Monday, December 9, 2013

Britney Spears Gets Personal On New Album

Britney Spears has always had hints of personal moments in her music. From her smash single "Everytime" off of her 2003 fourth album In the Zone in which Spears regrets the pain she caused ex Justin Timberlake to "Piece of Me" off of her 2007 comeback album Blackout. While the later wasn't even composed by Spears, it struck a chord with her. While the album isn't as personal as we were led to believe it does shed light on Spears' life, she had a hand in writing all of the songs on it.
So earlier in the year when Spears announced her eighth album and said that it would combine all of her previous records, including the "personal" Circus, fans were excited. In September Spears released the first single "Work Bitch" which is all about positive thinking and confidence. The second single came two months later. "Perfume" is a very personal song about a love triangle. Both songs were written by Spears and got fans excited for Britney Jean, Spears' eighth record.
Released last week the album is far from Spears' best record, but it also isn't terrible. Spears starts the album off on a personal note with the Madonnaesque "Alien." The song is about Spears feeling like she is an alien and like she doesn't belong. Spears is rarely this honest with us. This song is experimental and could very well be an outtake from Madonna's Ray of Light. Up next is the first single "Work Bitch," the EDM anthem practically made for treadmills. After that is "Perfume." This song isn't Spears' best ballad but it's a great song.
Next up is "It Should Be Easy" which is a duet with who had a song in producing many of the songs on this record. The duet is a quasi touching love song that has some touching moments and the dance breakdown after the chorus is just killer. Next up is another collaboration, "Tik Tik Boom" with T.I. This song shows off an experimental sound. The chorus has an urban thump to it but then during the verses Spears sings over a minimal beat with acoustic guitars. Both these songs are album highlights and would make great singles.
Next Spears gets sexy on "Body Ache." While this song isn't bad, it isn't the best sexy song Spears has had and it doesn't hold up next to the other songs. The song is followed up by the best song on the album "Til It's Gone." This song is a dancy number with elements of dubstep and lyrics about a breakup. This song should definitely be a single. It would tear up dance floors all over the world. Spears shows vulnerably on this song. The bridge is a very good example of this.
"All the memories I'm saving/ So your love is never fading/ Holding on my heart is breaking/ Can't let go," Spears sings.
On the next song, "Passenger," Spears is a little more upbeat. The song is about Spears' giving up control in a relationship. It's about falling in love after a hard breakup and Spears' vocals shine on this guitar driven rock/dance hybrid. Katy Perry and Diplo wrote this song and Diplo produced it.
Next up is the worst song on the album. The kind of pop, kind of country, kind of stupid "Chillin' With You." This song is a duet with her sister Jamie Lynn who out sings her sister ten fold. The song is silly and could be done without.
Spears closes the album out on a high note. "Don't Cry" is a ballad that is part "Everytime," part Adele's "Someone Like You." This song is a touching look at the end of spears engagement. This song is a great way to end the standard edition of this album.
The deluxe edition of the record has a few great songs. "Brightest Morning Star" is a touching love song and has Spears sounding less auto-tuned than usual. "Now That I Found You" is a quirky club anthem about finding love and it's a great song and both these tracks should have been on the actual album. "Hold On Tite" is a boring song that doesn't need to have ever taken place. "Perfume (The Dreaming Mix)" is a stripped back version of the second single that makes it sound more fragile.
While this album doesn't top Spears' best records Circus and Blackout, it is a great record that is better than her first three filler filled albums.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Day to Remember Release Standard Album

A Day to Remember self released their fifth album in October. Common Courtesy received a full physical release last month and it's more of the same for the band. The band, led by frontman Jeremy McKinnon, mix in elements of metalcore, pop-punk,, emo and post-hardcore to form a catchy and aggressive sound that is all their own.
While this record isn't the band's best, it is a step up from their last release What Separates Me from You, which had tons of filler and only a handful of great songs. While this record isn't as great as their best album, their sophomore release For Those Who Have Heart, it still reminds fans why this band is so great. The band mix in hardcore bangers, pop-punk anthems and emotional ballads.
The band have gotten heavier on this release and with songs like "Sometimes You're the Hammer, Sometimes You're the Nail," "Violence (Enough Is Enough)"  and "Life Lessons Learned the Hard Way" are all sure to open up mosh pits in the future and are signature A Day to Remember. "Best of Me" is for sure the album's best heavy song. The song mixes in pop-punk melodies and is what the band do best.
The pop-punk inspired songs also shine. "Life @ 11" is a great example of this. The album's two best pop-punk songs are the first two on the album "City of Ocala" and "Right Back at It Again." These songs have the aggression of pop-punk and truly make the listener move.
Some of the album's best tracks are the ballads. "I'm Already Gone," "End of Me" and the album's best song "I Surrender" are all emotional and soft while still maintaining rock elements.
While most of the songs on the album are good some just don't hold their own next to such great songs. "I Remember" and "Dead & Buried" aren't as memorable as the other songs and could be done without.
The rereleased version of this album has three bonus tracks. The acoustic opener of "Leave All the Lights On" soon starts out a bounce that recalls older Kelly Clarkson songs. This song is a pop-punk rocker that is a good addition to the album. "Good Things" is a kind of Blink 182 throwback that also adds to this record. "Same Book But Never the Same Page"  is a good song but it isn't as good as some of the album's other great tracks and comes off as having been done before.
All in all Common Courtesy is a great record and while it isn't the band's best album, isn't the worst thing they've done. It shows that even in adversity a band can stick together and make great music.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Five Finger Death Punch Shine On Second Album Of 2013

Metal titans Five Finger Death Punch released their phenomenal fourth record,  The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell, Volume 1only four months ago and they're already back for more with the band's fifth record Volume 2. The album's both featured the band's signature heavy mix of groove metal and hard rock.
The album opens with three best songs on the record. "Here to Die" is a heavy and aggressive song that features the band on their signature sound of hard music with angry lyrics. "Weight Beneath My Sin" continues along the same route as the first track. "Wrecking Ball" continues along with the same intensity and aggression that is found on Five Finger Death Punch songs.
"I'm a motherfucking wrecking ball," singer Ivan Moody screams during the chorus.
The album then slows it down with the first single "Battleborn." This is a power ballad about the band's life on the road. The song shows a softer side of the band while still maintaining their edge. The album then picks back up with the next song "Cradle to the Grave." This is heavy and contains lots of fury and epic double bass drumming. The album keeps things going with "Matter of Time." This song may be the heaviest song on the album, but when most of the songs are so heavy it's hard to tell.
The album changes things up again on the next track "The Agony of Regret." This song starts out with a human heartbeat and then changes into an acoustic beat which gives the listener a small reprieve from the assault of the faster songs. This instrumental song is barely even two minutes and then segues nicely into the next track "Cold." This song starts out with pianos and Moody singing sadly. This song is a remake of a song by Moody's old band Black Blood Orchestra. The song soon picks up the pace and becomes a rocker.
Next up is "Let this Go" which keeps up the band's fast pace and is sure to start many a mosh pit. The chorus of this song is one of the best hooks on the album. It's so catchy and soulfully sang by Moody. "My Heart Lied" is an emotional cut about realizing that a relationship has come to an end and realizing that it wasn't really love. The song features Moody singing predominantly in clean vocals on this track. Next up is "A Day in My Life." The song is a good song but it sounds too similar to the band's other songs and this song has been done better by the band so many times.
The album closes with a cover of the folk song "The House of the Rising Sun." The band start it out as a slow ballad but then it becomes a rocker. Moody's vocals shine on this song, as well as all of the others.
While this album isn't as good as Volume 1, it is still a great record. Five Finger Death Punch always know how to write great songs and make killer albums. Hopefully they never quit or get lame like Otep, All That Remains or In This Moment did.

