Written Word

Clearing the Backlog: 1-2 ~ Chrono Trigger

I’m about 4 hours deep in this gem now. I’m still very familiar with the content that I’ve played, but I’m getting a refresher on the storyline.  The highlight of my playthrough and from everything that I’ve seen in the game thus far is the super advanced (to my knowledge) ability of the game to secretly record your choices and make you pay the consequences for them.

Without too many spoilers, there are a bunch of secretly incriminating acts that you can preform without even thinking about it as they are common video game actions that eventually, when the game’s circumstances put you on trial before the high court totally can make you look like a guilty liar. The way that these events played out the first time I played this game still stand strong in my mind as there wasn’t a Telltale style “Clementine will remember this” telling you every time you were making a moral decision, but you weren’t expecting it at all when the judge shows you evidence against yourself. 

Aside from that I am getting the main time travelling plot expounded to me in bits and pieces where I am.  I am also building up my crew of time warriors and I am presented with the opportunities of naming each of my companions. In my younger days I always liked giving characters cool names, but lately I’ve been liking to see what the default names are for characters and going with that. Knowing that this is a JRPG from 1995, I really wonder about the localization / writing for the names of some of the characters in this game. I’m curious if the writer’s were actually lazy enough to call the frog “Frog”, the robot “Robo”, or the lava monster “Lavos” of if that was some sort of weird localization thing. 

Nevertheless, my quest is continuing onward. I am currently working through the events that will eventually allow Robo to join my team. More thoughts incoming as I have them.

Clearing the Backlog: 1-1 ~ Chrono Trigger

We all have those games we’ve played before and maybe even enjoyed a lot, but never completed for whatever reason. Maybe life got in the way or maybe another game came out that just stole the spotlight. Either way, backlogs full of games that I’ve genuinely enjoyed make me sad so I wanted to try and do something about it.

The first game on my list was the classic Square Japanese Role-Playing Game — Chrono Trigger!

I have started playing Chrono Trigger 3-4 times, but never have I been able to get the game to completion. I will post my thoughts of where I am in the game this playthrough as I reach them. I will try not to be too spoilery without warning, but here we go. 

The first thing I notice upon the stereotypical waking up at home scene of the game is how much I forgot I love some great pixel art. 


I don’t know if my appreciation for pixel art is one of nostalgia or just a general taste, but I have loved the look of this game every single time I have started it. The characters are all bright, vibrant, unique, and so full of character even before they talk or act. 

I played through the beginning parts of this game up through the main event that starts off the course of the game, and thus I’d like to just really focus for a second on how cool that fair is. 

There are all these little minigames and an opportunity for repeatable combat where you can even level up and grind currency for a crazy powerful sword all right here. I earned enough silver points from betting on footraces, hitting strength tests, and fighting dancing singing robots to earn myself a new sword (not the crazy expensive one), and my two party members new armor and helmets at a super fun festival party. 

If i noticed anything particularly new about this playthrough of this area is actually how much this game reminds me of Kingdom Hearts in a lot of ways. The structure and events in the starting area that double as a tutorial and character development to the party system all remind me of the way Sora and his buddies play around on Destiny Island… That reminds me, I want to play through those games again with their prettier graphics on ps4 sometime… NO! This series is not for increasing my backlog but decreasing it… 

More updates to come!

Other Cool Music You (Maybe) Haven’t Heard Yet

Tired of only hearing people talk about Drake and Ed Sheeran? There is a reason those guys are popular, but with over 100 albums being released every week, its really easy for awesome stuff to fall by the wayside.  If you’re looking for some music that sounds a bit different than the current trends, here are some suggestions that I have found pretty sweet from this year: 

Wild Fiction by AR Ferdinand
An electronic album that just feels good to listen to, you can’t go wrong putting this on with a hope to have some feel good vibes. With vocal effects reminiscent of Daft Punk and samples of many different feels ranging from minor disco? to R&B to Jazz, you just have to at least give it a shot.

French Kiwi Juice by FKJ
Opening off with an organ and a saxophone to set an appropriate mood can’t be a bad thing, and this jazzy R&B album doesn’t disappoint with all the “mood” and “feeling” you want to close your eyes in a room with a nice candle and just chill. 

Brokenlegged by Sinai Vessel
It wouldn’t be a list made by me if there wasn’t at least a little bit of Emo offerings. This year, Sinai Vessel released a very sad (in a good way) album about what happens when a relationship isn’t working out right and the anxiety that might cause someone to make an album about it. Sappy and cliche and a sterotype? Yes! And that is what I needed!

The Storm Before the Calm by Death Therapy
What if I told you that someone made an electronic death metal album without using any guitars? What if I told you that it worked? Jason Wisdom of the Christian metal band Becoming the Archetype made this solo project that has layers of things going on and is worth your time.

Prick of the Litter by Delbert McClinton & Self-Made Men
Are you in the mood for some bluesy modern stuff reminiscent of a Randy Newman (The dude what made the song from Toy Story) mixed with a little bit of the Eagles? This kind of smooth rock is something we all might like more of in our life.

WrestleMania 33 Cliff’s Notes

For those who haven’t been following the phenomenon that is the “Road to WrestleMania”, I have compiled a quick and easy guide and summary of the storylines that have lead up to this year’s WrestleMania. Enjoy!

WWE Universal Title: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Goldberg

Goldberg, the man who was WCW’s champion in the 90s and destroyed his opponents in record times returned to the WWE after over a decade long hiatus to show the Beast incarnate who was next on his list. After destroying Brock Lesnar in less than 90 seconds at Survivor series, he eliminated Lesnar during the Royal Rumble and then took the WWE Universal Title from Kevin Owens at the Fastlane Pay Per View. Goldberg still holds the record for longest undefeated streak from back in his earlier WCW/WWF days.

Brock Lesnar is the Beast Incarnate. A massive chunk of muscle, he wants to take down the old geezer that is Goldberg and restore his honor. Prior to his loss to Goldberg at Survivor Series last year, Lesnar was the monster who was able to not only beat everyone, but destroy them. This match will determine who holds the WWE Universal Title moving forward.

WWE Title: Bray Wyatt (c) vs. Randy Orton

Bray Wyatt is the leader of the Cult of Wyatt. This is a voodoo cult revolving around the mysterious powerful figure known only as Sister Abigail who provides Bray Wyatt with his evil supernatural power. At various times, Bray Wyatt has held seemingly mystical control over various other WWE wrestlers and led them as a monstrous master.

Randy Orton, the viper, was in a battle against the Wyatt family that he could not win. He eventually joined the Wyatts after not being able to defeat them. It was revealed recently that he had only infiltrated the cult to destroy it from the inside. When Bray Wyatt let Randy into his secret sanctum which contained the body and soul of Sister Abigail, he burned the place to the ground.

This plan did not seem to work and Bray returned to the scene to bathe himself in the ashes of Sister Abigail and claim to have fully absorbed her soul into himself. Randy then returned to the grave site and attempted to destroy Abigail’s remains with a holy symbol, but only time will tell if the witch has left Bray. They will be fighting for the long standing WWE Title.

Raw Women’s Title Elimination Match: Bayley (c) vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Nia Jax vs. Sasha Banks

Bayley, the hugger and purveyor of positivity and presumably also more hugging, was able to win the Raw Women’s title off of Charlotte Flair (Daughter of legend and superstar Rick Flair) ending Flair’s undefeated at Pay Per View streak. Bayley’s friend Sasha Banks, who was in her own long feud with Flair helped Bayley keep the title from Flair through somewhat questionably legal means.

Meanwhile, Nia Jax, the biggest women currently working in the WWE, was in a feud where she repeatedly tried to destroy an injured Sasha Banks while she was recovering from her many losses against Flair. Bickering amongst these ladies and their managers led to the match being declared an elimination match between all of them.

WWE United States Title: Chris Jericho (c) vs. Kevin Owens

Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens used to be best friends. At least that is what Chris Jericho, the current holder of the WWE United States belt thought. Though they had their fights, Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho maintained an alliance helping each other win and keep their respective belts, but when Chris Jericho accepted a match against Goldberg for the Universal Title on Kevin Owens behalf, Kevin Owens was done with this “fake friendship”.
At the festival of friendship, Kevin Owens destroyed Chris Jericho and told him he was only his friend while it was useful to him in keeping his title. Kevin Owens then lost the WWE belt to Goldberg when he was distracted by Chris Jericho seconds into the match. Kevin Owens in the meantime has made friends with the large destroyer Samoa Joe and possibly even the WWE COO, Triple H.
This is not the only person that Kevin Owens has stabbed in the back however. His long time friend in the independent wrestling scene and also in the beginning of their NXT career, Sami Zayn has recently showed signs of possibly wanting to help Chris Jericho in his war against Kevin Owens and may very well be a factor in this match as well.

WWE Intercontinental Title: Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Baron Corbin

Dean Ambose, the lunatic fringe, is a wild and unpredictable guy, but a feud with Baron Corbin, the lone wolf and winner of the Andre the Giant battle royale has proven to be very bad for Dean up to this point. Baron performed an incredibly vicious attack on Dean Ambrose backstage that ended with him lowering a forklift fork onto Dean Ambrose’s ribs, causing broken bones and other damage. Baron Corbin stated earlier that he just wants to hurt people and right now his sights have been set on Dean.

RAW Tag Team Titles: Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson (c) vs. Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. Sheamus & Cesaro

Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson are a very talented tag team who has wrestled together for years, starting the independent scene all the way up and recently won the Raw tag team belts. Enzo Amore and Big Cass, the realest guys in the room who resemble new england white brawlers

Non-Sanctioned Match: Triple H vs. Seth Rollins

Seth Rollins used to be Triple H’s golden boy. He would do whatever Triple H wanted no matter how many friends he had to betray. He rode that train all the way to the top and a serious knee injury was the only thing that stopped his momentum. When Rollins returned he was unable to gain the respect and position in the eyes of Triple H who saw his getting injured as a betrayal and a slap in the face after all he had given to Seth.

Seth wanted revenge but after his knee was injured by Triple H’s new hitman, Samoa Joe, his chances to wrestle at WrestleMania were slim to none. The injury forced Seth to push himself through rehab, and even though he wasn’t cleared by the WWE to wrestle officially, he has changed his motive from revenge to redemption and he sees Triple H as the pervertor of his character. Even though he was not cleared, Seth Rollins signed a contract with Triple H for an unsanctioned match against The Game (Triple H).

Roman Reigns vs. The Undertaker

Roman Reigns, the big dog claimed that WWE was his yard. The Undertaker, in what is most likely his last match after over two decades under his belt. The Undertaker, also known as the dead man is the one who brings people to the afterlife. This supernatural figure stands to defeat one of the WWEs biggest modern superstars in what could be seen as the past vs the present. The Undertaker whose PPV record is 21-1 (His only loss is to The Beast Incarnate, Brock Lesnar), also known as Mr. Wrestlemania because of that streak, looks to bury one of the most hated people in the modern era, Roman Reigns.

John Cena & Nikki Bella vs. The Miz & Maryse

John Cena, the face of WWE for over a decade and the second biggest crossover WWE star and his girlfriend Nikki Bella, star of the show Total Divas and Total Bellas are on a mission to put down Mike “The Miz” and Maryse. Miz and Maryse claim that Cena and Bella are only famous because of their looks and are sellouts who live a double life. While Cena preaches Hustle, Loyalty, and Respect and plays superman, Miz states that he is secretly just in it for himself.

The Miz started with attacks on how John Cena would never marry Nikki or provide her with children because he wasn’t a real man who didn’t care about her at all. This week on Smackdown Live, John Cena responded with a personal attack implying that The Miz was incapable of making children with his wife Maryse. A rivalry that started with a petty cliche attack on Cena seemed to trigger a personal response and the fight is on at Wrestlemania.

Shane McMahon vs. AJ Styles

AJ Styles, accepted as the greatest professional wrestler in all of the world deserved a chance to be in the main event of Wrestlemania. After Randy Orton who was in disguise at the time said he wouldn’t wrestle Bray Wyatt for the championship, Smackdown management decided to set up another series of events to choose an opponent for Bray Wyatt. AJ overcame challenge after challenge to earn his chance to regain his lost WWE Championship, but management then decided when Randy Orton revealed his true intentions, to give him the match back.

This caused AJ Styles to earn his own justice. He attacked Shane McMahon backstage and was summarily fired by Daniel Bryan. Shane McMahon however, was not one to back down from a challenge and said he would give AJ Styles his Wrestlemania match against himself.

Royal Rumble 2017 Cliff’s Notes

Remember the Rumble! The Royal Rumble is coming up this Sunday (Jan 29th) and here is the short version of all of the information you will need to understand what is going down.

Right now the card looks like this (in no particular order): 

  • (Kickoff Show) Cesaro & Sheamus vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson
  • (Kickoff Show) Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax
  • Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns
  • AJ Styles vs. John Cena
  • Charlotte Flair vs. Bayley
  • Rich Swann vs. Neville
  • Becky Lynch, Nikki Bella, Naomi (Team Face) vs. Alexa Bliss, Mickie James, Natalya (Team Heel)
  • The Royal Rumble

Here is the skinny on each of these matches: 

Cesaro & Sheamus vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson
Cesaro is a long time WWE veteran and currently a fancy movie star fellow attempting to pull off a James Bond look. He was thrust against his will into a tag team with the viking boy Sheamus. Suprisingly to everyone, they were able to set aside enough of their differences outside the ring to pull the title off of the tag team record holding champions The New Day last year. 

Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, having moved to WWE after successful careers in both ROH and NJPW are a force to be reckoned with. This tag team match is a repeat of what happened in a recent title match between the same contestants where Gallows and Anderson were able to pin the champions however, due to a previous incident caused by Sheamus, the match was considered a win by DQ which did not allow Gallows and Anderson to take the belts officially. 

Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax
Sasha Banks is hot off of a title run against Charlotte Flair where she was unsuccessful. She was injured in her last match with Flair and was in recovery waiting on another potential shot at the title when Nia Jax attacked her and claimed that she was the real boss of the women’s division.  Jax is a behemoth of a lady and has repeatedly dismanted Banks over and over leading up to this match. 

Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns
Kevin Owens is the current WWE Universal Champion after the title was given to him by WWE COO Triple H. He and his “best friend” Chris Jericho have used all sorts of hyjinks to allow Owens to keep the belt as well as steal the United States Championship from Reigns. In this match Kevin Owens must wrestle Reigns with Jericho suspended above the ring in a shark cage to keep him from interfering with the match. 

Roman Reigns is the is good guy that the WWE Universe loves to hate. Ever since Famous team The Shield (featuring Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Reigns) was disbanded when Rollins betrayed his brothers, the WWE Universe has hated everything Reigns has done. They cheered when he lost the belt to the cheating Chris Jericho and would riot if Reigns were to overthrow one of the fan’s favorite bad guy Owens. 

AJ Styles vs. John Cena
AJ Styles likes to refer to himself as “The face that runs the place”. After a killer 2016 debut, he rose to the top of Smackdown Live as the champion including multiple clean defeats over WWE workhorse John Cena. He criticized the “has been” “Hollywood” “part-timer” John Cena for being able to come back to the WWE after spending so much time outside and immediately getting a title match against him, the phenomenal one. 

John Cena, the person who essentially ran and upheld the WWE for over a decade. With the most televised matches of any WWE superstar, John Cena and the WWE have been essentially synonymous. John Cena has been the World Champion of the WWE 15 times. If he wins this match he will have tied the all time great Ric Flair who has held 16 world titles. 

Charlotte Flair vs. Bayley
Charlotte Flair, the daughter of Ric Clair has the genetic superiority to maintain her undefeated record at WWE Pay Per View events. She claims to have been born and bred for greatness and will defeat anyone who dares to challenge her birthright. 

Bayley, the leader of the “hugger section” has been a WWE fan since she was a small girl and her dream was to be a WWE Superstar. As one of the Four Horsewomen, she along with Flair, Banks, and Lynch revolutionized WWE women’s division. One of the crowd favorites from the NXT division, Bayley has earned this shot and she will do her best to become the champion she has always dreamed of being. 

Rich Swann vs. Neville
Rich Swann, the young charismatic crowd favorite of the Cruserweight division won the title and has been able to retain it since taking it from friend TJ Perkins in the innagural episode of 205 Live. It didn’t seem like there was a ton of competition for Swann after defeating Brian Kendrick until along came….

Neville, self proclaimed King of the Cruserweights was offended when he was not initially invited into the Cruserweight division at the start of 205 Live. He has laid waste to all of his competitors demanding a championship match against Rich Swann. This is his time. 

Team Face vs. Team Heel
A lot of varios sorts of beef going on in this match. First off, Nikki Bella is incredibly angry after her long time supposed friend, Natalya called her mean names and said that people only love her because she is beautiful and dating John Cena. 

Second, Becky Lynch, Irish steampunk chick wants to take the Smackdown Women’s title from the current champion Alexa Bliss the fake Harley Quinn. After Bliss has recruited former WWE superstar Mickie James (disguised as La Luchadora) to take out Lynch during their previous title match, Lynch is rightfully angry with both of them.

In the meantime, Naomi was not able to wrestle Natalya during their last scheduled match because she had been attacked backstage by Nikki Bella. Naomi accepted any challenger to fight her to which Bliss showed up on the scene and denied her a match and insulted her.

