Listening/reading log #21 (July 2021)

Another month has passed. Two months in this case, since I skipped June. But I guess I picked a good time to return. Since many of us are once again confined to quarters thanks to this shitty mutation of the coronavirus that’s ravaging the Earth, you might have time to listen to all this music and read all these excellent posts from around our communities.

First to the music, as usual. Next month, I plan to cover some very modern music, but this time around I’ll be going way back and listening to two old classics that I remember hearing in my childhood and high school years — but they’re not from my childhood, rather from my parents’. I’d actually quit listening to all of these guys years ago because I’d heard their music so much, but lately I’ve been going back, and it’s been an interesting experience. On to it:

Rubber Soul (The Beatles, 1965)

Highlights: Drive My Car, Norwegian Wood, Nowhere Man, Girl, In My Life

Yeah, these guys really don’t need me talking them up, do they? Everyone knows about the Beatles already. But that doesn’t mean their music isn’t still worth talking about. These four dudes from Liverpool, England were massively influential and changed popular music with their work, which spread throughout the decade of the 60s, moving from somewhat sugary pop/rock in the early part of that decade to artsy and even experimental pop/rock by the end.

I like both of these well-known early and late periods of the Beatles’ music, but what happened between them? These guys started shifting their tone in 1965, most noticeably with Rubber Soul, widely known as their “transitional album” and sometimes as their first “serious” album. At first, it might be hard to spot the difference, since the album is still full of short catchy songs that are mostly about love and relationships and all that old stuff. However, the tone is very different and often darker here than you’ll find on something like A Hard Day’s Night. You still have peppy upbeat songs like the opener “Drive My Car”, which I’ll forever remember from my childhood as the song the local morning news played over the traffic report. And there are still fairly straightforward love songs like Paul McCartney’s Michelle, just the thing for playing under some girl’s window to win her affections (you know, as long as she’s named Michelle — if she’s not, you might just piss her off even more than you have already.)

But then there are songs about disappointment and wrecked and even toxic relationships, starting with John Lennon’s “Norwegian Wood”, maybe the most famous song about blue balls ever recorded, and ending with a pretty big overreaction from the protagonist (at least according to the popular reading of the lyrics.) Lennon’s “Girl” is even darker in a way, describing a bad relationship that’s hard to escape, and Run For Your Life goes so far as to have the singer promising his girl won’t escape their relationship alive. What the fuck, guys. It’s hard to imagine all those girls screaming over the Beatles playing that song, isn’t it? And now there’s even a non-love song with “Nowhere Man”, which is just kind of depressing as shit, but still excellent of course.

Rubber Soul is an interesting look at how the Beatles changed their sound and approach, capturing that sound right in the middle of its shift — with Revolver in 1966 they’d be almost completely in that later “art” period. But aside from the historical interest it holds, it’s also just a really good album in its own right. Also yeah, George Harrison plays a sitar for the first time on “Norwegian Wood”; there’s your bar trivia fact for this post.

Live at Leeds (The Who, 1970)

Highlights: the whole thing really, but listen to Heaven and HellAmazing Journey/Sparks, Young Man Blues

Another band that doesn’t need a lot of talking up. But I listened to this thing so much in high school that I damn near wore the CD out (yeah, dating myself here once again.) The Who were another one of the British Invasion groups back in the 60s along with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones — like the Stones, they had a harder edge, playing their take on old American RnB and blues, but like the Beatles they also delved into some more artsy/ambitious work later on, writing the famous rock operas Tommy and Quadrophenia.

The Who were also by all accounts an amazing live band, one that I regret I was never around to actually see play. But at least we have great live albums like Live at Leeds. This album captures these guys at a high point, just coming off of the success of Tommy, and it gives us a listen to the wide range of their work — from short singles from their earlier days like Substitute to medleys of their then-recent work with “Amazing Journey/Sparks”. Most of these are originals, but they also cover a few old classics; see “Young Man Blues” and Summertime Blues, which most people probably know better in its original Eddie Cochran version.

It’s easy to tell from this album alone why this band was and still is so revered. All four of these guys were excellent performers: Roger Daltrey’s vocals, Pete Townshend’s guitar (and writing, since he did write most of their music/lyrics), John Entwistle’s bass, and Keith Moon’s drumming, all of it. Moon famously used to go nuts on his drumkit (and in his life generally speaking) but it fits well with the band’s style — it’s easier if you actually see them in action as you can here, playing “Heaven and Hell” live one year later.

But even without the visuals, there’s a lot of energy and talent on this album and it all comes through. The Who also recorded some great studio albums that I might get around to looking at later on.

