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Friday, June 23, 2017

Next Week, I Will Begin to Review the Full Catalogue of One of My Favorite Bands, Project 86



Few rock bands have continued to exist for more than 20 years with as many permutations as Project 86. For the last seven years, the vocalist has been the only remaining band member, and the band is still somehow releasing quality music. Truthfully, Project 86 have undergone three distinct eras (and are still in the third).

ERA ONE: THE CLASSIC LINEUP -- Self-Titled, Drawing Black Lines, Truthless Heroes, Songs to Burn Your Bridges By, ...And the Rest Will Follow
Undoubtably the most well known time of the band's existence, where they enjoyed their highest popularity and mystique, during the heyday of the Christian hard rock scene, peaking with getting signed by Atlantic records and having that label spend a million dollars on them...before getting subsequently dumped by Atlantic, going independent, and then going back to the smaller record label where they got their start.

ERA TWO: THE TRANSITION YEARS -- Rival Factions, The Kane Mutiny EP, This Time of Year EP, Picket Fence Cartel 
A time when Project 86 began to shed members, one by one, until, by the end of Picket Fence Cartel, only vocalist, Andrew Schwab, remained. Also, rather fittingly, the most experimental time of the band's career.,

ERA THREE: THE KICKSTARTED PROJECT 86, FEATURING ANDREW SCHWAB AND ASSORTED PLAYERS -- Wait for the Siren, Knives to the Future
Somehow, Schwab kept the band going with crowdfunding. While some might say he should have just changed the name of the band, considering everyone who once wrote music for it is no longer involved, this period has so far featured some pretty solid work, to say the least.

Cool. Time to write a bunch of reviews.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Congratulations, World! I Just Wrote You Another Video Game Review!


This one is for the Sega Dreamcast classic, Marvel vs Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes.
I am about to dive into the catalogue of yet another one of my favorite bands for my "Every Album I Own" reviews (The letter "P" features a wealth of treasures!), so I am trying to wrap up the reviews for any game I have completed in the last couple of months. Unlike the steaming pile I reviewed last week, this is a good one, fun for fans of Marvel, Capcom, 2D fighting games, and new ages, replete with heroes.
Read it here.

Friday, June 16, 2017

I Just Reviewed An Awful Video Game



Reviewing a video game is quite a time investment. Listen to a 30-minute album, spend 30-minutes reviewing it...one hour gone. Play a video game for 30 hours spread over several weeks or months, then spend significantly longer than one hour reviewing it...many hours gone. For this reason, I generally haven't tackled any games I know are going to be absolutely terrible. For some reason, I did not think Armorines: Project S.W.A.R.M. for Nintendo 64 would be one of those games, but I was in for a rude awakening. Check out my equally rude review for it, linked here, and then please never play it, unless masochism is your thing, in which case, play it now, and play it hard.

♥ The Nicsperiment

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Nicsperiment's Early Summer of 2017 Movie and TV Mini-Reviews



It's that time of year again. The time when I take stock of all the movies and TV I have lately seen, and write a two sentence review of it for The Nicsperiment. Of course, just one sentence on The Nicsperiment is like two or three paragraphs anywhere else, and will surely have you saying “What did I ever do to deserve this?” in a good way...of course...
This is one of the rare times I am including re-watches on this list. This recent Tom Cruise Mummy movie that I will likely never see reminded me of how the 1999 Mummy with Brendan Frasier is a perfect action/adventure/comedy hybrid, and the best Indiana Jones movie in the last 20 years. I remember being supremely disappointed in the bigger isn't always better sequel, The Mummy Returns, but now it is a sort of post-Y2K/pre-9/11 relic, and I felt like I owed it a second chance after 16 years. I also gave the third movie in that series a try, as I had never seen it. Also, obviously, I recently saw Alien: Covenant. I realized afterward that Alien: Resurrection was the only film in that series I haven't seen, so I watched it, and gave the supposedly better “Assembly Cut” of Alien 3 a try, as well (I'd already seen the original cut). I think the rest of this stuff is pretty much all new...or at least, recent.

