valkyria chronicles 4

If, like me, you are into war strategy games like the Advance Wars series, you will likely love Valkyria Chronicles 4. I wasn’t sure that I’d like it at first (I haven’t played the first 3 games) – something about the battle system looked complicated in the trailer I watched – but that isn’t the case and I have really got into it. I played it on the Switch in handheld mode and it really suits it quite well, despite not being designed for it originally. It was developed by Sega for the PS4 and released in 2018. It uses Sega’s proprietary “CANVAS” engine, which looks really nice and is designed to have a watercolour animation effect.

A warning: I want this Valkyria Chronicles 4 review to be detailed, so I hope it isn’t too dry in places. However, I have tried to write in no spoilers – but there are very minor ones about some features so if that bothers you please beware.


戦場のヴァルキュリア4 (Battlefield Valkyria – as it is known in Japan – if you are like me and like to know that stuff), is set in 1935 in an alternate timeline / universe during the Second Europan War between the Atlantic Federation and the Autocratic Eastern Imperial Alliance. This is essentially WW2 but replaces Europe with Europa and the main source of power comes from Ragnite, which is used for fuel and developed with technology to create weaponry etc.

The story follows Commander Claude Wallace and Squad E of the Federation, some of whom are his childhood friends. The Federation are desperate to fight off the Imperials and push the fight to the capital through their plan: ‘Operation Northern Cross’. They manage to push back the the Imperials, however the Imperials have a weapon who comes from a race know as the Valkyrie, who are beings with great power…

I don’t want to give away the story but I will say that it starts off quite innocent and typical of a more light-hearted JRPG, but as you reach the middle of the game it starts to get surprisingly dark, and the story richens – and with it the missions get more tough as they get more and more creative with the map / mission objectives. I think Sega deserve a lot of praise for the story here. As Valkyria Chronicles is in essence 50% visual novel, it really bolsters the story and makes it more than just a simple war game. You are very much invested in the story and characters by the time you reach the last few chapters, and you find yourself looking after your squadmates, trying not to get them killed.


It’s easy for your first impressions of Claude to peg him as rather a typical JRPG main protagonist – a kind, ‘neutral’ soul if you know what I mean – I think you will if you play JRPGs, but he character develops and as the story unfolds we see him mature. All the main characters develop in their own ways, and it’s nice to observe this as you progress through the game. Events that occur in the story affect the potentials of the characters when they are in battle, which is a clever system. Riley is your typical heroine / canon main character love interest, but her character deepens also. I will say that my favourite character is Kai, because she is really cool. You’ll see what I mean. I also like Raz – it’s hard not to really – especially as his character arc unfolds.

As for the enemies, there are a handful of main recurring characters, only some of which you encounter on the battlefield. Again, I’ll keep it simple and unrevealing, but I would like to say what a great character Walz is. He is another character that is easy to judge in one way, and when you first meet him you just want to take his ass down and destroy his tank. But he surprises you in a good way as his story is told, and by the end I was really a fan of his character because of his interesting personality and his honourable and respectful behaviour towards his rivals and allies alike.

I have a soft spot for some of the side characters, too who have pretty funny backstories… What is really nice about this game is that you get to know every soldier in Squad E by the end by playing the ‘squad story’ side missions. You have to use the characters in the missions a few times (there is a hidden threshold for number of turns each character has been used) to unlock their squad story, and each of these events tells the tale of 3 characters from squad E and how they came to be part of the war and become friends with each other. You also get a mission for each story which is often a little different in objective to the main story, for example rescue character X. What’s nice about this is you feel for the secondary characters as well as the main characters when you play the main game after experiencing their story and start to develop your favourites. I would call this the main reward for completing these squad stories, but what also happens is the character’s potentials change from negative ones such as ‘forgot to reload ammo’ (duh!) or my favourite pain in the ass the ‘lose all AP’ that Neige gets which leaves you stranded wherever you are on the map when it activates, placing you in the line of fire unless you waste another move relocating her. I won’t lie, this is one aspect of the game that has annoyed me somewhat, but it’s only that negative potential that can be pretty detrimental strategically. I digressed there, but the character potentials change from negative to positive once their squad stories are completed. Potentials are aspects of the characters that activate at random during their turn with positive or negative effects. Some are more useful than others – such as double AP (movement) with Minerva – which is very useful – and this can be coupled with the ‘command’ feature that all leaders get where you can ask up to two other infantry to follow you but this only counts as one action point not three.

