Archive for March, 2007


Cleanup (Some stuff from the garbage)

March 31, 2007

Welcome to T-Mobile!  Tell us how we did at first and you’ll be entered to win great prizes!  Your T-Mobile phone number is __________

Whats up whore?


You have been sent a picture message.  View your message at, your password is xz2bez, your message will be deleted after 6 days

Your a sissy little bitch daggot


Sorta just climbed a montana







Hey Alex.  I am messing with my new phone – experimenting with text messaging.  Please reply.  Thanks!

He just weird try making fun of something

What?  That makes no sense

In chicago srry

King tut exhibit

A whole bunch o stuf i cal u

umm who is this?

bunch of dvds

Srry for taking so long on answers my phone charger is at home so i leave the phone off

Its fun but a little long

I found the charger i am no longer cut off from the world

Yeah but its getting taken away until after finals

Quiz tomorrow

Can you bring the pieces you want to submit to nuance?  Were going to have time to talk about them

That makes sense drexel was good

9 oclock-What a stupid word oclock

Where r u

Only asking now because i’ll forget otherwise. 1. please bring me along the next time you see the CSO. 2. Remind me when you have an orchestra concert.

Claudia. Dont feel stupid. Have fun in maths tomorrow

What are you talking about i was there we talked about borat

no the truth just isnt very interesting i was studying physics in the library

What are you up to?

watching tv. You?

Plugging along, i wonder how that saying came about. In chicago for my moms birthday, staying at a hotel because my moms always wanted to. Wasted the day

Yeah i just laid around all day

Picture msg.

Greetings and salutations Number One Son.  I will pick you up around four-thirty tomorrow. See you then 🙂

Machshotgunfieduous watchin futurama


Alvin Lucier – I Am Sitting In A Room

March 29, 2007

I am sitting in a room, different from the one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice, and I am going to play it back into the room again and again until the resonant frequencies of the room reinforce themselves so that any semblance of my speech, with perhaps the exception of rr-r-rhythm, is destroyed. What you will hear then are the natural resonant frequencies of the room articulated by speech. I regard this activity, nnnnnnot so much as a demonstration of a physical fact, but more as a way to su-sm-smooth out any irregularities my speech might have.

I Am Sitting In A Room is hardly music. In fact, it is hardly a creative effort. I want to call Lucier a genius for producing this, because it is in fact ingenious, but to be honest he really did nothing. The process that was taken to produce this album was surely simple and easy, and yet there is little as priceless as this recording when it comes to modern day technological experiments. This recording tells us worlds about both ourselves and the world that we live in, subtly, and without any real proof or backup other than itself. What I just reproduced above this paragraph is all the listener hears for the length of the album. And yet, it really isn’t. The process speaks for itself. Alvin, a post modern musical craftsman of sorts, recorded his voice on a simple tape machine. He has a very ordinary voice. It is creepy at first, and it sounds like it might be the voice of a narrator on TV from the fifties who introduces horror flicks. His voice does end up being relaxing and quaint, and he has a small studder, which is nice because it puts a personal touch into the sounds. He speaks clearly and slowly, so that you understand him.

What then happens is the audio track is played back, in the same room, into another tape recorder. What results is the recording of Alvin Lucier recording himself speaking. This tape is then played in the same room and recorded, resulting in a tape of a recording of a recording of Alvin Lucier recording himself speaking. The whole work consists of these cycles, each taking a little more than a minute, the album being over forty minutes. Every time his voice is re-recorded, it seems as if it deteriorates. Even by the second segment, his voice sounds a little “farther back,” as if he was speaking to you through a long hallway. By the third segment, the echo is much more apparent and there is a certain recognizable rasp in the voice. This goes on, for over forty minutes. And what he told you what would happen does happen. In ten minutes, the voice is extremely deteriorated. By twenty, unintelligible and instead a rhythmic mass of what seems to be synthesizers. By thirty, a flowing tonal ambient atmosphere.

The mastery of this is not apparent. It is not easy to understand and it is not necessarily the most enjoyable listen you will come in contact with. There is no beat and thus no driving force. But what you hear throughout the extent of this album transforms beautifully. By the end of the recording, you are no longer hearing Alvin Lucier’s voice, although it is still there. You are hearing a room. You are hearing the room Alvin Lucier is sitting in. And you are hearing the rooms natural resonant frequencies. This is the voice of the room, at it’s purest. Alvin Lucier just happens to be sitting in it, speaking, but the focus is no longer on him. His voice lets the room speak. And what is really amazing about this is the nature of the final result. It is musical in many respects. Once again, there is no real beat or solid rhythm so the listen is only as compelling as any other ambient work you have heard with no beats, but the result is decidedly musical. The feedback and vocal soundscapes create chords, tiny jingles, and interesting pairings throughout the extent of the recording.

This is Alvin Lucier sitting in a room, recording the sound of his speaking voice, and playing it back over and over again. Everything he says is true, and more. What happens over forty five minutes of this is unspeakably interesting. On the first listen this album is bland and boring, but upon further listens it truly opens up. This is not art. This is simply a room. To understand this record is truly great, and to come back later and hear the transformation again is fascinating. What this tells us is that we are doing more than speaking during everyday conversation. Really, we are vaguely singing, in some alien way. And it also tells us that everything around us is very quietly singing at all times. It tells us that everything is musical. Once again, this was probably not hard to record. Anyone with two tape recorders and a few tapes could have done this, and with other sounds than the human voice. You could probably use pianos, water droplets, a singing voice, a violin, a city, ANYTHING. And people have. People have vaguely changed the formula since this recording was made in 1970. That is how we got Frippertronics, sort of, created by Brian Eno and Robert Fripp. The playback of of two recorders using guitar in a room, bouncing off of one another. Or what about the Silver Session for Jason Knuth by Sonic Youth? Where the band members essentially turned all their amps up to full blast, left the room, and recorded the result? These are just a few small examples of what this recording has the potential of teaching musicians. This is Alvin Lucier sitting in a room, different from the room you are in now. I wonder what the room you are in now sounds like.


The Radio Dept. – Pet Grief

March 26, 2007

I first heard Pet Grief around when it was released last year and for some reason I didn’t like it. Maybe it was because everyone I knew who heard it didn’t like it, so I kind of threw it on the backburner and never gave it a legit listen. But I put this in my CD player a few days ago and it totally opened up for me. What a great feeling, to play an album you thought was bad only to realize that it is really great. It’s true, this is a change for The Radio Dept, but it’s not necessarily bad. The biggest difference is in the mood. Most of the songs are created in the same signature Radio Dept. way. They all have programmed soft beats, wispy vocals put through the same effects that were employed on Lesser Matters and the two following great EPs, and some nifty synthesizers and shining guitars that make the whole production shine. But the mood here is now a little more contemplative and sometimes melancholy. I think it’s a matter of preference here, and I seem to enjoy this as much as Lesser Matters now. Lesser Matters almost had more of a happy go lucky down to earth feeling to it. Only given close inspection does this album really open up.

The first track, It’s Personal, may be a bit misleading. It really threw me off at first. It’s a midtempo melancholy instrumental that makes good use of strings that are seen through the rest of the album, and the beats are also very soft and relaxing like previous work from the band, all dressed up in heavy echo. But to be honest, it’s probably the saddest song on the album, so you can rest easy knowing that the mood doesn’t carry through. It would probably be alright if it did though, because this song is very good, but it would be a tiring album to listen to if every song was this lugubrious, The next song, Pet Grief, is a startling disconnection to the previous theme. I might even say it’s the best song the band has made yet, and I’m a pretty big fan of Pulling Our Weight and Against The Tide. The song starts out with a segment of extremely well subdivided beats and a breathtaking swirl of reverb that launches into one of the best pop songs of ’06. It’s a really touching spring themed tune. It has a fantastic bassline and an impressive lineup of strings as well. The lyrics are lovely and they pretty much speak for themselves; how does one best go about dealing with friends in grief? It actually answers the question pretty well.

