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.