Thursday, September 30, 2010

Best Albums of 2010, so far

I made this list back in June, but now I feel like I've listened to far more albums worthy of being on a Best of list rather compramising with a handful of lacklusters. Here's a quick run through (of course, subject to change at the end of the year):

1. Plan B - The Defamation of Strickland Banks
2. Delphic - Acolyte
3. Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid (Suites II & III)
4. Sade - Solider of Love
5. Hurts - Happiness
6. Brandon Flowers - Flamingo
7. Underwold - Barking
8. Maroon 5 - Hands All Over
9. Kylie Minogue - Aphrodite
10. The National - High Violet
11. Eliza Doolittle
12. Robyn - Body Talk, Pt. 1
13. Bombay Bicycle Club - Flaws
14. Kate Nash - My Best Friend is You

October Album Releases

September was a pretty good month for music, found a handful of albums I really loved--highlights including British synth-pop duo's debut Happiness, The Killers' frontman Brandon Flower's solo debut Flamingo, the outlandish techo of Underworld's Barking and Maroon 5's fifth offering Hands All Over. From what I can see, October isn't shaping up to be stellar month I'd hoped, only a couple releases that I'm interested in, here's a quick rundown:

Bruno Mars - Doo Wops & Hooligans (Oct. 4). Bruno Mars readies his debut album Doo Wops & Hooligans, so far it's already landed him his first solo chart topper with "Just the Way You Are," which is currently in its second week at #1 in the US. The album features collaborations with Damian Marley, Cee Lo Brown and B.o.B. and production work from singer/songwriter Claude Kelly.

David Archuleta - The Other Side of Down (Oct. 5). I'm not that interested in this but it's worth a shout, The Other Side of Down is American Idol runner up David Archuleta's third album, following last years' Christmas album Christmas from the Heart. The album hasn't got off to the best of starts, it's spawned one single so far, "Something 'Bout Love," which has yet to chart on the Hot 100 since its release back in July--it's a notable decline in Archuleta's popularity, his first single "Crush" from his eponymous first album debuted at #2.

Kings of Leon - Come Around Sundown (Oct. 19). American rock band Kings of Leon are back! The forthcoming Come Around Sundown is bands fifth album, it follows 2008's Only By the Night which saw an overwhelming surge in the bands popularity. As well as going 5x platinum in the UK, the album landed their biggest singles to date ("Sex of Fire" and "Use Somebody"). So far, the albums scored the band's second top 40 single in the US with lead single "Radioactive."

Taylor Swift - Speak Now (Oct. 25). Pop/country singer Taylor Swift returns with her third album Speak Now. The album follows 2008's Grammy award winning, best-seller Fearless. The albums already landed a hit with lead single "Mine," which hit #3 on the Hot 100 back in August. I haven't heard much about the sound of this album, but looking at the track list--it looks like it'll be darker, with songs title's like "Better Than Revenge" and "Haunted."

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Burke mocks the Epileptics

According Daily Record, pop singer Alexandra Burke's chart topping single "Start Without You" featuring Laza Morgan, is the focal point for protest as it's been accused for mocking those with epilepsy with the lyric ("shakey shakey like your booty got a seizure") you know, the lyric that she doesn't actually say and is actually found in the dribble of nonsense rapped by Morgan. The song has been out since August, why wait until it's a hit to be offended by it? The things people will complain about today for attention.

You know what? I really like standing in people's way and it deeply saddens me and completely leaves me distraught and heartbroken when Kylie says "Get Outta My Way." Oh the humanity. I'm suing Minogue for my emotional scars and the fact that I can't sleep at night anymore without taking pills for the traumatising surge of her lyrics. What about all the people who like standing in people's way and have to bare the heart-wrenching gore of those lyrics? Don't get me started on "Love the Way You Lie..."

Album Review: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - History of Modern (3/5)

British synth-pop band Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (often shortened to OMD) released their eleventh album on Monday--it's their first release since 1996's Universal. OMD were pretty big in the '80s, throughout the first half of the decade they delivered a string of top 5 hits, notably 1984's "Locamotion" which scored the band their 5th top 5 hit in the UK. After string of chart failures between 1985 and 1990, the band delivered one more top 5 "Sailing on the Seven Seas," in 1991, before hitting a commercial decline soon after and after regular changes in line-up, they disbanded in 1996 after the release of Universal.

But now they're back after 14 years with History of Modern. The band's comeback album is a newly refined clash of rock, synth-pop underscored with electronic undertones--it's a pretty riveting mix, but there's a lot here that doesn't work, it's a 13-track album with a lot of filler and similar sounding tracks. The first two tracks are great though. Opening the album is the piercing rock of "New Babies: New Toys" shadowed with a later of static and mudded vocals--backed with energetic synths, drums and driven by bursts of melodies in the fist thrusting chorus. Lead single "If You Want It" is a stunner, trailing from '80s stadium rock grandeur influences, pushing through large doses of hard hitting melodies in the chorus.

The title track "History of Modern" is split into two parts. Part 1 is a pulsing electronic synth-driven piece mimicked with heavy bass lines. Part 2 isn't as electronic, it's more trancy with cool psychedelic dance beats and piercing synths to compliment. "Sometimes" is budding mid-tempo, carried by female vocals and a light-hearted touch of atmosphere with birds chirping and sunny soundscapes.

"RKWK" is charged with layers of soundscape, synths and cooling bass lines, although it's not a standout and beings a string of duds. Next up is "New Holy Ground," an underwhelming airy ballad laced with angelic piano keys and a sea of orchestral "ahhs," string and heavy orchestration, but wheres the cool build up to a heart-throbbing climax you would expect? On that note, it disappoints--it seems to just plod along until the end. "The Future, the Past, and Forever After," is a flat--almost too identical re-call of '80s synth/dance-pop--plodding with rapid but ineffective dance beats.

Similar is "Sister Mary Says," also re-calling '80s dance-pop--backed with dance beats but not really amounting to anything. "Pulse," cranks up the fun--warbling with spacey soundscapes and quirky lyrics ("put your finger on my pulse/don't stop until you got it") backed with sexual breathing beneath the sparkling '80s production. It's good, but not as good as anything on the first half of the album. "Green," is charged with trembling lines of synth and subtle bass lines, backed with airy orchestration. It's not bad.

After that point, there's not much more I like--the last two tracks "The Right Side?" and "Bondage of Fate" don't really do anything for me. I haven't listened to any of OMD's previous albums--not even their most successful 1981's Architecture & Morality, but critics do say History in Modern isn't as good as their previous work; which is understandable--it's not the '80s anymore, they're not irrelevant but out of their element now but my gripe with the album is that it's not a solid one, only a handful of tracks that stick.

Best: If You Want It, New Babies New Toys, History of Modern Parts 1 and 2, Sometimes

Album Review: Maroon 5 - Hands All Over (4.5/5)

It Won't Be Soon Before Long delivered the upbeat breezy pop/rock--more or less shaping Maroon 5's new confident sound following the more laid back rock of their successful debut Songs About Jane--which was in fact the better album but wasn't as bold as its follow-up. Their fifth effort Hands All Over ties in the two, learning from their imperfections and delivering a winning mix of both confident and solid bowl of fun upbeat funk, pop, rock and even a bit of country this time around. It's their most well-rounded album yet.

