Monday, December 21, 2015

Dear Mayor

In April of 2015, I was bored and decided to draft a letter to the mayor of Ardenham, who totally exists. I figured I'd be stupid and share it for the world to see. This is somehow what my imagination comes up with these days.

Dear Mayor,
I regret to inform you that your cabbages have escaped their pen. We're not sure exactly how things went down, but we fear that the FFMA (Friendly Field Mice of America) may have had something to do with it. There are reports that their meetings have turned suspiciously dark as of late, with discussions about sloth, avocados, and the Council of Bad Children.
It is my recommendation that immediate action be taken to find the cabbages and put an end to the FFMA's potentially evil plans. To do this, we must enlist the help of Jared the Cabbage Slayer. If the cabbages don't want to be fenced in, then what right have they to exist in the first place? This discrimination against us will not stand.
Thank you, and may your coffee fields grow ever plentiful.
Pontius Smith
Ardenham Police Department
400 Splatter Rd
Crooked, QZ 43110

Thanks for your time.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Soundtrack of the Month: December 2015

Continuum has recently become one of my new favorite science fiction series. A unique concept, fantastic characters, and time travelling that actually isn't stupid. At the time of this article's release, I've only seen the majority of the first two seasons, and I'm not currently in the process of continuing, although I have every intention to proceed at a later time. The music of the series was composed by Jeff Danna, and until a handful of months ago the only soundtrack released had been that of Season 1.

The show tells the story of Kiera Cameron, a law enforcement officer (or "Protector") from the year 2077. In the future, she was assigned to stand witness at the execution of eight criminals—terrorists who considered themselves freedom fighters. An anomaly interrupted the execution, which sent the criminals—and Kiera—back in time to 2012, in an attempt on the terrorists' part to try to rewrite history. The story that follows is thrilling and inventive, and all the while supported by Danna's score.

The score of Continuum is fairly subtle, but distinct and an integral part of the narrative. It distinguishes itself from the average sci-fi television soundtrack without inducing a plethora of prominent themes being thrown every which-way like Doctor Who. As a result it's difficult to pick out specific tracks that stand out in comparison to each other, but the album as a whole is outstanding and beautiful. Danna focused on Kiera's theme in particular as a way to transcend both the story told in 2012 and the story told in 2077.

Featured Tracks

Track 4: Kagame's Vision of the City – The scene this track accompanies contains no dialogue, which further emphasizes the music and its emotional impact.

Track 5: Kiera Gets Her Tech – One version of Kiera's theme, and one of the series' main recurring themes.

Track 17: A Working Time Machine – It's difficult to explain the importance of this track and the narrative it accompanies without explaining the context. Basically, watch the show.

For some reason the album's official tracklist is almost entirely out of order. If you wish to listen the tracks chronologically (with some alternate tracks as well), you can do that here.

Purchase Continuum (Original Television Soundtrack) on Amazon or iTunes.
Or listen to it for free on YouTube, or a sample of it on Spotify.

Read composer Jeff Danna's personal notes on the album here.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Five Love Songs That Are Actually Good

Love is something that tends to be underrated, and love songs tend to be shallow and cliché. Most of the time when I hear a love song over popular radio I do my best to ignore it, because the lyricist has no idea what they're doing, and the singer absolutely has no idea what they're doing. Popular music is filled with a lot of crap, and I honestly have no idea why most of it's popular.

Not all popular music is awful, for sure, and certainly not all love songs are awful; but a lot of them are. There is a good number of artists out there who, say, actually know what love is, but they're so often overshadowed by songs by ridiculous people about ridiculous things. I thought I'd bring to light some more or less known musicians and songs that really show some depth. So, here are five love songs that are actually good.

Click on the album covers to be taken to YouTube, or use the Spotify resources at the end.


Carnival of Rust by Poets of the Fall
A lot of the works of Poets of the Fall are rather difficult to understand. They really live up to their name, through their cryptically poetic lyrics. Many people have various theories for what "Carnival of Rust" could be about, but I choose to believe what I hear: a very deep and poetic love song.

Breathe On Me by Delain
This song, to put it simply, is about a girl who falls madly in love with a man. Plenty of pathetic love songs follow this very premise, but it's Charlotte Vessels' intellectual writing and beautiful vocals, along with the amazing sound the band brings, that sets this gem apart.

Forever by Jeff Willaims (feat. Casey Williams)
The tenth season of Red vs. Blue was a fairly dark and twisted story, and composer-songwriter Jeff Williams really translates that into the music and songs. "Forever", sung by his daughter, is about mourning the loss of a love. Very touching, and sad.

Sunday by Les Friction
Les Friction is a rock opera that tells a story involving the future and other dimensions. I don't understand at all how the story progresses, but each individual song is incredible, unique, and easy enough to follow on its own. "Sunday" is perhaps the most beloved piece by the group, telling the story of two ordinary people and how they hope to fall in love.

Resistance by Muse
"Resistance" tells a bit of a Romeo and Juliet sort of story. It tells of a forbidden love, and questions whether it's right or wrong, and whether or not they should just run away. It's one of the more deep Muse songs I've heard, and definitely one of my favorites.


I've compiled these five songs onto a Spotify playlist, for your convenience. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Soundtrack of the Month: November 2015

Last month I went to see Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, the second installment of the Maze Runner saga. I loved it, and it reminded me how much I loved the first film as well. The Maze Runner is a unique story with unique personality and music. The sounds of the world contributed well to the film, and the end result was impressive, to say the least.

