I know it’s literally the last day of the month, but here is what I’ve been into lately.
What I’m Playing:
Super Smash Bros Ultimate
Been getting back into competitive Smash Bros after taking a month off. It’s not so much that I’ve been in the mood to play Smash, but rather I’ve been out of the house a lot. When I have a few minutes of downtime from one place to the next, I try to squeeze a couple of matches in. It’s a great way to kill time. Big perk of having a Switch!
Cuphead is one of my favorite indie games of all time, so when I heard it was being released for Switch, I couldn’t help myself from purchasing it. At a modest price point of $20, it was a no-brainer. Having been a while since my first playthrough, I forgot how unforgivably difficult it is. The boss fights are so intricate and well designed, requiring sharp reflexes and strong pattern recognition skills. It may take over 100 tries, but when you finally see the text “A Knockout” stretch across your screen and you collect that elusive soul contract, it’s insanely gratifying.
With March Madness recently ending and the NBA Playoffs currently raging on, I’ve been in the mood to play some virtual hoops lately. You may be wondering why I’m playing a 5-year old basketball video game. There are two reasons: I have a My Player file that I’ve invested a ton of time into and, simply put, it is the best NBA 2K game ever made. I’ve never played a more realistic basketball simulation. The game speed is perfect, shooting is fluid, and you can actually make flashy passes without it always resulting in a turnover. I understand that sports game series have to switch it up every year to stay fresh and exciting, but in my opinion, NBA 2K went downhill after this installment.
The only positive that came from playing this game is that it encouraged me to buy a copy of The Godfather: The Game off Amazon. Otherwise, it’s been a boring, redundant, and forgettable experience.
What I’m Listening To:
Spiritualized – The Entire Discography
Seeing Spiritualized live earlier this month has inspired me to dive back into their discography. It’s been a while since I’ve listened to the psychedelic, rock and roll, and gospel stylings of Jason Pierce. This time around, I’ve been primarily listening to first album, Lazer Guided Melodies. What I like about this record is that it’s more reminiscent of Pierce’s work with Spacemen 3. “Shine a Light” has quickly become my favorite Spiritualized song, and other standouts like “Step Into the Breeze,” “Angel Sigh,” and “200 Bars” are dreamy, experimental gems that are of an almost otherworldly beauty.
Of course, I’ve been indulging in the other work, too. Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space still holds up as one of the best alternative records of the past 30 years, and Sweet Heart, Sweet Light has some of my favorite Spiritualized songs. Even the newest record, And Nothing Hurt, has its moments, particularly in tracks like the twangy, uplifting “Here it Comes (The Road) Let’s Go” and the electrifying “On the Sunshine.” Pierce is an extraordinary talent and I hope we haven’t seen the last of his work.
Blur – Parklife and 13
I’ve been in the mood to listen to Blur lately, so I’ve been cycling between my two favorite albums of theirs. Parklife is an absolute classic, featuring some of the band’s best material. The first two tracks, “Girls & Boys” and “Tracy Jacks,” are insanely catchy and fun to listen to. Other standouts like “Badhead,” “To the End,” and “London Loves” are pleasant listens as well. Lyrically, it’s one of my favorite records, mainly reflecting Damon Albarn’s observations of English culture. It’s an incredibly versatile album, borrowing influences from punk rock, the musical stylings of Syd Barret, new wave, and more.
Like Parklife, 13 brings a lot of various ideas together, but still manages to feel like a cohesive album. “Coffee and TV” is one of my favorite Blur songs, with a super catchy melody and relatable lyrics about having difficulties socializing and watching too much television. “Tender” is also much different than anything the band has ever made, leveraging gospel choir vocals to tell the tale of the breakup between Albarn and Elastica lead singer Justine Frischmann. It’s not as good as Parklife from top to bottom, but there are definitely some of Blur’s best songs on this 13-track record.
Toro y Moi – Outer Peace
The last few Toro y Moi projects have left much to be desired for me, but Outer Peace finds Chaz going back to his dance and funk roots. I won’t say that it’s great from front to back. There are a few throwaway tracks, such as “Miss Me,” “New House,” and “Who I Am.” However, stellar standouts like the funky “Laws of the Universe,” the energetic “Ordinary Pleasure,” and the heavily R&B-inspired “50-50” make it a project worth listening to.
What I’m Watching:
Game of Thrones Season 8
Just like the rest of the planet, I’ve been looking forward to each Sunday to watch the final episodes of Game of Thrones. While most people I’ve spoken with are sad to see it come to its conclusion, I’m happy. It’s about time to see how it all ends. The first few episodes did an excellent job setting the table for the insane Battle of Winterfell. While I found the episode to be visually stunning, I did have my issues with it. How did Tyrion and Varys, two of the smartest people in Westeros, not consider that hiding people in the crypt was a bad idea when facing an enemy that can raise the dead? What was the Night King’s real motive in all of this? Was it really as lame as he wanted to wipe out humanity? Where were all of the meaningful deaths? They did a nice job with Jorah and Theon, but I was expecting more against such a formidable enemy, especially seeing that there are only six episodes left.
This is passable. It’s terribly one-sided and doesn’t reveal anything that wasn’t already known by someone who has followed the case closely for years. With the extreme backlash against Jackson that came after the release of this two-part documentary, I expected some more incriminating evidence. I’m not discrediting Robson and Safechuck’s claims. To do so would be incredibly insensitive and shortsighted. They are likely telling the truth; there just isn’t anything that necessarily proves it.
Barry Season 2
Just when he thinks he’s out, they keep pulling him back in. Barry Season 2 picks up right where we left off, delivering the laughs, tension, and some incredibly emotional moments. The most recent episode was one of the best, yet strangest, to date. It hilariously starts with Barry begging his target (who turns out to be a taekwondo master) to temporarily move to Chicago, and then even more hilariously escalates into a brutal battle. Shit really hits the fan when Barry encounters his targets young daughter, who is a feral, inhuman beast that kicks the crap out of him. Things go from weird to weirder until the hilarious and violent climax. I just love how no matter how hard Barry tries to not murder, he can’t avoid people around him dying, whether by his hand or not.
Westworld Season 2
This is my second attempt at watching Westworld Season 2, and I hate to say that I’m just not into it. I’m only three episodes in, so I hope that changes. The first season was so spectacular that I would hate for it to be followed by something so dull. It’s been about a week since I watched an episode. I feel like I should just push through it, but I have no motivation to do so.
Surviving R. Kelly
Never thought I’d be praising a Lifetime documentary over and HBO one. While it clearly aims to paint R. Kelly as the monster he is, this six-part docuseries does briefly explore his childhood and events that could have potentially caused him to become such a deranged lunatic. You start to feel for the guy until you hear from the survivors about all of the unforgivably despicable shit he did. Throughout the six-part docuseries, you’ll keep asking yourself how this fucked up motherfucker hasn’t been thrown in jail yet and how people can still support him. It’s mind boggling and just plain sad.
What are you currently into at the moment? Share your thoughts in the comments!