] starts out with some really nostalgiac 80s piano-synth work, then busts out into something between a Tina Turner opus and Billie Myers. It didn't grab me personally, but it's well-constructed and only four minutes long so maybe Billie Turner fans would like it? It's also a sobering look at the inflation we've experienced since the early 90s: the Proclaimers only had to walk 500 miles to prove their love, but Mr. Rocket had to drive 200,000.

08Aug2012 1930: Wordfighting

Most of the Olympics can go hang, but there is always time for hell yeah swordfighting. I was super disappointed that "women's team epee" did not actually involve team fights. That's some bullshit false advertising right there.

Today on Monty's Behind the Curve, I've been catching up on m'in-f'in SWORDS and early seasons of Breaking Bad, marking time until Guild Wars 2 comes out (17 days). That leaves my hands and most of my brain free to dive into all crosswords forever. If I had known I could get all crosswords forever, I would have gotten a smartphone years ago.

Amazon carries on without me, dutifully releasing more music that can be scanned and/or matched. This week's crop is woefully short on spaces, as [Thenewno2 - Make It Home] (from the album Thefearofmissingout) is here to demonstrate. I think this band has shown up on the Rising Artists before, but I don't quite recall the slow electronic hand-clappy sound they're bringing. It's a three-minute text message from that dude you met at the bar last night, wondering wassup and did you get home okay?

[Iamdynamite - Where Will We Go] (from the album Supermegafantastic {I wasn't kidding about the spaces}) doubles the tempo and downgrades all the clapping to snapping. It's a steady rocker that doesn't have anything to say. It's not even really about partying or women or anything. Jack White and the Everly Brothers wandering around in a marijuana haze. The song doesn't stop so much as get distracted and wander down to the Taco Bell.

[Magic Trick - Torture] knows that words have meanings, and to properly circumscribe a word one must use spaces. The album title "Ruler of the Night" made me anticipate death metal -- never you mind that Amazon has never chosen death metal as a rising artist. But the sheer weeniness of the tune is mocking my expectations. It's a microcosm of the 1960s, starting out wistful and tame and hold-my-handish, and ending in an extended guitar and rock organ outro.

01Aug2012 2200: Diaspora

I'm late this week, as I've been feverishly re-backing-up all my music to Google Music. Amazon went and caved to The Man just so it could get some scan-and-match song dealie. Oh, and suddenly you have to pay a subscription to store more than 250 songs that you didn't buy from Amazon. 3527 is slightly more than 250, so I'm out. It only took a year for this cloud to fall through; we'll see how bad Google manages to screw things up next summer.

And the Google music store itself? Top 40 wasteland. The recommendations on Amazon weren't perfect, but Google is recommending twelve songs I already own. And also Gotye, as if I couldn't hear that everywhere else in the world at all times.

I should still be able to do terrible reviews of music each week, it'll just take a little more work to pull them off Amazon and get them into the big G. For now, I'm getting [An Horse - Walls] and [Streetlight Manifesto - Keasby Nights] off the $5 crop. I'm shocked every time something reminds me that ska-punk music is still being created.