We here at The Addison Recorder read stuff. We also watch stuff. And play stuff, even. Sometimes, that stuff is interesting. Sometimes we just need to talk about whatever pop culture ephemera occupies our time. Which brings us to this column.
It’s rare that an album that takes an extended amount of time to get released is any good. (Looking at you long and hard, Guns ‘n Roses…) Natalie Prass’s debut is that good. A long-standing figure in the Nashville music scene, her album has languished in musical purgatory mostly because the label she’s signed to is, well, tiny. Meanwhile, she’s somewhat exploded in the singer-songwriter folk scene, a region well represented by such artists as Eilen Jewell and Gillian Welch. Filled with lyrical variety, a voice that hovers somewhere between sultry and almost-smoky, and a brutal mixture of upbeat pop and depressing wells of loneliness, this album (streaming on Spotify) is a welcome listen – and all the more remarkable for how long it’s been coming.
After I wrote about all the new music coming out in 2015, Passion Pit upped the ante by releasing, not one, but TWO new singles from their forthcoming April 21 album, Kindred. “Lifted Up (1985)” (video above) is the upbeat adrenaline rush I have long loved about Passion Pit, and “Where The Sky Hangs” showcases their dreamlike, surreal side. I am obsessed with both, and they make me confident it will one day be warm and beautiful outside again. Until then, put the two new Passion Pit singles in loop repeat for optimal artificial sunshine benefits. It’s been a hard winter.
At the Grammys last month, one performance that got everyone from Beyonce to T-Swizzie on their feet and dancing was that of the reunited Electric Light Orchestra, who will give the world a new album and tour later this year. Small wonder, that; under the flat-voiced leadership of Jeff Lynne, ELO perpetually offers lots of strings, synthesizers, and banging drums to dance to and Beatlesesque hooks galore. I grew up with ELO, and the Grammys inspired me to revisit their catalogue, which is full of terrific songs beyond “Mr. Blue Sky” and the other great hits. Particular notice goes to Time, their 1981 concept album which has a bonkers premise (Man gets sucked from now to the end of the 21st century—How? Why? We don’t know!—and tries to escape sex-and-technology fun times for the girl he left behind) but is crammed with the catchiest, most expressive music they ever created.
Idiot name for a lead character/title aside, Max Payne 3 was one of the best games I’ve played in a while. The game is a shooter that departs from other Rockstar games like Grand Theft Auto by not offering an open world. Instead, it is divided up into levels, which is both a flaw and virtue for me. The game’s São Paulo is startlingly beautiful and well-realized: a world of glamour on top with seething corruption and violence lurking right below. The sections in a favela depict a social strata unlike anything else I’ve seen in a video game. It’s a shame that all you can do in it is shoot. Merely tooling around in it would have been divine. The lack of open exploration helps focus the narrative though, keeping us consistently stuck in Max’s desperate attempts to do any sort of good. His story is the best kind of noir: deeply cynical, socially conscious, and disturbingly blood-soaked.
At the start of 2013, Quintin Smith wrote about exciting board game releases coming out that year. The write-up included a blurb about Roll for the Galaxy, a dice-based adaptation of and already-popular card-based game.
Two years later, Roll for the Galaxy has finally been released.
Thankfully, the delay has been worth it. The learning curve is less steep than its predecessor, the design is slick, and gameplay clips along at a nice pace with little downtime. I was hoping that I’d at least enjoy it, but it exceeded my expectations — not only in how it re-implemented the theme of its predecessor, but also in just how fun it is in its own right.
Better Call Saul had a lot stacked against it before it even premiered. It was a spin-off of an insanely popular show with an already built-in fan base that was going to scrutinize it mercilessly. Yet, the show has come out on top. At least for now. Subtle Breaking Bad references, old characters showing up, and the famous Bob Odenkirk scream aside, the show really holds it own as a standalone with a rich story line that leaves you wanting to know what comes next. The most you can usually hope for in a spin-off is references to the better thing that came before it but with Better Call Saul, it isn’t a caricature of old fallbacks; Saul is his own new scam artist reborn. I highly recommended checking out his website.
So much has already been said about the passing of Leonard Nimoy, an incredibly talented actor, artist, writer and musician who is best known for his portrayal of Mr. Spock in the original Star Trek television show. Publications have highlighted the touching words of his final Tweet, and even the POTUS and astronaut Terry Virts and other members of NASA have publicly mourned Nimoy’s passing. Leonard Nimoy inspired a generation of scientists, writers, politicians, and normal people like me.
Like many self-proclaimed geeks, I was born a trekkie. My parents watched the original Star Trek in the 70s, and the who family gathered to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation and even Voyager together. I don’t remember when I first encountered Nimoy’s Spock. I was too young and he existed in the ethos of my family, a calm counter balance to the insanity of life, a balance of logic and compassion.
When I first heard that Leonard Nimoy had died at the age of 83, I cried. A hero and an icon has left this world, someone I had naively thought would be around forever and whose life I had taken for granted. I then immediately texted my parents and siblings so that we could share our grief together, 21st Century style.