Thursday, December 29, 2011

Happy New Year!

I know, I know it's early--but I don't have anymore posts scheduled for this year so this is as good a time as any: Happy new year to all of my loyal readers. Thank you for the comments, compliments and criticisms! Really mans an awful lot. I would like to say here's to another year, but I'm uncertain whether I will still be blogging regularly towards the latter half of 2012 when I'm (hopefully) off to University, but I guess we'll see. You won't be hearing from until sometime mid-January, until then...

Check out:
Personal Chart, Top 100 of 2011
Best Albums of 2011

Personal Airplay, Top 100 of 2011

Billboard Hot 100, January 7, 2011

1. Sexy and I Know It - LMFAO

After a record-tying 7 week stint at #2, LMFAO's annoyingly infectious "Sexy and I Know It" climbs a notch up to #1, ending Rihanna's impressive 8 week stay at #1 with "We Found Love" featuring Calvin Harris, scoring the duo's second chart topper after "Party Rock Anthem" lead the hot 100 for a 6 week frame earlier this year (which re-bounds 15-9 this week). "Sexy" sold nearly 400k this week, earning it a fourth week atop the digital songs tally. It's this week's digital gainer. This is the first time a duo has scored back to back #1's since American hip-hop paring OutKast sent "The Way You Move" and "Hey Ya!" to the pinnacle back in 2003.

3. The One That Got Away - Katy Perry

In her desperate bid to break Michael Jackson's record of the most #1's spawned by one album, Katy Perry's "The One That Got Away" nabs a new peak, climbing 2 spots up to #3, scoring her eighth top 3 single. It's increase was assisted by the newly issued remix featuring B.o.B. which according to Billboard accounted for 26% of its overall sales.

Personally, I'm tired of singer's issuing quickie remixes for a higher peak. It's annoying and shamelessly desperate. Did B.o.B. really need to be on here?

5. Niggas In Paris - Kanye West & Jay-Z

"Niggas In Paris" climbs a notch to #5, scoring Kanye his 11th top 5 single and Jay-Z his 10th.

7. Set Fire to the Rain - Adele

Adele climbs 5 spots up to #7, scoring the singer her third top 10 single--following previous chart topper's "Rolling In the Deep" and "Someone Like You." It's this week's airplay gainer.

10. Dance (A$$) - Big Sean featuring Nicki Minaj

American rapper Big Sean lands his first top 10 single with "Dance (A$$)" which climbs 2 spots up to #10 this week. This is Nicki Minaj's fifth top 10 single.

19. Mistletoe - Justin Bieber
34. It Girl - Jason DeRulo

Justin Bieber re-bounds 13 spots up to #19 with his Christmas single "Mistletoe," 8 spots short of it's inital #11 peak. Also re-bounding beyond their peak is Jason DeRulo who climbs 17 spots back up to #34, 17 spots short of its inital #17 peak.

35. Rolling In the Deep - Adele

Adele is back up 6 spots with "Rolling In the Deep" but is not bulleted. Strange... or typo.

Personal Chart, 2011 #1's

Personal Airplay, December 29, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lana Del Rey "Born to Die"

There's a lot of hype surrounding American singer/song-writer Lana Del Rey. Her sound is very dark and haunting like a less frenetic Florence + the Machine or Paloma Faith. This eerie number is her official second single release, following her first top 10 hit "Video Games." It's the title track from her forthcoming debut album, out January 22.

Bye iTunes

Hello Spotify.

Yesterday I was finally convinced enough to leave iTunes and run into the arms of Spotify. Being an avid iTunes user since 2006, I didn't want to believe that there was a better, more convenient music player and music service out there. I've always over-looked the flaws of iTunes and the idea of cherry-picking my music collection to put my iPhone (which I absolutely hate doing), but then came Spotify a service that allows you to stream from the 15 million track cloud storage.

At £10 a month, to use their service on my phone and stream their songs both online and offline, I find it more convenient than buying songs on iTunes to listen to the whole thing--even songs that I know that I won't care for after a week. Some may argue that you probably wouldn't purchase £120 worth of tracks on iTunes anyway, so the idea of it being a cheaper option is immaterial. However, the music you would listen to on Spotify knowing that you have a fixed rate to pay every month will probably exeed £120.

The problem now is that I have a collection of nearly 1,000 albums (both digital and physical) that I have built up for almost a decade, which I'll never use again.

Personal Airplay, Top 100 #1's (1998 - 2010)

I'm currently in the middle of making my personal chart's top 100 of 2011. Here are the song's that have topped my lists over the last decade:

1998: Together Again - Janet Jackson (7 weeks @ #1)
1999: Baby One More Time - Britney Spears (7 weeks @ #1)
2000: Music - Madonna (3 weeks @ #1)
2001: Can't Get You Out of My Head - Kylie Minogue (7 weeks @ #1)
2002: Without Me - Eminem (3 weeks @ #1)
2003: Crazy In Love - Beyonce feat. Jay-Z (9 weeks @ #1)
2004: Toxic - Britney Spears (11 weeks @ #1)
2005: We Belong Together - Mariah Carey (5 weeks @ #1)
2006: Chasing Cars - Snow Patrol (4 weeks @ #3)
2007: Umbrella - Rihanna feat. Jay-Z (5 weeks @ #1)
2008: Womanizer- Britney Spears (5 weeks @ #1)
2009: Poker Face - Lady Gaga (7 weeks @ #1)
2010: Telephone - Lady Gaga feat. Beyonce (10 weeks @ #1)

Billboard Hot 100, December 31, 2011

1. We Found Love - Rihanna (feat. Calvin Harris)

Rihanna clocks in an eighth week atop the Hot 100 with "We Found Love" featuring Calvin Harris, making it the year's longest-running #1, surpassing Adele's "Rolling In Deep's" 7 week haul. It's also now Rihanna's longest-running #1, passing the 7 week of "Umbrella." The last song to spend a longer frame at #1 was Ke$ha's "TiK ToK" which spent 9 weeks at the top in 2010. However, possibly showing signs of slowind down, this week it loses its bullet.

2. Sexy and I Know It - LMFAO

LMFAO's "Sexy and I Know It" spends a 7th week at #2, tying Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" 7 week frame at #2 between 2009 and 2010.

3. It Will Rain - Bruno Mars

Bruno Mars' "It Will Rain" is this week's airplay gainer, which spends yet another week bulleted at #3. It's still rising rapidly in airplay--this weeks it climbs 2 spots up to #2 on the airplay songs tally--this could potentially be the first #1 of 2012.

13. Set Fire to the Rain - Adele

Adele climbs a solid 8 spots up to #13 wih "Set Fire to the Rain," the third American single from 21, scoring the songstress her third top 20 hit. It's this week's digital gainer selling 100k this week.

37. Sleazy - Ke$ha (feat. Lil Wayne, Wiz Khalifa, T.I. & Andre 3000)

A revamped version of Ke$ha's "Sleazy" re-enters the Hot 100 at #37. Originally a solo record, it was cherry-picked off of Ke$ha's Cannibal EP peaking at #51 fall of last year.

39. Paradise - Coldplay

Coldplay re-enter the top 40 with "Paradise" following it's #15 peak earlier.

Personal Airplay, December 22, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Best albums of 2011

On the whole, 2011 has been a pretty weak year for great albums however, three albums really defined the year for me. First there was the Foo Fighter's fantastic seventh album Wasting Light, a great, powerful, air-punching rock album--that also spawned one of my favorite songs of the year "Walk." Adele's commercial monster of a sophomore album, 21 which re-ignited the world's love for sophisticated, pop-contemporary music with an unmissable soulful bearing--almost like it was the '90s again, where you could just sell records by just standing there and singing. Consequently it landed two of the year's biggest hits, "Rolling in the Deep" and "Someone Like You." And lastly, Lady Gaga's Born This Way, the year's most thrilling and shameless pop album that ceased to stop spitting out hit after hit. Sure, it wasn't the success that her blockbuster debut The Fame and its accompanying EP The Fame Monster was, but it made for a more ambitious follow-up. Great new discoveries for me this year included the wonderful folk/rock of duo The Civil Wars' Barton Hollow, American rock band Foster the People's Torches and folk band The Decemberists.

