Five Albums You Should Download (Legally)

Everything that can be copied freely, will. And for some of the better stuff, it’s even legal. For instance: Five free albums you should download:

AmpLive‘s album “Rainydayz
Freely at:
I apparently missed the fan outcry that surrounded this album (you can read about it on the link,) but whatever process it took to get it hosted freely on the net, then I’m glad it happened. The remix of Radiohead’s In Rainbows, with four of the seven songs featuring hip-hop vocals, could have been horrendously bad, but AmpLive never approaches that territory, and instead keeps is surprisingly fresh all throughout. There are a few effects such as ‘stuttering drums’ that you just really don’t associate with Radiohead, but you can only smirk at them, given how great the album is as a whole. Normally when a rock album is remixed by a DJ, it becomes “a rap album with rock samples and the original singer is nowhere to be found.” And to that we all typically roll our eyes, right? Right. Well, of the seven tracks on the album, four have other artists’ vocals, three don’t. Of those seven albums, Thom Yorke is noticeably sampled on six of them. Of those six, he’s the sole voice on three, and heavily featured on another. If rock albums are to ever be remixed with rappers over then, then AmpLive has just written the blueprint on how to do it. The rappers, singers, and music aren’t card board cut-outs to be glued where he sees fit, but instruments in themselves to be guided by his turntable, mixing board, and creativity, to create on cohesive song.
Best tracks: 2, 4, 7, 8

NIN‘s album “The Slip
Freely here:
The Slip is Trent Reznor’s first full album since he told his record label ‘fuck off’, and decided he wanted to do things ‘his way’. As such, he gives the exemplary NIN experience: a story within an album that reeks of personal complication and near-futile struggle, only, this is different. If The Downward Spiral was the story of a person coming apart and failing, and The Fragile was an attempted rebuilding that ended in failure and realization at the fragility of the attempt, then The Slip is the realization that it’s not strength and overpowering that gains freedom, but simply agility and speed to keep other’s hands off of you; slipping away. And that’s exactly what Reznor did when he finally got out of his contract, and with that new found freedom, this album slips into a more comfortable pair of shoes as he realizes that the opposite of the pain previously felt isn’t happiness, but absence of feeling. And it (seems to) show that he’s come to realize his role in all of this, ending strongly on Demon Seed. And it’s a comfortable one too, as it plays almost like a greatest hits album that you’ve never heard before.
Best songs: 2 (though the vocal echo is a tad annoying,) 3 (noisecore, but it grew on me,) 5, 7 (Ahhh Clara, forever with us, forever not.)

100 dBs‘s album “Aphex Twin Mashups
Freely at:
DJ 100dBs (one hundred decibels,) mixes a work of techno-rap genius. Discontent that his every-day average hip-hop-head friends can’t appreciate finer techno works of Aphex Twin, he takes to task of mixing Richard James with lyrics that we all know well (assuming you’re into hiphop.) The result isn’t a molesting of Aphex, as some may imagine, but instead hip-hop that belongs on the soundtrack for The Fifth Element, or an equally hip futuristic film. Also, he has tons of other mixes for free here:
Best songs: 2, 6, 8, 10

Harvey Danger‘s album Little by Little…
Freely at:
Before it was cool to do so, Harvey Danger knew that giving away their album for free would not ‘make them worthless,’ but in actually ‘get them more fans’. Seems kinda obvious now, huh? But after a few years of hiatus they were back at it in 2005 and in September they gave away Little by Little (even though a physical copy was on the shelf.) The result? According to the Wiki: “Within two months of release, the album had been downloaded 100,000 times, while the first pressing of physical copies (packaged with a disc of bonus material) had nearly sold out.”

And amazingly, if you’re the kind of person who actually read blogs, like this, I think you’ll agree that it’s really stood the test of time.
Best songs: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.

DJ Z-Trip & Radar‘s album Live at the Future Primitive Sound Session Vol. 2
Freely (DIRECTLY) at:
From the first time I heard DJ Z-Trip I’ve been unable to pick my jaw up– No, wait, that’s not true. Not unable. UNWILLING. If history says nothing else about Z-Trip, it should be “He is the man with the golden ear.” Given any two sounds, I’ve no doubt he could figure out the way to optimally fit them together like an audial jigsaw puzzle that when completes shows a sonic picture of pure kickass. Now, this isn’t to slight Radar. DJ Radar is the turntablist who created sheet music for turntables. Yes, sheet music. He has since produced “Concerto for Turntable,” which he performed (along with an orchestra) at Carnegie Hall.

But this recording was done live, and as the liner notes say (something to the effect of (mine’s in a closet):) “Two men, five turn tables, and forty years of music.”

This is the album you want to own. Well, this and DJ Z-Trip and DJ P’s Uneasy Listening, which can also be found on DJ Z-Trip’s download page here:
Along with a remix of Mamma Said Knock You Out, Prince’s Kiss (with Murs,) Murs’ Beginning of the End Remix/Sampler, and tons more. Seriously. They’re good. They’re god damn good. They’re that good, and they’re free. And you should download them all.


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Urban Dead: The MMO I love.

Despite all of my problems with them, I’ve found one. Oh Urban Dead, how I love thee!

The zombie apocalypse has come to the city of Malton, and right now ~40000 players are waging war against each other to end it, one way or the other. Here, let me give you the quick rundown of the free browser-based game.

