Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Newgrounds Art Showcase

I have slowly begun to become a more involved member of the Newgrounds community. For this reason, I think it would be appropriate to give props to some of the most popular artists that upload their work to the art portal, as well as some of my personal favorites.

To start off, I think I pretty much have to talk about
JohnnyUtah. After joining the Newgrounds staff in 2006, JohnnyUtah (Jeff Bandelin) gained widespread attention for his Tankmen animations, based on the universe of the soldier in the NG logo. His animations are recognizable by their strong art and his unique, action-heroesque voice. Currently, he is the primary staff artist at Newgrounds, and when he's not making animations, he's doing stuff like this:

by the way: click to enlarge

Wenart's work satisfies a primal dragonlust that I do my very best to keep under wraps in my daily interactions. Wenart is an Indonesian illustrator who uploads primarily high fantasy stuff, as well as some non-fantasy commissioned pieces. His illustrations range from pseudo-chibi cartoons to semi-realistic with a Chinese accent. It's hard to pick a single piece that embodies his style, but here's a good example of something more on the realistic side of the spectrum.

Lenkobiscuit is a an animator/artist, sort of like JohnnyUtah, but with a greater emphasis on art than animation, though his hipsterween flash makes for a good, animated exhibition of what he can do. As is common on NG, many of his works are videogame related, but two major factors put Lenko above the rest: 1. The faintness -not absence- of black lines, and 2. The apparently random gesture strokes that come together to make distinct textures and shading. This one doesn't really show of the textures, but it is pretty rad:

DirkErik-Schulz is an artist with a knack for bastardized classical cartoon style. After seeing his name next to one of his illustrations, anything else of his needs no attribution. This example may drastic, but it seems appropriate to caricature this artist's work.

Dommi-fresh, oh man. Talk about spooky stuff. Dommi-fresh is an illustrator that works mostly with pen and watercolor and makes some of the darkest stuff you can find that's still well accessible. His almost unanimously angry characters are sure to sate any latent gothic affinity that you may possess. Out of his 167 uploaded images, I chose this, as it seemed a fitting middle-ground.

This post is already too large, but I cannot leave out
GlassBomb, a seriously talented 15-year-old that puts me to shame. His style needs some refinement, but he is definitely the kind of guy to keep an eye on. His characters are pretty Tim Burton-y;

Super, hope you like those guys as much as I do, and be sure to pay them a few clicks.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Flash Post

I am fully aware that PAX was a month ago, but I just remembered about Penny Arcade: The Series. It's a sort of documentary series that follows Gabe and Tycho, and there is an episode about PAX East.

They talk about the expo better than I can.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Album Review! : High Violet

High Violet is the 5th album by the National. It comes out May 11 I believe, but there are some places you can stream it online, and it leaked this week, so you can go listen to it right now!

Now, since this is my first review for the site (Aphex Twin thing doesn't count) I'm gonna sort of clarify things. I'm not really gonna try and give it (a number)/(some number) or some number of stars out of a maximum number of stars (I don't know how to make stars on a keyboard), I'm just gonna give you my opinion of it. Maybe you'll have a totally different one, maybe we'll have the same opinion. Who knows! Anyway, let's get on with it.

I like this album a whole, whole lot. I'm not gonna lie, everytime I listen to it I just get so "stoked". It might be my favorite new 2010 album I've heard so far. It's a lot more reminiscent of their album Alligator than it is of Boxer and to me at least, that's definitely a good thing. It's got the intricacy of Boxer but the songs have a lot of the energy and feeling that was missing on Boxer I think. It's very gloomy though, which is to be expected, the National aren't really a band known for cheery, uplifting tunes. I think what drew me to them in the first place was his voice. It's quite deep, and he sort of slurs his words together (which maybe some people don't like (that's quite understandable) but I think it's great) and it ends up working out really well with the band.

High Violet starts out with "Terrible Love"which opens the album quite nicely I think. Sets the tone and mood for the rest of the album. After listening, you know it's gonna be gloomy, but, at the same time, somehow reassuring that everything will turn out alright. My favorite songs from the album are probably "Sorrow". "Bloodbuzz Ohio", "Runaway". and "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks" (the album's spectacular closing track, wraps everything up really nicely). All the other songs are good/great, there aren't any that I don't like. The whole album flows really well together it's all really coherent and awesome. Even if you don't like the National, go give it a listen. I'll probably end up actually buying this album which says a lot about how much I like. Very, very excellent.

I can't find any songs to stream for you (since it's not released) so I'll leave ya with some of my favorite tracks by The National.

