Tag Archives: Jacob Baumann

‘Wakin on a Pretty Daze’ proves to be Kurt Vile’s Best

By Jacob Baumann                                                                                       

Kurt Vile’s latest LP has been a breath of fresh air for the ever so stale music scene.  Vile is a singer songwriter form Philly, and may have a future classic on his hands with Wakin on a Pretty Daze.

Kurt Vile has a completely original style from his physical appearance to his musical styling.  Much like his appearance, the tracks on this album are laid back and taking their time to reveal all that they can.

The opening track Wakin on a Pretty Day exemplifies his laid back manner, and clocks in at nine minutes.  Although some might say that Vile is just rehashing older music, but to that I say, every group does.  Musicians create music based on their record collections, because that is what influences them.

In the music scene today there are many artists making attempts to replicate older music with a modern twist, but Kurt does it in a way that is quite beautiful.  Even though we live in a generation built on hipsters, Instagram, and Twitter, sometimes artists lure people in with the hopes of being like older groups and then failing to deliver…. cough, cough Mumford and Sons.

In this album, Vile has taken the good parts of his past LPs and has made one heck of an offering with this album.  I honestly had never heard of Kurt Vile until this album, and the only reason I found out about him is when I made a trip to a music store on Record Store Day.  While I was there, some random guy recommended I purchase album and I am very glad I bumped into that guy.

Apparently, his last record, Smoke Ring for My Halo, was not so good.  The vocal and lyrical styles were nearly the same as this LP, but the music accompanying him was pretty awful.  In the two years since, Kurt seems to have realized the issue from his last album and has made the proper alterations.

When it comes to vocals on this album, I recalled artist like Tom Petty and Iggy Pop.  Kurt’s vocals were not all that impressive, but were very relaxed and had a Lou Reed vibe to them.  Sometimes his vocals went a tad flat, but they showed no signs of being altered or auto-tuned.

The sheer musicality on this album is astonishing, and the sound quality really comes to the aide of the instrumentations.  The guitars were not played like the instrument was about to be cut in half, rather played quite relaxed and beautifully.  The guitars, bass, and drums are vibrant and just lock in on every track of this 11 track album, some better than others.

With an average song length of seven minutes, you would think it would be quite easy to lose interest, but that’s not the case.  The psychedelic/indie rock that he brings to the table just takes you away.  The guitars are often howling out beautiful rifts and ambiguous chord changes are spread evenly through out Wakin on a Pretty Daze.

After I hear a song on this album, I picture myself relaxing in the summer sun.  Some of the songs deal with his personal struggles and also what he goes through when creating a record.  He brings some great philosophical ideas about life in this LP, and it is great to see a young individual straying away from the top songs on Spotify or the radio.

With Kurt Vile brings to the table on this album, I believe he has a very bright future.  Each album he makes is better than the last, so I hope he continues that pattern in his future musical ventures.

Wakin on a Pretty Daze     9/10

Run Time 70 minutes  (11 tracks)

Release Date: April 9, 2013

Electronic Arts fails in comparison to its past

By Jacob Baumann

This year’s “Worst Company in America”/”Golden Poo Award” goes to the colossus in the gaming industry known as Electronic Arts.

Although it may come as a shock to ‘some,’ The Consumerist’s polls culminated to the ultimate fact that EA was the worst company in America.  Obviously these polls are not perfect, but that was well deserved.  I mean EA had to beat out companies like Bank of America, AT&T, Apple, and Carnival.   That’s a difficult task to tackle, but through uninteresting titles, poor planning, and a general misunderstanding of the public, EA were able to pull it off for the second year in a row.

Some of the past winners include Comcast, BP, and AIG.  Yeah, none those surprised me and neither does EA.

Before I continue to rag on EA, let’s get one thing straight. EA is not the worst company in America, because Bank of America should have one out for the roles it has played in our current financial matter.  People on the internet chose to band together to vote for EA, because most of the people who play their games utilize the internet.  So, this award may not be the obvious choice, but EA is definitely the worst publisher in the entertainment industry.

