Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Thursday, December 23, 2021

My 10 Favorite Songs of 2021 (That Aren't by The Weather Station)

As was the case in 2020, the race for album of the year in 2021 was all but over early in the year: The Weather Station's Ignorance is every bit the generational masterpiece Fiona Apple's Fetch the Bolt Cutters was. I've already written about that album and many of its most brilliant tracks ("Heart" is unquestionably my favorite song of the year), so those won't feature here. What will? Hopefully a fairly good cross-section of great songs, spanning a solid cross-section of genres (though I haven't really kept up with much in the way of metal this year, I'll admit). 

Monday, May 10, 2021

Music Review - "Ignorance" by The Weather Station

The most ebullient song of Tamara Lindeman's work to date as The Weather Station arrives on the second-to-last track of her latest album Ignorance. "I don't have the heart to conceal my love / When I know it is the best of me" are her first words on the track (fittingly titled "Heart"), heard over a bed of warm piano and just a faint trace of percussion there in the background. Then the beat kicks in properly—an insistent, disco-infused thing that propels the song forward as Lindeman gives voice to one gorgeously open-hearted sentiment after another.  It's probably the closest thing to a flat-out pop banger she's ever written, yet the gentle shaping of its melodic contours—and what a melody this song has, truly—are something else entirely and perfectly mirror the lyrics' balance of softheartedness and strongly held conviction. ("I guess that I am soft, but I am also angry" is a beautifully concise encapsulation of existing in a world so casually indifferent to various injustices.) The sheer effervescence of the whole thing is breathtaking—one of those real all-timer moments in music that only come along every so often. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

"Hades" Olympians Ranked (by Boon Strength)

I began my journey through Hades unsure of whether I'd ever be able to win a single run. One of my favorite combinations of boons early on, as someone who found (and still does, though I've gotten better at it) the fast-paced combat of the game particularly difficult when fighting enemies in close quarters, involved Athena's Divine Dash to deflect projectiles and a heavily upgraded Poseidon cast that did a ton of damage and complemented whatever Infernal Arm I happened to be using. (It remains my preferred cast whenever possible, mainly due to how much it can trivialize many of the tiny rooms in the Styx region if leveled up correctly.) The game allows you to build a combo like this on the vast majority of your runs by simply selecting the keepsake of your preferred god, then swapping it out for a different one later in the run. You may of course still not get the specific boon you want, but with three to choose from*, I found much of the time I did.

(* Of course, an option on higher difficulties can reduce your choices.) 

The downside of this strategy, however, is that other, potentially more powerful keepsakes sit unused for most of the run. It's also, frankly, a little boring and means the game loses the sort of improvisatory spirit that made fellow roguelike Slay the Spire one of my favorite games ever made. I love getting a particular card or relic in that game and having to design my build around it—sometimes it ends in failure, but it's amazing when it succeeds and you discover a fantastic new (and sometimes wildly overpowered) way of constructing your deck. The best option for replicating this feeling in Hades, I've found, is to use Persephone's Pom Blossom once you've unlocked it, as it lets you randomly level up boons after every few encounters. Add in the additional power-ups you get along the way, and your boons can become incredibly leveled-up. Meanwhile, not favoring a specific god means you can try out tons of new combinations. At this point I pretty much always use the Pom Blossom all the way through Elysium before switching to Skelly's keepsake (the one that gives me an extra life) before the last region. It's become by far my favorite way to play the game. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Best TV Shows of 2018-19 - Part One

Beyond my general feelings about writing at the time, one other reason I could have cited last year for perhaps not wanting to continue these lists was the sense that we were entering a potentially weaker era for TV than there's been in some time, with so many defining series of the last half-decade (RectifyThe Americans, Halt and Catch FireThe Leftovers, etc.) ending in the last couple of years without a ton of immediate replacements, while others like Atlanta are still around but on an extended breaks. What was even going to be left? Not in the sense of there being nothing to write about on a general level, of course, but I mean midway through the year I could sense myself reaching for shows I mostly liked but didn't really merit this high of a spot.

And ultimately . . . I kind of did, to be honest. At the very least the first few entries on this list are shows that, to me, fell just a hair's breadth below the "great" threshold I usually like to see. I have basically no honorable mentions, other than perhaps You're the Worst, whose all-timer of a finale was so good that it retroactively made me like the (merely solid) rest of the season leading up to it a lot more. Perhaps Bob's Burgers would also count, were I current on it; the episodes I've seen of its eighth season, while reliably entertaining, would just miss the cut as well. It just wasn't that strong of a year. But . . . it was enough, largely on the strength of a set of dramedies—including several that premiered just before the end of the season—that have managed to carve out a place in a TV environment that's somewhat lacking its usual strength (or at least lacking its usual depth, as there still are a few standouts) in the realm of both the more traditional sitcom and the drama.

Omissions? Well, a few, including a couple ones that some folks would consider significant: Better Things, What We Do in the ShadowsBarry (I really did not click with the parts of season one I watched but I kind of feel it deserves another chance at some point), and Ramy are perhaps the most notable, in terms of shows that probably could have made a legitimate run at a spot. But I didn't get to them in time, alas.

Anyway, let's get to the main event. As usual there are spoilers but none that I personally would consider all that significant. (I'm not generally too much of a spoilerphobe though, so if you are, take that with a grain of salt.)

Monday, June 4, 2018

Best Shows of 2017-18 — Part Two

Significant (but mostly in a very non-specific way) spoilers after the jump. And once again, thanks for reading:

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Best Shows of 2017-18 — Part One

First, a quick announcement: This may be the last year I'll be doing this sort of season-ending post, at least in this format. The reason is that I'm taking a step back in general (not that I've been doing that much of it to begin with lately) from writing pop culture commentary. As much as I genuinely love doing it, I've come to the conclusion that I prefer to spend the limited free time I have (thanks, capitalism) watching more things instead of writing about them, especially since said I don't really see any way said writing leads me to a sustainable living.

It's entirely possible this feeling won't last, and I could end up right back here next year doing more of the same. If not I'm sure I'll do an abridged version of it of some kind on Twitter. As for movie writing, I'm sure I'll still occasionally have things to say on Letterboxd about particular films, and I do plan on continuing my annual horror movie marathons over there in some shape or form, too.

I'm not calling this the end of the blog or anything, because I truly don't know. But that's where things are going at the moment. So thanks to everyone who's read stuff over the years—especially you, Jose, if you happen to be reading this. Your comments on a lot of my early writing meant the world to me.

Read on for part one (with mild spoilers... next week's top five may have a few somewhat more significant ones) after the jump: