September 2021 media
My Bluegrass Heart: With nineteen tracks, almost two hours of music, and an all-star lineup of collaborators, this is a real feast of an album from elder statesman Béla Fleck. It’s most similar to works like Drive or The Bluegrass Sessions: a wide range of influences filtered through the instrumentation and compositional logic of bluegrass. Even if your tastes usually don’t extend to bluegrass, give this one a try—you may be surprised by how far afield it gets.
Tales of Arise: The Tales series has always seemed like the sort of thing I should like, but its dense action RPG combat kept me at arm’s length and I never got very far with. Arise streamlines its combat just enough to be palatable, and once I was in I found that I enjoyed pretty much everything else. With years to go before the next new Trails localization, I may be back for more of these games to get my anime melodrama fill (though I may also continue dropping the difficulty level).
Pure Invention: How Japan Made the Modern World: Matt Alt provides an insightful look at Japanese influence on global pop culture through the lens of consumer products. In talking through examples from gekiga to Hello Kitty to the Walkman to 2channel, he argues that the unique social and political situation of postwar Japan set them up to be “harbingers for all the weirdness of our late-stage capitalist lives.” Big ideas aside, though, it’s a fun read for anyone who’s ever been ensnared by some aspect of Japanese culture.