30Jun2016 1800: Expansion Content
Was it really just earlier this month that I began reading The Expanse? Because uhhhh I'm now on book four, 1500 pages into the series, and my eyes yearn to consume more of it in every moment. I'm not bragging about pace and this is definitely not dense high literature, but man. Every character typed here is another microsecond that could be better spent on more Expanse. Between the Ancillaries and Seveneves I have been inundated with amazing scifi over the past year. Hard what-ifs, language-twisting imperial drama, and now some straight-up space opera manshoots. Why isn't everybody happy all the time?
[Jumo - The Wind (feat. Awir Leon)] feeeeeat feat feat feat features a beat for a minute and then abandons that song for a different electro showcase. It's atonal and a-tempo-al. Usually when a song feats somebody it's because they collaborated on the song, not because they both made a separate song and threw them into a file.
Named for a bounty hunter and with the potential to sing about the most celebrated of beefs, I had some hope for [Bossk - Kobe]. Just kidding -- I saw that it was seven minutes long and made my frowniest face. Not even Jumo and/or Awir Leon had the chutzpah to pull off seven minutes, and they had two songs. This is some middle-of-the-road Gamalon shit right here. And then suddenly! At four minutes in they decide to pull out their swords and blow your speakers. So once again two wildly disparate songs are in one track. I like this better than the old "hidden track" CD trick that gums up my playlists, buuuuut maybe not on your big press single okay guys?
[Yumi Zouma - Keep It Close to Me] wants to put the G in your Gina and the always in your forever. If this gets enough radio play and radio stations are still a thing, a thirtysomething dude will still be able to sing along to this stupid little pop song in twenty years.
Even love songs sound like breakup songs when you've got the blues (rock). [Black Pistol Fire - Storm Cussin'] takes the thematic material and straight-ahead guitar work of a very specific Brad Sucks and Crües it up a bit.
It's been a while since we've had a Brett Dennen show up around here. [Mutual Benefit - Not for Nothing] is a folk song. Nothing more or less. Piano, guitar, violins, and a little brushed drum walk you down easy street.
23Jun2016 1930: Bikes and Cranks
I'm going to assume that if you're reading this site that you are already aware of my sister's wedding last weekend, probably because you were in attendance. It was really really good! French silk pie is way better than any wedding cake and Fred Savage and the Unbeatables is way better than any DJ. If you haven't seen any of the hundreds of wedding photos by now you aren't cleared to see them. Moving on!
My bike developed a sudden sickness two weeks ago. The venerable Murray suddenly slipped a something in the crank, resulting in well over 90% of my pedal power going unrequited. I can tighten and align a few things on my own, but I looked into cranks and the terrible truth drove me to the West Fargo Bike Guy. Three custom tools that could differ/not exist by manufacturer? This design must be critical to stand up to the rotational punishment a crank endures, because I can't think of another reason to make such a complicated series of non-standard parts that ultimately rely on the grace of friction to keep from falling out entirely. Maybe it was invented in the 50s to defeat an epidemic of pedal thefts? Nothing defeats a bike thief for long.
The name "Snoh Aalegra" rang a distant bell, but I think my brain had them filed under "Sigur Ros". [Snoh Aalegra - Under the Influence] is anything but a thirteen-minute ambient soundscape rumination on a 2014 report on Icelandic geothermal capacity! This is very present, very sexy soul music. Tailor made for Tarantino's next whatever. The only downside is that it cuts off suddenly, probably leading into the next track but awkward as a single.
Another band name I recognize but don't really listen to, [Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - No Love Like Yours] has some sort of Paul Simon thing going on. I listened to it twice to make sure I had listened to it at all. I had; I was just too busy typing about bikes at the time.
I've always joked that emo is what happened when punk rockers started to turn 30. [HINDS - Bamboo] is what happens when riot grrl hits the same milestone. The lofi lady harmonies are what I expect out of garage punk and they're super singing about fucking, but the mellow surf guitar slows everything down 800%.
[DJ Luke Nasty - Right] follows in the longstanding tradition of rap laying out a bulleted list of things to do tonight, most of which involve a shorty and/or liquor. The minimalist production give this a more distinctive flavor than most "can we bone" songs, but it's also full of triplet rapping in the new mode I hate.
[Starchild & The New Romantic - Slammin' Mannequin] is clubbing music. I bemoan the 80s disease that has consumed modern pop but dance never left that decade in the first place. I don't know that this song is directly referencing Mannequin, but I hope so. Using a mannequin as a metaphor for the object of your woo is not a great look.
15Jun2016 1830: Three Es
The icy grip of E3 is upon us and all my RSS feeds are subject to its unrelenting tsunami of tiny press releases. Between Guild Wars 2 and Marvel Heroes I no longer play other games, but I like to know about them. The most exciting news is the complete revamp of grimdark mythological apocalypse simulator God of War into something far more intimate. They've finally moved into Norse territory, which is something I've suspected ever since I beat GoW3 lo those many moons ago. I mentioned then that Athena (a) is the only god in the whole murdered pantheon to come back as a ghost and (b) she doesn't act like Athena at all. I had my suspicions at the time, and I maintain them now, that "Athena" in that game was Loki looking to get one over on the rival religion. That reveal would have been important six years ago; will it still have the same power when it's the cliffhanger twist at the end of this game?