The Royal Rumble
The main event. The Royal Rumble is a 30 man, every man for himself match of which the winner will gain a title opportunity at this year’s Wrestlemania (The Superbowl of WWE). The match will start with 2 contenders in the ring with a new contender being released on timed intervals. There is no limit to how many men can be in the ring at once, however, you are eliminated when you are thrown out over the top rope and both feet touch the floor.  We currently know 22 of the 30 contenders that will be in the rumble. One of the main draws of this event is the suprise entrants who can vary from random celebrities to historical WWE superstars. Here are the 22 announced contenders: 

  1. Kofi Kingston – Acrobatic member of The New Day tag team. They hold the record for longest time holding the Raw Tag Team Championship Belt
  2. Sami Zayn – Ska boy who won his way a slot into the Royal Rumble from a match against Seth Rollins. Was recently in a feud with Braun Strowman as the David to his Goliath. 
  3. Big Show – The biggest dude in sports entertainment. He’s a 7 foot tall hunk of a guy. They have been teasing a spat between him and Braun Strowman a few times leading up to the Rumble, but Strowman has always backed down. 
  4. Xavier Woods – The nerd and trumpet player/hype man for The New Day tag team. Has a pretty successfully video game YouTube following. 
  5. Dolph Ziggler – A wrestler forever seemingly stuck in the middle. His recent heel turn sent him in a rage against his former friends. He hasn’t been able to catch a break since losing his Intercontinental Championship to The Miz at last year’s TLC PPV. 
  6. Chris Jericho – “Best Friend” of Kevin Owens and United States champion, the G.O.A.T. is a veteran of the industry who has a list of everyone he hates and you don’t want to be on it.
  7. Luke Harper – Tall dude that looks like a backwoods guy from the swamps and member of the Cult, The Wyatt Family, he is a force to be reckoned with. It is possible his family abandoned him after he lost a match with the newest member of the Family, Randy Orton. 
  8. Braun Strowman – A big manly beefy boy. His personality is angry dude that wants to beat people up. He is huge and has destroyed essentially everyone that has been put in the match with him without much of a fight. He has been built up as an unstoppable force 1v1. 
  9. Brock Lesnar – The Beast Incarnate. Previously he was undefeated in the WWE in 1 on 1 matches. He is built like the Hulk and is just as angry in the ring. He has a sword tattooed on his chest, which no one can argue with because he is a mack truck. Lost in 90 seconds to who has been built up as I guess the new top dog, Goldberg. 
  10. Dean Ambrose – The Lunatic Fringe. A crazy man who took the Intercontinental Championship from The Miz. He is a crazy redhead from Ohio. Need I say more?
  11. The Miz – A pretty boy whiny movie star who likes to use his wife Maryse to cheat for him. At no point has he just buckled down and done his job without his two cents being put in
  12. Big E – The gyrating beefy chunky third of The New Day. He is a solid boy who knows how to shake his hips well. 
  13. Randy Orton – The snake who has recently joined the Wyatt Family. He defeated his brother Luke Harper this weekn in Smackdown seemingly removing him from the scene and taking his place under Bray.
  14. Bray Wyatt – The god and leader of the Wyatt Family. Think voodoo swamp cult. He is creepy looking and likes to command his family around to control the power as much as possible. 
  15. Baron Corbin – Voted 2016’s “Most Metal” athelete, he likes to wear clothing with wolves on it and act tough and beat people up. He doesn’t look as scary as you might think based on these things. 
  16. Cesaro – See the tag team match earlier.
  17. Rusev – A Bulgarian Brute. Frequently has used his wife Lana to help him cheat, but also is a big enough boy to not discount on his own. Huge hairy guy.
  18. Goldberg – Right now seemingly the most powerful man in the WWE Universe. He squashed opponent after opponent and is the only main WWE Superstar to not have any losses against Brock Lesnar. He defeated him in less than 90 seconds at Roadblock after coming out of retirement and was given a slot in this year’s rumble and potentially another title run if he wins.
  19. Big Cass – He’s 7 foot yall and you can’t teach that. This New England tall guy usually hangs out with his scrawny runny mouthed buddy Enzo but has been given some singles time lately to prove his power. 
  20. The Undertaker – An undead warlock who has been in wrestling longer than many of us have been alive. He went 21-0 with his first PPV runs. He has buried superstar after superstar and is considered the king of Wrestlemania having destroyed so many people. He is a top pick for many to win this event.
  21. Sheamus – See the tag team match eariler. 
  22. Mojo Rawley – 1/2 of the tag team The Hype Bros, he earned himself this slot in the Rumble in an elimination match last week on Smackdown. This former football player hopes to make a name for himself in this main event. 

On top of the people we know will be in the Rumble other rumored people such as Kurt Angle (Most recent name in the WWE Hall of Fame), Steve Austin (Favorite of the 90s and bad boy), Shawn Michaels (Heartbreak Kid), Finn Balor (The Demon King), Triple H (COO of the WWE) and even President Trump (WWE Hall of Famer) have been predicted to potentially show up in one of those suprise slots. 

Other Unresolved Beefs
One of the biggest WWE Superstars in recent years is Seth Rollins. He was a member of the beloved Shield until he betrayed his brothers to work for the authority under Triple H. For unknown reasons, once Seth Rollins in a free for all belt against Owens after Balor was injured and relinquished his title, Triple H appeared and betrayed his boy Rollins to give the title to Kevin Owens. After getting cheated out of the title by Owen’s friend Jericho, Rollins called out Triple H directly and demanded to be able to confront him. Stephanie McMahon, Triple H’s wife screwed Rollins out of his shot in the Royal Rumble in his match against Sami Zayn. Rollins is out of the Rumble, but he is furious and he wants vengeance against the Authority (Coorperate WWE including Triple H and the McMahons). This will almost certainly show up somewhere in this event. 

