Games

Madden NFL 12

Madden 12 is the first game in the series for quite some time that you can say provides a unique experience.


Madden NFL 12

Publisher: EA Sports
Players: 1-4
Price: $59.99
Platform: Xbox 360
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Developer: EA Sports
Release Date: 2011-08-30
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Quarterback is said to be the most important position in sports, and on a professional level, it’s also considered to be the most difficult. A quick spot check of a quarterback’s responsibilities bears this out. They’re charged with making pre-snap reads, protection adjustments, audibles, two-minute offense play calling, and post-snap reads to say nothing of actually executing the play and delivering an on-target pass. Furthermore, in the NFL, coaches and quarterbacks are constantly looking for mismatches and advantageous defensive playcalls (single man coverage or zone or getting linebackers in coverage against slot receivers, for example). If all of this sounds like jargon or vague concepts, chances are you’re not going to enjoy EA’s latest installment in the Madden series.

Madden NFL 12 is uncompromisingly realistic, which is both its greatest attribute and its biggest flaw. While the Madden designers have always striven for realism, arcade qualities always governed the gameplay. In the series' early games, throwing Hail Mary passes was comically easy, and in recent iterations, defensive ends become pass-rush monsters, recording unrealistic sack numbers as player-controlled defensive terrors. Madden 12 fortunately shucks these physical inaccuracies in favor of a game that makes you psychologically crumble under the weight of quarterback pressure and air tight coverage.

The most noticeable difference between Madden 12 and previous Madden entries is timing, more specifically, time in the pocket. Real-life NFL defenses can collapse a pocket and get to a quarterback in a matter of seconds. Most professional quarterbacks have an internal clock that once it hits three seconds sends off alarms to get rid of the ball. Madden games have typically allowed players slightly more processing time, but in Madden 12, memorizing your reads and having an internal clock are the only way to succeed. Otherwise, you’ll find your quarterback smashed to pieces on the turf while your controller suffers the same fate.

This decreased processing time doesn’t necessarily make the game harder. It makes it harder for people that are used to playing Madden games. Any die-hard Madden fan will be able to tell you the three or four plays that they utilize to pick up big chunks of yards. More knowledgeable players can even tell you why they work in a football sense.

But those plays always take time, something you rarely get in Madden 12. So instead of reading the safeties on a four verticals passing play and hitting the deepest, most open receiver, players must now make snap judgments and typically hit their check down.

Schematically, this necessitates more running plays and play action. Fortunately for Madden fans, the running dynamics and physics system are the best that the series has ever delivered. The most important change made to the physics of the game is the removal of suction, which has always plagued the series. In previous games, defenders only had to be within yards of a ball carrier in order to magically gravitate toward him and make a proper tackle. That sort of attraction has been removed from this game, allowing running backs to burst through the offensive line and turn the corner for long runs.

The loss of suction can be difficult for Madden players, though. Gamers have been using suction as a crutch since the series’ inception, but with Madden 12, if you recklessly run upfield to cut off a ball carrier, he will cut back inside and run by unabated. Proper defensive position is now a must, as is heady defensive playcalling.

Unfortunately, some of the chronic Madden problems persist despite being mitigated. For instance, linebackers are still remarkably adept at batting down passes that should sail well over their heads, and defenses are still too difficult to crack when you ramp up the difficulty level. Overall, though, the massive physics overhaul has made this year’s Madden one of the best to date. With realistic additions to the franchise mode -- gaming’s most in-depth and realistic franchise mode already -- like draft day trades, cut days, and a rookie scouting mode, EA continues to build on the model that’s been chugging along for years.

The Be a Superstar mode is nearly unplayable because of the incessant chirp of a coordinator always booming through your speakers -- it’s a feature that you can’t turn off. EA thinks it ramps up the realism, but in actuality, it’s just more banal, repetitive chatter -- and the online play is just as crisp as it’s always been. Most importantly, though, Madden 12 is the first game in the series for quite some time that you can say provides a unique experience.

8

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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