Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways (four stars)
This new album from Dave Grohl's band of merry men appears to be their most ambitious project to date. Each of Sonic Highways' eight tracks were recorded in eight different cities, with each city adding a guest contributor and heavily influencing Grohl's lyrics.
To use U2 parlance, there is definitely a sense of 'dreaming it all up again'. Lyrically that theme is woven through the record, with the 'Seattle-born Subterranean' seeing Grohl proclaim, "I've been digging in/I will start again", before asking, "Can we recover love for each other?". on 'I Am A River'.
The first half of the record finds the band unsteady on their feet. Although 'Something From Nothing' ends with the Foos 18-wheeler thundering into high gear, the preceding three minutes chop and change stylistically across four different genres when a more streamlined approach would do.
Their willingness to try different musical approaches is admirable, however, spacing them out and giving them room to breathe would be more beneficial. The most grandiose composition 'What Did I Do?/God Is My Witness' is a hybrid of souped-up Skynyrd southern rock, and Queen theatrics.
Neon lights in a Corvette windscreen are seen on the none-more-LA 'Outside', which is when the album really begins to settle into itself. The band who wrote 'Walking After You' and 'Next Year' reappears on 'Subterranean' before closing on 'I Am A River'. It is a track delivered in NYC but conceived of New Jersey's most famous son, Bruce Springsteen, with its slow build leading to a big torch-holding chorus.
Rumer: Into Colour (three stars)
Some artists occasionally dip into a 'retro' style, while others sound like they were born of another era. Rumer belongs to the latter. Comparisons with the soft, syrupy vocals of Karen Carpenter are unavoidable, especially on the Bacharach/David-tinged Reach Out. That 70s MOR feel is present throughout, on the wispy disco of Dangerous or the full-board 'remember the good old days' of Pizza and Pinball. The woozy, Sunday morning feel of Come Back To Bed is completely alluring, playing into Into Colour's strong suit - it being an easy album to sink into, especially of a lazy morning.
Pink Floyd: The Endless River (three stars)
Hewn from the The Division Bell sessions, The Endless River serves as a farewell to both the good ship Pink Floyd, and late keyboard player Rick Wright. Split into four movements, Wright's keys are never far from the foreground, particularly across The Lost Art of Conversation to Stephen Hawking's reprisal appearance on Talkin' Hawkin'.
The only song per se, is closing track Louder Than Words which lyrically serves to end the tempestuous Floyd story on a conciliatory note. Being a predominantly instrumental record, it's doubtful The Endless River will create new converts, but as final tips of the chapeau go, it's an understated and rather sweet parting gesture.
STAR WARS: X-WING (four stars)
PC: €7.99, gog.com
LucasArts, known for making some of the greatest games of the '80s and '90s, gave up the ghost and let go of the last of its staff last year. The good news it that Disney is re-releasing some of the LucasArts back catalogue, re-engineered to run properly on new machines.
One of the rarest gems of the lot is X-Wing. The difficulty curve hasn't been softened, nor have the controls been simplified, but devotees and brave souls will find a rewarding and surprisingly immersive experience in this low-fi, pixellated masterpiece.
SID MEIER'S CIVILIZATION: BEYOND EARTH (five stars)
PC: €49.99, steampowered.com
Taking the series into sci-fi territory, much like its excellent, but commercially unsuccessful, spiritual predecessor Alpha Centauri, the new Civilization game is much more than an expansion, although it does build directly on the ideas of Civilization V, there are some fundamental changes to the format that are mostly successful, bar a couple of disappointing missteps. Fans of the series will appreciate the streamlining of the core systems, though sadly the endgame is still tedious if victory or defeat is a foregone conclusion.
X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST 12A (five stars)
Set in the near future and in 1973, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is sent back in time to contact a young Prof. X (James McEvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and enlist their help in foiling the anti-mutant research of Dr. Trask (Peter Dinklage).
Following Matthew Vaughan's X-Men: First Class, Singer is back and he does an amazing job, every moment sparkling with clever ideas, a dry wit and a very tangible sense of spectacle and peril.
FINDING VIVIAN MAIER 12A (four stars)
Vivian Maier makes the perfect subject for documentary. A reclusive nanny working in the US from the 1950s right up to the 1990s, she took some of the most celebrated street photographs ever seen, but in all that time never showed anybody, her work only discovered after her death by the documentary's director, John Maloof.
Interviewing the families that she worked with - none of whom knew she was so talented - Maloof attempts to piece together an image of this private, complex artist. Her story, and her work, is captivating and poignant.