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26Feb2014 1800: Good Day, Sirs

Happy birthday to my mom! And Merry Christmas to me!

Who's ready for a little synth pop? Too bad, you're getting a lot of synth pop. [Little Daylight - Overdose] is the best parts of Ladyhawke; both the lady parts and the video game sounds parts.

If we swap out the SNES sounds for an organ and swap out the drums for handclaps, [Lucius - Turn it Around] is pretty much the same song. It's a good song.

And here we go with a double-dose of "feat". [Gramatik - Get a Grip (feat. Gibbz)] sounds like radio rap before gangsters took over. I have no idea if tenor black men are going to follow the rest of the 80s into this revival, but for the young uns out there: yes, everything really did sound like Axel Foley.

No no, I said Axel Foley, not Jah Maoli. Dammit, [Jah Maoli - If I Ever (feat. J Boog)], it's too damn cold for reggae. It is never a good time for reggae in Fargo.

19Feb2014 1930: Set Sail for Nostalgia!

Hoist the mains'l and set yer prow three degrees larberd a' 1990. I am over thirty and I'm about to get recollectional up in this bitch. Way way back in the misty past my siblings and I owned Sid Meier's Pirates! for NES. We only got new games at birthday and Christmas, so each was played until we ground it down into its constituent atoms. But Pirates! was played much more than that. We ventured out into the faux-Caribbean year after year, sailing the small seas and building armadas before our inevitable death from old age.

In an age of linear pipe-jumping and obtuse Zelda overworlds, everything in Pirates! was simultaneously easy to grasp and full of potential. See a town? Sell your cargo! See a fort? Raid it! See a ship? Full sails and fusillades! You could make your fortune running cotton between ports, raid the Spanish gold fleets, marry a governor's daughter, or grow old chasing randomly-generated treasure maps. A note about those maps. There were four pieces to each, and the first piece had the treasure marked on it but was usually the least helpful in terms of recognizable terrain. As much as I love Pirates!, my brother was actually the household master at it. He could pinpoint treasure from a quarter-map with three dots of land and a wide blue sea. And it wasn't always gold; sometimes a family member was being held hostage in some nefarious gaol or other. Tracking down and rescuing the first one was a close relation, like a father or sister. The more you saved, the further out they went, through all your siblings and parents, to the point that my bro once saved two different uncles.

Goddamn, Pirates! was three games' worth of good times.

Today on Monty's Behind the Curve: Assassin's Creed 4 is the second coming of Pirates! And not this garbage, either. I said unkind things about the last Assassin's Creed and I stand by all of it. All of it except the part where I was out, obviously. AC4 still has low points, mostly the parts where it forces you to do a mission, but when it turns you loose on the ocean and stops holding your hand? It's beautiful. It's a beautiful piece of pirate. And tell me if this sounds familiar: I can raid forts, pick fights with ships and plunder their holds, sell goods in town, raid the Spanish gold fleet, fence with enemy captains, and chase treasure on treasure maps. At this point I don't even know what Assassin's Creed is any more. It's hardly about stabbing dudes, it's not set in Renaissance Italy or Ancient Jerusalem, the Templar/Assassin conflict is muted background noise...but if the core of this open world remains, I'm back on board. They made a place I'd like to be and that's a step in the right direction.

[Aa - Glow Wreath] really really want to be sorted to the top of your playlist. Either that or they're a splinter group from The XX. Aa is what white people euphemistically call "world music" when what they mean is "African drum rhythms". It sounds like a drum circle in here, with minimal droning notes from some synths and a bunch of guys shouting lyrics from very far away. The YouTube I found seems to be a five-year-old Super Navel Gaze mix, but you'll get the idea very quickly.

Time to "nigger": 13 seconds. The moment I saw the spelling of "scheme" in [Skeme - Different] I knew I was in for a "treet". This is a smooth little rap that focuses mainly on how awesome his car is and how he likes to show it off in parking lots. That's cool. But there's all the silly trappings of hoes and guns in here too. Do teenagers still fall for this? Hardly anybody does crime any more.

