Thursday, 29 November 2018

Pony Music Library 57: "The Moon Rises"

It's been a while, hasn't it? Let's get back to the PML, and today I'll be inducting a tune which might easily have made the list a long time ago. One which has more than one excellent version, too.

What? "The Moon Rises"

Who? Ponyphonic

Which? Original song

When? February 2012

Why? This is one of the undoubted vocal classics of the Pony fandom. It puts us in the horseshoes of Princess Luna in the run-up to her refusal to lower the sun, over a thousand years before the events of FiM. The song starts quite gently, but gradually builds in power until by the end there's no doubt that Luna's transformation into Nightmare Moon is imminent. My choice of Ponyphonic's original male vocals may be a little controversial, but I've always preferred this to any of the others, despite the lack of one verse that was later added.

However, there are two main female singers who've given this song their own individual stamp. In April 2016, Kristen Calvin's cover introduced us to the extra verse near the end – six lines about Luna's determination to be recognised. Then, in November of the same year, Duo Cartoonist's hugely popular animation (14m views and counting!) featured EileMonty's vocals, including some pretty striking evil laughter right at the end. They're both fine interpretations, but it's Ponyphonic's original that hits the right note for me.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 228: Cadbury's Dairy Milk

Miraculous gets a bit more interesting as you near the end of S1, with hints of an overarching storyline appearing. You know how Steven Universe takes its time to pull back and show the wider picture? A bit like that, only not nearly as ambitious. Well, so far, at least: I've just started on S2, and it's not entirely the same show now as it was in the first season. Still, at heart, ridiculous though. Which is great!

Read it Later story count: 291 (+1)

Nothing interesting to say here (When does that ever stop you? —Ed) so I'll just mention that I have three fics for you this week. They are:

When Suddenly a Manticore... by DannyJ
MLP The Movie: The Significantly Shorter Version by PonyAmorous
Extra Sprinkles by Minds Eye

★: 0 | ★★: 1 | ★★★: 2 | ★★★★: 0 | ★★★★★: 0
Note: I use a skewed rating system. A fic I find average scores two stars.

Monday, 26 November 2018

Merch review: Mini Art Case

Note the "MLP", just in case you don't know what My Little Pony means
Time for another of these quick reviews of bits and pieces of MLP merchandise I somehow still have! I picked this thing up in Poundland about five years ago. (This was back when Poundland stuff actually was £1, too, so it wasn't exactly extravagant!) It's fairly compact, as you can see in the first picture. 15cm ruler included merely for scale as usual – it's not included in the set. The outside is made of fairly flimsy plastic, with Twilight and Rainbow gazing out at you. As with much early Twilicorn-era merch, the princess's wings are not exactly convincing.

Clearly they got Dash to design the interior
Inside, you get three things. First, there's a set of six chunky felt-tip pens, with colours chosen in a vague approximation to the Mane Six's coats. They are blue, purple, pink, yellow, orange... and green. I suppose a white one wouldn't have been very useful! They write all right if you're slow, but excess pressure makes them dry out quickly. Opposite this is a watercolour set with eight colours: the six of the pens plus a lighter green and a darker pink. For a quid, these are not going to give pro painters any sleepless nights, and the brush is thin and the paint blocks are very small, but they do work.

On the back, Pinkie breaks the fourth wall. Nothing new there
The final goodie comes in the form of two small strips of stickers. These really do feel like an afterthought, and the average issue of the monthly magazine gives you many more (albeit not for £1). Both strips have the same three ponies – Twilight, Fluttershy (yay!) and Pinkie – plus one of the MLP logo and a couple of tiny stars and rainbows. These stickers are easy to lose, since unlike the other stuff they're not securely held into the inside of the case. Still, I think this is probably one of the nicer merch-for-a-quid buys I've made. With that price in mind, it gets three stars.


Saturday, 24 November 2018

Sounds of 2011: Into the Sixties with Fluttershy!

I'll be doing a Pony Music Library post in the coming week, so look out for that if you enjoy the PML stuff! A different kind of musical post now, though, as we continue with Everfree Radio's fan-voted Top 100 tracks of 2011.

Nos. 72 and 71 get skipped as they don't meet my criteria for inclusion.

Fluttershy's first real song, "So Many Wonders" from "The Cutie Mark Chronicles", was the inspiration for a number of choptunes. One in particular (have patience!) has stood the test of time and remains hugely famous, but ColaEuphoria's approach was slightly different. This is a fairly upbeat, poppy song with lots of synths and snare drums. According to the video description, this was the artist's first time "playing with vocals" – and they made the PMV too! That same description provides a Mediafire link for a 320k MP3. ColaEuphoria has released nothing since 2013, but at least we have this.

By an eerie coincidence, this track uses samples from the same Fluttersong as the one above. It's electronica, although of the floaty rather than super-heavy type, and as such it fits its subject rather well. Apparently this was a quickie, made in just three hours! The artist is now known as OMNI and took his Pony music private when he moved on from the fandom in 2013, apparently due to the requirements of the commercial music industry. Happily, at least some of it has since returned, including this song. For HQ, the link in the video description is dead, but you can still purchase the track for a mere 50 cents on OMNI's Bandcamp.

That last song was calming. This one is anything but. Featuring disconcerting piano and strings, together with the sounds of nature and snippets of a certain Led Zeppelin classic you may be able to guess from the track title, this is very much a song for Pinkamena. PiercingSight hasn't released anything on their channel since spring 2012, but some readers of this blog may well be familiar with their Fimfiction output, and that account remains at least intermittently active. There's a direct download link to the EP this song is part of in the video description, though quality is only 191 kpbs.

