Friday, October 29, 2010

Radiohead Fan?

I've been listening to a lot of British pop lately (old Take That CDs, new Wanted album and the new Robbie Williams greatest hits collection) I thought I'd try listening to something different: British rock. I've been busy working on my best albums of 1990s list for next year and I was looking up albums that critics generally considered to be the best of that decade and these two albums came up the most. The Bends and Ok Computer by experimental British band Radiohead.

I am familiar with Radiohead, I wouldn't call myself a fan but I am pretty fond of their work--I loved their fourth album Kid A (2000), which did earn a spot on my best of 2000s list last year and it was really the only album I'd really listened to by them vigorously--it's left-field blend of electronica, experimental warbling rock sounds, distorted chopped up vocal effects and soundscapes was fascinating. However, after listening to these two albums in particular over the last couple days I can see why Kid A is often ranked below these two.

They're experimental rock at its finest. The Bends sets the platform for is emotive mix of instrumental soundscapes, haunting melancholic melodies and cryptic lyrical outlooks ("Planet Telex") and Ok Computer capitalizes and kicks it up a notch--it's angrier, gritter, louder more complex guitar patterns ("Paranoid Android"), illustrating more elaborate imagery ("Climbing Up the Walls") and almost appealingly self-indulgent making it more than work.

They go perfectly hand in hand--almost the same way the first two Oasis albums Defiantly Maybe and (What's the Story) Morning Glory? do, one is the foundations that the follow-up is built on. Before I really got into Radiohead, these two records in particular, I didn't think they were overrated, but I did feel critic reviews (particularly on Ok Computer) were stretching a bit, Like when Entertainment Weekly said "taking Britpop to a heavenly new level" or Pitchford Media saying "brimming with genuine emotion, beautiful and complex imagery," I did think, well isn't this the same guitar-driven rock with moody soundscapes as every other '90s British rock band? But I do quite like albums, especially rock albums, that take a lot of unravelling to fully appreciate them.

While I am pretty much blown away by these two records and Kid A, there's still four more albums of their's I haven't quite gotten into to the same degree. Their first album Pablo Honey (1993) doesn't quite dismiss the guitar-driven rock theory I had about the band and from what I can tell the "music snobs" didn't quite like it either. Their last couple releases, especially In Rainbows (2008) is one I'm still unraveling. It's funny because they seem to get less and less accessible as the years go by.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Co-Ed School "I Love You a Thousand Times"

The Hot 100 is looking pretty boring this week, so here's something different from American pop music. I was asked by Nikki of Pop Reviews Now to join the K-Pop panel as guest this week and in the bunch of Korean songs we have to review, this one in particular caught my ear. It's called "I Love You a Thousand Times" by Korean group Co-Ed School. It's a great soaring ballad--a bit stage school, but that's fine.

Personal Airplay, October 28, 2010

TW LW Title - Artist
1 ... 2 .... Fuck You! - Cee Lo Green (2 weeks @ #1)
2 ... 4 ... I'm in Love (I Wanna Do It) - Alex Guadino
3 ... 1 ... Magic - B.o.B. feat. Cuomo Rivers (1 wk @ #1)
4 ... 7 ... Only Girl (In the World) - Rihanna
5 ... 3 ... Written in the Stars - Tinie Tempah
6 .. 15 .. The Flood - Take That
7 ... 6 ... Shame - Robbie Williams & Gary Barlow
8 ... 5 ... Just the Way You Are - Bruno Mars
9 .... 8 ... Barbra Streisand - Duck Sauce
10 .. 9 ... Radioactive - Kings of Leon

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Album Review: Cheryl Cole - Messy Little Raindrops (3/5)

Girls Aloud alumni Cheryl Cole delivers the follow-up to 2009's commercially successful but critically unsettling debut 3 Words. It fell short of convincing me of her aspirations to be a credible solo pop-star, as well as paling in comparison to other X Factor related releases, released around the same time including Leona Lewis' Echo and Alexandra Burke's Overcome. While Messy Little Raindrops is marginally better, it still amounts to a notably weak follow-up because lets face it: Cheryle Cole isn't an amazing pop singer, a problem that dominates when it comes to less production-driven numbers towards its middle section.

Bass-popping lead single "Promise This" is a great opener. A cute upbeat pop production--not in the same vein as "Fight for this Love," but still as fun with slightly darker lyrics ("Promise this if I die before I wake"). The pounding dance-pop of "Yeah Yeah" featuring Gym Class Heroes member Travie McCoy is good too, a little worn but a striking slice of Kylie Minogue influenced dance-pop. It's bookended by the throbbing bassy mid-tempo "Live Tonight." It sounds like the less electronic counterpart to "3 Words," a highlight? not really.

There's not many more highlights from here on. Cheryl tries her hand with balladry on "The Flood," which doesn't quite work, she stretches her vocal limitations a bit too far on the chorus--kind of like how Katy Perry does on "Firework." I hear this is the second single. Plodding urban tinged "Amnesia" serves up a bland slice of pop, it sounds like American singer Vannessa Hudgens' "Say Ok." Worse is the dull warbling bass lines of "Everyone" featuring rapper Dizzee Rascal, showcasing no melody whatsoever.

Second ballad on the album "Raindrops" is a pretty sweet piece of balladry. She sings surprisingly well on the soaring melodic-fronted chorus. "Hummingbirds" reigns in the poppy R&B of "Amnesia" and the bulky bass lines of "Everyone" it's not a knockout but at least it has some melody. Venturing further into R&B territories is "Better to Lie" featuring someone called August Rigo. It's produced by Jonathan Rotem, who's recently produced hits for Jason DeRulo and JLS, which would explain the random burst skittering drum beats. Again, not a knockout but it's decent.

The album hits a major speed bump with the lyrically-cringy "Lets Get Down," as Cole raps over a series of plodding synth-driven beats ("All my ladies, all my girls, my honeys, all my birds, all my bitches, all my ladies"). You're Cheryl Cole from Newscastle, England not Chequanda from Southside Queens, New York--get it together. "Happy Tears" is an angelic piano-laced ballad over thumping beats, it compliments each other well, joining the very few tracks on here I've really taken too.

Cheryl Cole has the look, personality, hype and interest to be a credible pop-star what she lacks is the craft. The songs on here are thankfully an improvement from the ones on 3 Words, but still doesn't collectively make a strong pop album. If her pop contemporaries, Britney Spears and Rihanna share Cole's vocal limitation and can crank out cracking albums why can't she do it? Unfortunately with success just waiting to ejaculate all over this album, I doubt Cole will be in the least bit motivated to start delivering stronger work--and with fellow band mate Nadine Coyle's debut album on the way, it seems her retreating back to Girls Aloud isn't an option anymore.

Best: Promise This, Yeah Yeah, Raindrops, Happy Tears

Monday, October 25, 2010

Alexandra Burke "The Silence"

So the second single lifted from the forthcoming re-release of pop singer Alexandra Burke's debut album Overcome will be a revamped version of "The Silence." It's her first ballad since first single "Hallelujah" and follows a string of uptempo's ("Bad Boys," "Broken Heels," "All Night Long," "Start without You"). Overcome The Deluxe Edition is out December 6.

Album Review: The Wanted - The Wanted (3.5/5)

Hot on the heels of their recent two hit singles ("All Time Low" and "Heart Vacancy") the UK's newest boyband serve up their much awaited debut and to much to my surprise it's a pretty admirable effort. It's a standard bag of bass-heavy pop with soaring melodies and harmonies (and some unorthodox lyrics here and there) I don't like everything, but does deliver a handful of solid tracks.

We already know about the orchestratic, violin-driven pop of "All Time Low" and the more downbeat bass-driven pop of "Heart Vacancy" so onto the third track "Lose My Mind" which serves up some mature frothy dance-pop and the unorthodox lyrics I was talking about earlier ("If heartache was a physical pain I could face it") a bit technical for a boyband, don't you think?

Next up is the 'scapey "Replace Your Heart" which really clocks in the melodic waves on the chorus. I hear it's being considered for third single, it's a good thing too--It's probably the best track on here. I certainly prefer it to the first two singles. "Hi and Low" offers up some discerning balladry, poignantly flourished with piano keys and strings. It's lovely, not a standout though. The dark "Let's Get Ugly" seems play on the unorthodox theme a bit more, shadowed vocals over clambering bass lines, peircing bursts of soundscapes in the backdrop to compliment the blackening arrangement. The melodies showcase some upturn however. "Say It On the Radio" reign in the static vocals over pounding dance-pop production in the same vein as "Lose My Mind."

Songs towards the second half aren't as good. "Golden" sounds like a retread of OneRepublic's "Apologize," but better is the pop grandiose of "Weakness" crushing bass lines in a rhythmic vein over light piano keys. It works pretty well. "Personal Soldier" sinks into deep state of generic pop. I'm not too fond of the phoned in rock-studden venture of "Behind Bars," or even more generic pop of "Made" and "A Good Day for Love to Die." The album ends on a sappy note with "The Way I Feel."

I went back and forth on wether to award this a 3 or a 3.5 but in the end the songs on the first half outweigh some of the duds on the second, The Wanted does deliver some highlights and is in fact wildly better than fellow boyband JLS' self-titled debut.

Best: Replace Your Heart, Heart Vancany, All Time Low, Let's Get Ugly, Weakness

Sunday, October 24, 2010

November New Album Releases

Here is how November is looking for new album releases, it's probably the most exciting month for releases so far.

November 1/8

Cheryl Cole - Messy Little Raindrops. Hot on the heels of her second chart topper "Promise This" Cheryl Cole releases her anticipated follow-up to last year's 3 Words. I didn't like that album much, but this one is shaping up to be a better body of work--featuring collabs with Dizzee Rascal and Travie McCoy.

Ciara - Basic Instinct. The R&B singer's fourth album, following up to the wide underpeformance of last year's Fantasy Ride. It hasn't spawned any hits yet--lead single "Ride" peaked #42, quite a bit off the #10 peak of "Love Sex Magic" from Fantasy Ride.

Good Charlotte - Cardiology. Punk band Good Charlotte unleash their fifth album, preceded by lead single "Like It's Her Birthday" which became their third big hit in Australia.

Mariah Carey - Merry Christmas II You. Preparing us for the holidays is Mariah Carey's second Christmas collection, which includes an updated version of her own "All I Want for Christmas is You" and four original songs including the fun new single "Oh Santa!"

Ne-Yo - Libra Scale. R&B singer Ne-Yo seems to cutting from the same Year of the Gentleman shtick for his fourth album Libra Scale, which has already landed him a third UK chart topper in the UK with "Beautiful Monster" however no American hit yet.

Jay Sean - Freeze Time. British singer Jay Sean isn't an albums artist, it's been the singles ("Eyes on You," "Ride It," "Down") that have made his last three records and this doesn't look like this one's going to be any different, lead single "2012" will probably one of few highlights.

James Blunt - Some Kind of Trouble. Third album from English singer James Blunt, preceded by spirited new single "Stay the Night" (I admit, I did think it was a Mariah Carey cover before I listened).

Kid Cudi - Man On The Moon 2: The Legend Of Mr Rager. Kid Cudi's follow-up to last years critically successful debut. It's landed him his second top 40 in the US with "Erase Me" featuring Kayne West.

Susan Boyle - The Gift. Follow-up to last years' best-seller I Dreamed a Dream. It's SuBo's first Christmas album.

November 15/22

Rihanna - Loud. The Barbadian singer's follow-up to last years' dark fourth album Rated R. It's promises to be a more upbeat and dance-driven set. Featuring collaborations with hip-hop heavyweights Nicki Minaj, Drake and Eminem.

Nelly - 5.0. Rapper Nelly's fifth album has a pretty good set-up so far, with lead single "Just a Dream" having scored him his first big hit in the US years and is looking to do the same in the UK today.

Shayne Ward - Obsession. It's been 3 years since X Factor winner Shayne's Ward's moderately successful sophomore album Breathless. Lead single from his forthcoming third album; cover of Nickleback's "Gotta Be Somebody" is out November 7.

P!nk - The Greatest Hits... So Far!!! It's P!nk's first greatest hits set. Features three new tracks including new single "Raise Your Glass."

McFly - Above the Noise. Fifth album from Britsh band McFly. Preceded by lead single "Party Girl" which landed the band another top UK top 10.

Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. For his fifth album, Kanye West returns to hip-hop leaving the auto-tune driven sonic of 808s & Heartbreak behind. I'm really excited for this. The three singles ("Power," "Runaway and "Monster") have been fantastic. I hear there's a 35 minute movie accompanied with "Runaway."

Nicki Minaj - Pink Friday. Another release I'm pretty stoked for is American rapper Nicki Minaj's debut album Pink Friday, which capitalizes on the two years of hype from her oceans and oceans of features, showcasing her animated rapping-style on pop, R&B and hip-hop heavyweight's tracks such as, Mariah Carey, Ludacris, Usher, Christina Aguilera, Lil Wayne and Drake.

Take That - Progress. Take That's sixth album is their first album since their reformation to feature Robbie Williams. Lead single "The Flood" is out November 14, only a week before they go head-to-head with JLS for the top spot on the UK Albums Chart.

My Chemical Romance - Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. It's the American rock band's first album since 2006's acclaimed The Black Parade.

JLS - Outta This World. Second album.

