already one of my favorite releases of this year


I really loved Popeye and it was one of my go-to games despite it being a little frustrating. A 1983 Nintendo release, the characters in Popeye were actually originally planned to be used in what became Donkey Kong, but during development Nintendo was unable to obtain the licenses to do so, so Popeye became a standalone game, released the year after Donkey Kong Jr. made its debut. Some gaming magazines and columns were critical of the mechanics and design similarity to the by-then already tiresomely mimicked Donkey Kong, but others complimented its character design and music, and it proved to be a fan favorite.

You play the titular Popeye, and the character design is pretty good with the characters being immediately recognizable. Okay, except for Olive Oyl. She looks like a rendering of a Raggedy Ann doll that was sat on, but 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.

Olive does what Olive does best, which is being ugly and a nervous wreck. She tosses a constant stream of hearts down onto the screen, which you must grab without letting any of them reach the bottom. Retrieved hearts appear on the house on the top left. Once the panels are full, you win that level and the next is a little harder, and so on. The major barrier to your goal is Bluto, who, although regularly hot-tempered in the comic/cartoon/movie, really seems to have it in for you in this game and is on a rampage chasing you. You need to avoid him before he pummels or grabs you with his meaty fists. He sometimes pauses to throw a number of bottles at you which you can punch apart if you can’t get away or just if you feel like showing off. He’s a real pain in the ass but you can occasionally get back at him by grabbing cans of spinach that appear randomly at the sides of the screen. Popeye turns green and the theme music plays while the game briefly allows you to chase and then punch the living shit out of him for once. It includes a nice satisfying animation of him flying away and bouncing around the screen for a moment before he recovers and it’s back to business.

Once in awhile, sea hags (just ID’s for me by helpful users, I never could figure out what they were) will show up on the sides of the screen for a moment and chuck a few extra bottles at you just to be assholes.

anonymous asked:

I think the reason why I love Ultraviolence so much, besides the fact that it's a great album and that it gains from being analyzed and put in perspective, is that it was never what I expected Lana to release, but turns out it's the album I definitely needed from her! Three years later, I still go back to listen to the album, and realize each time how amazing it is! I think that in a few years it will be considered a classic, if it's not already considered one!

It’s so gorgeous. It blew me away from the beginning. Hearing songs like Cruel World and Shades of Cool just.. like shocked me. I was BLOWN AWAY by their sound. I was so thoroughly impressed and it will forever be one of my favorite albums. I think it’s a defining album for her. It proved she didn’t need all the production, beats, or any gimmic.. I thought Lana was fantastic from the day I went through her videos in 2012.. but UV just floored me. 3 years later and I still am impressed when I listen to the album. The ambiance on tracks like Brooklyn Baby & SoC just 

Rugrats and Gender Roles

Spongebob Squarepants has defined Nickelodeon for the past decade and a half, but it isn’t the face of the network for me.  I am old enough to have watched the pilot of Spongebob when it first aired and I am old enough to remember the Nicktoons as an established brand before it aired.  There wouldn’t be a Spongebob Squarepants successful enough to run almost 20 years and release two theatrical movies without a little show called Rugrats laying the groundwork for Spongebob back in the ‘90s.  Rugrats is my favorite Nicktoon, which is saying something because the competition it ran with on Nickelodeon was already incredibly strong.  Heck, I would argue that Rugrats at its peak is one of the best cartoons that has ever aired on television.  Yes, up there with The Simpsons, Animaniacs, Batman: The Animated Series, or whatever other classic you can think of.  It brimmed with such creativity with its design aesthetic (would’ve thunk America would fall in love with such deformed looking babies?) and concept, which were bolstered by the very thoughtful, funny, and intelligent writing.  Looking back, I can easily see why the show became such a major phenomenon in the '90s and I only regret that it seems like its legacy seems to be overshadowed by Nickelodeon’s current fixation with Spongebob and to a lesser extent, the nostalgia for the more overtly adult-oriented Ren & Stimpy and Rocko’s Modern Life.

I think something that was very interesting about Rugrats that ultimately ended up being one of the show’s many strengths was the structure of the gender roles of the characters.  There was a recurring theme in the show of female characters having more dominant roles over their male peers.  The most subtle version of this is that of the twins Phil and Lil, Lil is slightly older.  This example might sound like I’m reaching, but it’s consistent with the other examples I’m about to lay out.  I realize Lil looks like a something of a Smurfette considering she’s the only girl in the group of babies (until Kimi came along) and that a male character, Tommy, takes the most dominant role within that group.  However, Tommy’s authority is overshadowed by Angelica, who keeps all of the babies under her boot.  The only recurring deterrent to Angelica’s power over the babies is another female toddler, Susie Carmichael.  There are no other characters in the show that have authority over Angelica or Susie that are still young enough to communicate with the babies.  The show later introduces Timmy McNulty, who may be older than Angelica and Susie, but Angelica still maintains the most dominance within their peer group every time they appear in an episode together.  This is particularly salient because Timmy marks his power over everyone through male chauvinism.  Angelica’s eventual overpowering of Timmy McNulty is a direct rejection of the point of view he’s expressing.