Next time: I'll be introducing another big name from the early days of the brony music scene!

Friday, 23 November 2018

Griffish Isles 2019 tickets on sale now

The Griffish Isles MLP convention, which debuted this spring, will be returning for its second iteration on Saturday 11 May 2019. Details are still a little sketchy, not helped by the fact that the con's website has yet to be fully updated from last year. However, this is what we know so far:

The website is frankly rather unhelpful here, saying nothing beyond "Manchester". However, the related Eventbrite page is more forthcoming: as in 2018, the con will be held at the St Thomas Centre in Ardwick Green. This is about a 15-minute walk from Manchester Piccadilly station (Google map). Plus points there for accessibility.

In 2018, the con also had an evening component at another venue, but there's no information as yet as to whether that will be the same in 2019, or whether everything will now happen in one place. That other venue's licence meant no kids allowed (even accompanied) after 8pm, so it may be relevant depending on what evening events are planned.

There are several classes of ticket, including two adult tiers. Here they are:

Standard: £31.50 + £2.66 booking fee = £34.16
VIP: £89.50 + £6.49 booking fee = £95.99
Foal: FREE (under 12s accompanied by adults; not valid for evening events)
Spirit: £20.00

Standard/Foal tickets can be bought up until the day of the event (though like all UK cons, you can't buy them on the door). VIP/Spirit ticket sales close on 7 April – I don't know whether VIPs are limited in number.

Comparing with last year's tickets, the cost of the Standard tier has gone up by 26%, although there's a reasonable case for saying that the low price of the 2018 iteration could be considered an introductory offer. There's no doubt that the '18 con was well received overall, and the ticket price remains broadly similar to the cost at other UK conventions.

There was no VIP tier in 2018; instead there was a Sponsor tier which was £50.18. (Again, including fee – you can't avoid it, so I treat it as the base cost.) The 2019 upper-tier ticket is thus 91% more expensive, a very sizeable hike by any standards. According to the website, over and above Standard access, VIP will bring you:
  • VIP T-shirt
  • Front row mane stage seating
  • Special perks and access
That last bit is key, but unfortunately there's currently no info about what it actually means. If you're paying almost £100 for a ticket, it matters what your special perks and access are, so I'm a bit disappointed with this.

Obviously, things like special guests won't be announced just yet, so any guest-related perks won't be finalised either – but buying blind still isn't the most attractive offer. When I bought my UK PonyCon VIP ticket, a few minutes after it went on sale, I already knew the exact package of perks it would bring me.

It's very good to see that last year's "Foals go free" offer has been continued. This is a really nice feature that some other conventions (eg UKPC) do not offer, and it does make it a lot more attractive for, say, a parent with a couple of kids to attend. An unqualified yay to Griffish Isles for this initiative.

The Spirit ticket is new. For £20 you get "a mention in the con book", while if you add on a T-shirt you'll get it posted to you along with the con book. Considering my BronyScot equivalent was £8.50 including the con book (and some unexpected badges!), this seems a tad steep.

Am I going?
I'm certainly thinking about it. Friends who went last year have recommended it, and I'm happy with the organising team, who have the right combination of con experience, level-headedness and enthusiasm. This is not a convention I fear falling apart. Manchester is right on the edge of where I can get to for a day trip, and obviously it becomes a much more expensive outing if hotels need to be taken into account, but we'll see. It would definitely have to be a simple Standard ticket, though.

Summing up
With last year's successful debut behind it, the Griffish Isles convention looks stable and well run, and the Standard ticket price remains fairly reasonable. Manchester is a decent choice of host city and one well-established for fandom events (though my West Midlander heart can't help being jealous!) and the venue is easily accessible from the city centre even on foot. That's a big plus.

Where Griffish Isles falls down, for now at least, is in the paucity of actual hard information on its website. It shouldn't be necessary to sift through social media to find exact venue details, while there simply aren't sufficient details about whether there'll be a separate evening venue or what splashing out on a VIP ticket may get you. Once those problems are addressed, things could look very bright for GI2019.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Sounds of 2011, nos. 77 to 73

Chain Algorithm is a musician who I've never been very familiar with, and given that they've only uploaded one track (a non-Pony one at that) in the last four years, they've rather fallen out of general fandom consciousness too. This June 2011 track has over 150,000 views, though, so it must have been a fair-sized hit once. As you'd expect, it's built around the story of Nightmare Moon's return in early S1. It's full of slightly hard-edged futuristic synthy sounds. I have to agree with a few commenters that it's a smidge too long, but it makes good background music to type to! Chain Algorithm's Bandcamp survives, but this song is not there.

Nos. 76 and 75 do not meet my criteria to be featured, so I'm skipping them.

It's oddity time again! For one thing, I'm really not sure who to credit this one to. The video is on the account of AleatoireMixes, but its description credits a piece by FinnOtaku, itself a remake of a track by Reouromけ. Given that the whole thing is a medley of extracts from famous YouTube Poop music and other memes, I pretty much give up there! AleatoireMixes provides a timestamped list in the video description of the songs used, which is a good thing as some are now enormously obscure, though I did recognise a few. The MP3 also linked to is only in 128k quality, and of course lacks the visuals, so you might as well stick to the YouTube version.

That's right: what we have here is an earlyish effort by the British band now known as Re:Make, but who found global fame in the MLP fandom under the Acoustic Brony name. Early in their life, they made a number of themes for the Mane Six, and this was number five. It's a country-themed, twangy instrumental as you'd imagine, vaguely similar to AJ's later Fighting is Magic theme. There's even a bit of "Winter Wrap Up" added in for extra Pony credentials. You wouldn't claim this was one of Acoustic Brony's greatest works, but it's a nice foretaste of their later "Elements" songs. As far as I can tell, though, there's no HQ version available anywhere.

