Thursday, December 22, 2016

Music: 2016 Holiday Album-a-palooza

This was an unusually rich year in Christmas music, so let's look at some of the best albums to spin at your holiday get-together:

"Falling Snow," The Gothard Sisters

I had the pleasure of taking in a live performance by these talented sisters this year, and not surprisingly, "Falling Snow" is excellent - one of the best Celtic Christmas albums I've ever heard. If you want something to surprise your guests with, try the fiddle runs on "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen":

"Christmas Party," She & Him

Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward have been playing music together for a solid decade now - so long that they've released a second Christmas album, "Christmas Party." Yeah, it's twee and tailor-made for a Starbucks near you, but darn it, you have to respect the straight-ahead versions of holiday classics like "Mele Kalikimaka" and "All I Want for Christmas is You":

"Wonderland," Sarah McLachlan

Sarah McLachlan also made another holiday album this year, and it's a heckuva lot more cheerful and commercial than her mournful 2006 release, "Wintersong." Whether that's good or bad depends on your mood - do you want sad music for abused pets, or something that you can sing along with? If it's the latter, go with "Wonderland":

Movies: "Rachael...We're home"

Fun Fact: Under federal law, Harrison Ford must star in a single sequel to every genre film he has ever made, even if it is decades after the original(s):

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Miscellany: Silverball Museum, Delray Beach

I largely missed the tail end of the pinball era, those glory days when skating rink lobbies and family fun centers still had a couple of pins alongside "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and "Street Fighter II." In fact, by the time I could frequent those places with my own money, the home consoles were starting to kill arcade videogames - the corpse of pinball was already cold.

If you care for a little necrophilia, though, you should probably visit the Silverball Museum, a collection of dozens of playable pinball machines, classic videogames, and other amusements in downtown Delray Beach.

This is a pinball fan's nirvana - for a nominal entrance fee (from $7.50 to $25, depending on how long you want to stay there) you get unlimited play on machines from as early as the '60s and '70s (back when scoring was done with electromechanical reels) all the way to Midway's final, great pinball machines of the '90s, like "The Twilight Zone" and "The Addams Family." You can also eat food and drink beer on both the first and second floor (it's basically a retro "barcade").

Here's a fun one I played - Williams' Gorgar (1979), the first commercially released talking pinball machine, complete with Boris Vallejo-y fantasy art:

All the machines have informational placards and high score trackers, for the true pinball buffs:

There are a few things I didn't like about the Silverball Museum. They pipe in classic rock through speakers, which appeals to the Baby Boomer target demographic, but makes the place unnecessarily loud. There are also usually several machines that are "under restoration" (i.e., down for repairs), which is a bummer considering the price of admission. Still, this is a fun stop for anyone in the area, and well worth a visit.

Miscellany: "It's a me, marketing!"

So just in time to coincide with the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, I learn Nintendo is doing this:

Yup, you are soon going to be able to ride a Koopa Coaster and drink cold beverages from a souvenir Piranha Plant pipe. I am reminded of a quote from Tam: "We must've reached the fat part of our earning curves; pop culture nostalgia is catering to us now!"

Music: Dirt Road

Southern Culture on the Skids is often pigeonholed as a greasy-fried hillbilly party/parody band, but I think that's unfair. Sure, the trio of Rick Miller, Dave Hartman, and Mary Huff have been making scores of songs about backwoods food and sex (sometimes both at once) since 1987, but their most recent album, "The Electric Pinecones," showcases a lot of real musicianship and fun psychedelic rock influences (the record name comes from SCOTS' side project, "The Pinecones," which sometimes opened for the "real" band).

My favorite track is "Dirt Road," which the band describes as a "three-minute ode to séances, thunderstorms and good lovin’ long gone." It's just a genuinely good folk/rockabilly song, with a haunting vocal from Huff and a smokin' guitar solo from Miller in the bridge: