There's really a time and place for everything, when you realize and relish how things go in the music industry. And 4 (5 when the album releases) years isn't ultimately very long either. I just have one very simple question: what the hell happened to Ariana Grande?
I missed this when it released last week, and after blowing up in iTunes, I've decided to review the single. And for most Adele fans, like me, did it live up to the expectations that we've hoped?
There are just some bands and records that whizzes by once awhile and I never really am able to grasp it fully when I happen to catch in at the right time. As Marianas Trench sets on their fourth record in just a little over a decade, we truly see how defining and spectacular the crescendos are when they fall. And my God, do they fall with a romping thunderstorm.
Confident is Demi Lovato’s fifth album and she hasn't really released much since 2013, where the Camp Rock star had last seen success. Is this a step forward in the right direction or just simply a stale release?
A Welcome Return?
Avicii's debut album, True, was released back in 2013 when I reviewed it, exploding it back then which I claimed it was one of the best and also one of my favourite albums of that year. Almost 2 years later, quite possibly after many hopscotch releases from the DJ himself, he has released a new album to finally please fans. The thing is... will it? Well, we'll just have to see.
Awolnation! And Sail, and Not Your Fault... and Run. This is the sophomore studio album, after releasing his debut album Megalithic Symphony which I'm still not completely sold on, spawning the ultimate hit of the 2011-2012's Sail. Now, if there's anything that is going to be hard to follow-up to, all you need to do is to ask the front-man of the band, Aaron Bruno, who mostly wrote every song on this album, because when you have a fanbase (or not) that only remembers your most successful song (you already know what it is), it's going to be really tough. And for the most part, he does do it justice mainly because Symphony had sore flaws, but that doesn't mean Run doesn't suffocate itself with it, too.
To be fair, to say Awolnation was 'lucky' that Sail became as popular and successful as it is, is an insult to the man and the band, who did the song not only justice, but with a solid aplomb. While it was obviously oblivious to a re-touching of the vocals which became apparent in the final product that it was a little too fizzy and distorted, Aaron Bruno still went with it anyway since he thought nobody's going to listen to it. The drums, coupled with well-timed and executed synthesizers reveals this monster of a production that is just gorgeous to soak in to. One thing to keep in mind though, is to not just remember that Sail was a song for product placement, but the track itself paved the way and opened eyes for more people who thought atmospheric tracks never found a home in today's music industry. And I would love to advocate my point on it. Let's get right on in with the album.
It's a shaky start, and everybody knows. Run is mainly a recreation, if I would admit of Symphony, but with much more intimate courses like a meal that when savoured, is amazing to swallow but like it's predecessor, there's too much of everything. The title track, which is also the first track on the album, runs alongside traditions similar to Sail, but with much more layered synthesizers and a little hint of piano, before it smashes into disarray with the gouging out of electric guitars that just revels in atmospheric chaos. And most of the tracks on this album do hit hard when they throw a punch, such as tracks like the explosive KOOKSEVERYWHERE!!! (I know), intensity of Dreamers and some parts of the dark and gritty nature of Windows. In fact though, most of the tracks on this album don't really focus on the aggressive nature that was particularly evident in Symphony (Soul Wars an example). Instead, the album finds its' home in the arms of more selfless efforts like Fat Face (which is a break-down coming directly after the impressive track that is Run), Jailbreak, and two of my favourites Headrest for My Soul and Woman Woman (with Holy Roller sneaking in). It's strange, coincidentally that when you have tracks that roar out from the fissures of the Earth, the tracks that are much more softer in general tend to speak louder than its counterparts, and that was something that surprised me exceptionally. Don't get me wrong, I don't mean that the aggressive nature disappeared entirely because there's always the undertone of it on tracks like Windows.
I find myself wanting to listen to more of the aforementioned tracks like the the title, and Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf), which I think is a great song, though won't become an instant classic. Give it a couple more spins and it will grow on you, because it did for me. But it wasn't really the engaging synthesizers that I was looking for, but rather the sound that captivated and compelled me to listen to the band in the first place - the atmospheric channels, and for the most part songs that had both style and substance in the veins of Sail. That was difficult to do, and I think Aaron Bruno wanted to distance himself from the previous album considering with a hit like that on your shoulders, sometimes it does more harm than good eventually.
The album itself is meant to be listened to one song at a time, and the essence that it captures does draw a bottleneck, though not intensely, but it still works decently. Some tracks don't necessarily pair up well with others (Run to Fat Face, Headrest for My Soul to Dreamers) but that is to be expected considering Symphony had pretty much the same problem. But I felt that I got more with this album than I did with the predecessor, and for me that is saying a lot. Connection to songs like Headrest for My Soul, Windows, Woman Woman, Lie Love Live Love and hell, even Run all have an emotional core though don't wear it on their sleeves all the time, and works extremely well when the album tries to go in sharp turns that I did not expect.
Essential: Windows, Run
Favourite Tracks: Headrest for My Soul, Woman Woman, Hollow Moon
Least Favourite Tracks: Fat Face, Drinking Lightning
I have to be honest; this album is absolutely great. It's definitely, in my opinion, a little better than Megalithic Symphony, and it reaches new heights that were otherwise never traversed on his previous record. If you're looking for a new Sail, you might get fun out of Windows, Run and Hollow Moon for that matter, but this album is a sweet wine for the soul -- as long as you got your mind straight for the most part. Definitely looking forward to Awolnation's future releases. A shorter summary? Listen to this album twice, because it deserves every spot of attention from your ears. Just don't get too embedded in the wrong side of things.
After a few days of having the luxury of sinking my head into Kelly Clarkson's newest album, it's finally time to talk about it! (That was a goddamn short introduction)
The seventh studio album by the American Idol winner (season 1 by the way for those who don't know) is finally here, titled Piece by Piece which released a few weeks ago but only got a hold of it the past few days. While I'm not exactly the biggest Clarkson fan out there, I would say I've listened to some of her previous hits which include probably one of my favourite track Breakaway, the 'a little too generic' Stronger, and possible one of her better tracks of late in Catch My Breath. Though the only thing that comes to satisfaction in her discography probably has to be her sophomore record, which does contain some of her stronger hits and also some of the tracks which people normally associate her with. Does this album deliver for the most part? Well, let's see.
First of all, this album is basically a 'you get what you pay for' album in the sense that it's every corner a Clarkson fold wherein there is her unmissable vocals, very stringent production and simply niche, or over-used framing for lyrics that are just simply cliche. Now don't get me wrong, while I think it's not a very bad album, there's nothing really special nor of weight for me to remember it for what it is, and that's quite a big problem.
Upfront, the tracks are serviceable at best. Even a John Legend feature doesn't 'spice' things up, and most tracks on this album are quite literally dull and boring. The best track is not even in the original album itself, and rather on the deluxe edition titled Bad Reputation that has the dance vibe that is heard throughout the album but manages to pull off a smooth punch with its drums and guitars (even the horns/trumpets) that also has a pacey drive to it.
The album itself is technically decent, and for the most part is what is actually lacking. Miss Clarkson's vocals are at the same time okay, but could've been better. The first three tracks easily set the tone for the rest of the album in a rather sentimental, calm mood that just jaunts on to every other track. And we're talking 13 tracks with almost the same sense of sentimental retreat to it. Some of it are pace-driven (sort of) like the more upbeat ones such as Invincible, Take You High, Let Your Tears Fall, War Paint and Dance With Me.
I know it feels as if this album doesn't live up to its potential, but it is what it is. When it comes to the lyrics, the album just falls apart like a train wreck. I'm sorry, but lyrically this album is just not good enough - at all. 'Don't be sad that it's over - just be happy it happened to us' (Nostalgic), 'If you wanna' lead be a leader - if you wanna' dream be a dreamer' (I Had A Dream) are just examples, but the string of it certainly doesn't stop there. I know it sounds as if I'm grinding on about these things but I just can't skewer them out of this review. It's literally there for everyone to hear.
One (and only) thing that is probably the best part on this entire album is Clarkson's vocals. Although she doesn't reach the highs of her previous records, on tracks like Let Your Tears Fall, Good Goes The Bye and Invincible, all of which share strength, vocal control and finesse that just adds to the fine feature to this album, in which otherwise does nothing to compliment her at all. A dubstep on Take You High? That just takes me out of the track almost instantly, whereas on Piece by Piece, the drums and pianos are well coordinated and doesn't block the listening pleasure of the album too much. Even on Good Goes The Bye where the synths do share too much of the stage with Clarkson but when it reaches the chorus, they drop to the background and lets the voice do all the work (which should have been from the start). In fact, that might possibly be my favourite track of the entire album and I'm not even kidding, and add to that probably War Paint and Invincible with the latter I see becoming a fantastic single.
Favourite Tracks: Good Goes The Bye, War Paint, Invincible
Least Favourite Tracks: Take You High, Nostalgic, I Had a Dream
If you're looking for a decent follow up to her 2011 release then I'm sorry, this is not it. With bland production, at times great vocals coupled with lyrics that are just blatantly cliche, I would probably only recommend this album to people who think that they have a grip on sentimental music. Would I recommend it to her fan-base? Hell no, considering most of them have already heard the album. But still, it's not as bad as it seems that I may have put and there are certainly worse albums out there for sure. For now, I'd say stick to the three tracks I've tacked for favourite and you're probably good to go.
REVIEW TIME! Man I wanted to do a quick review for some of the albums I missed so far but I'm going to do that soon (give me like a month. Okay, maybe a day). For now, we get the much anticipated release from the Grammy-winning -- yes, not nominated -- band Imagine Dragons. Is this album going to be better than the rather polarizing record (for me at least) that is Night Visions? Well folks, there's a saying that you should know what you're buying and right here... is unfortunately not Gold.
When the band popped up in 2012-2013 and released the worldwide euphoria that is It's Time, they followed up the single with a flurry of knockout punches in the form of Radioactive, Demons and On Top of the World (okay, not really) which eventually succeeded into a rather dismal, disappointing and messy album that is Night Vision. Yeah people liked it, for sure, but take out the existing singles and you get an album that can't even stand with two legs on it's own. Surely the band will have learnt a concise lesson from their previous outing despite their winning Grammys (and that amazing performance with Kendrick Lamar) and hopefully be able to put out an album that is at least on par with their own talents.
And I will say, God damn I wanted to like this album. The band itself has this creative and unique way of looking at music from a different perspective that just speaks volumes when it comes to them making it and really turning the scope of what they're developing. However, on their new album Smoke + Mirrors, things chuck and change as easy as reusing toothpicks to eating a fruit. For starters, the record is not bad at all, and most hardcore fans will embrace it for months to come. But this album, insufferably, is equally as appalling as their preceding record and lends nothing to the table other than the very stale formula the band built itself to shake from. What does this mean? Well...
First of all the singles are alright. They aren't special, none of them stand out (well, technically some did because the others were just lacking in parity) and for the most part do not feel like Imagine Dragons. I looked at the band as if they were willing to take risks, with the ideas behind Radioactive and their charting hits to be rather a forceful punch to really strike at new ideas, but when the album started, the tracks just melted as if they were put in a blender. Out of Shots, Gold and I Bet My Life, the first one on the list felt lacking in all sorts of aspect of songwriting; repetitive lines in the chorus that transcends to Gold, drums in the background and Dan Reynolds doing falsettos (we'll get to that in a moment) that just feels bland. Gold's production and it's stutter start that may well suit a Kanye West track turns into this monster that eats up the chorus with thumping guitars along with a solid bass-line to back it up. I Bet My Life feels similar to It's Time in the veins of familiarity -- great vocals, good guitars, decent drums and a pulsating hook is just basically same song and dance at this point.
Granted, the band does shake things up and emerge with roaring gigantic tracks such as I'm So Sorry and Friction which showcases the band's rock elements coming into play. I'm so sorry (not the song) but, they just feel so out of place on this album. Yes they are rock-heavy and they do strike with an iron fist, but they sequentially miss the point. The former track drowns itself in stuttering electric guitars and once it reaches the chorus, everything is just thrown into this pot of melting stew that is just messy as hell. Friction on the other hand feels like an acoustic-driven, foreign track that has pop elements from Michael Jackson's Wanna' Be Startin' Something (That resemblance to the lyrics popped out of my head in front of my screen when I heard it) and is probably the better track of the two. It has the thumping guitars the band is well known for, and Reynolds' vocals are simply jarring and focused. Is it one of the better tracks on the album? As far as I can see, I have to say yes at this point.
I know the lyrics have to be mentioned, though the band does write in very disparate ways from their alternative rock counterparts and this is transparently visible on their single tracks (all of them). I must say that the ones that had this problem was definitely the album's title track, Polaroid which is really somber and feels genuine though has a tendency to often drift to a cynical void and It Comes Back To You which just feels forgettable to be honest.
And then we come to Dan Reynold's vocals. I know he wasn't really that good on Night Visions mainly because the instruments carried the album, but how things have changed. Falsettos, though a little bit too stretched at times, and the low notes that he hits definitely served to become the better part of this album, and potentially saved the album on tracks like Trouble, Dream and Hopeless Opus, all of which are just varying and completely forgettable - shallow guitars and bass - and has little sentiment to them. Trouble though deserves a mention because Reynolds delivered an outstanding performance on the track and matched the rushing guitars and drums extremely well. The Fall also deserves a definite mention.
