This is my first Media Round-up. Since I will be reading, watching, playing, and listening to a lot of media during my medical leave, I wanted to spend some time writing about all of it. I often find reviews to be challenging to write, particularly music reviews (finding a vocabulary to express how you feel about music is very difficult), so I thought that this would be a good exercise for me. I may change the format of these posts in the future, but for now I’m going for one post like this per week.
TV on the Radio – Seeds
I’ve been a TV on the Radio fan since 2006, when a blogger I followed at the time included Return to Cookie Mountain in his list of top albums for that year. I checked it out and fell in love. 2008’s Dear Science continues to be one of my favourite albums of all time and I think that Nine Types of Light has some some sublimely beautiful moments that surpass any of the band’s other albums. Unfortunately, I don’t think that Seeds quite measures up to their previous efforts. When it was first released in 2014, I was overwhelmed with gratitude that the band had decided to put out a new album at all, given the death of Gerard Smith (bass, keyboards). At the time, however, I wasn’t that interested in listening to any challenging new music and set it aside until I was ready to give it the attention it deserved.
While I enjoyed Seeds, I wouldn’t say that it was worth a three and a half year wait. The pacing of most TV on the Radio albums is always mixed, but Dear Science and Nine Types of Light felt like they had strong unifying themes (art funk and art funk slow jams respectively). Seeds, however, jumps around a little too much for my taste. The tracks feel more like a group of random songs than they do like a cohesive artistic statement — an aspect of the band’s work that I have always admired. I would recommend Seeds to die-hard fans, but I would never suggest it for anyone that had never tried listening to TV on the Radio previously. Return to Cookie Mountain, Dear Science, and Nine Types of Light are three of my favourite albums of all time and I would recommend them to just about anyone. They’re not always easy to listen to and can be a bit challenging, but they’re worth it. Lyrical quality above and beyond any other bands actively producing music right now.
Key tracks: “Quartz“, “Careful You“, “Love Strained“, “Right Now”
You Must Build a Boat
When it was released n 2015, You Must Build a Boat made a lot of Game of the Year lists. I took note of it because I’m a sucker for match three games with RPG mechanics (I spent at least 100 hours playing the original Puzzle Quest when it was first released on Xbox 360). You Must Build a Boat (or YMBAB) is an interesting combination of different gameplay genres, combining elements of match three, runners, rogue-likes and RPGs into an addictive package. The aim of YMBAB is to increase the size of your boat by recruiting new crew members and monsters to accompany you on your journey. The player accomplishes this by running through dungeons and defeating enemies in battle by successfully completing match three puzzle mechanics. Along the way there are chests to open and traps that can freeze you and end your run. Each run, at least for me, is very short and, fortunately, you get to keep any rewards earned when you fail.
I find YMBAB to be a significant challenge. The match three mechanics are a little different than the Bejeweled standard of swapping adjacent tiles. Puzzle and Dragons taught me that I am terrible at match three mechanics that deviate from the format I’m used to and the same applies to YMBAB. While this can make the game a little frustrating for me, the knowledge that I am slowly working toward upgrades that will make the runs a little easier lessens that frustration quite a bit. The game’s music is also great and makes multiple runs a little less frustrating, but there could be a lot more variety — as far as I know there is only one piece of music in the whole game. If you like the track, you should be pretty happy, but if you’re not a fan, this could get a little annoying.
All in all, I would definitely recommend YMBAB to anyone who enjoys a good puzzle game. I haven’t tried the mobile version, but the PC version is great for playing in short bursts when you need a break from something or you’re in-between things. For me, however, I definitely prefer more traditional match three puzzlers like Puzzle Quest.
Maria Semple – Where’d you go, Bernadette?
This year I will be participating in an online book club run by some users of ONTD (Oh No They Didn’t), a long-running celebrity gossip community on Livejournal. Each month has a theme and participants can choose any book that fits and discuss their choices on ONTD or the community that they have created on Goodreads. The theme for January is any book that will be adapted into a movie or TV series in 2018.
I chose Where’d you go, Bernadette because Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise, Waking Life) is directing the film adaptation. Since he has yet to make a film that I don’t like, I felt that this book would be a good choice for me. I am now very curious about how the film will turn out because while I did enjoy the book and found it to be funny and well-written, I also felt that it was a bit vapid, which is something that you can’t say about any of Richard Linklater’s films.
Where’d you go, Bernadette is a story about the disappearance of Bernadette Fox, a wealthy architect turned housewife whose husband works for Microsoft. The manner in which the story is presented is very interesting. Most of the story is told chronologically in documents, such as emails, letters, faxes, articles, and reports. Some gaps are filled by Bernadette’s daughter, Bee, in first person perspective. As an archivist, I heartily enjoyed this format and felt like Semple did a great job of presenting the voices of different characters.
Many of the book’s characters, unfortunately, are impossibly unrealistic. Bee is probably the easiest to relate to and I can sympathize a bit with her being a normal-sized personality (while super charming and smart) growing up with parents that are a little off kilter. The other characters, however, are difficult to relate to. The examination of Bernadette’s mental illness and depression is interesting, but it’s difficult to empathize with her, because there are no real consequences to any of her issues or actions. This book isn’t intended to make any grand political statements, but I am at a point in my life where I don’t have much interest in the fluffy plights of super glamorous people with loads of money and their problems that they could easily pay money to work through.
My Media Round-ups will be posted every Sunday! Please look forward to them!