Wednesday, June 19, 2013

ExpertPenguin's Yeezus review that just.....kinda happened.

[Note: This started as a Facebook status. From a sentence to two. Then a paragraph. Two hours (and several unintentional listens) later, I had something resembling a review. Let's do it. :) - ExpertPenguin]

This is a dangerous album. It isn't for everyone, and definitely not if you're looking for a CD packed full of club bangers, or quotable lines to make your friends laugh. As an album that would rather have your mind work than twerk, Kanye West's 6th solo effort Yeezus is a daring musical project. Its the kind of album only a crazed genius at the top of his game can make, with the more off-the-wall, eclectic parts of his musical consciousness assembling to produce a sound that's isn't quite the rap you know, but the kind that can be if you're willing to color outside the lines a bit.

Ambitiously, It's more an album that challenges your musical sense, and asks you if you've heard enough of rap as a genre to be able to digest something a little different. On this album Kanye manages to dig even deeper into his seemingly endless musical rabbit hole, unearthing genres one normally wouldn't dare think of saying in the same sentence as rap. This is including, but not limited to industrial, trap, drill, grinding electro, punk and instrumentalist soul that even guest artists Kid Cudi and Chief Keef get a chance to croon over before the album's final seconds. It's no small statement when I say that I can guarantee you, the Google-Fu on this album's various genre jumps and stylistic changes will be more frequent (and more surprising) than when he sampled Steely Dan for Champion's triumphant hooks on Graduation. It pulls no punches. The opening Daft Punk produced track On Sight hits like a runaway train, with painfully abrasive distortion that coalesces into a futuristic Atari- like synth beat before Yeezus himself reminds you just what the HELL you've gotten your ears into this time:

Yeezy season approaching/Fuck whatever ya'll been hearing...

He means it, and takes off running from there. Black Skinhead is an Afrocentric track with the thumping industrial toms reminiscent of Manson's The Beautiful People. New Slaves laments the racism and consumerism inherent with celebrity, before flipping the tables with a sample of Omega to settle the gravitas. Even Blood on the Leaves, what you would call the album's most "traditional" song, features a daring use of a Nina Simone sample fighting TNGHT's production for command of your attention (while sneaking in a passing Cash Money reference). Later, there's a dancehall portion that simply shouldn't work, but does.

An eclectic soul is running wild through the fabric of this album, and it's consistently at odds with Kanye's signature braggadocio, that, egotistical, self-referential, biting way he near effortlessly paints a vivid picture without even letting you know he's done so. Even as his claims become more abrasive, grating and almost nonsensical in their fantastical outrageousness, he never once loses command of a track (which is easy to appreciate when you go light on the guest stars, or use them so effectively they become nonexistent, which happens multiple times).

Did I mention the appearance of Ponderosa Twins Plus One?! No? By the time you've reached the closer track, Bound 2...Well. I can't praise it enough. From beginning to end, structurally, aurally, was such an amazing feat of production and sonic density that I listened to it three times in a row. It's just...

Elegant. Magnificent. Any other -ents I can attach, just place them here.

After listening to Yeezus three times in a row, I could only come to one conclusion. Mind you, this was after the vitriol pool had already completely runneth over from the album's leak, and I already had a set of expectations in my head: This album is something, the kind of something that an artist who is actually testing his craft can create. It's very easy to make an acceptable sounding album, or 'music' that his all the beats you're expecting while pushing the boundaries in small ways, through loquacious lyricism or even more intricately layered production. Those are steps however. Ye is taking leaps here, and doesn't care whether or not the ground is ready for the impact.

The problem is, Hip hop has structurally been the same thing for so long that you don't even realize just how homogenized it's gotten. Even as barriers are broken, it's still pandering to that certain set of rules and expectations. This one doesn't radically redefine them, but it's pushing so hard that the initial reaction upon listening is generally one of shock. Not the kind that paralyzes with fear, but the kind of morbid curiosity that pushes one from track to track. You'll find, it isn't that difficult to listen to. It sounds familiar, but is acoustically different, and that signature is a huge part of what makes Yeezus' type of innovation digestible. Some may just need some Pepto Bismol to take it all in.

