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A year-by-year music mix, video game art, and a heavenly metal album

Three staffers, three unabashed recommendations

Photo: Tim Lapetino’s Art Of Atari
Photo: Tim Lapetino’s Art Of Atari

Fluxblog’s yearly survey mixes

For years now, Fluxblog—which was arguably the internet’s first MP3 blog, for the record—has been occasionally putting out what it calls “survey mixes.” These seven- to 10-disc sets of MP3s each attempt to capture a year in music, from 1980 to 2016. The mixes are eclectic and expansive, with 1992’s mix, for instance, including everything from Boy George’s “The Crying Game” to Aphex Twin’s “Xtal.” Compiled by Fluxblog’s Matthew Perpetua, they’re neat little snapshots of how music moves through time, and if you’re old enough to remember a year—say, 1993—then they’re also nifty time capsules that’ll help you look back at what you might have been into then. I like to download an entire year at once to my iTunes and then listen while I’m checking emails or whatever. I can jam out to four or eight songs at a time, and I’m always surprised and happy about what comes up next. [Marah Eakin]

Art Of Atari

I hadn’t had the chance to read Tim Lapetino’s Art Of Atari before doing my own piece on Atari cover art, and it’s a shame I didn’t. It’s as lovingly comprehensive of a book as ever assembled on the topic, showing in exhaustive detail not just box art but also advertisements, cabinet designs, and even a collection of proposed Atari logo designs. Beyond the visuals, the book includes a detailed history of Atari, including interviews with Atari founder Nolan Bushnell on his approach to building a company that fostered an environment of inventive and expressive illustration and design. The gorgeous, full-page illustrations are especially welcome since they allow you to really study the pieces and see the difference from all hand-drawn assets before the medium went entirely digital during the earliest planning stages. Or how these early video games could be interpreted in multiple ways, like artist Hiro Kimura’s rendition of Pac Man, depicted with a full body and jogging attire and racing through a castle-like maze. It’s a vivid parallel depiction of an iconic character that could only exist in a time before companies really clamped down on their intellectual property. Art Of Atari does justice to the game system’s rainbow-hued, neon-bright fantasy of the future. [Nick Wanserski]

Astronoid, Air

How is Astronoid not huge already? The Boston five-piece has definitely made waves in heavy-music circles; its debut LP, Air, inspired lots of dropped-jaw appreciations from the major metal sites and blogs last year. But as someone who really only keeps consistently current on that particular genre of music (if it doesn’t have blast beats, I’m probably the last to get into it), I can still insist that these guys play a style of metal so accessible, so awesomely rousing and even euphoric, that I’m genuinely surprised they haven’t crossed over yet, achieving at least the level of success that the similarly shoegaze-esque Deafheaven has been enjoying for a few years now. Astronoid apparently bills itself as “dream thrash,” one of those fairly meaningless subgenre distinctions that are only really useful for music critics running out of ways to describe something. For sure, the taxonomical tag doesn’t really do justice to the soaring sound, which marries heavenly clean vocals to a warm but still blistering blur of guitar that’s like black metal on a sugar rush. I hear plenty of other bands in Astronoid’s DNA—a little of Between The Buried And Me’s prog-infused enthusiasm, a little of Torche and Cave In’s infectious crunch, a lot of Alcest’s warm grandeur—but I wouldn’t confuse these guys for anyone but themselves. With just one LP and a couple EPs, they’ve paved their own path to the cosmos. And if I don’t hear these gorgeous epics blasting out of car window’s by summer’s end, I’m going to start boom-box serenading all of you with them at all hours, Lloyd Dobler-style. (Bonus points for the title of that banger above. A Simpsons reference, guys!) [A.A. Dowd]