1. Foo Fighters - Wasting Light
The Foo Fighters didn't only deliver the year's best album, but also, arguably, the best of their careers. Rocking out their hardest since 2002's One By One, capitalizing on a heated mix of hard-hitting, muscular rock but also venturing into more melancholic territories. Essential track: Walk

2. Adele - 21
The year's biggest album is a very close second. British soul singer Adele gave the curse of the sophomore slump the middle finger as she delivered this beast of a follow-up. It catapulted the soulful songstress to the pinnacle of contemporary music with her sensational blend of soul, pop, light rock and that mesmerising vocal. Essential track: Someone Like You

3. Lady Gaga - Born This Way
Delivering the year's most thrilling, unforgiving and relentless pop album is Lady Gaga. Masterfully over the top with its theatrics, invigorating electro-pop and cheesy (but commendable) underlining "inspirational" overtones. Essential track: The Edge of Glory

4. The Civil Wars - Barton Hollow
Embossed with subtlety and gentle acoustics, The Civil Wars (Joy Williams and John Paul White) delivered a beautiful collection of indie/folkish, country-studded cuts that melted my heart. Essential track: 20 Years

5. Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
Noel Gallagher's full length debut was a fantastic conventional rock album--delivering everything from the full-fledged guitar driven anthems to the more stripped back acoustic cuts. Essential tracks: The Death of You and Me

6. Kasabian - Velociraptor!
Another great rock album, Kasabian's fourth album Velociraptor! wasn't one that I was too enthusiastic about earlier, but it grew on me a whole lot. A fantastic, genuine record chock-full of hard-hitting rock. Essential track: Re-Wired

7. The Strokes - Angles
The band who landed the critically acclaimed debut Is This It, delivered their first album in almost half a decade--a satisfying mix of their signature sound and some ventures into some experimental territories. Essential track: Under Cover of Darkness

8. Florence + The Machine - Ceremonials
Fantastic follow up to 2009's Lungs, capitalising on the band's knack for dark, hollowing, loud alternative afro-centric rock/pop. Essential track: What the Water Gave Me

9. Gillian Welch - The Harrow & The Harvest
Fourth album from American bluegrass singer Gillan Welch was a winner--delivering an emotional display of minimalistic dark and sentimental acoustic folk. Essential track: Dark Turn of Mind

10. Elbow - Build a Rocket Boys!
It's too bad the follow up to 2008's critically lauded The Seldom Seen Kid, wasn't greeted with a similar reception. Although this wasn't better, I did admire it's more atmospheric turn in balance with its harder rock moments. Essential track: Lippy Kids

11. Bon Iver, Bon Iver
Bon Iver continued to trail the stripped-down, heartfelt and endearing folk of their critically acclaimed last album For Emma, Forever Ago, but chased a slightly more musically fulfilled sound on here. Essential track: Perth

12. Foster the People - Torches
This was a great new discovery for me. After loving the lovely minimalist rock of "Pumped Up Kicks," the album followed suit, providing more upbeat, tuneful, slightly '80s influenced rock. Essential track: Pumped Up Kicks

13. Ed Sheeran - +
British newcomer Ed Sheeran delivered the year's most sincere acoustic-pop album. Essential track: The A Team

14. Radiohead - The King of Limbs
As a huge Radiohead fan, I'm disappointed I didn't enjoy this a little more. Where their infamous experimenting with obscure electronic sounds worked wonders on the fan-dividing Kid A and successive albums, on here the experimentalism lands on quite a flat note, but still, a bad album this was not. Essential track: Codex

15. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
If it isn't broke, experiment a little with it: A phrase I believe Seattle folk band Fleet Foxes had in mind with this album, which used the contemporary folk pop of their eponymous debut as springboard for successfully venturing into more left-field musical territories. Essential track: Montezuma

16. Jill Scott - The Light of the Sun
In quite a poor year for R&B, Jill Scott delivered genre's only significant album for me. It's not necessarily her best work, but a decent addition to her soulfully feisty collection. Essential track: So in Love

17. Bright Eyes - The People's Key
A strong, traditional alternative rock album with pop influences that didn't enthuse the critics but worked a treat for me. Essential track: Approximate Sunlight

18. Beyonce - 4
I wasn't impressed with Beyonce's fourth album earlier, but it grew on me quite a bit. It wasn't the consistent R&B record I had hoped for, but can you complain with such belters such as "Best Thing I Never Had," "Love On Top" and "Party." Essential track: Best Thing I Never Had

19. The Decemberists - The King Is Dead
This was a great new discovery for me, however I wish I did love it more. "This Is Why We Fight" is one my favorite songs of the year, however although the album does deliver some great moments, there not as strong as some of the other folk-focused albums this year--but it's still decent. Essential track: This Is Why We Fight

20. Peter Bjorn & John - Gimme Some
Sixth album from Swedish indie rock band Peter Bjorn & John delivered a satisfying mix of tuneful and rhythm harbouring rock. Essential track: Eyes

21. Noah & The Whale - Last Night on Earth
Expanding on their indie/rock sound, Noah & The Whale's third album indulged in some pop and electronic studded influences. Essential track: Life is Life

22. Rihanna - Talk That Talk
Slugging out her sixth album, Rihanna let her vagina do the talking as she delivered her horniest work yet. Essential track: Drunk On Love

23. Drake - Take Care
More mature than Thank Me Later, but just as self-indulgent, self-aware and self-concerned all tied together with moody, atmospheric hip-hop beats. Essential track: Headlines

24. Britney Spears- Femme Fatale
A stronger record than 2008's comeback Circus, but not a patch on the career high of 2003's In the Zone. Essential track: I Wanna Go

25. The Wombats - The Modern Glitch
The Wombat's sophomore album wasn't a critic favorite but pleasing critics didn't seem to an intention as they delivered a record full of harmless, fun dance-rock.

Also good:
White Lies - Rituals
Simon Curtis - RA
Amos Lee - Mission Bell
Lil Wayne - Tha Carter IV
Chase and Status - No More Idols
James Morrison - The Awakening
Taking Back Sunday - Taking Back Sunday

Decent but not recommended:
Jessie J - Who You Are
James Blake
Kelly Clarkson -Stronger
The Vaccines - What Did You Expect From the Vaccines?
Owl City - All Things Bright and Beautiful

Arctic Monkeys - Suck It and See. It's lack of direction ultimately made it their weakest effort yet.
Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto. Single-handedly put a stop the growth Coldplay displayed successively on previous albums.
Gorillaz - The Fall. A lot of filler. The animated band's weakest album.
Jennifer Hudson - I Remember Me. A pretty disingenuous R&B record I thought.
All Time Low - Dirty Work. This album was one of the highlights of my friend's year, unfortunately it didn't resonate that well with me. Pretty standard punk/rock/pop with no umph. Their earlier stuff is way better.
Nicole Scherzinger - Killer Love. Not that disappointing, just meh. Not quite sure why I reviewed it. "Right There" is great though.

Billboard Hot 100, December 24, 2012

1. We Found Love - Rihanna (feat. Calvin Harris)

Rihanna spends a seventh week at the top with "We Found Love" featuring Calvin Harris. Its seven week stay ties it with Adele's "Rolling In the Deep" for the longest running #1 this year. It also ties Rihanna's personal record for her longest running #1; "Umbrella," which also topped the Hot 100 for a 7 week frame in 2007. The last single to spend more than 7 weeks at the summit was fellow pop singer Ke$ha's debut single "TiK ToK" which spent 9 weeks at #1 back in January 2009.

2. Sexy and I Know It - LMFAO

American duo LMFAO's annoyingly infectious "Sexy and I Know It" stays put at #2, whereas on the digital songs tally it rebound 3 to 1. It's its sixth week at #2 making it the longest stay at #2 since Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance," which logged in 7 weeks at #2 between 2009 and early 2010 (held off the top spot by Ke$ha's "TiK ToK" in the new year, a great pop injustice).

3. It Will Rain - Bruno Mars

This week's airplay gainer is Bruno Mars' "It Will Rain" which stays bulleted at #3. I believe it's a possible contender to overthrow Rihanna for #1 in the new year--possibly emulating the same chart behavior as his last #1 "Grenade."