A rap album light on rap. A studio hit that will probably be light on single hits. A production so aggressive and sharp, it sounds like the angriest album he's ever made, yet it's his most mature and versatile showing as an artist to date. That's the point to really be made here: An artist made this. You didn't just get a throwaway mixtape full of replaceable tunes. You just received a piece of work from someone who would rather polarize you all than not follow his instincts as a musician:

"You see there's leaders and there's followers/But I'd rather be a dick than a swallower."

Preach on, Yeezus. He's absolutely right. Toast to the douchebags.

Only a dick of his caliber would. Only an egomaniacal, arrogant genius with his clout could, or ever WOULD be allowed to create something like this.

I also enjoyed it. Much. Almost entirely too much. I also don't have a rating scale. Let's just assume it's damn high. :D


One thing though:

The end portion of I Am A God scared the shit out of me, I don't know what he was going for there, but..yeah. The wailing banshee thing sounds like Kim going into labor, or something. If that was it, and I was being introduced to a first-person account of the horrors of childbirth..then he got me. If not.. I still don't know what the hell was going on there.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Xbox One and Only

The Xbox Next Generation Event went down today, and I had a front row seat, along with the rest of you.

Liveblog madness occurred with yours truly, courtesy of my fine tentacled friends at Chocolate Lemon.

I walked away impressed!

(More than I could say about the other two....saving all the goods for E3 means your initial announcements have no zing. Learn. Learn.)

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013


I mean, you can argue that there is an exquisitely animated, finely tuned Action RPG here called Dragon's Crown by the one and only Vanillaware.

You can also point out that it's going to be one of those really polished, addictive titles that will finally give Vita owners a reason to pick up their handhelds once again (since Monster Hunter is currently riding the waves of release karma Nintendo-wise, and snubbing everything Sony, it seems), but all I see are breasts.

Moving and shaking. Like the controllers and handhelds will surely be on August 6th.

They are really well animated though. The spells. Not the boobs.

Really, I'm not talking about them. As much as this video is not showing them.

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Thursday, January 10, 2013


Oh, what a week. Too much work. Not enough play. Make me dull. (Ask my friends.)

Too many things have happened. But I'm here.

When I'm not here, I'm here.

Thursday is always a special day for that place, because I end up laying out my app fueled obsessions with the perfect means for cracking them open and playing them all, TO COMPLETION.

Should check it out! Today's flavor is EPOCH.

ExpertPenguin Has Too Many Apps! - EPOCH.

I'll be back tomorrow with some ravings. :)
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Saturday, January 5, 2013

You've got to be joking..

Fuck off, all of you.

You know when you're paralleling Rico Van Dien with a "HOT CHICK NAMED ZELDA, LOOK! STREET CRED FOR YOU DWEEBS", some twerp that makes even DJ Qualls look sexually potent, and a stereotypical foul mouth black kid presumably in place because the one from Role Models wouldn't answer their calls, the recipe for disaster is already sewn faster than you can utter the words "Stay Alive was better" in disgust. Weren't we done with movies like this 15 years ago?

I love you Jason Mewes, but no. Screw you too. It's already uncomfortable seeing you play ANYONE but Jay, but to play a nerd so unconvincing that my monitor started to reek of Doritos and Mountain Dew from all the faux gamer scene chewing? That is a feat so astounding that I'm actually starting to reconsider Jonny Lee Miller's role in Hackers to be high art.

"Yo man, it's ZERO COOL!!!"

One step forward, ten steps ba-- I can't even finish this.

If you need me, I'll be in the other room, placing my hair into the blender.

Frappé, anyone?

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Friday, January 4, 2013

Capcom, not U too..