After hearing just those two songs for the first time I was truly misguided. I felt like those were two of the most individual songs the band has ever made, and I was expecting a continuously differential record. What I focused on was how certain themes carry on through the album and the means of making songs doesn’t necessarily change all that much, and I failed to see the individual power in each song. The hooks aren’t as immediate as on Pet Grief, but they are still there if you are willing to give them a chance. When the sad mood returns, it luckily isn’t botched, because if it was it would probably ruin the rest of what the album had to say. This is a bit of a shaky structure as it is, but I Wanted You To Feel The Same is really genuinely touching. What seems to be the most popular song on the album is also a bit sad, The Worst Taste In Music. It is accompanied with an interesting music video, and The Radio Dept. is a band with an already outstanding lineup of music videos. If you have not seen the video for Pulling Our Weight, I really recommend you do. But once again, the album isn’t all despondent for these pseudo shoegaze revivalists. Every Time is a sweet pop song with as much sonic sheen as Keen on Boys, and A Window is an uplifting summer urban love song.

I’m just so… Shocked. I can’t believe I didn’t like this before. There is really only one comparatively weak song in my opinion and that is Tell, but beyond that every song on this album is as priceless a gem as any of the bands other material is. This album is as much of a joy to listen to as Lesser Matters and perhaps even more rewarding. It clocks in at a very short length, around thirty five minutes, but every minute of it is sweet candy. The Radio Dept. is one of the best new indie bands for dreampop fans to dabble in, and one of the most impressive acts to come out of Sweden in a while. And they are still at it too. According to their website, they recently canceled their European tour due to financial constraints, but they are also doing work on a follow up to Pet Grief, as of yet unnamed. I’d love to see these guys live, as I’m told they are really amazing. They have some free MP3s of their music at their webpage, including a full live show. This band is definitely worth checking out and Pet Grief shows some significant growth in the right direction, and it will surely be a joy to watch this band continue to make material.



March 21, 2007

Sorry about the lack of update on Monday. I was busy getting this post done. At one point it had a lot of great pictures and shit, but after a while I realized that it’s nearly impossible to get high quality pictures of games by Treasure, and I don’t feel like stealing anyway. I will probably take a break next week… This drained me.

Although I almost never take the time to talk about video games (I’m very discreet about my nerdiness), I think this is as good a time as any to talk about some games made by my absolute favorite video game company, Treasure. Since a group of skilled developers broke off from Konami in 1993 and made their debut with Gunstar Heroes, Treasure has delivered the indie video game goods for well over a decade. At a slow pace yes, but to be sure whenever Treasure releases something, it is just that, a priceless piece of the grandiose puzzle. That isn’t to say that Treasure isn’t capable of making a bad game. They have, and I own a few. But out of the several Treasure games I own, a big number of them make my favorites list. I’d like to talk about some of those games now and at the very least try to educate those who have not had the privilege of playing any of this great companies games on how fun and artful they can truly be. (I don’t take credit for any of these pictures by the way, they are property of their creators and no one else’s.)


Thinking back, it’s actually pretty shocking that Treasure managed to pull off a game as good as Gunstar Heroes as a first release. After all, it was during the same year that the company also released McDonalds Treasure Land Adventure, typically designated as the worst game Treasure has ever made. I think part of what makes Gunstar Heroes such a cult hit today is how accessible of a game it was and still is. At this point the Super Nintendo was busy cranking out their impressive repertoire of Role Playing Games. To this day, my most poignant video game memories are that of playing my friends SNES back when I was a kid and experiencing in full games like Earthbound, Chrono Trigger, Lufia 2, and Secret of Mana. But today I look back at all the games I played as a kid with a much more impatient eye, which is strange considering my change in age. I find games that are accessible to be more enjoyable, and Gunstar Heroes delivers on a level of sheer fun factor that rivals that of, say, Mario Kart, a game that my friends and I stills swear at one another over today.

What makes Gunstar Heroes so brilliant is the juxtaposition of it’s simple traditional concept and it’s complex mode of play. As in an other Shoot’em’up game from the nineties, you are small, your enemies are many, and your goal is the right side of the screen, or at least what is as close as can be to it’s reach. The graphics are plush and memorable and the music is uptempo and fun. What first strikes the player about this game is how fast paced it is. It rivals games today for sheer adrenaline, because at any given time, as many as ten or more enemies are on the screen, running toward you at the full extent of their tiny football player legs. They are weak, and they explode into fire when you shoot them. And when you are moving forward very quickly and turning in all directions to get a shot on these walking or flying enemies, your TV screen is mostly likely wishing that it could bleed just so that the scope of this game could be felt in the real world. The game has several difficulty settings, and even seasoned platformer fans won’t find too much safety in easy mode. The later modes can get, in a word, brutal. The remedy for this is the fact that two people can play it at once, cooperatively taking down levels with precision and different guns for different situations.

Which brings me to this games most brilliant stroke of fun… Customization. Ever since Pokemon shattered your piggy bank ten years ago, customization has been a necessity with electronic games. It was at that time that people realized how much it mattered to put oneself into the game to extract it’s true enjoyability. That said, Gunstar Heroes is WAY ahead of it’s time. If the game only contained one or two guns, or even many like Contra, it wouldn’t be half as special. But the game not only provides two different styles of control that deeply effect how the game is played but also four different types of guns, a rapid fire gun, a laser gun, a flamethrower, and a homing gun. That’s four right there. But the beauty here is that you can combine them to create double weapons, combining the elements. That’s six more. Plus the fact that you can combine two weapons of the same type. Four more. That’s fourteen weapons total, all of which have their advantages, disadvantages, and mediums of fun. Beyond this depth, the game just never stops being fun. It also has a fun throwing/melee system which gives the player more options than simply shooting, and it contains about eight levels of nonstop action, fun bosses, and areas that require both skill and know-how to complete. It’s no wonder why Gunstar Heroes has been released so many times; on Game Gear, in a PS2 Treasure Compilation, on the Wii Virtual Console, and with a spectacular Gameboy Advance remake Gunstar Super Heroes… This game stands the test of time. Quite possibly Treasures greatest game.


As far as classic Treasure games go, Alien Soldier is the one with the balls. It has to have balls, and an intent to kick yours, if it starts you out on “Superhard” difficulty. This game is, unlike Gunstar Heroes, not easy to pick up and play and instead takes a certain degree of know how and practice to be successful in. As a beginner, picking up this game on “Supereasy” mode (the only other available difficulty), results in certain death on the first boss. But after you learn what’s going on, the game opens up and one can have fun pushing this game to it’s limit. It’s hard and it’s not simple, but in many ways it is just as rewarding as Gunstar Heroes.

The game is of the kind that Treasure does best, the sidescrolling platformer shoot’em’up (wow, that’s three big words in a row that spellcheck (theres another one) picks up). At the beginning of the game, you are given a choice of six weapons to fill your four available weapon slots. You can have more than one of the same kind, or you can split it evenly between different weapons however you chose. During the game, you have three meters to worry about; your health, your ammo, and your enemies health. A is change weapon, B is fire, and C is jump. This should be simple. However, just going through the first level, beginners will find they are having a very hard time. This is where the depth comes in. Pressing down and C at the same time initiates a dash move that propels you forward over half the length of the screen, avoiding damage. Doing this at full health initiates an extremely powerful dash move that drains a bit of your health. Double tapping B in front of enemy projectiles or small enemies yields health. See the cycle here? For expert play, learning to parry projectiles and use the super dash effectively is key, as is learning how to do it extremely fast and with little provocation. Also, the player can hover in mid air or walk on ceilings. This is not a button masher. Mashing buttons will screw you over even more than you were already screwed, which was pretty big even on easy. And you have to keep a watch on your ammo. Switching guns is difficult at first too. Definitely not a game for the weak hearted.

If you can’t get used to the controls and simply can’t win, the only remedy is practice. And even if that is frustrating, the sheer amount of action that this game exudes is worth the time it takes to get good at it. Enemies and bosses come at an even quicker rate than Gunstar Heroes, and they are tough… Really tough. They require you to bust your ass and use extreme precision and care to take down. Usually the key to victory is putting that super dash to good use, and that’s really hard. The graphics are top notch for their time, and they make for a pretty badass alien busting experience. There is a password system so that you can enter the game at whatever level you left off at, but without any health or weapon power ups. To beat this game truly, that is, on hard mode without continuing, you need momentum. And not only that, you need speed, skill, and precision. It’s a hard, hard game. But once again, if you want it to be, it’s great fun. Expect a virtual console release, definitely.


Oh god, Mischief Makers. I have a hard time even beginning to tell you about this game.

