Friday, September 30, 2011

Album Review: Kasabian - Velociraptor! (4/5)

English rock band Kasabian return with, Velocriaptor! their fourth album. Not being an avid fan of the band, I'm not that familiar with them--apart from the singles that you should know ("Shoot the Runner," "Underdog" and "Fire"). It follows 2009's West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum which landed the band the biggest hit of their careers so far and probably one of their most recognisable numbers, the aforementioned "Fire."

The album kicks off the laid-back, layered rock of "Let's Roll Just Like We Used To," jaunty drums underpinned with lining piano chords before sueging into a more forceful production during its latter half, where the horns, hand-claps and strings come into play, wearing an awesome chorus to boot too. Lead single "Days Are Forgotten" follows, which turns up the rock-studded atmospherics--chugging electronic guitar chords beneath sturdy rhythmic drum patterns and over-laying falsetto soaring over parts of the verses. This has an almost Robbie Williams flair to it--particuarly on the chorus.

Tamer, "Goodbye Kiss" turns in a more rootsy approach to rock, adhering to tambourines, acoustic and banjo-esque guitar strings, drums and a swooning melody. "Le Free Verte" sounds like a pop hit waiting to happen--taking a melancholic turn, toning down the rocky atmoshperic to a rawer bass line--heavy thumping beats. Strings stapled to the background over-cut with the archetypal guitars strings--exuding piercing Radiohead (it's a stretch, I know) like aura within in its blunt melody.

Title track "Velociraptor!" turns up the noise--literally, beneath the distorted layered electronic guitars and rapid drums there's an antagonising meshed vocal bleating of "ra ra ra ra ra ra ra..." after the chorus. It's the albums at its most energetic. "Acid Turkish Bath (Shelter from the Storm)" reigns things in, stripping down to clattering drum beats, playing over softening, underlining guitars, although things briefly get a little dramatic as heavy orchestration makes its way to the forefront during its middle section.

"I Hear Voices" ventures into slightly more techno territories--with a dancey '80s synth chords, 808 drum beats and persistent bass lines fueling the majority of the song. It's different, almost out of place, but still works somehow. "Re-Wired" is a return to the conventions of rock--layered guitar work, drums and booming chorus that adhered to their signature talk/sing ventures.

Towards the end of the album things get a little blander, "Man of Simple Pleasures" falls on quite weak note. Similar to "I Hear Voices," "Switchblade Smiles" is different, beginning with chugging, distorted, bleating electronic guitars undercut with persistent drums, electronic piercing, soft pulsing before toning things down for its warbling, muddy chorus. The album ends on a raw note "Neon Noon" is stripped down to acoustic guitar, synth and vocal.

Velociraptor! is an interesting album--a little inconsistent. I'm not as enthusiastic about it as critics have been, some even calling it a "potential classic," I wouldn't go that far, but it is a decent rock album that tries its hand at tackling more left-field sounds--even if they sound a little out of place with in its rocky surroundings.

Best: Days Are Forgeting, Velociraptor!, Let's Roll Just Like We Used To, Le Free Verte, Acid Turkish Bath (Shelter from the Storm), Neon Noon

Personal Airplay, September 29, 2011

Leona Delayed

Leona Lewis' forthcoming third album Glassheart has unfortunately been delayed until next year. According to Amazon, the album is now looking at a March release. The soft reception of "Collide" was perhaps a step-back and probably wasn't the instant hit that Syco wanted. Hopefully, we get another single before the end of the year.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Rihanna/Calvin Harris 'We Found Love'

The new Rihanna single is here! What do you think? Pretty ordinary but ferocious dance-pop production. It's not bad. Reminds me a little of Leona Lewis/Avicii "Collide" (which despite its soft reception is in fact on my favorite singles of the year). Check out the new single below:

Billboard Hot 100, October 1, 2011

1. Moves Like Jagger - Maroon 5 Featuring Christina Aguilera

Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera's "Moves Like Jagger" logs its third non-consecutive week at #1 this week. It also rises a notch to #1 on the Pop Songs, Radio Songs and Digital Songs tally. Over on Radio, it's Maroon 5's first #1. Passing "This Love" and "She Will Be Loved" which both peaked at #5 in 2004. This is Christina Aguilera's third radio chart-topper following her debut single "Genie in a Bottle" and her five-way collab with P!nk, Mya, Lil Kim and Missy Elliot on 2001's "Lady Marmalade."

