Friday, December 30, 2011

Year of the Horse

I am a creature of habit. I toss out phrases like "regular feature" and "annual tradition" a lot around here, and that's because these things, in their own weird little way, give me hope. The fact that this blog has been around long enough for me to have go-to pieces reminds me of how fortunate I am to still be able to do this.

I don't write full-time, I haven't yet arrived at that ultimate blessing/curse of doing what I love to do as my for-real employment, but Hipster, please! and, to a greater extent, my work at GeekDad has allowed me to supplement my income by actually doing something I dig. And I have you to thank for that.

'Cause it's what I do. I'm a thanker.

It's also *ahem* tradition that in this year-end wrap-up I thank longtime backers like Jason, Matt and Church (AKA: The Shadow Council), faithful supporters like Larry and Chris and Jarod, and new-found homies like Euge and kHill.

Which I guess I kinda just did.

It's also required that I hem and haw over what were the standout releases of the year, and this time around that's even more problematic than usual. I mean, I reckon I have my top spot reserved for either Kirby Krackle's Super Powered Love or Supercommuter's Products of Science depending on which way the wind blows at any given moment. But with stiff competition from (aforementioned homeboys) Adam WarRock and Mikal kHill, The Bossfights' phenomenal debut full-length, Illbotz hilarious Pudding is Delicious, that brilliant Weird Al tribute album and significant major label showings from old favorites like Anthrax, there really are no losers in this race.

But what I do most in this little year-ender is spotlight one particular geek that set the tone for the previous 12 months. Sometimes I single out a long-established musical innovator. Other times I point toward the future of our tribe. Mostly, though, I cheap out and pick a whole group of people as my "nerd of the year."

Which I'm about to do now.

As nerd culture becomes pop culture, fandom, long our secret, hidden shame, becomes our currency. Whether in a bar or at the supermarket, I'm just as likely to hear cats rattling off baseball stats as passionately discussing Galactica, and that's an interesting paradigm shift. But, lest you fear that this wholesale adoption of nerddom will somehow sour your loser-makes-good victory of brains over bros, let me point out that 2011's most potent, virulent and widely remarked upon flavor of fandom came from a very unlikely source.

Over the past several months, as the brony ranks have continued to swell, I've heard their little enclave often damned and even more so observed with a sort of stunned journalistic silence. But while I can't claim to be one of them – my casual association with the property likely paints me more as at most a "brony sympathizer" – I am here to say that they are no more confounding (or annoying) than any group of motivated Trekkies, Browncoats, Wrock kids, Juggalos or Volunteers fans. They merely represent a new breed of fanboys that are less afraid to let their geek flag fly, even when it does so in the face of the traditional trappings of masculinity.

In a culture where gender roles are so ingrained that we almost refuse to think about them, the idea of men in their 20s and 30s latching onto a "girl's TV show" for no other reason than they recognize its artistic merits gives me renewed hope. Sure, nerd life has long existing in a space that often avoids some common masculine pursuits – sports, to use one stereotypical example – but the idea of men willfully embracing a series aimed at females represents a small but significant shift.

If nerdism stands for anything, it's the dogged refusal to put away childish things. It's a willingness to cling to the joys and wonder of youth even as we feel ourselves getting older. We are eternal adolescents, reminders that one can grow old without ever growing up. This is personally liberating, but the larger specter of gender disparity stills haunts us as a group.

If we are ever to get past not only our own culturally propagated sexism but that of the greater world around us, we must learn to avoid our own long-laid traps. If we're to raise our daughters to understand that chemistry and coding and Call of Duty are as much within their realm as that of their brothers, then we need to set examples. Even minuscule ones. If we're ever to make the words "geek girls" – surely as buzz-worthy a phrase as "steampunk" or "dubstep" was in 2011 – an obsolete relic of our divided past, then we have to change the way we allow our culture to be defined, from within as much as from without.

A violently promiscuous new Catwoman or a line of fem-LEGOs don't represent steps forward for our nerd sisters; they stand out as further examples of our general miscalculation of what the women, young and old, in our midst both desire and deserve. And if a group of a dozen dudes getting together and combing the hair manes of their pony dolls while talking about the symbolic importance of The Wonderbolts can ever so slightly nudge us in the direction of a community that's somehow a little less dependent on bullshit gender identification – many bronies even refuse to differentiate between male and female members, eschewing the designation of "pegasister" altogether – and a bit more welcoming to nerds of all genders, backgrounds or orientations, then I say go the fuck on, bronies.

You go the fuck on.

In 2011 bronies made news and music and memes and, yes, waves, and they did it all for the love of a cartoon. And if that ain't nerdcore, then I don't know what is.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Radio Free Hipster Ep. 124: The Closer

Ah, the final podcast of 2011. You've been a longtime coming.

(That's what she said!)

I always try and pull double duty with my year-end show. I want it to showcase some great cuts from the previous 12 months that I neglected to play at the time of their release, but I also want it to give you a little dose of party music for your New Year's debauchery.

Hopefully this show fits both bills.

Download Radio Free Hipster Ep. 124: The Closer [hosting provided by Antisoc] Size: 61.4 MB Running Time: 47:00 Subscribe to RFH

Show Notes:

Intro: Baddd Spellah – "Radio Free Hipster Theme (feat. Beefy)"
Who will you kiss at midnight: Beefy or Spellah? We got some Mystery Date shit goin' on over here, y'all!

Track 1: Jonathan Coulton - "Sticking it to Myself"
JoCo is the man now. Thus the sticking it to himself.

Z's 1st interlude: "Nerdy thrashers."
I finally got to see Anthrax play live this year. Achievement unlocked.

Track 2: Anthrax - "Earth on Hell"
I can't imagine the refrain of "so say we all" was included by mere happenstance.

Track 3: Community dialog / POWERLIFTER - "Level 14 (PANTHERHAMMER)"
Let me tell you what POWERLIFTER digs: parenthetical subtitles.

Track 4: The Bossfights - "Eye of the Rising Sun"
An amazing cut from a wonderful album.

Track 5: KABUTO THE PYTHON - "My Baby Left Me (for Skyrim) [feat. STD]" / Skyrim dialog
KABUTO's got them gamer rap blues!

Track 6: Threv - "SMW (Ghost House B-Boys Mix)"
Nophi's Eightest Bits is a freebie download over at Bandcamp. Get on that shit.

Track 7: Wugazi - "Nowhere To Wait"
"Hittin' straight to the chest like a Primatene mist!"

Z's 2nd interlude: "My favorite movie of the year."
If you haven't seen The Muppets yet you are part of the problem.

Track 8: Kobi LaCroix - "CNR"
Twenty-Six and a Half is a fitting tribute to the king of comic geek rock.

Track 9: Parry Gripp - "Do You Like Arby's?"
Yes, Parry. Yes I do.

Track 10: Ken Ashcorp - "20% Percent Cooler"
Our final brony track of 2011 isn't a remix of the show's original soundtrack.