Here is the theme song from this year’s Rumble: 

NXT Takeover: San Antonio Cliff’s Notes

NXT Takeover: San Antonio is coming up this Saturday (Jan 28th) and here is the short version of all of the information you will need to understand what is going down.

Right now the card looks like this (in no particular order): 

  • Bobby Roode vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
  • The Authors of Pain vs #DIY
  • Peyton Royce vs. Nikki Cross vs. Billie Kay vs. Asuka
  • Eric Young vs. Tye Dillinger
  • Roderick Strong vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas

Here is the skinny on each of these matches: 

Bobby Roode vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Bobby Roode aka: the Glorious One is an industry veteran with over a decade of professional wrestling experience under his belt. Having most recently been a star on the WWE competitor TNA, he has come to NXT to show that he is better than everyone else. This even including him abandoning his former tag team partner Tye Dillinger when he felt he was under preforming in the Dusty Rhodes tag team classic last year. In order to win this title shot, Roode did have to compete against four other competitors including an angry Tye Dillinger and Roderick Strong and Andrade “Cien” Almas. 

Shinsuke Nakamura aka: The King of Strong Style made his name in the indy wrestling circuit New Japan World (NJPW) . Most recently in NXT, he regained his lost NXT Championship Title from rival Samoa Joe. He successfully defended his title in the rematch against Joe ending their long running rivalry and is now willing to accept anyone who challenges his dominance over the NXT Universe. 

The Authors of Pain vs #DIY
The Authors of Pain, twin youthful beefy boys, have been an unstoppable force since entering NXT. Still undefeated, they won the Dusty Rhodes tag team classic and have earned their selves a shot against current NXT Tag Team Champions #DIY and They look to take over as the new leaders of the NXT Tag Team division.

#DIY is the tag team of the underdogs. They won the NXT Tag Team title from their long time rivals The Revival at the previous NXT PPV.  #DIY seems to be able to work together and systematically pull victory out of even some of the toughest situations and hope to be the first team to be able to defeat The Authors of Pain. 

Peyton Royce vs. Nikki Cross vs. Billie Kay vs. Asuka
Peyton Royce and Billie Kay are the alliance of Australian born divas in the NXT division. Their alliance and underhanded tactics have risen them to the top of the NXT women’s division in a championship opportunity against the current champion Asuka. What will happen to their unity in this match where only one lady can walk away the champion is yet to be seen. 

Nikki Cross, now part of the anarchist group Sanity is a wild uncontrollable animal. With no loyalty to anyone outside of Sanity, her unpredictable and excessively aggressive methods have earned her this spot in the championship four way match. 

The current champion Asuka, is a Japanese powerhouse. She has won over 120 matches in her stint in NXT with less than 10 defeats. Her willingness to fight any comer without question shows her the confidence she has in her ability to defeat everyone even without underhanded tactics. This match is made more interesting as even a potential alliance against Asuka from the other three competitors could throw off the current balance of power. 

Eric Young vs. Tye Dillinger
Eric Young, the leader of the anarchist group Sanity (Which contains Nikki Cross and two others) demanded Tye Dillinger join his team of lackeys who are attempting to disassemble the fabric of order in the NXT Universe. Dillinger’s disrespectful denial of Young’s offer is the fuel for Young’s fire to crush Dillinger in this match. 

Tye Dillinger, The Perfect 10, can not seem to catch a break. After he was betrayed by the Glorious One in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Championship, he has been unable to to get his revenge on Roode and was unable to earn himself a title shot for this PPV. His waning lack of confidence was starting to show and this caused Young to attempt to recruit him into Sanity. Dillinger chose to stick to his principles and believe in himself and he refused with prejudice the offer Young presented him with. This match is the aftermath of that confrontation. 

Roderick Strong vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas
Roderick Strong is a veteran of the independent scene and is gaining momentum since his debut match with tag team partner Austin Aries in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. Known for his skills with the back breaker, he hopes to rise to the top of the NXT on the fast track.

Andrade “Cien” Almas also is trying to claw his way up the NXT ladder. With his penchant for flair and showing off, he let his anger at Strong getting this match show when he attacked Strong during an interview and continued to beat on him even after he was down. Strong and Almas both lost the title match opportunity earlier against Bobby Roode and this would seem to be a match where these two men are pining for the opportunity for the next title run.

And here are the theme songs for that event: 

Blush – Moose blood Review

Blush isn’t an incredibly revolutionary album in the sense that it reinvents the wheel or creates its own genre, but it is an incredibly brilliant and perfectly executed emo album that I can’t stop listening to. Moose Blood’s sophomore album focuses on sounds from the 90s and 00s by creating a fresh album with catchy melodies that can communicate emotions directly to your brain, while remaining fresh and making you joyous and remorseful in the way the best emo music can. No song on Blush is a one dimensional song, it lives in the space of contradicting feelings and decisions. It breathes second guessing one’s decisions and trying to figure out how you actually feel when you aren’t sure what to feel.

One of my favorite set of emotions in music is acceptance of sad circumstances, but being able to continue on without delving into despair or self loathing. The emotion is evoked immediately on Blush on the first track, Pastel with a look at a relationship via a timeline and the longing for confirmation that the singer has made the right choices in his life. These contemplations are the things that everyone can relate to, but Moose Blood is able to boil the pondering into musical form and wonderfully relate it to the rest of us.

Most people can understand what the feeling of unreciprocated affection feels like. Even when a couple mutually agrees to break up, it doesn’t mean that was preferred by both parties. With a great pre-chorus guitar hook, Honey drives that feeling home with lyrics like, “It’s in the back of my mind, But it’s worse when I sleep, Now I’m losing my breath, And I’ll never understand how you could forget me”. The constant struggle of the mind for wanting what could have been could lead to anger, but Moose Blood keeps it positive saying that things will get better, even while dealing with the ever constant pain.

