It’s been said that there’s more to life than music and, while we remain sceptical, we’ve decided to test the premise with our new bi-weekly Cool People Column!
Noyan and Eden already bring you great pop culture recommendations and discussions each week on Heavy Pod is Heavy, but why should they get to have all the fun? (Just because they essentially maintain and run the blog itself? I think not!) Now it’s the rest of the staff’s turn to share all the cool things from beyond the world of music that have been tickling their fancy over the last fortnight; everything from books to films, TV shows, video games and beyond!
We also want to know what all you cool people out there have been getting up to as well, so make sure to let us know in the comments.
Episode #158: “The Case of the Missing Hit”
I want to dive into one specific podcast episode which has really stuck with me since it first aired earlier this month. Reply All, in short, is “a podcast about the internet”, but their best episodes are easily what they refer to as “super tech support.” Here, the two hosts PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman go into a deep dive ‘tech support’ search to attempt to solve some bizarre internet/media/pop-culture related mystery a listener has encountered.
For Episode #158 – “The Case of the Missing Hit”, they attempt to uncover a song that has been stuck in someone’s head for over a decade, but has seemingly been erased from the internet. That “tip of the tongue” struggle so many of us can relate to with no relief in sight. What makes this listener (Tyler) special, is he has a unique type of OCD called Pure-O, where he has an excessive amount of the “obsessive” characteristic but not the others. This enables Tyler to have an insane recall for specific lyrics, rhythms, melodies and even the timbre of the instruments and structure of the song. With this recall, Tyler puts together a layered version of the song using multiple tracks of different instruments all played with his mouth. The lengths the Reply All crew then go to solve this are both fascinating and hilarious. I won’t spoil everything, but if you’re intrigued enough maybe skip reading this and just go listen to it.
The only google result that leads to believe Tyler is not just making this all up is on an online Stratocaster forum. A user with the same tip of my tongue dilemma cites very similar lyrics, but they even included an audio clip playing the main riff on guitar from memory that’s exactly as Tyler had it. The hosts entertained the idea that maybe this was just an obscure local band that never made it outside of Tyler’s town, but the kicker here was that this user is from Trinidad and Tobago. It had to have been on a major label to get that wide reaching of radio play, but where did it go?
The relatability of this problem is one of the things that kept me so engaged. You can’t stop listening until it’s solved, and the hosts do a great job of teasing disastrous pitfalls (was it just multiple songs he mentally stitched together?) but keeping that glimmer of hope. From recreating the song entirely with professional musicians from memory, to interviewing Rolling Stone editors, label runners and the vocalist of Barenaked Ladies (???) this episode is a wildly gripping ride that I can’t recommend enough.
The Haunting of Tram Car 015
By P. Djèlí Clark
I’ve been reading a lot of really weird and really wordy books lately, so I needed a break with something a bit lighter and more easily engaging. The Haunting of Tram Car 015 (2019) was just the ticket, partly because the setting is so engaging but also because Djèlí Clark’s writing simply rolls off the page. The story is pretty simple, drawing inspiration from the steampunk genre but twisting it a bit to give it less of a Euro-centric tinge: What if a philosopher/scientist open a gateway to the realm of the djinn in the late 91th century? What if those djinn, pouring out of that gate, completely reshaped Egyptian society with their magic and technology (like automatons, fast transportation, and hidden knowledge of the occult) and made Cairo the center of modernizing society on the eve of World War I?
The resulting city is a wonderful lace for a story. We follow Hamed, a veteran investigator in the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, a body dedicated to the policing of anything supernatural. As he breaks in a new recruit, he also has to contend with a vengeful spirit haunting one of the city’s trams. Interestingly enough, Clark also juxtaposes these events with questions of gender politics, framing the story against the vote to give women the vote in early 20th century Egypt. The result is a fun little romp through this world, originally envisioned in a set of short stories.
The novella will certainly not blow your mind, nor does it challenge the basic tropes of the steampunk genre too much, but it’s written well, it’s witty, short, and a delight to read. Pick it up if you’re in the mood for something evocative but not too high concept, an adventure in a unique world and setting with plenty of action and supernatural intrigue.
Doom (2016) was so good that it essentially ruined all other video games for me for a while. The fast-paced, arcade-style action and irreverent, B-movie “story” felt so refreshing in a time when shooters had all essentailly become clones of one another. The Doom reboot stood out because of how different it was. Sadly, Doom Eternal (2020) only “expands” on its predecessor by cramming a seemingly endless amount of ill-fitting, standard shooter features back into its once-invigorating formula.
In a series that revels in the momentum and speed of its gameplay, Doom Eternal appears hell-bent on slowing you down. The early sections of the game are particularly trying. Once you’ve got past setting up your mandatory Bethesda account, and escaped from the pointless hub-area, you’re constantly interrupted by tutorials which show you exactly how the develops want you to play the game, rather than let you work it out yourself. These tutorials can be turned off, but the game does a poor job otherwise of on-boarding you with its many (many) new features. Abilities are thrown at you so quickly, and are so situational specific that I sometimes spent entire sessions forgetting I had an ice-grenade or a flamethrower or whatever, and, while they definitely help, I didn’t really need them either. There are also literally upgrades to upgrade, based on multiple different kinds of in-came currency, of which only a few are are particularly meaningful. Having said that, Doom Eternal is also intensely hard, even on the lower difficulties, requiring the execution of a precise set of operations rather than free-flow survival/destruction encouraged by the previous game. The level design is also extremely linear, compared to the previous game’s more open, exploratory levels, as you are constantly funneled from set-piece to set-piece, through a series of rote encounters. Deviate or be damned!
Doom Eternal‘s story is also outright embarrassing. Whereas Doom (2016)’s story was surprisingly substantial, given its setting. Doom Eternal subjects you to a prequel-style origin story for the Doom Slayer, delivered through the kind of insufferable, Proper Noun-infatuated cut-scenes and monologues that your character used to punch his way out of, and Destiny-style codex entries—which you are, again, expected to stop and read all the time. These codex entries, moreover, account for about half-the game’s “secrets” and collectables and, when you’re not trawling for Lore, you’re collecting Funko Pops™ for some reason. Worthwhile collectables, where once essential and strategically employed, are virtually absent (I think I came across the “quad damage” equivalent twice throughout the entire campaign, and the speed one once). Mick Gordon‘s soundtrack, which was a surprise standout from the previous game also feels less exciting here—being often repetitive and with few stand-out moments (although the sections posted online from “Super Gore Nest”-through-“Creatures of Nekravol” are pretty tasty, even if they didn’t stand out in-game).
The game is at its bets when it lets go of the restraints and stops trying so hard. Doom Eternal constantly undercuts itself by seemingly trying to cram in every single feature from every other shooter in some form or another. The previous game’s gritty, horror aesthetic has also been replaced by a shiny, clean sci-fi one, which again recalls Destiny, and about half the game is taken up by dull, awkward platforming, which only appears to be there to sap your time and health. These elements, combined with the game’s greater focus on multiplayer and online elements, leave it feeling more like an imitation of Titanfall 2 (another game I felt was far more style over substance), rather than the successor to 2016’s glorious reboot—which I guess I must have liked for “the wrong reasons”). The game still feels good to play, once you get the hang of everything, and the the more-open middle levels and the Raid-style final mission are a lot of fun, and it looks absolutely incredible. Yet, while clearly a technical marvel, it Doom Eternal on so much of what made Doom (2016), making it, for me, the first great disappointment of 2020.
…apart from, like, Coronavirus and everything.