29Jan2014 1800: Who?
Meet the new boss; same as the old boss. There was no time to spare on this topic last week -- it took most of Wednesday to complete my SSD odyssey -- but there was finally movement on my attempt to recapture my old job at NAU Country Insurance. By "movement" I mean "I started today". So here I am, close to three years later, and...not much has changed, really. Going to get my programming on again, which is great. Pop is free now, which helps me not at all.
[Vance Joy - Riptide] already came and went once during my normal music listening, and it must not have stuck out (or perhaps I was neck-deep in Tetrobot at the time) because I totally don't remember it. It's midway between Bob Dylan and Tiny Tim, an overly-metaphorical love song scored by ukelele.
[Widowspeak - Calico] is from an album called "The Swamps", and that's the best description possible. This is minimalist ominous bayou music, Rasputina and Bat for Lashes rocking back on forth on a Deliverance porch.
Google must have frontloaded all the hype tracks this month. I look back wistfully at the reggae junk and "feat" tags and wish something would excite my emotions as much as them. [Elephant Revival - Birds and Stars] is like if that guy from that Somebody I Used To Know song found that woman he used to know and convinced her to sing a duet and then they took a bunch of Ambien.
I hate to be Band Comparison guy all day, but [Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas - Demons] is what would happen if Adele fronted...say...Imagine Dragons? I've never actually heard Imagine Dragons, but they're apparently the latest radio-friendly rock band, so OH HOLY CRAP Imagine Dragons also has a song named Demons. It doesn't sound like Jessica did a cover, but that kinda creeped me out.
22Jan2014 2000: SSD
Eeeeeee my new SSD is here! By all indications this should be the most dramatic upgrade I can make to my not-at-all-old computer, so I'mma wrap up this blog crap fast and get to gutting my Windows.
[The Grahams - A Good Man] is a country love song. It's slow and sweet and seems to last forever, but I think it's just because she repeats a verse. Or two. Do you want a mellow Wes Anderson kind of time? The Grahams are here for you and their good man.
Oh no, did Google slip in a 60s revival into their free list? The Grahams put me in mind of ooold 60s country mush, and [Blouse - No Shelter] is psychedelic pop of the most annoying sort. It doesn't even protest against a war or The Man or anything, it just wants to get laid.
[Satellite Stories - Campfire] was just another in an endless wave of pretty-good indie rockers, a good refrain with so-so verses. But...then something happened during the breakdown, some vocalizer demon noise that I've never heard before and Cthulhu willing will never hear again. You'll know it when it comes. Who thought that was a good idea?
But hell, at least Satellite Stories surprised me. Can't say that about [TOY - Endlessly], which slid right back into a vaguely 60s wall of reverb. We need to round all these bands up and send them out on a snow patrol. If they survive, maybe we cut them a record deal.
Was that too harsh? I don't have time for music, it's time to TINKER.
15Jan2014 0945: Full Circle
The Awesome Games Done Quick charity marathon took place last week, scoring a million dollars for cancer research while allowing speedrunners to strut their stuff. There were all the usual suspects in things like Zelda Wind Waker and Chrono Trigger, but there's also great stuff like guys playing Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! blindfolded or a guy beating Mario 64 in fifteen minutes one-handed. And that last guy's just so blasé about it! "Yeah I hurt my hand a couple years ago so I decided to play one-handed for a while." Cripes.
But the most important part to me was the knowledge that time-attacking has now come full circle. Speedrunning is all about real people playing physical games on the actual hardware and is as old as Atari. A grand decade ago I stumbled upon the concept of the "time attack", a method of speedrunning that sought perfection through frame-perfect emulator tricks. Over time the TAS transformed from playing the game as fast as possible to to playing around the game as fast as possible. And now! The AGDQ marathon demonstrated the latest development, which is to take a recorded time attack and feed it back into a physical game on the actual hardware using a tiny computer and custom-spliced controller wires. I love living in the future.
As a single male displeased with my personal meat biology, I've been eagerly following the development of nutritional slurry Soylent. I like food rather a lot, but some nights I'd rather throw some Bachelor Chow through my torus. If I can transform those nights from "frozen pizza night" into "carefully-constructed nutritional slurry night" it can only go well. But the response to Soylent's latest post about the hedonic ingredients, non-nutritive additives to make Soylent taste better, made me go a little crazy. Listen. I'm no fan of Sucralose or hi-fructose corn syrup, but not because I think they're some sort of industrial poison. Artificial sweeteners are bad because they are a signal that everything else in that "food" product is already cheaper than sugar. There was no corner left to cut but the substance we produce 165 million tons of per year. It's not toxic, but it is an indicator of quality.
Anyway, the Soylent post mentioned they put in tiny amounts of Sucralose to try and hide some of the bitter ingredients they require, some of the vitamins and fish oil. There's already a defensive tone in the main post, nearly apologizing for using The Devil's Sweetener, and that's followed by two updates trying to fend off what passes for a shitstorm on their forums. LISTEN. Goddammit. PEOPLE. You are on a blog about a food powder that is designed by humans from the ground up. It is an artificial product that happens to contain some "natural" ingredients. They have spent weeks explaining how it is built from processed oats, processed rice protein, hydrolyzed corn starch, processed vitamin supplements like potassium gluconate (made from the mineral sylvite!), and combined into a powder that you blend together yourself into (this week's favorite phrase) a nutritional slurry. To then complain that this powder contains negligible amounts of an "artificial" sweetener is fucking madness. Soylent is artificial and it is amazing and...and...dammit! I feel like I'm taking crazy pills, and crazy pills do not contain my daily recommended intake of molybdenum.