The Maze Runner is not another cliché film adaptation of a young adult novel with a focus on appeasing pre-teen fanboys and fangirls. This film has depth and character, and is brilliantly pulled off. The score is composed by up-and-coming composer John Paesano, who also scored the newly-released sequel.

Paesano's score gives new personality and life to an already impressive story. Mysteries and confusion are beautifully and terrifyingly translated into incredible incidental music that fits perfectly with the film and its themes. The Maze Runner was one of the first majorly noteworthy projects Paesano has worked on, and he made sure his shot counted.

Featured Tracks

Track 1: The Maze Runner – The film's incredible main theme.

Track 2: What Is This Place? – Our protagonist wakes up in a strange place, with no memory of who he is or where he came from.

Track 7: Into the Maze – Let's get this adventure started.

Track 21: Finale – The epic conclusion to The Maze Runner. It's over, right? Or is it only beginning?

Purchase The Maze Runner (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) from Amazon or iTunes.
Or listen to it for free on Spotify or YouTube.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

20 Random Facts About Me #8

I've always enjoyed making these, and people have told me they enjoy reading them. Here are 20 more random facts about that weird kid who runs this blog.

  1. My first "20 Random Facts About Me" piece was written four years ago.
  2. I have consistently released exactly two blog articles a month for an entire year.
  3. I occasionally volunteer at a local radio station.
  4. Joss Whedon is my favorite screenwriter.
  5. I've been watching far too many Joss Whedon projects as of late. (Yeah, right.)
  6. For the time being, I have a ridiculous amount of free time in my life.
  7. I once watched fourteen 43-minute television episodes in one day.
  8. I'm double-jointed! (Such an exciting fact!)
  9. I've finally started getting back into graphic novels.
  10. My favorite instruments are piano and cello.
  11. I now own over 60 physical soundtracks.
  12. I now own over 300 digital soundtracks.
  13. I own way too much music.
  14. My favorite soundtrack composer is still Murray Gold.
  15. My favorite video game soundtracks are Kid Icarus: Uprising and Nier.
  16. Believe it or not, I do listen to music that's not from soundtracks. A lot, actually.
  17. I kinda miss the days when people would leave comments on my blog.
  18. I adore Cœur de pirate.
  19. I'm typing this piece at 2:30 a.m. and I should probably go to bed.
  20. I love my friends more than anything.

There you have it. I hope you were entertained. Now if you'll excuse me, I've thought about myself enough for one night.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Soundtrack of the Month: October 2015

Trine is the epitome of fantasy soundtracks. The story of the game is nothing particularly special—three unlikely heroes are magically bound together through a mysterious artifact and must save the kingdom from an undead army—but the combination of great characters, pleasurable gameplay, exotic environments, and gorgeously fitting music are what make this game the gem that it is.

Ari Pulkkinen scores this mystical masterpiece. From the first note the listener is captivated by this wonderful world of fantasy. Trine is one of the few soundtracks that I was actually interested in purchasing before I was even into soundtracks. It made that much of an impact on me. Few soundtracks can rival it in my eyes, with the prominent exception of its sequel.

This feature comes a little over a month after the release of the third game in the Trine series. Trine 3 has received a lot of flack for various different reasons, but the music is not one of them. Sound design remains exceptionally strong throughout the series. I have yet to play the new game myself, but whether I'm disappointed or pleasantly surprised by the experience, I'm certain I'll be purchasing the soundtrack very soon thereafter.

Featured Tracks

Track 2: Academy Hallways – The song that greets the player as they set out on their journey, after completing the tutorial level. It sounds like what it is—the start of an adventure.

Track 4: Dragon Graveyard – The piece that stood out to me the most when first playing the game, and to put it simply, my favorite track. A gorgeous piece.

Track 16: Tower of Sarek – I don't know who Sarek is (aside from an apparent Star Trek character), but his tower is the final level of the game.

Purchase Trine (Original Soundtrack), on AriTunes, iTunes, or Amazon MP3.
Or listen to it for free on Spotify or YouTube.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Celeste is a 2D platformer video game by Matt Thorson and Noel Berry. It's about scaling a mountain, and was made in four days.

While Thorson has hit it big in recent years for developing TowerFall and its various versions, he's always been known in the indie gaming community as one of the masters of difficult 2D platformers. Even with TowerFall he created goals and achievements that only a handful of people could ever even think to attain. When Matt Makes a Game, you know to fear it.

You're an unnamed figure scaling a great mountain, level by level. You can move and jump, and also use a dash move that can serve as a double-jump. Partway through the game you find an upgrade that gives you a second dash, and thus a second double-jump. The levels are designed around these mechanics and others, such as wall-jumping and balloons that restore your ability to dash mid-air.

It's reminiscent of the tight, "get from point A to point B" platformers Thorson used to make. The difficulty is there, and the intelligent design is there. Unfortunately, the gameplay is somewhat flawed. Your character doesn't always dash in the direction you're pressing the keys, which can cause a good many deaths as the fault of the game and not the player. Berry coded the game, so I'm laying the fault on him. (Realistically, it was probably the program they used to code the game.)

I entered the game and was immediately reminded how much I suck at video games. I spent an embarrassing amount of time on just the first level because I couldn't entirely figure out how the mechanics worked. I beat the game in a solid half hour, but not before getting an ungodly death count of 333. (Seriously, though, a good number of them really weren't my fault. I swear!)

Celeste is a fun, tight platfromer that will challenge those good at the genre and infuriate those who aren't. I really enjoyed it. If you think it sounds like interesting, give it a shot. It's free on PC.

