T3 100: A Farewell to Lists

The original idea for Top Ten Thursdays was a simple solution to two problems: one, writing T3 posts on the blog was a contentious, time-consuming affair and two, Da Podcasket was a meandering, directionless mess. So doing a podcast where we made lists seemed to be the perfect solution – it would be easier to jot down nominees and talk about them as a group than to try to do the whole thing solo written, and our podcast would have an actual hook to get people interested. But as our professional lives became more busy and we invented other types of shows that better complimented our strengths, Top Ten Thursdays became something of a black sheep – or perhaps even an albatross keeping us from podcasting.

So we decided it was time to retire the old girl. But we couldn’t do that without a proper send-off, which is what you have here as episode 100 (give or take a few). Join us as we reminisce over some of our favorite moments while trying to track the history of the show over its four and a half year run. You know we did this one right: little to no research, one long take, plenty of jokes we’ll regret later. It’s the end of T3, Judgement Day is finally here! The machines will rise!

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C.A.T.: Somethin’ Else

Cannonball Adderley – Somethin’ Else (1958)

Four years ago, Colin and I did a series of Classic Album Tuesday reviews spanning 1957 to 1984. There wasn’t any particular theme or reasoning behind it, but it kept posts steady and let me explore a wide range of artists I otherwise wouldn’t have heard. Such artists included; Bobby Bland, The Beau Brummels, The Feelies and Briano Eno. I would like to try this again. Any other Mildly Pleasers are welcome to join me but don’t feel obligated. The truth of the matter is I could use the motivation to listen to more classic music. This being said I present you with my two cents regarding one of my favorite Jazz albums of all time.

I’m probably the last person who should write about Jazz. Do I even need to capitalize “Jazz?” I’ve probably heard less than ten Jazz albums in my life, and probably have no more than five I can say I love. Lucky for Cannonball Adderley, this album is one of them.

Somethin’ Else released in 1958 is a classic for more reasons than I can snap my fingers at. Here, the legendary alto saxophonist is not only accompanied by some of the most accomplished jazz artists of the time, he’s accompanied by Miles “Freaking” Davis. This is notable not only because Miles Davis is the most famous Jazz musician you’ve ever heard of, but because it is one of the few times Davis was a sideman. Adderley takes the spotlight with his busy yet bluesy playing style, well complemented by Davis’ more understated work. I have no idea what I’m talking about.

Though I can’t say much regarding the playing style, I can tell you how Somethin’ Else makes me feel. It makes me feel like a 1940s noir detective, smoking a cigarette and peering out at the rain-soaked streets from my office. You better believe I have an inner monologue going too. The leadoff track, “Autumn Leaves” best accompanies this fantasy (or delusion). At nearly ten minutes it’s a moody piece with a creeping piano and bittersweet horns.

I like to listen to Somethin’ Else when I write. I don’t usually listen to music when I write as I find it distracting but jazz feels just mellow and atmospheric enough for it to work for me. Especially if I have a hot cup of joe, looking out at the rain with an inner monologue in my head.

P.S. I plan on revealing a NEW weekly blog feature this Friday. Stay tuned!

Favorite Tracks: “Autumn Leaves,” “Dancing in the Dark,” “Love for Sale”

The Good Book

Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book

Is there such a thing as being too likable? I know, it’s kind of a ridiculous question, and probably one that only a lifelong crank like myself could ask in the context of an album, er… mixtape, like Chance The Rapper’s latest.  Because yes, Chance seems like an all-around solid dude with a pretty positive outlook who seems to genuinely be looking out for his friends, even in the face of his budding superstardom.  Hell, he’s still releasing mixtapes even though he could’ve easily been signed to any major label and gotten rich in a more traditional trajectory, but has opted more to go the independent root and embrace his self-appointed position as “the people’s champ”.  And then he comes out with an unbelievably upbeat album like Coloring Book, and you have to ask, what’s not to like?

Well, because this album has come out during this pocket of time in which it’s become increasingly hard to find things to make us feel positive about the future, I’d say there’s very little not to like here.  This album is not only a great summer album, but it’s also a great 2016 summer album, and for that my inner cynic has a very hard time resisting it.  Also, I realize I just called this mixtape an album several times because I’m a rock-obsessed white guy with an album-based brain, but I think that just speaks to the all-inclusiveness of this music that I like it as much as I do.

A main component of Coloring Book‘s “everybody’s welcome” aesthetic is its gospel influences, which it very much wears on its sleeves, and yet somehow does it without feeling like it’s trying to advocate any specific religious convictions.  I mean, yes, a song like “Blessings” is clearly about God.  But I think Coloring Book‘s religious themes are essential to what makes it great, what with dangerous phrases like “Radical Islamists” being thrown around by idiots these days, it’s easy to get sort of beleaguered by the way religion and people’s individual beliefs seem to complicate so many things in our society.  But something like Coloring Book reminds us that religion and especially Christianity should be about accepting people and their beliefs in order to further their own spiritual fulfillment.