Well shit, look at this! [American Sharks - Overdrive] is punk as I remember it from the mid-90s, right down to the crude cartoon album cover featuring green skin and bloodshot eyes. It's not as angry as 70s or 80s punk, but it's not yet as produced and shiny as 00s punk. They're yelling but they're not screaming, if you get me. You know what this would be good for? A racing videogame soundtrack. They're not making Tony Hawk games any more, but this could work in Need for Speed.
[Δaimon - Seraphim] is listed (and sorted) as "Aaimon" pretty much everywhere, which is what you get for putting a non-English-symbol in the middle of a bunch of English. Also it's that goth-rock that I thought died a decade ago. Keyboards dialed into "church bell" mode, a wispy female voice, and a male singer who's off his antidepressants.
[Wayne Marshall - Stupid Money (feat. Assassin)] gave me plenty of warning: the album name "Tru [sic] Colors", the "feat" tag, the YouTube still frame with a guy in a Puma shirt, the YouTube channel named "RealGhettoYouthsIntl". So nobody should be surprised that this is rap with a heavy reggae influence. In the first minute it's already had a youth boys choir sing the refrain and namechecked Kesha...that kind of rap.
I was expecting more goth-rock out of [Fakear - Dark Lands Song] just based on the name, but what I got was more Fineshrine. Disney Princess dubstep, as I described it then. Mellow breakbeats and a warbling tiny female voice normally associated with dwarves and summoning bluebirds.
09Jan2014 0830: Unepic Journey
I have passed through the holidays and come out the other side. The planned two-week experiment in replacing work with cookies was extended by the surprise ice-up of the entire nation. Rarely indeed is North Dakota unprepared for cold weather. Rarer still is that cold cold enough to shut. down. everything. But lo! Monday dawned at a not-even-record freeze and everybody agreed to not go anywhere. We're not even talking a blizzard; there's no snow involved whatsoever. Schools and businesses shut down purely for the temperature. Bizarre. There's a point where it doesn't even matter how cold it is; -30 doesn't feel all that much worse than -10, really. I went to work yesterday when it was -15 out. It felt great. A combination of Stockholm syndrome and hypothermia.
I filled in every holiday between-cookie moment with media both young and old: Ivanhoe, American Gods, Gunpoint, and Wolf Among Us. The two standouts were Terra Mystica -- as rad as expected and someday I'll learn how to play -- and a game called UnEpic. UnEpic is mechanically a magnificent game, a Castlevaniaish romp with multiple character builds you could try out. I only had enough time to try out half of the weapon skills, and there's a bunch of funky-looking magic spells I had to ignore...but do I want to play a 20-hour game all over again? No. Because the script is terrible. It starts with nerd stereotype humor, hits all the low points in fart/poop/stoner jokes, and ends with a rape joke. Every glorious hour of jumping around and stabbing skeletons was bookended with two minutes of the most horrendous juvenile shit. I think I liked it? But I can't really recommend it.
An exciting new year of terrible music stretches before us! The Antenna list is restocked with seventeen more potential horrors. [James Vincent McMorrow - Cavalier] wouldn't even download, so that cuts the list down to sixteen that I actually have to survive and by default makes it the best song today. Did I even listen to that YouTube link? No. No I did not.
Goddammit, starting the year with a failed download and a feat. A few singles lately have padded out their time with extended outros that probably lead into the next song on an album. [Flume - Holdin On (feat. Freddie Gibbs)] is the first one I can remember that seems to start on the other side of that line. There is definitely some junk right away that could have been the previous track ending. It sounds like it starts halfway through a word. There's nearly a minute of synth buildup that could have fronted Hotline Miami, and then a single rap verse. It ends with chipmunk voices, maybe you're into that sort of thing.
I spent a couple minutes tracking down that Hotline Miami link, and by the time I got back [Cate Le Bon - Are You With Me Now?] was halfway over and ambling along towards its bridge. It's not that the song is insubstantial. Well...maybe. It's more inoffensive than insubstantial, a Stone Ponies B-side that captures the feel of trying to walk home through a light drizzle.
[ShowYouSuck - Make-Out King (produced by Javelin & The Hood Internet)] is not quite a feat tag, but it's a warning flag all the same. The album's name is also "Dude Bro", so...I really really hope this is satire. It's probably satire; when this much machismo is so desperately displayed I choose to interpret it as a joke. But hey, it's another synth-rap song with a backing loop I swear I've heard before. Google is offering you the chance to get in on the ground floor of 2014's hottest manufactured trend, synth glam rap.
[Yuna - I Want You Back] is the most traditional song around this week. You want a slow, fluffy pop song about an ex-boyfriend and low self-esteem? Would you like it to have two verses and a bridge and then repeat the chorus for a while? Would you like it to not start halfway through a word that might have been "handcuffs"? I Want You Back is all those things and less. Now, if it had been "He Wants Me Back", then we could talk about a place on my Not Covers list.