Somehow, it feels as though 2009 will be the PlayStation 3’s year. The Xbox 360 has shown us what “next generation” hardware can look like, and has introduced the necessity of a well-implemented online infrastructure. The Wii and DS have shown us just how wide the audience for gaming can be. 2009 is going to be the year that gamers want to see just how far they can take the new generation of consoles, and the PlayStation 3 will be the console to take them there. 2008 was the year that Blu-Ray won; 2008 was the year that the vocal masses got their way and convinced Sony that a controller that vibrates is important. 2008 was the year that the PS3 got its own version of achievements, and 2008 was the year that Sony’s exclusives started to make people sit up and take notice. This particular bundle starts you with the biggest PS3 yet released—160GB is enough to store a whole pile of music, movies, and downloaded games—and tosses in one of the first exclusives that actually managed to make other console owners jealous: Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. Add to this the fact that the whole bundle is retailing for the same price point that the merely 20GB PS3 sold for all by itself two tiny years ago, and the time simply seems right for a PS3. Want to wow a gamer with a gift this holiday season? The PS3 is your ticket. [$499.99]
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This massive 800-plus-page tome, lavishly bound in slipcase and printed on high quality glossy paper, will wow both sci-fi and comic book aficionados. All the major Luke Skywalker stories spanning 30 years from the earliest Marvel incarnation up through Dark Horse’s latest adventures are compiled here in glorious, sparkling color. It’s an art quality book jam-packed with nostalgia. As one of the largest and most comprehensive Star Wars-related compendiums on the market, it will hold wide appeal to the legions of the series fans as well as lovers of fine comic artistry.
For students and those living on tight budgets (i.e. pretty much all of us these days), the idea of throwing a dinner party may seem financially impossible, both in terms of buying the ingredients and having the equipment to prepare the feast. Shook and Dotolo, chefs at Los Angeles’ new hotly tipped Animal restaurant, remember those lean days well and offer up 100 recipes to impress for those cooking in a small kitchen with limited means. Including are plenty of tips for assembling the bare bones of working kitchen. From salads to desserts, the focus is new American cuisine. [$24.95]
Over the last 20 years, Delicious Vinyl has released some of hip-hop’s best singles, along with a few one hit wonders. From Tone Loc to the Pharcyde, the label has managed to blend catchy beats and complex sonic textures. Whether they’re sensual club-grinding narratives or jazz-flavored socio-philosophizing, Delicious Vinyl has continually shown its knack for releasing tracks that are loaded with head-bobbing hooks and the depth and substance to become timeless. It’s not an easy thing to do, but they did it consistently—if not with full albums, then certainly with singles. The decision to compile the anthology began when Peaches and Tone Loc teamed up to do a live remix of “Wild Thing” in November last year. From there, Delicious Vinyl compiled other hit tracks from its catalogue and handed them over to a handful of artists to take a twist of the knobs and slap a new sonic spin on a classic DV track that inspired them. Listening to the remixes reminds you just how well those songs captured an era when storytelling hip-hop and dance floor grooving converged to create songs packed with simplicity, sensuality, playfulness, and irresistible hooks that pushed hip-hop and electronic dance music even further into the mainstream playlist. [$13.98]
There’s nowhere to run or hide. Soon, you’ll be inundated by top 10 lists for the year. To ensure that this cycle continues, editors send out notices to writers, reminding them to collect their faves for the publication. Labels also send (kind of) gentle reminders of their offerings for the year so that you’ll include them on your list.
And then we writers pretend that we’re omniscient and that we actually know what are the 10 best albums that came out this year… as if we had time to listen to even a fraction of them even once, much less enough times to try to really appreciate many of them.
What we don’t like to say is that we don’t know about most of what’s happening in the music world and that our list is actually just a subjective bunch of things that we got to hear out of a big pile of music that we managed to get sent or download.
The fact of the matter is that no one could possibly give every release that came out this year (or any recent year) the time it would take to listen and evaluate its worth. It’s just physically impossible. At best, we writers rely on other scribes and publications, word of mouth, blogs, social networks, instinct, luck, etc. to find all the goodies that we can and then chop it all down to a list of ten records.
And even though we may grumble that we hate them, lists are here to stay. Just ask Blender. Similarly, you’ll be seeing the Voice’s Pazz/Jop poll, the Idolator poll (hopefully) and just about any other music magazine will be polling their own writers and have them come up with lists. And no, I’m not excluding myself ‘cause I’ve already contributed lists to a few publications and I’ll likely do the same for other pubs (if they’ll have me) and I’ll even do one for Perfect Sound Forever.
At the very least, one good function of these lists is that you learn something, namely what came out that you missed and should hear. That even happens with the lists I collect from other writers for PSF and I’m definitely gonna scour the lists at Pazz, Idolator and Pitchfork to see what I missed.
Also, these lists provide great fodder for discussions and arguments. “How would they forget…?” “How the hell could they pick…?” That’s what we all think at one point when we read these lists and more than likely, none of them are gonna exactly match what you came up with (though it would be pretty cool if they did).
Another thing about these lists that I wonder about is how self-conscious we are when we put them together for public (and peer) scrutiny. I was arguing with a fellow scribe about what people came up with on their lists- that’s always a fun bit of discussion (“that one was so cool” or “they’re so lame!”). One writer had picked a list of pretty obvious releases that were either best-selling or from some of the most important and talked-up artists of the year. I didn’t know for sure but I thought that the writer might actually like those releases, regardless if they’re the hottest things to come out that year. I’d much rather that writers just pick the records that they really like instead of worrying what is or isn’t on their list. Of course, we’d all like to think that’s what we’re doing when we put our lists together, even if we can’t really do it in the end.
But wait, isn’t the album supposed to be dead or dying? Why do we bother with these lists then? Don’t ask me… I’m working on another list for another magazine…