Sunday, March 27, 2016

A bit of a bummer week

I thought I might be able to get you a proper post this week, but unfortunately it just didn’t happen.  I’ve had two pretty severe scares with my laptop—in fact, I’m writing this post on my backup laptop—and I don’t know that I’m out of the woods yet.  I don’t have much (if any) data to lose, but it’ll be a pain in the ass of epic proportions if I can’t get the existing laptop back up and running again.  We’ll have to wait and see.

In other news, I’ve been working pretty hard this weekend on getting my Perl module completed (see the ongoing series over on my Other Blog for full details), and of course it was Easter weekend.  So I was responsible for hiding 69 eggs today.  And then I had to try to remember where I hid all the ones that my kids couldn’t find.

So it’s been a tough day.  Hopefully the coming week will be a bit easier.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Time keeps on slipping into the future

Yet another week where I had every intention of producing a blog post for you, but Real Life managed to get in the way.  That seems to be happening more and more to me these days ... possibly I’m getting even more terrible at time management than I’ve always been.  Which is, quite frankly, terrifying.

But there’s nothing to be done about it at this point, except to apologize once again to you, my faithful reader, and to try to do better next week.  Which is what I shall now do.

Sorry.  See you next week.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Paradoxically Sized World III

"Are the Stars Out Tonight?"

[This is one post in a series about my music mixes.  The series list has links to all posts in the series and also definitions of many of the terms I use.  You may wish to read the introduction for more background.  You may also want to check out the first volume in this multi-volume mix for more info on its theme.

Like all my series, it is not necessarily contiguous—that is, I don’t guarantee that the next post in the series will be next week.  Just that I will eventually finish it, someday.  Unless I get hit by a bus.]

For the third volume of Paradoxically Sized World, I decided to concentrate on the music from LittleBigPlanet 3.  Honestly, LBP3 isn’t nearly as good a game as the first two (although it has some great aspects, they are not realized with the same attention to detail as the previous games), but the music is still amazing.  We start with Japanese indie artist Shugo Tokumaru and “Rum Hee,” the prolific (and catchy) little song used as background for many of the LBP3 trailers.  That bleeds beautifully into Lullatone, the group responsible for “Race Against the Sunset.”1  Lullatone is composed of an ex-patriate American and his Japanese girlfriend, and their music is somehow evocative of what your childhood toys would jam out to when you weren’t around.  “Hot Sand” is off the same album as “Race Against the Sunset” and sounds quite similar.  These two make a great opening to this new volume of LittleBigPlanet-inspired tunes.

The next themed stretch starts off with a tune from the PS Vita version of LBP, Crystal Castle’s “1991,” which is reminiscent of the music of old-school video games.  And that makes it a perfect lead-in to the “8-bit” version of “Threshhold,” from Scott Pilgrim vs the World, which actually accompanies the old-school video game sequence in the movie.  Which then flows nicely into another tune from one of my favorite LBP bands, Ugress, and his spy-movie-inspired “Harakiri Martini.”  Then we have the uncharacteristic electro-swing of Der Dritte Raum’s “Swing Bop.”2  Being that they are still Der Dritte Raum, this particular electro-swing song is far more electro than swing.

But the centerpiece of the mix is an atypical vocal stretch, starting with the insanely good “How You Like Me Now?” by the Heavy.3  This is used in LBP3 during the casino level, although they use an instrumental version.  The vocal version is blow-you-away better.  From there, we hit the bizarrely-named !!! (who claim that their name should be pronounced4 “Chk Chk Chk”), with a stand-out track, “Myth Takes.”  I found !!! while investigating some other artist—some “related to” or “influenced by” link, no doubt—and I’ll admit I was intrigued by a band whose name consisted only of punctuation.  I find most of their music to be average at best, but “Myth Takes” is just genius, with a sly blassline and clever lyrics.  My kids tell me I’m crazy if I think it sounds anything like LittleBigPlanet, but I think it slots perfectly here between “How You Like Me Now?” and “Ghosts.”  The only track here from LBP2, “Ghosts,” from Liverpudlian-with-a-Bulgarian-vocalist group Ladytron, also has some magnificent lyrics, like its chorus:

There’s a ghost in me
Who wants to say I’m sorry
Doesn’t mean I’m sorry

Despite the fantastic lyrics in this set, nothing jumped out at me as a suitable volume title.  That had to wait for the 50s-themed set towards the end of the volume.  It kicks off with bassist Barry Adamson, whose track “Dead Heat” (also used in the casino level of LBP3) is actually from the 90s, but has a very early 50s cinematic feel.  Then another Lullatone track, which also fits this mood, then two remakes of actual 50s songs: “I Only Have Eyes for You,” originally by the Flamingoes, and “Mr. Sandman,” originally by the Four Aces.5  The former remake is by my other favorite LBP band, Tashaki Miyaki, an LA-based noise-rock dream pop outfit that continues the good work started by Mazzy Star.  Their music is similar to their contemporaries Beach House and Widowspeak, but even better, in my opinion, despite not being as well-known.  Their version gives a dreamy, fuzzed-out quality to the outer-space level of LBP3’s Bunkum Lagoon, as well as our volume title.  For the latter, LBP uses the Four Aces version, but I wanted a version with a bit more character.  After a bit of searching, I went with the version from Rob Zombie’s remake of Halloween.  I think it has an ever-so-slightly creepy vibe that follows perfectly after Tashaki Miyaki.6

