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by Sean McCarthy

15 Jan 2010

After reading a solid month of “decade’s best” lists, I couldn’t help but think back to my “Best Album of the ‘90s” pick, Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville. I occasionally have pangs of regret not choosing Radiohead’s OK Computer because technically, I believe it’s a superior album. But in general, I have no qualms about letting this pick stand because while other albums may have defined their specific genres like Nirvana’s Nevermind and Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, Guyville perfectly encapsulated not one but two major defining trends of that decade: the rise of a new generation of female singer/songwriters and the do-it-yourself ethos of indie rock, which took on a whole new life this past decade.

When Phair’s album came out (and several years after), most people I talked to readily brought up one of two songs: “Flower” and “Divorce Song”. For many, “Flower” was often-quoted because of the brazen, graphic lyrics, which was one of the first major elements of the album that made critics take notice. At one party, a fellow student talked about how she quoted the lyrics to her boyfriend whom she didn’t think knew the artist or album, and the boyfriend said “Can you say something to me that did not come from a Liz Phair song?”

by Bill Gibron

15 Jan 2010

The murder of a child is, without a doubt, the worst crime of all. It is shocking in its randomness, depressing in its desire to pervert innocence and destroy the joy of youth. Society usually reacts violently when such an act is committed. Laws are immediately passed, cautionary warnings are cast, and the entire populace feels complicit for its lack of attention and consideration. But back in the ‘70s, when child abuse and pedophilia were well-hidden, incredibly secret shames, the disappearance of young Susie Salmon is met with familial despair, but general social ennui. In the hands of author Alice Sebold, and now Oscar winning filmmaker Peter Jackson, the horrible act is transformed into a modern day Brothers Grimm fairytale - except, in this case, the “Lovely Bones” left behind leave a scar that runs as deep as the sin itself.   

Susie (a devastatingly effective Saoirse Ronan) narrates her situation from a way station between Heaven and Earth, a place of her own spiritual devising where fantasy and fact merge in a combination of cruelty and beauty. It is a limbo from which she will guide the rest of her family - dad Jack (Mark Wahlberg), mother Abigail (Rachel Weisz), and siblings Lindsay (Rose McIver) and Buckley (Christian Thomas Ashdale) on a quest to uncover the identity of her killer. In an unusual move, The Lovely Bones never once tries to hide the criminal’s ID. Stanley Tucci brings an Oscar worthy amount of deceptive dread to his turn as the shy quiet monster George Harvey. He too lives in his own world of internalized desire, preparing his fatal traps with an intricacy and detail he reserves for the children’s dollhouses he meticulously fabricates.

by Sarah Zupko

15 Jan 2010

The Blur documentary No Distance Left to Run had its London premiere last night in Leicester Square. British fans can catch the film in theatres now and pick up a copy of the DVD on 15 February. Those of us on this side of the pond will either have to switch our computers to PAL format to play the import DVD or wait until some underdetermined date for the US release. Me, I’m not waiting and will opt for PAL. It’s an easy change in your computer settings.

by PopMatters Staff

15 Jan 2010

Bomb the Bass
Back to Light
(!K7)
Releasing: 1 March

Perennial PopMatters fave Gui Boratto produces the new album due shortly from Bomb the Bass. Martin L. Gore (Depeche Mode) drops by to lend his synth chops to Milakia, while Kelley Polar, Richard Davis, and Paul Conboy guest on the album’s other tracks.

SONG LIST
01 Boy Girl [ft. Paul Conboy]
02 X Rays Eyes [ft. Kelley Polar]
03 The Infinites [ft. Paul Conboy]
04 Price on Your Head [ft. Richard Davis]
05 Blindspot [ft. Paul Conboy]
06 Start [ft. Kelley Polar]
07 Burn Less Brighter [ft. Paul Conboy]
08 Happy To Be Cold [ft. Richard Davis]
09 Up the Mountain [ft. The Battle of Land and Sea]
10 Milakia [ft. Martin Gore]

by Nick Dinicola

15 Jan 2010

Role-playing games have changed greatly over the years. They’ve become more accessible, more forgiving, and more popular. One of the more radical changes to the genre has been the elimination of random battles. In most modern RPGs, players can see their enemies, monsters exist in the actual game world instead of an imaginary battlefield, and the genre is better for it. In retrospect, the random battle was a terrible mechanic, frustrating, relentless, and ever-present; they were a chore. So, it’s surprising that they play such a major role in Dragon Age: Origins, many gamers’ pick for the best RPG of 2009. Instead of just removing this annoying mechanic, Dragon Age: Origins twists it into something new and better, something that improves the RPG experience rather than breaking it.

Random battles never happen when you’re in control of your character, only on the world map. You get your first look at the world map a few hours into the game. It’s a literal map, with places of interest highlighted, and when you select a destination, a trail of blood droplets fall onto the paper that mark your progress across the country. This is the only time a random battle can occur: the drops stop, you hear swords clash, and you enter the battlefield. By confining these fights to the world map, Dragon Age ensures that they never become the annoying interruption that most people remember. They only happen when we’re inactive, when we’re watching instead of playing. This also encourages exploration, since we’re free to run around any environment as much as we like without fearing a constant barrage of unseen enemies.

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