These gender dynamic play out in the world of the grownups as well.  The most blatantly obvious example is through Phil and Lil’s parents, Betty and Howard DeVille.  Betty is a large, gregarious, athletic woman who wears a sweatshirt with a big female symbol plastered on it while Howard is meek, timid, and soft-spoken.  The dynamic is not much different with Angelica’s parents Drew and Charlotte.  Drew isn’t as meek as Howard, but Charlotte is even more domineering than Betty.  The stereotypical maternal/paternal gender dynamics are flipped in Angelica’s family, which Charlotte taking the traditionally fatherly role of being the primary breadwinner and Drew taking the traditionally motherly role of tending to Angelica.  With the examples I’ve outlined so far, it seems like Rugrats is a world of boisterous and abrasive women.  It isn’t and they don’t need to be in order to play the dominant role.  Tommy’s mom Didi is much quieter and more dainty than the aforementioned women, but she provides the only steady source of income as a full-time teacher.  Stu is unemployed and I don’t know how much income comes from his inventions, but I’m sure it’s sporadic considering half the time they either don’t work or go awry.  The most important thing about all of these subversion in power dynamics is that the show never frames it negatively.  In one of her earliest videos, Anita Sarkeesian brought up Betty as an example of a straw-feminist character.  I’m not sure I agree with that.  I never felt that the show ever use Betty’s personality as a caricature of feminism nor did they frame her relationship with Howard negatively.  She is aggressive and he is passive, but it works for them.  It never gets anywhere near “this pussified man is whipped by his feminazi wife” territory.  At no point do the dads in Rugrats complain about their roles in their families nor does the show ever mock or demean them for it.  It’s never unusual for the kids either; they love their moms and especially their dads just the way they are.

This brings me to the relationship between Chuckie and his father Chas, which was one the core strengths of the show.  Chas is widowed up until the second movie, so he has to play the role of Chuckie’s father and mother.  Chas’ personality is what some jerk might derisively describe as “feminized male”; he is shy, timid, passive, awkward, dweeby, wimpy, worrisome, and soft-spoken; all traits he passed on to Chuckie.  His traits often don’t do him a lot of favors in the unforgiving world he lives in, nor do they for Chuckie.  Chas sees this in Chuckie, but he doesn’t balk at his feelings or try to make him “man up”.   He acknowledges his feelings and always makes himself available physically and emotionally to console him.  He doesn’t hide his own feelings from Chuckie either; he opens up to him about feeling scared or being worried about things that are going on in his life.  Chas is not afraid to be openly affectionate to Chuckie either and as a result Chuckie reciprocates the feelings to him.  Chas goes directly against the traditional masculine gender roles in his interactions with Chuckie and it made for the most beautiful relationship in the whole show.  It’s so beautiful that I get a little choked up thinking about it.  Chuckie’s such a scared boy and he has no mother, so I think it’s so wonderful that the only grownup in his life provides a healthy outlet for him to work through his emotions without judgment.  At the same time, Chuckie’s affection provides Chas with a much needed relief from all the anxieties that come with being a shy bureaucrat with a deceased wife.  Based on such a strong relationship, it comes as no surprise that Chuckie’s popularity would eventually overshadow Tommy’s.

I really appreciate that Rugrats was bold enough to challenge stereotypical gender roles.  We don’t have enough media, especially media aimed at kids, that tells girls that they roles in the world aren’t subservient to boys and tells boys that they don’t have to be in total control of everything to be valued.  It’s especially bold for Rugrats to challenge the conventional wisdom in the '90s, considering it was during a time of feminism backlash and comics starring hyper-muscular, hyper-masculine, angry, violent (anti-) superheroes with big guns were popular.

These are my favorite coloring books that help me do a lot of distracting! They are by Valentina Harper and can be found on Amazon. I found pages of the flower book randomly when I was inpatient this year and spent hours looking for where they came from online when I got home. Afterwards, loads of people in my groups wanted pages or bought their own coloring books.

There are four new ones that are going to be a available in September I believe, I’ve already pre-ordered them.

Coloring can be a great distraction tool, a great way to self-soothe and release anxiety. It can also be used for behavioral activation as it’s something small you can do that is still active.

I also color pages for friends and write quotes on them, which helps me feel like I’m using the DBT skill of contributing.

gayamericanoutlaw asked: Hi! Do you have any recommendations for detective/crime/noir-type novels? (YA or Adult is fine)

This is one of my favorite genres to read and one that I desperately need to get more caught up with! Most of my favorites are going to be rather oldies, but good ones! Check these out!

I’m also going to include some New Releases at the bottom that I want to check out which may interest you too!

1. Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

2. When the Bough Breaks by Jonathan Kellerman- love this whole series!

3. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

4. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins- may have already read this but if you haven’t- really good!

5. Catch Me by Lisa Gardner

6. Night Film by Marisha Pessl

Here are some relatively new releases (in the last year) you may also enjoy:

1. The Dry by Jane Harper

2. Two Days Gone by Randall Silvas - super new, came out yesterday! 

3. Nest by Terry Goodkind

Thank you so much for the question! I hope some of these spark your interest!

Much love,



Noiz should get a clue already…

Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven” (I am pretty sure I made him turn on his grave right now :,D). Halloween is my favorite time of the year, so I’ll try to release one halloween themed comic every week during this month!

Spooky dreams! ∋━━o(`∀´oメ)~→

anonymous asked:

Any chance I could get a quick summary of two best friends play? Like who are these guys?

OK SO Two Best Friends Play is actually made of 4 Friends: Matt the Best Friends CEO, Pat the Ginger, Woolie the Pie Thief, and Liam the Weeb Prince

Together, all four form the Best Friends Zaibatsu, but every now and then they’ll pair up in different ways to play different kinds of games with each other (ie: Matt and Pat is Two Best Friends Play, Super Best Friends Play is usually 3 of the four guys, and Best Friends Play is Pat and Woolie).

They’ve done full let’s plays of several Silent Hill games, Heavy Rain, The Walking Dead 1 and 2, Rule of Rose, Dark Souls 2, Evil Within, and Resident Evil 4. Currently, they’re pushing out episodes for Bloodbourne, Mortal Kombat X, Life is Strange, RE: Revelations 2, and Telltale’s Game of Throne series.