Playing this game made want to go back and play Matt Thorson's older games, such as MoneySeize and the Jumper series. Or perhaps I'll finally beat An Untitled Story on "Masterful" difficulty and then review it on my blog for the third time.

Play Celeste here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Soundtrack of the Month: September 2015

A TV series about a masked vigilante antihero is not an original concept. Far from it. However, very few concepts are unique nowadays without the liberties allowed by creative presentation. Daredevil may not be the first story of its genre, but it may just be the first story of its kind.

The soundtrack, scored by John Paesano, reflects and retains the brutally dark atmosphere and tone of Daredevil, while also reflecting the quality and passion put into the project to make it the extraordinary story that it is. The power resonated in the main theme alone, and sustained throughout the rest of the soundtrack, sets the bar of quality for the series. A bar that was reached, as no easy feat.

Daredevil is the first television series set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to receive a soundtrack release. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter both feature remarkable soundtracks, composed by renowned composers Bear McCreary and Christopher Lennertz respectively, but of the three Daredevil stands on top. It truly is a crime, however, that these other soundtracks have not been released.

Featured Tracks

Track 1: Main Title – The main theme of the series, set to an equally majestic and artistic intro sequence.

Track 2: Fogwell's Gym – Like father, like son. Fogwell's Gym is where Matt Murdock trains to be Daredevil.

Track 10: Wilson Fisk – Easily the most multilayered villain of the Cinematic Universe. You will absolutely hate him. You will entirely sympathize with him. Then you will absolutely hate him again. I hope he doesn't kill me for including his name in this article.

Track 12: Avocados at Law – This song and scene remind me of all the great times I've had with my closest friends. It bears a feeling of nostalgia, as we're shown a memorable night from Matt and Foggy's past.

Purchase DAREDEVIL: Music from the Original Series on iTunes or Amazon MP3.
Or listen to it for free on Spotify or YouTube.

Remember, you can keep updated on what television series I'm currently watching on my Status page.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Series Review: The Office (U.S. Version)

This review is a lot more casual than my average review, as it was initially a Facebook status addressed to friends. It's a brief overview of my thoughts on the series, and it does not address the story, premise or characters in any detail.

I recently finished all nine seasons of the U.S. version of the sitcom The Office. When I started the show, my mindset was something along the lines of, "...What the heck am I watching?" As it turns out, I was watching what would eventually become a hilarious and amazing show that would bring me great enjoyment for nearly two months of binge-watching.

It's true, the show is pretty consistently stupid. It's full of crude humor and facepalm-worthy moments, but it's also full of quality humor, great one-liners and lovable characters. While it's designed so that you can watch most episodes without having seen the rest of the show, the subplots make it absolutely worth watching in order.

The Office does something that no other show I've seen has been able to successfully achieve. All of the characters have this perfect blend of being unrealistic for the sake of comedy, and being very believable and real. This is particularly apparent in the first few seasons, but it is noticeable throughout the series. Most similar shows completely butcher that attempted blend.

My personal favorite episode is "Niagara, Part 2". It's the only episode that I watched more than once before finishing the show. (I actually watched it thrice.) However, this episode will mean absolutely nothing to you without five seasons of build-up and context.

I realize the show's not for everyone. It can be very inappropriate, and I only recommend it to people who are not easily offended by crude humor. (Trust me, it can get bad.) If that's not a problem for you, I'd also like to point out that if you're really turned off by the first few episodes, stick around for a while. It very definitely gets better. Oh, and be prepared to cringe whenever the character Todd Packer comes around. If you think Michael Scott is bad... geez.

So yeah. There's my super short, not-very-in-depth review. It's a great show. Well, it's great when it's not being super stupid. Which, to be honest, does happen a lot. Still, I may have cried near the end. Like, legitimately cried. Because storytelling can be awesome.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Soundtrack of the Month: August 2015

Alone in the Dark is a complete piece of crap. It's an attempted reboot of a classic video game that pioneered the survival horror genre in the industry. While the original Alone in the Dark is a clever, well-designed piece of art, the 2008 reboot is the furthest thing you can get from that description. Its only real saving factor is its amazing soundtrack.

The music is composed by Olivier Derivière, and accompanied by Grammy award-winning choir The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices. It's everything the game is not: creative, well-designed, and actually rather scary. Its haunting themes will send a chill up your spine, which is something you cannot say about the game.

A fair amount of the soundtrack sounds rather like cues from a movie. This could be due in part to the game's attempt to adapt a television show-like format, in the form of episodes that you play through one at a time, that you can jump between. It was poorly implemented, and another reason why the game didn't deserve its soundtrack.

For a further elaboration on just why Alone in the Dark is an awful game, I encourage you to check out ProJared's review of the game. Caution: Alone in the Dark is rated Mature for blood and gore, strong language, and violence. Keep this in mind regarding the video, as the game and its reviewer are hardly censored.

Featured Tracks

Track 2: Edward Carnby – The protagonist is named Edward Carnby. He shouldn't be, but he is. One of many tracks to feature the game's main theme, "Shto Li".

Track 10: Crying New York – I could make a joke about New York crying about how bad the game is, but this really is a great track.

Track 18: Shto Li (A Cappella) – The Alone in the Dark theme, "Shto Li", shows up in many tracks. This track isolates the vocals into a bone-chilling a cappella piece.

Purchase Music From Alone In The Dark from Amazon or iTunes.
Or listen to it for free on YouTube.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Jeff Williams Interview

Jeff Williams is a critically-acclaimed composer who works primarily for the production company Rooster Teeth, and is known for scoring music for many of their various works including the webseries Red vs. Blue, RWBY, and X-Ray & Vav, along with the company's upcoming feature comedy Lazer Team. His daughter, Casey Lee Williams, is often involved with his works, and is the lead localist for the RWBY soundtrack.

