Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Favorite Albums Of 2010: Part Two

Ima Robot - Another Man's Treasure
After Alex Ebert's massively successful year with Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes, the singer decided to return to his former dance-punk band, Ima Robot.  The band's third album, Another Man's Treasure, strays from their distinct and distorted high energy sound.  Instead, the album sounds like the halfway point between Ima Robot and Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes.  There are long stretches of instrumentals within the album, giving the band a more fleshed out sound.  At times, you may think you're listening to a Bowie album.  Another Man's Treasure somehow sounds fresh and classic at the same time.

Sufjan Stevens - The Age Of Adz
During the climax of "I Want To Be Well", Sufjan Stevens shouts "I'm not ****ing around".  He wasn't joking.  The Age Of Adz is a jumble of genres and noises that concludes with a massive 25 minute track.  It is in no way a casual album.  Through the mix of symphonic instrumentations and electronic bleeps, Sufjan's conceptual album leaves a lasting impression.  The final track, "Impossible Soul", attracts many listeners for its long duration, but in reality the track sounds like a handful of separate singles carefully sewn together.  It's a fascinating way to end the album.  The Age Of Adz is a modern electro-folk adventure.

Scissor Sisters - Night Work
The cover artwork on Night Work may have you wondering, "What were they thinking?".  After hearing the album, you'll know exactly what the Scissor Sisters were thinking.  Night Work sounds like a disco revival, but in a good way.  Every track on the record could fill the dance floor immediately.  While the lyrics are so obviously sexual that it's funny, the band manages to keep the party going.  The album ends with "Invisible Light", complete with a "Thriller-esque" voiceover by Sir Ian McKellen.  Night Work is easily one of my most loved pop albums of 2010.

The previous nine albums on this list have been in no particular order, but what fun is a "Best Of" list if I don't name the absolute best?  The next three albums on the list have managed to entertain me throughout the year and still continue to shine.  I present to you... my three favorite records of 2010.

3. Janelle Monáe - The ArchAndroid
It's impossible to define The ArchAndroid within one genre.  The debut album from Janelle Monáe touches on classical, folk, R&B, pop, funk, and countless other genres.  As you follow the journey of the android creation, Cindi Mayweather, you learn that Monáe's style is unlike any other.  The record is separated into two suites.  Each half of the album starts with a cinematic introduction.  The radio friendly singles "Cold War" and "Tightrope" only show one side the singer's style.  The epic "BaBopBye Ya" ends the album with a bang and leaves you wanting more.  I'm eagerly awaiting the next part of Janelle Monáe's Metropolis story, but until then, The ArchAndroid is my third favorite album of 2010.

2. Robyn - Body Talk
2010 was Robyn's year.  She released three albums as the Body Talk series and became one of the leading pop artists for both indie and mainstream critics alike.  Body Talk collects the best of her three part series, all in one record.  The album is packed with, what should have been, 15 hit singles.  It's electronic, it's dance, but most of all, it's pop music.  As my favorite pop album of the year, Body Talk never gets boring.  From the spunky "Fembot" to the robotic "We Dance To The Beat", Robyn rose above the ranks of Katy Perry and Ke$ha with her fun and sophisticated Body Talk.  I predict that we'll continue to hear Robyn's distinct sound through the new year.

1. Vampire Weekend - Contra
This album was released all the way back in January.  I haven't stopped listening to it on a daily basis since then.  Vampire Weekend have a signature sound so unique that they're instantly recognizable.  Contra manages to surpass the band's outstanding self-titled 2008 debut.  Since that debut album, the band expanded their musical horizons into various new genres.  They even do the unthinkable by slathering "California English" in a puddle of auto-tune.  What starts as an airy yet bouncy record, Contra closes on a sporadic pair of tracks with "Diplomat's Son" and "I Think Ur A Contra".  Contra set the bar unbelievably high for every album this year and still holds the number one spot in my book.

What were your favorite albums of 2010? Leave a comment and let me know!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My Favorite Albums Of 2010: Part One

Neon Trees - Habits
My first taste of Neon Trees came from their single, "Animal".  I instantly fell in love with that song and soon after bought their debut album, Habits.  The album is my favorite debut from a band this year.  Every song comes complete with a massive sing-along chorus.  Tyler Glenn is a vocalist that gives his all, and you can hear it on the album.  My only complaint about this album is that it isn't longer.

Spoon - Transference
Transference is musically amazing.  Unlike some of the other albums on this list, it doesn't rely on any outlandish style or image.  Spoon's seventh album gets the award for best use of bass.  For full impact, you need to hear this album on a good set of speakers.  The groove of the bass adds so much to Transference.  The highlight of the album is the sequence of "The Mystery Zone", "Who Makes Your Money", and "Written In Reverse".

Semi Precious Weapons - You Love You
They promote their own "Filthy Glamour" form of music.  Their singer wears bigger heels than most female singers in their genre.  The opening line of You Love You is "I can't pay my rent, but I'm ****ing gorgeous".  Semi Precious Weapons released their second album while touring with Lady Gaga.  The band's vain lyrics and fabulous sense of style has helped them gain a devoted fan base, and make You Love You one of my favorite albums of 2010.

My Chemical Romance - Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys
The album from the future, Danger Day: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys, is exciting from start to finish.  Narrated by Steve, Righ? (or Dr. Death Defying) the band takes on alter-egos in their musical story.  The lead single, "Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)", is a good example of the album's explosive energy.  Danger Days is the complete opposite of what I expected from the band after their last album, The Black Parade.  They've gone from black and white to full, neon, and epic color.

Brandon Flowers - Flamingo
Leaving The Killers on a hiatus to release a solo album may have seemed like a terrible idea at first, but Brandon Flowers' Flamingo managed to avoid the curse of the failed solo career.  The album differs in style from The Killers, it's more acoustic at times which allows it to be vocally impressive.  Almost every melody on this album sounds like a possible track for the singer's former band.  Flamingo shows that Flowers can hold his own and release a pretty solid album while he's at it.  The album tends to shine the most during the pop centered singles, "Only The Young" and "Crossfire".

Sleigh Bells - Treats
Treats, another debut album, is loud and annoying in the best possible way.  Starting with the first blast of "Tell 'Em", Sleigh Bells have put together an album of marching beats, heavy metal guitars, and child-like vocals.  The entire album is a wild mess of fun.  If you don't sing along to Alexis Krauss' "oohs" and "uhs" on "Run The Heart", then you don't have the volume loud enough.  The constant stream of full power energy is extremely overwhelming, but that's what makes Treats so amazing.

Check back tomorrow for part two...

Friday, December 24, 2010

What's December Without Christmas Eve?

It's Christmas Eve, (or Christmas depending on your time zone), and whether you're relaxing with some hot chocolate and a Charlie Brown Christmas Special, dancing at a Christmas party, or doing last minute shopping, some holiday music can really get you in the festive mood.  The classics are great, but why not throw in some modern interpretations or even a newly penned Christmas tune.  This year I enjoyed some holiday efforts ranging in genres from electronic to folk.  Maybe they'll cheer up your Christmas Day playlist a little bit.

