Something to Listen to: New Tracks From Passion Pit

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Ever since being featured in the soundtrack for the 2011 video game LittleBigPlanet 2, indietronica band Passion Pit has received a huge amount of attention. Their new album, Kindred, has just been made available for pre-order and, with it, two tracks have been made available this weekend for purchase. Take a look at the official videos below.

Going in reverse-chronological order, “Where The Sky Hangs” is a bright-sounding tune perfect for starting off your day.

Now that you’re up and around, the track “Lifted Up” can get you moving.

Like what you heard? For more info about the album and where to pre-order it, you can visit Passion Pit’s official website.

Something to Watch/Listen to: “We Were Young” by SRTW

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Yeah, I know. It’s a little cheap to have both of this week’s posts be about animated music videos. But I really like the look and feel of this one, so let’s talk about it.

Trunk Animation brings us a stylish music video for SRTW’s single “We Were Young”. It’s a dance track, so the lyrics are relatively few and come around in circle. The video responds to this by showing animated cycle of everyday activities repeated multiple times.

It’s got a great minimalist art style and a great color scheme. When set to a soothing track like this, you’ve got a great gem to watch. Take a look!

For more music from SRTW, you can check them out on SoundCloud. For more from Trunk Animation, check out their official site.

Something to Watch/Listen to: “Many Chances” by BRNS

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Who’s up some music-driven animation? Animator Nicholas Fong has directed a music video for the indie band BRNS. Namely, a video set to “Many Chances”, a single from the band’s first LP, Patine.

It’s a darkly-colored visual journey of an evolving creature. One that fights to survive, consume and grow. A pleasant, minimalist art style and some fluid animation makes this video shine. Take a gander at this!

Like the song? Well that LP I just named (which, again, is called Patine) was released digitally a few months ago. You can find it on iTunes here.

For more from BRNS, you can check out their Tumblr. And for more work from Nicholas Fong, you can visit his Vimeo page.

Something to Listen to: “Dynamo”

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One piece of the independent music landscape I haven’t gotten to talk about yet is Moodgadget Records. An affiliate of indie label Ghostly International, Moodgadget focuses on exploring the diversity of electronic music, showcasing established favorites as much as they do the up-and-comers.

They’ve also just reached their 10th anniversary.

In celebration of this milestone, Moodgadget has just launched their 100th release, Dynamo. A compilation album collecting a whopping 22 tracks from many of the fresh faces in Moodgadget’s stable, including some new exclusives. The best part? They’ve made it available to stream right now on SoundCloud!

So that’s cool and all, but what is you want to take this album on the go? Well, they’ve also made it available for purchase from iTunes for the low, low price of $6.99! Let me reiterate: $6.99 for 22 tracks! That’s a really good, really rare deal. I wouldn’t pass this up if I were you.

You can find more about Moodgadget Records by visiting their official site.

Something to Listen to: “Ghostly Swim 2”

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In case you missed it, comedy network Adult Swim and indie record label Ghostly International have just teamed up yet again to release their second free compilation album, Ghostly Swim 2. You may remember that I talked about the 2009 original a couple of weeks ago. So you know that I’ve been anticipating the release of this one.

Ghostly has a tendency to segment their releases into two categories. Avant-Pop acts as a fusion of electronic methodologies with pop sensibilities, while SMM, a meaningless acronym, represents the more experimental and ambient music. If the first Ghostly Swim was an avant-pop album, Ghostly Swim 2 focuses more on SMM.

I’d spend more time telling you why you should buy it, but you can download it right now for free at the official site! Instead, I’m going to do a track-by-track breakdown and briefly tell you what I think. Feel free to listen along.

Pascäal – “Holo”

True to it’s name (well, the sound of the name, anyway), “Holo” sounds as though it could have been recorded in a large, hollow cave. The electronic noises bouncing of every wall. There’s not much to day about this one other than that it’s atmospheric and puts me right in the mood for an ambient, relaxing album.

Shigeto – “Tide Pools”

Ghostly mainstay Shigeto drops a new track in the form of “Tide Pools”. It’s a haunting combination of synthetic pianos and digital wind chimes set on top of a soothing beat. This one’s sure to invoke feelings of pleasant peacefulness with just a hint of melancholy.