- Alec

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Marc Johns

Evidently, I'm a few years late for the Marc Johns buzz train, but he is most certainly not to be overlooked. Johns is a Canadian graphic designer, but he's mostly known for his drawings. I say drawings rather than illustrations because they are far simpler, and often rely as strongly on the words as the pictures to deliver ideas. Like many artists, he draws his inspiration from the ambient elements of his existence, and supplements the raw input with dry wit and a strong imagination. He almost exclusively uses pens with watercolors or highlighters. Their subtlety helps to create the quietness of his drawings without detracting from how much they say about the silliness of the world.
Sometimes he isn't saying much, and that's part of the beauty of his work; if you're browsing through his gallery, you get into an analytical mindset, and every once in a while a something like this one will catch you by surprise. Johns' pictures are not the prettiest things I've written about, but I find that they speak a lot more clearly than anything else I've posted. They really make me think and feel things, and absorb me in ways that very few artists can match. As you can see, his style is super simple, yet very distinct, largely due to the alien sorts of subjects he uses. I don't know if I would call him a uniquely talented illustrator in the classical sense, but I believe he is smart as hell and draws splendidly without technical complexity. That being said, he is good at drawing antlers and sweaters.
He's done a number of interviews, and his work can be found in various locations on the internets and in the physical world. He's got a book out - H is for Holy Crap. I wouldn't say he's a hidden treasure to the extent that some of my other posts have been, but he's quite the treasure nonetheless. And in parting:


Monday, April 19, 2010

Let's Try an Experiment

Alright. I can't keep "finding" new bands that I really like and that are less well known, so I needa think up some new sort of posts. I also don't go to enough shows to fill my quota with reviews (and they really aren't good reviews anyway).

Anyway, here are some things I like and don't like.


The Antlers on Tiny Desk Concerts : I really love the Antlers in general. They were quite possibly my favorite "new" band in 2009 and Hospice is really one of my favorite albums ever. Hospice is just everything an album should be really. It tells a story, the songs segue into each other nicely and flow together, and when you read the lyrics off the liner sheet, they look like a short story, but when listened to aren't awkward or clunky at all. When I saw them live I was a bit disappointed though. They weren't bad at all, they were really, really good, but the show just failed to capture the intimacy and delicateness of the album and its emotions. It's partly the crowd's fault. It seemed like hardly anyone was there for the Antlers (although, when I left, almost right after their set, I saw a few other people leaving the show too), and several people kept talking and looking around and bein' obnoxious which really ruined the mood. The other problem was that they just didn't capture all the dynamics they had on the album. They played my favorite song, Wake, where at the end there is a repeating part that starts off super softly and then builds up and up until he's practically screaming and the drums are pounding and the guitar is oscillating more and more and surrounding you (it's really awesome), but in the live show they didn't get quiet enough at the start so it lost its intensity. That's why I love this filming of them playing a few songs. It's a lot more quiet, stripped down, and intimate, a lot more like the record was. Also, I felt like the background and surroundings really kinda fit the sound and feel of the music. Definitely give it a watch, or at least listen to it.


Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works 85-92:
Apparently this is one of THE GREATEST ambient albums out there, or at least from the 90's. I don't see it. At all. It's just not "amibent" enough for me. The first few beginning tracks are pretty good, and then it just gets more active and annoying, culminating in Green Calx, a really, really, boring, repetive track centered around truly awful synth sounds. The Album doesn't flow together well either, which I guess is okay (since it's a collection of works), but really bothers me, since I love ambient albums that seem complete and more like it was written as an album instead of seperate songs. Maybe I'm wrong about this though, so many people seem to love it. Can't stand it, but it might be your thing if you like lackluster, repetitive techno/trance that's a bad combination of ambient and dance-like stuff.


Friday, April 16, 2010


I know you read my Adventure Time article, so I'm sure you'll recall that I mentioned GhostShrimp. I didn't give much of an explanation of what GhostShrimp is because I didn't really understand and while it's still a bit hazy, I'll do my best. The information on the website was rather confusing to me, and I am under the impression that I may be about to misinform you direly, but if I've put the pieces of the GhostShrimp puzzle together correctly, this could very well be a highly informative post.

GhostShrimp is "probably the world's first solar powered illustration company." The "company" seems to be more of a commune located at Camp Ghostwood on Mystery Mountain, peopled by artists and friends of the founder Dan Bandit (whom I suspect may be Dan James). There's a pretty interesting history section on the site that gives a vague idea of how the camp came to be. Some choice excerpts from their Secret Mission:


The whole statement is pretty interesting and a little cryptic, but worth the reading, as are most things on the site. Something I noticed was where the news section of the site mentions summer internships at Camp Ghostwood, which sounds like maybe the coolest thing I've ever heard of, and if you're as into this kind of stuff as I am, it would be worth your time to drop them a line, or an e-line.
As far as I can tell, the work on the site and what they're producing for Adventure Time is primarily the work of Dan James, a freelance illustrator who's done work for The New York Times, The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, and various bands and musicians. James has released two graphic novels: Mosquito and The Octopi & The Ocean - about which there is a laughful interview located here.

