Thursday, May 09, 2013
I have never been much of a fan of traditional country music, but I do have a soft spot for the angry white chick sub-genre that popped up in the middle of the last decade. One of the best songs of the genre was Pistol Annies Hell on Heels (lead Annie Miranda Lambert may be the angriest of the angry white chicks), I do not even care if it was an ode to maneating. Their follow up album Annie Up starts off promising; you know just by the title alone you know I Feel a Sin Comin’ On is going to be good. And though it is not in the angry white girl vein, the laid back, front porch sing-a-long does not disappoint. The rest of Annie Up does disappoint, filled with songs that would not be good enough to appear on their first album. I was hoping the alleged marital strife between Lambert and husbandBlake Shelton, even if was unfounded, would produce better music.
Annie Up gets a on my Terror Alert Scale.
The Dixie Chicks pretty much swept the 2007 Grammy Awards taking three of the top four awards (naturally they were ineligible for Best New Artist) and promptly took an extended brake. The two sisters in the group released an album under the moniker Court Yard Hounds in 2010 as they waited for lead singer Natalie Maines got the writing itch again. Seven years after releasing Taking the Long Way, Maines may not be ready to write with the Chicks just yet (though supposable something is “in the works”), but she is ready to record some music, as she just released a cover album Mother with songs from Eddie Vedder, Jeff Buckley, and Semisonic. There is one Dixie Chick song, Come Cryin’ to Me which was from the Taking the Long Way sessions which sounds about as good as a song that did not make that album would be. But the best of the set is the haunting title track version of the Pink Floyd classic and the new Ben Harper penned Trained where Natalie duets with the songwriter on a barn burner of a song. Though it is hard not to listen to the album and hope a proper Dixie Chicks album will not be far behind.
Mother gets a on my Terror Alert Scale.
It is really apropos that She & Him named their third album Volume 3 (the first two naturally were entitled Volume One and Volume Two; do not ask me why they spelled out the numbers on the earlier albums but opted for the numerical styling now) because their most recent outing sounds exactly like its predecessor to the point I was suspicious that it was just the same songs with different titles just to throw people off. Except it could not have been a complete rehash because there is nothing as catchy as In the Sun on the new album. It does not help that I went to look how much longer the album was the first time I listened to it and was shocked that I was not even half way through the forty minute album yet. Really the only song that stands out in this set is Together which features Zooey Deschanel singing in French (I think, I did not do very well in the subject back in high school).
Volume 3 gets a on my Terror Alert Scale.
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
At the turn of the century, music got really sedate, the only videos getting played on MTV (when they played music videos) were bland teen pop or crappy rap-rock songs. It took something truly innovative to get noticed. Enter Fell in Love with a Girl and its Lego inspired music video which busted through the monotony of everything else in heavy rotation. Even better was that accompanying song by The White Stripes was great even without the awesome visuals. And though the strict adherence to only two instruments per song (so they would be able to play them as is live in concert) and a red, white, and black color palate, could have pegged the duo as a one hit wonder, but none listen to the album White Blood Cells, this month’s induction into the Scooter Hall of Fame, showed they were much more than a gimmick.
The White Stripes were blues rock at its finest. Though most of their songs clocked in at less than three minutes, Jack White was able to pump at least one great guitar riff into each of them. The songs range from the down and gritty Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground, to the delta blues of The Union Forever, to the quick and simple Meg stomping Little Room, to the poppy acoustic Hotel Yorba which just begs to be sun along with.
As great as Fell in Love with a Girl is, the best track on the album just may be We’re Going to Be Friends. With just Jack and his acoustic guitar, he sings of a simpler time when worrying about the first day of school was your biggest problem. But it is also a day were you meet new friends that can last a lifetime. The song should be included in every graduation mix from now until the end of time. As The White Stripes showed, the simplest can also sometimes be the best.
Monday, April 29, 2013
If it were not for Limp Bizkit’s fifth attempt at being relevant again, Fall Out Boy may have been the most unwanted comeback of the past year. Even worse is they called their album Save Rock and Roll (so when you look at the album, you will see Fall Our Boy Save Rock n Roll) even though they along with their whiney contemporaries destroyed the genre (good riddance My Chemical Romance, the world will not be anticipating your inevitable reunion at Coachella 2020). Apparently the band did not watch the Grammy’s this year which featured Mumford & Sons, The Black Keys, Jack White, and Fun., four critically and commercially successful rock albums, all fight for Best Album.
