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.

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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

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Black Panther Synopsis Officially Released

I’m so excited!

Geeks of Color

Ah Black Panther news, how we love you so.

We’ve been receiving a small amoint of news revolving around the Wakandan Superhero in the news lately, but production on the film has begun, so we’ve been anticipating more information about the film to be released to the public. It looks like all that waiting has paid off, because we’ve been given an official synopsis for the movie from Marvel themselves:

“Black Panther follows T’Challa who, after the events of “Captain America: Civil War,” returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda to take his place as King. However, when an old enemy reappears on the radar, T’Challa’s mettle as King and Black Panther is tested when he is drawn into a conflict that puts the entire fate of Wakanda and the world at risk.”

Previous reports have shown us that Michael B. Jordan (Creed) is set…

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Thanks For Being Here, Final Fantasy IX! Part Three: Story, Characters And Theme

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.

 
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My talk at @UbisoftMTL !!

The random musings of a 1973 Original

Ubisoft Montreal Diversity Tuesdays

I had a chance to speak at Ubisoft’s Montreal studio last month. They were kind enough to get me a copy of the video so here you go! Here’s the deck I used, in PDF format. Note the YouTube link is unlisted.

It makes me really happy that they gave me a chance to come and speak on short notice. Big shout out to UbiGabe for making it happen and being a great host during the day spent there.

I hope this leads to more opportunities to visit with studios and talk about why diversity and inclusion is not just important, or needed but vital in the industry.

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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!

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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

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Good Girl, Bad Girl: A Videogame Regurgitation

You eat something enough times, you’re going to get used to it no matter how much you dislike it.

That’s mainstream media in a nutshell. Our visual diet is composed of clichés and tropes that have spanned for decades across countless mediums and can be consumed in a matter of minutes or hours. While we can all stand to indulge in a little junk food now and again, there comes a time we need to get more critical of what we’re putting in our proverbial mouths. Media can influence the way you interact with your neighbor or talk to the barista behind the counter. At its best it connects people together and shares everyone’s innermost thoughts and desires. At worst? Our prejudices, willful ignorance and unfounded anxieties.

One such prevalant and ugly way of dividing and conquering people is what I like to call the Good Girl, Bad Girl cliché.

Used to take women of different backgrounds and juxtapose them against one another as competition, romantically or platonically, the Good Girl, Bad Girl is a classic mainstay. It manifests in petty cat fights to titillate the presumed straight, cisgender male viewer. It crops up as positive or negative narrative framing, giving one more screentime and the other an unceremonious death. It reduces women to a proverbial buffet to be mused over, selected and readily devoured (as you can see, this food metaphor has a lot of mileage). Don’t confuse this piece for a bare and basic defense of ‘all women’, however. The Good Girl is frequently a woman from privilege, regularly uplifted because she’s ticked off most of the requisite boxes to be ‘deserving’ of attention, protection and respect. While she does face misogyny and objectification, I lean toward defending the Bad Girl. The one rejected in fictional narratives and the real world.

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This has become common in recent titles, making it clear these rotten societal scraps won’t be cleaned up any time soon. I’m going to explore the dichotomy presented between women in videogames — the inherent misogyny/ethnocentricism/whorephobia present in these roles and what they mean for an industry overwhelmingly dominated by a specific kind of person. Three guesses as to who those might be and the first two don’t count!

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Alternative & Chill-Pop

Alternative has always been a mainstay with me. It’s a slapdash of everything, the best of rock, pop, electronica, synth-pop, hip-hop and just about whatever it needs to hold your attention and lift your heart. A veritable delicious stew where you can’t figure out where one genre starts and the other ends. It’s just brilliant. If you’ve got a hankering for some quality soul and funk instead, check out my previous post here.

Since alternative is such a broad category, I’m going to switch it up a little with future Sharing The Goodness posts. Alternative and electronica or alternative and jazz, for example, are likely candidates for the future! ‘Til then, let’s take a look at the smooth and more relaxed end of things — alternative and chill-pop.

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1. “Sly” by Polographia ft. Winston Surfshirt

Double-feature time! I found this band pretty recently while browsing different playlists. With the political landscape getting more hectic by the second, I am in a constant need for something to slow down my heart rate and put me in a better headspace. Polographia’s fantastic old-school melodies and delightfully relaxed approach have since weaseled their way into my own ongoing playlists and I don’t think they’ll be leaving any time soon.

Don’t confuse relaxed with boring, however — their single ‘Sly’ has enough zest to get you moving, but is low-key enough to be as comfortable in a car radio while speeding down the highway as a temporary snooze on a warm beach. Alternative really is a little bit of everything! For those that want a solid first impression, ‘Sly’s throwback sound and vaporware music video are a prime place to start.

Who’s counting all the things you tried

Can’t remember how or why but in the end you’ve grown sly

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Signal Boosting Black Women & NB work! — The random musings of a 1973 Original

So this post is to highlight the work of black women & non-binary folks since some people out there want to act as if we’re not doing anything out here. Allie Bustion is a fledgling tabletop game designer and illustrator working to create inclusive games and supplementary materials (like character portraits). Current projects are a […]

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Soul & Funk

Last week we rounded up some good ambient and R&B tracks. Now we’re taking a look at soul and funk, my go-to genres if I want to feel both chill and inspired. Considering art anxiety is an emotion I still haven’t quite gotten over, these will make the rounds on my playlists when I pull out my tablet pen and get ready for a few hours of sketching. This list is going to have a double-feature, followed by a few artists you may of heard of and may not have.

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1. “Inhale, Exhale” by Nao

First impressions go a long way and I’m still pretty peachy over this one. I’m a huge fan of any piece that immediately hooks you in by sheer force of personality, so ‘Inhale, Exhale’ shoots to the top of the list for being characteristic right off the bat. I love the brisk pace, the punctuated back beat and halting delivery. The hook comes in with an entirely different swing and it’s just oozing funky goodness. You can’t help but bob your head to it.

Nao’s vocals are sweet and a little odd, hard to pin down and making you all the more grateful for it. I initially thought the lyrics were discussing a relationship with another person (the default assumption, no doubt), but upon repeat listens I’m actually thinking they’re describing a troubling relationship with alcohol. Even as she recognizes the foolishness of her actions, she finds herself falling back into the spiral of metaphorical oceans and rivers with every ‘inhale and exhale’. A stylish melody with abstract lyrics. I like it.

Glass empty or full

Quench my thirsty tongue, I’m drinking it

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Thanks For Being Here, Final Fantasy IX – Part Two: Gameplay

The Final Fantasy series has been around a long damn time. While it’s famous for being the face of turn-based battle systems, it has done its fair share of shaking up the formula on its still-continuing line of titles, spin-offs and crossovers. We’ve seen this toyed with in the more chess-like Final Fantasy Tactics, the MMO-inspired Final Fantasy XII and the actual MMO Final Fantasy XI and XIV. We’ve seen this all but tossed out entirely in favor of more spontaneous action-adventure gameplay like Kingdom Hearts and The Bouncer. Even still Final Fantasy XV is looking to shake things up with a more expansive open-world and dynamic, adventure-style gameplay. We won’t talk about Final Fantasy: All The Bravest.

Just like the games it has been a bumpy road full of twists and turns. Final Fantasy XII received a mixed response from some due to its putting greater emphasis on side quests and free movement, while Final Fantasy XIII was nearly a deal-breaker for long-time fans due to its extremely linear and hands-off approach to combat and exploration. That’s nothing to say of all the additional things you can do in the average Final Fantasy game, from playing complex card games in VIII to racing chocobos in VII. So, where does Final Fantasy IX fit into all this?

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