Listening/reading log #7 (April 2020)

Nothing significant happened this April. It was totally normal. So let’s move on to the usual: some music and some notable posts from other writers from the past month.

The Name of this Band is Talking Heads (Talking Heads, 1981)

Highlights: A Clean Break, Love → Building on Fire, Life During Wartime

Another live album, yeah. This one is a real favorite, though, as it should be. Talking Heads started as part of a mid-70s New York City scene playing at the same clubs as guys like the Ramones, which is weird to imagine when you hear how god damn nerdy they sound with David Byrne’s nervous warbly singing and how precise their playing is. I really like them, and I like The Name of this Band is Talking Heads because it lets you hear the band both near their start in the late 70s and around their peak in the early 80s — they sound a lot bigger and fuller in the later tracks, but it’s all good stuff. Catchy, memorable, energetic. If you only know Talking Heads because the local grocery store won’t stop playing “Wild Wild Life”, check this album out to see how much better they were than that (not that it’s a bad song, but it is way overplayed and not nearly as good as the older stuff. There, now I sound like a snob again.)

The remastered CD version also has an extended tracklist, so that’s the one to get, though I don’t even know if you can find the original one outside of used vinyl stores anymore.

新しい日の誕生/Birth of a New Day (2814, 2015)

Highlights: It’s all kind of the same song

I have to be in a certain mood to listen to this kind of music. Maybe a brooding mood or a foul one, which happens often enough to make it worth my while to find stuff like 新しい日の誕生/Birth of a New Day by the group 2814. This music is supposed to fall into the “vaporwave” category, but that seems like such a broad category that I’m not sure what it even means, and it doesn’t sound anything like the few other vaporwave albums I’ve heard. There are no vocals aside from a few samples, and each track flows into the next. Sort of like Geogaddi, I don’t know if I’d call this relaxing exactly, but it’s not quite as unsettling as that album is.

Try this out if you’re in a brooding mood too. Maybe it can work as therapeutic or meditative music or something. I like to use that “lofi hip hop radio” channel on Youtube, the one with the constant loop of the anime girl studying. You know the one; it’s probably in your recommended videos.

And now, the featured posts:

The Benefits Rant — Aether writes some thoughts about processing benefits applications for a government agency during the coronavirus outbreak and brings up some issues about government benefits that are probably easy to forget about if you’re not working in that field.

A Rebuttal to James Whitbrook: Our Fascination With Canon Is Not Killing the Way We Value Stories — Some critics are all too happy to ignore plot holes or acknowledge them but claim they shouldn’t matter, justifying sloppy writing and poor characterization, as long as the work in question delivers what they think is the right message. Red Metal breaks down these arguments in an interesting rebuttal.

A Character Analysis of Two Gilgameshes — Type-Moon has its own take on the ancient epic hero Gilgamesh, who’s appeared in several of its Fate series as a blonde pretty boy with magical powers. Scott analyzes two very different versions of Gilgamesh in this piece.

Touhou 2 – Story of Eastern Wonderland Review — I’ve had Touhou Project on the mind lately, partly because I’m following blogs posting about the series. Yomu is writing a series of reviews of the main line Touhou shoot-em-ups. The old PC-98 games that came out before Touhou really blew up get somewhat ignored, so it’s nice to see them getting some attention.

Touhou: Luna Nights — And Neppy reminds me that I need to get around to playing Touhou Luna Nights with this review of the Metroidvania spinoff.

I also have some massive posts planned for the near-future depending on how strictly you define “near.” Until then!

6 thoughts on “Listening/reading log #7 (April 2020)

  1. Hey, thanks for the shout out, and I’m glad somebody enjoyed that post! I was thinking it was just going to be some gripy thing that nobody else except for myself was really going to get anything out of, so that’s a nice surprise that it connected with somebody.

    Also, this is appropos of nothing, but I picked up Disgaia 1 on sale after your deep reads into it. So whatever I end up thinking about it, I just want you to know, this is totally your fault.

    • Absolutely! I didn’t know some people were doing that sort of thing during the crisis, but I guess it’s no surprise.

      Ha, sorry. I hope you like it, though! The first game is a great place to start from.

  2. Hey, thanks for the shout! It’s really sad how anti-intellectual critics have become. I kind of understand their aversion to the CinemaSins-style overly pedantic form of criticism, but they have gone way, way too far in the other direction. It’s really no wonder that they are constantly losing readers; who’d want to listen to a bunch of out-of-touch, mentally old people tell them how much they suck for not liking their sacred cows? Indie filmmakers are too controlled by critical sensibilities, which is why their efforts tend to be either bland or failed attempts at being trangressive. Unsurprisingly, the best creators right now are the ones who just step way from that toxicity and make art for its own sake. That’s why I have so much admiration for the indie gaming scene now; it really has matured since the Jonathan Blow/Phil Fish days, hasn’t it?

    • Of course! And you’re right, it definitely has. What’s wrong with having a reasonable, balanced approach to criticism? Or to anything, for that matter. I hate that people have to take things to extremes for no reasons. Or maybe there is a reason, but I’m no psychologist to figure that out.

      I remember back when Blow and Fish were the biggest names in indie game development. Now there many more indie games out there than Braid and FEZ, and better ones as well, so developers like them can’t get away with acting like assholes anymore and have it passed off as artistic eccentricity or some bullshit. I hope the indie gaming scene keeps its creativity and vitality, because that’s where a lot of the best, most exciting games are coming from.

      • There’s a saying that those who stick to the center are liable to crash into oncoming traffic, which seems to be a guiding principle amongst journalists. But to that, I would say that going too far to one side is liable to screw up your vehicle when you crash into a curb. Aether came up with an interesting theory when he responded to the editorial; he speculated that because a large portion of journalism is kept afloat by clickbait, companies are hiring less based on their writing ability and more an ability to stir up drama. While dealing with a bunch of dissenting voices all at once isn’t at all easy, those types of people are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to handling them because they don’t realize when a civil approach yields better results.

        I’d say that indie gaming entered its inspiring punk-rock phase once they moved past the bloated, self-important, arena-rock stylings of Blow and Fish, and it’s better for it. Granted, the want to make art on its own terms could be a reason why journalists are giving them less coverage after making a big deal out of the scene in the first half of the 2010s, but as long as they reach fans, I think they’ll be okay. I think that pretentious posturing worked to some degree in other mediums because they’re less compartmentalized. which is probably why indie filmmakers still haven’t moved past that. It absolutely doesn’t work as well in gaming because it requires the team to work with a degree of efficiency that can’t be achieved if its leader is off grandstanding and decreasing morale as a result.

      • I haven’t heard that saying, but I’m not a big fan of it. Of course I get having strongly-held beliefs that you can’t compromise on; I have some of those that I won’t shut up about here. But I agree about the danger of going too far to one side and getting too ideological. Aether is certainly right as well — it’s obvious from the titles of some of the articles you’ll find on culture/art/game/etc sites that they’re often written purely to get hate-clicks. Who cares about the quality of the content, the total lack of logic in the article, any of that as long as the advertisers are happy? I’ve heard the same about Youtube videos, that negative engagement can count just as much as positive, which I guess is why guys like the Paul brothers still exist.

        As much as I like some of that overblown early/mid-70s rock, I think that’s a good comparison. When seemingly down-to-earth developers are making good to excellent indie games, the fans won’t tolerate such nonsense anymore because we don’t have to. As for the journalists, if the fans end up leaving them behind, they’ll only have themselves to blame for it. You’ve pointed out how completely disconnected from the audience some big film critics have become, so maybe their game industry counterparts should take a lesson. Not that it seems to be going that way.

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