Friday nights are usually dedicated to their Friday Night Fisticuffs, where they play bombass fighting games, or the hilarious alternate, Saturday Morning Scrublords, where they play the shittiest fighting games.

Every Tuesday they release a new episode of their podcast, where they go on for about 3 hours talking about recent news within the entertainment business, such as movies and video games, which is GREAT to listen to when you’re on really long road trips!!!!

October is usually my favorite time of the year for the channel, though, because for 31 straight days they do the Shitstorm of Scariness series where they play a creepy horror game. For the past 3 years, usually they do a different horror game each night, but last year they decided to release a week full of episodes from one game (ie: Bug Island, Rule of Rose, and Call of Cthulu).

But yeah holy shit please, please, PLEASE do yourselves a favor – if you haven’t already, PLEASE subscribe to Two Best Friends Play – The hypest channel on YouTube!!

I wanted to share some photos from a shoot I did about a month ago! Ronnie’s already shown up on my blog and this is her human. Ronnie is a GSD/Collie cross bred by GDF. She was raised in the program for about a year before being released and adopted by her puppy raiser. 

This is one of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken.


In no particular order, here are my 14 favorite albums of 2014. Enjoy!

Ryan Adams / Ryan Adams

In a year where I was already listening to more Ryan Adams than I ever had (holy what a rewarding back catalogue to discover!) Adams released one of his best albums in recent memory. An incredibly talented, hugely prolific musician (it’s amazing how often those traits are mutually exclusive) his self titled 14th studio album in the last 14 years sounds as fresh and emotional as ever. Sounding fiercely personal and broodingly dark, Adams somehow manages to give these songs a broad, mainstream brushstroke. Either thanks to hit maker Mike Viola’s (Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness, Matt Nathanson) production, or Adams’ continued cult-like success, these mainstream rock songs sound 100% Ryan Adams. With a tight band that includes Benmont Tench (Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers), wife Mandy Moore on vocals for a few songs, and Johnny Depp shredding some electric solos, this album is one heck of a good time. Adams has the kind of ability that can only come with years and years of touring and writing, to make these simple songs sound cohesive, exciting, and interesting. He’ll have you dancing in the dark in the kitchen, singing along to simple words you didn’t realize you knew. He writes the kind of deceptively deep and dark lyrics that are getting more and more rare these days and recall his early career when singer-songwriters ruled the scene. When Adams cuts everything else out halfway in, for the heart aching acoustic ballad “My Wrecking Ball” you’d swear it was 2000 and you were 14 again, laying on your bed listing to Heartbreaker on your walkman. That’s the beauty of Adams. An artist who can be so progressive, so prolific through such a long period without alienating fans or critics, comes along rarely. With a home studio he’s been using to help promote music of all genres, a crowd pleasing tour with a real fan’s setlist, and a tell-all interview style that found me devouring anything and everything Adams this year, this probably would have been my number one album had I decided to rank them all in a specific order. Regardless, this is the album I had the most fun listening to, and if you’ve somehow avoided it despite all the hype, I TOTALLY recommend it. 

“Lying in the bed at night feeling like I’m somebody else / My thoughts inside my head get lost inside the haunted house / Everyone I used to know left their dreams by the door / I accidentally kick ‘em that’s how I can tell you’re still not sure.”

Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness / Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness

In many ways, longtime favorite musician Andrew McMahon’s first official solo release was both a pleasant surprise and a mild disappointment. Definitely my most highly anticipated release of the year, McMahon chose the wordy Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness as the title for his latest piano pop project. I have loved McMahon since his days fronting the punkier SoCal band Something Corporate and his second project, Jack’s Mannequin, is one of my favorite bands of all time. Whether due to restlessness, artistic exploration, or career aspirations, 2013/14 found McMahon venturing out on his own. Keeping ¾’s of Jack’s (losing only talented guitarist Bobby “Raw” Anderson) and focusing more on synths, keyboards, and electronic production, McMahon has released one of the most forward thinking pop records of the year. With huge radio ready pop choruses (feel good single “Cecelia & The Satellite” is the first time I’ve heard Andrew on the radio since 2005’s “The Mixed Tape”) and some big name co-writers, it’s good to see McMahon making a splash again in the pop scene. The disappointment came when I realized that by falling for co-writes and radio pop, McMahon had released something that sounds like a lot of the other mainstream stuff right now. McMahon has long sang about the “pop underground” and wanting to “hear some music / NOT the radio music” and this album loses some of the quirks that always made him special. That being said, his piano skills are still definitely impressive, his autobiographical lyrics are what set him apart from everybody else, and there are some GREAT pop songs on this album. From the pounding opener “Canyon Moon,” the gorgeous piano of “Halls,” and the echoing 80’s power pop of closer “Maps For The Getaway,” these songs sound like a more mature, mid-tempo McMahon. Gone is most of the teenage/twenty-something angst and turmoil, and most of these songs are about married life, McMahon’s brand new daughter and finding peace as a musician and human. Time will tell if these songs will hold up to McMahon cult favorites like “Bruised,” and “Dark Blue,” but I encourage you to check out his extremely uplifting 2014 release. 

“Parked outside the house we used to live / Staring down the green roof and the walls / The balcony, the hills, the pain / The years of hope, the months of rain / Now that we’re outside it / I guess we survived it after all.”

