Sunday, June 03, 2007

Back From Hiatus

Two weeks back from Sunriver, and after a couple of weeks of thinking about how (and if) I'd like to continue blogging, I've come to a decision. I'm going to keep it up, but not in the same way that I was before. Where originally this particular blog was created strictly to distribute gaming session reports, I'm just not as into that particular medium as I once was. Astute readers will be well aware that I veered off into a few different gaming related areas, in particular World of Warcraft and hunting Wiis. Plus, I actually *do* have a life outside of gaming, both video and board, so there's really no reason not to include essays on whatever topic happens to float my boat that day.

As such, in the future you can expect entries on music, current events, computers, and whatever else happens to pass through my remaining brain cells at that moment. Oh, and games. I'll still talk about games, and I'll even talk about gaming sessions, but it's no longer something I'll do after every session, and certainly not the focus of the blog.

As a taste, here's a quick list of music that I'm listening to these days. I'm not only a professional musician on occasion, but I also have an advanced degree in choral music directing (almost as useful as a Master of English Lit degree), and I have a rather extensive CD and iTunes collection - without much of the classical repertoire ripped, about 300 discs, my iTunes library tops 60 Gb. So my tastes are a bit on the eclectic side, and I'm always interested in looking for something interesting.

Which is why I love the Apple Music Store so much. Finally, I can just wander around a store and listen to whatever catches my eye (or ear) at the click of a button. While I know many are unhappy that Apple chose a lossy format (AAC, superior to MP3 in a lot of ways), I really have a tough time hearing the difference between a CD and the iPod on a decent system (meaning it cost more than $200). That's mostly because of my rock and roll years and the hearing loss I suffered as a result. Fortunately, I can still hear all of the fundamental frequencies, and still enjoy most of the subtleties.

So what's got me going these days? First up are a couple of electronica entries: Deeperworlds from Mystical Sun and World of Sleepers from Carbon Based Lifeforms. Being a keyboardist who was into synthesizers back in the mid-70's, I really enjoyed Oxygene and Equinoxe from J-M Jarre, and these two discs evoke enough of that style to make me wish that Monsieur Jarre had not sold out long ago. I stumbled across both of these recordings on AMS as the result of links from other albums I was checking out, and that's my primary source of discovering new music these days.

Being a white suburban male kid growing up in the 70's, of course I developed a taste for Rush, the seemingly ageless Toronto-based prog rock band. They've gone through a lot of changes over the years, and in fact only put out two studio albums (and, I think, three live sets) since Test For Echo in the mid-90's, but their latest offering, Snakes and Arrows, is the best in some time. I wasn't a big fan of Vapor Trails - while it had it's moments, there really wasn't anything on it that grabbed me, and in fact there are probably several tunes that I couldn't even recognize. S&A, on the other hand, has perhaps their best instrumental since YYZ, The Main Monkey Business. While this album is not Moving Pictures (and honestly, how often do you get what back in the day was Side A of a vinyl record of that level of musicianship and musicality), I think it's certainly more than a step in that direction.

One of the bands that I was turned onto by a friend rather than by AMS is Jamiroquai. I've heard that his current stuff is pretty derivative dance/pop stuff (not that there's anything wrong with that), but Return of the Space Cowboy is one of the funkiest recordings I've ever heard. Deeply Funky. Light Years I could listen to for days. Sure, he sounds like Stevie Wonder back in the day, but with music this good who *cares*. All this, and a nice touch of social consiousness. Plus I love the ARP synthesizer sound with the oscillators put into hard sync. Highly recommended, and this from a guy who has trouble getting into Funkadelic.

Finally, if you like your torch songs with a bit of warpage, check out the first Goldfrapp album, Felt Mountain. Her later stuff is not even remotely the same, much closer to Madonna than Edith Piaf, so consider yourself warned. FM, however, is the real deal - smoky, sultry, dark, depressing as hell, but with great lyrics (example - "Are you human, or a gun") with traditional orchestration messed up in just the right ways. There are several times when I would swear I'm listening to Shirley Basie instead of something that came out in the last few years.

So there you go, a little electronica, a little lounge, a little prog rock, a little funk. I said I had eclectic tastes.

Next up I'll talk a bit about how Eurogames seem to be losing my interest.

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