Neon Trees - Wish List
Neon Trees quickly became one of 2010's most exciting new band's when their breakout single "Animal" took over pop radio.  "Wish List" is the band's first Christmas song and it's filled with enough sleigh bells to satisfy any Christmas enthusiast.  The great thing about it is that while it's still a holiday themed song, "Wish List" isn't unbearably cheesy like many other modern Christmas songs.

Owl City - Peppermint Winter
Owl City seems like the perfect candidate for a Christmas song.  Owl City's Adam Young is known for his peppy singles such as the massively popular "Fireflies".  "Peppermint Winter" manages to keep Young's overly optimistic electronic beats while adding a story of snow and unfortunate Christmas presents.

Sleeping At Last - Christmas Collection
I discovered this band after hearing their Storyboards album.  The album was covered in soft layers of strings and acoustic based instruments.  The vocals are emotional, yet calming.  They're a band to check out if you've never heard their music.  When I found out that they were giving away a free holiday EP, I downloaded it immediately.  The eight song album contains classics such as "Silver Bells" and "I'll Be Home For Christmas".  Sleeping At Last managed to make these songs their own and give the holiday standards a new face.  You can download the EP free of charge for a limited time, here.

Hopefully, you decide to brighten up your holiday season with these outstanding tracks from some great artists.  I'll be back to posting after Christmas.  Until then, Merry Christmas to all of my readers.  I hope you unwrap that shiny new record tomorrow morning.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Flyleaf - Remember To Live

Years ago, under the name "Passerby", Flyleaf wrote and recorded a group of songs and rough demos.  Throughout the years these songs were either never released, or they were leaked for not-so-legal downloading.  Some of these tracks found a home during live shows, as they were heard exclusively at random live performances.  Finally, after years of waiting, Flyleaf re-recorded and officially released a handful of those songs.

The album starts off with the "Violent Love" version of "Justice & Mercy" from the band's Much Like Falling EP.  The previously released version was filled with distortion and Lacey Sturm's startling screams.  This version is the complete opposite.  It's soft and mostly acoustic.  I actually prefer it over the original recording.

The next five songs, the core of the album, are the main attraction of the EP.  These tracks are new to many Flyleaf followers, while others have heard them either through leaks or live shows.  The first of the five is "Okay".  It features backup vocals from Flyleaf's bassist, Pat Seals.  "Okay" is still softer than most of the band's usual material.  It's slightly similar to the tracks on their sophomore album, or Memento Mori's, second disk.  The next track is "Amy Says".  With the highlight of a soaring chorus, "Amy Says" is another solid song.  The vocal levels are a little low during some parts of the song, but it isn't too distracting.

Track four, "Dear My Closest Friend", is my favorite from the album.  It's gentle and sincere.  The song is an open letter of apologies and memories.  The melody stands out from all of the other choruses and riffs.  A close runner-up would be the descending melody after the climax on "Light In Your Eyes".  "Believe In Dreams", which comes after "Light In Your Eyes", has a certain familiarity to it and is a great ending to the newly released tracks.

Unfortunately, the biggest flaw with Remember To Live is the final single.  Ben Moody's remix of "Arise", originally from Memento Mori, feels out of place.  The mix is chaotic and leaves you longing for the non-mixed version.  The amazing lyrics are overshadowed by the deep shattering drums and added effects.

Overall, Remember To Live is a satisfying collection of rarities.  Longtime fans of the band will enjoy hearing the previously unreleased material.  New listeners will most likely want to start with one of Flyleaf's full length releases.  This EP is much lighter than Flyleaf's well known singles, it's completely void of Lacey's screams.  Remember To Live, minus the disappointing remixed "Arise", is just enough to satisfy fans until their next full length album.

Flyleaf is also set to digitally release a cover of John Mark McMillan's "How He Loves" on December 21.  Download it for an extra bonus track.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Vendor Defender - Golden Shivers

Vendor Defender is a band that wish I had discovered sooner.  They have fresh distinct sound and their single "Golden Shivers" is one of the catchiest pieces of indie pop I've heard this year.  This Glasgow band mixes up the indie sounds of the UK with humming synths.  The result is infectious and most definitely worth checking out.

Upon first listen, the beginning thirty seconds of the song gives you the impression that you're about to hear a mostly dance oriented track, but the verse that follows changes everything.  "Golden Shivers" switches gears and takes the form of a hi-hat dominated single, not too dissimilar from the Arctic Monkeys or even Franz Ferdinand.  It's great fun and would probably succeed on the alternative charts here in the US.  The vocals match the style of music perfectly.  It really leaves a good impression on the audience.

You can check out Vendor Defender's Myspace to stream "Golden Shivers" along with their other tracks.  The band is also available for downloading on iTunes.  Give Vendor Defender a listen if you like rock music with a poppy side that makes you want to get up and dance.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Robyn - Body Talk

Earlier this year, Robyn began a musical trilogy.  Titled "Body Talk", the series of albums was released over a span of about six months.  Each album contained approximately eight songs that dabbled in pop, dance, and electronic music.  Her newest release, and the end of the series, is named Body Talk.  Instead of releasing another album with under ten songs, the Swedish musician decided to put out a compilation record.  This album collects five songs from Body Talk Pt. 1, five songs from Body Talk Pt. 2, and five new songs that are technically Body Talk Pt. 3.

Body Talk begins with "Dancing On My Own", the first single from Pt. 1.  Being her most promoted song, it's a great choice for the album opener.  The record continues through two more Pt. 1 songs until you reach, "Indestructible".  A string covered acoustic version of this song had been released prior to this album, but the new fleshed out dance version brings a new light to the single.  "Time Machine", another new song, is the strongest of the five new tracks.  The song is already begging to get radio play.  "Time Machine" is definitely a hit.

The record does a good job of mixing new songs between the older tracks.  You never get too much of one album in a row.  If you already own Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 and have become familiar with the song order, then the track listing may take some time to settle in.

With compilations, song choice is always the most important factor for success.  Body Talk, for the most part, is outstanding.  The inclusion of the more experimental and instrumental tracks ("Don't ****ing Tell Me What To Do" and "We Dance To The Beat") seems risky, but it works.  The only real mistake is leaving out the standout track, "Criminal Intent", from Pt. 2.  "Cry When You Get Older" was another great track that's missing from the album.

At fifteen tracks long, Body Talk is pop music heaven.  There are enough hooks on this album to make even the biggest pop stars jealous.  Robyn's risky plan of releasing three albums within one year surprisingly and successfully worked.  She's now embarking on an international "Body Talk Tour" to celebrate.

If you already own Pt. 1 and Pt. 2, like many dedicated fans will, you can buy the EP version of this album titled Body Talk Pt. 3.  It contains only the five new songs and is available digitally everywhere and physically in select regions.  Here's the extended compilation version's track listing.

