A Very Metroidlike Holiday

I had the pleasure of taking a full week off from work for the end of the year and spent it back in the Midwest visiting first family and then friends. The “vacation” started off fairly stressful, with lots of issues related to extreme weather events here in the US–a snap freeze and ice storm in Portland that left us without a working bathroom 36 hours before we were set to leave town as well as a blizzard in the Midwest that delayed our flight over half a dozen times and left me white-knuckling the multi-hour drive from the airport to my in-laws’ home. We made it just in time for Christmas but had to leave sooner than anyone wanted to have a chance to see my family, whose visiting time was also fairly brief.

By the time I made it up to where we’d be staying for the latter half of our trip, with the friend group that we try to always spend New Year’s Eve with, I was exhausted and ready to feel like I was finally relaxed. I had my Switch and the TV wasn’t occupied, so… I started playing some games. I managed to make it through two complete (relatively short) video games and start a third, and somewhat by accident they all had some mechanical similarity. I really liked them, and I don’t think I’ve seen many people talking about any of them in my circles, so I figured I would share a bit about each in case they were of interest to anyone else!


Transiruby

Transiruby is a Cave Story-like pixel-art sidescroller with maze-like maps, cute characters and cool boss fights. The main character is a robot named Siruby sent down to explore the surface of an environment formed during some kind of interdimensional rift event thing. The music is catchy and the way you gain powerups over the course of the game is pretty satisfying. Map progression is heavily gated by coins that you have to collect 50 of at a time to unlock the next part of the game, which can be a bit tedious, but the gorgeous pixel art and really solid gamefeel makes it less of a slog in most cases. I finished the game in something like 5 hours and spent maybe another hour collecting various optional pickups. I didn’t quite 100% the game but came pretty close.

Steam | Switch eShop


Gato Roboto

Gato Roboto’s premise is really great: a space marine-type traveler, while flying over an alien planet, crash lands because his cat steps on the keyboard of his ship. He gets trapped in the ship, but you, his cat, makes it out to the planet’s surface. He equips you with a mech suit which gives you offensive capabilities and extra health, but you have to hop out of the suit and navigate as a cat regularly, leading to two different styles of gameplay that the developer makes good use of. As you can see below, the graphics are monochrome pixel art, and you unlock different color palettes to change the look of things throughout the game. I managed to 100% the game in just over 3 hours, so this one is pretty short, but it’s really fun and the writing is great.

Steam | Switch eShop


Islets

I’ve only made it maybe 1/4 of the way through this one! It’s got a great cartoon style to it with really beautiful colors and animations, and kind of feels like a combination of Hollow Knight and Celeste. The writing is very funny and it has a cool upgrade system that lets you build your character in a way that lends towards a few different gameplay styles, which is not something I see a lot in Metroid/Metroidvania-type games, so that’s kinda neat. There has been one major boss fight I’ve encountered so far that’s fought using flying machines, which I did not find super fun, but as long as they don’t lean too heavily on that I don’t mind mixing things up a bit. I kind of can’t believe I haven’t seen more people talking about this game, because it seems like the kind of thing that would be very popular among the people who have been demanding more Hollow Knight for years.

Steam | Switch eShop | Xbox | Epic Store | GOG


Let me know if you give any of these a try!

My Favorite Albums of 2022

I considered doing some kind of fancier website for this, but the hurry of the holidays has really set in and I find myself rushing to get everything done in time to leave town for Christmas with family and New Year’s with friends. So here’s my list of the 25 new albums I liked the most in 2022!

Alvvays – Blue Rev


A long-awaited followup to their first two albums, and also probably the best yet?


Ben Quad – I’m Scared That’s All There Is


The debut album by this band, an all-too-short affair that kicks off like a rocket and hurtles towards its eponymous conclusion. Super anthemic, but full of reflection, anxiety, and regret.


Yaya Bey – Remember Your North Star


I love this album– it’s easy to just throw on and enjoy, with a mix of sounds across the spectrum of R&B, jazz, and rap. A very dependable album that put me in a good mood whenever I listened to it.


Camp Cope – Running with the Hurricane


A really nice evolution for the Australian “power emo” band, with songs that put emphasis on lead singer Georgia Maq’s lyrics and delivery backed up with great singalong backup vocals.


Charli XCX – CRASH

The latest album by Charli XCX is kind of a step away from the more extreme hyperpop influences she’s dabbled in over the last few years, opting instead for a pretty polished retro sound.


Denzel Curry – Melt My Eyez See Your Future


I was a big fan of the album “Unlocked” that Curry put together with Kenny Beats in 2020, though it ended up feeling kinda slight at under 18 minutes’ worth of music and with a few of the songs feeling kinda padded with repetitions of verses and so forth. There’s no chance of this album feeling slight in comparison– while still only 45 minutes long, it features plenty of creative lyrics, great guest appearances, and solid production. “Troubles”, his track with T-Pain, is one of my favorite songs of the year, and has a fantastic music video to go with it.


