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.