Next time: Fluttershy! I can already tell it's going to be a great edition. :D

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 227: Miraculous Ladybug

I asked my Twitter readers to recommend me a cartoon series I could watch during the MLP break, with the condition that it should be PG-rated or lower. I got an absolute flood of replies, but two stood out: Gravity Falls (which I'll get to) and Miraculous Ladybug. The latter is a bit more anime-magical-girl than I was really looking for, and I'm not a huge fan of the high school romance aspect, but it's fun and colourful and has ridiculous storylines involving Wi-Fi and evil butterflies and pigeons, so I'm on board.

Read it Later story count: 290 (-4)

Four fics for you this week, which is reasonable going. I seem to have collected several stories this time which at least some others are likely to rate higher than me. Still, I've always scored on my enjoyment in PR, so please bear that in mind as you read my ramblings. Today's quartet:

A FLEet|ng LIght |n thE DArknEsS by Flashgen
Lost and Never Found by Oroboro
Thou Goddess by horizon
A Sleeping Rose by Admiral Biscuit

★: 0 | ★★: 1 | ★★★: 1 | ★★★★: 2 | ★★★★★: 0
Note: I use a skewed rating system. A fic I find average scores two stars.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Signal Boost: Mike Cartoon Pony

This post is a very slightly edited version of one that's already appeared on my Fimfiction account.

Do you like reading blog posts in which people talk about MLP? Well, you're reading mine, so there must be a chance that you do. That being so, give Mike Cartoon Pony's Fimfiction blogs a look. He's still quite new to this Pony game, being that fairly unusual creature: someone who was brought into the fandom because of the 2017 movie. His two main posts on Fimf so far are a review of "Best Gift Ever" (pretty positive) and some detailed thoughts on the movie score album (ditto). That latter post is almost 3,000 words long, and has a 2,000-word followup, so I really meant it when I said "detailed"!

Mike – that rare thing, an Irish Pony fan – came to MLP through his long-standing interest in animation, and he has a YouTube channel called "Cartoon Karma" where you can find a fun two-part analysis of the film (embedded in this post). There's a fair amount of nit-picking, but it's done with good humour which always helps a lot. And as he points out himself, this movie is what got him into the series itself (and watching the whole lot in 51 days!) so it can't be all bad. If you want to keep up with his blog posts, though, make sure you follow him on Fimfiction as well. And who knows, maybe one day he'll write a ponyfic of his own!

Monday, 19 November 2018

Audio/Text: Logan Reviews: MLP:FiM Season 8 (and the special)

I've done this from time to time in the past, but here's my YouTube audio piece in which I briefly review Friendship is Magic's eighth season. For those who prefer to read, the script I used is pasted below the page break as plain text. The whole review lasts just 11 minutes 30 seconds, so obviously it's just a summary; I intend to keep this blog as my main home for reviews and suchlike. Still, I hope some people enjoy this departure from my usual format. :)

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Sounds of 2011, nos. 80 to 78: Big Names, Small(er) Songs

Tickets for next year's Griffish Isles convention went on sale yesterday, but I haven't had the time to look up a few things I'll need to check before making a post about it. That should happen within the next week. Today, therefore, it's back to the Everfree Radio chart for 2011.

Yes, it's another Super Ponybeat song, by the artist generally known these days as Odyssey Eurobeat. It's a cheerful, bouncy Eurobeat (amazingly) remix of the most famous of all G1 MLP songs: this all-time classic from "Rescue at Midnight Castle". There isn't really a great deal more than that to it, and there really doesn't need to be. It's just fun. If you're still sad that the 2017 movie didn't have any shoo-be-dooing, then this may help. For HQ goodness it's a name-your-price download on Odyssey's Bandcamp, and as it's CC by, you can even remix it yourself if you like!

We move into the seventies with a track by another fandom big name – and another who's moved on from brony music, the odd Hallowe'en special aside. Find him now at Mumble Etc. This is more accessible a song than I'd been expecting, with a cool piano intro and then a repetitive but immensely catchy synth section. The piano reappears just after the 2:30 mark, after which the Pinkie voice sample that gives the song its title (from S2E06, "The Cutie Pox") kicks back in. The Mediafire link in the description doesn't seem to work, but you can buy an HQ copy for £1 on Mumble's Bandcamp.

Here we have a real oddity: an official piece of FiM music in a countdown of fan-made tracks! I'm not sure why it's here, but my guess would be that the rules excluded only songs made by Daniel Ingram – which of course this piece by William Anderson was not. It's the fun synthy track that plays in the background as the CMC try all sorts of ways to get their cutie marks, way back in Season 1's "The Show Stoppers". I've heard it said that Anderson doesn't particularly like this tune, but if so I think he sells himself short. I think it fits the sequence's animation very nicely. The track has never been officially released; this is a version ripped by Senn555 and stripped of nearly all sound effects. There's a Mediafire link for a 210kpbs MP3 in the video description.

Next time: three more tracks, including an early effort by one of the fandom's best known bands.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

MLP: The Movie Score album released

Probably everyone who's likely to care about this knows about it by now, for example from Equestria Daily, but a score album for My Little Pony: The Movie has been released. It's available on most of the usual digital distribution channels, including iTunes, Google and Amazon. You can also legitimately listen to it for free on Spotify, the usual ads allowing. Sadly it seems extremely unlikely that a slightly non-mainstream album like this will ever get a physical release, but it's still nice to see.