The thumping guitars on the album served basically zero purpose other than to build up the chorus and the hook, and I felt that it was either misused or underused. Never did it feel like it appeared at the right time and too much of it definitely felt as if they wanted each track to be some kind of overarching, bellowing, rousing track that would scale to the top with screams rather than pure euphoria.
Favourite Tracks: Friction, Trouble, Gold
Least Favourite Tracks: Smoke And Mirrors, Polaroid, It Comes Back To You
This sophomore album from Imagine Dragons belts out much more earthquakes does it do itself justice by delivering a straight-on, evolution of their previous record Night Visions. Is it better than the preceding record? I would say yes, but by an extremely fine margin. And the band also does no favor to themselves other than simply put that this album is just not good enough. Is it worthy of a recommendation? I think yes, but they did not earn it that's for sure. All in all, Imagine Dragons' fans rejoice and we'll hopefully see a much more focused album in the future. One can only hope.
So uh, when did Kanye West join the Beatles?
It is new music Sunday and Rihanna drops a new tweet and new music from her upcoming studio album that is currently nameless that features the great Paul McCartney and hip hop star Kanye West (I'm obliged considering Yeezus, well, okay). What do I think? Well, first signs of listening have definitely structured this single in good light. And I mean damn good light.
Now first of all, people were definitely complaining about Kanye not dropping any bars, in which he did sing his verses. Really? People were complaining about this? I mean it's not like Yeezus was no different. Obviously, I'm joking with this one. And to be fair, I did expect a few fires to light with Kanye name-dropping or going hard as usual, but things started to take a turn when McCartney's guitar instrumentation lead the track into oblivion and beyond. It's a feel-good song with Kanye singing, and he does hold his own for the two verses he was placed with but we all know he's not a singer -- come on.
FourFiveSeconds, as the track is called, is mainly a collaboration between the trio and will be up on both Kanye and Rihanna's forthcoming albums though Kanye himself did state that acoustic guitars weren't his pair of socks.
What made me surprised was Paul's disappearance behind the mic. He was obviously handling the guitar, but his voice would've made a soothing transition with the bridge considering Rihanna's vocals have been passable for the most part. It's not hard to even forge a relationship with the track's lyrics when the core lines are: "I'm four-five seconds to wildin'." Did you really expect Paul to sit down with his guitar and strum up lyrics like that? I mean he did had a hand in making I Am The Walrus but that's not the point.
Either way, the track is in my opinion, very solid. There are flaws that are overexposed for the most part, but other than McCartney's missing vocals and Kanye's wiggled verses, the track is relatively smooth and fine. It's not a fantastic track -- make no mistake, but you're going to have a fun-ass time with it. Trust me on this one. And with it, this song is damn near enjoyable.
Short review and an even shorter conclusion.
A new year is upon us! And with that, we get a new album to savour in. Fall Out Boy's sixth studio album aptly titled American Beauty/American Psycho will be the first review of 2015. While I haven't done much else since November, it's finally good to be able to review something fresh, so let's jump right in.
Having since gone on to enjoy all of Fall Out Boy's releases (still particularly a little underwhelmed by Infinity on High), I can safely say that expectations were sky-high when I went into this album. A follow-up to their 2013 release, Save Rock And Roll, fans were anticipating this more than anything else. With that, does the album fire on all cylinders?
I've been teetering back and forth with the album entirely since I've heard it a few days ago, to almost 20 listens on repeat upon writing this review. It's definitely a hard album to review considering I'm a fan of the band and when you need to become strict in session when the time comes. Obviously, the review for the predecessor record has definitely a biased view towards it (I'd give it a simple 7/10 if I could re-do it, but I guess not!), so I've decided to fully enhance the review and go full-on with what I'm going to write, rather than stick to my heart. Here goes.
As the successor record, it's easy to compare American Beauty/American Psycho to their previous release because both of them came one after the other. While I digress when it comes to opinions, I truly believe that this album, on first listen, is disappointing when put side by side to Save Rock And Roll. First listens are always jarring, and the album did somewhat okay when it tried to deliver blow after blow. But before we truly chop the record and look into it, let's take a look at the singles.