Anenon – “The Grapevine”

Anenon takes his turn to introduce my favorite track of the album. The buzzing of electronic voices work together to sing a melancholic song backed by an energetic set of drums. This track utilizes a nontraditional sound to form an emotional piece. It may sound weird, but I love weird.

Heathered Pearls – “Supra”

Heathered Pearls’ “Supra” focuses on a synth piano among a series of other ambient noises. It’s quiet, but hypnotizing. Another fine addition to our 45 minutes of auditory relaxation.

Babe Rainbow – “Don’t Tell Me I’m Wrong”

Having apparently just made the jump from Warp Records, Babe Rainbow provides Ghostly with “Don’t Tell Me I’m Wrong”. The track consist of a booming drum, a cheerful tune and a haunting set of vocals wailing in the distance. Another quiet, atmospheric track to populate one’s night.

Dauwd – “Kolido”

Dauwd’s entry, “Kolido”, rests continues the practice of electronic elements and far-away vocals resting on top of a subtle beat. About 2 minutes into this one, the beat starts to take on a catchier rhythm fit for a dance floor.

Patricia – “Spotting”

Patricia starts the second half of this album with a quiet synth piano and a thumping bass, as the other elements of the track are introduced one by one. Distorted clapping and complimentary electronic rhythms start to fill the room and the beat starts to progress and shift. By the end, though quiet intimacy is maintained throughout, the tracks has become one catchy ride for the listener.

Lord RAJA – “Spilt Out In Cursive”

The most ambient track on the record so far, Lord RAJA’s “Spilt Out In Cursive” relies almost entirely on subtle tunes and creepy background noises before fading out. Calming or unnerving? I’ll let you decide.

CFCF – “Oil”

CFCF’s “Oil” starts out on a pleasant couple of xylophones, before the electronic elements and bass start to fill the background with life. This progress until the xylophones are replaced by a faded piano sending things into a calm atmosphere. A peaceful ride, through and through.

Feral – “Mirror”

Following a trail of far off sounds, “Mirror” paints a picture I’d like to call digital popcorn. Computer noises and popping sounds play backdrop to a gentle tune and a series of synthetic drums.

Mary Lattimore & Jeff Zeigler – “I Only Have Eyes For You”

“I Only Have Eyes For You” spends it first time on some magnificent chiming among the sounds of soaring skies. Different elements get tossed in and out until settling down to a gentle conclusion. Uneventful, but nonetheless heavenly.

AceMo- “Futurism”

“Futurism” is probably the most melancholic track on the record. Haunting synths set the tone before the drums and vocals continue the song down the downbeat slope.

Nautiluss – “Lonely Planet”

Nautiluss comes in to close out this record with a decidedly up-tempo track. “Lonely Planet”‘s beat moves at a steady pace while the synths decorates it’s path. A nice finish to one soothing journey.

So there we go. 13 new tracks from some of Ghostly’s finest. If you want to hear it, head over the Adult Swim’s site and get downloading.

You can download Ghostly Swim 2, here.

A Few of My Favorite Things: A Look Back At 2014

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Well, look at that. The year of 2014 has come to a close. Was it a good one for you? Looking back, some really cool stuff came out this year. Here are a few of my favorites.

Favorite Movie: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

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This is, by far, one of the coolest movie experiences I’ve had in a while. The story of a washed-out actor struggling to find relevancy is intriguing enough, but every part of this movie helps to make this an extremely enjoyable couple of hours.

The visual style alone will leave you mesmerized. The whole movie is filmed to look like one continuous take and the camera is almost constantly kept at a close-up shot, providing a sense of profound confusion and delirium. Those visuals, combined with a soundtrack made up of the hypnotizing drums provided by jazz artist Antonio Sánchez, created an environment I never wanted to leave. Throw in stand-out performances from the entire ensemble (which includes the likes of Michael Keaton, Edward Norton and Emma Stone,) and you’ve got one engaging ride.

Favorite Book: Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley 

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The Scott Pilgrim series was a godsend for me back when I was in High School, and I found Lost at Sea to be a very enjoyable character study. So I didn’t need any convincing when Bryan Lee O’Malley’s latest graphic novel, Seconds, was published last summer. The concept is a perfectly ordinary one: A young chef’s life starts to fall apart, so she uses magical mushrooms that she receives from a mystical spirit to rewrite history and fix her mistakes. Simple, right?