I'm pretty in love with his style. He recycles a few general characters in all of his illustrations, and the generic nature of the individual characters emphasizes their actions and surroundings. And surroundings are where Ghostshrimp illustrations really shine; the chaotic narrative pieces split your focus and force you to examine each element independently and appreciate the fine details of the picture. Conversely, the large amount of detail results in some pieces that would probably be a bit too busy for some people, especially on the limited scale of a computer screen -most are made to be printed. More than redemptive, in my opinion, is his color choice. I'm a sucker for pastels and the light contrasts in his works make the busiest of them much easier to look and disassemble. I hope you are as intrigued and captivated by Ghostshrimp as I am, and both they and I hope that you are inspired in some way.

Thanks for reading.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Airports. are an experimental-pop group from Phillidelphia. Their myspace describes their music as "Their synth based songs are lined with textured keyboard playing, vocal harmonies, sparkly melodies, timpani's and horns all over the place willy nilly. Like Schrödinger's cat, Airports exist inside and outside different musical territories... yet all of them at the same time". Which is a pretty good description. It shows they are intellectual yet still artistic or something. It's a pretty accurate description of their sound.

They're really fun. Their singer has the kind of voice that sounds really familiar, but it's not just another generic frontman kind of thing. He's got sort of an emo-y tinge sometimes, but that's not really a bad thing. I don't have too too much to say about these guys, since their myspace only has 3 songs up, and I've only been able to find one other song by them. I really do like how they incorporate some subtle experimental/noise bits into their music, but it still is really catchy and fun. I wish they'd tour more, cause I feel like they'd have a lot of energy and put on a really fun show.

My favorite song that I've heard by them is probably "Pirates". Check it out:

- Alec

Sunday, April 11, 2010

What Time Is It?

Right, well if you spend much time on youtube or watching Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network, you've probably heard or seen something about Adventure Time. It's a Cartoon Network series based on a Frederator Studios Random! Cartoon short for Nickelodeon. Frederator is the studio responsible for producing other quality cartoons like ChalkZone, The Fairly Oddparents, and My Life as a Teenage Robot. Don't be put off if you're not a fan of any of these shows, because Adventure Time is an entirely different animal. If you're looking to compare it to an existing show, The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack is a closer match- minus the grotesque characters.
Shows like Flapjack and Adventure Time are really unlike anything else on television; their writers are unafraid of pushing the limits of coherence in story and humor. The thing that elevates Adventure Time beyond Flapjack for me is the art. Ghost Shrimp is the illustrattion company responsible for many of those glorious, dramatic backgrounds that compose Adventure Time's world: The Land of Ooo.
As for what the show is about, the premise is really delightfully simple: two buddies, Jake the 28 year old magical dog and Finn the 12 year old human finding adventure and letting adventure find them. If that's too vague for you, the premiere which aired last Monday, featured a candy slumber party, reanimated candy corpses, something like werewolfism and a lumpy parallel dimension. Far out, right?
This part kind of pains me to write, because I don't want you to misunderstand me. If you were expecting the non-stop hilarity of the original short, you will be disappointed; I certainly was. Truthfully, it was unfair to assume that Pendleton Ward- the genius that he is- could maintain the level of humor present in the seven-minute short through full-length episodes. That being said, as its own show, Adventure Time is great; it's clever, cute, beautiful, and rad (the action is not to be overlooked.) From a show so new, this kind of quality is almost unprecedented, and gives me great hope for what is to come. If you have not had the pleasure of watching it, do yourself a favor and tune in to new episodes on Mondays at 8pm.

For added fun check out The Autumn Society's Adventure Time art!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Banjo or Freakout

Banjo or Freakout is Alessio Natalizia, a guy who makes super-dreamy tunes, that sound sort of like a mix between shoegaze, dream pop, and "chillwave". It's really great to relax to, or sleep to, or really do anything to. He doesn't tour much at all (yet), which is really unfortunate, but he recently finished recording his first full-length, which is pretty exciting (to me at least).

He's done a looot of covers, from a really wide variety of artists, including Kanye "the voice of our generation" West, LCD Soundsystem, and Burial. You can find and download a lot of these on his blog: WWW.BANJOORFREAKOUT.BLOGSPOT.COM. There are also several mixes he's put together, and his Christmas album, which is really good, although extremely-unchristmas-y.

