Spooky Things: “Anya’s Ghost”

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All Hallow’s Eve is a-coming, and whether you’re planning on partying this year, trick-or-treating at the age of 27, or sitting it out all-together, it’s always fun to take a look at the creepier-crawlier side of things. So that’s just what I plan to do. On every remaining Friday in this October, I’ll be taking a look at anything regarding a more supernatural subject then our standard affair. Starting us off is a wonderful graphic novel that I just recently discovered: Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol.

Anya’s Ghost tells the tale of a teenage girl named (you guessed it,) Anya, a Russian immigrant who sees herself as the sort of black sheep of her private school. Her best friend is kind of a jerk, she can’t seem to get the attention of her crush and she’s rather self-conscious about her look. One day, just as it’s all starting to overwhelm her, she ends up falling down a large hole in the middle of the forest.

It’s there that she encounters the titular ghost. A friendly-looking woman who’s been dead for over ninety years. After Anya is rescued, the ghost decides to tag along, developing a friendship with Anya while trying to help her improve her everyday life.

This is one really well told story. The dialogue is intelligent and witty, the main character is easy to root for and the story is charming, even while building up to a genuinely creepy third-act. The artwork is also top-notch. The black-and-white coloring suits the story well, and each character is well designed, while sporting an impressive range of expression.

Since the book was published in 2011, it’s won an Eisner Award and a Harvey Award, and it definitely deserves them both. Smart, eerie, charming and funny, Anya’s Ghost is an engaging read. If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend you seek it out.

Something to Listen To: “Worlds” Review

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When you’re a fan of a particular genre of music, you’ll sometimes find yourself bored of what you’ve been listening to as of late. And then, just as you’re about to start listening to something else, you come across an album that hits your musical tastes just right, and rekindles your fascination for that genre and where it’s heading. For me, that genre is electronic music (an umbrella term, mind you), and that album is Worlds, the debut album from producer Porter Robinson.

Taking it’s inspiration from both the dance and synthpop sub-genres, Worlds provides a wonderful tour through the bold, other-worldy atmosphere, heavy on the bass and skinned with synths. I’d describe it as an emotional dance album. The amount of heart put into this shows in both the music and it’s vocals.

A few of my favorites:

  • “Sad Machine”-  Far and away my favorite track from the album. “Sad Machine” is a moving duet between Robinson and a computerized singer, portraying the loneliness of an artificial intelligence. All laid against a memorable beat that fills me with joy, while the lyrics break my heart. The thought that this is what computers truly feel makes me want to hug my laptop and tell it that everything is going to be okay… I probably shouldn’t be saying things like this on the internet.
  • “Natural Light”- Anytime an album chooses to change tone and pace will obviously gain anyone’s attention. In this case, “Natural Light” provides one of the album’s most soothing moments, bring to mind a moment sitting outside in the middle of the night taking in the sights and sounds around you. Well, that’s my take, anyway.
  • “Fellow Feeling”- A track with some variety. “Fellow Feeling” starts of with a brilliant combination of synths and violins, only to break into a trip to the intense, glitchy landscape in the albums only real foray into dubstep territory. At the end both are combined for a finale worthy of the dance floor.

Grand, passionate and inspiring, Worlds reminds me why I fell in love with the various forms of electronic music to begin with, and makes me interested to see where Porter Robinson goes from here.

Something to Play: “Secrets of Raetikon” Review

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So I stumbled upon this one by complete accident. Digging through it’s history, I found out that it got most of it’s funding through an indiegogo campaign, and didn’t seem to receive very much attention from the video game press upon it’s release, back in January. So let’s dive in and check out Secrets of Raetikon.

Story’s pretty simple on this one. You’re a bird flying through a forest that houses what appear to be ruins of an ancient civilization. You come across a huge mechanism of some sort, and then set out to find and collect the artifacts necessary to power it.

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Gameplay-wise, it’s a side-scrolling open exploration game. Kinda like Metroid… but with more nature! Apart from collecting the main artifacts, you’ll face off against hostile predatorial animals, solve environmental puzzles, collect glowing blue things called rhinestones (I’m still not sure what they do) and collect letters of an ancient language that allow you to decipher mysterious messages hidden all over the place.

The game has a really cool look, using minimalistic artwork to assemble an endless amount of triangles into an beautiful forest. The controls are simple, but fun to play around with. And there’s an air of mystery that’s constantly tempting you to see all the world has to offer.

On the down side, It’s short, and I mean really short. You’ll beat it in two, maybe three hours. And without giving anything away plot-wise, the ending, in what I assume is an attempt to be funny, is brief, makes no sense, and is far from satisfying.

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I still like it, though. At the end of the day, it’s ten dollars for a small but unique world and a fun bird mechanic. If that sounds like a good deal to you, then look it up on Steam and hop on-board. However, if you’re just looking for a really good exploration game, you’re better off looking elsewhere.

Something to Listen To: “High Life” Review

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For today’s Something to Listen To, I recommend High Life. The second collaborative album by Brian Eno and Underworld frontman Karl Hyde, High Life finds it’s style in it’s minimalistic nature, with each track focusing on a single repetitive melody from beginning to end, relying on various smaller elements (vocals, extra strings and the like) to keep the songs from overstaying their welcome.

They’re lengthy, too. Some stretching on for close to ten minutes. For me, it works. I never felt like any of the songs wearing thin, though your mileage may vary.

These are all fantastic tracks, melodic and filled with great sounds, with an impressive amount of variety to the sounds, to boot. From the bouncy, up-beat strings of “Lilac”, to the jazzy lounge style of “Time To Waste It”, to the ambient and serene sounds of the album closer “Cells & Bells”. If you can get through the lengthier portions of the tracks themselves, you’ll find plenty to love about this album.

Something to Read: “Seconds” Review

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I’m a major fan of Bryan Lee O’Maley’s Scott Pilgrim series. Have been since High School. And my interest in the rest of his work O’ Malley’s work led me to the recently released Seconds.

The story in Seconds focus a 29 year old chef named Katie. She’s the former head chef of a restaurant called “seconds” (see what they did there?), and has a restaurant of her very own under construction downtown. She goes through a bad day, and then comes into contact with a mysterious magical girl and a batch of magic mushrooms. Bear with me.

Katie finds out that the mushrooms allow her to rewrite history by fixing her mistakes, and then sets out to not only fix her problems, but perfect her life. Admittedly, the basics of this time-traveling story have been done many times before. But here, it’s a story told really well.

The cast of characters are lovable, the jokes hit more often than they miss, and the message at the end still proved powerful to me. On top of that, the artwork is beautiful. O’Malley’s design and style, combined with the colors of Nathan Fairbarn, create a world worth spending time in for the duration of the book.

Scott Pilgrim fans will feel right at home in Seconds, with a familiar art style and sense of humor. The difference here is that the art, humor and story feel just a little more refined, a little more matured. In several ways, I felt like I was witnessing the next evolution of O’Malley’s artistic expression, and that’s a cool thing to see.

All in all, whether you’re a fan of the author’s previous work, or if you’re just looking for a funny, stylized and emotional graphic novel, I would fully recommend this book.