Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Discovering Musical Treasure In A Video Game

Posted By on Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 11:33 AM

Score! No, not in the sports sense but rather in a musical one.

Have you ever been cruising through life, a song has come on that has immediately resonated with you? You may not have heard of the band, or artist, but the song is compelling and seems to settle in, gets your foot tapping and goes from being merely background material to something that has your undivided attention.

OK, now link the term ‘score’ to both meanings: athletics and music and we get to the heart of this issue.

Several years ago, while playing Sony Computer Entertainment America’s MLB ’08, one of the songs made that transition from background sound to "Hey ... who are these guys?" status. The group was No More Kings and the song was “Sweep the Leg.” The song sported a great beat, had clever lyrics and invited research … which lead to the purchase of the album.

No More Kings, as it turns out, likes to take pop culture, twist it around a bit in a fun way and then present it musically. “Sweep the Leg” may have the original Karate Kid as source material, but there are references to other movies, too. The band’s 2007 album also features songs like “Michael (Jump In),” which pokes fun at Knight Rider, and the name of the band comes from an episode of “Schoolhouse Rock!”

Fast forward a couple of years to the SCEA release of MLB 10 (and EA Sports is also a great source when it comes to indie bands featured in their game soundtracks), and another song that became a favorite: “I Know What I Am” by Band of Skulls, a garage-rock band from of Southampton, England. The song was again, hardly fit within the context of baseball, but a nice find, nonetheless.

We all have songs we have aurally collected throughout the years, but if you are wondering what brought this up, the answer is simple. On Tuesday, Activision released the latest title in their Guitar Hero franchise: “Warriors of Rock.” The song, “I Know What I Am,” is one of the featured tracks. Overall, it is a pretty darn good lineup of songs.

Later this month, developer Harmonix and MTV Games will release Rock Band 3, which will substantially move the genre forward. RB3 is not merely a music match game, but will actually crossover into teaching players how to accurately mimic playing songs on real instruments, will feature three-part harmonies and introduce the keyboard to the mix of instruments.

And there is another point to this: If you happen to stop by a music venue and find a band you have not heard of, don’t dismiss the notion of dropping in and having a listen. Musical inspiration is not limited to popular artists on major labels. Those indie groups you have never heard of can surprise you and maybe even have you scouring used-music bins in search of albums.

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