Category Archives: Pop Albums

Lights Re-arranges Her Hit 2011 Album, ‘Siberia’ with new Album ‘Siberia Acoustic’

In 2011 Lights released her second studio album, Siberia which was a very dirty and dark electronic influenced record with some great tracks that were produced by Tawgs Salter and Canadian electronic band Holy Fuck. In summer of 2012 Lights announced via twitter that she was re-recording and re-arranging songs from Siberia. Now we have the finished product and we are impressed.

The re-recording features 10 tracks and includes contributions from Coeur de Pirate, Owl City and Max Kerman from Arkells. The songs on the album have been tastefully re-arranged and feature great performances by Lights who sounds excellent vocally. Some songs feature great string arrangements while others feature a more atmospheric vibe, but Lights and her acoustic guitar are ever-present.

Key tracks on the collection are “Banner” which is the first track on Siberia Acoustic. Honestly this song lyrically works better in this type of acoustic arrangement especially because of the potency of the lyrics.  Another key track is my favorite from the original, “Toes.” The new arrangement of “Toes” definitely catches the listener’s attention with the very down-trodden arpeggiated  notes that leads into a nicely strummed chorus. But vocally is where the track really catches your attention especially during the chorus section. “And Counting…” is my favorite track though. Its haunting piano part mixed with Lights’ spectacular vocals is just a winning combination.

Siberia Acoustic is a great album which stands next to the original work, Siberia, and makes its own unique statement.

-B. Harlow

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Can Fall Out Boy Save Rock & Roll?

Save Rock & Roll is a very ambitious title for an album, and I’m not really  sure Fall Out Boy came close to doing that, but they did put together an interesting album with some great songs including a collaboration with Elton John  on the album’s title track. To me this album is more of a statement that says Fall Out Boy is back and is going to be bigger than ever, but at a cost.

The album starts out with a track called “The Pheonix” which starts off with an interesting orchestral part that was unexpected when first listening to the album. Patrick Stump’s vocals come in over the accompaniment, and then the chorus comes in and you really get an idea about the album. It’s all about big choruses. Next up is the album’s first single “My Songs Know What You Did in The Dark (Light Em’ Up)”  which is a very annoying song because of the mix. If the guitars were further up in the mix the song would have sounded a hell of a lot better, but the drums and sampling overpower the guitar.

The next track on the album is entitled “Alone Together.” I actually liked this song due to the arrangement, and songwriting. Musically it flows very well, but the lyrics are what bring the song above the level of a typical pop song. This song is followed by “Where Did The Party Go” which has an intro featuring the much improved bass playing of Pete Wentz. The track is very narrative when it comes to lyrics, and this story really carries the song, as there is nothing substantial music wise on this track.

One of my favorite tracks on the record is the song “Just One Yesterday” which features British songstress, Foxes. The song is very well written and is also arranged well. The song is also mixed well especially when Foxes and Stump are singing together. It’s a fantastic track that will definitely do well if it were to be released as a single. It is followed nicely by “The Might Fall” which features rapper, Big Sean. This song features a highly tampered with drum track, but also feature a great riff from Trohman, and it is the first time you hear Trohman’s guitar up in the mix.

The next track to take note of is the band’s collaboration with Courtney Love, “Rat A Tat” which starts off when Love says “It’s Courtney Bitch.” This track is an all-around fun track which mixes the bands old sound with their newer over-produced tone. Love’s rawness adds a lot to the track, but I definitely think its Wentz’s bass that drives the track.

My favorite track on the album is the last track, “Save Rock and Roll” which is a collaboration with the legendary, Elton John. This song blew me away, and is definitely the only song on the album that is going to matter five years from now. The band comes together perfectly on the track, and even the sampling works well, but what brings this track over the top are Elton John’s amazing vocals.

Will this album save Rock and Roll? The answer is no. But this is a good album featuring some excellent songs. If Fall Out Boy were to make an album that were to save Rock and Roll they’d definitely have to take a hint from Trohman and drummer Andy Hurley’s side project The Damned things and play some damn riffs.

-B. Harlow

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Ellie Goulding’s Sophomore Release, ‘Halcyon’

Almost everyone knows that I have a soft spot for English Songstress, Ellie Goulding. Ever since I heard her debut, Lights which was released in 2010 it seems as if though I can’t go a day without hearing the catchy tune. Whether it be on at the mall, the 7/11, or the radio Goulding seems to have a firm grasp over the airwaves. Two years after her first release we have her new album, Halcyon.

