iOS 10 is amazing

Apple released iOS 10 to the public this week just days after unveiling the iPhone 7. While the iPhone 7 has proven to be disappointing with its lack of stellar new features and the removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack, iOS 10 shows promise of what’s to come.

I was reluctant to upgrade to iOS 10 this week because Apple updates are notorious for their bugs that can leave phones or iPads “bricked,” or in an unusable state for a period of time.

However, I decided to take the plunge and see what Apple had to offer. They had a lot.

Perhaps the best new feature is how the phone wakes when you simply pick it up. No more reaching over for your phone and pressing the home button, which usually unlocked the phone because of touch ID.

Other exciting features include redesigned notifications, new messaging features, and the ability to delete those default apps that you’ve never used. You know, things like Stocks and Watch.

iOS 10 also just seems to run faster, and the interface seems cleaner.

iOS 10 is a breath of fresh air, and everyone should give it a try.

 

New Def Leppard album and single (!!!!)

Do the exclamation points give away my excitement?

Def Leppard is one of the best-selling musical acts in the world and one of the most recognizable names in rock music, yet lately they have been taking a back seat to making quality albums. They are best known for their hit albums Pyromania (1983) and Hysteria (1987), which together contained the songs “Photograph,” “Rock of Ages,” “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” and “Animal,” among many other hit singles. They continued their success with 1992’s Adrenalize and, too a lesser extent, their collective of b-sides called Retro Active in 1993.

The band changed their style of music for Slang in 1996 by stripping down and letting emotions fuel their music. This proved unsuccessful and the band returned to their signature sound in 1999 for Euphoria, which contained a #1 Rock hit with “Promises,” but lacked what the previous albums had. Then the band took a nose dive with 2002’s X and 2008’s Songs From the Sparkle Lounge. These albums were very hit and miss. The good songs were some of their best, but the bad songs were unbearable, and Def Leppard had never written any bad songs before X.

The live album in 2011 had three news songs on it, in which “It’s All About Believin'” was spectacular but the others were mediocre. Then the band focused on touring, creating the longest gap between studio albums. It had started to look like Def Leppard would never release another album.

But now Def Leppard is releasing a self-titled album on October 30 and they just released the lead single called “Let’s Go.” The song is one of the best the band has done since the millennium, which makes the rest of the album very promising.

Finally some good music

2015 is finally starting to give us some good music, but unfortunately it won’t change the stripped down indie rock trend or the too electronic and fake pop music out there. The problem is that most of the good music coming out now days is by bands and artists who have been around for a long time. There aren’t a lot of new artists that are venturing into hard rock.

Already this year Wednesday 13 released his newest album Monsters of the Universe: Come Out and Plague, which while good isn’t up to par with his last two albums. Then Kid Rock and Blackberry Smoke released albums that had promise but really didn’t take off.

Marilyn Manson released his best album in a decade with The Pale Emperor, showing that his best days are not behind him. Then ’80s glam band Trixter released a not-so-great album that included “Rockin’ til the Edge of the Night,” the best song of the year in my opinion.

Now rock albums seem to be coming out daily.

Disturbed

Disturbed released their 6th album last week, which is their best since their debut. The songs “The Vengeful One” and “What Are You Waiting For” are standouts, although a handful of them have found a place among the top rock songs on the iTunes charts for the past month and received radio airplay.

Bon Jovi

Bon Jovi just released a new album that is so embarrassing and rushed that I want to cry. Not really, but the album is terrible. It shouldn’t be a surprise seeing as What About Now in 2013 and The Circle back in 2009, I think, were also under par. The surprise is that there is a gem in the track “I’m Your Man,” which is the most hard rocking song Bon Jovi has released since 2005. Still, it doesn’t make up for the rest of the album.

Iron Maiden

Iron Maiden is back with its first album since 2010, which is due out in October. The album’s first single “Speed of Light” is a bit underwhelming for an Iron Maiden lead single, but it still rocks. If the rest of the album is at least as good as this single I’ll probably buy it.

Chris Cornell

I’m a big fan of Soundgarden and I really enjoyed Chris Cornell’s time in Audioslave, but I’ve never enjoyed Chris Cornell’s solo albums as a whole. There are a few songs I’m okay with, but I’ve never purchased a Chris Cornell album. His work in the last few years has been mediocre at best and not up to par with his past work, until now.

His new album, titled Higher Truth, will be released in September. The lead single is perhaps the best Chris Cornell has sounded since Audioslave and it shows him going back to his alt rock style that everyone misses. I bought the song the day it came out and I love hearing it on the radio.

Queensryche

I love Queensryche. Operation: MindCrime and Empire are some of the greatest albums ever made, but Queensryche has struggled to find a consistent style and to regain its lost popularity. I saw them live a few years ago and I was underwhelmed. Their stage presence was boring and Geoff Tate just didn’t have it anymore. This showed on the many albums released throughout the past decade, especially American Soldier and Dedicated to Chaos (although the single “Get Started” from DtC was actually quite good). When the band split with Tate and hired Todd la Torre as vocalist, I was excited. This new guy has some pipes!