November 29 (Subject to change)

The Black Eyed Peas - The Beginning*
Duffy - Endlessly*
Kelly Rowland - Kelly Rowland

Kanye West 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy'

I'm actually pretty excited for the upcoming fifth album from Kanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, the artwork is a tad eye -crippling but the content is a return to hip-hop and not the auto-tune driven sonic of 808s & Heartbreak, which I didn't particuarly care for. Track list:

1. "Dark Fantasy"
2. "Gorgeous" (featuring Kid Cudi & Raekwon)
3. "Power" (featuring Dwele)
4. "All of the Lights" (featuring John Legend, The-Dream, Ryan Leslie, Tony Williams, Charlie Wilson, Elly Jackson, Alicia Keys, Fergie, Kid Cudi, Rihanna, and Elton John)
5. "Monster" (featuring Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj & Bon Iver)
6. "So Appalled" (featuring Jay-Z, Pusha T, CyHi da Prynce, Swizz Beatz & RZA)
7. "Devil in a New Dress"
8. "Runaway" (featuring Pusha T)
9. "Hell of a Life"
10. "Blame Game" (featuring John Legend & Pusha T)
11. "Lost in the World" (featuring Bon Iver)

"Monster" with Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Bon Iver & Nicki Minaj is a such dope track, I hope there's more on there that sounds like that.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Rihanna Loud

Only months after ending the promotional campaign for her dark fourth album Rated R, Barbadian singer Rihanna is already set to release her fifth Loud next month, November 12. Even her bright complexion on the album art suggests a more vibrant body of work; if you didn't already guess from the pounding dance-pop of lead single "Only Girl (In the World)." I thought Rated R was a brave career step, I'm looking forward to hear how this follows up.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Black Eyed Peas "The Time (The Dirty Bit)"

The Black Eyed Peas are back with their new single "The Time (The Dirty Bit)" an electro-pop spin on Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" from Dirty Dancing on the chorus before pursing blaring dubstep inspired bass lines for the verses. It sounds kind of pretentious. Their sixth album The Beginning is out later this year.

Billboard's 20 Banned Album Covers

I thought this was particularly interesting. Hot on the heels of the recent unveiling of the controversial cover to Kanye West's fifth album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Billboard have posted up a top 20 list of banned album covers. What a list!

Billboard Hot 100, October 30, 2010

1. Like a G6 - Far East Entertainment
3. Just a Dream - Nelly

Ending Bruno Mars' four week reign with "Just the Way You Are," is Far East Entertainment's "Like a G6" which rises a notch to the pinnacle of the Hot 100. They seem ike a one-hit-wonder to me. When Far East and Bruno Mars begin to lose steam, it seems rapper Nelly might have a chance to score a fifth chart topper with "Just a Dream" which stays bulleted at #3 this week.

4. Only Girl (In the World) - Rihanna

Rihanna's "Only Girl (In the World)," last week's airplay gainer rises 4 spots up the chart this week, surging itself back into the top 5. It doesn't seem to be losing any steam in digital sales or airplay, could possibly be potential chart topper for Barbadian singer.

6. Back to December - Taylor Swift

It's a 7th debut in the top 10 and a third one this year, for Taylor Swift with her latest album cut release "Back to December." Look forward to the next album cut "Mean" to debut in the top 10 next week too, it's currently #1 on iTunes.

10. Bottoms Up - Trey Songz feat. Nicki Minaj

It's a 2nd top 10 single for R&B singer Trey Songz with "Bottoms Up." It's Nicki Minaj's first (If you exclude "BedRock").

11. Raise Your Glass - P!nk

P!nk roars up 40 spots up the chart just missing the top 10 with "Raise Your Glass" landing at #11, the lead single from the singer's forthcoming first greatest hits release Greatest Hit...So Far!!! I'm not sure whether it'll rise or not, but I saw sure this would be another #1 on the back of digital sales, the same way "So What" was.

Album Review: Kings of Leon - Come Around Sundown (3.5/5)

No band rocked the United Kingdom harder than American rock band Kings of Leon in 2008. Their fourth album Only By the Night finally bestowed the ultimate modern day rock band title upon them--the remarkable set landed the band the international breakthrough hits ("Sex on Fire" and "Use Somebody") and also granted them a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Album, while "Somebody" won the Grammy for Record of the Year.

Now onto its follow-up Come Around Sundown, I was excited when I read that this album would be a throwback to the raw alternative rock of their earlier work, but it still sounds way more accessible than Aha Shake Heartbreak and Because of the Times. However Sundown does showcase a more dynamic approach to rock than the last album, while still meddling with mainstream influences, only it's not as good. It's mostly hit and miss.

Some of the arrangements and alternative rock grandiose do re-call the same accessibility of Only By the Night, such as the soaring muffled-guitar rock balladry of opening number "The End" demonstrating the band's musical blueprint that entrenched Night: Shimmering production with hollowing drums, whittling guitar patterns in the backdrop which become more apparent as the soaring scape of the chorus kick in.

Lead single "Radioactive" is a fun guitar-driven composition over rapid drum lines tied in with an uplifting chorus, backed with optimistic harmonic "ooh" ing in the backdrop. Next up is "Pyro" which reigns in the optimism for a more subdued overture; Caleb Followill's bold scratchy vocals over pacing drums and different layered guitar patterns.

After the first two tracks, it's kind of a mixed bag throughout. "Mary" turns up the velutinous electronic guitars, which stutter throughout its blustering chorus. It's got the noise and the grand U2 inspired rock, but where's the energy? It's a decent track though. Better is "The Face" which strikes the all right chords, literally. It's a downbeat slow burning number, backed with layered guitar patterns in the backdrop which soar at the song's climatic end, the next track "The Immortals" sounds like a more upbeat re-tread of that.

The album loses steam on its weaker second half. The swaying country of "Back Down South" is a highlight, the downbeat rock of "Beach Side" is passable but the album sounds like a muffled blur from then on. "No Money" strains with muffled electronic guitars, particularly towards the end only it's not that interesting, neither is the clattering drum beats of "Pony Up" or the archetypal rock production of "Birthday" or "Mi Amigo," but the album close on a pretty strong note with angelic progression of "Pickup Truck" which plods with piano keys and hesitant guitars before the blaring guitars kick in on the chorus.

I only listened to their albums post-2008 a couple months ago and I can see some similarities between Come Around Sundown and those, however this album isn't nearly as interesting as those nor does it calculate the same well-balanced sound between mainstream and energetic grunge that's still appealing to the masses like Only By the Night. It doesn't fall flat, but it's not that great either.

Best: Radioactive, The End, The Face, Pyro, Pickup Truck, Back Down South

Personal Airplay, October 21, 2010

TW LW Title - Artist
1 ... 2 ... Magic - B.o.B. feat. Cuomo Rivers (1 week @ #1)
2 ... 1 ... Fuck You! - Cee Lo Green (1 wk @ #1)
3 ... 4 ... Written in the Stars - Tinie Tempah
4 ... 5 ... I'm in Love ( I Wanna Do It) - Alex Guadino
5 ... 3 ... Just the Way You Are - Bruno Mars
6 ... 6 ... Shame - Robbie Williams & Gary Barlow
7 ... 8 ... Only Girl (In the World) - Rihanna
8 .. 16 .. Barbra Streisand - Duck Sauce
9 .. 14 .. Radioactive - Kings of Leon
10 .. 7 ... Start without You - Alexandra Burke

Monday, October 18, 2010

Previewing Kings of Leon's Come Around Sundown

I picked up Kings of Leon's fifth album Come Around Sundown today, I haven't had a full run-though yet (I'm playing it while finishing English homework) but it's sounding great so far. Along with "Radioactive," I'm really into "Pyro" and "The Immortals," they both showcase the album's more dynamic approach to rock than 2008's Only By the Night.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Evolution of the American Female Rapper

