Music Musings: Elvis Depressedly: California Dreamin’

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Elvis Depressedly: California Dreamin’                                                                                                                                 (Favourite Track: Angle Come Clean)

Is not exactly a name you can drop in a casual conversation about bands. You can’t nod and agree with that stranger you’re stranded with at this party that ‘yeah that Blink 182’s new album wasn’t ‘’that’’ bad’… Then talk about the kind of music that would typically characterise that of a depressed angst riddled teen. At least not without garnering a few strange glances, but hey that was going to happen anyway. Though in many ways Mat Cothran and Delaney Mills’ sound has always sort of embodied that awkward sideways look.  Despite the impenetrable appearance albums by lo-fi, hipsters that use random apostrophes have, the music in Dreamin’ is pretty casual easy listening. It’s an appropriate sequel to that stage in your life where you were just cutting your teeth on cynicism and introspection. Maybe you grew your hair out or became a communist or even tore down your Sonic the Hedgehog posters to show two fingers to the man. Despite however old I get, actually maybe because of it I feel a growing insatiable need to not forget that stage in my life.  California Dreamin’ is at its core a good excuse to remember.

The album is a bit of an anomaly in their repertoire. Most of it salvaged material from previously unreleased songs recorded inside seedy hotel room’s way back in 2013. The sound’s considerable stripped down compared to their recent releases and the production values are terribly low. It takes away a bit of the punch Cothran’s delivery typically has though that’s par for the course in this indie lo-fi genre. The distortion and thin vocals give the album that comfortably twee campus radio twang that you might hear drifting from a dorm window or screeching from some junk car owned by a hippy slacker. The vocals, are dreamy and a little poppy and though the lyrics are Elvis Depressedly ‘sad’ ™ it retains that raw intimacy that makes their sound so compelling.

The sound of Elvis Depressedly much like my angst is not unique as it once was. Teen Suicide, who have just been resurrected by Depressedly’s own record label Running for Cover had a much stronger release with ‘It’s the Big Joyous Celebration’ just two months before. Teen Suicide also wins in the edgy band name category. Though maybe Depressedly can claw back some cred with a few more random apostrophes and even an umlaut thrown in for good measure.

 

Still a special place remains in my heart for Elvis Depressedly. When I first heard the album it was like I had heard it before, like I knew it. Not literally of course but it reawakened that teen edge in me. That nostalgic list of songs I’d listen to on repeat and soaked in. It’s an album that couldn’t be further from a solitary experience. It’s so mired in the past work of its creators and their influences. To consider California Dreamin’ as that alone would be a discredit to what the band has transformed into. Their last album boldly claimed that ‘the sad songs were over’, which in a shameful way was disheartening. Because I had the misconception that sad is kind of all Elvis Depressedly ever is.  I think California Dreamin’ proves me wrong.  The album is the fleeting feeling of hesitant hope that can follow in the wake of devastating depression. Elvis Depressedly was never ‘just sad’, they were always just themselves.

Listen to the full Album here: (Cost: name your price)

New York: All Good Stories Start At the End Right? (1/3)

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Somewhere in the depths of Terminal 8 inside JFK international airport is a wall. That wall has a painted mural depicting a multicultural market in Central Park personifying the foundation of America’s diverse history. However observing it imbues a sort of cynicism of any sincerity as the mural is subtly plaster by Coca-cola billboards, bottles and cups. Leading me to assume it’s nothing but a badly drawn advert for the worlds leading monopoly in soft drinks.

The reason I’m talking about this is because unfortunately I lived under it for two days during New Yorks ‘‘Super Storm”. As a native Englishmen I’m quite familiar with the ”we’re all going to die in three inches of snow” phenomenon however I never had the pleasure to be on the other end of it. Upon arriving, penniless, tired and a little sexually frustrated I immediately became aware of our inability to fly. The building was empty, the mood tense and apathetic. The only people left were the staff handing out travel itineraries for flights later in the week. With a 24 hour travel ban we had no escape.