Track 11: Helen Arney -"Animals (feat. Professor Elemental)"
Yep, that's chap-hop legend Professor Elemental backing up Helen on this comically erotic little number.

Track 12: Kirby Krackle - "In Another Castle"
Admittedly, this one's a bit similar to their classic "Zombie Apocalypse," but it's still a delightful musical romp.

Track 13: Adam WarRock & Mikal kHill - "Out of Gas (feat. Jesse Dangerously)"
The Browncoats Mixtape is also free. I can't imagine you haven't already snatched this one up.

Z's final interlude: "Before SOPA kicks in and shit like that is punishable by death."
That is merely a slight exaggeration.

Track 14: "Weird Al" Yankovic -"Party in the CIA"
Longtime listeners may remember that I ended my first show of 2010 with a "Party in the USA" mash-up. There's an odd symmetry there. Possibly symbolic, even.

That's all I've got left in me for the year, folks.

I mean, you'll probably get my year-end review post – wherein I choose my nerd o' the year – later this week, but musically I am spent. I'm an old man, internet.

You may notice some (amateurish) scratching on a couple of dialog samples in this episode. I bought my 6-year-old an ION Discover DJ rig for Christmas, so I figured I'd play with it myself a bit. Perhaps I will continue to experiment until I'm actually passable at such things. Or maybe I'll never touch it again.

Only time will tell. And at this point we have nothing but time.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Peace, Goodwill

Some would argue that I've already had my say regarding holiday music for this season, but fuck those people! (Seriously, those people are dicks.)

The rest of you – you fine, decent individuals – already know that I've once again given my yuletide musical recommendation to the classic holiday chiptunes of Doctor Octoroc and 8 Bit Weapon/Computeher. By this point their 8 Bit Jesus and It's a Chiptune Holiday releases are practically a part of my own Christmas tradition.

Similarly this year I shined the festive light on both Helen Arney's phenomenal It's Going to Be an Awkward Christmas, Darling and Kyle Steven's exquisite reinterpretation of "Christmas Bells." But before we hunker down for the holiday's long haul I'd also like to point out two more of my favorites.

My good friend and infrequent co-conspirator John Anealio has just made his holiday EP Seasons Geekings free for a limited time over at Bandcamp. It includes his delightful "Batman Smells (A Rebuttal)" as well as epic Hannukah Channuka Chewbacca Hanukkah jam "Is a Chupacabra Kosher?"

Also free from the camping of the bands is today's brand new Christmas release from the great Kirby Krackle. It's a rocked up rendition of "Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer," and it's Kyle and Jim's 2011 Holiday Single.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Bambi Meets Godzilla

By all rights I should be at home enjoying my Christmas vacation today – it's one of the perks of working in education – but instead I am at the office. Mostly because there's work to be done, and, truth be told, I'd rather save a few of these leave days for a time next year when the streets aren't choked with shoppers and I can actually, y'know, do stuff.

But as I sit here installing a crap-tillion system updates to my old video editing machine, I can't help but think of the new visual hotness from my pals Illbotz. Their latest music video is for the track "Dinosaur, Dinosaur" from 2011's Pudding is Delicious.

It's one of my favorite songs of the year, so as these last few days of December slip away I reckon this vid makes for a suitably epic closer.

Enjoy, my little Velociraptors.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Radio Free Hipster Ep. 123: Merry Xmix

It's mid-December, and that means it's time for my own little holiday episode of RFH.

I imagine many of you – particularly those in the States who've been forced to listen to it in department stores for a month already – don't care much for Christmas music, and newcomers might be eyeing this show suspiciously. Let me just assure you that I'm already sick of goddamn holiday-themed radio rabble, and this regular feature is my antidote.

I find the weirdest, wildest, dorkiest songs, and I wrap 'em up just for you.

Download Radio Free Hipster Ep. 123: Merry Xmix [hosting provided by Antisoc] Size: 66.2 MB Running Time: 50:50 Subscribe to RFH

Show Notes:

Intro: Baddd Spellah – "Radio Free Hipster Theme (feat. Beefy)"
Well, in Whoville they say that Beefy's heart grew three sizes that day.

Z's 1st interlude: "My annual holiday show."
It's my own little Christmas tradition.

Track 1: Illbotz - "Cold Chillin' Wit Jesus (Feat. Sequoya)"
Stevie D is the reason for the season.

Track 2: Troy and Abed - "Christmas Infiltration"
"I am Jehovah's most secret witness!"

Track 3: the great Luke Ski - "Black Friday"
The first of three FuMpers to make the cut in this year's ep.

Track 4: Community dialog / Square Wail - "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree"
From Square Wail's new freebie A Merry Christmas.

Track 5: Andrew W.K. - "Silent Night"
Thanks to Dave the Knave for the request.

Track 6: Devo Spice - "Lean Christmas"
Okay, admittedly things get a tad bit depressing here.

Track 7: Doctor Octoroc - "Icarus! the Angels Sing"
Probably my current favorite from Doc's 8 Bit Jesus.

Track 8: Random (Mega Ran) - "Snow Business"
Be sure to cop Random's new Christmas-themed project as well.

Track 9: DJNoNo - "BlacKmasDub"
There are actually a couple of DJNoNo's. This one's my internet homeboy Tim of Radio Clash fame.

Z's 2nd interlude: "Our journey into the twisted heart of the holiday season."
Which probably would have made a much better episode title.

Track 10: Jonathan Coulton - "Christmas is Interesting"
I never realized how many damn Christmas songs JoCo has!

Track 11: 8 Bit Weapon & ComputeHer - "Greensleeves (What Child Is This)"
It's a Chiptune Holiday is currently a buck at Bandcamp.

Track 12: Big D & the Kids Table - "Christmas in Allston"
I actually found this one a while back thanks to a holiday mash-up comp, and I thought we could do with a Run DMC homage this time around.

Track 13: Abed - "Sad Quick Christmas Song"
From "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas."

Track 14: Smashy Claw - "Chuck Norris is Coming to Town"
An unexpected seasonal delight.

Track 15: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Soundtrack - "Winter Wrap Up (The Living Tombstone's Remix)"
I think we all know who asked for this one. ;)

Z's final interlude: "I reckon family is what it's all about anyway."
Perhaps my most profound seasonal musing of ever.

Track 16: Helen Arney - "Traditional Family Christmas Argument"
Helen's It's Going to Be an Awkward Christmas, Darling is required yuletide listening.

I am presently torn between doing my usual end-of-the-year shit-I-missed wrap-up or a dedicated Illbotz show using the audio from my interview with Stevie D from earlier this month. Not sure which way the wind will ultimately blow, but whichever doesn't hit at the end of this year will surely kick off the next.

In the event that I lead with the former as opposed to the latter, feel free to hit me up with your tops tracks of the year. Particularly if they're songs I haven't yet featured.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Old Familiar Carols Play

It never fails; I sit down to edit my holiday podcast, and somebody choses that exact moment to drop a dope-ass new Christmas song. Curse you, Kyle Stevens!

