Sonic Soup: Lupe Fiasco: Pharaoh Height 2/30

I’m coming back from a week long conference in Boston to some new music from the cerebral assassin of Hip-Hop himself, Lupe Fiasco and his surprise EP “Pharaoh Height 2/30” a follow up to the “Fahrenheit 1/15” mixtape.

Lupe_Fiasco_Pharaoh_Height-back

Even the track listing is all so tragically Lupe lol

Like all of Lupe’s music its going to take longer to digest than a Five Guys double bacon burger, but at least the guy chose some nice beats to spit over. “Kings” sees the Chicago MC spit over a re-mixed version of The Weeknd’s “King of the Fall”.

It sounds cool so far but ya’ll should check it out too!

A Brief OST Interlude: Video Game Soundtracks That Live In My HEART!

Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I love all forms of music. I love gaming just as much. The intersection of these two (outside of the gaming community) is often a over-looked facet of what makes certain games great. Some series like Mario, Street Fighter and Sonic have music that have transcended gamer culture (i.e. “Guile’s Theme Goes With Everything”) so I wanted to post about some really great music from some unlikely sources. Also, games like NBA2k, the Tony Hawk series etc, won’t be included in this list as they use licensed music and not original compositions. So with out further ado here are five of my favorite OSTs (original soundtracks).

“Honorable Mentions”

Fighter’s Megamix

Sega Saturn will forever be known as one of the biggest failure’s in game history. But this Virtua Fighter/Fighting Vipers Mashup had one of the funkiest sound tracks around.

Bomberman HERO

A N64 platformer, Bomberman HERO was a good foray into 3D for the series. And its drum & bass/dance inspired music was one of the best parts of it.

Chrono Trigger

A game drawn by the man who made Dragon Ball Z, developed by the people who made Final Fantasy. It was a formula that couldn’t lose…and it didn’t. A staple in many top 10 lists for music, Chrono Trigger had an OST so good it remains one of the most sampled in hip-hop and re-arranged by composers. A classic.

Final Fantasy VI, VII, VIII, and XI

Partially not included because I feel people would EXPECT me to include them, and also I feel like VI’s ost didn’t age well. I got sick of VII’s really quickly. VIII like the game itself is tragically underrated but sometimes sounds TOO game-y and XI isn’t there simply because I didn’t like it all that much.

(too many examples, I don’t feel like it lol)

The MAIN EVENT MONSTER JAMS

5. Skyrim, 2011 (PS3/360)

The absolute KING of the the ambient OST game. Skyrim was already one of the biggest, most technically amazing games of its time and on top of that composer, Jeremy Soule, created a soundtrack that is a companion to the diverse locales of the game while not being in the forefront at all. Tracks like “Secunda” which, plays at night in the game, gives the ambiance of careful exploration and curiosity.

“The Streets Of Whiterun” is a great example of Soule’s ability to connect the player with a location. This track, a somber yet hopeful paring to the city Whiterun in the game. It evokes the image of a town battered down by dragon attacks and yet resolute in their resistance. Its powerful and very moving.

4. Final Fantasy XII, 2006 (PS2)

Of all the Final Fantasies that could have gone right here WHY did I pick this one? Why did I go with composer Hitoshi Sakimoto and his game and not the legendary Nobuo Uematsu? Because this OST is plagued by being attached to one of the more forgotten games in the series, but boy does it have some gems.

“Secret Practice” has a John Williams type playfulness,and like many other tracks (like “The Skycity of Bhujerba” and “The Salikawood”) sounds strangely un-game like. For as iconic as Uematsu’s compositions became in later years they always sounded like they belonged in a game, or were made for a game. I loved Sakimoto’s work here because each track feels like he was staring at the concept art while composing each track. I once had a assignment in a college Poli Sci course where we had to create our own nation, flag and constitution and all. The theme of XII’s Arcadian Empire was the national anthem of my nation.

(skip to:44 seconds for maximum imperial)

3. Kirby Super Star, 1996 (SNES)

A game that literally ALWAYS puts me in a good mood is Kirby Super Star on the SNES. More like a compilation of Kirby game ideas, KSS is a true and blue platformer that was one of the best games of the 90’s (even if it was a little easy). Its OST was playful and yet when it needed to had some semi-serious tones. However, what made it so good was its ability to pace the player. In modes where the play was frantic and you were under time or story constraints the game’s music reflected that. Lead Composer Jun Ishikawa created tracks like “Halberd – Nightmare Warship” which made you move like heck to finish the stage.