As I mentioned earlier, Valkyria Chronicles is 50% visual novel and 50% strategy battles. Yes, it follows the tradition of many JRPGs (although, I wouldn’t technically class this game as an RPG..), where there are many cut-scenes and visual-novel-style story elements, so if you strictly want battles and as little story as possible then this may not be for you. But why would you think that?

The menu works out of Claude the field commander’s diary, given to him by a member of squad E, which was nice of them. It works a little like, well, a diary with chapters, and you watch story scenes as entries from the diary. You can also access the headquarters from the diary where you can visit your private quarters (view statistics, personnel files etc.), the mess hall (learn new orders), the command center (organise who is active and who is benched), the training field (level up the squad), and R&D where you buy upgrades for everything. The diary also lets you take on skirmishes for extra money and experience and check out the squad stories and extra stories (DLC). These are useful for gaining some more levels ahead of the game. Back to the missions, after you watch the visual novel style videos, a mission appears. You are free to go back and re-watch scenes and replay missions if you are like me and like to get the best rank (which is A rank – which is difficult to achieve early on as the system mostly depends on the number of turns you take to finish the mission).

At the start of the missions, you select the characters based on their classes: scout, shocktrooper, sniper, engineer, lancer and grenadier. This is of course a strategic decision. Which brings me to my first negative point: sometimes you can’t be sure what soldiers to choose for the map. The characters themselves don’t differ much within the same class other than the potentials they have (abilities or disabilities), but depending on what classes you need for the map you find yourself thinking ‘ah yes, I want Azusa the chill but slightly odd scout for this mission’ but you already have too many scouts on the board and you have to pick annoyingly timid Neige (more on her later). The mission outline helps you decide generally, but you don’t see the map (other than a basic outline) during the briefing, so sometimes you start thinking ‘I chose the wrong units for this map’ when you start getting taken out by grenadiers. It’s a small negative point because you can always start again without penalty, and I appreciate that showing you the map fully before you start can spoil the surprise, so it’s not a big deal but still worth a mention.

Anyway, once a mission starts, you see an overview map of the battlefield, and when you select a unit to control the perspective switches to 3rd-person with a cool zoom into the battlefield (which the Switch hardware struggles with a little). At the start of the first mission, I thought it was unclear what the controls were and I got a little stuck :/ The game isn’t very good at telling you about some of the functions – it hides them away in the menu. Some people prefer this but I think it is a little too sparse – at least for newcomers to the series. Furthermore, some of the features I had no idea existed and only realised later on e.g. engineers being able to disarm mines and rebuild sandbag walls! What! I could have been so much more efficient earlier! The only clue I had was the button prompt in the bottom left corner. They could have put this stuff into the tutorial / first mission. It’s not a dealbreaker really, of all things that the game could fail on I can forgive it for this over something more annoying / serious.

The way the turn-based system works is you get a set number of turns per round, which from what I can tell is partly based on what the game gives you per map, and partly on the number of high-ranked soldiers (or ‘leaders’ as the games calls them) you have deployed. If a high-ranked soldier gets taken out, then you lose an action / turn point for the overall round. It’s a good system that works well and balances out as the enemy also uses it. This is a good time to mention that it is possible for soldiers to die (permadeath) if you don’t get to them in time to call Karen the medic. This means that for the rest of the story, they are gone. I quite like this element to the game as it makes it interesting, but luckily it isn’t hard to keep them alive as you get a full turn to rescue them, and there are orders that allow you to rescue them (more of that later). As for the classes of soldier and their skills, there are a good mix of abilities that you can take advantage of. Scouts can move quite a distance per turn, and later get a very useful grenade upgrade. Shocktroopers have better defence and firepower, but a low firing range. Again, they have a very useful flamethrower upgrade that is very effective at killing units crouching by sandbags, where you get a defence boost. Snipers are not so useful to be honest earlier on as their firepower is dulled, but later they are very useful if you don’t get them killed by leaving them out in the open at the end of your turn. Engineers lack in firepower and defence, but are very useful units as they have a good movement range and provide a lot of support: tank repair, ladder and sandbag repair, mine defusal, ammo supply to tanks and infantry and ragnite revival (can fully revive allies not just heal). Lancers can take a hit (or many) from explosives and of course are geared towards destroying tanks. Grenadiers are a useful unit against all classes including tanks depending on the weapon you have equipped, but they are very open to attack – perhaps ironically (and frustratingly) most of all from other grenadier units. Finally, higher-ranked units (leaders) also have the ability to command up to two other units so that they move with the commander and fire with them also. This is very useful as it only consumes 1 turn, not 3 as it would if you were moving each unit separately. Even better, say the commander was a scout (Claude or Minerva for example), then the other units move as far as they do even if they are a class that can only move a short way each turn like the lancers.