And now on to the featured posts:

Catherine: Full Body Review (WCRobinson) — Catherine is a PS3 puzzle game classic that started a few debates back in the day over its frank depiction of relationships and both their emotional and sexual aspects. The PS4 remake Full Body adds a new character to the story along with some other interesting features. Be sure to read WCRobinson’s review for an in-depth look at the game.

The Awesome Combo Trainer of Them’s Fightin’ Herds (Frostilyte Writes) — I am absolute trash at fighting games, but I still like reading Frostilyte’s thoughts on them. The animal-themed fighting game Them’s Fightin’ Herds certainly seems like an interesting one to check out if you’re into the genre.

Visual Novel Theatre: Idol Magical Girl Chiru Chiru Michiru (Lost to the Aether) — Dipping back into June for this one, but it’s well worth the trip back for another of Aether’s visual novel reviews. Idol Magical Girl Chiru Chiru Michiru might sound like it’s not made for manly men, but Aether absolutely destroys that misguided idea in his review of the game. Also, the art on that title screen is familiar — I’m positive I know that artist, but I can’t place the name and it’s driving me a bit crazy.

Donkey Kong Country (Extra Life) — Red Metal gives his thoughts on the classic SNES platformer Donkey Kong Country in this extremely in-depth review. How does it hold up after all these years? Check his post out to find out.

AILBHTAY: Kino’s Journey (2003) (Mechanical Anime Reviews) — Scott reviews the classic Kino’s Journey, one that I somehow haven’t watched yet. Now I have yet another old series to add to my backlog, because Kino seems to be well worth a look.

3 Episode Rule – The Aquatope on White Sand (A Richard Wood Text Adventure) — I’m watching the currently airing anime The Aquatope on White Sand, and it’s promising so far, with very high production values and an interesting premise. See this post for more on why you might want to pick it up as well.

Full Dive: This Ultimate Next-Gen Full Dive RPG Is Even Shittier than Real Life! – Well this name is quite the mouth full. (Natural Degeneracy) — Normally I’m down for a good ecchi/fanservice-filled series; you know me. This one doesn’t sound like it quite lives up to its potential, but you might find something to like — see this review for more. Also, one of the characters looks a lot like Etna from Disgaea.

Hyouka – Review (KSBlogs) — Hyouka is an anime I’ve been thinking of picking up just because of how damn good it looks, and this detailed review of the series has gotten me even more interested in it.

Trying Out My New “Positivity” – Pomu’roll at the End (The Unlit Cigarette) — From Valsisms, an account of trying to be positive even in the face of absurdity. If you’ve ever had a bad or bizarre job interview, and who hasn’t, you will likely be able to relate. (I also want to second her plug of Nijisanji EN at the end — I’ve already admitted to falling down the VTuber hole long ago, and since writing that post back in December mostly about Hololive talents, rival agency Nijisanji has introduced two sets of new English-language VTubers. And they’re all entertaining, so be sure to check them out if you’re into that. (I 100% simp for Rosemi Lovelock and I’m not ashamed to say it. But God, what’s happened to my life.))

The VTuber Bachelorette: Mori Calliope (Pinkie’s Paradise) — Speaking of VTubers, Pinkie is putting a select few in the spotlight on her blog, including everyone’s favorite rapping grim reaper Mori Calliope. I like Mori’s down to Earth attitude, and while I’m not much for rap she’s obviously a talented singer/musician as well. But how would she make for a girlfriend? An interesting question, but there are some serious complications involved that Pinkie gets into (and it’s not just the fact that she’s a 2D anime girl — not that that stops some people!)

MY TAKE ON MOST FAMOUS ANIME WAIFUS – Thiccness Alert (FreakSenpai) — And speaking of waifus, FreakSenpai gives us some personal thoughts on a few popular anime characters that many fans pine for. All I have to say is: good taste!

How Square Enix Ripped Out My Heart & Then Stomped On It: Final Fantasy XV (Eating Soup with Trailing Sleeves) — I lost track of Final Fantasy many years ago, so I can’t comment personally on the subject, but Trailing Sleeves gives a personal account of the Final Fantasy XV experience here, along with some thoughts about how effectively (or ineffectively) it tells its story.

Summoning Salt: Ode to Speedrunning Docu Excellence (Professional Moron) — Summoning Salt runs an interesting YouTube channel, producing documentary-style pieces about the history of speedrunning. His videos usually focus on one game each, or even on an aspect of a particular game, and how their challenges are taken on by the most skilled speedrunners in the world. Mr. Wapojif highly recommends this channel, and so do I!

