24Feb2016 1730: Side Business
Disaster! Today's post was going to be a proclamation of love for Lake Street Dive's new album Side Pony, but the stream I used appears to be down? Vanished? Maybe the magazine only had a two-week exclusive? In any event, the album is out and you can find dribs and drabs of their marketing plan. I would skip the eponymous, effervescent, execrable Side Pony track itself, but aside from that small pop blight the album is solid.
And uhhhh is anybody still watching Supergirl? I think I may have to bail. It has tiny flecks of brilliance sprinkled across a potter's field. The best comparison I can make is to the late unlamented Bionic Woman reboot, a massively uneven show with more than one thematic tie. Okay. Maybe just the one.
[Charlie Belle - I Don't Want To Be Alone] is refreshingly direct - she wants to get with this dude and doesn't care who knows it. She's backed by some very simple rock in some very simple chords and makes the whole package work. But it's only her second-favorite package.
[Laser - Leaving It Too Late] is a 23rd-century Mikado, full of samples and synths and one or more girls being insubstantial. I will grant them that they do feature a full complement of laser sounds. It's not false advertising.
[Bonzai - Doses] summons forth "a beat and a bass" almost immediately. She spews most of her talking/rapping into a void and every so often a bass punches your ears. It's a modern club song with the personality and information content of Mr Personality or that Sims remix I have.
[Frenchy Made - Wicked Games] is from the album "Lowrider Bumpin' DBR Boyz Posse", so I can only assume this is all parody. The juxtaposition of album and song is funny for a moment but in the end you're still listening to a Chris Isaak cover.
17Feb2016 1900: A Trick of Memory
Today on Monty's Behind the Curve: last week I blazed through The Mote in God's Eye and hey! Aside from some 1970s woman-needs-a-man problems it's really damn good! So I strolled up into my library on Sunday, prepared to snuggle up with the sequel for the President's Day holiday. The sequel that I had seen on the shelf before getting the first book. The sequel that the library website told me was available. The sequel that (by this point in the paragraph, you know obviously) was not there. I dithered. I hemmed. And then I made the terrible choice to pick up The Dark Forest, sequel to the reviled Three Body Problem.
I'm sure I'm not literally the only person to revile it -- I know my sister's on board -- but when you go up against a Hugo winner that people you trust speak of glowingly...doubt creeps in. And I thought back on The Three Body Problem: it has an alien invasion, human collaborators, a virtual world, an unsolvable(?) physics problem, the death of technological advancement, a unique alien race...it sounds great. And so far The Dark Forest is the same way, just bigger. The timeline is longer, the cast is wider, the human defense plan is wild...it sounds great. But the book itself is still TERRIBLE. Cardboard cutouts resembling humans all speak in the same manner and every three pages or so we interrupt the preschool-level grammar with a paragraph of cloyingly overwrought metaphor. The Three Body Problem(s) are the best books you'll ever remember reading but remain the worst books to actually read.
Hahaha okay Reddit this Magic deck is pretty good.
[Pillar Point - Part Time Love] is nothing but synth from wall to wall. Robot vocals to programmed basslines to drum machines. You could try the entire album at absolutely no risk, but I'd rather they pay me. This four minutes feels like ten.
Well hey, it's Tricky! That's yet another name I know from the "up and coming" artist list, after Thao and Courtney Barnett. Unfortunately [Tricky - Beijing to Berlin (feat. Ivy)] is obnoxious -- not even Tricky can make this Ivy a palatable presence. The cruel hand of feat strikes again.
I'm a big fan of boolean logic, so the title of [Mt. Si - Either / Or] got me excited. Maybe the album "Limits" refers to calculus! But then pop happened. It's breathy Madonna pop that ladies take a crack at every couple of years, rote radio fare. I wish one of them would try to explain DeMorgan's Laws.
When the Beatles flamed out and cratered at the turn of the 70s they left bands like [Nap Eyes - No Fear of Hellfire] scrambling to find a sound to fill in the sudden void. None of them were the Beatles, but Nap Eyes is game to try for seven and a half minutes. Seven. And a half. There were a few annoying songs this week, but this is the only one I skipped through.