Even those who are not heavily into games have heard of EA, and that’s due the amazing titles they have released in the past.   This is part of the reason why they are receiving so much flack.  EA is known for the Battlefield series, Mass Effect series, Dead Space series, and SimCity.  Listing these titles brings back the memories of when EA gave developers time to produce great content and when games were fun.  Alas, those days have come to an end for EA and there are three main points to why they have unfortunately fallen from the pedestal they were placed upon.

What happened to the games?

What happened to the games that made me wanting more?  No new EA title has given me the euphoric feeling of awesome story-telling or even a good combat system to cover up a bad script.   The EA that I know and love was capable of producing unknown titles and turning them into blockbuster hits.  The perfect example of this is Dead Space, which is a horror based game that I recommend everyone play even if scary games aren’t your cup of tea.  DS, or Dead Space, was quickly followed up by DS 2, which was good but didn’t encompass all of the good traits from the first installment.  In my opinion they were much like the first Bioshock games, except the third game was better than the first two.   For DS3, the wheels seem to have fallen of the wagon.  Developers were obviously paid very highly in a short span of time, and out popped a severe disappointment to DS fans.  It was almost like a chore to play, but I kept hoping for something amazing to happen…. and it never came.    Like many other new EA games, it failed to capture me with an intriguing addition to the character’s story.  Also, the game failed to present anything new to the series following the likes of Mass Effect 3, Dragon Age 2, and SimCity 5.  All of EA’s new games fit into one category, “Big name, No creativity.”


In game ads, oh just another addition to the content I purchase from EA for $60 to enjoy.  You would think after slaving over a product for years that they would be eager to allow gamers to enjoy what they worked so diligently on.  I know the developers don’t have much say, but shame on EA for forcing them to incorporate ads into their bigger titles.  SimCity 5 had an ad for the new Nissan Leaf, but why?  Money.  Money has single handedly ruined EA’s reputation.  After EA launched Origin, things started going downhill.  Origin is like Steam but only for their games.  Steam and Origin are places where PC users can purchase games through, but EA made Origin to direct income into their own pockets totally disregarding their consumer base.   Origin has 45 million registered users and EA usually flaunts that figure to prove that they’re big and strong, but most of the users are just Steam users wanting to play EA exclusives.  I guess the heads at EA just can’t rap their heads around that.

Most of the new present day EA titles require an internet connection, which for most of us is not an issue, but it’s unwarranted.  Even if I want to play single player, I have to be connected to the internet.  Some titles, like BF3, force you to open your web browser to play.  I would be satisfied with this if I was attempting to play multiplayer on the game, however utilizing your browser for that purpose is a joke.  Rumors have spread that online-only was implemented as a means to stop the piracy of games.  It is formally known as DRM, or digital rights management.  The president of EA Frank Gibeau said that having users to be connected to the internet for SimCity 5 was not an attempt of forcing DRM down the throats of the developer.  I don’t believe that for a second, because that means there is no reason for having it.  They know no one wants it and all the past games haven’t required an internet connection, so it should be an easy fix.  SimCity5 lost a lot of playtime from people, because the servers were awful and that it required you be online.   Hopefully other companies can draw from their mistakes, because it doesn’t seem like they have any plan on switching up their strategy of maximizing profits a the consumer’s expense.

Company statements

Last this year, EA received this non-prestigious award, and did nothing to change the minds of consumers.   Honestly, I don’t think they will change their ways until less “hardcore” players start to realize the poor quality in their games.  2013 is shaping up to be another EA victory, due to SimCity 5 and the rushed production of Battlefield 4.  EA is forcing developers to take the heat for their poor support and rushed production of games, which is almost hysterical to think about.  The statements put out by the company’s board of the directors further add on to my suspicions about next year’s awards.
One of EA’s money hungry habits is to purchase successful developers, and suck them dry before tossing them aside.  Dice, the producer of Battlefield, is a great example of this, because are now being forced to produce another Battlefield title due to the failure of Medal of Honor: Warfighter.

Although they once produced titles that I will remember forever, I don’t see EA altering its path anytime soon and it’s a sad day for those who play their games.

