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Friday, July 31, 2009

Super Mario Summer

I was recently sent this absolutely charming one-man tribute to the Super Mario World soundtrack. Aside from being a rather stunning piece of music arrangement by a fan, it's also pretty much perfect music for a balmy summer day like the one hitting NYC right now:

Feel free to download the whole thing for free right here.

xoc, the artist behind this (real name: Jason Cox), also did a similar project for Kirby's Adventure available here. Check out xoc's website for more.

11:30 AM
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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Don't Forget to Breathe

Dan sent this video my way earlier today and I couldn't contain the awkward smile:

Sure, there's some hilarious editing going on here, but WOW, I kind of can't believe that source material exists.
Is it written somewhere that all children's show hosts must be creepy beyond rational belief?

2:00 PM
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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"Fun" With Photoshop

I was asked earlier today to make a quick li'l photoshop for Nerve's front page. Here's what I came up with:

There was a great deal of chuckling.

About an hour later it was deemed "too disturbing" by one of the editors and I had to switch it out for this:

Decidedly less fun, but everyone who visted the site between 12:30 and 2:00 today got to enjoy that first one, so they are the winners in all of this, right?

2:45 PM
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Monday, July 27, 2009

Record Review - Discovery's LP

Hit "play" on the debut from Ra Ra Riot/Vampire Weekend sideproject Discovery and be prepared to be instantly smitten with the tongue-in-cheek goofiness of opener "Orange Shirt"'s pulse synth stabs, 80's summer jam beat, and overall vibe of madras shorts at dusk. Keep listening past that first song, though, and you're likely to get nauseous. The following nine tracks follow the same formula as the first, like a bad joke that just doesn't get any funnier with each retelling, and suffer from the abdomen-stabbing addition of auto-tune. Discovery's LP is a bad idea, do not give it the opportunity to spread.

1:00 PM
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Tron Legacy Hype Train Now Leaving The Station

People (nerds) have been clamoring for a sequel to Disney's proto-techno-cult hit Tron ever since, well, it became a cult hit. Now that the geeks have inherited the Earth (or at least a fair share of mainstream pop culture), it's finally happening.

It was confirmed back in March that electronic pioneers Daft Punk had signed on to score the film, which meant that at the very least the film's soundtrack would be worth the consumers' dollars. At this past weekend's San Diego Comic-Con, Disney unveiled the first trailer for the film, along with its title:

While there is a noticeable lack of Daft Punk in the trailer for Tron Legacy, there is just about enough fan service to get dorky hearts a-thumping. Hell, the thing already looks like a Daft Punk music video without the music.

I may not be fully aware of what movies are coming out in 2010 (I think I know maybe seven?) but Tron Legacy is totally my number 2 most anticipated film of the year right now, just behind Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and just ahead of Iron Man 2. Man, I'm such a dweeb...

11:30 AM
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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Indie Rock Karaoke Is Getting Better All The Time

So a little over a month ago I finally got with the times and bought a set-up for Rock Band, the up-to-four-player rock and roll karaoke video game with plastic guitars and drums. Among the first things I did was browse the lineup of the weekly-updated Rock Band Store. Rock Band's song selection tends to skew a bit more towards the indie rock while Guitar Hero's aims for the head-banging arena rock crowd, and Rock Band also tends to add at least twice as many tracks a week as Guitar Hero, so I was looking forward to a lot of good stuff. Sadly, I didn't spend more than a few bucks, downloading only a few tracks from TV On The Radio, Elvis Costello, the Von Bondies, the Zombies and Blondie. It makes sense, they want to make money so they focus more on mainstream crowd-pleasers like Pearl Jam and Green Day, but I really don't care about those at all.

Earlier this week, Harmonix, the studio behind Rock Band and the first two Guitar Heros, among others, unveiled their user-generated music platform, Rock Band Network:

Basically, any musician with access to the program (entering beta soon) can take their own master recordings, program the beat layouts for the guitar, bass and drum tracks, even the vocals, and then upload them to the Rock Band Network where they can then be sold to players around the world with the profit going right back to the musician. Awesomesauce, but that's a whole extra level of complicated work, making the playable patterns for the game. Surely only dedicated bedroom musicians will do this, no bands you've actually heard of, right?

Wrong, because IGN just reported that Sub Pop records plans to release its entire catalog of music on Rock Band Network after they've learned the technology. Its entire catalog! The big'uns in there include Nirvana's Bleach and the Postal Service's Give Up, but that also means we could soon see an influx of tracks and albums from the Thermals, Sunny Day Real Estate, CSS, the Go! Team, Wolf Parade, Flight of the Conchords, Fleet Foxes, Low, Hot Hot Heat, No Age, Foals, the Jesus and Mary Chain and a ton of others. I reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally hope somebody at Sub Pop learns how to program those tracks with great quality and frequency, because this is going to be awesome.

