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J. Leard RSS Feed (Waterloo, IA United States)
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Need Your Light
Need Your Light
Price: $11.19
48 used & new from $5.43

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't call it a comeback, March 8, 2016
This review is from: Need Your Light (Audio CD)
Ra Ra Riot's debut album, "The Rhumb Line", was a joyous and tragic work, partially written and informed by the late John Ryan Pike. Coming off as the more chamber-oriented cousins of Vampire Weekend, it looked like a friendly rivalry for the same audience was ready to start. Instead, they stumbled, with "The Orchard" proving fair and the follow-up, "Beta Love", failing to gain any traction. I'd about given up on them, but I decided to give "Need Your Light" a shot, and I'm glad I did.

The album kicks off with "Water", showing off a groove I didn't know the band had in them, even with Rostam Batmanglij (formerly of Vampire Weekend) helping out. Wes Miles's voice goes all the way up, and it shouldn't work, but it really does. While the song is ostensibly about leaving the trappings of a workaday life for a kind of personal or spiritual freedom, it sounds more like a band exorcising its demons and making a clean break. Following that is "Absolutely", a song reminiscent of The Pains of Being Pure At Heart. Sunny and driven, it hits all the right caramel-sweet melodies. The album never gets back to the great heights of these two tracks, but it doesn't need to. With that kind of opening, Ra Ra Riot make a statement: They're not done, they never left, and they're here to stay.

I admit that I was pessimistic about this album, but Ra Ra Riot exceeded my expectations and have put themselves squarely back on the map , crafting effortless synth-pop gems with their trademark chamber fluorishes.


Sheriff of Nottingham
Sheriff of Nottingham
Price: $25.32
53 used & new from $24.99

4.0 out of 5 stars As fun as you make it, March 8, 2016
This review is from: Sheriff of Nottingham (Toy)
Sheriff of Nottingham is an interesting beast. Ostensibly a game about sneaking contraband through a checkpoint manned by the titular villain, it's really a social game with an element of guile. With multiple different ways to rack up points, players take turn as the sheriff to allow or bar players from getting their goods, sealed in a felt-like envelope, to market without inspection. As this is a bluffing game, most of the fun comes from trying to fluster the sheriff. Players can go completely straight, announcing goods that are being brought through and no more. Or they can lie a little, hedging their bets with mostly real goods and a single crossbow or some exotic black pepper. Or they can just lie, moving as much contraband as possible. The sheriff can call players on their lies, but if the sheriff is wrong, he or she must pay the player for their inconvenience.

What may seem like a straightforward bluff game can easily devolve into hilarious character work as players snipe each other and best attempt to ruin the fortune of their competitors. It may feel like there is far less skill and logic to winning than in some other games, but it's a feature, not a bug. This is a game for relaxing and enjoying soft skills, a poker game where you have some control over your hand and you then get to sell that hand (or slyly NOT sell it) to your opponents. When you're tired of employing best winning strategies and embracing the cold calculation of other board games, play some Sheriff of Nottingham instead.


Jaipur
Jaipur
Price: $21.52
114 used & new from $18.43

5.0 out of 5 stars A trading game that borrows the best elements from Ticket to Ride & Lost Cities, March 8, 2016
This review is from: Jaipur (Toy)
Two-player games have a tough task. They must be engaging, they must reward skill, but they must also involve enough luck to keep things interesting, so players can't ram home the same strategy every time. Borrowing the single-turn draw or spend mechanic from Ticket to Ride and the limited hand constraints of Lost Cities (another fantastic two-player card game), Jaipur casts players in the roles of traders at a market. They can purchase a single good at the market, or multiple items they must trade for, or they can collect all camels at the market to use as trading fodder later on. Players then sell their goods at market with a simplified scarcity bonus, where goods sold earlier generally garner more points. This is balanced by a system that rewards players with a semi-random value based on how many of a good they sell in a single turn, and this leads to many close games as players try to maximize their value while limiting other players. An aggressive player may score well for a few rounds but leave themselves vulnerable to market manipulation by another player, limiting their options to restoring buying power, while a player that remains too conservative may find themselves scrambling for high-value sales if they wait too long.

The game ends when three of the six available market goods are sold out, which also allows for strategy as players either try to maximize the market for more points or cut the game short if their opponent is clearly loading up for one final splash. Jaipur is both easy to learn and score, so easy in fact that a "game" of Jaipur is actually considered to be a best-of-three series of matches.