I recently got the chance to ask Jeff a number of questions, and I am extremely grateful that he was willing to set aside a little bit of time to respond to them, even if the process was considerably rushed. I do feel rather bad for taking him away from his crazy busy projects. Enjoy the interview!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Soundtrack of the Month: July 2015

As the first year of the Soundtrack of the Month series comes to a close, I decided I would return to where it all started. Believe it or not, I wasn't always a soundtrack nerd. I liked instrumental music and a handful of soundtracks, but I really didn't think much of them at all. There was, however, one television series that came along and changed my mind entirely.

Doctor Who is an entirely unique concept and series. Most people either love it or hate it, with no middle ground. However, regardless of how you think of the series, there is one thing that has to be agreed upon unanimously: The music is awesome.

I remember my first time watching the Series 3 episode "Gridlock". It was an interesting premise that I won't describe due to potential spoilers, but I will say that there was a segment where the Doctor (the protagonist) was jumping between futuristic cars, and the most ridiculously cool music was playing. That was the very first time that Murray Gold's score made an impression on me, and it was far from the last.

While every Doctor Who soundtrack Gold scored since the revival of the series in 2005 has been filled with spectacular music and is equally worthy of being featured, I decided after much debate on Doctor Who Series 3, as it was this music that made me fall in love with soundtrack music, and I am forever in its debt.

Featured Tracks
Narrowing this list down to four tracks was ridiculously difficult. Series 3 introduced many new themes with many different styles, ranging from adventurous, to emotional, to terrifying. Enjoy some of the greatest melodies of the music industry.

Track 1: All the Strange, Strange Creatures – Originally intended as a minor sequence for a single episode, this track was chosen to score a trailer for the series, and thus became a classic and recurring theme.

Track 6: Boe – The Face of Boe is one of the more intriguing recurring characters of the show. Who is he really? What is he really? The answer may just have you on the floor laughing. This particularly emotional theme is a reprisal of a track from Series 2.

Track 15: The Doctor Forever – This is the song that made me fall in love with soundtracks, and it still holds a very special place in my heart. It eventually became known as the Tenth Doctor's theme.

Track 23: This is Gallifrey: Our Childhood, Our Home – This song is, to this day, my favorite track from any soundtrack, of any genre, for any kind of media. The soaring themes; the strong emotions; the majestic nostalgia; this is art.

Purchase the Doctor Who Series 3 soundtrack on Amazon or iTunes.
Or listen to it for free on Spotify or YouTube.

Bonus: In celebration of this series' anniversary, I put together a small YouTube playlist of various great soundtrack pieces. It contains tracks for soundtracks I've featured, soundtracks I may feature in the future, and soundtracks I will not feature for one of multiple reasons (none of which are bad music). You can check it out here.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Game Review: The Next Penelope

The Next Penelope: Race to Odysseus is the classic tale of Homer's Odyssey... set in a cyberpunk world with futuristic racing.

It's been ten years since Odysseus departed from the kingdom of Ithaca, leaving his reign to the anarchy of an absent leader. Desperate to save the land she loves, and sick of her suitors' unwavering advances in the absence of her husband, Queen Penelope sets out on a journey to find Odysseus—by exploring planets, racing her suitors, and fighting epic bosses.

The Next Penelope is a top-down racing game that appears to have been heavily influenced by F-Zero. It reminds me a little of Super Laser Racer, another such game that was focused on translating the gameplay from F-Zero into a 2D top-down format. That game, while extremely fun, was little more than a bare-bones F-Zero clone. The Next Penelope adds story, bosses, an upgrade system, a somewhat unique weapons system, and a lot of interesting and fun challenges.

This adventure is not particularly long. If you know what you're doing you can certainly beat the game in under a couple hours. However, the strong difficulty curve your first time through and the endgame bonus levels are sure to keep you occupied for a good many hours. If you strive to complete all of the achievements, as I did, you're sure to have your work cut out for you for a while. The nice part? You'll have fun the entire time.

I've always had a love-hate relationship with Greek mythology. I love it for the lore and the mythos, but I hate it for the arrogance, narcissism and stupidity of a great many of the prominent characters. With that being said, I've had a strictly love relationship with this game since the moment the concept was introduced to me. It's Greek mythology... plus futuristic racing! Add that to the insanely fun gameplay, and you've got yourself a beautiful piece of art.

The game was developed by one man, Aurelien Regard. He created the story, artwork and music all himself, and programmed the entire game. It's always a treat when a game this well-polished and well-designed is developed by a single person or a small team. Such a man is more than worthy of my respect.

Overall, The Next Penelope is a great concept, complemented by great gameplay. The artwork is beautiful, and the sweet elrectonic soundtrack is sure to get stuck in your head. I certainly got my money's worth from it, and I can't wait to see what other great projects the developer comes up with in the future.

Check out The Next Penelope: Race to Odysseus on Steam.
It's also in development for Wii U, and may be released on other consoles as well.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Soundtrack of the Month: June 2015

Are you tired of reality? Take a trip to the beautifully hand-drawn world of Falana, and experience the adventure of an amnesiac swordsman, an adorable nimbat, and a talking sword.

Dust: An Elysian Tail is another fine example that video games are truly a form of art. The story, artwork, music and gameplay all come together to create an incredible experience. What's more, aside from sound design, the majority of the game was developed entirely by one man, Dean Dodrill. The amazing soundtrack was composed by HyperDuck Soundworks, with a few additional tracks by Alex Brandon.