Knuckles, the third track on this album repeats one line many times. This isn’t an exercise in laziness though, it is a nostalgic desire to relive a bittersweet memory of the last interaction with someone they loved. That memory played over and over in his mind, knowing it can’t end in a positive way for him, but wishing it could have been different is one of the life’s great enigmas — what if? How that balances with his version of the way things really happened in his mind and yet realizing he wouldn’t change a thing from the moment that did happen comes across not only in the lyrics, but the delivery and melody and instrumentation, and yes — even the repetition, almost as if the singer believes what they are saying, but subconsciously wants to assure himself that it is true.

Sulk seems to be a less universally relatable situation with the singer comforting and trying to help a female friend pick up the pieces of her life after a broken friendship or relationship with a seemingly manipulative woman who used her at a low point in her life. Even though I am not as into this track as many others, it does use its three minutes on the album to further support the band’s wonderful craft of blending mixed emotions into music. To state these things about an emo album of course seems redundant, but it is the craft that Moose Blood brings to the table that allows them to stand above a well-worn and somewhat tropey subject matter and genre.

Track 5 of the album, titled “Glow” tells what could be either a metaphorical or literal account of a father leaving his family behind. Potentially the most accurate response to the situation is how Moose Blood portrays it with the lines, “Wish you were in a better way, But now it’s done and I’ll move on” while implying they haven’t fully moved on. The singer admits they weren’t okay with what happened. As with Knuckles it becomes obvious that closure is not possible and self convincing may be necessary to be able to work out what happened emotionally, even while outwardly trying to move on.

Cheek is probably the best song on the album and is the exemplification of some of the core conflicting emotions that this style of music is about. So many feelings that fight with logic and how a single comment can make you second guess how you really feel about someone.  A mundane conversation with a woman that is in love with someone else can be so difficult when you love said woman. The song is about living as a friend for someone you want to be more, the inevitability of that affecting how you see their partner, and how even an offhand comment of affection could hurt so bad. Moose Blood’s power to convey these emotions in a description of mundane conversations backed by such solid musicality is top notch.

I’m not 100% sure about the meaning of Sway. To the best of my knowledge it is about an annoying roommate that everyone hates who constantly swears he will change. Sonically I am into the feel and mood of this song, but it is probably the track that I understand the least and thus isn’t as strong as the rest of the album. Melodically it is still very compelling and will stick with you for a long time.

Shimmer is another expertly crafted song controlling the melody and tempo in a way that drives home the story about loving someone so much more than they love you. It is about a relationship with disparate differences in how the individuals in the relationship see the relationship itself. The singer can tell so much about the way his partner kisses, but ironically and in a way that reeks of hyperbole ponders if she would even recognize him on the street. The way the melody stays in the lower register emphasizes not only sadness, but disappointment and bitter acceptance of the inevitability of more pain. When the guitars wail on this track it brings a different side then the rest of the album in the form of raw pain represented in the distortion of the guitars which are clean on the rest of the song.

Spring is a somber song portraying an account of a close one that seemingly took their own life. It is an honest questioning of their friends pain and experience. The singer recounts happy memories, and the emptiness that now accompanies those memories hand in hand. Even after three years, the singer understandably can’t make sense of the situation or the reasons it ended the way it did, believing in an afterlife to help ease the unresolved ponderings of what happens to those left behind when someone commits suicide.

Freckle is written from a different perspective. What if you were in a relationship that you desperately wanted to succeed while knowing every sign points indicates deterioration? The constant fighting and nagging in a relationship defined by strife instead of harmony is almost certainly going to end in termination, but war is better than loneliness right? Right? Blush wraps up with another stellar track in which the honesty of how people think about their problems in their own head is put front and center, regardless of whether it seems stupid to endlessly ponder these questions on paper.

A mastercraft in living incongruously with your feelings, Moose Blood’s Blush delivers track after track a stream of consciousness in such a down to earth way that makes me unable to put this album down. The melodies of each song are not only catchy, but impactful and effective at bypassing the logical portion of the brain and entering straight to the gut. Blush is about the paradoxes of relationships that are less than perfect, and the minute to minute contemplations of what steps to take at any given point.

5 stars

Youth Authority – Good Charlotte Review

Good Charlotte’s 6th album, entitled Youth Authority is the first album released by the band after a long hiatus. The band, now having been together for 20 years is approaching this release as grown ups who have mostly made their peace with the ongoings of life in a scene that spawned from groups of angry teenagers who needed a release. This makes for a very different thematic attempt at a new feel for pop punk that has its hits and misses.

Young Authority begins with a biographical recounting of the story of Good Charlotte as a band. The opening track of the album, Life Changes establishes lyrically how the band has grown up and sonically it establishes a more relaxed and cheery sounding tone and attitude in contrast to the complaining and anger focused on in their youth.

Makeshift Love takes a step back from that more mature perspective as a pop / punk / emo song blended with a more modern pop song that makes it one of the best tracks on the album. A medical metaphor for making up with a partner that you are fighting with would easily fit in the pantheon of older GC work and their chosen genre as a whole. More modern production values combined with the melodic harmonies are reminiscent of GC’s most famous album, The Young and the Hopeless.

40 oz. Dream is a song that is essentially the newest generation’s version of the song 1985 as made popular by Bowling for Soup. GC takes a nostalgic look back on their life and current trends only to realize that they are old and times have changed. (“Now all the punk rockers are over 40, They’re coaching little league and reading stories“) The track has a somewhat familiar sounding generic pop/rock feel that I feel like I should think is a cheap cash in, but I can’t help but identify with the sentiment of the song, which seems like it comes from an honest place. Everyone can relate to looking back to a portion of their life that they enjoyed most and longing to spend another day there.

Life Can’t Get Much Better comes across as one partner in a relationship trying to remind a potential breakup of all the good things about their relationship together. It is written from the perspective of someone who desperately misses their partner and doesn’t want to lose all that they had together. The thing that makes it rise above however, is its almost blindly hopeful tone. The writer truly believes that the relationship will be restored and has invested themselves in that idea regardless of how they will feel if they are wrong. I think this might be the closest thing that this album gets to some of the raw emotional edge that could be heard on their previous work.