First off, I would like to acknowledge that I am leaving a pretty big time in Treasure’s history up for grabs. I never had the privilege to be able to play two of Treasures most revered games, Guardian Heroes and Radiant Silvergun, both on the Sega Saturn. This is a big regret, but as it’s pretty damn hard to get both games let alone a Sega Saturn these days, and considering the Virtual Console will never support the Saturn due to it’s almost complete inability to be emulated, this is something I will simply have to deal with. However, Treasure released three big games for N64. Two of them were Japanese only, Bangai-O and Sin and Punishment. The third was Mischief Makers. Originally slated as Yuke Yuke! Trouble Makers in it’s native tongue, this is without a doubt the most bizarre game I have ever played. Only Treasure could have pulled something like this off… Never have I seen a game so completely skewed and screwed up and yet presented in such a wonderful, artful, and fun way. Save maybe Earthbound, but I’d have a hard time calling that “screwed up.”

I don’t know what drew me to this game. I think a friend might have had it before I got it. Maybe it was the superdeformed graphics that caught my eye. Maybe it was the name. Shit, I was pretty young then and what kid doesn’t want to make mischief? In any case, returning to this game over a decade later, you can still see my first file on my cartridge. The game makes you put in your age at the beginning. I was seven, as it still says. I can only imagine I didn’t think the game strange at all. Mischief Makers is, strangely enough, a sidescrolling 2D platformer. In a market where 3D was the thing to do, this was surely a brave move. I can only think of a few other N64 games that used two dimensions with good success. Goemon’s Great Adventure is one. Kirby 64 is another. Smash was 2D, but it was a fighting game. Mischief Makers is one of a kind though. I don’t know why I still play it so often nowadays. It’s a deep game at it’s core, for sure. Once you realize that you can use dash-jumps and precisely timed boosts to get through levels at ridiculous paces, you get a little more interested in your times for each level. And interestingly enough, Treasure was aware of how far this game could be pushed to it’s limits. Getting just one S-Rank on a level requires the utmost precision, a knowledge of the games glitches and tiny tricks, and speed that would make Sonic cry, even if he had a turbo controller. This is a speed runners paradise, and yet it is really very fun for casual players like me as well. You play as Intergalactic Cybot G Marina Lightyears, created by revered Professor Theo and allegedly has no time for snacks. Marina is a cute animated character on the outside, but a tough warrior on the inside. And her weapon is so simple that even Miyamoto would gasp at the thought that his simplicity in Mario’s jumping was surpassed. Marina attacks with opposable thumbs and nothing more.

I wrote the following paragraph a some time ago explaining why I like Mischief Makers so much. It is sufficient.

This game is, in my opinion, is the epitome of indie gaming. It was released with very little hype or marketing, which just seems typical for a game so good. Many times, games get so quirky and different that critics just don’t think American audiences will like it. And I’m sure if everyone played Mischief Makers, they would love it. Yes, the translation is quite literal and the shaking thing is very asian, but this is just a fantastic game, and anyone playing it can tell that immediately. Every level throws in a charming new feel, be it through the frame of a boss, new concept, new terrain, new item, etc. But it does it on a level that really works. You can throw a bunch of new concepts into a game well, but it takes something really special to prevent this kind of rapid-fire introduction from being too trying. The art and music styles in this game really make it. The instrumentation and beats on the music are just fantastic, and this is really a standout soundtrack in my mind. And the anime inspired graphics, constant barrage of hallowed faces, and dropdead gorgeous backgrounds make for an extremely atmospheric experience. This game was just begging for a sequel, but then again, some games don’t need sequels. I’m just going to sit quietly and know in my mind that Marina Lightyears truly deserved to headline Super Smash Bros. Brawl ten times more than Meta Knight did.


Sin and Punishment is best described as what would happen if Starfox, Time Crisis, House of the Dead, and Jet Force Gemini all got together and had a beautiful, relentless love child. I suppose now is as good a time as ever to acknowledge this great game, considering it does take place in 2007 despite being made in 2000. Why you never got to play this game is sadly unknown. It was translated into English. Hell, the voice acting was originally in English anyway, don’t ask why, so all the nitty gritty was already done with, and the only thing left to really do was release it. It never happened. I guess it could have been due to a lack of interest, considering this was right on the line between the birth of the Gamecube and the death of the Nintendo 64. In any case, you have been robbed of one of the finest games the N64 has to offer. Regardless of your language capabilities, playing this game is awesome, even if you have to import it for a ridiculous price and carefully saw off some bits of plastic so that it will fit into your inferior American console. Dammit, you deserve better. You pay your taxes, and you are a respectable citizen, so why the fuck wouldn’t Nintendo just push through all the bullshit and do whatever minuscule work it required to release this? I don’t know. Sin and Punishment is friggin awesome, just about as badass of a shooter as you will find on the console and great mesh of different elements of third person shooters. It isn’t without it’s little issues, but the fun factor is through the roof.

The game is a futuristic third person shooter that moves along on “rails,” that is, you don’t choose where you move but instead how you aim and sidestep while going along that set path. The two main characters are Saki and Arain, two brave sensible rebels, and you control them through the games several levels. You are expected to be a walking army with very few weapons, namely a police issue laser gun and a sword built into it. This may seem simple for some peoples tastes, but adding anything more would just ruin everything. It’s really all you need, and you never find yourself wishing you had other weapons in the game. Learning to use both of these weapons efficiently is key; the gun has two modes of aim, one manual and one less powerful lock-on, and they both have their time and place. The key to playing this game effectively is being able to move, aim, and shoot at the same time, and it can get pretty difficult. There are a lot of buttons used in this game, for sure. You need to sidestep, roll, jump, aim, and dodge bullets in rapid succession, so you’ve got enough on your mind to worry about without having many weapons to chose from. The sword is used for close combat only, and it is initiated by tapping Z very quickly when something is near enough. If you can manage to master it, you can end up doing a lot of damage, saving a lot of aiming, and quickly taking down stages with greater efficiency.

Sin and Punishment is, like most games by Treasure, short but sweet. It’s over just as you have gotten pumped enough to enjoy a game three times bigger. Fortunately, the game is so packed with action and fun that it doesn’t really matter. There are several difficulty levels and reason enough to play through the game several times. The sound can be a bit annoying. There is this great scene where Arain is battling her way through a monster infested subway in the dark and it is so ruined by the background music. As far as backgrounds go, the graphics are stunning and great for the N64, but the character designs are presented very poorly. It may be a mixed bag on the outside, but it’s interior is solid. If I didn’t explain thoroughly that this game is ACTION PACKED, well shit I just did it again. It really does remind me of Time Crisis and other similar arcade games where the player has to deal with enemies jumping down from places and sidestepping into different positions that you have to be aware of. Particularly memorable is a scene where Arain takes down an entire Navy in a matter of about two minutes flying around at dizzying speeds on a piece of jagged metal controlled by a psychic friend. It may seem a shame that this game ends so soon, but it’s worth playing over and over again. I just can’t stomach that we never got it officially. It’s a real shame.

UPDATE: Sin And Punishment is now availabe on the Wii Virtual Console. VICTORY.


Ikaruga is not a game for impatient people. But I guess few games by Treasure are. Ikaruga is a game so simple, so conceptually basic, that one could get the hang of the controls in minutes. But somehow, someway, this game is blown up to epic proportions using only what it starts out with. I still can’t figure it out. I’ve never hated a game so much on the first play compared to how much I love it now. I guess I just wasn’t good at it, or maybe I was just frustrated by how I was losing to such a simple game. The concept is very easy. It is a shmup spaceship game akin to the kind of games you likely played in arcades when you were a kid, when they were still around. But in those other shmups, you likely had powerups and a health bar to worry about. Ikaruga is individual in that it is stripped down to as simple yet beautiful a core as you will ever see. Your ship can be changed between black and white colors at will. When your ship is white, it shoots white bullets, and black bullets when black. Infinite ammo, rapid fire. Your enemies are also of black and white colors. Your bullets will do more damage to a given enemy when the color of your bullets is opposite their color. Your enemies, ranging from tiny little ships to big gyrospopic cages of evil, also shoot bullets. If a bullet touches you of your own color, you you absorb it into an energy guage, the bars in which represent homing missiles that you can fire back at the enemies at will. If a bullet of the opposite color touches you, you die. YOU DIE. Period. You can’t sustain damage, because if you get hit, you’re gone. So keeping your ass alive is as much of a concern as shooting your enemies.

This should be as simple as I just explained it to be. It’s not. It would be far too easy. There are three modes of difficulty. On the easiest mode, everything I have explained holds true. I’d like to note that I have only beaten easy mode without continuing once, and I busted my ass for days to do it. On normal mode, when you destroy an enemy of your color, they emit bullets of their own color. This seems good, because bullets of your color are absorbable, but when you are switching colors, that’s a problem. On hard mode, all destroyed ships emit bullets, regardless of your color. This isn’t enough. The first level is simple enough, and yet still abrasively challenging. But soon enough, enemy ships are synchratically zipping across the screen at ludicrous speeds, bullets are both colors are flying all over hell and gone, you are switching back and forth between colors feverishly avoiding inevitable death in a crossfire of adrenaline, and concentrating on not getting killed by the everchanging environment. This game is aggravating as all getout, it’s hard as shit, and it’s frustrating to play when you don’t know it very well. And yet it’s simple. There is no reason why you shouldn’t be acing this game.

And yet that’s where the real charm of the game comes in. The clash of simplicity and challenge make for one of the most hypnotic and enjoyable games I’ve ever played. At it’s heart, Ikaruga is an arcade game. But you can’t find it in any arcades outside of Japan, so the only remedy is getting one of the faithful ports either on Dreamcast or Gamecube. The way the game was intended to be played is in a dark food parlor in a corner in Japan somewhere, but it’s simply uneconomical to be spending that many quarters honing your skills when you could play it at home. I remember when this game truly opened up for me. I was tired and pissed off, sitting in my room staring at my TV wondering why I sucked so bad at this game. But I just kept on playing and I didn’t think about it too much. The TVs volume was way down and some relaxing music was on the stereo. I just lost myself. The next thing I knew I was three levels in and completely unaware of the fact that I was hypnotized, dodging the patterns of bullets and ships and not even thinking about what I was doing. And then I died and I got all pissed off again. That is the beauty here. That line between pure bliss and anger is extremely thin. This is a flatout gorgeous game too, and the background moves at a breathtaking pace using really good graphics. The soundtrack is alright too, not quite as good as some other Treasure games, but it’s orchestrated enough to be exciting and well worth listening to. And to top the whole thing off is a simple yet endlessly testing combo system. If you kill three enemies of the same color in a row, you start a chain which breaks once you have not done three of the same color in a row. It’s just the thing for real fanatics to expand on. I, for one, have enough trouble staying alive on easy mode, so I think I’ll pass. It’s a tragically beautiful game, and the absolute best of it’s kind. Deffinitely worth whatever you have to do to play it, especially if you already own a Dreamcast or a Gamecube.

…I guess that’s all I have to say. If you want more information on games by Treasure, the following link should shed some light on the subject.


Ten More Reviews

March 15, 2007

Cocteau Twins – Love’s Easy Tears

Love’s Easy Tears kind of ties Echoes In A Shallow Bay as the Cocteau Twins best EP. It’s killer, that much is obvious; both Orange Appled and Those Eyes, That Mouth are frequent picks for favorite songs by the band, and both are fantastic. Those Eyes, That Mouth is a hypnotic pop love wave, and it’s really hard to get better than that. But Orange Appled does it. The song is just about as good as Carolyn’s Fingers if not better. It has a killer hook and a quenching Guthrie solo alongside absolutely gorgeous vocals, as usual, from Liz Fraser. The title track is also very fun and simple, and Sigh’s Smell of Farewell is nice too, just not as good as the others. In short, this is vintage Cocteau Twins, and some of the best of it. Don’t waste any time; if you are a fan who wants to delve into the EPs, go for this first. First timers should pick it up if nothing else because the songs are fantastic, but it might be better to start with a full album like Treasure or Blue Bell Knoll.

The Jesus And Mary Chain – Psychocandy

When The Jesus And Mary Chain first started out, they had an idea, and it was delicious. And usable too, and even better, it could appeal to a mass market. Fans of pop and catchy hooks could appreciate the melodicism, and punk rockers valued the noise and chaos in the sonic density. The idea was to ultimately slam innocent pop tunes into a wall of sonic guitar sheen and noise, and the result is somewhat reminiscent of the albums title. It is candy and very sweet candy, that much is true. But it is candy in the most perverse and guilty way possible. Just listen to any track on this album and you will hear the utterly ingenious pop flowing through different parts in ways that even The Beatles would be somewhat impressed with if the production was smoother. But it’s not. It’s both rough and smooth, ugly and beautiful. These tunes are constantly accompanied by a sonic wall of meaty feedback, guitar shine, and occasionally the addition of a disturbing but fun sound effect like a hushed scream of agony in the background or an unintentional burst of noise. And it just keeps coming. Every track on this album is priceless in some way, from the pretty surf rock ballad Some Candy Talking to the relaxed rock of Taste The Floor to the pretty Just Like Honey and even the garden variety punk of Never Understand. Each song has an almost sinisterly simple beat and a simple chord progression. Even skilled musicians will sit and think to themselves, “hey, I could have written this.” But then they will realize that they so couldn’t have. What’s really amazing about this is how none of the songs have choruses or verses…a melody or tune is never used for more than a half minute, after which a completely new and impressive hook is thrown the listeners way. It’s candy, delicious sweet candy, and only a skilled band could have made it. It would take a little while for The Jesus And Mary Chain to reach a wider market and truly gain respect, but this is the start of something beautiful and easily The Chain’s best album.

Led Zeppelin – Coda

This is really not as bad of an album as you have been told it is. If you would even consider it an album. We should really be thankful of Jimmy Paige and company for releasing this after our dear John Bonham died, although it was more of a contractual thing than an act of kindness, but in any case this wraps up just about everything the band had to release save a good live album which would take a few decades to surface. So this is a b-sides collection. It doesn’t do anything more or less, and considering only a select few album tracks by the band are ever bad, this isn’t a huge blemish on the bands discography. We’re Gonna Grove is a pretty immediate winner, and it goes back to the blues rock that the band started out with. Wearing And Tearing is actually also very good, an answer to the seventies punk movement. Beyond that, Bonzo’s Montreux is an interesting drum-fest and Poor Tom is among the best of the bands Led Zeppelin 3 material, and most likely the best on the album. Yeah, of the two sides, half the material is bad, but not disposable. For a band where every scrap is a treasure, this is really pretty good. But only for the hardcore Zep fan.

My Bloody Valentine – Only Shallow Single

The Only Shallow single from My Bloody Valentine is actually a promo on vinyl that subscribers to certain French magazines acquired in a 1992 issue. The single contains three great songs, the first of which is Only Shallow, one of the better songs from Loveless. The song is truly single material, and it’s huge sound and wonderful melody are reasons enough to have made this single at all. But two b-sides are also included. Sugar is a MBV classic and one of the bands rarest songs. Instrumental B is also very good, and was released prior to this single on the Instrumentals promo a few years earlier, accompanying the Isn’t Anything release. A true rarity for hardcore MBV fans; it’s an antique, but it’s probably worth a ton and well worth the price if just to hear Sugar.

Nine Inch Nails – With Teeth

Back in 2005, Nine Inch Nails returned from a six year fallout with the fifth studio album and nineteenth Halo, With Teeth. I remember driving home from the record store and listening to this for the first time, and I was generally impressed. This album does get a lot of shit though, and I can’t exactly put my finger on why. Collectively I suppose it is kind of weak, but this easily delivers some of Reznor’s finest material since The Downward Spiral. The sound still echoes of The Fragile’s reconstructive cool production, but the album still stands alone with a good amount of success. It’s a compelling enough listen to make fans happy, and the songs are very good. Many songs are characterized by heavy riffing, especially the grooving The Collector and a popular live/club pick, The Hand That Feeds. But most of the songs are very individual, especially Only, Every Day Is Exactly The Same (a personal favorite and subject of it’s own remix EP), and Beside You In Time. The disk ends on Right Where It Belongs, a very Hurt-esque ballad that deserves some respect. The problems are minimal, and this is about as consistent as The Fragile, simply one disk less. If this is the future of Nine Inch Nails, I’m happy. Without a doubt this is the worst album NIN has produced thus far, but considering this album is very good, I think that says a lot for how much talent Reznor actually has. A good one, hardly disposable like most people will tell you.

Singles Soundtrack

Singles really wasn’t that great for a date flick, but it had a pretty good soundtrack and at least captured the look and part of the feel of the 1990s Seattle grunge scene. In retrospect, this soundtrack is probably less disposable than the movie itself. The soundtrack is mostly comprised of various rarities from some of Seattle’s most popular rock acts, save the conspicuous absence of any Nirvana. And there were some songs from the movie that didn’t make it here, namely Alice in Chains’ It Ain’t Like That and Soundgarden’s Spoonman. But hell, you probably already had those songs if you were ever interested in this disk in the first place. For that reason, the inclusion of Would? and I Nearly Lost You is probably unnecessary to the grunge fan, but both songs are fantastic in any case. Other highlights include some contributions from former Replacement John Westerberg, some really good Pearl Jam rarities, Soundgarden’s Birth Ritual (one of Chris Cornells best vocal performances), and a great Mother Love Bone take. It’s more of an odds and ends collection, but that is actually good, and you would stand well to pick this up if you like grunge or 90s alt rock.

But come on, theres no version of the movies original novelty “Touch Me I’m Dick.” That would have been a hilarious inclusion.

Malory – Not Here, Not Now

A decent shoegaze album, Not Here Not Now delivers the dreamy goods in as good of a way as it can. The problem is probably a lack of originality, because the band rips on Slowdive pretty relentlessly. This can only be complained about so much considering Slowdive are one of the worthiest bands to rip on in the genre, but the sampling only makes Not Here, Not Now more easy to call an attempted Souvlaki clone. If anything, the acquisition of this album would be justified enough by the opening Falling, an absolutely gorgeous dreamy instrumental that is nothing like anything else on the record. But the rest of the album doesn’t exactly continue with this same style and very obviously draws influence from Slowdive in just about every way. But in the same way Kevin Shields would probably be proud of some of Pia Fraus’ escapades, Neil Halstead probably wouldn’t have too much of a problem with someone drawing heavily from his style if it is done this tastefully. Dany, Sunday Nights, and Spring are all gorgeous songs, but once again, you can’t help but feel like you are being lied to. Everything down to the male/female vocals, soft beats, and emotional guitars, this practically IS Slowdive, the only difference being the bands serious problems with concluding their songs which Slowdive can conversely do very well; the most pretty of these songs just seem to drone with no conclusion when they were clearly within sight. It’s good, but uninspired and unfortunately completely disposable.

My Bloody Valentine – Olympia, Paris

While every My Bloody Valentine bootleg can be considered a treasure, this may well be the bands worst available bootleg that I have heard, and extremely overrated. The band is simply not in fantastic playing condition at this show, for one thing. But the real killer is the fact that the recording quality is atrocious. This bootleg is really almost unlistenable, but it does win in one respect on one song. The version of To Here Knows When here is good if you crank it up to ludicrous volumes and appreciate it for what one of MBVs greatest charms is, a wall of beautiful sound. However, this is really the only time that this bootleg is worth anything.

Brian Eno – Ambient 1: Music For Airports

The ambient breakthrough of Brian Eno, Music For Airports was the blooming result of years of ideas and contemplation. Eno first honed his pop skills with the utmost reliability, and then took a turn for the experimental. The new idea was mood music, relaxing pieces that could be used in films or to make someone feel a certain way with just instruments. The new direction was explored with great success on Another Green World, again employed on Music For Films, and completely fleshed out into an ambient masterpiece with Music For Airports. The idea was simple, and utterly ingenious. Eno had been in an airport and had a bad experience witht he music playing, and decided to make a record of music built specifically for being played for the enjoyment of a wide array of people in public places. The soul of the music is relaxation and sheer beauty, but when the music is analyzed as closely as Eno explains it, it only makes more and more sense. The music had to be long so that it wasn’t changing too much on the listener, easily interrupted by P.A. systems, higher or lower than voice frequency so to not be a nuisance, and ever changing to keep the listeners interest. And beyond that, the music also had to be non intrusive a nd passive in the background of a situation, and also accessible to a wealth of people. While this is not the first album to employ modern ambient sounds, it is surely one of Eno’s most influential and enjoyable ambient works.

Nick Drake – Pink Moon

Considering the direction that it’s predecessor Bryter Layter took, Nick Drake’s last album is at first seemingly a step backward. The complexities of Nick Drake’s other work has been conspicuously stripped down to it’s core, a brutally honest album consisting of little more than Drake’s voice and a skillfully played acoustic guitar. And even more touching is how sudden and momentous it feels. And yet Pink Moon doesn’t play like anything close to a suicide note or a final farewell so much as a deeply personal and trusting letter from a friend. Aftergiving this gem enough time to unfold, every song can reveal a subtle relaxing beauty. The title track is fantastic if not a little misleading, projecting the definitive late night chill image. But as the album goes on, the music stays revealing and yet surprisingly simple. Only someone such as Nick Drake could possibly say so much with only a few chord strums like he does on Horn or discuss mixed feelings like on Parasite. In many ways, this is as close to Nick Drake as you will ever get, and as moving of an album as it is relaxing. Truly a classic album, taking the best of the folk genre and it’s most important aspects and bringing nothing more than poetry and personal taste.


A Night At The Symphony

March 12, 2007

Alright, so I saw the Chicago Symphony Orchestra again on Saturday. I’m thinking it was the best show I’ve ever seen. And not just the best symphony I’ve ever been to, but the best show, shindig, event, period. And I’ve seen a lot of symphonies. I’m a pretty big fan of classical music although I don’t show it. I don’t just flip on my stereo and listen to Vivaldi or anything, like, ever, but I do play in an orchestra. So for about half my life I have been exposed at length to classical music, and not just from school, but from home as well. So even before I got to the Symphony Center I knew it was going to be a killer show. Usually they play some good stuff and some crap, but on this night it was different. No modern bullshit, all crowd-pleasers. Namely, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. So I was already expecting this to be great, because I really trust the CSO and these pieces were all fantastic. Going to the symphony can be a bit of a task sometimes but I really do love it. It’s the Opera that annoys me. I can’t deal with all the singing, but the symphony is more my niche and I can have fun just sitting and listening. I used to fall asleep a bit until I really got interested in classical music and started to realize that if a symphony can really actually put you to sleep, it’s doing pretty damn well. Like, if you are hypnotized enough by the music to be able to fall asleep in front of the CSO, that’s impressive. At any rate, tonight was going to be especially good because we had great seats, about the fifth row. We usually sit in the back balcony above the orchestra, but I hate that spot. Acoustically it’s probably better but I always feel like I’m going to fall off or something. I’m just that paranoid of a person I guess. So these seats were very good. I had to be respectful and lean back a little though, because I’m a tall guy and I was probably blocking someones view already.

We sat next to some nice people, essentially symphony groupies if that’s even possible. The kind of people who travel and see orchestras like the CSO, as a hobby. no big tall fat people in front of me, so I had no problems seeing. The first piece, Haydn’s 93rd, was really really good. Unfortunately it was overshadowed by those that followed it, but Haydn can hardly ever be considered an opening act. I was already having a fruitful musical weekend. I saw a friends band concert on Thursday and it kicked some serious ass, and I think I’ve now started to get interested in the whole band music culture, if one exists. The music was just so great. For my Orchestra class I need two outside class concert credits, and I was getting them both knocked off in one weekend; couldn’t be happier to know that I had no obligations after this concert. But Haydn is always great, and this particular piece was very delicate and enjoyable. There was a great little quartet part in the middle of it, and one of the funniest orchestral puns I’ve ever heard. You guys are going to read this and laugh at me because it’s not really that funny, but being an orchestra nerd, I chuckled. There is a part in the middle where only three or so violins are playing at all and they are all playing very quiet notes, in very slow intervals. And then there is a long pause, and a bassoon just blasts out the most obnoxious note ever from the back. It was awesome. And once again, our seats were awesome. We must have been, like, ten feet away from first violin Robert Chen, who is already quite a show to watch. He is one of the best violin players I’ve ever seen live, and he puts so much energy into his playing. It almost looks like he’s relaxed though, it’s hard to describe.

Anyway, the Haydn was pretty short for a symphony, about twenty minutes. But it ended and everyone clapped and it was very good. But that was only the beginning. At this point, the rest of the orchestra reconfigures for the guest player and all the basses leave and many of the band instruments, etc. I guess I didn’t mention who the guest was. Alfred Brendel. For those of you who are not familiar with the man, he is essentially the greatest pianist alive. Or at least he might as well be. He could play fucking Yankee Doodle and I’d be floored, honestly. So the orchestra was rearranged and a big beautiful piano was brought onstage, and then Alfred comes out. He’s in his late seventies, an old bird of an Austrian fellow, and he is kind of twitchy and his age shows. That’s not to say he doesn’t look like a very nice dude, but he’s kind of getting up in his days. When he plays sometimes he makes random little groans and twitches, but it doesn’t interfere with his playing and he is probably still in his prime. They played Mozart’s Piano Concerto 17, which is the one that Mozart famously taught the first five bars of to his pet bird. Mozart is one of those composers that everyone knows for a reason; he is reliable, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard a piece of his that I didn’t like. But Mozart is about the greatest you can possibly hear, and there are only two or three composers that compare in my book. I’ll get to that later.