With the forthcoming debut release from much-hyped American rapper Nicki Minaj only a month away, I've been looking at past American female rappers that have reached a momentous height of public interest and with such few female rappers in the industry, it's always a moment when one actually does. Here's a chronological look back at albums from female rappers that managed to make both positive and negative impact:

Queen Latifah - Black Reign, 1993. Before there was the pornographic, sexually hard-hitting lyrical fornicating of Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown, there was the political, tough-talking lyrical anxiety of New Jersey rapper Queen Latifah and this was her best set. Following her move to Motown records she delivered this intelligent, vocally-charged set of songs. Critics liked Black Reign, but it didn't quite make the impact the other albums in this write-up did. Best: Weekend Love. (4.5/5)

Lil' Kim - Hard Core, 1996. No female MC album shook things up in the first six years of the '90s harder than the debut album from Brooklyn born rapper Lil' Kim. Critics applauded the aptly titled Hard Core for its bold and blunt exhausting of female sexuality through wildly lewd-driven amative profanities of tracks like "Big Momma Thang" and "Spend a Little Doe." The album was a height of critical acclaim she has yet to match, unfortunately it's not a height I'm too fond of. I feel it's kind of overrated and lacked any depth behind the provocative front. Is her talking about human genitles and drugs over pounding hip-hop beats what makes this a good record? It's not one I can get behind. Luckily, she did churn out some better records further down the line. Essential track: Crush On You. (3/5)

Foxy Brown - Ill Na Na, 1996. The first of two albums I feature in this write-up from also Brooklyn born rapper Foxy Brown is Ill Na Na. This wasn't her most successful but is regarded as one of her best and I think so too, whilst not as sex-craved as Hard Core, it was a main topic however what it had over that album was that it was more tastefully done--in regards to seductive delivery and more well-crafted beats, I particularly like the striking production of "Foxy Bell's," rhythmic bass lines backed with bursts of electronic guitar. The soulful duet with R&B fivesome BLACKstreet on "Get Me Home" is another highlight. Essential track: Foxy Bells. (4/5)

Missy Elliot - Supa Dupa Fly, 1997. Missy Elliot actually delivered four knockout albums in a row, but I've only chosen two and the first is her remarkable debut. Supa Dupa Fly did what both Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown couldn't do, expand from the archetypal walls of hip-hop to more experimental territories like this album. Showcasing a versatile, futuristic outlook on the genre with help from producer Timbaland, reining in influences from both R&B ("Beep Me 911") and both conventional and unconventional hip-hop ("The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)") to create more complex arrangements. It's an admirable set. One of the best hip-hop albums of that decade. Essential: The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly). (5/5)

Lauryn Hill - The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, 1998. To be blunt, I love this album to pieces and there's not a lot I can say that hasn't already been said from its influence on both hip-hop and R&B, commercial success, Grammy wins to its legacy. Lauryn Hill delivered a masterpiece, one that she never followed up and height of quality that has yet to be topped. Essential track: Ex-Factor. (5/5)

Foxy Brown - Chyna Doll, 1999. The last of the two from Foxy Brown is her 1999 follow up Chyna Doll. I don't have much to say about this album as it was a disappointment, disregarding everything I liked about her first (I'm struggling to find an essential track). Ironically, the reason why I've included this is because whilst its her worst offering, it was in fact her best-selling, even becoming the first album by a female rapper to debut atop the Billboard 200. Essential track: Hot Spot. (2/5)

Eve - Let There Be Eve... Ruff Ryder's First Lady, 1999. I've never been too big on Philadelphian rapper Eve or her debut album which launched her a pretty successful career; becoming a double-platinum seller, the second album to debut at #1 by a female rapper and landed the top 40 hits ("Gotta Man," Love is Blind," "What Ya'll Want"). It's a decent set, but nothing remarkable. Best: Love is Blind. (3/5)

Khia - Thug Misses, 2002. In 2002 Philadelphian rapper Khia landed the controversial hit of the summer ("My Neck My Back") unfortunately also delivered one of the most pathetic excuses for a hip-hop album in the history of the genre. Essential track: My Neck My Back (1/5)

Missy Elliot - Under Construction, 2002. 2002 was a stellar year for Missy Elliot. As well as delivering her fourth album that met with critical acclaim--it also landed her the massive chart smash "Work It," and earned the rapper a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year, losing out to hip-hop duo OutKast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. It's less interesting than Supa Dupa Fly but it was more contemporary. Essential track: Work It. (4.5/5)

Trina - Glamourest Life, 2005. Looking back on the 2000's picking albums that highlights the popularity of female rap is becoming tedious. I don't think Miami based rapper Trina actually had an album that sparked a lot of interest, however her fairly enjoyable third album landed her highest charting solo single "Here We Go" featuring Kelly Rowland. Best: Here We Go. (3.5/5)

Lil Mama - VYP (Voice of the Young People), 2008. You may remember her for crashing Jay-Z and Alicia Keys' performance at the 2008 VMA's but Lil Mama used to have a promising career. Before the release of her debut album, she landed two top 10 hits ("Lipgloss" and "Shawty Get Loose") then the album flopped and it was all over. It was quite a shame too, it was a pretty good set. I particularly like society-driven message of "L.I.F.E." Best: L.I.F.E. (3.5/5)

Diana Vickers "My Wicket Heart"

I'm not a fan of former X Factor contestant Diana Vickers or her new single "My Wicket Heart" but a part of the song rips off Red Hot Chill Pepper's 1992 hit "Under the Bridge" so on that note it's worth a shout. Along with Katy Perry, Vickers is performing on the X Factor results show tonight.

Friday, October 15, 2010 and Nicki Minaj "Check It Out"

It's been out for awhile but really I'm loving and Nicki Minaj's "Check it Out." It samples The Buggles "Video Killed the Reality Star" and Minaj is as animated as ever on her verse, the UK release replaces her with Cheryl Cole.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Album Review: Magnetic Man - Magnetic Man (3/5)

As if we haven't had our fair share of dance already this year, British dubstep group Magnetic Man release their eponymous debut album. They have already scored their first top 10 hit with synth-charged lead single "I Need Air," and a recent top 20 with trancy follow up "Perfect Stranger" featuring London based singer Katy B, who is also flying the flag for dubstep (scoring her own hit with "Katy On a Mission").

Magnetic Man is uneven, not as well-rounded as I would have liked, but it's enjoyable. It opens with the trickling arrangement of "Flying into Tokyo," atmospheric scenery with heavy orchestration to compliment. It's soon eclipsed by the pounding warbling bass lines of "Fire," featuring British rapper Ms. Dynamite. It's quite a riveting track, like many on here--it's nice to see Ms. Dynamite back too.

Cranking up the dancefloor grandeur is the aptly titled "Anthemic," vociferous synths coated with sharp distorted bass lines, soaking into a robotic beat-driven mid-tempo is next track "The Bug." Toning down the dubstep theatrics to just a series of kinetic beats is "Ping Pong."