Then the album Queensryche was released, and although it wasn’t bad, it was boring. It didn’t have any hit material or standout songs. It showed an improvement, but also that there was still a long way to go. Now the band is back with their album Condition Human, set to be released in October. The song “Arrow of Time” sounds like a song from the band’s 1988 album Operation: Mindcrime, just not as catchy. I’m hopeful that the new album will be better than the last one, and all of the others released from 1999 to 2011.

Collective Soul

I’ve never owned a Collective Soul album or song in my life, but I’ve heard them on the radio over the years. I actually like them, although I didn’t realize that until I heard some of the songs from their new album and then looked up their old ones I had heard on the radio.

Collective Soul’s new album See What You Started By Continuing will be released on October, the same day as the aforementioned Queensryche album. The album’s lead singles are good and show that the band can continue to make good music that doesn’t stray to far from what made them successful.

Def Leppard

We’ve been promised a new Def Leppard album for a few years now, but the band has said multiple times that it will be out sometime this fall. On Aug. 27 vocalist Joe Elliott confirmed that it is finished and will be out before the end of the year to Grand Forks Herald, saying the album will be called simply Def Leppard. If everything the band has been saying is true, the album will be more like ’70s classic rock than Def Leppard, which is fine by me. Elliott sounds great singing Elton John and Mott the Hoople and their Queen-like songs throughout their career have been very haunting.

Upcoming TV shows I’m most excited about

It’s time for another fall and winter TV season and the announcements of premiere dates keep coming. I watch TV, but I’ve never been one to watch a lot of TV. I usually have 2-3 shows per year and that’s it. Well, that might change this time around.

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Walking Dead’s upcoming season looks to be interesting, but I don’t think it will be anything revolutionary. ANYTHING will be better than most of the past season, however.

Grimm (NBC)

Grimm will be on to it’s fifth season, which promises to advance the underlying plot of the whole series by finally revealing what the keys found seasons ago are and, according to the Comic Con panel, will introduce dark themes dealing with addiction and cults.

Fear the Walking Dead (AMC)

On August 23 AMC’s spin-off prequel to the Walking Dead called Fear the Walking Dead will premier, and it looks amazing.

Heroes Reborn (NBC)

Also premiering this year is NBC’s Heroes reboot, called Heroes Reborn, which was one of my favorite shows until it was canceled. That, was a sad day, but I’m happy for it to be back.

The Shannara Chronicles (MTV)

And, fast forward to January, I am most excited about the brand new MTV drama called The Shannara Chronicles. I have been reading the Shannara novels by Terry Brooks since I was in 6th grade and I have enjoyed every single one (over 20 novels total). Now that the second book in the series, the Elfstones of Shannara is being brought to life by MTV, I am super excited. MTV has the rights to the entire series and they are very confident that more seasons will be made, which means that the Four Lands will be brought to life.

I was very skeptical at first because film studios always ruin my favorite books and because it is MTV, but after seeing the trailer I am very impressed by the high quality CGI and the budget used on this show. MTV is really giving the series a big screen treatment for the small screen.

Plus Brooks has reviewed all of the rough cuts of the episodes and worked with the cast and production team to bring his world to life and it has his approval. Of course, in that same interview he discussed that it was difficult for him to give his series away. He also hinted that the final sub-series of Shannara is coming soon and that really makes me sad.

What shows are you most excited about?

Book Review: A Game of Thrones

Book: A Game of Thrones

Author: George R. R. Martin

Genre: High Fantasy

Published: 1996

Publisher: Bantam Books

The cover of George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones, used under fair use for this book review.
The cover of George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, used under fair use for this book review.

I have been meaning to read A Game of Thrones for a few years now after seeing so many good reviews. I have never watched the TV series on HBO based off of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, so I am not comparing it to the adaptation.

I read through the book rather quickly considering how busy I have been lately, and I think it has to do with the quality of the writing and the depth of the characters and the constant surprises the novel threw my way. I assumed it would be a typical high fantasy novel, which is fine by me, but I learned that this novel is anything but typical.

It leaves out the most common fantasy tropes such as the Chosen One and average farm boy rising above all else. There is also a lack of magic ruling the way of life, although it is present. Instead, A Game of Thrones focuses on relationships and politics, something that fantasy novels usually leave out for a larger sense of adventure.

The main conflict is layered with multiple sides and Martin allows us to see each side and feel for every single character. There is no good versus evil. Each sides has its faults and each seems to look for something to gain.

Despite the rather slow start, the novel really kicked up a few chapters in and never cooled down. There were even a few parts that caught me by surprise, which is pretty rare.

