Tuesday, December 23, 2008

This Week on Audiosurf Radio - 12/22 - JoCo Christmas edition

This week on Audiosurf, Mr. Fitterer decided to combine two of my favorite things: Christmas and Jonathan Coulton.

I'm going to assume that, like it or not, you've heard of Christmas (you know, Santa, elves, saviors, etc.). But for those of you who haven't heard of Jonathan Coulton, he's the internet sensation behind the immensely popular Portal song "Still Alive." Prior to his gig with Valve, he made a name for himself writing catchy, clever pop songs on a myriad of subjects: zombies, programmers, lonely octopi, and Pluto among others. He's become something of an obsession here at Charge Shot!!! We're even planning a Coulton-related surprise for sometime in the near future.

In the meantime, four of Coulton's songs are available on Audiosurf Radio this week. Two are from his ambitious "Thing A Week" project, and the others are available on his album Smoking Monkey. Hit the jump for my thoughts on this week's rides.

Chiron Beta Prime - Time: 2:50 Traffic: 156
God damn is this song bumpy. The biggest challenge in this ride is planning ahead. The song doesn't speed, but it is upbeat and the rhythmic moguls prevent you from seeing more than three or four blocks ahead. The uphill bridge has a nice corkscrew that mixes things up, and the drums fills are surprisingly good for Coulton. Occasionally, you'll get a few blocks that sync up with his a cappella-influenced vocal harmonies - always satisfying. The hilarious lyrics about working in a space mine for robot overlords, oops protectors, only add to the experience.

Christmas Is Interesting - Time: 3:53 Traffic: 108
I'll admit, I don't usually enjoy slower tracks on Audiosurf, but this song's got a few things going for it as a ride. First, it's in 3. As a bit of a music dork, I always appreciate a songwriter's attempt to break out of common 4/4 time, even if its just into a classic triple meter feel. Second, the ride wants to be a puzzle, not a Guitar Hero high score contest. The blocks aren't going to overwhelm you, but you'll need to plan carefully to make chains happen. It's a different type of ride, a refreshing challenge. Third, Coulton's lyrics make this song a great time. It's not laugh-out-loud funny, but he works in more than a few humorous references to Christmas tales like The Gift of the Magi, It's a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, and even Citizen Kane. If Christmas usually gives you the blues, give this song a try.

Ikea - Time: 3:03 Traffic: 206
While this song isn't exactly about Christmas, it does tackle one of our biggest consumer institutions. It's by far the most difficult of the four songs, moving at a pretty fast clip with lots of traffic. The music is classic Coulton pop, with some bouncy guitar, straightforward drums, and clever lyrics. The bridge breaks into a short half-time feel before a bursting into brief guitar solo that is a blast of a downhill ride. I don't have as much to say about this one because it gave me the least time to think while playing - a quality worthy of full endorsement. "Ikea" gets this week's Play this song.

Other selections
The fourth track is Podsafe Christmas Song, a riff on the classic Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas song. Coulton recorded the song to provide some podcast friends with a Christmas song licensed for podcast use. He even imitated the talking sections of the Chipmunk original, and speech always makes for interesting tracks (try playing some of your favorite stand-up tracks - it's confusing). However, if you're going to skip one of this week's selections, make it this one. Since it's parody, the music isn't too surprising, and it isn't as clever or catchy as his other work.

Author's Note
As usual, all of the songs were played on the Pro difficulty using Eraser. Maybe it's time I learned another character.