Thursday, July 24, 2014

Top 20 NES Super Mario Moments: Number 20

20: Rocket Plant

We open our countdown with an unexpected moment.

Throughout Super Mario Brother 2, you've digging up turnips, carrots, and parsnips. With the exception of the odd potion bottle, these are things you might expect to be planted within the soil. You fling these tubers at enemies to knock them out. Everything is working as God intended it.

Pictured: Something you might expect to find sprouting from the soil.
The natural order is thrown into chaos without warning in level 4-1 when you come to one of the very rarest phenomena in the Super Mario universe: a screen that cannot be bypassed by travelling to the right*. An enormous wall stands to your right, and a bottomless sea sprawls at your feet. What is the intrepid traveler to do?

* of course, if there was a game to flaunt this disrespect for rightward motion, it would certainly be SMB2

Do a bit of gardening, of course...

Pictured: Something you would not expect to find sprouting from the soil
In retrospect, it makes sense... this is Super Mario Brothers 2, the entire game essentially takes place within a dream. Why would we expect things to make any sense at all? All I know is that as a kid, this blew my mind.

This does happen a second time, later in the game (the second to last level, actually), but it doesn't have quite the same sense of "well, huh" as it does that first time.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Top 20 Moments from Super Mario Bros

That's right! Rather than finish my long (long, long, long) overdue movie moments list, I'm going to start a new one!

The good news is that I'm partnering with Deathbytroggles on this beast, so I'll have to stay on schedule, lest I ruin friendships and make a general mockery of DBT's extremely well-curated site.

The better news, is that this list is going to be about moments in the NES games of the Super Mario Brothers series. Since all three of those games are completely awesome, the transitive property of equality guarantees this list to be completely awesome, as well.

The bad news is that you'll have to wait a little longer for that movie moments list to be finished.

The good shit starts tomorrow! Like... in two hours!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Year in Music, 2013: Top 30 Most Played which our hero obsessively tracks play counts over the course of an entire year...

30. Purity Ring - Fineshrine
(18th most listened to song of 2012)

I'm a little surprised at this song's staying power, truthfully.

29. Frank Ocean - Thinkin Bout You

This song feels like an instant classic from the first time you hear it, and it and the album it's on stayed in my CD player long into the summer.

28. Swim Deep - She Changes the Weather
(17th favorite song of 2013)

I would occasionally listen to 'The New Normal' radio on TuneIn, and I found a fair bit of solid music from that station. This song, a mid-tempo pretty standard indie pop song, was the jewel of that time spent.

27. Tame Impala - Keep on Lying

I listened to a lot of Tame Impala this year. This was, in my opinion, one of the more underrated cuts on the album.

26. Arcade Fire - Reflektor
(favorite song of 2013)

This was a late add, but it racked up the play counts in a crazy hurry.

25. Sky Ferreira - Lost In My Bedroom

Huh. I can't explain this one. It's a decent enough electropop song, but not one that I would've expected myself to have listened to quite this much.

24. James Blake - Retrograde

The album almost hit my albums list (I think it was #22), the song very, very nearly cracked the songs list (it was #21). I did listen to this a lot in the spring - it would've been higher, but it just didn't feel like a "summer" song.

23. Wavves - Demon to Lean On

Wavves annoys me most of the time. I have pretty much no time for most of the stuff he plays, but occasionally, he hits one out of the park. This year, he did that twice ("Nine Is God" from the Grand Theft Auto V soundtrack was also top notch), but this was clearly the better of the two. It made me excited for Afraid of Heights, thinking he might have finally tightened his craft a bit. Nope.

22. Tame Impala - Why Won't They Talk To Me?

Another solid cut from one of my most-listened to albums of the year. I'm sort of surprised "Elephant" isn't going to make the list, because that song was great, too.

21. Dessa - Warsaw

I didn't spend as much time with Parts of Speech as I thought I was going to, mostly due to the fact that it contained a lot less rapping than I prefer in Dessa's music. This song, though? Awesome.

20. Phosphorescent - Song For Zula
(2nd favorite song of 2013)

Until 'Reflektor' came out, this was my runaway choice for song of the year.