Keep Swingin’ is a track attempting to play off of any critics of the band who has implied over the years that they have “sold out”. One of the biggest criticisms of the band came from their 2007 “Good Morning Revival” album where their sound had conformed very heavily to trends at the time and lyrically the band seemed to joined the “rich and famous” they railed against on their breakout album The Young and the Hopeless. GC uses this track to say that they’ve always stayed true to the band’s core and played honest representations of themselves. The track works in parallel with previously mentioned “Life Changes” to say that this album is who they are now.

Reason to Stay, which features scottish band Biffy Clyro’s Simon Neil on a verse seems to be an opposite sentiment of that in Life Can’t Get Much Better where the protagonist of the song is begging their partner to give them a reason to stay in a relationship that seems to have a rift growing. This song is catchy enough, but the Simon Neil’s inclusion seems throwaway and pointless and the song itself is somewhat kitchy in a way that feels a little bit forced by its subject matter to be emotionally important, while remaining kind of plain.

Stray Dogs, once again, focuses on a guy trying to get a girl to stay with him, but this track is the most forgettable throwaway song on the album mostly because lyrically it is not only dull, but a bit stupid. Lyrics like “Don’t leave me stray, I’m just a dog without you” and “I’m giving you the same old speech again, Like they do on CNN” are accompanied by nothing gripping musically. This track should have stayed on the cutting room floor.

The next three tracks (Stick to Your Guns, The Outfield, and Cars Full of People) begin a string of songs where the band actually attempts to assume their role of the “Youth Authority”. Stick to your Guns is a 1:29 long encouragement for someone to keep trying to live their dreams, while The Outfield similarly tries to relate to someone trying to get their start now. The Outfield is a more biographical relation of the struggles of the band’s earlier era (note obvious reference to their magnum opus). (“We were the young and hopeless, We were the broken youth, You’re not the only one they used, I was in the outfield too”). This song also seems to be pushing people to keep grinding. Cars Full of People has a good melody and relates the reality of the odds of making it with so many people telling them that there is no way that they could. While musically the song is enjoyable, this becomes the third track in a row with essentially the same message with no additional themes introduced. I would hope that as the Youth Authority, there might be additional wisdom that GC could offer their proteges, but it seems that continuing in the face of adversity is their entire message.

War is back to relationship struggles. Once again the concept is fighting with a significant other. It seems that the song mentions warring against their partner, but also when push comes to shove, they will defend them against the world. This track contains the only real hint of a darker sound on the album and even with its repeated subject matter again, I think it introduces enough new sounds that it doesn’t feel like a complete rehash of the previous relationship related songs on this album.

The final track on the album is the acceptance of an ended relationship. The closing out of this relationship is both mutual and regrettable and the singer wants the summary to be good memories of the best parts of their love affair. (“We’re not breaking up, we’re just moving on.”) Unfortunately, I can’t really connect with this song. The message of the song seems to only come across on the surface and doesn’t really seem to musically hit home. It isn’t a bad track, but doesn’t stand out in a way that feels impactful.

Ultimately the album really boils down to a basic pop / punk album from the perspective of some older guys trying to get back into the game. They encourage the youth not to give up on their hopes and dreams and have some failed relationships along the way. With the title Youth Authority, I would have expected to hear more detailed insight from a band that has come full circle on being nobodies who made it famous back to a band who doesn’t fully know where they stand in culture anymore. While fun to listen to, the album doesn’t really stand out as a unified piece of work. Certain tracks are likely to get listened to repeatedly while others will be left by the wayside lost to the test of time leaving about half of a good album.

3 stars

Where the Light Shines Through – Switchfoot Review

Switchfoot is back with their tenth studio album and this time with the producer that helped them with their three biggest albums, The Beautiful Letdown, Nothing is Sound, and Oh! Gravity. The album doesn’t copy any of those three albums, but rather has bits and pieces of effects and filters that remind one of those greats. For the most part, Switchfoot is able to play off of their older work, creating something new and enjoyable, only rarely coming across as copying anything they have already made.

“Where the Light Shines Through” album starts off with a thesis statement of “Because hope deserves an anthem”. The opening track, “Holy Water”, is a plea for authenticity and revival. The tonal and lyrical aura of this song establish the concept behind Switchfoot’s most spiritual album in years. The track itself is catchy and the bridge is good stuff that does seem reminiscent of some of Switchfoot’s midlife albums, The Beautiful Letdown and Nothing is Sound, but unlike Nothing is Sound, the overwhelming vibe of Where the Light Shines Through is positive and encouraging.

“Float”, the second track on the album explores a new sound for the group. Tim Foreman gets to explore a fun bass line while the guitars focus on a sound that somewhat resembles a disco back track and sound quality. While the feel of the song is a departure, I think they pull it off in a way that can stick in your head even after the song ends. Unfortunately lyrically the song is rather shallow “screw the haters” sort of ditty that doesn’t hold up to much introspection.

The title track of the album carries an uplifting message similar to Nothing is Sound’s, “The Shadow Proves the Sunshine”. The song’s emphasis on the light shining through dark times is accompanied by a relaxing and peaceful melody backed by a “back porch chill” kind of  light rock guitar lines. Foreman argues that the scars we have will stick with us forever (“the only tattoos I have are scars”), but don’t define who we are (“the story that brought us here ain’t the thing that changed”). The song even seems to emphasize the tribulations could be blessings in disguise with the repeated line “Well Mama, ain’t’ the scar like a vision of grace”.

“I Won’t Let You Go” is a wonderful song emphasizing loyalty to someone even during hard times. With a sound somewhat harkening back to a little bit of an “Oh! Gravity” feel, Foreman’s beautiful voice comes across as a sweet, earnest promise of love while the music surrounds the message of the lyrics and crescendos and decrescendos perfectly with each musical phrase. This is one of my favorite tracks from the album.