This is especially the case given that the final track on this new album is a short piece called "Equestria" – the only one with any lyrics, albeit pretty simple ones. This is the track that was dropped to make way for the unevenly-received "Ponies Got the Beat" in the released version of the movie. In true fandom style, BradYank has put together a "what might have been?" version of the film's opening section (embedded above) with both this and – preceding it – the deleted scene from the Blu-ray/DVD. I've embedded it below; I think it works quite well.

Friday, 16 November 2018

Record charity figure for UK PonyCon 2018!

I thought I'd posted about this already, but it seems not. According to official figures, the auction specifically raised £4,674, which was itself a record for the 15 years the convention has been running. I didn't manage to contribute any of that, but that was largely because people kept bidding high amounts – so I'm not going to complain! Adding to that VIP/Supporter ticket donations, raffles/contests and the final committee donation, and...
£6,750 the final figure! From memory, I think it was £6,000 last year, so we've beaten the mark by quite a margin. Excellent news for long-time UKPC charity the RDA! Of course, we'll have to take this as a challenge, and see whether we can surpass this number once again when con time rolls around again. Who knows? But a few more £440 Derpys wouldn't go amiss there... ;)

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Sounds of 2011, nos. 83 to 81: Winter is coming, Trixie

Another from the seasons-related concept EP by Jackle App, this one focuses on the griffon from S1E05, who at the time wasn't really expected ever to return to the show. She was also widely hated for making Fluttershy cry. It's a string-heavy, sombre, yearning song that takes a much less critical view of Gilda. It's told from the point of view of someone who sees the griffon's casting-out by Rainbow and feels pity for her. Perhaps, also, something more. As was the case with many songs in the old days, though far less so today, there are several uses of a phrase from the MLP theme. You can buy the HQ track for $1 from Jackle App's Bandcamp.

I'm skipping no. 82 as it doesn't fit my new criteria for inclusion.

This guy – now known as Matt R, though he hasn't uploaded in nearly five years – is better known for certain other tracks that we maaaay just get to. However, this song precedes either of the mega-famous PPS tunes, dating from early July 2011. If you're familiar with the artist's style, the general sound of this choptune will be very familiar. Based on "Boast Busters", it's never quite managed superstardom, having "only" around 600k views, but that's pretty healthy. Matt R removed his songs in 2016 to much disappointment, but earlier this year they returned to public status, where they remain. Hurrah! You can buy this in HQ for $1 from PinkiePieSwear's Bandcamp.

Next time on Sounds of 2011, I'll be bringing you three more tracks, all by artists who remain very well known. See you then!

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 226: The Hats and Bows Closet

A reminder that November's Flashfic 150 contest is currently open. Everyone is welcome to enter – you just need to join the Flashfic group, read the rules and get going! The closing date is 11:59pm GMT on the 21st, so you still have a week to get your submission together.

Read it Later story count: 294 (nc)

Not a lot to say here this week, except that you can fill in my usual grumbling yourself! Today's bijou selectionette consists of:

Sparkle's Law by AestheticB
Operation P.R.I.N.C.E.S.S. by LyraAlluse
Babel by Cold in Gardez

★: 0 | ★★: 1 | ★★★: 1 | ★★★★: 1 | ★★★★★: 0
Note: I use a skewed rating system. A fic I find average scores two stars.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

"Sounds of 2011" is changing

Well, a bit, anyway. I've been thinking about this lately for a variety of reasons, not all of which I want to go into details about. Don't worry, nobody's yelled at me or anything! But I'm not entirely comfortable with how I've been doing the chart countdown up to this point. For one thing, it takes up an awful lot of posts, and this has never really been a music-focused blog.

There's also the fact that the music thing I do most enjoy, the Pony Music Library features, risks being entirely drowned out. On top of that, there's the fact that some people have long since left the fandom and for personal or other reasons deleted their stuff. They may not want it dredged up again. A few smaller things too, but again some of the reasons I'd prefer to keep private.

So, the upshot is that I will no longer be trying to feature every single one of the 2011 Everfree Radio Top 100 songs. I will instead be restricting myself to those that meet at least one of three broad criteria:
  1. Tracks that remain available from the artist's own account(s) – whether that be YouTube, Bandcamp, Soundcloud or whatever. If there's an option to buy from the artist's account, I'll continue to link to that.
  2. Tracks that are on other accounts, but where there is evidence that the original artist has given permission for this. This might take the form of a note in a video or an artist's own account description.
  3. Tracks that are so well known that it would really be pointless leaving them out. This is a slightly more nebulous category, admittedly, but we're talking songs with very large view counts. Think a million, not a thousand.
I've gone back through the posts I've already made and edited out those songs which don't qualify. I very rarely do big retrospective edits like that, but in this case I really would feel more uncomfortable if I didn't. So... see you next time!

Monday, 12 November 2018

The future for Louder Yay

That title is carefully chosen. If I'd written "The future of..." then it might have come across as implying that this blog was on its way out. I'd like to make it clear that this is not the case. I am still very much enjoying MLP and its fandom, and I don't intend to stop Louder Yay any time soon, or to repurpose it as something entirely different. With that out of the way, here's what's in my thoughts at the moment.

Right now, I'm doing my "Sounds of 2011" posts about what was popular in brony music in the first full year of the fandom. I can't imagine these have enormously wide appeal these days, and I'm conscious of the fact that they take up a lot of the blog. Nevertheless, I do enjoy writing them and I intend to carry on (with one tweak, which I'll explain tomorrow) until the chart is complete. If I do 2012 and 2013, and it is an if, I'll probably adopt a more concise format.