Productions get more weirder towards the middle, unfortunately a lot of it doesn't work for me. Its upturn in warbling bass, beats and soundscapes in most of the tracks in the second half, sinks the album into filler territory. It doesn't expand from the same bass, beats and soundscapes patterns. The best of this half is "Boiling Water," a spacey number backed with skittering beats and angelic falsetto from Sam Frank.

Unfortunately there's not more I like. The progressive ear-piercing electronic backdrop of "Mad" hits a sour note. Not really experimental but riotous. "K Dance," sounds awful. Uneven skittering beats and bursts of electronic noises in the backdrop. I don't get it. Katy B pops up again on "Crossover," it sounds depleted, no melody and doesn't really go anywhere. "Box of Ghost," could have done a lot more with its intricate sounds and soundscapes.

American R&B singer John Legend lays down some soulful vocals over a pretty bland production on "Getting Nowhere." Magnetic Man is kind of a letdown, I feel it could have been a stronger set. It's first half is pretty strong, showcasing its invigorating mix of dance and dubstep very well but its last half not so much or maybe I'm just not the moderate fan of dubstep I thought I was.

Best: I Need Air, Perfect Stranger, Fire, Anthemic, Boiling Water, Flying into Tokyo

X Factor Early Favorites

I'm not reporting on this years' X Factor, like fellow blogger Paul, I never do, it's more fun to comment on his blog about it, but I thought It'd be nice to note down my early favorites in the competition and who I'm backing for the finals:

I haven't spotted a Leona Lewis or Alexandra Burke yet, but there's three I'm really liking right now. Chery Lloyd Despite negative press, I think she's great. Maybe I'm not too fond of her vocals, but something about her gets me excited when she walks on stage. She's ridiculously hot and she's the only female in the competition I could see making it big as a genuine "pop star," singing "pop songs" not overreaching AC ballads.

I'm also a fan of Aiden Grimshaw his performance of British '80s band Tears for Fears' "Mad World" was fantastic. Lastly TreyC she probably has the best voice amongst all the females. She kind of reminds me of Beverly Knight.

Billboard Hot 100, October 23, 2010

1. Just the Way You Are - Bruno Mars

It's four weeks at #1 with "Just the Way You Are," for Bruno Mars. Its stay at the pinnacle is aided by its 2-1 rise on Billboard's Radio Songs tally with 140 million listener impressions, up 9% from last week according to Billboard.

3. Just a Dream - Nelly

Rapper Nelly moves up a notch with "Just a Dream." His ninth top 3 single.

6. Rihanna - Only Girl (In the World)

Barbadian singer Rihanna may have had a sales dip over the last couple weeks for her new single "Only Girl (In the World)" however she rebounds 8-6 with the help of airplay--she's this week Airplay Gainer.

8. Speak Now - Taylor Swift

Pop/Country singer Taylor Swift debuts at #8 with "Speak Now," the title track from her forthcoming sophomore release this month, it's her third top 10 debut this year and her sixth top 10 debut overall. This feat eclipses Mariah Carey's five top 10 debuts between 1995 and 1998.

Mariah Carey's top 10 debuts:

"Fantasy," "One Sweet Day," "Always Be My Baby," "Honey," "My All."

Taylor Swift's top 10 debuts:

"Change," "Fearless," "Jump then Fall," "Today Was a Fairy Tale," "Mine," "Speak Now."

12. Runaway - Kanye West feat. Pusha T

Kanye West's forthcoming fifth album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, hasn't got off to best of starts. Lead single "Power" missed the top 20 by only 1 spots, whilst follow-up "Runaway," has down considerably better but still missed the top 10 by 1 spot also. I would be more optimistic for an ascend into the top 10 next week, if the single hadn't plummeted to the lower rank of the top 20 on iTunes this week.

18. Forget You! - Cee Lo Green

Whilst already a chart topper in the UK, Cee Lo Green is only just scoring his first solo top 20 in the US with the censored version of "Forget You!"

27. If I Die Young - The Band Perry

American country band score their first top 40 single with "If I Die Young," surging 18 spots up the chart this week.

34. Check It Out - feat. Nicki Minaj

One fourth of The Black Eyed Peas, scores his first solo top 40 ("Check It Out") since his debut single in 2007 ("I Got it From My Mama"). This is Nicki Minaj's eighth, including her extensive list of features.

Personal Airplay, October 14, 2010

TW LW Title - Artist
1 ... 2 .... Fuck You! - Cee Lo Green (1 week @ #1)
2 ... 3 ... Magic - B.o.B. feat. Cuomo Rivers
3 ... 1 ... Just the Way You Are - Bruno Mars (2 wks @ #1)
4 ... 4 ... Written in the Stars - Tinie Tempah
5 .. 16 .. I'm in Love (I Wanna Do It) - Alex Guadino
6 .. 13 .. Shame - Robbie Williams & Gary Barlow
7 ... 5 ... Start without You - Alexandra Burke
8 ... 9 ... Only Girl (In the World) - Rihanna
9 .. 10 .. Heartbeat - Enrique Iglasias feat. Nicole Scherzinger
10 .. 8 .. Get Outta My Way - Kylie Minogue

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Album Review: Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma (4/5)

Californian music producer Flying Louts' third album Cosmogramma is more of an eclectic, blinding boom of different experimental electronic-based sounds. It's a stimulating set although I'm not sure as to why it is such a hit with critics. It does sound like an unorderly jumble of noise, I guess it takes some unraveling to get into.

Opening track "Clock Catcher," pounces with heavy bass lines, piercing almost distorted synth-lines and loud, excessive warping soundscapes, enough to bring on a pretty impressive migraine, when put on full blast. Following is "Pickled!" which turns up the trance. It's more laid back, effectively complimented by the twingy ear-piercing electronic lines in the backdrop.

Bass driven "Nose Art," concentrates on a more subdued vibrance, toppled by a mysterious computerized female vocal on the backing. The first three tracks are great, from an experimental perspective however more to my liking is "A Cosmic Drama." Atomospheric, flourished with strings and heavy orchestration, backed with harps--it's more setting the scene than what would be recognized as a song in an "cosmogramma" world. "Zodiac Shit," lays on the bass pretty thick, of course layered with weird spacey, sci-fi noises in the backdrop. Better is "Copmuter Face / Pure Being," which loses the heartbeat-mimicking bass lines and cranks up the synths-driven melody and wharping soundscapes.

"And the World Laughs with You," featuring Thom Yorke, drubs with a series of skittering beats. Its down down feel in comparison to the previous tracks remind me of the XX a lot. "Arkestry," lays down the drum beats in the backdrop pretty hard, nicely complimented by the luxury of the horns. It's a different sound to what we've heard so far, more jazz influenced.

At 4-minutes long, the longest track on here is "Mmmhmm" featuring Thundercat, which is one of the first that doesn't really do anything for me. Neither does the second longest that follows "Do the Astral Plane," which romps with distorted bass lines. It has a bit of melody but not enough. "Satelllliiiiiiiteee," weird title; quite a normal track. Toned down dance beats, quiet electronic-studded backdrop and a inaudible female vocals, probably talking about satellites. "German Haircut," trails off the same off-beat jazz as "Arkestry." Sounds like it should have followed right after that, not three tracks after. Similar to "Satelite," "Recoiled," has fun with laid back dance beats and pulsing synth in the background.