Centuries, Immortals, the title track, The Kids Aren't Alright (which I have a reservation for) and their new single, Irresistible have all come into foray and the only track that left me appalled was American Beauty/American Psycho. It is a little messy and chaotic on first listen which does seem to be distracting, but with peering listens the song does offer some thrusting drums which I have not heard Andy trash in a long time. Along with that, the synthesisers don't shy away from the spotlight as well. In a way, while the track does have redeeming qualities, I could never really put it on repeat but would not skip in a heartbeat.
Now what comes to mind as really fist-punching, and return to form for this album are the fantastic lyrics penned by Pete Wentz and co. It is so satisfying and gratifying to finally listen to what phrases and sentences the band have come around to since their hiatus, rather than cheap and cheesy throwaways on tracks like Death Valley. Of course there are minorities on this album (none other than Favourite Record), but all in all the lyrics finally do make sense and intertwine perfectly. In the track Jet Pack Blues, the relationship turns sour and as Patrick belts out an amazing chorus, the song tells of a tale where the girl of his dreams is telling him to come out of the dark and "come home". Along the second verse, what strikes as thunderous were the lines: "I've got those jet pack blues/fight of the light tonight and just stay with me/Honey don't you leave". The sincerity and the appreciation are as effective as they were pre-hiatus, and it's so good to have such diversity and augmentation to the songwriting once more.
As always, Patrick's vocals are top notch as is in previous albums, and is no different than it was before. On tracks like Centuries, The Kids Aren't Alright and Irresistible, his high notes are hit well and his falsettos on Novocaine don't seem to become too annoying just like an artist of the past year (I'm looking at you Maroon 5). While that really needs no commending, it's good to hear Andy get some flashy plays with his drums considering he hasn't had much work to do when some songs require electronic drums or stale drum beats. He does fantastic in the album title track as well as Twin Skeleton's.
Now this is where I start to feel as if the production becomes either lightweight, or just too much on tracks like Immortals, Novocaine, Fourth of July or just too little on others like Favourite Record. This, is also the part where the debate of which album is more superior - Save Rock And Roll or American Beauty/American Psycho - and considering that I've looked at them sideways, it's time for the final verdict. There isn't a runaway winner considering I've been a big fan of their previous release and it's really hard to judge.
But still, I've got to be firm. Yes, American Beauty/American Psycho really impressed on all four fronts that when I looked back on the amount of times played for this record, it is a really diminishing record because this album had a lot for everybody. At times, the album shot their previous release off the rails that makes you wonder if the band will ever produce better material in the future. If you liked Save Rock and Roll, you'll like this album. If you're a Fall Out Boy fan, chances are you will be polarised by either the change in direction, sound or production; all of which came at a rapid speed since they went off hiatus. While I am not impressed, there are certain elements in this new record that justified and redeemed itself. Whether it be The Munsters sampled dance groove Uma Thurman, to the guitar-heavy driven Centuries, everything just flows smoothly.
One song in particular, that I left out for a reason, was The Kids Aren't Alright. This is a must-hear single for all to listen to. Not many tracks have impressed me as much as this track and if not for it, this album might have had a cutting edge blow to the score. The track is enthused with vibrant guitar and piano melodies that shines and never becomes dusted. The core whistling throughout the song never annoys at all and the lyrics are an emotional roller-coaster to begin with. "And with the black banners raised as the crooked smiles fade/Former heroes who quit too late/Just wanna' feel up the trophy case again." It was a nostalgia-ridden adventure that leaves me thinking back on some of the fond memories of the past - personal and as a fan of the band. This song could become my favourite track of the band post-hiatus, with Young Volcanoes being a close second.
Favourite Tracks: The Kids Aren't Alright, Jet Pack Blues, Uma Thurman, Novocaine
Least Favourite Tracks: Favourite Record, Fourth of July
It's always good to look back on a band's glory days and truly wonder of their existence now. While American Beauty/American Psycho might not land outside of your playground, it's definitely worth checking out for sure. If anything, this album is a true return to form in every way barring some slight annoyances. Save Rock And Roll may be a step in the right direction, but this album treads previous waters and still flavours it with new Fall Out Boy formula that with rejuvenated lyrical-tinted painting, should become a gander than a gamble for everyone to see.
It's a long review but it's been a fun one!
Music Questions! Where you submit questions and I get to talk about it!
Others! Where the ratings, scores, Throwback Reviews, Talk Artist and Songs of the Year (2013) are at!
Ratings And Scores
Avid listener of music.