Ryan’s Music Picks: 8 August 2016

Well, here we are again. It’s been a weird week.

How are you liking this? Anything you’d like to hear? Hit me up on twitter @ryanruppe! Also, please tell your friends about Ryan’s Music Picks, please.

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Brendon Small’s Galaktikon (BandcampiTunesSpotify)
If you really appreciate metal that slams, then you definitely are a fan of Metalocalypse. If you’re mourning the end of Dethklok, then you need to get into Brendon Small (the Metalocalypse guy)’s science fiction concept album, Galaktikon. It’s got everything you’d expect from a Dethklok album except Nathan Explosion, plus a Steve Vai-style instrumental track. (There’s supposedly a Galaktikon 2 in the works. Expect to see it here when that comes out.)

If you’re a fan of Chance the Rapper, you’ve probably heard Noname (formerly Noname Gypsy). Her new solo mixtape is lyrically deep with complex rhymes that hint at her background in slam poetry. The production is jazzy and funky in a vaporwave way, but it’s definitely more like midi versions of Stevie Wonder than it is Vektroid. This is excellent.

Lemon Demon – Spirit Phone (BandcampiTunesSpotify)
Neil C (the driving force behind Lemon Demon) is perhaps one of the strangest and funniest people on the internet. No joke. I’m sure you’ve heard some of his music before, like The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny, or Mouth Sounds (his version of the PokeRap is a current favorite). This album from Lemon Demon gets a bit gothy, but it’s way more Oingo Boingo than it is Nine Inch Nails or Hot Topic. It includes a song from the perspective of a man trapped inside a video game cabinet, and that one’s not even one of the stranger ones. If you like your millennial power pop to be a bit off-kilter and feel like maybe it’s been spending too much time reading creepypasta on livejournal, this is absolutely for you.

Flamingosis – Bright Moments (BandcampiTunesSpotify)
I just found out about this album and this guy, like, yesterday. Mention heavily-sampled, laid back tropical beats and I AM IN like very little other music out there. Sure, this guy is clearly also a fan of The Avalanches, but he has created a very distinct sound from them. There’s a lot of 1980s television theme song funk going on here along with remaindered Motown deep cut vocal samples. Fans of vaporwave will find things they like here, but none of this is glitchy JRPG soundtracks or business training video samples. Bright Moments just has that VHS sheen that sounds so good in 2016.
(If you choose to pay $0, this album is free on Bandcamp)

Russian Circles – Guidance (BandcampiTunesSpotify)
Instrumetal that leans mathematical, dark, and layered without being oppressive or punishing. This is huge and epic without seeming sentimental. It’s the kind of metal that makes you want to do great things.

Slime Girls – don’t forget ep (BandcampiTunesSpotify)
I have enjoyed hearing bands like Slime Girls move away from the limitations of chiptune music without actually moving away from the aesthetic that brought them to chiptune in the first place. This is a 5-song ep of songs that wouldn’t feel out of place in first-party Gamecube game, if the final few levels of the game really made you look inward and reconsider some of your life choices in a mostly positive and uplifting way.
(Look for a link to a free download on their Bandcamp page)

Cornelius – Fantasma (BandcampiTunesSpotify)
This is one of my favorite albums of all time. I own it on CD (!), and it was just remastered and re-released digitally. Cornelius has influenced a whole bunch of your favorite artists, for instance: his music is in both Scott Pilgrim vs. The World AND Yo Gabba Gabba. This is an album of, well, some baroque pop, some ultra-luxe tropicalia, some weird synthesizer experiments, some riotous rock and a bunch of other stuff even harder to classify. It’s like listening to an incredibly deep and referential piece of fiction: the more you listen and research, the deeper it goes and the further you’re convinced of its genius. Fantasma is a bit of an event album, I think. Though it works spectacularly in the background, this is a kind of record that you could put in your headphones and really lose yourself inside of for the better part of an afternoon.

Ryan’s Music Picks: 1 August 2016

I have an email list now where I send music recommendations.

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I’ve spent most of this week as a (temporary) single dad of three kids, ranging from 6 months to 8 years. It has not been easy, but I have played a lot of lego and watched a lot of Wander Over Yonder, Steven Universe, and Pokemon. Here’s some music that helped me get through the week:

DM Stith – Pigeonheart (BandcampiTunesSpotify)
This is, without question, a headphones album. I tried listening to it a few times this week in the car with kids and playing out of the speaker of my phone and I was not moved. Then, after the kids were all asleep, I donned my preferred listening headphones (Sony MDRZX110 – less than $15 on Amazon) and this album exploded before me into sound-shapes and mind-colors or something. Stith’s trademark haunting ghost vocals are there, backed by a dazzling array of sounds both organic and synthetic. This album is deep, unfolding with multiple listens, and it somehow stays unpredictable, like some sort of weird audio fractal. Highly recommended.