Modern funk keeps clinging to the fringes of this list and brightens my day every time. Even if I don't ultimately keep the song, it's nice to hear some cheery jazz piano and walking bass. [Nigel Hall - Gimme a Sign] is ready to funk. According to YouTube, this "up and coming" artist has been ready to funk for over four years.
10Feb2016 1745: Keeeeeerbal
Oh no help me every day I'm Kerbaling until like midnight. I built a space station. Send help. Send liquid fuel.
It's a week of returning champions at the Monthenorium, as Beach Slang present another track off the same album: [Beach Slang - Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas]. As I said before, if you're dying for more mid-00s screamo you'll probably want this. Bad Art is more a straight-ahead rocker than the slow build and angst of last time.
Courtney Barnett's label is the most effective music label on the planet. [Courtney Barnett - Depreston] marks the third time she has shown up in the Free Singles; the full album is streaming on YouTube; she got the previously-mentioned mention on a webcomic I've read for years; and she's even invaded one of the podcasts I keep up on. Basically they found the most effective way to market to a guy who wants to hear a lady mumble about that one time she was house hunting in the suburbs.
I really like how descriptive the username on YouTube has become. It lets me know ahead of time whether a song is being passed around by fans, uploaded by a label, or just collated by the automated Google Music bot. [DJDS - Stand Up And Speak] shows up on BODYHIGHTV, so I was able to brace myself for repetitive dance music that tries to contain a social message.
There's a slimy ouroborous at the heart of [Sad13 X Lizzo - Basement Queens], a Free Single from Google that also promotes Google tools. That's one step of brand synergy beyond what I expect from the famously corrupt music industry. Sad13 and Lizzo made an incredibly self-referential song about good times and partying and recording in their basements. If Google Video had gotten anywhere these two would shortly be starring in a streaming-only sitcom with this as the theme song, title, and ultimate plot description.
[Aoife O'Donovan - Magic Hour] is an ominous pop song based on an echoing guitar/piano substrate, like all the radio that came around in the 60s and 90s. I think it's about love but it's not afraid to talk about skeletons and shit. And then a violin.
04Feb2016 1800: The Witness
The Witness came out. Stop all the presses. I felt certain I had typed a thousand words about The Witness last week but no -- I was merely rushing through the post to get back to playing it. So. Blow. He used all his vast Braid monies to make a monster of a game. The craft that went into every branch and rock of this game is staggering. It's set on an island that is not all that large in absolute terms, but the tightly-controlled sightlines and impossibly-dense biomes fill it with mystery. You can stand inside the quarter-acre of bamboo forest and see nothing of the mountain next door or the village just over the rise. A rain forest in summer abuts a forest in autumn abuts a desert and they all feel complete and expansive.
Moreover, I can't think of a game in recent memory where the raw experience of discovery is 90% of the game. Picross? But it's like sitting down with a 400-page compendium of GAMES magazine for a long winter weekend. A long weekend. I'm at 31 hours and despite seeing something that could be termed an ending I still have several hundred puzzles to go.
I'm reading too much into the game, just like you could read too much into Braid, and I think what I'm reading is that Blow hates completionists as much as I do. I've seen what it takes to get 100% and it's in the neighborhood of the infamous Idle Star. I'll do the puzzles for puzzles' sake but there will come a point that I leave The Witness and don't return and that's fine. I'm perfectly fine with games that contain content only 1% of all players experience, content that blocks access to other content, "good" endings that require "bad" completion -- I even made one, once. I want Internet rumors and myths to spring up around every cranny in the Impressionist prison he's constructed. And I keep saying "he" when in fact there's a medium-sized team of programmers and architects(!) behind the madness. When have dev teams ever hired architects? Every building is just a primitive cube stretched out, right?
Or maybe, just maybe, Jonathan Blow created a game where you draw dicks on everything and he's just taking the piss.
Google Free Music had once again not updated as of press time, despite any stoppage of presses. I've been trying to get into Chvrches lately but I can't? I also can't articulate why. I don't yet know why [Chvrches - Leave a Trace] grates on me but [Ladyhawke - Dusk Till Dawn] doesn't.