But I am not a Fall Out Boy hater, a couple of their songs made my Best of the Year lists. Despite the first single My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light em Up) and its pretentious long title the band is known for, Save Rock n Roll is the band’s grown up album. Besides Light em Up, the rest of the album has “normal” titles and less tongue in cheek lyrics (Courtney Love spoken word diatribe on Rat a Tat notwithstanding). This album reminds me a lot of Blink-182’s “grown up” albums, they may have been musically better, but their songs where they would make prank phone calls about sodomy were more entertaining. Same for Save Rock n Roll where the album may sound better, but the most entertaining song is the one that sound most like their older work.
Save Rock n Roll gets a on my Terror Alert Scale.
Taylor Swift set up the template for country cross-over success. Hook in that country crowd then slowly creep closer and closer to pop music with every subsequent album until you are making crappy dubstep songs with Max Martin. It look like The Band Perry is copying that blueprint to a T. Much like Taylor did with Teardrops on My Guitar, Kimberly and her brother released a “Pop Remix” of If I Die Young to pop and adult contemporary stations. And that turn to the mass center continues on their sophomore album Pioneer which dips one toe into the country pool and the other in the pop world. The album starts off with their best song to date, the banjo infused Better Dig Two which is as much pop-rock as it is country. They continue to go back and forth and combine the two for the rest of the album, but none of it is very memorable. Maybe the true key to Taylor Swift's successes is dating and writing about douchebags when they inevitably break her heart.
Pioneer gets a on my Terror Alert Scale.
Last year I became obsessed with who the record companies would try to pass off as the “Next Adele.” First out the box was internet lightning rod Lana del Ray who was maybe the most prepackaged “indie” act ever with her devil may care attitude, thin voice, pretentious lyrics that wanted you to think they were much more important than they are, and music that borrows as much from retro sounds as it does modern day hip-hop. Though we never did get a Next Adele (at least until Emili Sandi manages to break out here stateside) you could call Jessie Ware the Next Lana Del Rey but Jessie comes off much less pretentious, less annoying and has a slightly better singing voice. The music is still draped in as many rap references while it borrows from music from the sixties (Wildest Moments is the best here which will grow on you with every new listen) but most songs come off as a little too sleepy and boring. But that is what makes her debut Devotion a great bedtime album, whether that is a good or bad thing may depend on how much Ambient you take on a monthly basis.
Devotion gets a on my Terror Alert Scale.
Monday, April 01, 2013
There are fewer artists with better timing than "Weird Al" Yankovic. A novelty act who made funny parodies about food. His first album was quality entertainment by lampooning the likes of The Knack and even landed him a couple minor hits. But instead of becoming a musical footnote like the guys who sang My Sharona, his second album launched at a time when two cultural phenomenons collided, and he benefited from both. In 1984 MTV finally started airing music videos by black artist, most notably Michael Jackson whose video took him from being that cute kids from the Jackson 5 to the biggest act in music since The Beatles.
Enter “Weird Al” Yankovic to who took Jackson’s Beat It and, like My Sharona before it, turn it into an anthem about food. It was catchy as the original, but what made Al a household name was the accompanying music video with Al visiting the same tropes that Michael did in his video, ending up at the same West Side Story knife fight at the end, but all down with a Weird bent and rubber chickens. It became a template for Al where the video was almost important as the parody itself.
The only other music video Al made from "Weird Al" Yankovic In 3-D, this month's induction into the Scooter Hall of Fame, was almost as entertaining and is now underrated compared to the others that came afterward. Based on his other love. television (the album also featured an ode to The Brady Bunch to the tune of Safety Dance), I Lost on Jeopardy is set to the Greg Kihn song about boring love and turned into a song about the worst contestant ever in the history of game show, a contestant so bad, he did not even get take the Home Game with him. For the video, Al even wrangled Art Fleming, the original host, Don Pardo and Kihn himself. I have no proof to this claim, but I would like to believe it was this song that led to the Alex Trebeck reboot of the game show.