The album features twelve tracks that were mostly written or co-written by Goulding. The album starts off with the track “Don’t Say a Word” which starts off in a very atmospheric then builds slowly. Next up is the track “My Blood” which is a track I thoroughly enjoyed do to the lyrics and how they worked in the context of the music. I also love how, Goulding who has a very strong voice showed vocal restraint throughout the verses. The album’s single follows, and I have to say I don’t like this track one bit. The modulation on Goulding’s voice is quite simply annoying. It sounds as if they plugged her microphone into a reverb and delay pedal. “Only You” is the fourth track on the album, and on this trick I actually enjoyed the experimentation upon Goulding’s voice as instrumentation.

The title track, “Halcyon” is a great track. Lyrically it shows a very vulnerable side of Goulding that I quite  enjoy, but the sound was overproduced. In my opinion due to the nature of the lyrics it would have worked better as a stripped back acoustic track. “Figure 8” is up next, and I have to say this is a very melancholy track, but builds up to a semi-dubstep chorus.

The next track, “Joy” is one I’d really like to take notice of. It starts off very slow, but eventually a nice orchestral section comes in and takes the track to a never level. Sonically the orchestra whether real or synthesized help set the mood, as Goulding’s voice takes off nicely.

“Hanging On” is the eighth track on the album, and it also happens to be the only track that Goulding did not help co-write. This would seem odd because it seems to fit right in on the album. It also feature Goulding in her spectacular upper register throughout the song, but at times it seems as if there is auto-tune used to round out the sound of her voice.

“I know You Care” is the next track that I’d really take note of. It starts with a nice piano driven intro, but just when you think Goulding is about to break into a spectacular chorus she lays back. This leads to a very nice track that is mellow and one of my favorite on the album due just to the barebones nature of it.  The album closes out with the track “Dead in The Water” I thought that this was a nice song, but when I thought it was going to build up to a grandiose conclusion it just puttered out.

Goulding seems to be moving to a more mature sound on this album. It’s much different from her debut, but the jury is still out whether that is good or bad. We’ll see!

-B. Harlow

 

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John Mayer’s New Record ‘Born and Raised’

Over the last twelve years the world has seen John Mayer go from relatively unknown singer/song writer, to one of the biggest artists of our time. How has he done this? Well I have to think it has to do with his musicianship that was honed at one of the finest music institutions in America, Berklee College of Music. These ‘chops’ have lead Mr. Mayer to share the stage with many prominent musicians including; B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and Jeff Beck. It has also led him to various other projects including, The John Mayer Trio which was a blues trio featuring bassist Pino Paladino and drummer Steve Jordan.

Now in 2012 John Mayer is back with the new album, Born and Raised. Born and Raised is a collection of 12 tracks including the single, “Shadow Days”.  The album begins with the late 60’s/early 70’s vibe tune “Queen of California”. The track starts out with a finger picked section and a bass drum, which steadily builds till the verse interjects with Mayer’s vocals. On this track we also hear some beautiful slide work reminiscent of Duane Allman. I was quite impressed with the production on this track as all the pieces fit, and because it was mixed cleanly. Next up is a track called, “The Age of Worry” which is another track that starts off with a great deal of acoustic guitar, but it’s Mayer’s vocal performance that really drives the two and a half minute song. Next up is the single “Shadow Days” which is a great retrospect of one’s life, and knowing that things do get better. I have to say that I am very impressed with this track especially the arrangement which highlights what is either, a pedal steel guitar, or a Lap Steele. I also enjoy the track because of its multi-tracked acoustic guitar solo.

“Speak for Me” is the next track, to me it feels like something Mayer wasn’t sure of, due to what seems to be lyrics about not knowing what he wants to say. “Something Olivia” is another one of my favorite tracks off, Shadow Days due to the song and Mayer’s bluesy roots, especially when it comes to the guitar parts and the layered organ parts throughout. The sixth track on the album is actually the album’s title track, “Born and Raised”. This song is a good preview into the introspective mind set of Mayer and shows his great prowess. The track also features backup vocals from both David Crosby and Graham Nash.

Next up is the longest track on the album, “If I Ever Get Around to Living” which runs about five and a half minutes. This track features soft acoustic guitars, but also features a prominent bass part and strong yet slow beat. We also see Mayer’s blues phrasing throughout his short guitar passages that interject throughout the song. “Love is a Verb” follows and is a great tune that clicks into that classic soul feel without going to overboard. “Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967” is the oddest track on the album due to the lyrical theme. In my opinion it would have a shot at being one of my favorite tracks if the lyrical content wasn’t so odd. The next track “Whiskey, Whiskey, Whiskey” puts the album back on track with its harmonica driven intro and soft guitars. The album concludes nicely with the “Born and Raised (Reprise)” which is a pure slice of Americana.

Overall I think Mayer’s softer side comes through tremendously on the record. I think it’s also a great collection of songs that add a new flavor to his catalogue.

