GregHorrorShow: The Music Of 2016

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As someone who is fortunate enough to work in the music industry, it’s easy to forget that for a lot of people mainstream radio is the main way to consume music. That is changing with the arrival of streaming services that offer new and exciting ways to discover new music, and old music of course. I always like to try and highlight some of the lesser known bands I’ve discovered through the year while showcasing great tunes from different genres in general. And so my playlist for 2017 is bigger than some previous years. Strap yourselves in and enjoy some great new tunes!

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During my working day I’m exposed to a ton of great, fresh music but there were also some returning established artists that had good stuff out too. I wasn’t a huge fan of the new Britney Spears album but ‘Clumsy’ was a good cut, I really liked ‘Hurts’ by Emeli Sande and the return of A Tribe Called Quest was most welcome. Ryan Adam’s new single ‘Do You Still Love Me’ is fantastic and I also thought the latest Primal Scream track is the best thing they’ve done in a while. I really liked Lady Gaga’s ‘Perfect Illusion’ as well, a great single to return with.

music2016-vaults

The best band I saw live this year was Vaults and their album (finally) dropped late this year – it’s definitely well worth a listen. I feel like, for me at least, 2017 has been much more about tracks as opposed to albums but there were some great ones to check out. Savages, Polica and Michael Kiwanuka all delivered amazing albums but I found myself listening to more and more playlists rather than fully fledged albums.

In among all the other regular tracks I’ve included a handful of tracks to highlight my favourite game music from the year. It has been an amazing year for game scores – I’d definitely recommend checking out Spotify’s game section to find some more releases from this year.

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BEST ALBUM

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It had to be ‘Love And Hate’ by Michael Kiwanuka. This album is ridiculously good, possibly the best I’ve heard in years. ‘Cold Little Heart’ is a 10 minute epic that kicks things off but this album is a great experience. Sit down, relax and enjoy!

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BEST SONG

music2016-sigma

I almost gave this to Toothless for ‘Sisyphus’ which is my current jam but I can’t look beyond Sigma for this, which is a surprise to me as I haven’t been a huge work of their previous tracks. Teaming with Birdy for ‘Find Me’ they have a track that ticks a lot of ‘pop’ boxes. And I played this on a loop more than I’d care to admit.

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So there you have it, another year down and with the music industry remaining in growth it should be exciting times ahead!

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GregHorrorShow: The Music Of 2015

Music 2015 Chvrches

It’s been a pretty fantastic year for music in 2015. Returning artists like Adele, Justin Bieber, Florence + The Machine and Ellie Goulding saw huge success and the further rise of streaming took an interesting turn as Apple finally joined the fray.

I have put together a playlist on Spotify of my recommended tracks for the year, give it a click below to listen.

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I saw a lot of new bands this year and while I really enjoyed Clean Cut Kid, Aurora and Solomon Grey, the best new band I saw live in 2015 was Slaves at the Scala. It was a brilliant gig with a friendly, upbeat vibe. Overall though the best thing I saw live was Health, which, with a combined audio/visual performance, really was something special.

Music 2015 Oh Wonder

I really liked what we’ve heard so far from Jack Garrett and I found the Oh Wonder album to be a wonderful listen. Halsey stepped into Lorde‘s shoes and delivered a really great album, for me it lacks a little of the punch of Lorde’s stuff but Castle is a superb track.

Disclosure returned with a brilliant album and, after an extended absence, so did The Chemical Brothers. It’s a really cool album with lots of great featured artists on vocals. As well as being stunning live, I loved the Health album this year – it’s definitely worth checking out.

Tame Impala came back with a chilled out bang and Kendrick Lemar continued his hot streak of releases with ‘To Pump A Butterfly’. Another returning band was Sleater-Kinney, whose album I enjoyed.

Music 2015 Kendrick

Robyn returned with ‘Love Is Free’ which was one of my favourite songs and, of course, The Weeknd‘s ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ was huge. There were also great songs from Petite Meller, Kagoule, Charli XCX and Duke Dumont, among others.

You can check all these tracks out on the playlist above, if you haven’t already.

