Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Practical Piracy

So I was browsing the torrents for illicit reasons the other day and what appeared on the front page of the torrent site du jour, but a link to Pearl Jam's upcoming album "Backspacer". Now, before I proceed, allow me to state that I don't download music that I haven't paid for. That's not a value judgment or anything, I just don't do it. The simple fact is that I still prefer CD's over digital downloads due to my lack of an mp3 player in my car and if usually you can get a cd the week of release for about ten bucks. Ten bucks is not an exorbitant amount of money and seeing how I'd have to do some work to get mp3's on to my PC and then on to a disc, well I'll gladly pay the money to save myself the effort. Now, that's not to say that I haven't stolen music in the past. I mean, I'm not a monk. I went full-on, batshit, Napster crazy like everyone else did back in the day and I'm not against accepting cd copies of an album if someone wants me to hear something. For the most part though, if I hear something and like it, I'll buy it. I figure that if it's not worth buying, it's not worth cluttering up my iPod with it as I have plenty of albums on there I don't listen to. No sense putting another one on there if I don't think it's worth buying and if it is worth buying, I probably should.

For the record, I do download movies however if I like the movie I then go out and buy it. Not exactly 100% honest, I know as I'm still stiffing the studio on the rental revenues but at the same time, most of the movies I download I wouldn't pay to rent. Midnight Meat Train anyone?

Ok, right, back to Pearl Jam. So when I saw the link to the album I immediately got all excited, but not because I'd be able to listen to their album over a week before it came out, but more importantly, because this meant that I'd be able to hear the songs before I started singing them in Rock Band. See, "Backspacer" is going to be released for Rock Band on the same day that the album comes out and I'm not a big fan of singing songs that I'm not familiar with. I'll do it, but I always have a better time with the songs if I know them. So I downloaded it.

I'm not sure exactly how high on the geek spectrum it puts me but I'm thinking that stealing an album for the express purpose of being able to practice singing it in a video game makes you a rather huge geek. Ditto for using the word "rather" when you're not even remotely British.

I have every intention of buying the album when it comes out, and I plan on picking it up at Target so that I can score the download code for the Rock Band tracks. Simply put, it's a fucking awesome record. At a hair under 37 minutes I wouldn't call it short, I'd call it lean. It's just a really focused effort with some interesting sounds going on and one of the most uplifting yet dismally depressing ending songs in recent memory. It's an interesting reversal from the heavy, political tone of "Pearl Jam" which makes sense given the change in political climate since that record. I dare say it's almost a fun album which is not an adjective I'd use to describe most PJ records. If I had to pick a previous album that it's closest too, I'd have to go with "Yield". I loved the fuck out of that album, but I know that many don't, so don't let my comparisons turn you off of "Backspacer" if you're thinking of getting it. It really is a nice, tight album from a band that never ceases to amaze me. By the way, Matt Cameron is just great on this record. It's amazing how much better this band got when he joined.

Will the songs be fun to sing? Yeah, I think so. I mean, Eddie's vocals have always been impossible for me to replicate as he's just all over the place, but in a good way. He can go from growling to lilting in the space between the verse and chorus and I just can't do that. I mean, he's an actual singer and I'm a dude playing souped up Karoke in his basement, so that's to be expected, but hot damn if I don't wish that for just once I could break it off like Edward. I find that for some songs I have to try and imitate the singer in order to hit the pitch right. For the life of me, I don't know why that's true, but it is and while I'm sure it's not the greatest thing to listen to, it puts points on the board and I'm enjoying myself, so that's all that matters. Maybe that's what I have to do here. Try and do an Eddie impression and see where that takes me. Probably nowhere good, but it's worth a try.

So yeah, pick up "Backspacer" next week, legitimately, of course. I don't think you'll be disappointed unless you just don't like good music, in which case, piss off. With that said, enjoy "The Fixer" cause it's fucking awesome.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Layton Review

Here's my review for Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box. When I sent off the review, I specifically asked that the last two lines not be cut as they were money. They were cut, and not only cut, but, in my opinion, the cutting makes the last paragraph seem rushed. While I mind when shit gets edited, I recognize that it's my editor's decision to do so. Still, I really don't like it when shit gets edited to the detriment of the piece as I don't get a chance to make a change that makes it read better and then it just comes off that I don't know what I'm doing. Oh well. Perhaps I don't know what I'm doing. That's always a possibility too.

Oh, here's my Muramasa review if you're interested.

I dunno. Game reviewing just ain't the exciting, fun-filled trip it was before. I do like the money though, so I just gotta work through this funk, suck it up and get the job done.

Friday, September 04, 2009

The Burden of Quality Headphones

Hey! How are you? Great.

Feel like reading a review of Fossil Fighters for the DS? Well, here it is any way. Jerk.

