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.
Benny Ong: Just your regular guy who likes soccer more than most people, and also a little downtime is pretty nice.