2. Someone Like You - Adele

I kicked myself a bit for not feeling up to detailing Adele's triumphant rise to #1 2 weeks ago with "Somone Like You." (Check out ww_adh's write up). This week Adele remains bulleted at #2 as this week's airplay gainer, measuring a 37% increase in audience impressions, of which t has 84 million.

7. You Make Me Feel... - Cobra Starship Featuring Sabi

American pop/rock band Cobra Starship score their second top 10 with "You Make Me Feell..." matching the #7 peak of "Good Girls Go Bad" featuring Leighton Meester. This American rapper Sabi's first top 10. Weird. I thought that would have been a feat she would have acheived through her feature on Britney Spears' "(Drop Dead) Beautiful" if it were ever to be a single. I guess it wasn't meant to be.

15. Without You - David Guetta Featuring Usher

French DJ David Guetta climbs 8 spots up to #15 with latest single "Without You," scoring his third top 20 single, following "Sexy Bitch" featuring Akon, which is highest peaking at #5 and "Where Them Girls At" featuring Flo Rida and Nicki Minaj. Guest, R&B singer Usher scores his 20th top 20 single, including other features.

16. Paradise - Coldplay

Unlike in the UK, Alternative rock band Coldplay's "Paradise" was allowed to chart in America. It debuts at #16 shifintg 140k scoring their fourth top 20 single.

25. Sexy and I Know It - LMFAO

LMFAO's latest climbs 25 spots up to #25, scoring the tedious duo their 2nd top 40 single.

35. Mr. Know It All - Kelly Clarkson

What?!! What's going on here?

Personal Airplay, September 22, 2011

Personal Airplay, September 15, 2011

(This is last weeks chart, this weeks one will up in a few moments)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

New Rihanna Coming Soon

The lead single from Barbadian singer Rihanna's upcoming sixth album (out this fall) will be out sometime in the next few days. The forthcoming single, "We Found Love" is produced by British producer Calvin Harris and will impact US radio October 11. A definite hit in the waiting.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Katy Perry "The One That Got Away"

She's really trying her luck isn't she? Pop singer Katy Perry lines up her sixth single from her second album Teenage Dream, the feel good mid-tempo "The One That Got Away." Unlike like the previous singles, which were all sure-fire #1's from the get-go, I'm not too sure about this one. But weirder things have happened. (I like the Radiohead and Muse references).

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Leona Lewis preps her 'Glassheart'

The fall is traditionally dominated with X Factor acts returning, or making their debut on the UK charts. Cher Lloyd landed her first #1 a few weeks back with her debut single "Swagger Jagger," Matt Cardle debuted his new single "Run For Your Life" on radio this week, One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful" is released to digital outlets this week and Alexandra Burke's forthcoming lead single from her upcoming sophomore album is expected to hit radio stations next week.

The shows biggest success story, Leona Lewis readies her third album, Glassheart out in November 28. The album follows the rather soft reception of her last album Echo which in some respects, brought the songstress' career to a gentle halt, following the ridiculously colossal success of her debut Spirit, which became one of the best selling albums in UK history--sales tallying over 3 million and landed the massive worldwide hit "Bleeding Love." So when Echo's sales peaked at 600k and failed to spawn a #1 hit (It's lead single "Happy" came close, debuting at #2, infamously blocked by the Black Eyed Peas' "Meet Me Halfway") it was quite the setback.