So that’s where I ended up. Cornered in the basement of a makeshift refugee camp. Surrounded by a family who only spoke spanish but decided anyway to build a fortress out of camp beds. This monstrous construction went on throughout the night and before dawn the family had constructed an impenetrable fort that seemed to suck all light away from the sun and leave my humble corner cold and void of all light.

I began to compile a diary of my thoughts, believing that indeed these would be my last hours on this green earth, here is my first entry:

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Hour: 1 (47 hours remain)

With no food or water, my body has quickly lost strength and disease runs unchecked throughout the camp. I have not eaten solid food in over an hour. I have yet to have a drink. In fact, swallowing causes such intense agony that I can’t even swallow my own spit without curling up into a ball and crying. To compensate I’ve got a cup that I spit into every minute or so. When the cup is full, I simply pour it on the floor and hope the building river of saliva will wash me away and back home to my comfy british isles.

Hour: 6/6.5 (42 hours remain)

My companion braved the sea of the unwashed to reach the bathroom. I have not seen her since. I tried to convince her instead to rest, but in my weakened state my protests were less than eloquent. She has not returned… 

Hour: 11 (38 hours remain) 

I’ve recovered substantially thanks to the help of some badly made convenience store sandwiches and the return of my companion. Thankfully she is unscathed apart from a rather awkward social encounter with a clerk who conversed far more than necessary.

Things were looking promising until my mental state deteriorated. I begin murmuring uncontrollable about Earl Gray and pork pies. I decided I would attempt to clean myself to calm my state. I began my trek with nothing but a wet wipe. Hopes were high. 

The journey itself is not difficult, except for the sidestepping of sleeping families and lonely travelers. Once inside the restrooms I retreat to the disabled stall, wanting both privacy and space. I stretch, let my T-shirt ride up and reveal my pale stomach. The light here is different. Whiter, purer. It reminds me of looking out of my bedroom window, the sky diffused and grey, the light framed in a square bracket on my wall…

As I continue to stretch I notice something, the perfectly grey floor was marked by a little wet red spot. Then I realise there are more red spots. A few dozen of them of varying sizes. If I wasn’t in the mens I would have assumed it was sanitary related but no. It was blood and it had no reason being here…  I leave hoping to find some TSA officer and inform them of this peculiarity, but find none. My conclusion is that a rogue villain is picking off refugees one by one, smothering them to death before cutting them up in the disabled toilets, flushing the evidence down the loo. 

It distresses me greatly. 

Hour: 18 (30 hours remain)

It’s late, it’s dark. I want to sleep. My companion in their bed has pushed their cot against mine. She whispers to me. ”Be careful”, I was told, ”There are a lot of homeless people around…” I murmur some sort of empty assurance but they promptly close their eyes and fall unconscious leaving me with the task of protecting our wellbeing and luggage. 

I do not rest.

Filled with a McCarthy sense of paranoia I fiercely glare at the camp’s other inmates to decide whether they were homeless and if they were, would they stab me and steal my stuff? This goes on all night. The only other conscious soul in the camp is an elderly man with a limp. He keeps pacing back and forth from this one spot but he can’t walk right so instead he leans on a trolley for balance. I don’t see him again after this. I guess I’ll never know what he was doing…

vsAGttwvjdnHour: 29 (19 hours remain) 

It’s morning… I leave for food and a general stretch returning once more to the top floor. I mournfully glare at the departures board only to see canceled flight after flight. Yet something’s off, my brain doesn’t tick at first but there’s a flight not branded with that depressing red text. ”Holy shit”, I whisper to myself… There’s a flight to my fucking home… Why aren’t I on it? I wonder. I run to the check-in desk. There’s a man, not in uniform but some red shirt. He claims that there’s no staff to talk to me, that all of management is swept up in a flurry of hectic meetings and couldn’t possible asses my situation. I ask him a hundred questions and demand something more, I was so hungry to leave I didn’t mean to be rude so I used by Radio-Four voice. His posture changes but he is still useless. 

In this whole airport, a space covering almost 5,000 acres there isn’t one staff member I can talk too… 

I return to my companion with the news. There’s a flight, but damn… We ain’t on it. 