Angels & Airwaves / The Dream Walker

Full disclosure, Angels & Airwaves and I go way back. The songs on Tom DeLonge’s post-Blink 182 project have a common thread that immediately takes me back to my early 20’s. Whether I was driving snowy mountain passes home from college for Christmas blasting We Don’t Need To Whisper (AVA’s surprising 2006 debut); or taking 5AM sunrises head-on for jobs, school, and sports with I-Empire (2007’s powerful follow up) owning my headphones, I wore those two albums OUT in college. DeLonge had a way of making these vast, widescreen soundscapes feel personal and life changing. I fell in love with his passionate (although amateurish and affected) vocals, and his grand, Edge style guitar build ups. There was a positive message in the words that this overconfident punk rock kid from San Diego was singing. After achieving a fair amount of success with his first two albums (self produced and recorded in home studios) DeLonge gave away their third album LOVE for free download on their website. Here we are 8 years later and DeLonge is still carrying the torch for the punk rock, underground, DIY crew, and managing to hang just off the edge of the mainstream. Completely self recorded, produced, and released, Dream Walker is a true achievement. I thought I had grown out of DeLonge’s cryptic lyrics and overdone bombast, but something about Dream Walker caught my ear. No, it’s not a new found maturity for DeLonge & co, although with the addition of Ilan Rubin (NIN) on drums and synths, this album sounds raw and upfront, and abandons AVA’s endless intros and guitar heavy 6 minute epics. These songs trigger something in me and simply make me feel a little bit younger, a little bit more punk rock. In much the same way that last year’s favorite album, Typhoon's White Lighter threads melodies through different songs; DeLonge has a way of tying songs together. Using familiar chord structures and similar melodies, Dream Walker channels Patrick Stump (FOB), Bono, Gerard Way (MCR), and Robert Smith (The Cure), all the while sounding like a rejuvenated Angels & Airwaves. From the minor key piano in the opening track, the huge Blink drop in “Paralyzed”, and the radio ready hook from “Bullets In The Wind,” Delonge continually impresses. “Mercenaries” and “Wolfpack” bubble with an electric current of exuberant, boundless energy, and “Tunnels” is a sleek U2 style jam, that explodes with some of the best harmonies you’ll hear all year. Dream Walker makes this list because it disobeys the rules. It’s not perfect, it’s not lyrically brilliant, it’s just fun, sweaty, reckless abandon punk rock with an 80’s attitude and a leather jacket edge. I was waiting for something special this year, and Angels & Airwaves came along and made me feel 22 again. They made me want to sing along and go driving with the windows down, and to me, that’s what great music is supposed to do. 

“It’s on me / It’s only a small heart on one sleeve / Academy killer / Are you ready? / I’m waiting to begin.”

Bleachers / Strange Desire

Making the old feel new seemed to be a theme with my favorite albums this year and Bleachers (Jack Antonoff’s “don’t-call-it-a-side-project”) 80’s pop-rock blast Strange Desire did it better than anybody. When “I Wanna Get Better” hit the radio in February, it immediately became everyone’s favorite choppy, catchy, undeniable loser anthem. It was revealed all at once that Jack Antonoff (guitarist/co-writer for grammy winning group FUN.) not only had hit singles for a side project, but he had a full album and a tour hiding up his sleeve. Fans of Antonoff’s old band (New Jersey’s underdog punkers Steel Train) will find familiarity in a lot of the songs on Strange Desire, and in the absence of any news from FUN., Antonoff seems to have huge pop choruses for days. Alongside co-writing with Sara Bareilles (“Brave”) and Taylor Swift (“Out Of The Woods”) Antonoff wrote most of Strange Desire while on the road playing with FUN. With the weird glam-pop of Bowie and the rugged parkway grit of Born In The USA-era Springsteen, Antonoff makes the 11 tracks on Strange Desire feel like pure Bleachers. Using a lot of random samples, chopped up vocals and weird sounds, Antonoff puts his stamp on Strange Desire as the effortlessly cool, heart-on-sleeve, oddball front man of HIS band. All you have to do is look at the song titles. All “Wild Hearts,” “Rollercoaster,” and “Reckless Love” these songs could soundtrack a lost John Hughes movie. Selling out their summer tour across the US, and already making plans for next year, Bleachers rise to the top felt eerily similar to the path FUN. took a few years ago. Here’s to Bleachers and Jack Antonoff for the hard work and for releasing tunes that can make us all feel like kids again. 

“Woke up this morning early before my family / From this dream where she was trying to show me / How a life can move from the darkness.”

Field Report / Marigolden

Marigolden review here:

After missing the surprisingly moving debut album from Wisconsin’s Field Report on my best of 2012 list, I had Marigolden preordered and spinning from the day it came out in October. If you want a little deeper info on specific songs, check my full review linked above, but be assured, the music here is simply gorgeous. With understated acoustic guitar, drum brushes and keyboards, Field Report fill out a sound that was stark and bare, if not haunting on their debut. Adding enough pedal steel, sleek synthesizers, and electronic effects to draw comparisons to both Radiohead and George Jones; Field Report eschews the easy hooks of the currently saturated “folk” scene, to create something memorable and deeply powerful. Lyrically, this is solely a Christopher Porterfield project, and he writes like an older man with far more experience than a sophomore album would suggest. An ex-alcoholic from Milwaukee, Porterfield takes his songwriting cues from Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, and Joni Mitchell. He uses visceral and complicated words that shouldn’t fit in such pretty songs; words like lamprey, trebuchet, and tessellated that jut out at you in sharp angles. Much the way Paul Simon could get away with singing about “lasers in the jungle” and “angels in the architecture” Porterfield spews poetry at you like a man on a mission. Marigolden is a gem of an album. A collection of songs that stick with you and get under your skin. I’m glad bands like this still exist and I think “americana” is alive and well in Field Report’s capable hands. 

“Over the water outside of Mobile allowing the sunset to take her time / I’ve been putting off the knowing in a pink and orange haze while the oil rigs are feeding me lines / And the pines straight and tall, fly past looking out on a hundred mile bar code of prison bars.”

