Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

A Japanese surf LP, a lived-in PS4 game, and some Minnesota duds

A still from The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter
A still from The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter

Sota Clothing

If you have any ties to the state of Minnesota, Sota Clothing is worth checking out. I stumbled across the retail site on a night when I was feeling particularly nostalgic for Duluth, the city that teenage me would travel 45 minutes to for a chance to see a movie or go shopping, and where I would later attend my first year of college. Spencer Johnson also attended the University Of Minnesota Duluth, where one of his design classes required him to create branding for a fictional company. Eventually Johnson’s simple designs featuring canoe paddles, the state shape, and the state admittance number (32) helped Sota Clothing become a reality. Continually finding inspiration from the northern shores of Lake Superior, Johnson has stocked his online store with glassware, shirts, hats, and a few fun and practical accessories—such as a floaty keychain and a beer koozie, which are summer musts for Minnesota natives and newcomers alike. I’m particularly fond of the 32nd State Diner Coffee Mug, a high-quality, streamline-designed mug that has already come in handy for keeping hot tea warm this fall. And keeping the next season in mind, anything from the store would make for a great holiday gift for your good friends living in the Land Of 10,000 Lakes. [Becca James]

Takeshi Terauchi

Two years after Dick Dale’s debut album laid down the blueprint for hard-edged instrumental surf rock, a Japanese guitarist named Takeshi “Terry” Terauchi and his band, The Blue Jeans, put out a surf record of their own, Korezo Surfing. I haven’t been able to dig up that early Terry material, but some of his fascinating ’60s output has found its way to streaming services. My favorite of the bunch is Let’s Go Terry, released in 1966 with his next band, The Bunnys. Here, Terry’s take on the surf sound is supplemented with some vocal performances that bring it more in line with British Invasion rock. But much like Dale’s use of traditional Middle Eastern musical characteristics formed the foundation of his sound, Terry’s guitar took on a distinctly Japanese voice that was influenced by the country’s folk music and the more fast-paced, improvisational shamisen style of the Tsugaru Peninsula. In fact, when he wasn’t taking a stab at American pop trends, Terry and his bands were reimagining Japan’s famous folk songs, like “Genroku Hanami Odori.” Nor was Terry content to stick within Japan’s musical history; on Let’s Go Classics, he gives classical melodies from the likes of Beethoven and Tchaikovsky the same treatment, and on The World Is Waiting For Terry, it’s a mélange of American pop songs from “Moanin’” to “Moon River.” These dedicated cover albums are novel collisions of musical traditions and worth seeking, but it’s Terry and The Bunnys’ original work on Let’s Go Terry that stands out as some seriously slick, slamming ’60s rock. [Matt Gerardi]


The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter

Back in December, the A.V. Club’s games staff published its list of favorites for 2014, and from the moment I saw the chosen image for The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter— a railroad track cutting through an idyllic, sun-splashed woodland area—I knew I had to play it. So when it finally arrived on PS4 this summer, I cleared a few hours of weekend, which it turns out was all the time I needed: Ethan Carter takes little more than a long afternoon to complete. But like an especially vivid short story, it sticks with you. The player adopts the first-person POV of a gumshoe, dragged into the sleepy, unsettlingly quiet backwater town of Red Creek Valley, where a young boy has gone missing. As an opening disclaimer warns, this is not a game that “holds your hand,” and you spend a little while just wandering the woods, trying to figure out what you’re supposed to be doing. But that’s a big part of the appeal: Ethan Carter immerses you a hauntingly mundane rural setting, rich in environmental detail and atmosphere; regardless of what one thinks of the violent central mystery, and its telegraphed resolution, it’s enormously rewarding to simply explore the (deliberately, pointedly) established boundaries of Red Creek Valley. Ethan Carter takes you to a place that feels real and lived-in, which is more than I can say for any number of games 10 times its length, scope, and budget. [A.A. Dowd]

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