  • 1. Dancing On My Own (Radio Version)
  • 2. Fembot
  • 3. Don't ****ing Tell Me What To Do
  • 4. Indestructible
  • 5. Time Machine
  • 6. Love Kills
  • 7. Hang With Me
  • 8. Call Your Girlfriend
  • 9. None of Dem (Feat. Röyksopp)
  • 10. We Dance To The Beat
  • 11. U Should Know Better (Feat. Snoop Dogg)
  • 12. Dancehall Queen
  • 13. Get Myself Together
  • 14. In My Eyes
  • 15. Stars 4-Ever

Body Talk
is a satisfying end to the album trilogy.  I would definitely check it out if you love catchy pop, dance, and electronic music.  The five new tracks are just as strong as the past albums.  Maybe next time around Robyn will try to break the record again with five albums in a year.  One can only hope...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ke$ha - Cannibal

Have you ever wondered at what point do lyrics cross the line from being mediocre, maybe even a little embarrassing,  to completely unacceptable?  If so, then look no further than Ke$ha's Cannibal.  As the follow up to her debut Animal, the album is packed with synths, bass beats, and auto-tune.  Animal contained several hit singles that became staples on the Top 40 charts.  When I wrote about her newest single "We R Who We R" last month, I described it as positive, simple, and fun.  Cannibal is also fun... if you can get past the words that are coming out of Ke$ha's mouth.  It's shocking in a new way.

I admit, whenever "Your Love Is My Drug" came on the radio I would sing along.  The lyrics were bratty, but the beat was always catchy.  When I pressed play on Cannibal for the first time, I expected the same dance club singles.  As the title track of the album started, I heard Ke$ha's strange roaring-growling sounds.  "I eat boys up, breakfast and lunch. Then when I'm thirsty, I drink their blood - I am a cannibal."  When I heard the first verse of the title track, my first reaction was to laugh.  The lyrics aren't so much funny, but instead unbelievable.  There could be a metaphor mixed in those lines, but that really wouldn't make it much better.  The majority, if not all, of the lyrics are for dancing and only dancing.  Cannibal is a party record.

After the title track, the record continues at a similar pace.  "The Harold Song" seems to be the turning point of the album.  The song has a similar sound to Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream".  It's also the first track on the album that isn't strictly about partying, boyfriend bashing, or sex.  "The Harold Song" is definitely the highlight of the album.  "C U Next Tuesday" also stands out from the other songs.  The synths on the track remind me of a Wham! single.

If you scan over the track listing on the back of the CD case, you'll get a good description of the album.  Songs titles such as "Sleazy", "Blow", "C U Next Tuesday", and "Grow A Pear" represent the mood of the record.  Cannibal doesn't have much substance at all due to the nature of the lyrics.  There are some great melodies on the album, but unfortunately that's about it.  Unless you're a rabid Ke$ha fan, I would skip Cannibal.  There are countless new pop albums worth listening to that are better than Cannibal.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Penguin Prison - Something I'm Not

Penguin Prison is the name of an upcoming electronic/pop act from New York.  Penguin Prison is also the stage name of Chris Glover, a producer, singer, and multi-instrumentalist.  Glover, under the name of Penguin Prison, has remixed tracks by artists including Marina & The Diamonds, Kylie Minogue, and Goldfrapp.  A few months ago, I featured his remix of Kimbra's "Settle Down".  While he's already an experienced producer, Penguin Prison is also prepping for the release of his debut album.  "Something I'm Not", is a great taste of his unique style.

The one thing that stands out about this song is the vocal track.  The music is distinctly a mix of electronic and pop elements.  However, his voice during the verse is much more soulful than what I would expect from this genre of music.  The chorus picks up to somewhat of an 80's throwback sound.  I hear a Tears For Fears influence.

His solo work rivals with his remixes.  They're both extremely interesting and danceable.  Penguin Prison's album is expected to be released around February of next year.  You can stream or download "Something I'm Not" below.

Keep reading to download a free EP of Penguin Prison's remixes...

Friday, November 12, 2010

Lykke Li - Paris Blue

Swedish musician, Lykke Li recently released her new single, "Get Some".  Along with this single, she also put out a B-Side.  "Paris Blue" is the tender ballad that manages to overshadow the main attraction.  Once the A-Side ends and "Paris Blue" begins, you'll wonder why this song wasn't released as the lead single.  It's soft and emotional, but still has a big chorus for potential radio appeal.

"Paris Blue" has the same production style as her debut album, Youth Novels.  Underneath her soaring vocals are strumming guitars and distant echoing drums.  It's all very minimal and effective.  "I'm Paris blue, I miss you. I'm not good enough for you, I'm no good.", she cries during the chorus.  Lykke Li is at her most vulnerable during "Paris Blue".

You can download both "Paris Blue", and the A-Side "Get Some" for free, here.  I suggest you don't pass up this opportunity.  Both songs are great, and "Paris Blue" is a hidden gem.  Hopefully this B-Side makes the cut for Lykke Li's next full length album.  Until she announces further details for her upcoming record, you can enjoy "Paris Blue".

Thursday, November 4, 2010

P!nk - Raise Your Glass

After four studio albums and one live record, P!nk is preparing to release her first compilation.  Titled, Greatest Hits... So Far!!!, the collection will include sixteen of her previous hit singles and four new tracks.  The first of her new tracks is the album's current single, "Raise Your Glass".  The song has already entered the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 and is gaining airplay consistently.

"Raise Your Glass" has a very mainstream "Top 40" sound to it.  While it may be polished and catchy like the songs of Katy Perry and Ke$ha, P!nk has the vocal talent to back up the pop formula.  It isn't auto-tuned down to a robotic voice.  Like many pop songs, the chorus is the highlight.

According to P!nk, the lyrics are a "celebration for people who feel left out from the popular crowd".  It's a feel good song about being the underdog.  It has the same tough, and somewhat humorous, attitude that her previous singles had.  I predict the song shoots up to number one on the charts.

The single is available on iTunes right now and Greatest Hits... So Far!!! is out on November 16.  If you already have all of P!nk's singles and want to pass on the compilation, "Raise Your Glass" is worth downloading.  Keep reading to check out the music video for "Raise Your Glass"...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ke$ha - We R Who We R

Instead of releasing another full album, Ke$ha has decided to put out Cannibal.  Cannibal is an eight song extension to her debut record, Animal.  This may sound familiar, as Lady Gaga made the exact same move with The Fame and The Fame Monster.  While eight songs is perfectly acceptable for a full record, the industry will probably consider Cannibal an EP.

The first single from Cannibal is "We R Who We R".  Due to the recent string of teenage suicides caused by bullying, Ke$ha stated that "The songs on Cannibal were made to inspire people to ignore any hate or judgment and be themselves unapologetically".  She hoped that the new single would become an anthem in a way.  The song's lyrics are very random and have a "we don't care what you think" attitude, but the single really just winds up sounding like a party song.  There aren't any specific lyrics directed towards the situation.

"We R Who We R" starts with a light synth line just as her other hit songs did.  The single sounds like a mash-up of every successful tune she's ever had.  It isn't innovative or ground breaking, but it does sound like a club hit.

