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25Nov2015 1430: Merry Eatmas!

Merry Eatmas, America! That works in both English and Spanish. Go watch Jessica Jones and we'll discuss another month.

[Cheerleader - Perfect Vision] is mid-90s bombast pop. Radio had just shaken off the doldrums of grunge and had yet to be invaded by roving bands of boys -- in between there was a glut of car-commercial pop done by nominally British guys getting chewed up by the pretty machine.

[Allison Weiss - Back to Me] at least has the presence of mind to literally say "top 40s pop song" in the lyrics. It's not meta enough for me to keep it, but Allison attempted a slavish recreation of every pop song you remember from the 80s and pretty much nailed it. Could use a little more Madonna in the bridge.

I should just accept that I'm caught in a time warp and will never hear something new in the Free Singles. It is rarely as obvious as this week, as [The Marcus King Band - I Won't Be Here] takes us back to the mellowest of 70s guitar ballads. I've been thrust backwards through the history of the major labels. Hoping each time that the next song will be the song...home. Almost had it. Shut up.

Instead we head back to the 60s with the country pop of Nancy Sinatra-like [Lucie Silvas - Letters to Ghosts]. It's stomping country with the female vocal cracking that so endeared Audra Mae to me, but I'm all full up on country for the decade.

I'm not sure if I want to complete the yahtzee with a 50s tune or if I just want to come back to the present. It sucks getting old mostly because every palatable song has already been written and now I'm aware of it. [Jasmine Thompson - Great Escape], for example. This is what would happen if Sophie B Hawkins was still contemporary and competing directly against Taylor Swift. There's a synth sample way in the background that is ringing a faint bell -- it's not quite Maneater and it's not quite Mr. Wendle?

20Nov2015 1300: The Tonkodyssey

Sorry about being so late this week. I spent the last two evenings playing Guild Wars 2 watching Agents of Sheield you know what fuck you guys. I've been loading up my larder so I can embark on The Tonkodyssey today. I've been circling the legend of Real Ramen for a while now and this article lays out a blueprint that anybody could follow given enough hours. A twelve-hour soup! Madness! I'm spending all my daylight hours on a broth that has no frame of reference! Will it be good? Maybe!

The prep also reacquainted me with the Asian market in Fargo. The last time I was there was to find this secret new sauce that nobody had heard of yet: sriracha. It was weird before the Internet. I wasn't sufficiently seasoned back then to appreciate a store that carries bulk dry ramen noodles, shiitake mushrooms, fish heads, Pocky, sushi rice, canned gulab jamun, and -- get this -- dry lupini beans! Yes! I could attempt to reconstitute my own lupini beans! That might be all I eat from this day forward. After I finish all this ramen.

[Finish Ticket - Color] has the syncopation and dude-harmonies that I think I last heard in Ok Go -- I don't have a lot of music with more than one dude up front, okay? But all the bouncy joy of Ok Go is replaced with the most standard of radio rock standards.

[Odetta Hartman - Creektime] has some musty rhymes in her minimalist bluegrass...okay wait, the R&B just kicked in. The song's less than two minutes long but it's (a) mostly instrumental, (b) annoying when it isn't instrumental, and (c) not sure what instruments it even wants. You should all listen to this bonkers song exactly once. The ghost of Beyonce is haunting her bayou. Bayounce.

And now we jump into straight country. [Turnpike Troubadours - Down Here] has no illusions or ulterior motives for all their steel guitar and fiddling.

[Ryan Hemsworth & Lucas - Angel] gets its glitch on immediately. There's all the ambient synth and off-beat scratching that gets the dance floor mildly swaying. Occasionally somebody hums. I punch this song. I punch it.

11Nov2015 1745: Comfort Food

The day I forgot I was waiting for is finally here: Axiom Verge is on sale! Metroid is a pretty cool game, guys, and if Nintendo isn't going to make a good one then by gawd we'll do it ourselves. Unfortunately I didn't jump on this right when it came out so now it's trapped on the far side of no less than three adventure games I have also purchased and put off. After all that story I'll probably need acontextual alien shoots.

But none of that matters -- none of this week matters -- because this weekend is Lobstergiving. My family invents the BEST holidays and your family doesn't. The shirts this year are dope and it looks like the weather is going to cooperate. It cooperates 95% of the time. Everything's great.

Look what I bookmarked today! I am full of hype!