Lady Gaga Gets Artsy

Lady Gaga released her third album Artpop this month and it is like her previous releases, amazing. It's got the fun sound of her debut The Fame, the deeper edge of her first EP The Fame Monster and the experimental side of her sophomore record Born this Way. While it isn't perfect, it isn't the worst thing Gaga has ever done.
The disc opens on an experimental note with "Aura." This acoustic, yet Middle Eastern inspired song is from the previews of her film debut Machete Kills.  Gaga continues to mix in experimentation throughout the album. "Jewels N' Drugs" which features T.I., Twista and Too Short is a hip hop banger that is trap as fuck and is an album highlight. "MANiCURE" is a rock song that recalls Gaga's last record. Second single "Do What U Want" features R. Kelly and is an R&B song about pure sex. "Dope" is by far the best ballad Gaga has ever done and may be one of her best songs ever. The song contains electro rock elements and has Gaga giving us some of her most powerful vocals.
While the rest of the songs aren't as experimental, they are still mostly good. Whether channeling the goddess of love on "Venus," being vain on first single "Applause" or being just mean on "Swine," Gaga can do no wrong.
"Gypsy" is a great track with elements of rock and lyrics about finding happiness even while living like a gypsy and touring the world. The title track is a simple song that while not being the best song is still enjoyable. "G.U.Y." is an interesting role reversal in which Gaga wants to be the "girl under you" and wants to find her "G.I.R.L." or "guy I'm romancin' love."
Many songs discuss fame and glamour. While "Mary Jane Holland" is a great example of how Gaga does this well other songs like "Donatella" and "Fashion!" don't hold up as well. "Sexxx Dreams" is another song that while not about fame, isn't as well executed. These songs aren't bad, they're just silly. However the bad songs on here aren't half as bad as the bad songs on Born This Way ("Black Jesus + Amen Fashion," "Highway Unicorn (Road to Love)."
While this album isn't her best work, it is still better than her debut. For a woman who has never made a bad album that is no small feat. Hopefully Gaga keeps up the great sounds for years to come so she can stay near the top where she belongs. This album is for sure the best pop album of the year. However with a new album out in a few weeks Britney Spears is coming for that title.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Gabriella Cilmi Releases Boring New Album

Gabriella Cilmi released her debut album Lessons to Be Learned in 2009 and while her music had an Amy Winehouse meets Duffy kind of sound it was original and resonated well. Despite releasing a great first album Cilmi didn't breakthrough as much as she could have. The next year Cilmi released her sophomore album Ten. While it wasn't released in North America it was still a decent album and even had one of her best songs, first single "On a Mission." The album featured a more new wave and pop-rock sound.
During the Spring of this year Cilmi released "Sweeter in History" which is the best song and served as a promotional single off of her third album The Sting. The single was a ballad about recalling the a relationship fondly after the fact when in reality the relationship wasn't that great. The album was actually released in the United States this month and had a more jazz inspired sound. While most of the songs are listenable, they're pretty boring.
Aside from "Sweeter" there are only a few other memorable songs. "Left With Someone Else" is a bluesy song about being used for sex. "Not Sorry" is a soulful number about a breakup in which Cilmi feels stabbed in the back. She knows that her lover isn't sorry for what he did to her. "Deep Water" is a gorgeous ballad in which Cilmi's vocals float over a gorgeous piano melody. "Don't Look Back" is an acoustic ballad in which Cilmi sings fragilely about the end of a love affair. The first single and title track is a faster R&B song that is nothing but sexual.
The other half of the album contains boring songs that aren't even worth mentioning.  This record has great songs but it would be better if there were a few upbeat songs to even out the ballads. Hopefully on Cilmi's next album she makes more variety in the songs.

Sky Ferreira Finally Releases Debut Album

Sky Ferreira first rose to fame in 2010 with her singles "17," "One" and her best song "Obsession." Her album was due out but never came. In 2011 Ferreira released her first EP As If! which gave had another one of Ferreira's best songs "99 Tears." While the EP was strong it wasn't as good as it could have been. Then in 2012 Ferreira released her second EP Ghost. This album had a different alternative sound and even had an indie sound. The first single released was "Red Lips" which was co-written with Garbage singer Shirley Manson. The EP garnered her some more fans and more respect.
Then last month Ferreira released her debut album Night Time, My Time. This record had a stronger indie rock sound and had some great songs. From the opener "Boys," the weird "Omanko" and the first single "You're Not the One" Ferreira shows that she is a good songwriter. While some of the songs aren't as great as others like the title track on tracks like "Ain't Your Right" and the rocking "Kristine" show that Ferreira is capably of making great songs. The weird title track shows Ferreira's weaknesses, a topic Ferreira isn't ashamed of tackling lyrically.
"I Blame Myself" and album highlight "Nobody Asked Me (If I Was Okay)" tackle weakness. "You showed me all my weakness," Ferreira sings in "Ain't Your Right."
The album's two best songs are "24 Hours" and "Heavy Metal Heart." "24 Hours" is a love song which features Ferreira singing about how she wishes the day wouldn't end when she gets to spend it with her love. "Heavy Metal Heart" isn't really metal but it does have some sick guitar chords. The song is about falling in love and turning her heavy metal heart beat.
Ferreira goes to show us that she can make good songs into an album. While her other records had great songs, this album shows that she can make it as an artist.

Neo Geo Find Their' DNA' On New Album

Dance-rock band Neo Geo rose to fame with their self titled debut album in 2011. The album featured some great songs like "DT Killer" and "Leave Me Behind" but with the exception of many four or so other songs that were great,, the album also contained some filler. Last month they released their sophomore album Digital DNA and it was an improvement on their debut.
The band thrive on rockers like "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang," "I'll Be Fine" and the album's best track and first single "Superstar?" The band rock with the best of them. Singer Rainy Terrell does her best Hayley Williams impression and channels Gwen Stefani on other tracks. On "I've Done it Alone" Terrell channels Sierra Kusterbeck from VersaEmerge (now known as Versa).
The band also know how to do ballads well. "Sunshine State" starts out as a piano laced slow jam and then in true power ballad fashion. The beginning of "Shakedown" features a piano and recalls "Private Parts" by Halestorm before turning into a  straight up rocker. The album also closes with the ballad "Marionette." The song which also turns into a slight rocker is a tad melodramatic and isn't the best ballad the band have ever done.
The band also have some songs that are straight up dance music. "One Way Ticket" is an electropop song that has a fun bouncy beat and tons of energy. Also "One Night Stand" is a dance-rocker with a  killer beat.
Neo Geo don't get as much popularity as they deserve and hopefully this album will change that. While this album isn't perfect, he band have truly found their DNA and their sound .