Noah Gundersen / Ledges

When Noah Gundersen rolled through Denver on tour last February, his debut solo album Ledges had been released only two weeks earlier. When he and his sister Abby opened their set with the mostly acappella album opener “Poor Man’s Son” and charged right on into the epic violin riff that drives “Boathouse,” I was hooked. With an emotional maturity that belies his age (he’s only 25), Gundersen comes on strong with a quieter batch of acoustic songs about love, loss, faith, and family. Family has always been a huge theme for Gundersen (the only musicians on the album are siblings) and Ledges is rife with lyrical references to mothers, fathers, grandfathers, brothers, and sons. Younger sister Abby is the secret weapon here as she steals the show with her soft harmonies, and absolutely stunning violin work. Title track “Ledges” has to be one of the best songs this year. A roots rock blast that rides Abby’s violin line and Noah’s soul-baring lyrics to a huge chorus with its Springsteen-esque “better man” sentiment. Throughout these songs it is Gundersen’s honest, challenging lyrical approach and the way he speaks of religion and love that set Ledges apart from the flood of folksy singer-songwriters saturating the scene right now. Album closer “Time Moves Quickly” is a simple, sweet fade out. With Abby on funeral-quiet piano and strings, and Noah’s whisper quiet vocals, this one lasts long after the last note fades. 

“It’s the first defeat cuts you to your bones / Knocks you off your feet and you discover that home / Is not a person or place but a feeling you can’t get back.”

Hiss Golden Messenger / Lateness Of Dancers

A couple of weeks before Hiss Golden Messenger’s sublime summer record Lateness of Dancers came out, I was on vacation, wandering a Seattle record store and stumbled across an advanced copy in the used bin. I knew immediately that I was onto something good. From the very first electric strum of standout opener “Lucia”, Lateness is an album brimming with musical and lyrical talent, and a “roll down the windows, sweet southern summer breeze” feel. In much the same way that top 5 contender The War On Drugs rambles, Hiss Golden Messenger fills these songs with a kind of focused lazy. From the lilting, classic country feel of “Saturday’s Song,” to the swampy, southern rock of “I’m a Raven,” there is no hurry in front man MC Taylor’s delivery. Following an interesting career path from hardcore punk and alt-country in San Francisco in the 90’s, to studying folklore and forming HGM in North Caroling in 2007. I fell in love with HGM’s 2010 release Bad Debt a couple winters ago, and I loved the quiet immediacy and raw songwriting that came from just Taylor and an acoustic guitar. Lateness fleshes out that sound with an impressive cast of musicians that includes longtime partner Scott Hirsch, Matt McCaughan (Bon Iver), and the mega-talented Phil and Brad Cook. With his rugged vocals devoid of twang, Taylor sings of southern ideals and embodies the blooming North Carolina music scene of old souls. Equal parts country, americana, blues, folk, and 70’s rock, Hiss Golden Messenger turns up like a sweet, forgotten find in the dusty 70’s used bin of the old record store. Which is exactly how he wants it to be. 

“The misery of love is a funny thing / The more it hurts, the more you think you can stand a little pain.”

Ben Howard / I Forget Where We Were

After sleeping on Howard’s debut full length Every Kingdom in 2011, I vowed not to miss this year’s brooding soundscape I Forget Where We Were. Howard (27 years old from London) has enough songs floating around to fill far more than his two US releases, and with five EP’s to his name, IFWWW comes off as far more polished than your average sophomore effort. Although lacking the punch of catchier singles “Old Pine,” “The Wolves,” “The Fear,” or “Keep Your Head Up” from his first album, IFWWW does exactly what I want to see from a promising young artist. Howard shies away from easy choruses and uptempo beats and instead digs deeper with guitar tones and all around impressive musicianship on every track. Definitely darker and spacier, Howard gives the songs room to breathe, and uses enough effects and pedals to make The Edge jealous. Already an impressive guitar talent, you can feel Howard pushing himself to not only get better, but make the kind of songs that not many other young musicians are doing right now. From the gorgeous climb in the last minute and a half of the title track, the War On Drugs sprawl of “Time Is Dancing,” and the acoustic mastery of “In Dreams,” there is a lot to grow on you here. Standout first single “End Of The Affair” starts out sounding like “Everything” from his first album, but takes you on a much darker journey. When the percussion and guitar rhythm FINALLY click in at almost five minutes in, the last three minutes make this one song you probably don’t want to miss this year.

"Hold it in now let’s go dancing / I do believe we’re only passing through / Wired again now look who’s laughing / Me again, all fired up on you.”

John Mark McMillan / Borderland

Borderland is a deeply personal, spiritually challenging, powerful beast of a record. John Mark McMillan is a criminally underrated singer-songwriter who has been slaving away for a while on the edges of the easily hateable “Christian Rock/Worship” genre. Writing gritty, weird “christian” songs that are too moving and too biblically true NOT to be used in worship services around the world (see “How He Loves”) but just real, graphic, and visceral enough to make all the Christians a little uncomfortable. To focus only on how we label/perceive his music and religious beliefs would be taking away from the true beauty of Borderland, so let’s just talk about the tunes. With shades of 80’s era Springsteen and U2, and a rumbling voice that recalls a rougher Matt Berninger (The National), McMillan’s powerful vocals run a common thread through every song on Borderland. With a mind-blowing songwriting style that sounds gothic and prehistoric, modern and almost architectural. McMillan sings of freight decks, gaslights, Babylon, Rome, and Napolean, the repo man, jungles, cannonballs, lions and foxes. The songs and sequence are painstakingly crafted from the start. From the understated piano and mournful strings on opener “Holy Ghost,” the synthy, almost M83-esque “Love At The End,” to the rougher Imagine Dragons, radio rock of “Guns / Napolean” McMillan has three singles in the first three songs before he drops his “worship music” bomb. “Future / Past” is an epic, galatic-scoped worship song for megachurches full of thirty somethings. For me, someone who grew up on Christian music, and fell for “Christian” labeled bands like Delirious?, Switchfoot, Relient K, Bleach, The OC Supertones, and The Newsboys, McMillan’s spiritually centered songs ring true. It’s a tough genre to succeed in (McMillan and NEEDTOBREATHE are the only two christian artists who made my list), but McMillan is so passionate and so talented, and that talent shines through in a big way on Borderland.