Alien: Covenant -- 7/10
I don't get why it is so hard to make a great, modern alien film--you have the greatest movie monster ever conceived, and an outer space setting, and instead, this is just a decent, violent, mostly enjoyable  sci-fi film that doesn't even take advantage of its setting. Instead of capitalizing on the terrifying isolation of space, or going all in on action, Ridley Scott essentially does a retread of Prometheus with slightly more competent, but still profoundly stupid human protagonists whose stupidity drives the story, and scenarios that were more fresh in the 1930's, like "Is this the good twin, or the evil twin?"--c'mon 20th Century Fox, VALUE YOUR PROPERTIES!

Alien 3 (Assembly Cut) -- 4/10
Makes an incomprehensible, bad movie, into a comprehensible, overlong, bad movie.

Alien Resurrection -- 6/10
Uh...at least it's better than 3? I'm glad they went all out on the creatures, but this is kind of just weird for the sake of weird, with little substance.

The Americans: Season Five -- 9/10
Races headlong to its Season Six conclusion at a glacial pace, like a car crash in slow motion. By the time this ends, The Americans might very well go down as the greatest show of all time.

Arrival -- 7/10
Ah, sorry. I mean, it's a cool idea and all, and it's beautifully shot, but it's so damn hokey.

The Boss Baby -- 4/10
Of all the kids movies I have been to over the last seven years, this is not one of the better. Fart, fart, puke.

The Fate of the Furious -- 4/10
Disregards everything that made the last three films so fun--the family aspect is completely missing, and without Paul Walker, it may never be possible to recreate it. The action is incompetently filmed, cutting every time the frame gets interesting, mangling the unbelievably awesome stunts the crew pulled off--and making them look like CGI when they were actually real...this is a huge disappointment.

Get Out -- 10/10
In my personal opinion, horror is the best genre to get across deeper metaphors about humanity. That the dude from Key and Peele was able to do this better, scarier, and more hilariously than anyone in a good decade is a revelation--more movies please, because with great power comes great responsitrillitrunce.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 -- 9/10
I've heard this film accused of having "too much heart." I'm not sure what that means--I love this tale about a makeshift family of lovable losers just as much as I did the first.

It Comes At Night -- 7/10
It's a nihilistic post-apocalyptic thriller being advertised as a horror film--and one of the most depressing films I've seen. I thought I figured out its purpose, then realized that if that was what the film was going for, it contradicts itself, and though it is quite well-made, one of the three other people in the theater besides me very reasonably requested a refund after it was over.

It's Always Sunny in Phildelphia: Season Twelve --7/10
Starts out with some episodes that give the impression this season will be an all time great, and there are a couple more midway in that vein, but overall, it ends up being a very average season. Hope the break helps.

John Wick -- 8/10
It's basically a live action cartoon where Keanu kills 'em all for killing his dog, mostly using a gun. I can't wait to watch the second one now.

Kong: Skull Island -- 7/10
It realizes it is a big dumb monster movie, and never ascribes for more than that, achieving well what it set out to accomplish, with big monsters smashing lots of stuff real good. Nice bit of pathos for the John C Reilly character, too, just to make sure you care a little bit.

Legion: Season One -- 9/10
Probably the most head-tripping Marvel adaption on screen, beautiful to look at, and seductively addictive, though the jury's out as to where the journey will lead.

The Lego Batman Movie -- 8/10
It is so stupid, and it is so funny. It may betray the character just a little, but who cares when the laughs come this fast, and what's happening on screen is so entertaining...afterall, Lego Batman, by this point, is his own character.

Logan -- 9/10
Considering how badly these Wolverine movies have been squandering the greatest character Marvel ever created, it is shocking how well they put him to bed here. Finally liberating the character to create the bloodbaths and swear-storms previous films have only hinted at feels refreshingly real and sobering, rather than exploitative, measuring the cost of Logan's life, yet without quite making you want to jump off the Golden Gate.

