Top 100 Album Review: #14 – Abbey Road, The Beatles (1969)

HOW DID THEY KEEP DOING THIS?

The artistic fountain continued to gush all the way into The Beatles’ last album. 

The-Beatles-Abbey-Road-Album-cover-web-optimised-820-820x600.jpgRolling Stone’s Ranking: #14/100
My Rating: StarStarStarStarStar

This is my last album to review from peak Beatles. Those six albums (starting with Rubber Soul and ending with Let It Be), are so full of material, range, and imagination. Abbey Road is just another pit stop — they don’t miss a beat.

My favorite thing about the best band of all time is how accessible their music is while pushing the boundary. It’s not untethered hippie rock with disjointed lyrics (which sometimes befalls Jimi Hendrix’s later albums). Instead, it has one foot on both sides of the fence; there’s always something avant-garde, but it’s crouched in enough familiarity and pop for it to be enjoyable.

Abbey Road’s schtick is that it ends on an 8 song medley of bits and pieces. It introduces songs at rapid pace with some only lasting little more than 60 seconds. It completely lives up to their reputation: it’s different and highly artistic but so tastefully done.

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Top 100 Album Review: #89 – Dusty in Memphis, Dusty Springfield (1969)

A Sweet, Tender Album.

This Sultry Blue-Eyed Soul Album hits a nice niche. 

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Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #89/100
My Rating: StarStarStar

If I were to describe this album with one musical reference, it would be Burt Bacharach: it oozes his bubble pop feel with anthems of love over bossa nova beats. However, only one song is penned by him with the rest coming from Gerry Coffin, Carol King, Randy Newman, The Bergmans, and more.

I was genuinely surprised the album grew on me. At first glance, Son of a Preacher Man was the only track I recognized, and while a certified smash, I was hoping there would be others of its ilk lurking. Instead, I found what seemed to be a bunch of middling songs. None too high, none too low, none too memorable.

After getting out of my own way, I started to really appreciate the subtle moves of the  and Springfield’s ability.

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Top 100 SNES Review: #93 – Final Fantasy Mystic Quest (1992)

95% Awful With A Couple Good Midi Tracks.

I didn’t expect much from the backend of this Top 100 list, and it still disappointed. 

Final Fantasy Mystic Quest Title Screen Sydlexia’s Ranking: #93/100
My Rating: Star

I’ve seen Instagram accounts for models that have more depth than this game.

Made to attract North American kids to the new genre of RPGs in the early 90s, Square gutted anything that might have raised the difficulty level a microgram. ANYTHING. Not wanting to risk us getting lost, the locations are named things such as ‘Aquaria’ and ‘Windia’ and ‘Fireburg.’ The world map is more like Super Mario Bro’s 3 forcing you into predetermined sidewalks of adventure. There is an option to allow autobattle where the computer takes over your sole companion’s commands because hitting the A button for two party members would be too much.

The game makes sure we avoid strategy, story, exploration, or anything else that might be kind of like, ya know, the things we enjoy from RPG games.

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Top 100 PS1 Review: #12 – Final Fantasy Tactics (1998)

One of the Most Engrossing Games Ever.

Possibly the greatest game of all-time — really!

Final Fantasy Tactics Title ScreenApe’s Ranking: #12/100
My Rating:  StarStarStarStarStar

Square had a ten year period where they could do no wrong.

In an age before copious reviews online, buying games was mostly winging it with a dash of expert advice from the Electronics Boutique employee. The only thing that came close to a guarantee was seeing a Squaresoft logo. Starting with Final Fantasy VI in ’94, Squaresoft would go on to produce some of the best games of all-time and in rapid succession.

Known mostly for traditional RPGs, Square began to explore other genres with the playstation 1. It’s amazing the amount of side projects they juggled which even included a realistic, one-hit-kill sword fighting game that is well regarded. Final Fantasy Tactics (FFT) is the company’s foreray into strategic gaming where they melded the genre’s typical elements with the Final Fantasy feel of chocobos, summons, and classes.

It might be their best game ever, and that’s saying something given their catalog which includes the ever popular Final Fantasy 7.

What makes FFT so good is the combat: the battles are intricate doses of choices, strategy, and chance where you become highly invested in the outcome. Even random battles become gripping as every decision you make has a ripple effect on the outcome. The learning curve is huge and the game mechanics are harsh, but as you get better, you start to unlock the beauty of the immensely customizable classes.

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Top 100 Album Review: #68 – Off The Wall, Michael Jackson (1979)

Transitory Vibes.

Not childish like the Jackson 5 but not quite mature like Thriller.  

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Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #68/100
My Rating: StarStarStarStarStar

When I came out of my house, I knew something was wrong: why is my car light on? It took a few more seconds to process, but someone had thrown a rock through the passenger side door stealing everything not tied down. My change drawer was raided along with my sun visor CD case. Assessing the loses, I found the jewell case for Off the Wall underneath the seat. Not even a few weeks in my possession, it was empty. I had been bumping this awesome album everywhere, and now it was over….

Until I realized it was still in the CD player — the only thing that wasn’t stolen.

This was around 2008 before MJ died. I was diving deep into his discography when the legend passed. What makes Off the Wall so different than his other adult solo work is the fact that it’s his first entry and thus the most innocent. There is no super fandom for MJ to contend with via political statements or anti-media harangues. This makes for a fun free listen — every song is a pop hit single.

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Top 100 Non-Fiction Book Review: #27 – Meditations, Marcus Aurelius (180 AD)

Ancient Wisdom Worth Reading.

Everyone needs a little pithy self-help advice. 

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The Greatest Book’s Ranking: #27/100
My Rating: StarStarStarStar

I’ve dabbled in Stoicism for the past few years. Sitting around feeling whipped by the waves of fate for most of my life, I welcomed this practical philosophy with open arms. Instead of growing dour due to feeling insignificant on a cosmic scale, I started putting more responsibility on my plate. Stoicism is a fine way to start regaining a sense of control. 

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius is one of the cornerstone texts of Stoicism. Not only that, this book is fascinating just on a compositional basis: it’s the private diary of a Roman Emperor. Never meant to be published, it’s a one of a kind inlet to the personal thoughts from Ancient history. What a rare type of book.

Within it, you’ll find the universal concerns every human has expressed about their life. Aurelius struggles with meaning, justice, morals, and death. His writing style is concise and clear making his gentle reminders to lead a better life easy to apply to our own lives.

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Top 100 Xbox360 Review: Borderlands(#34) and Borderlands 2 (#10)

It’s pretty good.

An array of small things keep it from being great though.  

ee06cb7f671ebdee5eb71a4ed1f6d4ac64a4c8d8.jpgGame FAQs Ranking:  #10 & #34
My Rating: StarStarStar

Time for a first: a double game post!

Since I played Borderlands 1 and 2 back to back, it made little sense to try and create two different entries. It makes even less sense given both games are almost identical. Sure, there is a reddit thread for everything, but most of the “differences” are nerds talking about math and skags.

I spent most of my evenings for the past couple weeks co-oping Borderlands with my BF. Exploring Pandora is best done with someone else; I’ve attempted to finish the first installment since 2012 but never had the motivation to finish in single-player mode. I think that’s because while Borderlands is pretty good at world building (I consider Claptrap and Scooter muh friends) the game doesn’t exactly suck you. Everything seems tangential and nothing important, particularly the story.

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