Opening is lead single "Misery" ringing with the classic Maroon 5 upbeat pop/rock production re-calling the same jaunty overtones as "This Love" or "If I Never Your Face Again," chugging with quirky guitars, keyboards and drums with the classic dark lyrical undertones. "Give a Little More" cranks tempo, pushing a little bit more melody and quirk through the dizzying eclectic mash of guitars, keyboards and rapid drums. Hook-heavy "Stutter," chugs with electronic guitars, driven by Adam Levine's anthemic vocals; punching drums and prominent guitars for the turn up in the chorus. It sounds like it'll probably be a third single, if they don't decide to go with a ballad.

Fourth track "Don't Know Nothing," is another driven by drums, keyboards and guitars--the production isn't as sharp as the three previous tracks. It's not nearly as exciting, I do like the change in key in bridge though. Better is the more restraint mid-tempo "Never Gonna Leave This Bed," the albums first ballad--pacing with drums and keys with cooling guitar work firmly placed beneath the production in the verses, a firm build up to its blistering rock-studded chorus. The first few seconds "I Can't Lie," sounds like a '90s throwback with choir-like harmonising over the top of tepid bass lines being mimicked by prancing piano keys--it's a very warm tuneful number effectively enhanced by Levine's falsetto. I love the Caribbean-influenced bopping of percussion, jaunty keyboards and drums in the midsection.

The confident title track "Hands All Over," begins rather dark, shadowed by electronic undertones then the sudden bursts of electronic guitars startles before the rock-studded production. There's a lot of electronic guitars solo's, between the chorus and verses, verses and bridges and so forth. Some points the guitars just bleed through the verses. I like this a lot--it sounds like their most successful attempt at rock. "How" attempts some old fashioned also Snow Patrol inspired soft rock with shadowing chords and a cool melody hung production for the chorus, also backed with bursts of blistering guitars.

A quick drum roll begins "Get Back in My Life," followed by hum of "oohs" over a rich pop/rock production. It's quite nice. "Just a Feeling" is the albums first gentle ballad; beginning with some guitar feedback then a heart warming piano arrangement--it also has one of the best hooks on the album, very melody-driven. I'm not too in love with the chorus though. Another heavy melody driven number; "Runaway," is dark in its verses, driven by riveting percussion but there's nice turn up in the chorus.

Towards the end of the album there's a tingling collaboration with American country trio Lady Antebellum on "Out of Goodbyes," layered with smooth vocals, melodies and a softening modest blend of percussion and atmospheric strings sheeted by another layer of "ooh-ing" harmonies. Hillary Scott sounds splendid.

Kicking back into gear, "Last Chance" struts with fronted drums, guitars and rugged keyboards a punchy chorus. The album comes to a close with the dark grand rock of "No Curtain Call," pulsing with haunting progressive drums and electronic guitars twiddling behind the gothic production. It's kind of a bitter end to the album, couldn't be anymore different to the optimistic balladry of "Losing My Mind" that closed Won't Be Soon.

Maroon 5 delivered the confident well-rounded body of work, I always knew they would. I would have liked more melody-driven ballads like the last album had but there's a lot I like here--there's 1 or 2 duds but nothing major, they've delivered another winner--the best in their discography so far.

Best: Misery, Give a Little More, Out of Goodbyes, I Can't Lie, Hands All Over, Just a Feeling, How

Friday, September 24, 2010

Personal Airplay, September 23, 2010

TW LW Title - Artist
1 ... 1 .... Get Outta My Way - Kylie Minogue (2 weeks @ #1)
2 ... 2 ... Start Without You - Alexandra Burke
3 ... 3 ... Teeange Dream - Katy Perry
4 ... 4 ... Love the Way You Lie - Eminem feat. Rihanna (6 wks @ #1)
5 ... 5 ... Please Don't Let Me Go - Olly Murs
6 ... 8 ... Hang with Me - Robyn
7 ... 9 ... Magic - B.o.B. feat. Cuomo Rivers
8 ... 10 ... Green Light - Roll Deep
9 ... 6 ... Pack Up - Eliza Doolittle
10 .. 19 .. Just the Way You Are - Bruno Mars

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Billboard Hot 100, October 1, 2010

1. Just the Way You Are - Bruno Mars
3. Only Girl (In the World) - Rihanna

Californian R&B singer Bruno Mars scores his first US chart topper with his debut single "Just the Way You Are," selling 194,000 in downloads. Mars previously landed a #1 earlier this year as feature on rapper B.o.B's "Nothin' on You." He also joins a line of only 2 other new male artists who's topped the Billboard Hot 100 this year, following both British R&B singer Taio Cruz and B.o.B. Mars also holds off tough competition from Rihanna this week which charges up a whopping 72 spots placing itself firmly at #3. It sold a lucrative 250,000 copies this week.

10. Like a G6 - Far*East Movement

Music group, Far*East Movement score their first top 10; "Like a G6" rises 6 spots up to #10.

21. Dog Days Are Over - Florence+ the Machine

British pop singer Florence + the Machine scores her first American hit--the second UK single from her successful debut Lungs, "Dog Days Are Over" launches up a hefty 72 spots up to #21, scoring her first US top 40. It's all thanks to her whimsical performance at this years MTV VMA's.

27. The Catalyst - Linkin Park

Another massive rise this week, American rock band Linkin Park's "The Catalyst," the first single to be lifted from their new album A Thousand Suns, rises up 46 spots up to #27. The band is also atop of the Billboard 200 this week with the album--moving 241k units in its first week.

37. Radioactive - Kings of Leon

10 spots below is another American rock band. Kings of Leon debut at #37 with "Radioactive" the lead single from their upcoming fifth album Come Around Sundown. It's a satisfying start but can it revise the success of breakthrough single "Use Somebody," which peaked at #4 in 2008.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Robbie Williams - In and Out of Consciousness

Next month Robbie Williams releases his second greatest hits collection In and Out of Consciousness - The Greatest Hits 1990 - 2010, a funny title considering his solo catalogue only dates back to 1996. The new 2-disc collection will feature 39 tracks, including the new single "Shame" with fellow Take That companion Gary Barlow. Along with the deluxe edition of the album--a bonus 18-track disc will act as a bonus disc; it'll feature a mix of B-sides and previously unreleased tracks. Along with the normal and deluxe editions--there will also be an ultimate edition which will include the original 2-discs, the third bonus disc and a 2-disc DVD compilation of William's 38 music videos. It's a very exhilarating package.

I didn't own a Robbie Williams album before 2006's Rudebox and his latest Reality Killed the Video Star, which I loved. I only got his 2004 greatest hits collection a couple months ago--I've been listening to that a lot recently. Celebrating this release, here's an in depth look back at his solo career spanning back almost 15 years--mostly analysing the singles (I rank his albums with ratings below). Instead of a typical discography review I've broken down the era's into sections.

Millennium: 1996 - 2000

Life thru a Lens (1997), I've Been Expecting You (1998), Sing When You're Winning (2000)

Following William's depart from boyband of 6 years Take That and before the release of his first album, Life thru a Lens--the British singer released a cover of George Michael's "Freedom," it landed William's his first solo top 3 single on the UK Singles Chart, peaking at #2--it wasn't a big seller, but a pleasant debut. Interestingly, the single charted 26 spots higher than George Michael's original (his peaked at a lowly #28) The release (and more significantly, the title of the song) complimented William's departure from Take That well.

