Jul 20

Kongos – Egomaniac

The guys with the breakout hit a couple years back, the ones with the heavy drums and frequent accordion, have returned with a second album release. How does Egomaniac stand up to what Kongos have done before?

Well, the lead single, “Take It From Me,” isn’t as deeply catchy as “Come With Me Now.” That’s not to say it’s bad. I enjoy the heck out of it! I’m just not compelled to listen to it on repeat like I was with their first big single. Maybe I’m growing up, finally?

Nah. That can’t be it.

This is a band that sounds, to my ears lacking in ability to deeply parse lyrical content, like a group of brainy hippies with stupendous rhythm and a lot of ideas. It’s hard for me to tell how much is serious and how much tongue-in-cheek. Take “Autocorrect,” found partway into the album. (By the way, do not listen to that song at work. Lotsa cussin’, folks.) The general idea is that of living a kind of Matrix-like existence, downloading entertainment right into your skull, with the bonus ability to Ctrl-Z your mistakes. It’s a weird concept and a modern anthem and quite a toe-tapper and unconcerned with offending delicate sensibilities. Kongos, ladies and gentlemen, summed up in one tune.

Or how about “Birds Do It,” a very weird take on a pick-up line. It features one of the strongest accordion solos heard in a modern rock song, and that’s not the weirdest thing about the track, at least if you try to pay attention to the lyrical thread.

So on the one hand, Kongos have a sound and a style which if you heard “Come With Me Now” on the radio a few dozen times you’re plenty familiar with. On the other hand, on Egomaniac it sounds like the band is trying to figure out what that sound really means and where they’re going to go with it. Is it a “sophomore slump” record? I don’t find as many of the individual tracks quite as strong as I did on Lunatic, but this album is a bit more varied. The first album was mostly an exercise in establishing the band’s style and really getting it out there in front of people, and a side-effect of that is that many of its songs are quite similar. Great, but similar. This time it feels like they’re looking to work out the kinks as well as test their versatility without getting completely off course.

As a second outing, I recommend Egomaniac. There are some truly standout songs, such as “The World Would Run Better” and “I Don’t Mind,” plus the aforementioned “Autocorrect” and “Take It From Me.” No track clocks past the four minute mark so no single idea runs the risk of wearing out its welcome. Give it a spin, see what you think.

(NOTE: Later in the day, I discovered that Egomaniac is actually Kongos’ third album. I’m not alone in having made this mistake, but it bears correcting nonetheless.)

Jul 13

Caravan Palace – <|°_°|> (aka Robot)

To enjoy Caravan Palace, you need first be able to enjoy a genre called “electroswing,” which is basically old-timey swing-era jazz songs smushed together with electronic sounds & modern production values. It’s not my tip-top favorite sound, but sometimes it suits my mood for a while.

To enjoy Caravan Palace’s third album, the one with the unfortunate name, you not only need to enjoy electroswing but also enjoy hip-hop stylings, because that’s what gets thrown into the mix for nearly all of the tracks on the record. I give the band credit: Trying to make another album just like either of the last two would’ve been a mistake, so points to them for striding confidently in a new direction.

The results are… hit-or-miss. I’m not big on hip-hop so it turns out I’m not a good judge of what you should like on the record. I just know that past the first track, “Lone Digger,” I found the rest of the album’s pieces landing somewhere between “decent background music” and “no, no, next track right now please.” If hip-hop production values aren’t your thing either, I’d say you should buy the lead track on its own and skip the rest of the album. Save a few dollars.

Jul 08

Hashtag Poke Mongo

With only a day (mostly) of Pokemon GO under my belt, I have some thoughts, presented in bullet point form… or Pokeball-point, if you prefer:

  • Boy howdy is this a Niantic game or what. This is Ingress with a thick layer of Pokemon slathered on top. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but we should be clear that Pokemon GO is more the former than the latter, at least at this point.
  • The in-camera effect is surprisingly effective! (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.) I mean, it’s far from perfect but if you’d shown me video of someone playing this game ten years ago, I’d have considered it nigh-unattainable science fiction. I won’t say it’s convincing, but it achieves the right level of immersion and that’s the key part of it, as far as the game is concerned.
  • You have to either find out online how to capture a Pokemon with your Pokeball, or get lucky and figure it out, because nothing in the terse tutorial tells you to swipe to throw the ball.
  • This is unlike a modern Pokemon game because so far as I can tell, you can’t trade and there are no battles of the type any Pokemon player has become accustomed to (hence nothing actually being “surprisingly effective”). It remains to be seen if this remains to be the case, and how much of a downside it’ll be.
  • This looks very like an iteration of Ingress, where you have to team up to take key points on the map, etc, etc. Which is… what turned me off from Ingress because there was zero incentive for solo play and a huge requirement to form some kind of mid-to-large size team of fellow players. If solo play in Pokemon GO is similarly discouraged, I’m out.
  • A “Pokestop” (low-key supply station) near my work is based on a window mural from an aquarium supply store. Too bad that store is gone, and what’s on that window now is the name of the insurance company at that location. There seems no way to report these inaccuracies, unlike in Ingress. Presumably that will be remedied at some point.
  • I was a “smurf” in Ingress, I’ll probably be on the blue team in this game as well. Convince me otherwise if you can.

Jun 27

PSA Taken To Heart

I realized something this morning: In a weird sort of way, I embody the warning not to drink and drive, as I do neither of those things.

(This could’ve been just a “tweet.” The other thing I realized this morning, however, is that I haven’t posted here in over a month. I have some new music reviews to tidy up in order to remedy the dearth of content…)

May 20

Not A Good Month For Vacationing

As I did last month, this month I took a pair of three-day “staycations” to burn more of that overabundance of time-off hours before they expire. Great idea, right? I’ll get things done, right?

Let’s see.

Last week: The heat arrived. Setup the air conditioner and mostly stayed in front of it for three solid days, accomplishing little else. Of course, once Saturday arrived, the hot weather went away.

This week: I think something I ate on Tuesday disagreed with me. Violently. Quite violently. I have spent most of three days either in bed or in the bathroom, never far from either.

Oh well. If I hadn’t taken these days off for vacation, I’d have ended up using them for sick days. Convenient that I scheduled my illness in advance, isn’t it…?

May 02

Rate Your Music

Recently, Kyla and I started entering our libraries of books into Goodreads. After a few days of that, I started wondering if there was something along those lines but for music.

And this right here is where that train of thought led me.

What you see there, as of this writing, is the result of plugging three or so shelves’ worth of information into the RateYourMusic system. Most of the editions were already there, I just had to pick and rate and tag. No problem! On the other hand… most of my Depeche Mode singles from before the Violator album are the 1988 German pressings, not the later 1991 “silver ring” motif versions. Very few of the 1988s were in the system, so guess who got to enter those all in?

Yeah, and I’d do it again, too. I’m weird that way.

At some point my whole CD shelf will be in there, probably by the time I’m done with my impending staycations this month…

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