Bioshock Infinite separates itself from modern games

By Jacob Baumann

A little over five years have passed since gamers were first introduced to the horrors of the underwater city of Rapture, and now the third installment has been released. When I first heard the announcement for Bioshock Infinite back in 2011, I was ecstatic, and after seeing its demo at E3, I was even more so.

Although the game has seen countless delays, I feel that they were well worth the wait. I applaud the developers, Irrational Games, and the publisher, 2K Games, for allowing this game to acquire the polish that it rightfully deserved.
Nowadays, games are constantly churned out with thrown together stories, programming, and pointless DLC. Bioshock Infinite defies all of those characteristics. The man behind Irrational Games deserves the most praise for what this new title accomplishes, and his name is Ken Levine.

Not only did he create the wonder that is Bioshock Infinite, but he developed the whole idea of the series. He is only of the best storytellers in the business, and he thought that the game wasn’t ready for production and delayed it. Obviously, he had to get it approved, but who wouldn’t listen to someone who created the multiple “game of the year” award winning Bioshock.

Moving onto the game itself, from the moment your eyes gaze at the wonder that is before you, it is impossible to be drawn away. The game immerses you into the storyline so quickly and with such force, it takes your breath away. All I could imagine was the quality games of my childhood, where the passion the developers could be seen and this game ranks itself up with those.

Nostalgia is something that also comes to mind, because although it doesn’t appear like a Bioshock game, but it feels like one.

In game you play a middle aged man by the name of Booker DeWitt, and although his past is sketchy, he is easy to become attached to. He was contracted to find the girl and repay his debt. The game is set in 1912 in a world in the sky called Columbia. The mysterious city of Columbia has the theme of the Chicago World’s Fair that occurred in 1893, and in my opinion the game’s interpretation is spot on.

I was distracted by the attention to detail the game provided, and would catch myself listening to a barber shop quartet instead of following the task at hand. The graphics in this game are impeccable, especially because I was playing it on PC in the highest detail. It may not be Crysis 3, but it is exceptionally good for being such a story driven game.

The visual experience on the aging consoles will not come close to my experience, but for this game graphics mean nothing. The Unreal 3 Engine is great and games like Call of Duty will be outdone by Bioshock’s graphics, but that’s not saying a whole lot. Overall, the quality of the visuals will be great for all platforms.

Gameplay is always important, and this game draws upon action that made the series great to begin with. The weapons are fantastic, and the sound engine provides an equally pleasant experience.

Another important character in the game is Elizabeth, and she is always by your side. Elizabeth provides the emotional characteristics that missing form games today. She drives the game forward, and it took me back to my experience with the first Bioshock. The AI for Elizabeth must be fairly sophisticated, because it was almost like I was playing with a friend and not a computer operated player.

While strolling through the streets of Columbia, I felt as though I was in Disney World making my way down Main Street USA. It is beyond fascinating how this game is able to include history into its story. In Columbia, people seem to worship our founding fathers, but not in the way you might imagine. How the game manages to deal with concepts like religion and racism really speaks to the care that was given to its development. Game creators shouldn’t be afraid to tackle these issues, because they are more thought provoking and meaningful than Michael Bay style fighting cinematics.

If you do pick up this game, take your time with it. Also, there is no need to play the other two games to pick up on Bioshock Infinite, but I highly recommend them. There is no reason to run through game just to say you beat it, because that destroys what the game was for. Exploration and becoming involved in the story is what games are for, not going for achievements or kill streaks, and this game capitalizes on that through its tremendous story-telling ability.

