Games

Trying out Rise of the Tomb Raider on GNU\Linux

Linux gaming, for me at least, has always presented problems. The initial issue is the fact that the selection of games is very slim compared with what is available on Windows computers. I was however greatly pleased this month when Rocket League was finally made available, and the smoothness is just as smooth as on Windows. In fact the only reason I was still using Windows up until last week, was in order for me to play Rocket League. Pathetic, I know.

To get around the lack of the other games, I have attempted in the past to set up wine in order to install the Windows version of Steam. However with this I found that the quality of the graphics and FPS suffered greatly. So I just gave up a went back to using a Windows PC, which always made me feel dirty.

Before Playing

Tonight I thought I would follow a guide to installing PlayOnLinux word for word, and try out my favourite game at the moment, Rise of the Tomb Raider. PlayOnLinux is basically a front end interface over the top of Wine. Wine, I should probably mention, is a GNU/Linux program that allows Windows programs to be ran on a GNU/Linux system.

As I type this, I have just finished installing the Windows Steam using PlayOnLinux. I am now awaiting Rise of the Tomb Raider to finish downloading so I can try it out. I’m not expecting great results at all, but just to be able to play it would be good.

I have actually completed the story line of the game but love the world so much I want to finish all of the side quests and get 100% completion.

Try to play it

It finished installing, I clicked play, and it game me an error. It says “Failed to start game (Invalid Platform)”, which is apparently down to a Direct X 11 issue.

Oh well, I guess it was never meant to be.

Albums

Hazy (A Desert Opera) by Roslyn Moore

Like people who remember where they were when JFK was killed, or Princess Diana, I remember exactly where and when I first heard Hazy (A Desert Opera) by Roslyn Moore.

I was in that midway state of consciousness between awake and asleep, listening to this album. I was enjoying it as an overall experience as my dozing in and out hindered my ability to latch on to the songs. That was until one song in particular stood up and smacked me in the face. That song was “Drama Queen”. It is fucking awesome. In fact I tweeted that exact thought right out then and there.

A manifesto for love’s losers

I imagine that this album was very cathartic for Roslyn to make. I know nothing about her personally, but the music comes across so personally and emotionally that it just has to come from somewhere real.

When I listen to the songs here I don’t feel down at all. I mean, I can imagine people listening to this music in completely different frames of mind. Perhaps you need music to enhance your depression; perhaps to need comfort to remind you that you’re not alone. For me, I see the beauty that has come out of pain and made something that the world needs – real, honest, art.

Hazy is a brutal manifesto for loves losers. That person willing to take a bullet for passion. At its best, Hazy is ride off the cliff hand in hand music.
Hazy (A Desert Opera) described on SoundCloud

Each song on Hazy (A Desert Opera) is completely unique to me. No one song bleeds into another and every song has its own idiosyncrasy that makes it stand out from the next.

“Malibu” is as great an album introduction as they come. It’s hard to talk about sadcore without somehow thinking of Lana Del Rey, but I got that sort of vibe in this song. But I also got reminded slightly of the singer from a band I used to listen to called Jack Off Jill.

When presented with a new artist I often can’t help but draw initial comparisons to other artists I like. But if I grow to like that new artist the comparison soon goes away. Before the end of Malibu the comparison was gone – I was officially a fan of Roslyn Moore.

Roslyn Moore

The next song, “The Burbs”, is where I fell in love with the album. While writing this post, I focused in on the words of this song and found I could vividly picture the song’s story in my mind’s eye. I couldn’t help but see the scenes play out in a Twin Peaks-esque town. A picture perfect idealistic town with a dark underbelly of taboo hidden just beneath the surface.

Or am I just thinking about it too much? – I don’t think so. The great thing about music, and art in general, is that every receiver’s opinion is valid.

