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Its been 10 hours since I returned to Los Santos after a 10 year absence. Wow, how things have changed.

Grand Theft Auto V is the next step in the series, and while the genre (and series’) tried and true tropes are still firmly in place, everywhere GTA games were deficient before has been addressed thus far in the game. The boats masquerading as cars in GTAIV are gone, in their place are easy to control and joys to drive vehicles that almost seem too tight around corners, almost like you expect to smash into the median or guardrail and keep going. The first few hours were filled with over-steering and laughably running over pedestrians as I got my bearings. The game does its best to throw you into he fire from the very first mission as, controlling Franklin, you’re forced to repo a car and race through downtown Los Santos to a used car lot for it to be resold.


Personally, I had given up GTAIV early in the game a few years ago, only to rediscover it during the Steam Summer Sale when the PC version was on sale for $5, after getting the PC controls down (and loving them, BTW) I blasted through the game in about 30 hours. After 10 hours I feel as though I’ve barely scratched the surface of GTAV, although the lack of overarching story is a bit disappointing. Maybe the game is about to kick off, so far I’ve just unlocked all three characters and pulled off my first heist that went swimmingly (until I ran everyone over with the getaway vehicle and had to restart the mission). This leads me to swoon over the ability to fail a mission but pick up at a specified checkpoint during the mission, no longer do you have to worry about massive car chases, then massive shoot outs, then one final objective failing before you have to do it all over again, each mission that I’ve failed so far started me roughly half way through the mission, or right when I died, giving me the ability to not break any XBOX controllers this year (so far).

So far so good, there have been several times where I just stared at the screen in disbelief at what’s going on and just how awesome and engaging it really is. The first mission after your first heist is particularly awesome as you’re (re)introduced to Trevor and unlock the ability to play as him. His first encounter (with some GTAIV alum) is both jaw dropping and just plain awesome.


The character switching was one thing that I wasn’t looking forward to. Having played each game in the series, each, having a single protagonist and a story to follow them through was a highlight of the experience. GTAIV was an amazing storytelling vehicle as Niko worked his way from the bottom to the top seeking out revenge for those who wronged and hurt him along the way. The twisted tale of mobsters, Eastern European gangsters, bikers, cousins, girlfriends and, most importantly, choices filled Liberty City with life. Los Santos is full of that life, but it takes a little bit longer to hit a stride as you see all three characters come together and interact with each other.

Overall, the game is just hitting its stride and I can’t wait to continue through the experience. Look for a full review soon, until then, if you weren’t one of the buyers to push this game over $1 billion in three days since release, go out there and get it!

Tristan Perich’s 1-Bit Symphony is an amazing piece of work that really draws you in with masterful craftsmanship, but the novelty of it may wear off for a few after the initial rush passes.

The symphony comes to life in a hollow jewel case that lets you see all the inner workings of the device. You have a battery, headphone jack, a few circuit boards and a volume control knob to fully experience the MIDI’s pulsing in your ears. Through both your eyes and your ears you can hear and see the music using the pull out insert that breaks down the electronically crafted sounds byte for byte. It’s amazing to see it all laid out. There’s no LCD screen, no indication of what track you’re on, just a dozen different ways to get lost in the music and enjoy it.

Overall the sound is amazing for those who really like the bleeps and bloops of electronic music stored on hand-wired circuit boards. Old School video game fans are sure to remember these types of sounds and music fans in general may like the idea of abandoning the multi-million dollar symphonic arrangements for something a little simpler as a reminder when things might have been a little less grand, but no less creative.

Is Runner Runner’s self-titled debut poppy and infectious? Yes, but can it really stand out from the littered alleyways of electro-tinged pop bands that came before them, not so much. While the band is certainly high on energy and very much into what they are doing, the debut just isn’t anything special in a world where pop bands appear and disappear nearly weekly.

The album’s first single, “So Obvious“;, is tearing up the Top 40 with regular airplay on terrestrial and satellite radio, so the word is definitely getting out there about the band. Comprised of front man Ryan Ogren (formerly of Don’t Look Down), guitarist Nick Baily (Over It), guitarist Peter Munters (Over It), bassist Jon Berry (Rufio), and drummer James Ulrich (Over It) the band almost has super status but the underground and non-mainstream nature of their previous work mean Runner Runner is their first release into the fray where selling records is the ultimate goal.

