Every artist faces a point where they must decide where to take themselves artistically if they want to continue to grow in popularity. Frequently this means deciding between trucking forward with your integrity intact or “selling out” and conforming to the conventions that are popular at the time, and some bands handle this moment poorly and choose the option that goes against the spirit of their music’s original intent. But electro-pop fivesome Hot Chip have risen to the occasion for their fourth release One Life Stand, and approached the matter with a trajectory of growth that has culminated into a strong middle ground between artistic integrity and mass acceptance. It’s an offering that is sure to please new fans and regulars alike while only occasionally offending their purists.
Klei Entertainment’s Shank is an ultra-violent beat ‘em up about a man driven to vengeance after being betrayed by his own gang. It’s a tale that often feels one-part spaghetti Western and two-parts Tarantino/Rodriguez flick, and that is no coincidence considering they were core inspirations for the game’s style. The similarities don’t end there though, as the soundtrack sounds like it was written and performed by Robert Rodriguez himself. Like his work, it is constantly building by way of guitars of Spanish influence, and it sets a rhythm that is always motivating you to gut just one more bad(der) guy.
Each track of the album speaks for a segment of Shank’s story. Acoustic guitars lay the groundwork for the return of the titular character after his misfortune and suspense is somewhat erratically heightened by the sparse wails of an electric guitar. The pace of the drums subsequently quickens as new songs follow and emotional impact elevates dramatically with each confrontation. Whether playing the game or enjoying the music by itself, one can’t help but conceive notions of combating your own foes by any means necessary, and while this may not be the healthiest mentality it certainly is an invigorating one.
The pacing of the whole is seamless and if you sit alone listening to just this soundtrack, it seems to defy the necessity of an accompanying game or graphics. There is a rich tapestry of instruments and minute flourishes here that brings you alongside the protagonist even without a controller in your hands, and perhaps that’s what makes this soundtrack stand so well on its own. Even without the elements for which it was created, the music of Shank can tell a terribly intriguing story.
The best part comes last though; all 13 tracks are available entirely free at ShankGame.com thanks to a deal offered by the developers and the 3,000 Facebook fans who fulfilled their end of it. Each song can be downloaded individually or as part of a compilation file for ease, or even streamed straight off the site itself if you just want a sample. While you’re there I highly suggest you check out some of the fantastic artwork and game trailers as they do a great job of setting the mood even when you are not playing.
Literally my only complaint is that on their own, some of the songs can seem fairly similar, however in the context of the game it is not noticeable in the slightest. This is not only one of the best looking, most fun, and ludicrously violent games available today, it’s also accompanied by an excellent soundtrack that any fan of ambient, Western, or rock music should enjoy.
The Shank soundtrack is available now on the Playstation Network ($14.99) and Xbox Live Arcade (1200 points), and will allegedly be available “very soon” for the PC via Steam. – Score: 4/5
It’s hard to find good new music, and sometimes it’s harder yet to find tools to help you do that. Shuffler.fm is just such a service and it certainly accomplishes what it’s set out to do, and that is genuinely connect audiophiles to what matters most; the music. The main page greets you with a 6×3 grid of genres to choose from (that can be alternated for up to 108 options) and little else. Choose something and it will immediately take you to a random music blog and play a song mentioned on that blog in an unobtrusive bar on top of the page (from which you can pause and skip as well). Once it’s finished, you are automatically taken to the next song and website. So while you listen to something new, you also get a unique perspective on it from an independent source. It’s an experience whose authenticity cannot likely be matched elsewhere.
The song collection is superb and there are far more offerings from independent artists than otherwise. Unfortunately the blogs that accompany them is where Shuffler sometimes fails to deliver, and it’s not uncommon to be taken to one that has nothing to offer but a link to the track that is already playing for you. There are also a few sites that may contain questionable content or that are just plain eye sores and you may not appreciate being torn from what you’re reading if a song ends before you finish, but these complaints really are minor nuisances considering what the service has to offer.
Shuffler.fm is an extremely effective facility for real fans of new music and the culture that surrounds it. With a little more quality control on the blogs and some additional networking features, it might even become close enough to perfect. But as it stands, it’s already pretty close.
Socialize around your music identity with ThrillCall.com, which allows you to share your acoustic preferences and also offers a robust event finding and ticket selling service. Some of its best features include the ability to follow artists and view their upcoming events instantly each time you log in, as well as a map of nearby dining options placed conveniently below each venue’s info page. The interface is clean and intuitive and seamlessly transports the user from section to section with plenty of relevant links to take you back to band, venue, or event info pages on a whim.
There are minor technical issues that somewhat hamper the intuitive potential of ThrillCall including the lack of pricing or even ticket availability from prominently linked resources like TicketMaster.com, which consistently had them at almost half the competitor’s offerings. This also isn’t necessarily the best way to find out about shows with less established bands, although it might make finding tickets easier if that band does reside in their database. We were also asked if we would like to follow the upcoming events of three comedians who happen to be deceased, and for the record the answer is yes, we would like to see Bill Hicks, Mitch Hedberg, and George Carlin live please.
Ultimately though, the whole of the service is thorough, usable, and it offers great facilities, and with the right community ThrillCall.com could easily grow into a popular social media outlet that also happens to connect you to live events with your favorite artists.