Thursday, November 14, 2013

AFI Release Best Album

I'm not going to lie I wasn't a fan of AFI until their 2006 debut album Decemberunderground. I just never liked them but that record was great. It made me pay attention to them when in the past I'd not been too into their music. Then in 2009 they released Crash Love which was okay but nothing to really shake a stick at.
Then last month the band released their ninth record Burials. From the epic album opener "The Sinking Night" to the epic closing song "The Face Beneath the Waves," AFI can do no wrong.
The album comes in two types of songs, slow burning rockers and fast paced songs.
"No Resurrection," "The Embrace" and the lead single"I Hope You Suffer," these songs start slow and resonate hard with the listener. These songs are epic and enjoyable but sometimes they can get too long and drawn out. While none of the songs are bad, they aren't as memorable as the faster cuts.
The faster more energetic numbers are where the strength lies in this record. "A Deep Slow Panic," Rewind," "Wild," Greater Than 84," "Anxious" and second single "17 Crimes." These songs are more energetic and passionate and enjoyable to listen to.
While these songs are all great, there are two songs that  are the best on the record. "Heart Stops" is a melancholy song that is about a breakup. This song recalls the greatest emo songs from the heyday of when the genre was popular.
"I know you'll look away while I'm crying/ I know you'll wear that bow with a smile/ Everything I gave you, it was wasted/ Love further down, adore that denial," singer Davey Havok sings during the bridge. Havok demonstrates his emotive vocals and proves why the song works. It's hard to not think back to past heartbreaks while listening to this song.
The other is "The Conductor." This rocker has an 80s inspired beat and is a midtempo song that rocks hard. The drums are part of the greatness of this song in addition to Havok's vocals.
AFI have done a good thing with Burials. Any fans that were let down by Crash Love will have an AFI album to love again.


The Saturdays Shine on Fourth Album

Last month The Saturdays released their fourth record and their American debut album Living for the Weekend. The group is made up of five women from England and Ireland and their infectious brand of pop music has sorely been missed since the demise of girl group greats such as Destiny's Child, Pussycat Dolls and Danity Kane.
There are so many great songs on this record but the three best were released as singles. "What About Us" is a reggae inspired song that features Sean Paul. While this version was released abroad the solo Saturdays version was released as their debut American single. The song is catchy and features lyrics pleading to give love a second chance. "Gentleman" is an R&B song about how hard it is to find a gentleman in this day and age. The song features sassy vocals by the band and it's pure fun. "Disco Love" is a disco inspired song about falling in love and features nostalgic lyrics.
"We got the disco love, so fun and colorful/ It's never winter when it's Donna Summer all year long/ You take me back in time, to 1979/ We'll be at the Bee Gees, baby everybody staying alive," The girls sing before the chorus.
The girls experiment with different genres. There's R&B cuts like "Leave a Light On," "Lease My Love" and "You Don't Have the Right." Most of the album though is straight up dance-pop cuts. "Not Giving Up" is a house inspired song about not giving up on love. "30 Days" and "Anywhere With You" are dance cuts that deal with being apart from significant others while on tour. "Problem With Love" is a fast song about the ups and downs of relationship and has a dubstep inspired breakdown. "Don't Let Me Dance Alone" is a dance song about wanting to go out dancing while their boyfriends want too stay in. The album closes with "Somebody Else's Life" which is about how sometimes life is so good, you can't believe it.
The Saturdays are a girl group to get excited about. Their American debut is great and hopefully they blow up like they deserve.

Heartsounds Stay Constant on New Album

Punk band Heartsounds released their third album last month and it is very much the quintessential Heartsounds record. Internal Eyes is the band's best album. While their previous albums, 2009's Until We Surrender and 2011's Drifter feature some of the band's best songs, this album as a whole is stronger.
Laura Nichol and Ben Murray who both do vocals and guitars for the band were once in the epic metal band Light This City and that metal influence shows on songs such as album highlights "The World Up There," "Where Are You?" and "Cycles."
While all of the songs are good the album gets a tad bit repetitive. At ten songs deep it's hard to differentiate one song from the others. However the epic energy of each song keeps the listener hooked and Murray and Nichol's guitar work and vocals give each song new life. While Nichol was a much stronger screamer in Light This City than she is a clean vocalist in Heartsounds she still performs well. Murray's vocals are stronger than Nichol's but when they harmonize it seems to work.
Other highlights include "Afterthoughts" and "Spiraling," the later being a short and sweet song at just under a minute and a half.
While Light This City were a better band than Heartsounds were this album is an enjoyable listen. It's good to hear Nichol and Murray still making music and I can't fault a band for abandoning a successful band in order to make the music that they want to make. I respect anybody who can follow their musical hearts. Here's hoping that Heartsounds continue to live out their dreams on record for a long time to come.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Avril Lavigne Goes Back to Her Roots On New Album

Avril Lavigne is back with her self-titled fifth album and it is a return to form of sorts. Lavigne released three stellar albums before releasing her worst work yet, 2011's Goodbye Lullaby. The pop rock princess abandoned her loud rocking anthems almost entirely and had an acoustic sound on that record. While there were a few great songs the only truly amazing cut was the single "What the Hell" which may be one of Lavigne's best songs ever.
Then in April of this year Lavigne released her comeback single "Here's to Never Growing Up." While it was a decent song, it lacked the spark of past hits. It later became a decent hit for the singer.
Then in August Lavigne released her second single "Rock n Roll." This song was a return to form for the singer and set the stage for her fifth album, out last week.
While at first I was turned off by the fact that Lavigne's husband, Nickelback singer Chad Kroeger was responsible for co-writing eight songs, producing six and being featured on the third single "Let Me Go." Kroeger also sings backup on a few tracks. However this is one of Lavigne's most enjoyable releases. It's her second best after 2007's masterpiece The Best Damn Thing.
The album's best songs are the rockers. "Rock n Roll" is an anthem for misfits everywhere. "17" features Lavigne reliving her teenage years. "Bitchin' Summer" is an ode to summer fun. "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet" is a fast-paced rocker about falling in love. And the album's two best songs are "Bad Girl" which features Marilyn Manson and is a dirty and strange duet and "Hello Kitty" which is a strange dubstep-laced song that is overtly sexual and pure fun.
The album's midtempo cuts are also good for the most part. "Here's to Never Growing Up" wasn't my favorite at first but it's definitely a decent song. "Sippin' on Sunshine" is a midtempo song about summer loving. "Hello Heartache" is also one of the album's best songs. It's a midtempo rocker about moving on from a breakup which recalls a slow jam off of Ke$ha's last album.
Now comes the album's ballads. "Let Me Go" which is a duet with Chad Kroeger and the third single is a great ballad and despite Lavigne's duet partner it's surprisingly good. "Give You What You Like" however is a weird sexual ballad. It doesn't work and is probably the worst song on the record. The album closes with two forgettable ballads. "Falling Fast" is a decent but forgettable song about falling in love and taking a chance. Next is the album's last track "Hush Hush." This song is decent but it's been done by Lavigne many other times and the others were usually more memorable.
Lavigne has surprised us with one of the best pop albums of the year. With releases coming from Lady Gaga and Britney Spears in the coming weeks she may be undone but for now Avril Lavigne is up there was being one of the best pop releases this year. Lavigne has proven herself with this album. She has proved that even after a bad album she can come back and is one of pop's princesses. 


Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Sounds Release Their Worst Album

The Sounds have always made good music. Their first two albums 2002's Living in America and 2006's Dying to Say This to You combined new wave and punk to form a catchy and aggressive sound. Then in 2009's Crossing the Rubicon the band matured and changed their sound a bit. While not as good it was still a great record. Then in 2011 the band released their worst album Something to Die For. The album had a very mainstream sound and was very poppy.. There was a more synthpop sound and while it had some great songs, the album as a whole didn't hold up to the band's three previous albums.
Something to Die For wasn't a bad record, it just didn't hold up with the rest of the band's material. The same is true for the band's fifth album Weekend.  The album has some of the sounds signature sound on songs like "Outlaw," "Animal," and "Young and Wild." These are good songs, but they aren't as good as the band's other material.
For every good song on Weekend, there are many that just don't have the same spark The Sounds used to have. "Hurt the Ones That I Love" and the title track are examples of this. These soft rocking songs are an attempt to grow up and mature, however the lyrics are still childish.
"I live for the weekend baby/ I live for the weekend baby/ If you're wondering what it's like to be me/ I live for the weekend baby," Maja Ivarsson, the band's vocalist sings during the chorus of the later.
While songs like the first single "Shake Shake Shake," "Take it the Wrong Way" and "Too Young to Die" are all great, the cheesy lyrics of many of the songs kind of kill them. From a group of musicians in their 30s these lyrics sound childish.
Some of the songs have a more experimental sound. "Great Day," for example, has elements of country music. But for all the experimentation on the album The Sounds backtrack "Outlaw" sounds just like a song off of Living in America and "Panic" sounds like a Something to Die For outtake.
This album is far from bad, it's just disappointing that a band that was once so great has been reduced to making music like this. None of the songs come as close to the great songs of The Sounds' past. Where is "Ego?" Where is "Hope You're Happy Now?" Where is "Tony the Beat? "Beatbox?" "Seven Days a Week?" This album isn't bad, it just isn't on par with the band's older music.

I See Stars Get Heavy On New Album

I See Stars has always been known to combine heavy music with dance elements. On their first album 2009's 3D, the band had random techno breakdowns mixed in with their heavy metalcore sound in addition to some pop-punk and hip hop elements. Then on their sophomore and best album The End of the World Party the band had a more predominant pop-punk sound but still had heaviness and dance elements to their music. Then in 2012 the band released their third album that wasn't as good as their first two records. Digital Renegade was went harder in the band's style as well as farther into the world of electronic music.
Then in 2013 the band released their fourth record New Demons. This album is better than their last but it still isn't as good as their first two albums. The band continued the sound of Digital Renegade.
"Ten Thousand Feet" and "Violent Bounce (People Like You)" are just two of the album's many highlights. The album's title track and "Judith Rules" are two other highlights.
While some of the songs such as "Boris the Animal" and "Murder Mitten" aren't as good they are more than made up by good songs like "We're Not in Kansas Anymore," "When I Say Jump, You Say How High" and "Who Am I?" more than make up for those songs that don't quite hold up next to the good songs on this record.
The band's vocalists Devin Oliver who does cleans and Andrew Oliver who does unclean vocals sound right at home amongst the music.
While I See Stars haven't released their best album with New Demons they have done better than their last album. Improvement is very important and I See Stars have accomplished that.

Katy Perry Releases Her Worst Album

Katy Perry rose to fame with her first two amazing albums, 2008's One of the Boys and 2010's Teenage Dream. When Perry released "Roar," the first single off of her album Prism in August I was impressed, but this album isn't as great as her previous records.
No there are lots of good songs. The Middle Eastern experimentation of "Legendary Lovers," the 90s europop of "Walking on Air" and the hip hop elements of "Dark Horse" which features Juicy J all work. Other songs like the 80s inspired "This Moment," the Miley Cyrusisms in "This is How We Do" and the adorable second single "Unconditionally," Perry still knows how to make a decent pop song. However these songs only seem great because they're paired up with lame songs like the poppy "Birthday" or the cheesy "Ghost" make tracks like the Ke$ha meets Daft Punk "International Smile" seem like a pop gem. However next to Perry's other work the album highlights look like children's songs.
Let's get into the bad songs on the album. "Love Me" recalls "Pearl" from her last album, but not in a good way. The album closes with the overdramatic ballads "Double Rainbow" and "By the Grace of God." These songs are about moving on from bad events in life to better things, they're silly and clichéd and not necessary.
The album's deluxe edition tracks are nothing memorable either. "Spiritual" is co-written with Perry's boyfriend John Mayer, who also plays guitar on the Robynesque "This Moment." "Spiritual" comes off as just weird and not memorable. "It Takes Two" is a great song and is one of the best songs on the record. It should have been an album cut instead of a bonus track. This Emeli Sandé co-written track is about how after a breakup both parties are to blame, but Perry will only take the blame for so much. The last bonus track is "Choose Your Battles." This song is also not memorable.
Despite the good songs on this record, I'd pick her other albums over this any day. Perry has done better and here's to hoping she does so again.

Icon for Hire Change Things Up On New Album

Icon for Hire have changed things up in a big way. Their debut Scripted had a very hard rock sound mixing in pop-punk and alternative metal with elements of electronic music.
Last month they released their sophomore album Icon for Hire. The album mixes in a variety of styles of music including hip hop, dubstep and post-hardcore which was prevalent on their earlier EPs. Their previous album had singer Ariel getting her Hayley Williams on and this album is no different. On highlights like the rockers "Sugar & Spice" and "Rock and Roll Thugs" Ariel gets very into her roll as vocalist. The band are at their best when they're rocking hard. "Nerves" and the first single "Cynics & Critics" are album highlights. "Pop Culture" and "Sorry About Your Parents" are also both great examples of this.
Some of the album's tracks aren't as good as others. "Hope of Mourning" has a beautiful chorus but the rest of it is just there. "Watch Me" is an interesting hip hop inspired song but it just doesn't hold up to the rest of the songs. "Slow Down" is a decent song but there is nothing special about it. "Fix Me" is the album's lone true ballad and it isn't as good as "Only a Memory" from their debut.
While these songs aren't that great, others make up for it. "Think I'm Sick" is catchy and thumping and an all in all enjoyable listen and "Counting on Hearts" is a great way to end the album. Starts out very hip hop but then the band sets in.
While Icon for Hire's self-titled album isn't better than their debut Scripted it is a good step forward. It shows experimentation and thinking outside of the box. In hard rock that's something that isn't done too often.

V V Brown Stays Original On New Album

V V Brown has always been original. On her debut album Travelling Like the Light Brown had a old school soul sound similar to Amy Winehouse, yet with a more dance-punk influence. So when Brown unveiled the first single for her second album Lollipops & Politics, Brown stayed in the same vein as her previous album. "Children" which featured Chiddy from Chiddy Bang was one of her best songs.
When Brown planned to scrap the album right before it's release, concerns were raised.
Then this year Brown released the first single off of her second album Samson & Delilah. "Samson" and the follow up single "The Apple" have new wave sound which mixes in dance and pop elements.
The album opens with the best song on the record "Substitute for Love." The song is slow and features a sparse instrumentation. Brown's vocals on the song sound gorgeous and emotive. This is the perfect way to start this record.
The new wave sound is prevalent on highlights such as "I Can Give You More," Igneous" and "Nothing Really Matters." While there are lots of good songs some of them can get a little strange. "Looking for Love" is a little strange yet it works and the first single "Samson" is a little quirky. These songs are still good and still work as evidence that Brown's new sound is  working.
Second single "The Apple" is a fun and funky song that recalls slightly some of Brown's older music. The tail end of the album is where shit gets really weird. "Faith" is a duet with Laurence Aldridge who wrote several songs with Brown on the record. "Ghosts" is a very 80s inspired song that is good but it isn't one of the best songs on the record. "Knife" is a gorgeous ballad that starts off with piano and has Brown getting very emotional. This song is a very honest retelling of the end of a relationship. Brown's vocals are hauntingly good and this song makes the listener feel the pain she felt while dealing with the end of a love. "Knife" should have been the ending song on the album but the album's actual last song on the record isn't as great.
"Beginning" is a strange ballad that starts out too slow and doesn't grab the listener's attention. While this song ends the album on a bad note, the songs that are good are good enough to make you forget about the mistakes on this album. While these songs are great, they don't come close to Brown's signature song "Shark in the Water." "Substitute for Love" comes close but Brown doesn't quite outdo her biggest hit. This record is a good step in this new direction that Brown has gone in and you can't fault an artist who changes their entire sound and tries something new. In a world where too many artists don't experiment Samson & Delilah sets Brown apart from the crowd.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Sleigh Bells Release Best Album

Noise rock duo Sleigh Bells released their third album Bitter Rivals this month and it is by far their best record. Sleigh Bells music mixes in pop, punk, metal, R&B, dance, hip hop and indie rock to form an aggressive but catchy sound.
Their 2010 debut album Treats was a great record and got the band lots of attention however 2012 sophomore album Reign of Terror was just boring.
The album opens with the first single and title track. Like "Tell 'Em" and "Comeback Kid" from their previous albums, the first single is always the best track and that is true for this album as well. "Bitter Rivals" is catchy and aggressive and stands up for attention.
"You are my bitter rival/ But I need you for survival," singer Alexis Krauss sings during the chorus.
Krauss is a very interesting vocalist. She's very similar to Karen O from Yeah Yeah Yeahs, soft singing one moment  and then shouting and shrieking the next. Krauss along with Derek Miller, formally of Poison the Well who does guitars and production make up Sleigh Bells. Miller's beats and shredding are part of what makes the band's sound work.
Other songs that are highlights include "Sugarcane," "Sing Like a Wire" and "Young Legends" are some of the album's best songs. This album is the first time that breakups are covered well on a Sleigh Bells album. "You Don't Get Me Twice," "To Hell With You" and the album closer and the album's other best song is "Love Sick." The band had several relationship songs on their sophomore album but none were as good as these songs.
There is one lone song that isn't good. "Minnie" is repetitive, strange and unnecessary. That being said this is still Sleigh Bells' best record and is hopefully a sign of what's to come for this amazing band.

Cassadee Pope Releases Enjoyable Debut

Cassadee Pope rose to fame in the Warped Tour circuit with her pop-punk band Hey Monday. Their music was an energetic dose of pop-punk that featured a very pop edge but also rocked hard. Hey Monday took a hiatus and Pope released a mediocre EP that was basically Hey Monday lite. Then she participated and eventually won The Voice. With Blake Shelton as her coach Pope adopted a country sound and that later manifested in the first single "Wasting All These Tears." The single was a great first country outing for Pope and her debut album Frame by Frame followed this month.
The album starts on a high note with the album's five best songs. "Good Times," "Champagne," "Wasting All These Tears," "I Wish I Could Break Your Heart" and "Everybody Sings" are all catchy and memorable. "Good Times" is a fast paced song about enjoying the good times with a bit of  a rock edge and is the best song on the album. "Everybody Sings" shows a bit of Pope's pop side with a Gwen Stefani "Hollaback Girl" inspired breakdown during the bridge. "I Wish I Could Break Your Heart" is a rock inspired song as well as "Champagne."
Other good songs on the album are "This Car" and ode to falling in love in a car and "One Song Away" a breakup ballad about being one sad song away from a breakdown. "Easier to Lie" is an anthem for cheaters all over and despite being a sleazy track, is an emotional look into the mind of a cheater.
Some of the songs that aren't as good include "You Hear a Song" which is a misguided attempt at a love song and just comes off cheesy. "11" is a Taylor Swift inspired song that deals with a child dealing with the divorce of her parents.
However the album closes on a high note again with "Proved You Wrong." This song is a fast-paced country rocker that is similar to Pope's solo material.
While this country debut is a good album, it isn't truly pure country. The music is more pop and rock with country influences mixed in. Pope should return to Hey Monday as soon as possible. Her music with her former band was far more memorable than these songs. But judging by her "I'm going back to my roots" spiel that isn't likely to happen anytime soon, if not ever. 


Panic! at the Disco Release Killer New Album

Rock band Panic! at the Disco have had quite the career. After skyrocketing to the top with their debut album,  2005's A Fever You Can't Sweat Out the  band released a shitty second record, 2008's Pretty. Odd. While this album had a few good songs, they couldn't compare to past hits like "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" and "The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide Is Press Coverage," two of the band's best songs.
Then in 2009 while recording a third album the band lost half it's members. Ryan Ross and Jon Walker went on to form a new band The Young Veins which stayed in the psychedelic sound of the band's second album. Remaining members Brendan Urie and Spencer Smith wanted to keep the band's sound in a more pop sound like their debut, which was good for them in the end. At the time it seemed as if the band were done for but then later that year the band released their first single with the new lineup "New Perspective." This single was from the soundtrack to the ridiculous movie Jennifer's Body and showed that the band were in no way done.
Then in 2011 the band announced their new album Vices & Virtues and preceded it with their single "The Ballad of Mona Lisa" which was on the same level of greatness as the band's debut. That album was similar to the sound of the band's debut and led the band to the new sound they have on their recently released fourth album Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!
The album has a very 80s inspired sound that is very prevalent in songs like "Girls That You Love," "Casual Affair" and third single "Girls/Girls/Boys." This album is set to restore fan's faith in the band and it will do so.
From first single "Miss Jackson" which features soul singer Lolo to the rocky "Nicotine," the band never disappoint on this record. All of the songs are good and memorable. "Nicotine" is the best song on the album and should be the fourth single. Almost every song is an album highlight from the dancy "Vegas Lights" to the album's lone ballad and closing song, "The End of All Things." The only song that is sort of lackluster is the second single "This is Gospel." While you'd think that a single would be one of the more memorable tracks, it just doesn't hold up against the rest of the songs.
This album finds the band experimenting with new sounds. The album's musical style mixes in electropop, rock, power pop, hip hop and R&B. The band are getting more experimental than ever.
This album is definitely a good step forward and hopefully the band stay on this level from now on. 


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts Get Personal On New Album

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts released their tenth album last month and front woman Joan Jett gets personal in the lyrics. The queen of punk and hard rock has always made catchy songs that had a somewhat personal tone to the lyrics, but on Unvarnished, Jett lets loose her feelings and ideas.
On "Any Weather," the first single, Jett discusses getting through tough times with the help of her friends and family. On "TMI" and "Reality Mentality" Jett discuss the culture we live in and our lack of privacy.
On "Make it Back" Jett discusses how sometimes things get hard.
"I hope this train won't fall of the track/ Cause I, I gotta make it back," Jett sings during the chorus.
On "Hard to Grow Up" Jett deals with the trials and tribulations of, well, growing up. The song is inspired by the loss of Jett's parents. "Fragile" keeps up with these themes. Jett realizes how fragile life is.
"Soulmates to Strangers" deals with the pain after a breakup. Jett has always had lyrics about breakups but this song hits harder. "Bad As We Can Be" and "Different" features Jett getting back to her "Bad Reputation" days. "Bad As We Can Be" is about knowing a lover is bad for you, but staying with them anyway. "Different" is a call to arms for the freaks out there.
The album ends on a different note for Jett and the boys. "Everybody Needs a Hero" is a ballad that is gorgeous and about how sometimes you just need a bit of help.
This album is a great step for the band and hopefully they keep up this personal tone for future albums.