[Brolin - Swim Deep] is a dance song that asks you to drown yourself as a cure for your crippling anxiety. It sounds like the lead warbler has crippling anxiety as well. Iron and Wine and Boots and Cats.

[Laura Stevenson - Torch Song] isn't a torch song in the traditional sense. Laura is just barely pining and doesn't seem all that wistful. She does seem a lot like Letters to Cleo.

I found the video for [Bixiga 70 - 100% 13] on a channel named "Glitterbeat TV", so I was forewarned as much as you are now. I measured only 2% glitter by mass; the majority is composed of Cake instrumental. 4.5 minutes of Cake instrumental, which was already my least favorite part of any album.

I interpret this week's selection to mean that Google is pivoting to cash in on 90s nostalgia music. [Dogs on Acid - Make it Easy] trades on the dissonance of guitar and lazy vocalists that made the mid-90s kind of a chore to listen to. This band is hanging out in their living room just kind of playing whatever and the lead singer can't really be bothered to rehearse and it all forms into a just-short-of-cohesive sunny stoner song.

04Nov2015 1730: Bitter Apertitif

I absolutely mean to continue harping on this but if you want to check out of my Three-Body Problem hatefest I won't keep you. I read books rarely because I am constantly afraid of falling into a terrible one; when it happens I need to exorcise the impression it leaves. So, once more: one of the following excerpts is from the first chapter of a Hugo Best Novel and the other is from a runner-up.

Orolo had asked me along to serve as amanuensis. It was an impressive word, so I'd said yes.

He had heard that an artisan from extramuros had been allowed into the New Library to fix a rotted rafter that we could not reach with our ladders; it had only just been noticed, and we didn't have time to erect proper scaffolding before Apert. Orolo meant to interview that artisan, and he wanted me to write down what happened.

Through drizzly eyes, I looked at the leaf in front of me. It was as blank as my brain. I was failing.

But it was more important to take notes of what the artisan said. So far, nothing. When the interview had begun, he had been dragging an insufficiently sharp thing over a flat rock. Now he was just staring at Orolo.

The slender figure of a beautiful young girl emerged at the top of the building, waving the giant red banner of the April Twenty-Eighth Brigade. Her appearance was greeted immediately by a cacophony of gunshots. The weapons attacking her were a diverse mix: antiques such as American carbines, Czech-style machine guns, Japanese Type-38 rifles; newer weapons such as standard-issue People's Liberation Army rifles and submachine gunes, stolen from the PLA after the publication of the "August Editorial"; and even a few Chinese dadao swords and spears. Together, they formed a condensed version of modern history.

Numerous members of the April Twenty-Eighth Brigade had engaged in similar displays before. They'd stand on top of the building, wave a flag, shout slogans through megaphones, and scatter flyers at the attackers below. Every time, the courageous man or woman had been able to retreat safely from the hailstorm of bullets and earn glory for their valor.

I tried to find the very best and most poetic piece of Three-Body Problem and it turned out to be right in the prologue, before it settled into its dry historical primer of First Contact. Experience the best parts of this year's Hugo award-winner for free, yourself, right in Amazon's free excerpts! And then run away and never look back!

Meanwhile Anathem is my jam because it continually makes up pseudo-futuristic words to simulate linguistic drift. Making up language is my favorite part of any book, academic or fictional.

[WATERS - Up Up Up] is something we haven't heard for a while in the free singles: cruise-ship pop. Carnival and/or grapefruit-juice commercials have sold their brand of sun fun with songs like this for decades and I can never not associate this particular tempo and instrumentation with people playing volleyball on a floating monument to Western excesses. The lyrics don't say anything about the Caribbean and it feels like an oversight.

And then whoa to 00s screamo: [Beach Slang - Young & Alive] explodes from the first second with something like a Brand New sound.

[Fort Lean - New Hobbies] is going even shorter than Beach Slang, a lithe 1:48 signaling a punk song. But no! Unless this is what punk sounds like this decade. This is the kind of song I've only heard in sampler packs, such as this one from a Matador sampler. Catchy, indie, and a white dude yelling into a crappy microphone while a straight tempo drives his point home.

The third short song this week, [Tommy Guerrero - Sun Rays Like Stilts] is an instrumental that has the good grace to leave in less than two minutes. There's an Asian lilt to the lead guitar and a country feel to the backing guitar and very much nothing happens. And the file ends with ten seconds of silence. Who decided to release the CD's hidden track as the single?