Friday, November 30, 2012

A Simple review for a simple album

Earlier this year Macy Gray released a phenomenal cover album called Covered. Not even seven months later Macy Gray released her seventh album Talking Book. The album song-for-song cover version of Stevie Wonder's fifteenth studio album of the same name. Each song is simply great. Even if like myself you aren't familiar with Wonder's album, you can appreciate this record.
There are several songs that stick out. "Tuesday Heartbreak" is definitely the best song on the album and it's just as good as Wonder's original. Another highlight is "You Are the Sunshine of My Life." Gray's version of the song is very faithful to the original.
Other highlights include "Looking For Another Pure Love" and "Blame it on the Sun." Another highlight is Gray's cover of Wonder's "Superstition." Gray changes the fun and funky hit into a slow, creepy cover that sends chills up the spine.
All in all Gray's album is quite a success. This album just goes to show that Macy is one of the most underrated R&B artists out there. Macy Gray is showing no signs of slowing down, she has another EP of original songs due out at the end of the year.

Sister Sin don't evolve at all, but improve on new album

Metal band Sister Sin released their third album last month and it's much of the same as their older albums. Their debut album Switchblade Serenades had some variety but their second album True Sound of the Underground was basically 11 songs that were all the same tempo and about the same thing. Their third record Now and Forever is nothing different, however there are a few changes.
For one thing the production is more crisp. Songs like "In it For Life" and "The Chosen Few" sound great and rock hard. This makes the songs sound much better, so this is definitely a plus about this album.
Additionally front woman Liv Jagrell's vocals have gotten better. Her vocals are filled with just as much rage as before. While the lyrics haven't gotten any better and while the songs all pretty much feature songs about fighting the power. The exceptions are "In it For Life" which is about how the band want to be making music for life. "Morning After" is a break-up song which we rarely hear Liv and the boys talk about on albums.
Also the tempo of the songs aren't all the same. There are a few more slowed down songs and even a ballad. "Morning After" is one of the best songs on the record and it begins as a piano ballad. Eventually the rest of the band come on in true 80s power ballad style.
Some album highlights include the first single "End of the Line" which may be the best Sister Sin song ever, "Hearts of Cold" which is catchy and aggressive and "Hang Em High" which is the one song Liv gets a writing credit on. The song is about her wanting to have a good time. It's basically a ladies party anthem that sounds like a hybrid between Halestorm melodies and Ke$ha lyrics.
This album may not be Sister Sin's best but it does show a little improvement. At this rate maybe the band will show some artistic growth on their ninth album. Until then, rock on Sister Sin!

Shiny Toy Guns reunite with greatness

When Shiny Toy Gun's debut album We Are Pilots was released back in 2006 it mixed rock and dance music with influences ranging as far as electroclash and post-hardcore. Co-vocalists Carah Faye and Chad Petree mixed emotion and fun into a perfect album that gave such classic songs as "Don't Cry Out" and "Le Disko." The band were on the rise and then the unexpected happened. Carah Faye left the band to pursue her new project Versant.
In 2008 the band released their second album Season of Poison. New vocalist Sisely Treasure was an interesting new addition to the band. Her voice had more of a rock edge to it and the songs began to rock harder. While there were certain great songs on this record, it was nothing as good as their debut. They went on to release a remix album which featured remixes from both albums in addition to two new songs. Those new songs were better than most of the songs on Season of Poison and it seemed as though they were getting back on track. In the beginning of 2011 Treasure announced on her website that she was no longer a member of Shiny Toy Guns. Carah Faye was returning.
So that brings us to their new album III. The album brings the band back to the sound of their debut. There are songs that range from fun dance songs ("Speaking Japanese") and more emotional ballads ("Take Me Back to Where I Was").
This album isn't as fantastic as their first but these songs are so good. The album opens with "Somewhere to Hide" a dance floor anthem about escaping from troubles. Other highlights include the catchy "If I Lost You," the fast-paced dance-rocker "Carrie" and "The Sun" which was released a few years ago and originally meant to be the first single off of the album.
The album's best track is the rocking "Speaking Japanese." The song which features a dance beat and guitars is basically this album's version of "Le Disko" or "Ghost Town." It's a fun song that really has no meaning, it's just meant to get crowds moving. While they write phenomenal ballads, Shiny Toy Guns are at their best when they bring the party.
This album is definitely a move in the right direction and as long as Shiny Toy Guns keep Carah Faye around and evolve off of this sound they'll be all the better for it.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Taylor Swift gets better with time

Country star Taylor Swift's fourth album Red proves that the singer just gets better with age. Every album Swift comes out with is better than the last.
On Red Taylor mixes in her country roots with pop-rock and dance influences. Rockers like "State of Grace" and "Holy Ground"are sure to keep heads banging. The third single and album highlight "I Knew You Were Trouble." is a pop-rock breakup anthem that incorporates dubstep into the chorus. Another album highlight is the future fourth single and dance rock song "22." The song sounds like Katy Perry or Ke$ha and that isn't a bad thing. The lyrics of the song touch on youth and having fun.
Other highlights include "Everything Has Changed" a duet with Ed Sheeran, the adorable "Stay Stay Stay" and of course the lead single "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together."
While some slow moments like "Sad Beautiful Tragic" or "All Too Well" may slow things down a bit the album is a fun, honest ride from start to end.
The album closes in a beautiful fashion with the ballad "Begin Again," a gorgeous song about starting over with somebody new after a breakup. The best song on the album is the title track, a country/pop/rock fusion song that is about moving on from a breakup. The fast yet slow song has the honest lyrics that Taylor Swift is known for.
While she writes childish lyrics they are honest and relateable. Everybody from the first lady to a high school janitor has felt the things Taylor writes about and that is why she's so successful. She writes a killer songs and she will definitely be a huge star for a long time coming.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