In 3-D was also notable for being the first album that featured the now routine polka where Al broke out his accordion to sing a medley of song from the sixties and seventies classic from Devo to Iron Butterfly. Had there been another video made from the video, it most likely would had been for The Theme of Rocky XIII, naturally a parody of Eye of the Tiger (theme to the third movie), it is a shame that he did not dust the song off for his movie UHF and the song gets only more relevant as Sylvester Stallone inches closer to his thirteenth installment of his franchise. Being such a fan of The Police, King of Suede (a parody of King of Pain) and always been one of my favorite in Al’s catalogue. It is weir to thing that “Weird Al” Yankovic first released his first song thirty-five years ago next year. Hopefully we do not have to wait until then to hear what food will inspire his parody of Call Me Maybe.
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Noel Gallagher, who wrote all the songs for Oasis, once said the first line of every song is the most important and what he spent the most time working on. By that philosophy, the fist line in the first song off your first album must be the most important in a singer’s career (maybe not so much for Gallagher who started with “I live my life in the city, there’s no easy way out”). Kacey Musgraves came up a line to start off her major label debut album Same Trailer Different Park that really sets the tone for the next forty minutes when she sings on the opening track Silver Lining, “Woke up on the wrong side of rock bottom.” Do you even need to ask after that if this is a country album?
The next couple songs start out with a couple dozies of their own: “Who needs a house up on a hill when you can have one on four wheels?” (My House) and “If you ain’t got two kids by 21 you’re probably gonna die alone.” (Merry Go Round) But she does not stop with writing a good first line, Merry Go Round can be taken as either a biting commentary about small time life or a lament of it depending on which side of the Mason-Dixon Line you live with a chorus that goes, “Momma’s hooked on Mary Kay, bother’s hooked on Mary Jane” and if you guessed that “daddy’s hooked on Mary two doors down” get yourself a cookie.
But the best written song on the album is Follow Your Arrow which also starts off with a very memorable opening line, “If you save yourself from marriage you’re a bore, if you don’t save yourself for marriage you’re a (w)horrible person.” The be who you are anthem (“kiss lots of boys, or kiss lots of girls if that is something you’re in to”) is much catchier and a lot less annoyingly pretentious than the annoying pop songs with the same message of recent years by Lady Gaga or Ke$ha.
Musically, Musgraves comes across like a early female Ryan Adams with more traditional country influences and a much better sense of humor than someone who would stop a concert cold because someone request he play Summer of 69. But where Adams excelled at what he would call “sad bastard” songs (It Is What It Is is the best of these songs on Same Trailer Different Park), Kacey is much more adept at barn burners like on Stupid and Blowin’ Smoke both which could be one of the better songs if they found their way into Miranda Lambert’s catalogue (Musgraves wrote Lambert’s current hit Mama's Broken Heart).
Though Same Trailer Different Park sticks mostly to traditional country, the sleepy Back of the Map is one of the few times Kacey goes for the adult contemporary track that many pop-country acts shoot for these days, and turns out to be one of the best songs on the album. When it comes down to it, Same Trailer Different Park may be the best country album I have listened to since the last American album Johnny Cash released when he was alive.
Song to Download – Stupid
Same Trailer Different Park gets a on my Terror Alert Scale.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
At age sixty-seven, Eric Clapton has recorded twenty-eight studio albums, twenty as a solo artist, so are we really supposed to expect much from the twenty-ninth? For a guy once regarded as “God” sure. Really the most notable aspect of Old Sock (do not ask) is that it is the very first released not on a major label but on his own record label Bushbranch (again, do not ask). Like most of his albums from this millennium, Old Sock relies heavy on covers, there are two covers, and features a bevy of guest stars that you probably will not know are there unless you are reading along with the liner notes.
The album starts up with a reggae version of Further on Down the Road by Taj Mahal (who contributes harmonica and banjo to the album) and also dips back into the island sound on Peter Tosh’s Till Your Well Runs Dry. Clapton’s old buddy, and sometime recording partner, J.J. Cale contributes vocals and guitars to the softly sung Angel. Another Clapton contributor, Steve Winwood from the Blind Faith days, plays the organ on Still Got the Blues. While Chaka Khan sings back up on the rare original track Gotta Get Over which stands as one of the best on the album, a funky song and one of the rare tracks where Clapton lets loose on his guitar.
