Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Grand Theft Auto IV review


Last night was finally one of those videogame sacred moments you usually don't feel except during christmas time, this time with the release of GTA IV at midnight. After a really long night that seemed like 5 minutes instead of 5 hours with all the fun playing the game here's my final verdict...

Cool things aboug GTA IV:
  • The graphics are amazing! (even on my lame old non HD tv)
  • The usually fun elements are all there! (running over people, shooting everyone, etc...)
  • NEW ONLINE MODE IS AWESOME! (I just can't emphasize enough how much fun it is too kill in dozens of creative ways your friends,. pinning them to a wall with a truck, blowing them up with a bazooka,. etc...)
  • Liberty city is bigger and more realistic than ever (There's even a Statue of liberty you can shoot at from your helicopter, which is holding a paper cup instead of the torch, lol)
  • GTA TV programming. (this is actually better than real world TV! wtf!?! I'm specially hooked on to Republican Space Savers,. a hilarious cartoon that mocks USA wars in a Halo meets the trailer park boys show! brilliant!)
Not so cool stuff:
  • Some missions feel like "the sims", what's up with taking your date bowling,. we want action!
There's other stuff I haven't decided yet if it's awesome or sucks, like the celphone. I was first thinking it was kind of a usless part of the interface, but it's starting to grow on me.

I totally recommend to everyone this game, even if you have never played the other ones, you'll understand instantly what the fuzz is all about.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Flight of the Conchords new album!


The 4th best folk duo from New Zeland, Flight of the Conchords, released this week a new album featuring some of the best tracks from season 1 of their tv show. Once again this is another great product from this genius comedian music duo that I totally recommend for everyone!

If you are a hardcore fan like me you'll enjoy the new album cause it features new re-recorded studio versions (and slightly different lyrics in some cases) of the songs we all love, and if you are not a fan then you'll have a really nice surprise while discovering these super funny master pieces.

The new production sounds great and I specially loved the way that "Bowie" (a fun tribute song about how life in space would be for David Bowie) and "Ladies of the World" (a gimmick at seductive music) sound, with some different audio effects for Jemaine's bowie style voice and different outro for both of them. Bowie's new outro was already shown in the credits of the TV episode where they featured the song and was heard in the acoustic live version but it sounds great now that they "stick them" together (it's a hilarious crazy outro that sounds like Bowie's "Let's dance"). I don't know if its just me, or they tuned down a little bit their Kiwi accents (specially "Brit", lol) and now all the songs lyrics sound at least to me more easy to understand.

The song "Robots" (a 60s sci-fi futuristic tale set in the year 2000 where robots rule the world), perhaps their most recognized hit, presents it's 5th version (2 radio versions, 1 live, and the tv show version being the 4th previous ones). I have to admit that I wasn't completely satisfied by this new version, probably because the radio and dvd version have already grown so strong inside my head that is hard to hear a different production with retro videogame synth keyboards, but it's totally forgivable. It is also forgivable that they didn't included a lot of other hits like "Frodo" and "Albi the racist dragon" and specially "Who likes to Rock the Party?", although in the case of the first one they probably would face some copyright infringements from using the lord of the rings characters and movie lines in the super funny song. Anyway this is a must have for everyone who likes to laugh. I can't wait for some new material (when is the second season coming?), hopefully our friend Michel will record some live video if new songs are featured in the upcoming San Francisco live show.

Blind Melon: For My Friends

I was really surprised to hear that a new Blind Melon album was being released this month. I though that as usual the surviving members would try to exploit once more Shannon Hoon's geniality and release another live, greatest hits, or bsides and rare tracks compilation. Little did I realize that this time the guys tried to squeeze the juice out of Blind Melon way beyond their usual greediness.

The new album has a set of totally new songs with a new singer, some guy called Travis Warren, which although states in several interviews that wants to experiment new things, just sticks to trying to emulate Shannon's voice as close as possible. It is really painful to hear this album, it reminds you of how much the world lost with Shannon's dead and how tribute cover bands should be banned all over the world. I guess they where motivated by similar attempts from bands like Alice in Chains and Queen to try to come back with a new singer and exploiting fan's innocent devotion to their legendary names. But can't you understand that somethings should never come back cause they just ruin all the fun that the original real thing was?

The album is so bad that I couldn't even enjoy it if they had shown a little more sense and released this as a totally new band or some superband line up ala Velvet Revolver. I just hope I'm able to warn as many people as possible of doing the same mistake I did of giving them a shot. Legendary bands should be left in their god-like status for the posterity of the human race.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

De Novo Dahl

Is not common for me to listen to "happy" music (mostly because most happy music out there is kind of stupid, not as complex as the music that depressive introspective artists like Radiohead, Nirvana or Portishead create) but lately I have been hooked up to a new band called De Novo Dahl that has a very interesting sound and I dare to say, just released the best new album I have heard in all 2008 so far, "Move Every Muscle, Make Every Sound".

Some people say they sound like The Flaming Lips or Super Furry Animals but I think they have a very unique fresh sound of their own. I first heard this band last year when they where opening for Hot Hot Heat at Vancouver's Commodore and I think they stole the show. Their concept of retro "chessy" coordinated suits works really well, it is nice to see a band that actually puts some effort into the visual aspect for a change. The mix of male and female voices in every song between the parts that Joel J. Dahl and Serai Zaffiro sing is done really cool, they absolutely complete each other. Serai voice changes a lot from song to song, sometimes just doing disco type back vocals, sometimes kind of shouting back vocals and sometimes doing more lead like parts. The songs have a really rich sound, is not like those bands that you listen to one song and you already know how the whole set will be like, they add interesting elements to every song.

