Paperweights

I think I’ve said this about a hundred times but if you’re not listening to Calhoun you need to take a step back and re-evaluate your life.

Calhoun - Lola's 10/20/2013

Their new EP, Paperweights, comes out today and it is phenomenal. I was lucky enough to get my hands on it several months ago thanks to the unending generosity and awesomeness of Tim Locke and it has, as pretty much all of Calhoun’s music does, become a staple of my playlists.

When I saw the official tracklist for Paperweights I was amused and also glad I didn’t write this post earlier, because four out of the six songs’ names have changed. I knew this was the case with “Don’t Look Strange,” previously known as “Shit On My Face” because according to Tim at the show the other night, there were “objections.”

This EP is a definite departure from their previous album, Heavy Sugar, and light-years away from Year That Never Was, and I mean this in the best possible way. With each album, Calhoun’s sound becomes tighter and more focused and evolves in ways that deliver some of the best lyrics and music since David Byrne fronted Talking Heads. Tim Locke likes to call Paperweights a “dance party,” and he’s not wrong. There are plenty of synths and more danceable beats than you can shake a stick at and the combination is sublime.

“Fatal Flaw” and “Paperweights” are my two favorite songs on the album, and they are the opener and closer, respectively. The former has a definite Erasure feel to it, something I first thought when I caught it on the Local Edge, while the latter’s final moments feel like the end of a fireworks show – setting everything off for the grand finale.

Mister E, on the other hand, is firmly in the “Reap/Sow” camp. He has stated on more than one occasion that this is his favorite music by Calhoun because it speaks to him in a way their other stuff hasn’t. He was quick to point out that he likes their other stuff – he seems particularly fond of “Knife Fight” – but Paperweights is it for him.

“Reap/Sow” is their first single off the new EP, so sit back, have a listen, then go buy the album because the rest of it is just as awesome.

I cannot recommend Calhoun and Paperweights strongly enough. You can get it today on iTunes and Amazon, with potential vinyl happening in the future. Go now, and dance on.

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Beta Love

rrrbetalovecoverSo now that it’s been out a little while and I’ve had a chance to listen to it on repeat for a while, add it to every running mix I’ve created, and pick out my favorite songs, I suppose I should tell you how I feel about Ra Ra Riot’s new album, Beta Love. It might come as a shock to you, but I love it.

I wasn’t sure I’d like it, though.

As we have previously established through an exhaustive inspection of my music collection, I tend to go for bands and singers whose music feature strings, such as Blue October and Andrew Bird. When I first heard Ra Ra Riot, it was the string section in their song “Dying is Fine” that caught my attention. So when I heard that Alexandra, their cellist, was leaving the band I was heartbroken and concerned.

However, we have also previously established that I love Ra Ra Riot. Hell, part of my beloved Bucky tattoo are the words “Skin and Claw,” a reference to their song “Ghost Under Rocks.” So even though the article said that their new album was going to be more synth-based, I resolved to give them the benefit of the doubt because they’re one of my all-time favorites. When “Beta Love” was released as a single in November, I gritted my teeth and pressed play.

It was wonderful.

I was immediately hooked and ended up listening to it so many times that I think Mister E even knows the lyrics. Every new single that they released on Spotify was on perma-play. As soon as they put the entire album up on Youtube, I started listening to all of the songs in the same way. I just could not (and cannot) get enough of this album.

The synths and violin work beautifully together, and the frantic beats that populate the majority of the album get into your head and make you want to dance, no matter where you are. I have to remind myself that I’m not allowed to have a dance party on the treadmill when “Dance With Me” comes on. Every. Single. Time. The lyrics are a little different than previous albums; science fiction inspired with a lot of emphasis on artificial intelligence and the capability of machines to feel, but I still get that straight-to-the-heart feeling that gives me goosebumps from them.

Beta Love is an awesome album. Why haven’t you stopped reading yet to go listen to it?

Since I already posted “Dance With Me” yesterday, I’ll put up “Beta Love” so you can get hooked too. Then go buy their album or go to a show, like I will be next week. Trust me, they’re awesome.

Texas Recommendation: Thundercloud Subs

If you don’t eat meat, you often have to deal with some less-than-stellar food options when you eat out. If you’re vegan, the options narrow even further. Unless you’re going to a restaurant that specifically caters to the meatless eater, you’ll probably end up ordering a plate of sides. Not at Thundercloud Subs!

Even though you can get a vegetarian sub at places like Subway, they tend to be pretty unimpressive. Rather than go for anything special, it feels like they added to the menu as an afterthought, and the result is a sandwich that is basically just their regular fare minus the meat. It’s boring and sad.

By comparison, Thundercloud’s Veggie Delite is packed with goodies. You can choose cream cheese or hummus for your protein (both are delicious), and it’s also got avocado, olives, and sprouts in addition to their usual toppings and special Thundersauce. It’s an actual menu choice, not something you have to settle for. Also, all their nutrition information is posted online so you know what you’re getting into. They also offer a hot sub with a meatless chick’n patty if that’s more your speed!

Also, all of their nice, soft bread is vegan. So if you choose hummus instead of cream cheese, you have a healthy vegan option that doesn’t taste like they just swept all the leftover toppings onto a roll. Some of their locations even offer gluten-free bread! And they’re local if you live in South/Central Texas, so you can feel better about eating there as opposed to a national chain.