Kevin Morby and all his echoes get funky on [Kevin Morby - I Have Been to the Mountain]. He sings with a slight Dylanesque delivery, there's a chorus of angels that hits a word or two every verse, there's some mariachi trumpets in there...this song is weird. The bassist is the bedrock of Mount Melange.
What happens when African music visits a rave? [The Kondi Band - Belle Wahallah]. This song goes weird in the wrong direction, so it compares poorly to Morby. It's also 5.5 minutes long, so it kept me from getting to the next song. The most important song.
GUYS GUYS there's a new Ladyhawke album! And [Ladyhawke - A Love Song] is the worst song from it! This is the album opener and it made me think I had made a terrible mistake. The 80s disease infecting pop music has finally reached Ladyhawke. Fortunately she's been inoculated. The offending synths drop off after the first three tracks and we get back into more Ladyhawkish tunes. Overall the album isn't as good as the first two but it's solid. And apparently an intermediate album was shitcanned? God I'd like to hear that (instead). This song just isn't weird enough to fit into this week.
So let's bring weird back. [Braids - Joni] rips a vocal track from a top 40 pop hit and rips the guitars out of a Mindless Self Indulgence rager. What do you get when you smash those two things together? Incredibly unsettled!
And capping this week's haunted craziness is [Deerhoof - Paradise Girls]. I was mentally prepared for that other Deerhoof song I've heard but nothing prepared me for this. Is she singing about girls or golf? Maybe both? A one-string guitar pecks at one note throughout while another guitarist practices his birdsongs. The bass guitar is covering half of a Cake song. The drummer is fed up with the whole thing. Deerhoof's anti-music doesn't even have a good punchline.
08Jun2016 1900: Water in the Drought
My potential book drought was solved before it began. Sister tipped the recommendation scales in favor of The Expanse -- it's been recommended elsewhere but is also a series on SyFy, which is negative fifty recommendation points. After I get through Watership Down again I'll start on this apparently palatable scifi opus. And my sister was also coincidentally reading Watership Down because apparently another Watership Down cartoon is coming? Just in time to mentally scar a new niece for life. How convenient.
Google uploaded its monthly up-and-comers playlist a couple days late, so naturally we start with an up-and-coming artist from seven years ago. In [Karl Blau - That's How I Got To Memphis], somebody left conspicuously nameless broke his heart. Karl washed up in the heartland of despondent acoustic/piano music, Memphis. That's how. He really hammers that point home; the title is fully 50% of the lyrics. If he's still singing this seven years on, and I were that woman, I'd have changed my name three times and moved to a different country. I wouldn't stay in Memphis. Karl remembers.
It's a week for overwrought half-country songs. [Big Thief - Masterpiece] plods through a steel guitar semi-twanger that literally mentions letting go of old dogs. Big Thief tried to walk a tightrope between a decent rock song and an annoying country song, and they fell off in the countryside.
[Iska Dhaaf - Invisible Cities] is a collision and confusion of the year 2000. On one hand, the bass line and vocal treatments of any number of industrial/techno songs you could find on a Matrix soundtrack. On the other hand, the surf guitar and retro gilding of any songs you could find on a Tarantino soundtrack. It's a deeply odd song but ultimately geared for clubbing and therefore not worth my time.
[KYLE - All For You (Live)] missed the all-caps party last month, but he brought his own party. You can hear it in the background as he R&Bs his way through an ode for another conspicuously nameless woman. You'd think a song dedicated to a woman could stand to be a little more specific. That's not the game he's playing. This is the game of pop music, and you don't get on the radio by calling out a woman by name anymore.
Closing out this week of crap is another unsubtle and unspecific technojam with [Jessy Lanza - It Means I Love You]. A four-year-old squeaks about a crush and slaps at a soundboard. I have no time for this dance bullshit except oh man you guys NEXT WEEK is very exciting.
02June2016 1930: Nostalgia Is a Mutagen
Holy crap Internet critics lay off this X-Men Apocalypse thing. It's currently at a lower ranking than X3: The Last Straw and that is objectively wrong. X-Apocalypse is not a great movie, it's not a short movie, but it's not terrible. It's solidly decent, a workmanlike superhero yarn that never rises to the highs of the best Marvel but never sinks to the lows of X3 or Wolverine Origins.
Even moreso, this is a period piece. A period piece of the 1980s? No (also yes): a period piece harkening back to the days of the first movie. That was sixteen years ago, fresh off of Matrix Fever, and every movie hero was wearing black (p)leather. That's a length of time sufficient for audiences to become nostalgic. X-Apoc is a melange of all the different X-movies that also hangs together as a good movie itself. It checks in on old locations and characters and does a victory lap around the franchise. One more sequel could conceivably tie it directly back into X-Men 1, a closed twenty-year loop of mutant terrorism. It's fine. And it's odd in this Marvel age to be reminded of a time when every superhero solved their problems with laser pew pew. Modern movies have tried to find the humanity in the climax, to zoom in on the heroes' faces and bring things to melee range, but X-Poc isn't interested in that. It does things the X-Men way, and the X-Men way is garish neon beams of light coming out of people and hitting other people.
I gave Google an extra day to put up free songs and nope, but lo! The podcast Lexicon Valley is being guest-hosted for the summer by John McWhorter! John McWhorter is a langugage lover who pretty much single-handedly cured my proscriptivism. I anticipate greatness!