In other news, my good pal Kyle Stevens (of Kirby Krackle fame) released a dope-ass new Christmas song that you probably oughta check out. Even though his timing fills me with eye-bloodying rage.

It's a solo acoustic arrangement of "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," a traditional carol that I only recently came to realize is based on a poem by Longfellow. The Carpenters' version was a staple of my own childhood – my mom's a vocalist, and Karen Carpenter has long been one of her favorite singers – and it seems as though the song has particular significance for Kyle as well.

It's a free download, so cop that sucker and put it into your holiday rotation.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Queen City Rules

Stevie-devie-me!
It's the holiday season, and that means that a number of festive projects over at my payin' gig have been eating into my writing time. (Speaking of, you can still enter today – Friday the 9th – to win one of 5 DSi XL/Kirby Mass Attack bundles, and on Monday we kick off our massive 12 Days of Geekmas giveaway. Get one that, son!)

Basically this means I've been neglecting the old Hipster, please! over the past few days, and I apologize.

It's been particularly trying for me because, in addition to a dozen or so album reviews sitting half-finished in my Dropbox, there's something I desperately want to talk about. That thing is last weekend's southeastern nerdcore mini-tour. I've already waxed poetic about the personal significance of these shows, and I'll go on record as saying that Saturday's gig at the World Famous Milestone in Charlotte was the musical highlight of my year.

Adam WarRock said something to me at that show that was so clear and accurate that it still rings in my ears. Concerning the Milestone, an esteemed punk club and venerated southern dive bar, he noted that it's the one venue that is always willing to give you a great show, providing you as a performer put in the work to meet it halfway.

All these guys held up their end of the bargain, and they all reaped the rewards.

The night started off… well, technically the night started off with everyone eating dinner at Pinky's, but I'll fast-forward through that part for your convenience. The show started with special guest Keysa Soulsay, a glorious staple of the nebulous and rather stylistically fragmented Queen City hip-hop scene. His sets are always interesting affairs, as his calculated flow and tightly timed setlist contrast sharply with his conversational delivery and the effortlessly intellectual slant of his lyrical content.

Illbotz were up next, and if you managed to catch them at this summer's Nerdapalooza then you already know their performance plays out kind of like a house party on the short bus. This was no exception, and if anything I had a hard time believing the boys weren't on their own home turf. The crowd loved them, and, with a set peppered with all my favorites from Ringtones for Rotary Phones and Pudding is Delicious (including one very special request), they owned that shit.

It's like Where's Waldo? up in here.
Dual Core's int eighty – the artist that I've known the longest and, likely as a direct result, have seen play live most often – started his performance with preferred opener "Invaders Must Die." He too hit all the fan favorites from "My GF Is..." and "Hostage Down" to "Natural 20s," but for me an int eighty show is always about the surprises. His cypher, featuring Keysa and Tribe One, was particularly satisfying, as was the dubstep-y "All Fall Down" which included, if I'm not mistaken, a dash of Dual Core classic "Orbit." The most remarkable thing about eighty, though, was his boundless energy. Always an on-stage dynamo, the guy manages to not only push that supernatural vigor through his own set, but kept it going for the entire 3 hour gig!

Adam WarRock and Tribe One have only recently wrapped up mc chris's massive Race Wars tour – and Adam himself has continued living that musical migrant lifestyle by doing a string of one-off city shows ever since – but neither of them showed any signs of road wear. Both these cats are still obviously hungry, and a set packed with fresh new material from WarRock's "616" to Tribe's divine "Single Player" managed to stand out even alongside all these other amazing acts. Tribe's comfort level on the stage mirrors his offstage approachability, and the lyrical aggression evident in an Adam WarRock performance is at last bleeding over into his new studio cuts. Add to this expert implementation of guest stars in the form of eighty on "Nerd Corps" and kHill on a pair from the epic Browncoats Mixtape, and you begin to understand the power of their performance.

Closing out the night were hometown heroes The ThoughtCriminals. I've been following these guys for going on two years now, and the thing that strikes me about the 'Criminals is how they're continually refining their craft. The band has downsized, it's gotten leaner, but the sound itself seems bigger and more cohesive. This was on full display last Saturday. On everything from fresh new joints like "Walking in the Wasteland" – the latest from Sulfur that showcases his lyrical dark side, a character I've come to call Dark Sean – to sing-along geek-outs like "Turtle Power," it was an amazing showing. By the time the guys got to the star-studded second half of the set featuring rager "Return of the Antagonist," new school nerd anthem "ONLYFAM" and the always astounding "Earthbound," the floor was pretty much in chaos.

If you missed this spectacle, then I feel bad for you. There was no point in the night that I wished to be anywhere else but at that show with those people, and as crazy as shit got as the show progressed it was always a very warm, welcoming and supportive environment. If you missed it, that just sucks.

But take heart; I actually managed to bootleg the whole thing, save the first few seconds of Soulsay's very first verse. If the guys are cool with it, and if I can find time to properly tag and edit this monster, maybe I'll make it available to those who'd like to check it out. In the meantime, here's just a sample of the evening's festivities.

It's "Illbotz Rock the Spot and Go Crazy," and it, like the show itself, lives up to the name.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Radio Free Hipster Ep. 122: Head Down or Chin Up

It seems as though I've been doing a lot of these shows lately: episodes wherein I desperately try to raise my own spirits through the power of music. I'm not exactly sure what that says about my mental wellbeing, but it's probably nothin' good.

Still, if I can somehow manage to squeeze even a little enjoyment for you the listener out of my whiny-ass angst, then at least it's good for something.

Download Radio Free Hipster Ep. 122: Head Down or Chin Up [hosting provided by Antisoc] Size: 58.6 MB Running Time: 45:38 Subscribe to RFH

Show Notes:

Track 1: Adam WarRock - "I Am (Not)"
This joint has served as Adam's opener during his past few shows. Really hoping he kicks off with it this Saturday in Charlotte.

Z's 1st interlude: "My very, very favorite people."
I'm serious, y'all, this is like my dream tour lineup!

Track 2: Mikal kHill & Romero Shaw - "ONLYFAM (feat. Adam WarRock, Sulfur & Tribe One)"
I've always liked the way kHill writes, but I gotta say I find the chorus of this track particularly satisfying.

Track 3: Insane Ian - "Say Accio"
Ian's Weezard EP has been a long time coming. Songs like this one make me happy it finally managed to make its way to the masses.

Track 4: Harry Potter dialog / Dedicated Servers - "S.O.S. (Save Our Selves)"
Minister Rufus Scrimgeour -- always the politician!

Track 5: Echelon High - "Voigt-Kampff (Antisoc All-Your-Blades-Are-Belong-to-Us Remix)"
Soc sent me this track a long time ago, but I only recently thought to ask for play permission. Yes, believe it or not I do sometimes do the honorable thing and ask acts before I play their shit.