And so to wrap things up I’ll move onto the awards…

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BEST ALBUM

Music 2015 Best Album

It’s no secret to anyone who follows me on social media that I love Chvrches. I thought their previous album was brilliant and I wasn’t sure how they would follow it up. Thankfully ‘Every Open Eye‘ didn’t disappoint. Retaining their trademark sound but varying it enough to sound fresh, Chvrches delivered my album of the year.

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BEST SONG

Music 2015 Best Song

I had to think long on this one as there have been so many great tracks this year but the one I returned to over and over again was ‘Stonefist’ by Health. It’s an assault on the ears in the best possible way, a clarion call that keeps you hooked until the end.

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What you have you guys been listening to? Let me know of any albums I’ve missed or that you think are worth checking out!

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Life Is Strange – Review (PS4)

Life Is Strange Main

Life Is Strange is an episodic game that tells the story of Max Caulfield, a student who has returned to her hometown to take an elite photography course at Blackwell Academy. She has been away for five years, since her family moved to Seattle and we meet Max in October 2013, awaking from a nightmare as she slept in class. After class finishes she makes her way to the restroom where a chance encounter leads to a discovery… that Max can rewind time.

Choice is a big theme in a lot of games, Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls, The Walking Dead and, more recently, Until Dawn gave the player a selection of choices throughout the game that helped to shape the player’s experience and story. Life Is Strange does the same but with a slightly different twist.

Max can rewind time at will, you’re free to rewind by pressing L2 most of the time, and this also extends to conversations. So as well as manipulating certain events to happen at a set time, she can also get more information from people than you would just by speaking to them. You can have a full conversation, get some information and then rewind and have the conversation again. Only this time you will have extra dialogue choices based on what you found out and what the character you’re talking to doesn’t know they already told you. Still with me? 🙂

Life Is Strange 1

The other twist on the choice mechanic is that Max’s power doesn’t have an ‘energy bar’ or limited use. She can only rewind time so far but she, and by extension you the player, can do so over and over. This gives you the freedom to choose different options, see what happens and then rewind and try something else. If you prefer the original choice just rewind again and reselect it. If not go with something else. I feel this is a great innovation in the genre and while it wouldn’t suit all choice-based games, it really makes Life Is Strange stand out from other similar titles.

Graphically the game has a really nice art style, which looks gorgeous at times. It uses lighting well and the characters are modelled with believable facial animations, the only downside is the movement of mouths which, for the most part, don’t really match up to the dialogue being spoken. It’s a small gripe in the grand scheme of things and not a huge problem given that the game was made with a smaller budget than a lot of other titles.

The story itself was gripping and it was a painful wait between episodes, with about a two month period between each installment. There were a few odd inconsistencies in the story but nothing that did too much damage, especially as a lot of the time you’d be altering the timeline anyway and changing things. The characterisation was superb, with most of the people you meet feeling like well fleshed out characters, each with a story to tell if you wanted to listen. There was the rare occasion where characters veered away from the personality they’d shown previously, particularly in the final episode, but I never found it too much of an issue.

Life Is Strange 3

Before we discuss another big part of the game, music, I wanted to flag up, in the interests of full disclosure, that I did actually work on Life Is Strange, helping to make sure they could use the Sparklehorse track that features in the game. With that out of the way, it would be remiss not to discuss the music in this game. A selection of great tracks, for a start, that are used so well and do much to add to the game. The music is as much a character in Life Is Strange as some of the other supporting roles. The opening of Life Is Strange features, in my opinion, possibly the greatest use of music within a title. It’s seamless, suits the scene perfectly and puts you straight into the head of Max. Wonderful stuff.

The game comprises of five episodes, each ranging between two and half to three and half hours. There is plenty of content to get through, although the ability to rewind time to check out different dialogue/choice options within the first playthrough might limit the replayability of the game for some. Having said that there are also chances for Max to practice her photography, with picture opportunities scattered around levels and not clearly marked for the player. Each of these will net you a trophy so perhaps people might find some extra playtime going back to find these.

Life Is Strange 2

I fell in love with Life Is Strange right from the opening credits of the first episode. As long time readers of my blog might know, I am a sucker for anything time bending or time travel related and the developers have provided a rich, varied cast of characters to join you for the ride. There were moments I didn’t see coming that made me smile and a fair few that had me welling up. One cliffhanger ending to an episode left my jaw on the floor. Life Is Strange is everything a piece of entertainment should be – enjoyable, well made and memorable.

Rating 10/10

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GregHorrorShow – The Music Of 2014

Music 2014 Main

2014 has been a really good year for music, with breakout albums from the likes of Sam Smith, Banks and Hozier. There have also been some great albums from returning artists and even a very interesting film soundtrack collaboration.

Like last year I’ve popped my recommended tracks onto a Spotify playlist that you can check out here:

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I really liked Katy B‘s original album from back in 2010 so I was excited to hear the follow up ‘Little Red’. Keeping a similar vibe to her previous material, I thought this was a good listen. Maybe not as good as her debut but a solid ‘difficult second album.’ From an initial listen (albeit while working) I didn’t click with Beck‘s ‘Morning Phase’ album until a second listen cemented it as being up there with the best of the year.

The Phantogram album is fantastic, with stand out tracks like ‘Fall In Love’ and ‘Black Out Days’ throughout. I was also lucky enough to see them play an in-store gig at Rough Trade which was awesome. St. Vincent delivered a great album and I’ve been told I must check her out live soon because her shows are astounding. I really enjoyed the Dan Croll album, which has some good, laid back, pop tracks.

Music 2014 St Vincent

I think my favourite band this year has been Broods, who released their album ‘Evergreen’ a few weeks ago. I love their sound and they are great live. The stand out track for me is ‘Bridges’ but it’s a very good album overall. Jessie Ware returned with her second album which is among the best released this year. Tracks like ‘Tough Love’ and ‘Pieces’ cement Jessie as one of the UK’s best artists at the moment. Another returning artist was Lana Del Rey who dropped Ultraviolence in the summer. While I didn’t think it was as strong as her debut album it was a good listen and tracks like Brooklyn Baby and West Coast were highlights.

Hozier kind of came out nowhere to become one of the biggest artists of the year, his album is great with, of course, ‘Take Me To Church’ being the stand out track. Sam Smith has one of the best vocal performances I’ve heard in the last few years – like Adele or Florence Welch. Backed up by some fantastic tracks, he’s only just getting started! I’ve listened to the Banks album plenty of times and it’s just a really strong collection of tracks. I was fortunate enough to see her live earlier in the year at Koko and she was excellent in the flesh.

Music 2014 Hudson

On the live front I was lucky enough to check out lots of gigs this year. Aside from Banks and Broods, who I mentioned earlier, the highlights for me were Irish duo Hudson Taylor, Lorde – who was amazing at Shepherds Bush Empire, Ella Eyre, Hawk House and Hozier.

Azealia Banks finally dropped her long overdue album ‘Broke With Expensive Taste’ and while there were plenty of people lining up to watch it crash and burn, she actually delivered a really good, solid album. Would definitely recommend. Royal Blood make a hell of a lot of noise for just two people and I thought their album was brilliant. I’ve always liked The Roots and their new album ‘And Then You Shoot Your Cousin’ is up there for me as some of their best stuff. A great listen from start to finish.

Music 2014 Vaults

Other albums I enjoyed this year came from Vaults, Death From Above 1979 and Ben Howard. Another good listen was the soundtrack to The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One, curated by Lorde it had some great artists involved with some cool tracks as well.

I’m sure there are plenty of artists and albums I’ve missed in this round up but shout out in the comments if there’s anything great you’ve been listening to this year.

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GregHorrorShow: The Music Of 2013

Haim

Well, it’s been a great year for music again, with a host breakthrough acts and some great albums by established artists.

As usual I’ve popped my recommended tracks onto a Spotify playlist that you can check out HERE directly or embedded below.

I’ve only put one song from each artist but I’d recommend delving into the albums if you haven’t already 🙂

So here are the tracks that I’ve enjoyed in 2013, there are 38 in total so give them a listen:

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On the album front I’d give all of the above a try but there were some stand outs for me. Anyone who follows me on Twitter will have seen me raving about Haim from the get go and although we’d heard a big chunk of the album already as singles ‘Days Are Gone’ was probably my album of the year. Full of summery upbeat pop-rock it just clicked with me.

Despite being a bit heavy-handed lyric wise I also enjoyed the Frank Turner album and Laura Marling delivered a slightly lower key album than previously but it impressed me nonetheless.