I felt like this was the best piece I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing the CSO do. Alfred sat there next to the piano while the rest of the orchestra started, waiting for his time, with this warm smile on his face, and to hear him start into his piano solos from complete silence when the rest of the orchestra has stopped, that’s to find God in music. There is no question. The piece was only a little over thirty minutes and by the halfway point I already knew it was one of the coolest things I have ever heard. I just have a hard time believing how anyone can play the piano…it impresses the shit out of me. The theory has to be buried into your brain, because on Piano there it’s really black and white, like fretted instruments. On a violin you can search for the right note, but on the piano, if you fuck up, you fuck up. And at that, both of your hands are operating, and Alfred Brendel does it on such a spectacular level. The emotion that he puts into even the simplest fills baffles me. And yet he puts the same emotion into huge intricate solos, and he does it flawlessly. Sometimes with his eyes closed, his elderly jowls going wild. It was a thirty minute piece that felt like ten, it was just TOO good. He got four ovations, three standing.

Somewhere in the middle of the piece, though, a woman on the back balcony caught my eye. She was either drunk, stoned, or not completely there in the head, but I still think she might have been one of the free-est souls I’ve ever seen. She was literally doing a sitting hippie dance during Alfred Brendels piece. That made me realize…this shit is pretty rockin.

During intermission, people usually walk around to exercise their legs, go to the bathroom, pick up a ridiculously expensive chocolate bar or glass of wine at the concessions, etc. But I was too floored to really stand up right then. It was obvious to me that this was one of the most impressive things to ever grace my ears. I can only think of one or two performances that have come close, and then actual recorded music which is quite different and more up for grabs. When it comes to recorded music, lots of songs strike me as just brilliant every time I hear them. Off the top of my head, Song To The Siren covered by Cocteau Twins, Fleeting Smile by Roger Eno, and Samba Pa ‘Ti by Santana. I also saw Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble a few years ago, and that was also just unbelievable. But this was totally a new breed of awesome. So you’d think I’d be disappointed in whatever the last piece had to offer. Because really, how can something measure up to this? It’s Alfred Brendel playing Mozart, that’s pretty hard to beat. Like I said, only a few composers compare to Mozart. Bach is one, Handel is another. I usually don’t think Beethoven when I think of favorite composers, but he is amazing enough in his composures that he should be making top composer lists for all fans of classical music.

To my disbelief, the Mozart was actually beaten out by something even more amazing, Beethoven’s 5th. Even if you don’t know shit about classical music, chances are you know that name. Beethoven’s 5th. Everyone has heard the opening bars. It’s just so a part of popular culture and music that it’s hard to escape. And it’s popular for a reason, most people consider it to be the greatest piece of music ever produced. It’s not just the opening part that is great… Every minute of the thirty minute long symphony is absolutely ingenious, and not one fumble is made in the whole course of the music. It’s the most amazing piece of classical music, bar none. It has load of energy and every time the piece explodes into beautiful sound within the last fifteen minutes, and it feels like about as many times, you just feel like this is the greatest thing you have ever listened to. And it’s being performed by the CSO no less, all operating as one huge wonderful unit. Everything here was absolutely perfect, the pizzicato stretch, the complex solos bouncing off of each of the sections… This shit is hardcore. If there is headbanging classical music, this is it. No question, this was even cooler than the Mozart. I’ve fucking seen the light.

Anyway, Saturday was easily the best night of music of my life, I’m still trying to get over it.


Neutral Milk Hotel – In The Aeroplane Over The Sea

March 8, 2007

As far as my musical tastes go, I’ve been called a ton of things. Dangerously diverse, too forgiving, critic whore. If theres one thing I hate in this world it’s buying a CD only to realize it’s utter crap. So I tend to take peoples words for it and get what is recommended to me to be the best. And it just so happens that most of the time, the people I know have favorite records that critically acclaimed. And sometimes I do go straight to AMG for ideas. Theres nothing wrong with that. I can’t remember the last time I’ve picked up an AMG album pick and ended up disappointed. I like listening to good music, and I shouldn’t be given a hard time just because my favorites are the favorites of many others as well. I guess I was drawn to this album because I have been told by many people that it is one of the better records of the 90s. So I got it, fucking sue me. Just because I’m not different for the sake of being different like fifty percent of indie rocker fucks doesn’t make me a tool.

I guess the reason why I chose to review In The Aeroplane Over The Sea is because I still don’t quite understand it. Without a doubt this is one of the more immediately weird albums I’ve heard in a while, and yet I do like it a lot. I haven’t completely gotten the chance to get used to it, but I can see why it’s a favorite, and given enough time, I think it could be a favorite of mine as well. I’ve really never heard anything like it at all. If I could liken it into one thing… Shit, this is going to be funny. Pretend that during a dream, life and all of it’s highs and lows was compressed into a compact city from either the very late nineteenth century or very early twentieth century, and you were just jacked up on some kind of happy drug and told to run across the whole damn city in forty minutes. You would probably hear something like this. That may sound pretentious, but there is definitely some kind of powerful, moving feel to this music. It definitely has a weird old fashioned thing going on. The album is spread full with powerful drums and frequent horns, and even the cover art is kind of old fashioned. The liner notes are the same, very antique.

It’s generally a good sign if I feel like, on the first listen, that a record is important. I’ve heard so many things said about this record, that it’s the pinnacle of all modern music, that it’s utter pretentious bullshit, that it’s everything that life is meant to be, etc. And you know, that’s probably all untrue. I could tell it was special and well written from the first time I turned on the record, but even then this is not an inviting listen. Every track has some kind of element that caught me off guard. On the opening King Of Carrot Flowers Pt. 1, I knew I liked the song because I liked the poppy strums and pretty melody, but the lyrics are downright strange, speaking of family issues and sexual discovery that I wasn’t quite sure was going to be the subject of such an innocent sounding tune. King Of Carrot Flowers Pts 2 and 3 was even weirder to me. Now I’ve never been one to be bothered by religious things, but I am very irreligious myself and I felt pretty strange and disassociated when Jeff Magnum wails “I looove youuuu Jeeesuuus Chr-riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiist.” I’m still not quite sure what the hell this means, but it seems too easy to just be a religious nod. And I’m sure people have debated it’s meaning for the past, what, ten years or so. It’s odd. But then the song explodes into a lengthy uptempo stomping rocker, druggy and confused yet undeniably happy.

You know what, pretty much all of the lyrics on this album make no fucking sense at all. And that’s okay! Actually, that’s good. I don’t like being told lessons. And this is open enough to interpretation enough to still be interesting after repeated listens. Sure, some songs are pretty straightforward, about love and pained childhoods. But songs like Holland, 1945 are very odd in their meaning. But you know me, I like spontaneity. Shit, I practically live for it, and I enjoy that song a lot. Holland, 1945 is easily the radio pick from the album if there is one at all. The beat is once again stompable, and the lyrics are anthemic and fun. I’m not sure what it’s about, because it seems to jump around to different people lyrically, but it’s just a fun, catchy, energetic, and happy song. But the strong tracks here are not few; the song In The Aeroplane Over The Sea is pretty as well, and dense and momentous enough to deserve the title of the album. The trumpets and horns are once again used very effectively, and it’s just a really nice melody that kind of talks about life with all of it’s dreamy glory. I think the only problem anyone could have with this is the vocals, and surprisingly enough I didn’t have a problem with them at all at first, and I’m the kind of person whose mood can immediately turned sour even at slightly annoying vocalists. He doesn’t have exactly a great voice, but it sure doesn’t get in the way and it works well to add the intended whimsical, silly feeling.

But the album has some very tender moments that make it as fun as it is serious. While Two-Headed Boy may have nonsensical lyrics, they are also pretty, and the tune is a very touching strum. It is also pretty impressive how quickly the album can shift from one mood to another. Holland 1945 ends with an abrasive explosion of sound that segues very effectively into Communist Daughter, a quiet ballad, which quickly turns strange when “semen stains the mountaintops.” It should be noted that the album is one big symphony of a song, and the transitions from song to song are very continuous and melding, giving Aeroplane more of a coherence as an album. But the home stretch of songs is achingly beautiful and fun at the same time, usually a combination that doesn’t settle well. But Magnum does it and creates a fun but very touching conclusion with the triple attack of Ghost, an untitled collage of sound, and Two Headed Boy Pt. 2.

