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What I’ve Been Doing 8 July 2013 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Jul 8th, 2013 by Dan

Can't wait to see this one: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING by Josh Whedon

It’s my first time experiencing a Shakespearian comedy (Picture courtesy Pinay New Yorker)

Sure, it’s not like watching live theater for real or anything, but this was my first tie experiencing one of Shakespeare’s comedies (not counting liberal adaptations like 10 Things I Hate About You) and I absolutely loved it. More below.

Movies

This is the End – I wish I could say that I had more fun watching this movie, but it just wasn’t all that funny. Then there’s the fact that I’ll be forever embarrassed by jumping and shouting “AH!” during a jump scare.

Much Ado About Nothing – The proto-romantic comedy. I was almost deceived by how similar to modern rom-coms this adaptation was. Whedon filmed a straight dialogue adaptation of the play and I was shocked by how funny and sharp it was. Not being familiar with Shakespearian comedies also upped the tension for me since I didn’t know what was going to happen once the conflict between Claudio and Hero was introduced.

TV

Homeland – Pretty much watched the entire second season with Katie as she caught up on the exciteent and tension of one of the dumbest, but more entertaining shows on tv. Good times, but less fun the second time around.

Music

Paul Dateh’s violin cover of Kanye West’s “New Slaves” is pretty baller.

Books

The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First – It was fun to learn the history of Tampa Bay’s many attempts to get a baseball team in the area. Too bad they don’t hit the ballpark with as much fervor

Video Games

The Last of Us – Nearly done. There’s a gameplay twist that I don’t want to spoil that made things a lot harder. It’s an interesting way to circumvent the increasing power issue of Naughty Dog games without adding blue guys.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf – I mostly play every day to get Nintendo gear, but this game still captures my interest. I just wish I had more free time on a given day.

Music of 2012 [F]
Jan 9th, 2013 by Dan

Colorful Dream

They’re not a real band, but I think you get the idea.

The biggest change in 2012 for me was the rise of Bandcamp and Soundcloud. Sure, I still bought plenty of music from Amazon or Google, but an increasing amount of the stuff I picked up came from the individual himself. I mean, why would I expect the Fez soundtrack to occupy a spot in Amazon’s mp3 store? Thanks to Bandcamp, I can just pick it up almost directly from the artist.

2012 also marked the year that genre walls were officially smashed for me. I think the only stuff I can’t really tolerate is noise metal. Just about everything else can penetrate my cold, black heart and move me to sing and dance.

I certainly never would have guessed that I’d be listening to so much hip hop and R&B back when I started this blog in 2008. It was all punk, rock, and ska, but now I cast a much wider net.

Top Artists of 2012

1. The Beatles (409)

This has been a mainstay of every list since the catalog re-release back in 2009. There’s not really much more to say about how incredible this band is so I’ll instead comment on the fact that I listened to them ~1,100 fewer times this year than last. I really spread out my music time this year…

2. The Weeknd (333)

I can’t remember what month it was when I discovered the trio of mixtapes just waiting for me online, but I will say that The Weeknd opened my eyes to R&B in a way I would have thought impossible. Without him I guarantee you that Frank Ocean would not be on this list. Everything about his music is simultaneously sleazy and sexy and so wrong it almost feels right. “High For This”, “Wicked Games”, and “House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls” are all stunners.

3. Sambomaster (サンボマスター) (326)

Another mainstay ever since my Japan trip. My understanding of the lyrics approaches zero, but I feel like I understand everything Takeshi Yamaguchi is trying to say with that heartfelt, almost mournful, sandpapery voice. As cheesy as it sounds, it speaks to my soul, man.

4. Frank Ocean (270)

Think about this: I didn’t get channel ORANGE until November. Everybody’s talking about this record, I know, but allow me to say that Ocean penned and crooned the best album of the year. Nothing tops this in 2012, guys. Nothing.

5. Jonathan Coulton (269)

Some people would have you believe that Coulton is a novelty singer best enjoyed in small doses. Some people are wrong. Coulton’s earlier work may lean on a geeky, nerdy motif, but, like I said last year, Artificial Heart really takes him to a new level.

6. Disasterpiece (240)

I listened to a lot of game sountracks this year thanks to the ubiquity and ease of Bandcamp. Disasterpiece’s moody, quasi-ambient work on Fez proved spooky, lonely, and mournful while also igniting that spark for adventure. It’s all synth-y, but the notes never feel quite right, which is pretty much what Fez is all about.

