Sunday, November 10, 2013


A few months ago I posted about how a big chunk of the emotional experiences in my life come from art.  I've been collecting some of the melodies that I feel have had extraordinary emotional impact in my life, and I thought that I'd share them.  All of these are pieces that I think are really moving completely removed from their context (such as a movie or TV show or a life event), though most of them also have special significance to me personally.

I think it would actually be really fascinating to play these songs for people for the first time, completely out of context, and then find out what they felt, or what they think must have happened in the movie or show or game that the piece was from.  (If you do this yourself, please let me know!)

Storming New Caprica by Bear McCreary from season 3 of Battlestar Galactica is probably the quintessential track for this list.  Percussion has this primal effect on people, and Bear knows percussion.  (I'm sure dozens of people have done psychological studies on why that is, and why drums were always used in war.)  The track starts out by building tension with just drums and eerie haunting sounds, and then by a little after the two-minute mark it explodes into an amazing thrill ride that literally makes my hair stand on end when I hear it.  In the show, this was from the beginning of season 3, during the suicide mission. Bagpipes in the BSG soundtrack seem to signal desperation and sacrifice, so it's only natural that they're one of the highlights of this.

Atlantic by Keane is a lonely, sad, honest song and it may be my all-time favorite.  There's so much longing in his voice.

Goodbye by Apparat is the track that is played near the end of the episode "Face Off" from the end of season 4 of Breaking Bad (as an instrumental).  In addition to being haunting and creepy and generally incredible, in the show it's paired with a series of scenes that are written and filmed incredibly well.

Leaving Earth by Clint Mansell is the music you hear at the end of the Mass Effect 3 tutorial as people are boarding evacuation ships.  It's just... so sad.  It's melancholy with just a little bit of terror and tension.

The Riders of Rohan by Howard Shore from The Two Towers is basically perfect film music, and there's a reason that many of the comments on YouTube all point to the part around 2:53.  The Lord of the Rings movies have some of the finest scores I've ever heard.

Time by Hans Zimmer from Inception is the music that the movie closes with.  It's pretty simple by Hans Zimmer standards, but it has a great build to it, and it's excellent epilogue music.

The Armageddon's Blade theme by Paul Romero is one of my favorite melodies (specifically, the ending), and the game it came from is one of my favorites, but I completely missed this track until later.  It's just played at the menu for one of the campaigns in the game, and you'd completely miss it if you weren't looking for it.  If I were a superhero I would definitely choose this tune as my theme music.

I first heard Club Foot by Kasabian as a part of Alan Wake's American Nightmare, and it plays there as sort of a reward for doing something awesome.  (It's actually vaguely related to the story, but really any awesome-sounding song would have fit.)

1, 2, 3, 4 by the Plain White T's probably fits here the least, as it's a track with mostly just personal significance.  It's the track that my ex used to associate with me, so I began to associate it with him.  It's a nice song; I just don't know if it's as moving as the rest.

Evacuee by Enya is a very lonely song.  She wrote it when her mother died.  My mom made us promise long ago that her funeral had to be happy like a New Orleans party funeral, though, so this song definitely wouldn't work for her.

Set the Fire to the Third Bar by Snow Patrol is a strange duet with Martha Wainwright.  It's the only song on this list that I can sing along to.

Torture by Les Friction is a really powerful and beautiful song that I guess one could classify as a power ballad.  I feel confused and sad and angry like I've lost someone when I listen to this song.

Finally, Tristram by Matt Uelmen is the track that people associate with the Diablo series of games, and it's gorgeous and unsettling and instantly memorable.  I think it's responsible for a lot of the nostalgia of those games; when people think Diablo, they immediately think of that theme, and it's no mistake that when Diablo III was announced, they did so with a few notes from a guitar.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

As if my whole family died in a house fire and it was my fault

I've been thinking lately that perhaps a big part of my shyness is just a case of my general fear of failure.  Certainly I have an aversion to doing things where I feel that I may fail, and sure that's absolutely common, but I imagine I may be worse than the average in this regard.  (Maybe I'm used to being good at certain things, and I like the way it feels to succeed at those things and just subconsciously focus on doing only those things to maximize that nice feeling.)

