Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Best Most Listened-To Albums of 2014

As usual, throughout the year I tracked what I listened to using Instead of doing something stupid like using my brain, I passively relied on this data to compile my "best of the year" list. Here it is, with occasional comments, and the albums that I would choose as the best, if I did think about it, in italics.

Runners Up:

These are the 2014 albums that were in the top 50, but didn't make the top 10.

Chlöe Howl - Rumour EP: It's an accomplishment for a 4-song EP to make the top 50, since I don't correct for album length here. But I could listen to this weirdly sincere deep 'n dancy pop over and over. Rumour is definitely the best song of the entire year.

Tove Lo - Queen of the Clouds: Meg plays this over and over. I've probably heard that Habits song 100 times this year. It is one of the best pop songs of the year, but only because there wasn't much competition.

Pink Floyd - The Endless River

Mogwai - Rave Tapes: Okay, but I was even more impressed by their soundtrack to the French TV show The Returned (it's awesome, and on Netflix!).

Kiesza - Sound of a Woman: Ooo! Ahh!

DragonForce - Maximum Overload: As you'll see, my cheesy metal intake increased a lot this year.

Jack White - Lazaretto

Sam Roberts Band - Lo-Fantasy

Die Antwoord - Donker Mag: I think I miss a lot of the South African subtext of this stuff, but that just makes it all the weirder. Weird is good.

Amaranthe - Massive Addictive

Lights - Little Machines

La Roux - Trouble in Paradise

Death From Above 1979 - The Physical World

The New Pornographers - Brill Bruisers

Poemss - Poemss

Avenged Sevenfold - Hail to the King

Royksopp - The Inevitable End: Supposedly their last album, but hopefully that just means they'll be working with Robyn full time now.

Die Mannequin - Neon Zero

Ingrid Michaelson - Lights Out

Warpaint - Warpaint

Michael Jackson - XSCAPE: This is surprisingly good for a dead dude.

The Crystal Method - The Crystal Method

Charli XCX - SUCKER: This album came in late to almost single-handedly restore my faith in pop music in 2014. In a year dominated by stupid boring songs about anacondas, "that bass," and whatever the hell Ariana Grande is, Charli XCX is a foul-mouthed breath of fresh air.

Skrillex - Recess

Bombay Bicycle Club - So Long, See You Tomorrow

In This Moment - Black Widow: Holy fuck I love this album. Its intensity borders on sappy, but I couldn't get enough of it. Maybe it's just me, but it was a good year for metal and hard rock bands fronted by women.

Brody Dalle - Diploid Love: Everything she's ever done has been amazing. No exception here. Plus, now I know what a diploid is. Educational!

Kongos - Lunatic

The Glitch Mob - Love Death Immortality

Album that would have been here if not for the artist's lack of connection with technological reality: Taylor Swift - 1989. I love all the singles, but Swift pulled the album from streaming services like Rdio, and I'm not going back to importing MP3s into iTunes like a god damn caveman. It's not even about paying less for music. It's just that Rdio is where my music is now, and if you're not there, I'm not listening. Sorry Taylor. I still love you.

And here it is. The top 10. I'm sure you're just leaking with excitement.

10. Lana Del Rey - Ultraviolence: Every aspect of Lana Del Rey's music, voice, appearance, and lyrics fit together into a moody whole. None of the songs stand out on their own, but as part of the overall aesthetic of her, it's pretty cool.

9. Foxes - Glorious: Honestly, I don't remember listening to this that much. I couldn't name or hum a single song from it. Maybe I was drunk?

8. Phantogram - Voices: Fall in Love is probably, I'd say, the best song of the year. What genre is this even? Who cares? It's good, and unusual, and also good.

7. Pharrell Williams - G I R L: Basically a continuation of Daft Punk's Get Lucky. But have you seen the guy's hat? It's large. Damn! That's a large hat. LOL.

6. Alt-J - This Is All Yours: This is mostly self-indulgent bullshit, but the moments of brilliance make up for it. Every Other Freckle is the best song of the year, in my opinion. They even make sampling Miley Cyrus, if not listenable, at least interesting.

5. RAC - Strangers: Bouncy and playful. It's pretty hard not to like this guest-star-fueled debut. RAC should stand for, uhh, Radical / Awesome / [Can't think of one].

4. Future Islands - Singles: Seasons (Waiting On You) is a mind-blowing song. Probably my favourite of the year. Wait, have I already said like 5 songs are the best of the year? I forget. TBH I didn't sleep much and I think my body is already getting itself drunk in anticipation of New Year's Eve.


3. The Pretty Reckless - Going to Hell: I watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas the other day, and it was a bit odd to see the kid who played Cindy Lou Who, who grew up to front one of 2014's best rock bands. And be hot as hell. Where I'm going.

2. David Guetta - Listen: Wow, this just came out, and it's already near the top of this list? It's just so easy to "listen" to. Guetta brings together a bunch of guest artists for a diverse set of pop songs that somehow feel cohesive as an album too. I suggest you "listen" to it. ("Listen" is the name of the album).

1. Hozier - Hozier: Taaake me to church, I worship blah blah blah. Try getting that shit out of your head after hearing it on the radio. Best song of the year for sure. The rest of the album is equally catchy and confident, weaving together pop, rock, and blues for a set of songs that grab attention without gimmicks. Good job, Hosher ... Hozer ... Hozyay ... hooowever you pronounce it. Good job.

