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21Jan2015 1900: Virtual Insanity

I've spoken before about Microsoft's lack of product sanity. It's just something that naturally happens when companies become richer than nations and spread themselves so thin. Wacky ideas can percolate and fester in relatively small groups of employees, protected from outside reality until they burst forth upon a stage at a press conference. The Kin phone was not a product of a sane group of minds. It was the product of a group of insane zealots who jealously guarded their employment against all odds until the world itself turned against them.

We got to see a little bit of this Microsoft -- by which I mean "Microsoft" -- again today. The Microsoft that just says "fuck all y'all" and comes out with an eighty-four-inch tablet. The Microsoft that grinds up people who can make sensible decisions about products into jagged proto-beings that willingly jam a Kinect into sport sunglasses and use it to put pop-up ads on your walls holy crap I want those glasses Microsoft call me call meeeeeee

Ahem. They're called "HoloLens", they're almost certainly more expensive than I can stomach, and as Ars commenters point out they're literally the most 2015 thing that 2015 could have. And I'm sure Microsoft will support this speciality hardware with all the care and love we've come to expect.

Sure, let's start every week with some Cookie Monster metal. [Unearth - Guards of Contagion] contains very little screwing around. Unearth is all business, all Guitar-Hero-boss-song. And like most of Guitar Hero's boss songs, you wouldn't listen to this in your day-to-day life.

I got unreasonably excited when I saw the title for [Pell - Eleven:11]. I'm always looking to beef up my Not Covers playlist and I thought I had hit some sort of nerdy vocabulary jackpot. Turns out I was misremembering the "special" chipmunks song and also maybe getting it confused with some Thao & Mirah. Fortunately this rap stands up on its own merits. Pell raps on the fast side, which is the kind I like, and while the song is entirely about how awesome he is he doesn't ever shoot somebody. Kudos to Pell!

All week I've been listening to a Google random playlist based on a seed from a Saddle Creek sampler CD. For a moment I thought I had accidentally stopped the monthly playlist and gone back to that queue, but no! It was just [Modern Vices - Cheap Style] lo-fi-ing their way through a little rock song.

[Niia - Seeing Red] is a bog-standard diva R&B love song for three and a half minutes. Then it morphs into a bog-standard 50s Motown torch song for another minute. And "morphs" may be too strong a word; there's a hard stop that made me think Xerxes was starting up.

When [Jake Xerxes Fussell - Raggy Levy] finally did start up it gave me exactly the bluegrass I expected from the album cover. An oil painting of a slow Virginia river can only go two ways: bluegrass or incredibly affected indie folk. There's an entire verse here where the only words are "sweet potato". If this was part of the O Brother! Where Art Thou? soundtrack I would keep it for completion's sake. On its own...well.

14Jan2015 2000: Rock of Ages

Geodude has been a word for eighteen years. Geodude is an adult. That's how old you are.

With a dense name like [Extinction A.D. - Mummified] (from the album "Plague Prophecy"), you shouldn't be expecting some H.R. Pufnstuf singalong. These guys are shredding and yelling and I'm sure their lives are very sad all the time in between the drunken blackouts.

[Talos - Tethered Bones] had another name that promised Cookie Monster Metal, but it's the opposite! A prepubescent countertenor is singing very slowly about wuuuuvvvvvv and rain. The keyboard keeps trying to go faster but Talos won't let it.

Rarely do techno loops advertise themselves as boldly as [Kiasmos - Looped]. And yes, that is a two-hour loop of Looped I found for you. So I wasn't at all surprised to hear a synthstrumental noodling around for six minutes until withering away.

[Dream Ritual - Fade] is exactly like you remember the radio in 1992. Somewhere between Foo Fighters and Stone Temple Pilots there is the Dream Ritual. Radio stations love it when they can slot a new song right into their classic rock lineup...and that's how old you are.

Did I say countertenor before? Then [Silk Rhodes - Pains] must be falsetto. This is a plodding R&B crooner, except I don't think you can "croon" up where dogs can hear.

07Jan2015 1900: The Last Time We Spoke

I'm afraid I left last year unreasonably angry. Trying to bury The Interview made me want to see it in an equal and opposite reaction to how much releasing the movie made me not want to see it. Some things are banned because they're cool. Some things are only cool when they're banned.

But it's a new year! All that is behind us except for the part where we might bomb something in North Korea someday. It's a time for optimism and making promises we can't keep, so hey: 52 Yo Mama and Bloot ends this year. When? That's a great question and I'll let you know on the last page. I don't expect it to last until summer and I have all the important beats mapped out, but I haven't scripted out every last line. Things will get worse and only briefly get better.

In all the excitement last December I somehow missed one of the free songs. This won't do you any good now but [Sylvan Esso - Hey Mami] is actually pretty good. Like if Regina Spektor had grown up DJing underground raves instead of folking up coffee houses. I actually dig it, I'll have to check out the rest of their stuff.

This year's selection doesn't start at such lofty heights, but [Shakey Graves - Dearly Departed (feat. Esmé Patterson] is also not gangster rap despite the guy's name and the "feat". This is some kind of 70s country duet overlaid with a thin film of 2000s indie folk production. The chord progression, the handoffs between male and female, and Shakey's remarkably Cat Stevensy voice all say the former; while the handclaps and syncopated silent beats say the latter.

[Nude Beach - For You] is a more straightforward tune, the kind of rock single that floated in and out of the radio back in the early 90s. Proclaimers-era bubblegum rock with minimal distortion and a just-talented-enough vocalist.

[Ali Love - Perfect Picture (Single Version)] presumably has a (Extended Disco Dance Version) somewhere. This "mere" 4.5 minutes of dance thump loops begins as if we missed minutes one through seven; it's the series of breakdowns before the main theme kicks back in for minutes twelve through fifteen. Disjointed in all manners except that of its bass beat. It reminds me why I never liked C+C Music Factory.

Oh hey, do we get some silly death metal now? The name of [RL Grime - Golden State] made me hopeful and then crushed those hopes with another 4.5 minutes of synth loops. This song is less danceable and less loopy than Perfect Picture but is all the worst trends of 2010 electronic booping. Is there a genre called "boop-bop"? There should be. Maybe a bebop subgenre of electrojazz?

[Montana of 300 - Ice Cream Truck] is a victim of Poe's Law. On the one hand, this song is singularly focussed on driving to a person's residence and shooting them repeatedly. That is the thrust of every verse and the chorus. On the other hand, the metaphor used to represent this act is that of an ice cream truck. And the "300" in his name is graphically stolen from the movie. And he appropriates the Joker's mask from the beginning of The Dark Knight but can't fit it over his dread head. And Montana doesn't contain a black person, let alone 300 of them. Poe's Law.