Hey, ChipWINners! Welcome back to Quick Shots, the album review column in which I break down some of the latest albums the scene has to offer then give a numerical tl;dr to help you determine if they’re worth your time. For this month’s edition, I have two highly intriguing records that are more subdued than anything I’ve reviewed this year. One is a short debut EP from an artist best known for his illustrations on tumblr and Youtube. The other is from a musician that combines traditional instrumentation and stirring vocals to craft somber, heartfelt folk music. Both offer work that’s rather converse for the time of year, as introspection is not often an emotion associated with the summer. This divergence from the norm, however, is what made me check them out, and I think you’ll find yourself wanting to, as well, as I was quite surprised with what I found. Let’s not waste any more time. Sit back, relax, and join me as I take the time to review music from newcomers Rod-Scorpion and Three-Year Day Job.
‘Forget Me Now’ by Rod-Scorpion
A new face to the scene, Rodrick Scorpion is an artist who has earned himself a following on tumblr and Youtube for his character designs featuring strong line work and expressive facial features. These quirks, along with a simple, striking, monochromatic coloring, are what first drew me into Rod-Scorpion’s debut EP. The somber image of a young person drowning in blood conveys a sense of sorrow that is captivating, and encourages the user to dive in. Having been successfully lured in, I dove into the depths after this person to experience what it was they were feeling, and what I came away with was something very unexpected.
A five track EP that is less than fifteen minutes in length, ‘Forget Me Now’ is the embodiment of suffering that Rod-Scorpion has endured. What makes this record interesting, however, is that while this album is certainly subdued, the shape that pain takes is surprising. The opening track, ‘The Sea of Blood’, maintains a sense of melancholy from its opening melody of pulse waves that dance unnervingly along a gloomy lead, and is in line with what one would expect with such an album. However, the proceeding track, ‘Erratic Static’, despite starting with some harsh static and a droning, singular tone that lingers to the point of insanity, goes on to break preconceptions set by the cover art by opening up with a melody that feels very heavily inspired by the Mega Man Game Boy Games. Its pulse lead and noise snares make for a airy atmosphere that’s both familiar and alien, leaving one in state of awe before closing on a note similar to its opening. ‘Erratic Static’ is followed in haunting fashion by ‘Uxoricide’: a track that feels like something left on the cutting room floor in the production of a game like ‘Lone Survivor’, which delves into themes similar to what the title of this song implies. The slow, downtrodden snares, in conjunction with grimy, subtle static from the bass line and surprisingly catchy hook is a pleasantly jarring experience in its juxtaposition.
‘Forget Me Now’, the eponymous track of the EP, is perhaps the song that’s most memorable on the album, as its pulse lead and lingering bass continues the sense of gloominess and loss explored in ‘Uxoricide’, but it does so in a way stands alone from the other songs due to its varied melodies. The result is a song that feels the most complete and worked on in the album, as the sense of wistfulness that comes with letting go of a loved-one is conveyed stunningly well. The album then closes with ‘As The Dead Rot’: a somber lullaby that acts as a fitting end to an album born of the morose emotions that come with loss. The track’s spacey lead echoes and reverberates in one’s chest in a way that’s gloomy, and lulls one to sleep as easily as it disturbs. It reminds us that all things must eventually be put to rest, and that even in the face of the unknown, one can find peace in the face of fear even when we face our eventual end.
All in All, Rod-Scorpion has given us a fine debut EP. Unlike many others I’ve reviewed this year, Rod’s EP benefits from having a vision, focus, and brevity to convey a portion of who he is and what he has endured. Since many of the other EPs I’ve reviewed in the past three or so months lacked this sense of refinement and care, ‘Forget Me Now’ is made even more refreshing. It may only be five tracks, but for the quality of what’s here, not only is the asking price justified, but my interest in this young man is thoroughly piqued. I expect great things from Rod-Scorpion, and after listening to this album, I know you will, as well.