I can definitely see why this is so popular among indie rockers, and I think it’s growing on me at a rate that it will be one of my favorites pretty soon. By no means is it an easy album to understand; I’m still having a hard time getting at ease with it even months later, but there really isn’t a weak track on the album, and every song does something to contribute to the whole. This was clearly intended to be the band coup de grace, considering they never actually followed it up and there is enough of a momentous, concluding atmosphere to merit this being the end of the band. You’ve never heard something dealing with issues such as life, death, love, and sexuality with as much contrasting tenderness and fun. If you haven’t heard it, give it a shot. You will probably either love it or hate it, but that’s a risk you should be willing to take.


Air – Pocket Symphony

March 5, 2007

French duo Air have always been a hit or miss band. Don’t mistake that for a love or hate band though. By hit or miss I mean that half the stuff they make is sheer genius and the rest is startlingly mediocre. That’s the way it has been since Moon Safari as far as I’m concerned, and following records The Virgin Suicides Soundtrack and 10000 HZ Legend. All those records are pretty much split down the middle. The record Air released in 2005, Talkie Walkie, broke the chain and ended up being extremely special and only having one or MAYBE two clunkers. I’ve already spoken my mind on that record though. Bottom line, Talkie Walkie was extremely consistent. Air’s new record, Pocket Symphony, does about the same thing that everything before Talkie Walkie did, that is, introduce some great new material to the bands body of work while still producing some crap. It doesn’t really do anything to reinvent the sound, but instead recaps on a lot of the bands previous work. You can hear some Moon Safari, Virgin Suicides, HZ Legend, and even Talkie Walkie in here, for better or worse. That’s good because you get all the great points of those records, but it still has problems. While the strengths are also well absorbed from those records, so are the weaknesses. If you can appreciate Air’s great strengths as well as accept their flaws, this will be a very good record, but still not the bands best or anything that would ever draw new fans in.

The band does try to say something different with Pocket Symphony. And they even do say new things pretty well. They just say them in the same way they have presented their other ideas, so this is more of a record for the fans than the critics. But even the fans will have to recognize that there isn’t necessarily oodles of new fantastic things going on here. As usual, a mood is developed throughout the entire album that carries through. The idea to use airy melodies that was pioneered in Moon Safari is utilized, combined with night time aesthetics of The Virgin Suicides, experimental twists from Legend, and eastern instruments from Talkie Walkie. The result is interesting, and surprisingly enough the flaws aren’t really that effecting, especially if you know Air already.

These mistakes aren’t always major, but they are enough to make an otherwise great song just a little less special. Vocals, for one thing. Vocals have always plagued Air for many reasons, considering that the band has never had a set singer. For whatever reason, these guys are completely oblivious to the fact that they hire people who just can’t sing very well. As a result, two specific songs, One Hell of a Party as well as Somewhere Between Waking and Sleeping, are botched pretty badly. It’s possible that One Hell of a Party was just too boring to begin with and was beyond saving before it got killed by this dull vocalist, but it probably could have been saved by a good female singer. Somewhere Between Waking and Sleeping could easily have been salvaged if the vocals were just taken out completely and the song was left as a floaty instrumental. That is actually what a lot of the songs on the album are; low key nighttime instrumentals. What is good about this is that Air has always been great with chill out songs. What’s bad is that that’s what they have been doing for a long, long time. They progressed well with Talkie Walkie, but now they’re back to the same stuff they did before. Once again, that’s good because they are great at that stuff, but the critics will be pissed and this won’t draw new fans because it is very toned down.

As a result of this, about half the songs on the album are good but not really memorable. Mayfair Song comes to mind, with it’s cool whimsical sounds, but it moves very slowly and doesn’t really progress to anywhere except when some interesting drones and pianos come in later. This is the perfect example of what this album has to offer, that is, beauty for those who were expecting it. Lost Message and Night Sight do the same things. Pretty much, if you were anticipating this album then you will like almost everything on the CD save the few really bad ones that I mentioned before, but anyone else will find this music dull and pointless.

But the asian instruments are used very well and make this album more interesting. To put it plainly, these guys just like asian shit, and considering Tokyo and Osaka are key cities in the worldwide nightlife scene, it’s not so surprising that the distinctive Japanese night atmosphere is the subject of Air’s desires on this album. Sometimes they end up catching them pretty well, but this is all chill music. There isn’t that much exciting here, and anyone who wants a fun or poppy record should consider going back in the bands discography a few years. The closest Air gets to that kind of music is Mer Du Japon, which literally means Sea of Japan in French, reiterating the whole Japan thing going on here. It is a rather upbeat glowing song that represents the nighttime streets at their most unrealistically tame. Two other solid winners are the opening tracks. Space Maker uses developing soft beats, acoustic guitars, and pianos to build to something special. Once Upon A Time is the first single, and uses some subtle asian instruments and a looped piano melody to do the same type of thing. It works out pretty nicely. Another stick out is Napalm Love, which especially reminds me of 10000 HZ Legend in that it is almost a bit silly in it’s instrumentation.

For Air, this is a good album. It’s not THAT good, but most of it’s problems were kind of inescapable. For it to up the ante on Talkie Walkie would have been near impossible, and not everyone is so keen on everything Air does in the first place so they were probably a bit screwed in that department from the beginning. But they do a good job of making some moody eastern chill out midnight music. The problem with that is that it didn’t all have to be chill out music. Real night life isn’t this toned down or even at all boring, and this album does get kind of boring after a while. The stronger tracks are very strong and the weaker ones completely disposable. Even fans will find listening to this album for the extent of all it’s entirety very testing, and it’s great in small doses. Pocket Symphony is truly a record for the fans, and a respectable addition to the bands catalog for those who know them well enough to understand their limits, and the fact that all of their records complement one another. A keeper, but only just.


Ten Reviews

March 1, 2007

So I found this thing called

Anyone who knows me knows I have issues even keeping my own tastes and opinions straight, and I feel like having a profile like this helps put everything into perspective for me and keep my thoughts organized. It’s a good system for showing what I have, what I want, and what I really like as well. I have copy/pasted all the reviews from here over to there by now. But I have done a few quickie reviews on RYM as well. Not big, full album reviews, but smaller, quick, concise ones. And I feel like that’s working a bit better for me. Whenever I ask for criticism on my reviews, they are almost always that they are too long and not concise enough. So I think for a time I might see if I can write a lot shorter reviews and see how it works out. It’s not like full album reviews will just be out of the question though, I already have some more of those on the way. But I want to post some of the quickie ones I’ve got done on RYM. Enjoy.

Beck – One Foot In The Grave

Beck’s One Foot In The Grave is a quaint release in every way; it wasn’t a major album release, only two out of it’s sixteen songs meander into the three minute range, and most all of the tracks are acoustic folk recordings. Beck’s odd personality still gets into the mix with songs like Forcefield and Cyanide Breath Mint, but this is probably his most subdued album next to Sea Change. Quantity is clearly valued over quality here, but in any case almost all of the songs are real treats. The first five tracks are among Beck’s absolute best and He’s a Mighty Good Leader makes for a great opening cover, and Hollow Log is nothing if not simple and touching. A must have for Beck fans, this album is a real treat and a taste of Beck’s more stripped down early style.

Crossfade – Crossfade

I have no idea why I like this. Crossfade is a guilty pleasure record for me for sure, following in the wake of Linkin Park and other mediocre nu-metal. And let’s be honest here, it is mediocre nu-metal. Very few albums jump between good and bad as much as this. The opening Starless represents just about everything this album does wrong with a boring riff and cliched lyrics of pain and hate. Cold is interestingly enough an apology song and doesn’t wallow in it’s own problems. In any case, the lyrics almost always fail. It reaches some pretty good vibes though, which is weird, because a band of this stature really shouldn’t. It’s a contemplative listen, but the guitars don’t have enough strength. For as bad as Death Trend Setta is (if the name didn’t tip you off anyway), there are other songs that are actually good, specifically So Far Away and Disco, both of which have decent riffs and good choruses. The albums only true win though is The Unknown, the closing. It’s a simple elegant end to an otherwise overly complicated and boring album, and it emenates some great vibes and has an irresistable hook. I hate to see it, but I like this. It fails about as much as it suceeds, so I guess it’s not that accomplished, but it’s high points are actually good. For sleazy whining metal anyway.