The single wasn't included on his first greatest hits collection, but you can find it on the second disc on this one. I think this was a pretty awesome cover--it's less the '90s pop of the original and more late '90s British pop/rock, softening the jaunty piano keys and backing with a rock-ish production. His dancing in the video makes me laugh--the low budget production in it reminds me of something rock band Oasis would do, the scenes where he wears the sunglasses almost make him look like a member.

Almost a year later Robbie was back--in April 1997, he re-launched his career with the rock-studded "Old Before I Die," heavily influenced by the late '90s Brit-pop sound--backed with drums and layered with a mash of electronic guitars, I particularly love the chord change in the chorus, in all--an exciting rock production. This is one of my favorites from the singer. It became a second top 3 hit for him, peaking at #2 in the UK, also landing in the top 10 in 5 other countries. It was the first of five singles to be lifted off Life thru a Lens.

The second is another favorite of mine, "Lazy Days" which was also heavily influenced by late '90s Brit-pop sound. As a single it was a pretty lukewarm affair, just managing to crack the top 10, landing at #8 and failed to make an impact anywhere else--even worse was third single "South of the Border," which I don't actually remember being a single, it wasn't included on the first greatest hits release--it only managed a #14 peak.

However, after a string of chart failures, William's turned things around with "Angels" the fourth release from Lens. In the midst of drug and alcohol addictions; with its uplifting melody, whirling orchestration and soaring strings, piano and guitars--the gripping pop ballad is often credited for saving his career, becoming William's first career highlight--scoring him his third UK top 5, peaking at #4 and even became his first respectable hit in the US, landing at #41 on the Billboard Hot 100--it's actually only 1 of his 2 singles to chart in the US (I think it's weird it wasn't a much bigger hit over there).

After "Angels," won best British single at the BRITs, Life thru the Lens kept the pace, delivering on more classic hit, the energetic "Let Me Entertain You," an exhilarating rock-fest of blaring horns, riveting drums drenched with sheets of electronic guitars--a fantastic hotel-room smashing track. I love this song. "Entertain" reached a spot higher than "Angels," peaking at #3.

Whilst Life thru the Lens delivered a handful of good singles and 2 really excellent ones, I'm not really won over as a full-length album (like the rest of his releases up to Rudebox I listened to over the course of last week and the first half of this week), but however the album proved a massive success for Williams, becoming the 58th biggest selling album in UK history.

Shortly after "Entertain," Robbie released his second album I've Been Expecting You, a largely better album than the first--the album delivered my favorite Robbie single ever, the fantastic orchestration-charged "Millennium," edged with soaring background harmonies, dizzying strings and a great downbeat bass line. The single scored William's his first UK chart topper (how "Angels" didn't get their first, I don't know) and also charted on the Billboard Hot 100 at #72. The single was released as double-A-side to "It's Only Us," which was included on the re-release and this greatest hits collection.

Expecting spawned a string of great follow up singles, the great downbeat "No Regrets" and Oasis-influenced melody charged "Strong," both peaking at #4. Despite his vocal limitations, ballads seem to be William's strong suit--the next single "She's the One," emerged as another career highlight--the beautifully constructed climatic piano ballad scored the singer his second chart topper--winning Single of the Year at the BRITs. It's also recognized as British pop classic. It's great, still prefer "Millennium," though.

After trying to crack America with the release of The Ego Has Landed in 1999--a compilation of the singles so far and three new tracks, which actually proved to be a moderate success (although I don't really find it that significant to this analysis), Robbie Williams opened the new millennium with Sing When Your Winning--which proved to be a critic favorite, I liked it a lot too. Kicking off this album's era was fiery tongue-in-cheek "Rock DJ," landing Williams his third chart topper--this song used to get ridiculous airplay when I was younger; the song and its ghastly video is ingrained in my memory. It was also arguably his first worldwide hit since "Angels."

The next single is another favorite, the steamy duet with Australian singer Kylie Minogue on "Kids." I love the puncturing guitars and layered vocals in the chorus. The single missed out on the top spot, landing at #2, Robbie's 10th top 5 single and Kylie's 18th. William's scores one more major hit with the gentle melodically-shadowed piano laced ballad "Eternity," which became his fourth UK #1. It was released as a double-A-side with "The Road to Mandalay," which is also included on In and Out of Consciousness. Other singles released were "Supreme" and "Let Love Be Your Energy" which were both top 10 hits--I'm not too fond of either.

Something Beautiful: 2002 - 2004

Swing When You're Winning (2001), Escapology (2002), Greatest Hits (2004)

His first three albums successfully cemented Robbie's nack for luscious British rock, masterful pop and heart warming balladry--it was time for a change. His fourth album Swing When You're Winning, was a slightly self-indulgent set of jazz covers--my favorite was the atmospheric opener "I Will Talk and Hollywood Will Listen," streaming with a sea of orchestration, strings, melody and a powerful vocal performance--very Disney, funnily enough album track "Beyond the Sea" featured in Disney Pixar's Finding Nemo (2003). Swing became yet another monster hit for Robbie and landed him a Christmas #1 with "Somethin' Stupid" the unlikely collaboration with Academy Award winning actress Nicole Kidman.

In my opinion, Robbie William's fifth album Escapology had the best line-up of singles--with each one a winner; a nice save considering the album was a dud. The warm opening piano keys of "Feel," gives me chills every time--whilst I didn't like the album, the lyrics seemed somewhat more introspective ("Come on hold my hand, I wanna contact the living")--it's another major favorite of mine (placing itself nicely behind "Millennium," "Lazy Days," and "Let Me Entertain You"). "Feel" was a nice return to the chart--missing out on a Christmas #1 and settling for a 14th top 5 instead.

Next in line was "Come Undone," a fantastic downbeat number; trailing back to the late Oasis-influenced '90s British rock of "Old Before I Die," beautiful soaring chorus intact. I love that electronic guitar in the midsection. The single was his 6th to peak at #4. The highest charting of this era was the jaunty "Something Beautiful" backed with upbeat poignant piano keys and horns, with an awesome middle-eight section which only hit a notch higher, landing at #3.

The beautiful guitar-backed ballad "Sexed Up" wasn't a chart success, like the previous three singles, only managing to scrape the top 10 but still an awesome single nonetheless. I love the falsetto on the lyric ("...sexed up, that's what makes the difference today").

Five albums into his career, Robbie William's released his first greatest hits collection in 2004, a pretty dead-on collection on the best singles of his career so far--the collection didn't include the George Michael cover of "Freedom," his first flop "South of the Border," "Better Man," which was released in other European territories, excluding the UK, "Somethin' Stupid" and "Something Beautiful." There were versions of the collections released in other countries that featured "The Road to Mandalay." The collection was released with two new tracks, "Radio" and "Misunderstood," I didn't like either, however the former became a sixth chart topper for the singer and the latter joined an extensive string of top 10's.
Reality Killed the Video Star: 2004 - 2010

Intensive Care (2005), Rudebox (2006), Reality Killed the Video Star (2009)

In 2005 Robbie released Intensive Care his first album in 3 years. At the time, the album became his lowest selling yet, although personally I think 1.5 million in the UK alone isn't too shabby. But like the London Underground on a good day, the hits continued to roll in--the slightly alternative sounding; drum and percussion charged lead single "Trippin'," landed Robbie a #2 hit in the UK, being beaten to the top spot by British alternative rock band Arctic Monkey's "I Bet You Look Good On the Dance Floor."

