Hometapes Records out of Portland specializes in smart indie rock and has released quite a few critically acclaimed releases in its young history, including 2008’s Pattern Is Movement release that we deemed worthy of an 8. For the discriminating hipster/vinylphile, Hometapes has released a number of gorgeous limited edition vinyl albums with numbered album art and other special features. Shedding’s self-titled LP comes in light green vinyl with three art inserts and a uniquely numbered fold-out cover. The aforementioned Pattern is Movement LP includes a digital download of the record packed with bonus features as well as a number of printed photographs. Even the CD version includes a little batch of fold-out photos. Nick Butcher’s recent Bee Removal album is packaged as a white vinyl release with hand-screened cover art. Cyne’s erudite backpack hip-hop is also available on a double LP as well as CD. These little touches speak to a strong commitment to artfulness across mediums. In an era of ever more disposable culture, Hometapes works hard to make things meant to save and treasure.
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Ignore the corporate tie-in for a second. The Nintendo DS is the current safe haven for addictive, brain-taxing puzzle games, and this particular Puzzle Adventure actually continues that tradition magnificently. The game puts a candy-coated shell around Reversi (or Othello, or whatever other name you have for the game where you transform your opponent’s pieces by surrounding them with your pieces), and yet the gameplay does not cater to the young demographic that it courts. I was oddly surprised and delighted when I was handily defeated by the very first opponent I faced, and the game’s difficulty simply doesn’t let up. The story is incidental, the colorful characters may or may not be a distraction, but there’s no mistaking the quality of the puzzling. The Neopets brand as a whole has its issues, but this particular tie-in will keep you tapping the screen through the long winter break and beyond.
Unlikely as it may seem, this year’s champion recipient of critical plaudits and book blog buzz is an unfinished 900-page novel in translation. 2666 is the posthumous masterpiece of the Chilean-born writer Roberto Bolañ. At the book’s dark heart is the story of the murders of hundreds of women in the Mexican bordertown of Santa Teresa—a thin fictionalization of real events in Ciudad Juarez. But 2666 also ranges over a dazzling kaleidoscope of other settings, from postwar Germany to contemporary Detroit. A fine gift for English majors, aspiring writers, globetrotters, expatriates, and anyone with lots of free time.
Eight years of Grace’s ruffled shirts, Will cooking up a storm in the kitchen, Karen’s pill-popping, and “Just Jack”. It’s hard to compare Will (Eric McCormack) and Grace’s (Debra Messing) roommate relationship to any other comedy duo on television; the gay lawyer and straight interior designer have a logic all their own. Mood-swinging wildly from intensely supportive of each other to irredeemably depressed and cranky, without the physical comedy and snappy one-liners this series wouldn’t have lasted for eight years. It was clear from the start, the unusual premise worked because these two actors have fantastic charisma together. Any fan of the long-running series will covet this cleverly packaged 33-disc set, covered in pictures of the fab four pushing the boundaries of the metaphorical box itself, stretching TV comedy in their own special way from 1998 to 2006.
If, like yours truly, you came of age in the ‘60s and ‘70s, there’s a special place in your heart for the crazed combination of marketing and imagination that was Saturday Morning kid’s programming. Amid all the cartoons and chaos, CBS pulled a trio of “next big thing” wannabes out of club gigs and gave them 30 minutes of variety hour vaudeville. The results remain something akin to watching a Borscht Belt comedian drown in a sea of silly string. And just to make matters more insane, the Hudson’s would perform their own massively muzaked version of a rock and roll ‘classic’. Hip… or hopeless? You decide.