The Five Best Songs About Donkey Kong

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On this day in 1981, the video-game juggernaut that was Donkey Kong first saw release. It was a game that broke new ground and keeps finding an audience today. It was the first game to feature Mario (who, by the by, was cast as an abusive pet owner seeking to re-capture his poor gorilla), the first arcade game to use cut scenes to tell a story, and the title that launched Nintendo as the force that would pull the entire video-game industry back from the brink.

As for me...I will always remember being a kid and a Nintendo Power subscriber who was one of the lucky ones to receive a VHS tape full of footage from Donkey Kong Country addressed to me in the mail. That's what we had before YouTube, kids, and I have never felt more like a VIP before or since. It's still one of my Top 10 games of all time.

Donkey Kong has also made an impact on the world of music, and today we salute that impact with five songs.


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The Five Best Reasons to Use SoundCloud

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As streaming services grow to be the norm and more and more people turn to YouTube, Spotify, Bandcamp and SoundCloud for their music listening experiences, it might seem overwhelming to bands trying to maintain an online presence. Do you have to use them all? Should you focus more attention on one over another? Which one is even best for your particular brand?

We here at Rocks Off don't particularly have a preference; we'll seek out music wherever we can find it. However, we've been thinking lately that for some bands, SoundCloud might be the best service of any for a variety of reasons.

It's not that we're in SoundCloud's pocket for any reason, but that site offers a few key advantages that might make it more ideal for your band, depending on what you do and what you're looking for.


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Amazon's Funniest One-Star Classic Album Reviews

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Photo by Nathan Rupert via Flickr
As a music writer, it can be beneficial to seek out other music reviews to see what people are thinking, aficionados and trolls alike. Let's look at Amazon, a popular site where I admit I've spent a bit of money and time. You can find anything here, down to your most basic grocery-shopping needs.

As with all other comment sections, really, Amazon's consumer reviews can be deafening. These critics have opinions that they absolutely have to defend, or else they just want attention. Others just get really excited sharing their naysaying opinions, and sites like Amazon provide a wide audience. Today we thought we'd help widen some of these reviewers' audiences (hopefully alongside our own) with a top-notch, annotated selection of Amazon's one-star album reviewers.


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Visionary Old Man Neil Young's New Trick: Pono

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Rolling Stone once described Neil Young in its "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" issue as a "restless experimenter... who transform[s] the most obvious music into something revelatory."

Admittedly, I don't know much of Neil Young's musical catalog, and there's something about that high-pitched voice...but wait, before you all start throwing tomatoes, lyrically he transforms obvious ideas into songs that can feel revelatory. I've also noticed that he uses his money and fame beyond the music world as an inventor, often tackling ideas such as electric cars and the battle with music piracy.

He was behind the creation of a luxury-series hybrid electric car powered by biomass, and most recently has been putting his clout behind Pono, the digital-to-analog music service he's set to introduce this week at SXSW in Austin.


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An Indiscriminate List of Top Bandcamp Downloads

Categories: Digitalia

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Creative Commons
Anything with a copyright date of 1922 or earlier legally has no owner and is in the public domain. If you're a musician, cover that song. If you're a paid blogger, plaster that picture wherever you'd like in your work. For the most part, that is. This is something we bloggers have to work with here.

That being said, all sound recordings in the United States are said to be under copyright protection until February 15, 2067, small print aside. So, completely royalty-free music does not exist in the United States right now. Songs either have to be attributed and paid for, or just covered and properly distributed, etc.

If a song has a copyright date of before 1922, it can be covered then distributed at your own free will, but other recordings of the song cannot and must be licensed, as they are still under copyright law. This was decided as constitutional in the early 2000s, right as the Internet was being used by more people to share and develop creative works.


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Flux TV Aims to Stream Houston Acts to the World

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Last month Studio713 and Regressive Records unveiled their latest project, Flux TV, with a launch party and screening held at River Oaks Theatre. Now the Flux TV iPhone app is set for release on the Apple's iTunes Store tomorrow.

"Since the studio's inception three or four years ago, we've released work for bands like New York City Queens, and we've released about 25 videos into the Houston market," explains NYCQ singer/guitarist John Allen Stephens, who also works as a producer and engineer at Studio713.

"We've come to realize that we're a multimedia studio, and because we're a boutique production company with a small, defined staff, we felt like we were moving in that direction naturally," he says.


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Is the New BeatsMusic Worth It?

Categories: Digitalia

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A year ago, Beats by Dre headphone giants Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine announced the next step for their brand was to launch a digital-subscription music service. The news was not met with the greatest approval.

After all, the existing marketplace -- crowded with streaming leaders such as Pandora and Spotify, relative new kids like Rdio and Google Play, and godfather Rhapsody -- had been contributing to many fans' large music libraries for years now. Why did these two guys, who had already pocketed millions and redefined how we hear music, need to jump into this world? But much like their headphones, Beats' pitch has been about quality, more specifically focusing upon what's next.

Tuesday, BeatsMusic debuted as a free download on multiple mobile platforms from Android to Apple's iTunes store. The subscription is $10 a month following a trial period; AT&T users can opt for a $15 family plan to let five family members listen on a total of up to ten devices. The service offers more than 20 million songs on demand, the ability to follow fellow users (much like Spotify) and the ability to download tracks for offline listening.


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Chiptune Star Perfecting the NESKeytar

Categories: Digitalia

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Photo courtesy of Greig Stewart
Three years ago I brought to your attention a chiptune artist from the UK named Greig Stewart. Chiptune music is works played through retro video-game sound equipment like the sound card on a Game Boy. Stewart was riding high on the Guitar Hero craze like everyone else at the time, but decided that instead of a guitar he would produce Theremin Hero. And by God, he did.

Since then I've kept an eye on him via Facebook, and along with local filmmaker Joe Grisaffi he serves as an occasional retro-video-game consultant for gaming articles for us. Now he's like Vanilla Ice; back with a brand new invention. Ladies and gentlemen, the next step in chiptune stagecraft: the NESKeytar.


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Do Gig-Finder Web Sites Really Work? Local Musicians Sound Off

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Photo by Nx Doyle/Courtesy of Rhonda Roberts Music
Rhonda Roberts
If you've been lucky enough to catch Rhonda Roberts in concert, you heard a confident voice singing original, Beatles-inspired indie-pop. She spices things up with a little Tin Pan Alley while masterfully plucking away at ukulele.

And, if you have seen her in concert, there's a chance you saw her because she booked the gig using ReverbNation.

ReverbNation is just one of the Web sites today's independent musicians use to promote their work; others include Sonicbids, GigMasters and BandWagon. All offer various services, but a major component is connecting musicians with promoters to book shows.


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Yes, My Musician Kids Have Jobs. They're Musicians.

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Artwork by Jaime Torraco/Courtesy of Kittens of Industry
Recently someone I kinda-sorta know asked about my son.

He's doing great, I said. He and his band are on a 30-city tour.

No sooner than I'd answered this fellow, I regretted it as simple math scribbled itself onto his brain's chalkboard. Thirty shows minus my son being at home, where he lives, equals, "Your son doesn't have a job?"

Yes, he has a job, I explained. His job is being in an active, touring band.


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