But could then gives “Flying Through Outer Space”  which sounds perfectly matches the slow creep of flying through space while trying to stop a fight between the sun and moon.

The lighthearted themes of Kirby games (well besides stories involving Meta Knight) are often matched with equally light and bouncy music but Super Stars more electronic/orchestral ideas lead to this being one of my fav OSTs.

2. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn , 2013 (PS3/PS4/PC)

(videos may contain spoilers)

I tried SO hard not to put another Final Fantasy game here. REALLY HARD. But its been a LONG time since I have come across a game in which its OST is literally PERFECT for its gameplay. As an MMORPG, by virtue, it should have loads of music and it does. However, each theme so masterfully matches its area that it supersedes just about any game i have played in years. The day theme of Limsa Lominsa (“I Am The Sea”), a city-state ruled by pirates and privateers, isn’t scored with hokey “yo-ho bottle of rum” music. Its given a grand, rolling theme that reminds you of the sea and is closer to “Pirates of the Caribbean” than say “Hook”.

One of the coolest parts about FFXIV is that composer Masayoshi Soken gave many of the games larger battles dynamic music. Meaning when the fight changed phases, or you went from fighting to resting the music would change on the fly and not just pop into another track entire. The entire songs ran concurrent, so when the rest track ended and the battle track began it wasn’t restarting the song…it would pick up on beat. It also has a buttload of influences from chamber music, to metal, to even bossa nova. “Shiva’s Theme” is an example of dynamic music that has more than one influence but still fits the one enemy/fight it is scored for…its brilliant.

The epic switch around 3:19. Whew.

Soken total kills when it comes to thematic tracks too. In a battle with a dragon that’s as old as the games world itself the them is somber, slow and reflective.

I could put another 20 tracks from this game and the expansion “Heavensward” on this list but i’ll spare you for now drink these in.

1. Streets of Rage 2, 1992 (Sega Genesis)

Being from Detroit house music and 90’s dance is in my blood, my DNA. Growing up here the latest local house jams were played right along with rap and jazz consistently. With that said Yuzo Koshiro’s flat out masterpiece the Streets of Rage 2 ost is my hands down favorite ost of all time. Depending on where you are there are tracks here that you could play at a club or electronic festival and get the same reaction that you would from traditional electronic music. As he told Red Bull House of Music in their special on game music, Koshiro basically would go to the club, go nuts then go to the office and lay down tracks. Perfectly evidenced by “Go Straight” the first level theme.

“Dreamer”, another favorite, is a song I literally rotate in my normal techno/dance playlist. The most “video game” sounding track on the ost is still great.

Even the crazier stuff later in the game shows clear European techno and house themes. Or even the level three theme Listen to “Alien Power” and become German…become Technoviking.

Ultra Review: Thundercat – The Beyond / Where The Giants Roam

With the summer in full swing again, I have been hoarding new albums in search for a summer time slapper that would quench my audio thirst. However, the EP I can’t seem to put down right now comes from bassist Thundercat and his very funkdefied The Beyond / Where The Giants Roam.  

Clocking in an under fifteen minutes, The Beyond seems tailor-made for today’s ADHD addled minds but instead it takes every last second of the album to blend in to what could be really one huge experience. It’s like the fun you have at the start of a road trip, it feels like it takes forever to get to your destination but its the same amount of time as the return. Its sense of time is distorted in how long it FEELS. And that’s actually really cool.

The Beyond begins with ethereal vocals on “Hard Times” very melodic and haunting. It seamlessly blends into “Song for the Dead” so much so that I thought it was the same track. “Song for the Dead” maintains the otherworldly tones of its predecessor but adds in the masterful bass licks of Thundercat in an camouflaged way. If no one told you he was a bassist you wouldn’t know, not from this project. BUT when you do know, it makes the arrangement choices make that much more sense.

“Them Changes” brings his bass work to the forefront, cascading the wet and full bass sounds over the track making the lyrics/vocals the instrument it sounds so damn funky and so good. It’s easy to see how Erykah Badu tapped him to play bass for her years ago. Thundercat’s lyrics about a break up are straight-forward, but not only match the masterful instrumentation but are layered in a very ariy way that makes the song that much better…and you just really can’t lose with an Isley Brothers drum loop.