My favorite songs are Be Your Man, Wishful Thinking, Subject of the Kill, Sky is Falling, Heartbreaker and Shout (although I loved all the songs). If I remember correctly I think they started the set with Be Your Man, which sounds awesome on the studio version. This is a very high energy song that, I have to admit, reminds me of the Super Furry Animals, but was an excellent pick for the live set since everybody started dancing like crazy. Wishful Thinking is a little less rocker and more pop, but this is not a bad thing, they create a really melancholic atmosphere in this song with the synths (played by Moose Hungate) and Serai's voice which is like an angel singing thanks to the studio magic. Subject of the Kill has a killer bass line played by Keith Lowen. Sky is Falling is another one I can remember from the live set, and I think the best way to describe it is like the pipettes on drugs, they even had a little coordinated dance moves during the sticky chorus where there's a little bit of silence gaps between each word they sing("this-is-such-a-complicated-si-tu-a-tion!). Finally Shout and Heartbreaker are the songs with which the album begins and the ones that represent the Novo Dahl concept the best. Shout is an excellent pick as first single. I think Heartbreaker is a newer song cause I don't remember that one from the live set and when I first heard it in the album I was a shocked of how good it is and I think should be picked as the second single definitely.

My only two complains are the name of the band and the first video. The name is so hard to pick up, not only is really hard to remember it but it's also hard to pronounce, damn it, I don't even know if I am saying it correctly, let alone I don't even know what it means (although I assume the lead vocal is a little self centered and loves his last name so he called the band, the new Dahl in some weird language or something). I guess I'm lucky to have a good memory else I wouldn't have followed up these guys who try to make it hard for people to be fans! lol. The video I have to admit that I have only watched the preview available on itunes, but it looks kind of amateurish for their level of quality, and specially since they seem to take a long time to plan the visual aspect of the band.

I hope De Novo Dahl popularity grows, it is refreshing to see good original bands and it would be great if all their hard effort into having a strong concept gets compensated with the perks of the music industry, fame and fortune :P

Friday, April 18, 2008

Macross Frontier episode 1 and 2

The Macross saga returns with a new series called Macross Frontier. For all of those not familiar with Macross from the 80s, it is one of the most influential Anime's of all times, it is the story of how humans in the future advance technologically when they find a super dimetional alien fortress that crashes in planet earth and later get involved in a war against a race of giant aliens called the Zentraedi, which they win barely thanks to the cultural shock of aliens discovering the pleasure of music in Min May's voice. The sequels follow more or less the formula of the first one, intergalactic battles, love triangles between the main characters and some really awesome singer that influences the wars with her song's.

Episode 1 starts with the story of how after the wars against the Zentraedi humanity is expanding across the universe and a colonization mission light years away from earth is "Frontier".

The main characters are presented and seem to be very similar to the ones in the first series:
Alto, a cool guy that is a pilot wannabe; Sheryl, a very famous futuristic singer; Ranka, a cute waitress that is Sheryl's fan. Sheryl performs a concert where Alto is part of the act by using some kind of flying suit that helps him do aeroacrobatics. Ranka is part of the audience and Alto tries to impress her causing an accident that almost interrupts Sheryl concert. In the meantime there's a battle in space outside Frontier against some strange robotic aliens. The alien foes break throught the army's hold and enter the city. The concert is stopped by an emergency transmission informing that everybody should hide and during the commotion Ranka is in danger by the attack of one of the aliens, a soldier in a VF-25 robot armor tries to defend her but is killed and Alto jumps into the VF-25 to defend Ranka.

The second episode takes where the first one ends and Alto tries to destroy Rankas attacker without success. Luckily, Ranka's brother who is another VF pilot is close and comes to help. He fires some heavy missiles to the alien causing him to get distracted, while Alto takes Ranka away to get her safe. The attack continues and causes Alto to increase altitude to get to away from all the shooting, but his VF-25 arm is severed, the one where he was holding Ranka, and he has to rush to try to save her, he opens the cockpit and jumps out to grab her as he is still wearing his flying suit. He barely makes it back on time since they where in the edge of the stratosphere entering outer space zero gravity. Alto finally places Ranka on a safe spot and runs away.

After all the aliens mysteriously retract everything goes back to normal, and Ranka keeps daydreaming about his savior while Alto is in school taking classes as if nothing ever happened. The military abducts Alto to force him to join their forces but Ranka's brother interrupts them and takes him to his mercenary base to explain to him that the guy that was killed in the battle and which VF-25 Alto used was part of his team. Suddenly a new battle starts and the mercenaries fly away to defend again. In the meantime Sheryl posing as a regular girl is looking all over the city for Alto since she seems to have fallen in love with hime just like Ranka during her concert's accident where he saved her. Sheryl seems to be very spoiled since she doesn't even know how to find an address on her own. She runs into Ranka and asks her for help. When Ranka finally takes her to the military base where Sheryl was going to look for information on Alto's wherabouts Sheryl reveals her true personalty to Ranka and starts singing. Alto is attracted by her voice and finds both of them and before anybody can say a thing an alien from the new battle that just started is quickly flying their way without warning. This is the end of episode 2!

So far this has been an excellent Anime. I feel they are ripping off a little too much from the original one (which feels weird after the instance of Macross, Macross Zero was a totally different story from all we have seen before), but I have faith that the story will take a life of it's own starting from the next episode (it was specially obvious how much they take elements from the first one when they did a scene by scene reproduction of the VF mid air open cockpit saving of Ranka/Min May). The opening song is out of this world, I really like it, and the music during the episodes is fantastic as well, another great job from Yoko Kanno. Last but not least this is one of the first Anime's where I don't feel the CGI forced, it blends very naturally into the traditional 2d scenes and it makes the fighting scenes look amazing.