Hour: 30 (18 hours remain)

We began feverishly searching through our travel documents. Reading fine prints of insurance coverage and googling FAQ’s with inept broadband. Finally we found a number, it was an english line so we made some arrangements and had our domestic families make a case for us. It was tense waiting, longing for good news. It took awhile for someone to get back to us but finally smiles! We were promised a seat ”no problems”. Yet…. There was a catch.

The person who made the call could not actually confirm the seats for us as they didn’t have permission to change our itinerary. We roll our eyes. Our only option is to find the American number, hope to talk to someone and either get the seats ourselves or okay our English compadre.

My companion leaves to make the call…

I stay with the camp beds and our stuff just incase.

Hour: 33 (15 hours remain) 

I have still not heard from my companion. She has not returned and I can’t leave our luggage unattended to search for her. I hope things are well but I am increasingly feeling inept and impotent to help in our share catastrophe. I find myself staring at the mural for extended periods of time. It brings me back to our moments in the MOMA. NY’s Museum of Modern Art. I find the term modern and it’s connotation quite confusing. It’s a term that covers a very broad range of subjects but really it describes and incredibly brief period of time. Now we find ourselves folding the future into the past with our post-modern autopsy of the now past present.  

The volume of exhibits were overwhelming but there was one Artist I clung to for stability. Mary Weatherford. Her minimalist use of colour and speckled forms invokes the image of a cave painting. Primal and powerful. The light has a way of drawing you into this other world of childlike comprehension. Matched only by sensations of plunging into oils of vastly different colours… Only to have them peel away with your skin to reveal something other, something raw. 

She single-handedly justified my visit. 

Hour: 38 (10 hours remain)

We’re at a different terminal now. We’ll soon leave this country and be flying across the oceans. My companion achieved their goal, not without flare. My quiet british reserve might not of carried us this far. Thankfully she was willing to get a little vocal about her distress. 

After burning through several useless agents she managed to find one willing to grovel for forgiveness and offer us up some premium seats. 

We had been ”booked up” to business class. Free leg room here I come. We’re waiting now for the final call. We spend the rest of our time talking about each other in an empty food court. It’s nice and I almost regret leaving now. Not being able to have full and convenient access to a mind I love is frustrating at best. 

Final Entry: 

I can hear the low announcement of the final flight.
Like always, I just keep on staring blankly ahead. 
My eyelids a little heavy, I close them for just a moment. I’m holding someones hand but it slips away as they escape in front of me. 

I’ll never forget the night that the fierce typhoon passed, I was looking down on the city from the top of the skies horizon. The wind still a little erratic, tearing at the edges of its departure. The lights of the houses nearby shimmered as though searing the air. I’ve never witnessed a scene like it, though I was used to seeing it. 

I spoke to myself softly and said ”goodbye”.

-PB 

More coming soon

Rants and Ruminations: Interstella, Star Cellar

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I was the heir to the Branson fortune of Non-Honey, honey based products such as, ”Honey, I can’t believe it’s not honey”, ”Honey are you sure this isn’t honey?” and ‘‘Honey, I’m definitely  sure this is honey, you lying fucking bitch”.

The year of my birth was said to be the pinnacle of human civilization. Wars were ended, friends were made and everywhere smelled faintly of stale, sweet popcorn. My conception was, unusual to say the least as I was actually grown inside a cannonball, which was a popular custom at the time.

Two individuals, each of different genders, would ejaculate lovingly inside the ball before nodding, giving a faint shriek, then sealing it up for the next eleven years.

Inside the cannonball I became a patron of the arts, spending weekends at the local theater and encouraging the despondent youths to turn away from gang culture and find purpose on the stage. However this whimsy ended when my cannonball was fired and launched thousands of miles into the air at breakneck speeds. Yet as I flew over the English countryside I felt no anger, no remorse for what was lost, as I had convinced myself that this world needed me. Moments later my cannonball fell open after striking Stonehenge.