At some point I'll do a post-season review, in which I'll touch on topics such as the Student Six's introduction, my favourite and least favourite episodes, how S8's new writers have performed... and, as always, I'll assess how the season treated Fluttershy. I'd quite like to make this an audio review (in which case I'll stick a title card on it and put it on YouTube), but there'll be a text version here too.

It's widely believed, including by me, that S9 will be the final season of Friendship is Magic. While nothing is certain until publicly confirmed by Hasbro, I would be very surprised indeed if S10 became a thing. I do think it's more than possible that S9 may be followed by a 44-minute post-season special in order to wrap the whole series up in a reasonably unhurried way, but that's as far as it goes.

Once the show is over and done with for good, there'll be no new episodes for me to review. My current plan is to fill this gap by rewatching FiM in its entirety and giving my thoughts on each episode in turn. This will not take the form of a full-length review of each ep, as that would be just too much work. Instead, I'll probably write a paragraph for each one, pointing out whatever catches my attention.

If I do this marathon rewatch as I currently plan, it will be done at a reasonable pace. My current thinking is to watch two or three episodes a week. I would certainly include FiM specials and the movie. I might also add Equestria Girls movies and specials, but I'm unlikely to include the EqG shorts; there are too many and most of them don't interest me enough. At a guess, the whole thing might take me a couple of years.

One current feature I intend to carry on with is Ponyfic Roundup. There aren't many of us regular fanfic reviewers still standing, and the stuff still interests me enough that I'm willing to read at least a few fics each week and write about them. Even though Fimfiction has steadily fewer new non-Mature stories submitted each month, there are still more than enough from the past seven years that I haven't read.

And then there's G5. Rumours and leaks aside, we know more or less nothing about G5. I intend to give it a chance, and I think my slightly broadening MLP horizons since I started watching G1 from time to time may help this. I no longer feel that FiM is the only Pony with any merit at all. I'm not sure how much I'll cover G5 as a show and any films it might produce, but that's a wait-and-see thing for now.

If UK PonyCon continues and if I continue to attend, I'll still write about that. The same goes for any other cons that may still spring up. G4 merch is likely to be sold for some time after the end of FiM – it was still fairly easy to find G3 merch in UK shops in late 2012 – so that's another possibility. I'll probably continue to avoid all that much coverage of Fandom Drama™, though. It's rarely interested me greatly.

So, there you have it. Louder Yay will continue, subject to anything in my life making it impossible for that to happen. I can't promise that I won't leave the fandom entirely, but what I know about myself suggests that it's unlikely. I strongly suspect that I'll be a My Little Pony fan in some way for the rest of my life. If there's anything you'd especially like to see me cover after S9, please let me know in the comments!

Sunday, 11 November 2018

UK of Equestria's overall S8 ranking list

As happens each year, once again those of us on UK of Equestria have been supplying lists of how we rank this season's Friendship is Magic episodes. Double episodes count as one, so respondents were asked to provide a list running from 1 to 24. (No ties in individual lists are permitted, though they can still occur in the overall ranking.) We had 15 people take part this season, which is exactly the same as for S7. I actually find that rather encouraging at this point in the show's run.

The tier boundaries here, which differ from those I use on UK of E, are decided very simply. Any episode which has an average rating of five or better (one would mean every single respondent ranked it top!) gets five stars. From there to ten gets four stars, and so on. This does of course have the fault that it doesn't take account of how the season as a whole was received, only the relative positions of episodes within it.

1. What Lies Beneath

2. School Raze (finale)
3. Surf and/or Turf
4. On the Road to Friendship
5. Sounds of Silence
6. The Washout
7. The Hearth's Warming Club

8. School Daze (premiere)
9. The Break Up Breakdown
10. Horse Play
11. The Mean 6
12= Molt Down
12= A Rockhoof and a Hard Place
14. Marks for Effort
15. The Parent Map
16. Fake It 'Til You Make It

17. Friendship University
18. A Matter of Principals
19. Father Knows Beast
20. The Maud Couple
21. Grannies Gone Wild
22. The End in Friend
23. Yakity-Sax

24. Non-Compete Clause

Number of times each episode placed first
3: Sounds of Silence
3: What Lies Beneath
2: On the Road to Friendship
2: School Raze
1: The Break Up Breakdown
1: Friendship University
1: The Hearth's Warming Club
1: Horse Play
1: Surf and/or Turf

Number of times each episode placed last
13: Non-Compete Clause
1: The End in Friend
1: Father Knows Beast

Most controversial (highest standard deviation)
1. Horse Play
2. The Mean 6
3. Fake It 'Til You Make It
4. A Matter of Principals

Least controversial
1. Non-Compete Clause
2. The End in Friend
3. Yakity-Sax
4. What Lies Beneath

No episode this time was universally liked. The season finale was a close call: 14 people voted it in their top nine, but one placed it 22nd. "What Lies Beneath" had a similar, if rather less dramatic, distribution: it garnered 14 top-eight places and a lone 14th. At the bottom, "Non-Compete Clause" was almost universally strongly disliked: it managed one 15th place, one 23rd – and everyone else put it dead last. The AJ/RD character regression was hugely unpopular.

Unlike last year with "Fame and Misfortune", I wasn't sure in advance what would win "Most controversial episode" this season. As things turned out, it was "Horse Play", whose rankings ranged between first and 23rd. It partly depended for many on what they thought of the cringe comedy in Celestia's acting. The greatest agreement was in the poorness of "Non-Compete Clause", and in fact there was a high degree of consensus about the bottom three.