7. Yoko Kanno (202)

I bet you’re thinking that this is all Cowboy Bebop music. You’d be wrong. Kanno’s work on the jazz tunes in Kids on the Slope opened my eyes to a genre I’d ignored for most of my life. That medley in the culture festival? Pure. Magic.

8. George & Jonathan (184)

One of their tunes was the theme to Polygon’s podcast, The Besties, and the album, Beautiful Lifestyle, struck just the right balance of playful and fun without getting obnoxious.

9. Regina Spektor (152)

I fell for What We Saw from the Cheap Seats as hard as a person could for an album. “All the Rowboats”, “Firewood”, and “How” are all so stunningly beautiful that I want to be listening to them right now…In fact, I think I’ll go put them on.

10. Rodrigo y Gabriela (151)

The first entry that confuses me about being on this list. I still dig their stuff, but I don’t really remember listening to it that much this year.

11. The Civil Wars (136)

I’m really worried about the state of this band now that they’ve canceled their tours. What will I do without Joy Williams’ beautiful voice? I hope they figure it out.

12. Kanye West (129)

The current king of hip hop, as far as I’m concerned. Yeezy goes big. Even though I haven’t loved his collab stuff as much as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, I can’t help but come back to this guy time and time again.

13. Fall Out Boy (126)

So few bands know how to craft a tune as instantly catchy as these guys. Too bad they broke up.

14. Eirik Suhrke (119)

You may be wondering who this guy is. He did the music for Spelunky, a genius take on the Mega Drive soundchip that gives me that extra push to hit retry on the off chance that I get that sweet sax tune in the Ice Caves.

15. Tsunku (つんく♂) (114)

If I had properly tagged my Rhythm Heaven Fever music earlier in the year this number would be much higher. Academically I understand why other people might not love all the music in Rhythm Heaven, but in my heart I can’t understand why any awesome person would hate it.

16. Childish Gambino (113)

Part of that hip hop kick this year. Donald Glover is pretty awesome.

17. Nintendo (98)

You know what? I think that this 98 is supposed to be added to the Tsunku tally above. Hear that, Tsunku? You should be 7th.

17. Jim Guthrie (98)

The composer to the Superbrothers soundtrack knows how to make a sweet groove. Seriously, go check it out.

19. OK Go (97)

“Needing/Getting” will always be a favorite of mine because I’m a hopeless romantic (emphasis on hopeless).

20. Jasper Byrne (95)

The Lone Survivor soundtrack is responsible for this play count. It was equal parts creepy and beautiful and I couldn’t stay away last winter/spring.

21. Alex Cuba (91)

Man, that afro is cool, isn’t it? There’s a clarity and richness to his voice that soothes me and makes me feel funky.

22. Hannibal Buress (88)

Is your name really Hannibal? These plays are thanks to two of my favorite stand-up albums that I got this year. That Buress dude is pretty funny, y’all.

22. Ana Tijoux (88)

Saw her live this year. That was awesome. Her ability to spit rhymes in Spanish is mind boggling to me.

24. Juan Luis Guerra (85)

I wonder what percentage of these come from “Niagara en bicicleta”? (Answer: ~26%)

25. Kendrick Lamar (84)

I picked up good kid, m.A.A.d city at the same time (or close to it) as channel ORANGE and figured that it would definitely win, play-wise. Didn’t quite go like that, but trust that Kendrick Lamar’s rhymes are equally awesome. Definitely check out that disc.

Top 10 Tracks of 2012

1. The Weeknd – “House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls” (23)

It all sounds so drug-addled and sexy, but in a dirty way. This was the first track I heard by The Weeknd and the rest is history.

2. Juan Luis Guerra – “El Niagara en bicicleta” (22)

Quite possibly my favorite song ever? I honestly have no idea how it didn’t make the list last year.

3. George & Jonathan – “Little Marcus” (21)

The aforementioned former theme to The Besties. It doesn’t overstay its welcome and it’s super pleasant. A great little tune.

4. Carla Morrison – “Compartir” (20)

I would have expected “Una salida” to have this spot, but this is also a fantastic love song by a beautiful vocalist. Carla Morrison has this sweet, delicate voice that just breaks your heart while you listen to her. I absolutely love her and this song.