In 2008, a groundbreaking indie video game called Iji was released, featuring an awesome, hard rock soundtrack. It was the first project that HyperDuck Soundtrack ever composed as a team. Jump ahead four years, and not only had they become a lot more experienced, but now their music is some of the greatest in the soundtrack industry.

Originally, the soundtrack was to have a style inspired heavily by entries in the Ys series of video games. Eventually a decision was made to majorly rework the soundtrack to have a more cinematic feel to it. This changed the soundtrack from what would have been a great soundtrack to what was ultimately an absolutely incredible soundtrack. The original versions of some of the songs are still included on the album as the "vintage" bonus tracks.

The story of Dust is intriguing, emotional, and often humorous. The player will undoubtedly tear up a number of times. Dean Dodrill has also been in the process of making a movie that takes place in the same universe. This project has been in development for over two decades. Additionally, it's possible that in the future he will create other games that take place in the world of Falana. We can only hope that HyperDuck will be involved in these other productions as well.

Featured Tracks

Track 1: Falana – The title music of the game, and one of four tracks composed by Alex Brandon. When you hear this music, you know you're in for quite a journey ahead. It also shows up every so often for emotional scenes throughout the game.

Track 7: Short Fuse – This is one of three renditions of the boss theme. The other two are Track 11: Deities and Track 17: Heavy Bones.

Track 8: Abadis Forest – Whenever I tell somebody about this game and its soundtrack, I usually send along this song as part of the pitch. I consider it the perfect musical representation of the game and soundtrack.

Track 15: Everdawn Basin – This is the music for the final stretch of the game. It's rather epic.

Purchase the Dust: An Elysian Tail soundtrack on Loudr, Bandcamp, or iTunes.
Or listen to it for free on Spotify or YouTube.

Also check out the trailer for Dust: An Elysian Tail.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Game Review: Pokémon X

I recently acquired a game from one of the most recent generations of Pokémon. Pokémon X is a sixth-generation Pokémon game, and has a counterpart titled Pokémon Y. I played it for a while, and then mustered all of my focus into typing up an incredible review for the game.

It's Pokémon, again.

...What, did you expect something more? That's literally what it is: The same game with a few updated knick-knacks. Heck, it feels like an HD remake of the only other Pokémon game I've ever played, Pokémon Sapphire. That's rather funny, because they recently released an official HD remake of Sapphire. They didn't even need to do that, because that's literally every game they've made since the original! At least the music in X is pretty awesome.

Now, don't get me wrong, the Pokémon games are and will always be a lot of fun. It's just, there aren't many new elements to each new game. Beyond that, they release two almost identical games for each generation. I don't even get why they do that, aside from monetary and marketing purposes. It just seems like a way for the developers to grab more money.

To tell the truth, I've only played about six and a half hours of Pokémon X, and I just don't feel drawn to continue. I have to endure over seven hours of car travel each week, so you'd think that the game would be a great way to pass the time, but why would I play Pokémon X for an hour or two when I could play Bird & Beans for an hour or two?

The sad thing about that question is that I was absolutely serious.

Disclaimer: This article was abnormally negative for the purpose of satire.
It's really a pretty good game.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Soundtrack of the Month: May 2015

There are very few movie scores that are just as iconic as the films they accompany. Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean come to mind, and of course there's the magnificent Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is the first installment of one of the greatest stories our world has ever known. Howard Shore took it upon himself to score the entire trilogy, and while this was no easy feat, he succeeded in composing some of the most iconic, memorable and emotional themes in the entire music industry.

When listening to this soundtrack, you can't help but find yourself traveling to the Shire, and Rivendell, and all the amazing locations visited during the first stretch of the Quest of the Ring. Few soundtracks can immerse the listener so well into its world, so as to take them back to the adventure even when not watching the films.

Shore would score the entire trilogy, and then return to score the entire prequel saga of The Hobbit. While The Hobbit is filled with amazing music and memorable themes, it doesn't quite stand up to the original trilogy, in either score or story. The Hobbit is still a fantastic trilogy with fantastic music, but it is no small feat to top The Lord of the Rings.

One stand-out feature of the Lord of the Rings soundtracks is the inclusion of grand, incredible choral segments that feature singing or chanting in some of the many languages created by J.R.R. Tolkien, the writer of the series from which the movies were adapted. Some English is heard as well. The credits songs for each movie in the Middle-earth saga (always in English, performed by guest artists) are particularly known for their sentimental value.

Featured Tracks

Track 2: Concerning Hobbits – One of the most iconic themes in cinematic history, Concerning Hobbits is the theme for the land of the Shire, and more specifically the town of Hobbiton.

Track 11: The Ring Goes South – Haunting and epic music to accompany a party on an adventure.

Track 17: The Breaking of the Fellowship – The first chapter has come to an end, but the adventure has only begun. This song leads directly into "May It Be", the credits song, performed by Enya.

Note: A largely expanded edition of the soundtrack was released, which covered every single moment of score in the extended edition of The Fellowship of the Ring. This very long, 4-disc release is out of print, and as of the release this article can be purchased on Amazon new for $799.99 and used for $120.00. Good luck getting your hands on it.

Purchase The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack on Amazon or iTunes.
Or listen to it for free on Spotify or YouTube.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Album Review: The Earthen Scar

I spend a lot of time on the internet, and as of late one of my favorite websites is Bandcamp. It's a user-friendly website for both hosting and purchasing music, and one of my favorite features is the ability to write up a little blurb for each purchase you make, about why you bought it and why you enjoy listening to it. That is to say, I've made a point to type up something for every purchase I make on the site. If you know me, you know I love giving feedback.

Bandcamp is where I purchase a lot of my soundtracks that aren't available in physical form. In addition, this website has exposed me to a multitude of fantastic original music. One such instance is the transmedia concept album The Earthen Scar, by composer Thomas Ferkol.

The Earthen Scar is a 12-track instrumental album that tells a story. I don't mean the story is told through the music—at least, not entirely. When you visit the individual pages on Bandcamp for each track of the album, you're given story snippets to read for that particular track. The album tells a story through both these snippets and the music itself.

Far away in a fantasy universe, a plague is spreading through the world that seems to be able to twist and scar the Earth itself. It was intended as spell that was to make humankind immortal, but instead it turned men and women into twisted, undead creatures. It did allow people to live forever, but in a way that was not truly living. A young mage and her guardian set out on a journey through a dying world, but there is little hope for mankind.

The Earthen Scar is a fantastic album. Not only is it beautiful and imaginative instrumental music, but it also has a fairly cool story to go along with it. In fact, some details made me think about how well this story would work as a video game or an anime. It's also interesting to note that, more or less, this story is its own soundtrack. It's a peculiar thought.

One of the features of Bandcamp is the option to select a favorite song from each album you've purchased. For The Earthen Scar, I spent two weeks trying to decide what I wanted to select, because they're all so very good. Every time I thought I knew for sure, I'd listen to a different track and change my mind. They're all equally amazing and unique in their own way. In the end, I chose the track titled "Dear Wasteland"; not because it was greater than the rest, but because it has an exceptionally cool name.

The album also includes a ten-minute bonus track titled "The Bitter Suite". It is not related to the story of The Earthen Scar, but it's of the same style of music, and it is a very good song.

If you like instrumental music, I definitely recommend checking out this album. You can listen to it for free on Bandcamp, or just use the player below. You can also view the story snippets for free as well. Thomas Ferkol has since released two further albums in the saga, The Liminal Descent and The Divine Deception, and is currently working on the final entry in the series.

I'd just like to note that I've finally broken my curse and actually finished an album review that's not a Soundtrack of the Month. Thanks, and have a great day.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Soundtrack of the Month: April 2015

Caution: Do not check the date before reading this article. Just don't. Okay?

When I think of inspiring soundtracks, whose amazing music can help anyone through the hardest of times, there's one particular soundtrack that never comes to mind. It's the soundtrack to a little game called LIMBO, composed by Martin Stig Andersen.

LIMBO is a fairly short game, but it will make a large impact on anyone who plays it. If you hate spiders, you will love this game. I'm also never sarcastic. Ever! You can even ask my friends. (Which in itself is a joke, because my friends don't talk to me. We're not on speaking terms until I watch the movie Up.)

If you've never listened to Anderson's dramatic, undeniably existent LIMBO score in all of its continually ambient glory, you've clearly never played the game. Nerd.

Featured Tracks

Track 1: Menu – This song really shows off LIMBO's gorgeous melodies and sweeping themes. Actually, I'm not sure that the themes sweep. I mean, how does music sweep? Certainly not with a broom. Music doesn't have hands.

Track 4: Rotating Room – This game is not creepy at all. Whatsoever. This song is proof.

Track 5: Sister – Funny thing, you learn more about the plot from the title of this track than you do from playing the game itself.

Purchase Limbo (Original Videogame Soundtrack) on Bandcamp, iTunes, or Amazon.
Or listen to it for free on Spotify or YouTube.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Game Review: Sinister

"And then I died."

The other day I came across a little game called Sinister. It was made in 48 hours as part of the Ludum Dare competition. When I say a little game, I mean a game that you can literally beat in two minutes. That little. Yet, for some reason I keep playing it. I wonder why that is.

Sinister is as mysterious as it is short. You are a man, and you have died. Yet, somehow, a world is able to come back together around you, bred from your memories. Where are you? What is this world? You explore this world of memory, and after a short time you come across a girl standing over a grave. As she turns to look at you, the words appear.

"I said that you would never be alone."

And then the game ends, bringing you back to the title screen, leaving you to wonder what the heck just happened. However, the "ending" is not where the game ends, because the game actually works as an endless loop. The opening and ending lines go together, hand-in-hand. The girl is standing over your grave, because you have died.

"I said that you would never be alone...
...And then I died."

Could it be that your character is stuck in some sort of purgatory? The same dream of a partial world of memories playing itself over and over again? Or is there something more going on here? I played the game numerous times, trying everything I could think to try, just trying to find some answers. But no matter how much I've looked, I've found nothing more than what I already know.

What is it about this game that keeps drawing me back? Is it the mystery of it all? Is it the brilliantly haunting music? Is it the fact that no matter how many times I play it, I can't find the closure I'm searching for? It's probably all of these things combined.

The developer has in fact stated that he intends to expand on the story sometime in the future, and has stated on Twitter, "This is not the end of Sinister." This makes me both excited and cautious. Someday I may finally find the closure I need, but at the same time the game is brilliant as it is, because of the unanswered mystery of it all.

Regardless, you should consider spending two minutes of your time to play the game. Be warned, it may keep drawing you back, as it did me. That will probably not be the case—I'm just an oddball—but who knows.