“Lone Wolf And Cub” is a near six minute opus that is perfect for dusk time adventures through the forest. The longest song on the project, “Cub”‘s entire second half is a cadre of bass riffs from Thundercat and a keyboard cameo from jazz legend Herbie Hancock. It’s hauntingly relaxed but still has enough energy to keep you engaged in the music. The titular track closes the album wistfully and before you know it repeat has taken hold and you’ve played the entire project over again four times.

The Beyond/Where The Giants Roam one of my fav quick listens of the summer. Check out “Them Changes” here!

The Wicked + The Divine: My Current Comic Obsession.

Sorry its been so long since my last post. I took over a summer camp as well as my usual duties at work. SO FREAKING BUSY!

But for now I want to share with you all my current obsession which is the comic series The Wicked + The Divine. Written by Kieron Gillen and illustrated by Jamie McKelvie.

Now, I grew up on Marvel out and out. My pops was a collector until around his 30’s. So he was extra supportive of me reading them. However, I couldn’t keep up with so many series and by the time I could buy my own when the comics stores around Detroit started closing up. But in my adult years I started picking some back up. And on a whim I bought the volume one of this series, and boy was that a good decision.

WicDiv, as its called by the fandom, is a examination of our consumption of pop culture and pop icons. If you think that sounds REALLY lofty for a new series, it is. But the execution is so fresh and the writing so crisp that you forget just how smart the comic is. I’m also a huge fan of the illustrations. McKelvie really makes his colors pop and when it gets action packed he keeps his pages very clean almost like the anti-Todd McFarlane.

Over-reactor in Chief, Baal

Over-reactor in Chief, Baal

The world of WicDiv is virtually the same as ours outside of the fact that “Gods” called the Pantheon grace the earth every 90 years and inspire the world. Through the bodies of teenagers they come and use otherworldly powers to not only captivate the minds of the youth but also provide the world with inspiration. Should they not appear the Earth would be devoid of ALL creativity for the duration of their absence. The caveat is that they will die (violently) within two years, some sooner than others. Meaning, some of the Pantheon will not live to see eighteen and for some as young as fourteen. Highlighting the fleeting nature for how we revere our pop stars from paragons to one hit wonders. There are conventions, round tables, news casts and in-universe jokes all about the Pantheon. People read about them, tweet about them, even people who are related to them or sleep with them become famous (just like real life).

The Pantheon themselves share names and attributes with deities of various religions. Baal from Zoroastrianism, Lucifer from Christianity, and The Morrigan from various Celtic beliefs are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Pantheon. What’s really awesome is they also share traits with current and past pop icons. Innana takes queues from Prince, Sakmeht from Rihanna, Lucifer from David Bowie. Its subtle but still highlights the bombastic nature of pop iconography.

Kanye and Baal

Kanye and Baal

Bowie and Luci (Lucifer)

Bowie and Luci (Lucifer)

Our journey through all this is a bi-racial girl from England, which highlights one of the strongest points of WicDiv which is the diversity of its main cast. The Pantheon are multi-cultural and half of them are women. Most of the protagonists slide along the Kinsey Scale with impunity. Characters quip about race and sexuality in a very real and honest way (like people’s disdain for god Woden’s fetish for tall, thin, Asian women). It’s not a topic of the series, its an attribute of the people in it, making the characters seem more real and really quite funny. It also makes it really refreshing to read in today’s comics, a climate where many LGBT characters were just rewritten for what seems like the diversity quota, or to give some one a love interest that shocks the reader. In WicDiv, race and sexual orientation are just as ancillary as comic book relationships. Lucifer, in particular, has some great exchanges with basically everyone on this topic.

Laura, Pantheon superfan, and our eyes into the WicDiv world.

Laura, Pantheon superfan, and our eyes into the WicDiv world.

If you are interested in a really deep read with some fire visuals I recommend it. I can’t wait until the next volume. The Wicked + The Divine Vol 1 and 2 are both out now, with the monthlies still coming out. Check it out.

Game Of Thrones S5E9: The Point OF No Return (ANOTHER Late Pass)

I came down with some flu-like symptoms the other day so getting the post out was IMPOSIBRU! But here is the late pass.