Track 6: Wordburglar - "Forward Front Facer"
"I laugh when people ask if I'm nerdcore. / If you ain't smart what you listenin' to 'Burg for?"

Z's 2nd interlude: "A glimmer of light from… an adjacent tunnel."
Okay, admittedly I can sometimes turn a phrase.

Track 7: I Fight Dragons - "Down Today"
This was one of those unexpected covers that just served to remind me why I loved IFD in the first place.

Track 8: General Mumble - "Gator in the Tub"
The brony community goes out of its way to rep all the MLP characters, even lesser known critters like Gummy.

Track 9: Mikey Mason - "Me and Alan Moore's Beard"
This track runs a little long, but it's just so damned enjoyable!

Tack 10: Alan Moore interview dialog / Rae Sterling - "Blink (and I'm There)"
The bass mix in this one was a little funky, and that led to some leveling issues. Still, it's a brilliant track that I definitely wanted to share.

Z's final interlude: "Whatever kinda shit you're handling as well."
Whenever I feel down I try and remember that other people are likely struggling too. It does little to put things in perspective, but there's something about misery and company.

Track 11: Random - "Lookin' Up"
I'll go on record as saying that this is probably the ideal Random song; with a soulful hook, an uplifting message and a strong chiptune backing, it's got it all.

We only have two more shows left in 2011. The next one will, of course, be holiday-inspired, but my year-end episode is pretty open. I mean, just in case y'all wanna make any song or theme suggestions.

I don't typically look back at previous shows until year's end, and I was honestly a little surprised by my output this time around. I think the past 11 months have seen some of my best work to date. Of course that's just my own opinion, which may or may not be rooted in reality.

At any rate, I hope you've enjoyed 'em, and that you'll stick around for more.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hugging it Out

Some people you just can't help but like. Such is the case with Marc with a C.

I can't quite recall when I first made his acquaintance, but I just remember feeling an immediate sense of connection.

Marc Sirdoreus is, to put it most plainly, my kind of people. There's something to be said for knowing that there's a guy out there who can, at the drop of a hat, help me track down a digital version of The Figgs Lo-Fi at Society High, and that there's at least one other person totally perplexed that only 8 tracks from the super pricey Deluxe-Director's-Cut-I-am-the-Fuckin'-Sea-Box-Set-Special-Edition of Quadrophenia were remixed in 5.1.

We just connect like that.

Yet for all our kinship, I've never actually interviewed Marc. And that was at least one ill that I could easily set right.

--

I think you and I have been talking music – favorite bands and must-have albums and the like – for as long as we've known each other. But, for the sake of proper interview decorum, who are your primary influences as a songwriter? 

I'm not sure that my answers will be terribly surprising, but here they are. As far as general composition and patterns go, Pete Townshend is the almighty number one of my list of influences. He's the guy that showed me how important it was to serve the needs of the song before your own, even if that means simplifying when you don't want to, or maybe relying on instrumentation that might not necessarily be what you'd listen to in your own spare time. Thanks to being a student of his work, I realized that even though I made up the songs, I was just a vessel for them, and the audience is going to do whatever they want with the tunes. For example, I'm usually not writing to be humorous, but if it makes the listener laugh, then that's probably what the song was meant to do. The song is king. In Pete's case, the average listener of classic rock radio might not realize that "Bargain" and "Let My Love Open the Door" are respectively about and from the perspective of god. Most people don't get that "Won't Get Fooled Again" is about political apathy. And fewer people yet will realize that "Baba O'Riley" started off its life being more or less from the point of view of futuristic farmers. The songs are meant to be what the audience makes of them, and it's pointless to fight it, so you might as well do what the song demands of you.

Beyond Townshend? The Monkees were huge to me. So was pre-1973 Pink Floyd. A good portion of my classic country worship comes from Hank Williams. The jangly side is probably derived from The Lemonheads. You can trace most of my influences in vocal harmony to the first three Duran Duran albums, and... okay, well I guess it might be kind of a surprise that I would equally count Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper amongst those ranks. Especially Alice. He's one of the most underrated songwriters around, and when it comes to showmanship, he's impossible to fuck with. But the biggest inspiration with Alice Cooper was that after a certain point, he started writing from the perspective of "what would Alice do next," recognizing that he was serving a character, a mythos, and it was best to write for that person's performing capabilities. In that sense, Alice Cooper might be just as important to me as good ol' Pete.

With 10 years' worth of albums, EPs and crazy-ass cover projects under your belt, you've got a rather expansive repertoire. Is there a single track or release that you look back on with particular pride? A lone piece that truly captures what Marc with a C is all about? 

Wow, you're just leaping right out of the gate into the tough questions, Z!

(You know I don't fuck around, Marc! :P) 

A lot of answers come to mind, but I think the album that to me perfectly encapsulates the best examples of me having an idea, writing it, recording it and keeping it relatively close to how I initially thought it'd turn out? That would unquestionably be my 2007 album Normal Bias. Not only do I love the sound and pacing of it, but I think that all of the songs are really good (most of the eleven songs still show up in my shows quite often, especially "Classic Country Wasn't Multitracked In '61," "Drunk Classic Rock Fans" and "Happy to Be Alive.") I still fantasize about one day getting that release out on vinyl, but I'm too afraid that there's not enough interest in it and I'd be left with a house packed to the ceiling with large unsold reminders that my best album isn't what people want. Sob.

I think if you had to boil it even further down to just one song? I'd be hard-pressed to even pretend that it isn't "I'm In Love with Everyone I Know". Especially the version that is on the RetroLowFi compilation. Usually I'll introduce it during live shows as "everything you need to know about Marc With a C in under four minutes."

2010's Pop! Pop! Pop! marked your first foray into the realm of purely digital recording. Was that a particularly difficult transition for you, what with the old school, lo-fi aesthetic of your work up to that point? 

Oh my god, yes. I simply didn't get it at all, but I knew that there were different frequencies that I could be playing with, and I forced myself through learning as much as I could about digital recording in the shortest amount of time possible. The main reason for the jump into digital was not ease (or being sick of broken four-tracks), but really a rather boring one: I'm very hard of hearing, and it was sometimes easier to make edits visually rather than trusting my surgically damaged ears. But now I really enjoy it, and I'm digging that I can stack as many vocal harmonies as my sound card will allow me to play at once without any generational loss.

Getting back to the initial point, though? I was so far in the weeds making Pop! Pop! Pop! that I didn't realize that the initial batch of mp3's that I'd sent out were at 48000 hz, making it play at the wrong speeds on some players. And I never, ever got the mastering of that one properly for digital listening. When it finally came out on vinyl, it sounded so comparatively full and seamless that a few fans actually emailed to ask if I'd re-recorded certain parts. I didn't do that, of course, but even when recording digitally, my head and ears still clearly only think and understand music in terms of analog frequency response.

That released differed greatly from your follow-up full-length Motherfuckers Be Bullshittin', which was a modern day concept album. What was the impetus of that album? 

