Latest Blog Posts

by PopMatters Staff

14 Aug 2009

Exotic on the Speaker
Releasing: 6 October (US)

The Tel Aviv DJs return on 6 October with a new mix CD featuring loads of hip-hop with a little bit of the Balkans thrown in for good measure.

01 El Nur ft. Ghostface, Tomer Yosef & Saz
02 Exotic on the Speaker ft. Rye Rye
03 Pitom Banu ft. Axum
04 Put ‘em Up ft. Lyrics Born & Axum
05 Darboukatron
06 SOS ft. Pigeon John & Ceci Bastida
07 Politrix ft. Del the Funky Homosapien
08 Come Back ft. Onili
09 Avood MeAhava ft. Oren Barzilay
10 We Keep On ft. Rebel Sun & Soul-J
11 Queen of Hearts ft. MC ZULU
12 Bo Be Easy ft. Axum & C. Le
13 1,000 Nights ft. Ravid Khalni

Soulico ft. Lyrics Born and Axum
“Put ‘Em Up” [MP3]

by Tommy Marx

14 Aug 2009

Alison Moyet, an incredibly gifted singer with a deep, rich, bluesy voice, first found fame in her early 20s. Joining forces with Vince Clarke, a former member of Depeche Mode, Alison formed Yazoo, a synth-dance band, in 1981.

Yazoo was a major success in England. Their first two albums, Upstairs at Eric’s and You and Me Both, peaked at #2 and #1 respectively on the record charts, and four of their singles became Top 15 hits. In the United States, the duo (renamed Yaz because an American rock band was already using the name) saw three of their singles become number one hits on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play chart, but they weren’t nearly as successful on mainstream radio.

Alison and Vince decided to disband Yazoo shortly before their second album was released.

Vince Clark went on to form Erasure with Andy Bell and had an astonishing 24 consecutive singles become Top 20 hits in the UK Alison Moyet began a solo career, and while her success hasn’t rivaled that of her former band mate (she’s had nine singles become Top 40 hits in England), she has never particularly strived for success on the radio. Instead, she has gloriously followed her own path.

The only real success Alison Moyet has had as a solo artist in the United States is with a song titled “Invisible” that became a Top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 on April 4, 1985. But that song was enough to make me a lifelong fan.

by Nick Dinicola

14 Aug 2009

Parodies by their very nature give us a different perspective on things. Whether it be a plot, genre, or game mechanic, we see a different side of things when they’re viewed through the lens of humor. There are two recent flash games in particular that, while making fun of popular game mechanics, give us a unique look at the roots of those mechanics and why they’re so popular.

Upgrade Complete is a game that makes you upgrade everything. To begin the game, we have to buy a shop menu screen, but since we don’t have any money in the beginning we have to accept a loan from the developer. Then we have to buy the preloader to actually load the game and menu buttons to actually play it. The game itself is a 2-D top-down flying shooter. We can buy missiles and lasers and guns (all upgradeable of course) to help against the waves of enemies, or we can use the money we earn to buy and upgrade a logo, copyright info, the graphics, or a game over screen.

Achievement Unlocked is game that’s all about unlocking achievements. The game itself is mostly a platformer: there’s a single screen filled with blocks, jump pads, and spikes, all traditionally found in some form or another in platformers. But Achievement Unlocked is really more of a puzzle game, since our only goal is to figure out how to get all 99 achievements. It begins easily enough, giving us achievements for preloading the game, watching the sponsor screen, and pretty much rewarding every other simple action we could make: moving left, moving right, jumping, dying, etc. Everything nets us an achievement; we’re even given infinite lives so the game doesn’t end until we either give up or get every achievement.

Some time ago, Mitch Krpata from Insult Swordfighting tried to come up with new ways to describe gamers’ play styles, rather than use the inadequate “casual” and “hardcore.” One such descriptor was the Completist gamer: “A Completist may be less interested in maximizing his ability to play a game, and more interested in making sure he doesn’t miss anything…The reward is having no mountains left to climb.”