Big Star – #1 Record (BandcampiTunesSpotify)
Maybe one of the best summer rock records of all time from a band you’ve maybe never heard of. I don’t even really know what to say here, I’m emotionally compromised with how much I love this album. #1 Record came out in 1972, making it 44 years old, but there are bands today releasing albums they wish sounded half as perfect as this does. On a technical level, it’s completely unpretentious but absolutely perfect rock and roll. I don’t feel like using a thesaurus for the word perfect, so, well, this album is just 💯, you know? It’s 🙌. I’d tattoo the album cover on my body.

DJDS – Live In Tijuana (FREE DOWNLOAD)
I really like live albums from dance music producers. I know it sounds weird, since there is a cliche that most electronic music acts do little more than push play when doing things live, but a lot of the beat-heavy dance music I like takes on a different character when presented in a live setting. That isn’t to say that Stand Up and Speak (iTunesSpotify), DJDS (formerly DJ Dodger Stadium, a group made up of Jerome LOL and Samo Sound Boy)’s most recent album is any less excellent, but this sample-reliant vocal house music (think turn-of-the-century Moby in a good way, with some 2016 shine) just really pulls at your heartstrings when it’s got that live element added to it.

Julianna Barwick – Will (BandcampiTunesSpotify)
The #dadlife this week just drained me dry. This album is a restorative potion. It’s, I suppose, highly experimental in the sense that it’s not songs so much as it is portals into other dimensions that you access via your ear holes, but it’s more relaxing to me than a month on the beach or a dozen massages or three years in a hot tub. Julianna Barwick is a genius who has figured out how to somehow record the sound that souls need when they are weary. I might’ve cried when listening to this but it’s not a big deal.

Police Academy 6 + Arrete (BandcampiTunesSpotify)
Speaking of restoratives, this just-enough EP grooves hard enough to get anything moving on the right track. It’s fried gold from start to finish, just 6 tracks (+ 2 remixes) of instrumental driving beats and computer sounds. Your guaranteed productivity increaser for the week. Worth nothing: pay what you want on bandcamp means you can download it for free!

Lullatone – Soundtracks for Everyday Adventures (BandcampiTunesSpotify)
You’ve already heard some songs from this album. A lot of commercials and other advertising videos aiming towards a specific demographic have licensed music from this album and I guarantee one of these songs is on a Lowe’s commercial. But looking at it as fake Wes Anderson soundtrack music for commercials is a serious injustice to just how happy and fun this music makes everything you do while listening to it. It’s a perfect Saturday morning album. This album is loaded with unstoppable charm; it will improve your day.

Favorite Albums 2015

I’ve been trying to finish going through albums that came out in 2015 that I haven’t heard yet (just got into Unknown Mortal Orchestra, they’re great), but I think it’s time to throw in the towel and admit to myself that a “best of last year” blog post in March is pointless. So here are my favorite albums that came out in 2015 that I listened to a whole bunch in 2015:

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Christmas Music 2015

I love Christmas music! Seasonal songs are my jam for four weeks out of every year, and my favorites are the weird original ones. I especially love strange Christmas music when it’s free, and this year we get bunch of good stuff: UPDATE! I found some more good stuff!


The next release in the Christmas Forest series (mentioned below), this compilation is smoother and sweeter than Volume 8. The cover of the Getz/Gilberto classic is pitch-perfect and somehow meshes well with the Holiday mood, and the noisy post-rock version of Christmastime Is Here works really much better than it should. It also contains a new Sound of Ceres track, which makes me happy. Get it here for free.


This free collection of songs definitely veers closer to Contemporary Christian Music mainstream than usual for me anymore, but it’s a really solid collection of songs. Sticking mostly in the modern worship genre, it’s totally sing-along-able, just like the title suggests. Get it for free here.


Sleeping at Last has released a compilation of Christmas songs recorded yearly as a kind of a Christmas card, and they all stick pretty close to his inspirational style that splits the difference between modern worship and Sigur Rós. Expect plenty of swelling crescendos quietly-strummed guitars, and bells. Get it for free here.



Sam Billen (formerly of The Billions) loves to put together Christmas compilations with his friends and then release them online for free. This is the 2015 edition and it’s full of quiet, twinkly indie pop. My favorites are the instrumentals from Yuuki Ono and I Am Robot And Proud, but the whole thing is a charming, mellow affair. Don’t miss the annual Half-Handed Cloud Christmas track, which is always a delight! Download it for free here.