S8 has had a rather mixed reception overall. I think it's probably fair to say that most people find it a step down from S7, although the Student/Young Six are generally very popular. Without the students, I think this season could really have struggled to win favour. Personally I would still place it above S6 overall, but maybe not by as much as I'd have liked. It may have to wait until I've let things settle a bit before I'm really sure where I feel it stands.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Sounds of 2011, nos. 86 to 84

It's BronyScot this weekend, so I wish a great time to everyone there! As for me down here in England, it's that time again, which is to say the time when Logan doesn't have anything else to post and so resorts to putting up an episode of this. (By the way, Pony Music Library hasn't been forgotten about. There should be a new PML inductee fairly soon.)  

Update: the three songs that would fit here have now been skipped, as they don't fit my new criteria. To be featured, I want tracks to be at least one of:
1) Still available from the artist's own account(s)
2) Archived, but with evidence that the artist is okay with this
3) So famous that they're everywhere anyway
Join me next time, when I'll be featuring... music! Yes, there's a song coming up that does meet the above criteria.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Merch review: Carry-Along Colouring Set

With no episode-related posts at the moment, there's a little more space on Louder Yay than usual for me to post other things. Those of you who read the blog years ago will remember that I used to make a moderate amount of merchandise-related posts. Those have rather fallen by the wayside in recent times, but now seems as good a moment as any to bring them back, at least as an occasional series.

15cm ruler for scale; it is not included in the set
The Carry-Along Colouring Set has been around for a very long time. In the last year or two it's been given a slightly updated cover, but in essence it's the same as it was when it first emerged from Alligator Publishing in 2011. Even then, of course, those cover vectors weren't new! An interesting choice of cover ponies, especially given that in the early days of G4 most merch went for the predictable trio of Twilight Sparkle, Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash. Here, Twilight and Pinkie don't appear at all.

Inside, you get about 60 pages of pictures to colour and other simple activities of the sort aimed at young children – the book is aimed at kids aged 3+. These really are simple, being of the "count the butterflies" or "connect the dots" type. To help you do this, you're provided with five small wax crayons. These come in five colours, to match the Mane Six (except Rarity), but all their barrels are pink with the My Little Pony logo and a small vector of Fluttershy. They're held in by a cheapo bit of brown cardboard.

Look at that sticky tape! I do everything very professionally!
That's about it, except to note that the carrying handle is made of fairly flimsy cardboard and will be too small for most adult hands. The set has usually sold for £1, and it really is hard to quibble about corners being cut when you can get this for a quid. It's not as easy to find as it was, but try Wilko or The Range. The set in the photos here was one of the first bits of Pony merch I bought (hence the condition!) and I don't think I'd buy another. But it does a job and does it adequately. A pretty clear case for an average rating, I think.


Thursday, 8 November 2018

Sounds of 2011, nos. 88 and 87: Andrea Libman special!

Oh, all right, these songs aren't actually sung by Andrea Libman – but today in this series, we do have one track with Pinkie Pie's name in the title and one with Fluttershy's. Hence the subject line! Off we go, then.

Warning: this video contains some cartoonish gore of the "Cupcakes" kind

The first track today was inspired by S1's "Party of One", which for quite some time in the early days consistently came near the top of fans' all-time best episode lists. I'm not sure it would now, but nevertheless this song by setzertrancer remains a good listen. Although its creator doesn't seem to be active in the fandom any more, they re-uploaded the song to their channel in October 2017 (thank you!), which makes things easy for me here – and is especially appreciated because the MP3 I have in my collection of these Top 100 songs cuts off about three-quarters of the way through!

This is a ponified parody of 3 Doors Down's big 2009 rock hit "Kryptonite", and it keeps a pretty similar sound to the original, though with perhaps a little more echo than I'd have ideally liked. The lyrics, however, are changed to be from the point of view of Pinkie: the chorus opens with "If I go crazy then you can call me Pinkamena". The video above – which I'm not that fond of, if I'm honest – gives the artist's name on-screen as EdgeOfEverfree, so I guess they changed it at some point; it's up under setzertrancer now, though. The highest quality version I can find is the 192kbps MP3 available on

Looking at the title of this track, you might think it was a mashup of All Levels at Once's "Fluttershy's Lament" and WoodenToaster's "Avast Fluttershy's Ass" – but you'd be only half right. The first bit is correct, but in fact ALaO's song is being mashed up with the original "Avast Your Ass". That's a song by Kitsune^2 which actually has its genesis as a piece called, er, "Fuckin Sick Ass Shit" way back in 2008 (on FurAffinity, believe it or not). Pokey Smokes' mashup is a fairly successful effort, apart from an awkward section around the three-minute mark involving CMC samples, which it's a relief to discover doesn't last long.

Pokey Smokes (named after one of Pinkie's guesses at Nightmare Moon's identity in the S1 premiere) used a channel named whitzzzzzzz, with the Pony songs all bearing the Pokey Smokes name. This channel hasn't been updated since July 2012, but "Avast Fluttershy's Lament" was by far their most successful track. There are three download links in the description of the above video, but sadly all are now dead. Fortunately, it's to the rescue once again, as there you can find a downloadable 320k MP3 of the song.

Next time: a triple bill! This one will include rapping, French and rock. Of a sort.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 225: Many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse

Shrink Laureate is running a fun-looking writing contest: the Season 9 Bingo Writing Contest. Don't worry, you don't need to write about S9! The way it works is that when the contest opens in a few days (for some reason the exact date hasn't been specified), you'll get dealt five cards from the S9 bingo set, and you then have to write a fic of 1k-20k words featuring at least two of those things. The more you include the better.