4. Neon Indian – “Polish Girl” (20)

I think I own two Neon Indian songs, but this chillwave track puts me in a spaced out place where I can’t not love it. Put a gun to my head and I wouldn’t be able to describe what makes this song so special, but I think it really does speak for itself.

6. Regina Spektor – “Small Town Moon” (19)

It probably ended up with the most plays by virtue of being the first track on her new album, but “Small Town Moon” is no slouch. It perfectly sets the mood for a thoughtful, beautiful album.

6. George & Jonathan – “Street Monsters” (19)

There’s really no good explanation for how this track got up here. It’s funky and it’s quick and I guess it got lucky compared to the rest of the album.

6. Frank Ocean – “Bad Religion”, “Pilot Jones”, & “Pyramids” (19)

And the list closes out with my three favorite tracks from channel ORANGE. All three of these are perfect in their own way. Be it the soulful poetry of “Bad Religion”, the simple hook of “Pilot Jones”, or that sexy electrofunk of the first half of the epic “Pyramids”, they all land so unbelievably perfectly on my ears that I’m shocked they’re not higher up on the list.

What I’ve Been Doing 13 Feb 2012 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Feb 13th, 2012 by Dan

Samurai Champloo DVD Cover

The journey is over. (Photo courtesy Sold Out Activist)

Big TV week for me. A lot of huge episodes and great acting made me a very happy viewer.

Movies

I was supposed to watch Hanna this weekend, but I never got around to it.

TV

Samurai Champloo – Turned out to be a show about transition and the end of things. About an age where Japan was forced to move forward and accept the great wave washing over it. Combining that with hip hop was a great idea. Mugen’s final battle was annoyingly unsatisfying. With Jin and Fuu at least the fight had something to do with the plot. The guys Mugen fought were not plot-relevant at all to anything that happened in the series. Also, everyone took ridiculous amounts of abuse and damage and then just lived to tell the tale?

Glee – What the heck was that? All of the numbers were embarrassing, Ricky Martin was used to pathetic effect, and none of the music was that interesting. When you make your episode focus Latin music, but you only really highlight pop crossover Latin stuff it’s kind of insulting to me in the same way all of that was insulting to Santana.

New Girl – For a show that gets a lot of grief, New Girl has been bringing it the past few weeks. Playing chicken with the proposed three way was hilarious. The show still has nothing for Winston to do

Up All Night – “Everyone hates flan!” Preach.

Justified – Whoa, what an episode. That last scene with Devil and Boyd…wow. Not to mention the stuff with Dickie and Limehouse. Awesome stuff. Can’t wait for more!

Breaking Bad – Everybody’s been talking about how great this show is for three years. Guess what, guys? They’re right. It’s awesome. Only saw the pilot, but it was impressive. Can’t wait to see more. Glad it’s on Netflix Instant.

Grammy Awards – Tuned in for the back half with Tiffany. I’m bummed that I missed all the Rap categories (I was pulling hard for Kanye’s stuff. Looks like he did quite well), but it was a fun show. I hadn’t realized that there were so many performances or I would have watched it in the past. Paul McCartney was pretty great, Nicki Minaj was appropriately bizarre (just rap, Nicki. Your flow is unstoppably awesome), and it was generally a good showing. Adele cleaned up, holy cow.

Music

The Weeknd – Aside from the Grammys, I’ve been listening to The Weeknd like crazy. His stuff is totally awesome and 100% free here. If you’re looking for some red hot R&B, look no further. Particular props to “House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls” and “D.D.”

Books

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Get a couple pages in here and there during breaks. Such absolute wish fulfillment writing…Bloomqvist is a weenie, but he gets laid like crazy.

Video Games

Saints Row: The Third – This game is so hilarious and awesome. I spend most cutscenes hitting the Print Screen button to try and cap the ridiculousness. Well-deserved props from the Giant Bomb folks. I’ll probably beat the main campaign this week.

Ghost Trick – Still clever and fun gameplay. I think Min is playing this on his iPad now. He might catch up and beat me!

The Old Republic – Haven’t had a lot of time to work those alts (Min’s been busy), but it’s still fun. The news that Dave might be willing to play soon is awesome and encouraging.

2011 in Music [F]
Jan 3rd, 2012 by Dan

last.fm t-shirt

Thanks to last.fm, I can tell you what my personal favorite music of 2011 has been!

