1. To name accomplices or inform upon underworld associates. "That creep (coward) gave up a lot of good people (fine underworld citizens) so he couldn't burn (be electrocuted)." 2. To pay.

- american underworld dictionary - 1950

It's times like this that I realise I should listen to the radio more.

You see, radio just ends up annoying me most of the time. I have a fairly extensive music library, I have a CD player in my car. At work, I've got access to gigabytes of music and a set of headphones. I love nothing than hearing about something new from friends, and letting these same friends know about new music they've never heard before. I tire very quickly at the same songs repeated over and over again on the radio, I hate the fact that music labels have so much control over what ends up on high rotation - rather than hearing new, original music that challenges me, and exposes me to something new, I simply hear what the labels are expecting to appeal to the largest possible audience, in the hope that this exposure will drive up their sales.

I'm rather cynical when it comes to the radio.

We're in the fortunate position here to have access to a national youth radio station, funded by the Government (although at times, I'm sure they question the wisdom of this funding). Triple J are pretty much the only station I'll listen to, as they're the only station I know who will play music outside of the middle ground, music from bands who may not sell hundreds of thousands of albums, but are producing great music. A few days ago, driving into work (pretty much the only time I ever hear the radio apart from driving home), I was glad I was listening to the radio.

Almost at the end of the trip, a song came on - seconds later, I was interested. Minutes later, completely spellbound. The creators of this song were announced, and I was doing anything to commit that name to memory - I knew I needed to find a copy of their album as soon as the lunch hour arrived. I don't remember ever being so certain that I had to buy an album before.

The song which grabbed me so hard was The District Sleeps Alone Tonight. The group, The Postal Service.

Searching through seven different record stores and coming away with nothing has never been so hard - this was music I needed to have, as soon as possible. Eventually though, I managed to get my hands on a copy of their album Give Up. It's barely left my car/home computer/work computer/bedroom cd player since. I guess this is addiction...

I've read a lot of reviews about this album in the time since I found it - many people have commented on the 80's feel to a lot of the music, pages of words have been written about how The Postal Service came to be, on the fact that most of it was written by music being mailed to the singer on cd, who then played with the music, added words to the music, eventually creating a song. I think the biggest impression I have of this album is that if I'd not read these reviews, I'd not have picked its method of creation. I'd not have thought that it felt like the band members were distant for the song creation, I'd not have wondered whether the music was trying to give a nod to a previous era.

I have to admit, I'm a sucker for good singing over electronic music. Where sometimes I find that electronic music lacks warmth, is missing a soul (I do like a lot of it though, and sometimes that's just what I'm after), singing can add an extra dimension to the music, and give it a depth which may not be possible with music alone. Frenetic sounds, overlaid with subdued vocals, can provide such a perfect contrast. A world of power and noise, flashing lights, and the absence of silence, crashes headlong into the imperfect tone of a human voice. Programmed perfection is blended with human frailty, and the result can be incredibly beautiful, as though the competing sounds are different enough to allow you to appreciate them both - rarely competing for sonic space, living in a different world, but somehow meeting at just enough places to not separate completely.

Give Up covers a lot of musical ground. From the oh-so-close-to-corny duet that is Nothing Better, to the frantic fuzz laden A Natural Anthem, somehow the album comes together into a complete package. This Place is a Prison, slow and emotion laden, reminding me of a wooden ship smashed by an ocean storm, to The District Sleeps Alone Tonight, which should be depressing - if not for the driving beat of the music, which doesn't ever allow it to become the self-pitying song it could have become.

Something special happens in this album. There are songs which don't manage to rise to the heights of those surrounding them - I'm not sure whether that's due to them being weak songs in themselves, or simply due to the fact that they're surrounded by such strength. I just hope that this collaboration is not simply a one-off project.

I need more of this.


The Postal Service - Give Up

01. the district sleeps alone tonight
02. such great heights
03. sleeping in
04. nothing better
05. recycled air
06. clark gable
07. we will become silhouettes
08. this place is a prison
09. brand new colony
10. natural anthem

With the tagline "a game about failure and regret," Give Up is an independently-released flash game that first appeared in 2012 which is strangely compelling yet horribly difficult. By which I mean the game's own creator can't even beat it, so what chance do you think you have?

It's fairly simple - you are a little blue stickman with infinite lives. You have to double-jump your way over various obstacles from the entrance to the exit. The levels start very simple and gradually build up into being more and more difficult, with elements being added or taken away progressively as time goes on. There's also a loudspeaker in the middle of each level which makes derisive comments as to your progress and advises you to just give up.

And there's also many things that are just out to kill you. Starting with spikes, which cause you to explode messily, then adding in guns, which fire square bullets in your general direction every second or so, then adding to floors that fall away, lasers, and finally circular saws. They all make you explode messily. There's also this driving heavy metal soundtrack which loops repeatedly. Thankfully you have infinite lives but on some of the higher levels it's quite possible to die as soon as you enter the level. And all along the speech-bubble-powered loudspeaker exhorts you to just give up.

Which you do by clicking the big blue button marked, "GIVE UP". When you do, this relaxing piano music plays (think heartwarming stories on chat shows music) and a picture of a flower appears and you get hit with platitudes about how "not everyone can be a winner" and "You did your best." And the credits roll and it's back to the start.

Stylistically, with the plain grey environments and unseen supervisor giving questionable advice, there's some clear influence here from Portal. There's also influence from I Wanna Be The Guy and other "masocore" type platformers, what with spikes everywhere, precision jumping, and similar. Yet it's strangely compelling. The simple act of trying to time your jump between two sets of spikes and four bullets all converging on your position while not getting lasered from behind is something you'll try, try, and try again and when you do get it right, you'll do a brief fist pump before dying horribly on the next obstacle and having to start the level again. Your blood splatters and corpses don't disappear after each run, and the game also tracks the time spent so far and all your deaths, just to keep things in perspective. And eventually you'll hit one of those levels that's way too hard for you and end up clicking the big, blue, inviting GIVE UP button. Cue piano music.

There is an end to it, after 40 levels, but I've never got to it. I usually end up giving up between 25 and 30, but then usually come back later and fail horribly.

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