11:00 AM
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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Chiptune Tribute Albums: Daft Punk vs. Weezer vs. nerds

Two fairly prominent chiptune tribute albums have been released in the past month: Da Chip and Weezer - The 8-bit Album, based on the music of Daft Punk and Weezer respectively. On the one hand, this perfectly shows exactly what kinds of nerds were into both bands and what kind of nerds chiptune musicians are, namely exactly the kinds of nerds I am. It was hard to find bands more prominently dorky in the 1990s than robo-electronic pioneers Daft Punk and thick-glasses garage dweebs Weezer, and it was just as hard at the time to not be romantically whisked away by the wonderlands of 8- and 16-bit videogames, so naturally the two worlds should meet in euphonic bliss, no? Well, not quite.

The most glaring issue with Da Chip is that it immediately seems all too easy. Daft Punk were already making electronic music. Covering those songs in a more primitive electronic format comes across as little more than gimmick, not quite tribute. Only EvilWezil's take on Discovery's "Veridis Quo" breaks the structure of the source material enough to be interesting on its own. This brings to mind the other instantly recognizable issue with Da Chip, the complete absence of Human After All. I accept that Daft Punk's third LP is their least popular, but seriously, an entire tribute based around two albums seems a little off. "Technologic" practically lends itself to chip-love, and any of the other tracks would have been sweet too, especially "Make Love."

As for Weezer, well, the covers are varying degrees of successful. It's often distracting to hear vocals in chiptune, especially when the musicians are very much not singers, as in the case of Anamanaguchi's take on "Holiday." With the exception of videogame orchestra's Castlevania-inspired take on "Island in the Sun" and Bit Shifter's glow-stick-raver "The World Has Turned And Left Me Here," the songs are all pretty straightforward covers. Tugboat's "El Scorcho" winds up a sconce adorable and would fit in perfectly on the Little Nemo: The Dream Master soundtrack. While neither is particularly impressive, both seal of quality's "Hash Pipe" and Unicorn Dream Attack's "Jamie" are entirely likable fun. The biggest disappointment of the bunch, without question, is nordloef's "Buddy Holly" which forgoes any sense of experimentation or playfulness in favor of a straight midi cover with a fist-pumping club beat.

There's also a three-disc chiptune Prodigy tribute in the works, which I believe makes this a full-on fad. Thankfully, most of these chip-artists are still producing original works that are far better than these tributes. Sadly, only those of us who were already dweebs even know that. The lack of real excitement in these tributes shows and newcomers will ultimately see these as gimmicks and walk away with a laugh.

5:00 PM
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Friday, July 17, 2009

Space Invaders: Infinity Gene will rock my iPod so hard

TAITO just released this trailer for the iPhone/iTouch port of their mobile phone hit Space Invaders Infinite Gene. It's the most exciting thing I've seen on the internet in weeks on a purely speculative level.

Space Invaders was the first videogame I truly loved as a child, the somewhat genius reimagining Space Invaders Extreme was my ninth favorite video game on 2008 and I'm very much interested in the upcoming SIE2, but wow, Infinite Gene is exactly what I want right now:

Sure, it's cool that you can finally break away from the x-axis and that there are bosses and cool visual effects, but that makes it like pretty much every top-down shooter on the market these days. What really excites me is that part about generating custom levels based on the music on your iPod. Procedurally-generated stages reading from the music you choose to listen to? Radtastic! And hopefully there will still be tons of the old-school Space Invaders charm to make the game feel unique, yet familiar.

TAITO says it should be hitting the App Store soon. I am officially on the lookout.

6:00 PM
2 comments sanskrit

Akai's Tiny New USB Keyboard & Drumpad Look Sweet!!!

The second purchase I made in the pursuit of really making music in college was an M-Audio Oxygen 8 MIDI controller (pictured at right, the first purchase was a cheap microphone). Despite its compact size and rampant affordability, it was totally a professional keyboard. I bought it at a big fancy music store and have since seen the same model on many a concert stage played by big professional bands. Sure, its many knobs didn't do anything in my decidedly lo-fi recording environment, but it still did just about everything I asked it to with ease. Lately, though, it's keys have been sticking on notes, and that's kind of a major drag when recording. I hate to think about buying a replacement for the girl who has been so good to me for nearly six years, but then I saw these two beauties coming soon from Akai:

USB-powered and 13 inches long, these babies are designed to fit in laptop bags for the musician on the go. I've actually been wanting a usb drum pad for a while, and since M-Audio discontinued the Trigger Finger my options have been bleak. Even though I do the vast majority of my recording at home, I've enjoyed bringing equipment with me to friends houses and parties, so the added portability is a definite plus. Also, these beasts are gorgeous.