The Mummy Returns -- 7/10
The first hour is incredible fun, more fun than I remembered, but the second is a "bigger isn't necessarily better" retread of the first film, featuring notoriously lousy CGI. However, The Mummy Returns seems positively restrained compared to today's wall of CGI blockbusters, is luxuriously shot, stays focused, and features an excellent score...also all things the majority of today's blockbusters seem to be missing.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor -- 5/10
And this is what a Mummy movie looks like post 9/11--the colors are muted, the fun is missing, everything that made the series special is lost, or at best, downgraded. At least The Mummy Returns had the courtesy of making one side of its climactic CGI battle human.

Nocturnal Animals -- 9/10
Incredibly spellbinding film, with a hypnotic score, great performances, and one of the better novel within a movie metaphors I've seen, directed with style to spare by Tom Ford. So entrancing.

Split -- 7/10
It's not as good as his first few films, but Shyamalan has now created two fun, competently made films only he could have written and directed in a row--and it connects to a past favorite. Bring on the next one--Shyamalan's back!

Monday, June 12, 2017

P.O.S. -- Chill, dummy


9/10

After a five-year hiatus, mostly due to a failed kidney and subsequently successful transplant, P.O.S. is back from the gallows with Chill, dummy. It's always a bit weird for me when I write an "Every Album I Own" review about an album that was just released, as I've been listening to the past two P.O.S. albums I reviewed over a half-decade, and this one for just a short time.
Even with only a short listening window, I can confirm that P.O.S. is back with a renewed sense of urgency, backed by a decidedly more experimental, electronic sound--and yet, this is the same defiant, independent P.O.S. The album has a great flow and diversity of sound and mood, with some great, frequent guest spots, and more of a lyrical focus on race and mortality than previous albums. Also, it's really, really good. The final track, the stunning, nine-minute "Sleepdrone/Superposition" might be P.O.S.'s career highlight, with an impassioned P.O.S. rapping "And all I want is to chisel my initials into something permanent now." I think it's safe to say you've done that, buddy.


2017 Doomtree Records
1. Born a Snake 2:32
2. Wearing a Bear 2:41
3. Bully (featuring Moncelas Boston & Rapper Hooks) 3:29
4. Faded (featuring Justin Vernon & Lady Midnight) 3:51
5. Pieces/Ruins (featuring Busdriver & Dwynell Roland) 5:21
6. Get Ate (featuring Gerald) 1:25
7. Roddy Piper (featuring Moncelas Boston) 4:20
8. Thieves/Kings 2:44
9. Infinite Scroll (featuring Manchita & Open Mike Eagle) 4:02
10. Lanes P.O.S 1:50
11. Gravedigger (featuring Angelenah) 4:17
12. Sleepdrone/Superposition" (featuring Allan Kingdom, Astronautalis, Eric Mayson, Hard_R, Kathleen Hanna, Lizzo, Lydia Liza & Nicholas L. Perez) 8:48

Friday, June 09, 2017

P.O.S. -- We Don't Even Live Here


8/10

We Don't Even Live Here, P.O.S.' 4th album, has the bad luck of dinverging heavily from his 3rd album, Never Better, which is one of my favorites, and by "bad luck," I mean that, subjectively, Never Better is one of my favorite albums of all time and We Don't Even Live Here doesn't really sound like it, so I like it a little less than its predecessor. In lieu of Never Better's more organic. lived in, snowy street feel, We Don't Even Live Here is blunt, with a clubbier vibe. The musically diverse Never Better seemed to cover a vast amount of topics surrounding individualism, while We Don't Even Live Here is a direct call to anarchy.  There's plenty of talk about living off the grid, and out of society's rules, molotov cocktail's at the ready. A more straightforward musical palette backs this more straightforward lyrical content, with the (often live) percussion at times banging away, and P.O.S. rapping aggressively, right from the start.

If a line sums up the attitude of the album in general, it's "Black president, hooray for history! That shits totally pretend," on the standout"Wanted Wasted," one of We Don't Even Live Here's more subtle tracks, featuring a great guest appearance by Astronautalis, and some cool strings. Another standout, and essentially P.O.S.' manifesto, "Lockpicks, Knives, Bricks and Bats," showcases a stunning display of P.O.S.' prowess, as he raps over a powerful soundscape featuring nothing approaching a beat.
Despite having less variation than its predecessor, We Don't Even Live Here features enough of it, and wells of righteous anger at an unfair system its creator refuses to join, and that, along with P.O.S.' always engaging persona, is enough to carry the album far past the finish line.

