Bethany Curve Returns With Murder!; Listen to First Singles

Bethany Curve

Shoegaze outfit Bethany Curve was yet another one of those bands that seemed to disappear off the face of the earth following their last release — in this case, 2004’s Flaxen. I wrote about my excitement for the band’s followup way back in 2006, and ever since then, I’ve occasionally searched for any updates concerning the band’s progress or existence.

So imagine my surprise and delight when I saw new Bethany Curve songs pop up on Spotify this week. Sometimes, things take a lot longer than you’d think, and so here we are in 2018 and Bethany Curve have finally released some new music.

The band’s sixth album, titled Murder!, will be released in January 2019; the first two singles, ​“Frontier” and ​“Dreamland,” are now available on your favorite streaming service. They both pick up right where Flaxen left off, with Richard Millang’s driving vocals and layer upon layer of heavily affected guitar (particularly on ​“Frontier”). The band’s current incarnation now features vocalist Lisa Dewey, and her voice is a nice complement to the band’s dreamy soundscapes.

Your Name’s Makoto Shinkai Has Announced His Next Film

Weathering With You

With the global success of 2016’s Your Name, Makoto Shinkai established himself as one of the world’s top animé directors. This week, his next film was officially announced. Titled Weather Child: Weathering With You, it’ll be released worldwide on July 19, 2019.

Here’s the plot synopsis, according to Animé News Network:

In the film’s story, high school student Hodaka leaves his home on an isolated island and moves to Tokyo, but he immediately becomes broke. He lives his days in isolation, but finally finds a job as a writer for a shady occult magazine. After he starts his job, the weather has been rainy day after day. In a corner of the crowded and busy city, Hodaka meets a young woman named Hina. Due to certain circumstances, Hina and her younger brother live together, but have a cheerful and sturdy life. Hina also has a certain power: the power to stop the rain and clear the sky.

Shinkai’s work has been praised for its blend of highly detailed artwork, rich animation, melodrama, and sci-fi/fantasy elements. Based on the description above, as well as the initial artwork released, Weather Child looks like it’ll contain more of the same — which is not at all a bad thing.

Farewell God King: The Infinity Blade Series is Going Away

Infinity Blade

Epic Games recently announced that the Infinity Blade trilogy — which received numerous accolades, especially for their Unreal-powered graphics — is no longer available for purchase (though current owners can still download and play the games). But the developers suggest that Infinity Blade may make appearances ​“in places you wouldn’t expect,” including the latest installment of the ultra-popular Fortnite.

I loved the Infinity Blade games when they first came out. They really showed off what could be done with mobile gaming. As Garrett Murray put it in his review of the first game:

If you had shown me Infinity Blade even 5 years ago and told me it was running on a phone I would have punched you in the face and stolen your phone. Infinity Blade is an amazing technical achievement, with sharp, highly detailed graphics, great sound, and a smooth framerate. It also happens to be a fun game with a simple but solid leveling-up mechanic, inventory system and other RPG elements. The story is dead-simple (basically one line of script), but the battles are fun and I kept playing even after I beat it just to keep leveling up my character. Infinity Blade is not only a great game, but it truly feels like the beginning of some amazing things that will happen in the iOS gamespace in the next few months and years.

But even with its ​“dead-simple” storyline and minimal gameplay, the Infinity Blade series managed some impressive world-building. Its simplicity actually helped in this regard, as it invited players to use their imagination to fill in the gaps:

[T]he Infinity Blade developers seem to have made that famous filmmaking adage,​“Show, don’t tell,” their mantra. Although the actual narrative contains few details about the games’ world — not terribly surprising, given the limitations inherent to the platform — the Infinity Blade games are full of visual and design details that add up to create an intriguing experience.

I’ve tried to find other games that are similar in style to Infinity Blade, but so far, I’ve yet to find anything that comes close to matching the trilogy’s mix of excellent visuals, simple-yet-elegant gameplay, and imaginative sci-fi/fantasy aesthetic.

