Hip-Hop & Jazz
I’ve got some real good stuff this week. Songs that get me jazzed up (heh) are ones that blur the lines between genres, bringing in the best of each and something entirely new all at the same time. Some of the hip-hop picks here are going to have some distinctively jazzy influences, but there’s bound to be something here for fans of both genres and all the little overlaps. Let’s just get to it!
If you’re interested in past posts, check out the last one where I revisited more of indie and acoustic.
1. “Rose Golden” by Kid Cudi ft. Willow Smith
It’s a damn good feeling when you click on a song and know it’s gonna be good from the first few seconds. Kid Cudi and Willow Smith’s talents have crashed into one another like two planets, creating a result that’s as bombastic as it is unique.
Drawn in with classic harps and crooning only to suddenly swing into a pounding beat, the song all but grabs the listener by the proverbial hand and leads them on a journey — hip-hop, classical and indie are just a few of the influences on full blast here and make for something that’s as interesting as it is plainly catchy. Their vocals are fantastic — I’ve become a huge fan of Willow Smith over the past few years and Kid Cudi’s voice has taken a turn for the gravelly, providing a stellar contrast for an overall stunning piece.
It’s a full-package song through and through. I was drawn in by the lush instrumentation, swayed by the fascinating lyrics and left tingling by the sheer personality of all the incredible talent on board. There’s just so much to talk about to the point I risk overhyping. Just check ‘Rose Golden’ out — you won’t regret it.
Oh, since I was young, been grooving to my own drum
Ain’t that many teachers show me my potential
Tales From The Borderlands is more relevant to the average twenty-something living in America than most shows on television.
The United States is a rough place to live in when you’re part of a marginalized group. Even more so when you’re part of two or three. This is seen in more fruitless job searching, lack of healthcare and ongoing workplace or day-to-day discrimination getting in the way of financial stability and proper mental health. This is even more evident in ongoing trends of more and more twenty-somethings moving back in with their parents for reasons relating to shifting healthcare norms, chronic illness and/or disabilities and lost jobs. Not everyone can afford to get their own place and even a roommate can be off-limits depending on your background.
Media, however, is pretty disinterested in acknowledging this beyond the occasional mean-spirited quip. Stereotypes in popular culture aren’t kind to adults who live with their family — there are plenty of films and shows with one-off characters used as walking punchlines due to living with their parents or even having them in the regular vicinity. Heck, one of the most common insults flung around the Internet is the ‘loser who lives in their parents’ basement’. The lofty and idealized ‘accomplished twenty-something with a degree’ and American nuclear family (established as white, Christian, middle-class, able, heterosexual and cisgender with the occasional ethnic variance) are the standards and fuck you if you dare deviate from it!
When I hear ‘conventional’, I don’t really think of a four-bedroom house with an immaculate lawn and white-picket fence in secluded suburbia. My mind more runs along the lines of the twenty-something juggling a studio apartment and two part-time jobs with no health insurance wondering if they’ll get jumped for a hate crime on the way back home. What can I say, I’m biased!
The onslaught of tone-deaf shows like Big Bang Theory and Girls and countless romantic comedies reinforce day-in and day-out the myth that to not be financially independent is to be burdensome or a raging loser. What makes Tales From The Borderlands stand out amid the pack of ‘tee hee you live with your mom’ commentaries and ‘why are Millennials so lazy and dependent’ thinkpieces is the more nuanced approach to ‘unconventional’ families and living situations.
Continue reading “Tales From The Borderlands: Redefining Unconventional Families”
Indie & Acoustic
Let’s face it. It can be really hard getting through the week with so much bad news pouring through social media and public programs like a stubborn leak. The kind of music I like to listen to in order to further my mood during rough times varies quite a bit — sometimes I want pounding, angry rock to offset hopelessness, while other times I seek out sugary pop to perk me up. As of this week? Indie and folk can be the ticket you need to pull out all those seemingly elusive artistic emotions when you need to create or just get a good cry going.