2012 Rhymesayers Entertainment
1. Bumper  2:59
2. Fuck Your Stuff 3:53
3. How We Land (featuring Justin Vernon of Bon Iver) 4:00
4. Wanted Wasted (featuring Astronautalis) 4:20
5. They Can't Come (featuring Sims) 4:01
6. Lockpicks, Knives, Bricks and Bats 3:48
7. Fire in the Hole / Arrow to the Action 3:48
8. Get Down (featuring Mike Mictlan) 3:40
9. All of It 3:11
10. Weird Friends (We Don't Even Live Here) 2:48
11. Piano Hits (featuring Isaac Gale of Marijuana Deathsquads) 3:12

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

P.O.S. -- Never Better


10/10

One October day in 2010, I was trying to youtube "P.O.D." and I accidentally typed in "P.O.S." This is how I discovered the rap output of Stefon Alexander, under the stage name, P.O.S. The song I heard, "Get Smokes," isn't close to my favorite from Never Better, the album where it finds its home, but it was good enough to drive me to immediately seek out Never Better.
You've probably noticed I haven't reviewed a ton of rap albums. I've generally bought singles over albums in that genre, and I've never made any secret that my favorite genre of music is rock. With that said, Never Better is my favorite rap album, and I'm not sure if it's even close. I felt an affinity to Alexander's attitude on "Get Smokes," but I felt complete connection almost immediately after putting Never Better into my player.

The album begins with "Let It Rattle," which contains my favorite opening line of any album I have ever heard, and Jimmy Carter was in office the year I was born. I shared "Let It Rattle"with an old schoolmate who listens to rap almost exclusively, and he described it as getting a bucket of cold water splashed in your face when you're asleep in your bed. There's no going back to sleep after this stunning opener, which lays out P.O.S.'s modus operandi: big, unique percussion, a leaning toward organic instrumentation, Alexander's unique lyrical perspective and delivery, and blood, fresh life, punk energy. There's a huge vibe of resistance, timeless resistance against conformity, any oppressive force, other people's expectations, whatever is attempting to stop you from being you. There's so much life in this album--Never Better might be the most lived in album I've heard. It features numerous guest appearances by P.O.S.' Doomtree collective mates, as well as others, and it sounds like they are all in the same house, or on the same inner-city Minneapolis street. And the pacing--as soon as "Let It Rattle" ends, the hyperactive "Drumroll" starts off with a Cowboy Bebop reference and someone killing a snare drum.

Yet, later on, particularly in its back half, P.O.S. is able to venture to some meditative, far more chill places. Never Better never gets boring for a second, moving, shifting, bleeding, breathing, changing continuously, feeling like a transformative, non-compromising journey from beginning to end. The album flow is incredible.
Oh, but I have to make a confession. If you've been reading these things long enough, you probably also know that I struggle with depression. The day I purchased Never Better was a particularly rough one. My entire life up to that time, I had struggled with the idea that anytime I was experiencing a moment of happiness, there would have to be a horrible come down. If everything was good, then everything would soon have to be bad, everything would have to come crashing down. I got off of work that day, and walked down the street to Forest Park, lied next to the artificial fishing lake, pulled out my discman (if you don't know what a discman is, it was a way of listening to music), popped in Never Better, and put on my headphones. Once that cold water hit my face in the fading light of the late October sun, I found myself standing and walking to the titular forest of the park. My wife and son weren't due to pick me up for a couple of hours, and I had no reason not to follow my directional muse. I wandered aimlessly through the woods, until the woods ended, and I was stepping through a mysteriously placed pasture, full of antennas. I hopped a couple fences, and soon found myself in a subdivision. After following several streets and turning wherever the spirit moved me, I ended up on a strangely familiar one. Suddenly, I realized this was a street one of my best friends lived on, and that his mom still lived there. I went by to pay her a visit, P.O.S. still blasting in my ears. When I reached the driveway, I noticed his sister sitting on the patio, smoking a cigarette. His mom wasn't home, but I passed on my well wishes. I took this street to the highway, got my bearings, and started back toward my long-shut down office to wait for my ride. As I made this last leg of the trip, I suddenly said out loud, "Things can stay good." It was something that had never occurred to me before that moment. I repeated the phrase again and again, like a mantra, and then P.O.S.' "Purexed" began. P.O.S. uses a vast amount of adult language in "Purexed," but this video of him performing the song sans profanity at the Minnesota State Fair, with his son sitting behind him in this family friendly environment, yet still somehow conveying the message and feeling of the song exactly as he did on record, won me over as a fan for life.