Tanks are fun aren’t they? Well the Hafen – squad E’s tank named after Claude and CO’s hometown – is almost a character in itself. The Hafen is versatile as it has a machine gun, mortar and armour piercing shell capabilities, covering assault that is effective against all the different classes. You have to be careful not to put it near too many anti-tank cannons and other tanks, but otherwise they can be safely moved right into the middle of the action in most cases. The major weakness for tanks – and I mean major (perhaps too majory actually) – is the one-shot-kill weakness of tanks: if you fire at the tank’s ragnite radiator, typically located at the rear of the tank. It has caught me out a few times even when I have taken provisions to shield it by facing the rear away from the enemy. One minor gripe I have about tanks other than that is that I sometimes get tanks caught on an invisible wall / game boundary which wastes some AP (movement) unnecessarily. Sometimes when you think it’ll get through, it won’t. My favourite tank, though, is the Edelweiss, which is a DLC tank and a cameo from the first VC game – it just looks cooler to me (in the above screenshot, the Hafen is on the left, Edelweiss the right).

True to the usual JRPG conventions, you have decent control over customising what weapons and upgrades you go for (assuming you have the money), including armour and weapon upgrades for the tanks. You can upgrade the abilities of the infantry too by using experience you earn during missions to level them up on the training field at headquarters.

To summarise, the gameplay is really fun, and the devs always give you a new challenge as you go to change things up a little. The map / 3rd-person view combo works really well, but sometimes you can get a little lost despite there being a minimap – maybe it’s just me though. Yeah, it’s probably just me…


VC4 doesn’t babysit you. As you move from mission to mission, the maps are varied, new elements are introduced and the AI doesn’t always follow the same routine. I never found that I ‘figured out’ the system to the point where it got too easy like you can sometimes feel with some games. In fact, it’s easy to mess up the first time you play a mission as you are in the dark as to what the best course of action is whilst using as little CP as possible. This makes VC4 a good difficulty I’d say. You get a choice the first time you play the game to play on easy of normal (I chose normal), so if you don’t have faith in yourself and are here for the story I’m sure easy will be manageable.

Generally, you have to be as tactical as possible in this game as some of the maps can be hard. It is more forgiving than Advance Wars, though. Crouching by sandbags is a no-brainer to reduce damage, and hiding in grass is even better as even if the enemy sees you do it, damage is reduced if they fire at you and other enemies won’t detect you unless you were in their line of sight or they get close to you. There is also the barriers you can hide behind and covered shelters to avoid falling grenades from grenadiers. Some of the scenery is destructible, so it is worth taking advantage of this. The aim of the game if you like is the less CP you waste destroying an enemy or moving across the map the better.

The weather of the map also affects the tactics, as blizzards reduce movement and visibility, as does the cover of night and fog. The game throws all sorts at you. Also watch out for those mines especially on maps with bad weather!

Another ability to take advantage of is the orders. Orders use up one CP (turn point) or more depending on the order and it’s effect, but there are a variety of useful aids such as rescue fallen allies, fortify tank armour, improve aim etc and you learn more orders as the game progresses.

Another aspect worthy of note is that you can call for backup, even by redeploying fallen allies that have been rescued, from any camps, including captured camps, on the map. This allows you to call on units from newly captured camps instead of wasting turns getting slower units to move across to the other side of the map.

