After recent succession, with a more popular view now, surely Sia can hopefully replicate what was heard from her previous album, We Are Born? Or will 1000 Forms of Fear truly downplay what we've been hearing all along? Well, 6 songs in and I have no idea what I'm in for.
1000 Forms of Fear is Sia's sixth studio album, which is 4 years since her last studio album. Obviously, this album was made after Sia's overdose, and with a new-found character, she has definitely made a new name for herself after writing songs for other artists (e.g., Diamond for Rihanna). I have praised Sia's vocals in the past, and when she appeared alongside other artists, she was always outshining them on their records. However, on this particular album, everything was just all over the place.
Let's start with the production. It's impressive on the ears when it first hits; the piano chords on Chandelier, Eye of the Needle's drums. Maybe, that's not the considerable problem because on Hostage, it just feels as if reverb took over. The synths in Fair Game is underwhelming and the drums that comes after the bridge is spastic, there is nothing to show for them. The instrumentals are simply bland, lack creativity and doesn't even have the slightest depth to put itself out and place it within comfort of the listener. Well I guess maybe Sia didn't necessarily had this planned considering maybe she's gone for a more lyrical and vocal approach for the album?
Nope. Vocally, the tracks are weak. Chandelier starts off extremely good, but it downplays it's strength by simply removing the cutting edge of it's sword. The chorus, replaced with falsettos, offset Sia's vocal talent and makes her feel as if she's unable to reach the high notes. The solution here would be a very simple answer: she can. That exact moment felt like shortchange; all the build up for a mediocre chorus that simply did not have the slightest bravery to grow, and rather took the safer route of trying not to become too repressive. For those saying maybe she was trying to protect her voice, I get that. If she couldn't sing the notes on the chorus, however, she does pull out some impressive ones on songs like Eye of the Needle, Fire Meet Gasoline and Free The Animal as well, so that is just simply not good enough.
The lyrics don't even show up on songs like Hostage and Burn The Pages. Fire Meet Gasoline, Free The Animal and Elastic Heart featuring The Weeknd and Diplo were easily the best song on the album. Of course, they don't have the best lyrics, but at least the songs were self-aware. The rest of the tracks were simply in disarray.
The tracks that were good had amazing vocals from Sia, while those which were worse, also had weak vocals as well. This album had plenty to show and was let down by the next track once again. It doesn't seem to prove anything, doesn't even seem to try and Sia just feels generally off focus on this album.
Favourite Tracks: Elastic Heart, Free The Animal, Fire Meet Gasoline
Least Favourite Tracks: Chandelier, Hostage, Straight for the Knife
While I wanted to like this album, I was fairly disappointed by the end product. It's a decent album and while there are tracks that aren't that amazing, it's still fairly enjoyable.
Well I sure as hell was anticipating this album considering I liked +, though not to a full extent, but it did bear brunt most of Ed's capabilities in that record, and fans had an idea of what he sounded like. Will Multiply, also known as X, showcase that same strength or will it downtime his talents?
+ (Plus) had a lot of problems that probably had some to do with Ed's songwriting structure and melody itself, though it fit the album perfectly. Some of the tracks were varying and inconsistent, at times going for the jugular and then the next moment, the album was taking a step back. While it was surprising to hear some of the content on the album, it was really hard to swallow what one was hearing from the different tracks that was thrown everywhere. So, how did Multiply do?
It's really tough to say what is bad about the album, considering from what I've heard, Multiply feels more like an experimental production record that, in a general scope, would be the same as Plus but with more intricate, retrospective elements to it. Though that may feel like a bad thing, it is one of the few things that really stand out from the album.
The production on the album doesn't necessarily deter itself from the content that Ed is trying to imply and say, but it doesn't also lend a hand all that much without taking some points off it. Say for example on Sing, Ed's vocals do seem tight and out of place, for which perhaps Pharrell had an idea that didn't quite fit for the artist at hand.
Obviously Ed Sheeran's humble approach to his music does put things in perspective and botches up a point for himself, but on this album especially, the under-weighed tracks like One, The Man and Tenerife Sea, are probably the least stand-out ones basically because it tells of something that was probably not necessarily unheard of before. Love was a main subject on Plus, and it is the same here, though it lifts more weigh than it could possibly harbour. While I had wanted to hear more (alcohol does play a huge part on Multiply) it doesn't really knock itself down too. The lyrical content don't necessarily immense the audience, but it does lighten things up and does introduce you to the artist himself more.
While I do expect more of a traditional songwriting, acoustic semblance of it back in Plus, for this album, the tracks feels as if they succumbed to the pressure in which it built from itself from the previous album. They just simply didn't cut it. In fact, for me, the best songs on the album was I'm A Mess and Afire Love. The rich, ever-growing production laced with the guitars and piano was simply too hard to overlook. The two songs were unfortunately, brought back down because of how the album was ordered.
Multiply is clunky. It is a solid album no doubt, but it isn't amazing. It is interesting and intricate, and does lift some weights, but the overall impression is lowered because of how the songs sounded that felt completely overwriting each other on the same level. They were overwhelming and than underwhelming in the next instant, within the same minute. It felt the same with Plus, though here, Ed Sheeran does up the ante and brings up his production, rather than being closed in with his guitar once more.
Favourite Tracks: Afire Love, I'm A Mess, Bloodstream
Least Favourite Tracks: One, The Man
On an overall view, Multiply is a great album. It does raise your expectations high, but be prepared to be underwhelmed. Though the tracks are easy on the ears, they don't necessarily leave an imprint. Ed Sheeran's music is still captivating, and that is all that is needed.
Now come on; we can resort to better ways of saying 'selling out', right?... right?
So Maps is Maroon 5's latest and first single off of their fifth studio album, V (which is 5 in Greek letters). I know, there's a lot of debate going about the sound change (after Overexposed? Who would've knew), but the fact remains the same: is Maroon 5, the same band as before?
Obviously I'm not going to call out on the fans for their loyal support over the years, but Maps has got to be a new low for me. While I recommend some of Hands All Over and as much as five songs from Overexposed, I feel that the band's lyrical and production strength has been strained to the limits, with tracks that either don't match previous quality or simply suffocate because of too much production that a track alone can handle. I'm not saying that the band can't do over-produced tracks; hell, listen to Sad from their recent album and you'll notice a tinge of potential that seems awfully wasted and destroyed even though it highlights Adam Levine's vocal strengths. So, where did Maps go wrong?
Like I said, Hands All Over was probably the only album I liked before the band had released more pop production, and Misery felt more inclined on the edge of Songs About Jane than their past three albums combined. I'm not here to skin the band, but if you listen closely to some of the tracks that they have done, they have just been simply lackluster and devoid of inspiration. Unfortunately, the new single probably wires off and ventures into a contrast of what they were a decade ago.
I understand that they wouldn't do something of the same from their debut single, but Maps was just insipid. The drums feel automated, the guitars don't stand out and Levine's vocals fall short of grace. They aren't seemingly poignant, and seem to be a half-arsed attempt at 'we're still doing something for the industry'. I don't judge the album based off a single, and while I may seem to like it later (Payphone was decent, Overexposed was not), it just gets worse and worse. Even the lyrics don't seem to be an attempt to make them good again. The bottom line is: they don't even seem to be trying.
While I can see that it appeals to the mainstream audience, I cannot overlook the devoid quality that has dropped in huge amounts. Insipid and lacking flair, Maps definitely doesn't serve a better dish than the ones before it, and I'm not looking forward to anything they put out for now. It's disappointing for sure.
I know some of you guys have been patiently waiting for this album for almost a month (me too), but it has officially leaked today and you can stream it over at iTunes (in full), over here. I also do know that most fans tend to wait until the day of release to listen to it whole, but I just couldn't resist. Ladies and gentlemen, this is my review for Linkin Park's sixth studio album, The Hunting Party. These reviews are opinion-based, so let me know what you think in the comments or tweet me; I appreciate it.
For those that didn't know because I really didn't talk much about it here, I have always been a big fan of all the Linkin Park records, except for maybe Minutes to Midnight. It's natural that the hype will emerge as it did 2 years ago when the band released Burn It Down, which probably was not expected considering the direction that they had taken with A Thousand Suns. That isn't to say that Living Things wasn't an amazing record. Yes, it had flaws. And so does The Hunting Party. But the main question is, does it live up to the expectation of a Linkin Park album everyone desires? Yes.