For me, Never Better is vital.

2009 Rhymesayers Entertainment
1. Let It Rattle 3:33
2. Drumroll (We're All Thirsty)" (featuring Doomtree) 2:37
3. Savion Glover 2:19
4. Purexed 3:24
5. Graves (We Wrote the Book) 3:14
6. Goodbye 3:07
7. Get Smokes (featuring Jessy Greene) 2:38
8. Been Afraid 3:39
9. Low Light Low Life" (featuring Sims, Cecil Otter, and Dessa) 3:14
10. The Basics (Alright) 3:23
11. Out of Category 3:16
12. Optimist (We Are Not for Them) 3:19
13. Terrorish (featuring Jason Shevchuk) 2:13
14. Never Better (featuring Judah Nagler) 4:03
15. The Brave and the Snake (ends at 3:53, followed by hidden track, "Hand Made Hand Gun," featuring Astronautalis) 11:51

Friday, June 02, 2017

Portugal, The Man -- American Ghetto


7/10

I'll be honest: I had a tough time with the music of 2009 and 2010. When I look at my best-of lists for those two years, I see little of anything I've actually listened to since I made them. I'm not a disposable music guy--I come back to the music I like again and again. Seeing with hindsight, I think I was having a tough time coming to grips with the fact that indie-rock had been taken over by the next generation, those blasted millennials (jk, I ♥ u guys), and that, to me, the music didn't rock very much anymore. Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear. The Dirty Projectors, MGMT, FUN--I hated all of it and wanted it to die.
This made me more desperate to like anything else I could find, and in that way, I think I talked my way into liking this 2010 Portugal, The Man album, American Ghetto, way more than I actually did. In many ways, American Ghetto is like The National's High Violet, which came out that very same year, but which, for some reason, I was able to be a bit more honest with myself about--it starts out very interestingly, with a great vibe, and then kind of blurs into a boring, droning, unexciting drag. Let's give this brief review just a bit more background: Portugal, the Man are a rock band from Alaska with a weird coma in their name. They write straightforward, three-minute rock songs. Before American Ghetto, the biggest knock against them was that all their songs sounded the same. All the songs on American Ghetto do not sound the same, but after a fun first half, which introduces a laid-back, dreamy, sort of slacker-rock sound, the band goes into a just under mid-tempo slog where all the songs kind of do sound the same, until the upbeat, disco-flavored "When the War Ends," which makes you wonder why they are only just picking up the pace now, when the album is over, and yes, I get the irony of this sentence in the review of an album whose middle track is titled "Fantastic Pace," and also that this sentence does not have the quality of the title of said song.
With whatever the previous sentence intended said, a 36-minute long album shouldn't struggle to stay interesting. You don't have to do all that much in 36 minutes. You could make a sandwich, then watch an episode of Seinfeld while eating that sandwich. I wish Portugal, The Man had mixed it up more. As it is, I've now reviewed American Ghetto, it is just okay, and I don't think I'll be listening to it again, "The Nicsperiment's 9 Best Albums of 2010" list be damned.



2010 Equal Vision
1. The Dead Dog 3:14
2. Break 0:58
3. 60 Years 4:13
4. All My People 3:12
5. 1000 Years 2:52
6. Fantastic Pace 3:42
7. The Pushers Party 4:23
8. Do What We Do 3:27
9. Just a Fool 3:05
10. Some Men 3:31
11. When the War Ends 3:30