Justin Timberlake Will Never Stop

Justin Timberlake released his second album of 2013 last month and it's one of his best. The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2 is far better than it's predecessor. While his last album had a more neo-soul sound this new record, Timberlake's fourth, has a more hip hop and R&B influenced sound like his last album combined with Justified and FutureSex/LoveSounds.
The album, like all of Timberlake's are predominantly produced by Timbaland. This is evident in album highlights "Gimime What I Don't Know (I Want)" and the second single "TKO."
Other highlights include "Cabaret" which features Drake, "Murder" which features Jay-Z and the acoustic rock inspired "Drink You Away." 
While most of the songs are great there are some that aren't up to par with the others. "True Blood" is about four minutes too long with a runtime of 9:31 minutes. While Timberlake's last three albums are known for having long songs, this one just isn't necessary for it to be that long. The song is good but after a while it's just too much to handle. Also the first single "Take Back the Night" could have been better.
Those songs aside the album really does shine. "You Got it On" is a soulful track that is a throwback to Part 1. " "Amnesia" is a classic Timberlake song that deals with a breakup.
"Only When I Walk Away" is a thumper that has a guitar-laced beat about the end of a relationship, a topic that despite being happily married Timberlake covers a lot on this new album.
The album ends with "Not a Bad Thing." This song is a love song that features more acouscit guitars. This song goes to show that even after the heartbreak that is dealt with on the disc, love can come. The album keeps up with the acoustic sound on the bonus track "Pair of Wings" This song features just Timberlake and an acoustic guitar. This song is a love song that is simply adorable.
All in all this album is a great record and it goes to show that Timberlake is not going anywhere.

Krewella Release Exquisite Debut Album

Dance trio Krewella released their debut album Get Wet last month and it is a fun ride from beginning to end. Their music combines house, drum and bass and dubstep to make a perfect union of dance music perfection. From the opening track "Live for the Night" to the ending song "This is Not the End" which features Pegboard Nerds, the group always bring the party.
"Live for the Night" is an epic party jam that starts the record off right. Next up is one of the best songs, "We Go Down." This song is all about partying and the bonds of friendship. "Come & Get It" is a fun song that is decidedly dubstep leaning. The next song "Enjoy the Ride" is a song about the group enjoying the ride that is life.
One of the best songs on the album comes up next. "We Are One" is possibly the most house song on the album is all about unity. This song should definitely be a single, it would do great at radio. The next song is sure to be a hit as well. "Dancing with the Devil" features Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker and Fall Out Boy vocalist Patrick Stump. This song is a dubstep anthem for misfits everywhere.
"We are louder than your bullshit/ You're just dancing with the devil," vocalists Jahan Yousaf and Yasmine Yousaf sing with Stump.
The next song is the group's signature song and biggest hit "Alive." The song is a gorgeous dance song that starts out with just a piano and soon adds a raved out instrumentation. The song is song is about the music making them feel alive. It's emotional and perfect. This song is so catchy, no wonder it's such a huge hit.
The theme of getting lost in the music continues on "Pass the Love Around." The song is about dancing at a club and getting lost in the music and feeling free. The next song "Ring of Fire" has the group getting into a darker dubstep kind of sound. "Fuck the rules," the girls sing in the first line of the song. The song is tailored to clubs.
The next song "Human" finds Krewella changing up the pace. The song starts off with pianos and acoustic guitars. The lyrics of the song show such fragility. "I am only human," they sing.
Next the album goes to "Killin' It." This song has a hip hop swagger to it and then dubstep breakdowns. The lyrics are classic hip hop bragging lyrics.
The album closes on a high note with their current single "This is Not the End." The song features Pegboard Nerds is a very dubstep song that closes the album off right.
Krewella are a great group and they've already shown that they mean business. They are sure to have more hits like "Alive."

Icona Pop Start The Party On Debut Album

Icona Pop released the perfect pop single last year. Their hit "I Love It," which features Charli XCX on vocals and as a songwriter, was the perfect breakup anthem. Fun music with angry lyrics about a lover who's done wrong. It was catchy and addictive and relatable, yet still carefree. That sums up Icona Pop in one word, carefree. Their debut album This Is... Icona Pop is proof of that.
There's no more evidence needed than two of the duo's singles "All Night" and "We Got the World." "All Night" is a fun song about partying all night and "We Got the World" is an ode to being yourself and enjoying life.
"They say you're a freak when we're having fun/ Say you must be high when we're spreading love/ But we're just living life and we never stop/ We got the world," Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo sing during the chorus.
Sometimes the duo's lyrics about partying work and sometimes they don't. On "Ready for the Weekend" the band keep up with their antics but something about this song just doesn't work.
One of the album's best songs is the first single, the Tupac sampling "Girlfriend." On the track the girls sing about how all they need is each other and their friendship.
"All I need in this life of sin/ Is me and my girlfriend/ Down to ride til the happy end/ It's me and my girlfriend," the duo sing. 
Another highlight is "In the Stars," which is an indie-inspired number. That is followed by the weird "On a Roll" and then the gorgeous ballad "Just Another Night." This song, Icona Pop's first ballad, is a gorgeous ballad about suffering after a bad night out.
The album goes into "Hold On" which is a song about realizing a breakup is coming. The song also has some indie influences. The song is followed by the boring "Light Me Up." This song is good, but it isn't very interesting or memorable. The album then closes with the punk inspired "Then We Kiss." This song is a fast paced track that ends the album on a high note.
The album isn't the best record of the year but it is a fun record to be the soundtrack to any party. Icona Pop are far from a one hit wonder.

A Skylit Drive Continue To Wow On New Album

Post-hardcore band A Skylit Drive released their fourth album Rise last month. This album, their first without founding member Joey Wilson, is a more polished effort than any of the band's other releases. Each album and EP the band has released becomes more and more polished. The sound on this album isn't as raw as their early work. While the band's production has become more polished, the band's passion and emotion in their music hasn't waned. While Rise isn't as great as their last and best album Identity on Fire, it is a great record that is sure to keep fans happy.
The album doesn't have any bad songs and each song is catchy and memorable. The songs have the usual mix of heavy unclean vocals by Brian White and clean, high-pitched vocals by Michael Jagmin. 
Tracks like "Dreaming in Blue," "Crazy" and the title track and first single have the band's classic post-hardcore sound. Catchy hooks, heavy verses and killer breakdowns. While this album isn't exactly groundbreaking, the band do tread new water in some spots. "Said & Done" has an electro inspired intro and lone ballad "Please Stay" and one of the best songs on the record have a different sound as well, incorporating pianos into the music of this touching ballad.
The album's best song is the album opener "Save Me Tragedy." It's a heavy rocker and a great way to open the disc. "I hear you screaming/ You fell in love with a tragedy," Jagmin sings.
The second half of the album has more memorable songs like "Pendulum," "Wide Awake" and "Shadows."
This record further helps A Skylit Drive etch our their place amongst the greatest post-hardcore bands. This band can be around for a long time to come. Hopefully on their next album  they further the experimentation.