From a commercial standpoint RR has the market cornered with its sound and simple lyrics that are easy to get behind and belt out in the car cruisin’ down Main Street USA. When you’re lead single starts, “Go! Let’s go, go! Go! Let’s go, go!”; and hooks with, “I’m losing my mind, broken inside / I want you to take my breath away / It’s obvious that my heart beats for you (Beats for you, beats for you).”; It’s incredibly sappy, but it’s sure to sell some singles because the band and the record company know what teenage girls want. Is this an album for those of you who go to midnight releases of Cannibal Corpse and the like? Obviously not, but for the Bieber fans out there, get ready to be Run over.

This isn’t to say that Runner Runner won’t stay in the spotlight; the album crawls into your head and becomes a guilty pleasure for true rockers, and a mainstay on playlists for tweens and teens. Still, there is nothing really standing out of the crowd here and any one of the songs could be given to another similar sounding band and be pulled off the same way. Will Runner Runner run away with the industry? Probably not, but they’ll keep running through the minds of anyone willing to be infected, closet case or otherwise.

Check out the band on their MySpace page and see if we’re looney or spot on.

After listening to Semi Precious Weapon’s sophomore release, You Love You, you kind of want to take a bath to escape all of the glamour, grime, and grit that is just pouring out of the release. Everything associated with this short, nine song set, make you feel just a little bit dirty inside and out, and that’s really the hook and motive of SPW, akin to their former opening, and now headlining tour make Lady Gaga, it’s all about t the show and marketing, and a little less about the music.

There are definite standouts on this release, but the jerky flow starts with an explosion to your face in the self-titled first track and things slowly taper off into solemn ballads including the “Leave Your Pretty To Me.”; The problem here is, it all feels like a show band, there’s no substance to it, even from music school grads you don’t expect them to get it 100% correct the first or second time out of the game, but channeling Jane’s Addiction will only get you so far.

There are some truly unlistenable tracks on You Love You including the hook-less, and aforementioned title track “Semi Precious Weapons“; and the annoying “Put a Diamond In It“;. One time through the album is about all you’ll need to clear up any lingering doubts about the band’s status in your rotation.

Maybe the glitz and glamour, eff-the-world, this is rock-n-roll sub-genre is dying just as fast as it came into the industry, but there just doesn’t seem to be a place to fit Semi Precious Weapons into the current landscape, which is probably what they’re going for, to be unique, however there just seems to be some real problems with their act that instantly turns listeners off when you can see the zipper on the rubber suit.

 It’s Alive emerges from the depths of the modern rock landscape with a sound that’s both somewhat unique and familiar enough to fans of Fuel and Linkin Park to stand out and fit right in at the same time. The rock sound of singles like “Pieces“; (currently making the rounds on Top 40 stations and satellite radio) will bring in the fans whereas single ready songs like “Back Into the Rain“; will bring in the pop fans offering the band a kind of “best of both worlds”; hook akin to bands like Saving Abel and Nickelback, although drifting between hard and soft is sure to piss of a few faithful.
Many of the tracks, deal with hardship in destroyed and broken relationships, the prerequisite power balled “Selfless“; focuses on such themes and its direct follow up “Refuge From The Wreckage“; follows in the same vein. Vocalist Zach Webb describes himself as an art-rock-fan with bands like Genesis and Nine Inch Nails, and while its hard to see any Phil Collins or Trent Reznor on Human Resources, there is a certain art to the way each some is constructed, although the album is light on poppy hook, it’s a lot more moody in the vein of NIN’s The Fragile.

The album gets a little sappy towards the conclusion with titles like “Fool For You“; and “Can’t Love Me“; how can they not be a little emotionally intrinsic? Surprisingly they’re still listenable in their mellow state but they’re still a far cry from the rock-inspired opening tracks and the mix on “Fool For You“; is excellent.

 Still, through it all, “Pieces“; is the highlight of the album and is the most accessible track to the average listener. Human Resources might have more of a sappy, love-struck, heartbreak tone to it than pure rockers would like but it’s an easy listen and enjoyable at the same time.

