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December 03, 2004 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2004-12-03

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December3, 2004

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Tegan and Sara refuse to be intimidated by the irons.
Twin Canadian pop
duo visits Magic Bag

By Jacob Nathan
Daily Arts Writer
Canadian twin songstresses Tegan
and Sara have made one of the most
finely produced and accessible pop
albums of the year. So Jealous is a roller-
coaster of an album; songs hurtle along
emotional rails at breakneck speeds.
With a stripped
down blend of
bass, drums and -'Tegan and
acoustic guitar, the Sara
songs are cozy and Tonight at 8 p.m.
warm.These are
songs ahout rejec-
tion, hope, doubt and uncertainty. Pri-
marily though, this album is about love
and relationships, which is exactly the
kind of album Tegan and Sara wanted
to make.
together since they were in high school,
have continued their tradition of singing
and performing uptempo acoustic pop.
Sara Quin said that they sidestepped
any political messages with this release.
"We haven't taken a political approach
lyrically ... but there's a quirkiness that
would attract a 20-something audience,"
she said. By keeping relationships as the
focus of the album, it is compulsively
listenable and endlessly relatable.
Tegan and Sara will showcase their
exciting brand of pop music and huge
emotional scope at the Magic Bag in
Ferndale, tonight at 8 p.m.
Recording this album was different
than recording IffIt Was You, Sara said,
because there was a build-up of confi-
dence from touring internationally. The
women recorded their own songs in
their respective bedrooms, eventually
paring down these "bedroom demos"
to make So Jealous. Sara describes her
move to Vancouver, B.C., as a signifi-
cant life change that had an influence on
her songs. The overall approach in mak-

ing the album was also different, as they
tried to make "more of a band record
that wasn't so focused on vocals ... a
little bit cohesive and more textured."
The comparisons to performers like
Ani DiFranco are endless, but Sara
correctly asserts that the kind of music
they are making is different. Accord-
ing to Sara, she and her sister have
been compared to "any woman who
has touched an acoustic guitar" and
they've been followed by the assump-
tion that, "If you're a woman with an
acoustic guitar you're going to be folk."
So Jealous is clearly not folk, and the
notion that it could be becomes unten-
ahle after listening to the power-pop
classic, "I Know I Know I Know."
Growing up in Canada, Tegan and
Sara were exposed to a wide array of
music by their young and forward-
thinking parents. Led Zeppelin and
David Bowie are among their parents'
favorite artists, but according to Sara,
The Talking Heads, and more specifi-
cally their subtle use of acoustic guitar
to underscore other instruments, has
had an impact on their approach to song-
writing. Songs like "Where Does the
Good Go" and "You Wouldn't Like Me"
showcase this style in ways that would
make David Byrne proud. Throughout
the '80s,bands like the Pixies, Dinosaur
Jr. and Violent Femmes were among
the girls' favorites. These musicians'
styles come through clearly on many
tracks, and shows that the diverse musi-
cal background of Tegan and Sara has
served their songwriting well.
Tegan and Sara have made a fan-
tastic album that belies both their age
and time in the business. The album is
masterfully produced and challenges
the listener in all the right ways. The
live shows are cut from the same cloth,
with the personality of the girls coming
through in ways it cannot on the album.
"Seeing us, we're better live because
there's more personality ... we're better
than our record."

Snake. Solid Snake.


By Adam Rottenberg
Daily Arts Editor
Is "Metal Gear Solid 3" a videogame or an
interactive movie? The videogame industry has
been increasingly bridging the gap between films
and games, but the "Metal Gear Solid" series has
always taken that relationship to the limits, with a
heavy emphasis on story and
style. "Metal Gear Solid 3:
Snake Eater" keeps the espio- Metal Gear
nage action of the first two Solid 3:
games while moving increas- Snake Eater
ingly toward that cinematic PS2
Fans miffed at the bait and Kaai
switch of "Metal Gear Solid
2" can rest assured that Solid Snake is indeed the
hero of this game (good riddance Raiden). Luck-
ily, "Metal Gear Solid 3" transplants gamers back
into Snake's origins as a young operative at the
height of the Cold War '60s. Snake's mission takes
him deep into the jungle - a vast departure from
the hi-tech compounds of the previous games -
and he encounters an unusual array of souped-up
enemies and helpful allies.
Though the setting has changed, the basic
gameplay mechanics remain. "Metal Gear Solid