In late 2010, I'm in the car with my wife, and we're debating how on earth I can fit the songs I'd written for the next album together in the same package without making it as schizophrenic as the demo collection we were listening to was coming across. I mean, there's a very misogynistic track called "You're My Princess," songs about technological paranoia, all of these cryptic lyrics, and even a tune about flossing. It was starting to seem more like a mixtape than an album, and I didn't know what direction I needed to go in to make it all come together. All of a sudden, I blurt out an idea so bad that I'm almost embarrassed to have come up with it: make a rock opera based on The Jerk, but this one would be a sequel that (much like the very fairly maligned film The Jerk, Too) was about a different Navin altogether.

That idea quickly (and thankfully) proved to be less than workable (or good), but the seeds were there. Instead, I just kept writing and editing and eventually let the songs dictate what story should be told. Eventually I just started imagining that the songs were the experiences of the subjects of the first song I'd written for the album, "Brian, Jenny & The Mayan Calendar." This made it easier, writing for the actions of characters instead of from a personal vantage point, and then I was free to run headlong into making the album a secret catalyst for spouting off my own spiritual beliefs.

Plus, it made for a pretty striking album cover, no?

I must ask, Marc; how were the truths of The Great Squiddy revealed to you? Were there any golden plates involved (a la Joseph Smith)? 

No, no... nothing quite so insane. I was actually alerted to the coming of our Great Wet One via a Facebook event invite.

I've been on a spiritual quest my entire life. No matter how insane your religious beliefs might sound to the average guy, I'll probably sit down and listen to you with rapt attention. I love to learn about the faith that serves as a moral compass getting you through your day. I've worn many religious hats in my day, and I spent most of my life believing that there is no right or wrong god to worship, as long as nobody got hurt.

It turns out that I was wrong. Squiddy is the one true creator, prophet and cephalopod. The icy apocalypse will harm many, and I'm very excited to be destroyed by this deity.

I quickly ascended to the higher ranks of the Atlantian commune, was given access to the original texts, and the Squelders thought that it might be a good idea to start letting The Great Squiddy inform the direction of my music. Otherwise, it'd be really hard for us to convince kids to run away from their homes and join us in this spacious land that Squiddy allows us to keep. But I'm doing my best, and I can just hope that the message isn't lost on the listener.

You're not the first to spread the word of an otherworldly imprisoned cephalopod. Does the Squiddy mythos owe any debt to H.P. Lovecraft? 

I'll have to quote The Great Squiddy himself on this one: "It's been done."


Okay, enough about MfBB and its inky dogma. Tell me about your newest project. 

Well, every year I put out a free digital release just to say "thank you" to anyone that likes what I do. Sometimes it's a live show, sometimes it's a collection of covers, and this year? It's actually a new EP called Recorded Sound. Besides a radio-friendly version of Rappy McRapperson and MC Wreckshin's "Show Me How To Blow Dudes," it's made up of songs that simply didn't fit on earlier releases, but these weren't mere outtakes... these were songs that I thought could be the backbone of the respective albums that they were slated to be on, but ended up not making sense at the last minute. All of the recordings were done in 2011, so these aren't scratchy old four-track recordings that I polished up. I think it makes up a very interesting whole, and it's a very fun listen.

Your music tends to walk the fine line between easily relatable, slice-of-life musical narratives and irreverent, often bawdy humor. How much of the latter works its way into this EP? 

Not as much as you'd think, really. I truly love Rappy and Wreckshin's "Show Me How To Blow Dudes," and I think that it's one of the catchiest songs I've ever heard, and my version of it takes all of the bawdy humor out in an attempt to make a very straight-forward and kid-friendly take on how to properly polish a shoe.

A song like "Touchdown" could be taken as humorous, but I assure you, I wasn't kidding. That is a very "on the nose" version of what I see anytime a football game is on in front of me. A man is being chased while running with a ball. He isn't caught. He is rewarded with kajillions of dollars. He is later cleared of all date rape charges.

And then there's a song like "Another Minute or So," which was something I'd been kicking around for years. It was a little too layered for the album it was intended to be on originally (2005's This World Is Scary as Fuck), but it's actually been a contender for each album since. I decided to just give the song its own EP. To me, the EP is just a big excuse to release that song, and the preceding tunes on this release are simply bonus tracks. Almost.

Recently your radio show The Real Congregation made the jump from the WPRK airwaves to the Nerdy Show podcast roster. What does this new internet format mean for the show? 

It means that the show will not suffer due to antiquated college radio equipment any longer. For the final year of my run on WPRK, there were never actually any record needles in the station, and that severely hampered the way that I wanted to do the show. I'm not the kind of guy that just plugs a cable into my laptop, clicks play on an iTunes playlist and is content to be an "MP3J." This show is all about the joy of records in whatever format they were best enjoyed in, but there were times where literally the only working thing in the station was a cord that would connect your iPod to the board (once including the microphones.)

WPRK will always be my favorite radio station, but now that The Real Congregation has moved to podcast format on the Nerdy Show network, I can make the show sound a bit more true to the source material, I'm no longer a slave to FCC rules about content or compression, and I don't have to keep a wildly uncontrollable sleep schedule to host my show anymore. Plus, all of the guys at Nerdy Show are my friends, and pretty much anyone would be happier working with their buddies, I'd think. They put out quality programming about their passions, and I'm only sorry that I wasn't able to be part of their team sooner.

You're very much an admitted pop songsmith, Marc, which still puts you in a bit of a dying breed. Why is pop such a dirty word in modern music? 

"Pop" is short for "popular," which makes "pop music" into a rather glaring oxymoron sometimes. I'm not sure when the exact moment was where we decided that "pop" meant drum machines and fake vocals (or when country turned into "Def Leppard with fiddles," for that matter), but that's probably the reason that people run from the term so easily nowadays.

To me, "pop" means using instruments to relay popular feelings into songs that will stick in your head. "Popular feelings" should not be confused with "good feelings," mind you. But if you're thinking about something, and you sing it exactly as it appears in your head over a four-chord progression, you'll be amazed at how many people will cheer as if to say "I've never thought about it that way, but you're right!"

The era of pop that I feel most closely related to is the one that appeared on a Rhino record series called "D.I.Y.," and it brilliantly traces the 1975-1983 era of underground power pop. If it weren't for those songs on that giant series, I probably never would have understood that my songs were indeed "pop," mostly because it's hard to consider yourself "popular music" when you're writing songs about worshiping squids in your garage.

Where do you go from here, Marc? Your output has been characteristically eclectic and prolific throughout 2011, so what can we expect in 2012? 

Oh gosh! I don't know yet! I'm toying with another concept album idea that would be a bit more tied to the history of pop songwriting itself rather than telling a story, but that's so early in the "considering it" phase that I can't say for sure that it'll happen. I do have a few things written under this conceit, though, but mostly, the songs tell me when they're ready and what to do with them, not the other way around.