There's a couple tracks towards the end of the 17-track set--it's not really that long as most of the tracks are 1 to 2 minutes long, but kinda retrace the same experimental electronic front as the tracks towards the beginning. Cosmogramma is an interesting mix of sounds, not as groundbreaking as critics and fans alike seem to think but I do like a lot.

Best: A Cosmic Drama, Clock Catcher, Pickled!, Nose Art, Arkestry, And the World Laughs with You

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Metacritic's Best Reviewed Albums of the Year, so far

I'm still looking Metacritic's best (and worst) reviewed albums of the year so far. I'm very intrigued by the list as I never knew there was such a list before. Looks like an awesome way to find new "critically acclaimed" albums, I hadn't heard of before.

Here's a quick run through of albums I selected from the list and previewed on iTunes and thoughts (yes, I did choose by how interesting the cover was):

1. Janelle Monae - The ArcAndroid (Suits II & III). Love this album! Very pleased to see it so high, will probably be very high on my end of year list too.

2. Ali Farka Toure And Toumani Diabate - Ali & Toumani. I'm not sure weather to be surprised to see this so high. It's world music, which I'm not into at all. The clips on iTunes don't sound too interesting either.

3. Laurie Anderson - Homeland. Topical album about politics. Strange arrangements, with weird afro-centric sounds. I don't get it. Either I'm too young to be listening or it's a tad overrated.

5. Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma. Showcases a dizzying clash of electronica, sci-fi inspired soundscapes, it's ear-piercing and it works. Needs a closer listen.

7. The Roots - How I Got Over. Reviewed this a couple days ago. Stunning hip-hop album, will defiantly be very high on my end of year list.

9. The Dillinger Escape Plan - Option Paralysis. Intense heavy metal. Angry head-banging clashes of drums, electronic guitars and screamo. The fifth track "Endless Endings" is nuts. I like a bit of rock--heavy even, but it's not really my thing.

11. The National - High Violet. Another one I reviewed. I gave it a 4, but it's one I'm loving more and more with every listen.

12. Sam Amidon - I See the Sign. Very folk/country, made more interesting by covering R. Kelly's "Relief." I like this album a lot, one I want to listen to closer.

13. LCD Soundsystem - This is Happening. Ww_Adh didn't like this album much, he only gave it a 2.5 but I'm really liking the previews. I've never been interested in the band before.

14. Sliegh Bells - Treats. Showcasing tough electro-studded rock. It's pretty noisy but I feel I need to listen to this closer.

15. Erykah Badu - New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh. I didn't her the last album much, the prequal to this one so I didn't feel I had much obligation to listen to this one however I think I should re-think that.

27. Brother - Black Keys. It's produced by Danger Mouse, it sounds interesting. Another I might buy.

30. Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can. My friend owns this album, I've been wanting to get around to listening to this but haven't had the time yet.

32. Teenage Fanclub - Shadows. Strong alternative rock. I want to hear more. It looks like my end of year list just got a little more interesting.

Worst reviewed of the year:

Most of these really did suck and were particularly disappointing--some were unfortunate disappointments:

1. Lil' Wayne - Rebirth. A pretty abysmal flop of a hip-hop meets rock album.
6. Kesha - Animal. Well...
10. Christina Aguilera - Bionic. "You Lost Me," is an amazing cut from that album however there weren't many more.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Album Review: Bruno Mars - Doo-Wops & Hooligans (3.5/5)

American singer/songwriter Bruno Mars' has had a nothing short of a stellar year so far, lending his vocals to two of the years biggest hits (B.o.B's "Nothin' on You" and Travie McCoy's "Billionaire"). Similar to Canadian rapper Drake, I'm more impressed with the hype surrounding his debut album Doo-Wops & Hooligans than the album itself.

The album lays on a thick slab of pop underlined with hints of Caribbean and reggae inspired flavor. But with only a short 10 track set, there's only a handful of stunners whilst the rest lack any sort of grip.

Opening track "Grenade," lays down the heavy beats, synths and a layer of soundscape, while following popular chart smash "Just the Way You Are," sounds just alluring as ever, with its heart-tingling tuneful piano backing and bass line. The melodic upbeat rock of "Runaway Baby" re-calls the same rock of Maroon 5. I like this one a lot too.

Whilst I do enjoy how the albums mid-section discharges a cooling laid back vibrance with temperate Caribbean flavored tracks such as "Our First Time," a laggard mid tempo, opening with the seductive lyric ("don't it feel good baby?") and the more upbeat percussion-driven "The Lazy Song" featuring more blunt lyrics ("meet a really nice girl, have some really nice sex") the sounds doesn't work as well with "Liquor Store Blues" with Damien Marley. I don't particularly care for "Marry You," either, which is ultimately nothing more than a "Just the Way You Are" re-hash.

Tracks towards the end are particularly better, I love the stern piano sanctioned balladry of "Talking to the Moon." Mars' delivery sound more sincere than on "Just the Way You Are." "Count On Me," is another ballad but with simpler lyrics, more restraint composition whittled down to just an acoustic guitar and percussion. The album ends with "The Other Side," featuring Cee Lo Green and B.o.B, showcasing some appealing old fashioned energetic funk/pop.

Admittedly, I did like this more when I listened to it last week, but a couple listens through and I wasn't feeling it as much. It's run time is only 30 minutes long but not enough solid tracks to back it up, and where it does fall short is its flimsy mid-section--which is kind of weird considering it's because of its lighthearted stance, why I liked this album to begin with. But in all, it's not a bad effort, just not as solid as I had hoped.

Best: Just the Way You Are, Talking to the Moon, Runaway Baby, The Other Side, Count On Me

Friday, October 08, 2010

Album Review: The Roots - How I Got Over (4.5/5)

I'm looking at Metacritic's best reviewed albums of the year so far and so far, I've reviewed and really liked only two albums inside the top forty, Janelle Monae and The National. There's a handful in there I want to check out soon including LCD Soundsystem, Erykah Badu and Laura Marling, however leading the pack is How I Got Over, the ninth album from American hip-hop band The Roots.

Yeah, Eminem's served up one of the years best and most successful hip-hop albums so far, but it pales in comparison when compared to a less radio friendly, beat and lyrics focused set such as How I Got Over, exhibiting intricate and sometimes complex arrangements, exuding a more vintage sense of hip-hop. The first four tracks showcase the album's more somber moments, it doesn't really kick into gear until the fifth track, but still delivers four striking tracks along the way.

The aptly titled "A Peace of Light," is an enticing opener, shadowed with layers of harmonies over burnishing keyboards before live sounding drums kick in, it's a short 2 minute opener swiftly followed by the throwback jazz inspired "Walk Alone," aligned with different layers of sound, adding to the fun of the alighting mid-tempo. Laced with indistinct piano keys, orchestratic strings and jazzy guitar chords and tambourines clamped in its enchanting backdrop.

Slow burning "Dear God 2.0," follows, bass-driven and jolting with percussion and drums, it features American hip-hop group Monsters of Folk, they sound like an awesome group, which features Jim James of rock band My Morning Jacket. My friend owns their album Evil Urges he's been trying to get me to listen to their work for a long time now, I guess this is the closest I've gotten. "Radio Daze" is a laid back groove highlighting the cruising swag of the '90s, backed with drums and overhang with underlining piano keys.

Fifth track "Now or Never," kicks up the tempo, with a more invigorating drum driven composition, exuding energy on the verses that highlight the swift turn up in intense. Title track "How I Got Over," clocks in the heavy melody, eclipsed by bursts of melodic layered vocals and what I think is a sample buried in old fashioned radio static, I guess to exude that vintage effect. It works very well. It's also the first track not to have any features.

After a quick interlude "Dillatude: The Flight of Titus," angelically swaying with intricate beats, harps and harmonies, we proceed into the albums second half--which exudes more energy than its first. "The Day," a swaggering mid-tempo, laced with guitar strings, flutes and bass. "Right On," is among my favorites on here, provoking thundering, harsh hip-hop bass lines under solid energetic verses by S.T.S, one of the handful here stripping down to aggressive '90s hip-hop.

"Doin' It Again," clambering with hi-hats, drums and a hollowing backdrop. I'm not sure if it's suppose to be sampling LL Cool J's "Doin' It," it kind of sounds like it. Darkening "The Fire" pounces with aphotic strung piano keys and bass. I love the extravagant production on interlude "Tunnel Vision," drum-driven, stuttering horns and bursts of melody. Whilst keeping up a high level of consistence throughout, the album ends on bum note, with bland tongue-clicking coasted bass of "Web 20/20."

The Roots have been dubbed underdogs for awhile now, it's weird title to have over 10 years and 9 albums into your career and it's also a shame too, with the quality hip-hop they make, they deserve to be put on the same pedestal with the likes of Jay-Z and Eminem, especially with this album.

Best: Right On, Walk Alone, Dear God 2.0, How I Got Over, Radio Daze, Doin' It Again

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Previewing Bruno Mars' Doo Wops & Hooligans

I'm loving Bruno Mars' debut album Doo Wops & Hooligans, I've only heard the thirty seconds previews on iTunes as the album is not released in the UK until January, but from the clips I'm loving the laid back feel good urban-pop of the record. Review will be up soon, I heard the songs leaked in full on YouTube.

Billboard Hot 100, October 16, 2010

1. Just the Way You Are - Bruno Mars

Bruno Mars' "Just the Way You Are" clocks in its third week at #1, the years sixth longest run at #1 so far, tying with Usher's "OMG."

2. Like a G6 - Far East Entertainment

Hot on the heels of Mars is Far East Entertainment and their single "Like a 6" which leaps 4 spots up to #2 and could well claim their first chart topper next week (or possibly the week after), they are above Mars in digital sales right now although they have only just broken the top 10 on Mediabase.

4. Just a Dream - Nelly

Rapper Nelly lands his ninth top 5 single with "Just a Dream." The last time a single of his landed in the top 5 on the Hot 100 was 5 years ago with "Grillz," which was also his fourth #1.

16. Glee Cast - Toxic
25. Pramore - The Only Exception
26. Glee Cast - The Only Exception

Following last week's Britney Spears inspired Britney/Brittany episode, Glee land only 2 of the 6 songs released to iTunes debuted in the top 40, "I'm a Slave 4 U," "Stronger," "...Baby One More Time" and "Me Against the Music," debut consecutively outside of the top 50, surprisingly non of which outperformed the peaks original versions, including the most popular of the bunch, "Toxic" which debuts at #16 (only 7 spots behind the #9 peak of the original).

Nine spots lower is the only non-Britney cover, Paramore's "The Only Exception" which debuts at #26 and funnily enough the Paramore's original version charts just one spot higher, charging up 32 spots back up to #25 just one spot short of its #24 peak. Collectively, the songs sold 406,000 downloads. According to Billboard the Glee cast has now charted 75 song entries on the Hot 100, toppling The Beatles 75 chart entries.

17. Gonorrhea - Lil Wayne featuring Drake

As far as gut-churning titles go, rapper Lil' Wayne takes the gold. His new single "Gonorrhea" debuts at #17, his ninth top 20 single. Also this week his eighth album, I Am Not a Human Being debuts at #2 on the Billboard 200 with a 110k haul.

21. Fuck You! - Cee Lo Green

Whilst here in the UK, Cee Lo Green could be scoring his first solo UK #1 this weekend, however in the US it looks like it still taking some time. This week it moves up 6 notches to just outside of the top 20, it's been 6 weeks but I am still convinced this will be a hit--It's currently still rising on Mediabase.

Personal Airplay, October 7, 2010

TW LW Title - Artist
1 ... 1 .... Just the Way You Are - Bruno Mars (2 weeks @ #1)
2 .... 8 ... Fuck You! - Cee Lo Green
3 ... 3 ... Magic - B.o.B. feat. Cuomo Rivers
4 ... 7 ... Written in the Stars - Tinie Tempah
5 ... 2 ... Teenage Dream - Katy Perry
6 ... 4 ... Robyn - Hang with Me
7 ... 5 ... Start without You - Alexandra Burke
8 ... 6 ... Get Outta My Way - Kylie Minogue (2 wks @ #1)
9 .. 12 .. Only Girl (In the World) - Rihanna
10 .. 16 .. Heartbeat - Enrique Iglasias

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Album Review: KT Tunstall - Tiger Suit (5/5)

Finally, I've found my only five-star album of the year so far. An album to finally unseat Plan B's Strickland Banks in the running for my album of the year. Scottish singer KT Tunstall's third album Tiger Suit is remarkable, an immaculate sound built around a perfect blend of acoustic-pop and folkish pop but also shimmering with layers of alternative rock and techno-ish dance influences, tied together with a wall of authentic lyrical depth.

Racketing "Uummannaq Song," opens the album, lyrically re-calling the same sass and nerve as American indie rock band Rilo Kiley ("It's my turn with the spotlight burning a hole"). Languished with layers of keyboard and maracas for the first few seconds, guitars and bold vocals kick in shortly after before the stronger guitar and 'board melodies come in to play, backed with drums and eccentric chanting stapled along with the trembling percussion for its penetrating chorus.

It's an awesome opener, very different to electrifying follow up "Glamour Puss," lined with distorted bass lines, bursts of subtle electronic guitar work, nicely complimented by jaunty whistling. I like the contrast, towards it's darker, grungy mid-section--gradually mudding over vocals with a static effects, rippling electronic guitars caving in before lightens up as it plays out. It's an invigorating track, but more interesting is the folky techno influenced "Push that Knot Away," pouncing with rhythmic bass lines and synths, eventually elevating to more complex strings of soundscapes, spacey dance beats and electronic sounds towards the end. Could be a potential dancefloor filler.