4. The One That Got Away - Katy Perry

Making Hot 100 history once again this year, American pop singer Katy Perry's "The One That Got Away" climbs two spots up to #4 scoring Perry's eighth top 5 single but more importantly, it's two notch rise makes Teenage Dream the first album since Janet Jackson's fourth album Rhythm Nation 1814 to score 6 #1's from one album. It's the second time this year she's tied a record set by a Jackson family member, but can she go one further and beat it? I highly doubt that this could become her sixth #1, but stranger things have happened.

10. 5 O'Clock - T-Pain (feat. Whiz Khalifa and Lily Allen)

After two weeks at #11, T-Pain's latest single "5 O'Clock" finally climbs into the top 10, scoring the rapper his sixth top 10 hit--his last was "Can't Believe It" featuring Lil Wayne, back in 2008. This is also Whiz Khalifa's 2nd top 10 hit and British singer Lil Allen's first.

17. Red Solo Cup - Toby Keith

This week's digital gainer is American country singer Toby Keith's "Red Solo Cup" (performed on GLEE I believe) which climbs 18 spots up to #17, scoring the singer his first top 20 hit.

21. Set Fire to the Rain - Adele
29. Marry the Night - Lady Gaga

A big boost for Adele, who climbs 16 spots up to #21 with "Set Fire to the Rain." And the year's other biggest pop star finally climbs into the top 30, rising 3 spots up to #29.

38. Domino - Jessie J

Jessie J climbs 10 spots up to #38 with her latest American single "Domino" scoring her 2nd top 40 hit.

Personal Airplay, December 15, 2011

X Factor winner singles (debut,peak):

(2005)That's My Goal - Shayne Ward (#14,#4)
(2006)A Moment Like This - Leona Lewis (#12,#2)
(2007)When You Believe - Leon Jackson (#18,#16)
(2008)Hallelujah - Alexandra Burke (#10,#9)
(2009)The Climb - Joe McElderry (#18,#15)
(2010)When We Collide - Matt Cardle (#7,#5)
(2011)Cannoball - Little Mix (#24)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Little Mix win the X Factor

Little Mix become the first girl group to win the X Factor. Last week, they became the first girl group to make the final. Their debut single, a cover of Damien Rice's top 10 hit "Cannonball" is out tonight.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

iTunes Play Counts for 2011

Here are my most played tracks of 2011 based on my iTunes play counts. Thankfully there are only a few ties to break and I'm even keeping in some of the "non-credible" tracks I've overplayed this year... I'm not ashamed. This isn't completely accurate because the annoying case of tracks being accidentally removed from iTunes and re-added again.

1. Collide - Leona Lewis/Avicii (1,671)
2. Scheiße - Lady Gaga (512)
3. The A Team - Ed Sheeran (404)
4. The Edge of Glory - Lady Gaga (311)
5. Someone Like You - Adele (303)
6. Marry the Night - Lady Gaga (173)
7. Pumped Up Kicks - Foster the People (141)
8. Heavy Metal Lover - Lady Gaga (135)
9. Walk - Foo Fighters (121)
10. AKA... What a Life - Noel Gallagher (120)
11. My Heart Takes Over - The Saturdays (114)
12. I Need This - Jessie J (111)
13. Alandria - Foo Fighters (98)
14. Do Ya Thing - Rihanna (95)
15. Aliens - Take That (54)
16. Rolling In the Deep - Adele (53)
17. Take It All - Adele (53)
18. Codex - Radiohead (43)
19. Set Fire to the Rain - Adele (43)
20. Rumor Has It - Adele (42)
21. One and Only - Adele (39)
22. Perth - Bon Iver (36)
23. Lindesfarne I - James Blake (33)
24. I Never Learnt to Share - James Blake (24)
25. I Found a Boy - Adele (23)

Billboard Hot 100, December 17, 2011

1. We Found Love - Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris

Rihanna spends a sixth week atop the chart with "We Found Love" featuring Calvin Harris. It's currently tied for 2nd place for the longest running #1 of the year with Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" and LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem" featuring GoonRock and Lauren Bennett, both of which also spent six weeks at the top. I'm sure it has next week on lock too--which will then tie it with Adele's "Rolling In the Deep" for the longest running #1 of the year with 7 weeks.

2. Sexy and I Know It - LMFAO
3. It Will Rain - Bruno Mars

Speaking of LMFAO, they stay put at #2 with their annoying infectious single "Sexy and I Know It" but lose their bullet. Also staying put, but keeping its bullet is Bruno Mars' "It Will Rain" which is this weeks airplay gainer.

5. Good Feeling - Flo Rida

Flo Rida climbs three spots to #5 with "Good Feeling" scoring the rapper's fourth top 5 single following "Low" (#1) "Right Round" (#1) "Sugar" (#5). It's his first top 5 single that doesn't have a feature--if you don't count Etta James as a feature that is.

8. Niggas In Paris - Kanye West and Jay-Z

I'm surprised at how well this has caught on. Kanye West and Jay-Z's "Niggas In Paris" climb six spots up to #8, scoring the pair's first top 10 hit together--previous collaborative efforts, "Monster," "H-A-M," "Otis" missed the top 10 and "Lift Off" missed the top 100.

11. 5 O'Clock - T-Pain feat. Whiz Khalifa and Lily Allen

I thought for sure this would have entered the top 10 this week. T-Pain's "5 O'Clock" featuring Whiz Khlafia and Lily Allen stays bulleted at #11.

19. You Da One - Rihanna

Rihanna climbs back into the top 20 with Talk That Talk's 2nd single "You Da One" climbing three spots up to #19. It peaked at #14 a few weeks ago.

32. Marry the Night - Lady Gaga

In what people are calling Lady Gaga's "Thriller," more because of its ridiculously long length, rather than content--the accompanying video to the latest Born This Way single surely helped it surge 27 spots up to #32, scoring Gaga's 13th top 40 single.

37. Set Fire to the Rain - Adele

According to Billboard--it's is the live version of "Set Fire to the Rain," performed Live at the Royal Albert Hall--taken from the DVD of the same name that has risen a massive 19 spots up to #37, scoring Adele her fourth top 40 single, not the album track.

Personal Airplay, December 8, 2011

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Beyoncé "Dance for You"

I love everything about Beyoncé's "Dance for You," featured on the deluxe edition of her latest album 4. The ridiculously, incredibly, astonishingly, emphatically sexy video (which is everything Britney Spears' Femme Fatale era visually should have been), the song--which is the pure, authentic R&B I've been craving all year.

Rolling Stone albums of 2011

Here is Rolling Stone top 10 albums of 2011, followed by selected others outside of the top 10:

1. Adele - 21. Whilst I'm not surprised to see Adele top this list, I am surprised at how other major music publications haven't given it a top 10 placement--although Mojo and Uncut do delve in more obscure, indie/alternative releases--but to a certain extent so do Rolling Stone. They gave this a weak 3.5 star review, yet it's their #1 album of the year. Perhaps, its unexpected monster success throughout the year swayed their view?

2. Kanye West/Jay-Z - Watch the Throne. This major collaborative release is getting a lot of praise on these lists. Am I missing something? Is it nothing more than a substandard hip-hop album? Even stamped with the names of two rap heavyweights doesn't cover up the fact that this album isn't all that great.

3. Paul Simon - So Beautiful or So What. I gave this a listen on iTunes, it wasn't my thing. Rolling Stone called it "his best album in more than 20 years."

4. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues. Another end-of-year favorite. Great to see this so high. Their last album was #11 on the list in 2008.

5. Radiohead - The King of Limbs. I can't help but feel that this is only so high up because it's Radiohead. Even though Rolling Stone awarded it 4 stars, they exuded nowhere near the same enthusiasm as they did their last album In Rainbows which they placed at #6 on their list in 2007 and awarded a 4.5 star review.

6. Lady Gaga - Born This Way. This is the first list I've seen that has Gaga in its top 10. I thought this would be a no brainer for top 10 across the board, but I guess it's not considered the "almost-pop-masterpiece" I thought it was earlier this year.

7. The Decemberists - The King is Dead. The Decemberists were a great new discovery for me this year. However, where I loved "This Is Why We Fight" to pieces, I wasn't that enthralled by the album.

8. Wilco - The Whole Love. I haven't heard this but I'm sure it deserves its place here, Wilco are a pretty consistent band.

