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Wednesday, Dec 17, 2014
Grab a scotch, light up a cigar, and cozy yourself in the corner booth: James Apollo's "Ho Ho, Ho Hum" is the kind of holiday tune best suited for a '50s noir bar.

There’s a certain artificiality that comes with much Christmas music, due in large part to the over-commercialization of the holiday. After hearing the umpteenth muzak rendition of “Jingle Bells” while shopping for rum to spike your eggnog with, the supposed joviality of the holiday is bound to fade into background noise. For that reason, songs like “Ho Ho, Ho Hum” by the Seattle-based singer/songwriter James Apollo are all the more refreshing. The song’s lounge mood and barroom piano evoke the cigarette smoke and loneliness of a film noir, a feeling that Apollo no doubt intended, given the song’s music video is shot in a melancholy black and white. “Ho Ho, Ho Hum” isn’t the song to play when trying to liven up a holiday party, but it does genuinely capture a feeling that many people experience during the holiday season.


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Wednesday, Dec 17, 2014
With their debut LP Sings for You soon to get its vinyl release, Pinecones have prepared a droll video for the album cut "Sleep is Forget".

While Pinecones vocalist and guitarist Bo Orr also plays in the straightedge grindcore band Dead in the Dirt, one best not go into the music of the former group expecting anything like the latter. As LPs like 2013’s The Blind Hole attest, Orr is more than capable of bludgeoning the ears with brutal riffs. By contrast, with Pinecones Orr, along with bandmates Ben Salie (drums), Brain Atoms (guitar), and Ryan Evers (bass), is writing guitar-centric rock that’s far friendlier to the ear canals.


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Wednesday, Dec 17, 2014
by Max Qayyum
As the guitarist for A Rocket to the Moon, Nick Santino was worried if fans would follow his solo endeavors. As his 2014 album Big Skies and a recent UK tour has proven ... yes, yes they will.

Nick Santino is well known from his days of being lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist in American pop-rock band, A Rocket to the Moon. In 2013 they called it a day, and Santino carried on by himself.


While the split may have come swiftly, Santino moved on. He released a couple of EPs last year, and then released his first solo, full-band album, Big Skies, in May of this year. The record continued where A Rocket to the Moon left of, yet left Santino in a position to add new influences here and there, while expanding his musical career.


Now, being signed to 8123, Santino is touring with the UK on the label’s own tour, supporting alternative-rockers The Maine and indie-pop group Lydia. The tour has been a major success, and PopMatters caught up with Santino in Nottingham to talk about the transition from touring in a big rock band to gracing the stage with just a guitar.


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Wednesday, Dec 17, 2014
Pandora's Second Holiday Discovery Den lineup originally included Charli XCX but when she dropped out Kiesza stepped up to entertain.

The free Pandora Holiday Discovery Den event was a fun party for the young crowd that managed to get in and escape the deluge outside. The original bill for the event included Rudimental, the Neighbourhood and Charli XCX, just a week or two ahead of the release of her second album Sucker. However, because of some apparent conflict, the British Charli XCX had to drop off. So the organizers tapped Canadian singer Kiesza to fill in, though they did bump up the Neighbourhood to be the headliner.


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Wednesday, Dec 17, 2014
by Marshall Sandoval
The power of procedurally generated content is being harnessed to make everything from realistic texture maps to entire universes. However, procedural generation is, by no means, a magic bullet.

Given the choice, most people would rather have their own unique adventure than play through the same story with the same twists as everyone else’s tale. Games like Spelunky and Minecraft push the boundaries of what is possible within the emergent systems of a video game. The power of procedurally generated content is being harnessed to make everything from realistic texture maps to entire universes. However, procedural generation is, by no means, a magic bullet. There are extreme challenges in developing and testing systems with nearly endless possible permutations.


The perks of a game with procedural generation are obvious to players, but designers would also prefer to write an algorithm that generates endless player possibility than they would create hundreds of levels by hand. This is often the case for small, indie developers with limited time and resources. Brad Johnson is the developer of tile based dungeon crawler, A Spire to the Gods. He says, “As a solo developer, choosing to make levels procedurally has been a life saver, a mood lifter, and a game enhancer. I don’t have to worry about how to come up with interesting level layouts. If I had a team of developers working on levels, I’d probably flesh out the level editor and make custom levels, but that’s only in an ideal situation with unlimited time and budget.”


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