Play the game online here.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Soundtrack of the Month: March 2015

When attempting to plan future editions of this Soundtrack of the Month series, there is one soundtrack that kept coming up again and again, that I kept getting very close to rejecting. I kept considering it because it's great music, and I kept rejecting it because it was made by an amateur—somebody who had never composed before, and has even stated he can hardly play a musical instrument. However, eventually I came to the conclusion that I don't care that the composer was new when he created this soundtrack, because it's honestly one of my favorite soundtracks... ever.

Ring Runner: Flight of the Sages is a video game mainly developed by two brothers (and a wife/sister-in-law), over the course of five years. Enrique and Paul Dryere were in college and decided to make a game; simple as that. Over the years their project would grow and grow, becoming more and more ambitious, but they didn't stop work until it was everything they wanted it to be, and the result was staggering. The game that came out was an extremely well-polished product, with an incredible 20-hour story, and numerous game modes and features. This game looks and functions like it was made by a large team of people, but it wasn't. It was mainly two.

Ring Runner is very much a game for intellectuals. If you're not a quick learner, you are going to be very lost. The Dryeres packed in so much science and technical details—a lot of it their own science fiction; a lot of it actual theoretical science—that sometimes it's difficult to understand everything that's happening and being said. It most certainly made my head hurt a number of times, and sometimes I had to replay certain sections just so I could be sure of what the characters said. Even the controls are difficult to master, as they're more complicated than the average space shooter.

The game's soundtrack is composed by Enrique "E.C." Dryere, and as I said before, it was his first time composing music. The first track he ever composed is even included on the soundtrack as a bonus track (Track 20: The First Sage). At first the soundtrack might seem to have a slight sort of amateur feel to it, but for me that has long worn off. Instead, I have a strong appreciation for how unusual and unique the style of music is. In fact, it's one of the most unique soundtracks I've heard.

The Ring Runner soundtrack is a piece of art. It's an integral part of the game. Not only is it beautiful, but it perfectly reflects both the vastness of space and the universe in which the game takes place. The score that accompanies the Nameless Sage on their adventure is incredible. It might be a little unorthodox, but that doesn't make it any less amazing. I would say that there is only one track in the entire soundtrack (Track 19: A Promise to Keep) that doesn't fit perfectly with the segment of the game in which it is used, and that single track is still a great piece of music on its own.

Featured Tracks

Track 15: Ring Runner – This is the music that greets a player when they load up the game. It's rare that a piece of music can invoke such a feeling of nostalgia before one has even been through the journey. The title music of Ring Runner is somehow able to accomplish this. It expresses the vastness of space, and at the same time lets the player know that they're in for a long, incredible journey.

Track 1: StarEater – This music helps craft the first level of the game. An amnesiac pilot and a mysterious A.I. fly their way out of an exploding space station. In short, the story begins with the destruction of the only location that could ever tell the characters who they are.

Track 7: The Name Solipso – A recurring character, with a recurring theme, is the legendary Sage named Solipso. The first ever Sage free of CIR rule, Solipso has been on the run for hundreds of years, showing up at various locations for only brief amounts of time. One day he crosses paths with the Nameless Sage, and that simple meeting would set in motion events that would change the universe, so to speak.

Purchase the Ring Runner: Flight of the Sages soundtrack on Bandcamp.
Or listen to it for free on Bandcamp or YouTube.

Monday, February 16, 2015

20 Random Facts About Me #7

Once upon a time I started a blog series. Five times upon five other times, I added sequential entries to that series. This is the seventh entry. Here are another 20 facts that you may or may not have known about me.

  1. I took Latin all four years of high school, but I still haven't completed Latin 4.
  2. I used to absolutely hate the Halo game series.
  3. Now, I very much enjoy the Halo game series.
  4. My favorite YouTuber is PeanutButterGamer.
  5. The only manga I have read all the way through is Fullmetal Alchemist.
  6. Fullmetal Alchemist is one of the most incredible stories I have ever read or watched.
  7. I'm not sure how noticeable it is, but I use the word "incredible" a lot.
  8. I have recently acquired a rather strong appreciation of the cello.
  9. My driver's permit expired well over a year ago.
  10. As of late I've been watching a lot of superhero-oriented TV series.
  11. I very much love the Legend of Zelda video game series.
  12. My favorite animated movie (and film soundtrack) is How To Train Your Dragon.
  13. My all-time favorite TV series is Stargate SG-1.
  14. I used to review books.
  15. The most money I have spent on a single soundtrack is $60.
  16. I own a Latin translation of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.
  17. I actually, genuinely like the Star Wars prequels.
  18. I own a Wii U, and I am not ashamed of this fact.
  19. I have used the same email address since I was 9 years old.
  20. Reading my emails from 2005 is the most hilarious thing ever.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Soundtrack of the Month: February 2015

When it comes to soundtrack composers, there is one who is revered as one of the greatest composers in the history of the world. I am speaking, of course, of the legend Hans Zimmer. For some reason, I have always thought of this man as rather overrated. While he's just as great a composer as everyone says he is, that doesn't make him shine above the rest. There are many other far less-known composers who are just as good, and some who are even better. To tell the truth, while I've always enjoyed Zimmer's scores, I've never found that they particularly stand out. He has a specific style to his music that doesn't always strike my fancy.

However, recently a film came out which he had scored, and the music blew me away. I speak, of course, of Interstellar.

The film was a masterpiece. Coming from Christopher Nolan, who was known for such blockbusters as Inception and the Dark Knight trilogy, was a science fiction film about Earth's final days and the survival of mankind in the universe. I didn't know what to expect going into it. His previous films that I had seen were very dark, and focused heavily on moral ambiguity, but the previews of Interstellar made it look more like a science fiction drama than an intense action film. As it turned out, it was a little of both.