I worked as a cashier at a grocery store for a year, and at Burger King for a year, and I never had any trouble interacting with people there.  In fact, I was downright social in those jobs.  For a long time I've wondered why that was, and my best explanation was that I was in the position of power in those interactions.  Sure, you don't generally think of cashiers as powerful, but I'm the person taking the customers' money and letting them leave.  In a very tiny way I controlled their destiny, and they came to me without me having to do anything.

But also in those cases, there was no potential for failure.  Anyone even slightly competent can check out peoples' groceries or press someone's Whopper order into a register.  Like any smart person, I was good at those jobs.

When meeting someone new for some kind of social reason, such as at a party or to ask them out on a date, however, there's a definite chance for failure.  There are all sorts of reasons why a person might not be interested in you.  The consequence of that failure is embarrassment.

I have a tendency to overestimate potential negative consequences.  I don't have a fear of heights in quite the traditional sense, but I absolutely overestimate danger.  I have no problems with glass floors, but I can't get near a ledge if there isn't a very sturdy-looking barrier.  And I can get really uncomfortable around knives or equipment, even if I'm using those things correctly.  My nature is to play things extremely conservatively, avoid all risk and uncertainty, and make sure that everything in my life goes according to plan.

So when I'm interacting with new people, I think that a lot of my shyness comes from that exaggeration.  I delude myself into thinking that if I fail at talking to someone, the results will be emotionally catastrophic as if my whole family died in a house fire and it was my fault.  Realistically, I do embarrassing random crap all the time, and that doesn't get to me, but the thought of walking up to someone that I like, smiling, and saying that I love their watch absolutely paralyzes me in terror.  Maybe the key for me to get better is to first stop and assess that (lack of) risk logically and objectively—thinking about it just for a couple seconds should be plenty to remind me that I have nothing to lose.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

50% of the time it works every time

Hey sexy, you're so hot that you're hard-boiling my eggs.
You're welcome for yet another top-quality pickup line.  This one's extra great because it's completely gender-neutral.

Monday, November 4, 2013


The short version:
Ari Pulkkinen—Trine: 3/10
Francisco Cerda—Jamestown: 2/10
Tomas Dvorak—Machinarium: 4/10
Matt Uelmen—Torchlight: 4/10
Mosh—Mosh: 4/10
Betty Who—The Movement: 4/10
Bastille—Bad Blood: 7/10
Empire of the Sun—Walking on a Dream: 6/10
Empire of the Sun—Ice on the Dune: 7/10
Silvia Torres—Silvia Torres: 3/10
KT Tunstall—Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon: 4/10
Marina and the Diamonds—The Family Jewels: 8/10
Natalia Kills—Trouble: 7/10
Janelle Monáe—The Electric Lady: 6/10
The Naked and Famous—In Rolling Waves: 7/10
Andrew Belle—Black Bear: 8/10
Morcheeba—Head Up High: 7/10

I made my way through a few indie game soundtracks: Trine, Jamestown, Machinarium, and Torchlight.  None of them are really must-listen.  Machinarium has several interesting sounds, but it's a bit light.  The best track amongst them is the Town theme from Torchlight, which will be instantly recognizable to Diablo II fans.  I also picked up a couple free albums from Mosh and Betty Who.  The Mosh album has a great but repetitive track McQueen, and the best thing on the Betty Who album is probably You're in Love.

I picked up Bad Blood by Bastille as an import, though it looks like it's since been released in the US.  Their track Pompeii is pretty popular, and one of the better rock songs I've heard in a while.  Things We Lost in the Fire and Icarus are similar, and they're the other two best songs on the album.  Overall, it's a rather good set of songs, but there are too many reused sounds and melodies.  These Streets, for example, sounds an awful lot like a lighter version of Pompeii to me.

