Top 5: albums you've never heard


1. Innaway - Innaway

It was 2005. I was in the CD store, browsing for something new before coming across Innaway. The cover art instantly grabbed my attention and I picked it up. On the cover was a sticker pointing out that Tortoise's John McEntire mixed the album and numerous reviews quotes like Guitar World Mag's

Innaway's debut is a banquet for your iPod

 Sold.
 
Five years later, after countless listens and still as listenable as the day I bought it, what was an impulse buy turned out to be my favourite album ever. That's saying a lot considering Dark Side of the Moon and Led Zeppelin IV are my next favourite albums, which is perhaps why I love it so much; it's a combination of so many bands I like. Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Tortoise, Air, Radiohead... they're influences read like my CD library. Yet while they sound like so many bands, their sound is one entirely of their own. Innaway shifts effortlessly from blues rock to psychedelia to electronica to heavy metal to tribal to glitch (!) before closing on the beautiful "George Walker on Water". On paper, this may sound disjointed but to go back to Dark Side of the Moon and IV, not since these albums has a track listing felt so natural. Like some people are waiting for the next Sgt. Pepper's or Pet Sounds, I'm still waiting for the next Innaway. And after hearing their sophomore release, Album of the Ear, not even Innaway themselves could top this masterpiece. You can stream the album here.  
 

2. Brightblack Morning Light - Brightblack Morning Light

Brightblack Morning Light is the closest thing to being high without actually being high. The combination of hypnotic rhythms and reverb drenched, dreamlike vocals give it a hazy sound comparable only to that of weed smoke. You could say it is like a doobie for your ears--minus the red eyes and munchies--although it can make you sleepy. Speaking of which this album has helped me sleep many times, which is not to say this album is passive music, but rather it is perhaps best listened to in the background while you're doing other things. Cleaning your room or whatever, subconsciously living at snail pace. Hence the weed comparisons.
Everybody Daylight, All We Have Broken Shines 
 

3. Cymande - Cymande

Released in 1972, Cymande is easily the oldest album on this list. But don't let that fool you, this still sounds as fresh as the day it released. Well, I can only assume so. Hailing from London, Cymande were years of their time but it wasn't until decades later that they recieved any widespread recognition, in the form of hip hop artists such as De La Soul and Grandmaster Flash sampling the record. So even if the name is unfamiliar, it's possible you've still heard Cyamnde. In particular, the funk classics "Dove", "Bra" and "The Message". But the highlight of the album is arguably "Listen", the most uplifting and downright smoothest song you'll ever hear.
Listen, Dove, Bra, The Message  

4. DJ Shadow - Live! In Tune and On Time

Of all the artists on this list, DJ Shadow is probably the most renowned. I'm sure some of you have heard the classic Endtroducing, but I doubt anyone has heard Live! In Tune and On Time. An accompaniment to the live DVD of his amazing show at Brixton Academy, London, this is not only my favourite DJ Shadow album but one of my favourite of all time. Despite the mind boggling omission of "Six Days", In Tune and On Time  covers a lot of ground from DJ Shadow's solo work to his many collaborations with artists such as UNKLE and Cut Chemist. On the opening track "Fixed Outcome", we are told we are going on a musical trip, and by the end of the album you genuinely feel as though you've done so. I've seen DJ Shadow perform live twice, and as great as he was, both shows paled in comparison to this set.
You can watch the full set on YouTube.

5. My Morning Jacket - Z

The fact that I kinda dislike two of the tracks on this album, "Gideon" and "What A Wonderful Man", speaks volumes on the remaining 8 songs. Although it's feet are firmly planted in alt-country, it would be an insult to pigeon hole Z in any genre. From rock to reggae to psychedelia to the batshit crazy, carnival freakout "Into The Woods", it's this unique blend of genres that initially drew me to Z and has kept me coming back for more all these years. Z's highly ambitious sound is matched only by that of Jim James' soaring vocals, best heard on the opening 1-2 punch, "Wordless Chorus" and "It Beats 4 U", and the haunting epic closer, "Dondante".
Wordless Chorus, It Beats 4 U, Into The Woods, Dondante
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Top 5: video game art styles