[Blank Realm - Back to the Flood] is a straightforward unsurprising rock tune, Music to Drive To. The guy's voice gets on my nerves, some sort of tone in between Ric Ocasek and Tom Petty that sounds strained.

Wow, an official VEVO channel and everything! [Bad Suns - Cardiac Arrest] clearly has powerful friends. Their brand of slightly spiced radio rock makes lots of people lots of money. I try not to begrudge each generation their Third Eye Blind. I try so hard.

13Feb2014 1800: Highatus

Yup. Hotel Valentine is everything I wanted in the return of Cibo Matto. If you want trippy lounge jazz rap that sounds like it's simultaneously from 1995 and 2095, it is BACK baby. If you want songs about a ghost finding love and marijuana and pot and weed in a hotel, Cibo Matto feels you. If you want to jump up and down to a new youth anthem of disconformity, might I suggest "Don't tell me what to do, I'm a ghoooost/Don't throw the fucking oyster shells at me"? The typically verbose Pitchfork review also zeros in on that line, but uses it as fuel for its crazy thesis that the album is a mystery. Cibo Matto doesn't write mysteries. They may use metaphor and surrealism, but never mystery. Between "10th Floor Ghost Girl" and "MFN" you know everything: there is a female ghost who likes to get high and get down in a hotel.

Now please excuse me, I have to go figure out how to insert Captain Dan songs into the "sea shanty" facility of Assassin's Creed 4.

[Jetta - Feels Like Coming Home] is a bog-standard soulful pop love song from a black woman, which I guess is February in a nutshell. It is WAY overproduced in all the wrong places, when a minimal vocals+piano combo would probably have served better. In fact, that live YouTube version is miles better than what Google served up. It's a full minute shorter, if that tells you anything.

[Jamestown Revival - California (Cast Iron Soul)] is exactly what it sounds like on the tin. Gospel-country-folk about either going to or living in or wanting to leave California. I know intellectually that there is an upstate California, but I feel that songs like this work better about West Virginia or Illinois.

Oooo, this is awkward. Who wants to tell [The Orwells - Who Needs You] that the lofi Brit-rock craze was a decade ago? And we're just plum full-up with "the" bands like The Hives, The Strokes, The Vines, and The Fratellis. The Orwells aren't bad, they're just late.

05Feb2014 1800: Brace Yourselves

Drop everything -- up to and including your infant -- and brace yourselves for the best news of the year. I was watching two guys I used to see on Giant Bomb talking to a guy I used to see on Mythbusters, and I learned that CIBO FUCKING MATTO are dropping a new album NEXT WEEK. It looks like Hotel Valentine is ditching their usual food shtick for a concept album about a ghost living in a love hotel. I am so ready for sure-to-be-hits like "Empty Pool" and "Lobby", especially since their last song that mentioned a lobby was so good. It will be interesting to see how they expand on that theme. Ha ha ha oh my gods they're collaborating with Reggie Watts. That's a "feat" I can get behind. Cibo Matto always sounded like insane future-rap; the future is finally now.

Google got their antenna up in a timely fashion and posted some non-Cibo music, so I might as well mark time until Hotel Valentine arrives.

I appreciate the art of Reggie Watts because I can see a single dude on stage making the music in real time. I don't care about the actual crooning and disjointed nature of the songs; it's about Reggie. Without that direct contact with a single dude, songs like [Supreme Cuts - Gone (feat. Mahaut Mondino] just sound stupid. Not only is it NOT one person making this -- as evidenced by my nemesis "feat" -- but the three or four beats stitched together here don't do anything for me.

Hooray, rap-pop! [Jake Miller - My Couch] has a boy-band sound in the chorus that may cause hives in anybody older than 17, but the thrust of the song is something I can support because fuck bars. Why don't we just hang around at my place and play video games and/or make out? It's like -10 degrees out and I'm working through Broken Age, which is way better than any nightclub.

[Hospitality - Rockets and Jets] has the sad guitar tuning of a 1971 protest song, but nowhere to go with all that lack of energy. This is one of the few times where a song's breakdown actual sounds like the song broke; a total silence followed by instruments kinda getting back into the groove right where they left off.