One thing I like to do tactically is placing a tank or shocktrooper near an enemy at the end of that unit’s turn. This way, when the enemy moves they will get damaged or killed by inception fire! Haha! That is always fun to watch, but more importantly, it saves you wasting too many moves and as long as you are sure that your unit won’t get killed it’s a good tactic.

Although it is to your advantage to be tactical, to achieve rank A on a mission, the only parameter the game seems to care about is how fast you achieve the goal, not accounting for such trivial things like how many of your teammates survive the battle. Just something to be aware of.

It’s a great looking game! The watercolour look is really pretty and the maps / level, character and vehicle designs are all really good. I like how you get some effects on the overview map too like fire and snow. Movement animations are slick also. The boundaries are nicely designed as well, and the background blends seamlessly beyond the game boundary.

The music is very nicely done and is memorable and effective for a war genre game. Not much else to say really.

I switched to the Japanese voices and they are really well done but I haven’t checked out the English dub yet. I particularly like Kai’s voice and Raz’s is good also. As for the side characters there are some cool & interesting voice work there also.


Valkyria Chronicles 4 is a great tactical war game with the added bonus of having a great story and characters that you care about, which enhances the enjoyability tenfold. In fact, it’s not a bonus as such – it’s very much part of the game being part visual novel. If you enjoy visual novels and tactical war games, then it’s an easy win – this game is perfect for you. The gameplay is fun, and the game presents you with new challenges each mission. There is little to criticise, honestly, other than a few annoyances here and there that I highlighted in the review. It clocks in at around 80 hours (well, I am slow at completing games so for most maybe 70 hours..) and that was including the skirmishes and squad stories and some DLC, but that is more than enough content for your buck. I am going to delve into the first game in the series now. Thanks for reading.


Paper Mario: The Origami King – An early review



I was definitely ready to be back on the paper road again.

I have been a big fan of Paper Mario games since I played the first title on the N64 (Well, admittedly, I skipped a few games after Thousand Year Door, which mostly wasn’t on purpose… Super Paper Mario I missed entirely, Sticker Star  I didn’t enjoy it as much and abandoned it early on, Color Splash – I don’t own I Wii U). Origami King, however came at a good time and as soon as I saw the announcement I pre-ordered it. I’m glad I got the physical edition as they bundled in some nice Paper Mario character magnets and some Origami paper!

The aspects that attracted me to the original Paper Mario and Thousand Year Door in the first place were the lovely popping colours, the charm of the characters and story, the lively animations, the designs of the characters, the fun turn-based gameplay, the sense of adventure in different lands…. and all the cool weapon stickers allowing to to customise your combat to whatever strategy you liked. This has all thankfully remained and evolved in Origami King  to varying degrees of quality.

To the layman, Paper Mario as a concept may seem like a cash-grab considering the existence of Mario 64 and a cluster of spin-off Mario games, but Paper Mario is very much it’s own thing in the form of a comedic, turn-based combat adventure. Charm is a key word when describing the PM series – something that is prevalent not only in the dialogue, graphics and animation but also in the battles and the very nature of the turn-based system where Mario, his friends and his enemy’s attacks pop like tiles from a comic book.



Firstly, I am only about a third of the way through the game so far, and I will review this… review again once I have completed it, but I feel like I have played enough to make some preliminary observations / voice some opinions. Also, I will be dropping spoilers here so beware.

It was nice to see the familiar quality and charm of the Paper Mario series again after my hiatus from the series – Intelligent Systems are a very good studio in my opinion (I am also a big fan of Advance Wars). The intro movie takes us on a kart ride with Luigi through Toad Town in third-person perspective, close behind the kart in  an almost first-person line of sight – I really liked this as it was a nice way to experience the scene.

It’s the same tried and tested formula of course – Princess Peach being kidnapped by some evil entity and Mario gets together with some friends he makes along the way to defeat the bad guy – and so on. I don’t have an issue with this formula as long as the story and characters are solid and the design and animation is of the usual quality. So far, I think some areas are up to the standards that we expect, but I have some reservations about other areas which I will detail below.