As always, I’ve added a note for each track used in a LittleBigPlanet game: either 1, 2, 3, PSP, PSV, or Kart.  If a track doesn’t have a note, it isn’t from an LBP game (that I know of).  Although I often use slightly different versions of songs from those that are used in the game (such as using a vocal version instead of an instrumental version), I’m using a version by a completely different artist for “Mr. Sandman” here, so I noted that below as “alt,” meaning it’s an alternative version to what’s used in the game.

Paradoxically Sized World III
    [Are the Stars Out Tonight?]

        “Rum Hee” by Shugo Tokumaru, off Port Entropy 

        “Hot Sand” by Lullatone, off Summer Songs [EP]
        “Ultraviolent” by Cinnamon Chasers, off A Million Miles from Home
        “Sunday Boy” by Bent, off Ariels
        “1991” by Crystal Castles, off Crystal Castles 

        “Threshold [8 Bit]” by Brian Lebarton, off Scott Pilgrim vs. the World [Soundtrack]
        “Harakiri Martini” by Ugress, off Unicorn
        “Swing Bop [Tanz Variante]” by Der Dritte Raum, off Swing Bop [EP]

        “How You Like Me Now?” by The Heavy, off How You Like Me Now? [EP]

        “Myth Takes” by !!!, off Myth Takes
        “Ghosts” by Ladytron, off Velocifero 

        “Morticia” by Combustible Edison, off Schizophonic!
        “Vitium in Opere” by Corvus Corax, off Cantus Buranus II 

        “Shadows and Doubts” by Ugress, off Cinematronics
        “Dead Heat” by Barry Adamson, off The Negro Inside Me [EP]

        “Cannonball Splash” by Lullatone, off Summer Songs [EP]
        “I Only Have Eyes for You” by Tashaki Miyaki, off The Lagniappe Sessions [Special]

        “Mr. Sandman” by Nan Vernon [Single]
   3 [alt]

        “Brassic [Original Mix]” by Laroca [Single]

        “Quantum” by Pantha du Prince, off Elements of Light
Total:  20 tracks,  76:24

That just leaves us with three sets of songs.  Toward the beginning of the volume, we have a rare mostly-vocal track from Cinnamon Chasers, whose track used in LBP3 will show up next volume, paired with a likewise-uncharacteristic vocal track from UK electronica duo Bent, with voice provided by Sian Evans (of Bristol’s Kosheen).  In the middle, we come off “Ghosts” and into a snappy instrumental by way of the Addams Family, “Morticia” by Combustible Edison, who I discovered via their work on the Four Rooms soundtrack.  CE has a weird sound that’s sort of cross between lounge and retro-exotica, and we’ll be hearing more from them in other mixes.  That leads into the somber medieval tones of Corvus Corax, who provide the dramatic chase scene music in the final level of the Ziggurat.  And thence into another Ugress tune, “Shadows and Doubts,” which sets us up for the 50s run.

On the back side of that run, the relaxed downtempo of Laroca brings us down and prepares us for Pantha du Prince’s closer.  Although this track isn’t used in the game, it’s from the same album as one we’ll see next volume, a collaboration with Norway’s The Bell Laboratory.  This whole album is composed of mellow, ambient tracks like this one.  It’s a perfect closer for this volume of LittleBigPlanet inspired music.

Next time, we’ll add yet another volume to our inaugural mix.


1 Which we’ll hear on volume IV.

2 Specifically, the “Tanz Variante” version.

3 Despite the identical title, this is not the version off The House That Dirt Built.  This is the EP version, featuruing the horn section from the Dap-Kings.  Trust me: it’s worth the extra effort to track it down.

4 And alphabetized, presumably.

5 Well, technically, the Chordettes did the first version, which was also the highest-charting version in the US.  But the Four Aces’ version came out later that same year—1954—and charted even higher in the UK.

6 Although my eldest child says that any song with a lyrical reference to Liberace cannot be considered creepy under any circumstances.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Perl blog post #48

As promised last week, I completed the next installment in my latest Perl series.  Hop on over to my Other Blog to check it out if you’re so inclined.

I also completely forgot to post this pointer on Sunday.  So I’m just lying about the date on this post now.  Deal with it.