Clapton also spends some time dipping into the old standards much like Paul McCartney did on his latest album, and the Beatles shows up on All of Me (most famously done by Billie Holiday) playing the bass and providing backing vocals. He also breaks out the old Leadbelly old timey classic Goodnight Irene and even closes the album with Love Is Here to Stay written by the Gershwin Brothers. Eric Clapton has clearly mellowed as he has gotten older, I just wished he would unleash one more guitar god album before putting on another pair of old socks.
Song to Download – Gotta Get Over
Old Sock gets a on my Terror Alert Scale.
Wednesday, March 06, 2013
Kate Nash rode the wave of neo-pop music coming out of England late last decade following in the footsteps Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse. Her first two albums were filled with fun throwbacks sounding songs filled with enough snark satisfy any jaded music listener. But something happened after that as she dyed her hair darker and started sounding more like a Riot Grrrl than her poppier sound when she released her Death Proof EP where her trademark snark gives way to pure anger.
Her third full length album Girl Talk tends to bridge the gap between her earlier retro-pop style and Death Proof’s angry nineties white girl style. The new album does feature two songs from Death Proof, the title track from the EP and Fri-end which comes after the album opener Part Heart. They are followed by songs like Sister, where she gets screamier the more the song drags on, and fits in very well with her bass guitar heavy darker sound.
But I like it much better when she reverts back to her original sound like on songs like OMYGOD! Cheesy stylization aside, this is where she goes back to her one woman girl group sound. The best is on 3AM which would not sound out of place on those first two album but more danceable. Girl Talk ends with a duo of surprisingly sparse songs (even more surprising than Rap for Rejection where Nash, well, raps). First up is the acoustic sing along You’re So Cool, I’m So Freaky which is followed by Lullaby for Insomniacs which for the most part drops even the acoustic guitar. It ended up being a better turn than the angrier start to the album.
Song to Download – 3AM
Girl Talk gets a on my Terror Alert Scale.
Friday, March 01, 2013
It is time of year again where it is time to put on some green, fill out your brackets while sipping on a Shamrock Shake. And of course thanks to seeing it in the House of Pain video, pin on your “Expletive deleted) me I’m Irish” button even if you do not have any relative from the Emerald Isles. Jump Around will be getting plenty of play over the next couple weeks as one of the preeminent Irish song that does not even feature bagpipes and is this month’s induction into the Scooter Hall of Fame.
Sure Jump Around will get any St. Patrick’s Day party pumping, but it is in the pantheon of great party starting of all time at any party throughout the year. Really, if you put the song on, every guy in between the ages of twenty and fifty will stop whatever they are doing and start shouting, and jumping, along. The only other songs that have the same effect on such a wide range of males are Glory Days and N.W.A.’s Automobile.
From the opening royal horns, you knew you were witnessing something new, and then the screaming sample kicked in and the song kicked into high gear like a dirtier and grimier version of the rock tinged rap invented in the early Def Jam day. It is almost four minutes of a full frontal assault where Everlast is serving everyone up like John McEnroe even if it is your girl (the sound effect there may be the most entertainly offensive sound effect ever in a song).
One of the few disappointments on the group’s debut album it turns out the prelude song from the Jump Around video does not actually precede the song, but it shows up as a full song later as House of Pain Anthem for anyone who want to jam to it. It is one of the few slower songs on the album while rest it filled with plenty of (expletive deleted) kicking songs (including Put on Your (Expletive Deleted) Kickers) featuring the likes of B-Real from Cypress Hill, Son Doobie of Funkdoobiest, and the great Pete Rock adds a verse to his remix of Jump Around.
But the best song on the set after the original Jump Around is very appropriate for the month Shamrocks and Shenanigans. Go ahead and skip the original version and go straight to the Butch Vig Remix (who was between coming off producing Nirvana’s Nevermind and forming Garbage when he remixed the track). The fuzzed out track is one of the great lost alternative songs from the Golden Age of Alternative Rock and should be added to any St. Patrick playlists you are working on this month.