However, shortly after--Robbie had hit a rough spot, he wouldn't have another big hit until 2009. Between now and then a series of personal and commercial downfalls would come into call (I don't know details about the personal so I can't comment) however Intensive Care didn't deliver anymore hits. The UK follow-up "Advertising Space" missed out on a top 5, settling for #8. I love the song though, layered with piano chords and blistering choruses. Chart-wise even worse was final single "Sin Sin Sin" which charted at a poor #22, his lowest charting at the time.

Intensive Care ended on sour note, but there was worse around the corner. Robbie's seventh album Rudebox was both a critical and commercial failure--although there are some that may argue that 600k isn't too bad and some critics, such as Allmusic loved the album. Personally, I really liked the album--despite being at his lowest point in life, was full of character and quirk and trying to put a Glitter spin on things isn't fair. But in anycase, the album didn't deliver any solid hits, lead single and title-track "Rudebox" had a weak peak at #4--only 2 weeks in the top 10 and a disappointing 9 weeks in the top 40. The follow-up single "Lovelight," charted four spots lower and the final UK single "She's Madonna," charted eight spots lower than that.

Every legend who goes through public downfalls, deserves a just as spectacular comeback--which is exactly what Robbie William's got in 2009. After stints in and out of rehab and whatnot, Eighth album Reality Killed the Video Star was released, delivering his first big hit in years--lead single "Bodies" debuted at #2 selling 83,000 copies, being beaten to the top by X Factor winner Alexandra Burke's "Bad Boys" which sold 104,000 more--but still a success in all. The album was a long awaited success; a big seller and the first Robbie album I ever really got into and loved. The last singles in this tale didn't fare as well, but were still his best material in years--the gorgeous balladry of "You Know Me" and "Morning Sun," peaked at #6 and #45.

Shame: 2010 -

From career highs to career lows to career highs again, Robbie William's future looks more than bright. This year he re-united with Take That--mending friendships with fellow band mate Gary Barlow; now awaiting the release of likely future chart topper "Shame," capitalizing on the mending of a friendship.

Here's a quick rank of his eight albums:

1. Reality Killed the Video Star (4.5/5)
2. I've Been Expecting You (4.5/5)
3. Swing When You're Winning (4/5)
4. Sing When You're Winning (4/5)
5. Rudebox (4/5)
6. Intensive Care (3.5/5)
7. Life thru a Lens (3/5)
8. Escapology (2/5)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Coming up

Lined up for the next few weeks
  • An extensive look-back on Robbie William's career celebrating the upcoming release of his second greatest hits collection In and Out of Consciousness. (It's taking me 5 days and counting to write up).
  • Reviews for new albums from Maroon 5 and Linkin Park.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Graffiti6 "Stare into the Sun"

Buddy Loy turned my attention to this striking mix of Mark Ronson and Paolo Nutini's vocals on this fantastic electronic-studded track:

Album Review: The National - High Violet (4/5)

It's very left-field for me, but I rather like Brooklyn based band The National's fifth album High Violet. It's not the unusual alternative rock I usually go for--it's different but it works. They're weird, slightly grungy, indie-rock punky sound reminds me of Canadian rock band Arcade Fire, only this is an easier pill to swallow. High Violet does sound like a dizzying clash of different rock-oriented sounds upon the first listen, but after digging through the dirt underneath lies a pretty plausible body of work.

Opening is grungy "Terrible Love," caved by distorted layers of guitars, pacing drums, piano keys and a host of haunting soundscapes beneath the surface. I didn't get it at first, but now I think is a very striking opener, funnily enough it's one of the albums most subdued tracks. "Sorrow" is a cool brewing mid-tempo, ringed with light hovering mix of hi-hats and drum--hollow piercing dark atmospheric background noise and fast paced twingy guitar chords. Matt Berninger's vocals a more bold and apparent on here than the last track--it works the song well. "Anyone's Ghost" is another great raw rock-edged number, heavily driven by drums and baroscopic guitar work. It's one of my favorites.

Moody "Little Faith," is the first to heavily bank on melody, slowly progressing with airy soundscapes, gentle guitar strings--showcasing a sense of depression but at the same time, angelic vibes. "Afraid of Everyone" continues to brew up the haunt; a hollow drub of soundscapes, eerie background noise and subtle clashes of piano and drums beneath the noise. "Bloodbuzz Ohio" cranks up the uneven drum beats lined with layers of guitars and strings.

Similarly, "Lemonworld" chugs with strains of subtle electronic guitar work--underneath the riveting drums. "Runaway," is more subdued--tailed down with softer soudscapes and deep vocals and I'm hearing more melody than I have In previous tracks. Picking up the tempo is "Conversation 16," it's different but still re-hasing the drums and eerie soundscapes.

Towards the end we find "England" a progressive haunting number with gripping number with layers of guitar work beneath the haunting 'scapes. I love this track--It's one of the handful I cherry picked from iTunes. Bringing the album to a close is "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks" another hauting "ballad" with eerie soundscapes--it does kind of drag on a bit with no real climax but I like it.

I don't own this album, but I really do like it. I picked a handful of tracks on iTunes--which I thought were the albums standouts. Overall, High Violet is a strange but gripping fifth album--one of the more interesting albums I've heard all year.

Best: Anyone's Ghost, Sorrow, Afraid of Everyone, England, Runaway

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Nadine Coyle "Insatiable"

From Cheryl to fellow Girls Aloud band-mate Nadine Coyle; is launching a solo career of her own. The singer's first single surfaced on the Internet last week, check it out below. It's an edgy rock/pop-tinged number with bursts of electronic guitars and horns. I like this a lot--definitely trumps "Promise This."

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Cheryl Cole "Promise This" video

Cheryl's back with "Promise This" the first single lifted from her upcoming second album Messy Little Raindrops. What do you think? It's not as good as "Fight For This Love," but it'll do. Sidenote: After panning 3 Words last year, I actually quite like it now.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Pixie Lott Turns It Up Louder

Pixie Lott's debut album Turn it Up gets its re-release next month--it's been re-titled to Turn it Up Louder (smart, huh?). I loved this album; giving it a pretty stellar review last year but I never planned purchasing a re-release until I saw there would be 10 extra tracks added on, including new single "Broken Arrow," and 6 original iTunes deluxe edition exlusives--including Kings of Leon cover "Use Somebody" and David Guetta/Kelly Rowland cover "When Love Takes Over," extending its tracklist to a hefty 22 tracks.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Personal Airplay, Septemeber 16, 2010

TW LW Title - Artist
1 ... 4 .... Get Outta My Way - Kylie Minogue (1 week @ #1)
2 ... 3 ... Start Without You - Alexandra Burke
3 ... 5 ... Teenage Dream - Katy Perry
4 ... 1 ... Love the Way You Lie - Eminem feat. Rihanna (6 wks @ #1)
5 ... 2 ... Please Don't Let Me Go
6 ... 6 ... Pack Up - Eliza Doolittle
7 ... 7 ... Dynamite - Taio Cruz
8 .. 22 .. Hang with Me - Robyn
9 ... 16 .. Magic - Bruno Mars feat. Cuomo Rivers
10 .. 15 .. Green Light - Roll Deep

Billboard Hot 100, September 25, 2010

1. Teenage Dream - Katy Perry

Katy Perry holds on to #1 for a second week with "Teenage Dream," although it also loses its bullet, however "Dream" has moved up to #3 on Top 40 Radio with 12,000 spins this week.