9. Wild Flag. The first obscure release featured in the top 10. This is the debut album from the American indie rock band of the same name.

10. Robbie Robertson - How to Become Clairvoyant. The Canadian legend's first album since 1998. Not really my thing.

20. Foo Fighters - Wasting Light. (It's disgusting that this isn't higher. Disgusting!)
21. Bon Iver, Bon Iver
22. Drake - Take Care
25. Beyonce - 4. (This has grown on me a lot--I now love all the singles, even "Run the World.")
27. Florence + The Machine - Ceremonials. (Way to be different)
42. Destroyer - Kaputt
43. The Kills - Blood Pressures
44. Raphael Saadiq - Stone Rollin
(All albums I discovered on ww_adh's blog fall in line)
47. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake. (Really? That low?)
50. The Lonely Island - Turtleneck and Chain.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Mojo, Uncut and Q Albums of 2011

Mojo's top 10:
  1. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
  2. The Horrors - Skying
  3. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
  4. Jonathan Wilson - Gentle Spirit
  5. Kate Bush - 50 Words for Snow
  6. White Denim - D
  7. Josh T. Pearson - Last of the Country Gentlemen
  8. Anna Calvi - Anna Calvi
  9. Tom Waits - Bad As Me
  10. Wild Beasts - Smother

Mojo bestow the title of 2011's best album upon PJ Harvey's Mercury award winning Let England Shake, an album that's proving unsurprisingly popular among most lists I've viewed. I tried to like this album, but couldn't get into it. I feel like I'm missing out. I'm glad to see the Fleet Foxes' awesome second album Helplessness Blues up so high, because it's so great and because it's the only other album on the list I'm familiar with.

Ucut's top 10:

  1. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
  2. Gillian Welch - The Harrow & The Harvest
  3. Metronomy - The English Riviera
  4. White Denim - D
  5. Josh T. Pearson - Last Of The Country Gentlemen
  6. The Horrors - Skying
  7. Radiohead - The King of Limbs
  8. Wild Beasts - Smother
  9. Bon Iver - Bon Iver
  10. The War on Drugs - Slave Ambient
Uncut also opt for PJ Harvey's Let England Shake. I'm glad to see Gillian Welch, Radiohead and Bon Iver up so high--three albums I've liked a lot this year.

Q's top 10:
  1. Florence + The Machine - Ceremonials
  2. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
  3. Adele - 21
  4. Bon Iver - Bon Iver
  5. Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto
  6. Kanye West and Jay-Z - Watch the Throne
  7. Arctic Monkeys - Suck It and See
  8. St. Vincent - Strange Mercy
  9. Go Tell Fire to the Mountain - WU LYF
  10. Build a Rocket Boys! - Elbow

Q's list is expectedly much more mainstream (I've reviewed 6 albums out of their 10). I'm very surprised to see Florence + The Machine's Ceremonials at #1. I liked the album but I didn't think it was that good and I didn't think critics liked that much either, the same with Kanye West/Jay-Z's Watch the Throne. I'm also surprised that both Arctic Monkeys and Coldplay made it into their top 10, as they both released some of the year's most unimpressive albums (by their standards). This is the first list I've seen that has Elbow's Build a Rock Boys! in their top 10, it's an album I loved but critics took a pass on.

Things the world doesn't need...

...a collaboration between Justin Bieber and Mariah Carey:

Grammy's 2012 AOTY Nominations

Here are the Grammy nominees for next year's Albums of the Year award. Although I'm not completely ignorant to the goings on with the Grammy's, I'm not usually particuarly fussed about who gets nominated and who doesn't. However, I believe this is the first time I've owned, listened and reviewd every album nominated in the catergory (It's a pretty mainstream collection this year). Here's a quick run-down of the nominees in order of who I think (or rather want) to win:

Click on titles to read my review.

Adele - 21. What I said: "19 was a good album, but 21 is a stunner. Musically, more compelling—more complex—more endearing, showcasing musical growth on the most sophisticated level and lyrical maturity however in the midst of it all not losing that slight touch of youth (although it is slightly ballad-heavy, which is fine) therefore still acts as an idealistic sequel to 19." (4.5/5)

Foo Fighters - Wasting Light. What I said: "So could this be their best album to date? Wasting Light is way up there with the Foo Fighters past work. It can mingle with One by One just as well as it can rock out with The Colour and the Shape. Packed with hard-hitting, power-rock as well as nurturing some more dispiriting moments. It's an undeniable winner for the band. It's definitely the best rock album of the year so far." (4.5/5)

Lady Gaga - Born This Way. What I said: "It's nothing short of a thrilling pop record. The ultimate pop album? Not in so many words. But it definitely has all the ingredients: It's invigorating, exciting, consistent, cohesive, masterfully over-the-top all with an underlining authentic inspirational message. It's everything Gaga stands for. 'Weird' is now the new cool and showcases why she is the best of the best when it comes to high-quality, top-notch, masterful pop. It's definitely one of the best pop albums of the year so far." (4.5/5)

Bruno Mars - Doo-Wops and Hooligans. What I said: "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." (3.5/5)

Rihanna - Loud. What I said: "Loud acts as the perfect counterpart to Rated R, as well as being yet another solid pop album. Where it disappoints is it slightly generic outlook and its lack of topical direction, although I do feel I probably would’t be saying that if this album did indeed follow Good Girl Gone Bad—It feels like a good follow-up to both." (4/5)

Friday, December 02, 2011

Lady Gaga "Marry the Night" video

Another month, another adorably pretentious and over the top Lady Gaga video to treat our visual taste buds. At 14 minutes, it's the longest pop video in recent times (bar Kanye West's half an hour endeavour with "Runaway").

Whilst, "Marry the Night" seems more stylistic and more purposefully cinematic than Gaga's previous videos, it still pretty much harbours the ingredients to your typical Gaga video: Outrageous fashion, nudity, unexplainable weird antics (Cheerios shower?) and a lot of "acting." And I'm pretty sure there's an underlining message about unity, freedom, togetherness etc. in there somewhere, if you can wade through all the convolution to find it. It's her most interesting to say the least. Check it out below:

Nicki Minaj "Roman In Moscow"

American rapper Nicki Minaj debuts "Roman In Moscow," the lead single from her forthcoming sophomore album titled Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, centred around her alter-ego Roman Zolanski (schizophrenia at its finest). It's understandably more aggressive than anything on Pink Friday. Check it out below:

We Need to Talk about Kevin was disappointing

I saw We Need to Talk About Kevin a few days ago with my literature class and I was thoroughly disappointed. Of course, I had very high expectations, which is always a problem when the film is based on one of your favorite books. You construct a mental painting of how you think the scenes will be presented, what the characters will look like and what bit of the storyline the director will cruelly cut out.

Well out of these three things, they got one right: The casting was fantastic. Tilda Swinton who played Eva Khatchadourian and up and coming actor Ezra Miller who played Kevin, portrayed the characters to such perfect precision (although I did wonder who's bright idea was it to cast comedic actor John C. Reilly as Franklin in such a serious role--to say it didn't work would be an understatement).

The main problem I had was how they butchered the storyline. First of all: The novel is over 400 pages long, there was no need to make up new scenes. The extended opening scene where Eva is drowning within a claustrophobic crowd drenched with tomato juice is unnecessary--in the novel it was only a memory. The scene where Eva is interviewed for her position at Nyack Travel Agency is also unnecessary--it's not depicted in the book for a reason. There were more scenes that either extended brief, insignificant moments in the book or just made up scenes.

Another gripe I had was the character cutting. Lenny, Kevin's best friend in the novel was completely written out. Why? He was also the driving force behind the novel's most sexually hilarious scene where both Kevin and Lenny accuse their drama teacher of sexual harassment, which was written out. I had heard that the film was going to be approached as a thriller, and yes it did have some sensibilities of a thriller, however the most poignant and significant point of the novel where Kevin murders his classmates is scattered throughout the film, but not him doing the actual deed but the aftermath.