Friday, February 01, 2013
Back in the post-Nirvana wild west of early nineties MTV, it seemed like anyone could get their fifteen minutes of fame no matter how weird they were (seriously, remember Ween?). Thinking back it is amazing that a band like Rage Against the Machine could get so big: two number one albums and three multi-platinum albums. Sure they did not invent the rap-metal fusion, which probably goes to Faith No More (unless you count the time Run-DMC teamed up with Aerosmith). But as good as Faith No More was, their rapping always seemed like a novelity, and I am sure in some circles they are just considered a one hit wonder.
Even more amazing was how Rage became such pioneers in the musical landscape (just do not blame them for the blasphemy that turned out to be Limp Bizkit, the douchebag you knew in college with the “Free Mumia” sign in his window even though he could not tell you the difference between Mumia and Mustafa, or Paul Ryan) was there was a very strong message which can been seen right on their debut album cover, this month’s induction into the Scooter Hall of Fame, which depicts a monk who set himself on fire protesting an anti-Buddhist regime. It was only highlighted by the opening track Bombtrack which repeated the line, “Burn, burn, yes you’re gonna burn.”
Rage Against the Machine even had their breakout MTV moment when the former music channel picked up their most politically charged song and video Freedom as a Buzzworthy selection and put it into heavy rotation. In-between a vigorous live show, featuring a very sweaty fat young kid, the video gave us a history lesson about Leonard Peltier who did not receive a fair trial when convicted of killing two FBI officers. But for the most agro for your buck, there is Killing in the Name Of which builds and builds until lead singer Zack de la Rocha (and pretty much every male under the age of forty within earshot) starts screaming “(Expletive deleted) you I won’t do what you tell me.”
Rage Against the Machine (WARNING: the next line will make you feel old) turned twenty late last year and included the prerequisite rerelease with plenty of different version that includes demo full DVD of a concert and music videos (the most bare bones version you can currently download for only $2.99) which will have frat boys and Paul Ryan raging for another twenty years.
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
When you hear the name Tegan and Sara you probably conjure up adjectives like folky, moody, and / or lesbian. But like indie queen Liz Phair before them, being indie darlings does not do a very good job at paying the bills. Despite six well received albums, the sisters never managed to have a hit songs on the charts here stateside and were not even able to get one until their last album in their Canadian homeland. They look to change that with the release of the decisively more poppy seventh album Heartthrob.
Much like when I first heard Phair’s no longer being exiled in guyville pop turn with Why Can’t I, my first thought when I heard Closer, the first single off of Heartthrob, was, this is catchy, but I feel a little dirty considering the source. But where Phair when full mainstream on those album with songs of the chick rock pop of the early 00’s, Tegan and Sara travel back to the syth-pop mainstream of the 80’s (and carried on today by bands like Metric).
To get this sound they brought in producer Greg Kurstin of The Bird and the Bee who gave a similar sound to It's Not Me, It's You - Lily Allen’s sophomore album. The problem though is the album sounds too homogeneous and even at just over a half an hour it starts to drag on eventually with the lack of diversity. Heartthrob manages to draw the line very well where they are poised to pick up more pop minded fans without alienating their core fan base, but I’ll probably continue to walk with the ghost instead.
Song to Download – Closer
Heartthrob gets a on my Terror Alert Scale.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
Bruno Mars is perfectly mediocre. You are not going to actually buy his music, but you are also not going to switch the channel when he comes on the radio. It is probably why his music is so popular on karaoke shows, his songs are inoffensive and his voice is mediocre enough that you will not embarrass yourself singing one his songs like the morons who think they can match notes on an Adele song. But some would argue it is better to be horrible than mediocre because you can get more attention being horrible. I believe scientists call this The Rebecca Black Phenomenon which was recently perfected by the Gangnam Style dude. And even though Mars is much better than Psy, I do find myself thinking about Psy more often. Sure it is a fiery cauldron of hate, but like they say, it is better when people talk about you then do not talk about you (i.e. The Kardashian Paradigm).
Then Bruno Mars came out with Locked Out of Heaven much dirtier than anything on his debut with some annoying chopped up yeah’s (but hey, annoying is more memorable than mediocre), and was a changed note away from getting sued by The Police for ripping off Message in a Bottle. Even the album art is a bit offensive with a close up of a woman’s chest with a plunging neckline.
But for the rest of Unorthodox Jukebox, Bruno Mars is back to just nine other hard to hate songs. There is not a bad song on here and most certainly be the soundtrack of many of Middle School dances and Vegas is currently taking bets one weather someone on The Voice or American Idol will be the first to have a contestant sing Young Girls. There really is not unorthodox about these jukebox of songs, it is exactly what you expect from a Bruno Mars album, overwrought lyrics, danceable music for your bar mitzvah, be it awkward grooving or even more awkward arms length slow dancing with the cute chick whose braces are supposed to come off in the next week.
The “jukebox” instead sounds like Mars checking off his influences. The New Wave of Locked Out of Heaven, the eighties soft rock of Moonshine (when Mars sings moonshine, I swear I can hear Don Johnson singing Heartbeat, I do not think that is particularly a good thing), the Elton John balladeering of When I Was Your Man, the watered down reggae of Show Me, and the Motown of If I Knew. The only unorthodox is when Bruno goes disco for Treasure. And in true Bruno Mars tradition, he is not completely horrible even when he goes Full Travolta. You might find Unorthodox Jukebox to be mediocre, I am sure the album would be something to give your mother for Christmas. Moms love mediocre music. Why do think Michael Bublé still has a career.
Song to Download – Locked Out of Heaven
Unorthodox Jukebox gets a on my Terror Alert Scale.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
In these musical times, it is not enough to be good (with the exception of Adele), you have to have a gimmick. Which Is probably why Green Day planned to release three albums, ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, ¡Tré!, about seven weeks apart. But shortly after ¡Uno! was released (see my review: Tonight My Heart’s on the Loose), lead singer Billy Joe Armstrong went on an anti-Bieber rant and landed himself in rehab and has not been heard from since. With the lead singer in hibernation, ¡Dos! was released with little fanfare last month aside from a creepy, but entertaining heartless music video. Apparently their record company is cutting their losses and just released ¡Tré! this week instead of the original mid-January release, less than a month after ¡Dos!. Well they were either cutting their losses or decided it get it released before the world ended.
During my review of the previously mentioned review of ¡Uno! I mentioned that the final song, Oh Love, was sonically different than the previous eleven songs, possibly hinting at what ¡Dos! may have to offer. As it turns out, I was wrong because ¡Dos! turned out to be more of the power pop that most of ¡Uno! was. The band did not change much up until late in the album with the slick Nightlife featuring an almost half rap from Monica Painter which is the first time I can remember anyone besides Billy Joe singing lead vocals on a Green Day song. That album ends with the sparse sixties inspired Amy, which I dare to say again may hint at what was to come on ¡Tré!?
¡Tré! actually does start up with another sixties garage rock song Brutal Love which kind of sounds like Green Day trying to record a U2 song when they are trying to record a mellow song. But after that, it is back to more power pop. Of the thirty-seven tracks among the trilogy, thirty-one are in that fast paced rock that the band was known for in the nineties, but with an elder twist to them. It makes it a bit repetitive if you listen to all three albums for the two hour plus runtime, but who listens to albums straight through anymore? If you like classic Green Day, grab all three albums and enjoy them when they come up while randomly listening to your music library on random.
Song to Download – Brutal Love
¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡Tré! all receive a on my Terror Alert Scale.
Tuesday, December 04, 2012
Over her first three albums, Taylor Swift has made country pop that moved closer and closer to the latter genre. But earlier this year she recorded a song for The Hunger Games Soundtrack with The Civil Wars. Safe and Sound was dark and moody and the second best song in her career (I still contend that Our Song is the second finest pop song written over the past decade). The song really got me excited for her next album as I was hoping Safe and Sound was the direction she was heading in her career. Then she released We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, a song so sugary it makes Call Me Maybe sound like Radiohead in comparison. Ugg.
