I could hug Harmonix. They have lived up to their original promise to providing a large, ever-expanding and varied collection of tracks on Rock Band with the kind of fervour that I think even fans have been surprised by. Apart from a couple of odd cases (Lego Rock Band and Beatles: Rock Band - the former puzzling, the latter due to brand management insistence that The Beatles should be revered as gods and can’t be seen mixing with peasants) Harmonix have avoided fragmenting the content available as much as possible and the result is a lot of people who have no reason to buy another music game; in fact there’s a positive incentive not to.
It was about 10pm last night and I figured I’d just do half an hour’s practice on the guitar as I often do. I often use headphones to avoid causing undue annoyance to the neighbourhood, and like a lot of music equipment my Pod has a 1/4″ headphone socket, despite the fact that most regular headphones use a 1/8″ mini-jack, so I use a converter that came with the headphones (Sony in this case), pictured below.
Oh hell yes. Finally, one of the best British classic rock bands that was sorely missing from Rock Band makes an appearance on 20th October, and how: Another One Bites The Dust Crazy Little Thing Called Love One Vision Fat Bottomed Girls I Want It All I Want To Break Free Killer Queen Somebody To Love Tie Your Mother Down Under Pressure Now, I could lament the absence of Don’t Stop Me Now, and Princes of the Universe which I would have loved, but really that would be being petulant because this list is pure class.
When Harmonix responded to GHWT’s user-created content feature by saying they wanted to hold off until they could do it properly, they definitely weren’t kidding. Today they announced the Rock Band Network, which will be online later this year (on 360 only for the moment, because it seems they’re piggy-backing on the XNA Creator’s Club to handle the submission and billing). Rather than provide an in-game sequencer using samples like GHWT does, with RBN bands use their original master tracks, recorded using their usual software but presumably still split into the appropriate tracks, and gives them a set of tools (for PC I assume) to add the MIDI notes which will be translated into the instrument charts.
Guitar Hero and Rock Band have been derided by some, with extensive cries of ’learn a real instrument!’; however it’s my experience that by making simulated instrument playing more accessible to the masses, these games are responsible for many taking up an instrument for the first time, or reconnecting with a previously abandoned musical hobby. It’s the latter for me - I was heavily involved in music throughout my school days, until an overly pushy music teacher sucked all the joy out of it (what, you have a free evening / weekend that you’re not playing music in?
Ok, this is very, very bizarre. Having bought tickets for the last 2 years, I got an email letting me know that the local summer-time comedy festival was returning this year, so I went to take a look at the lineup. The stand-up lineup looks pretty good, I recognise a couple of the names, and in any case it’s good to see people you haven’t come across before. But, the main thing that gave me a “WTF?
Like many of my friends in the UK, I’m a Pandora-mourner. The great thing about Pandora was the great range of music, the unobtrusiveness of the client, and the robustness of the stream - all issues that Last.fm significantly under-delivers on in comparison. Not only is Last.fm’s interface not as pleasant, any time I’d stress my machine (such as hitting all the cores at once with a major batch build), I’d get streaming hiccups.
Microsoft Songsmith is a research project that generates accompanying music to a singer’s voice (and optionally instruments), presumably using the same approach a chromatic tuner uses to identify notes. Some genius decided to feed Radiohead’s classic song “Creep” into it, to see what it would do. This is the simultaneously horrifying and incredibly funny result: Jump to 1:55 for the ultimate effect. Oh, the humanity. Edit: click here for more musical attrocities.
Rock Band has come through again for introducing me to music I might not have otherwise have come across; this week’s DLC included ‘Typical’ by Mute Math: It’s a great track, and I’m definitely buying it - the drum chart in particular is really interesting, very Reni-like. The video was deservedly nominated for a Grammy, but I totally missed it at the time and I don’t remember hearing it on the radio.
I read in the news today that Motown is 50 years old this week. They have plenty to celebrate, being (of course) the label that launched Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson and Marvin Gaye. It was also the spiritual centre of the soul & funk movement in the 60’s and 70’s (as well as having a political civil rights angle), that produced so many classics that I remember hearing a lot while I was growing up - even though that was at the tail-end of the golden years.