3. Just the Way You Are - Bruno Mars

Bruno Mars' "Just the Way You Are" is airplay gainer of the week, rising up a notch up to #3. Over on Top 40 Radio its garnered just under 10,000 spins this week and on iTunes it's been replaced at #1 by Rihanna's new single "Only Girl (In the World)." This week it sold a pretty hefty 209,000 in downloads--just edging out Katy Perry's 197,000 with "Dream."

5. I Like It - Enrique Iglasias
6. DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love - Usher

Both Enrique Iglasias's "I Like It" and Usher's "DJ Got Us Fallin' Love" stay bulleted in the same position--both singles are still in the top 10 on iTunes and Top 40 Radio.

9. Club Can't Handle Me - Flo Rida

11 weeks in and rapper Flo Rida finally scores a top 10 hit with "Club Can't Handle Me" featuring French producer David Guetta, rising 4 spots up to #9. This is the longest Flo has taken for a lead single to enter the top 10, 2007's "Low" debuted at #91 and reached #1 8 weeks later. 2009's "Low" debuted at #74 and reached #1 only 3 weeks later. But at least "Club" is a hit, if it had peaked at #18 all those weeks ago--what would be left of his career? Album sales? I think not.

16. Like a G6 - Far*East Entertainment featuring Cataracs & Dev

Music group Far*East Entertainment score their first top 10 with "Like a G6." The only other notable comment I can make out this is that this LA-based four-piece are signed to Cherrytree Records, the same label as Lady Gaga.

24. Animal - Neon Trees

I got this as a free iTunes download weeks ago--I absolutely love it. This week Californian rock band Neon Trees' "Animal" rises 6 spots up to #24. It's the lead single from their debut album Habits, which went in on the Billboard 200 at #113 back in March, I expect a pretty big rise soon.

32. King of Anything - Sara Bareilles

American singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles is back in the top 40 this week, lead single from her third album Kaleidoscope Heart, which gives Bareilles her first #1 album this week on the Billboard 200,"King of Anything" rises 20 places up to #32--her first top 40 hit since breakthrough single "Love Song" peaked at #4 in 2007.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Album Review: Underworld - Barking (4.5/5)

Britsh house duo Underworld release their eighth album, Barking, a striking clash of techno dance-pop, house and dub-step. It's very virbant and fresh; ultimately a riviting dance album pulled over some cool pop influences, I haven't listened to any of Underworld's previous work however telling from the comments on iTunes Barking is somewhat of a sellout to the mainstream, although unless you have been a fan since 1986 you probably won't care however critics seem to be enjoying it.

The album has a pretty invigorating start, the first three tracks share a time of 21 minutes between them. Kicking things off is "Bird 1," lined with a penetrating bass line and subtle synths throughout shadowing the haunting vocals, eventually turning up the synths and dance beats towards the end, adding in weird telephone ringing behind the techno-dance production. Great opener.

Following is "Always Loved a Film," which embarks on an even more startling dance-pop production--very trancy and enticing--shimmering with glossy progressive soundscapes. Lead single "Scribble" is the best of the three. It also has the most interesting and complex arrangement--loud static and distorted vocals ringing over an eclectic mash of pondering synths, eerie soundscapes, psychedelic harps and draining background noise. I''m loving this.

"Hamburg Hotel" is less invigorating--more an atmospheric clobber of synths and layers of dance-beats and distorted muttering in the background. It's actually pretty nice. "Grace" is another great track, laying on the bass lines, beats and surprisngly burst of melody pretty thick--it has a pretty cool radio-friendly sound; sounds like it could be a single soon. The thumping "Between Stars" rocks a kinetic bass line, layers of hollow soundscapes.

"Diamond Jigsaw" has a fantastic techo dance-pop production; drenched in synths and layeres of warm distorted vocals and beats, another one that sounds very radio friendly. "Moon In Water" slows thigns down, sporting a pacing line of beats and flicking percussion--it sounds awesome; opening with a recurring female vocal: "There's no way to cast is reflection." The album comes to a close with the subtle "Louisiana," angelic piano keys and soft vocals. It's lovely. Barking is a solid dance album, I like it a lot. It's funny that this is the second time this year I've really loved a full-on dance album (the first being Delphic's Acolyte) I don't remember being that interested last year.

Best: Scribble, Diamond Jigsaw, Always Loved a Film, Between Stars, Moon in Water, Louisiana

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Plan B "The Recluse"

"The Recluse" is the fourth single taken from British rapper/singer Plan B's The Defamation of Strickland Banks. I didn't choose it as a standout when I reviewed the album, but it's definitely one of my favorites off of it. The first couple seconds of the video is a teaser of the sound from his forthcoming follow-up The Ballad of Belmarsh, which apparently finds him returning to rap. Check it out below:

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Alexandra Burke tops UK Singles Chart

I don't review the UK Singles Chart anymore but I do however occasionally comment when something that intersts me happens, such as this week: Pop singer Alexandra Burke scores her third chart topper with "Start Without You" (feat. Laza Morgan) following two previous chart toppers with debut single "Hallelujah" and upbeat follow-up "Bad Boys" (feat. Flo Rida). It's also her fifth top 10 (third one this year). Burke now ties Leona Lewis and JLS for X Factor contestant/winner with the most #1's. Check out ww_adh write up of this week's singles chart.

Album Review: The Script - Science & Faith (3.5/5)

Two years ago, Irish three-piece band The Script delivered self-titled their debut album; an eclectic mix of sounds varying from guitar-driven pop to R&B; also responsible for landing the band their biggest UK hit so far ("The Man That Can't Be Move") and their biggest US hit ("Breakeven"). And whilst its eclectic outlook didn't necessarily strike a chord with critics, The Script was a huge success--with a double platinum UK certification, 5x platinum Irish certification and a WMA Award for Best Selling Irish Act under their belt, The Script were definitely one of the biggest bands to emerge in 2008.

Now onto the follow up, Science & Faith. As you can probably tell from the somber title--this time they're more serious. Unsurprisingly, this time it's more about lyrics than sound--which would explain why there is so little variation in the arrangement and compositions in nearly all of the songs. It does sound like they're all cut from same alternative rock/pop vein, which sounds overworked and exhausted half-way into the album. But it is very topic-heavy and underneath the standard drub of alternative rock/pop is a layer of heart-ache and strong emotions, which I can't yet tell if it was a smart ploy get people who normally listen to music for the sound to listen to the lyrics, as one of many things critics criticized The Script for in fact their lyrics. Although I disagree, I thought their lyrics were fine, I thought the storytelling was great too, especially in "We Cry" and "Man Who Can't Be Moved."

Opening is "You Won't Feel a Thing," a progressive guitar-laced number backed with rapid drumming and soaring harmonic "oohs" in the background vocals. The lyrics are interesting and very heart-felt as it sets the tone for the albums rather dark aura. It talks about being dragged down by life ("I've been kicked right down, I've been spat in the face/I've been beat up robbed and left for dead") ultimately it's a 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger' fable. If anything, it's an invigorating start to the album. Next up is the piano and guitar-driven pop of "For the First Time," it has a lighter melody, but still pretty dark but with a hint of optimism best summed in the lyric: "We're smiling but we're close to tears."