In the same vein as Sublime and 311 enters The Dirty Heads into the reggae rock scene complete with the West Coast “island”; sound and the history of performing late a night in garages in and around Huntington Beach. Their debut album, Any Port in a Storm, was released in 2008 with a special edition of the album debuting a few weeks ago.

The album’s biggest single is the radio-ready “Lay Me Down”; ft. Rome Ramirez of the legal friendly Sublime with Rome. Fans of the aforementioned predecessors in the genre will feel right at home with the eclectic mix of styles and genres as the album progresses.

From the laid back “Lay Me Down“; to album standouts: the 311-like “Stand Tall“; and “Driftin‘”; the disc has a lot to offer over 20 plus tracks. The Special Edition adds in a few acoustic takes and an acoustic cover version of Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” which is a very interesting listen.

Still it all comes back to familiarity and how open you are to the genre, if you hated Sublime (how could you really though?) or severely disliked 311 in the 90’s you won’t find much here to enjoy, it’s the kind of music that you have to be in the mood for.

While the practice of re-releasing albums with new tracks has some questionable ethics behind it, especially for first time adopters, if you got hooked on “Lay Me Down“; on the radio and are wondering if every other track sounds like that, yes, they do, if you’re in So Cal on a hot summer’s day with a Corona and a beach you found the right album.

The story of settling, founding, and shaping of The United States of America has been told in countless ways over the years. Students see movies in school; read about it in books, networks run specials every Fourth of July as we celebrate our nation’s independence, but what History has undertaken is a contemporary look at over 400 years of history on our continent and the major events that shaped the lives we lead today.

History’s America: The Story of Us is an engrossing look at what it takes to build a nation and while it treads familiar territory, it does so with the aid of modern technology like impressive, although not perfect, uses of CGI as it tells the story of our country.

The series starts in the years leading up to the founding of the original thirteen colonies and ends with the shaping of America at the turn of the 21st Century. The only problem with the series is with nearly 400 years to cover, a lot of important events are merely mentioned or glossed over to make room for even bigger ones.

The CGI is one of the most impressive, and disappointing things at the same time. While its nice to get a cinematic take on the battles of Lexington and Concord complete with Matrix-like effects of musket balls flying through the air in bullet-time, at some points it feels overdone, ditto to the use of slow motion in combination with the aforementioned. Nevertheless, this never detracts from the impressive selection of events that are focused upon and for once in a long while, the interviews from real Americans (Michael Douglass, Colin Powell, et. al.) actually provide some powerful insight and are melded into the program rather nicely.

Kick-Ass as a comic book works on so many different levels as it turns a treasure trove of “What Ifs”; and answers the questions with quipping dialog, violence, and a disregard for one’s private areas. Kick-Ass as a soundtrack looks like it has a steeper hill to climb as the movie’s accompanying album is filled with great beats, but is generally hit & miss.

The two biggest tracks are aptly named “Stand Up,”; from The Prodigy, and “Kick-Ass“; from Mika vs. RedOne with the former being a great instrumental opening to the disc, and the latter hitting you over the head and keeping up the energy.

The first half of the disc generally maintains the high energy framework laid down here with Primal Scream chiming in with some old school guitar riffs in “Can’t Go Back“; and The Prodigy coming back with the catchy, danceable “Omen.”;

However, the big promotional push is for Pretty Reckless’ “Make Me Wanna Die“;. You don’t see many female rockers this side of Lacuna Coil, Flyleaf, and Halestorm so it’s great to hear a female fronted band rocking out. While its touch to say how the band’s freshman release will sound, from what is shown here, it should definitely sell some discs.

Other notable standouts are The Hit Girls’ cover of Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation“;, and the out-of-place, but still good “Starry Eyed“; by Ellie Goulding.

Then there’s the rest of the album where the tracks aren’t necessarily bad, sans The Dickies’ “Banana Splits“;, but just don’t seem like they fit in with the rest of the album. Tracks from The Sparks, New York Dolls, and even the great Elvis Presley who shows up in the album’s closing live track just range from the obscure to the odd and ask the question, “Thematically, why is this here?”;

Granted the songs may fit in the movie like a glove, but with the album release coinciding with the film’s UK premiere and not is US premiere, its hard to wholly recommend the soundtrack until you’ve had a listen either in the movie or a sampling online.

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