My morning routines began with unabashed acts of self-love. My release, forceful and timely, would propel my duvet onto the ceiling with a great gusting force. Where it would remain glued to the roof above my bed for several hours. I’d then open the window to catch my morning intake of oxygen. One or two deep breaths is normally enough to suffice my and entire day of activities. My medically unique respiratory systems has been a mystery of the universe for many years.. Scientists and doctors had kept me in underground labs for decades until they became convinced that, I was in fact, the messiah, and so they began worshiping me in a cultish fashion.

However I soon bored of the routine rituals and daily virgin sacrifices, so I left to start my own nightclub in the East end of London. The next few years were a daze of ketamine driven parties and indulgent soirees. Nobel peace prize winner, Jimmy Carter and his entourage of Jazz Goons frequented my establishment. This is where I became familiar with the Jazz-Funk scene, otherwise known as Junk. To say the least these groovy new tunes blew my mind. So much so I immediately suffered from an aneurysm which paralyzed my right arm permanently. Yet I still toured with Jimmy and the Goons for several years, acting as a backup vocalist and occasional trapeze dancer.

In 2004 I died, yeah did I not mention that? What a twist hey!? It’s like finding that this has all been written by the woman who got killed in desperate housewives that one time.

I died ticking off the last item on my to-do list. Here is the last page of that list.

  • Stop relying on whimsy and profanity for comedy
  • Stop relying on the list format for comedy
  • Stop relying on apologetic self-awareness for comedy
  • Simply stop…  

As I ticked the last box and felt my heart began to shrink a familiar Crow landed on my fingertip and said, ”PB, you have been a loyal friend to the Crow folk and I have one final quest for you… A war has broken out between the Shrews and the Lemurs, as an arranged marriage has led to blood feuds.’

Tutting softly I pinched shut the tiny beak of my dear friend and said, ”I’m sorry, but a battle between Shrews and Lemurs is simply too wacky. What? Are they killing each other with kale or something? Get fucked you little Crow cunt.”

With that I puked on his head and died.

Although I died alone in a deserted pub toilet, the ripples of sadness echoing out across the universe. Mother’s held their children, not knowing why, old men quietly huffed with tears in their eyes, and the Crow-Folk watched helplessly as the Shrews and Lemures, massacred each other with kale.

I guess I can’t say anymore, so here’s a picture of some sick.

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Don’t watch Interstellar.

-PB

Let’s Rant ‘Bout: ”I’m sorry, but your opinion is in the minority”:

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Authors Note: Bare with me as I regress into illogical preamble and madding, irrelevant thought.

It was a woozy weekday evening and the light was a hazy autumnal brown. I hadn’t eaten all day and the pit in my stomach began to plunge my work ethic as low as the v-cut on Kelly LeBrock’s dress.

I had been aggregating a collection of Heinz salad cream sachets for months, delicately storing them above a loose fitting roof tile. It was a mischievous form of entertainment that kept me from sustained periods of unbearable boredom. I’d imagine, years after my absence this collection, ripened and rotting with the smells of broken enzymes and bubbling fats.

It was a grotesque, evil image that removed me from the mind numbing mundanely of filing. Cardboard boxes towering higher than my own head each held documents that were so important and held so information that one person could absorbed it all. So they just had to be shoved carelessly onto cramped shelves and left forever in a dark room.

I watched a spider dance around a web of shining thread imagining my own life as a Black Widow. I’d sit lazily on the fringes of my Spider friend’s webs, eating their bait and complaining about my bad back. I’d insight hateful comments on twitter over the Spider government and talk about my xenophobic hate against the False Widow Spider and the rising number of Oak Processionary Moth immigrant workers taking good honest English homes and jobs.

I’d click on link bait articles that furthered my preferential beliefs that I am in fact the image and likeness of God and the world does in fact revolve around me. I’d make a Tumblr blog and write about how soft we are on women, calling for harassment on all public displays of progressive thinking while harking on about privilege. I’d write as a white male, militant atheist stuck in the friend-zone and reblog gifs of jiggly boobs and cartoon cats.