Capcom Avoiding Late Wii U Ports (

This article in a nutshell is basically Capcom's Senior VP stating that they have no intention of publishing any late Wii U ports, choosing to look forward instead of into the past for their Wii U future. As someone who has practically mastered sitting on the fence for this console, it's an understatement when I say that this was actually a refreshing read for me. Call me crazy, but I still feel like Nintendo jumped the gun way too early on this one, and rushed to be the first to market without warrant, preparation, or really, technological merit.

Having been behind on a technical level since the original Wii's release, and having its main gimmick emulated by one competitor (Sony) and later trumped by another (Hellooooo, Kinect), I can't help but shake the feeling that with software finally too ambitious for even gimped Wii versions, it was either sink or swim, and they decided to jump into the pool right after dinner, invalidating their main course, and possibly causing a rather nasty cramp for the future.

The Wii U isn't the system it should be, or even needs to be right now.

It faces the same problem the Dreamcast faced upon early release, and the same the Xbox 360 faced when against its low-res brethren. Without nearly enough time for developers other than Nintendo themselves and a select few to come up with something truly compelling for the platform's unique architecture or controller, instead, the little system that should is home to a slew of ports that are terribly optimized for its hardware (you can't just erase 5-6 years of current-gen programming comfort in just 1). Gimped resolutions, uneven texture work, missing or altogether disabled effects and unstable framerates (Oh, Black Ops 2, you couldn't have even been a perfect 60fps HERE?..) seem to be par for the course in the current run of software, and can't possibly be doing anything to sway the hardcore Nintendo definitely wants away from their Xbox and Playstation environments. Why, when my 7 year Xbox can play Tekken Tag Tournament 2 at a perfect 60hz would I tolerate even the slightest of hiccups from what's supposed to be a "next=gen" system? WITH the motion blur pared back in order to (I assume) even facilitate the port?

Even technical issues aside, games like Batman: Arkham City and Darksiders II suffer from what I call a "DS-ification" of existing titles, shoehorning unnecessary touchscreen and gamepad functionality anywhere it seems to fit, providing that HUD-augmenting second screen experience that'll have you looking away from your TV more often than not. Is it necessary? Not really. Does it reek of gimmicky because there simply wasn't enough time to REALLY exploit the gameplay applications that are possible with such a unique pad? Yes. Even the original DS suffered the same kind of growing pains when everyone wanted to treat it like a portable N64, and use the touchscreen for analog sticking, HUD cramming nonsense..

Who remembers the thumb strap? It's alright. They don't either.

It's almost frustrating to watch from this end, because as it has been proven, with the right amount of time, and ingenue, we can really see something worthwhile come from their unconventional consoles. Now is not that time. the HD era isn't as new to us as it is Nintendo, and that isn't a selling point. The various functionalities in the form of Facebook, YouTube, Internet Browsers and online plazas aren't new either, as Nintendo is essentially playing catch up in that department. Even for their more hardcore-centric titles like NBA2K13, TTT2, and Black Ops 2 the install base isn't nearly as large as it already is on other platforms to make serious competitors migrate over to the system.

This is going to be an uphill climb, whether they like it or not.

When it really comes down to it, The two standout features are the hardware's potential, and that controller. The former is being constricted by the current generation's comfort/glory days and the latter, in its own way is arguably being handled early on by way of Sony's PS Vita and Microsoft's Smartglass app for the 360. Granted, one requires a 200+ dollar handheld and the other simply requests you own anything that can run iOS, Android, or Windows Mobile/8, but the Gamepad is going to be $100 when it finally hits retail. It's really just drawing straws and seeing who pulls the better experience, so they can't even rest comfortably on that. Having played Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 on a PS3 using the Vita akin to a 3DS in SSF4:3D, and having controlled my dashboard, along with DJing a Dance Central 3-off on my 360 using Smartglass, I'd say they're going to have to bring out the bigger guns way before these juggernauts release their new platforms, or else Ninty is going to be in a world of pain.