Colorado record label Act So Big Forest has released 8 volumes of their Christmas Forest compilation full of wild, lo-fi tracks. Each volume has a track from Candy Claws and this final release features a track from their new project, Sound of Ceres. The whole thing is moody and noisy and a little unhinged. Download it for free here.


Owen Ashworth has recorded under the names Casiotone For The Painfully Alone and Advance Base, and all of his music features his honest, plaintive voice and plenty of thrift store keyboard sounds. This mixtape of all of his Christmas tracks ranges from 2006 through this year and includes Christmas classics, covers, instrumentals and new original holiday songs. Get it here for free.


Last year Chill Mega Chill released Tape Deck The Halls last year, and they’re back this year with Totally Righteous Holiday Special. It’s a compilation of tape-label chillwave that veers from found-sound compositions featuring samples of It’s A Wonderful Life to danceable jams about getting sloshed on eggnog. Get it here for free.

Comic Books Out 7, 14, 21 October 2015


Butter and Blood (Steven Weissman) [Retrofit]

A collection of short stories, mini comics, zine entries, designs, sketches, etc. put together by an individual with impeccable taste and style. The art here ranges (as you’d imagine) from loose sketchbook pages to photoshop-clean but keeps a scratchy, human quality that also bleeds into the pathos of some of the shorts. There’s plenty of humor, too, particularly a series of escalating gags revolving around Guns ‘n’ Roses and food.

Ikebana (Yumi Sakugawa) [Retrofit]

An art-comic in the sense that it’s about an art student and her performance-art final project, the frame of the story works to address issues of life, gender, family, harassment, and human connection. With a spare art style that rests comfortably somewhere between naive and minimal, there’s still enough interesting detail to necessitate a deeper look, especially in the crowded scenes.

Jughead #1 (Chip Zdarsky and Erica Henderson) [Archie]

If you’re not familiar with the strange and silly antics of cartoonist alter-ego Chip Zdarsky, you should know that his placement as writer of Jughead is one of those “on the nose” picks. Jughead’s relaunch is properly focused on cheeseburgers, with a healthy dose of friendship, video games and epic fantasy (and Game of Thrones references). This book is literally laugh out loud funny, and Henderson’s cartoony faces perfectly mesh with the silliness within.

Paper Girls #1 (Brian K. Vaughn and Cliff Chiang) [Image]

One of my favorite single issues this year, hands down. We’re talking about this on the next episode of Four Color Commentary, so I’ll save my thoughts for the show.


Continue reading

Comic Books Out 2 October


Bizarro #4

I was not 100% in love with this book at first, to be perfectly honest. I love that each issue has a guest artist for one illustration (this issue has a Darwyn Cooke-drawn Zatanna poster!) But the story, while fun and light-hearted, and the art, though loose and cartoony, have both been a bit on the weak side. But darn it, I keep getting sucked into this book, with its deep, deep DC universe references and it’s heartfelt emotional appeal. I’m bummed that it looks like the next issue is the last one.

Jem and the Holograms: Outrageous Annual #1

I bought this for my seven year old daughter and, to be honest, she hasn’t really let me get my hands on it. It’s a framing story of a slumber party for the Holograms (though they’re sisters who live together) where they all have different dreams. The dreams include a horror movie/teen wolf homage, a Mad Max mashup, a riff on Star Wars, and of course Jem and the Hologram babies. It’s fun and looks great! I just wish that it was a bit cheaper; it’s relatively short and nearly $8! (Maybe I’m just spoiled with Island’s page count at the same price point.)

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #3

Ryan North, writer of Squirrel Girl (and the early issues of Adventure Time, The Midas Flesh, and Dinosaur Comics) is one of my all-time favorite internet people. His writing style somehow is one of the smartest and silliest, simultaneously. I love Erica Henderson’s cartoony art, I think it fits the book perfectly. This book does for the Marvel universe what the Bizarro book tries to do for DC. It’s a lot more fun and exciting though.

From Under Mountains #1

This book, written by Marian Churchland and Claire Gibson and with art from Sloane Leong, exists in the same universe as the 8House series, and it will eventually cross over. It’s beautifully, dreamily-drawn high fantasy that starts right in the middle of things with no explanation whatsoever. I’m still sucked in and planning to keep reading, but some of this book is a bit impenetrable. That stabby ghost monster, though. I can’t wait for more.

Godzilla in Hell #3

This series is a treat. It’s just wall-to-wall action of Godzilla battling and destroying monsters. This one has a crazy crystal-infected moon Godzilla (uh, I don’t know much Godzilla lore) battling our hero and it’s crazy. It’s crazy!

