James Blake – Album Review

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Hey Guys,

So I figured I’d write up about James Blake’s new album, as I have listened to nothing else for the last week; maybe blogging will lift Blakes black-magic curse from my ears. Not that that’s a good thing.

Blakes music in short, is nothing short of… interesting. Now, an underwheleming opening line maybe, but it’s true. Blake experiments with classic genre conventions transform his music into an almost linear story-line experience which doesn’t have choruses and verses, just waves of thick, almost tangible baselines and beats.

Blake is not typical of most other electronica artists, in the way in which he implements ‘glitching’ and choppiness, almost sometimes, in detriment to the beauty of his songs. Blake can raise the level of intensity in a track to intrusive levels, perhaps to highlight turmoil behind the scenes of his incredible vocals. Vocals in which Blake’s voice cracks at it’s most heightened, unafraid to present his listeners with his apparent sensitivity.

Blake’s subject matter is unashamedly personal, with songs clearly identifiable about his mother and sister, others, just evolved wails of pain and haunting resonance. Blake sometimes understates his lyrics, by painting them on the canvas of his audio; letting percussion and vocals blend to create the song as a whole, showcasing neither one in particular.

Though Blakes album doesn’t flow track to track, each song in itself tells a story of it’s own, some with just repeated lyrics, focussing on perhaps a particularly memory of Blakes, others, extended streams of consciousness in which Blake beautifully vents into the microphone.

I really adore this album, however it may be officially defined. Blake blends his musical influences into a collection of songs that does not necessarily defy music conventions, but certainly manipulates them to create a sterling piece of musical performance that may just stay stuck in your head for weeks.

A fantastic album that I recommend you check out right now.

Download James Blakes self-titled album here.

Peace,

MattĀ  :)

CoD: Black Ops Review

 

“There is No Revolution Without Ammunition.”

Sgt. Reznov

650, 000, 000.

That number denotes the millions of dollars that Call of Duty: Black Ops (CoD:BO) generated in it’s first 5 days of release. That’s $100 million more than Call of Duty: Modern Warefare 2 (CoD:MW2) made. 5.6 million units sold in it’s first 24 hours (claiming the news world record for gaming sales) and 2010’s most successful game so far. (source)

But let’s stop talking numbers, everyone who knew anything about gaming knew this game was going to be huge. With a luxurious marketing budget and a larger production budget, money, size and power has always been what this game was going to be about. The point of this review though, is to determine whether the game lives up to the hype.

In short: It does.

‘Black Ops is a game removed from the rebooted CoD: MW2 franchise, this isn’t Cod:MW3 it’s CoD:BO. This is because that game was not made by the fan favorite Infinity Ward, but was tailored by Activision, crafters of the cult hit CoD: World at War. Activisions hand in development in clear from the start, the game looks, plays and sounds like a Call of Duty Game, but in some ways just doesn’t feel like Infinity Wards genre defining MW2. This may be because you aren’t playing the modern-day, you are playing as Alex Mason flashing back to his missions during the 1960’s and 70’s. Oh and when I say ‘flashing back’ I mean it, straight from the title screen the single player campaign kicks into life; you’re strapped to a chair with a distorted voice commanding you to clarify details of your past, however you are so heavily sedated that you keep dropping out of consciousness and this is when you start to re-play your memories.

To say anymore of the plot would be unfair, but rest assured the plot just keeps gathering pace untill the extremely satisfying finale which will not disappoint. The only criticism I would have of this campaign is that because you play through ‘flash backs’ I didn’t feel I bonded as well with the characters as I could have, as I kept jumping between present day and the past, instead of going on the same journey as my colleagues (With the exception of Sgt. Reznov who I found to be a fantastic character).

This leads my nicely into the voice acting; as is typical in video games you won’t recognise most of the voices in Black Ops, in fact you might not recognise any. But in fact the protagonist in Black Ops is voiced by none other than Sam Worthington, the lead in Avatar (ooooh! That guy!), Worthington does a fantastic job revealing more and more of his character as his journey progress’, gradually losing his military veneer to lay bare his emotions (even if he still has that weird accent). Also another significant character, Sgt. Reznov is voiced by none other than talented brit’ actor Gary Oldman (Gordan from the rebooted Batman franchise). Oldman’s Russian accent is flawless as is certainly the standout performance in the voice cast, though saying this, it shouldn’t be hard to shine amongst the otherwise military chatter of the other characters. Furthermore the sound design in this game is fantastic, everything sounds like it should do and coupled with the beautiful graphics players should become completely immersed in the game world (providing they do not try to steer from the very non-linear levels).

Of course no CoD game is complete without world-class multiplayer and in this regard Black Ops does not disappoint. The maps are ingeniously designed and the weapons are very balanced. However the only disagreement I have is that the weapons are very underpowered at the start of your multiplayer campaign and you have to play for (I felt) significantly longer than in MW2 to unlock the more powerful weapons; plus some weapon attachments are overpowered, such as ‘grip’ giving you an godly strong hold of your weapon removing kick-back and an attachment giving you fire power twice as fast as normal. However saying this not only is it still very satisfying to rack up the kills online, but there are almost infinite combinations of perks and attachments making almost every player unique in this regard, helping level out the playing field greatly.

I haven’t even begun to talk about Nazi Zombies or the addictivly fun unlockable minigames, but I feel my words may become just to over-awed to be respected should I continue. Overall then, this game is fantastic. As someone who has only recently broken into the CoD franchise I am not a biased reviewer and I still love this game. Everything from the sounds, to the sights, to the multiplayer is impeccable and of stellar quality.

If you haven’t worked it out yet, buy this game.

Peace,

Matt :)