While his covers are good, his originals are a lot better I think. Unfortunately, there aren't too many of them out right now, but I'm hoping that his album will fix that. My favorite of his is a song called Upside Down, which I think I put on one of my mixes. I really like how it seems kinda faded and far away, so it's really easy to just let wash over you, but it's also really excellent for more active listening. It also has a pretty enjoyable video, and I really am not much of a music video fan, so that is sort of high praise.

Alessio also makes some tunes with Sam Willis under the name of WALLS.

Banjo or Freakout - Upside Down (Official Video) from Blake Salzman on Vimeo.

- Alec

Monday, April 5, 2010

PAX East: This One's For the Nerds

So- Penny Arcade eXpo! I think it's appropriate to first describe what went into getting to PAX, and it really wasn't alot. Last Christmas, my brother suggested it and we hashed it out with our parents. Some frantic preparations over Google Wave in the days before the expo were pretty much the only planning that happened.
I could tell you the whole story of the trip, but I'll just give the skinny, for the sake of time. After a ten hour train ride, our first real PAX experience was waiting in line, in the expo center's queue room. Now, one would assume that waiting in line with a bunch of excited nerds might be a little weird, and it was, but it was also a load of fun. There were several large projector screens with a few fun little distractions on diplay: The main screen was a command prompt with a hidden typist, ghost writing for the computer, in a dialogue with the audience. From here, transitions were made to trivia with audience participation via text, choose your own adventure stories, and a game sort of like Doodle Jump, except the jumper was Gabe, and controlled by the left-or-right-leaning raised hands of the audience facing a camera. In the glorious name of metagaming, the scores attained by each crowd (morning crowd and night crowd each day) were displayed.
The expo floor was a sea of booths and nerds. A few rad booths out of the ~60:

NVidea, showcasing their new 3D system for games. I was surprised by the clarity and the comfort compared to what I've seen, movie theater 3D, that is; no nausea here.

EA, with a big SKATE booth. I mention them because through the duration of the expo, I saw people running around with some swell skateboard decks. My brother and I decided we would give it a go, and rushed to the booth, first thing Sunday morning. Other expo-goers had the same idea, evidently, and the line had grown to the point at which it was no longer worth it to wait for the chance to fail.

Instead, we stumbled upon the Uber Entertainment booth. We signed up for the tournament for a game called Monday Night Combat, a Xbox Live Arcade game that is due to release this summer. It was kind of a farce of a tournament, in that it had only two rounds. Nevertheless, we won and were the proud recipients of Pit Girl trophies, while the losers received Baconnaise. Extrinsic rewards aside, the game itself was a load of fun, something like DoTA, only an FPS with a futuristic bloodsport twist.

Outside of the main expo hall, there were numerous exhibits and events. Among these events were daily Q&A sessions with various weighty figures in the gaming community. We, in our lousy planning didn't really see many. We did, however, get to watch Mike and Jerry (real life Gabe and Tycho) create a Penny Arcade strip while fielding questions. It was a great chance to see a smashing artist at work, as well as hear some quality comedy. At the audience's request, Jerry even sang a soulful ballad about some fantasy love -not as weird as it sounds.

On Saturday night, we managed to snag some pretty okay seats to the night's concert. The first to perform was the Video Game Orchestra. It was amazing. Hearing their classical, rock, and metal renditions of some classic game tunes reminded me of the wonder I experienced the first time I heard the music. It might sound silly, but some of the Final Fantasy songs nearly brought me to tears from nostalgia alone. Foolishly, we ducked out and missed most of Paul and Storm, a duo of musical comedians. We caught their last few songs, whose content, combined with top-notch banter had me laughing out loud. Things got a little weird when the audience startedtrolling, but I guess nerds are pretty good at dealing with nerds, because they managed to diffuse the aggression. The final act (for which we were initially most excited) was Jonathan Coulton. Coulton is famous of his nerd anthems, and notorious for writing Still Alive, the ending theme to the smash hit Portal. Talk about a shaggy man with a voice. His words, whether sad or happy or desperate, slid like butter into my ears and down to my heart.

Like I said in my filler post, PAX is about The Gamer. I found that this objective was met with great success, and the atmosphere of the whole weekend was consistently positive. In the Sumo beanbag-filled handheld gaming lounge, the rows and rows of console and PC freeplay tables, and every room of the expo center, the spirit of gaming could be found. Of course, when I say the spirit of gaming, I mean Fun, because what are games but an escape from the anxiety and pressure of reality? This post would not be complete without recognizing the jolly Enforcers - the volunteer security guards that ensured the smooth execution of the weekends merriment.

To conclude, I want to go again.


Friday, April 2, 2010

Passover / Spring Break

- out for passover / spring break -
- see you next week -
-Daniel and Alec