American Football Announce Third Album, Release First Single

Although they’re often lumped in with the whole ​“emo” crowd, American Football’s brand of emotional indie-rock has always felt more elegant and refined to me. This is due, in large part, to the band’s use of minimalist arrangements and atmospherics that have more in common with Steve Reich than, say, Rites of Spring or Sunny Day Real Estate.

The band’s first album, American Football, was released back in 1999. After a seventeen-year hiatus, during which band members played in various side-projects (e.g., Owen, Joan of Arc, Birthmark), American Football released their second album in 2016, also titled American Football (aka, LP2). And now, they’ve announced their third album titled — you guessed it — American Football (aka, LP3). Based on the band’s statement, LP3 will represent something of a break from previous albums:

LP3 is less obviously tethered to the band’s past than the second album. An immediate contrast between LP3 and its two predecessors is its cover. The two previous albums featured the exterior and interior of a residence in the band’s original hometown of Urbana, Illinois (now attracting fans for pilgrimages and photo opportunities), by the photographer Chris Strong. But American Football knew that LP3 was an outside record. Instead of the familiar house, this time the cover photo (again by Strong) features open, rolling fields on Urbana’s borders. It is a sign of the album’s magnitude in sound, and of the band’s boldness in breaking away from home comforts.

American Football also joked that LP3s genre was ​‘post-house’, because of this very conscious visual break. But, in a strange way, there are links in LP3 with an actual post-house genre: shoegaze. The more exploratory members of the original British shoegaze scene were inspired by the dreamtime and circularity of house music (ambient house in particular), cherishing its sonic possibilities. That spirit drips into LP3, most obviously on ​‘I Can’t Feel You’, a collaboration with Rachel Goswell of Slowdive.

You can listen to the new album’s first single, ​“Silhouettes,” above. It’s clearly of a piece with the band’s previous output, from the precise melodic structures to Mike Kinsella’s pleading vocals and cryptic lyrics, but it also feels more expansive.

LP3 will be released by Polyvinyl on March 22, 2019.

What does Black Panther’s success mean for future Marvel movies?

Alex Abad-Santos looks at Black Panthers incredible success — widespread critical acclaim and a $1.3 billion worldwide box office — and considers how it might affect future Marvel movies.

[T]he bigger picture might be that Captain Marvel and Black Panther could give Marvel the incentive to focus not on just black superheroes from Wakanda or female superhero space captains, but on heroes — She-Hulk’s criminal defense lawyer by day, or the campy silliness of Namor, Prince of Atlantis — who wouldn’t otherwise have their stories told. We might also see studios that own Marvel characters’ film rights, like Sony and Fox, tell more of those stories; Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which centers on a new biracial Spider-Man named Miles Morales, comes out this week.

Historically, there’s been a lack of diversity in Marvel films when it comes to who’s getting solo movies and who gets to lead teams that save the world. But there’s also a rich tapestry of stories in the comics, stories that are every bit as good or even better as the ones onscreen today, that Marvel hasn’t delved into yet.

Black Panther
showed Marvel and the industry that there’s an appetite for superhero stories that don’t necessarily fit the traditional idea of what heroes look like or where they come from. And the more movies featuring different kinds of heroes, or even villains, that get made, the more incentive there is for Marvel to take chances with stories it hasn’t yet told. The Marvel Cinematic Universe and its fans could both benefit.

A Black Panther sequel is already in the works, with director Ryan Coogler back behind the camera. And Captain Marvel arrives in theatres March 8, setting the stage for Avengers: Endgame.

The Legacy of Slowdive’s Pygmalion

In order to commemorate their upcoming deluxe vinyl reissue of Slowdive’s wonderful Pygmalion, Pitchfork has assembled several artists — including Low’s Alan Sparhawk, Deafheaven’s George Clarke, Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite, and Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner — to discuss Pygmalions legacy and influence.

From Alan Sparhawk:

Pygmalion was this attempt to break free from some of what they had already been doing. Some of the mystique of course is that they disappeared a little bit after that. They had this weird mythical life where, OK, they had this thing, and they tried to shift, and the sheer process of trying to find new ground buried them. How noble, you know? We identified early on with their story of having this very distinct thing — just who they were, the setup, the tone — and then with Pygmalion the fact that they were trying to push forward is, at least in our book, pretty cool. We’ve toured with them a few times since they got back together, and there were a couple shows where they just blew the ceiling off. It was exhilarating.

