Welcome to the new Fandomania! In case you’re brand new here, let me start off with a brief description of what this column is about. I write about geek music. What exactly does that mean? Go check out what I wrote a couple of years ago about what exactly constitutes “geek music.” Mostly I focus on the lyrics because that’s where the fandom aspects come into play (this is, after all, Fandomania). I’m also not exactly an expert in music, but as a high school English teacher I do know something about words.
As for content, I sometimes create lists of songs around a theme (like this or this). Sometimes I write long reviews (like this or this). I have a couple of ongoing series, one about geeky cover songs and another about geek music videos. And, occasionally, I get a bunch of releases that come out too fast for me to do full reviews so I compile them into one longer article like this one.
So, now that you have some idea what I do, let’s dive into the music!
Dale Chase – Typedef
Dale Chase’s latest, Typedef, remains true to form, with mellow beats and a smooth flow, all while singing about computers and other geeky topics. I’ve mentioned Dale Chase as part of the nextgen of nerdcore as well as his song “Coder Girl.” I’m actually not quite sure why I didn’t mention the track “Geeks Are Sexy” from this album on my recent list of songs celebrating geeks and nerds, but perhaps that’s a good excuse to write a part two for next year.
Most of the stand-out tracks on the album include guest artists. King Pheenix joins Chase on “Double Dragons.” It’s a really cool team-up because Phee’s more aggressive style brings out a different side of Chase while still managing to maintain to fit seamlessly into the rest of the album. On “The Cook,” Int 80 and Chase use the perfect meth created by Breaking Bad’s Walter White as a metaphor for their own rap skills. Finally, there’s the last track, “Goblin Town,” which includes Int 80 again, along with Adam WarRock and YTCracker. It’s “a Middle Earth-themed lyrical throw down” which uses a song from the Rankin and Bass version of The Hobbit for the beat and the chorus. It works quite well, although it ends kind of abruptly, making for an odd ending to the whole album. Regardless, it’s well worth checking out, plus it’s “name your price” so you can even get it for free (just make sure to share it with others).
Kari Maaren – Beowulf Pulled My Arm Off
I discovered this one via John Anealio. How could I possibly pass up an album with a title like that? I’ve taught Beowulf many, many times, so I had to check it out. And it’s quite good, too! The title track tells the story of Beowulf from the perspective of Grendel. If I were still teaching Brit lit, I’d definitely play the track for my students. Other subjects include Harry Potter (“Voldemort, I Wanna Be Like You”), Game of Thrones (“Dear George R. R. Martin”), sexism in comics (“Superheroine”), and robot overlords (“We Protest the Robot Occupation”).
Probably my favorites are “Love Song” and “Kids These Days”. The former reminds me of Da Vinci’s Notebook’s “Title of the Song” in that it’s a song about love songs rather than a love song per se (and I do love metatextual commentaries). Maaren’s version, however, seems a bit more personal. I particularly love the line “Mention of sex / That sounds like it’s not about sex / So that twelve-year-old girls sing this song with their dads / By accident” as well as the “Sad ‘Ooh’” (which is, of course, sung exactly like that instead of as an “ooh” that’s sad).
“Kids These Days” comments on the recent spate of bad vampire novels (*cough* Twilight *cough*). Told from the perspective of an old vampire, the song laments how the younger generation has become all emo and non-threatening (“How can a vampire be a vegetarian, anyway?”). So naturally he decides that since the world needs a vampire slayer it might as well be him (despite the female vocalist, I do get the impression that the narrator is supposed to be male, à la Dracula). It’s a very cool way to slam the ridiculous vampire novels that have come out recently.
If you’re a fan of ukulele songs about geeky topics (and who isn’t?), you really owe it to yourself to check out this fabulous album.
Professor Shyguy – Rated Heart
After a successful Kickstarter for producing a CD, Professor Shyguy’s newest album has been released on Bandcamp. It’s a fitting follow-up to last year’s Geekotica, continuing on the successful formula of chiptunes with great vocals and lyrics. A particularly good example of this is “Keywords and Dubstep.” The song is about video memes and the way people comment on them. And, of course, the inevitable dubstep remixes of everything (as an aside, I recently ran across a dubstep remix of John Cage’s “4’33”” — weird, but also kind of awesome). The song even features a chiptunes version of the dubstep drop.
There are, of course, plenty more great tracks as well. “Han Shot First,” the subject of which should be pretty obvious from the title, was first released on Unplugged: Please Check Connection as an acoustic track. I think I prefer the newer version with the full chiptunes treatment, but both are quite good. Another previously released track that appears on the album is “Guilded Love,” about the webseries The Guild. I’ve already mentioned the video for the song, so I don’t have anything to add here. Given how much I loved Final Fantasy 7, it should come as no surprise that I love the final track, “Cloud and Aerith,” about the death of Aerith, one of “the most shocking moment in video games” (sorry if that’s a spoiler for you, but the game has been out for sixteen years now so I’m pretty sure a “spoiler alert” isn’t necessary…). And speaking of video game tracks, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention “Destroy Metroid” which features Amanda Lepre. I’ve only played the very first Metroid game, but it’s definitely a favorite, and I really like the track as well. I remember being impressed with Lepre at Nerdapalooza so now I’m going to have to check out more of her stuff as well.
I’ll admit that Rated Heart somewhat suffers from the “sophomore slump” as compared to Geekotica, but I’d still highly recommend it if you enjoyed that album. The music is strong, and there are some truly great songs, so go check it out now!