Having a Tea Party at the Umineko Manor (Kyu-Furukawa Gardens) (Resurface to Reality) — I love the visual novel series Umineko no Naku Koro ni. But what I didn’t know for a long time was that the Ushiromiya mansion featured in the game is based on a real place, and apparently you can have a tea party there, just like Beatrice the Golden Witch sometimes did while she was tormenting Battler in the meta-world or however that went (it’s complicated.) A good idea if you can make it when things open up a bit once again.

What’s (In My Opinion) the Worst Parts About Anime (Side of Fiction) — Our friendly overlord Jacob loves anime, but he also has a few problems with the medium as it stands today. I’m partly but not totally on board with him, though I do get his reasoning, and he raises some issues that are worth talking about.

I’m Having Trouble Adapting to the Anime Community off WordPress (I drink and watch anime) — Irina brings up a new trend among anime bloggers of shifting off of WordPress and onto other platforms, talking about what she sees as the pros and cons of this shift. I do use Twitter sometimes, but I’m more or less of the same mind — WordPress is where I’ll stay, even if/when Automattic forces us to use their new extra-shitty text editor. I’m just waiting for that axe to fall.

Anonymity on the Internet is Slowly Dying (Umai Yomu Anime Blog) — Anonymity on the internet is indeed dying, and Yomu gets into detail in this post about how that’s happening and how we might fight against this trend and protect our own privacy online.

Nestle and Cargill financing child slavery for their chocolate industries, yet SCOTUS rejects a lawsuit to stop them from getting sued by those formally enslaved. (Ospreyshire’s Realm) — Finally, apologies for getting heavy here at the very end, but this is an important subject that hasn’t gotten much talk. Nestle is well known for being one of the evilest companies on Earth, even worse than Activision-Blizzard (which yes, I am following that case, and possibly more on it later.) So it’s not a great surprise that major food-producing corporations Nestle and Cargill were sued in the US over allegations of using child labor and essentially promoting slavery in Cote D’Ivoire for the purpose of chocolate production. The lawsuit was thrown out by the US Supreme Court on jurisdictional grounds, which basically means that the case might have merit but still can’t be heard for technical reasons. Ospreyshire here writes about how this was a bad ruling and why these companies should be held to account for their actions.

And that’s all for this month. I hope I’ve acquitted myself for skipping the last one. As for what you can expect from me moving forward — more anime reviews are certainly on their way, and I have a couple of other features I’m planning, including the next deep read post (probably up next unless I decide to revise it a whole lot.) Until then, all the best.

29 thoughts on “Listening/reading log #21 (July 2021)

  1. “Drive My Car, which I’ll forever remember from my childhood as the song the local morning news played over the traffic report”

    That’s just awesome!

    You mentioned how Rubber Soul is sort of a turning point in The Beatles’ career, and I naturally agree, to the point that I can safely say I am not a big fan of their albums that came before it (though I do like a some songs they have, of course).

    As for Live at Leeds, that stuff is legendary for a good reason. I love it, and I am glad you do too.

    • Yeah, I can see how you’d feel that way. I do like Hard Day’s Night and Help! a lot, but for me the really early 1962/63 stuff hasn’t aged as well. Though I do recommend people check out their actual official German-language version of “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. I guess those early days in Hamburg stuck with them!

      Yeah, Live at Leeds is amazing. I also have the Isle of Wight live album, and that’s great as well, though maybe Leeds is a better place to start for someone new to the band? I think so, anyway.

      • I will check that German version out. I have heard a lot about their Hamburg days, but I never really listened to anything from that period.

        And yeah, I agree. Leeds is a better starting point than Isle of Wight.

  2. Hey, thanks so much for sharing my post! First time I’ve ever been in something like this! I love what people like you do. It’s so kind of you to spread other people’s work around like this. Thanks a lot!

    • No problem! I got this idea from other bloggers I’ve followed for a long time around here. It’s nice to have these sorts of loose communities here, gives me more motivation to write too.

  3. Ta very much for the mention! And A Quick One, While He’s Away is my favourite from The Who Live at Leeds. I live quite near Leeds so got to visit the venue about a decade ago. History!

    • Definitely! I like “A Quick One” as well. Really everything on that album is great; can’t think of anything I wouldn’t listen to again. I’d love to visit that venue too someday, even if I can’t hear the Who live in person anymore.

      • Even now? I didn’t know. I guess they did continue on without Keith Moon for a long time, but with half of the original band now passed away and here in 2021 I can’t imagine they’re the same anymore, yeah.

    • Yeah, those are really good as well. “I’m Looking Through You” especially has that sharp edge to the lyrics as well, sounds pretty personal honestly.