The box says 12 and up, but that's a very pessimistic estimate. My seven year-old played (and won) after watching a few games. Any child with an interest in card and board games should be able to pick it up before too long, and the scoring allows them to practice their basic arithmetic as well.


Zero Odor Multi-Purpose Household Odor Eliminator, Trigger Spray, 16-ounces
Zero Odor Multi-Purpose Household Odor Eliminator, Trigger Spray, 16-ounces
Offered by Dine & Dwell
Price: $14.88
10 used & new from $10.85

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Defeated rotten meat smell!, September 9, 2015
I accidentally left a pound of ground beef in a truck during a hot summer weekend for 36 hours (a horrible, horrible mistake). My truck smelled like death warmed over. Literally. Spraying Febreze and Odor Eaters spray did little to remove the godawful stench. Vinegar just made the truck smell like pickled beef. I was getting scared my truck would have this smell forever, so I did some online searching and came across this product.

There is a faint smell of bleach (or other things you probably don't think of as fresh-smelling) when spraying this, but it fades quickly, and most importantly it does the job. It can only penetrate so deep into fabric that smells like the rear end of a rendering plant, but I am now able to drive my truck without holding an air freshener in front of my face. Not only is the smell almost entirely gone, the tiny bit that remains has lost the innately offensive component of the smell.

I had my doubts but I spent $10 at Bed Bath & Beyond because I was desperate. I used almost an entire bottle on a vehicle with only ceiling and front seat fabric, but it tackled a vast majority of the problem and restored my truck to something I feel comfortable driving again. This product was a lifesaver.


LEGO Minecraft 21114 The Farm
LEGO Minecraft 21114 The Farm
Price: $20.99
228 used & new from $20.78

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's LEGO, It's Minecraft, It's Great, January 8, 2015
Minecraft has had weird mini LEGOs for a while, but only recently have they gone full-size. When my son saw the sets available, he picked The Farm for its livestock and crops, as farming is his favorite element of the game. He is about 6-1/2 and was able to build it almost entirely by himself, so it wasn't very difficult, and he has had lots of fun with it. My only quibble is that the set doesn't hold together well; the waterfall half and the farm half are only connected at a few points, and extreme caution is needed when moving it from one place to another. No complaints beyond that; the set is perfect for kids who want to build their favorite game in the real world, and the set is full of the neat touches LEGO is famous for, like a pink cow udder and inventive usage to create the fencing. And since it's Minecraft, a game that demands creativity, it's also great to play with outside of the instructions.


Captain Toad:  Treasure Tracker
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
Price: $33.99
105 used & new from $24.38

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cute, fun value title, January 5, 2015
There were a handful of stages in Super Mario 3D World that involved the adventures of the intrepid Captain Toad (and pigtailed Toadette), a pint-sized adventurer with a headlamp and a backpack so heavy that he cannot jump. They were fun diversions that allowed players to stretch different muscles than the ones needed to snag the other stars, stamps, and golden flags, charming little puzzle boxes that required timely unraveling.

Apparently pleased with these little detours, Nintendo has gone full-bore with Captain Toad: treasure Tracker, and the results are excellent. Nintendo has removed the time limit and instead given the players not only three diamonds in each stage to find, but also provides an additional challenge, revealed only after the stage is beaten.

Each stage in Treasure Tracker is its own little world, as if an entire Super Mario 3D World level was pared down until only the core elements remain. Whether it's a green hill or a Goomba summer vacation spot or a haunted mine, each level is unique and interesting. Unraveling the secrets each one holds is a joy. There are also a few levels that divert from the norm, including Gamepad-controlled turnip-chucking and mad dash bonus levels.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker sells for $40, and that feels about right. It's adorable, the music is great, and the gameplay is solid, but it still doesn't feel like a full-fledged, $60 experience. More than anything it feels like a 3DS game writ large, and in fact the game plays perfectly on the WiiU Gamepad's screen, especially when tapping enemies, moving blocks, and turning wheels plays an integral part in the experience. The game can sometimes require careful execution, but it never feels too difficult, which I imagine some players may find disappointing. This is more of a mildly bumpy jaunt through colorful dioramas than a hardcore brain-teaser.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a small gem of a game that fans of puzzles and all things adorable would do well to check out, whether it's for a weekend rental or a longer haul. It's cute, it's fun, and it has that Nintendo magic, that essential element that can only be translated as the smile on your face as you let your Toad or Toadette grow drowsy and fall asleep when you should be soldiering on through another gauntlet of Conkdors and Goombas and instead you just watch the game happen.


