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

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Personal Airplay, 6 October, 2011

Billboard Hot 100, 15 October 2011

1. Someone Like You - Adele

Adele's "Someone Like You" displaces Maroon 5/Christina Aguilera's "Moves Like Jagger" to #2 ending its four week reign at the pinnacle, climbing a notch back up to #1, continuing a second non-consecutive week. It's the longest consecutive gap for a former #1 returning to back to the top this year, Katy Perry's "Firework" and "E.T." and Bruno Mars' "Grenade" all had 1 week absenses away from the top spot before returning to #1.

4. Stereo Hearts- Gym Class Heroes Featuring Adam Levine
6. Sexy and I Know It - LMFAO

Gym Class Heroes climbs a notch to #4, furthering into the top 5. I hope it stands a chance for #1. It's an awesome song, whereas I hope LMFAO's latest "party anthem" "Sexy and I Know It" doesn't. It climbs 4 spots up to #6.

7. Strange Clouds - B.o.B. Featuring Lil Wayne

Debuting at #7 is American rapper B.o.B's "Strange Clouds" the lead single from his forthcoming sophomore album of the same name. It's the rapper's fourth top 10 following his debut smash "Nothin' On You" featuring Bruno Mars, "Airplanes" featuring Hayley Williams of Paramore and "Magic" featuring Cumo Rivers. It's Lil Wayne's 17th top 10, including features.

8. Without You - David Guetta Featuring Usher

French DJ climbs 3 spots into the top 10, hitting #8 with latest single "Without You" and scoring his third top 10. This is Usher's 18th.

9. We Found Love - Rihanna Featuring Calvin Harris

Barbadian singer Rihanna climbs 7 spots up to #9 with her new single "We Found Love" featuring British producer/singer Calvin Harris, the lead single from her forthcoming sixth album Talk that Talk, scoring her 20th top 10 single. This makes her the fastest solo artist to accumulate 20 top 10 singles on the Hot 100, toppling The Supremes. According to Billboard only The Beatles have scored 20 top 10's more quickly. She is also the fifth female singer to have scored 20 (or more) top 10 hits, following Madonna (37) Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson (27 each) and Whitney Houston (23). "Love" is also this weeks airplay gainer.

19. It Girl - Jason DeRulo

Jason DeRulo's latest single "It Girl" seems like a little bit of a slow burner in the States. It enters the top 20 in its eighth week. It's his fifth top 20 single.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Young Man "Nothing"

I thought I'd share this--I got this as a free download on iTunes. It's American indie singer Colin Caulfield, aka Young Man's "Nothing," a dark, downbeat, progressive number, drenched with static undertones and folkish guitar melodies and drums. It's sounds awesome, check it out below: