30Sep2015 1900: In the Loop
Oh glory be, one of the bands I like has resisted the damaging allure of modern pop. Silversun Pickups returns with Better Nature and they sound almost exactly the same. Because why would they change? The only concession they've made to the 80s mania sweeping radio is that some of their songs now sound a little more Cure and a little less Smashing Pumpkins. When that song started with that synth I got really worried but they pulled it together quickly. Safe for another album. By the time they make their next maybe grunge will be back in style and they'll be first into the loop of new Smashing Pumpkins-alikes.
A guitar riff from California Dreaming and the voice of Neil Young combine to make [Small Feet - Gold] the most 60s thing you'll hear all month. It's brazen. And it's plodding.
Or maybe it's the 100th anniversary of Woodstock or something. [Jack and Eliza - Oh No] is a Mama and a Papa doing that vocal harmony thing I like so much. But this song has no teeth and comes to a halt rather suddenly.
[Langhorne Slim & The Law - Strangers], from the album "The Spirit Moves", is quite clearly signified as Christian-tinged bluegrass. As opposed to Moroccan bluegrass? Shut up. Slim starts out rhyming "since" and "sense", moves on to "me" and "free", "desire" and "fire", and basically does everything wrong for three minutes. I guess I liked the horn hits during the breakdown but goddamn you don't have the lyrical depth of a Japanese android R&B artist.
An artist presented in all-caps is a big red flag for me. There wasn't as much stupid synth in [CHAPPO - Hang On] as I feared; it's more of an 80s rock ballad than an 80s dance number. It's not something you'd choose to listen to on a mixtape, but it could score the closing credits of a movie you kinda liked as a kid. Not a good movie, mind, but one you remember fondly.
23Sep2015 1930: Athwart
The new Metric album, Pagans in Vegas, is my least favorite Metric album. Not going to bury the lede on this one. It is still essentially a Metric album, but somebody in the studio has given it a saccharine glaze of synth. Well. An extra glaze of synth. Metric never shied away from electronics. They started a pendulum swinging in 1998, a pendulum with two extremes of "rock" and "techno". Grow Up and Blow Away began in some strange land of mild jazz, but (tick) Old World Underground swung towards the synth; (tock) Live It Out called out the rock guitars; (tick) Fantasies balanced the two perfectly with a slight edge towards synth and (tock) Synthetica performed the same tightrope walk on the rock side. And now we (TICK) come to Pagans in Vegas.
It is the most synth. The first track is a fantastic opener but the album quickly slides into incredibly computerized dross. They commit the foul sin of covering up Emily Haines' voice and stab your ears with a high-pitched "yip-yeep" loop in the chorus of their teen-lust anthem The Shade. All of these are 95% of the way to being Metric songs I like, but the 5% synth bullshit stands athwart my pleasure. It's probably going to be a great album to see live without that last layer of production, but I can't take this album version. It would have been a great time to have another Extraordinary Machine situation. And then! After the actually-pretty-good closing vocal track The Governess the album concludes with an eight-minute synthstrumental. There are few combinations of words that I like less.
Even odder is the musical coincidence that this Friday unleashes a new album by Silversun Pickups. Metric's instrumental outro resembles nothing so much as a bizarre techno-lite cover of a Silversun Pickups song, somewhere in the vicinity of The Royal We.
[Tunde Olaniran - Up & Down] is not meant to be heard through these cheap wireless headphones. There's bass here that can't be captured accurately on anything less than an expensive subwoofer in a cheap car. And then! Stevie Wonder shows up to lay down some verses. And then! The second half of the song is invaded by a rapper crushing on Malia Obama in a rather gross way.
It's too bad [Rayland Baxter - Yellow Eyes] couldn't be "Blue Eyes" and join the rest of them on my playlist. Although indulging my Not Cover fetish wouldn't be enough to let this wistful country folk downer stick around. It's interminable listening to this guy planning to disappoint women.
[Soren Bryce - Sirens] is some mutant offspring of Lorde and The Cranberries, singing directly at somebody about heartbreak and wishing them ill. This song may as well be pointed at Rayland Baxter.
From that strange hybrid we fall right into [Goldroom - Embrace (feat. George Maple)]. There's a cliché R&B love song in here but it's overlaid with some more of that synthy Brit sound and underlaid with the Macarena.
And why not? After those two, let's just get weird. [Hermitude - Ukiyo] runs their version of an R&B song through Vocaloid and comes out with an evil plague on the other side. The blend of cute and uncanny that Japan specializes in.
16Sep2015 1900: Bricktonomicon
The strange beauty of Seveneves led me to fill in the Stephenson gaps in my knowledge. I've already been through Diamond Age and Snow Crash, but I never got to anything in between. The local library was no help in that regard so I did what I always do: buy the hardest cover I can from Amazon and drop it off at the library afterwards. Except.
I wasn't paying enough attention to the page for Cryptonomicon -- "library binding" seemed self-evident -- so I was completely surprised when a goddamn brick showed up at my door.
In terms of computer encryption, I suppose hiding a thumb drive under a brick would be fairly secure. But what is a library going to do with dimensions like that?