Friday, September 27, 2013

More Of The Same On New Eyes Set To Kill Album

Metalcore band Eyes Set to Kill announced their fifth album this summer and said that it would be called Masks because they were finally taking off their mask and being able to be themselves. This is good since the band's first four albums had very little experimentation and all of the songs sounded similar. Now this is not bad, Eyes Set to Kill are a great band and they write great songs, but all of their songs are similar.
The band, fronted by Alexia Rodriquez who does clean vocals and their unclean vocalist Cisko Miranda who also does cleans sometimes, have a model for most of their songs. It's usually unclean verses, clean choruses. While there is some change, that's usually how their songs go.
On Masks there is little to no change. While there are some songs that stick out, most of the songs all sound the same. This is not to say that the songs are bad. They're all good but only a few of them stick out.
"Lost and Forgotten," "Where I Want to Be," "Surface," Little Liar," "The New Plague," Infected," "The Secrets Between" and "The Forbidden Line" all stand out and are catchy. They stand out around this sea of clean choruses and breakdowns.
"The Secrets Between" and "Where I Want to Be" are both previously on their last album, 2011's White Lotus. That is where the band make a mistake; putting older, better songs on the album.
While the album isn't the best thing that Eyes Set to Kill have done, it is a great record. It leaves behind the acoustic undertones of their previous album for 13 songs of straight aggression and heaviness. Eyes Set to Kill for all of their flaws are still a great band and they continue to make great new albums. Regardless of whether or not a band can go on making the same album five more times, that remains to be seen.

Natalia Kills Grows Up On New Album

Natalia Kills released her sophomore album Trouble this month and it's a step ahead from her 2011 Perfectionist. While that album was like a darker version of Lady Gaga with guitars, this album takes half of the Gaga influence away and throws in a huge Lana Del Rey influence. The album is full of melancholy lyrics and guitar licks. This is show perfectly on the opener and best song on the record "Television." The song starts out with lyrics about the magic of television but then in the last minute of the song Kills turns it around and sings in a fragile voice over a piano.
"Where I'm from it all goes wrong/ It's not like on the television/ The darkest days don't fade away/ Can't turn it off like television," Kills sings during this little interlude which is followed by a scream of frustration to end the song.
The album then goes into the first single "Problem." This guitar filled dance rocker is about being a badass, something Kills knows a lot about. The third track "Stop Me" takes on a softer more dance inspired sound. Kills talks about her daddy issues on this song, which is a theme she examines in detail on this record.
The next song brings back the guitar and swagger that is expected from Kills. "Boys Don't Cry" is a great song and it features Kills taking about a breakup. On the next track, the Hall & Oats sampling, "Daddy's Girl" Kills examines her relationship, or lack thereof with her father. Kills told Marie Claire Magazine about her childhood. " I have this awful riches-to-rags childhood story: When I was born, my family had a lot, but by the time I was 11, my dad had been accused of being a criminal and we were visiting him in jail. The police took everything.
That can explain the lyrics to many of the songs on this record. Two of the best songs on the album are up next. First is the second single "Saturday Night" which features lyrics about her troubled childhood and tinges of domestic battery. She eased the pain with going out and partying to forget about her issues. The song recalls Lana Del Rey and Robyn and is a great song. The next song, "Devils Don't Fly" is a gorgeous breakup song which is one of Kills' best songs to date and it contains the best lyrics. The song talks about the pain of losing a love and the hopeless feeling after a breakup.
The album loses steam on the next track "Outta Time." This old school soul sounding track isn't bad, but it's not as powerful as the other songs.
The album picks up on the next two songs. "Controversy" is a social commentary about the world we live in. It tackles drugs, criminals and a plethora of other topics. "Drink the Kool-Aide/ Don't drink the Kool-Aide," Kills sings during the chorus.
The next song is "Rabbit Hole" which recalls Gwen Stefani's second solo album. It has a very marching band, hip hop sound and is topically similar to "Problem." It recalls the sound and attitude of her debut.
"Watching You" is a breakup ballad that is decent, but nothing compared to the next track "Marlboro Lights." This track is a gorgeous ballad which deals with medicating after the end of a breakup. The track is about not being able to escape the memory of a past love. This along with "Devils Don't Fly" are the perfect breakup song.
The final track is the title track and a decent song. It recalls Lana Del Rey and Taylor Swift, melding the two into a good closer. By the time that this song comes about, it's too late and overplayed.
Natalia Kill is the most underrated pop artist out there. She is nowhere near being as big as she deserves.

Sheryl Crow Goes Country On New Album

Sheryl Crow released her eighth album and first country album earlier this month. Feels Like Home is hardly the most country album ever, but for Crow it's country as fuck. While Crow has mixed country into her songs before this album is the most country thing she's done.
The album starts out with two easy breezy country anthems "Shotgun" and "Easy," the album's first single. These songs are about pure fun and enjoying life with riding in a truck and getting drunk on a beach.
The next song, "Give it to Me" is sex song, or as close to a sex song as country can get. The song has soulful vocals from Crow and is great song. The next song "We Oughta Be Drinkin'" is a song about as crow puts it "getting shitfaced." This song is an album highlight and should be a single.
The next track, "Callin' Me When I'm Lonely" is along the same lines of "Give it to Me." It's about Crow's ex calling her when she's lonely and trying to get it in.
"Waterproof Mascara" is a tearjerker of a song. It's about a single mom who has to deal with no t having her son's father in his life. She wants her son to have a dad and her ex is clearly not around.
"It won't run like his daddy did," Crow sings during the chorus. This song is purely heartbreaking and gorgeous.
The next song is one of the best songs on the album "Crazy Ain't Original." In this song Crow examines the crazy world we live in. She examines pop culture and our fame obsessed society.
"Well those neighbors we all tried to stay away from/ Twelve kids were not enough, they had thirteen/ And what everybody used to call a freak show/ Well now we call reality TV," Crow sings during the second verse.
"Nobody's Business" is a country rocker about a relationship that Crow is in that people can't seem to stop talking about.
The next song "Homesick" is a forgettable ballad but it's followed up by two of the album's best songs. "Homecoming Queen" discusses a woman who peaked in high school and "Best of Times," which is a fast rocker where Crow again examines our culture.
"I've got a custom Continental/ Made in 1965/ With a "save the planet" sticker/ That makes it kind of hard to drive," Crow sings in the first verse.
The album closes with the ballad "Stay at Home Mother," this song has a similar theme to "Waterproof Mascara." It's a decent song, but not as good as the latter or a lot of the songs here.
This album is surprisingly good and it's one of Crow's best cohesive albums. Hopefully she keeps with the country sound for her next album.

Tonight Alive Get Darker On New Album

Pop-punk band Tonight Alive have always created energetic music with heavy pop-punk influences. Their sophomore album, The Other Side has a darker and heavier sound than before while retaining the passion and energy that the band had in earlier releases.
The album isn't as good as their 2011 debut What Are You So Scared Of? but it does have a lot of good songs. The album opens on a strong point with the first single "The Ocean." The song is a great opener to the band's new sound. The next song, "Don't Wish" is a great follow up song and lyrically covers the topic of a breakup.
"Don't wish that she was me," front woman Jenna McDougall sings tauntingly during the chorus. This song is an epic statement of freedom and her way of saying that he had his chance.
The next song and second single keeps up the momentum of the first two songs. "Lonely Girl" is possibly one of the best songs on this album and it's the most close to their debut album and EPs. The song, which lyrically talks about the end of a friendship, keeps up the energetic and heavy sound that the band have put into place for this record. McDougall clearly has lots to say on this record.
The fourth song on this record slows things down to a degree. "To Hell and Back" deal with finally moving on from a breakup. McDougall is stronger than ever.
"I went to hell and back just to be where I am today," she sings during the chorus.
McDougall is what makes this band so great. Her lyrics are always touching and relatable and her vocals truly make you feel what she's singing.
This is especially true on the title track and best song on the album. A song about recalling an old relationship. McDougall remembers it fondly even though it ended badly. She seems to still miss her love but she knows now that things are better after going through rough times. This song is universal and will relate to anybody. This song is the best song on this album, if not one of the band's best songs ever.
The next song, "The Fire" returns to the heavier sound the band is exploring on this album. It's fast and fun yet packed with emotion, like all of the best Tonight Alive songs.
"Complexes," the next song deals with insecurities. This song is something that anybody can relate to.
"Are you embarrassed of me," McDougall sings in the first line of the song.
The second half of the album tends to bleed together. "Come Home" and "Say Please" stand out, but songs like "Bathwater" and "No Different" aren't memorable. The album ends on a high note with the balladish song "You Don't Owe Me Anything." The song starts out with piano but soon gets heavier.
Tonight Alive are such a good band and it's high time that they get the credit they're due.