The way the story transpired through the film was incredibly tedious and if anything flawed. The novel is told using the epistolary form as a series of memories, however the film flicking back and forth constantly was confusing--especially you were watching having not read the book. I think it would have been a more enjoyable film if they had stuck to the storyline--beginning with Eva's run in with Mary Woolford (the mother of one of the kids that Kevin murders) at the mall and transpired as an extended flashback, as what happens when the film wasn't in flashback mode was the most boring, pointless, insignificant plot filler ever.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Introducing Skrillex

There's been quite a lot of talk surrounding American dance music producer Sonny Moore aka, Skrillex. I believe he's poised to make quite a big splash on the BBC Sounds of 2012 poll next year. He scored his first charting single "Ruffneck (Full Flex)" earlier this year peaking at #89 in the UK. Check out his latest "Breakin' a Sweat" an intense, dub-step drenched number featuring American rock band The Doors, which cleverly samples the band's #1 hit from the '60s, "Light My Fire."

Billboard Hot 100, December 10, 2011

1. We Found Love - Rihanna (feat. Calvin Harris)

Rihanna clocks in a fifth week atop the chart with "We Found Love," pushing an impressive 210k this week. It takes a one-notch dip to #2 over on the digital songs tally, following its 5 week frame at #1. On the albums chart her sixth album Talk That Talk debuts at #3 with a slightly disappointing 198k.

2. Sexy and I Know It - LMFAO
(10. Party Rock Anthem - LMFA (feat. Lauren Bennett and GoonRock)

Menacing duo LMFAO remain bulleted at #2 with "Sexy and I Know It" as this weeks digital gainer. Their last single "Party Rock Anthem" refuses to die as it rebounds six spots up to #10 this week.

3. It Will Rain - Bruno Mars

In what has been a surprisingly slow burner for the coolest guy in pop, Bruno Mars' "It Will Rain" climbs two spots up to #3, scoring the pop crooner his fourth top 3 hit.

9. The One That Got Away - Katy Perry

It may have risen a notch to #9 and is this weeks airplay gainer--but the question on every chart-watcher's lips is: Will Teenage Dream become the first album to score six #1's. "The One That Got Away" is currently #8 on Mediabase and #6 on iTunes. The possibility is looking a little bleak, however nobody thought "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)" would become Teenage Dream's fifth #1 after it's slow climb to the top.

16. Mr. Know It All - Kelly Clarkson

The Clarkson single that just won't die. After it's soft peak at #10, Kelly Clarkson's "Mr. Know It All" rebounds four spots up to #16.

18. Dance (A$$) - Big Sean (feat. Nicki Minaj)
19. Fly - Nicki Minaj (feat. Rihanna)
20. Super Bass - Nicki Minaj

Nicki Minaj scores another chart triple. Nothing particuarly noteworthy other than "Fly" is the rapper's 10th top 20 single.

31. Talk That Talk - Rihanna (feat. Jay-Z)

The cherry-pickers have spoken and they have chosen the title track of Rihanna's new album to debut high on the chart this week. It's Rihanna and Jay-Z's god knows how many'th top 40 hit.

39. Make Me Proud - Drake

Drake's "Make Me Proud," an album cut from his latest album Take Care featuring Nicki Minaj climbs a massive 33 spots up to #39 scoring Drake's 21st top 40 hit.

Personal Airplay, December 1, 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

Emeli Sande "Daddy"

British singer Emeli Sande's latest single "Daddy" is another great tune from the soulful songstress. Distinctively darker than "Heaven" but still adhereing to that awesome underpinning trip-hop sound and that prominenet scattering drum line. It's a shame this is looking at a miss of the top 10. Check it below:

Friday, November 18, 2011

Album Reviews: Rihanna and Drake

Rihanna - Talk That Talk (4/5). Congratulations to Rihanna on her horniest work yet. On, Talk That Talk, Rihanna's vagina has never been more revved up and ready to go. It begins with the beat heavy urban-drenched opener "You Da One" in which she sings ("You had me yellin' like that... Ain't no other niggas like you") then to the drum and synth heavy R&B title track "Talk That Talk" featuring hip-hop heavyweight Jay-Z.

Then it flows to the albums sexually climatic mid-section where things border on sexual overload--with the bass-doped "Cockiness (Love It)" which bluntly opens with the lyric: "I want you to be my sex slave" which sets the tone for the just as vulgar chorus ("Suck my cock-iness, lick my persuasion") which harbours the repetition of "I love it, I love it, I love it when you eat it."

This is quickly followed by the kinetic hip-hop of "Birthday Cake" a short interlude where Rihanna lays her cards on the table as she states with blunt disposition: "I wanna fuck you right now," and the more darkening R&B of "Roc Me Out" ("Boy I'm so ready, you're taking too long to get my head on the ground"). A prude, she is not.

Sexual vulgarities aside, Talk That Talk, is Rihanna's most musically interesting and diverse (albeit lyrically disappointing) album to date--venturing into a well-executed mix of dance-pop, R&B, hip-hop and even more left-field alternative territories. Eighth track "Drunk On Love" samples British indie pop band The XX's "Intro" from their debut album--Genius! "Where Have You Been" has a strong, throbbing euro-pop edge. It reminds me of Ne-Yo "Closer" a little, before the skewing synths and drums kick in.

Others aren't so enthralling. The attempt at uplifting pop in "We All Want Love" is nothing short of underwhelming (and a little weird as it follows "Birthday Cake"). And I'm not too sold on the Caribbean pop "Watch n' Learn," which is actually just as sexually driven as the aforementioned ("Imma do it on the bed, on the floor, on the couch..."). However, the album does close on a nice note, with the vocally engaging ballad "Farewell" which only highlights how far Rihanna's come since the piercing screeching of "Unfaithful."

Best: We Found Love, Drunk On Love, Talk That Talk, You Da One, Where Have You Been, Farewell

Drake - Take Care (3.5/5). Canadian rapper Drake showcased his distinctive taste in hip-hop with his debut album last year, Thank Me Later, which ultimately revolves around a seductive blend of soft beats, the occasional piano chords, hollowing atmospherics and his indisputable flow. Admittedly, I didn't give it enough appreciation, however the problem I had with such a sensitive sound is that things can get a little dull and repetitive, which is a flaw that transfers itself onto here, except only this time it's an extremely extensive 18 track album that more or less cuts from the same vein. On a more positive note, with such a similar sounding set, it's easier to pick out the highlights such as the scattering beat-heavy hip-hop of lead single "Headlines," the awesome mix of pounding bass lines and piano chords on title track "Take Care" featuring Rihanna. The dark mid-tempo "Marvin's Room" is also personal favorite. Expectedly, some interesting collaborations pop up--such as the quite mellow R&B of "Doing It Wrong" featuring Stevie Wonder and the obligatory Nicki Minaj collab ("Make Me Proud"). Best: Headlines, Marvin's Room, Take Care, Make Me Proud, Doing It Wrong

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Friday, November 11, 2011

Rihanna "You Da One"

Ahead of the release of her sixth album Talk That Talk next week, Barbadian singer Rihanna drops its second single "You Da One," less the frantic dance-pop of "We Found Love" but a laid back R&B ditty with spots of dub-step--"Hold It Against Me" style. Check it below:

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fleetwood Mac "Landslide"

Away from contemporary music, I've really been getting into British/American rock band Fleetwood Mac lately. I bought two of their biggest albums 1975's Fleetwood Mac and 1977's Rumours, to familarise myself with the band. "Landslide," the gentle guitar-backed ballad about adapting to change was a real standout. The lyric ("If you see my relfection in the snow covered hills, well the landslide brought me down") is particuarly touching.

Billboard Hot 100, November 19, 2011

1. We Found Love - Rihanna Featuring Calvin Harris

Rihanna extends her reign at #1 with "We Found Love" to a second week, becoming this week's airplay gainer, with the single also rises 3 spots up to #4 on the radio songs tally. Last week, when "Love" nabbed Rihanna her 11th chart topper she became the seventh artist in Billboard history to score 11 #1's or more, following The Beatles, Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson, Madonna, The Supremes and Whitney Houston.

2. Sexy and I Know It - LMFAO

Hot on Rihanna's heels is LMFAO's "Sexy and I Know It" which climbs a notch to #2. After the misfire of previous single "Champagne Shower," it's surprising the annoying duo have yet another poteintial #1 on their hands--following "Party Rock Anthem."

