Something to Love: Tape Deck Heart – An Album by Frank Turner

Something worthy of your attention, and five reasons I love it.

tapedeck

  1. One of my favorite things about services like Pandora and Spotify is the way they introduce you to new artists with no preamble. How did Spotify choose to play me this particular song on this particular day? I have no idea. Apparently there is some tangential, algorithm-based relationship to The Hold Steady, but other than that I just listen to the music they play me and I either like it or I don’t. I don’t know anything about the personality of the artist or whether they have a hipster or teenybopper fan base. It’s a pure listening experience – me and the music. This was the way I was introduced to Frank Turner.
  2.  Tape Deck Heart is a personal album. In that weird alchemy of art, the more specific and heartfelt the lyrics, the more deeply it connects. Though I don’t have tattoos, and I don’t especially want to dance, and I have never dated a girl named Amy, I can somehow still relate.
  3. This:
  4. I did a bit of reading about Frank after hearing the album. I was not surprised to learn that he comes from a hardcore punk background. While his new stuff walks the line between singer/songwriter and straight-forward rock, he still has that punk rock chip on his shoulder. He sings like an underdog who intends to go out swinging.
  5. Like many of my favorite bands – Neil Young, The Replacements, The Hold Steady – Frank Turner’s music is built on a solid foundation of passion, song-craft, bad attitude, and pop sensibility. A lovely combination if you ask me.  Everything here serves the song, and Tape Deck Heart is a collection of consistently wonderful songs.

Check out Frank Turner here.

Something to Love: The Blood Between Us – A novel by Jerrod Begora

Something worthy of your attention, and five reasons I love it.

TBBU1. The Blood Between Us is the story of three siblings struggling with real life issues. One is dealing with his college girlfriend’s pregnancy. The second is battling racism at his high school. The third fights to have her dreams taken seriously despite her disability. Then the vampires show up.

2.  Though the novel has three interconnected storylines, the standout character is Lorelei. Lorelei is obsessed with comic books, and she is eager to prove her keen detective skills even if the local police department won’t hire her as anything more than a crossing guard. She has Down syndrome and –while that might change the way the world sees her – it doesn’t change the way she sees herself. She possesses a keen awareness of how the world views people with Down syndrome, and she uses that knowledge to her advantage in hilarious ways throughout the book.

3. The Blood Between Us mixes genres with confidence. The cover says it’s a ‘Twisted Teen Comedy’, but I think it is more than that. It’s a family drama, a coming of age story, and an adventure story all in one.

4. In the interest of full disclosure, The Blood Between Us is written by my good friend, sometimes bandmate, and former classmate (kindergarten through fourth grade). Jerrod works as hard as anyone I know on his craft, and it has been a pleasure to watch him grow into the writer he is today.

5. The Blood Between Us features a unique take on vampires. If you are tired of the sparkly vampires of Twilight and the feral vampires of Let the Right One In, check it out. It draws its bloodsuckers with a different color palate than anything I’ve seen before.

Check it out here.

 

Something to Love: Runner 2 – Future Legend of Rhythm Alien

Something worthy of your attention, and five reasons I love it

runner2

 1. It takes a certain kind of confidence to name a video game BIT.TRIP Presents Runner 2 – Future Legend of Rhythm Alien. I’ve been struggling with how to refer to it more succinctly. Runner 2? Rhythm Alien? BTPR2FLORA? It’s a wacky name, but it actually represents the game. Because, make no mistake, this is wacky game.

2. Runner 2 (I’m going with Runner 2) is a video game that shows its retro influences in a number of ways. First, it is a side scroller – meaning the main goal of the game is to run from left to right in a two dimensionalworld. Secondly, the game harkens back to the days of Super Mario Brothers and Sonic the Hedgehog, a time when games were light on story and heavy on weirdness. They present their surreal realities to you with little explanation. The titular Rhythm Alien is some sort of space commander who was sent to another dimension and now needs to defeat the forces of evil. By running a lot, apparently.

3. Let’s get to the Rhythm part of the title. Runner 2 is essentially a music game. The game’s catchy soundtrack plays as you run through the levels, and each time you successfully perform a task such as jumping over an object, collecting a gold bar, or kicking an enemy, you add a new note or tone to the music. It’s a simple concept, but it adds a whole new layer of fun. As you perform well in the game, the music gets better, louder, and more exciting.