The one element that's missing from "We R Who We R" is a bridge.  Instead of a bridge, there's a small instrumental section.  It really takes away a large part the formula.  The bridge was always the most exciting part of "Your Love Is My Drug" and "TiK ToK".  The song seems incomplete without it.

In the end, "We R Who We R" will probably burn up the charts.  It's very positive and fun, even if it's overly simplified.  The single will be released to iTunes for downloading on October 26.  "We R Who We R" is crazy and care free, but what matters the most is that it's catchy... and it is.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Mr. Dream - Learn The Language

I've featured the Brooklyn post-punk band, Mr. Dream, several times before.  The raw sound of their No Girls Allowed EP quickly caught my attention.  The band immediately became one of my favorite new acts when I found myself listening to them on repeat.  When I received news of another single from them, I couldn't wait to see what they had done.  "Learn The Language" mostly sticks to Mr. Dream's previous sound, but there are a few noticeable changes in the formula.  They manage to mix up the sound just enough to turn a few heads.

The rough out of control vocals of "Knuckle Sandwich" are missing from this song.  Instead, "Learn The Language" has a tight melody and a big hook of, "Heaven is just a zip code".  It's a little less punk and a little more hard rock, but it's all good.

Mr. Dream is currently working on their full length album, Never Elaborate.  While there isn't a final release date for the record, we can hope that it's released soon.  You can download "Learn The Language", via Stereogum, here.  You can also check out the band's Myspace for a stream of some previous singles.  If you like punk inspired low-fi music filled with buzzing distortion, I suggest you download "Learn The Language".

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Antony And The Johnsons - The Spirit Was Gone

Antony Hegarty has one of the most emotional and vulnerable voices that I've heard in a long time. It's haunting.  His vibrato is incredibly rapid, yet controlled, and his lyrics are brutally honest and personal. "The Spirit Was Gone" is a solemn song about death.  Antony sings over soft piano chords and crying strings.  The song's simplicity is what brings through the raw emotions.  He states that "It's hard to understand", almost like an innocent child asking a question  It's truly a remarkable song.

Antony And The Johnsons released their fourth full length album this week.  Swanlights contains "The Spirit Was Gone" and ten more tracks, including a duet with Björk.  You can download this single for free below.

Keep reading to watch the music video for "The Spirit Was Gone" featuring the Butoh dancer, Kazuo Ohno, who was featured on the cover of Antony And The Johnsons album, The Crying Light.

Friday, October 8, 2010

VersaEmerge - Fixed At Zero

VersaEmerge will unfortunately be compared to Paramore by most critics.  Both groups have strong female vocalists and they both play alternative rock music.  However, VersaEmerge is interesting enough to attract some well deserved attention.  Their single, "Fixed At Zero", focuses strongly on a the lead vocals.  Singer, Sierra Kusterbeck, controls the song.  It has a great melody and chorus, perfect modern rock radio material.  Check out the video for the single below...

The setting in the music video is quite similar to Flyleaf's "Fully Alive", with the dark and windy atmosphere.  It gives listeners a good taste of the band's style.  "Fixed At Zero" can be found on their debut full length album of the same name.  Check it out if you like soaring vocals, catchy guitar riffs, and an infectious chorus.  I'll definitely keep an eye on this band in the future.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Remixes You Should Hear: Part Two

"Quicksand (Boy 8-Bit Remix)" 
La Roux
This "Quicksand" remix was included on the UK re-release of the single.  A marimba keeps the steady chord progression that the original song followed.  It gives the track a bouncy sound that works well.  At the song's half way mark is the climax.  It continuously builds until a sudden stop.  After the break, the mix finishes up with a synth covered instrumental.  There are several variations in the music, so it avoids becoming too monotone.  The "Boy 8-Bit Remix" adds a great new twist to "Quicksand" while still keeping La Roux's signature style.

"Alejandro (The Sound Of Arrows Remix)" - Lady Gaga
Okay, I know that everyone has heard the original "Alejandro", but this remix completely changes the hit single that you know.  The remix was created by The Sound Of Arrows.  They gave the song a lighter summer mood.  The lines "You know that I love you boy. Hot like Mexico, rejoice. At this point I've gotta choose, nothin' to lose." have become the real hook of the song.  The track is one of the best pieces from Gaga's album full of remixes, The Remix.  After hearing the original track so often, some may even prefer this remix to the original.  Both are great.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Remixes You Should Hear: Part One

"Cold War (Wondamix)" - Janelle Monáe
The "Wondamix" of "Cold War" actually serves the opposite purpose of most remixes.  Instead of adding more to the song, the Wondamix strips away many pieces of the original.  The beat is slowed down significantly and the guitar solo is now almost classical.  I love how the mood of the song has completely changed.  It gives an entire new face to "Cold War".

"Cosmic Love (Short Club Remix)" - Florence + The Machine
I usually stay away from overly extended remixes, but the Short Club mix of Florence's hit single is a nice rendition of the original melodic track.  I like that the remix still used the acoustic instruments of the original song, but also incorporated heavy club elements.  The song starts with an acoustic guitar, but soon a dance beat comes in.  The vocal track is very prominent in the remix.  One of the biggest mistakes a DJ or producer can make is stripping away the vocals to a point of no return.  The original tack needs to be recognizable, and in this remix it is.

"Settle Down (Penguin Prison Remix)" - Kimbra
Unlike the two previous artists, Kimbra hasn't released her debut album yet.  With the little material she has out, remixes are always welcome.  The Penguin Prison Remix adds a dance beat to the quirky song.  I love the beat after the bridge.  It matches perfectly with Kimbra's "Hey, oh oh!".   The remix doesn't stray from the original format of the song, so it isn't terribly foreign to listeners of the non-remixed version. This remix proves that her voice also sounds good over a more dance/electronic style of music.

Check back soon for part two of the remix series.  The next group includes mixes of songs by Lady Gaga, La Roux, and more.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

JoJo - In The Dark

The singer that gave us the teen pop hits "Leave (Get Out)" and "Too Little, Too Late" is back in an unexpected way.  Instead of releasing a third album, she released a free mixtape online.  Can't Take That Away From Me has the same amount of songs as a standard album, but it's more of a way to give fans a treat while she wraps up her next project.  The single from the mixtape is "In The Dark".  As the title says, it's darker than her previous work.  Along with the music video, it's also more mature and sexual than her more innocent work.  Is this a good direction for her?  The song has it's pros and cons.

Starting with the good, the song has an amazing beat.  The verses are stripped down to the beat, bass, and vocals only.  The melody sounds seductive and smooth.  Under the chorus is a sweeping synth and piano.  The hook is a choppy and extended "I only know him in the dark".  The entire song has a relaxed, almost slow motion, feeling.

The idea of the song sounds like a radio hit, but the production completely buffers its potential.  JoJo's vocals are way too low.  The beat overpowers her voice and makes her vocals sound weak, but in reality they aren't.  The echo effect applied to the vocal track doesn't sound professional either.  The echo gives off a hollow sound that might have been intended to give the song an airy sound, but didn't quite work.  It may just be a track from a mixtape, but with the mainstream success that JoJo has already had, I would expect the song to have a much more "polished" sound.