McCafé Premium Roast K-Cup Packs - 12 count
McCafé Premium Roast K-Cup Packs - 12 count
Price: $12.45
19 used & new from $6.34

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tastes the same as the cheap stuff, December 31, 2014
I ran this K-Cup in a blind taste test with some vanilla creamer against Wal-Mart's own Great Value 100% Colombian Roast. I expected the McCafe to win, but the complexity I was hoping to find was nowhere, and it LOST to the Great Value stuff, both for me and my wife. It's not terrible, but it runs about $10 at Wal-Mart. If you're looking for okay coffee, just get yourself some Great Value and pocket the change.


Brill Bruisers
Brill Bruisers
Price: $9.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Like Clockwork, December 4, 2014
This review is from: Brill Bruisers (MP3 Music)
I don't think AC Newman has had a fallow period since before Zumpano, but there are those that didn't quite take to the slower pace of "Challengers" or the cello-heavy "Together". For me, he's practically bulletproof, and adding a few choice gems from Dan Bejar helps leaven the albums the same way a few Harrison tracks impacted the best Beatles albums.

With "Brill Bruisers", Newman himself admitted that after a difficult period following his mother's death, he's out of the woods and under the sun again, and it shows. From the choral stomp of "Brill Bruisers" to the wall of sound that is "Fantasy Fools", the entire album has a propulsive energy to it. Newman is exceedingly good at this; even when a song has a slower beat, it never drags. It's always building towards something, it's always going to pay off.

This album also continues to bring Kathryn Calder closer to the center of the sound. She doesn't have the same wallop of a voice that Neko Case is known for, but her complementary sound works great when the band is going for a more blended sound. She's never been superfluous since joining the band, but on "Brill Bruisers" she feels integral, like the album just wouldn't be the same without her.

I do think the album slows down a bit near the end, but this is the price for kicking the door down in the first half of the album. The New Pornographers aren't going to leave you without a few ballads, and they still throw "Dancehall Domine", a spiritual successor to "Jackie, Dressed in Corbas" (though written by Newman and not Bejar), near the end of the album.

It's easy to take it for granted when people make such excellence look so easy, but The New Pornographers do it again here.


Alix
Alix
Price: $7.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Return to Form, December 4, 2014
This review is from: Alix (MP3 Music)
The first two Generationals albums are absolute gems, unknown by most but cherished by those who know them. Their third album, "Heza", was a bit puzzling. It's good, but it's not as good as the first two, and it came off as muted, languid, with none of the nervy energy of the albums that came before it. What made it more puzzling is the singles and EPs that Generationals released running up to it, which had bouncy energy and a love for synths. With 2013's "Heza" barely in the rearview, however, Generationals are back with "Alix."

And what a return it is. It leads off with perhaps the catchiest song they've ever written, "Black Lemon", which wastes no time introducing it addictive hook. It follows with "Gold Silver Diamond", a classic Generationals track that would've fit snugly into either one of their first two albums. If anything, "Alix" seems most dedicated to collating the various sounds the band has built up over three previous LPs and two shorter works into one cohesive whole. If one wanted to describe what the band has sounded like, fro the beginning to present day, this would be the album.

I wouldn't say I was worried after "Heza", but I admit I was hoping we hadn't heard the last of the fun Generationals, and we haven't. I hope that these guys get their due someday, but for now, it's good enough to know that each album is a treasure, and "Alix" is a testament to the power of great melody.


AEG Love Letter
AEG Love Letter
Price: $9.78
130 used & new from $5.00

5.0 out of 5 stars A Wondrously and Deceptively Simple Game, December 4, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: AEG Love Letter (Toy)
Love Letter appears deceptively simple at first, and if you play it with two people, you'll feel it's a game that plays itself. Get yourself a full table of four people, however, and the game comes into bloom as the very best kind of game, one in which the rules don't define the game. Love Letter, like all great games, is mostly about playing the other players within the framework of the rules. Is my opponent bluffing? Now that I know what they have, will they do anything they can to change their hold card? Are they going to turn my advantage against me? Love Letter is easy to pick up and play, rounds are over in a few minutes, and it stands up well to play over and over again, especially as different groups will create different dynamics.

The one thing I will recommend is that buyers purchase card protectors. These will not last forever and require care to maximize value.


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