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Music Is Good Actually (Especially These Albums)

Posted in Correspondence

It’s a good month1 for music. Or at least for elder emo dad music.

The National has a new album, which is basically a holiday on my calendar. I can’t think of another band that’s been so consistent for so long. They have 9 full-length studio albums and while some are better than others they’re all good. Their consistency borders on sameness, but there’s enough evolution to not feel like treading water. You can see the changes from the more misanthropic and angry early albums to the big stage work of the middle ones with their REM influence to the stoned-but-polished recent albums, but you can also just play their entire discography on shuffle and there’s no jarring transitions.

Anyway, First Two Pages of Frankenstein is exactly what you’d expect from The National: 11 hang-dog songs in Matt Berninger’s baritone with propulsive artful drumming, excellent orchestration, and stirring guitars. The lyrics are as catchy and obscure as ever, but they manage to avoid any of the overly weird outliers that seemed to pop up about once an album (Turtleneck, for example). It’s dad rock now that “dad” means folks who grew up on 90s-00s rock, punk, and emo.

Speaking of emo: emo is good again. We’re at, what, fourth wave emo now? But it’s evolved in a way that still feels like blasting the car stereo in high school while growing out of the sexist framing of probably about 75% of the early emo/punk songs. The Wonder Years made an emo/punk album about parenthood and it’s absolutely fantastic.

But that’s been out for months. The recent great emo album is from Hot Mulligan, very possibly the best emo/punk band going now. Why Would I Watch picks up right where You’ll Be Fine left off. There’s still off-kilter rollicking drums, excellent guitar riffs, and stinging lyrics that basically demand to be screamed along with. There’s even a bit of the excellent acoustic work that the band has shown off across a couple of great EPs. It’s cathartic in a way that’s more aware, healthy, and helpful than emo typically is.

  • I’ve started logging everything I read, and April was busy enough it’s mostly just comics and short RPGs. The longer RPG, fiction, and non-fiction reads are all still going. That leaves me with a count of 3 RPGs and 21 issues of comics read in April. Not bad, but time to push some reading time.
  • Tears of the Kingdom is out today. I was trying to finally complete Breath of the Wild from a clean start first, but it seems like that may not be the way to do it so I’ll probably dive right in. My second attempt at Breath of the Wild only managed to cover the same portions of the game I’d already seen anyway, which is an odd thing to happen in such an open-world game. I guess a world is only as open as the combination of map and player make it.
  • The One Ring play has been extremely spotty, but at least it finally pushed me to start a game of Thousand Year Old Vampire. So far I’ve ended up researching the Jewish Golden Age in Spain and an obscure sufi mystical text in order to set up my game where my newly-formed vampire immediately sucked the soul out of his best friend who happened to also be the Prince of Granada who would have, historically, taken the throne next (despite being second in line). The history of 1023 is already off the rails. (Yes, my game starts in 1023, it’s not called Thousand Year Old Vampire for nothing.)

  1. As in 30 days, not as in a calendar month. One of these albums came out in April, one in May. In before I get corrections. 

Sage LaTorra is a game designer and engineering manager at Google. You may know him from Dungeon World.

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