There's a sample set on the post I linked to above, to give you the idea. Stories have to be submitted before S9 begins on Discovery Family in the US (I know that date isn't yet known), and you'll then get a week to tidy them up before judging begins. I've put my name down, since it's about time I wrote a story that wasn't just about custard. There are plenty of places left, so feel free to join in!

Read it Later story count: 294 (+2)

Just to remind folks, my rating system is skewed to allow me to distinguish between good, excellent and fantastic stories. A two-star rating is average, not bad. Anyway, I have four fics under the microscope today. I'm not entirely certain where I got a microscope from, but oh well. I've been reading:

Blue Steel Railway by B_25
Peachy Pie and Misty Moon Keep the Realm Safe Until Dinnertime by Pascoite
Quills and Sofas by Just Horsing Around
Better by Unbridled

★: 0 | ★★: 2 | ★★★: 1 | ★★★★: 1 | ★★★★★: 0
Note: I use a skewed rating system. A fic I find average scores two stars.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Flying east for fun and profit

Austraeoh has received an Equestria Daily feature. For his own reasons, Imploding Colon (yeah, I know he's shortskirtsandexplosions, but I like to stick to the names people use) apparently didn't submit it until six years after it had been finished. For what it's worth, my own opinion on the story was distinctly mixed. I reviewed it in Ponyfic Roundup 31 back in 2014 and scored it 6.5/10 – that's a moderate three-star rating in my current system. I haven't re-read it, so I can't say whether my opinion would be different if I reviewed the fic now. I'm sure the obsession with "ruby eyes" (used 57 times!) would still drive me up the wall, though.

Also in ponyfic news, EqD has a short interview with Pen Stroke, author of "Past Sins" (which I reviewed in PR 48) and various other stories. At a time when the site is adding more and more visual art coverage (eg the anthro and weekly open art posts) writing has been feeling increasingly marginalised. Perhaps inevitable at a time when falling viewership means Seth and co have to go for maximum eyeballs, but beyond the usual round of stories being featured, we don't get thrown many bones these days. Fimfiction is generally a better place for discussion anyway. It's nice to see some extra fanfic coverage on EqD for a change. :)

Monday, 5 November 2018

Sounds of 2011, nos. 90 and 89

Update: I have changed my mind and am now skipping these two songs. They don't meet my new criteria of being one or more of the following:
1) Available from the artist's own account(s)
2) Archived, but with evidence the artist is okay with this
3) So famous that they're everywhere anyway
Next time: a parody, plus something familiar-but-not.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

The three ages of Pony

Note: A revised and updated version of this piece appeared in Equestria Daily's "Soapbox" feature on 21 January 2020.

Tagging this as an "essay" is really pushing it, but it's more than just "musing"... I've thought for quite a while that you can divide Friendship is Magic into three broad eras. The divisions aren't hard and fast, and it wouldn't be all that difficult to argue for a two-era classification instead. For what it's worth, though, here's how I see it:

Original Pony
This consists of the first three seasons – which in another reality might easily have ended up being all we got of FiM. I remember that we were all on tenterhooks until we actually saw the first ads for S4. In the Original Pony era, the show is strongly Mane Six-focused, with only occasional diversions to the CMC etc. The wider story is centred on Ponyville and the episodes are generally domestic and relatively low-stakes, apart from season premieres and finales. The roster of writers remains pretty stable, with only a few comings and goings.

Although Lauren Faust has said that the story she had originally planned could not have survived beyond "A Canterlot Wedding" – not least the introduction of a third alicorn princess – most S3 episodes could actually have been slotted into late S1 without too much difficulty. Other than the finale, the major exception is "Keep Calm and Flutter On" and it's arguable that Discord's reformation, rather than Twilight's ascension, is actually the beginning of the end for Original Pony.

Transition Pony
This covers seasons 4 and 5, a relatively short period but one in which we see some very large changes. The CMC get their cutie marks and Diamond Tiara is reformed. Starlight Glimmer makes her debut, even if she doesn't become a regular until S6. Twilight loses her home in the comfortable, homely library and has to start again in the new hard-edged castle, and in a two-era version of this post, that would be the dividing line. Many of the original writers depart: Amy Keating Rogers, Cindy Morrow, Merriwether Williams and (one S7 oddity apart) M. A. Larson, whose sublime "Amending Fences" provides the high water mark of FiM as we'd known it.

Meanwhile, a number of new writers come on board, including the likes of Natasha Levinger, Corey Powell, Nick Confalone – and most notably, Josh Haber. His debut episode, "Castle Mane-ia", is in retrospect very significant, and not only because it introduced the Journal of Friendship. It is also the first episode that could not have been made in the Original Pony era, being something more akin to Scooby-Doo with ponies. Haber would go on to be a major influence on the show's direction as both writer and showrunner.

New Pony
From here onwards, we're in the modern era. Apart from Dave Polsky who hangs on into S6, all the original writers are gone, and there's a fair case for saying that the show plays a little more fast and loose with lore and continuity from this point. You rarely now get a reminder that the ponies are directly responsible for much of Equestrian Nature, not like you did in the "Winter Wrap Up" days. FiM has become something just a little closer to a "wacky cartoon antics" show, albeit with the significant difference of characters with depth who are shown to grow on-screen.

Technically, the show is better than ever, with the sumptuous "A Hearth's Warming Tail" being a delight for both eyes and ears. On the downside (for some) there's less attention paid to keeping the universe consistent: the composition of the teaching staff at the School of Friendship is clearly a logical nonsense. And the Mane Six themselves become less central, with the likes of Starlight, Trixie, the reformed changelings and latterly the Student Six taking some of the limelight.