Favorite Tracks: ‘Uxoricide’, ‘Forget Me Now’
Bang for Buck: 4/5
Replay Value: 4/5
Overall Grade: 4/5
‘For the new Tenants of my Old Life’ by Three-Year Day Job
I have a confession to make. Despite what my outer appearance might convey, I am, at heart, an old soul who is a sucker for folk music. The joys of a simple guitar, good vocals, and lyrics meant to stir the soul are something I can’t get enough of. If I were to recount the hours I spent growing up listening to Duncan Sheik or Elbert Lee, it would make the average girl’s obsession with boy bands in the 90s look tame. So when I stumbled upon Three-Year Day Job while browsing Bandcamp’s newest releases, I was immediately smitten. From the framing of the portrait photo used for his cover album to his simple aesthetic; the way he holds his guitar to the backdrop that is quintessentially Western. I knew this was an album I needed to hear. I was not disappointed.
Combining the aforementioned traits I love in folk music with percussion and ambient noise from his Game Boys, Alexander Lindgren sings of everything from love lost to loneliness, wistfulness, and regret. His airy voice, tinged with moments of grit and falsetto, pulls the listener into his inner world like gravity, and conveys his sensitivities with a candor and thoughtfulness I’ve not heard from someone in a long time. In fact, while their styles are different, the only artist in the scene I can adequately compare Three-Year Day Job to is Hyperultra. However, whereas chiptune is a strong part of Hyperultra’s repertoire, as a great deal of his music is very much new wave, it is much more subdued, and sometimes nonexistent, in Three-Year Day Job’s work. Furthermore, while both artists explore similar spaces emotionally, especially through their lyrics, Hyperultra’s lyrics are, more often than not, tinged with cynicism. Three-year Day Job, on the other hand, explores these spaces with a sense of lingering hope. In particular, the hope that fuels his creativity seems to be one based on the idea that if one has loved and lost, one can love and be loved once again.
Songs such as the opening track, ‘Cracks in the Grout’, along with ‘Star Guide’, embody this philosophy best, as the lyrics in both songs express a yearning, a striving for something better than what Alexander has now. These tracks feature a stronger focus on his vocals and guitar work than on chiptune, as both have very little to them in terms of chiptune. Conversely, songs such as ‘Eviction Notice’ and ‘Cerulean II’ have stronger chiptune components to them, adding subtle static, soft noise snares, and slightly off tune, arpegiatted melodies to fill the space left in between his voice. The combination of these sounds makes for a lush composition, particularly for ‘Eviction Notice’, which caused it to become of my favorite tracks on the album. Most of the songs on this album, aside from these strong lyrics, stay within a soft, subdued musical tonality. In fact, even when Three-Year Day Job decides to whip out a nice solo or two on his guitar, these never go the point of breaking convention, as songs such as ‘Hypochondriac’ and ‘What Dreams Mean’, which feature some noisier, faster guitar riffs that are more western than folk, still feel very much at home on the album.
Ultimately, ‘For the new Tenants of my Old Life’ succeeds in enrapturing audiences that are willing to sit down and take a moment to be introspective. I have a sinking feeling that many in the scene would overlook this album due to the current proclivity towards vaporwave, noise, or synthwave, but I would strongly encourage people to listen to Alexander’s work. Three-Year Day Job offers a quiet solitude that the scene is in sore need of, and he does it in a way I’ve not heard any other artist do in my years four years working with the Chiptunes = WIN community. If you’re looking for something different, whether it be for the sake of going against the grain or just for the sake of having something to listen to while reading, I cannot recommend Three-Year Day Job enough. This album is a powerful debut LP, and I am eagerly looking forward to hearing more from this unique artist.
Favorite Tracks: ‘Eviction Notice’, ‘Hypochondriac’
Bang for Buck: 4.8/5
Replay Value: 4.5/5
Overall Grade: 4.7/5
Well folks, that does it for this month’s edition of Quick Shots. I hope you enjoyed the music I deemed worthy of sharing with you in this review. If you liked what you heard, I strongly encourage you to follow that artists above on your social media outlet of choice to keep up with their latest offerings, as they’re definitely worth keeping up with and supporting. Don’t forget to check back here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, as we’re always updating the blog with the latest and greatest the scene has to offer. Last but not least, if you’re an artist an looking to get noticed in the scene, whether you’re a neophyte or an undersung vet, keep doing what you do, cause you never know when someone will notice you. Love and peace.
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