While the production of the song is hindering, "In The Dark" is still a catchy song.  The verses standout the most.  They have a strong hip-hop beat and bass line.  You can download the song, or the entire mixtape, for free here.  JoJo's next official album is still in the works, but until then I would check out Can't Take That Away From Me.  She sounds more mature and is headed in a new direction.  Keep reading to check out the music video for "In The Dark"...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Taylor Swift - Mine

Taylor Swift's "Mine" follows her usual formula of a half pop half country love song.  The song has Swift's signature big chorus and melody that helped her climb the charts time after time again.  This time around the lyrics are a bit more mature.  Instead of singing about a high school crush, the story is deeper.  It's good to see her lyrics progress with each album.  Her songs seem to grow as she does while she leaves the topic of magic and fairytales in the past.  It's a sure sign of growth for her as a songwriter.

The music is very similar to her previous hits.  It has the standard verse-chorus-verse form of pop music.  Taylor is one of the few artists that stands on the line between country and pop music that is actually massively success in both markets.  The style works perfectly for her audience, but I would love to hear her write something a little more out of her comfort zone.

Her upcoming album, Speak Now, comes out on October 25.  If "Mine" is a sign of what's to come, the the album will be just as solid as Fearless.  It's a light song with a great sing along chorus.  Check out the video for "Mine" below...

Monday, September 13, 2010

VMA 2010: My Favorite Moments

Yesterday was MTV's biggest night of the year. It was also a big night for several artists.  With Chelsea Handler hosting, the show was a mixed bag.  The first problem was Chelsea Handler.  I'll just get to the point, she wasn't funny.  The audience also seemed to be forcing fake laughter.  Ellen Degeneres' few moments onstage were better then Handler's.  The show did have several highlight's that made it worth while.  Here are my favorite moments.

Florence + The Machine performs "Dog Days Are Over"
This performance was by far the best, vocally.  Florence Welch's powerful voice was accompanied by a slew of dancers and lights.  The production of performance was also spot on.  This appearance may have sealed Florence + The Machine's success in the US.

Taylor Swift sings "Innocent"
This was a moment that had received a lot of gossip before the show had even started.  Taylor wrote and performed "Innocent" from her upcoming album, Speak Now.  The song wasn't about how Kanye was a terrible person and she was still mad.  Instead she sang a tale of forgiving encouragement.  I thought it was great.

Paramore, Bruno Mars, and B.o.B take the stage for a medley
This segment started with Bruno Mars singing the hook to "Nothin' On You".  The song then switched to "Airplanes" as Hayley Williams took the stage.  B.o.B then sealed the deal and connected the songs with his verses.  After the trio did their hip-hop piece, Hayley joined the rest of Paramore for a rendition of "The Only Exception".  The performance was full of hit singles and worked incredibly well.

Lady Gaga sets records and reveals her next record
The winner of the night was Lady Gaga. She won eight awards, which beats Madonna's previous record.  The final moon man that she won was for Video Of The Year.  "Bad Romance" proved to be her key video.  As she took the stage, wearing a dress made of meat, she revealed to the world the title of her next album.  Holding back tears she announced "Born This Way" and sang a few lines of a new song.

Those were the moments that stood out to me.  Many of the big names that took the stage sadly failed to impress me.  Do you agree with my choices?  Leave a comment telling me your favorite moments.  Did you like Kanye West or Nicki Minaj?  What about Eminem?  Which of Gaga's dresses was your favorite? Let me know!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Live VMA Coverage

Finally, after all of the anticipation, the VMA's are tonight.  There's a massive line-up of artists ready to perform and plenty of moon men to be won.  Some of the performances for tonight's show are Eminem, Paramore, Florence + The Machine, Nicki Minaj, and Drake.  With countless other artists also taking the stage, something amazing is sure to happen.

I'll be tweeting live during the red carpet and the main show.  Follow me for updates on the latest happenings. Feel free to send me a tweet about your favorite artists.

The red carpet starts at 8 PM, followed by the main stage at 9 PM.  I'll have a full recap on the blog on Monday for anyone who missed it. Enjoy the show!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Kimbra - Settle Down

The most recent request for a review was an artist that goes by the name of Kimbra.  Prior to the request, I had never heard of her.  After watching the music video for her single "Settle Down", I watched it at least ten more times in a row.  The song is addictive.  I haven't heard anything quite like it. Kimbra's voice is kind of jazzy, but also possesses qualities found in pop and electronic music.  The song is bouncy and incredibly fresh.  I would love to hear it on the radio.

It turns out that Kimbra is a young new artist, only twenty years old, and is from New Zealand.  She's currently working on her debut album which should be out later this year.  Her unique style will surely turn heads of listeners everywhere.  She has a strange vocal technique that reminds me of Björk at times.  However, I feel that Kimbra's music is much more accessible to new listeners.

Check out the above video of Kimbra's "Settle Down".  It's oddly wonderful and will have you bobbing your head to the beat in no time.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Ting Tings - Hands

The indie pop duo that invaded Top 40 radio with "That's Not My Name" is back with a new single.  The first track from their upcoming album Kunst, which is German for "art", is the infectious "Hands".  The single is a new direction for the band.  Their debut album, We Started Nothing, had more alternative rock influences to add to the pop.  This single gives a sign that the band is moving more towards the electro movement.  There is a prominent use of synths, an instrument that was rare on their debut.  At times the song sounds similar to another duo who gained massive recognition lately, none other than La Roux.  The song has a great melody and beat that will stay with you for an endless amount of hours.

The chorus consists of the line, "Clap your hands if you're working too hard.".  When I first heard the chorus, I found it to be a bit cliché and cheesy.  After a few listens, however, I was singing along to it.  The song has a lot of potential for radio play.

"Hands" seems like a summer single.  If the group had managed to release the song a month earlier, then it could have been in daily rotation with Katy Perry and Usher.  It just has that summer feeling.  Either way, "Hands" is a great sign for the soon to be released Kunst.  It's a new and positive style for The Ting Tings.  Until the song is officially released, you can hear to the "Low Sunday" remix of the single below.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hey Monday - Beneath It All

On Beneath It All, Hey Monday have transitioned from a pop-punk band to simply a pop band.  Now they're less like Paramore and Fall Out Boy, and more in the style of Avril Lavigne and Kelly Clarkson.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing.  Pop music is a huge and thriving market at the moment.  The only problem is that some fans of the band may not like the change.  The record is a mixed bag.  Some of the songs are extremely catchy and memorable, but others sound like something you would skip over on a full length release.  The EP only has six songs, so if you don't care for half of the songs then you don't have much material left to enjoy.

"Wish You Were Here" is by far the overall best song on the album.  It's young and energetic, yet mature enough for the adult contemporary audience.  The song seems like an odd choice for the album opener.  The "heartbreak" mood really doesn't set off the album at a good pace.  It would have been a much better fit in the middle of the album. This is an extremely minor fault, but it's noticeable.  The only real problem is that part of the melody in the verse is almost identical to "Breathless" by The Corrs.