In the Dornish Hagia Sophia…

Doran and Trystane Martell invite the Kingslayer Jaime Lannister to a wine party and let him know that the whole attempted kidnapping thing is water under bridge. Princess Myrcella, Jaime’s’ niece-daughter, still having thot feelings for the young prince Trystane which is making Jaime’s plan to get her back to King’s Landing that much harder. Jaime eventually negotiates the return of Myrcella and the release of Bronn, but has to deal with Trystane sitting on the small council in the capital.

How Ellaria felt about that "fight scene" with the Sand Snakes.

How Ellaria felt about that “fight scene” with the Sand Snakes.

The Sand Snakes are also released under the condition that Ellaria pledge her undying loyalty to Doran, much to the dismay of the young Snakes. Ellaria tearfully accepts but later on apologizes to Jaime for wanting to harm Myrcella. I don’t buy it, and neither should you.

In a Town Where A Girl Doesn’t Follow Directions…

Arya, still flipping Oysters at the docks, sees the Kingsguard Meryn Trant and Master of Coin, Mace Tyrell arrive at Braavos. She follows the party through the streets until Trant and his homies end up at the hot brothel spot somewhere deep on the east side. Inside the flophouse, we discover that Trant wants young girls…REALLY young girls. Making me want Arya to kill him even more. She gains more intel and is eventually kicked out. She returns to Jaqen at the House of Black and White but lies about the encounter. Arya is going to have her revenge and she’s going to have some new skills to get it with.

In the winter El Nino…

Jon The Snowlord returns to the Wall with his massive posse of wildlings, and after a slight stand-off with Allister Thorne, gets them safe passage. As the cadre of free folk and giants file through Castle Black, Sam tells Jon that he should be proud that he saved so many. But the rest of the watch seems to be quite perturbed that the wildlings are being treated with amnesty. Looks like the closet haters are coming out at the Wall.

lpZhQDw

“Dude, open the friggin gate I’m so cold.”

Stannis’ camp near Winterfell is assaulted by Ramsay and his men. Instead of trying to take out numbers, they burn all their food, horses and siege weapons. With his ability to attack totally incapacitated, Stannis sends his Hand, Davos back to Castle Black to demand men. Davos, a realist who has always been Stannis’ voice of reason, initially protests and requests that he takes Princess Shireen and Queen Selyse with him. Stannis denies him and sends Davos on his way. Eventually we see why Stannis wanted to keep Shireen her there. After she desperately asks her father what she can do to help his cause he hugs her and asks for forgiveness. Minutes later, Shireen is taken to a pole tied down and burned alive, serving as the King’s blood sacrifice that Melisandre was taking about some episodes back. Stannis is now at the point of no return, but get NO love from me either. Any man who would sacrifice a little girl let alone his own daughter isn’t someone who needs to sit on ANY throne.

Yup, never saying a good thing about Stannis ever again.

Yup, never saying a good thing about Stannis ever again.

At Cowboy Stadium...

The Fighting Pits of Mereen are now open. To commemorate the event, Hizdar and Dany hold a huge Mayweather fight party. With ringside seats, Dany, Hizdar Danger Mouse, Knock-off Daario, Tyrion and my baby Missandei all take in the gruesome combat below. Some of the best verbal exchanges of the episode occurs over the sound of steel against steel. Daario waxes poetic about his time in the pits all while getting the “do me” eyes from Dany. Much to all of their surprise though, Jorah is a fighter in the next battle royale. He ends up slaying two men and winning his match.

"We were to understand there'd be pie and punch".

“We were to understand there’d be pie and punch”.

At that moment the Sons of the Harpy spring their trap, killing thousands within the arena, including Hizdar Lionel Richie. Jorah, Tryion, and Daario proceed to go ham on some of the harpies while trying to protect Dany and escape the pits. They are soon surrounded and just when the going gets rough Drogon-in-the-cut-thats-a-scary-sight comes through in the clutch and tears apart some of the attackers. After using Flamethrower a few times Drogon begins to take some spears to the back.

"I'm OUT HERE, I'm OUT HERE, I'm OUT HERE, I'm OUT HERE".

“I’m OUT HERE, I’m OUT HERE, I’m OUT HERE, I’m OUT HERE”.

Dany yanks on out and hops on Drogon’s back and becomes the protagonist of GoT: How to Train Your Dragon. Leaving behind her super friends.

"A WHOLE NEW WOOOOOOOOOOOORRRRRRRRRLD!"

“A WHOLE NEW WOOOOOOOOOOOORRRRRRRRRLD!”