Look at those beautiful orange mountains, gorgeous fall colours, clear river with calm waves, cool Japanese architecture…


There’s no doubt about it – it’s a gorgeous game. Of course, as each new console dawns the hardware is improved and Origami King looks fantastic on the Switch. With the delightful paper-like graphics coupled with an increased level of 3D (or is it just me?) coming together to create a great sense of depth. I have always liked the look of ‘paper’ Mario and co against the semi-3D backdrop. It also allows for some cool secret hiding places that fit seamlessly into the scenery, and unless you are looking very closely, you will miss them. Yes, I have been fooled many a time by secrets despite being a thorough gamer and a completionist.

My favourite area so far unsurprisingly is the Shogun Studios level – the colours and beauty of it all – and I am a sucker for old Japanese architecture and culture. I could go on talking about all the areas but it’s easy to see that it’s a beautiful game like all it’s predecessors.



I enjoy the music in the Autumn world the most, but other than that the music is nice, but not that memorable. Not to say it isn’t good, but I am used to the AMAZING sounds of the Advance Wars soundtrack – and that is in low quality!



I’m sorry to say this really, but I find Mario’s latest main companion Olivia, the sister of the bad guy, a little annoying more than charming. The scale tips more towards.. trying to hard to be funny and cute but isn’t? I remember your companions in OG Paper Mario and TYD having more amusing and likeable personalities. Then again it’s been a while since I played those games. She is helpful though when you are stuck with the story. I think she is just a bit too vanilla without much of a personality. That said, I do quite like Bomb-omb – and I feel like his story is about to unfold (honestly didn’t mean for that to be a pun) very soon.



In OG Paper Mario and TYD the story was more involving. For example, Kammy Koopa turns up to ruin your day – the constant interference from minions as a reminder that your enemy is on your tail. There was also in TYD playing as princess peach from time to time, which was a lovely novelty in itself, but also was a way of forwarding the story and involving you in each side of the battle.

Unfortunately, so far I haven’t really seen that as much as I’d have liked. I have just started the third chapter and to be fair Olly the Origami King has just appeared to crush his sister with a giant boulder (a move that should have upset me more than it did), so there was an appearance, but we are two chapters in and we know nothing about these mysterious origami people. 

The goal of getting rid of the various coloured streamers and saving the toads from being folded. Some of these toads are hard to find I tell you, but it is fun trying to find them. I feel a little sad to say I have had to use guides to 100% most of the levels so far. Not to mention the hidden blocks and collectables.. I find the holes satisfying to repair with the confetti, though, I’ll say that.

Thus I can’t really say much about the story yet.



Generally, OK plays very much like it’s predecessors. You hop around hammering or jumping on enemy’s heads and clamber over objects to find items. It’s all good. So far, the items have been a little disappointing to me, or rather the selection of items. In Paper Mario and TYD, the selection of weapons was abundant and varied in scope and I am the type of person that enjoys setting RPG style weapons and upgrades and one of things I really enjoyed was the freedom of weapon choice. The selection is reduced so far in this game and the focus is shifted to the new ring-based puzzle battle system. More on that below.

I wanted to mention the River Rapids mini game / level – I enjoyed this a lot. There is also the theatre in Shogun Studios which was a fun addition – along with the putting on the Goomba mask in order to safely navigate the Theatre entrance (of course I tried the other masks first to see what would happen). If you have played TYD, you will remember the wrestling portion of the game, which was a highlight for me, so I am glad that the devs have added similar events in Origami King.



This is my biggest negative point for Origami King so far. I know others have expressed online that they don’t like the new battle system, but this is what I have to say.

The new ring battle system…. is not my cup of tea. I prefer the theatre-like pop-up of PM and TYD.
I don’t like to bash the fresh approach to the battle system because it sounds like I am one of those types that hates change, and I like that Intelligent Systems are tying new things, but to me the ring-based system can be tiresome, and I’m no good at the puzzles when lining up the enemies. The extra timer item that gives you more time at the puzzles just feels like a way to patch up the problem for people like me that suck at it. There is also the function to ‘buy’ more time with coins, but it doesn’t work very well.

Like I said, I appreciate the effort of trying something new, and it does bring something interesting to the table for boss battles when things change up, but i think they should have reserved it only for the boss battles. That would have worked well I think, as I like the hint letters – there are there if you want them – then you have the hearts as long as you work them into your path around the rings – it’s tactical, and I think this is probably an improvement to the older games – or at least as good. However, the average battles can be frustrating as they are slow to start with, and the enemies run about and then you have to line them up. Then you are heavily penalised if you don’t get the line up right – it’s bad enough if you mess up and they aren’t lined up for you to knock them all out at once, but to lose attack power AND battle reward coins –  it’s too harsh.