Long story short, the album is great in many aspects and key areas, most prominently the guitars and drums. But before I venture hard into some of the things that I consider amazing or great, we'll take a look at some of the crashed weights that came along.
Obviously, the lyrics are pretty much seemingly a non-factor in the album, either really underused or just simply reused. But you could see that glimmer of promise, and you could see that spark of potential in songs like Until It's Gone, Rebellion and to an extent, Final Masquerade. While people see lyrics being slightly less under the overall music to the track, I cannot help feel that it is always possible to bring that creativity side to lyrics considering A Thousand Suns, politically charged, had proven that Linkin Park can write fantastic lines, but maybe they weren't trying to be extensive for this record.
Next, the issue I have is probably Joe and Chester's work on the album. Chester's vocals I probably am more understanding to now than I was a few months ago, but Joe doesn't seem to be doing much on this record. That said, the synths maybe do count, but the overall tracks are lead by mainly the guitars and the drums that hits hard and snares the attention of the audience more so.
Lastly, some of the tracks feel thrown in. They don't seem to match a certain criteria, but maybe because of it's broadened edge that has been comprised and fit to the album, it kind of suffices with it. They don't feel much, and they also don't weigh heavy either.
That said, after concluding and knowing the album's drawback (not a lot is it?), that's when the album immediately clicks. And hits hard.
When the album was pictured to be heavy and visceral, I had never imagined it to be like this. Keys to the Kingdom, War and All For Nothing are amazing tracks that are probably what the fans of the band have been waiting for for almost a decade. And yet, there are tracks that are for everyone, with Final Masquerade being a softer track compared to the rest. Still, the tight corners are what makes the album impeccable to listen to.
The production on the album from top to bottom is seamless. The chords, the riffs, the drums all fit organisingly well. That's when the album shines, with many of it's key instruments being a vital core to the tracks that made it work not only efficiently, but in damn near satisfying passion. Tracks like the singles, Mark The Graves and a Line In The Sand are some of the better examples that showcases the band's strength through opulent instrumentation that they dare to show and reveal.
Mike and Rob are probably the unsung heroes, with the latter more than the former. Mike's raps, although missing from the first few singles, has come out and hit hard on tracks like All For Nothing and Wastelands, whereas his vocal duo with Chester on most of the songs provide the continuation that happened back on Living Things, which was fantastic considering that their chemistry is amazing when put together. And it's really easy to say, that Rob was probably the unsung hero of the entire album. He never missed a beat with his drums, always on point, always hard and always on the forefront. He was never absent throughout and he brought half of the visceral edge along with him. Rob is amazing on the record.
The features do hit and miss agonizingly well. While I do think Rakim did a great job on the lead single, Paige Hamilton from Helmet doesn't seem to coincide with being proper. The track itself didn't really feel like a Linkin Park track to me, maybe considering that it felt a little out of place (but it segues well into Guilty All The Same). There was maybe nothing much that Daron Malakian could do considering he gave one of his signature riffs on Rebellion, a vocal or two would be nice, but I'm not mad that he didn't do it. Lastly, Tom Morello was forgettable, though he was probably tasked to do something slightly different, and Drawbar is a great track nonetheless when it hits the piano chords.
I also guessed that people had already figured out that Linkin Park had defined their sound two albums ago. The shift in tone from Minutes to Midnight to A Thousand Suns not only broke their chain of consistency, but it gave the band inspiration and life. In fact, there were callbacks to previous records. A Line In The Sand had the same drum pattern to Victimized from Living Things and Chester's vocals hammering just like With You back in Hybrid Theory. Of course, the guitar riffs are similar to that of Guilty All The Same, but the point remains: the band itself has a wealth of experience from the five albums that they have made in the last decade or so. Such diversity allowed the albums to broke free from being conceptualized, rather than saying 'modern rock needs to be altered to match its past' so that it is what it is today. The band doesn't need to follow the route. However, with a much heavier record, they are certainly going to attract attention that rock maybe soon back in business.
And while I mentioned that Chester's vocals seemed to have suffered in quality, I believed that maybe his sound did match what the album was looking for: a real raw edge. While his voice could be mixed in Living Things and A Thousand Suns, it showed on this album that he is still consistent albeit singing in an circumstances (Keys to the Kingdom showcases this extremely well).