I love the lyrics to the next song, “XO”:

someone cool like you
who tastes like you and smells like you
and fucks like you
someone who talks like you
and kisses like you and smiles like you
I really really need someone cool like you
who moves like you and plays guitar like you
and looks like you
someone cool like you
someone cool like you

XO by Roslyn Moore

I couldn’t mention a couple of songs with mentioning “Drama Queen”. The flow of this song just blows me away every time I hear it. The transitions between the song’s sections are so greatly done. How her voice and the accompaniment come together perfectly in the following passage just grabs me:

every time I close my eyes
I can see you in my dreams
I can see you through the lines
telling me baby, you’re such a drama queen

Drama Queen by Roslyn Moore

Curtain Call

Like many of the emerging artists of today, Roslyn has her music on SoundCloud where you can listen to your heart’s content.

I urge you strongly to get on SoundCloud, turn the lights off, and enter into Roslyn’s highly-emotive world of Hazy (A Desert Opera).

Albums

Churches by Scarlett Taylor

On my first hearing of Scarlett Taylor’s music I was reminded of Lana Del Rey and Chrysta Bell – both being artists I adore. But now I have listened to Scarlett’s second album “Churches” a few times, I now enjoy it on its own merits, no longer drawing comparisons to other artists.

Churches is tagged as being “Sadcore” on Soundcloud and I had to research exactly what that was. Wikipedia’s definition states:

… [Sadcore] characterised by bleak lyrics, downbeat melodies and slower tempos. The term is an example of use of the suffix “-core”. It is a loose definition and does not describe a specific movement or scene.Wikipedia definition of Sadcore

That seems like an accurate stylistic description, but the resulting feelings I get from the music, especially Scarlett’s, is anything but bleak or downbeat. I find nearly all music gives me a lift of some sort, and this includes “Churches”. From out of the darkness and delivery, the music uplifts and creates in me, the feeling of reflection.

Let us Pray

The album’s opening song, “Fucked Up”, was the first one I heard before knowing about this album. The song found its way into a soundcloud playlist and I found myself skipping back to listen to it again and again. Although I can’t pick out a bad song from the album, that opening song is still a stand out one for me.

“Fucked Up” opens with a drone effect and Scarlett’s voice, which immediately blew me away with both her power and the way she delivers. She manages to weave her voice around a song’s structure, dancing in the darkness of the song’s core, not being held in too tightly to the rhythm.

The second song “Crazy” stays in the same vein as “Fucked Up” and by now I was fully immersed in the world of “Churches”.

Scarlett Taylor“Imprisoned” is the album’s third song and it is actually a remix version that has found it’s way on. The song opens with a passage from rapper Zay, who himself is part of a Minnesota-based rap group, “The Truants”. This gives the album a new flavour and dynamic without straying too far from her signature sound.

At the halfway point of Churches there sits the beautiful ballad “Ignite”. “Ignite” strips away all of the drone effects and electronic backing and presents Scarlett’s voice bare with an accompanying piano. If I was to give you one song to demonstrate her abilities as a singer it would be this one. It’s so great. And its build up towards the end gives the song an equally beautiful climax.

One of the album’s most haunting songs for me was “Christmas Eve”. Her brooding vocals over a string pedal tone. So emotional and seems to pull me into it every time I hear it. It’s dangerous for me to listen to this one when I’m driving. Also it never fails to give me that Twin Peaks vibe.

Scarlett Taylor would sound great at the Roadhouse.

Miss Scarlett in the Ballroom with the haunting voice

Some people hear emotive music like this and immediately say things like “That sounds depressing” or “Is there anything more upbeat?”. These are people I want to slap.

I mean, yes, most people wouldn’t get dressed up to go for a night on the town while listening to an album like this. I probably would, but that’s another topic all together. But to dismiss music like this as depressing is, in my opinion, completely closed minded.

We are lucky to have artists like Scarlett Taylor, who openly bare their souls in their writing and performances; artists who remind us what it is to be human.

Films & TV

We don’t do friends round here. Round here it’s Brotherhood

I have been a big fan of both Kidulthood and Adulthood for a while now. I got really excited when I saw a bus drive past me recently with a big picture of Noel Clarke on the side. The only word I could make out as the bus sped past was “Brotherhood”.