"Nothing" packs more of a punch in its chorus, but it's still the same piano, guitar and drum arrangement. Title track "Science & Faith" deliverers another pack-punching chorus but slightly shaking things up with a distinctive plucking electronic guitar underneath the piano, guitar and drum arrangement. At this point the frustrating re-tread of the same sound is very boring but that aside the last half of the album does manage churn out some winning tracks (through their lyrics of course).

The lyrical approach to "If You Ever Come Back" is interesting. It talks about wishing you had someone back just so you could experience the things that you didn't like about them and made you breakup in the first place... I guess it's a weird sense of closure. The lyrics in "Long Gone and Moved On" isn't as good but interesting all the same; talking about the inability to move on after a crumbling relationship has ended. Next up is "Dead Man Walking;" a song where the music is actually worth talking about--soaring with orchestratic strings stretched over the drums and violins.

"This = Love" is charged with rapid drums and O'Donoghue's gritty vocals. "Walk Away" is cool change up in sound; delivering a more dynamic production; with piecing strings, aggressive drums and guitars--there's also dramatic solo piano keys in the second verse. Like "You Won't Feel a Thing," closing track "Exit Wounds" soars with harmonic "oohs" in its chorus and background vocals; although they do sound good over the dizzying and climatic drum and electronic guitar driven production.

I applaud The Script for the depth in lyrics, what really brings down the album is the lack of variation within the sound, it's a shame because Science & Faith had the potential to be a real winner but you can't have one side without the other--it would have worked if it held up its side of the music and not just the lyrics. But it's not a huge disappointment, separate the tracks and you have a handful of really good alternative/pop songs with great lyrics.

Best: For the First Time, You Won't Feel a Thing, Nothing, Science & Faith, Dead Man Walking

Friday, September 10, 2010

Rihanna discography

Singer Rihanna returns this November with her fifth studio album entitled Loud! Here's a quick run-through of her four previous releases:

Music of the Sun (2005). Delivering a somewhat unfulfilling hybrid of R&B and pop-influenced Caribbean was Rihanna's début effort—disguising any personality which would later be revealed on later albums, Music of the Sun was a mostly hit and miss affair, but did mange to land a handful of gems such as radio friendly lead single “Pon De Replay,” the more laid-back follow-up “If It's Lovin' That You Want” which exuded that pop flavored Caribbean feel better then any other track on the album and the piercing R&B of the sassy “Thug In My Life." And whilst not as good, the breezy dancehall of the title track is captivating. But with limited vocal talents empty ballads like “Now I Know” seemed to just extend the number of fillers on the album. Best tracks: Pon De Replay, If It's Lovin' That You Want, Thug In My Life (2/5)

A Girl Like Me (2006). With the quick arrival of her second album, Rihanna's sound became increasingly pop underlined with electronic influences—best portrayed on the edgy lead single “SOS,” but everything else seemed to cut from the same vein as the first album--exuding a more polished Caribbean feel best showcased on the swaggering mid-tempo "Crazy Little Thing Call Love." And also turning up the tempo on the dancehall-influenced “Break It Off” featuring Sean Paul and the guitar-driven R&B of “We Ride” and “PS (I'm Still Not Over You),” were pretty good too. But still with vocal limitations the ballads were still hard on the ears, even the relatively successful single “Unfaithful” wasn't up to par. Best tracks: SOS, We Ride, PS (I'm Still Not Over You), Break It Off, Crazy Little Thing Called Love. (3/5)

Good Girl Gone Bad /Re-Loaded (2007). By her third album the Barbadian singer had became a worldwide superstar and a credible singer all with the help of a little song called “Umbrella” responsible for igniting her career to higher heights. Now eligible to compete with the best of female R&B and pop, Rihanna delivered one hell of a pop album covering a wide array of pop-influenced sounds venturing from pop (“Breaking Dishes” and “Disturbia”), rock (“Shut Up and Drive”), R&B (“Hate That I Love You”) dance (“Don't Stop the Music”) Interesting experimental sounds (“Question Existing”) and even successfully tackling ballads (“Take a Bow”) which just wasn't working on the last two albums, all exuding warmth and personality, qualities that had lacked on the previous albums. Best tracks: Umbrella, Shut Up and Drive, Disturbia, Take a Bow, Don't Stop the Music, Breaking Dishes. (5/5)

Rated R (2009). Inspired by personal trauma's, Rihanna's fourth album emerged as a darker and more personal sound, turning up the depression on cold ballads such as “Russian Roulette,” Cold Case Love,” and “Stupid In Love” but with great sorrow came a significant ego-boost showcased on bass-heavy “Wait Your Turn” and electronic guitar-studded “Rockstar 101.” But not everything is doom, gloom and boasting—there's still some radio-friendly pop squeezed in (“Rude Boy,” “Hard” and “Fire Bomb”). Whilst its the risk-taking on Rated R that makes it so appealing and praise-worthy, not everything works though—like on “G4L” where things get too dark and gangster for it to be believable. Best tracks: Fire Bomb, Russian Roulette, Hard, Rockstar 101, Stupid In Love, Cold Case Love (4.5/5)

Rihanna "Only Girl (In the World)"

Rihanna's back! (although she didn't really go anywhere) but the Barbadian singer's back with a brand new single, ditching the hybrid of depressive/pop of "Russian Roulette" and turning up the beats and bass lines; "Only Girl" is a club-ready dancefloor filler, sure to set the chart alight. Her fifth album Loud! is out in November.

Billboard Hot 100, September 18, 2010

1. Teenage Dream - Katy Perry
2. Love the Way You Lie - Eminem featuring Rihanna

Katy Perry lands her third chart topper with "Teenage Dream," ending Eminem's 7 week reign with "Love the Way You Lie." It doesn't seem like Perry's been away from #1 at all 'cause I've been away all August and because the last time I done a write up on the Hot 100, she was into her 6th week atop the chart with "California Gurls," which bookends the top 10 this week. "Dream" is also this weeks airplay gainer; gaining audience impressions rapidly at top 40 radio and also tops the Digital Songs chart, not surprising considering she's been at #1 on iTunes all week.

4. Just the Way You Are - Bruno Mars

Bruno Mars jumps two notches up to #4, scoring his first solo top 5 hit. It's also getting a hot reception over on top 40 radio; breaking the top 10 on the Pop Songs chart. It's likely "Just the Way You Are" could unseat Katy Perry's "Dream" soon as it's just overtaken her on iTunes and now has a pretty large lead.

5. I Like It - Enrique Iglasias

17 weeks in and people still won't let this go; Enrique Iglasias' "I Like It" falls down a notch down to #4 but is still bulleted.

7. Mine - Taylor Swift

After a surge of large first week sales propelled Taylor Swift's "Mine;" dSebuting at #3, 5 weeks ago, Swift now has to climb back up the old-fashioned way--progressive sales + airplay. This week she rebounds 9-7.

9. Just a Dream - Nelly

Welcome back! It's good to see rapper Nelly make a successful return to the charts. His career saw a steep decline following his last pair of successful albums, Sweat and Suit, which collectively spawned 3 top 5 hits ("Over and Over" featuring Tim McGraw and "My Place" featuring Jahiem), 1 of which scoring his fourth and last (so far) #1 ("Grillz"). His last album Brass Knuckles delivered poor sales and an unsual lack of hits--the albums biggest single was "Party People" featuring Fergie, which only managed to just scrape the top 40, landing at #40. The albums four other charting singles only got to #43, #42, #90 and #96. But turning thing around nicely is comeback single "Just a Dream," the lead single from his upcoming sixth album 5.0, which has received a warm reception at top 40 radio and now marks his 10th top 10 single.