“Are we all dangerous? Lost boys shoring up / Pockets full of fairy dust / Suffering the wanderlust / They all get crushed without love / By the law of the jungle.”

Manchester Orchestra / Cope & Hope

Cope Review here:

When Atlanta, GA 5-piece rock group Manchester Orchestra released their blisteringly heavy 4th full length Cope in early 2014, my only complaint with the record was its lack of dynamics and the fact that it was missing any emotional ballads/quiet moments at all. Lo and behold, MO has listened to my plea! Less than half a year after battering us with Cope, they have reimagined and re-released the songs as an emotional, stripped down older brother, ironically (or perhaps unironically) titled Hope. Releasing the same 10 songs less than six months apart is a dangerous move for any band, but MO pulls it off. With beautiful piano, understated acoustic guitar, strings, and a little trumpet, this is a beautiful sounding collection of songs. If you didn’t know better you would think that this was how the songs were originally meant to sound. The contrast between the two albums showcases front man Andy Hull’s impressive vocal acrobatics, and he sounds just as passionate screaming over raging electrics as he does crooning over lush strings. Standout Hope track “Girl Harbor” is probably most reminiscent of Hull’s solo work as Right Away Great Captain! and Hull’s vocals in the bridge when he cracks his way through the “Desperate friends!” bit, are the most emotional thing MO has done since “Leave It Alone.” If you want to read more about Cope, my full review is linked above, butit is the contrast between the two records that really sets MO apart. After the challenge of a little lineup change, 2014 proved that these guys have the range, work ethic, and indie cred to be the next Black Keys, Kings of Leon, or Foo Fighters. 

“Desperate friends / Trying to reconcile the bends / There is a name for men like you inside the dark / And I know your faults / I know the way you write them off / I don’t want anything to do with it no more.”

 NEEDTOBREATHE / Rivers In The Wasteland

Rivers In The Wasteland was the last album I added to this list. Beating out some solid releases from Counting Crows, Desert Noises, Run River North, The Black Keys, Owl John, Max Garcia Conover, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and Taylor Swift, South Carolina’s NEEDTOBREATHE has done something special with their 5th studio release. Joining John Mark McMillan as the other self proclaimed “Christian” act on this list, NTB lets you know exactly where they stand on their powerful opening salvo “Wasteland” proclaiming “If God is on my side, who can be against me?” Although not a popular sentiment for record sales, you have to respect them for singing out exactly what they believe. With a back story straight out of a movie script, brothers Bo and Bear (Yeah he’s named after legendary Alabama coach Bear Bryant) Rinehart, played football and started a country rock band in Possum Kingdom, South Carolina. Their influences shine through heavily on Wasteland with the swampy, southern rock feel of “Feet, Don’t Fail Me Now,” and the rambling country of “The Heart.” Sounding tight, well produced, and like a band at the top of their game, doing exactly what they want, NTB uses Wasteland to make a statement about exactly where they stand in their faith. Upon first listen I said I couldn’t believe how “christian” they sounded. With worshipful tracks “Difference Maker” and “Multiplied” NTB certainly isn’t shy about alienating a secular audience. They do achieve enough genre bending here to keep it interesting. Check out the Beach Boys inspired intros to “Brother” and “State I’m In” and the straight up radio rock (Think Imagine Dragons, Young The Giant, or Kings of Leon) of “Where The Money Is.” Overall, NTB stick to their strengths and reaffirm anyone who doubted their passion. With a cohesive, exciting release (With gorgeous album artwork to boot) and a title taken straight from the Bible (Isaiah 43:19) NTB sounds like a band supremely confident in their abilities and beliefs. . 

“We are all transgressors / We’re all sinners / We’re all astronauts / So if you’re beating death then raise your hand but shut up if you’re not!”

Sturgill Simpson / Metamodern Sounds In Country Music

I think anyone who listens to country radio right now can agree that country music needs saving and Sturgill Simpson might be just the kind of unassuming Kentucky boy with the classic sound to save it. Drawing immediate comparisons to Waylon, Willie, and Merle (I like to think that the country music greats only need their first names) Sturgill laces Metamodern Sounds with equal parts jukebox barnstormers and soul searching ballads. Two things grabbed me immediately about Simpson’s songs. First, the musicianship is excellent. While sticking mostly to classic country chord structures and rhythms, Simpson’s band sounds tight, and he himself has guitar chops that most radio country artists right now could only dream of. Second, the depth of soul searching in Simpson’s lyrics are to me what puts him closer to Willie and Waylon (heretofore to be referred to as W&W), than to anyone I hear coming on Nashville radio. Oft analyzed lead single “Turtles All The Way Down” deals not just with W&W’s favorite topics (drugs and religion) but far broader ideas of death, space, and time. With the kind of down-home-druggie wisdom Nelson has made a career of, he proceeds to tackle society and government (“Voices”), and making a career in music (“Living The Dream” and “Life of Sin”). What makes Simpson more than just another Waylon Jennings knock-off (and believe me he does sound and look like Waylon) is his willingness to use production and to sound simultaneously old and new. The last two songs are a perfect example of Simpson’s diversity and experiementation. “It Ain’t All Light” is a nearly seven minute (that in itself is nearly unheard of in country music) Eric Church-esque, rock experiement. Driven by looping electronics, fuzzy minor key electric guitars, and Simpson wolf-howling about being a “sin eater” and “playing with devil.” Heavy stuff. That track fades right into the prettiest, folkiest ballad on the album about Simpson’s idyllic, small town country life growing up. Singing of his uncle, his great grandparents, even his “papaw” “Pan Bowl” to me is what a real country song is all about. Hallelujah, country music is alive and well!