Chvrches

Deap Vally’s was an album that I always recommend to people if they like that Queens Of The Stone Age/Eagles Of Death Metal sound. Both Disclosure and Chvrches had fantastic albums and breakout sensation Lorde gave us a great album in Pure Heroine.

I enjoyed the latest Eminem album as well, maybe not quite back to his best but some of it certainly felt in line with the original Marshall Mathers LP, which must’ve taken some doing! Most surprising album for me was 13, the new Black Sabbath offering. What a great rock album! If you like any of Sabbath’s previous stuff make sure you check this out.

As usual I made it to quite a few gigs this year – the two best for me were Black Sabbath and Haim. Sabbath at the O2 were just so good it was unbelievable – considering Ozzy’s long standing issues his vocals were great and it was a great experience, getting to see one of the most legendary rock bands ever. And with Haim, you can tell they’ve been playing music together for a *long* time! It was really tight and they put on a great show.

BlackSabbath

Deap Vally at The Scala were also excellent and even with lead singer Lauren Mayberry suffering from a heavy cold Chvrches gave a great account of themselves at Sheperd’s Bush Empire. I also saw Lana Del Rey at Hammersmith Apollo and she certainly knows how to put on a show for her fans. Mingling with those down at the front and posing for photos during the set!

So there you have it, a nice round up of 2013 and now we can look forward to seeing what 2014 delivers.

What have you guys been listening to this year? Any recommendations?

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GregHorrorShow: The Music Of 2012

NikiDove

2012 has been a pretty stellar year for music and a wealth of new bands have broken through. With streaming on Spotify (among others) blossoming, there has never been an easier way to uncover great, new music.

Here’s my pick of the best albums from 2012:

  • M.Ward – ‘A Wasteland Companion’
  • Lana Del Rey – ‘Born To Die’
  • Jake Bugg – ‘Jake Bugg’
  • Frank Ocean – ‘Channel Orange’
  • Ellie Goulding – ‘Halcyon’
  • Of Monsters And Men – ‘My Head Is An Animal’
  • Niki And The Dove – ‘Instinct’
  • Ladyhawke – ‘Anxiety’
  • Citizens! – ‘Here We Are’
  • Gaggle – ‘From The Mouth Of The Cave’

I don’t think I could pick one favourite if I’m honest. M.Ward ‘A Wasteland Companion’ is a truly superb piece of work. Of Monsters And Men delivered a great set of tracks with an album that grabs you immediately.

Channel Orange‘, for me, is the best R&B album in years – this was one of the albums that soundtracked my summer in 2012. For something totally fresh and out of leftfield give the Gaggle album a spin. I saw them live earlier in the year and it was a great gig. The album does it’s best to convey that ‘live’ vibe and it’s a cool bunch of tracks.

JakeBugg

Many have said it’s over-produced but I loved the Lana Del Rey album, it’s pure pop and very well written. Jake Bugg is a stunning talent and still so young. He is getting the recognition he deserves and his album is one you should definitely check out.

Albums that didn’t make the top ten but deserve an honorable mention would be Django Django‘s ‘Django Django’ (wonderful Hot Chip-esque pop), The Maccabees ‘Given To The Wild’, Cast Of Cheers ‘Family’, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs ‘Trouble’ (worth checking out even if you don’t like electronic stuff), 2:54 ‘2:54’, ‘Give You Ghost’ Policia, Theme Park ‘Theme Park’ (I dare you to listen to this and not wish it was summer!), Two Door Cinema Club ‘Beacon’, Soundgarden ‘Been Away Too Long’ (a real return to form in my opinion) and Kindness ‘Kindness’ (barring a poor cover choice of ‘Anyone Can Fall In Love’ this is great).

It would be remiss of me, given the gaming content on this blog, not to mention a couple of outstanding game scores from 2012. I would highly recommend checking out Health‘s ‘Max Payne 3’ score (here) and also the awesome ‘Drive’-inspired ‘Hotline Miami‘ soundtrack (here). High quality stuff.