The single from the album, "I Don't Wanna Dance" is another standout track.  The chorus is the most memorable piece from the album.  It reminds me of Kelly Clarkson's "My Life Would Suck Without You", which was a great single.  This single has that "sing along" element that everyone loves to hear on the radio.

"Wish You Were Here" and "I Don't Want To Dance" are solid.  The problem lies with the rest of the EP.  There isn't really a "bad" song on the album.  It's just that the other songs don't stand out upon the first, or even tenth, listen.  The band thrives on the emotional energy in the lyrics and melodies.  If their upcoming full length album has a steady flow of this energy, then it's something to look forward to.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Selena Gomez & The Scene - Round & Round

One of the most recent, and popular, additions to the long chain of Disney based artists is Selena Gomez.  Instead of taking the solo route, she formed a band and together they became Selena Gomez & The Scene. Their debut album, Kiss & Tell, charted in the top ten of the Billboard 200 and proved to be a commercial success.  Soon after its release, the album was certified Gold by the RIAA and spawned the certified Platinum single, "Naturally".  With these impressive accomplishments already in the bands career, can they grow even bigger with a wider audience?  If "Round & Round" is a sign of what's to come, then they might need to re-think their strategy.

The song is unfortunately nowhere near as solid as "Naturally".  Their previous radio hit was incredibly catchy and managed to reach #29 on the Billboard Hot 100.  "Round & Round" may have managed to climbed even higher at #24, but it lacks in the energy that "Naturally" had.  The hook is a repetition of the title line.  It gets tiring towards the end of the song.  The bridge is one of the most interesting parts of the track.  It's more of a spoken section that offers some variety to the song.

I really feel that Selena should continue to push the "band" image as she already is.  But in order to have less of a solo image, she needs to step back out of the spotlight and showcase the rest of the group.  It still feels like this is only Selena Gomez with a nameless backing band for live performances.  I'm sure that hardcore fans of the band will enjoy the song, although "Round & Round" is lacking in some areas. Even if the song isn't perfect, I would still listen to Selena over Miley any day.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Video: Janelle Monáe - Cold War

Sometimes, simplicity is the best option.  Janelle Monáe's new video for "Cold War", off of her album The ArchAndroid, is as simple as you can get.  The video shows a close up of Monáe as she sings the lyrics to the single.  Behind her is a completely black background with zero props.  The video was shot in one take and let's the viewer see Janelle at a vulnerable position.  She loses her composure half way through the song as she sings the lyrics, "I was made to believe there's something wrong with me / And it hurts my heart".  It's very raw and emotional.  "Cold War" is Sinéad O'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U" for the modern day.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lady Gaga - The Remix

Lady Gaga has already confirmed that an album of new tracks won't be seen until next year, but why should that stop her from releasing anything at all?  The Remix is exactly what it says it is.  It's an album full of Gaga's biggest hits, and some lesser known tracks, all remixed.  The new versions vary from full on heavy bass dance floor numbers to, on the other end of the spectrum, softer and more interesting mixes of the songs.  Some big names were recruited for the album.  Stuart Price, Passion Pit, and Frankmusik mixed three of tracks and one even features Marilyn Manson.  With ten songs total, the album has a broad style.  Some of the tracks could easily be replaced, but others are incredibly creative.

Unfortunately, the album starts off with probably the least interesting remix of the entire set.  The Richard Vission Remix of "Just Dance" is over six minutes long, and doesn't keep the listeners attention unless they're in a club with strobe lights.  It lacks in vocal tracks and seems very bland.  Once you get past the first track, the album picks up to a better pace.

The Stuart Price Remix of "Paparazzi" is the standout song of the album.  Both the music and the vocal track are amazing, and almost as entertaining as the original recording.  The vocal track uses different harmonies than the original recording.  It almost sounds like Gaga re-recorded the vocals.  It's great.

Other highlights include the Starsmith Remix of "Bad Romance", The Sound Of Arrows Remix of "Alejandro", and Monarchy 'Stylites' Remix of "Dance In The Dark".  Overall, it's a solid album.  There are two tracks in particular that are lacking; the Richard Vission Remix of "Just Dance" and the Passion Pit Remix of "Telephone".

I had high hopes of an outstanding remix when I heard Passion Pit was enlisted for the album.  Unfortunately, I'm not fond of the raised pitch on the vocals.  While it's reminiscent of "Sleepyhead" by the group, the raised vocals get very "chipmunk" after a couple minutes.  Luckily, the high vocals don't cover the entire song and it improves by the end.

The Remix isn't for everyone.  If you're just a casual fan or dislike remixes, then you probably won't go crazy over this album.  On the other hand, if you love dance music or you're a hardcore fan, then you'll probably love this record.  On average, the mixes stick to the original recordings just enough to not be annoying.  With the exclusion of the opening track, each song is instantly recognizable.  It's just a shame that some of the international remixes failed to make the US release of the record.  The Manhattan Clique Remix of "Boys Boys Boys" would've been a great addition.

If you're desperately in need of new music from Gaga and can't wait until next year, then go ahead and buy The Remix.  It'll keep the "Little Monsters" dancing through the rest of the year.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Young Galaxy - Long Live The Fallen World

Young Galaxy is a Canadian alternative band.  Really, their style of music is hard to explain.  At times it's very synth-ridden, but it can also be heavy.  They often have a light and airy feel to their music.  The band is made up of Stephen Ramsay on the guitar, Stephen Kamp on the bass, Liam O'Neill on the drums, and both Catherine McCandless and Max Henry playing keyboards.  You'll hear vocals from not just one of the band members, but three.  This sounds interesting enough.

The opening track of the album takes advantage of the many vocalists.  McCandless takes on the lead position while the rest of the band sings backup.  Depending on which song you hear from the band, the lead vocalist may switch off between McCandless and Ramsay.  When a band has both male and female vocals, it adds so many more possibilities to the music.

The highlight of the song is the massive change in rhythm during the ending.  With about one minute left, the beat starts to increase faster and faster.  The song then changes completely.  With beeping synths and a new beat the track is finished.  When hearing this change in pace for the first time, it's a pleasant surprise.

Young Galaxy will have a US release of their newest album, Invisible Republic on July 27.  Until then, you can check out their single "Long Live The Fallen World", for free, here.  You can also stream and download their other single, "Queen Drum", below.  Both songs are great.  I would definitely download them and see if it's your kind of music.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Maine - Inside Of You

The Maine is a fairly new pop rock/pop-punk band.  They released their debut album, Can't Stop, Won't Stop, in 2007.  It was very similar in style to the slew of other young pop-punk bands.  Fast and catchy songs about love, with vocals in the upper register is what they did best.  This time around, they released Black And White.  The first single off of the album is "Inside Of You".  It's actually a big step up for them in terms of maturity.  The vocals have a rougher sound to them, and it's overall less "novelty" sounding.