1. Rez



I'll never forget the first time I played Rez. It was in 2008 at a video game exhibition, Game On, I was high at the time and it was the most amazing thing I'd ever played. Weeks later I bought a copy on eBay and soon I was playing it in the dark with headphones on, just as amazed as the first time I played it. It's wire frame graphics make it look like it could've just as easily come out today as it did in 2001 or even 30 years ago, and this was no more apparent than in an exhibition on the history of video games. Needless to say, Rez truly is timeless. Combined with the pulsing trance music and almost rhythm like gameplay, Rez is an audiovisual experience like no other and is rightfully lauded for it's synesthesia qualities. Rez is more than a game; it's an experience.
 

2. Machinarium



Machinarium was literally the most overlooked game of 2009. Seldom mentioned on message boards and end year awards alike, Machinarium is perhaps the best looking game ever. I remember reading somewhere a guy described Machinarium as like a sketchbook come to life. I couldn't agree more. Dripping with atmosphere and oozing with charm, I just wanna jump into the screen and explore. Fortunately, I got to do a lot of that considering I spent most of the game walking around scratching my head. The soundtrack is awesome too.
 

3. Prince of Persia



Whether it's healed or curropt, the land of Persia is an easy game to look at and an even easier one to traverse. Like Rez and it's wireframe graphics, cel shading is timeless. And while some are growing tired of it, I think it's a foolproof way to make a good looking game. Most seem to point to Wind Waker when it comes to cel shading, but personally I think Prince of Persia is the benchmark of the art style.
 

4. Wipeout HD


Both aesthetically and technically speaking, if I had to describe Wipeout HD in one word: clean. The lines are sharp, it controls like butter, the framerate is silky smooth and is best played in 1080p, which until recently I hadn't actually done. Sure, it still looked good on my SDTV but it wasn't until I played it in HD that I really appreciated the graphics, in particular the art style. In a medium seeingly obsessed with dystopias, it's always refreshing to see a utopia, at supersonic speed nonetheless. But you haven't really seen Wipeout HD until you've raced a Zone event; where constantly increasing speed means constantly changing visuals. They seem to get trippier the faster you go, but I've only reached 38; I can only imagine how good it looks after that.
 

5. XIII


If Machinarium is a sketchbook come to life, then XIII is a comic book come to life. Underrated by critics and apparently under appreciated by gamers, XIII was destined for the bargain bin and a cult following left desperate for a sequel thanks to a cliffhanger ending. If the awesome art style isn't enough to make you wanna play XIII the main character is voiced by fucking Mulder in perhaps the most unintentionally funny role ever.
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Top 5: sexiest vocal performances

1. Hope Sandoval - Fade Into You

 
  
I wanna "fade" into Hope Sandoval. Then out. Then in...
 

2. Cat Power - I've Been Thinking

 
  
Chan Marshall is a black girl trapped in a white girls body. 
 

3. Esthero - Final Home (Piano Mix)

 
  
This whole song plays like an open love letter to the listener. When Esthero sings "I will give you the most delicious kisses in your face" I just want her to jump out of my stereo and fuck me.
 

4. Beth Gibbons - Glory Box

 
  
Beth Gibbons is living proof that a sexy voice can make an otherwise unattractive woman sexy. Picking her sexiest performance is like trying to pick my favourite Simpsons episode, but Glory Box wins for simply making guys croon "I just wanna be a woman". 
 

5. Chris Isaak - Wicked Game

 
    
I'm totally gay for this song.
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This blog cannot be read due to regional restrictions

Yesterday I got woken up by my mum; "you're games are here". I went back to sleep happy knowing that my games--Indigo Prophecy and Heart of Darkness--had finally arrived and I would wake up with two new games to play. Or would I?
 