Progressive "Difficulty" opens with chugging layers of distorted electronic guitars, consistently increasing in pitch before other the harps, strings and penetrating hi-hats come into effect which all halt as the tempo kicks up for its psychedelic drum-driven play out. There's more variety in Tunstall's vocals on here, as she ascends into falsetto on some parts. Melody friendly "Fade Like a Shadow" is nice slice of alternative pop, creating a wall of quirky acoustic sounds; guitars, drums, percussion and bells for extra quirk.

"Lost," is a lovely restraint ballad, the first to really bank on emotion, for its first half anyway. Rapid drums kick in for its fast paced second half, psyched with entrancing chanting. It plays out softly though, with strings and heavy orchestration intact. "Golden Frames," is a haunting throwback to a raw acoustic sound (the track even opens with ghostly "wooo's") and her vocals are extra raspy, I guess to emphasize that raw effect. It's very downbeat, only really carried with guitars, percussion and haunting background noise.

Engaging "Come On Get In," is a fun guitar-driven romp, with a cool bassy break-down. It's the most fun Tunstall has on here. It's kinda similar to "Madame Trudeaux," which enjoys the same guitar-driven romp, but on a more serious note--it's another that re-calls the same spoken word akwardness as Rilo Kiley. "(Still A) Weirdo" is a gentle brewing acoustic ballad about never being able to fit in ("still a weirdo, still a weirdo after all these years").

"The Entertainer," brings the album to a close, a somber ballad, heavily driven by acoustic guitars, drums and melody. It's very heartfelt. Her voice here reminds me of Alanis Morrisette.

Tiger Suit doesn't sound like a vulnerable coming-to-terms moping behind a delicate fort of the same acoustic guitar patterns over and over again, the problem I usually have with acoustic pop artists (save for Jack Johnson), because there's normally never much to talk about and the sound normally gets tired halfway through. Tiger Suit has its introspective moments but is still a fun record without having to weigh in too much on risk taking and pushing the envelope but just delivering an enjoyable strong set of interesting songs without a dud in the bunch.

Best: Uummannaq Song, Glamour Puss, Fade Like a Shadow, Push that Knot Away, Lost, (Still A) Weirdo, Come On Get In

Katy Perry lines up "Firework"

Following two major #1's is "Firework," the third single to be lifted from pop singer Katy Perry's Teeange Dream. It's an energetic track, one of the better ones on the album. Take a listen below:

Monday, October 04, 2010

Prevewing KT Tunstall's Tiger Suit

I'm really enjoying Scottish acoustic-pop singer KT Tunstall's new album Tiger Suit. I hadn't heard of her work before, but I know her first album Eye to the Telescope was very successful, this is her third. I think I've finally found my first five-star album of the year so far. I'm going to give it a few more spins and the review will be up soon.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Album Review: Mark Ronson & the Business Intl - Record Collection (4/5)

The fun '80s synth charged "Bang Bang Bang" has been one of my favorite singles of the year so far, so I was very excited about what British producer Mark Ronson's third album Record Collection had to offer. And whilst it has its fair share of duds, I wasn't been disappointed. It's not perfect, but it's more well-produced and coherent than 2007's sophomore breakthrough Version, which landed the popular international hit, the cover of The Zuton's "Valerie" featuring Amy Winehouse--just an addition to the impressive resume Ronson's built over the last 3 years, which also includes producing the most part of Winehouse's Grammy-nominated second album Back to Black.

Under the music alias of Mark Ronson & the Business Int, Record Collection is an engaging mix of old fashioned pop with an electronic spin and a mash of other interesting sounds, of course it also hits its speed bumps every so often. After the fun '80s synth driven pop of "Bang Bang Bang," the album switches up '80s dance-pop for modern American hip-hop on "Lose It (In the End)" featuring vocals from American rapper Ghostface Killah. It's a fantastic track. Booming with tight production--hovering with rapid drum work and blaring horns. Following is the jaunty old fashioned pop of "The Bike Song," layered with keyboards, drums and horns--the trio of sounds really work on the chorus, prancing beneath the repetition of ("gonna ride my bike until I get home").

British veteran, Boy George lends his vocals on the slightly Afro-centric "Somebody to Love Me," layered with clobbering drum beats and distinctive guitar strings. More interesting is dizzying production of "Glass Mountain Thrust," I particularly like this because it features D'Angelo, one of my favorite soul singers ever, I haven't heard from him since 2000's Voodoo. There's a lot going on here; the distorted pitch-differing vocals, the different sections of drum beats shadowed over the screeching patch of noise beneath the drums. It's invigorating, one of those tracks that gets better after a couple listens.

"Circuit Breaker," is a riveting instrumental, clocking in those '80s influenced dance beats again--toned over with sheets of synth, keyboards, stuttering horns and soundscapes hollowing beneath dance-pop production. Fitting in some alternative hip-hop is the aptly "Introducing the Business," a track that's supposed to introduce the new 'Business' addition to Ronon's title but is overshadowed by the spacey bass driven production. I also love the bursts of orchestration and strings in the background, It's a nice touch to what would have been a pretty aggressive track otherwise.

Title track "Record Collection," I don't like so much--it's very spacey, stamped with intricate beats and soundscapes but there's not much else going on and the lyrics leave a lot to be desired. I'm not too fond of the scattering drum work that drives the most part of "Hey Boy." Closing track "The Night Last Night" is better, sporting a polished alternative rock sound, gleaming with melody. It features Rose Elinor Dougall of female British indie trio The Pipettes. She's appears before on "You Gave Me Nothing," another of the albums moments that doesn't work for me.

There are three 1 minute interludes scattered throughout the album, I don't see the point myself, they feel rather insignificant however my favorite is "Selector" wedged in between "Record Collection" and "Hey Boy." It's bass-heavy '90s hip-hop throwback, it sounds like it was recorded in a low-budget studio in someones basement which is all part of the fun, I guess.

In all, Record Collection deliverers the side of eclectic mix of sounds you would expect from a producer like Ronson--whilst the more '80s influenced tracks are fun to listen to, where the album shines most are on the more interesting left-field numbers that take a few listens before you can fully grasp and apart from the few that don't quite stick, Record Collection is a pleasing mix of songs and one that I'm happy to have in my record collection.

Best: Bang Bang Bang, Lose It (In the End), Glass Mountain Thrust, The Bike Song, The Night Last Night, Selector

Personal Airplay, September 30, 2010

TW LW Title - Artist
1 ... 10 .. Just the Way You Are - Bruno Mars (1 week @ #1)
2 ... 3 ... Teenage Dream - Katy Perry
3 ... 7 ... Magic - B.o.B feat. Cuomo Rivers
4 ... 6 ... Hang with Me - Robyn
5 ... 2 ... Start Without You - Alexandra Burke
6 ... 1 ... Get Outta My Way - Kylie Minogue (2 wks @ #1)
7 .. 15 .. Written in the Stars - Tinie Tempah
8 .. 17 .. Fuck You! - Cee Lo Green
9 ... 4 ... Love the Way You Lie - Eminem feat. Rihanna (6 wks @ #1)
10 .. 9 .. Pack Up - Eliza Doolittle