Top 10 Artists of 2011

1. The Beatles (1,156)

I’d say the number of tracks in my collection that are by The Beatles or by the Rx Bandits far outweighs the number of other tracks. It’s not a coincidence, since I love both bands, but I don’t think you’ll see these positions change much in the future.

2. RX Bandits (571)

The Bandits split up this year. It’s tragic, but that concert was amazing and I’ll always love their music.

3. Jonathan Coulton (343)

Coulton’s new release sparked way more interest in his work than I’d had last year. Adding in the band allowed his music to grow in a great way.

4. Arctic Monkeys (328)

The Monkeys are a pretty solid band and I got to see them live for the first time in 2011. Their new tracks are pretty solid, especially “Black Treacle”

5. Sambo Master (277)

I’ve written thousands of words about why I love this J-Rock band. They’ve got so much energy and emotion in their lyrics (that I can’t even understand!) and their place on this list is well-earned.

6. Kanye West (185)

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was an incredible album. It got lots of playtime throughout the year, but the final push that put it above OK Go happened as a result of the Giant Bombcast and their obsession with “Power”. I literally listened gave Kanye the listens he needed to get #6 in the last two days of the year.

7. OK Go (184)

OK Go is just a solid rock band. They’ve got great lyrics, great hooks, and they’re always great fun to listen to.

8. Rita Indiana & Los Misterios (172)

I ran into this fantastic merengue band thanks to Alt Latino. Rita makes merengue even more frantic and fun than you remember it being and I love her for it.

9. Sondre Lerche (163)

Everyone’s favorite Norwegian crooner. I like this guy because he’s got a clean

10. Janelle Monáe (161)

Janelle gets funkier than any human has any right to. Her latest, The ArchAndroid, was so well put together that I’m on the edge of my seat to see what she does next. A definite can’t miss.

11. Vampire Weekend (154)

I think these listens were front-ended on 2011. Not that I dislike VW now, but I can’t remember listening to their stuff all that much in recent months. I like busting out Contra in the cold winter to warm me up, but it’s been a mild one so far.

12. The Civil Wars (133)

Joy Williams and John Paul White have one of the most incredible duos I’ve ever been lucky enough to listen to. Their voices just go so well together and have this longing quality that is surprising considering they’re both happily married…to other people.

13. Alex Cuba (132)

This Cuban-Canadian crooner makes pretty chill, easy listening Spanish music that I can’t get enough of.

14. Keiichi Suzuki, Hirokazu Tanaka, Hiroshi Kanazu, Toshiyuki Ueno (127)

This would be the staff behind the music of Mother games. I picked up the soundtracks to the second and third game, but they’re so massive that this team rose quickly.

15. Wild Flag (123)

One of my favorite new bands of the past year, I still remember queuing for two hours (to no avail) on Record Store Day for a chance at their single. Their album turned out fantastically (easily one of the best of 2011) and seeing them live was awesome.

Top Tracks of 2011

1. Rita Indiana & Los Misterios – “El juidero” (27)

My go-to track for merengue that makes my legs want to move. “El juidero” was just fantastic and I remember putting it on all the time just to get my heartbeat up.

2. RX Bandits – “…And The Battle Begun” (25)

I have so many versions of the tracks on …And the Battle Begun that I listen to with such regularity that this song not appearing on this list would be weird.

3. RX Bandits – “Only For The Night” (24)

My favorite song makes the list? Shocker!

4. April Smith and The Great Picture Show – “Colors”, The Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger – “Jardin du Luxembourg”, & The Book of Mormon Cast – “All-American Prophet” (22)

April Smith is awesome, we already know that, but I also fell in love with Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl’s little duo thanks to NPR. We also can’t forget how awesome The Book of Mormon‘s soundtrack is. Great stuff.

7. Wild Flag – “Glass Tambourine” & Jonathan Coulton – “Nemeses (Featuring John Roderick)” (21)

The first single of both band’s discs from this year got lots of listens from me in anticipation of the full tracks.

9. RX Bandits – “Decrescendo”, The Beatles – “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window”, Nortec Collective Presents: Bostich+Fussible – “I Count the Ways”, & Wild Flag – “Future Crimes” (19)

“Decrescendo” closes off a bunch of Rx Bandits recordings I own. “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” is my favorite part of the Abbey Road medley. “I Count the Ways” is my second favorite Nortec song on that album. “Future Crimes” is the other single from Wild Flag released before their debut album.