13. Club Can't Handle Me - Flo Rida

It seems like what's probably going to be Flo Rida's only hit this year isn't't a complete flop. "Club Can't Handle Me" moves 3 spots up from from #16 landing at #13. I got over this quick--there's only so many songs about clubs you can make.

19. Dueces - Chris Brown

It looks like people are ready to forgive Chris Brown; His last album Graffiti only landed one "hit" with "Transform Ya," and follow up single "Crawl" only managed a #53 peak but things are looking brighter in the verified woman-beater's future, his latest single "Dueces" enters the top 20 this week at #19.

33. Fuck You - Cee Lo Green

I LOVE this song! Cee Lo Green, most likely known for his work with Gnars Barkely and their big worldwide hit "Crazy," scores his first solo top 40 with "Fuck You!," landing at #33.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Personal Airplay, September 9, 2010

TW LW Title - Artist
1 ... 1 .... Love the Way You Lie - Eminem feat. Rihanna (6 weeks @ #1)
2 ... 4 ... Please Don't Let Me Go - Olly Murs
3 ... 5 ... Start Without You - Alexandra Burke
4 ... 11 ... Get Outta My Way - Kylie Minogue
5 ... 15 ... Teenage Dream - Katy Perry
6 ... 2 ... Pack Up - Eliza Doolittle
7 ... 3 ... Dynamite - Taio Cruz
8 ... 10 .. Missing You - The Saturdays
9 ... 6 ... Find Your Love - Drake
10 .. 8 .. Califorania Gurls - Katy Perry (9 wks @ #1)

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Album Review: Hurts - Happiness (4.5/5)

I'm definitely loving more releases this half of the year than last, and Manchester based synth-pop duo Hurts is no exception. The duo's debut album Happiness deliverers a glittering mash of broad '80s synths, overblown melodies pulled over cool New Wave sounds, which surprisingly didn't really strike a cord with critics; Alex Petridis of The Guardian said:
"You get the feeling Hurts have spent more time making their back story interesting than their music, which is a shame."
However, I think part of what makes Happiness a success is that there more than apparent '80s pop-driven influence on their music is just as interesting as their back story, maybe even more so. Nit-picking the album to shreds is about as useless as Kevin Federline's music career, because sometimes things just work. The progressive "Silver Lining" kicks things off; cooing with pacing subtle guitars stretched over bubbling synths, strings and soundscapes (slightly re-calling the penetrating build up of synths and scoundscapes on Delphic's Acolyte) before the bass kicks in on the bold chorus. I also applaud the vocals on here; not being devoured by the music but not overpowering either.

Picking up the tempo "Wonderful Life" follow's, dancing with heavy drum-beats and subtle but piercing guitar work in the background. It's also the albums biggest single so far. Quickly slowing things down is "Blood, Tears & Gold" successfully showcases the duo's love for big melody-charged ballads, dramatic productions and all things lyrically cliche. Next up is "Sunday" pulsating with gritty '80s influenced synths, strings and beats--the verses are really cool as in contrast to the chorus which fashions a big invigorating dance sound; the verses sport a throbbing mix of synths and kinetic bass lines that sound like it could have been cut out any typical '80's electronic dance-pop song.

"Stay" is another ballad with another hefty production; clobbering with strong bass lines, handclaps and a stuttering horn, which really comes into effect as the chorus soars. "Illuminated" is lovely but uneven mid-tempo, clamping down with layeres of synth, bass lines and soundscapes. It's surprisingly contemporary, also exuding elements of rock especially in the verses as electronic guitars pierce through the haunting production. The enchanting ballad "Evelyn" is very nicely carried by heavy orchetratic strings, burtst of harmonica (which really sounds like a broken violin in some parts) and rapid drums.

The duo's introductory club-ready single "Better Than Love" really showcases their '80s flare more than any other track, upping the '80s influenced synths, pulsating with heavy phychedelic beats and bass lines--all elements creating a fantastic slick '80's synth-charged dance-pop production. "Devotion" packs a big punch in its chorus--a dramatic bass-heavy arrangement clobbered down with bursts of electronic guitars and heavy drums, but the duo hold comfortable restraint in their vocals; a nice contrast.

"Unspoken" is another enchanting ballad heavily carried by an orchestra, strings and heavy trembling drum beats, but still sounds good--it has a very classic feel to it because of its persistent piano keys. Melody-charged closing track "The Water" is a soft ballad enclosed with strings, piano keys and violins, giving a gentle close to the album.

I'm very impressed with Hurt's debut album. It's a shame critics couldn't tap into it the same I way I did. It's a bit uneven and rough around the edges but it's consistent as nearly every track is a winner and a good handful are knockouts. Happiness is definitely a contender for my album of the year.

Best: Better Than Love, Silver Lining, Wonderful Life, Sunday, Illuminated, Devotion, Blood Sweat & Gold

Monday, September 06, 2010

Album Review: Brandon Flowers - Flamingo (4.5/5)

It's been a slow year so far, with the first half of 2010 only delivering a handful of good album releases and only 2 (Plan B and Delphic) that I've really loved, but the fall has better things in store; Popular alternative rock band The Killers' front-man Brandon Flowers delivers' his debut solo album Flamingo and it's a stunner! In somewhat cutting from the same vein as the classic throwback '80's new wave influenced synth-rock sound we've come to expect from The Killers--Flowers also draws influences from the same stadium-rock grandeur as U2 and grandiose of Elton John, in-all delivering stunning mash of alternative rock stretched over layers of imperturbable pop influences.

Kicking things is off is the dark "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" a muddy guitar-backed ballad bridged over poignant piano keys and crumbling percussion. It's a pleasing opener, setting the effective yet cold and brittle tone for the first half of the album also a nice set-up for the trembling drum-fronted "Only the Young" serving up a haunting string induced arrangement (almost re-calling the same haunt as hip-hop trio The Fugees' "Ready or Not) topped off with Flowers' bold layered vocal work on the chorus. The psychedelic U2 rock inspired "Hard Enough" doesn't hit as hard as it should, falling a bit short on its chorus but it's still a winner.

"Jilted Lovers & Broken Hearts" pulses with an eclectic mash of progressive guitars, drums and piano keys and a knock-out chorus, which sounds very dilute alternative pulled over a pop/country-esque composition. I loved this off the first listen. Next up is the albums longest track "Playing With Fire" a brewing guitar and drum backed ballad with a subtle kick, I also like the emotional opening lyrics ("Daddy I'm not gonna tell you that I'm sorry/I'm not here to know the things I cannot do, we've seen the outcome of the boys who didn't fly") Its poetic approach its lyrics arguable makes it the most lyrically appealing track on here.

The first half of the album deliverers a series of dark and brewing ballads, so it's only right that the second half offers some upbeat alternative pop/rock. "Was It Something I Said" ups the tempo, kicks up the drums and guitars into high-gear; trailing off its high spirits; "Magdalena" is a jaunty, maraca struck tune, following is the almost as upbeat popular lead single "Crossfire" drenched in glossy rock inspired synths, twinkling mash of guitars, drums and the whole sha-bang and also a first top 10 for Flowers.

Calming things down is "On the Floor" is mild lovely ballad, very mellow and introspective. I still haven't quite worked out what closing track "Swallow It" is actually about lyrically ("You could not swallow it, baby your not ready slow down") but it is a nice warm mid-tempo--a nice close to the album.

