Friday, February 19, 2010

Weird Science

Making music in this brave new world of internet distribution is a bit of a crapshoot. Sometimes the ease of the digital download allows one to create a rabid enough fanbase to sustain continued artistic endeavors (a la Jonathan Coulton), and sometimes it easily enables the more adventurous of the major labels to pick up on a particular act's unique slant and undeniable potential (as in the case of I Fight Dragons).

While there's no surefire key to success, a good method for artists looking to cultivate a strong relationship with potential fans is what I like to call the here's-some-free-shit approach.

Allow me to explain: an artist makes new, quality content available for free from his site, and encourages listeners to root around in his catalog. Only then, after these casual observers have become full-fledged fans content in the knowledge that the artist truly has a product of interest, does our hero offer for-pay material.

Recently, John Anealio, one of my favorite purveyors of geeky guitar rock, has taken the plunge into phase 2 of this model. His venture into the world of the full album release is dubbed Sci Fi Songs after the music blog at which John does the bulk of his nerdy songwriting.

The album collects 11 of John's most popular and most polished tracks into one shiny, affordable package. Moreover, it does so in such a way as to highlight Anealio's folksy, rootsy style while summarily affording a satisfying arc relating a series of fairly disparate works.

The disc opens with "The Return of Titus Quinn," a brief alternate-tuned acoustic instrumental that centers on the protagonist from Kay Kenyon's Bright of the Sky. As this represents John's first serious attempt at the solo acoustic instrumental, it's an excellent jumping-off point and a charmingly atmospheric track to boot.

From there he gets all poppy and waxes poetic about the trials of robot hunter Rick Deckard in the Philip K. Dick inspired, "Rachel Rosen," easily my favorite tune from the collection, before kicking the vocal harmonies up another notch with "Leodora," based on Frost's Shadowbridge.

He briefly loses me with the ever-popular "Cylon #6," which, while both centered on the crown jewel of current sci-fi nerd series and possessing a fantastic rhythmic movement, puts me off a bit with some awkward wording. Still, it's a fine lead-in to the undeniable "Summer Glau," a filk track conceived by SF Signal's John DeNardo, but skillfully retooled with an original melody by Anealio himself.

John marks the half-way point with the Anne Rice-inspired "Angels & Vampires," a joint that showcases his smooth vocals on an unforgettable chorus. Thereafter he smooths things out with the masterful musical storytelling of "Lonesome October Night" – based on Roger Zelazny's satirical swansong A Night in the Lonesome October – which is another undeniable high point.

"Sarene," alternately, is a rocked-up love song from the mind of Brandon Sanderson, and plays nicely against the somber "Merithyn's Promise," another solo acoustic track based on Requiem for the Sun. From there he changes gears again with the autobiographical (and totally relatable) "The Millennium Falcon for Christmas," as the lead-up to his closer "Grasping for the Wind," a veritable love letter to the blog of the same name and all the other sites that make the online speculative fiction scene such a strong and vibrant community.

With the obvious exception of the odd rushed syllable, there's really nothing to not to love about Sc Fi Songs (even for my particular ass). I mean, sure, I would've love to have heard some of John's heavily electronic work included or possibly a remix of one of his more popular songs, but, by and large, it’s a well-hewn collection of geek folk favorites.

It's available from CD Baby for a mere 10 bones – 8 if your just looking for a digital version – and I'd say it would go a long way in adding some additional variety to your nerdy music collection. In fact, I dig the album so much that I'm gonna give a copy away to one lucky reader!

Just head over to John's blog or the CD Baby album page and do a little digging. Then come back here and post a comment naming your favorite John Anealio original, cover or fan remix. I'll pull a winner at random next week and send him/her a shiny new copy of the disc… and maybe some Hipster, please! goodies to boot!

So go give Anealio's stuff a listen. It will surely soothe your sci-fi soul.

"I book a hotel room, I hope she gets here soon/ I've got three androids to retire."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Nerd Love

Here at Hipster, please! I like to pause on occasion to recognize what I like to think of as "excellence in nerdery." It's a ritual I often tend to overlook, but, thankfully, today I find myself wholly unable to resist the call to arms.

Justin was one of many new friends I made at Nerdapalooza '08 – he also holds the hotly contested record for possessing the least attractive picture of yours truly, but that's neither here nor there – and he recently shared with me his own triumphant tale of matrimonial bliss.

Justin and his new bride Exxa tied the knot earlier this month, and my boy managed to insert some nerdy swagger into the proceedings. Not only did he sport purple Chucks with his tuxedo and spring for a custom-sculpted cake topper (procured, of course, via eBay), but he rocked a boutonnière made from a re-purposed ASUS GeForce Ti 4400 video card!

Also, the happy couple's last dance was to "With You"
by Chicago chip-rocker I Fight Dragons. Impressive, no?

I mean, it's easy to be a dork in your everyday, when you're in your cube or leveling up in W.O.W., but keeping shit nerdy on your wedding day requires a special kind of dedication. And deserves a special kind of commendation.

So please join me in wishing Justin and Exxa the heartiest of congratulations, and saluting their continued commitment to nerd life and nerd love.