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Weird to see Benedict Cumberbatch with a Southern accent (Photo courtesy touchedmuch)
It’s been a surprisingly movie-filled week! I don’t usually talk about the sporting events I watched here, but that was a hell of a Ravens game yesterday, wasn’t it!
12 Years a Slave – What an intense movie. Extremely well-acted and a brilliant counterpoint to Django Unchained. Where Django took revenge for slavery, 12 Years a Slave makes it a hell of a lot more personal and is that much better for it. The flick is tough to watch sometimes, but it’s the best movie I’ve seen this year (so far).
Little Big League – My favorite of the baseball movies that came out when I was a kid. Holds up remarkably well as an adult. I don’t know if Min liked it as much as Kate and I did, but it’s pretty solid.
Love Actually – I expected it to be good and romantic, but I really didn’t expect the nudity or the swearing. I thought it was tame and PG-13 type stuff, but I think it’s way more interesting this way in that it’s not sanitized or too safe. Good movie!
Brooklyn Nine-Nine – Terry’s back in the field! Andre Braugher does deadpan so hilariously, but the popping and locking was even better.
The Mindy Project – Heck of a dance number in the middle of that episode.
The Amazing Race – So the finale for season 23 is on my DVR and I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS! I’m thinking that the Afghanimals might get eliminated and Jason and Amy might win. We’ll see!
Almost Human – I love sci-fi shows. Love ‘em. I dig shows about robots too. This is the perfect match for me. It’s pretty much a police procedural in the future at this point, but that’s cool with me. Robots! With senses of humor!
Homeland – …I dunno. Everyone’s just so unprofessional and irrational in this show. I liked that the episode was an abbreviated retelling of the first two seasons, but I hate so much about this show this season and I really hope Brody either doesn’t make it out of Tehran…or he turns on the US and becomes the big bad for season 4.
I really just love “Hannah Hunt” by Vampire Weekend. I’m sure I’ve posted it here before, but we’re doing it anyway!
Well Played 1.0: Video Games, Value, and Meaning – Read the essay on Ico and I’m partway through the Super Mario Bros. one. Nothing groundbreaking yet, but I love reading this kind of stuff about games anyway, so I’m not too bothered by it.
Super Mario 3D Land – Played the first level to activate SpotPass, but I’ve been focusing on beating Phoenix Wright first so that I can get to Zelda and finish Pokemon too. So many 3DS games!
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies – Case 3 is DONE! The culprit was who I thought it was (it was really kind of obvious, actually) and I wish that I hadn’t accidentally ended up spoiling the final culprit for myself, but Case 4 is certainly intriguing so far (astronaut defendant!)
Pokemon Y – Beat Lysandre (almost lost my Min pokemon to a Mega Gyarados. He held on with 3 HP) and I’m in some cave now. Gotta get the gyms and the elite 4 done, but I’m on the home stretch. Did lose my Pidgeotto, Sawyer. Replaced him with a Marowak.
XCOM: Enemy Within – I’m on my eighth save file trying to get it going right. Game 7 was going really well…until I failed the first part of Progeny and Daniel and David died. Then I completely wiped on Slingshot’s first mission, losing Katie, Molly, Lee, and Kunal. Another wipe meant I had to restart. MEC suits kick ass. Can’t wait to get it going again.
I bet that’ll be fun to service later.
David was in town for the weekend! DAVID! He’s never in town. Stupid Iowa!
I tried so hard to get David and Min to watch Star Trek or Fast 6. Neither would agree. Stupid David and Min.
Arrested Development – Got about halfway through the Netflix season. I think it’s at least on par with the latter half of the third season. I’ve definitely had some gutbusting laughs and it hasn’t felt like a total mishap. I want to see how it all turns out with each of the character vignettes, but so far I’m pretty happy with how this turned out.
The Venture Bros. – To be fair I only watched 5 mins of the first episode (I didn’t remember any of it from the last time I watched it).
The Americans – Season 1 complete. I don’t think it’s as groundbreaking as some are saying it is, but it was an absolutely enjoyable season full of much better acting than I expected from the principals. I’m eager to see where they go from here, but it looks like I’ll have to wait a whole year!
Veep – Season 2! Finally cracked into it and I’m delighted to say that it’s also busted that gut of mine. Just some deliciously funny insults, lines, and situations. I feel like Catherine is going to be a larger part of the season, which is fine by me. I like seeing that side of Selina. Julia Louis-Dreyfus does a great job of showing a completely different aspect of her personality from her ass-kicking VP persona.
Vampire Weekend’s latest continues to be awesome. Here’s a fun track for people who like Biblical allusions and veiled Outkast references. The song is called “Ya Hey”
Sadly, no. Maybe this week.
Rhythm Heaven Fever – The girlfriend litmus test was in full effect as I had Katie try out one of my favorite games ever. She kind of dug it. I kind of dig her.
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask – Just more daily puzzles to kill time. Still fun.
Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box – Slowly moving the story along. I’d say I’m about halfway done.
Rayman Legends – More daily challenges, but this time with David! I think we got a silver on one day, which is pretty boss.
Castle Crashers – Man, I hadn’t played that game in forever, but Dave, Min, and I were looking for something co-op. Kind of slow and didn’t age well, if you ask me.
Spelunky – Speaking of co-op, I think Dave, Min, and I did more of this than anything else. Our quest to hell almost came true, but there were just too many obstacles, not to mention weird bugs resulting from playing multiplayer. Maybe next time that David’s in MD.
DmC Devil May Cry – I think I’m on the final level or at the final boss. Made serious progress Monday morning and I’ll probably finish this weekend while Katie’s biking. I’m interested in the conclusion, but also fairly confident that Vergil is going to double cross me.
Nothing says “I’m in Florida” like Zephyrhills water. It’s not the best stuff, but I miss it some days.
Not a lot of stuff going on this week because I went home to see my family.
Oz the Great and Powerful – Not my favorite movie, but it was passable. It was fun to see Zach Braff again, but the movie was decidedly low stakes and, I think, hamstrung by having to set up The Wizard of Oz
Oddly enough…nope. Mostly watched baseball.
I’ve already posted Vampire Weekend’s “Diane Young”, haven’t I? I don’t care. I love this song. Can’t wait for the new album.
One Hundred Years of Solitude – One of my favorite lines from the last bit of the book: “…they were all identical, sons of the same bitch”. Marquez’ epic novel was incredibly entertaining, beautiful, and amazing. Quite possibly the best book, pound for pound, that I’ve ever read. Just gorgeous, detailed, irrelevant, and damn near perfect. I don’t love what happened to all the Buendias, but it was amazing to read about.
A Friday Night Lights Companion: Love, Loss, and Football in Dillon, Texas – If you’ve never seen Friday Night Lights then you might not understand why someone would read a book of essays talking about how awesome the show it. It’s a good show.
Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box – Just a puzzle or two as I met up with Flora. I need to sit down and crank through this game.
Poker Night 2 – Far better than Poker Night in structure, dialogue, and design, but it’s a bummer that you can’t change the poker AI difficultly or the frequency of comments. On the plus side, no more luck-based achievements. Take that straight flush or four of a kind achievements!
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.
In a sense, doing this blog is a really strange thing for me. I’m more than happy to share my opinion with anyone about the music, movies, or games that I love, but I get nearly crippling anxiety when it comes to actually compelling them to sit down and experience the media I’m trying to recommend. It makes no sense, of course. Why would it matter if they like it or not, right? I mean, it’s not like it’s life or death or that they’ll stop being my friend, but I still get nervous.
The weird thing is that I don’t ever quite reach the point of comfort with even my closest friends. Recommending stuff to my brothers is usually pretty simple since I know them so well. It’s an uphill battle most of the time to even convince them that what I’m offering is worth spending time experiencing, but once they do, I’m right maybe 90% of the time about whether or not they’ll like it. There’s almost no stress involved unless you take away that family element…
If it was because of a specific, tragic event, I must have repressed it enough that I don’t even remember it, but I can honestly say that there are few things worse than that feeling you start to get in your gut when you can visibly see that they’re just really not feeling it. It was just a few weeks ago that I was in Chicago hanging out with a friend of mine who attends Northwestern.
“Duffy, you’ve got to hear these guys. This is the perfect music for warming you up in winter. They’re brilliant.”
The disc in question was Vampire Weekend’s latest, Contra. It’s this crazy indie rock album with these great worldbeat sounds. I don’t really understand why they call worldbeat worldbeat when they mean Afro-Caribbean, but that’s just me, I guess.
“Yeah, sure. Pop it in.”
It all goes south from there. Knowing myself, I know not to look directly at someone who is listening to something I’m making them listen to. It’s agonizing. The silence from her side of the car is deafening. I start counting the number of times that “Horchata” calls out that Koenig is drinking horchata in December. Her hands lower the volume knob twice during the first song. I try to shake it off.
“Eh…well I love it. It’s got a different sound to it and that’s really what attracts me to it, but I can see where you might not.”
She hadn’t even said a word, but I was defeated. The rest of the trip I let her control the radio as we alternated between country music, Lady Gaga, and Ke$ha (and the musical part of my soul died just a little bit).
I loved Sambomaster before I knew I loved Sambomaster, but when I read “changing the world in japanese“, a fantastic article about the band by tim rogers, I finally learned the band’s name and heard their best song. It’s hard to justify how much I love the band since I can’t understand a single lyric that Takashi Yamaguchi is saying, but the band’s music does mean a lot to me and I did my best to evangelize “Sono Nukumori ni Yō ga Aru” as best I could to my friends and family. Dave took to it instantly and even the difficult-to-please Duffy thought that the music was “alright”, but I was stonewalled when I sent it along to my good friend Min.