Realistic and brutal with some tasteful comedy

Tonight I went to see “Brotherhood” and I was not disappointed whatsoever. This film was terrific – often grimey; always believable; and even occasionally really funny. There is a great scene in the film regarding a phone conversation and Sainsbury’s. That’s all I’ll say, but the whole cinema screen was in stitches at this bit.

There were other elements of comedy now and again that offset the serious drama really well. Never cheesy or fake, in fact it was like a light cushion to soften the blows of the harsh world that Sam Peel lives in.

Brotherhood

This harsh world of West London gangs and crime was represented really well. I mean, I have zero knowledge of the world that the characters live in, but there were never any points that felt forced or fake. Every scene felt believable and was at times very brutal.

I left feeling uplifted

Despite the brutality of some of the film’s scenes and emotional turmoil that the characters went through, I left the cinema feeling uplifted. And speaking about emotional turmoil, Noel Clarke’s performance in particular was impressive. He plays as both vulnerable and as a bad ass during “Brotherhood”, and in both his performance is stand out.

It’s probably worth mentioning that there were no bad performances here. All were great, I just don’t want this write up to be massive, as it would be if I was to give all praise to where praise was due.

How this film got a ’15’ certificate I’ll never know. The C-bomb got dropped and I lost count of the amount of times I saw full-frontal nudity – men and women. I guess things have changed since I was a lad…

… gosh did I just say that?

Anyway, “Brotherhood” is an awesome film to be enjoyed as both a final chapter to the “hood” trilogy (Kidulthood, Adulthood, Brotherhood), or even as a film on its own. It’s been at least two or three years since I saw the previous two films and I still thoroughly enjoyed this one.

Films & TV

5 of my favourite moments in Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Warning: Spoilers Ahead!

There are spoilers below as I am openly writing about some of my favourite moments in Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Please don’t read on if you haven’t watched the whole series. Unless you don’t mind spoilers that is.

Class Protector

It seems unbelievable that, even within the world of Buffy, no-one had noticed how the weird happenings and dangers that have plagued the students have somehow linked to Buffy Summers.

So it was great to see Buffy presented with a custom award at the school Prom towards the end of Season 3. That award was “Class Protector” and was presented by none other than Jonathan Levinson.

Giles takes the glory

Giles kills BenAfter Buffy beats Glory to a pulp with Olaf’s Hammer, she left the one-half of the shared body, Ben, on the floor. (Ben and Glory shared the same body, you see). She then warned him that Glory must never return, on pain of death.

As she walked away I remember thinking, “Oh Gosh, what a weak way to give a villain an open ending.”. That was until Giles came along and showed us a twinkle of his inner-darkness:

Giles: …[Buffy] couldn’t take a human life. She’s a hero you see. She’s not like us.
Ben: …us?

Where then Giles grabbed Ben’s mouth and nose and suffocated him right there, essentially killing him and Glory. Dark times.

Discovering The Body

In all of the fantastical moments of the Buffyverse, Demons and Vampires; spells and curses, it’s amazing how close to the human condition Buffy managed to stay. A crowning achievement of this was during season 5 when Buffy walked in on her mother, lying open-eyed, dead on the sofa.

Buffy finds JoyceNormally during Buffy the deaths were par for the course, with the slaying of Vampires and such, but this was the closest it got to real tragedy and was expertly handled by all involved.

I’d like to test that theory…

Possibly my top favourite moment, as it is with many people I think, is Giles’ cool as feck return to stand against the doped-up dark witch that was now Willow. Giles had been out of the series for a while, and in my opinion the series lacked slightly for it. But this made it all worth it when Willow, overcome with grief and high on the dark magics, met her match:

Willow: … and there’s not a person in the World who can stop me.
A bright flash of light knocks willow back several feet and on to her back. In the doorway stands Giles looking cool as heck.
Giles: I’d like to test that theory.