As it turns out, no I fucking wouldn't. Upon waking up, I soon popped in Indigo Prophecy only to read: 

 This disc cannot be started due to regional restrictions

"Damn, guess I'll just have to play Heart of Darkness"
 
*inserts Heart of Darkness*  

 This disc cannot be started due to regional restrictions

"Fuck"
 
I've always assumed the PS3 is region free. It can play NTSC PS3 games fine, so why not PS1 & 2? What douche made this decision? What douche invented region lock? Fuck region lock. It's put in place simply to combat pirates, those of which can easily bypass region lock anyway. Instead it just pisses off law abiding citizens such as myself.
 
Also, I should probably mentioned Indigo Prophecy was sealed, so I basically ruined a collectors item only to read that fucking message.
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"A box arrived for you"

"No fucking way" 

Way.
 
Today, it arrived. It took me 10 years, but I finally own every last gen console. That's right, I got a fucking

Brand new, that is.

Yes, plastic and all.
 
Now, all I need are games.
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Machinarium

Yesterday I finally got around to playing Machinarium. Well, the demo at least. If you're unfamiliar with it, it's a point and click adventure game from the makers of Samorost. If you're unfamiliar with that, then do yourself a favour and play it already.
 
But back to Machinarium. From the beautiful hand drawn art style to the dreamy soundtrack to the clever puzzles, the game oozes charm. Seriously, Jude Law ain't got shit on this.
 
So, who else is looking forward to this? Most likely not many, since the forum here is practically dead. I'm considering buying the German boxed version.
 

 
 
4 Comments

Wild about edwilde

Earlier today I came across this cool video of Mario autoplaying a custom but cool nonetheless level. In the comments a dude posted a link to this blog, edwilde, hosting an apparently "NOT fake" autoplay video.

There I found some of the coolest shit on the web collected in one blog. 77 pages of it. I know this sounds like an advertisement, but where else would you find a psychedelic milk video?

  

1 Comments

16-bit dreamin'

When it comes to video games, most people consider the 16-bit era the "Golden Age" of video games. Classic Nintendo franchises such as Super Mario Bros., Zelda, Metroid etc. arguably reached their peak on the SNES while Sonic was doing his thing on Sega's Mega Drive/Genesis. Not to mention the Neo Geo and the TurboGrafx-16.

As we approach the end of the decade talk has already begun on next-gen consoles. Will Microsoft and Sony follow Nintendo's lead? Already we've seen them play catch-up with Project Natal and ball-on-a-stick respectively. Will Nintendo simply release Wii HD? Or will newcomer OnLive change gaming as we know it? Who knows? All we can do is speculate, but some things are certain. Namely, price. Gaming will continue to remain expensive and consumers will respond accordingly, opting for the cheaper alternative such as the Wii. Where am I going with this?

Well, I have a dream.

Wouldn't it be cool if one of the big three, say, Nintendo, turned back the clock and released a 8 or 16-bit console? It would be:

  1. Affordable

    Cheap to produce, cheap to develop for and most importantly, cheap to buy.
  2. Easy

    Developers are no doubt familiar with the existing technology, so surely devoloping games for it wouldn't prove to be that difficult, right? Perhaps they could even make it open platform and let us develop games?
  3. Reliable

    How many of you have a working Nintendo 64? On the other hand, how many of you have sent in your 360 to be repaired? Since the introduction of the CD, it seems consoles have become less reliable.
But EVO, Nintendo are already doing this with the Virtual Console! Sure, but what would you rather:

This?
Or this?









This raises the whole digital vs. physical debate, which is a whole different story. But personally, I think you're a little dead inside if you wouldn't wanna physical copy of Mega Man 9 in your hands.

So, would you welcome this idea?
9 Comments

Like World of Goo?

Well, you'll love Little Wheel. I was browsing lbpcentral earlier and came across this gem of a flash game. Synopsis:

"There was once a world of living robots. But one day a bad accident occured in the main power generator. The world fell into a deep sleep. Bring life back to the world!"

As you can see the art style is beautiful and it has a killer jazz soundtrack to boot. It'll only take you 10-15 minutes to finish, so if you haven't already, you owe it to yourself to check it out.


Also, I'd love to see Giant Bomb do reviews or even quick look-type videos on flash games like this. I think it could make for some funny viewing whilst promoting games that deserve attention.
2 Comments
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