Imaginary Genres: Songs in the Key of Pikachu

This year marks two major milestones in the long-running Pokémon franchise by Nintendo and Game Freak: the 20th anniversary of the series’ Japanese debut with Pokémon Red and Green for the Game Boy, and–just this month–the release of the games’ seventh generation, Pokémon Sun and Moon for the Nintendo 3DS. As long-standing Poké-fans (well, one Poké-fan and one Poké-casual observer), we decided to mark the occasion with a new episode of our Imaginary Genres video series, dedicated to songs about and inspired by the lovable “electric mouse.” Check it out, then check below for extended Spotify and TIDAL playlists featuring tracks by Young Thug, Rustie, and others–including an official holiday-themed song that needs to be heard to be believed.

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Dystopian Book Club Podcast: Ace Frehley’s No Regrets

Our series of Book Club podcasts on the autobiographies of KISS continues with No Regrets, the 2011 memoir by the band’s original guitarist Ace Frehley. Listen to us talk about Ace’s propensity for driving under the influence and analyze the similarities and differences between his and Gene Simmons‘ sides of the story–or, put another way, just listen to us bash Gene for another 90 minutes. We’re pretty sure Ace would approve. Show notes are below, and we’ll be back in the New Year with the next installment: Makeup to Breakup by Peter Criss.

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Dystopian Video Game Party – Let’s Play Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (Part 2)

The Halloween season is officially over, and now so is my playthrough of Castlevania: Rondo of Blood for the TurboGrafx-CD. Watch me die a lot and eventually vanquish Dracula while I ramble about video game stories, the similarities between the Castlevania and Dark Souls series, and why Dracula is basically Donald Trump with better dress sense. If you want to play along at home, check out the game on Wii Virtual Console or the remake on PSP. And join us next month as we resume our playthrough of EarthBound for the SNES!

Hello Waterface: The Dystopian Dance Party Guide to Neil Young

While assembling the tracks for our election day playlist early this month, I stumbled upon something that surprised and thrilled me: Neil Young had once again made his music available for streaming. Though it came with a characteristic lack of fanfare, anyone who’s been following Young’s Internet presence in recent years can attest that this was a big deal. Last summer, seemingly àpropos of nothing, Young had joined his fellow musical iconoclast Prince in yanking the majority of his catalogue from Spotify and other streaming services, citing what he described as the worst audio quality “in the history of broadcasting or any other form of distribution.” But while Prince’s music had quickly reemerged on TIDAL, Young held out, directing his fans instead to his own lossless digital music service Pono. Visit neilyoung.com today, and you’ll be greeted with a blog post defending Pono, with the oddly confrontational title “Quality Whether You Want It or Not.” As of now, however, Young appears to have quietly accepted the writing on the wall; those of us who don’t particularly care about “quality,” at least on the same quixotic level as Neil wants us to, can at last listen to his music again on convenient digital devices.

And that’s perfect timing for me, because I always seem to find myself listening to Neil Young in the short window between Halloween and Thanksgiving. It’s a ritual that began when I was in grad school in Tucson, Arizona, and inevitably started to feel homesick for Michigan around the beginning of the holiday season. Young’s music conjured up a second-hand nostalgia for the cold, grey winters in his own hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba: “Every time I think about back home, it’s cool and breezy,” he’d sung on the title track of his 1969 album Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, a classic expression of a northern outsider’s disenchantment with Southern California. And while Tucson ain’t exactly Los Angeles, his sentiment felt weirdly, deeply relatable to me at 24 (the same age, incidentally, as Young when he wrote the song). Since then, early-to-mid-November has been my Neil Young Season; and now that I’m once again living in a part of the country with actual seasons, Young’s stark, beautifully desolate musical sensibility remains linked with the part of the year when leaves start falling from the trees and a hint of chill sneaks into the air.

You might already be able to tell that the following guide to Young’s discography will be deeply, idiosyncratically personal; but that’s only fitting, because I can think of few artists more personal, or more idiosyncratic, than Neil Young. This is, after all, a man who spent many of the best years of his career chasing a deliberately raw, unpolished sound with the help of anti-producer David Briggs and notoriously ramshackle backing band Crazy Horse, only to later pull his recordings off the Internet because they weren’t suitable for audiophiles. His body of work can be as thorny and willfully obscure as the man himself; but the beauty of it is that it’s often the thorniest parts that are most rewarding. In short, Neil Young isn’t an artist who translates well to the “greatest hits” approach. So here, instead, are my personal highlights from his 50-year-plus career: beginning with his roots in the early 1960s Manitoba garage rock scene, all the way to his forthcoming 37th album Peace Trail. If you’re new to Young’s music, then this should at least give you a few ideas of where to start–and thankfully (at least for now), no PonoPlayer is required.

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