In Fear and Faith get better with time

Metalcore bands aren't very inventive. There are some bands such as A Day to Remember or In This Moment that switch things up and there are bands Eyes Set to Kill and blessthefall who release basically the same album over and over again. In Fear and Faith's third self titled album fall into the later. Not to say that that is a bad thing.
The album is surely a step up from their second album but it really doesn't do anything different. While songs such as "The Calm Before the Reform" which features David Stephens from We Came As Romans don't reinvent the wheel, they do solidify the band as good musicians.
That being said this album is definitely the best thing In Fear and Faith have done and while it doesn't open new doors for metalcore it does do things for their career.

Ellie Goulding releases her opus

Ellie Goulding broke onto the scene this year with her smash hit "Lights" from her debut album of the same title. But due to some personal issues I have with a certain person who introduced me to her music two years ago, but I've gotten past them and got into her first album. Goulding's first record was hardly anything that special and except for a few singles the album didn't hold my attention.
This year Goulding released her second album Halcyon. On this album she drops her electro/folk sound for a sound that is reminiscent of Adele and Florence and the Machine. The album is inspired by a break-up Goulding went through which more times than not means an artist's best work. The album features more indie rock influences. One of the album's best songs and second single is "Figure 8" on which Goulding sticks to what she knows. The dubstep inspired electrorock song features such personal lyrics from Goulding. The entire record has lyrics written with pure sadness.
The great ballads "Dead in the Water," "Explosions" and "I Know You Care" are all attempts of being her "Someone Like You" moment. while nothing is anywhere near that greatness all these songs are amazing.
The best song on the album is "My Blood," a Florence and the Machine inspired song that is about strength after a break-up. The song features such lush instrumentals and gorgeous vocals make it the highlight of the album.
With Halcyon Goudling has cemented herself as a new alternative pop queen.

All Time Low don't waste any time on new album

All Time Low released their fifth album,Don't Panic last month, a little over a year after their Dirty Work album. While Dirty Work wasn't a bad album it wasn't as good as their other albums. The album had so many guest writers and co producers that it was hard to find the band in all of the fray. Despite there being many good songs like "Under a Paper Moon," "Do You Want Me (Dead)" and "Guts" which featured The Sounds singer Maja Ivarsson, it wasn't as wholly memorable as their previous records.
Don't Panic gets the band back to their roots. They get back to their old school pop-punk sound. The album doesn't have one bad song. From bitter break-ups ("The Irony of Choking on a Lifesaver") to long distance love ("If These Sheets Were the States") to lonely hook-ups ("Backseat Serenade") the album's rocking tracks cover many topics that sexy scene kids in their early twenties would face in their daily lives.
The album doesn't have a bad song on it and that's a rare thing, especially in pop-punk where all songs tend to sound the same. Songs like the hard rocking "So Long, Soldier" are sure to get pits to open at Warped Tour for years to come. "Somewhere in Neverland" deals with getting older. Life tends to get boring after high school and frontman Alex Gaskarth talks to his lover about running away into Neverland. "Wendy run away with me/I know I sound crazy/Don’t you see what you do to me?/I wanna be your lost boy/Your last chance, a better reality," Gaskarth sings in the chorus.
One thing that makes this album different is that the band have several guest vocalists. Bayside frontman Anthony Raneri sings on "Outlines" while Jason Vena from Acceptance and Cassadee Pope from Hey Monday guest on "So Long, Soldier." Pope also guests on the albums best track "Backseat Serenade." The song is about Gaskarth trying to seduce a lover. "Backseat serenade/Little hand grenade/Oh god, I'm sick of sleeping alone/You're salty like a summer day/Kiss the pain away To your radio," Gaskarth and Pope harmonize during the chorus.
All in all this album is sure to ease the minds of those All Time Low fans that were put off by Dirty Work.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

New No Doubt album is worth the wait

No Doubt have always made quality albums. Their older records like Tragic Kingdom and Rock Steady still hold up after all of these years. Kingdom was their greatest album and after the release of Steady almost 11 years ago, it was a dark time for No Doubt fans front woman Gwen Stefani released a great solo album and a decent one, both of which had an 80s dance-pop sound. That sound is mixed in with the sounds of all of their previous albums on their sixth album Push and Shove.
The album doesn't have any bad songs. While some songs like the singles "Settle Down" and "Looking Hot" hold interest better than some of the more midtempo songs like "Easy,"each song is amazing.
The band have matured on this album and that's only fitting since they're all over 40 years old and have children. The punky attitude of earlier hits like "Excuse Me Mr." and "Ex-Girlfriend" are not found. That is not to say that the band have lost their edge. The best song on the album is the title track which was a promotional single and features Busy Signal and Major Lazer. The track goes from the reggae inspired jams of Rock Steady to a sassy Tragic Kingdomesque chorus that rocks harder than anything on this album.
Other highlights include the gorgeous ballad "Undone." Gwen and the boys have never sounded so somber and beautiful on a ballad than they do there. Another emotional number that is "One More Summer." "One more Summer, one more weekend. I'm your lover, you're my weakness," Stefani sings sadly during the chorus.
The album ends on yet another high note with the 80s inspired new-wave ballad "Dreaming the Same Dream." The song could be in any 80s movie and fit right in.
While this album may not be their best work it is a brilliant step in the right direction. Let's just hope it doesn't take them 11 years to make their next record.