I caught Slowdive on tour with Low back in 2014, and they did, indeed, blow the ceiling off. And here’s my review of Pygmalion.

The Costs of the Confederacy

In this exceptional (and sobering) article, Smithsonian Magazine reveals that millions of taxpayer dollars are being used to support and maintain monuments to the Confederacy, monuments that promulgate a false, non-historical view of slavery and the Civil War.

To address this explosive issue in a new way, we spent months investigating the history and financing of Confederate monuments and sites. Our findings directly contradict the most common justifications for continuing to preserve and sustain these memorials.

First, far from simply being markers of historic events and people, as proponents argue, these memorials were created and funded by Jim Crow governments to pay homage to a slave-owning society and to serve as blunt assertions of dominance over African-Americans.

Second, contrary to the claim that today’s objections to the monuments are merely the product of contemporary political correctness, they were actively opposed at the time, often by African-Americans, as instruments of white power.

Finally, Confederate monuments aren’t just heirlooms, the artifacts of a bygone era. Instead, American taxpayers are still heavily investing in these tributes today. We have found that, over the past ten years, taxpayers have directed at least $40 million to Confederate monuments — statues, homes, parks, museums, libraries and cemeteries — and to Confederate heritage organizations.

I was recently talking with my pastor, who is from the South, about the legacy of the Civil War, and how many in the South continue to hold onto notions that the Confederacy was a noble enterprise that should’ve won the Civil War. (This is commonly referred to as the ​“Lost Cause of the Confederacy.”)

It’s simply mind-boggling that such attitudes are still maintained in the face of damning evidence that the Confederacy’s primary reason for existing was the defense of slavery — that the Confederacy was, indeed, something evil. And yet here we are in 2018, with people still treating Jefferson Davis’ home as a shrine even as the wounds inflicted by the Confederacy’s philosophy continue to fester and eat away at our country.

This country of ours will never start to heal until we confront and deal honestly with the sins in our past.

Sidenote: The picture that accompanies the Smithsonian article — that of a young black student responding to a Confederate flag with a mixture of disbelief and side-eye — is perfect.

The New Godzilla: King of the Monsters Trailer Gives Us What We Really Want

The Godzilla movies have, from time to time, delved into deeper subject matter. The original was a metaphor for Japan experiencing the atomic bomb, Godzilla vs. Hedorah tackled pollution, and in Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, Godzilla arrives to punish Japan for its wartime atrocities.

An earlier trailer suggested that Godzilla: King of the Monsters might go down a similar path (i.e., Godzilla and his ilk are the Earth’s immune system against the plague that is humanity), which is fine. But we all know why people really watch Godzilla movies: crazy monster vs. monster action, and based on this latest trailer, Godzilla: King of the Monsters will have that aplenty.

The movie will feature Godzilla taking on three of his most famous foes, Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah, and they all look incredible as they wage war for dominance across the face of the Earth. While the trailer is clearly setting up a final epic smackdown between Godzilla and King Ghidorah, my favorite moment occurs at 2:06 when Rodan does that barrel roll to rid himself of those pesky jet fighters.

As an added bonus, watch this fan video that updates the new trailer with the classic Godzilla et al. sounds.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters stars Vera Farmiga, Kyle Chandler, Sally Hawkins, Zhang Ziyi, Ken Watanabe, and Millie Bobby Brown, and arrives in theatres on May 31, 2019.

Google+ Is Shutting Down Even Sooner After Massive Bug

Back in October, Google announced they’d shutting down their failed social network, Google+, by August 2019. But that date has been moved up to April 2019 after a bug was discovered that exposed the private info of 52.5 million users to app developers. In addition, all Google+ APIs will be shut down within the next 90 days.

If you’d like to delete your Google+ account before the official shut down — and you probably should because who still uses Google+ these days? — follow these instructions.

Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 is Coming to Netflix in 2020

Major Motoko Kusanagi, Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045

Netflix, via their sci-fi-focus NX account, has announced that they’ll be streaming the latest installment in the Ghost in the Shell universe, titled Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045, in 2020. This follows the three Ghost in the Shell: Arise movies that Netflix began streaming several years ago.

No plot details have been released, but given that this is Ghost in the Shell we’re talking about, prepare yourself for plenty of both philosophizing and cyberpunk action. The series will apparently have two seasons, with Kenji Kamiyama (Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex) directing one and Shinji Aramaki (Appleseed) directing the other.

Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 will be presented in 3DCG à la several other Netflix animé titles, including Blame!, the Godzilla movies, and the upcoming Ultraman series (while comes out next year and will also be directed by Kenji Kamiyama. And if the above Kuvshinov Ilya artwork is any indication of the new series’ style, it’ll be a pretty interesting look for Ghost in the Shell.

The Surviving Avengers Assemble in the First Trailer for Avengers: Endgame

And here we go… Marvel has dropped the first trailer for Avengers: Endgame, the sequel to this year’s Avengers: Infinity War and the final movie the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase Three.

Endgame finds the remaining Avengers scrabbling to figure out what to do after Thanos successfully annihilates half of all life in the universe. Needless to say, they all look pretty grim… especially Hawkeye, who has ditched his trademark bow and arrows for something along the lines of his Ronin alter ego.

As usual, io9 has posted a thorough breakdown of the trailer’s details, including the significance of Ant-Man’s arrival at Avengers HQ at the trailer’s end.

Avengers: Endgame arrives on April 26, 2019. And if it ends the way that it should, with Captain America sent back in time and reunited with Peggy Carter (sorry, Agent Sousa), then I will probably bawl like a child in the theatre.

The Faint Announce New Album, Egowerk

The Faint (aka Nebraska’s most famous synth-pop band) have announced a new album: Egowerk, which will be released by Saddle Creek Records on March 15, 2019. The album is a ​“deep-dive into themes on modern society, the internet, and ego — specifically social media and its dark effects.” Egowerks first single is ​“Child Asleep” and it’s quite the banger; watch the trippy, disorienting video above.

Remembering PBS’ Square One and Mathnet

If you were a kid during the late ​‘80s and early ​‘90s, then this will probably be pure nostalgia-bait: Anne Helen Petersen writes about the ​“pure and deeply dorky joys” of PBS’ Square One.

Square One, which was created by the Children’s Television Workshop and aired across the nation on PBS from 1987 to 1992, wasn’t as long-running as Sesame Street or Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and has never been the same kind of ubiquitous cultural touchstone. But like the best children’s television, it implanted itself — and its attitude — into millions of children’s minds. That attitude was pretty simple: Math is weird, and cool, and filled with secrets, and fun. I loved Square One then, and I love it now, because it took math — something most kids are conditioned to think is boring, and confusing — and used it to teach me that knowledge, and curiosity, will always be cool.

I loved Square One, and especially its math-inspired crime serial Mathnet, back in the day. And yes, I did have a crush on Kate Monday (though my true childhood PBS love was 321 Contacts Debra Shapiro).

Speaking of Kate Monday, Maia Weinstock interviewed Beverly Leech (who played Monday) as well as Joe Howard (who played George Frankly) and Toni Di Buono (who played Pat Tuesday).

Stereolab Returns in 2019

Stereolab 2018

Fans of krautrock-influenced retro-synth-lounge pop and Situationist philosophy, rejoice! After a long hiatus, Stereolab has announced an extensive reissue campaign. Throughout 2019, the band will reissue seven studio albums, including Transient Random-Noise Bursts (1993), Dots and Loops (1997), and Margerine Eclipse (2004).

What’s more, the band is teasing a return to the live stage, though no dates or shows have been announced. The last time Stereolab performed on stage was back in 2009; afterwards, the band’s members pursued other projects including Cavern of Anti-Matter, Little Tornados, and the Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble.

When The Doctor met Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks, Doctor Who

After raving so much about the new season of Doctor Who and its first female Doctor (played by Jodie Whittaker), we quickly fell behind on the exploits of the Thirteenth Doctor and her companions. In fact, we only just watched the third episode, titled ​“Rosa,” this week.