“There’s a gateway in our minds that leads somewhere out there far beyond this plane / Where reptile aliens made of light cut you open pull out all your pain.”

Strand Of Oaks / HEAL

When Strand Of Oaks frontman Timothy Showalter put the name of his new album in CAPS LOCK, it wasn’t an accident or some kind of gimmick to stand out in a crowded bearded indie scene. No, Philadelphia’s Showalter meant for the word HEAL to be a command and when in the title track he yelps “You GOTTA HEAL!” he sounds like he really means it. There are some albums that sound and feel like they HAD to be made and HEAL buzzes with cathartic energy and pent-up emotion. Written after a near death car crash, a marriage infidelity, alcoholism, and a disappointing 2012 release, Showalter had a lot on the line for this album. Although HEAL was my introduction to Strand Of Oaks (I had to go on a 3 record store, citywide hunt to track down my copy earlier this summer), longtime fans might have been a little surprised by the heaviness of both the guitars and the synthesizers. HEAL hits hard with the guitars right from the start with Showalter’s hometown referencing, J Mascis guest-shredding “Goshen 97” and the synth and drum heavy title track and “Same Emotion.” The album doesn’t begin to hit its emotional peak till the middle section, with the Springsteen anthem “Shut In,” and the brooding, almost Coldplay-like power of “Woke Up To The Light.” After already name checking The Smashing Pumpkins, Sharon Van Etten, and The Tallest Man On Earth’s Kristian Matsson, Showalter lets everything go with his homage to the late great Jason Molina (Songs:Ohia & Magnolia Electric Co.) simply titled “JM.” The song begins simply and quietly enough, with Showalter singing about his childhood in Indiana, before exploding at about a minute and a half in with an unhinged guitar wall of fury. The refrain of “I had your sweet tunes to play” written for Molina, is one the most poignant lines of music appreciation I’ve heard in awhile. Showalter releases more chaos on the unsettlingly autobiographical “Mirage Year” and makes HEAL one of the most diverse, interesting, and emotional rock releases in the last few years. 

“Sometimes I move like shadows / Sometimes I move like wind / But most days I start where I begin / Naked in The Great Lakes / Underneath the shine of Mars / I begged my friend to just let me drift off / Shower your loves with kisses / Shower the world with tears / Take advantage of those who got you here / Let me roll / Let me go / I’m bound to lose control.”

The War On Drugs / Lost In The Dream

This gorgeous, shimmering The War On Drugs album snuck into my life pretty much right after it was released in March. A friend of mine from work started playing it consistently in the early morning (we start work at 4AM) and it took me over. Pretty soon everyone was passing around burned copies and trying to pinpoint Lost In The Dream’s elusive soundscape. Simultaneously spacey and heartland, calming and invigorating, chill and yet frenetic, Philadelphia’s Adam Granduciel has something special on his hands with this group of songs. In the same way that Sturgill Simpson is shaking up “country” music, Granduciel has taken classic sounds and made them feel new and fresh. Drawing comparisons to Petty, Henley, Springsteen, and Knopfler, The War On Drugs uses some impressive guitar work and beautiful synths, to create an album that feels both widescreen wandering and fiercely intimate. Highway anthem opener “Under The Pressure” fills its almost nine minutes with focused fuzz, driving drums, and an undeniable energy propelling the album forward. From the more straightforward rock songs like “Red Eyes” and “Burning” to the breathtaking lull of closer “In Reverse,” Lost in The Dream is a cohesive, soothing masterpiece. For three weeks in April I listened to ONLY the last two songs (the title track and “In Reverse”) on my drive to work in the still dark early mornings, and there is a passion in all of these songs. The War On Drugs seemed to finally break through this year finishing top 5 for album of the year from NME and Sterogum and winning album of the year from Amazon, Spin, Paste, Q, and Uncut Magazines, and Lost In The Dream is completely deserving of every accolade. A road trip album if there ever was one, I encourage you to take this one in the car and give it the old open road test. 

 "There’s a cold wind blowing down my old road / Down the backstreets where the pines grow / As the river splits the undertows.“


All Time Low – “Something’s Gotta Give”, Single
Record Label: Hopeless Records
Release Date: January 12, 2014
Reviewed By: Chloe Boden

All Time Low released single, “Something’s Gotta Give,” off their highly-anticipated album, Future Hearts, and it definitely did not disappoint.  This song left me wanting more, and Future Hearts is one release that surely should not be missed this year!

“Something’s Gotta Give” is already stuck in my head after just a short time of listening to it because like most of All Time Low songs, the melody is unbelievably catchy.  My favorite part of this song is how much the intensity builds between verses and the chorus.  The verses stand out in their own way without revealing too much about what is to come in the song, and the chorus really pulls out all the stops.

Keep reading

[Interview] LM.C’s first single in about a year is a dark tune full of fantasy (part 1)

LM.C has released their new single, “My Favorite Monster,” which utilizes electronic dance music. They are also garnering attention for the clear differences between maya and Aiji’s appearances. “It’s a song packed full of what our current selves can do. It’s as if we’ve become adults, and I mean that in a good way,” says Aiji about the new song. They also announced that they have a new album near completion and that they will be going on a nationwide tour. According to maya, “Our works are like a new toy we can play with at concerts.” It will be impossible to take your eyes off their free and uncontrolled activities in 2014 as well.