“Yeah, I just don’t like music in a language I can’t understand.”
I’m sure that part of the whole anxiety thing comes from your run-of-the-mill fear of rejection, but I think that it might also stem from the perhaps too extreme emotional connection that I make with my media. Many of my strongest memories are tied to the media I consume and I sometimes make these connections almost instantaneously.
One week before I went to Chicago, I was driving up to Ithaca with Min to meet up with some old friends. We were listening to podcasts and All Music Considered, one of NPR’s finest podcasts, came up with their Valentine’s Day episode featuring breakup songs. Each of the staff members presented a breakup song that had particular influence on their lives and one chose the Stars song “Your Ex-Lover is Dead”.
“Wow. That was amazing,” I told Min.
“Yeah. A friend of mine sent that to me in high school.”
I didn’t tell Min that the song touched me in a profound way, but I think he could tell from my reaction. If Min hadn’t been there in the car, I might have found myself crying. It just brought back so many memories about my long and damaging relationship with Ashley that it was overwhelming.
“I’m not sorry I met you
I’m not sorry it’s over
I’m not sorry there’s nothing to save”
It could be that my reluctance to share is preventing someone from learning about media that they’d never heard of before, (I think back to all the times I’ve successfully shared Arrested Development with friends), but then there are times when my nature is proven correct. I correctly balked at exposing my father to Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, but he watched it anyway at the insistence of my brothers. He just didn’t get it.
There’s nothing like feeling that connection with someone over a shared experience. Having these interests in common gives us something to talk about and keeps conversation interesting. Maybe one day I’ll get over this fear of sharing. God knows I’m trying by writing this blog most days, even if I try to keep it a secret from most of the people I know.
One of my favorite tracks from Contra, “Giving Up the Gun”. Looks like the video for “Holiday” is next. I can’t wait. This video is great. Stick around until at least 2:00 or so for my favorite part.
Should be a musical week here at IBNttT and I think I’m gonna start it off with my impressions on OK Go and Vampire Weekend’s new offerings, Of the Blue Colour of the Sky and Contra, respectively.
OK Go – This Too Shall Pass from OK Go on Vimeo.
It’s been ~5 years since OK Go released one of my favorite albums, Oh No, and started to find some mainstream success thanks to the music video for “Here It Goes Again”. A lot can change in five years for a band so I was curious as to how it would turn out (and sound), especially since I’d heard it was a result of them touring for so long they hardly felt like themselves. Sonic shifts can be completely disastrous or they can turn out like OtBCotS and turn out pretty well.
The sound shift comes in the form of an almost 80s funk-synth sound a la Prince, complete with Prince-like yelps and screams. If you’re like me, your first worry should be, “Can Damian Kulash actually hit those notes and sound appropriate for this style?” I’d say that the experiment was mostly a success, with his wailing only taking center stage during the song “Skyscrapers” where it’s used to both great effect and only one mildly annoying overdone part. Beyond that, the synth-y sound is actually pretty great and I’m positive that OK Go will only grow from this experimentation.
My main gripe with the album comes with the back third, which seems like a lot (and it is!). I understand why artists like to slow down the beat and bring us down slowly for the tail end of the album, but, of the last four songs, only the final song, “In the Glass” does anything for me while the other three just don’t fit in thematically. That said, the first two thirds of the album is absolutely fantastic. I’d say my favorite tracks are the first six, so just about half. Not perfect, but not bad either. The bass and drum work are especially worth noting, specifically in “Skyscrapers” and “White Knuckles”, but they’re great throughout the entire album.
If you’re a real fan of the sound OK Go had for their first two albums, I’d give the album a listen before you buy to make sure you’re not getting any unwelcome surprises. For everyone else, if you like your music with a little funk sometimes, it’s worth picking up.
I’m a little late to the Vampire Weekend party since I’d only heard of them a few days before both of the album came out. When I did some background checking to see what their first album sounded like, I was shocked, since Contra sounds almost nothing like their prior work. That’s not a bad thing, especially since I’m fond of just about every track on the disc, but I have to wonder what old fans might think of the shift to a more tropical, almost reggae-ish sound. Wikipedia calls it “worldbeat”, if that helps any. Anyway, the album definitely sounds Caribbean and tropical, which is definitely welcome during these cold winter months.
Ezra Koenig’s voice does a great job covering this varied sound and much acclaim needs to go to the rest of his band, Rostam Batmanglij, Chris Tomson, and Chris Baio, for coming up with a wholly natural-sounding, almost ethnic album created by a bunch of kids from Brooklyn. I’d be hard pressed to select a single track as the standout so I’ll just say that my favorites are “Run”, “Diplomat’s Son”, “California English”, and “Horchata”. The entire album is available to be listened to on their website, so check them out. Given how different this album is from their first and how good it is, I’m really excited to see what Vampire Weekend does next. This is a band worth keeping an eye on.