Here’s Part Two of three sets of quickies to be released this month (check out Part One here), then I’m mostly going to focus on the podcast for a bit. But be sure to keep an eye on my Twitter and Facebook pages for any development between now and January.
I’m also going to take this opportunity to give a small preview into an upcoming release from a band I’ve featured before. Lipstick has a new album coming out, appropriately called Lipstick II, and they’ve announced their list of guest musicians. A couple of them will be familiar to readers: Jace McLain from Nuclear Bubble Wrap and Josh Dent, the cello player from Fable Cry. Also on drums will be Greg Loyacano from Regdar and the Fighters. Sounds like it’ll be really cool. Check out the list for plenty of other guests.
And now on to the reviews!
EyeQ – AoT Vol. 1, Walls of Maria
I really need to watch Attack on Titan. At no point was this more obvious to me than when I listened to this album. Anything that can inspire music this good must be awesome.
“Titan Slayer” really shows off the EyeQ I know from his live shows. I’m assuming that the titular titans must be the bad guys since this song is all about defeating them. And there’s also “Wings of Freedom (Caged Bird)” which features Sky Blue, Sister Whirlwind, Mackenzie Newton, and Purple Kloud. The metaphor here is obvious even from the title, though I’m quite certain it also has a specific meaning within the context of the show. And finally, anything that has Richie Branson and Mega Ran on it is going to be awesome, so it’s appropriate that the track with them on it (along with Purple Kloud), “Songs of Hope and Freedom,” closes the album. It makes for an absolutely perfect ending track.
I love it when pop culture-inspired albums can appeal to fans of the original property as well as those who are unfamiliar with it (which is why I wanted to get this review out even though I haven’t watched the show yet). This album does that quite well. Check it out regardless of whether you’ve seen Attack on Titan. It’s good stuff!
Mega Ran – RNDM
Now that Mega Ran has officially fully embraced that name, his latest album explores his past and considers his own future with no fallback position. It’s a powerful statement of his new direction that’s really just the next logical step in his evolution as an artist. No wonder it ended up so high on so many different charts when it was released (and even a few weeks later!).
The opening track (“Same As It Ever Was” [with piano by Castlevania composer Michiru Yamane]) hints at the name change while reminding us that Ran himself hasn’t changed (“so here I am, still doing my thang thang / same as it ever was, it’s just a name change”). But it’s really “The Meeting” that truly exemplifies this progression from Random to Mega Ran. Random and Mega Ran have a “conversation” that gets at the heart of the internal struggle that Raheem has about the direction of his music. He finally realizes that becoming Mega Ran doesn’t mean he has to give up his values, just represent them in a different way.
The album also features some truly notable guest collabs, including “Infinite Lives” feat. D&D Sluggers, which is one of my favorite tracks on the whole album. It reminds me of one of my favorite Shakespearean sonnets, 18, which ends with the idea that art will outlive us, so it’s a good way to have “infinite lives” (well, Shakespeare didn’t use those word, obviously). I also love the way that “Rushmore” (feat. Dr. Awkward) celebrates the nerdcore founders while also reserving a place for Mega Ran (and Dr. Awk) among the Rushmore of the elite. And then there’s “O.P.” feat. Richie Branson and Storyville, which I first caught live at Orlando Nerd Fest. My students use the term “O.P.” all the time when describing Magic: The Gathering cards (given that pretty much everything they describe is OP, I rather think they’re overusing the term), so I loved hearing this term applied to hip-hop artists. It’s pretty much the best of nerdcore right there — repurposing geeky terms into traditional hip-hop tropes. And speaking of students, there’s also “Revisions” feat. Elle Winston, a track near and dear to me as a teacher. I totally understand how much No Child Left Behind has transformed teaching. The school where I work has an administration that understands good teaching isn’t only about boosting test scores, but I also realize that I’m very lucky in that regard.
I think it probably says something about the power of this album that despite getting a copy from Ran’s last Kickstarter, I picked it up on vinyl because I really wanted to support Mega Ran even more. I almost grabbed the cassette version but decided that would probably be a bit much. Regardless of the format you pick it up in, you really need to grab this album. It’s absolutely amazing!
The Runaway Five – Lunar Colony Revolt
Rounding out this list is the long awaited new album from The Runaway Five. It’s been worth the wait. It’s short, at only seven songs and twenty-two minutes, but that doesn’t affect the quality in any way.
I’ve previously mentioned how much I love the track “Not Enough Tigers,” and it’s so great to see it get a proper studio album version. I recently visited a wild animal rescue preserve, and they had several tigers there. Needless to say, I thought of this song frequently. I also love the track “Dragon Spacesuit.” Ever since they talked about it on the podcast, I’ve been looking forward to hearing it. I mean, how can you not love the idea of a dragon wearing a spacesuit? It’s absurd, yet incredibly compelling.
It seems to me that the entire album might actually be one continuous story. We humans somehow messed up the Earth (as shown in “Not Enough Tigers,” “Asphyxiation,” and “Rainy Day in Arizona”) and had to move to the moon (implied in “Lunar Colony Revolt”). Then the robots we created revolted against us (“My Robots”). I’m having trouble fitting the dragon into the story, though, so perhaps I’m wrong on that, or overthinking it. Regardless, it’s kinda fun to try to put it all together.
In addition to the Bandcamp version of the album, there’s also a playlist of the songs on YouTube if you’re into that sort of thing. No matter how you listen to it, you really ought to… well, listen to it…