■We’ve had seven years to build up LM.C’s point-of-view and characteristics, so the theme of this song is “to shake free.”■

──"My Favorite Monster" is your first new single in about a year. It’s a song that has turned in the direction of dance music.

maya: The actual song already existed when we were working on our previous single, “DOUBLE DRAGON.” Putting aside the idea of when we would release them, we recorded about five songs, and “My Favorite Monster” was one of them.

Aiji: At the time, we talked about releasing “My Favorite Monster” instead of “DOUBLE DRAGON.” maya: We did talk about that.

──From the beginning, you thought about doing a song you can dance to, that utilizes step recording?

maya: I don’t know much about dance music. All I really know is that it uses four-on-the-floor with the kick drum. I entrusted the arrangement to Aiji, and I thought I maybe wanted give it more of a current feeling. The atmosphere and the composition of the song haven’t changed from the demo, but when it comes to me, I want to make the guitar more prominent.

Aiji: I arranged the song thinking that I wanted it to have a modern feeling. I wanted the music to be the sort that could make even people who like club music think, “They’re doing something interesting.” For instance, in the interlude, the only sounds are the beat, the sequencer, and a small amount of voices, but we hadn’t used that sort of approach with LM.C until now.

──The song uses various voices, and it has a feeling of playfulness that is appropriate for LM.C.

Aiji: But I think that’s something that we also haven’t done before. We’ve had seven years to build up LM.C’s point-of-view and characteristics, so the theme of this song is “to shake free.” If I’d arranged it like I usually do for LM.C, it would have been more noisy and lively, but instead, I held back where I could. It’s a song packed full of what our current selves can do. It’s as if we’ve become adults, and I mean that in a good way.

──You also ventured to use a dance tune in one of your earlier singles, “SUPER DUPER GALAXY” (2011). It’s grown through your live performances, and now it’s a song that everyone dances to and enjoys. This time, you’re also going in the direction of EDM, but is it because you thought, “we can do this kind of thing too”?

Aiji: Exactly. This characteristics of this song are catchy, but it’s definitely not a pop song. Rather than wanting people to listen to the melody, we wanted them to listen to the beat and pay attention to the atmosphere and more of the sound of the song overall. The lyrics to the chorus also feature catchy words like “BANG!!” and “PUNK!!” Maybe our approach to this song was similar to that of our song “BOOST BUSTERz” (2007). That song is a little catchier and it also has a polished feeling.

──I thought that the intro sounded like a movie theme. Or perhaps I should say it’s a song that brings an image to mind.

Aiji: I always make music keeping an image in mind. This song makes me think of a kind of hard-boiled Hollywood movie.

──The lyrics are about a mischievous, funky monster living in one’s head, which is appropriate for LM.C.

maya: Yeah. There are new elements to this song that we haven’t used before, but I was told, “The lyrics sound like LM.C,” and even though I wasn’t conscious of it, that’s how they turned out. I use a monster to represent the various facets that are part of each person, and then I decided how to express that common theme in a way that fit LM.C. The end of the song says, “If you hesitate, then ‘Ah!’ your life will end in a flash!” but what I want to say is the same as always. Which is that we all only have one life to live, so isn’t it better to live it happily? We have various problems, like the gap between reality and our ideal, but you shouldn’t get lost because of that.

Aiji: I think the lyrics are maya-like. His choice of words is, as always, interesting.

──The lyric “PUNK!! As much nonsense as you’d like. Whether or not you call for PEACE!! Jump out, voila!” is amazing.

maya: That’s from “The Genie Family” (laughs). (An anime that was broadcast in 1969, in which a genie appears from a bottle whenever someone sneezes).

Aiji: I wonder if anyone will realize it’s from “The Genie Family.” (laughs)

──I know that there’s a free and uncontrolled monster living inside maya’s head, but what about you, Aiji?

Aiji: ……I think……there is. (laughs) At my age, maybe the monster will just burst out completely. (laughs)

maya: The lyrics are a little bit of an exaggeration, but I’m singing about when, at unexpected times, emotions surpass reason and sense. So I think that everyone has a monster inside them.

──An out-of-control monster that you can’t hate. People should also check out the music video. It’s a sharp and cool video, and fans can see maya dance. It’s also fun when people’s depictions of monsters submitted to your homepage from all over the world appear in the video.

maya: It’s the kind of music video we haven’t done much before.

Continued in [Interview] LM.C’s first single in about a year is a dark tune full of fantasy (part 2)

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Okay sorry to interrupt your blogging it's time for me to get emotional

I apologize in advance for my English or my lack of sense but it’s 1am and I have come across the pictures from Zoe’s book launch party and I just got a bit emotional and I just wanted to write down my feelings.

Zoe has been my role model for over 2 years now but that we already know so let me jump to the important part. I just realized how great Zoe actually is. Like don’t get me wrong she’s always been one of my favorite people ever but let me explain. I am growing up and maturing reading Zoe’s blog and watching her videos and I can’t tell how much it’s changed my life. Honestly 2 years ago I wouldn’t expect to be who I am today and I’m really proud and it’s part thanks to Zoe. A girl who started writing her opinions on fashion on a blog and started filming videos in her little bedroom IS NOW RELEASING A BOOK. Like Zoe isn’t just a role model, she’s real life proof that if you fight for what you love, you can achieve ANYTHING. All you have to do is put your heart into it. In a space of two years she has interviewed one of her favorite bands, done loads of shoots for important magazines, had her own beauty line, and now a book I don’t even know what to say anymore I’m just so happy because I LOVE ZOE SO MUCH AND IT JUST MAKES ME EXTREMELY HAPPY THAT ALL HER DREAMS ARE COMING TRUE AND I JUST WANT TO HUG HER