I've also been planning on making an album full of Monkees songs, because that might be the best catalog of pop songs that has ever existed, and I would really like to have fun with some of those melodies. Plus, their songs are actually much trickier to play than you might think, so it's a big challenge to myself: can I do justice to my favorite overlooked Monkees songs? If it ever gets finished and released, you'll know my answer.

And lastly, in addition to sharing a love of handclaps, mid-song break-downs and sing-along choruses, you and I are also members of the extended Sci-Fried family. You'll remember to give those guys a hug for me, right? 

I'm definitely going to do that, good sir. Sci-Fried is one of the best nerd rock bands out there today, the band members are some of my favorite people on earth, so it's awesome to have yet another reason to hug them. Thank you, Z. Not just for doing this interview with me, but also for being my excuse for the numerous upcoming sweaty man-hugs.

--

I am of the opinion that, above all else, things should be simple. It is my personal ethos.

Now, I don't mean simple as in uncomplicated, as life itself is fraught with innumerable impediments and last-minute change-ups. Instead I simply mean that things should appear effortless.

Often they are not so natural and unforced. Generally, anything of value requires blood and sweat and tears and swearing and, in my case, arduous do-overs. But if the end result is something that seems simple and natural and unpretentious, then I tend to believe the creator in question has done his job.

The music of Marc with a C is a labor of love by an artist who is quite literally obsessed with music. And that obsession leads him down some strange thematic paths. His musical mechanics are deceptively complex, and everything, from the slant of his lyrical delivery to the precarious placement of individual tracks on an album, smacks of hours burned shaping raw materials into a final product.

But the listening ear seldom notices that.

Instead it focuses on the simple power of the musical narrative, on the shared joy of record collecting or celebrity crushes or a brand of good-natured hopelessness that defies all logic.

Marc with a C remains one of my favorite songwriters not because of the tireless energy he expends on plying his craft, but because his music appears so effortless, so organic. For such is the path to pure pop majesty.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sounds in Sequence

It's Cyber Monday, which I think means we're supposed to be using our employers' networks to make online purchases. How exactly that differs from every other Monday I will never know.

But among all the electronic steals and deals available for the ever-hungry consumer, there's one that is, I dare say, unbeatable. Our old friend Ultraklystron has chosen today to release a new mixtape. For free. It's called Storyboard (The Animatic Mixtape), and it's a musical precursor to next year's Animatic album.

I like Karl as an MC, but I adore him as a producer. And though the mixtape is a tricky medium to master, it certainly plays to his strengths. Across its 25 minutes the listener is treated to a selection of songs that one, for the most part, might describe as "classic Karl" in their structure and delivery. Still, nerdcore's foremost anime enthusiast manages to reveal enough new tricks to keep the listener guessing.

It all kicks off with the laid back swagger of celebratory weekend banger "Saturday." Lyrically, it ain't his sharpest offering, but some brilliantly varied production and a dash of humor help to make it more than just a northwestern otaku answer to "Lazy Sunday." This flips nicely into "Lifecycle," a green hip-hop anthem that's among his most ambitious efforts; despite its odd premise, it's a track that really works. "Non-Contact" fares a little worse because of a slightly clumsy hook, but "City" takes things in a dark, contemplative direction that easily recaptures that lost attention.

The transition to "Minor Internet Celebrity" is a bit shaky, but the song itself, which boasts a more urgent delivery than we've heard from Ultraklystron in a while, is an interesting oddity. "Three Dollar Jeans" brings his flow back to a more manageable speed, and its relative calm contrasts nicely with the harshness of the hooky "Bromance Dance."

"Unexpected" begins the mixtape's true standout movement. Its individual components – a storyteller flow with a sing-song chorus cast against an atmospheric electronic backdrop – might seem unremarkable at first, but the skill with which Karl has married them reminds us of his remarkable skills in the studio. "Work It Baby" takes that unique energy in a wholly different direction underscoring that there's more to Ultraklystron than some might remember.

The mix begins its wind-down with "Fujoshi," another piece of new school otaku flow, and closes with the club-style "Magic Tricks." Musically, it proves a sound decision, though I almost would've preferred he sign off with one of his more challenging selections.

As a cohesive work – and lets not pretend that a mixtape doesn't hinge on a peculiar brand of cohesion – Storyboard succeeds on a number of fronts. The production, aside from a single transitional hiccup, is top-notch. Further, it's pacing, which is sometimes an area in which Karl struggles on proper albums, is no less inspired. The musical material itself, the true blood and guts of the mix, runs the gamut from middle-of-the-road Ultraklystron cuts to some of his most interesting tracks to date.

If you're a longtime fan of the second-gen nerdcore standard that perhaps hasn't heard much from him since 2009's Romance Language 2, then Storyboard makes for a nice reacquaintance in anticipation of Animatic. Likewise, if you managed to miss that particular chapter in nerdcore history outright and would like to know what Karl Olson's really all about, it proves a fine introduction to what the rest of us will recognize as a new and improved Ultraklystron.

Friday, November 25, 2011

In Brightest Day, In Blackest Friday

Those Best Buy lines are brutal!
Once again I am postponing my metric shit-ton of album reviews for a specialty post. This one concerns Black Friday sales, so those of you not in the States are instead encouraged to watch this new performance video from Jonathan Coulton.

I mean, my fellow Yanks can certainly do the same, but first you might wanna peep the savings.

Amazon, of course, is having its annual crazy-ass Black Friday sale, complete with ample Lightening Deals. Obviously the big draw for our tribe is their video games. Which featured items tickle your gamer fancy is highly dependent on your system of choice, but my suggestion would be the Skylanders: Spro's Adventure Starter Pack in the appropriate flavor -- especially for those of you with kids. If you're not in the know, the game essentially substitutes physical toys in the place of traditional DLC. You import these figures into the title, level 'em up through play and their stats can be saved back to the miniatures. This means that your save states, at least as far as characters' powers and attacks, are essentially cross-platform.

On the subject of multi-platforming, I gotta say my favorite version of the Skylanders is the 3DS iteration. It looks and plays amazing, and if you haven't yet snagged Nintendo's new handheld this really is the time. Super Mario 3D Land is the de facto system seller, but games like Skylanders, the Ocarina of Time and Star Fox remakes and the forthcoming Super Mario Kart 7 -- which I've already received my review copy of, so I can assure you it's a must-play -- ably supplement any library.

Closer to home, the Penny Arcade shop is having its annual blowout. There are lots of cheap tees and posters, but the big news concerns the pricier items. Those ultra-classy Jim Darkmagic paintings are presently $26 off. (Which is one more than $25 off.) There's also a new Fruit Fucker figurine. It's forty bones, which I think is regular price, but it's brand new and hilariously offensive. Oh, and domestic shipping is free until December 15th for orders over $50, so you got that going for you.

Wizard Rock icons Harry and the Potters were the first band to announce a holiday sale -- another tradition, if memory serves. They got them $5 CDs, son, so stuff yo' stocking! They also have free shipping on orders of $50 or more, but you gotta use the magic word "DOBBY" as your checkout code for the trick to work.