Congrats to my cousin Jenna and her new husband Patrick who I'm fairly sure have never known I have a website. They are the new winners for "Shortest Wedding Ceremony I've Attended" at somewhat less than five minutes. I didn't know that was possible.
Is there such a genre as folk grrl? [Jessie Jones - Sugar Coated] beats a metaphor into the ground with a mellow guitar sound and 60s rock organ, but the vocals and chorus belong in a raging late-90s grrl group.
[Yukon Blonde - I Wanna Be Your Man] fuses two 70s sounds. They went and got the distorted rock guitars from any number of Deep Purple knockoffs and combined it with the high vocals of any number of Bee Gees. Yukon Blonde may be auditioning to get into Guardians of the Galaxy 2; that's where the entire market for 70s music resides these days.
Oh here we go! Bold brass welcomes us into [Diane Coffee - Mayflower]. If the last song was Deep Purple, this is Chicago, a rote rocker with strong hits of horns from time to time.
[White Reaper - Make Me Wanna Die] isn't screaming death metal! I know! I was pleasantly surprised as well. This is actually what death metal sounded like in 1962. Paul Revere and the Raiders are out for blood and they don't care how many knickers they twist in the process.
09Sep2015 1915: Metal Gear Madness
Every form of media I consume has itself been consumed with Metal Gear FeVer. Every podcast and video and Twitter followee is hours deep into an unexpectedly entertaining game, given the backstage drama around Hideo Kojima that happened a few months ago. Everybody knew Metal Gear could produce insanely long cutscenes to rival even her royal highness Queen Cutscene, but the core sneaking-around gameplay hadn't changed in fifteen years. That MGSV plays radically differently, and plays so well, is fueling this blaze of attention.
I'm officially 36 hours into the game and just barely into chapter two of...five? I'm going to guess five because that's the sort of doofy parallel that Kojima loves/loved. I spend most of time going into outposts repeatedly and stealing all their shit. Just stealing stealing stealing and occasionally choking a dude out. I won't rest until I've found every 80s pop classic in every boombox. That's Metal Gear. No, wait. This is Metal Gear.
[Anderson Paak - Off the Ground] is dance music melding a little boopy videogame beat with R&B vocals. It sounds really familiar, but then I've played lots of videogames. You know what it is? It's that repetition thing he does that sounds a lot like [Sylvan Esso - Could I Be].
Wow. I know there's a lot of 80s revivalism going around, but rarely do we get a feathered-hair breathy pop ballad like [Tamaryn - Last]. I just looked it up, and no, this was not on the Top Gun soundtrack. Although there's still time.
[Mink Jo - To the Side] wants to tell everybody how hot she looks in these jeans. She also wants to do so through the medium of dancehall reggae, which is a term I only know because I've been doing this Free Singles shtick for years and they keep trying to make it a thing.
[Deradoorian - A Beautiful Woman] brings us rather extreme mood whiplash with a psychedelic duet that wouldn't be out of place in some head-trip 60s movie. Maybe filling out the background of a club scene from a Batman episode. Also there's a ticking sound in the right channel here that sounds like my toaster oven and it is messing with my dinner hour.
[Painted Palms - Disintegrate] threatened to go right back to reggae but swerved at the last minute into what I remember being a distinctly British flavor of 90s stoner pop. And I'll use any excuse to post that Jason Statham video.
03Spe2015 2030: Great Expectorations
Hello! It's Thursday! My excuse this week is that I caught two hells of a cold from the Minnesota State Fair and basically didn't have a Tuesday. Just home from work and *flompf* into bed for fourteen hours. But now I'm in the post-cold manic stage and HOLY SHIT do I want to play Metal Gear Solid V all day every day. Good news! Monday is a US holiday so probably I'll just hang around in my underwear drinking beer and abducting bears. I have fulfilled every oath I made as a twelve-year-old. Don't know what Metal Gear Solid V is all about? I'll just leave this here.
Remember that hideous carpet I used to have in my kitchen? I saved a swatch after I put in laminate and lined the lid of Edmond's litter box with it. It helps corral the stray litter when he comes shooting out like a rocket...which is literally every time. This worked great until earlier this week. See, Ed sometimes gets so damn excited about peeing that he doesn't even make it fully into the litter box. He gets his front paws in and then just whizzes all over the place. Normally I'd mop this up but I was busy being unconscious this week so it just...festered. And the two threads of this paragraph come together when (STOP READING IF YOU PLAN TO EAT TODAY) I did finally have time to clean it up and discovered three years worth of neglect soaked into this carpet. I could smell it through my cold. So I took the lid into the shower and hit it with some powerful chemicals and the shower head, and last time I checked it was dripping urine-colored water into the drain. Slowly. So slowly.
Even with the extra day, Google hasn't come through with a new list of gift horses to orally inspect. I'm sure they were very busy re-fonting all their logos and trying to put together an NWA playlist. No time in their day to scour the world for "indie" talent. In place of free electronic pop, why not subsist on [Karmin and Watsky - No Flex Zone] for the next few hours? It's free and repeatable. Or you could get some frankly stupefying value for your dollar with 308 goddamn songs for $4. The catch is that your mom played all of these as you were growing up so you've heard them all. Also one of the songs is haunted. THREE HUNDRED AND EIGHT. Used to be you could only get that many songs off a late night infomercial.