See also:

Monday, December 29, 2014

New Cover For Stars and Other Monsters

After a few decades of dinking around, I'm starting to take this writing thing more seriously. In 2014, I finally published a few books, and in 2015 I plan to publish even more. Part of taking it seriously is realizing my limitations and hiring professionals to help overcome them. 

My self-designed cover for Stars and Other Monsters (my first novel - BUY IT) was pleasant enough, but it really didn't get across what was in the book. It looked like some literary journey of self discovery; anyone expecting that, and instead finding various monsters ripping each other the fuck apart, would probably be disappointed.

I wanted a cover that couldn't belong to any other book. Something pulpy and mildly retro, like a poster for the cliché-filled old movies that the novel both skewers and pays homage to. I'd seen Keith Draws' work before, and his style totally fit the bill.

So here's the new cover:

Keith did an awesome job and was awesome to work with. Awesome. He'll be back for the sequel, which I'm working on now, and will probably be much better than the first one.

I always thought mailing lists were spammy as fuck, but apparently every author has one these days, and I guess it's better than relying on Amazon to notify you when a new book you want comes out. So, sign up for my mailing list to get notifications about new stuff I write. Or just check back here. Or follow me on Twitter. Whatever.

Oh hey, happy new year, by the way. I'll be back with my annual list of the music I listened to most this year. See you then.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Hope as Zombie Fuel

The London Ontario Zombie Walk, 2011

Here's the heart-warming thing about the zombie apocalypse:

The zombie affliction only spreads where there is hope.

Picture a human survivor with no hope. She is attacked by 20 zombies, manages to kill 5, but then she gets bitten. Realizing she is fucked and has no chance to survive, she offs herself, or just lets herself get fully devoured by the zombies so she doesn't return to life. The 15 remaining zombies shuffle to the next survivor, who kills 5 before losing hope, rinse and repeat until there are no more zombies.

It's a quirk of (most) zombie mythology that zombies are not driven by reproduction. They just want to eat. Reproduction is a side effect of their meals being squirmy with hope, because it's only the humans who get away who become new zombies.

The people with hope are the bastards responsible for the spread. After getting bitten, they continue to fight for their lives. But really, after being bitten, they're just keeping a body fresh and nimble for a new zombie. That zombie is better able to find other suckers, ready to offer up their futile hopefulness as raw material for the next generation of the undead.

It's the human need for survival that ensures the spread of the affliction that will end all human survival.


P.S. Apply this metaphor to disease/consumerism/memes as you see fit.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Superman's Severed Face

This is the best Dollar Store Halloween costume I've ever seen, for several reasons:

  • It's not a Superman costume. It's a Brandon Routh playing Superman costume. The kid wearing this costume isn't pretending that he is Superman, with his own face and everything. No, he is pretending he is the actor who played Superman three movies ago. Or he's just wearing Brandon Routh's severed face.
  • I don't remember Superman wearing a mini toga thing. And it's convenient that the picture stops at the waist, leaving out the ratty sweatpants that the kid probably has on.
  • Damn, the "lite" up feature is non-functioning. Even if it worked, though, what is lighting up? Is that ... Kryptonite? Here is what Kryptonite does to Superman:

  • So if this kid is really into his role as Brandon Routh playing Superman, he'll pretend to be Brandon Routh pretending to writhe in pain as the lite-up Kryptonite poisons his insides. It should come with blood capsules so he can properly simulate the face-bleeding.
  • Which is also consistent with the "I stole an actor's face" backstory to this costume.
Kids, this Halloween, please strongly consider the Dying Superman Accessory Set.

See also: Halloween disguises are the new Halloween costumes.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Saying Yes to No

Oh, hi.

I just read this article on Medium: Creative People Say No. The premise is that many prolific creators are not afraid of guarding their time by refusing requests for it. This quote, attributed to Charles Dickens, resonated with me:
“‘It is only half an hour’ — ‘It is only an afternoon’ — ‘It is only an evening,’ people say to me over and over again; but they don’t know that it is impossible to command one’s self sometimes to any stipulated and set disposal of five minutes — or that the mere consciousness of an engagement will sometime worry a whole day … Who ever is devoted to an art must be content to deliver himself wholly up to it, and to find his recompense in it. I am grieved if you suspect me of not wanting to see you, but I can’t help it; I must go in my way whether or no.”
I don't think it applies only to other people. Saying "no" to yourself is just as important if you are to take that mountain of daily tasks, responsibilities, and hobbies, and carve out enough time to create something of value.

So that's my excuse for not blogging. I've been saying "no" to my brilliant blog post ideas and writing fiction instead.

In addition to my novel, Stars and Other Monsters, I have a short story out. Strangers at a Funeral is about unfamiliar people at death ceremonies. Here's a blurb:

Brandon notices them at his grandpa’s funeral first: a pair of men in sunglasses who nobody seems to know. They’re not family, they're not friends, they’re just … there. No big deal, until they show up again at the next funeral. Drawn into a world of funeral selfies and burial crashers, Brandon needs to know what these strangers want from the dead.

Only problem is, nobody gives a crap except him, and his school frowns upon skipping classes to watch people get buried. His sanity can’t take many more funerals, and those bulges in the strangers’ coats probably aren’t concealing anything pleasant.
It costs 99 cents. If you like the shit I write even a little bit, I'd appreciate if you bought it a whole lot. However, I won't be offended if you say "no."

Strangers has ties to Stars and Other Monsters, if you're paying attention. Speaking of which, I'll start writing a sequel to that soon too. I need to know what happens next.

Which means saying no to other stuff. It's nothing personal; I just like fictional characters more than I like you.