Favourite Tracks: Mark In The Graves, A Line in the Sand, Wastelands, Rebellion
Least Favourite Tracks: Until It's Gone
The Hunting Party is essentially the album that both sides of the spectrum (the old fans and the modern fans) will love. People need to be reminded that the band will no longer go back to Hybrid Theory nor Meteora, but rather embrace the fact that the rock vibe is still kicking within this album. In a closing sentence, Linkin Park has delivered yet once again.
I was actually adamant of making it all the way to the release of The Hunting Party before I talk about any more tracks when Wastelands was released. 4 days later, Rebellion knocked on the door and just after, some of you guys wanted a review of them both, so here it is! To make it clear, I will be talking about Wastelands first before moving on to Rebellion.
When I had heard that Linkin Park were going to start writing on their sixth album and that it would be titled The Hunting Party, I believe for me the hype train had already left the station. Yeah there was a great track (Guilty All The Same ft. Rakim) and a rocky stumble (Until It's Gone), but they didn't made me feel like "this is the song that would really give me the push that would get me really excited for this new album". And Wastelands was dropped almost a few weeks after Until It's Gone and I am officially ready for their new album.
There was something likable about Wastelands. They brought the guitar riffs back to the forefront again (more so with Until It's Gone than with Guilty All The Same). It was so dominant and so engaging that really puts you back into that Hybrid Theory - Meteora era. In other words, good memories.
Also, Mike is back! With 2 powerful verses including a Beatles reference (John with no Yoko) and he doesn't dwell on it. Great flow, good lyrics and pounds on to it consistently. While I say I have been missing his verses, you really see that his voice wouldn't go really well with Guilty All The Same's production, thus Rakim was brought in (I'm not even mad).
I will be called critical, but I can sort of understand why Chester's vocals aren't as volatile as they were before, and though in Living Things you can get that (Victimized, Lost in the Echo, etc.) and maybe he still showed that he had it when he did the vocals on Until It's Gone. The fault wasn't on Chester at all for the track in my opinion. While I rated the track pretty low, he did amazing on it. It could be the age catching up, but as long as he still gives us consistent performances, I am happy. On Wastelands it does feel like he's forcing himself too. And yeah, the similarities of this track to Guilty All The Same does seem familiar (in the wastelands of today/you're guilty all the same), but it's probably one of my favourite tracks out of the three.
Then Rebellion was released to BBC Radio featuring Daron Malakian from System Of A Down. In a space of just 4 or 5 days, I got back on the hype train immediately.
The Rebellion felt like a one-shot scare, because on first listen, they don't ajar to you that well and it doesn't show it's sophisticated nature by 'popping out'. Rather, that's when you pick apart the song and pile it upon again that you realise some of the essences that are within the track, and the plate is plenty full.
Daron's guitar riffs are so wealthy that you really hear the work behind System Of A Down being constructed within it. He brought so much to the table that the riffs became so integral to the song. It's probably disappointing that he didn't even drop a line for the track, but I'm fine with it nonetheless.
Next, the vocal duo of Chester and Mike is captured once again and it is flawless. They did it back in Living Things with Roads Untraveled, Castle of Glass and Skin To Bone, and to hear it again definitely did bring back some of the tone. Not to forget, the lyrical content does re-surface to be similar to the A Thousand Suns and Minutes To Midnight days as well. Songwriting-wise, the track is fine.
The synth line here also works very well when accompanied with the vocals and production, that you really get a taste of it. And so are the drums; Rob needs to get credit for some of the spectacular work he has put out so far. He is killing these songs.
However, it felt like it had too much. It wanted to showcase the different styles and the interchanging, but it became quite a blur. Don't get me wrong, it is still a good track and I'm not taking anything away from it.
All in all, I have to say that Wastelands and Rebellion did more than twice what Guilty All The Same and Until It's Gone could've done. If you still aren't hyped up for The Hunting Party then you might be missing out on a few action. Overall, Rebellion had pretty much everything and just about edges Guilty All The Same, but in my opinion Wastelands has got to be my favourite single from their new album, topping them both.
Rebellion ft. Daron Malakian: 8/10
Benny Ong: Just your regular guy who likes soccer more than most people, and also a little downtime is pretty nice.