I’ll be putting a touch more emphasis on the acoustic part of folk in this list, if only because we all could use some low-key, wind-down music once in a while. If this is a genre that tickles your fancy, check out my previous indie and folk recommendations.
1. “Wanna Be On Your Mind” by Valerie June
With one of the most charming set of pipes I’ve ever heard, Valerie June is a new favorite that’s found a permanent place in my playlists. You could even say she’s regularly on my mind! I’ll stop.
Her work is a vibrant blend of country and folk, leaning toward the latter with certain pieces and leaning back with others. If you’re like me and aren’t overly fond of country’s general sound, rest easy knowing Valerie June is versatile enough to cover a wide variety of approaches while retaining a strong identity. ‘Wanna Be On Your Mind’ is a jaunty acoustic-folk number, the almost earworm hook supplemented with a gentle keyboard and quirky chimes. I’ve even put on this song for a few friends and their organic head-bobbing only confirms what I already know.
I wanna be on your mind, stay there all the time
You can’t call my name
We’ve looked at the art direction. Mused over the gameplay mechanics and history over the course of the series. Now we’re in the meat of what truly makes or breaks a Final Fantasy title — story, characters and themes. Role-playing games are everything it says on the tin, designed from the ground up to create an emotionally moving experience supplemented by brilliant design and tactical gameplay mechanics. Some of the most damning reviews I ever read concerning RPGs growing up were generic storylines and forgettable characters. It didn’t even matter to me how fun it might be to play. If it couldn’t make me care, I just didn’t care!
What’s often the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions Final Fantasy? The most blasé reply may include spiky hair, silly outfits and cheesy romance scenes. Another response may be ‘the most consistent inconsistent series the gaming world has ever known’. When it comes down to it, it’s frequently been the characters and the story that kept us up ’til two in the morning, inspired our craft and brought us to tears. Final Fantasy IX is an incredibly interesting entry in the series and one that takes you for a few twists and turns. This will be the most spoiler-y review, but I’ll be sure to mark them accordingly in case you want to experience this all for yourself (pro-tip: you totally want to).
Starting off with the story, I like to separate this title into two categories — the traditional and self-aware retread of classic, heartwarming fantasy in the first two discs and the ‘we got drunk and took one too many dares’ of the last two discs. While that’s more of a friendly ribbing than an outright criticism, this can prove a contentious detail depending on your preferences.
Continue reading “Thanks For Being Here, Final Fantasy IX! Part Three: Story, Characters And Theme”
Electronic & Synth-Pop
Got some good stuff this week! Unlike some of the previous lists where I’ve been sharing new favorites, some of these artists I’ve been a fan of for years. With so much music released week after week, it’s nice to do a little reflecting and see what’s stuck with you along the way (it helps my Youtube account is one giant music repository and I’ve been using it since community college). Without further ado, let’s take a look at some electronica and synth-pop!
1. “2012” by Genki Sudo (WORLD ORDER)
Remember those men in suits doing the robot? Then you may know a thing or two about Genki Sudo. If not, his smooth and dreamy synth-pop single ‘2012’ is a good place to start. The Japanese group WORLD ORDER gained a notable Internet presence through their catchy tunes and choreographed dance routines a few years back, still going strong today with concerts, advertisements and periodic album releases. While their self-titled ‘WORLD ORDER’ is their most popular song to date, I thought I’d take a glance at a piece that might’ve slipped under the radar.
Soothing and gentle, ‘2012’ leans more toward the low-key with its synthetic violins and electronic notes. The video is just as beautiful, embracing the natural beauty of Mexico City both in its environments and downtown cultures. This group clearly loves what they do yet don’t take themselves too seriously, allowing the confused and delighted reaction shots of passerbys to permeate multiple shots. It’s not an easy balance to strike and Genki Sudo’s WORLD ORDER encourages it in spades.
Perfection is when we’re here
Perfection is where we’re going to