Well, get past the quirkiness of it all and you find a cast of charming and relatable characters, gorgeous art and a wonderful story. A story that manages to be funny, poignant and enlightening simultaneously. I loved my time reading this one and I recommend you give it a read.

Favorite Album: You’re Dead! by Flying Lotus

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Man, am I glad to have listened to this one. You’re Dead! is the latest studio album from experimental producer Flying Lotus. An album that tackles dark themes such as insanity, addiction and, above all else, death itself.

It’s also one of those albums that you’d probably enjoy much better by not paying attention to the track list and listening to the whole thing in one go. Each track flows in and out of one another in such a way that it all becomes one mesmerizing ride, mixing in large amounts of jazz, hip-hop and electronic music to create FlyLo’s signature sound. For my own tastes, this album did a lot to push me outside of my love of electronic music and start taking a look at the jazz scene, so it’s certainly had an impact on me.

Favorite Indie Game: The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

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Yeah, I had my problems with this one. I didn’t get to spend much time with the game, due to it’s short length, and I haven’t gotten to see the ending yet because I’m too much of a wimp to tackle the game’s only jump-scare section. But there’s still so much about this game that there is to love.

Ethan Carter is an atmospheric first-person exploration game where you play a supernatural detective, who can communicate with the dead in his search to find out what happened to a missing child. As you solve puzzles and murder mysteries, more and more of this wonderfully creepy story comes to light. All while exploring one of the most gorgeous game worlds I’ve ever seen.

Seriously, if nothing else, pick this one up for it’s atmosphere. Throw on a good pair of headphones and turn out the lights. You’ll be in for a treat.

As we wrap up 2014 tonight, I’d like to thank each and every one of you who have taken an interest in my ramblings. I certainly don’t have plans to stop yet. There’s more to discover out there, so I’d better get to it!

Something to Listen to: Water Dancing Speakers

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This is going to be my first appliance review. It’s not quite like the forms of entertainment I usually talk about on this blog, but I think anybody who really likes listening to music would be interested in decorating their place with products like this one. So today, I’m talking about one of the things I got for Christmas this year: the Water Dancing Speakers from RadioShack.

The Water Dancing Speakers work like this: You get two speakers, the left one you plug into a USB port for power, the right one you connect to the first one using the provided cord. You then take an auxiliary cable (also provided,) and connect the left speaker to your audio device of choice. Then you play whatever music you’d like, and the show begins.

On top of both speakers is a glass container housing four water jets (one red, one blue, one green and one yellow). The water jets will then shoot up and fall down, resembling an equalizer playing in time to your music. I’ve embedded a video below showing how this looks. To be clear, the speakers show in the video below are of a different brand, but the effect looks the same on the brand I own.

As you can see, this makes for a very pretty water and light show and a great decoration for one’s desk. Not only are the illuminated water jets fun to watch, but they make the glass containing them glow a cool light-blue. The lights also reflect off the walls and ceiling to create a beautiful aurora borealis-like effect in my room.

However, these aren’t just lights. They’re supposed to be speakers, too. Unfortunately, it’s when you start listening to the speakers that this whole thing starts to fall apart. I tested these speakers with several pieces of music, and there were two songs that told the most about how these speakers work.

The first song I tested these with is “The Night” by School of Seven Bells. Luckily the two most prominent aspects of this track, the guitar strings and the vocals, come through fine enough. The bass and drums are also audible, but everything sounds kind of flat. This is an example of the speakers at their best.

The second song, on the other hand, provided an example of the speakers at their worst. I threw on “5/4” by Gorillaz. The loud guitar string came in fine, but the vocals became nothing more than a faint echo, overpowered by the drums and bass.

I’m not the biggest expert on how speakers work, but what I think is happening is that these speakers are processing these multi-layered MP4 files down to a single layer file. The result is that some aspects of the music will come out clearer than others. Also disappointing is that only the left speaker put out any significant sound, with the right speaker only putting out ambient-static-like audio.

By the by, none of this has been helping with the sinus headache I’ve been dealing with today.

So yeah, strictly as speakers go, these are pretty terrible. But I still find value in them as desk decorations. If you simply keep them plugged into a power source, the glass will still glow and the water jets will still occasionally bounce up and down on their own. If you’re looking for good speakers, you should definitely look elsewhere. But if you’re looking for something cool-looking to decorate your place with, this might make for a great addition.

You can find the Water Dancing Speakers from RadioShack, here.