In a track about putting our priorities in perspective, “If the House Burns Down Tonight” is an anthem chanting “If the house burns down tonight, I got everything I need when I got you by my side, and let the rest burn”. The track tells of a mental reckoning of the things that matter in one’s life and the abandonment of those things that are frivolous as they, “[are] draining me dry making a ghost of me”. Obvious nods to some of the production of The Beautiful Letdown come across in the intro to this song with the early build up of this song with the chosen bass filter.

The spirituality of the album is perhaps most clear in the song “The Day that I Found God”. The gist of the message in the song is that losing yourself is the key to finding God. While the song is not specific in any of its doctrinal assumptions, one could relate the feelings portrayed in this track as the peace that comes with a correct repentance and understanding of sovereignty. I think it might be incorrect to read that much into the track however and take it as the more basic and clearly presented message that the problems in one life are self-caused and God eases those burdens. One is likely to see the spirituality they want to in any given Switchfoot song however, as the focus seems to be on the emotional response to the events described as less about any theological concept.

Unfortunately, there are some tracks that I really didn’t care for that much. The offenders in question are Shake This Feeling and Live it Well. As one of the singles released in anticipation for the album, “Live It Well” has been out in the public for a while. Unfortunately, this is what I feel is one of the worst tracks on the album. Lyrically, Switchfoot has broached the broad subject matter of living life to the best of one’s ability repeatedly in similar ways on every one of their albums ever. On top of that, this track specifically seems to feel like an extra track that didn’t fit on Fading West or The Edge of the Earth EP. That isn’t to say that it is a bad track, just that it feels like a mediocre re-run of a tv show you’ve seen before. Shake This Feeling musically also feels like a track that’s bit sitting for a while and didn’t fit on another album and lyrically just feels like generic “pick yourself back up and try again” chant.

A rarer inspiration, “Bull in a China Shop” almost feels like it takes musical sounds and queues from Learning to Breathe’s “Poparazzi” or maybe even some of their The Legend of Chin or New Way to be Human. The message of the song is pretty much just one of being amped up for something, and while I don’t necessarily think the whole song comes together as well as I’d hoped, it is still has a good beat that you can bop your head to and will stay with you.

“Looking for America” marks a very different sound and feel for Switchfoot that doesn’t come together as effectively as you would hope. With a Lecrae feature and as the only track on the album that even feels “darker” at all, the song seems to question the greatness of this country. The subject matter of this song has been done before to better results previously (Politicians from Nothing is Sound and American Dream from Oh! Gravity), and while the Lecrae feature makes sense with his current message of social justice in our country this song almost feels cheesy as a whole. It isn’t the individual pieces of this track that cause it to not be great, it is the execution.

Immediately bringing to mind Oh! Gravity’s “Ameteur Lovers”,  Healer of Souls is a relatively generic plea for people to run to the “healer of souls” to fix the everyday problems that we have. Once again, as a Switchfoot song, people will read as much or as little meaning into the relatively unspecific messages in this song as they would like, but musically the song has a good build up and is fun and could easily be a great windows-rolled-down singing at the top of your lungs song that will undoubtedly be a great song to experience live.

The final track of the album, “Hope is the Anthem” does a better job of using some of the sounds Switchfoot experimented on with their last two outputs without feeling like a carbon copy. It wraps the album up with a spiritual bow implying that hope (presumably in a deity though individually the song could be referring to a lover) is the Holy Water referred to as the fuel of one’s fire in the opening track titled the same. Feeling equally cheesy and also genuine somehow, this song brings it all back around in a circular theme that I think succeeds more than it fails.

Though Where the Light Shines Through goes back for inspiration from their previous sounds relatively frequently, for the most part it doesn’t feel lazy or contrived, but instead a loving homage to those things that probably got you into Switchfoot in the first place. While not a perfect album, or even Switchfoot’s best, the album is definitely listenable and will most likely be enjoyed by people that are already on board for Switchfoot’s blending of spiritual theming and light rock. While I don’t think the album will convince any Switchfoot haters to come over to the light side, I personally enjoy it and will be listening to it along with the rest of their catalogue for years.
4 stars

Spotify’s “Discover Weekly” Playlist is An Example of Common Grace

Have you ever been anywhere doing anything and a song comes on that you either forgot about or have never heard before and it just hits the spot? What if you could have a robot cater to your subconscious desire for that to happen every week? That’s what Spotify’s “Discover Weekly” playlist seems to do for me. 

No, Spotify doesn’t pay me, and the streaming business is a bittersweet entry into the music industry with many pros and cons that I won’t delve into right here, but there are some wonderful things that Spotify does. Aside from its wonderful social and sharing features, and the fact that it provides an ad supported but otherwise free, legal option to listen to tons of music, some time ago they also implemented something called the “Discover Weekly” playlist. 

The “Discover Weekly” automatically created playlist does what so many music services attempt to do. It looks at what you already listen to and tries to build a playlist built around those styles. Pandora is the first service I know that did this with their radio streaming, and pretty much any music service has some version of this, but I don’t think I’ve ever had one that was so successful and finding me music I have never heard of, but instantly connect with as Spotify’s “Discover Weekly”.  It seems every time I check it, at least 50% or more of the tracks on the playlist are songs I would want to listen to many more times, a few are songs I’ve heard before but may have forgotten about, and the rest are songs that I like but don’t love. 

Of course this is meant to be used as a discovery tool and can be useful in finding artists that you never would have even heard of before. I made a separate playlist for myself called “Discovery Discovery” just so I can put songs I like from my Discovery Weekly playlist into the Discovery Discovery playlist to listen to more and research after the week is over. 

If you are feeling the urge to enter that scary arena of finding some new music to listen to, but aren’t sure where to begin or maybe are unsure what you even like, Spotify may be the artificial intelligence that can read you like a book and serve you up with the endorphin releases that come from finding an awesome new song you have been missing out on.