4. Runner 2 is hard. Most levels took me multiple attempts to conquer. Some took dozens of attempts. But that is how the game is designed to be played. There are no lives – each time you die, you are whisked back to your last checkpoint, the music resets, and you run again. If you like a challenge, Runner 2 is for you. If you don’t like playing the same level again and again, this probably isn’t the game your’e looking for. Personally, I was raised on Sonic the Hedgehog 2. I still remember the frustration of dying again and again, but I also remember the gleeful feeling of victory when I finally succeeded. Runner 2 is a similar experience.

5. Runner 2 is a great game at a great price. It sells for $14.99 on most game systems. If you are a Playstation Plus member it is free this month.  So go download it, pump up the volume, and get ready to run.

Learn more about  BIT.TRIP Presents Runner 2 – Future Legend of Rhythm Alien here.

Something to Love: Locke and Key – A comic book by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

Something worthy of your attention, and five reasons I love it.

LockeandKey

1.  Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode Locke are good kids having a very bad summer. After their father is murdered during a home invasion they move across the country to Lovecraft, Massachusetts and into the family’s ancestral home, a mansion called Keyhouse. It seems like a fresh start for the family at first, but soon the youngest kid, Bode, finds a key that allows him to turn into a ghost. The kids discover other keys which unlock equally strange powers. They are not the only ones looking for the keys, and soon they are locked in a battle for their lives and so much more.

2. Gabriel Rodriguez’s art style is bold, distinctive, and perfectly fits the tone of the story. The look of Locke and Key is an essential part of what brings this world and these characters to life.

3. Locke and Key is scary, but the scares arise from our love of the characters and our fear for their safety. These are not jump-out-at-you scares or gross-out scares. Every one of these scares is earned.

4. Some of the keys in Keyhouse: The Ghost Key, The Anywhere Key, The Head Key, The Shadow Key, The Giant Key. At its heart, Locke and Key is an adventure story. Finding the keys, what they do, and  how the kids use them keeps the adventure fresh, and writer Joe Hill is a master at introducing and using each key in a surprising way.

5. Locke and Key accomplishes a rare feat. It is not a book for kids – it is violent, scary, and doesn’t shy away from adult themes – but it manages to perfectly capture the childlike sense of wonder. Through seven year-old Bode we remember the epic adventures our imaginations took us on as children, though his adventures are more real than ours ever were. Through teenage Kinsey we remember how every little struggle felt life-and-death important in high school, though for her they actually are. And through the slightly older Tyler we remember the push and pull between adulthood and childhood at the end of high school. If you only comic books you have read involve superheroes, Locke and Key is an eye-opening look at the potential of the medium.

 Where to begin: Volume 1: Welcome to the Keyhouse is probably available at your local comic book shop. Or you can buy the beautiful digital version for $4.99 over at Comixology and read it on your iPad/Andriod/Whatever-your-fancy-device-is. Welcome to the Keyhouse collects issues 1-6. That’s less than a buck an issue for a story that will stay will you for a good long time.

Learn more about Locke and Key at IDW’s website here.

Check out Gabriel Rodriguez’s website here and Joe Hill’s always fun Tumblr here.

 

Something to Love: Sawbones – A podcast by Dr. Sydnee McElroy and Justin McElroy

Something worthy of your attention, and five reasons I love it.

Sawbones

 1. Sawbones is a podcast by Dr. Sydnee McElroy and her definitely-not-a-doctor husband Justin McElroy. You may know Justin from the great modern advice podcast My Brother, My Brother and Me.

Sawbones is funny, informative, and it will give you lots of cool facts to share at your next dinner party. If you get invited to those sorts of things. Unrelated note: I am free most Friday and Saturday nights.

2. On Sawbones, the hosts discuss some of the most misguided medical practices in humanity’s long history of trying to understand the human body and how to fix it. Recent topics include bloodletting, hysteria,  and lobotomy.

3. It makes you wonder which of our current medical practices future generations will laugh at and/or be revolted by.

4. They keep it tight. As a podcaster myself, I know far too well the temptation to let your podcast creep upward in duration with each subsequent episode. The first episode of my guitar podcast Six-String Bliss lasted about 30 minutes. Some of the later episodes pushed the 90 minute mark. The McElroys keep things to a wieldy 30-40 minutes. Perfect for listening to during a short morning workout.

5. The hosts seem like cool people. In the very personal medium of podcasting, the importance of likeable hosts cannot be overstated. It is a pleasure to hang out with Justin and Sydnee for a half hour each week.

Did I mention that I am free most Friday and Saturday nights?

Where to begin? Start with Episode One: Trepanation. Otherwise you won’t understand Justin’s signature sign out: “Don’t drill a hole in your head.”

Check out all the episodes of  Sawbones here.