12:52 PM
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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Office 2010: The Movie

I'm an Apple nerd. That should come as no surprise. I avoid using Microsoft products whenever possible. As such, I'm pretty sure I will never use Microsoft Office 2010, but I can still love this promotional film:

Fun fact, the shot of the guy getting on the motorcycle at 1:23 is right up the block from my office. I'd know that corner of the Puck Building anywhere.

5:30 PM
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Record Review - Think About Life's Family

Were it not for my unhealthy craving to rank any and all things in relation to each other, I might not have remembered that Think About Life's self-titled debut was my #1 favorite album on 2006. Were that the case, I likely wouldn't have even known they had a new album, especially considering there is no release date scheduled outside of Canada. Thankfully, I do have that number fetish, and I do remember, and I have the Canadian release of Family, and even better, it's fantastic.

Whereas Think About Life was a series of experimental demos disguised as an experimental album, Family is pure pop bliss. The boys of TAL have learned to use their wild, multitasking energy and focus it into ten tracks so deliriously danceable that you'd hardly believe they were the same band. The sound is fuller, yet still somehow dissonant and just amateur enough to feel genuine. "Sweet Sixteen" and "Set You on Fire" could be instant number-one-summer-jams, but the absolute winner is album closer "Life of Crime", with its gently building rhythmic loops, foot-stomping beat, and compelling lyrics:
It could be the raging bull in all of us, or the lion's paw at the back of my throat... And even if it takes the life of another man, it's the only crime I know by now, the only crime I know by heart. It's the only crime I must confess. The only crime I'm guilty of... is falling in love.

4:00 PM
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Phrazes For The Young

If the teaser video is any indication of what the album will sound like, I think this Julian Casablancas (The Strokes) solo project is heavily inspired by Ratatat:

2:15 PM
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Record Review - The Most Serene Republic's ...And The Ever Expanding Universe

The Most Serene Republic are members of a very special fraternity of bands I used to love when they weren't trying so hard to write real songs. Along with Tilly and the Wall, Architecture in Helsinki and Thunderbirds Are Now!, these bands were at their best when they didn't have any preconceptions of what a song should be and just threw sounds against a wall until they found something they liked. They were rebellious. They were freeform. They were exciting. And then they all went on tour, met other bands, worked with producers, learned what a song is "supposed" to be, and produced mediocre formulaic pop albums. 2007's Population was an incredible disappointment after the lung-filling breath of fresh air that was debut Underwater Cinematographer. Thankfully, though, it seems that The Most Serene Republic's newest effort finds a happy middle between their debut's contained chaos and sophomore overproduced pop confusion festival. Melodies are consistent and structure never breaks wildly, but at least the arhythmic whistling, syncopated beats and hum-guitar harmonies are back. "Bubble Reputation" welcomes listeners with possibly the most cinematic atmosphere in the band's history, "All of One is the Other" creates a scene of operatic constraint before the Yann Tiersen-esque instrumental "Patternicity", and the whole package explodes with the vibrant staccato pop diamond "Don't Hold Back, Feel a Little Longer". Welcome back, Most Serene Repbulic, and thanks for creating an album that lives up to both its own title as well as the band's name.

10:00 AM
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Monday, July 13, 2009

Record Review - Ginuwine's A Man's Thoughts

Ginuwine was arguably one of the most popular performers of the soul-hip-hop movement in the '90s with hit songs like "Pony" and "What's So Different?" He seems to have fallen out of favor since breaking up with producer Timbaland, but could A Man's Thoughts, his seventh album, put Ginuwine back on top? More importantly, does Ginuwine still have what made him so interesting back in the late '90s? I present in his defense, the chorus to A Man's Thoughts' "Trouble":
It's gon' be trouble, trouble. If she don't stop dancin' on me like that, the way she pushin' me back, I'm just sayin', it's gon' be trouble, trouble. If she get any closer, I'ma have somethin' for her to grind on, wind on.

Yup, he's still got it. If you're offended by sexual innuendo, do yourself a listen and don't focus on the lyrics to any of the songs on this (or likely any) Ginuwine album. Good ol' Timbaland even makes a guest appearance this time, along with Missy Elliott, Bun B and Brandy. It's some smooth retro 90's hip-hop goodness up in this bitch. And that's basically what this all comes down to, A Man's Thoughts feels like both a return to form and a callback. The music is fun, and that's what matters, but it doesn't feel like anything worthy of note. Still, though, A Man's Thoughts is a pleasant party starter and an easy addition to anybody's "bonin'" playlist, and that right there is what Ginuwine has always been good for.