They’re also quite reasonable when it comes to the price. Most of their subs are less than $5, with some of them as low as $3.49, depending on the weekly specials. All in all, it’s a great place to eat if you’re in the mood for a sandwich and don’t want to be stuck with a load of sides again.

I meant to write this last week when we ate there but I didn’t get around to it. But tomorrow is Round Two at the Social Security office, so we’re going to eat there again. This time I’ll probably get hummus (last week it was cream cheese), and Mister E has his eye on the pastrami. Good times.

11/22/63

Not gonna lie, I was mad at Stephen King when I started reading 11/22/63. My adventures at the library had netted me a copy of two King books I had been wanting to read for a long time. First was Duma Key, which was excellent and terrifying and made me sleep with my lights on for the three days it took me to blast through it. Then came Bag of Bones, which I read and complained about in unequal measures for almost a week. Seriously, it was terrible. And I never thought I’d ever say that about a Stephen King book. The damn thing bored me to tears for 300 pages, then got really good for 200, but I never forgave it for the first bit.

11/22/63 made up for it.

In case you haven’t heard of it – even though it’s almost a year old – it’s a Stephen King book about a man who is introduced to a portal that takes him back to 1958, and a mission from a dying friend to enter said portal and save JFK from assassination. It’s not one of King’s horror novels by a long shot, more like sci-fi lite. And it’s awesome.

What an amazing novel. It was 842 pages long but it didn’t feel anywhere near that long. The first “part” was a novel in and of itself, and it could have easily been one of his stand-alone novellas in how fast paced and suspenseful it was. There was this moment at the very end of that part of it where I didn’t know if I’d be able to finish reading the entire book because I was so wiped out from reading up to that point.

Even the lulls in the action are propulsive, and before I knew it I had chewed up another 100 or 150 pages. The characters are all believable and mostly likeable, he’s got small-town Texas to a (somewhat nostalgic-for-the-60s) tee, and the story moves and flows wonderfully. I felt like I knew every one of the characters and cared deeply for them, so that when something happened to them, it was as if it had happened to me as well.

The parts of it that have to do with history, like Lee Harvey Oswald’s life before the shooting, are so well done that I had to remember for a little while that this was actually fiction. King weaves fiction and reality together in a way that makes all of it seem fresh and fascinating. He handles the “time-travel theory” really well, too, showing that the past doesn’t want to be changed and the future doesn’t necessarily need to be.

This is a book I will gladly buy at some point because I can read this one again and again, like I do with some of his older novels. I expect that I’ll see different things when I read it again, like I do when I re-read books, and I’m excited to think about it.

Go. Read it. You’re going to love it.

Persona 4 Arena AND Player Attack Review

Hey, remember how completely hyped I was about playing Persona 4 Arena? Well, it was all worth it. Every last second of waiting was worth it. Atlas and Arc Systemworks have gotten together behind the takoyaki stand and made a beautiful, beautiful baby.

I finally got my sweaty little Persona-obsessed hands on it the day before my wedding thanks to RJ, who made me swear I wouldn’t open it until after the wedding. This was difficult because even through the box I could see that the instruction booklet was big enough to beat rats to death. This was going to be epic.

The night of my wedding, I played it with my new husband and my ex-husband for about three hours of button-mashing mayhem because we didn’t have time for things like “instructions” and “learning modes” and we just wanted to beat the hell out of each other. This was fun. Once I was in post-wedding mode, I went into some training and discovered that yes, there are combinations that lend a method to the mayhem. This was even more fun.

In spite of everyone saying that Kanji – my favorite guy from Persona 4 and your basic brawler character in P4A – is hard to play with, I took it upon myself to try him out and apparently have learned how to play with him pretty well. All you’ve gotta do is get in there and start hitting things, and it builds from there, but getting in there is sometimes harder than anything. Also, he’s slow and his Persona hits fewer times, but I’ve managed some spectacular wins with him against a moderately difficult computer opponent and even an instant kill twice.

The Story Mode is super-fun too. You have to work through the threads of everyone’s story before you can gather them up into the full epic, and sometimes they’re a little repetitive with the main characters, but I enjoyed reading it all. It’s a lot like a visual novel (which is just what it sounds like: lots of story on screen with some voice acting and music) with some fighting thrown in to make it even more interesting. Even though they’re reduced to one round battles between story chunks, I found myself looking forward to them just as much as the story in a very JRPG fashion.

Persona 4 Arena is just an all-around fun game for Persona-obsessives like me who also like to beat the crap out of things sometimes. If you’re into that sort of thing (I AM SO INTO THIS SORT OF THING), there’s also a $5 DLC pack that lets you wear glasses from the P4 original game. Mister E thinks I am out of my mind for wanting this:

Me: And for $5, you can get glasses for everyone to wear while they fight!
Mister E: Really. That’s the $5 DLC?
Me: ::nod::
Mister E: You know what the $5 DLC is for Skyrim? You can build a freaking house. To live in. With servants.
Me: …
Mister E: Oh, right. I forgot. Glasses fetish.

You can read a much more in-depth review at Player Attack, which I also wrote because I’m awesome like that. So is P4A. You should play it. Or play Persona 4, then play it. Whichever floats your boat, really. But go read my review! Like I said: awesome.