So, where are we?
It's understandable that this rather changed show is not to every fan's taste, and it probably is true to say that the quality of the writing has suffered a bit with no-one left in that department who was around for the Original Pony days when much of the world's lore was established. However, that doesn't make today's FiM a bad cartoon, just a different one. My guess is that S9 will be part of the New Pony era rather than taking off in a totally different direction, and you know what? I'm okay with that.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Sounds of 2011, nos. 92 and 91: Applejack fights, MandoPony celebrates

I shall be doing a number of multiple-track posts during this series, since otherwise it's going to take years to complete. A double bill for you today...

Remember Fighting is Magic? If you've been in the fandom a few years, then of course you do. You may even have played it. One of the most infamous C&Ds in the fandom's history came when Hasbro ordered the end of the Pony-themed fighting game at a point when it was already in playable alpha. Lauren Faust herself took an interest and offered to design some lawyer-compliant original characters. The eventual result was Them's Fightin' Herds, released on Steam Early Access in February. (Mind you, it's still Early Access...)

Although the original game didn't get finished, we did get to hear a lot of its music. One such track was this AJ-themed instrumental by erstwhile chiptune specialist RainbowCrash88, now known simply as RC88. It's unsurprisingly a country-style piece, full of activity and attitude and twangy banjo licks, and it works just as well as background music to type to as it does in the game. Should you wish to hear it in high quality, you can purchase the track for $1 from RC88's Bandcamp. Oh, and I mentioned Them's Fightin' Herds? He provided music for that, too!

The last track remains pretty well played to this day. This one? Unless you were around Equestria Daily way back in December 2011, maybe not so much. MandoPony wrote this to celebrate EqD reaching 80 million hits. I'm not sure how many it has now (the banner seems to have been quietly removed) but it's hundreds and hundreds of millions. For some years, EqD was the place to hang out in a way it isn't quite so much today – though, in line with my policy of being as odd as possible, I spend far more time there now than I did when I was a newbie in 2012.

The song was a victim of MandoPony's slimming-down of his Pony back catalogue on YouTube a while back, and the above video is the only one I know of now. Bizarrely, you can buy a karaoke version for 50 cents from MandoPony's Bandcamp, but as far as I can tell he doesn't offer the original at all. Maybe he doesn't like the way he sings, but I think it's fine for a song like this: a catchy, light-hearted, poppy celebration of the then-still-novel idea of a My Little Pony fan blog getting tens of millions of hits. It's worth a listen, especially if you remember the fandom of 2011 yourself.

Next time on Sounds of 2011: another double feature, with two more songs that are now pretty darn obscure but which were obviously fairly well known seven years back.

Friday, 2 November 2018

Text Review Roundup: "Best Gift Ever"

Kicking off the last TRR for a while – well, unless S9 unexpectedly starts next month or something – and you'll note a very different slate of reviewers from usual. Many of the regulars don't have anything that I could find (not even Derpy News!) yet one or two non-regulars have written pieces. Dark Qiviut is back, and we have a brand new reviewer in Mike Cartoon Pony. Huzzah!

So, out of nine reviewers this time, two outright disliked the special, two thought it was okay and five either really liked or even loved it. I'd say that was a pretty good return. As with "A Hearth's Warming Tail", predictability didn't get in the way of enjoyment for those reviewers who liked most of the other stuff. My 4/5 rating puts me in with the pack this time round.

Dark Qiviut – negative (graded D+; "There were a lot of sweet moments here, including the ending, but overall, this was a colossal disappointment.")

DrakeyC – fairly positive ("Was fine. Cute, had some fun moments, decent song, good cameos. It was fine. But, shouldn't it have aired like, a month and a half later?")

geeky things – mildly positive (rated 6/10; "the plot is that of your typical christmas special and it goes exactly how you think it would go but [...] has the right amount of humor either way the story is well told")

JDPrime22 – very positive (rated 10/10; "Loved the music, the writing, the comedy, pretty much everything about this special.")

Louder Yay – positive (rated 4/5; "The adjective that most comes to mind is "warm-hearted", and that will do me very nicely.")

Mike Cartoon Pony – very positive ("predictable [...] But, this is easily one of the best new Pony things I've seen since the Movie got me on board a year ago")

MLEEP Reviews – positive (rated 8.5/10; "predictable story [but] everything else [...] truly helped capture the feeling of the magic of the holiday season")

The Railfan Brony – negative (rated Bad; "a mish-mash of older episodes thrown into the pudding [that] comes out as stale, years-old gingerbread")

ShutterflyEQD – positive ("One of the best things about this special is that everypony got a lot of screen time! [Though] why couldn't they have added Starlight into the fun?")

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Ponyfic Roundup 224: Light up, light up, as if you have a choice

Read it Later story count: 292 (-5)

A day late this week, but here's PR once again. As has been the case most weeks in recent months, I'm short of the five fics I'd really like to be reviewing. I don't know why I keep apologising for this, since it doesn't seem to be changing anything. Oh well, I guess some reviews is better than no reviews. One of the fics is longer than sometimes, too. Here's the little selection I have for you today:

So That's What a Wingboner Is... by Fire Gazer the Alchemist
Sundowner Season by Cherax
Basement Ducks by ocalhoun

★: 0 | ★★: 1 | ★★★: 2 | ★★★★: 0 | ★★★★★: 0
Note: I use a skewed rating system. A fic I find average scores two stars.