      • No problem. I wholeheartedly agree. I don’t think this got that much mainstream attention on the news which isn’t surprising since Nestle and Cargill probably have ad space on multiple shows and channels. More people should know about this issue among other serious things that aren’t being talked about enough.

  4. The hipster in me wanted to do a call-out for the Beatles inclusion in this month’s log, but the songs were actually nice. I wouldn’t count myself among the fans of the Beatles, but I’ve only ever been exposed to their earlier stuff which I don’t care for on the basis of how upbeat it is.

    Thank you as always for the shout-out. Given how much I enjoy playing fighting games I’m glad that fellow bloggers seem to appreciate my articles on the genre even if most of them, like yourself, have indicated they don’t necessarily have the time or interest to get into them the same way I did.

    • Yeah, I completely get that. The hipster in me wanted to put in more prog or city pop instead, but he’ll have to wait until next month. But I’m happy you liked these songs. The Beatles’ music here and afterwards has a mix of upbeat and downbeat and is very different from their early stuff, so you might still find a lot to like there. My favorite of theirs is still the White Album, for as much of a sprawling mess as it is.

      And certainly! Even if I don’t play fighting games myself, it’s interesting to read about how they appeal to players. I think they also have some appeal as a kind of spectator sport for streaming; I’ve seen a few livestreams of Guilty Gear for example, and they’re a good time, but even better if I understand the basics of what’s going on.

      • Guess that’s one more thing for the list of stuff to do, not that looking through a band’s history is a big ask lol.

        For sure. I’ve found as I’ve learned more about the games I have an easier time watching them because I know what’s happening and why instead of just, “oh that was cool”! Granted I feel like a lot of fighters do a great job of presenting the visuals such that they’re entertaining even if viewers aren’t intimately familiar with what they’re seeing. As e-sports have become a bigger component of the genre I feel like that was a natural evolution of things.

  5. Hey, thanks for the shout again! I feel that while Donkey Kong Country gets a little more love than it deserves, it’s not terribly overrated. If I were making a list regarding the worst acclaimed games of all time, it wouldn’t even come close to landing on it. Still, it comes across as a prototype to its sequels, which makes revisiting it a little disappointing. In that regard, I find it’s a lot like Link’s Awakening; highly praised to the point where I thought there was something I missed as a kid only for me to conclude that, while I certainly had questionable taste back then, I was right the first time in this case.

    And even if they don’t really need anyone talking them up, I do think it’s worth featuring The Beatles. Their albums are kind of the music equivalent of Citizen Kane in that they get so much critical hype that claiming they’re overrated has become an incredibly tedious cliché. It’s to the point where I actually think you’re being more of a non-conformist by straight-up enjoying their music. Rubber Soul is a solid entry in their discography with a lot of great, classic songs, although “Run for Your Life” *really* did not age well (and John Lennon himself realized that too before his untimely death, so it’s not just a case of changing values going on here). Still a classic, although for my money, I think I’d lean a little bit more toward Revolver.

    • Of course! These kinds of prototype games get a lot of respect, which I guess they deserve, but I agree that they don’t always live up to that reputation. Link’s Awakening is another great example. I’d add the first Sonic game to the list as well — it’s definitely good, but its Genesis sequels added to and improved upon the original formula so much that I wouldn’t recommend Sonic 1 to anyone who hasn’t at least played 2, and preferably 3&K also.

      Yeah, I think I’ve come around to this way of thinking about these widely recognized great works/artists. It’s great to branch out to lesser-known works, but there’s no reason to throw these away. As for “Run For Your Life”, I was honestly surprised by it — I didn’t remember this song at all, maybe because I didn’t listen to it too much when I was younger. It’s more like something you’d expect off of a Stones album, at least as far as the lyrical subject goes. But even they didn’t go this far with songs like “Under My Thumb”. It was weird to hear, but makes sense that Lennon would disavow the message later on.

      And yeah, I do prefer their later albums — I’d say Revolver and the White Album are up there among my favorites, along with maybe Magical Mystery Tour and Abbey Road. Leaving out some of McCartney’s sappier stuff, which just isn’t to my taste.

  6. Yo, thanks for reaching through time for that shout out there, glad you enjoyed the post. I don’t know who Chiru Chiru Michiru’s artist is, specifically, but the game was put together by Front Wing, so if you’ve seen other projects of theirs, maybe that’s where it’s from.

    Also, I can second the Kino’s Journey recommendation. It’s a really good, thought-provoking show.

    • Thanks, I’ll check that out. Also for the recommendation. I’ve always heard Kino talked about as one of those must-see anime series.

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