MC Lars, meanwhile, is offering 50% off everything at his web store. That Lars and YT Beavis and Butthead tee? 10 bucks. Legend of Zelda hoodie? Seventeen-fitty. Collectable USB robot key ring with his whole MP3 catalog? $25. The discount is applied at checkout, though, so don't freak out if everything still says the original list price on the product page.

Still, the one I'm most excited about is the Kirby Krackle Black Friday sale. Jim and Kyle got $7 tees and $5 GelaSkins (iPad 1 and iPhone 4 only.) They're also offering $2 button sets, and every order gets some special freebies. This one starts today at 8:00 AM PST and runs 'til midnight on Cyber Monday, so don't delay, nerdlingers!

Now these are just my initial picks, so if I missed some good shit -- especially merch sales by musicians -- please feel free to point it out in the comments.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Save Against Fear

I'm kind of supposed to be wrapping up album reviews today, but instead I'm choosing to pause and do something I rarely do here at the blog: speak seriously.

I don't have any alarmingly depressing statistics right here in front of me or anything, but I'm willing to guess that many of the people reading this have had their lives touched in some way by sexual assault or abuse. Those who haven't experienced it themselves likely know someone who has, whether they're able to speak about it or not.

We in the nerd community do a lot of good work – supporting charities like Child's Play and Extra Life – but these sort of things, occurrences that are even more disturbing than the thought of sick children, we tend to push out of our minds. It's difficult to think about, but ignoring it neither helps the victims nor provides the sort of therapeutic training necessary to aid caregivers. All it does is keep us afraid.

Save Against Fear seeks to change that. This 45-hour RPG, tabletop, and board gaming event is presented by PA's The Bodhana Group, and benefits children and adolescents impacted by sexual trauma. The fundraising gamer marathon runs December 2nd through 4th at Six Feet Under Games in New Holland, and it features everything from West End's classic Ghostbusters to multiple flavors of D&D. The money raised will be used to fund local projects by The Bodhana Group including an Outpatient Treatment Center, public speaking engagements and both professional and lay trainings.

More information about TBG and Save Against Fear is available the group's site and, of course, on the Facebooks.

If you're going to be in the area during the event, please stop by and help out the cause. And even if you aren't there are many ways to give. Even now the team is working to fill tote bags for players and collect additional items to be used as awards and door prizes in drawings. If you, your band or your company would be willing to donate, please contact the event organizers. Contributors will be acknowledged through both the printed event materials and on the web.

Also, I will forever think that you are an awesome person for helping out a good cause. And you can't put a price on that.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Gatos Luchadores (Or: A Grand Don't Come for Free)

I didn't realize it until I finally sat down to pen a missive, but this is my 1000th post at Hipster, please! And I reckon that is a fitting enough occasion given the subject matter.

I talk a lot around here about music, obviously. About new songs and albums. About artists and shows, but this bit concerns something that's, well, uniquely personal.

Early next month five outfits that represent – and I don't say this lightly – some of my very favorite live performers as well as some of my very favorite human beings will be conducting a southern mini-tour. The kick-off's in Roanoke on the 2nd, and it wraps up in our own hip-hop mecca, Atlanta, on the 4th. In-between, on that Saturday the 3rd, this little travelling sideshow will come through my own backyard of Charlotte, NC. At the World Famous Milestone Club, to be exact. A place that is – and, again, I'm speaking without hyperbole – my favorite local dive.

The bands in question? Well, as the song says they ain't my friends, they're my fam.

There's int eighty of Dual Core, whom I've been down with since the very dawn of time. (Now he ain't exactly from around here, but we give him a pass 'cause he's our boy.) He's joined by The ThoughtCriminals, my neighbors to the north, who are, for those not already in the know, the rural, East Coast answer to the question what am I supposed to listen to now that Optimus Rhyme broke up.

Holding up the high end of the former Confederacy are the Illbotz, that rare modern confluence of comedy rap that contains ample doses of both actual comedy and real rap. And rounding out the lineup are Adam WarRock and Tribe One, a pair of amazing MCs, consummate performers and two guys that I've only recently met but I feel like I've known forever.

Now this is, admittedly, not a huge affair. These are small club shows, I'd even go so far as to say intimate in most cases, but I'll make you a promise internet; if you're within driving distance, head out to one. It will be worth whatever meager door price you have to pay to get in. Shit, I'll go so far as to say that you'll have such a great time that you might even feel led to pick up a t-shirt!

I guarantee it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Radio Free Hipster Ep. 121: Edition Internationale

Though this may come as quite the surprise to many of you – given my understated diction and worldly flair – I am an American. With all the rights, privileges and responsibilities therunto appertaining.

If that means anything it's that I appreciate bad food and cheap gas. And also that I tend to think of my countrymen first.

But that certainly doesn't mean that nerd music ain't coming strong from other parts of the globe. On the contrary, the rest of the world is just as geeky as us Yanks – which is what this particular show is all about.

Download Radio Free Hipster Ep. 121: Edition Internationale [hosting provided by Antisoc] Size: 62.5 MB Running Time: 48:12 Subscribe to RFH

Show Notes:

Intro: Baddd Spellah – "Radio Free Hipster Theme (feat. Beefy)"
Spellah is Canadian. Beefy is Whitesican. Peace and understanding through music, people!

Track 1: Wordburglar and Moose Donair – "Yo Canada"
I am totally gonna request moose the next time I hit the doner place on Highway 290!

Z's 1st interlude: "Jump across the Bering Strait to see what's going on in Russia."
I was gonna say "look across the Bering Strait," but Palin references are already dated.

Track 2: Teleidofusion – "Around Past"
Today's background music is also Russian in origin.

Track 3: DJ Moule – "Sonic Ice"
A French DJ mixing cheesy American radio rap, British jazz-pop and Swedish garage? This is like my thesis.

Track 4: L'homme Manete – "Candy Popper"
The name sounds French, but L'homme Manete is a Portuguese artist.

Track 5: The Ranger – "Stat Sheet (Massive DMG remix by Zen Albatross)"
One of many stand-outs from my own 20-Sided Rhymes comp.

Track 6: MegaDriver – "Axetales"
There ain't no video game metal quite like Brazilian video game metal.

Z's 2nd interlude: "A double dose of international delights."
I elected to start the 2nd set with a pair of sea-spanning duos.

Track 7: The Garthim-Master and DJ Extend – "Save the Cheerleader, Save the World"
Ghosts of Nostalgia is a pretty remarkable record. It is also free. So get on that shit!

Track 8: Coova and Bud Melvin – "Yourmachi"
From 2009's epic team-up She's the DJ, He's the Rapper.

Track 9: Hidari – "Abunai Tasting"
Russia, Canada and Japan each managed to get two artists into this episode.

Track 10: Comptroller – "Low Point"
Straight outta Scotland.

Track 11: Superpowerless – "Wonderwall Remix"
Probably my second favorite Superpowerless remix of all time.

