Sunday, February 19, 2012

Album Review: Lana Del Rey and Emeli Sande

Lana Del Rey - Born to Die (4/5). It's a double edged sword having an unearthly amount of hype surrounding an artist before the release of their debut album. With only predeceasing singles as an indicator to the sound of the forthcoming album and expectations rocket high, it's no wonder the artist in question always seem to falter at the first hurdle, even if the material isn't necessarily bad, but within the context of the "hype" does feels rather underwhelming. American singer/song-writer Lana Del Rey's debut single "Video Games" a dark, whimsical ballad encompassing a vintage aura certainly sparked an intrigue, earning itself a positive reception among critics was a breath of fresh air within the midst of electro-pop and Adele. The prominent atmosphere with the album is very somber, disquieting and downbeat--she rarely lets up. "Born to Die," "Dark Paradise," "Video Games," "Radio" and personal favorite "Million Dollar Man" are some of the standout "downers" of the album--almost encompassing the reality detachment of Florence + The Machine without the intrigue. When Lana does let loose, the results are a little uneven, the guitar-driven, drum-backed and string laden "Off to the Races" and the celebratory, hollowing orchestration drenched "National Anthem" are quirky and good fun however "Blue Jeans" which harbours more prominent guitars and is a little too dreary and depressing despite the lovelorn lyrics. This is a decent album--it could have been a stronger set, a little more cohesive but there are some highlights. Best: Born to Die, Million Dollar Man, Video Games, Radio, National Anthem, Off to the Races

Emeli Sande - Our Version of Events (4/5). After the brilliant drum and bass, trip-hop influenced debut single "Heaven," and her fantastic hook on Professor Green's hit "Read All About It," British singer Emeli Sande's debut album has definitely been heavily anticipated. With Our Version of Events, her sound is trimmed from a satisfying mix of pop, soul and R&B tied together with some acoustic influences. The dramatic piano pop of "My Kind of Love" showcases the bold dynamic of Sande's vocal, particularly on its blustery chorus which sounds awesome on top of the subtle drum beats. However, she also illustrates some vocal subtly on "Mountains" (a track that apparently written by Sande for X Factor winner Leona Lewis). It's fantastic, a softening production--lovely acoustic guitar, percussion and poignant piano keys. She matches both sutly, boldness and heartfelt emotion on the dramatic balladry of "Clown."There are some that hit bum notes, such as the underwhelming vocal performance of "Piano," a downbeat number backed with strings, drums and acoustic guitars but seems to resonate on one note throughout. The jaunty piano-strung pop of "Next to Me" is a clear highlight. The album ends on a subtle note with the melodic, politcal pop of "Hope." Similar to Born to Die, this could have been a stronger set--there seems to an equal balance of tracks that hit the nail on the end ones that hit with a thud, however Die I feel they're more likely to grow on me. Best: Heaven, Next to Me, Clwon, Mountains, My Kind of Love, Hope, Lifetime

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Single Reviews

I know it's been rather quiet on here lately, but I'm planning on getting back to blogging reguarly sometime in March when I finally get my laptop fixed--for now here's some reviews for some new singles:

Part of Me - Katy Perry (3.5/5). Taken as the lead single from the forthcoming re-release from Katy Perry's 2nd studio album Teenage Dream, "Part of Me" is pretty sub-standard pop from the hitmaker--heavy underpinning beat, synths and guitars probably cutting from the same vein as "Teenage Dream," so nothing particuarly new--maybe bar the bitter lyrics. It's looking to make quite a big splash on the Hot 100 next week--predicted to open in the top 3 with the biggest first week sales since Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" around the same time last year.

Bad Girls - M.I.A. (4.5/5). Hot on the heels of her recent collab with Madonna, M.I.A. releases "Bad Girls," of what I assume is the lead single from the British rapper's forthcoming fourth album. I always assumed only pretentious music snobs liked M.I.A, but after spinning this a few times, it's grown on me quite a lot. I admire the exotic, Indian-drenched theme pinned under inconsistent drum beats. Bar "Paper Planes" and perhaps this track, I'm never going to understand why M.I.A. is so critically acclaimed but I'm wlling to learn.

Gimme All Your Luvin - Madonna, Nicki Minaj & M.I.A. (3.5/5). Madonna's comback single didn't reach the heights of say "Hung Up" or "4 Minutes." Unlike those numbers, Madonna seems to go back to basics with this--stripped down to catchy poppy beats with an underliningdistorted guitar--it reminds a little of something pulled out of 2000's Music--with Nicki Minaj roped in for a younger appeal. It's not great but not awful either.

Starships - Nicki Minaj (3/5). After "Stupid Hoe" hit a bum note, Nicki Minaj's new single seems like more a saftey net. While this has received a great reception--currently in the top 10 in the UK--this is way more pop than I like my Nicki Minaj.

Personal Airplay, February 16, 2012