8. Good Feeling - Flo Rida

Clearly, Flo Rida isn't the chart monster her once was. It wasn't that long ago, Flo was topping the chart for multiple weeks with singles "Right Round" and "Low" and shifting 300k a week. Sure, his singles aren't hot property anymore, but he still can land the odd hit. This week his latest single "Good Feeling" climbs four spots up to #8, scoring his sixth top ten hit.

11. 5 O'Clock - T-Pain Featuring Wiz Khalifa and Lily Allen

Surely set for a top ten entry next week is T-Pain's "5 O'Clock" which climbs three spots up to #11. If this should enter the top ten next week, it will be British singer Lily Allen's first. C'mon!!!

12. It Will Rain - Bruno Mars
18. The One That Got Away - Katy Perry

This week's digital gainer is awarded to Bruno Mars who rises nine notches up to #12 with his latest single "It Will Rain" taken from the accompanying soundtrack to the forthcoming Twilight movie. Katy Perry continues to makes big strides with her latest single "The One That Got Away," the sixth released from her sophomore album Teenage Dream. This week it climbs 16 spots up to #18. It's both Perry and Mars' ninth top twenty single.

19. Super Bass- Nicki Minaj
20. Dance (A$$) - Big Sean Featuring Nicki Minaj
21. Fly - Nicki Minaj Featuring Rihanna

American rapper Nicki Minaj scores a chart triple this week. Her last single single "Super Bass" from her debut album Pink Friday, falls four spots to #19, while her latest feature on fellow American rapper Big Sean's new single "Dance (A$$)" (which is lyrically hilarious) climbs 10 spots up to #20. Whilst, her current single "Fly" featuring Rihanna climbs 1 notch to #21, scoring itself a new peak.

Personal Airplay, November 10, 2011

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Album Review: The Civil Wars - Barton Hollow (4.5/5)

Okay, so I'm not the biggest fan of the more obscure country-tinged, indie/folk however sometimes the blending of those sounds can be done so immaculately and wonderfully you can't help but embrace it. Some good examples are American folk band Fleet Foxes, particularly their first eponymous album or Scottish singer/songwriter KT Tunstall's fantastic third album Tiger Suit. And now Barton Hollow.

So, who are The Civil Wars? The indie folk duo is made up of Christian pop singer Joy Williams, whose authentic, gracious vocal is the root of the duo's intimate and sensitive semblance--before this album the only other song I'd heard of hers was a heartfelt ballad called "I'm In Love With You," which was by accident. And John Paul White, who oddly there is limited information about, but as you would expect, balances out the graciousness of the songs with a huskier tone to his vocal.

Their sounds is very much grounded in the rootsy compositions of folkish country and light indie rock. The sharp, twiddling guitar strings of "20 Years" kicks things off, setting the tone for the whole set. It's a little bit of a slow burner, very light hearted before the gentle warbling violins pierce through the backdrop, enhancing the softening atmosphere.

"I've Got This Friend" is a little less subtle, still relying on the gentle layering of guitar strings but now playing alongside soft percussion and tambourines--complementing the beautiful harmonic vocal work on here. "C'est la Mort," is an emotional number, harboring very a melancholic melody, succumbed to poignant piano keys behind a gentle fort of tame guitar work. It's a lovely vocal matching--Williams courts such a powerful emotion within such a subtle vocal, which works magic against White's slightly more dense bearing. He takes the lead on the slightly more country/rock dominating title track "Barton Hollow."

"To Whom It May Concern" is an emotional highlight, a gentle ballad with a brittle guitar line and swooning melody that works the subtle vocal very well. It sets the stage perfectly for the even more emotional laden "Poison & Wine," a heart-felt, love-declaring ballad. It's a little reminiscent of a Lady Antebellum song.

It's no secret, The Civil Wars have a knack for capitalizing on subtlety--the instrumental "The Violet Hour" is beautiful. An angelic, whimsical venture--piano keys, lullaby-melody mimicking guitar strings, strings soothing the backdrop, penetrating the gentle melody. "Girl With the Red Balloon" is a little darker than some of the other songs, although still as subtle as ever--evoking a sense of isolation within its poignant lyrics.

Barton Hollow is a beautiful collection songs--varying from the incredibly subtle to the wonderfully upbeat and country-studded. In the midst of all the subtlety, things can get a little monotonous, but that's a minuscule flaw with such a heart-string tugging set like this.

Best: 20 Years, C'est la Mort, To Whom It May Concern, Poison & Wine, I've Got This Friend, Barton Hollow, The Violet Hour, Girl With the Red Balloon

What I'm Listening To...

Haven't done this in awhile, here's what's been on heavy rotation on my iPhone lately:
  • "Lego House" Ed Sheeran - A brilliant slice of downbeat balladry from Ed Sheeran--twiddling guitar strings pondering over piano chords and soft drum patterns--it cuts more the tame pop of "The A Team" than the urban-shadowed beat-heavy venture of "You Need Me."
  • "Rumour Has It" Adele - Honestly, I've been playing "Rumour Has It" just as much as any other track on 21, but I guess it deserves a mention now that it's a single. It finds Adele returning to the feisty and somewhat vengeful rooting of "Rolling in the Deep," miles away from the subtlety of "Somone Like You."
  • "We Found Lovc" Rihanna - I reckon this will be on heavy rotation on the radio a long time, so I thought I'd wait until Rihanna's sixth album Talk That Talk came out (in 2 weeks) before I owned it, so I didn't get sick of it.
  • "Cough Syrup" Young the Giant - Thanks to my buddy Loy who directed my attention to American alternative band Young the Giant. "Cough Syrup" is the current single from their self-titled debut. Great slice of anthemic rock--harbouring the typical instrumentals--not particularly breaking any ground but a damn good tune this is.
  • "Princess of China" Coldplay/Rihanna - I wasn't impressed with the latest Coldplay album, Mylo Xyloto but it did have some highlights--the more urban inspired synth-rock of "Princess of China" featuring non other than Rihanna--who weirdly sounds right at home on here.
  • "With UR Love" Cher Lloyd Featuring Mike Posner - I'll be honest, "Swagger Jagger" was one of the worst excuses for a "song" I had heard for a long, long, long time, hence why I didn't really give any written attention, however this more tame, but still pumped with attitude, "With UR Love" is way better, not only by comparison but in its own right.
  • "Sexy And I Know It" LMFAO - It's incredibly hypocritical of me to slam "Swagger Jagger" and say I've been playing this quite a lot, but what can you do... I'm sexy and I know it.
  • "Wherever You Go" Charlene Soraia - Absolutely beautiful cover of The Calling's hit "Wherever You Go," stripped down to just vocal and piano. Stunning.
  • "It Will Rain" Bruno Mars - Awesome downbeat new single from Bruno Mars supporting the forthcoming Twilight movie, Breaking Dawn Part 1.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Album Review: Florence + The Machine and Coldplay

Florence + The Machine - Ceremonials (4/5). British alternative band Florence + Machine certainly struck an emotional chord with their debut album Lungs, delivering a haunting mix of dark ballads, loud vocals and murky productions as well as landing the massive hit "You Got the Love." This follow up trails the same sound with a slightly more accessible sensibilities, beginning with the rippling drumming of opening track "Only If for a Night" lined with deep piano chords and strings, swiftly sueging into the more tribal rock of "Shake It Out" and "What the Water Gave Me." "Breaking Down" is interesting, as Florence tries their hand with some moody, throwback vintage pop--harbouring a real lush melodic core, complimented with her beautiful toned down vocal. "Lover to Lover" has a great subtle '70s rock vibe to it--crashing drum beats, poignant piano keys adhering to some soulful tones. "All This and Heaven Too" has a great melody--probably the closest to a conventional ballad on here. This a great album, I wouldn't call it a better album than its predecessor but a great follow up nontheless. Best: What the Water Gave Me, Shake It Out, Breaking Dawn, Lover to Lover, All This and Heaven Too, Only If for a Night

Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto (3/5). I'm not the Coldplay fan I once was. Their first two albums Parachutes and A Rush of Blood to the Head were fantastic pieces of alternative rock with a sensitive touch. Their third and fourth albums X&Y and Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends was great even though I didn't love them. Now we have Mylo Xyloto which is, in prospective, the least impressive in their collection. It doesn't particularly break any new ground--which they have doing consecutively with their last four albums. It just seems to trail the same dreary pop/rock production all the way through. However, it's not without it's highlights, "Paradise" is fantastic, lined with piano chords, drums, strings and bleepy undertones that work the song nicely. "Princess of China" with Rihanna is an obvious highlight--venturing into more subtle urban shadowed territories. The acoustic guitar and vocal measuring "Us Against the World" is pretty nice too. Best: Paradise, Princess of Chine, Us Against the World

Friday, October 28, 2011

Seeing Arctic Monkeys Tommorow! - Updated

Tommow night, I'll be attending my first real concert ever: The Arctic Monkey's Suck It and See Tour comes to the London O2! I can't wait! It's a shame I never really did get into their latest album, which I assume they'll be perfoming a lot of the tracks--but it doesn't matter. Just as long as they fit in a handful of their classics in there ("Dancefloor," "When the Sun Goes Down," "Teddy Picker," "Brianstorm" etc) Woohoo!!!