The Completist gamer is just a subset of the larger category of Skill Players according to Krpata, but given the popularity of achievements, I wonder just how “sub” that subset is. Gamers are completist by nature; we’ve been trained to be that way and are continually encouraged to keep it up. Whether it be finding all the collectibles in a game or just trying to beat it, both actions require us to complete a game to a certain degree. Especially in this day of constant hype for new releases, we’re encouraged even more to complete one game so that we can hurry to the next.

In a broader sense, Upgrade Complete and Achievement Unlocked are not just parodies of the mechanics that they’re named after but of our attitudes towards games. These are collect-a-thons in their purest form. Achievements and upgrades are just an evolution of the stars in Super Mario 64 or the puzzle pieces in Banjo-Kazooie. Achievement Unlocked is, arguably, the better parody because it portrays achievements as the old-school collectible they are, while also embracing those roots. When we play it, we’re having fun collecting even as we realize we’re the butt of the joke. Upgrade Complete on the other hand has a message at the end telling us to rate a game more on how fun it is than how complex its upgrade system is. Yet the game is fun solely because of its absurdly comprehensive upgrade system. It undermines its own message. The best parodies embrace what they make fun of, and Achievement Unlocked plays straight to our completist, collectible-loving nature. The fact that I used a FAQ to make sure that I collected all the achievements says it all.

by Jason Gross

13 Aug 2009

Even if you’re not an Aerosmith fan (I happen to like ‘em), you have to feel for a band that’s had such bad luck on their recent tour, or rather, they’ve fallen victim to a common condition for classic rockers now—it’s called age and it ain’t always pretty, especially for a set of heroes who are supposed to be forever young (but can’t be).

It started recently when singer Steve Tyler took an accidental fall off of a stage (not a stage dive, mind you).  The poor guy had to go home to recuperate and the news that slowly dribbled out included show cancellations and the threat the rest of their recent tour could be scrapped.

And this wasn’t even the start of the recent health problems that the band’s had on this tour. Read the list of ailments from the last link above and you’ll see a leg injury, knee infection and surgery, head injury and ‘non-invasive surgery’, not to mention throat cancer and hepatitis C bouts in the last few years. So far only drummer Joey Kramer has escaped maladies recently.

by John Bohannon

13 Aug 2009

Opiate Sun
(Caldo Verde)
Releasing: 27 October (US)

With bands like the Angelic Process, Alcest, and now Phil Elverum (aka Mount Eerie), a whole new world has opened up for heavy music, large in part because of Jesu mastermind Justin Broadrick’s tireless effort to not settle for the conventional sounds of metal. The effort has become to make this loud, abrasive music become melodic and sentimental—something Jesu’s latest track, “Deflated” is somewhat the pinnacle of. Its drop-tuned doom riffage is buried into a swarm of melodic guitar melodies and quite possibly one of the best vocal performances of Broadrick’s career. The track builds beautifully behind slightly atonal sustained chords into a stoner shoegaze haze while Broadrick chants, “You give me reason.” How’s that for hardcore.

Oddly enough, it somehow makes sense that Opiate Sun, the EP on which this track is contained, will be released on Caldo Verde Records, Red House Painters/Sun Kil Moon songsmith Mark Kozelek’s imprint. Hands down, this is the heaviest thing Kozelek has ever released (and he is doing so after being duly impressed by a Jesu show in 2007), but he is no stranger to spastic guitar passages –- something he experimented with earlier in his career. Opiate Sun is due out October 27th, and info on what formats it will be released on is TBD.

01 Losing Streak
02 Opiate Sun
03 Deflated
04 Morning Light

“Deflated” [MP3]

//Mixed media

Supernatural: Season 12, Episode 2 - "Mamma Mia"

// Channel Surfing

"A can't-miss episode completes the start of the new season.

READ the article