Gorillaz – G-Sides

Gorillaz debuted with a killer album of chilled hip-hop and rock, and the album rocketed Damon Albarn to heights rivaling his fame as frontman of Blur. The album had several singles and some very good b-sides, and G-Sides is the best way to get those b-sides. But really, the disk only contains five b-sides that can’t be heard elsewhere. You might not have the Soulchild Remix of 19-2000 depending on your edition of Gorillaz, and it is far superior to the original version and well worth having, but besides the b-sides the disk only has sub-par remixes up for grabs. The version of Latin Simone found here has English vocals, and the Spanish ones were much better anyway. The rest of the remixes are really bad, nothing worth having. But the five b-sides are great gems. The true winners are Faust (chillout synths galore), Ghost Train (almost gospel hip-hop goodness) and 12D3 (a low key guitar strum with accompanying soft vocals). Probably unnecessary, but worth picking up if you liked Gorillaz.

Green Day – American Idiot

It’s unfortunate that I have gotten to the point where I cringe at the name ‘American Idiot.’ This is a very good pop album and that is just that, but it was overblown to ridiculous proportions. I’m not sure that I have heard any single album overplayed as much as this on the radiowaves, and for that reason the album is almost a task to listen to all the way through. But if it’s any condolences, this is about as good as the bands most popular effort Dookie, in it’s own way. Green Day hasn’t changed much by 2004, and they still know how to mix pop with punk pretty effortlessly. They have, however, gained a political edge. I had the pleasure of seeing the band play live on the tour, and they were very good. The crowd was annoying as all getout, but that aside the band still knows how to put on a show. And by this time they still know how to make a catchy tune. The title track and Holiday are probably the two best songs on the album, not to outrule the two great rock symphonies Jesus of Suburbia and Homecoming that are just too freaking long for the radio, but they were by no means the only tunes that got radioplay. Boulevard of Broken Dreams was a radio juggernaut and Wake Me Up When September ends got a music video what felt like years after this came out. It trips in a few places, specifically Are We The Waiting and Extraordinary Girl, but it is still classic Green Day. It just annoys the shit out of me. The radio killed it. Does that matter? Eh, not really.

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – Cow Fingers and Mosquitoe Pie

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins is, without a doubt, the most ridiculous blues artist you will ever have the pleasure of listening to. His popularity lives on even after his death and this disk outlines his career very well. Let’s be honest here, the man is freaking crazy. But fortunately, this craziness translates through his music perfectly. His biggest claim to fame is his, well, incessant screaming, and he does it all the time. Be it through the ridiculous blathering of Little Demon or You Made Me Love You, the mindbending irony of Darling, Please Forgive Me (the man did have well over sixty illegitimate children), or the racist bombshells I Love Paris and Hong Kong, every minute of this is pure gold. This compilation would have been worth it’s price if only just for the fantastic and influential I Put A Spell On You and the hilarious cover of Temptation, but you get your full money’s worth on this album. The only problem is the lack of Constipation Blues, a Screamin’ Jay classic that you can probably hear in your mind already. There are even some alternate takes to put the icing on the cake. Don’t hesitate; pick this up now. You need it.

Nirvana – Sliver: The Best of the Box

I can’t bear to give this a bad rating, mostly because most all of these songs are very good Nirvana rarities, but I won’t deny that the collection is kind of pointless. Anyone who would have been interested in these rarities in the first place probably wouldn’t have been adverse to just shelling out the money for the box set With The Lights Out. Even if they did put their trust in this alone, there are many selections from the box set that were left out and truly deserved a spot, such as D7, They Hung Him On A Cross, If You Must, and Verse Chorus Verse. There are three previously unreleased tracks that might make this worth it to fans like me, and they are the Spank Thru take from the Fecal Matter demo, a boombox version of Come As You Are, and another version of Sappy. I can’t complain too much because these are all great tracks, but it’s a poorly constructed and unnecessary compilation that was probably a ploy to get the casual fans money, and it most likely didn’t work very well. That’s alright though; it’s another one for the collection.

Santana – Shaman

Why I gave this the lowest rating possible is irrelevant, as everything at 2.0 and under is a blur anyway. Either it’s bad or it’s not at that point, and this is bad. REALLY BAD. Santana is one of my favorite guitarists ever, and the preceeding Supernatural was a fantastic album. I actually saw Santana on the Supernatural tour and it was my first show ever. Not too shabby. But the energy from Supernatural almost doesn’t translate to here at all. The opening Adouma is the exception. It’s a good trance-like latin solo-fest, exactly what we love from Carlos. But the rest of the album consists of horrible collaborations with people who don’t deserve to be said in the same sentence as Santana. America is an easy pick for a worst Santana song list. I suppose The Game of Love is decent if not a bit annoying, but the album is otherwise dirt. He should have stopped while he was winning with Supernatural.

Smashing Pumpkins – Pisces Iscariot

A fine collection of Smashing Pumpkins b-sides, Pisces Iscariot handpicks the finest Siamese Dream era b-sides the band has to offer. One disappointing absence is that of Bullet Train To Osaka, a great James Iha original, but another one of his great songs is included, the country oriented Blew Away. Pretty much all of these songs stand alone be they muscular sunny riff-rockers like Hello Kitty Kat and Pissant or more downtempo melodies like Obscured and Soothe. There are two fabulous covers as well, a touching rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide and a catchy Girl Named Sandoz, as well as a signature SMP epic, Starla. Also included is probably the bands best b-side, Frail and Bedazzled. It almost holds the power of an individual album. You can see why these are b-sides because they really aren’t as memorable as the album songs, but they are essential nonetheless.

Tool – Lateralus

Tool’s biggest flaw is that their music goes over peoples heads before they can truly get a grip on the music and enjoy it, but the band makes up for it by being easily the most sophisticated and talented metal band active today. Lateralus just so happens to be their magnum opus, and like Tool as a band, it is an acquired taste and at first very difficult to understand. The band has progressed a great deal since Ænima, but every member of the band has already proved themselves to be of the absolute best at their trades, so there isn’t any real need to prove anything. The whole band lets loose with this energetic, dark, adrenaline filled masterpiece. But once again, it’s no easy listen. The genre is no longer just metal, but progressive metal, and each song is laced with complex beats and druggy dirty guitars. But for anyone who can manage to wrap their head around this album, the payback is plentiful. No time is wasted here, and only two “filler” tracks are included, both essential to the overall mood. Every track is key to the overall structure of the album, but some are a bit stronger than others. The Grudge is a colossal opener, featuring the famous Maynard twenty five second spine tingling scream and a killer Danny Carrey drum solo. Schism is the radio pick with it’s irresistible bassline akin to Fourty Six & 2. Parabol and Parabola are respectively reflective and muscular accompanying tracks, and Triad is the albums highest point, an instrumental outburst of dark energy. But once again, there is not a weak track on the album. It’s not hard to have problems with this album on the first listen; Maynard’s voice is extremely varied and may not appeal to some people and the rhythm can be downright confusing if your ear is not trained. This album may not be an easy listen or a good introduction to Tool, but it is, by a good margin, the height of their career. Tool is a very difficult, complex, and draining band, but giving them enough time to sink in yields great rewards, a fact that Lateralus demonstrates to the utmost.

Yo La Tengo – Painful

Easily Yo La Tengo’s best album, Painful is a wonderful masterpiece of dream pop and noise rock. It may not be packed to the brim with gems like I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One is, but the album does wonders in it’s own subtle ways. Each song is a meticulously planned work of art. The songs fall under two categories, quiet comforting pop and the signature Yo La Tengo guitar developing noise. This kind of combination would seem counterproductive, but in a way both fit the same mood, conveyed well even with the cover of the album. Each song has it’s own distinct night time image to go along with it, be it a badass hero trip to 7/11 or a gentle sleepy dream, this is Yo La Tengo at their absolute best. But the height of the album actually comes at the end with the monumental I Heard You Looking, one of the best dream-pop instrumentals you will ever hear and a truly moving development of sound. The problems Painful has are a matter of preference; Painful has a stronger coherency as an album than anything and has maybe less power in individual songs than I Can Hear The Heart, but it still holds a historical place with Yo La Tengo by being the first album where the band came into full circle. A tight, classic album.