Jul 29, 2008

2 1/2 Hours of Tom Waits

In case you haven't heard, the biggest concert on the net this week is a stream of Tom Waits recorded at the Fox Theater in Atlanta on July 5. The music is great, but the original Hellboy is known for his outrageous storytelling. Surf (don't click) on over to NPR's site to listen now.

Glitter & Doom: Tom Waits in Concert

Jul 26, 2008

New Cold War Kids Track

One of the freshest acts of the last few years has been Cold War Kids. Like The Decemberists, Dresden Dolls, and a handful of other acts, the band mixes elements and styles of decades long past (musically, thematically, and visually) with contemporary pop and indie music.

Their new album Loyalty to Loyalty will be released in late September. You can sample a new track, Something is Not Right With Me, now by heading over to RCRD LBL. Pitchfork has tour dates and a stream of the track, if you prefer.

Jul 23, 2008

Best of 2008 (First Half)

Of all the albums I've heard so far in 2008, these are my favorites, beginning with the best:

The Dodos Visiter
Why? Alopecia
MGMT Oracular Spectacular
The Gutter Twins Saturnalia
The Kills Midnight Boom
Portishead Third
Los Campesions! Hold On Now Youngster
Hot Chip Made in the Dark
The Black Keys Attack & Release
Crystal Castles Crystal Castles
Adele 19
Atmosphere When Life Gives You Lemons, Paint That Shit Gold
M83 Saturday = Youth
Vetiver Thing of the Past
Mates of State Re-arrange Us
Justin Townes Earle The Good Life
Sigur Ros Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust
Nine Inch Nails Ghosts I-IV
Black Mountain In the Future
Single Frame S F E P
Fleet Foxes Fleet Foxes
Jamie Lidell Jim
The Notwist The Devil, You + Me
Sons and Daughters The Gift
Ladytron Velocefiro
Islands Arms Way
Santogold Santogold
Cat Power Jukebox
She & Him Volume One
Joan as Police Woman To Survive
Saul Williams The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust
Ssion Fool's Gold
Scarlett Johansson Anywhere I Lay My Head
Girl Talk Feed the Animals
Sun Kil Moon April

I've also complied a Muxtape of some of my favorite 2008 songs.

Jul 21, 2008

Best of 2008 (First Half) Preview

Later this week, I'll be posting a list of my favorite albums of the first half of 2008 (Released prior to July 1). Here's one album that will be on the list with some of my thoughts on it:

Los Campesinos!
Hold On Now, Youngster (87/100)

No album this year has more energy than the first full length from this band of what sounds like pre-teens. Song titles like "We Are All Accelerated Readers" hint otherwise. The internet-famous "You! Me! Dancing!" has been making the blog rounds for awhile, having been recorded like 12 times. The density of hooks, sonic layers, and meter changes is matched only by the rapid-fire quotability of the lyrics. Think of a younger, more energetic, punkier New Pornographers, maybe with a little Rainer Maria or similar emo-leaning indie pop.

Los Campesinos! official site
Download Hold On Now, Youngster from Emusic.
Buy Hold On Now, Youngster from Amazon.
Buy the LP on Insound.

This album and more will be on the upcoming list. You'll also get an updated Muxtape with some of the best songs of 2008.

Jul 17, 2008


Earlier on G4, the E3 coverage team (i.e. every on-screen personality on the channel), asked who won E3. My instant reaction (and poll-winner) was Microsoft. They did debut Netflix (which I was looking forward to on PS3), announced Final Fantasy XIII will be on Xbox (if anything), and showed off their avatars.

But to say that Microsoft was "Best in Show" was highly misleading. Neither Microsoft, Nintendo, nor Sony showed us anything worthy of the adverb big. There were lots of news, tons of footage of upcoming games, and cool new things revealed. I feel like third-party developers were the real winners this week. Exclusive titles are becoming less important, and more big titles are making jumps (FF13, Bioshock, etc.). This can only be good for fans.

Best of E3*
Resistance 2 (gameplay footage)
Fallout 3 (more revealed)
PS3 Video Store (support of major studios)
Fat Princess (PSN)
Fable 2 Co-op

Honorable Mention
Bioshock (PS3 exclusive content)
Resident Evil 5 and Silent Hill: Homecoming (more revealed)
Rock Band and Guitar Hero becoming more friendly (and here).

*Many of these were not E3 exclusive, but are related to the week's events.

E3 Let-downs
Netflix exclusive to Xbox.
Resident Evil 5 delayed till March.
Nintendo markets to moms and thinks Animal Crossing: City Folk is for hardcore gamers.

Jul 11, 2008

Bu Rant

There's been a lot of talk about Blu-Ray v. DVD v. download lately, but there are a couple things that don't get mentioned often in the debate.

1. Some Blu-Rays aren't really better.

Last week, I got House of Flying Daggers on Blu-Ray from Netflix. The story’s above average, and like Yimou Zhang’s previous film Hero, every shot is a work of art. However, the quality of the video on the disc was lacking. I can’t speak for the original theatrical release, but reviews and forum posts on the disc confirm the poor quality of the transfer. Even on my 32” Westinghouse, I could see lots of noise and was distracted by the lack of clarity within deep colors (a trademark of the director’s style).

More than a few Blu-Ray releases have been scarred by poor video (or audio) quality. Most recently, the Blu-Ray release of Gangs of New York has received some of the worst comments I’ve seen regarding video quality on a high-def disc. The original Fifth Element and Full Metal Jacket releases are examples of sub par releases where the studio has actually stepped up and remedied the situation with a new release.

2. Where are my special features?

One of the reasons I happily made the jump to DVD (other than video/span quality, lifespan, etc.) was for special features: deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes featurettes, commentaries, etc. One advantage that Blu-Ray boasts over DVD is the possibility for better special features: picture-in-picture commentaries, internet connectivity, and (with more space) more features.

Hellboy has seen several standard-def DVD releases, with the 3-disc director’s cut containing a wealth of bonus features, including a new commentary by the director. Fans who opt for the similarly priced Blu-Ray version will get a great video/audio bang for their buck, but will miss out on all the features found on the three-disc DVD.

Taking Gangs of New York as a case study again, the disc offers nothing that wasn’t on the two-disc DVD. The only apparent advantage of the Blu-Ray version, which costs $15 more, is the [assumed] jump in audio quality and not having to change discs halfway through the movie.

There are several examples of Blu-Ray releases that get everything right. Jumper is the best example I’ve seen. With next-gen commentary, an “animated” comic, and amazing video and audio quality, this release actually creates a highly enjoyable experience from a mediocre film.

If the big studios really want Blu-Ray to be the new media format (which is debatable), they’re going to have to do more than fatten release schedules and shrink the price gap; they’ll have to make all Blu-Rays obviously superior to their market-penetrated competition.