13. The Beatles – “Happiness Is a Warm Gun”, Barenaked Ladies – “Enid”, & OK Go – “WTF?” (17)

I listen to “Enid” a lot. Mostly when I’m mad at a girl, but sometimes just to get the heartbeat up. “WTF?” is not my favorite songs on OK Go’s new album, but it was their first single and it was free. “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” is one of The Beatles’ late, weirder songs, but man do I love it. So creepy and weird and awesome.

“Otis” Video [F/ER]
Aug 12th, 2011 by Dan

Jay-Z and Kanye’s latest album, Watch The Throne, features this fantastic track backed by Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness”. I love it.

November: Hip Hop Animosity No More [Fukubukuro]
Jan 12th, 2011 by Dan

I stopped listening to hip hop back in 2003. If you asked me then, I’d probably say that it stopped being any good around then. Reality probably aligns more closely with a teenage counter-culture attitude that started to manifest not long after I hit my Junior year of high school. I’m not complaining too much; I mean, I shifted into a pure alternative rock mindset and I exposed myself to solid music from the 90s and 00s, but here I had gone and cut myself off from an entire genre of music that I deemed too mainstream.

My stubbornness persisted all through university. When asked, the only genre of music that I didn’t listen to was rap. I claimed it was artistically void, unnecessarily aggressive, and embarrassingly sexist and misogynistic. I don’t think more obnoxious words could be uttered out of a mouth that listened to, and enjoyed, the song “Under My Thumb”.

Hypocrisy aside, it took me until I started listening to NPR, of all things, to get back into hip hop. The All Songs Considered podcast mostly caters to the musical tastes of its hosts, which fall almost exclusively into the indie territory, but, in the interest of being non-exclusionary, they had a hip hop episode wherein they asked other music journalists to come in and fill in the gaps they’d been neglecting.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that I’d been an idiot for a good eight years. Rap and hip hop is still just as aggressive, sexist, homophobic, and vulgar as it’s always been, but so were a lot of the other rock bands I was listening to. More importantly, this stuff was fantastic.

My listening habits tend to not cater much to lyrics. It’s what enables me to love foreign music and what gets me in major trouble when I realize that a song whose sound I absolutely love is about something needlessly graphic or vulgar. I think this also made it easier for me to forsake hip hop. When your entire genre relies more on what you say than what you play it can be easy for me to lose interest. It takes a more listens than usual for a rap track without great backing to make any impact on my brain. Imagine my surprise when two albums made a huge splash in the same month by paying way more attention to the way their music is presented than most.

Greg Gillis, better known as Girl Talk, made a huge splash in the music world by releasing his finest work to date, All Day, for free on his website. For a week after the album’s release his website was so hammered with download requests that it took me several attempts just to bring up the site the day I downloaded it.

Girl Talk isn’t technically hip hop at all, but his mash-up style dance music is dominated by rap layered over music ranging from other rap songs to classic rock, pop, oldies, and modern alt rock. The beauty of the album comes from the way that Gillis stacks these songs over each other. His timings are excellent and he juxtaposes the most unlikely of songs creating a synergy that no one could have conceived of before. In a way, I felt like the attention he paid to the production of his tracks makes for a track that’s just busy enough to be interesting.

It was just what I needed to push me over the edge and back into exploring hip hop with the same vigor that I chase rock music and I resolved to pick up the next big hip hop release, which just happened to be Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

To say that anything Kanye does is surrounded by controversy would be the understatement of the year. Naturally, just about everyone loves or hates MBDTF because it is everything that Kanye has always been: loud, braggy, brilliant, complex, and humble all at the same time. Each and every track is filled to the brim with interesting musical progression, from the guitar riffs on “Gorgeous” and “Power” to the almost mournful piano in “Blame Game” and the blaring brass in “All of the Lights” Kanye brings so much more to his songs than interesting flow and solid rhymes.

Both are just so awesome. Hip hop, I’m glad to be back. I hope I never make myself leave again.

Kanye West

Mega West [ER]
Jun 22nd, 2009 by Dan

Bonus Embedded Reporter!

This fan-made music video of “Robocop” by Kanye West evokes some serious 8-bit Mega Man awesomeness. Enjoy!

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