The fact that the battle gyms exist to familiarise you with battle system and improve your skills is further proof. It’s another personal thing I think, I am more of a traditionalist and I enjoyed the old battle system so to have it taken away is sad for me.



I am enjoying this game and I am glad I bought it, but admittedly I enjoyed the original and TYD more. The classic aspects that make Paper Mario as a series are present in Origami King, but for me the battle system (at least the average battles) and the less involved story are disappointing aspects. I am yet to get halfway through the game let alone complete it, so these are of course my early thoughts on the game. Watch this space for an update in the future, and thanks for reading!

Semisonic’s Feeling Strangely Fine: an album review

Growing up, I listened to a lot of music that my dad liked. He is a true fan of music of all genres, but I quickly learnt that my taste was quite discerning and that whilst I appreciated a lot of music as being ‘good music’, I was rather a picky listener (and remain so even now).

Semisonic’s Feeling Strangely Fine, however, turned out to be my favourite album of all time. When I think about it, the best way I can summarise why is the strong nostalgia attached to this album, the fantastic song writing and instrumentation, the atmospheric lyrics, the way it makes me feel when I listen to it and simply the sheer amount I have heard it. I know it’s cheesy quantifying how much you like something by giving it a star rating, but I quite like it. It’s the only album to which I have ever given 5 stars to every track. I can listen to Feeling Strangely Fine over and over and I don’t get bored of it.

So, a little history. Dan Wilson was in a band called Trip Shakespeare in the early 90’s, which was actually his brother’s (Matt Wilson’s) band. John Munson who went on to be part of Semisonic was also in Trip Shakespeare (cool band!). So, Dan and John teamed up with Jacob Slitcher to form Semisonic in 1995.


feeling strangely fine

The above image is copyright Semisonic & MCA Records

Here is the track list for Feeling Strangely Fine (1998):

1 Closing Time 4:34

2 Singing In My Sleep 4:30

3 Made To Last 5:02

4 Never You Mind 4:24

5 Secret Smile 4:29

6 DND 4:11

7 Completely Pleased 3:17

8 This Will Be My Year 4:31

9 All Worked Out 2:51

10 California 5:26

11 She Spreads Her Wings 3:06

12 Gone To The Movies 3:52


[Closing Time]
This song is not about a bar at closing time – it is about childbirth! I heard Dan Wilson mention this somewhere.. Now I have cleared this up for you, listen to the song again – It makes even more sense. Despite this song being one of their most famous (along with Secret Smile), this is my least favourite song on the album. I still like it – I think it is such a nice sounding song. The piano is a nice touch at the start, and it builds up progressively a little until the chorus kicks in along with the guitar. I remember reading somewhere that this was a part of his life where he had just become a dad, and this song was part of his expression of that part of his life. It’s an upbeat song both lyrically and instrumentally with a bright theme.

[Singing In My Sleep]
Depending on my mood, I sometimes consider this song as my favourite song on the album. I love the build up in this song, the repeating riff at the start and how it continues all the way through. This is probably the most upbeat song on the album. I know that is the main reason I like it so much. The guitar is really catchy on this record and it makes the song really solid. Dan excelled himself with the lyrics on this song as well – they are so singable and quotable! One of my favourite lines is: ‘In the city the Lion sleeps, pray to Sony my soul to keep’. The song is catchy and likable, and leaves you quite happy. Bonus note: the music video is also cool – very 90’s in a good way.

[Made to Last]
Made to last always puts me a certain mood. I think it’s a mix of chill and pensive. Again, instrumentally quite progressive. I always think it sounds nice right after the upbeat sound of Singing In My Sleep. The lyrics I particularly like right at the start of this song.

[Never You Mind]
This song is very memorable and instrumentally very clever as it creates a unique sound with the combination of instruments selected. Especially that riff on the piano! It was co-written by Dan and Jacob, and is another great example of talent with lyrics as well – ‘Shakin my mind like an Etch-a-sketch erasing’! I think that this is one of those albums that has a good mix of songs, yet somehow the album works so well as a unit – all songs included.

