True Detective: Initial Season 2 Thoughts

The second season of the much lauded HBO show True Detective has begun and this time around we have a whole new cast of characters and a brand new setting to sink our teeth into. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are out, Vince Vaughn, Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch are in. This in itself is the first major distinction between the two seasons – the amount of main players in the story has doubled. How will that affect the storytelling and the character development and relationships throughout the season? Part of what made the first season so terrific was the fraught, tension filled relationship between Rust and Marty, so let’s hope that some of these character moments can still exist in this sophomore season despite the slightly more crowded story.

The next issue I have with this second season so far is the setting. The first stood out from the crowd due to it’s unique setting; the dense marshland, the dusty storefronts and roadside bars of southern Louisiana form to create an uncanny sense of isolation. It is a setting that is taylor made for a story focused on the occult and one which deals with the rejection of the Catholicism that is abundant in this part of the country. Season 2 however, is not so unique. It is set in L.A., a location which isn’t exactly lacking for procedural police dramas. However, if the writers can tap into the same sort of uncanny, occult peculiarities which were rife in the first season and transfer that to the L.A. setting, perhaps that will shine a new light on the city, revealing a seedy underbelly which isn’t as often portrayed on TV.

These are simply my initial impressions after just the first episode of the season, so they’re pretty premature and are liable to change. There’s only so much you can take from the opening episode of a show so I have my fingers firmly crossed that Nic Pizzolatto and the creative team behind the show can deliver upon and continue the success of the first season – because when it is on its A-game, there’s pretty much nothing like it on TV.

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Brand New – “Mene”

Back in April, Brand New released their first song in six years. This was a huge deal. Brand New have been my favourite band since the release of The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me back in 2006, a record that comfortably slots in my top 5 of all-time. I appreciated them before, really liking their previous work Deja Entendu and Your Favorite Weapon, but it was TDAGARIM that made an impression on me, made them a band that was worth paying attention to. So when they released Mene, their first music since 2009’s Daisy, the internet went into meltdown and the unpacking of the title, cover art and lyrical content began. I liked the song upon first listen, but now with a couple of months having passed by and a whole lot of time spent listening to the song, I think I can safely say that I’m damn excited for whatever Brand New have in store for us next.

Mene is a greatest hits album of a song. Sonically, the band seem to chart every stylistic change they’ve been through over the years in the course of 2 minutes 30 seconds, but the end result is something entirely new. It has the chorus hooks of Your Favorite Weapon, the relentless, soaring energy of Deja Entendu, the complex lyrically intricacy of The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me and the sheer electricity of Daisy. Jesse Lacey’s voice is on point, showcasing his unique ability to soothe you and scare you in equal measure. All in all, Mene leaves a sweet taste in the mouth, a feeling that whatever Brand New have in the pipeline is going to be well worth the wait.

Apple Music: Sink or Swim?

Tomorrow marks the launch of Apple’s foray into the crowded world of music streaming services. Controversial before it has even been released (thanks to a certain Miss Swift), Apple Music is Apple’s attempt to take the reigns of music consumption on the internet back from the hands of its competitors, most notably the king of music streaming Spotify. Others have tried and failed to go toe to toe with Spotify. The most notable failure is Tidal, the Jay-Z backed service aimed to distinguish itself from its competitors with a promise to pay its artists more for the streaming of their songs. This philosophy was comprised and rather proved void when Tidal was announced by a stage full of the most famous pop stars and music moguls in the industry, people whom one wouldn’t imagine are hard up for cash. This ill-judged launch and a higher subscription fee combined to spell the premature end of Tidal – the iPhone app has now dropped out of the top 700 apps on the App Store, the 21st century equivalent of being hung drawn and quartered.

Apple, however, is a different kettle of fish. Despite the Taylor Swift furore, Apple Music is poised to become the service most likely to pop Spotify’s lime green bubble. They have the experience, they have the know-how, and they vast knowledge in the music industry. They already changed the face of the music industry with the success of iTunes, who would bet against them to do the same in regards to music streaming. With big names onboard, those such as the aforementioned Swift, Pharell, Dr. Dre and a 24-hour radio channel helmed by Zane Lowe, Apple stands as the only realistic competitor to Spotify. The service comes built into the new iOS update 8.4, which drops tomorrow, and I’m eager to see if it can do enough to sway me from the comfy grasp of Spotify.

Batman: Arkham Knight

If you follow the goings on in video-games even slightly, you would know that the main story in this weeks games press has been the state of the PC version of Batman: Arkham Knight. The internet has been in meltdown ever since players first got to delve into the final chapter of Rocksteady’s Batman series, but those who are used to the graphical fidelity and steady framerates of the PC have been left brutally disappointed. But with the console versions performing perfectly, is Batman’s swan-song in danger of being overshadowed by technical woes?

The reality is that in a vast subsection of peoples eyes there will forever be an indelible mark left on this game, but that doesn’t mean the core game – the one that functions flawlessly on consoles – isn’t an incredible experience. It’s such a shame, and quite frankly appalling, that WB Games cannot seem to get a handle on their PC ports: this, along with April’s Mortal Kombat X, paint a damning picture of the companies ability to license out their ports correctly. It will be very interesting to see how the PC version of WB Games’ September release Mad Max turns out – another shoddy effort and the company will undoubtedly gain a reputation they will find hard to shake off.

An important question to ask is how does this fiasco speak to the current climate in terms of PC and console gaming? This situation harkens back to the early 2000s, when the console version of products were king and were always the lead build, the PC version merely contracted out to a development term entirely focused on ports. This goes entirely against the mantra held by many a gamer – PC is the master race. In general, it’s unarguable that console versions of games are graphically and technically inferior than their PC counterparts, even considering the greater power of the PS4 and Xbox One, but this trend is a worrying one if there are other publishers who aren’t talking the upmost care in development for all systems.

This whole thing is even more of a shame when you take time to consider the product which Rocksteady have crafted on consoles. Batman: Arkham Knight is the most accomplished and complete Rocksteady game to date, a focused and beautiful showpiece which truly makes the player feel like they are The Dark Knight. Let’s hope WB Games and Rocksteady can work together and patch out the kinks sooner rather than later so as many people as possible can experience the game in the way it was meant to be played.