Chrysta Bell, Retronauts, Rammstein, and More!

Hellboy as depicted in Mike Mignola's comics

Welcome to What’s the Buzz, where members of our staff provide you with recommendations on a weekly basis. This week’s entries come from: Anthony Divers, Laura Stewart, Andy Hageman, Carol Seeds, Sean Mekinda, and John Bernardy.

Anthony: Seeing Chrysta Bell perform live at last year’s Twin Peaks UK Festival was an incredible experience for me. Until that moment, I hadn’t really listened to a lot of her music and saw her more as Tammy Preston from The Return than as a singer. The festival had already been overwhelming by the time she took to the stage. I’d met some incredibly friendly people, I’d shouted ‘I love you’ at an unsuspecting Dana Ashbrook and Kimmy Robertson as they passed me backstage, and I’d experienced all of this with the guy who introduced me to the magic of Twin Peaks, my awesome boyfriend. So when Chrysta Bell floated across the stage to her place behind her microphone, hypnotising the room just by the way she moved, my emotions were high. It was an incredible performance, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one brought to tears hearing her sing “Blue Rose.” It was the first time I’d heard the song and it moved me instantly. So as soon as her new album, Feels Like Love, was released, I had to buy it.

Feels Like Love is an excellent addition to her musical catalogue. Early standouts for me are “Do You Think You Could Love Me,” “Everest,” and “Vanish.” The whole album flows really well and I genuinely love every one of the nine tracks we are given on Feels Like Love, but these three stood out right away for me. Also included is the forever meaningful “Blue Rose,” which is just a powerhouse of Chrysta Bell’s musical talent. The album feels more mainstream, but in a good way, with many of the tracks being the kind of music everyone could dance along to. They still have those iconic Chrysta Bell melodies and harmonies, but they don’t feel as ethereal as her older tracks; they’re more rock and pop. This is absolutely not a bad thing, and I think a wider audience will be attracted to this new sound so i think it was a smart move on Chrysta Bell’s part. It has enough of the classic sound her fans are yearning for as well as enough catchy head bopper moments for newcomers to enjoy.

I was lucky enough to see her perform on her Feels Like Love tour last week in Edinburgh, and hearing some of the album tracks live was a phenomenal experience. She also seemed like a new woman on stage to me. At the festival last year, she was angelic and soft, hypnotising the audience and bringing us to tears. On the Feels Like Love tour, we see a new side to Chrysta Bell. She’s still angelic and hypnotising, but she’s also radiating passion and sexuality, controlling the stage with confidence and an attitude that says ‘Don’t fuck with me’. She performed a lot of the tracks from the album, and some of her older work too, which was a treat for us fans. She also performed “Blue Rose” as part of her encore, and she dedicated it to me and my boyfriend. That sounds like a lie but I guarantee it’s not. Maybe I’ll write an article about the whole magical event. It was an incredible night, and if you don’t get a chance to see her on the tour, at least give yourself a gift and buy the album. Feels Like Love is a decadent musical feast that Chrysta Bell’s fans new and old will cherish.

Andy: I just finished reading one of those rare books that truly innovates in startling and positive ways on a familiar category of story. The Sun is a Compass by Caroline Van Hemert is a memoir of astonishing energy, enthusiasm, and endurance about a 4,000-mile journey she and her husband made together, paddling, hiking, and skiing, from the northwest coast of Washington state to the Arctic shore of Alaska.

Unlike the trail-traversing trials of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, which emphasized the wilderness journey as an act of healing traumas, and the story of Chris McCandless and his ultimately self-destructive combination of individualism, self-righteousness, and masculinity recounted in Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild, Van Hemert’s wilderness account invites readers along on a journey that connects encounters with a massive herd of migrating caribou, an aggressive black bear, the skeletons of whales, and myriad varieties of birds with explorations of love, family, and work.

Readers interested in wilderness adventure will find a thrilling range of experiences, from the harrowing river crossing that opens the memoir to challenges of paddling stormy coastal waters, going off map when a planned mountain pass is socked in, and facing life-threatening food shortages. In its best moments, The Sun is a Compass is among the best and most insightful wilderness writing around. Where this book surpasses a lot of other wilderness stories is through the insights into collaboration and care it delivers because this formidable journey was undertaken by a married couple. Discovering and enduring together with a loved one bends this story away from the more solipsistic tradition of self-reliance; instead, Van Hemert vividly renders the power of testing capacities and limits with someone you love.

As a final note of what makes this book buzzworthy, the adventure that drives The Sun is a Compass offers readers new ways of reflecting on how professional work may and may not align with the values one feels most compelled by, on how to navigate that phase of life when parents are more apparently aging and the clock is ticking on whether or not one wants to try for pregnancy, and ultimately on how to decide what to do with the time one has at hand.

Caroline Van Hemert recounts a sojourn radically different from one almost anyone else on Earth will take, yet she connects it to joys, uncertainties, and melancholies that are universal.

To get a glimpse of this journey and her others, Van Hemert’s website offers stunning photography.

Laura: This week one of my favourite artists of all time, Odd Nosdam, released a new album. David P. Madson is an underground and hip-hop producer, DJ and visual artist, plus the co-founder of the record label Anticon. He was the man behind the brilliant and unique sounds of avant-rap band, cLOUDDEAD along with Yoni Wolf (Why?) and Doseone (13 & God, Themselves, Subtle). He is also producer for the likes of Serengeti, Sole and Sage Francis, yet it’s his solo career where his creativity has truly shone, stretching his lo-fi beat blending across various instrumental hip-hop, indie pop and ambient styles.

Produced, mixed and mastered between 2015 and 2018 for the Notwist’s Alien Transistor label, Mirrors was entirely constructed using “found sounds”; using the lost art of crate digging to source rarities and private press vinyl. Every track is awash with hazy, atmospheric textures that immerse you entirely. Designed for vinyl, the record’s A and B sides play out like a pair of lucid, yet psychedelic dreams. Yet it is hard to categorise these as either pure bliss or full-on nightmare. Mirrors is hypnotic.  Bursts of beauty are dropped into sinister beats; its heavenly rhythms are laced with foreboding tones. It brings you a sense of melancholy when everything is just fine, then brings you joy just as it seems something very bad is about to happen. Few artists stir up such raw emotion in me as the sounds of Odd Nosdam. It is difficult to say which track is my favourite as they bleed into each other, but the dirty, grinding bass, battling against the ethereal windchimes on “Cookies” is a triumph of experimental hip-hop.

John: The Retronauts podcast is always good for behind the scenes information about the video games I played as a kid. Usually they cover obscure games I’d only ever heard about, so it’s a history lesson about something I’d been curious about for a while.

How long have I known about some of their topics? 30 years apparently. The Nintendo Game Boy just turned 30 this week and hosts Jeremy Parish, Bob Mackey, Ray Barnholt, and Jared Petty did a retrospective on its 13-year run. The podcast title is “Retronauts Episode 213: Game Boy” and it runs for just shy of two hours. They go in depth.

The NES was already released by the time I started playing video games. The Game Boy was the first new system release I actively witnessed, and of course I had to have one.

The hosts talked about how Nintendo did a lot with old technology, kept the price point down on purpose, and made an under-powered machine that never forgot how to be fun.

They talked about warmth of the sound chip (that is still a major player today in the chiptune scene) designed by legendary composer Hip Tanaka. Game design came up as well, deciding how to have detailed characters or room to move them on the portable screen. The hosts also talked about all the peripherals needed just to see the screen.

I smiled big time when they brought up Kwirk and Revenge of the Gator. They talked about Pokemon’s revival of the system, how the link cables worked; pretty much everything.

Retronauts is just as much educational as it is nostalgic. Even things like this where I already had a good depth of knowledge get explored to the Nth degree. I don’t have anything on the Retronauts, and I love them for it.

Sean: A ton has been said about Mike Mignola’s Hellboy comics. They’ve been heaped with praise by writers, artists, and directors. If someone is even vaguely into horror or comics, they probably have a glowing opinion about the Hellboy series. And I’m not here to dispute that.

First, and perhaps the most important thing to know before reading the comics, is that if you’ve only ever seen the Del Toro movies or the newly released Hellboy with David Harbour, the comics are going to feel wildly different. The films present the character as a quick moving quirky demon with, depending on what iteration you’re looking at, some serious gore. The original comics, while definitely making use of these elements, tend to be much more of a slow, methodical burn.

Mignola’s Hellboy presents a far darker tale, one cloaked in shadows and drenched in Lovecraftian horror. The focus is rarely on the action, instead opting for lengthy dialogues into the often-tragic psyche of those opposing Hellboy. A lot of these tales are re-tellings of folklore, exploring the darker side of classic tales with a more modern look at those involved. Of course, sometimes they’re just Nazis. And who doesn’t love seeing a Nazi gorilla get clocked good?

I’ve been burning through Hellboy’s backlog, reading an issue or two whenever I get the chance. I loved Del Toro’s Hellboy. I haven’t seen Harbour’s yet. But I’m fairly confident that it won’t even come close to the atmosphere Mignola has created in every issue. The series is absolutely incredible, and if you have even a passing interest in Hellboy, horror, or comics, it’s absolutely worth checking out at least the first anthology. If the atmosphere doesn’t get you, the shadows absolutely will drag you back for more.

Hellboy as depicted in the comics

Carol: Berlin based Rammstein have released a new track simply titled, “Deutschland”, which translates to Germany. They are also teasing two other singles that will hit social media platforms very soon. I don’t know if anyone realizes how important this is, but Rammstein haven’t released an album since 2009. That’s 10 years ago! The band announced an album release timeframe of May, all nonchalant like the metal was just going to shrug its shoulders and say, “Cool.”

If you have ever heard Rammstein or better yet, if you have ever watched a Rammstein video, you will know that this is something that needs to be seen and heard. The 10 year hiatus ended for a reason. Till Lindemann, vocalist, has something to say and we had all better listen. Yes, it will be in German so I won’t understand a bit of it. That’s what Google Translate is for!

The music video for” Deutschland” is epic. You don’t have to translate the lyrics to know that this is political, angry, satirical and tyrannical, all mushed into a nearly cinematic experience. Pull out your old English Literature notes and get ready for a metaphorical overload of strife. Watch Germany’s top metal act slice open the wounds of the past as they portray gluttonous religious figures and condemned Jewish prisoners of the Holocaust against a backdrop of aircraft going into space. Germanic high rises and pit falls hold hands and embrace as lovers when Rammstein gets a hold of them.

Rammstein have kept their sound; which is refreshing considering how many bands are “evolving.” Well, Rammstein were at the forefront of what many of today’s musicians are just now picking up on. To say they have always been ahead of their time is an understatement considering how long they have been around. These metal pioneers are no spring chickens! I am almost fearful of what the next releases are going to bring to the table. “Deutschland” is a punch in the gut for anyone with a soul. Go watch, listen and hold on tight for what comes next.

Those are our recommendations this week! What are yours? Let us know in the comments.

Written by TV Obsessive

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