Deer Scout – Woodpecker


A great debut album for the indie folk artist from Brooklyn! Super intimate, vulnerable, with lots of earworm lines that kept me coming back.


FKA twigs – CAPRISONGS

FKA twigs releases intense, majestic music that gets lots of critical acclaim. This release, technically a “mixtape”, feels like an aim to mix things up– it’s a party record in a lot of ways, though it still manages to have some profound moments. Every track has an accompanying music video, too, which obviously I love.


Flume – Palaces

Flume’s had a pretty meteoric rise over the past decade and is now one of the most heavily-marketed electronic producers there is. His new album has high-budget music videos and guest appearances by a variety of mostly female singers, though the last and self-titled track features Damon Albarn, of all people, on vocals. The track “Sirens” with Caroline Polachek was another one of my most-listened-to songs this year.


Nils Frahm – Music for Animals


The German composer has released a lot of records over the past few years but he hadn’t released a full-scale electronic album with all new material since 2018’s All Melody. Music for Animals is slower, more ambient, and harder to get into, but it’s been both a rewarding listen when I’ve made time to sit down with it and, to be honest, also the kind of album I love to get absorbed in as I’m falling asleep.


Peter Gregson – Quartets 3&4

Gregson released the first two Quartet EPs waaay back in 2017 and had promised more at the time, so it’s nice to see him round out the set now after having had a lot of success since then, releasing an album in Deutsche Grammophone’s Recomposed series, a followup album (Patina) to his studio albums Terminal and Lights in the Sky.


Hey, ily – Psychokinetic Love Songs


The long-awaited debut album from 5th wave emo favorite Hey, ily fuses emo/rock with chiptunes, classical interludes, and pop punk. It’s super fun at times but also grapples with serious stuff and has just been a joy to have in my collection.


Horsegirl – Versions of Modern Performance


Excellent rock album that sounds new and modern but also dials into some of the best parts of alternative rock from the 90s and even experimental rock from the 70s. A really rewarding album to listen and re-listen and turn up very loud.


Jockstrap – I Love You Jennifer B


I almost missed this one– I saw some buzz about it when it came out in the autumn, but didn’t give it a listen until almost the end of the year. I listened to it at least twice a day for a week in December, making up for lost time; it’s a rich, complex record that pulls off sounds from all over the map, including modern electronic artists but also a number of the songs invoke Fiery Furnaces, which is a good way to get me to sit up and listen more carefully.


Lifeformed & Janice Kwan – TUNIC (Original Game Soundtrack)


One of the best video games of the year also has a fantastic soundtrack to go with it. Tunic’s deep mysteries, funniest details and intense boss battles are all well represented in the OST for this isometric Zelda-meets-Dark-Souls game.


Ela Minus & DJ Python – ♡


A short EP but one that I kept queueing up this year. If anyone can solve the mystery of why final track “Pájaros en Verano” sounds so familiar I’d appreciate it!


Mura Masa – Demon Time

I love that every album Mura Masa releases is different: his debut/self-titled album had a string of high-profile guest stars singing and rapping on top of catchy, radio-friendly hits, 2020 followup RYC was personal, reflective, and heartwarming. The title of Demon Time might give away that it’s a big departure from that– it’s maybe not as cohesive or consequential as the other two, but it’s a fun party record with lots of varied performances by guest artists from across genres and notoriety levels.


Nia Archives – Forbidden Feelingz


I hadn’t heard her previous EP Headz Gone West when it came out last year, but after getting hooked on Forbidden Feelingz I quickly snapped up every possible release, DJ mix, and whatever else I could find from this DJ/singer. Also this EP has a series of Columbo clips as samples, which rules.


Overmono – Cash Romantic


One of my absolute favorite dance artists right now. I look forward to hearing what they’ll do next. “Gunk” and “Gfortune” are both some of the weirdest, best songs of the year. I can’t wait for a full-length album by these guys.


Sadurn – Radiator


If I had to pick one favorite album of 2022, it would be this one! The emo-folk band from Pennsylvania blew me out of the water even after I had pretty high hopes from a couple of their earlier EPs. If I didn’t know what to listen to this year, I put this one on.


Hagop Tchaparian – Bolts


A debut album from the first artist signed to Four Tet’s label. It’s loud and bracing and… elemental? Check it out if you like Four Tet, Aphex Twin, etc.


Mo Troper – MTV


A lofi rock record from a Portland genius producer and performer. Funny and weird and great. Almost like a Gen Z Robert Pollard.


The Weather Station – How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars


The lead singer Tamara Lindeman and her band have received countless comparisons to Joni Mitchell over the years, and their sound continues to develop from their first couple albums’ fairly simple folk arrangements to the mature, ambitious, thoughtful songs we see now, complete with jazz saxophone solos and carefully-considered lyrics.


Westside Gunn – Peace “Fly” God


My favorite rap record of the year and one that reminds me of my favorite era of Ghostface’s solo career, the Pretty Toney/Fishscale/Big Doe Rehab trilogy.