Players accrue one action point(AP) every half hour, capping at 50. Survivors use these points to move across the city, search for items, attack zombies, and barricade buildings. Zombies attack barricades, smash buildings, and attack survivors. Seems simple enough, doesn’t it? It’s all done with a web interface an minimal graphics (though there is a Firefox graphical addon.) Different actions cost varying amounts of AP, and when you run out you collapse, so it’s important to make sure you always have enough to get back inside a building.

You level up every 100xp, and then turn around and use those points as currency to buy abilities, human or zombie.

Guilds, you ask? Well, groups are completely unnecessary for a casual player, but for me they play a large role in UD and that’s what I’m loving about it the most. I’m playing with a group of people who all jumped in at once and are starting to get pretty organized. Over a hundred members of a forum I frequent jumped in at once as Survivors, and some of the scarier zombie groups took notice and wished us luck, so that really makes the chest swell with pride. (Also, it worries us that we’ll be targeted and made an example of, while we’re still all at low levels.) We’ve made our forums password-protected to keep spies at bay, and closed admissions to ‘unknown persons’, but things are shaping up nicely.

Yes, there are spies out there, and that’s why the players are truly the highlight of this game. Aside from the gang at Evil Avatar that I’ve joined, there’s the Channel 4 News Team to consider. I mean, Ron Burgundy isn’t going to take a zombie apocalypse lying down. Hell, he wouldn’t even take the regular apocalypse lying down, unless he were on horse tranquilizers. Also, you’ve got the Drama Club showing us all what true professionals they are, keeping the classics alive in the face of undeath.

Urban Dead isn’t exactly passive gaming, as it requires about five minutes (tops) of interaction on the part of the player, but keeping coordinated with your group and planning that move can easily take half an hour if you’re serious about it. If you can spare the time, I highly recommend joining up with pals (or mine, or another group,) and help take back Malton!


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Massively Effective Storytelling

So, I beat Mass Effect yesterday. I think it’s important to note that I’m someone who has to check every nook and cranny, making sure that I have every weapon and item around. This game almost fucking killed me in that respect with its shitty item menus and rules. BioWare, rap the knuckles of your GUI designer (and/or the guy who did the item design,) hard, so they’ll understand the pain of my fingers after having to delete hundreds of items. But the meat is, of course, the story and player interaction with it.

I’m NOT saying it’s a bad game! In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed it! I thought the story they told was very well done, if reminiscent of the Fifth Element. I think many of the sidequests had wonderfully memorable characters in their motivations, mannerisms, script, and voice acting. I can only imagine the poor bastard that pulled his hair out making sure all the actors got their lines right. (He should buy some Propecia from Morlan’s famous shop! (I found his nervous confusion one of the most insanely genius bits of voice acting in the game for some reason. Probably particularly because of his race’s traits.)) But now that I’ve sucked up for a paragraph, what I AM saying is that the five points of conversation didn’t feel like they were utilized to their full extent.

Actually, there were two complaints. First is a very minor complaint, that there were some choices that I felt didn’t reflect the spirit of what the actual dialogue ended up being. It’s no big deal as, in retrospect I understood where they were going with the choice, but I wasn’t always sure what was going to be said. I would’ve liked to have seen everything I would’ve said in each reply choice.

Secondly, and most importantly, the ‘extra good’ choices (and I assume the ‘extra bad’, as I just restarted to play that tree,) only served to get free stuff or cement your opinions over others, meaning I use it every time it pops up, otherwise I choose ‘normal good’. This pretty much only makes two of the choices relevant. I chose a ‘negative’ choice, literally, less than half a dozen times (because they were too funny to pass up,) and the middle choice even less!

I’d like to see them tackle their next game differently, rather than good/bad plotlines. I’d much prefer to see them offer different character traits to coat your positive or negative responses with. I’m still imagining a system similar to what they have, but pared down to mostly either positive/negative responses with the player choosing his attitude in the delivery. Give the player the ability to say things stoically, comically, menacingly, politely, or earnestly (between the prior two.) It’d even be mappable to the same wheel they used, just have each area represent the demeanor, and two different buttons (A/B, or left/right bumper) stand for the positive or negative response. You can still get the good/evil bit, but you get more control of the character’s… Character, I guess, as well.

Sure I just raised their work only by… Well, five orders of magnitude… But this is my blog and I can make up crazy shit if I want. Hell, I’d be happy with threat, polite, and earnest, raising it by only one order of magnitude.

Other small things about ME:

The ability to actually alter the narrative of the game is exactly where I want to see games evolve in their future. One day we’ll reach a point where commercial games take all actions into effect, not just those it prompts the player with. Like Facade, only with a big budget… And probably guns.

Skipping through conversations I’ve already read is a horrible pain, as I’d inevitably click a conversation choice I didn’t want when trying to skip exposition.

While I wouldn’t have minded it if there was no voice acting, it was done phenomenally well. Also done well? Their focus on good filter use over polygons. I can ever forgive the pop-up because most of it looked so good. I was even able to watch my brother play often, as it was a pleasure to watch.

Williams’ incessant racism was crazy. Unfortunately, her being so damn good with a gun made me keep her around anyway. *sigh* Women. There’s always something.

Gaming's future

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