What not to miss in Music, Books, Games, and more
BALLAD OF THE BROKEN SEAS Chanteuse Isobel Campbell (Belle and Sebastian) and rocker Mark Lanegan (Queens of the Stone Age) have inexplicably formed quite the dynamic duo on Ballad. Amid a flurry of strings and bluesy guitars, her precious purr tangles with the clutch of his whiskey-wearied growl. Imagine the ghastly beauty of Little Red Riding Hood duetting with the wolf before suppertime. (Out March 7)
FIGHT NIGHT ROUND 3 (EA, Xbox 360, Teen) The mechanics of the latest Fight are almost identical to its predecessor's, but the mysterious discarding of power meters means you'll have to rely on your cornerman (and your wobbly legs) to tell you how you're faring in later rounds. Not quite as jarringly visceral as Fight 2, but a nice next-gen showcase...and way better than sucker punching your cubicle-mate. (Out Feb. 22)
'Zine + Ninja
DIY With instructions to build stuff like electric cigar-box guitars, the smartly packaged Make (out now, makezine.com) reads like Real Simple for the digerati if you consider ''solder the black eyestalk wires to Pins 2 and 3'' simple. Into low-tech? Get inspired (and touched by evil!) after picking up Shawnimals' plush homemade ninja (ninjatown.shawnimals.com).
SUNGLASSES IS A MUST Alain Macklovitch (a.k.a. A-Trak) was winning DJ world championships at age 15 while everyone else was tootling around with clarinets in marching band. Now 23, the Montreal native's exacting scratches can be heard on Kanye West's ''Gold Digger'' and Common's ''Go!'' Albeit a bit premature, this autobio film impresses with highlights from various A-Trak performances just skip the disc's inane home video segments, which quickly prove grating. (Out Feb. 21, djatrak.com)
WHOLPHIN A Dutchman singing ''Stairway to Heaven'' backward. Al Gore bodysurfing. Such are the visual delights of this quarterly DVD 'zine. The first issue boasts work from directors Spike Jonze (behind the Gore doc) and David O. Russell, plus a mesmerizing short with actress Selma Blair as a troubled lady whose insides are literally made up of a vast frozen tundra. (Out now, wholphindvd.com)
REED IT AND WEEP In the thrilling Velvet Redux Live MCMXCIII (out now), filmed in 1993, Velvet Underground frontman Lou Reed croaks ''I'm beginning to see the light'' over a stunning thrum of guitars. That Velvets reunion proved all too brief, but Reed continues to share his love of aural illumination by capturing it in his new book of photos, Lou Reed's New York (out April 30), which glistens with sunsets, snowflakes, and street lamps. Who knew the ol' crank was so wistful?
FULL AUTO (Sega, Xbox 360, Teen) If Lindsay Lohan were to have one of her paparazzi derbies while driving an assault vehicle, the result might look like this racing game that rewards reckless abandon and penalizes not meeting your quota of mayhem. Crossing the finish line in one piece is still key, but the real fun is all about getting there?since you can crash into or shoot at virtually everything you see. One catch: Most of these spectacles are viewable only on the Xbox 360. (Out now)
IAN'S SHOELACE SITE Damn the dude who invented Velcro! (For the record, that'd be Swiss hiker George de Mestral, who patented the nylon phenom in 1955, but we digress...) Clearly, he wasn't a fan of old-school kicks. Enter this paean to the art of deft shoelace presentation by Australian graphic designer Ian Fieggen. With step-by-steps on how to tie your trainers 30 different ways, you'll feel like you're 5 all over again. (fieggen.com/shoelace/lacingmethods.htm)
OPTIC NERVE Comics prodigy Adrian Tomine has built a loyal following off the slice-of-life Nerve since '91. His latest arc (issues 9-11) follows moody movie-theater owner Ben Tanaka, who struggles to hang on to his Asian girlfriend while secretly lusting after white ladies. He's sad and somewhat despicable, and yet Tomine, being the understated virtuoso he is, effortlessly spins him into a Gen-X hero. (Out now, drawnandquarterly.com)
THE SURROGATES It's 2054, and that gorgeous girl at the end of the bar? Might be a dude. Or a surrogate a humanoid robot controlled by its owner (who can feel what it, you know, feels) via mind link. But someone is killing off surrogates, which kick-starts this noir thriller a resplendently grimy commentary about the dangers of beauty. (Out now, topshelfcomix.com)
FUTURE WOMEN On their second album, the M's use their debut's bright-but-dirty sound as a jumping-off point to more adventurous places, like Latin-tinged free-jazz expansiveness (''Trucker Speed'') or languid, TV on the Radio-type harmonies (''Shawnee Dupree''). And lest the M's get too ambitious, there's plenty of upbeat pop-rock to remind us they're still having fun. (Out Feb. 21)
MOHAWK HAT Though inspired by Gwen Stefani's headgear in No Doubt's ''Underneath It All'' video, knitwits/diabolical geniuses Jaqueline Milles and Alyce Benevides created these caps as a nod to their Goth-pop idols. Biggest fan? Depeche Mode's Martin Gore, who's been inseparable from his hat ever since the ladies gave him one during an in-store record signing. (knit-head.com)
CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? Lumbering and crunchy, Part Chimp hurl a head-splitting blow with their second full-length, I Am Come (out now) sort of like a Neanderthal endowed with wanton axman superpowers. Up the evolutionary chain: the metallurgists of the Sword. Their debut, Age of Winters (out now), is steeped in sludge and features cryptic songs like ''Lament for the Aurochs,'' which could wake the spirits at Stonehenge.
THE BUDDHA MACHINE What looks like a flimsy Chinatown gadget is a cult hit among the techno elite. TBM is a little plastic box that plays ambient loops out of a hissy built-in speaker. Still not sold? The very glambient Brian Eno recently snatched up eight of them. (forcedexposure.com)
BLACK (EA; PS2, Xbox; M) This eye-and ear-popper casts you as an AK-47-wielding covert agent who fights terrorists in Eastern Europe. That is, when you're not blasting away at the environments with an arsenal that would make Ted Nugent drool. For putting the play back in gunplay and for a visceral experience in which cinematic shoot-outs take place around every corner Black is second to none. (Out now)