3" still rewards stealth over open fire, but unlike
competitors like "Splinter Cell," itsis still possible
to be successful by just running and gunning. The
controls are a bit cumbersome when compared to
other stealth action games, but 'Metal Gear Solid"
veterans will feel right at home. Noticeably absent
this time around is a radar for visu-
alizing enemy motion - although
a sonar of sorts is available in a
limited capacity - making stealth
movement even harder.
Solid Snake's gadgetry might
make James Bond jealous, though
judging from the title sequence,
"Metal Gear Solid 3" seems to
be paying homage to 007. Yet the
'60s setting inhibits a lot of the ,
futuristic technology found in the
other games, especially in the titu-
lar assault weapon.
The game takes place years
before its predecessors, focus-
ing on Snake's beginnings and r
the origins of Metal Gear. The
plot plays out like a big-budget Hollywood
action flick complete with the requisite insane
stunts and gratuitous explosions. Gainers eager
to just play won't enjoy the video-heavy "Metal
Gear Solid 3." Players may watch as many as 20
straight minutes of movie at any given point in

the game. While this may be a turnoff in most
titles, it works in this series.
Besides the setting, the big change in "Snake
Eater" is the introductions of camouflage, food
(hunting) and curing ailments. Gainers can alter
Snake's camouflage, increasing his stealth. Addi-
tional uniforms and masks can be
found throughout the game, some
altering appearances beyond just
camouflage. Snake's stamina relies
upon constant eating. Food can be
found either in rations or by kill-
ing animals. Each animal tastes
different and the taste reflects its
ability to replenish stamina. And
as Snake is attacked, the gamer
must manually remove bullets,
disinfect and bandage the wound.
The new burden placed on the
player requires added awareness
and strategy in combat.
Few games can match "Metal
Gear Solid 3" in graphics, sound
or story. Solid Snake's epic fight
against communism may not be as revolutionary
as his first few missions were, but it still maintains
the scope and quality expected in the series. As
games strive to be considered on par with feature
films, "Metal Gear Solid 3" shows the next logical
step to fulfilling that destiny.

Jak 3' proves too
scattered for players
By Jason Roberts cally and also without pause, produc-
Daily Arts Editor ing a fully streamlined flow of events
that isn't often seen in games.
The vehicles in the game are cer-
tainly a welcome addition. Their
All in all, "Jak 3," the concluding controls - Jax and his companion
chapter in the epic saga of Jak and can now operate up to eight all-ter-
his Joe Pesci-sound-alike sidekick rain vehicles - are a joy to use, as
Daxter, is a complete and beautiful their maneuvering is tight and well-
universe of colorful characters and executed. The voice-acting by all of
a linear storyline the characters involved is also a treat;
made up of dis- the humorous banter that often comes
jointed parts. If Jak 3 with the expansive storyline is actu-
that sounds like PS2 ally that: humorous.
a contradiction, SCEA Gameplay is varied enough to
that's exactly how L CEA Jkeep gamers interested, though often
the game feels. frustrated as well. Newcomers to the
Despite its strong, likable cast and series are likely to find the missions
stunning art direction, "Jak 3" is too overly difficult and frustrating, not
fragmented to be a cohesive product only because of the objectives overall
in the end. complexity, but because of the way the
Despite this, "Jak 3" is an honest, game responds to a player's intended
well-produced game. One of the most actions. A platform-jumping example
striking aspects is that the developers early on, a mission taken directly out
have introduced a streaming system of UbiSoft's "Prince of Persia" title,
of gameplay that allows gamers to go demonstrates this. Unfortunately, the
from cut scenes to the playable envi- awkward controls of "Jak" don't hold
ronment without any pauses or load a candle to the fluidity and feel of
times. Saving is done so automati- "Persia." Technical faults aside, the

Avant-garde composer
mixes jazz and techno

My chocobo broke down. They gave me a loaner.

mission simply feels like it has been
handled before - and handled with
more expertise.
The incongruent story is also to
blame for the overall lack of cohe-
sion. The diverse missions provide
an entirely different feel, whether it's
flying a hang glider "Pilot Wings"
style off of the top of a mountain
or careening through the enormous
environments on an off-road buggy.
However, they rarely feel connected
to one another and, more important-

ly, to the overarching story.
"Jak 3" is in the state of a very dif-
ficult balancing act, one that can easi-
ly accelerate it to greatness or plunge
it into the obsolete. Fans of the series
will likely consume this extension
with ease, as not much has changed
since the last installment. Newbies,
however, should be warned: This title
has a Jekyll-and-Hyde persona that
could lead to one of the most reward-
ing gaming adventures orone of the
most frustrating.