-B. Harlow

 

Check out the Music Video for “Shadow Days” below:

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Multi-Talented Musician Andrew Bird’s New Album: ‘Break it Yourself’

Many people can call themselves Multi-instrumentalists, some of the notable multi-instrumentalists are Prince, Stevie Wonder, and the great Madman Frank Zappa. But none are more unique in this generation than, Andrew Bird. Bird’s technique on violin and guitar are truly his own, and add a certain flare mostly seen in bluegrass and country music. Did we also mention Bird is an excellent whistler, yes that kind of whistler. Bird who got his start in Chicago, found himself a career that has lasted sixteen plus years. His career has included work with his band Bowl of Fire, a vast Catalogue of solo work, and numerous appearances as a session musician. Last week Bird released his seventh studio album entitled ‘Break it Yourself’ (Mom+Pop). ‘Break it Yourself’ is a tremendous effort featuring fourteen truly unique tracks.

The album starts with the track ‘Desperation Breeds…’ which has a very odd intro, that consists of atmospheric noises and a violin that is being plucked. Around the two minute mark of the track, we see a really interesting musical break, which includes a syncopated beat and tremendous guitar, violin, bass, and drum work. The bass in the song is truly driving and moves throughout. One of my favorite parts of the track is the violin solo which features a great deal of trills, which add an aspect of suspense. This aspect of suspense is only increased when what sounds like a Theremin is added into the mix.  The next track to take note of is entitled ‘Danse Caribe’ which literally translates to: ‘Caribbean Dance’. The song itself follows a traditional folk sound till about the 2:06 mark when Bird’s violin imitates the sound of the traditional Caribbean steel Pan or Drum. We also get the first taste of Bird’s whistling talent in this song. The next track to take note of is the seventh track ‘Near Death Experience Experience’. The track starts out with the plucked violin, which sounds doubled by either an electric violin or guitar. The rest of the instruments eventually kick in and Bird’s vocals take an interesting turn around the 2:15 mark, when they are harmonized with a very sweet sounding female voice.  The album is finished off by the three minute piece ‘Belles’. The song is very atmospheric and draws the listener in with a soft ambient background, while bells are played over top.

Overall I love this album because of its uniqueness. It truly is a must listen! Eventually, I think you’ll see more of Bird, but for now he’s one of music’s best kept secrets.

-B. Harlow

Check Out the Track ‘ Near Death Experience Experience’ Below:

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Queen of Pop: Madonna Returns with ‘Give Me All Your Luvin’

After a performance during Superbowl halftime show which received mixed response Madonna has released her new single ‘Give Me All Your Luvin’(Interscope) featuring the musical styling’s of M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj.

Overall I really like the track which reminds me of Toni Basil’s hit ‘Mickey’ mixed with Madonna’s early sound which was crafted by the magical Nile Rodgers. In my opinion this is a return to form for the Queen of Pop, who has put out a lot of records that have seemed like manufactured pop (e.g. ‘4 Minutes’ ft. Justin Timberlake).

The track also features one of the most unique artists of the 21st century M.I.A. Since the drop of M.I.A.’s 2007 album ‘Kala’ (Xl/Interscope) I’ve considered myself a fan of this truly unique artist, who mixes stylistic elements of hip hop, pop, and world music.   I wish she had a longer space on this track instead of Nicki Minaj’s 14 second verse, which was 14 seconds too long.

Overall I really like Madonna’s new track and hope to see more music like this from her. Also LMFAO did a remix of the song which is worth a listen.

Check Out The Music Video for ‘Give Me All Your Luvin’ Below:

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Lana Del Rey – ‘Born To Die’

25 year American songstress Lana Del Rey has a voice that sounds like it could have been on pop records in the 1960’s. Lana Del Ray has made her arrival known in 2012 with her major label debut ‘Born To Die’ (Interscope). Born Elizabeth Grant in 1986 Lana Del Ray made up her stage name do to the sound it made when spoken. But after listening to her you realize that it’s not just her name that sounds mysterious, but her music too.

Her debut album features 12 tracks of pure musical genius, and self reflection.  Starting off with the title track which begins with a slow wistful orchestral sound, and then a beat that is reminiscent of Jay-Z’s ‘Empire State of Mind’. The next track to really spark my interest was ‘Blue Jeans’. The track which starts out with a very 1960’s heavy reverb-laden  guitar and then gets a very interesting sample put under it. The tracks lyrics are an emotional ode to a lover. ‘Video Games’ the next track is the first single and was also performed on the January 14th episode of SNL. The track is alsmost written as a reflection upon a relationship.  My favorite track however is ‘Million Dollar Man’ which I can picture being sung in a smokey bar room.

‘Born to Die’ is certainly a strong debut and has many songs that are ready for radio play. America get ready because in the future we will see a great deal more of Ms. Del Rey.

Check out the Music Video forVideo Games’ below:

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