I can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel. One more week of Abby in the feeding program and me on bus and hound the child to do his homework duty and then I'm back to my usual slacking, long lunch taking ways. How has Abby progressed you ask? Shitty! Well, maybe not shitty but I can tell you we're no where near where we'd thought we be which is a shame because, last I checked, we're still out two months of Linda's salary. Oy! Oh well, they tell us that after a few months of outpatient Abby will be eating like normal but they also told us that she'd only have to do the feeding program for four weeks. At this point, if they told me that the sun would rise tomorrow I would seriously, seriously doubt it.

But you don't want to hear about that do you? Of course not! You want to hear about my new headphones! Yes you do. Yes. You. Do.

So, several years ago, let's say like six, or maybe five, Linda bought me a fabulous pair of Sennheiser HD 270 headphones. They were, in a word, glorious. In fact, I would put them second on my list of all time best gifts that she has ever given me, with first place occupied by a two-way tie between my grill and my smoker. Any way, after years of shitty, ten buck headphones that lasted all of a month before crapping out in one ear, these things were a revelation. I heard parts of the music that I had never heard before. Plus, even though they weren't a proper pair of noise cancelling headphones, their closed design helped to block a lot of stuff out, which is essential in these difficult, cubicle dwelling times.

Unfortunately even high quality headphones have a finite lifespan and a few weeks ago mine crapped out in one ear. The higher end Sennheisers have the ability to swap out the cord that you use to plug them into their audio source, so I was hopeful that a cable replacement was all that was necessary, but alas, this was not the case. I took the blasted things apart to try and suss out the breakage but as I am not an engineer of any capacity, all I could do is stare at them meaningfully and try to will them back into proper working order. It did not work.

And so began the Great Headphone Hunt of '09. One would think that buying new headphones would be a simple process, but one would be wrong. For one thing, stores don't carry lots of headphones and your choices are even more limited when you're so called "electronics" stores are limited to Fry's and Best Buy. Oh sure, there are plenty of heaphones available online, but if you want to actually try them on, a key aspect of the headphone buying process, you're pretty much screwed.

My first pair was another pair of Sennheissers, this time the Sennheiser HD 202's. I figured that they should be ok, as the manufacturer was the same and they were cheapest on Amazon so this was a slam dunk. Not so much. I had read the reviews on Amazon, many of which mentioned how tiny the cans were, but I figured that these people must just be complaining as internet reviewers are so fond of doing. Yeah, not so much. These fucking things hurt. Sennheisers are, for the most part, built in Ireland and I can only imagine that these cans were meant for the faerie folk as they laid upon my ears, pressing them back into my head in a manner that was, shall we say, less than comfortable? Fuck it, the blasted things hurt. So, back they went, with my out the five bucks to ship them.

Next up were a pair of Panasonics that I bought from Fry's for 30 bucks. They certainly looked big enough, and they were, but by golly they sounded like deep fried shit. Flat and lifeless, these are the headphones of the damned, the aural equivalent of flavorless gelatin. I mean, I guess I shouldn't have expected much for thirty bucks, but where I come from, thirty bucks is still a decent chunk of change. They are currently boxed up with the receipt taped to it, awaiting their eventual return to Fry's where they can live out the rest of their dull days on the peg.

Third up was a pair of Sony extra bass headphones. I listened to these in Best Buy and they were comfortable enough, however the music that the display model used were bass heavy, which is to be expected, so they played to the strengths of the headphones but, unfortunately it also masked their problems, namely the inability to deal with non-bass heavy music. Unfortunately you don't know this until you get them home and plug them into your own music collection which is when I figured it out. To their credit, as I mentioned before, they are quite comfy. It's like wearing a leather couch on both ears. As most of my music is not bass heavy though, they did not fulfill their primary function, namely reproducing my music in a faithful manner, unless all of these years I just didn't notice the incessant buzzing. They were returned to Best Buy the next day.

So, finally I settled on a pair of Sennheiser HD 485's. I had no problem with the sound of the Sennheisers that I had returned and all of the reviews for these cans pointed out that they fit over the ear rather than smush your ear into your head so I was confident they'd fit properly. Even with the right cans picked out there was some ordering drama as Amazon had them in stock but felt they'd just hold on to them for like two weeks while Homer tooled around the warehouse on his magic forklift. Fuck that. had them in stock, shipped them in a day and did it with 2-day shipping for a total price of a buck less than what Amazon would ship it free. Thankfully the fourth time was the charm as these are some mighty nice headphones. They're comfortable and they sound great. There's a little more sound leakage than my last pair, which I'm not entirely thrilled about, but with my crappy hearing it's probably best that I keep them at a lower volume any way. I still think that my original Sennheisers sound better, but from what I understand they also cost quite a bit more, so that's to be expected. I did not want to pay that much as unless it's Transformers or video game accessories, I'm one incredibly cheap bastard so for what I did pay, I got my money's worth.

So there you have it kids. If you listen to your music with some crappy 15 buck Radio Shack headphones, or God help you, the iPod earbuds and are thinking of upgrading to some really nice headphones, don't. Once you have nice headphones, it's hard to go back and picking a new pair is a serious pain in the ass. Trust me.