That said, I feel like I may be making this album seem like more of a culturally important album than one that’s really upbeat and fun to listen to.  And I’d say it’s definitely more of the latter, since I feel like critics haven’t quite jumped on this album the way they did with something a bit more “serious” like Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly last year.  But I think the fact that it’s fun and upbeat in a time when it’s hard to find stuff like that in our culture (I mean other than, like silly dog videos) is what makes it kind of important.  I mean, I haven’t been to a Chance The Rapper show — and the fact that he’s just getting bigger and bigger probably makes that prospect increasingly more unlikely — but I have to imagine it’s a very warm and safe place.  And that’s what this album is.  It’s a place where you see Chance opening up and letting in artists as disparate as Lil Wayne, Justin Beiber, T-Pain, and The Chicago Children’s Choir, all coming together in the name of musical enlightenment.

Favorite Tracks: “No Problem”, “Blessings”, “Finish Line/Drown”

It Was the Best of Game of Thrones, It Was the Worst of Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones Season 6

For all that has been made of Game of Thrones‘ bold, innovative storytelling, there has remained an obvious direction for the show to go in and certain characters that appear untouchable. Jon Snow, Daenerys, Tyrion, Arya, and Sansa have all been put through such a wringer that to not see them achieve their goals would be infuriating for the audience; we’d hate to see all that time spent caring wasted. Which is a weird attitude to have for a show that helped popularize the “anything can happen, no one is safe” attitude of modern dramas like The Walking Dead and Fargo.
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The End of the End

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Naughty Dog had a console generation formula: A new IP, two sequels, and then a fourth, different game. The first PlayStation had the three Crash Bandicoot games, then a kart racer. The PlayStation 2 had the three Jak and Daxter games, then a kart racer. The PlayStation 3 had the three Uncharted games, then wacky kart racer The Last of Us. So for consistency’s sake, I wasn’t sure there needed to be an Uncharted 4. Especially since the third game seemed to wrap a bow on the franchise. Well, I was wrong: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is a bow-wrapping masterclass.

The leap to the much more powerful PlayStation 4 is immediately noticeable – Naughty Dog has always had a knack for getting the most out of Sony’s machines, and Uncharted 4 is one of the best-looking games I’ve ever played. Sure, that’s superficial, but given the type of game this is, it ends up meaning a lot. The exotic locations are gorgeous to look at and explore, it makes the adventure more alive and dangerous and the destruction of ruins more tragic. And when the characters are this detailed, the motion capture so good, you get one of the few games where watching cinematics is a genuine pleasure.

Like all great franchises eventually, Uncharted 4 is about family; specifically, Nate’s long-lost brother Sam, who was presumed dead at the very beginning of Nate’s adventuring career. Now Nate, after the insanity of Uncharted 3, has done his best settling down with Elena, but he’s getting restless living a normal life. So when Sam resurfaces and explains that he needs to get the greatest pirate hoard in history, it doesn’t take much convincing to get Nate on board. But like all lost treasures, it’s stayed lost for a reason, and the brothers are far from the only ones looking for it.

Most of the game is played with Sam at your side, doing his best to help take out enemies and get boosted up ledges by you. You don’t really have to worry about protecting Sam, The Last of Us this is not, and giving the game constant banter from beginning to end is definitely a net positive. It is kind of like that other game in that Sam is played by Troy Baker, the guy who played Joel in The Last of Us and one of the most prolific video game actors today. But, you know, he gets a lot of work because he’s good, and he and Nolan North are pretty great together in this game.

But this is a game and I play Uncharted games because I’m looking for the epic set pieces. This one has a ton of them, many of which built atop some of the new abilities added to the game. Nate has a grappling hook now, which he can you to swing or climb on certain points of the world. He also has learned how to drive cars, which is used both in action scenes and puzzle solving. This all comes together in one of the game’s high points, when Nate smashes through a city in a jeep, then proceed to grapple between various cars and motorcycles as he chases his target. It’s nuts.

There’s also a multiplayer mode but I didn’t really care. There’s some coop stuff that I’d like to check out, I guess, if someone I know ever buys this game. Really, though, it doesn’t matter. I came for a new Nathan Drake adventure and I got maybe the best one yet. My biggest complaint is with the villains, who both are pushed in unfortunate directions at the end of the story, kind of ruining them for me. But I loved me all that family togetherness. Uncharted 4, you’re great! Never make another one.