Yard Act – The Overload

I’ll be curious to see where Yard Act goes from here, having made an album that harkens back to mid-period Blur records but with the perspective of the post-Brexit UK. While the songs could be seen as novelty, though, I’ve been captivated by every live performance I’ve seen from this group, and I think they might have further to go.


Honorable Mentions

  • Bill Callahan – Reality
  • Björk – fossora
  • CFCF – memoryland enhanced
  • Cliffdiver – Exercise Your Demons
  • DJ Seinfeld – Mirrors (Remixed)
  • Dry Cleaning – Stumpwork
  • Jesca Hoop – Order of Romance
  • ME REX – Plesiosaur EP
  • Beth Orton – Weather Alive
  • R.A.P. Ferreira – 5 to the Eye with Stars
  • Rosaliá – MOTOMAMI
  • Sudan Archives – Natural Brown Prom Queen
  • tordmule – in the garden
  • Wet Leg – Wet Leg

None For me, Thanks :)

I asked to cancel & close an account recently because the company was “offering an NFT” to its paid users.

I don’t have the text of my original support request because I can’t find how to see that, but I’ve included the reply I got from the support team and my reply to that because… I’m just… so tired of all of this, and I’m hoping it will encourage some of you to do similar things when you spot this stuff in the wild, and also I’m secretly hoping that a few years from now I will be able to look back on this and be relieved that we’re not “doing this” any more.

Also, I’ve decided to delete the company name, because they’re a fairly small startup, and I’m not trying to drag them specifically in the mud or anything. And I’m aware that there are enough identifying details here that a determined person could play internet detective and deduce what company I’m talking about, but please respect the fact that if you do that in 2022 and think you deserve a prize of some kind, you need to find a better use for your time.

I’m interested in publishing this because of how I feel about the overall “moment” we’re in or whatever, and what better way to engage with that than to blog? Anyway:

Hi Casey,

Thanks so much for taking the time to send constructive feedback about our optional [redacted] Premium NFT. We want to assure you that we thought carefully about this.

First, I’d like to point out that receiving the [redacted] Premium NFT is a completely optional benefit and not a requirement for [redacted] Premium subscribers.

When we decided on this benefit, we approached it carefully, taking into consideration the environmental impacts of minting NFTs. We looked at Solana, Polygon, and other blockchain networks and chose Polygon which is an energy-efficient, eco-friendly Proof of Stake (PoS) blockchain.

We are also working with notable artists to produce a high quality piece of art for the NFT.

We thank you for your feedback. Please remain assured that our ongoing and only ambition as a company is to create a great search experience that makes your life better. If you’d still like to cancel your [redacted] account, please let me know.

Best,

[redacted]

Member Success Associate

[redacted]

My response:

Hi [redacted],

While I do absolutely have very strong ecological concerns with PoW blockchains, I think the stated goals of any blockchain-based technologies as they exist right now are almost universally at odds with the realities of their implementation. I say this as someone who has watched this technology grow since  the early days of Bitcoin.

My primary impression of Polygon in particular is a project absolutely rife with scammers— you can easily search Twitter to see the amount of effort being put into stealing people’s money using $MATIC right now— and that’s the *only* real perception I have of that ecosystem, as someone who knows more than they would like to about most of this stuff.

It’s funny that you bring up that the NFT is an optional benefit for users— I consider a search engine getting involved with NFTs at all to be purely optional itself and it’s in the process of reading the announcement and speculating why your company would do it that leads me to a number of possible conclusions, none of which I want to be involved with.

It’s literally not possible to say that your “only ambition” is search experience— an NFT has nothing to do with that. It’s possible there’s been pressure from investors, or from people internal to the company that have an interest in the technology and want to see it proliferated, but it’s simply untrue that this has anything to do with search.

I understand that I, as one person, am not going to change the direction that has been chosen here, but I also have plenty of alternatives to choose from when it comes to search, so I think it’s for the best that I cut ties here and move on. Thanks in advance for deleting my account & any information you have stored about me. I hope you have a good day!

I hope *you* have a good day, and it involves something better than all of this nonsense.

The Tweets of August 2021

https://twitter.com/videodante/status/1422597028811444228
https://twitter.com/topherflorence/status/1423072875498590211
https://twitter.com/johnnemann/status/1422590779428524033
https://twitter.com/sarahndipity18/status/1424086639270367232
https://twitter.com/abbygov/status/1424786294740242438
https://twitter.com/horrible_bug/status/1424568857730207748
https://twitter.com/heathercreature/status/1425223429020692486
https://twitter.com/LL_CoolBeans/status/1425899395145375748
https://twitter.com/JubyPhonic_P/status/1427343134053240832
https://twitter.com/yeoldedad/status/1430753997363712000

The Tweets of July 2021

https://twitter.com/dubsteppenwolf/status/1411068966416621570
https://twitter.com/island_iverson/status/1411803920360480769
https://twitter.com/michaelplzno/status/1416288772304654339
https://twitter.com/NoChorus/status/1416386523512061966
https://twitter.com/zuza_real/status/1417825989699248133
https://twitter.com/murderxbryan/status/1420909412429049858