It's hard to fit Interstellar into a box. It's a longer story, but at no time does it feel like a long story. It just feels like a more fully realized and complete story than a regular-length film would be able to tell. I feel that in this way it's comparable to The Lord of the Rings films. The film focuses heavily on story, but also has some sci-fi action sequences and whatnot. It's a brilliantly crafted story, and the score only adds to that.

After the movie released (to critical success), there were a lot of complaints about sound design. In some parts of the film the score plays at very loud volume, and makes the dialogue somewhat difficult to hear. Having imperfect hearing myself, I didn't think it was much different from other films I've seen. Besides, the score being extra loud doesn't make the music itself any less good.

This was the film that redeemed Zimmer for me. I have a bad habit of not thinking too fondly about his works, for the simple reason that people give him too much credit. However, for this film at least, he is just as great as everyone says he is.

Featured Tracks

Track 4: Day One – This song is a rendition of the film's main theme. Interstellar is a very emotional movie, and the music helps nail that point. It's beautiful.

Track 8: Mountains – This segment of the movie is very time-sensitive, and we are constantly reminded of this because Zimmer incorporates an actual ticking clock into the score. It's one of the more creative things I've heard in music composition, and it's both effective and really cool.

Track 13: Coward – This is what I like to call the "Theme of Betrayal". You really can't have a Christopher Nolan movie without some sort of twist (or few) thrown it.

Note: The digital version of this soundtrack includes eight extra tracks. This deluxe edition is also on Spotify.

Purchase Interstellar: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack on Amazon or iTunes.
Or listen to it for free on Spotify or YouTube.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Game Review: Sneaky Sneaky

Here's a little game I came across recently. It's called Sneaky Sneaky, and in it you do a lot of sneaking.

A while ago I was going through my old Thursday Impressions posts on this blog and I realized that I kind of missed doing it. However, I don't have nearly enough time to write up a first impressions piece every week anymore, so I decided to compromise and do one every month. So then I played the first game on my list, wrote up an impressions piece, and then went and beat the rest of the game long before the post was scheduled to be published. So, screw impressions pieces. Here's a review.

Sneaky Sneaky is a grid-based strategy game controlled only by the mouse, in which you sneakily defeat your enemies and grab treasure on your way to completing each level. When an enemy discovers you (or when you sneakily get the first strike) the game switches into a turn-based mode until you or your enemy has been defeated, or until they've lost track of you (because you like to sneak away).

The gameplay is fairly unique. If at any time an enemy sees you before you attack them, they are able to move before you, and you're not allowed to move out of the way (or attack back) until it's your turn. Additionally, if you're able to sneak up behind your enemy without them seeing you, you can deal a much more powerful blow, which may take them out completely. Thus, stealth is a heavily encouraged strategy. Hiding in bushes for the right time to strike is a technique that works very well, along with sniping your enemy with arrows while you're out of their sight range.

The game isn't very long, and can be completed in just a few hours, but it's most definitely worth the low price. Not only is the art style really cool (and rather adorable), with great music that fits well, but also the game is pretty flipping fun. The difficulty curve is somewhat sharp if you're not prepared, and you might have to replay some already-completed levels in order to get enough money to buy an upgrade or two, but overall it's a brilliant gem of a game.

Sneaky Sneaky is awesome, and I'd love for the developers to make a sequel someday. I'd play the heck out of it.

The game is available on Steam and iOS.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Soundtrack of the Month: January 2015

Happy New Year! Welcome to the sixth installment of the Soundtrack of the Month series. As this marks approximately half a year since the beginning of the series, I thought I'd do something special.

When somebody asks me what my favorite animated movie is, I'm always ready with an answer. When somebody asks me what my favorite movie score is, I'm always ready with the exact same answer. How to Train Your Dragon is an adorable and epic tale of Vikings and dragons. Man and beast have been at war for far longer than either can remember, and the one person that nobody thinks could ever make a difference is Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, a young boy who cannot fight to save his life. To avoid summarizing the entire plot and giving away key details, let's just say everybody was wrong.

The score of How to Train Your Dragon was composed by John Powell. It's really flipping good. You should listen to it.

I feel obligated to mention that the credits song was written and performed by Icelandic musician Jónsi. A lot of people have praised the film's soundtrack for this song alone, but I wouldn't go that far. It's a good song, and I like to listen to it on occasion, but when compared to the magnificent rest of the soundtrack it's almost mediocre.

Featured Tracks

Track 1: This is Berk – One of the greatest opening tracks in the history of filmmaking. "This is Berk" is commonly the first voice-over line in various installments of the DreamWorks Dragons franchise. Berk is the name of the region in which the Vikings live in the film and sequential stories.

Track 11: Test Drive – Reason #47 why How to Train Your Dragon is my favorite movie score ever: Listening to the music makes you feel like a superhero.

Track 21: Counter Attack – Reason #84 why How to Train Your Dragon is my favorite movie score ever: John Powell makes sure there is never a monotonous moment in the score. Even in the darkest and most tense moments his epic and distinct themes are heard throughout.

I have to remind you once again that these three tracks are not necessarily my three "favorite" tracks. If I were to list all of my favorite tracks for this soundtrack, I would have to list pretty much the entire album. Some very honorable mentions that didn't make the "Featured" list include Forbidden Friendship (Track 8) and Romantic Flight (Track 15). Oh, and all of the rest.

Purchase How to Train Your Dragon: Music from the Motion Picture on Amazon or iTunes.
Or listen to it for free on Spotify or YouTube.