I’d copy wistful quotes onto Instagram pictures of sunsets and bastardize Francisco Bulnes with an elite sense of political centrist snobbery. Because anyone with any real political ideals is easy parody but in my almighty grace I’d end up punching down and already demoralized groups.

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Makes my eyes seep with the pus of glorious angst ridden tears. Better put some Blink 182 in my tape deck.

All dissenting opinions on my own beliefs can and will be ignored because I’ve found myself in a space that encourages preference. The systems that our social media uses focus on our preferences and disenfranchise us from engaging with things outside those circles. Facebook makes you ‘’like’’ things, there’s no wiggle room there. It’s a binary system that enforces binary beliefs. Either its good or not.

It’s become the grammar of the internet, this dichotomy of binary appreciation. Youtube, WordPress, Facebook, Tumblr, Reddit and almost every freaking blog under the thinning atmosphere of our suffocating planet including this one! There’s been this push for us to strip our preferences down and brazenly wear them like scout badges. Big business has always wanted to aggregate the perfect, marketable profile of you for the sake of specifically targeted ads, and guess what? You’ve been doing that job for them. You’ve aggregated the perfect footprint. The perfect, saleable picture, the white man in his thirties that drives a ford car and watches the Simpsons and likes pictures of dogs and now he’s being sold a Simpsons dog lead and seat covers for his car. 

This, rant, this preamble, this concern for the grammar of the internet is all borne from one disturbing comment I read.

”I’m sorry, but your opinion is in the minority’

I sat dazed for a moment trying to decipher the meaning behind these words. There must be something. People valued it. It was highly rated and many replied, agreeing with this dismissive statement. At the time I was trying to write about cynicism, specifically my own. I was reading through my own text and comparing it to the horrifically scary online disinhibition effect. A reaction where, because of the internet’s lack of social restrictions and inhibitions that are otherwise present in normal social interaction individuals are able to peruse in and out cynical, hateful behavior without the fear of any kind of meaningful reprisal.

That’s why we get this spiteful brew of cynicism from our web going hours. Like the consequences written by Jean Baudrillard when he discussed hyperreality in Mass culture as a set ”of ritualised signs of information, with no actual content.’’ Just because someone can discuss an issue doesn’t inherently mean they are capable of doing so and more often than not they fail to even frame their argument, causing a growing web of straw-man conclusions to develop along the recesses of more informed debate. This sort of baggage is ultimately more harmful than good and personifies that ‘’disappearance of intensity’’ in dialogue described by Baudrillard.

What’s most disturbing about this statement, ”I’m sorry, but your opinion is in the minority’‘, is that it frames the opinions of those who are not represented by the majority as invalid. It invalidates all discussion that’s separate from the general consensus. Now of course this statement isn’t adhered to in any fashion by the journalistic press, at least those with somewhat reputable standards. Yet it’s still growing and expanding as a more common belief and the scary thing is that people haven’t even noticed.

We now live in tiny preferential realities where we can design our own truths and easily surround ourselves with things that prove those truths. Yet it’s just an aggregated fantasy, like my collection of hidden salad cream in the rafters, a day dream to seep the mundanity of real life away. To distract us from the real issues. The piling boxes and paper work that surrounds us and gobbles up every complex thought we want to explore. It’s a lot easier just to live that fantasy, to hit the like button. To exist in a world without challenge.

-PB

The Long Dark: The Cold Lark

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The Long Dark, more like The Cold Lark!? Ammirght?

There’s this long-standing argument about reviewing unfinished games. Digital media has changed  the way we release products and no longer are games isolated to one state after being shipped and printed on a disk. This has been thanks to the rise of the digital platform and the subsequent democratization of development. No longer are consumers willing to wait X amount of months to receive their shiny new game. People are forking over hefty sums of money to receive an unfinished product that doesn’t have any meaningful criticism to back it up.