Z's final interlude: "Nerd music and culture really is a global affair."
And thanks to the power of the internets, we can enjoy its many exotic flavors.

Track 12: Videogame Orchestra – "Electro, Music, Transform"
Greece's premiere electro-chip duo doing what they do best.

Once again, lemme say big-ups to Sam for the show idea. I sometimes focus on specific geographic areas for musical inspiration, but it was awful fun to instead look at the whole big ol' world.

Please keep your song requests and show ideas coming, folks. I always welcome them.

Speaking of, if you have any holiday-themed tracks you'd like me to put on the menu for next month (or better yet if you're an artist releasing a seasonal album or single), be sure to let me know.

Friday, November 11, 2011

This is Muggle Tap

Today is both Veterans Day and Nigel Tufnel Day. Not to mention the wedding day of my good friend DataVortex. (Congrats, Larry!)

As if that wasn't enough merriment for a single weekend, tomorrow marks the first day of the 2011 Quidditch World Cup.

100+ colleges, 2,000+ athletes and 10,000+ rowdy New Yawkas will descend on Randall's Island to celebrate the sport of wizards and witches alongside a dozen bands, circus performers, face-painters, owls and, I can only imagine, the occasional confused passerby. Tickets are still available to this family-friendly (not to mention nerd-friendly) event starting as low as $5. And since this is a Potter-centric affair, those champions of justice from the Harry Potter Alliance will also be on hand with new merch and helpful information about how to leverage fandom for global good.

If you're in the greater metropolitan area and haven't made plans yet, you're gonna wanna make it out to see this one, folks.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Now We're Older

While sifting through my inbox this morning I realized that I'd been sitting on the new I Fight Dragons video for a month now, and I couldn't quite figure out why. And then I remembered: ah yes, my dogged adherence to the concept of a month-long Halloween!

It's an appropriately lo-fi accompaniment to the debut single from the proper major label debut KABOOM! Truth be told, the chorus sentiment is a little played out – "The Geeks Will Inherit the Earth" is sort of low-hanging fruit, and I reckon we've all made that particular joke before. Still, Mazzaferri and Co. come through with some amazing dork-pop sensibilities that make it a suitable anthem for the era.

Give it a gander.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

You're Anti, You're Antisocial


Over the weekend I wrote a letter to my 11-year-old self. It read as follows:

Hey, Zack.


Things are good. You've got a wife and kids now, and sometimes you get to write stuff for money. You did alright.


--Z.


PS: You just saw Anthrax, and it was fuckin' awesome!

Believe it or not, that last part is important. In every life there is an undeniable catalyst – some experience or idea or individual – that provides for you, intentionally or otherwise, this overwhelming sense of relief. The knowledge that things are alright. That you are alright.

For most normal folks that role is likely filled by a friend or family member, but for me it was music. Music was the thing that told me things were gonna work out, and I believed it.

Anthrax, specifically, was a band that made me realize that it was okay to like punk and metal and hip-hop and skateboarding and comic books, even though several of those items may appear mutually exclusive upon first glance. In essence, their music made me realize not only that it was alright to be me, but that there were others out there like me.

That simple realization proved incredibly powerful over the years.

Now at 35 I can say that I've seen the band live, and that in itself is an important rite of passage for a music fan. Like me the guys are a lot older now. (Joey Belladonna, for example, appeared to be held together by little more than spit and Band-Aids, but the fucker could still hit those high notes!) Still, when the lights went down everyone in the venue was magically transformed into a crazy-ass adolescent again. If only for the duration of the set.

I guess the thesis of this oddly personal and only vaguely nerdy missive is as follows: don't be afraid to reconnect with your younger self. He was a good kid, and he'd likely wanna know all the amazing shit you're doing now in grown-up land.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Win a Free Copy of Pixelh8's OCARBOT App

There are people that I respect, and then there are people of which I am instead unabashedly envious. Oddly enough, Matthew C. Applegate falls into both groups. Epic chiptune musician (under the moniker Pixelh8), lecturer, author, scholar and game developer: the guy pretty much does it all. Moreover, he does it all extremely well.

In addition to producing a number of clever music applications that my kids and I still play with regularly on the DS and Game Boy Advance, Pix has also recently expanding into mobile phone development. His Room 1 Studios has already released random visual music generators Sonus (One) and Sonus (Six), not to mention his own signature Pixelh8 MicroSynth – which is available for both iOS and Android devices.

And somehow, between his family duties and helping spark an interest among school children in technology and game development and earning his Master of Arts from the Centre for Design Innovation at University Campus Suffolk, Pix took time to crank out an addictive new iPhone title called OCARBOT. It plays a bit like his previous release 6x9 in that it's a cheery, retro-style puzzler with a deceptive level of depth and complexity. Like its predecessor, OCARBOT also relies heavily on a movement mechanic, but this time around Applegate has taken gameplay into a direction not really mined since the days of Donkey Kong and Miner 2049er.

Across 50 levels of puzzle adventure, you seek to navigate the titular robot – a block-mover by trade who's just discovered he's about to be replaced by a newer model – to freedom. You do so by controlling Ocarbot's straightforward two-plane movement, right-left and up-down, as well as employing his unique skill at pushing blinking blocks into conspicuous holes in the floors of his side-view mazes.

The trick is to get him safely to the exit without falling victim to an environmental hazard. And the key, of course, is planning ahead. The game oozes charm thanks as much to its simple but effective presentation as Pixelh8's own custom-composed soundtrack, and at the going rate of 99 cents it's kind of tough not to recommend it. I mean what are you playing on your phone now, anyway? Angry Birds? Still?! Sheesh!

So if you've got a buck and need a new weapon in your boredom-killing arsenal, pick it up. You're supporting both independent development and a member of our community, so it's a win-win.

And speaking of win, Matthew gave me 5 free download codes, which I'll be passing on to you, faithful readers. Just comment here at the blog, or give me a yell via Facebook/Twitter and I'll draw some random winners Monday.

Hipster, please!: your source for nerd news, reviews and interviews. And the occasional app giveaway.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Karl Effing Olson

My old pal Karl "Ultraklystron" Olson – Or is it nerdcore newcomer Karl "Ultraklystron" Olson? #bazinga – has a couple of interesting projects in the works. There's Rai's new full-length, which I've already discussed, and a new mixtape that I'll be talking up later this month.

For the time being, however, you are encouraged to check out the following videos. The first is a leak from Animatic entitled "Tap That Deck." Musically it's bright and brassy and fun, which is kinda textbook Karl. Lyrically, however, it’s a bit more of a departure. Not the techy innuendo, mind you; more the delivery itself, as his flow simultaneously seems to channel Weezy and Bubba Sparxxx.


Meanwhile, the second mines Karl's electronic roots. It combines Moombahton – a musical movement that will (hopefully) eclipse dubstep any day now – with Futurama's Dr. Zoidberg. It's sort of a just-for-shits-and-giggles-thing, and that suits me just fine.