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Once again I’ve collated my favourite tracks into a Spotify playlist which can be found here if you’re interested:

GregHorrorShow: The Music Of 2012

My tracks of 2012 (in no order) are as follows:

  • ‘Family’ – Cast Of Cheers
  • ‘National Anthem’ – Lana Del Rey
  • ‘Black, White and Blue’ – Ladyhawke
  • ‘True Romance’ – Citizens!
  • ‘To Be The Best’ – Tenacious D
  • ‘Lightning Bolt’ – Jake Bugg
  • ‘Me and My Shadow’ – M.Ward
  • ‘Little Talks’ – Of Monsters and Men
  • ‘Somebody’ – Niki And The Dove
  • ‘American Dream Pt II’ – Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs
  • ‘Boy’ (Hostage Remix) – Nina Nesbitt
  • ‘Default’ – Django Django
  • ‘Dark Star’ – Policia
  • ‘Super Rich Kids’ – Frank Ocean
  • ‘Jamaica’ – Theme Park
  • ‘Lovers Of The Light’ – Mumford And Sons
  • ‘Sleep Alone’ – Two Door Cinema Club
  • ‘Figure 8’ – Ellie Goulding
  • ‘House Of Balloons’ – Weeknd
  • ‘212’ – Azealia Banks
  • ‘Pickup Truck’ – Willy Mason

It’s even more difficult to pick your favourite track than it is album but the one that has bought me the most joy this year is definitely ‘Me and My Shadow‘ by M.Ward. It’s just such a great song – nice structure and the introduction of the female vocal in the chorus is a great touch.

MWard

I saw some really good gigs this year. I already mentioned Gaggle above and I was lucky enough to see Nina Nesbitt at Dingwall’s in Camden, I suspect she’ll have a big year ahead in 2013.

Some of my other favourites were Of Monsters And Men at Scala, which was brilliantly intimate and M.Ward who had a great, tight band with him and put on a great show at Koko.

I enjoyed Michael Kiwanuka at Sheperd’s Bush Empire but that night was stolen by support act Jake Bugg, who was the best artist I saw live in 2012. The sheer effortlessness of Bugg’s performance was insane as he rocketed his way the set. Amazing stuff.

So there we go – check out the playlist (link here again) and let me know what you think – and what you’ve been listening to/loving in 2012 – in the comments below.

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7 x 7 Link Award

I have been bestowed with the honour of receiving the 7×7 Link Award from the lovely The Warning Sign.

I don’t often get involved with this type of thing but as a break from the reviews I’ve been putting up recently – here goes!

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THE RULES:

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1. Tell everyone something that no one else knows about you.

2. Link to one of the posts that I personally think best fits the following categories: Most Beautiful Piece, Most Helpful Piece, Most Popular Piece, Most Controversial Piece, Most Surprisingly Successful Piece, Most Underrated Piece, and Most Pride-Worthy Piece.

3. Pass the award on to seven other bloggers.

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PART ONE:

In my younger days I once played a full 62 lap race on a Formula 1 game in one sitting – my knees literally cracked when I went to get out of the chair. Not a healthy attitude to gaming, although it was a one off!

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PART TWO:

1) Most Beautiful Piece: In terms of content I would say my Great Game Openings piece – some of those are stunningly gorgeous.

2) Most Helpful Piece: My Top 50 Single Player Games remains very popular and hopefully is still helpful to people looking to pick up some games for offline action.

3) Most Popular Piece: My Killzone 2 review went down really well and still gets plenty of views to this day.

4) Most Controversial Piece: Not a specific piece but any ‘Top’ lists usually garner some feedback on what people felt should’ve been in the list. Certainly not a bad thing.

5) Most Surprisingly Successful Piece: My review of Dante’s Inferno – the original prose as opposed to the game. Up there among my most viewed posts – still surprised by that everytime it pops up!

6) Most Underrated Piece: Sad to see that my end of year Music round up from 2011 has only had a handful of views, although it’s not a great surprise as I’m mainly a gaming blog.

7) Most Pride-Worthy Piece: Thankfully my most pride worthy was also a popular one! I really worked hard on my Top 100 Games ever articles.

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PART THREE:

Pass the award on to seven other bloggers: some of these guys haven’t blogged in a while so I’m hoping this might give them a little kick start 🙂

1) Beyond The D-Pad

2) Stacey Storey

3) renxkyoko’s space

4) What Now?

5) That’s Just Me

6) Liam’s Lions Outlook

7) Action Flick Chick.

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