It was amazing! One of the best nights of my life. Pictures below (didn't get too many, I feared my phone would be knocked out my hand):

Monday, October 24, 2011

Album Review: Kelly Clarkson - Stronger (3.5/5)

With Stronger, Kelly Clarkson continues her streak of consistency with her work--it follows up to fourth album All I Ever Wanted which restored Clarkson's presence in the charts (landing her second #1 with bubbly lead single "My Life Would Suck Without You") which was tarnished by the misfire of her third album My December, which attempted to push Clarkson into darker, more edgier rock territories but ultimately was dismissed as critical and more importantly commercial failure--failing to land any significant hit. Personally, there were some tracks on that album that deserved more attention and didn't deserve to be overlooked--such as the emotional, progressive rock/pop of "Sober." However, in all, whether venturing out of the mainstream or back into it--there has always been a distinctive blend of pop/rock in Clarkson's music that has held up a noticeable sense of consistency, which is only extended with this new album.

Stronger cultivates effectively everything that makes Clarkson's take on rock/pop sound so great--huge vocal, big choruses with a hint of lyrical bitterness--which is exactly how feisty lead single "Mr. Know It All" kicks off the album--It's a great mid-tempo, utilising the usual pop/rock ingredients--piano chords underpinning a clattering of drum patterns and strings as Clarkson desperately asserts that "you don't know a thing about (her)." It's not necessarily my favorite of her album openers--nothing beats the vengeful rock of "Never Again" or the more soft uplifting pop of "Breakaway," but it's still great. However, it's still this consistent formula that seems to emerge as tired and uninteresting as the album goes on.

There is a noticeable lack of star-studded producers on here. The last album was littered with production with the likes of Max Martin ("My Life Would Suck Without You") Ryan Tedder ("Already Gone," "Save You," and "If I Can't Have You") Claude Kelly ("Don't Let Me Stop You") and even Katy Perry ("I Do Not Hook Up"). On here, Clarkson has a much prominent production presence--producing "You Love Me" featuring that classic pop/rock sound; with plucky guitar-strings which evaporate into the full throttle vocally powered chorus, where more intense (give or take) electronic guitars, drums come into play. "Standing In Front You" is its counterpart--capitalising on subtlety rather than a big throttling chorus; disquieting guitars, melancholic drums and a hollowing atmosphere.

"Honestly" is a beautifully haunting, downbeat number--very blunt in its approach to a blackening approach to rock. The chorus goes instrumental with its darkening instruments mudding over the eventual desperate burst of "you can tell me, you can tell me..." The lyric: "All I see are beautiful lies," seems to sum up the strangely unyielding atompsherics here, something sinister juxtaposed against something delicate and alluring, which reveals itself after the penetrating chorus in a brief moment of disquiet with piano keys and vocal. Similar is "Dark Side," a moody but sweet melodic piece backed by synths and a prominent guitar pattern which comes to the forefront on the hulking chorus.

There's more bitterness that lies in "Einstein" a clattering production with an over cutting screeching electronic guitar, however it still adhere's to a slightly more urban-pop production. She doesn't actually acknowledge Albert Enstein the genius, but does repeat the lyric: "Dumb plus Dumb equals You," which quite frankly mocks both her ex-lover and Einstein--Tsk Tsk Kelly. "I Forgive You," quickly sheds any urban sensibilities, going full-throttle pop/rock, not particularly covering any new ground--in fact, sounds like re-tread of "You Love Me." Understandably, there's only so much you can do with with rock/pop--but how do you erase that element of repetitiveness? Following track, "Hello" pretty much cuts from the same vein. It's not bad, but not necessarily a highlight.

The albums picks up quite a bit on the epic, intense "The War Is Over," which reminds me a little of "Behind These Hazel Eyes." It's progressive in its intensive, dramatic build up to the high-power chorus. It's not without its share of bitterness and earthy lows that seems to regularly succumb to Clarkson. "Let Me Down" and "You Can't Win" are engaging slice of pop/rock, heavy guitar chords, intense drums, huge vocal--very ardent in their production, but not particularly different or (unfortunately) interesting. In quite a similar vein to "If No One Will Listen" from the last album, the closing track on here is "Breaking Your Own Heart" a heartfelt ballad backed primarily by an acoustic guitar, strings and Clarkson's emotion vocal. Clarkson has a nack of hitting the right notes with her closing numbers--which rightfully always tend to be ballads--stemming from the huge vocal-laden ballad of "Anytime" and "Beautiful Disaster" to the wonderfully bitter, blunt and relatively depressing balladry of "Irvine."

Stronger is a decent album--it united the elements of pop and rock that Clarkson does so well and has been doing so well since her 2004 blockbuster Brekaway, landing a handful of great tracks, however at the same time I am beginning to grow increasingly tired of it. There is a sensitve case of "if it's not broke don't fix it," but what if it becomes boring? There's nothing particuarly wrong with the sky, but looking at it for ages is rather boring, however the night sky is a nice change up (I tried hard to look for a better analogy). I would like her to see tackling something a little different for the next album as I do feel things can get a little stale and ultimately uninteresting.

Best: The War Is Over, Mr. Know It All, Honestly, Dark Side, Standing Right In Front of You, Breaking Your Own Heart

Friday, October 21, 2011

Personal Airplay, October 20, 2011

Rihanna discography after the jump:

Billboard Hot 100, October 29 ,2011

No the most interesting of charts this week...

1. Someone Like You - Adele
6. We Found Love - Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris

Adele's "Someone Like You" leads a pretty static top five this week. It nabs a fourth week at #1, shifting 207k digital copies and #2 (also, for a fourth week) over on the radio songs tally with 144 million audience impressions. Things could get interesting next week, as Rihanna's latest single "We Found Love" challenges Adele for #1. The single is currently at the top of the iTunes chart following the recent release of its accompanying video. It's this week's airplay gainer.

10. Young, Wild and Free - Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa and Bruno Mars

I haven't heard this yet, but I assume it's Bruno Mars singing the hook and not Wiz? "Young, Wild and Free" is taken from the new collaborative effort between both Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa, Mac and Devin Go to High School. It debuts #10 this week, scoring Snoop Dogg his first top 10 hit since "Sensual Seduction" or "Sexual Eruption" peaked at #7 back in 2007 and his 12th overall. It's also Wiz Khalifa's third and Bruno Mars' 7th.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Delilah "Go"

There's been quite a lot of hype surrounding British singer Delilah. At first, I wasn't quite sure why, but her debut single "Go" is pretty incredible. Cleverly sampling Chaka Khan's 1983 hit "Ain't Nobody" within its melody--tastefully sensual aptly resting beneath the penetrating synths, feather-light thumping and soft pulsing. To be blunt, it's like an extended orgasm, in song form.

Album Review: Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds (4/5)

One eighth (or rather, one half, if you don't acknowledge the members that don't sing) of former British rock band Oasis return with their solo debut. Noel Gallagher's effort follows the rather soft reception of younger sibling Liam Gallagher and his band Beady Eye's debut Different Gear, Still Speeding--which was a little bit of a misconception, as it was greeted with quite favorable reviews, but was also somewhat of a commercial failure, failing to land any significant hit in the process. On the other hand, Noel seems to be on a superior track, already landing two top 20 hits with the album's first two singles ("The Dead of You and Me," and "AKA... What a Life") and also tipped to top the albums chart next week.

I never gave Beady Eye a chance; reviews (Q in particular) suggest that it's quite a corker, even calling it the "strongest album (he's) made since (What's the Story) Morning Glory)," however any comparison between the two records, on my part, would be somewhat misguided. The album gets off to an abrasive start, "Everybody's On the Run" adhering to progressive rock sensibilities--haunting atmospherics swirl beneath the guitar chords and rhythmic drum patterns before its stripped away to vocal, guitar strings and rain effects for the verse--picking up again for the uplifting chorus, where the choir-mimicking strings, violins undercut the guitars and drums. It's an awesome start.

Following track, "Dream On" reigns things in a little--spurring on a quite a jaunty melody, accompanied by matching nostalgic "ahh's" stapled in the background and of course, the obligatory layered lively guitar work and drums. "If I Had a Gun..." is a high flying ballad (I had to do it)--quite despondent too--highlighting a sensitivity and sincerity in Noel's vocal behind the endeering soaring composition. Lead single "The Death of You and Me" is fantastic--from the hard hitting drum beats toppling the guitar chords on the chorus to the unorthodox old-fashioned "travellers" styled verse, where the horns bleed through the guitar/drum production.

"(I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine" begins with quite a mellow, almost trippy aura, perhaps similar to The Beatles at their most experimental on The White Album (a little bit of a stretch, but I think it works) with tambourines and dwindling soundscapes. The chorus picks up nicely, Noel belting the title over the heavy-footed composition. Second single "AKA... What a Life" nurtures deep piano chords galvanising in the backdrop with crashing overcutting drum beats. Guitars are not the main focus on here--this isn't particularly a favorite. It's melody seems a little too blunt.

Horns, drums and layered guitar work make up the rather extravagant, but still tame rock of "Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks," somewhat similar is "AKA... Broken Arrow," which sounds like it wouldn't sound out of place on any of the post-Standing on the Shoulder Oasis records. "(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach" is interesting--static electronic guitars pierce through the backdrop, underpinning the fronting guitar work and drums. Closing the album is the subtle rock of "Stop the Clocks," stripped down to poignant piano chords, an acoustic guitar and Noel's vocal before an electronic guitar intrudes for its second half.

Noel Gallagher's debut is a solid one. Like many recent rock albums, it doesn't venture out of its conventions, however this isn't necessarily a problem when you listen to albums to absorb the lyrics, but when you're more interested in the compositions--it can become a little repetitive, but still a great debut in all.

Best: The Death of You and Me, Everybody's On the Run, If I Had a Gun, (I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine, AKA... What a Life, Stop the Clocks

Monday, October 10, 2011

Steps - The Ultimate Collection

Who would have thought that in 2011, late '90s British pop sensation Steps would be atop of the iTunes albums charts? The five-piece capitalise on the ten years since their split with the release of their second greatest hits collection, aptly titled The Ultimate Collection, because it's ultimately their first greatest hits collection Gold with the addition of the new recording of "Dancing Queen" and the exclusion of single "Words Are Not Enough" and exclusive 'Gold' track "Only In My Dreams." Here's a quick rundown of their singles from the beginning (because lets face it, despite their success, I didn't even know back then that they even had albums):

1997 - 1999

In an attempt to re-create the joyous pop of ABBA, Steps were created. The cheesy line-dancing pop of "5, 6, 7, 8" was their debut single. I think it's the only Steps single that Lee (the one that's not gay) actually sings something. I don't remember liking it back then, and it still sounds quite insufferable now, but it's all in the fun, I guess? Unlike in Australia where it became their first #1 single, in the UK it was a mild hit, peaking at #14--their only single to miss the top 10. I suppose, rightly so. Their second single, a remake of Bananarama's "Last Thing On My Mind," kept up the cheese, however a little more listenable and a lot less cringe-worthy. It landed the group their first top 10.

Between 1998 and 1999 the group had grown well into their happy-go-lucky, sparkling dance-pop sound with singles "One For Sorrow," "Better Best Forgotten," "Loves Got a Hold On My Heart," "Say You'll Be Mine," "Better the Devil You Know," and "After the Love Has Gone," (which I always thought was a remix of "Sorrow," it's basically the same song with different lyrics) all following that musical frame. However, their biggest hit came in the form of the remake of The Bee Bee's "Tragedy," which is no doubt their signature single. It became their first #1, topping the UK singles chart in its eighth week and spending 30 weeks in the chart. It was released as a Double-A-Side (remember those?) to the more downbeat pop of "Heartbeat," which was arguably the better single. This was the peak of their popularity.

2000 - 2001

Between 2000 and 2001, the group saw more distinct elements of maturity in their sound. The more polished dance-pop of "Deeper Shade of Blue" (One of their few singles I would willingly admit to liking) is a great example. The underpinning guitar strings beneath the frothy dance-production works very well. The single scored the group an eighth top 10 single, however also highlighted a decline in popularity, having the shortest stay in the UK top 75 of any of their singles, spending only 9 weeks.

Following singles "Summer of Love" and "Stomp" (their second #1 single) also continued the trend of more polished pop--the melodic balladry of "When I Said Goodbye" was a also nice switch up in a sound, which was furthered with "It's the Way You Make Me Feel," their best single, which managed to match the uptempo pop of their earlier singles--but also sounds like a ballad.

Later 2001 - Split

Although not as bad, "5, 6, 7, 8," their more uninteresting singles came towards the end of their time. Double-A-Side "Here and Now," and "You'll Be Sorry" attempted to venture into more modern pop territories, but were ultimately a bore. Still, collectively scored the group their 12th top 10 single. However, it wasn't all bad. Their remake of Diana Ross' "Chain Reaction" was a fantastic slice of pop and became their biggest selling single in 2 years, peaking at #2 scoring their 14th top 10.

Their last couplet of singles before their split was the downbeat whimsical pop of "Words Are Not Enough" but that's not included in the new collection so I guess it's irrelevant and the lovely remake of Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson's "I Know Him So Well."

Album Review: Ed Sheeran and James Morrison

Ed Sheeran - + (4/5). Stubbornly pretencious title aside, British singer/song-writer Ed Sheeran's first album is a commendable debut. On the surface it may seem like a lovelorn set brimming with the same acoustic guitar patterns over and over again, but fortunately, upon closer listens that isn't the case. Opening track and lead single "The A Team" is fantastic, backed with an awesome acoustic guitar melody, strings and Sheeran's subtle vocal--lyrically depicting a story about the trials and tribulations of a prostitute. Other tracks seem adhere to more beefy productions to balance out the albums otherwise acoustic tendencies. "Grade 8" showcases heavier underpinning beats, similar to second single "You Need Me." "The City" is quite interesting, as juxtaposes acoustic guitars, beat boxing and bursts of straddling electronic guitars. "U.N.I." showcases Sheeran's nackof rapid sing/rapping over quite tepid but still nice guitars and drums. "Lego House" sounds like a hit waiting to happen, It's the album's third single. Admittedly, the whole acoustic guitars and drums shtick does get a little repetitive--however if analysing lyrics is your thing, this shouldn't be a problem. Best: The A Team, You Need Me, Lego House, The City, U.N.I, Small Bump

James Morrison - The Awakening (3.5/5). Unfortunately, British singer James Morrison's last album Songs for You, Truths for Me was a bit of a miss for me. It lacked the solidarity and perhaps cohesiveness that his debut Undiscovered had. Fortunately, his third album is a little better--although the same problems seem to re-emerge. The opening number "In My Dreams" has a nice soulful old-school flair; subtle drums, guitar chords and orchestration, following track "6 Weeks" is similar with its soulful swagger. Tottering back into slightly more poppy territories is lead single "I Won't Let You Go" which took a little time to grow on me. In probably a desperate attempt to re-create "Broken Strings," fellow British singer Jessie J makes an appearance on the cold downbeat pop of "Up," It's a little different for her, it probably will be a single soon. The latter half of the album picks up the tempo, "Beautiful Life" and "Forever" clock in on the jaunty horns, piano chords and drums. Ultimately, The Awakening is a decent set but a little inconsistent and uneven. A classic 'pop' case of the first half being great and its latter half either a bore or a misfire. Best: In My Dreams, I Won't Let You Go, 6 Weeks, Up, Forever