19. Frank Ocean - Pyramids

My friend Ben and I listened to Channel Orange quite a bit whenever we'd be driving somewhere. He disagrees with me on most of what the best songs are (his favorite is "Super Rich Kids", mine is this song), and he insists that the synth line in this song reminds him of "I Like To Move It".

18. Tame Impala - Feels Like We Only Go Backwards

Saving the best for last.

17. Japandroids - The House That Heaven Built
(12th most listened to song of 2012)

I knew this song wasn't going anywhere. It and the CD it came on soundtracked a good chunk of my summer this year, same as last.

16. Hooray For Earth - No Love

This song is on here because it was on the soundtrack to The Show for PS3. My computer broke in early 2013, and I had this and a few various other songs (well, that and my hundreds and hundreds of CDs) to keep me company for the few weeks while it was getting fixed.

15. Imagine Dragons - Radioactive

Seriously. You could not go anywhere without hearing this song. I heard it an unbelievable SIX times one day. People can say what they want about "Blurred Lines" and "Get Lucky", but I don't think any song dominated Top 40 radio like this one. As far as my thoughts on the song go? Meh, it's alright.

14. The Joy Formidable - This Ladder Is Ours
(16th favorite song of 2013)

Wolf's Law was one of the first albums from 2013 that I got into. I ordered it mostly because it was super cheap on Amazon one day, and it ended up being an album that stuck with me all year.

13. Frank Turner - Recovery

I like this song. It almost made my top 20.

12. Neutral Milk Hotel - King of Carrot Flowers, Part One
(17th most played song of 2012)

I know it's borderline heresy, but you can have "Oh, Comely" and "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" and "Two Headed Boy". All of those are good songs, but this is excellent - the only song on the CD that I can listen to anytime, anywhere.

11. The Joy Formidable - Maw Maw Song
(10th favorite song of 2013)

Such a stupid name for a song. Maybe one of the worst I've heard (non-Anal Cunt division)

10. Charli XCX - Nuclear Seasons

Another close shave for the top 20, it's a catchy enough song that I found myself coming back to it a lot.

9. Sky Ferrreira - Red Lips

It just sound like a Garbage song - one of the good ones. I mean, the fact that Shirley Manson co-wrote it probably has a bit to do with that. Another Sky Ferreira song that makes me realize that I listened to a lot of the Ghost EP this year.

8. Daft Punk - Get Lucky (feat. Pharrell Williams)
(3rd favorite song of the year)

I never got tired of this one. I can still hear it on the radio and enjoy it just as much as I did the first time I heard it in the bar.

7. Demi Lovato - Heart Attack

Well, there's my "super embarassing/what in the hell is that doing here?" song of the year. I like the hook to this one. She uses about 7,000 similes over the course of the song, but that hook is really fun to turn up....and then turn way down when you come up to intersections so no one knows that you're jamming to freaking Demi Lovato.

6. Youth Lagoon - Mute
(5th favorite song of 2013)

This song is like three songs smashed together. All three of those songs are great.

5. CHVRCHES - Recover
(19th favorite song of 2013)

I really liked this song, and then completely forgot to check out the album. I meant to several times, but just never ended up queuing it up.

4. Kitty - ☠DEAD❤ISLAND☠

So... this Kitty is a girl who does "cloud rap" (basically slow flowed rapping over really hazy beats, sort of to rap what shoegaze is to rock... sort of). A lot of her stuff is just ridiculously dumb, but this song stuck with me over the course of the year. It's the type of thing that either has you after a listen, or you're running and screaming for the hills. It had me after that listen, so here it is. The backbeat on this one is pretty solid.

3. Capital Cities - Safe and Sound

I liked this song a lot, then it got really popular, then I didn't stop liking it.

2. The Big Sleep - Ace

I love the guitar effect in the intro to this song. I'm always a sucker for it. The chorus is a big blast of guitars, with some of the most air-guitarable hooks of the past few years. It's pretty much a perfect song. It would've definitely been in my top 5 if I had heard it last year. Sadly, the full album isn't anywhere near on the same level.

1. Tegan and Sara - Closer
(7th favorite song of 2013)

Ultra catchy female-fronted pop seemed to be stuff that I listened to a lot this year (of the top 10 most listened to songs, 7 have female vocals, and 5 could safely be considered "female-fronted pop", and that's not even counting Kitty, though I probably should). This was the best and brightest, though. I heard it very early on, and was pleased when it finally got a little bit of radio play.