Flamingo could have been a bit broader in its sound and slightly more cohesive but Brandon Flowers delivered an amazing debut album, showcasing himself as true showman--exhibiting strengths as a solo artist; Flamingo doesn't directly drain from the same sound as The Killers but there are some moments which enough to differentiate the album from the stuff The Killers have released but it's just as good as anything the rock band have put out and definitely one of the best this year.
Best: Crossfire, Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas, Jilted Lovers & Broken Hearts, Was It Something I Said, On the Floor, Magdalena

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Album Review: Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid (4.5/5)

If Lady Gaga's made pop interesting again then Janelle Monae's done the same for just about every other genre you can associate pop with—whilst obviously not to the same magnitude but Monae's debut album The ArchAndroid is an ambitious and at times an overreaching set; an eclectic array of classic old-fashioned pop, R&B, jazz, hip-hop and rock but still being cohesive. Kicking things off is “Suite II Overture;” An enchanting opener, strings, haunting violins and dark chanting undertones for the first half before mellowing into a lighter ambiance for its whimsical second half with harps, strings and angelic progressive piano keys.

The fast-talking “Dance or Die” is clobbered with cool soundscapes, rapid bass lines and drums, almost re-calling Janet Jackson at her most introspective. The aptly titled “Faster” kicks up the tempo, reigning in the rapid bass lines and upping the soul, kinetic handclaps and guitars—nicely merging into “Locked Inside” a sweet ode to '70's soul, with its '70's styled arrangement and drum rolls re-calling Michael Jackson's “Rock with You.” I really like the electronic guitar mid-section and how nicely it fades out with the horns.

Switching things up is “Sir Greendown,” a dark mid-tempo with haunting undertones merging swiftly into current single “Cold War,” showcasing rapid drums and moody soundscapes before the sweet electronic guitars kick in towards the middle exuding a sense of rock on a old fashioned pop inspired track. “Tightrope” featuring one half of hip-hop duo OutKast, Big Boi, finds the album at its most contemporary; penetrating with funky percussion and cool guitar work.

Introducing the albums mid-section is “Neon Gumbo” a weird but interesting progressive 1 minute interlude in reverse building a screeching horn fade out. “Oh, Maker” begins a tender vocal and guitar arrangement before the bass kicks in then ultimately fathoms a cool fusion of old fashioned pop and modern R&B when things get into gear upon the chorus' approach.

There are a lot of them on here, but amongst the most interesting numbers here is “Come Alive (War of the Roses)” an exhilarating mix of Broadway inspired rock with throbbing electronic guitars and mind-numbing vocal acrobatics. The just as interesting and supposedly Radiohead inspired “Mushroom & Roses” a climatic rock ballad ringed with strings, heavy drums, soaring electronic guitars and inaudible distorted vocal work. It reminds me a lot of “Kid A” from Radiohead's Kid A album. It's cool to see Monae streaming from the same vein from such a unique sound and making it work.

“Suite III Overture;” introducing the last part of the album, showcasing classic '50's inspired strings and haunting undertones slowly merging into “Neon Valley Street” showcasing a fresh R&B sound and angelic vocal work, which works well with the strings and the burst of stuttering electronic guitars towards the end.

Along with “Neon Valley Street,” the biggest highlight the albums last section is “Make the Bus,” an '80s inspired dance number, throbbing with synths, cool soundscapes and drums. The last couple tracks ”57821,” “Say You'll Go” and “BaBopByeYa,” don't seem to have any interesting qualities and seem to give you more than you bargain for, dribbling on for a lengthy 17 minutes between them.

As ambitious as The ArchAndroid is, it's understandable that not everything quite works. Its eclectic mix of classic old-fashioned pop, rock, R&B and hip-hop doesn't withstand throughout the whole piece and can seem a tad contrived—especially the last section unnecessarily lengthening the album without actually delivering any solid tracks. However despite this The ArchAndriod is indeed the most well put together spectrum of different genres I've heard in awhile; remaining cohesive and generally consistent without the dramatic switches in genres seeming overwhelming.

Best: Tightrope, Cold War, Come Alive (War of the Roses), Locked Inside, Neon Valley Street, Mushrooms & Roses, Oh Maker, Dance or Die

Personal Airplay, September 2, 2010

TW LW Title - Artist
1 ... 1 .... Love the Way You Lie - Eminem feat. Rihanna (5 weeks @ #1)
2 ... 3 ... Pack Up - Eliza Doolittle
3 ... 2 ... Dynamite - Taio Cruz
4 ... 8 ... Please Don't Let Me Go - Olly Murs
5 ... 6 ... Start Without You - Alexandra Burke
6 ... 4 ... Find Your Love - Drake
7 ... 12 .. What If - Jason DeRulo
8 ... 5 ... California Gurls - Katy Perry (9 wks @ #1)
9 ... 7 ... We Speak No Americano - Yolanda feat. DCUP
10 .. 18 .. Missing You - The Saturdays

Album Review: Example - Won't Go Quietly (3/5)

UK rapper Example landed his first set of hits last year and earlier this year with “Watch the Sun Come Up,” “Won't Go Quietly” and recently “Kickstarts” all synth-heavy dancefloor fillers; a pretty clear indication to what his second album would have in store. Won't Go Quietly. if anything is one to be put to heavy rotation for the clubs as like its first three singles, is crammed with trancy dance, synth and bass-heavy club bangers.

“From Space” is a edgy rock-studded opener, for the first half anyway, before picking up with a progressive stuttering synth-dance production for the second—setting up the platform for both “Won't Go Quietly” and the re-worked version of “Watch the Sun Come Up;” this version has heavier drums and synths. Slowing down the pace but cranking up the synths is the melodic '80s dance-pop studded “Time Machine,” almost re-calling the same dance-pop production Calvin Harris is known for.

“Something in the Water,” reigns in the excitement—taking away the syths; rapping over a typical British garage rap beat—although that doesn't last long as following is “Last Ones Standing” upping the loud synths, dance-beats and heavy bass lines—sounds like it'll be a single soon (I'm writing this on holiday so I'm clueless wether It's already a single or not). Another single cotender is “Millionaires” which is a fine change-up in sound; a more restraint light poppy love song with sappy lyrics (“I should be raising the bar high avoiding the bar low, I'll write you a million songs as if I was Barlow”).

Poignant piano keys begin “Two Lives,” before the heavy beats kick in; it has a very enticing hook and a catchy chorus which ultimately seems like same recycled dance-pop productions from previous songs at this point. After the psychedelic dance beats of “Kickstarts,” the throbbing vibrating bass lines of “Sick Note” follows.

The album begins to sag a lot towards the end—I'm sure it'll be good to dance to in the clubs but as a listener throwaway dance-tracks with no melody like “Dirty Face,” “Hooligans,” “See the Sea” just seem like filler, although I did enjoy the dub-step sound in “Hooligans.” Surprsingly the album concludes with a ballad “Won't Believe the Fools”—it's progressive and still very much bass-heavy but it's slow so I guess it qualifies as a ballad.

Like most pop albums, Won't Go Quietly starts of pretty good then starts to sag towards it second half, it's nowhere near consistent or cohesive enough to be a solid dance record which is a disappointment as it had the potential to be as it's starts of so well.

Best: Won't Go Quietly, Kickstarts, Watch the Sun Come Up, Time Machine, Last Ones Standing