[Secret Smile]
A nice, sentimental song. It has a good feel to it. Maybe it is just after seeing the video, but it really compliments the lyrics and helps you get into the song. I always think the song is pretty melancholy. I’m not sure it is supposed to be. Along with Closing Time, this is a famous Semisonic song. That isn’t the reason It’s another one of my lesser favourite songs on the album, though. I think I just love the others so much.

Just listening to DND now, I love the start, the acoustic riff, and Dan’s voice. Then the drums step in, then the bass a little later. I enjoy progression. The flow of this song is beautiful. Then Violin later still.. Meanwhile, Dan’s lyrics are so cleverly put together – so ‘real’ but sort of simple in a good way, all at the same time. I always liked the imagery that these lyrics conjured into my mind.

[Completely Pleased]
I often tell myself this is my favourite on the album, but I say that about a few of them depending on my mood I guess. I love this song so much! When I was young I never knew what it was about, but I never put much thought into it anyway. I love the 4 strums at the beginning. I also love the drums then straight after the guitar just before the chorus as they pick up a faster pace. Dan’s lyrics on this track are so good! It’s such a great song, I always develop a vivid imagination listening to it. I particularly like: ‘I want to see you hazy, dazed and confused. I want to see you come, come, completely used’. The ‘come come’ part being clever in itself of course. Already you can see why Semisonic is so high in my list – I love the music and the lyrics! I think it’s the chorus with the awesome guitar coupled with the lyrics that get me in this song.

[This Will Be My Year]
I think this is my current favourite song on the album. Interestingly, it was composed by Jacob Slitcher (bassist). I really like the sound of the.. whatever it is buzzing and the guitar riffs. I remember hearing Dan say somewhere that one of the best compliments musically is when you can’t tell what instrument is playing. Every time the song starts I get really into it. I like the lyrics a lot on this one too, they are quite funny and clever. My favourite line has to be ‘One wheel in the ditch another spinning in the air, put your pedal down to the floorboard, but your not getting anywhere’ – it’s a nice metaphor. Despite the lyrics being a little depressing, I love the upbeatness of the song, and the way it contradicts the depressive tone.

[All Worked Out]
I love this song because the lyrics are so blatant, real, simple, honest etc. about life and relationships and it just puts it out there ‘She’s got it all worked out’. But I like ‘And it’s strange, but your feeling fine’ even more. The idea that this guy has accepted it and is completely comfortable with it. It is almost comic in a way, and It’s such a lovely, emotional song. It makes you feel secure and happy. Who wouldn’t want to be in a relationship like this?

California is an interesting song. I love the atmosphere both instrumentally and lyrically. Apparently the ‘Twelve little pieces of me’ are twelve songs he wrote (presumably all on this album). And this song is probably a sort of personal journey through them. I heard this on Dan’s new live album Live at the Pantages, along with the fact that he regretted all the money he made from the album it wasn’t the intention!

[She Spreads Her Wings]
She Spreads Her Wings is the first of two really nice slow songs on the album. I’m not sure about the music, but I think the lyrics were written by John Munson (drummer). The song has a very nice, calming sound.

[Gone to the Movies]
Gone to the Movies has a really nice acoustic sound. I really, really love the visuals that the lyrics make my mind conjure up. The violins are a nice touch again. Even though this song is a little depressing it makes me happy for some reason.


[to Conclude]
I think the recurring reasons why I love this album are the sort of progressive alternative sound, the riffs, the instrumentation – Dan seems to have an ear for what instruments will sound great at what point. Dan’s way of writing – and he references this himself in ‘Teeter Tooter‘ (one of the songs on their live album Live at the Pantages) – often comes down to creating a piece of music that he likes and then uses it throughout the song. It works very well I think. Of course the lyrics as well need a mention as to the reason why this album is so good. Also, of course, the nostalgia that is attached to this record for me is very strong. It has that distinctive Dan Wilson sound plastered all over it; the love, care and attention that he puts into all his songs. It has stood the test of time until now, and has surpassed all of my other ‘nostalgic’ bands. So, thank you Dan, Jacob and John for this timeless album.