The album itself wasn't bad. In my review, I praised it for not shifting gears too violently but rather embracing the mix of pop, light rock and R&B of her debut and building on it. Of course the common idea is to link its commercial failure to "poor" quality. However, for her third album it seems Lewis continues her tradition of subtle growth--as we've already seen with the Avicii backing track stealing lead single "Collide" a synth-drenched dance production with underpinning piano chords nicely accommodating Lewis' blustery vocal. It's a shift in sound I certainly I embraced, however greeted a mixed critical reception.

The album is set to be a diverse mix of uptempo dance-pop, with elements of dub-step, probably in the same vein as "Collide," telling from the LQ snippets of title track "Glassheart" which adheres the same dance-pop blanket and her signature ballads. The rumored second single "Trouble" is set to debut soon. Producers on board include Claude Kelly, Fraser T. Smith, Dallas Austin, Rico Love, Ne-Yo and returning Ryan Tedder.

Also, in my review I used American singer's Mariah Carey and Kelly Clarkson as a framing devices for Lewis' own career. Carey because she's a voice Lewis is often compared too and Clarkson as she is Lewis' American, American Idol counterpart--Echo was either going to be her Emotions or her Breakway. Well it certainly wasn't her Breakway, for if my logic means anything at all, shouldn't this album be her Music Box?

Matt Cardle "Run For Your Life"

Last years X Factor winner Matt Cardle is back with the Gary Barlow penned "Run For Your Life," the lead single from his forthcoming debut album Letters. It's a typical slow-burning rock/pop ballad, a little bit of a snooze, but I don't completely dislike it. As a male X Factor winner, he's going to be needing all the luck in the world... or the UK rather, check it out below folks:

PJ Harvey wins Mercury Prize

Last night, British singer/song-writer PJ Harvey took away the 2011 Mercury prize for her eighth album Let England Shake, beating out hot competition from the year's biggest story in pop Adele's 21 and British rapper Tinie Tempah's debut Disc-Overy (don't particularly understand the reasoning behind that nomination, Tempah is certainly no Dizzee Rascal and this album is definitely no Boy In Da Corner).

This is the second time PJ Harvey has won the Mercury prize, taking away the award back in 2000 with her fifth album Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, making her the first artist to accomplish this feat. Of course a glance at the nominations prior, you would have probably guessed Adele's 21 would have been an obvious choice for winner however, it's been suggested that her boisterous sales definitely outweighed the albums critical reception.

I've heard nothing but positive reviews for Let England Shake, critics calling it well-crafted, enchanting etc. But I've given it a few listens and can't get into it. I normally like a little alternative, folkish, rock/pop but perhaps this is a little bit too inaccessible for me?

Sunday, September 04, 2011

When British Females Collide

(I apologize for the bad quality)

It's an interesting week on the UK Singles Chart this week as 3 of the UK's hottest (give or take) female acts go head to head to head with their latest singles: X Factor winner Leona Lewis' "Collide" the lead single from her forthcoming third album Glassheart, pop singer Pixie Lott's "All About Tonight" the lead single from her currently untitled sophomore album and girl-group The Saturdays' "All Fired Up" the second single from their forthcoming third album.

As it stands on iTunes, The Saturdays are currently in the lead at #3 just behind Maroon 5/Christina Aguilera's "Moves Like Jagger" and Example's "Stay Awake." They had the highest debut on iTunes of all competitors, debuting at #20 around midnight, while both Lott and Lewis were not yet in the top 100. However, I presume this could be down to heavy pre-orders. Lott's "All About Tonight" is at #9. I expect this to overtake The Saturdays soon, following her performance on the new (and quite awful) British game show Red or Black tonight. Lastly, Lewis' "Collide" is at quite a harsh #20, despite her performance on Red or Black last night.

Earlier this week, my bet was that "Collide" would be on track for an easy #1 debut--despite Leona's quite patchy chart-record. Her last single "I Got You" became her first to miss the top 10 peaking at #14, while its predecessor "Happy" debuted at #2. But now, I'm not so sure that will be the case. As things stand, I think Pixie Lott could do it, despite her even worse chart-record. Beginning her career with 2 #1's and everything else she released after that missing the top 10.