The song was the latest ear candy from the teen pop svengali Max Martin who produced three songs on Red. The other notable song Martin contributed to is the “dub-step” I Knew You Were Trouble that really does not drop the bass like the DJ’s that make the subgenre famous and just comes off across a watered down version of dub-step. It really is just a novelty for Swift because is you listen to the acoustic version of the song it is much better. The other Martin enhance song is the forgettable 22 where Swift makes fun of hipsters, echoing her slam of indie records during We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.
Aside from Max Martin, Taylor brings in a few more collaborators for the new album. Dan Wilson, who co-wrote Someone Like You, co-wrote Treacherous with Swift but just does not hit the heights of the Adele monster hit or even his work on the last Dixie Chicks record. The Last Time features Gary Lightbody and comes across more like a Snow Patrol castoff than a Taylor Swift song. She alaso duets with Ed Sheeran on Everything Has Changed and the acoustic ballad sound more like something you would find on his album. Of court that may be the point of these duets because Safe and Sound sounded much more like a song by The Civil Wars.
But Red is at its best when Swift goes back to writing by herself. The best song on the album is actually stuck at the end. Begin Again is a sweet ballad where Swift is ready to move on with a James Taylor fan. As the second single it is a great yin to We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’s yang. Really Swift should stick to writing by herself or work just with The Civil Wars and T-Bone Burnett for now on.
Song to Download – Begin Again
Red gets a on my Terror Alert Scale.
Saturday, December 01, 2012
It seems like every year we listen to the same Christmas music, or at least that is what gets played on the radio. Sure songs from new releases that year may get played but are quickly forgotten the next year. There really has not been a new Christmas song that has entered the holiday cannon since Mariah Carey released All I Want for Christmas Is You, which is this month’s induction into the Scooter Hall of Fame.
All I Want for Christmas Is You is another lovelorn Christmas tune in the vein of the great Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) but manages to be more upbeat than the Darlene Love original. It is really one of the rare Christmas songs that is not just great for the holidays, it is just a great song period.
The rest of Merry Christmas is filled with your traditional holiday fair, traditional songs like Silent Night, and more upbeat songs like Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. There are a couple other original like the sappy ballad Miss You Most (at Christmas) but it will be All I Want for Christmas Is You that will continue to get major airplay over the next month.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
For a decade, Alicia Keys was a picture of class making the best RnB that reminds you of the classics but still kept accessible for modern times with four albums that range between good and great. Then in between album she got caught up in a bit of a scandal where she was accused of being a home wrecking. And looking at the evidence, it is probably true. Granted on the scale of scandals, home wrecking ranks near the bottom of most egregious but it is a bit weird listening to her new music with that nuggets in the back of your mind especially when the guy in the equation, Swizz Beats produced a song on the album. It does not help that New Day may be the weakest track on the album.
It is also a bit odd that she named her fifth album Girl On Fire which shares the name of The Hunger Games sequel that is set to be released next summer but does not seem to share anything with the movie series aside from the name. (Let me quickly add a three word review of the movie: severly over-hyped.) It just seems like a shameless attempt to attach herself to the biggest pop culture phenomenon of the year. It also does not help that the title track is probably the second weakest song on the album that is brought down even further by the always annoying Nicki Minaj. It should be noted that the smoother and Minaj-less Bluelight Version (which is not featured on the album) is significantly better than the Minaj enhanced Inferno Version on the album.
Those mediocre songs aside, Girl on Fire is another solid album by Alicia Keys. Thankfully she washes the bad Minaj taste out of your mouth on the next song by singing duet with Maxwell on Fire We Make with guitar by Gary Clark Jr. while both singers get their smooth falsetto on. But some of her strongest tunes were when Keys did some co-writing with British songstress Emeli Sandé (who was supposed to be this year’s Adele but never caught on stateside) on Brand New Me, Not Even the King, and 101.
Keys also brought in uber-nineties writer / producer Babyface for That’s When I Knew which drops Keys traditional piano for a beautiful acoustic guitar based ballad. But it was Bruno Mars and his The Smeezingtons production team (who is best known for The Song Otherwise Known as Forget You) that contributed the best track on the album Tears Always Win. A modern throwback that Mars and his boys are best known for and ranks as one of her best track in her career. It almost makes you forget any past transgressions.
Song to Download - Tears Always Win
Girl on Fire gets a on my Terror Alert Scale.