Well! That's that. Come back next year, when this list will surely be dominated by Slavic techno-industrial metal.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Year in Music, 2013: Top 20 Albums

20. Blue Sky, Black Death - Glaciers

RIYL: Really cool sounding background music

The knock on Blue Sky, Black Death's stuff is that it works best as background music, and Glaciers is going to do absolutely nothing to dispel that theory. I really enjoyed the more suite-based approach they went for this time around, though.

19. My Bloody Valentine - m b v

RIYL: Loveless, Gazing at shoes

I can't say that I waited 20 years for this album (Loveless came out when I was 8, and I didn't really gain an appreciation for it until 2007 or so), but damned if m b v wasn't worth any duration wait.

18. Aye Nako - Unleash Yourself

RIYL: DIY pop-punk

"Molasses" would've sneaked on my song countdown if I had remembered that I did a top 30 last year, the rest of the album is just good low-fi hook-filled punkish goodness. Bonus points for giving the album away, but this one's worth buying.

17. Jon Hopkins - Immunity

RIYL: Being enveloped in IDM bliss.

This was my chillout album for a good chunk of the summer. It was the perfect album to throw on after a couple of beers to watch the sunset to.

16. Cults - Static

RIYL: Their self-titled debut

I know what will probably happen here. Cults' first album ended up being a sort of mayfly of an album. This one is probably set for the same fate, and who knows where it would've placed on this list (if at all) if it had been released in, say, February. All I know is that I'm still listening, and it still sounds great.
15. Phosphorescent - Muchacho

RIYL: Folksy Anti-Love Songs

Originally, I dismissed Muchacho as "Song For Zula plus nine other songs". That's a mistake. While none of the rest of the album quite catches up to that song's heartbreaking brilliance, it's still packed with great songs.

14. The Field - Cupid's Head

RIYL: The Field, only a little darker

This album had the benefit of coming out in a year where I finally began to really enjoy The Field's music. It also had the benefit of sounding a little darker. Weirdly enough, it made for good listening at work.

13. Foals - Holy Fire

RIYL: Sunset beaches on horseback, apparently

This album initially suffered in my eyes a bit because there aren't very many clear cut, attention grabbing hooks to it. I love Yannis Philippakis' voice, though, so I kept with it. It turns out that was a good move.

12. Fuck Buttons - Slow Focus

RIYL: Towering, slightly imposing walls of electronic music

Over the last few years, Tarot Sport has wormed its way into being one of my favorite albums, so Slow Focus had a lot to live up to. Initially, it didn't seem to make the cut, but songs like "Brainfreeze" and "Sentients" proved irresistible. I like this album more with each passing listen.

11. Frightened Rabbit - Pedestrian Verse

RIYL: Scottish dudes singing about sadness and death

This one is both more depressing and less immediate than The Winter of Mixed Drinks. Even so, it's a step forward in depth of songwriting. The songs on Pedestrian Verse grow and mature more than they have on previous albums.

10. Tegan and Sara - Heartthrob

RIYL: Really hook-filled pop music

2013 was the year that Tegan and Sara decided to imitate The Veronicas, of all people, and the results were super hooks and pop music delight.

9. The Joy Formidable - Wolf's Law

RIYL: Female-fronted Stadium-Sized Rock

Of all the albums I listened to toward the beginning of the year, this is the one that really stuck around. It's got flaws, but the big songs are HUGE and whenever I needed something to sound BIG, this was my go to.
8. Deafheaven - Sunbather

RIYL: Explosive post-rock-inspired blackgaze

I would not have expected a black metal-inspired album to break into my top 30, much less my top 10, yet here we are. It helps that Deafheaven clearly understands that crescendos are only half of the game with post-rock, the atosphere leading up to those crescendos is just as important. Deafheaven has explosive action in spades, but it knows when to dial it back. Sunbather is the type of album that makes a person search for its brother. I sort of doubt I'll find it.

7. The Haxan Cloak - Excavation

RIYL: Darkness.