The one problem with the song is that it really isn't memorable.  After hearing it, the thought of it won't last. "Inside Of You" needs something more to stand out.  Either a solid hook or improved songwriting, just a little more to keep it in the mind of the listener for more than ten minutes.

I much prefer the rougher tone of, singer, John O'Callaghan's voice.  With that extra tone, the song has emotion and a more desirable rawness.  It's an entire new level for the band compared to their previous work, but if they manage to find the perfect in between of smooth and rough, then they'll find their ideal sound.

"Inside Of You" is a solid song, but I think it'll be hard for the band to attract a broader audience with the single.  I would check it out if you enjoy the general pop-punk bands that flood the Warped Tour.  If you're already a fan of The Maine, then I doubt you'll be disappointed.  They kept their basic style while still maturing to a certain degree.

Many thanks to Quiet16 for the request.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Harmony Muzik - The Masquerade

The album starts with a spoken intro.  On "What Is A Mask?" a conversation of identity and hidden persona's is overheard during, what sounds like, a candle lit dinner.  It's very intriguing.  The Masquerade is the debut album from the rising artist, Harmony Muzik.  She describes her music as "urban pop", and rightfully so.  Many of the tracks on the album have heavy hip-hop beats, but the vibe can change to dance pop instantly.  With a wide span of genres and influences, some listeners may find that they enjoy one style over the other.

"Take A Bite", featuring Madam Madon, Divinity, and Prhyme, sounds like it should be on hip-hop radio right now.  Like many of the songs on the album, "Take A Bite" is heavy on the bass.  The elegant and mysterious intro to the song really caught me off guard.  The intro is a small loop of classical guitar, strings, and ambient chirping.  It gives the track such a great flow.  "Take A Bite" is definitely one of the standout pieces on the record.

Immediately after "Take A Bite" is "Temporary Heartbreak".  As I mentioned earlier, this album flips genres quickly.  "Temporary Heartbreak" is filled to the top with synths.  You can hear a slight electro tone to Harmony's vocals.  The soaring chorus of "Falling in love with you." will leave you humming long after hearing it.

Fresh names are always welcome in the music industry.  I wouldn't be surprised if I turned on the radio and heard Harmony Muzik.  The beats are current and the featured artists add some variety to the mix of songs.  Notable tracks include "Take A Bite", "Broken", "Behind The Mask (Still Here)", and "Temporary Heartbreak".  The Masquerade is released on July 20th.  I would check out The Masquerade if you want to hear a new artist that blends hip-hop and pop to create an album of catchy hooks and beats.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Florence + The Machine - Heavy In Your Arms

The collection of films based on the Twilight Saga are immensely popular.  While the movies seem to be aimed towards the teenage girl population, the soundtracks for the series are incredibly varied.  The albums consist of mostly indie rock bands with a few major names mixed in.  The "big name" tracks are usually the songs chosen to be the lead single for radio play.  Muse's "Neutron Star Collision (Love Is Forever)" led the release of the Eclipse soundtrack.  Although it wasn't chosen for radio play, I feel that Florence + The Machine's "Heavy In your Arms" is the true standout song on the album.

Florence + The Machine is the stage name for Florence Welch and her always changing band.  Their song on the soundtrack is infectious.  It has a thumping beat and a chorus that every artist should be jealous of.  Florence's voice is extremely powerful.  You can hear the pure intensity of it during the final chorus of, "I'm so heavy, heavy, heavy in your arms.".  I love the dark feeling in the song.  It has just enough echo to complete the vibe.

Florence + The Machine released their album, Lungs, last year.  The album does not contain this song.  The only way to obtain "Heavy In Your Arms" is to buy the Eclipse soundtrack.  I say it's worth the purchase.  The album also features many other great songs by bands of the same genre.  The first time I heard "Heavy In Your Arms", I was stunned.  Give it a listen, you'll be captivated.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Scissor Sisters - Fire With Fire

The song starts with a piano melody and a lonely synth.  Then, vocalist, Jake Shears sings the verse with a tune that's so memorable, that you'll wonder why it had never been written before.  The chorus repetition of "Fight fire with fire - desire, through your desire." has the perfect power ballad feeling.  The lead single from their new album, Night Work, is simply a great pop song.  You can sing and dance to it, yet it also has that big anthem sound.  Shears' vocals have incredible clarity and are delivered with emotion.  They actually have enough emotion to be the standout element of the song, especially during their live performances.

"Fire With Fire" is sure to be a club hit, but I would love to see it break into the Top 40 charts in the US.  It would be a fresh alternative to the staple artists of mainstream radio.  Sure, it may be a bit cheesy and overwhelming, but it's fun.  Their third album, Night Work, is out now.  I would check it out if you like pop music with a flair of 80's synth.  You can download "Fire With Fire" for free on iTunes (US) until next Tuesday.  I would, without a doubt, give it a listen.  Scissor Sisters have an addictive song in "Fire With Fire".

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mr. Dream - Scarred For Life

At only two minutes and fifteen seconds long, "Scarred For Life" continues Mr. Dream's trend of short punk rock songs.  When I talked about their No Girls Allowed album, I mentioned that the length of the songs doesn't hold back their potential.  Instead, the song gives you a short burst of energy.  The vocals in this single seem more tight and precise, yet not over produced, just as Mr. Dream's previous work.  The beginning verse almost sounds like something you'd hear from The Bravery, only with more raw power.  They've also kept the infectious bass lines that really act as much more than support.  Everything that I loved about No Girls Allowed has received and upgrade for the better in "Scarred For Life".

I would love to hear a full length release from this band.  Until that time comes, you should definitely check out "Scarred For Life".  It may not be the most complicated of songs, but that's what makes it stand out.  It's simple, fun, and has a great guitar riff during the chorus.  Who wouldn't love a song like that?  Check out Mr. Dream's Myspace to give this song a listen, and also check out their previous work.  Mr. Dream is a band that's worth your time.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Semi Precious Weapons - You Love You

Earlier this year, I wrote about a band named Semi Precious Weapons.  I was amazed by their style.  They have the hooks and melodies for pop music, but they don't play pop music.  They perform rock music.  Not just any kind of rock, but the kind with insane fashion and guitar riffs.  It's glam rock.  They're fronted by Justin Tranter, one unique vocalist.  Add in a drummer, Dan Crean.  Then a bassist and guitarist, Cole Whittle and Stevy Pyne, and you have the Semi Precious Weapons.

The album opener is the first single and eponymous track, "Semi Precious Weapons".  The rock 'n' roll riff that starts the song is a good taste of what's to come.  To go side by side with the riff is the opening line, the lyrics that tell you what the band's about.  "I can't pay my rent, but I'm f****** gorgeous."  This is what Semi Precious Weapons is about.  On "Put A Diamond In It", Tranter sings of violence and glamour.  Unlike most other vocalists who would attempt such lyrical themes, Tranter can get away with it.  His wardrobe, which consists mostly of fishnets, heels and leather, adds to the "in your face" glam style of their music.  The epic, "Rock N Roll Never Looked So Beautiful",  explains it all.