When I first read that The Doctor would be encountering civil rights icon Rosa Parks in Montgomery, Alabama, I was a little… concerned. While Doctor Who has never shied away from tackling social issues, it’s not exactly the most subtle of shows. While that lack of subtlety is often part of its charm, would having the Doctor and her companions help ensure that history proceeds correctly — that Parks refuses to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger, thus sparking the American civil rights movement — somehow cheapen or make light of a pivotal moment in history?

Rosa” does get a little heavy-handed at times; for example, playing Andra Day’s ​“Rise Up” during Parks’ protest and arrest seemed a little on-the-nose, like a blatant attempt to ensure that viewers were feeling the right emotions during the scene. But overall, it was a really strong episode, blending just the right amounts of humor, drama, and pathos in an engaging story about the evils of racism, and the need for good people to stand up to face it (or stay seated, as the case may be).

Some other random thoughts:

  1. The Doctor’s little exchanges about her possibly being Banksy were the episode’s funniest and most delightful scenes, and injected a welcome bit of whimsy in an otherwise heavy episode (see the next point).
  2. You knew the stakes were real as soon as the Doctor’s companion Ryan, who is black, got punched by a white guy after Ryan tried to do a good deed (returning a glove that the man’s wife had dropped). The whole episode seemed to hold its breath in the scene, and the assault was as shocking an act of violence as any I’ve seen in a Doctor Who episode.
  3. The episode did a great job of evoking a sense of oppression, whether it was the way the patrons in the ​“whites only” restaurant stared at Ryan and Yasmin (who was assumed to be Mexican) or the police officer that followed the Doctor’s troupe. Here’s how well it worked: I became genuinely concerned for Ryan when it became clear he’d have to walk back home by himself at night. I kept expecting to see a scene where he’s being chased by an angry mob.
  4. One scene that could’ve been heavy-handed but actually wasn’t is when Ryan and Yasmin discuss how far the world has come since the ​‘50s, and how much progress remains to be made. What could’ve been a scene where characters pontificate about stuff that viewers need to know — i.e., the opposite of ​“show, don’t tell” — works, mainly because I Ryan and Yasmin are such engaging characters in their own right.
  5. On a sidenote, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ryan and Yasmin’s friendship evolves beyond mere friendship. If and when that happens, I am here for it. (But please, no spoilers — we’re still quite a ways behind.)
  6. The episode’s most powerful moment occurs when Graham, the Doctor’s third companion (and Ryan’s step-grandfather), realizes that, in order for history to proceed correctly, he has to be the white person for whom Rosa Parks has to give up her seat. His look of panic at having to essentially be a figurehead of institutionalized racism and his anguished plea to the Doctor (“I don’t want to be part of this”) were heartbreaking.
  7. I suspect we’ll see Krasko, the time-travelling white supremacist who sought to prevent Parks’ courageous protest, again. The way in which he was dispatched seemed too clean and perfunctory. Also, it was a nice change of pace that his villainous master plan didn’t involve killing Parks outright — he couldn’t, for reasons explained in the episode — but rather, simply trying to nudge history in a different direction.

I don’t know if ​“Rosa” ranks with the very best of Doctor Who (e.g., ​“Blink,” ​“Silence in the Library/​Forest of the Dead,” ​“Vincent and the Doctor,” ​“The Girl Who Waited”) but it was definitely a very solid and enjoyable episode. Furthermore, it showed that the new season can pack an emotional wallop just as well as previous ones, and that it can address heavy issues without sacrificing too much of what makes Doctor Who so enjoyable in the first place.

Hulu and Funimation Are Joining Forces in 2019

Following the recent dissolution of their partnership with animé streaming service Crunchyroll, animé distributor Funimation has announced a new partnership with Hulu.

The new deal will grant Hulu a first look at U.S. streaming video-on-demand rights to future animé series produced and released by Funimation beginning in 2019, and will make Hulu and Funimation the co-exclusive première destinations to certain new subtitled animé hits day and date with the worldwide première in Japan. It also broadens Hulu and Funimation’s previously-existing agreement and will make both Hulu and Funimation the co-exclusive U.S. première homes to dozens of highly-anticipated, new animé titles each year.