Ellie Goulding Rerelease Adds Little To Already Perfect Album

Ellie Goulding released her sophomore album Halcyon last fall and it was a great album. It was a step up from her debut album Lights and the soundtrack to many a break up over the last year.
Halcyon Days, the album's rerelease came out in August and it was a good addition to the album, but it wasn't really necessary. There are a lot of good songs but Goulding could have just released a new EP or entirely new album altogether.
The rerelease begins with it's two best songs, the single "Burn" and "Goodness Gracious." The latter being an upbeat dance track that should be the next single. It's the catchiest and most authentic song on the rerelease.
Most of the album's best songs are it's dancier numbers. "You My Everything," "Stay Awake" which is a collaboration with French producer Madeon and "Flashlight" which is a collaboration with British DJ, DJ Fresh. These songs are some of the best songs and really capture the listener's attention.
While there are several slower songs, none are as good as "Hearts Without Chains." There are a few other slow songs, and while none of them are bad, they aren't as good as some of her other songs "How Long Will I Love You?" is a piano filled song that somehow falls flat. "Tessellate" is a cover of a song by Alt-J which has a more R&B feel to it, the same as "Midas Touch" which is a cover of a song by soul band Midnight Star. While these R&B songs are a good direction for  Goulding to go, they add little to this rerelease.
While these songs are all good, few of them stand up to songs that are on the original version of Halcyon. There could easily have been a smaller EP released with about four or five fewer songs.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

DevilDriver Stay Constant On New Album

Groove metal kings DevilDriver released their sixth album Winter Kills last month. The album is very similar to all of their previous albums. Most of the band's music sound the same. Grove metal with elements of melodic death metal.
While each song on the album is good, sometimes they tend to blend together. In fact, it's almost hard to tell any of the songs apart. Usually this is a detriment to the band, but DevilDriver are such good songwriters that each song is worth listening to.
One of the things that make the band so appealing is their frontman. Dez Fafara is so adept at his harsh vocals that each song is brought to life by them. Songs like "Oath of the Abyss," "Caring's Overkill" and the title track all stick out against the others. Each song full of aggression and melody.
Other highlights include first single "Ruthless," "Haunting Refrain" and "The Appetite." All of these songs are enjoyable. In fact, each song on here is good.
While none of the original songs are as memorable as some of their other past songs ("Shitlist," "Dead to Rights"), there is one song that shines above all others. This is "Sail," which is a cover of the AWOLNATION single. This is a rare cover that is as good as the original. Fafara's delivery in this song may be the best of his career.
While this album isn't the best metal record of the year, it is a good listen that will keep the listener entertained. Hopefully DevilDriver can keep up the greatness.

Blessthefall Continue To Grow On New Album

Last month Blessthefall released their fourth record Hollow Bodies. This is their best and most cohesive album to date. While their last two records were great and their debut was decent this album wins.
This record, the band's third with clean vocalist Beau Bokan, is a step forward from their last album Awakening, which itself was perfect, but Hollow Bodies steps up Blessthefall's game. The album stars out on a heavy note.
The first four songs are some of the heaviest on the record. "Exodus" starts the album off with a fury then the records two best songs "You Were A Crown But You're No King" and the title track come next, flowing nicely into the second single "Déjà Vu." The album then slows it down with "Buried in these Walls." This song tones things down for a little, giving the listener a false sense of calm. The next song, "See You on the Outside" is a faster song but it isn't as heavy. Unclean vocalist and bassist Jared Warth is barely heard on this song. While Warth is a great screamer, Bokan is the vocalist who truly shines on every song.
The next song "Youngbloods" is one of the heaviest songs on the record. The song, which features additional vocals by Jesse Barnett of Stick to Your Guns, also is the first time the band use profanity in their lyrics. "You're just a bitch," they scream before a breakdown in the first verse. The album then goes into "Standing On the Ashes" which is like all the songs before it, brutal. The lyrics of the album are predominantly about a breakup.
"Carry On" which features vocals by Jake Luhrs of August Burns Red is another heavy song that starts with Warth's screams and then goes into Bokan's clean vocals. The next song "The Sound of Starting Over" is a less heavy song than the rest. The song is made up of almost entirely clean vocals from Bokan.
The album closes on a high note with the best song on the record, "Open Water." This song, which is a duet between Bokan and his wife synthpop singer Lights is simply gorgeous. The song is a perfect way to end this record.
Blessthefall have truly grown and released their best album. Hopefully they continue on the path of greatness they got on with Hollow Bodies.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Iwrestledabearonce Mature On New Album

Crazy as fuck metal band Iwrestledabearonce have always made interesting music. From heavy breakdowns and harsh vocals to gorgeously sung clean parts. From grindcore-infused metalcore one second, to techno breakdown or a country music interlude. The band have always mixed in random kinds of music like jazz, electropop, dubstep or country.
Their first two albums It's All Happening and Ruining It for Everybody were great and had tons of classic songs with ridiculous titles. "Karate Nipples," "Tastes Like Kevin Bacon" and "Danger in the Manger" are all great songs that keep the listener guessing the whole way through.
Former vocalist Krysta Cameron left the band during Warped Tour 2012 due to her pregnancy. this is the band's first problem. Their new singer, former Unicron vocalist Courtney LaPlante. While LaPlante's unclean vocals are similar to Cameron's, but her clean vocals are different.
She isn't a strong a clean singer as Cameron. While LaPlante is a good vocalist, she isn't as strong as Cameron was. The only thing she has on Cameron is that LaPlante's clean vocals are more clearly understood.
The band released their third album this month and it has great songs, but it isn't as good as their first two records. Late for Nothing may lack the kick of their first two albums, but that doesn't make it bad. On songs like "Firebees" and "Carnage Asada" the band are brutal. The songs are heavy and are sure to keep mosh pits open, but they lack the sheer insanity that made the band's earlier music shine.
LaPlante also has a more straightforward writing style. The band's lyrics have grown.
"You try too draw a straight line/ You make a circle every time," LaPlante sings during the chorus of "Thunder Chunky," one of the album's best songs.
There is also more emphasis on clean vocals. "Mind The Gap" is all clean vocals and "That's a Horse of a Different Color"  has mostly clean vocals.
There are no bad songs on the album and if this is your first Iwrestledabearonce album you've heard, maybe you'll really enjoy it. For all of the achievements this album makes, it's hard to compare it to the greatness that once was.