"I tap what to equip my gadgets?...Damnit Alfred, can't I calibrate the cowl to have a pause screen inventory?"

My rant aside, this is why I'm happy Capcom's taking the stance they are. What's going on with the competition isn't very fruitful at all from a business or even fan-centric perspective, and I can almost guarantee that every company who published a port (With possibly the exception of Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge, which I've heard is such a drastic improvement that it's literally a different game) is going to be operating out of a loss. they aren't showing off the system's capabilities, they aren't necessary (especially Batman, who's gone through regular, enhanced, and GOTY versions out for more than a year now), and porting them over is an almost cynical move, considering what the system is supposed to be. Not to mention Nintendo's refusal to define what the system can actually DO via adverts and news. All this serves to paint the console once again as the inferior cousin in this new gen, and the lukewarm holiday response is more than evident of this.

Everyone I told that I wanted the system looked at me with such disbelief and responded so indifferently you would've thought I went full retard.

But I'm NOT crazy. I see the potential within, but I'm avid, and the fact that the general public (much less even my gamer friends) can't find a reason to be is troublesome. Whose idea was it anyway to position the system so early as a gimped next-gen console with an interchangeable gimmick? Because despite my otherworldly optimism at times, I can't see anything but that when I look at the Wii U. Back to our 360's, nothing to see here? "Lol, look at the framerate choke as I simply glide a few blocks in Batman"? "These stats on the lower screen sure are cool as I endure these ridiculous load times in 2K13"? Is it really more practical to be shot in the face while making split second tactical decisions looking down during Mass Effect 3's combat?

Judging by Capcom's logical stance, I can't be the only one that thinks this way. Look forward to the future, guys.

Because the past is killing you.

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Darker Side of 2013.

As the remains of a slightly disappointing 2012 (Sequel-itis: The Year) slowly fade away, we're once again faced with the prospect of a new year; A reset button if you will, for gaming in 2013. Another year of high profile sequels, yes (DmC, Bioshock Infinite, Dead Space 3, GTA5, etc) but, interesting as we're starting to enter a transitional period. The 360's been out for over 7 years. Nintendo pulled a Sega on us all and tried to jumpstart the next-gen with mixed, programmer-challenging results. Sadly, I'm still waiting for the other two to speak up before I'm ready to leave this gen.

Considering all of the ifs however, several thoughts popped into my mind. Most of them involve where we're going as a gamer culture, what we're doing in it, what we've done this generation, and why. I'm generally so wrapped in my call that I have nothing but enthusiasm, but for some reason, it wasn't popping like it should have been. Something was different.

After a few cold thoughts, I came to the realization that I was as present for much of this generation as I was not present, taking my feet out of the trenches and taking a more observatory role as my life caught up, and time dwindled. Somehow, I had less time to play everything I wanted, but all the time in the world to experience everything, either vicariously through social media, testimonials, YouTube, or simply watching any of my hilariously eclectic friends run their way through them all, color commentary in tow. It's autodidactism on such a level, you'd be more surprised at what I haven't played than games I know as a whole without having picked up a controller.

For a frame of reference, I'm just getting around to playing Darksiders. On PC.

What? At least here, it doesn't LOOK like it came out in 2010..

...But it IS quite enjoyable. How'd I miss this? (Ed: Time.) Destroyer May Cry? Legend of Apocalypse: War's Awakening? It's got story, atmosphere, clever puzzles, and most importantly, satisfying combat. Zelda-esque adventure pacing with a dash of God of War-style brutality.

To really appreciate where we're going, I have to fully know where we've been, yes?

Well framed genre mashups aside, there are a few keen thoughts in my mind. Like I tend to do, it got a bit out of control, so I'll be breaking it up a bit.

"LIKE I'M BREAKING THAT ANGEL'S SPINE--Oh look, a new area!"

This just happened. As it has been since I've started my rebellion against "The Destroyer".

See you in a bit, folk.

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