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Thursday, Jan 29, 2015
The latest video from the Ozark Mountains folk group Pawns or Kings, "Light Over the Ridge", is an intimate depiction of feeling at home -- just as you're about to leave it.

The folk music purveyed in by the quartet Pawns or Kings is certainly befitting of their native Ozark Mountains in the American Midwest. However, the group’s music takes on a curious light when one considers its origins: Pawns or Kings arose from the prog rock outfit the Race to Olvido. Listening to the former band’s newest album, 2014’s Pomme de Terre, it’s hard to imagine the music coming from the world of Dream Theater-esque shredding, but lo and behold these four musicians pulled the transition off.


Below you can watch the video for the Pomme de Terre tune “Light Over the Ridge”, which was filmed at a transitory moment in the life of Pawns or Kings.


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Thursday, Jan 29, 2015
Beatles-esque vocal harmonies meet clap-along rhythms in the latest number by the Los Angeles rock outfit Prima Donna, "Deathless".

In the press materials for their new album, Nine Lives and Forty-Fives, the Los Angeles rock band Prima Donna are described as having a “curriculum [that] includes musical road trips with Eddie and the Hot Rods, Adam Ant, D-Generation and even Green Day, who they supported on two arena tours on two continents.” The influences of those groups are certainly evident in Prima Donna’s music, but on their latest number, “Deathless”, their vocal harmonies bring to mind an influence that few if any rock bands can escape: the Beatles. With this track, Prima Donna tips their cap to their forebears while adding their own driving verve and energy, with some excellent work on the low end by the bass playing of “Lights Out” Levine.


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Thursday, Jan 29, 2015
PopMatters predicts a night of newcomers, huge sweeps, and some love for two theme songs from 2013.

When the nominations for the 57th annual Grammy awards were announced several months ago, the most shocking thing was exactly how unsurprising it all was. The vast majority of the honorees were the most critically acclaimed artists of the year, nominated for the songs and albums that landed on most “Best of 2014” lists. Despite the predictability of it all, one can expect this year’s telecast to focus on a fresher crop of superstars, with newcomers like Sam Smith, Meghan Trainor, and Iggy Azalea stealing the spotlight away from established household names like Usher and Taylor Swift.


The following are some educated guesses as to what will happen in a dozen major categories. As always, though, we’ll have to wait until Sunday 8 February to see how right (or wrong) we are.


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Thursday, Jan 29, 2015
Largely due to its small size and independence from the primary game, First Light is simply better than Second Son, even while it owes its existence to it.

Last week here on PopMatters, Scott Juster described Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker as a “micro-machine”, one of those curious little dioramas that seemed popular when he and I were kids. It is precisely the minute scale but high-quality systems of the game that lets us toss it into the category of games we recently called “Big Small games”. While Captain Toad is a great game, perhaps inFamous First Light is a better example of the experimental value of these impressive, albeit smaller, diversions from the triple A game space.


Like Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, inFamous First Light is also an offshoot of a traditional full title. First Light, technically, is actually a piece of DLC for 2014’s inFamous Second Son. However, the game is also a completely stand-alone experience. Players do not need to own or have played the first game to dive into the experience. In this way, First Light is an interesting consumer product. Generally, I always consider DLC as a way for developers to incentivize newcomers and keep devotees busy playing a core game experience. The ultimate goal is to prevent people from selling your game back to Gamestop and into the hands of other players without ever receiving a cut of the profit. Our brave new world of “games as a service” seems built as a futile salvo against the used game market.


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Wednesday, Jan 28, 2015
Need some sonic rays of sunshine to cut through the winter doldrums? The joyous "In the Sun" by the Australian singer Vassy will do just the trick.

Although it’s winter in the United States right now, you might be transported to the summer months by the disposition of the Australian singer Vassy, whose latest single “In the Sun” is the kind of summer jam that’s designed to be blasted out of hatchback car radios and beach boomboxes. Of course, it’s summertime in Vassy’s native Australia, but this buoyant pop jam is enough to make it feel as if the season is spreading all around the world.


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