I give the book 5 stars

Band of the week: Van Halen

Van Halen is one of the greatest bands to ever exist. They started out with David Lee Roth on vocals, releasing six amazing hard rock albums from 1978 to 1984. Then the band picked up the red rocker, Sammy Hagar on vocals. With Hagar they released four albums on par with Roth’s work with the band from 1986 – 1995.

Like many Van Halen fans I choose to forget about the Van Halen III album in 1998 and their newest 2012 studio effort with Roth, A Different Kind of Truth. The latter just shows that Diamond Dave isn’t shining so bright anymore.

Still, the band has left a legacy and I chose them as band of the week because I have been on a Van Halen kick. Yesterday I listened to Van Halen, Van Halen II, Women and Children First, Fair Warning, and Diver Down. Today I listened to 1984, 5150, and OU812. I will finish listening to the other Hagar albums tonight. It feels great to own all of these great albums and I hope that if you are not a fan currently that you will give them a listen.

Here are a few of my favorite Van Halen songs:

Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love (1978)

So This is Love (1981)

Finish What Ya Started (1988)

Don’t Tell Me (What Love Can Do) (1995)

Album review: Three Days Grace, “Human”

I originally wrote and published this article with JagWire newsmagazine on their website and it has been submitted to Best of SNO for possible inclusion on their website. 

– Chase –


Rock group Three Days Grace released their fifth studio album, “Human,” March 31 to stores everywhere and for digital download.

The album is the first with new vocalist Matt Walst following the departure of Adam Gontier in 2014 to pursue a solo career. Matt Walst, who rose to fame as the vocalist of rock band My Darkest Days following the band’s breakthrough album in 2010, is the brother of bassist Brad Walst.

Matt Walst had worked with Three Days Grace before and is credited as a composer on the band’s 2012 album “Transit of Venus.”

The band is known for mainstream rock hits such as “I Hate Everything About You” in 2003, “Animal I Have Become” and “Pain” in 2006 and “Never Too Late” in 2007.

“Human” follows a generic 21st century mainstream rock formula with repetitive lyrics and that somewhat muffled and electronic sound that all modern bands seem to have. The album isn’t exciting like the 20th century work of groups such as Van Halen or Def Leppard, but no one expects it to be either.

The album starts out with its third promotional single, “Human Race.” The beginning of the song sounds like awful electronic pop music for about 40 seconds, but the hard rock guitar riffs and vocals start right after and the electronic sound disappears until later in the song. Matt Walst’s vocals are strong during the verses, but they are a bit underwhelming during the chorus. The guitar solo starts at the last third of the track and it is probably one of the better guitar solos of all of the mainstream rock bands today. The song is definitely a standout for the album.

The album then proceeds to the mainstream rock radio hit “Painkiller,” a fan favorite off of the album. KISW – the Rock of Seattle – seems to play the song every two hours or so and has been doing so since the single dropped in late 2014. The song doesn’t differ too much from other rock hits of the century, but that doesn’t mean its bad. The song is the best one on the album.

“Fallen Angel” is a slower song that seems hit ready, yet has not been released as a single. The song does offer a glimpse at the upper vocal range of Matt Walst and an easy to follow chorus and lyrical structure, but not much else.

“I Am Machine” was the second mainstream rock hit from the album, played about as frequent as “Painkiller” was. The song’s chorus comes off as catchy and odd as it cruises through at multiple points of the song in a crescendo of intensity.

The seventh track on the album, “So What,” is fierce and on the verge of being a rock n roll anthem, which was likely the point. The song’s lyrics are rebellious in nature like all great rock anthems. It is hard to resist the urge to throw both fists in the air as the bend belts out big backing vocals during the chorus that make it a standout on the album.

“Car Crash” is a self explanatory title. The entire album seemed to be heading in the right way until this song came up. It is metaphorical for a love gone bad, but the song really just disappoints, sounding very much like the car crash it mentions.

“One Too Many” is very reminiscent of the type of music Matt Walst made with My Darkest Days: dark and disturbing vocals about love that lead up to powerful choruses. The verses of the song come across like whispers and warnings, low and scratchy.

Overall, the album is surprisingly pleasant. The first half rings true as a rock album while the second half seems to slowly taper off and fade. Vocalist Matt Walst has proven himself to be superior or at least as talented as Gontier on “Human,” as the album is better than “Transit of Venus,” which shows that Three Days Grace can continue to make good music in the future.

A great article 

I was browsing through my Facebook news feed this morning and saw an update from KISW, the rock radio station I usually listen to. They shared an article about a man who used to be in both Nirvana and Soundgarden, turned American hero, then became a college professor. It’s a really great story and one of the best articles I’ve read by the New York Times in a while.

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/07/02/magazine/evermans-war.html?referrer=

2015 in rock music

A lot is going on for the rock music genre in 2015. A few great albums have already been released this year, although to not much success on the commercial side of things. The rock music industry seems to have hit an all time low in sales and support, and that may not change this year.

Continue reading “2015 in rock music”