The Saturdays' doing it could be a surprise as they have yet to score a #1--and I personally do think this single is worthy. However, there's a chance next week's #1 could not be any one of them and Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger" could hold off all of them as it still maintains a healthy lead at #1 on iTunes.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Album Review: Lil Wayne - Tha Carter IV (4/5)

It's been quite the wait, but it's finally here: The follow up to American rapper Lil Wayne's 2008 best-seller Tha Carter III arrives following (what I like call) 2 time-filler albums. Last years Rebirth, which saw the rapper try his hand with a rather misguided and disjointed blend of rock and hip-hop, although it wasn't without its highlights ("Knockout" the energetic collaboration with label mate Nicki Minaj was great) and I Am Not a Human Being which I didn't pay much attention to.

Tha Carter III saw Wayne emerge from the shadows of his peers (Jay-Z, Eminem and Kanye) becoming one of the most sought-after rappers of that year. Of course you have the statistics: It debuted at #1 with over a million copies shifted in its first week and landed 3 top 10's including his first chart-topper "Lollipop." However it was also a pretty damn good album--from the slick beats, compositions to his awesome metaphoric lyrical mannerisms. So what how does IV follow up?

Well sonically, it's nothing majorly different. If anything, it lacks the commercial appeal of its predecessor--which isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it ventures into a slightly more inaccessible state of hip-hop whist's III adopted slightly more pop/light-R&B-studded edge ("Lollipop," "Tie My Hands," "Comfortable," "Tie My Hands"). Following the extensive 3 minute intro, an all-rapped number, Wayne's boastful vocal over skittering hi-hats, soft orchestration and bricky drum-beats, is the real opening track "Blunt Blowin'" which begins with layer of dramatic orchestration and strings, before the drums quietly merge into the composition--sort of like the backing track to a trailer of a dark movie thriller. The drums and heavy bass lines bleed through the orchestration, emerging more apparent during the chorus. Lyrically, it's interesting ("I stick to the script, I memorise the lines, cause life is a movie I've seen too many times").

Next up is "Megaman" which opts for the more traditional hip-hop blueprint--lots of skittering drum beats, pounding bass lines, a seeping line of high-pitched chord loops topped off with a viciously sexual lyrical mainframe ("I get deep in that pussy, dig her out out. Surgery.") and of course the obligatory use of the word 'nigga.' Similar is "6 Foot 7 Foot" featuring fellow rapper Cory Gunz, which is pretty much the same composition except it contains a sample of American singer Harry Belafonte's 1956's "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)." They aren't bad, but seem rather dull here, as they do sink into the albums handful of filler.

Better is "Nightmares of the Bottom" laid back slow jam, which begins with descending piano keys before the 808 drum machines kick in, followed up by the mimicking orchestrations. Current single "She Will" featuring Drake is fantastic. Dark, moody beats duped with a layer of thin aphotic strings piecing through the backdrop. It's the sound that Drake revels in--his album Thank Me Later, (which admittedly, didn't give enough appreciation for) is full of downbeat, moody numbers that compliment his blunt flow nicely.

"How to Hate" featuring T-Pain is the albums at its most R&B relishing. It's another downbeat number; soft electronic pulsing and quiet drums--topped with gliding melodic piano chords stapled to the backdrop. It's quite laid back for a song that lyrically aptly channels a lot of distaste for the female persuasion, of course this is countered by "How to Love" the albums third single and its most pop-indulgent; backed by sympathetic guitar strings and bass. If I'm not mistaken, this is as sensitive and heart-felt Lil Wayne has been. Ever. ("I just want you to know, you deserve the best, you're beautiful"). It's quite turnaround from the "Pussy Surgeon" we witness earlier. It's definitely among my favorite songs from him.