By Lloyd Cargo
Daily Arts Writer
Music REVIEW *'*N
Some of the great composers of our
generation aren't conducting orchestras,
they're programming computers. No.
9's Joe Takayuki joins Kieran Hebden
(Fourtet), Richard D. James (Aphex
Twin), Michael Sandison and Marcus
Eoin (Boards of Canada) as the men
at the forefront of
electronica. What
separates them No.9
from any loner Micro Films
with a laptop and LocustMusic l
Warp aspirations is
their ability to craft
image-rich soundscapes that are both
original and fascinating. Takayuki's
own niche lies somewhere in between
acid-jazz and ambient glitch. His second
full-length, Micro Films, advances his
organic sound slowly from the country
into the city of Tokyo.
Micro Films begins leisurely with
"From Mushi-No-Ne," a headphone
masterpiece that blends left-right pan-
ning bleeps with crickets and the same
soothing Japanese phrase sampled
repeatedly until it fades into the next
track. The second track, "Impor-
tance of Detection," is a standout on
an album full of them. The layers of
female voices over mellow xylophone
and keyboard riffs make this the rare
electronic song that has the ability to
get stuck in your head.
"Get Gut" showcases Takayuki's
more acid-jazz side with an upright bass
riff over a glitchy beat reminiscent of

Aphex Twin. "Emotion of Four Guitar"
demonstrates Takayuki's instrumental
prowess with a six-string. The track
consists solely of four guitars that are
combined into an acoustic collage that
gradually builds pace climaxing into
"Then,,, Will Be Running." The track
serves as an extension of "Emotion of
Four Guitar," adding a loose beat and
mellow keyboards. "Then,,, Will Be
Running" is a perfect example of Taka-
yuki's ability to create something that's
more than the sum of its parts.
"And Laugh ..." is a fitting finale that
somewhat represents the whole album
in a song. The 16-minute opus begins
slowly with a piano line that eventually
fades into an acoustic guitar lick. The
beat kicks in around eight minutes, and
not too long after, a sax starts wail-
ing. By the time the track starts wind-
ing down with another keyboard line,
the trip from the countryside to Tokyo
and back feels complete. With Micro
Films, Takayuki has crafted a beauti-
ful journey that's more rewarding with
each listen.

Toad the Wet Sprocket live release marred by odd timing

By Andrew Horowitz
Daily Arts Writer
Music R EV1 EW * *
In 1991, Fear propelled Santa Barbara's Toad the Wet
Sprocket to the height of fame. The melodic pop of "All
I Want" and "Walk on the Ocean"
combined to make the album a
bestseller and radio favorite. A few Toad the Wet
years later, the group released Dul- Sprocket
cinea, followed by In Light Syrup, Welcome
a collection of rarities and B-sides. Home: Live
Toad's final LP came in 1997, and C
the group disbanded shortly after- Calumtia
wards. P.S. came in 1999, a great-
est hits collection spanning the group's entire recorded
output. Such would be their story, except now, like
many bands before, Toad have released a posthumous

live album from the vaults of Columbia Records.
The timing seems somewhat appropriate. The voice
of Toad, Glen Phillips, established himself as a skillful
songwriter on 2001's sweet Abulum and 2003's Live at
Largo. More recently, he joined forces with bluegrass
group Nickel Creek to form the well-received Mutual
Admiration Society. The rest of Toad, together in a
band called Lapdog, reunited with Phillips in 2003 on
a Toad the Wet Sprocket reunion tour. The tour spurred
renewed interest in the '90s band and left marketers
with a window to present a live album.
Recorded at the height of their popularity, Welcome
Home: Live captures 1992's Toad the Wet Sprocket play-
ing Santa Barbara's Arlington Theater. Present are most
of Toad's staples and Philips's pleading voice. Guitarist
Todd Nichols produces crisp guitar leads that comple-
ment Dean Dinning's folkish bass lines and Randy
Guss's simplistic Americana drumming. The dead-on
backup vocals that helped define the band's friendly

sound are impressive. But like too many live recordings,
the album adds nothing new to the band's legacy.
"Hold Her Down" captures Toad's mix of pop
and country charm with a hint of punk. The assertive
admonition of rape, however, seems somewhat lighter
when put into a concert setting. "Brother" is a little
easier to swallow, a sweet love song imbedded deep
with admiration. The hits "All I Want," "Fall Down"
and "Walk on the Ocean" are each well-represented
in lively versions that reiterate the allure of Toad the
Wet Sprocket.
However, Welcome Home: Live doesn't add any-
thing that hasn't been heard. The album comes across
as a distant memory of what was. If released a decade
ago, perhaps there'd be reason to celebrate. But times
have changed, and what was once fresh has become
yesterday's news. For those wanting to reminisce, take
a listen, but for the rest, Welcome Home: Live is better
left forgotten.

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