First listen: U2 – Songs of Innocence

Songs of Innocence

I’ve never actually sat down and listened to U2 before. I’ve heard their songs and have a good idea of what they sound like but I’ve never listened to any of their albums, or really actually paid attention to any of their songs. A lot of people love U2, I’ve just always known they’re not a band for me. Heck all I even know about U2 is they have hugely popular concerts, Bono wears sunglasses all the time and they seem to be involved in a lot of causes and world politics (whether this is true or not I couldn’t say).

U2 has been in the news a lot lately because Apple in a sense ‘bought out’ their thirteenth album Songs of Innocence and released it to half a billion iTunes users for free during their iPhone 6 reveal. Who doesn’t like free music? Well apparently the internet doesn’t. People immediately complained that the album snuck into their iTunes libraries unwanted. Personally, I feel the complaints are absolutely absurd and there will always be someone out there who will complain about anything. They could’ve given a $10 iTunes gift card to everyone in the world and somewhere out there on the internet someone would find a way to complain about it.

U2 songs of innocence iTunes page

Since I’ve never listened to U2 before I’ve decided I’d give the album a listen and write down a few thoughts about it. So here we go, I’m hitting play.

Aside from a handful of moments, (“The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)”, “Volcano” and “Sleep Like a Baby Tonight”) I can’t say I’ve found much to like in this album. Most of it sounds unremarkable, background music that falls apart when listened to closely. Reading the lyrics in the digital book as I listen doesn’t help. Most everything just comes off as boring.

The parts I like most is when Bono doesn’t sound like Bono. “Sleep Like a Baby Tonight” and the verses of “Volcano” stand out as favorites (not a huge fan of the chorus). I like the darkness in his voice in those two songs in particular. The verses of “Volcano” even have a slight Marilyn Manson sound vocally which I love. If the rest of the album had more of that dark sound and less of the typical, soaring sound that has bored me for years without even having had to listen to a U2 album.

Songs of Innocence

I rated every song as I listened, and going off of the iTunes star rating Songs of Innocence gets 2 out of 5 stars based off my first listen. Seeing as how I’ve never listened to any other U2 album I can’t really say whether this is a particularly good or bad U2 album. I read in TIME that U2 sees this album as one of their best, so it may just be that I don’t like U2.



My time so far with RYSE


So I’ve spent a couple hours with RYSE: Son of Rome today, and aside from a few technical hiccups it’s been an enjoyable time. For whatever reason the entire first chapter of the game was plagued by flashing white bars that covered my screen during gameplay. Xbox Support on Twitter couldn’t quite figure out what might be causing that issue, but luckily after the first chapter the problem went away. It returned briefly in the fourth chapter but disappeared before the end of the level.

Ryse looks absolutely amazing in both cut scenes and gameplay. It’s not perfect, there are some minor issues here and there that take away from the moment (for example on occasion articles of clothing clip through each other) but for the most part it’s visually stunning.

The gameplay is pretty simplistic and you can mostly button mash through the game on the easiest difficulty setting, but it’s still enjoyable. You have two main attacks with X and Y and when an enemy is weakened enough you can trigger an execution with right trigger. Once triggered the enemy will glow the color of the button you need to press to perfectly execute the combo (blue for X, yellow for Y). For some odd reason even if you don’t push the button the game wants you to push you can still perform the execution, you just don’t get as much XP from it. These executions are quite satisfying no matter how many times you perform them. They’re worth performing because you have a few different abilities that get bonuses from executions. Using the D-Pad you can select one of several abilities such as health restoration, attack bonus, XP bonus or Focus bonus and upon performing an execution you get a boost to the ability you selected. This adds a bit of strategy to the mix because you’ll have to decide whether you want to risk your health in order to get a damage or XP bonus during fights.

You can also push RB to activate the Focus mode which slows down time and makes your attacks incredibly powerful. This is useful when the odds seem overwhelming and it’s quite satisfying to pull of a powerful “sparta kick” with Y that launches your enemy across the screen when it lands.

The story isn’t too compelling, but Ryse sure has some great cut scenes (two of which I highlight in the clip below). I’m about halfway through Ryse and I’m looking forward to finishing it off. It’s worth nothing the story takes only about six hours to complete, but there’s a multiplayer arena mode that I haven’t tried yet. I’d recommend renting Ryse (I got it through GameFly) and giving it a try. If you’ve enjoyed the recent Batman games you’ll likely enjoy Ryse’s gameplay. Before I go, it’s also worth noting the game is completely linear, but that’s not always a bad thing. I’ve enjoyed it.