"Abortion" is pretty dramatic, with soulful undertones, almost a burst of choir-reminiscent "ahs" merged within its composition. It sounds like something Kanye West would do, even down the crude lyrics ("When life sucks, I just enjoy the head"). This may dabble with soulful undertones but has nothing on "So Special" featuring American singer John Legend which works the merging of hip-hop and soul nicely, without losing its darkening edge both with beats and lyrics ("I spent the night in heaven, I slept with an angel and when we finished I swear that pussy said thank you").

Last few tracks are good, but aren't highlights. "John" featuring Rick Ross, a rapid number, heavy beats, heavy bass line, dizzying electronic pulsing and same ol' same ol' boastful mannerisms. "President Carter" and last track "It's Good" are better, both downbeat with dark atmospherics.

Perhaps, it was the commercial edge of Tha Carter III that made it such an enjoyable album or maybe it seemed Lil Wayne's heart was in it more because while this album has a handful of highlights and definitely hits the mark with its slick beats and blunt lyrics--It's seems like a step-down. I'm disappointed in the sense of I didn't love it as much as I was expecting to. But in all still a decent follow-up.

Best: How to Love, She Will, Nightmares of the Bottom, How to Hate, Abortion, So Special

Personal Airplay, September 1, 2011

Billboard Hot 100, September 10, 2011

1. Moves Like Jagger - Maroon 5 Featuring Christina Aguilera

Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger" rises 3 spots to #1 scoring the band their second #1, following "Makes Me Wonder" which topped the chart in 2007. However, it's the song's guest Christina Aguiler who should be more excited. Aguilera hasn't had a chart-topping single since 2000's "Lady Marmalade," after that the closest she got was 2002's "Beautiful" which peaked at #2. And since 2010 it seemed she was on a descent into obscurity, "Not Myself Tonight" the lead single from her fourth album Bionic failed to break the top 20 peaking at #23 and follow up singles "Woohoo" and "You Lost Me" bombed harder, so this is quite a return to prominence... even though it's not her song. Her last solo #1 was also back in 2000 with "Come On Over (All I Want Is You)."

This puts Aguilera in the elite league of singers who have scores #1's in 3 different decades. She joins Britney Spears and Usher, who have also scored #1's in the 1990's, 2000's and 2010's. Now back to the song itself, which is this weeks airplay gainer.

3. Pumped Up Kicks - Foster the People
(19. Someone Like You - Adele)

This years breakout indie band Foster the Poeople climb 4 spots up to #3 scoring the band their first top 5 single. I would have put chances on this being a #1, however I think the next few weeks will be a chart battle between "Moves Like Jagger" and Adele's "Someone Like You" which is currently #1 on iTunes and climbs into the top 20 this week, scoring the singer her second top 20 single.

4. Lighters - Bad Meets Evil Featuring Bruno Mars

Bad Meets Evil's "Lighters" climbs 2 spots up to #4, scoring the duo their first top 5 single and Bruno Mars his sixth.

10. Stereo Hearts - Gym Class Heros Featuring Adam Levine

American alternative hip-hop band Gym Class Hereos' new single "Stereo Hearts" score them their first top 10 since 2006's "Cupid's Chokehold" (the 'Take a Look at My Girlfriend (Da Da Da Da' song, as I personally named it) and their second overall. It's Adam Levin's second song inside the top 10 this week and his fourth overall.

11. Cheers (Drink to That) - Rihanna

This week's digital gainer is Rihanna's "Cheers (Drink to That)" which climbs 6 spots up to #11 this week. Top 10 next week for sure.

16. You and I - Lady Gaga

I'm giving up putting the two dots above the "u." It's not worth the hassle. Lady Gaga climbs an impressive 16 spots into the top 20, landing at #16, scoring Gaga her tenth top 20 single. I'm presuming if Rihanna hadn't been digital gainer, it would have been Gaga?

38. Mr. Saxobeat - Alexandra Stan

This was quite the hit in the UK--now it seems its success it going stateside. Romanian singer Alexandra Stan's "Mr. Saxobeat" enters the top 40 at #38 scoring the singer her first American top 40. Congrats!