One Powerful Republic

onerepublic-native-2013-2000x2000Sometimes an artist I enjoy will release an album and it will terrify me. I’ll be terrified because I think they’ve set a benchmark that will be hard for them to ever compete with, especially with their own records.

Coldplay did it with X&Y.

My Chemical Romance did it with Welcome to the Black Parade.

U2 did it with How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. 

OneRepublic just did it with Native.

Native is one of the best albums I’ve ever listened to and is definitely the best outing from OneRepublic. This is saying something, because I thought Waking Up was fantastic. They took a different turn from Dreaming Out Loud and went into a more poppy, radio sound. Native sounds like a mix between both of their earlier albums. There are songs that hit the road with the pop sound and will be played all over radio stations for months to come. “Counting Stars,” “If I Lose Myself,” “Feel Again,” “I Lived,” the list just keeps going on songs that work.

They also turn it around on some songs and go into some of the more deep motifs from Dreaming Out Loud. “Preacher” stands out as a track bursting from the seams with emotion. It seems to be more of a story set to music than a song meant for the radio. It’s almost as if the band is sitting us all down for a story in front of a fireplace. Ryan Tedder tells us the story of his grandfather and the lessons that he passed down. It’s a truly great track.

When I judge albums, I judge them on one factor more than others. I judge it on how much I want to press shuffle, or how much I want to listen to the album 8-track style. 8-Tracks, for those who don’t know, are un-skippable, un-rewindable, tapes. You have to listen to the whole album all the way through before listening to it again. Very few albums achieve something like this nowadays. With iTunes, Amazon, MP3 players, etc; it’s easy to skip through songs. Native keeps you in the moment though. You just fall into the album and let it wash over you like a cool wave. It’s just that good.

A solid 9.5/10 from me. It loses .5 for “Feel Again” being an almost direct rip off of “The Dog Days Are Over.” The song is still great, but it’s impossible not to notice the huge similarities.

 

Escaping Cancer

For the last few months we’ve had to deal with some hard truths in my family.

My mom has cervical cancer. She has one 1-ft mass and another, smaller, one in her body.

This whole ordeal started on my 23rd birthday as my mom was rushed to the hospital by the girl who lives with us in the early hours of the a.m. She was in incredible pain. The doctors at that hospital didn’t really give her the time of day (we don’t have health insurance) and she scheduled an appointment with a specialist after getting some massive pain meds. Through the appointments, the scans, and the biopsies, we found out it was cancer.

My mom turns 50 in April. This is incredibly scary for me. Not the turning 50 thing, but the realization that on Monday morning (the 25th) she goes in for surgery and might not make it out. She’s super optimistic about the whole thing, brushing off whims of danger as if she were Jay-Z and they were simply dust on her shoulder. I’m optimistic, but wary…careful. This is a big deal.

tomb rider 2013 download para pc

Throughout this experience I’ve dove into some video games with the sole purpose of not thinking about this thing. Tomb Raider, Fallout: New Vegas, and Mass Effect 3 have kept me plenty occupied in times where I need to escape. Hospitals freak me out and make me nervous. My mom was in one for 5 days when they found out she had diabetes a few weeks ago. They had to acclimate her body to the insulin and get her blood sugar to the right levels. It’s supposed to be between 70-110. It was 366 the day she checked in. They don’t know if this is a side effect of the masses or what, but we got everything worked out. I visited her once or twice and bought her some presents (A gurlfriends card and some beach wisdom from Cracker Barrel 😀 ), but mostly I stayed home while others visited her because looking at her in a hospital bed freaked me out so much.

I don’t want to lose my mom.

So again, I dove into video games. Logging hundreds of hours over multiple titles. These games kept me sane. They kept me in a place where it was OK to be scared, but that eventually, good wins out. I wasn’t worrying about day to day things. I wasn’t worried about surgeries, or medicines, or hospitals. I was free.

Banner1bioshock

On March 26th, the day after my mom’s major surgery to get everything removed and fixed, I’ll be playing BioShock: Infinite. That’ll be my coping mechanism for the week. This time she’ll be in the hospital for longer, so I’ll visit her more often (she keeps telling me that she understands, but she loves it when I’m around because I make inappropriate jokes around the hospital staff and that makes her laugh). It’s just good to know that there’s a place for me when I need it. This moment’s place is a city in the early 1900’s called Columbia. Should I get too stressed out or worried, it will be my home.

This is why I play video games.

Saying Goodbye To Mass Effect

 

 

mass-effect-trilogy-charactersOn March 5th, 2013, the final chapter of Mass Effect DLC will hit. This is a rough moment for me, as I’ve spent years falling in love with this universe and these characters. I know there will be more Mass Effect games and that they’ll probably capture seasons of my life like this series did, but it’s still hard to move on.

Mass Effect 1 launched in November 2007. It was one of the first games I ever played for 360. I adored it. Everything about it reminded of why I loved games like KOTOR and the like. I bought all the DLC that was released and played through it multiple times; rethinking decisions and conversations that I’d had with characters to hone my Shepard into the perfect one I wanted. I was essentially writing and re-writing Shepard’s tale.

Mass Effect 2 came along during my second year of college. I pre-ordered the collector’s edition and stood in line for hours with some of my friends just to be able to pick it up at midnight. This installment allowed the decisions of the first game to be imported. That was the first time I’d ever heard of something like that. My Shepard was still my Shepard. I played this one multiple times and in multiple ways as well; knowing that the conclusion would come in the next game. I made sure to replay the ending and make sure ALL of my squad-mates survived. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye yet.

extended_cut-pMass Effect 3 launched over Spring Break for my senior year of college. I decided to stay at the school and play it instead of head home for the holiday. I spent the week pouring over the game and the decisions and alternating play times with food and episodes of “Archer” on Netflix. Hours were spent having conversations, revisiting old friends, and making the final journey with my Shepard.

Then I beat it. I finished the game, cried a bit, did a final save, and turned off my console. Shepard’s tale was over. Then the Extended Cut was announced, and more DLC (which I expected). Shepard had a few more adventures left in him. I’ve purchased all the DLC (story-wise) for the game so far and I’ve been playing through it these past few weeks. I’m coasting my play times so that I’ll be able to jump into the last bit of DLC on the 5th. After that, I’ll have to say goodbye for real.

I think that I’m ready this time. I’ve grown to love these characters, and had to say goodbye to some of them during the play-through of 3 anyways, but this time is for good. There is no replay after this completion. My Shepard’s tale will have written its final pages and will be closed. Rarely does a game like this come along. The Mass Effect series has held my attention, money, and time for almost 6 years, and what a great 6 they were.

I’m excited for what BioWare does in the future, and I’ll eagerly await whatever they decide to release. For now though, I’m saying my goodbyes to Mass Effect.

You changed my life, and I’ll never forget you for it.

-Sam