The Kids fight back

One of my favourite end of season finales was that of Season 3. This saw Mayor Wilkins finally reaching his ascension into… a giant snake.

Buffy graduation dayThat wasn’t the best bit though. The high point came when the school kids, who the Mayor was expecting for his first bite to eat, turned out to be armed to the teeth under their graduation gowns. Faster than sunlight they pulled out an array of weapons and gave him hell.

 

Songs

Akala – Find No Enemy

If you only ever listen to one rapper in your life, I think it needs to be Akala. This song is a perfect example of what he’s all about and the issues that he speaks for.

I am by no means very knowledgeable when it comes to rap, but I know good, solid music with heart when I hear it.

Albums

Atlas by FM-84

FM-84 is one of the first artists I heard from out of the New Retro Wave genre of music. And his debut album, Atlas, is already a crowning achievement in his relatively new career.

Every song has the perfect feel of 80’s Americana, or at least this Englishman’s idea of what that is. Of course my only real notions of 80’s America come from the films and music I grew up on.

I write sun-soaked 80s inspired cinematic dreamwave and synth pop.FM-84’s Bio from SoundCloud

Hearing Atlas by FM-84 is like hearing a soundtrack to the best 80’s film I’ve never seen.

Consistently great feelings track to track

The album opens with what I can only describe as being similar to those expensive keyboard drumbeats I remember experimenting with when I was at school – only a lot more professional sounding. The drum is clean, hefty and has a fever-inducing beat that makes me imagine what it might be like to drive parallel to the ocean in Los Angeles at sunset.

Like the opening song “Everything”, half of the songs on this album are electronic instrumentals. Those that do feature vocals are some of the best soundtracks for my own personal montages when I’m driving around.

Yes I have driven around listening to Atlas, whilst imagining I’m in a similar scene to Rocky Balboa’s flashback montage in Rocky IV.

Pardon the swearing, but “Running In The Night” is one of the best fecking songs I’ve heard this year. It has everything I love in a song – passion in the vocals; awesome instrumentation and arrangement and the ability for me to pretend I’m in a film’s montage. It’s that good. Also the featured vocalist and co-writer on this song, “Ollie Wride“, has the best sounding voice for this style of music that I’ve heard.

“Let’s Talk”, another of the albums vocal-led songs – this time provided by Josh Dally, is so powerfully performed. The singing is delivered with a passion you just have to experience. It feel’s like the end credits song to a John Hughes film.

Each and every one of the songs on Atlas are simply great – they provide a good variety as well as being really well paced. Even the closing song, “Goodbye”, actually sounds like a closing song with it’s slower more reflective words and sound.

As summer fades away
Lost in a cloudless haze
Just hold me and touch a wave
There’s no more we need to say

Yet I don’t want to say goodbye
And I don’t want to see you cry
Goodbye (feat. Clive Farrington) from Atlas by FM-84

It’s obvious when listening to Atlas that FM-84 has a deep appreciation for the era he is harking back to. And it shows with every single second of this Album. There isn’t a single song that begs a skip past – instead every song demands multiple listens, each time louder than the last.

Racing towards the sunset

Atlas by FM-84 was a complete departure from what I had been listening to up till this point. I don’t even know how to explain how I got on without knowing about this whole musical genre, let alone Atlas.

I also want to say a huge thank you to FM-84 for making this whole album available on SoundCloud. However you should also be buying it from one of the retailers listed on this page.

I don’t think we realise just how lucky we are when someone like FM-84 comes along with such a passion for a musical / artistic era, and manages to create something completely fresh and reinvigorating with it. This is both one of my favourite albums of the 80s as well as today.

Songs

Click by LOCK

LOCK remind me a little bit of Say Lou Lou with this song. The London-based duo have such an interesting, strong sound and I really can’t wait for a full-length album by them.

I have just read how they have an E.P launch next week as well as having written most of their debut album. I can’t wait.