Empire of the Sun's two albums Walking on a Dream and Ice on the Dune are both weird, trippy dance pop, produced by two dudes in wizard costumes.  I use the word "pop" to help you identify the style of music, but the majority of these songs would definitely never appear on the radio or become popular.  Most of the vocals are terribly bizarre, and obnoxious at times.  That said, from their first album, We Are the People, Country, and Swordfish Hotkiss Night are all great.  From their second album, DNA is one of the best songs I've heard in months, Concert Pitch is excellent too, and Awakening is definitely channeling Daft Punk.  I'd give them a recommendation if "weird, trippy dance pop" sounds like fun to you.

I've been waiting to pick up Silvia Torres's self-titled album for many years.  The opening track Take Saravá is wonderful, but most of the album is completely uninteresting.  The only other song I like is Pomba Cor de Cal.  It's worth picking up Take Saravá as a single if you like it, but pass on the rest.

KT Tunstall's latest album Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon is a lot lighter and folk-ier than I was expecting.  It's basically two half-albums, and neither one is really my thing.  That said, the second opening track Crescent Moon is really beautiful, and Invisible Empire and Feel It All are pretty decent.  I'm hesitant to recommend the album, but if you like "light and pretty" then you may like it.

Marina and the Diamonds's The Family Jewels was a welcome surprise.  I guess it's adult contemporary; it reminds me of Lily Allen more than anything.  There are quite a few catchy tracks worth listening: Shampain, Are You Satisfied?, and Numb; and those should give you a pretty good impression of what the rest is like.  This is probably the best overall album in the batch.

Natalia Kills's second album Trouble is I suppose the same genre as Marina and the Diamonds, but with a lot darker and grittier sound.  I love the variety in the album; I never really knew what to expect.  I recommend Problem, Devils Don't Fly, and Controversy (freaky seizure video).

Janelle Monáe is always bizarre and The Electric Lady is no exception.  A lot of the album's songs feel to me like they'd be a lot better with just a little more, and are saved mostly by the fact that Janelle has an amazing voice.  (I had the same problem with her previous albums so I should just expect it by now.)  The stand-out is Primetime featuring Miguel, which is just about the sexiest thing I have ever heard, and the video fits it gloriously.  Q.U.E.E.N. featuring Erykah Badu is probably my second-favorite.  And the title track featuring Solange is good too.

The second album from The Naked and Famous, In Rolling Waves, is much lighter than their previous album, and I definitely don't like it as much.  But, there are still some beautiful tracks on it.  The Mess and We Are Leaving are gorgeous, but you can't exactly rock out to them (well, maybe at the end).  The lead single Hearts like Ours is my third-favorite, and a bit more uptempo than the rest.  Overall it's still good, but if you liked their first album it's not a guarantee that you'll like this one.

Black Bear by Andrew Belle was another surprise.  I don't even remember how I stumbled across the album (possibly by mistyping Andrew Bayer), but it's an interesting album of vaguely hipstery alternative music.  The album opens with its best two tracks, Dark Matter and PiecesSanta Fe is my third favorite, with a weird funky bassline that I didn't expect on this CD.  Check it out.

Finally, Morcheeba has another new album oh-so-cleverly titled Head Up High.  There are some great songs on it, but quite a bit of it is mediocre, and doesn't hold a candle to some of their earlier work.  My favorite is To Be featuring Rizzle Kicks, followed by Call it Love, and Face of Danger featuring Chali 2na of Jurassic 5.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Dubious ranking

If we take the full set of white males alive today and sort them by the times they have loudly sung the lyrics "Don't make me make you fall in love with a nigga like me," I have to imagine that I am pretty near the top.

I read someone's explanation of The Weeknd's lyrics once and it was basically "if any man said the things he does to a woman, they would slap him and call the police, but when he sings them they want to drop their panties."  Were I a girl I think I would just shrug and nod at that.