Funimation’s catalog includes over 600 titles, such as Tokyo Ghoul, Attack on Titan, Sword Art Online, Goblin Slayer, Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai, Last Exile, Project Blue Earth SOS, Haibane Renmei, and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Presumably, all of these titles will become available to Hulu subscribers.

ForbesRob Salkowitz sees the partnership as a direct response to Netflix’s recent, and massive, investments in animé:

Last year it looked like Netflix had locked up an under-appreciated niche in the pop culture space, Japanese-style animation (animé), by bankrolling more than a dozen new series and original movies, as well as bringing hits from the Asian market to North American audiences. But Hulu has now launched a major counter-offensive, inking a first-look deal with Sony-owned animé powerhouse Funimation to distribute new licensed and produced titles starting in 2019. This is the largest agreement the streamer has made for animé programming to date.

While the ROI here is impossible to determine yet, especially considering the expense involved in producing animé, there are business reasons for investing in animé:

Animation in general and animé in particular are important battlefields in the escalating competition between streaming services, even though they don’t command the money and attention of the big scripted live-action original series. Shows like My Hero Academia, last year’s breakout hit about a high school for super-powered kids, may not register with the older, male-leaning comics and superhero audience in the US, but they are huge hits globally and attract a much younger, more demographically diverse fan base. Their organic social media footprint is gigantic, and they activate fans who inhabit hard-to-reach social platforms like WhatsApp and Snapchat.

However this deal ends up shaking out, I’m just excited that a whole new batch of streamers — Hulu crossed the 20 million subscriber mark earlier this year — will get to see criminally unheralded titles like Project Blue Earth SOS and Haibane Renmei.

Reading Comics on an iPad

Jason Snell loves reading comics on his iPad Pro:

[I]f there’s an ideal comic-reading iPad, it’s the new 11-inch model. That new aspect ratio, which is taller when held vertically, gives comics far more room to breathe. And the device is thin and light enough to be held comfortably with one hand while reading, which isn’t really the case with the larger model. I’m sticking with my 12.9-inch iPad Pro, but the size increase on the smaller model makes it a much closer thing.

He also discusses several methods and services for reading comics, including Amazon’s Comixology, Marvel Unlimited, and Chunky Comic Reader.

I do most of my comic reading these days on my Kindle Fire HD. I’d love to read comics on an iPad and an iPad Pro would undoubtedly outclass my Kindle in nearly every way but my Kindle was only $50 as opposed to $300+ for a refurbished iPad, so I’m good with it.

Like Snell, I’ve used Comixology quite a bit, but one service that Snell doesn’t mention is Hoopla, which may be available for free with your library card.

Microsoft Is Ditching Edge, Creating Their Own Chrome

Well, this is interesting: The Verge reports that Microsoft will be replacing their Edge browser with a new Chromium-based browser.

The software giant first introduced its Edge browser three years ago, with a redesign to replace Internet Explorer and modernize the default browsing experience to compete with Chrome and others. While the modern look and feel has paid off for Edge, the underlying browser engine (EdgeHTML) has struggled to keep up with Chromium. Microsoft is finally giving up and moving its default Windows 10 browser to Chromium.

The Verge understands Microsoft will announce its plans for a Chromium browser as soon as this week, in an effort to improve web compatibility for Windows. Windows Central first reported on these plans, which are codenamed Anaheim internally. We understand there has been a growing frustration inside Microsoft at Edge’s web compatibility issues, and businesses and consumers have been pushing the company to improve things.

On the one hand, I understand why Microsoft did this: Chrome has effectively won the latest round of the browser wars and Microsoft simply hasn’t been able to keep up with Chrome’s development, embrace of new technologies and standards, etc. As such, it makes a lot of business sense to use Chromium (the open source version of Google Chrome). On the other hand, competition is a good thing and it’s sad to see one less browser in the market. Soon, there will really only be three major browsers: Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.

Also, I find it fascinating that Microsoft, whose Internet Explorer once dominated the browser landscape in darker days, has admitted defeat in today’s browser market. Via