No album brought about as stark a reaction as Excavation. Each listen felt like an hour-long odyssey through some long-forgotten crypt, the light having been forcibly sucked out of the room. The door slams shut on the listener in "Consumed". The next 40 minutes is just wandering the halls, waiting for the inevitable.

6. Arcade Fire - Reflektor

RIYL: Sprawling, dancey, overlong, indie rock epics.

There's too much going on here. Does the beautiful, but stuffed "Supersymetry" need to be three hours long? No. Does "You Already Know" need that bit in the beginning and ending with the faux-variety show announcer? No. The whole thing is, in equal parts, maddening and brilliant. The more I listened, the more I realized that the brilliant parts shone through, and the maddening parts just sort of faded into the background.

5. Mikal Cronin - MCII

RIYL: Jangly guitar rock

I've never really gotten into the Ty Segal collective thing. Luckily, that's in no way a prerequisite to enjoying MCII. All you really need to an appreciation for excellent, guitar rock. There's plenty of that to go around.

4. Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels

RIYL: Killer Mike, El-P, or any combination therein

What a pleasant little gift this was. Dropped for free on that wonderful July afternoon, I instantly knew that this was going to be top 5. Every song just feels so BADASS.
3. Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City

RIYL: Like marsbars said over on rateyourmusic: Like Vampire Weekend, but better

I've always enjoyed Vampire Weekend a fair bit - they make fun music, after all - but this album surprised me. They've always been verbose (one of their breakout songs was about Oxford Commas and Lil Jon, for crying out loud), but on Modern Vampires, they really go for broke. The emotional moments pack a little bigger wallop; the stakes are a little higher (or, as in "Ya Hey", a LOT higher). I wouldn't have guessed that they had an album like this in them, but I'm glad they did.

2. The National - Trouble Will Find Me

RIYL: Sad, bearded indie rock

High Violet was, and remains my pick for best album to come out in the 2010's (have we settled on what the last couple of decades are supposed to be called?). This one was bound to suffer in comparison, as they were never going to be able to top the somber rush of "Bloodbuzz Ohio", or the semi-serene panic of "Conversation 16". Once I was able to move beyond that, I was able to view Trouble Will Find Me as an excellent album made by one of my favorite bands.

1. Sigur Rós - Kveikur


Valtari felt like a return of sorts for Sigur Rós after the "poppier" Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust (not to mention Jónsi's solo album). That said, repeated listens made it feel like something was missing. Whether it was the squall of Ágætis Byrjun or the steady propulsion of ( ), it felt... lacking.

Kveikur is not lacking.

There's a lot of talk of this being a darker album, or that it's more influenced by industrial music. That only seems true when compared to Valtari or Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust. Sigur Rós' earlier stuff could certainly seem pretty like a sunrise, but there was always a tumultuous undercurrent. With large parts of Kveikur it feels like they simply brought it to the foreground. However, deeper listens reveal lots of break sin the clouds. "Ísjaki" is one of the most beautiful songs they've ever written, and that's by no means an outlier.

I had hailed Valtari as a "return to form". Kveikur proves that while that may have been true, it's far more exciting to watch this band head off in interesting new directions.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Year in Music, 2013: Top 20 Songs was the custom of the time, he displayed his picks for best songs of the year 2013 with minimal commercial interruption. He made up a Spotify playlist for 'em and everything.

20. Fuck Buttons - Sentients

19. CHVRCHES - Recover

18. Drake - Hold On We're Going Home (feat. Majid Jordan)

17. Swim Deep - She Changes the Weather

16. The Joy Formidable - This Ladder Is Ours

15. Run the Jewels - Banana Clipper (feat. Big Boi)

14. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Jubilee Street

The National - Don't Swallow the Cap13. The National - Don't Swallow the Cap

12. TV on the Radio - Mercy

11. Sigur Rós - Ísjaki

10. The Joy Formidable - Maw Maw Song

9. Vampire Weekend - Diane Young

8. Mikal Cronin - Weight

7. Tegan and Sara - Closer

6. Fuck Buttons - Brainfreeze

5. Youth Lagoon - Mute

4. Sigur Rós - Brennisteinn
3. Daft Punk - Get Lucky (feat. Pharrell Williams)

2. Phosphorescent - Song For Zula

1. Arcade Fire - Reflektor