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The Pop Culture Wing of Hot Corner Harbor

Monday, September 11, 2023

Music Monday: Summer 2023 Playlist

Happy Music Monday! It’s once again time for a playlist!

As I mentioned in my last playlist article back in May, this year I’m splitting my normal massive End-of-Summer Playlist into two smaller ones, with this one roughly covering music I found from May through September… except as I’ve said in the past, I’m also not very timely when it comes to new music anyway, so I guess it’s a little debatable how much those timeframes matter to anyone else. Ah well. I’m also doing my usual write-ups, except I felt less wordy this time, so it probably won’t be as long (although last time was also a little extreme in length, so maybe that’s for the best).

Here are the YouTube and Spotify playlists:

The notes on what’s missing: Mouse removed her music from Spotify, so that’s only on the YouTube playlist. I couldn’t find “Strange Luvv” by King Isis on either platform, so here’s a Bandcamp link. And 7mai doesn’t use either, so here’s a link to their Bandcamp page; the picks on this playlist come from the Gray, Pink, Yellow, and Violet “Colorful Palette” EPs.

And speaking of, as always, a lot of these artists have Bandcamp pages where you can purchase their music directly. So if there’s something that you really like, maybe consider throwing some money their way as well!

Carly Rae Jepsen, The Loveliest Time

Once again, Carly Rae Jepsen followed up an album release with a B-sides collection the following year. I don’t really have a ton to say here; Carly Rae Jepsen released an album of very good pop music? And I liked it a lot? Wow, what a shock, who could have guessed any of this!

It is kind of interesting that this one dropped the “B-Sides” label this time in exchange for its own (derivative) name, although it’s also probably the B-Side album that feels like it most strongly stands on its own, so it makes sense. It does feel like The Loveliest Time dabbles around in styles more than any of her other albums. I wish it had a song I liked as much as “Run Away With Me” or “The Loneliest Time” or “Want You In My Room”, but it’s also not hard to recommend songs like “Shy Boy” and “Psychedelic Switch”. Overall, I’m not sure if it’s my favorite of CRJ’s projects, but that’s a difficult catalog to stand out in, and probably partly personal taste.

PRIZM, All Night

This one was my big, new discovery while browsing Bandcamp over the last few months. I know that I have a thing for those sparkling atmospheric synths and haunting saxes and powerful vocals singing big hooks cutting through it all… but also, this Dallas-based duo makes it so easy to love it. They have the style down pat, writing banger after banger and polishing them to a gem-like gleam, and splashing them across the night sky with a sense of cinematic grandeur. The songs I’ve picked for the list (“All Night”, “Lost You”, and “Can’t Bring Me Down”) were all easy calls, instant classics that I immediately fell in love with, but really, there are no weak links on All Night. I tore through the rest of their releases and can recommend it all, although for the sake of this playlist, I included “Sober” (one of three recent singles, hopefully prelude to a new album?) and cover “Don’t Stop” (one of a trio of Fleetwood Mac covers they released; I like them all, but felt like this one was the most interesting, really putting a unique spin all their own on it).

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Cassette Beasts, Side B: Steam in the Subway, Earth Is Afire

I’m finally back with my promised second article on
Cassette Beasts! If you missed the first one, you can read it here; that one serves as my mostly spoiler-free general recommendation of the game. However, I also wanted to do some deeper looks into the game, its systems, its themes, and so on, which necessitates some spoilers. I’ll give a general warning when I start getting into mild things (like discussing specific monsters or the game’s mechanics), and then give a warning at the midpoint when I start moving into more serious story-related spoilers (as well as a few mentions about the story of Bytten Studio’s first game, Lenna’s Inception, which I covered here). Generally, I think this game is strong enough that being spoiled wouldn’t ruin it for you, but if you are sensitive to those, feel free to take advantage of those warnings as jumping off points, or even bookmark this for later, and come back later after you’ve played it some .

In the first part of my Cassette Beasts review, I mentioned that the game lived up to all of the expectations I had for it after loving Bytten Studio’s first game, Lenna’s Inception. And I want to look at that a little more; I’ve already said that they make for an interesting comparison, but there was something specific that stood out to me when I was looking at what I wanted to cover in a spoilered review. See, while it lived up to Lenna in quality, it was actually kind of funny how much expecting Cassette Beasts to be like its predecessor ended up surprising me, particularly in its world building.

Not to spoil it too much, but Lenna’s Inception breaks the fourth wall several times over the course of a playthrough, culminating in a few big reveals during the final dungeon that recontextualize everything you’ve seen to that point, in a way that directly calls attention to the fact that it is a video game. It’s a really big and fun twist, the kind of thing that makes you go back and think “Oh, why didn’t I notice that earlier!”, and I kept expecting something like that in Cassette Beasts. Maybe it’s not fair to expect some huge surprise like that twice, but I can also see why I thought that; there are a few moments where you can see some similar ideas popping up, so it’s maybe not too big of a stretch to think that Cassette Beasts might at least have similar ideas on its mind.

Thursday, July 6, 2023

Cassette Beasts, Side A: So Many Things That I Want To Say


Editor’s Note (please ignore that the editor and writer are the same person):
As you might be able to tell from the article below, I really like this game, and have a lot to say about it. So, in order to prevent the sort of schedule slippage that can happen when I try and sort out more complicated thoughts, I’m going to be trying something new: running two, shorter articles. This one will serve as a basically spoiler-free recommendation, and the second piece that follows (schedule very much TBD) will have a more in-depth commentary, and include more spoiler-y details. Maybe the shorter length will make them both a little more readable too, we’ll see.

In the meantime, if you’d like, you could pick up Cassette Beasts now (it’s on sale as part of the Steam Summer Sale!) and maybe you’ll have thoughts of your own by the time part 2 arrives! And of course, as always, feel free to sign up for my email list if you'd like to be notified when that article goes live; I promise that I'll only send things when there's new writings to read!

Back in December, I wrote about the greatness that was Neon White, and mentioned the excitement that comes when something that you’ve greatly anticipated lives up to high expectations. Well, I’m excited to announce that yet again*, another indie video game has pulled it off, with Bytten Studio delivering an absolute masterpiece in Cassette Beasts.

*I originally said “for the second year in a row” here, but 2021 had Chicory and Demon Turf, so I suppose it’s a little more frequent than that. We’re just in a good time for indie games!

I first became aware of the game while writing about the two-person studio’s previous game, Lenna’s Inception, which was my favorite game that I played in 2020. In fact, my memory might be wrong, but I think the announcement came out while I was doing research for that article? Either way, from the moment I saw that first trailer, I have been pumped, and I’m glad it’s lived up to all of my anticipation.