Some institutions decide not to cover these games at all until their release, citing them as ”evolving experiences’‘, that can’t be quantified the same way as already  finished games. Others do rolling coverage, following the development, but this sort of stuff just feels really soulless and nurtured of criticism that could otherwise improve the game. People seem to get really angsty about this too as those who have invested themselves not just in the product, but the development seem to expect their reviews to be overly aware of the fact that it’s ”unfinished’‘. Writers don’t really know how to fix this problem, how do you placate the both sides and produce content that’s critically relevant but also aware of its ongoing development? Some have tried with Gonzo journalism and others are overly apologetic in their criticisms and falsely codify the idea that every problem present will somehow be fixed. Finality in games has become tenuous and written reviews of these ever developing products become obsolete.

Because that’s the real issue here, a growing assumption that development will continue indefinitely, and that’s reinforced by the bonkers journalism surrounding it. You can start to place the onus of this on Minecraft, a game that’s been around for six years but still receives regular content updates. These articles discussing early access further exacerbate this problem as it leads to the habit-forming idea that issues or bugs, or inherit issues with the game will be fixed in post. Which isn’t the case for most.

Sometime in August last year Sir You Are Being Hunted was released on Steam Greenlight. The game was unfinished but people still paid money for it. Criticism about the game wasn’t that harsh even though the project had some glaring flaws. People and reviewers excused it from its problems because of the lower expectations these games have. No one had really talked about it before its release, even though money was exchanged for some sort of generalizable product. People are going to exploit that lack of criticism because too often, early access just feels like an excuse for failure.

We saw it with The War Z, the shallow and broken DayZ clone and we’ll see it again until we start holding these products under the spotlight and enforce standards on them.

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So that’s where I am with The Long Dark. A friend sent me a copy insisting that I play it and I did. Where did it get me? Here, in this quagmire of moral ambiguity. Do I talk about the flaws in the game formally, treating it like the final project? I don’t know. I can’t provide you with a comprehensive list of things The Long Dark will have or improve on. I can only give you my impression, and that’s not to say my impression will become invalid at some point. It shouldn’t. Because I obviously think it’s something I should talk about, even given my narrow experience with it, and surely that means that there is an impactful experience to be had.

There’s a lot of things I like in The Long Dark but I still don’t see why it’s getting the media buzz it is. It’s an open sandbox, survivalist game that’s designed to test your skill in the wilderness. You’ll have to deal with getting cold, hungry and tired, and theses systems quickly pile up as the already scarce resources dwindle. The aesthetics are great, sound design and visuals are cool, but there’s just not very many things to do out there in the world. You can’t really enjoy the stunning vistas because you’re worried about getting cold. You can’t really slip into the atmosphere of long abandoned towns because you have to open up a garish menu to stuff food in your face. You can’t look up at the starry night sky because you’ll be spending that time asleep.

More importantly the world feels a little soulless, like it was never populated to begin with. Most post-apocalyptic games litter their world with little notes and stories from before and after the event, and this goes a long way to sell the setting. However The Long Dark completely neglects this. It doesn’t try to sell any kind of narrative and that really hurt my investment in the game.

They made a big deal out of hiring some Triple A voice talent and I can’t help but feel that’s misplaced. Neither Hale or Meer speak enough. When you come across a neat environment you find yourself longing for them to comment on it, but all you’ll get is, a murmur or pant. I don’t object to empty worlds only populated by the player but it just doesn’t make your survival meaningful. After all what’s the reason it trying to survive if it isn’t for other people you know and love. It just ends up feeling a bit vacuous and I can’t help but pine for other human beings. If that sense of isolation is what The Long Dark is trying to achieve then it succeeded. Yet I can’t help but think that it’s been done better. Bastion was a weird little game that felt pretty isolationist, but what prevented it from being vacuous was the narrator, who could arguably be considered as the main character. He talked, he reacted and it was a great sense of investment. I find myself wanting to see that In The Long Dark, it sure as hell could use it.

Maybe these things will be fixed, maybe they won’t. I don’t know, all  I do know is that what The Long Dark is going to be and isn’t going to be is not relevant to me. What it was and how I experienced, That’s what I’ll take away from this.

-PB