4:00 PM
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Record Review - We Were Promised Jetpacks's These Four Walls

Scottish rockers We Were Promised Jetpacks kick off their debut album with two of the most engaging post-punk ballads in recent memory. Adam Thompson's lyrics carry a romantic violence that do little to betray the band's age, having formed in 2003 for their high school battle of the bands. His voice does bring with it a power that easily matches the excited rhythmic jangling of the accompanying drums, bass and guitar, so these kids wind up sounding like an older band that has channelled the minds of their younger selves. All in all, it's an excellent combination that serves for the most stunning debut from a band this young since The Plastic Constellations. While These Four Walls is far from a perfect album with a handful of noticeably lackluster moments, it proves more than compelling enough to keep an interested eye on these boys and what they may have for us in the not-too-distant future.

2:00 PM
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Record Review - Eels' Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire

Mark Oliver Everett's newest album as eels is not a revelation or a drastic change of pace, though as another eels album it is far from the same old thing. There was certainly a dark period in Everett's life, most notably documented in Electro-Shock Blues, but it seems like ten years later he has finally come to the closest thing we can call a happy and healthy resolution to all those intense happenings. On Hombre Lobo, Everett sings of missing his loved ones in a matter that is decidedly not heart-wrenchingly sad nor is it "fuck the world and everyone in it" distortion-heavy punk. Mark may take on the titular role of the wolfman in this outing, but more than ever before he comes across as completely and wonderfully human.

11:00 AM
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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Sometimes they just make it too easy

11:00 AM
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Monday, July 06, 2009

The Exciting Return of Electroplankton

When developing their then-controversial dual-screened, touch-enabled portable DS, Nintendo approached Japanese sound artist Toshio Iwai to see if he had any ideas for the platform. The idea he had was Electroplankton, a non-game collection of ten types of fish who would generate ambient electronic music based on the player's interactions via the touch screen, buttons, and microphone. The epitome of "niche" titles, Electroplankton perfectly demonstrated what the DS could do that no other device at the time could, earning the prestige of being the first DS cart produced (the ROM's code is titled NDS0001) along with the hearts and imaginations of creative gamers around the world, despite being very difficult to find and purchase outside of Japan.

Seeing the promotional materials for Electroplankton online while I was in college absolutely set off sparks in my brain. I had been a very passive gamer for the previous decade, only playing games in web browsers and at friends houses, never getting serious enough about any one game or even the idea of gaming to purchase a device upon which to play any. The first thing I did upon settling home after graduation was decide to reward myself for years of successful schooling by purchasing a brand-new Nintendo DS and a copy of Electroplankton. No piece of software has ever been so addictive. When shown to my friends, they would play for hours, completely ignoring friends and family and responsibilities, so very focused on the three-inch screen and the blips and bloops around it. By the time each of these friends were convinced to buy DSes of their own, Electroplankton was long-since out of print and warranting over a hundred dollars per card online. The single greatest motivator for illegal software emulation on the DS amongst my peers has been the ability to play Electroplankton without stealing my only copy.

Nintendo of Japan announced just a few days ago that they are rereleasing Electroplankton's ten fish types as separate applications of DSiWare, downloadable software for the recently-released DSi. At 200 points (100 points = $1), purchasing all ten will only set the player back $20, bargain price for new DS games and an absolute steal for this hard-to-find gem.

I found it only fitting that Electroplankton be the first card in my DSi when I picked it up a couple of months ago. The card comes everywhere with me, so I don't really have need to purchase these if/when they are released in the US. If, however, these releases have any additional features, modes or options, I may just be down for a second dip in the pool, particularly for favorites "Hanenbow" and "Beatnes". More importantly, though, if these sell well, maybe Nintendo can talk Toshio Iwai into producing some new fish for the service, or possibly even a full-on sequel. Wouldn't that be a fine fish tale?

11:00 AM
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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

It's a bit hard to believe that I haven't written about video games for an entire month, but that's how long it's been since the mandate that we stop updating 61FPS has been enacted. What a crazy month to not write about video games, too. In addition to all the huge announcements at E3 (New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Project Natal, PSP Go, and so much more), here's the list of games I know I've invested time in playing this past month:

Wii: Boom Blox Bash Party, The Munchables, Up: the Videogame, MarioKart Wii, Water Warfare
DS: Mighty Flip Champs, Art Style: Boxlife, Korg DS-10
PS3: inFamous, Burnout Paradise (Big Surf Island), Rock Band 2
iPod Touch: Peggle, rRootage, Hero of Sparta

There are surely more than those and plenty of browser and PC games, but already that's a pretty substantial lineup for jus tone month and I HAVEN'T WRITTEN ABOUT ANY OF THEM.

What the hell, world?

11:00 AM
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