Over the Garden Wall #2

The Over the Garden Wall animated television miniseries is really an incredible achievement in American animation and this book is perfectly timed for this fall. Series writer Patrick McHale expands the show with a great side story from a formerly-honest horse that gets right into that sweet spot between funny and spooky without being too obvious about it.

Comic Books Out 23 September


Wolf #3

I am enjoying this book a lot. It’s a true crime/seedy criminal underworld kind of book, set in modern Los Angeles. Pretty standard except there are vampires and Chthonic dudes and maybe even the antichrist. It’s slowly unraveling in a way that just keeps sucking me in and I’m stoked to see what’s going to happen. The art effectively uses negative space in a very LA kind of way, and the linework is clear and strong. The colors are spectacular as well.

The Spire #2

The super incredible team who made one of my favorite recent books (Six Gun Gorilla) are building a weird fantasy/scifi universe not unlike 8House. As usual, the art is excellent, and really sells the grotesqueries of the hybrid humans and strange cyborg creatures. It’s framed as a police story, but there’s a lot going on here with class and race and political intrigue.

We Are Robin #4

I bought this issue mostly because of James Harvey’s incredible art. He has a great eye for  over-saturated pop art with a manga flair, and he’s been involved with character design in the We Are Robin series since the beginning. We Are Robin as a book is interesting; it focuses on street-level heroes dealing with the aftermath of the post-Bruce Wayne Gotham City. It nicely ropes in the various political viewpoints that vigilante justice tends to bring up while still roping in a lot of the modern DC universe Bat-family.

Power Up #3

It’s been crazy seeing the rise of girl hero groups in American pop culture, especially in the last couple of years. Sailor Moon (the canonical example) has been around for ages and it’s popped into the zeitgeist a few times, but it’s inspired a ton of awesome cartoons: The Powerpuff Girls and Steven Universe are two of the best. Now, that style that started in Japanese manga and then moved to anime, then came to the US and into American-made cartoons is finally filtering back into comics. Power Up is one of the best of the bunch. It ropes in characters who are personable and human and puts them in highly dramatic and extremely silly situations. 💖

Comic Books Out 16 September 2015


A bit late.

Southern Cross #5

Southern Cross is an incredibly-drawn psychedelic murder-mystery in space. The basic story is that of a woman aboard a vessel trying to investigate the mysterious death/disappearance of her estranged sister. There’s plenty of drama and intrigue of the regular human and of the supernatural/science fiction type, and it’s all combined with a sensation creeping dread that takes a bit from Alien but mostly veers towards the unknowable like Del Toro likes to hint at. I can’t wait until the conclusion next month.

Prez #4

Beth Ross is now finally president, and she’s picking her chiefs of staff, who include people like her anti-establishment high school civics teacher, and her no-nonsense boss from Lil’ Doggies House of Corndogs. There’s also a horrific crisis caused by military overreach that will probably track through the end of this book, which it sounds like is coming far too quickly. Please buy this book!

Jem and The Holograms #7

A rebuilding issue for the Jems, where they deal with the practical side of the band and its fame as well as begin to rebuild relationships. A transitional issue, but still tons of fun.

Age of Reptiles: Ancient Egyptians #4

I can’t believe I only recently found out about the long-running Age of Reptiles series. They’re lush, wordless comics featuring dinosaurs. How did 12-year-old me never find out about this?! Honestly, I could stare at this book for days.

Island Comics Magazine #3

Island is a gift to comics fans. It’s put together by Brandon Graham and Emma Rios and it features incredible creators putting out awesome work. I love love love anthology books. You get a bunch of different stories all in one package; there’s always something to surprise you. The story that bowled me over this time was Matt Sheean and Malachi Ward’s Ancestor (part 1). It conveys an anxiety and uneasiness that is tough to reproduce and goes right for the throat, forcing you to look at yourself critically if you’re a chronic smartphone user like me. The art is clear, iconic and evocative in a way that gives a sense of space and life into emotionally charged situations. I guess that makes Ancestor sound tense, but to me it was a fresh plunge into a world that I can’t wait to read more about.

Comic Books out 9 September 2015


I only picked up three books this week.

Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #2

I get frustrated with books that take work to get into. Books with a lot of history or that require you to have read lots of other stuff beforehand are something I complain about on Four Color Commentary with relative frequency. But if I’m being perfectly honest, I do occasionally love books like that assuming I’ve already done all of the required reading. I’ve done all of the reading for Phonogram’s newest series, The Immaterial Girl, as well as all of the required listening and watching. This month’s issue heavily references the music video for A-Ha’s Take On Me (even in the cover) as well videos for Thriller and Madonna’s Material Girl. Musically it references some solid early-2000 electro, as well as the music scenes surrounding, and the book itself gives no introduction to characters or their exploits, as you’d need to read the other Phonogram volumes to understand those references. But Gillen/McKelvie and I somehow travel in similar musical circles (with some exceptions), so I’m right in tune with them for this mind bending and heavily-referential series.

Head Lopper #1

I tend to add the format of a book to its name when mentioning it, which means I’ve called this book “Head Lopper Quarterly Adventure Comic #1” a couple of times when mentioning it to friends (in the same way that I keep calling it “Island Comics Magazine”). But I think the quarterly aspect of it is important, because it’s a thick book (80+ pages) and it costs nearly $6. You’re getting easily 3 issues worth of comics for your money here, which introduces the Head Lopper himself, the world around him, his next quest and the political machinations that motivate it. Also there’s a ton of bad-ass monster battles drawn with Andrew MacLean’s angular style. This is a brütal comic, with tons of blood and blisteringly-drawn battles like the best swords-and-sandals stories. The art is done in a distinct way that brings to mind some of that vividly-colorerd, loose noodle-arm style of Adventure Time. This book looks incredible and even after 80 pages I’m thirsty for more of this story.

Atomic Robo and the Ring of Fire #1

I’ve been reading Clevinger and Wegener’s Atomic Robo since the beginning, but this is the first issue of there’s that does two things I never expected to see from them: (1) continuity and (2) no Atomic Robo. Most of the Atomic Robo stories have been stories out of time, tales of the storied life of the super-scientist robot created by Nikola Tesla, but this series follows Robo’s team directly after the end of Volume 8: Atomic Robo and the Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur (which is easily the funniest Robo story). Essentially, Atomic Robo has done a Back to the Future 3 and accidentally ended up in the 1880s, while at the same time some sort of new bio-apocolypse is turning the world into a police state. His team regroups and decides to find Robo and make things right again. It’s continuity and I like it!

Comic Books Out 2 September 2015


I was originally planning to get five books this week, but Nuclear Comics in Mission Viejo was sold out/didn’t get Age of Reptiles: Ancient Egyptians #4, and I forgot to ask. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for it next week.

Casanova: Acedia #4

I’ll be perfectly honest with you: I haven’t read this yet. I have Acedia issues 1-3 as well and I like to savor my Casanova books and read them in one sitting, preferably with coffee. But Fraction/Ba/Moon’s Casanova books are the comics that got me back into comics years ago. They’re the books that made this disillusioned lover of postmodern fiction realize that incredible things and literary things are going on between the pages of comic books that don’t involve capes or punching. And I’ll always love Casanova for that. Also there is some punching.

Plutona #1

Speaking of capes (which, for those of you who aren’t huge comic nerds, is code-speak for superheroes), Plutona is a really oblique look at the superhero genre. The focus on this first issue is on a group of middle school kids who are all various amounts of dirtbag in depressingly realistic ways. And it ends (spoiler!) with them finding the body of a famous and mysterious hero in the woods. Emi Lenox, with her distinct cartoony-inky style, is a surprising choice for drawing superheroes but is a perfect choice for this more slice-of-life look at kids who live in a world in which masked vigilantes happen to exist.

8House #3: Kiem

The 8House series is a really cool way to have a lot of different stories set in a singular universe. Brandon Graham (from King City/Multiple Warheads/Prophet) is the mastermind behind this universe that he’s sharing with some other writers and a bunch of artists. The issues have different subtitles and are thus different parts of the story. The first two issues were subtitled Arclight, drawn by Marian Churchland, and set in a heavily fantastic warrior culture. Issue #3 is subtitled Kiem and is drawn by Xurxo G. Penalta and set in a very science fiction-y enclave. The art is gorgeous and hyper-detailed, bringing to mind Moebius’ work (especially the coloring) and the story hints at a lot of depth that I’m looking forward to discovering.

Jem and the Holograms #6

I didn’t grow up with Jem and her rock and roll band, but my kids and wife and I love that silly 80s cartoon quite a bit. I and my daughter are the target audience for this book and this is the issue that wraps up the first arc. First of all, the Sophie Campbell’s artwork on this book is astounding, with an incredible combination of Jamie McKelvie-style clear line and a more fluid, manga-influenced style. The colors are dazzling as well. This book does the best representation of music on a comics page in a book out right now (yes, even compared to Wicked + Divine). The story has been hilarious and heartfelt, just like the best episodes of the show.