Score: 9/10

Available on: PC, Xbox 360, and PS3

Imagine Dragons’ album places them among the top new artists

By Jacob Baumann
Although Imagine Dragons gained mainstream success at the end of last year, their debut album, Night Visions (Deluxe Edition), was not released until Feb. 12.
The band has been on the Las Vegas music scene since 2008, and the best way I can describe their sound is rock mixed with British pop.  The vocal delivery and use of electronics is where the British pop portion can be discovered, and the pounding drums and guitars is where the rock part can derived.  Somehow a bit of a folky style manages to sneak its way into this album, so the only category this group can be put in is indie.
In the early part of 2012, Imagine Dragons released their first EP since they were signed to a record label, Continued Silence, to positive reviews and acclaim out West.  I’ll be honest and say I dismissed it when I first heard the track “Round and Round,” which just happened to be one of the worst songs on the EP, but I am seriously glad that I went back and listened to it.
“Radioactive” is a perfect of example of the benefits technology can bring to the music industry.  The use of synth, voice effects, and the pounding drums on the song are almost hypnotic.  The voice of lead singer Dan Reynolds is very intense throughout the track, but the sound being produced behind his voice is where the power is delivered with even more strength.
For some reason I overlooked “Tiptoe” when I first listened to it, but it is just as powerful as the rest of the songs on the album.  After listening to these first two tracks, I fell in love with the band’s style.  The power that rises from the drums, guitars, and synth really make for a unique experience that can’t be found anywhere outside this group.  The vocals are bit more clear on this track, and the song is possesses a lighter tone.
Probably the most well-known track on the album, “It’s Time,” has been the band’s most successful single from the entire LP and for good reason.  However, this is not my favorite track on the album.  This track is a bit poppy for my taste, but it is enjoyable to listen to.  The instrumentation in this song is similar to folk rock, but the lyrics and vocals give it a more mainstream feel.  Honestly, every band who wants success needs a song like this.  It sounds mainstream, but the rest of their material is very different from it.  Fans of this song will go onto to listen more of their work, and find out if they like them or not.
The fourth track of Imagine Dragons album, Night Visions, is possibly my favorite song they have to offer.  It is less aggressive than the other tracks and has a more emotional feel to it.  The vocal delivery made this song for me, because it seemed so sincere and from the heart.  It discusses how being human cannot be altered, and that mistakes will always happen.  I thought it was really interesting to hear someone sing about something that most people are afraid to admit, mistakes.
When I first heard “On Top of the World,” my first thought was summertime.  This would be the perfect soundtrack for having fun with family and friends outside in beautiful weather.  Every time I listen to this track my spirits are lifted, because I know that even when times are rough I know that I will come out on top somehow.  With that being said, the song may be pretty but it is kind of plain and useless.  Songs like this and “Round and Round” are there for the sake of having a simple tune.
Everything in “Amsterdam” but the vocals scream The Killers, which is not surprising, because the group spawned from  the same place as The Killers and they looked up to them. This song brings up a common theme throughout the album, and that is coming up short of what you hope to accomplish.  The song isn’t really that special, but it is very emotional and lyrically very well executed.
“Hear Me” is a very strange track in comparison to the first six tracks, mainly due to the change up in the vocal delivery and guitar sounds. The song slowly builds up as it progresses to the chorus, and when it reaches its peak it is very powerful. This track is often overlooked, and I’m not sure why.  It is different, but that’s what makes it special. It demonstrates that the group is capable of more than just “Radioactive” and “It’s Time.”
“Every Night” is most definitely the worst track of the entire album.  The lyrics are poor in my opinion, and it doesn’t seem too offer anything.  The song does show off lead singer Dan Reynold’s vocal range and some brilliant guitar playing, but it drags down the album.  It is repetitive, like most modern music, and it felt as though it was there just because they needed another track.
Yet another gem that this album brings to the table, “Bleeding Out” is in my top 5 from the LP.   The song is emotional and slightly intense.  The electronic noises along with clapping throughout the song make it all the more enjoyable to listen to. The emotion journey that this song discusses can be interpreted in many ways. I think of it as someone who has reached a low point in their lives, and wants the person they love to be at the same low as themselves.  The lyrics are really quite underrated and are often overlooked by the everyday listener, so I highly suggest you give this track a listen.
“Underdog” is a bit generic, and it would probably do fair well for mainstream music lovers.  The other songs contain some dubstep-esque sounds, but this just overuses it.  I would personally have thrown out this track, but that’s just me.
Overall, I would have to rate Night Visions a 3.5/5, and it probably the best album to come out of 2012-13 and possibly my new favorite group.  Although a four is a really high score for me, I feel that this group has a lot of potential.  My only worry is that they will start making more and simple songs to satisfy the general public, and this is where most bands fall off the wagon.  I just hope Imagine Dragons continues with work of this quality and not sell out to what fame and riches might bring them.