Besides the wild glam rock, the album contains some down-tempo tracks.  "Leave Your Pretty To Me" is truly the highlight of the entire record.  Once you reach this song on the nine track album, you wonder if it can get any better.  The soft vulnerable tone of Tranter's voice is completely unexpected.  It sounds like a classic rock ballad and the album isn't even released in the US yet.  You must hear this song.

You Love You is out in the US on June 29th.  The band will continue touring with their friend and fellow performer, Lady Gaga, at the Monster Ball this summer.  I would pick up the record if you enjoy crazy glam rock songs that will leave you wondering what you just listened to.  It's catchy, it's outrageous, it's dirty... it's Semi Precious Weapons.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Pretty Reckless - EP

I wrote about The Pretty Reckless when they released their debut single, "Make Me Wanna Die".  This new rock band is led by the young Taylor Momsen.  Their self titled EP, which was released today, contains the band's lead single along with three new tracks that give The Pretty Reckless an even more promising future.

The first track, "Make Me Wanna Die", is the obvious choice for a single.  It's very radio friendly for modern rock stations.  For a more in depth review of the song, check out my post about it, here.  The second song is "My Medicine".  This song shows off Momsen's vocals and presence much better than the lead single.  The attitude in the vocal performance is enough to make it my favorite song on the EP.

The third song is "Goin' Down".  It's much heavier than the previous two.  Being very similar of 90's hard rock and grunge, the band, specifically the drummer, really shines through on this track.  With the lyrics, "Hey there father I don't wanna bother you, but I've got a sin to confess. I'm just sixteen if you know what I mean, do you mind if I take off my dress?", you can really see the young, rebellious, and more dangerous side of Momsen.

The final song, "Zombie", can only be found on the physical version of the EP.  It's definitely worth skipping iTunes for this song.  It's similar to "Make Me Wanna Die" in terms of theme.  "Zombie" is dark and heavy.

The Pretty Reckless will release their debut full length album, Light Me Up, later this year.  I would, without a doubt, give this EP a listen.  The physical disc containing "Zombie" is available only on the Warped Tour and at Hot Topic, but the extra song is a good incentive to pick it up.  The Pretty Reckless have quickly become one of my favorite new bands.  If they can match the power of this EP on Light Me Up, then you're in for a great album.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

M.I.A. - Steppin Up

The first sound you hear upon listening to M.I.A.'s new single, "Steppin Up", is a grinding chain saw and blasting drill.  The buzzing and squealing, which could have been an amazing sample, actually becomes quite irritating through out the song.  The songs beat is capable of holding it's own without the sample.  Besides the looping saw and the pounding beat, the music is kept at a minimum.  You can still hear a faint electronic synth line and guitar that keeps a chord progression under the lyrics.  This element keeps a slight sense of structure to the music.

The lyrical content is very out of the ordinary and very lacking.  With strange lines such as, "Rub a dub a dub dub, rub a dub a dub a dub." this song isn't poetry.  It really isn't even unique in an entertaining way.  This would be more acceptable if the instrumental for the song was outstanding, but the music doesn't save the track.  Overall, there's just too much "noise".

M.I.A.'s album, /\/\/\Y/\, will be released on July 13.  If this song fits into the context of the full record, then the lacking power could be excused.  However, on it's own, "Steppin Up" is nothing to get excited about.  Her other singles for this upcoming album are much stronger than tis one.  For all of the feuding and controversy that M.I.A. gets herself into, "Steppin Up" isn't up to par.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Devo - Fresh

Devo.  The band that made the "energy dome" what it is today.  The pyramid like hat became the symbol of Devo at the peak of their career.  Soon after their 1990 album Smooth Noodle Maps was released, they stopped making music. Following an extensive twenty year hiatus, the band is back with an album.  Can their single, "Fresh" revive their career and satisfy their massive following?  I think it can, and will.

Devo has managed to keep the charm of their classic music and apply modern production techniques to give it an updated feel.  The echoing drums are here, as are the waving synths.  One of their major hits, "Whip It", had a massive guitar riff, so does "Fresh".  It's impressive that after a twenty year break, the band still has a strong sense of who they are.

"Fresh" can be found on their album, Something For Everybody, which came out this week.  If you want a record full of poppy music that sounds like it belongs in the 80's, then this album is for you.  While it has that retro sound, it doesn't sound too cheesy or overdone.  It's a perfectly done transition into today's music scene that strives on electro-pop.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1

Robyn is a Swedish pop singer with a plan.  She's going to release, not one, but three albums this year.  In a series titled Body Talk, Robyn hopes to break from the traditional album cycle and create some great pop music at the same time.  Pt. 1 of the trilogy is being released this week.  At eight tracks long, the album contains a wide variety of genres.  While it's mostly pop focused, the album does hold its surprises.

The album starts off with "Don't F****** Tell Me What To Do".  The monotone repetition of Robyn stating waves of habits, objects, feelings, and people that are "killing her" is strangely effective as lyrical content.  The vocals are spoken over a dance-pop beat that sounds like a "Thriller" tribute during the title line finale.  After this intriguing intro, the promo single "Fembot" interrupts with its distinctive hook.  While the attraction of, "I've got some news for you, Fembots have feelings too.", you can't forget this song.  It''s a solid electro-pop tune that calls back to her previous hit, "Konichiwa B******".

The album continues into the first official single, "Dancing On My Own".  This single has already had decent success because of its moving chorus.  The song is definitely one highlight of the album.  The deep constant synth is a great driving beat for the song.  Robyn's music is always full of attitude, but it's usually aggressive and playful.  "Dancing On My Own" is deep and honest.  The next song, "Cry When You Get Older", continues the vibe of "Dancing On My Own".  It's less feisty and keeps the flowing ballad-like tempo.

The feeling changes completely with, "Dancehall Queen".  It has a reggae beat with pop synths.  An interesting combination, to say the least.  The song is very mellow, not much stands out.  It manages to keep your attention, but it is lacking.  The album picks back up with "None Of Dem".  This song features Röyksopp, and has an eerie melody.  The song is much more atmospheric than Robyn's usual hi-hat and snare filled anthems.

With the albums end closing in, "Hang With Me", an acoustic ballad, catches the listener off guard.  The soft song is made up of a piano, string section, and Robyn.  It's a beautiful song that really adds a needed element to the record.  The final song on the record is "Jag Vet en Dejlig Rosa".  The almost a cappella folk song is sung completely in Swedish.  It's extremely soothing and mysterious.  The lullaby closes the album amazingly.

To have an album that starts with a dance-pop song and ends with a traditional folk song is very peculiar.  To make it work out is even more peculiar.  Robyn has created a solid introduction to her Body Talk trilogy.  The album not only satisfies lovers of pop music, but it also sparks their interest in Robyn's unique album release plan.  I would check out Body Talk Pt. 1 if you enjoy pop music that is playful, with a mature side... when needed.  Robyn has a strong record with Body Talk Pt. 1.