Archive for the 'Music' Category

Review: Blue October – Foiled

Wednesday, April 26th, 2006

I only picked up their dual disc live album a few months ago, and out of the 24 tracks, I was able extract 4 exceptional rock songs. So that would definitely put them on my map. With a new album out, I was definitely excited. After all, that’s what studio albums are for, better production value.
Ouch. It seems their roots lie more in the synth-pop direction. Listening back to the studio versions of the songs I picked out is an akward experience. It’s so bad, I don’t even like those versions. The new album gives me the same sour taste. While more genres are blended in, including some harder rock and techno-pop ballads, none of those songs reach above the mediocre status. No beautifully balanced guitar play, combined with rough soulful vocals.
The history of my musical taste has always been that good live performances validate the talent of the artist(s), but in this case, it’s a reverse world. Ah well, a first for everything.4.

Review: Lisa Loeb – The Very Best Of Lisa Loeb

Sunday, February 26th, 2006

I usually don’t review Best Of … albums since the obvious reason that is not really new. This time though, for me at least, it is kinda new. With only one song in my playlist (Stay, which is a monster hit she’s supposedly still has the full rights on. Few people in the music industry can say that), it may not be obvious she’s been hammering out a carreer for the past twelve years (even more if you count the non-self titled albums dating back from the late eighties). Not so coincidentally, this album’s release coincides with her new reality show (#1 Single on the E! channel), paving the way for even more exposure. Thematically, they pair up nicely too, since most of her songs are the slow romatic failure laden ballads, with some acoustic pop cry-outs to top it of.
Technically, it’s pretty sound, with the slim acoustic layout supporting her voice. Vocally, Lisa has the most friendly and sweet voice you can image. It’s almost disrespectful to turn her off or to switch to other music. Luckily so, while there are some despressing lyrics to be heard, her sweet voice will keep you from diving into the nearest ravine you can find.
But everyone knows, too much sweetness will result in sore teeth (or ears in this case), and that’s actually what happens when you listen to this chockful (18 songs) album.7-.

Review: Yellowcard – Lights and Sounds

Sunday, February 19th, 2006

The band is probably one of the best discovery of the past years, and following 2003’s Ocean Avenue is a whole to live up to. After all, that album had the whole rock spectrum covered, and added with their own uniqueness, it did effortlessly stand out for the following years.
Will Lights and Sounds do the same ? Probably, but with my finetuned ears, I’m just a tiny bit critical when it comes to the overall quality. Do they still rock like hell ? Hell yeah. Are they still unique ? Yup. But still, somehow their songs seem a little bit more closer to the normal rock borderline (chorus stylse and hooks intergrating basic guitar riffs).
Their hidden power may be in the less obvious longevity of their songs, since after all, I did upwardly adjust the reviewed grade of their previous album a few weeks later. Who knows what will happen to this one, time will tell. For now it will get a solid average, as any band with a “throw everything supposedly rock you’ve got out the window, and replace it with this one” rating deserves at least that.7+.


Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

Latin edition:

Santana – All That I Am: While the guitar leading man is crafty with this musical tool, combining the latin influences, it produces a somewhat bland experience (since it’s not really my genre), leaving only the two more poppy offerings (Steven Tyler and Michelle Branch, where the musical voice offers some fluid contrast with guitar) listenable, and ultimately only earning points for those two.5½.

Shakira – Oral Fixation Vol. 2: Unluckily, there are no songs on this album that matches the air play friendly single Don’t Bother (except maybe only one more song, incidentally featuring the above mentioned Carlos Santana), with most songs, having a weirdy feel to it (for instance, featuring some strange intro or background), and hence again failing into making me a fan (though her longing lyrics “don’t you know I’m only half a body without your embrace” does sound tempting).6-.

Review: Bon Jovi – Have a Nice Day

Wednesday, December 7th, 2005

Procrastinated two and a half months for this one, usually it takes only one or two weeks to review a new album. But with previous hits like It’s My Life, One Wild Night, and Have a Nice Day, it doesn’t really entice me to listen to a whole album, the songs being so run of the mill in nature.
Strangely though, the conclusion of my findings are somewhat on the positive side. It’s only been these few past years I’ve noticed the decline in quality of their mucis. Lyric-wise, it lacks poetic flair. Choice of words and metaphor isn’t of high standard either (and when he finally uses a metaphor, it has to be a filthy cigarette). Music-wise, most songs only use simple hooks if it’s not the brutal beating of the electric guitar. All in all, it’s a pretty neat sophistication-disappearing trick.
Then where’s the positive side, you may think. Having played it in the background for the past weeks, I’ve noticed with my analytic ears off-line, it’s quite listenable (albeit only on the playlist marked “occasional”, and if you’re in a don’t-care-mood). It’s probably the sheer and sweeping simplicity of it all (don’t think, just sing along, even if the lyrics don’t make any sense) that makes it so bearable. Though it doesn’t bode well for the longevity of it all, it’s still something.7-.

Review: The Corrs – Home

Tuesday, November 8th, 2005

It’s been only a year (since Borrowed Heaven), and already there’s a new album waiting. As the title suggest, home is really what this album feels like. Back to the roots where it all began, it’s Irish folklore all over. While I always thought it gave them a unique style, the loss of poppy tunes makes this album hard to swallow. With a few songs in their old native tongue (Gaelic, which will make you scratch your head trying to figure out what they’re singing), and a few ones you’ve already heard (Old Town, Haste to Wedding), it’s a bit hard to recommend this, with their previous album proving to have long legs, and the ones before even more so.5½.

Review: Sheryl Crow – Wildflower

Wednesday, October 5th, 2005

Another few years have passed again for a new studio album, and I couldn’t even tell you her previous hits. While she does have her own sound, it is an uninteresting sound nonetheless. This album too has the same problem. The mostly lightly digestive rock lullabies makes it a bit boring. On some songs (Good is Good) her conviction comes clearly through her technically weak voice (most apparent on live performances), but it’s still not enough. For a multiple platinum artist, she has always comes across as pretty mediocre.5+.

Review: Tracy Chapman – Where You Live

Thursday, September 22nd, 2005

No one can dispute the fact that she has a soulful voice and always sings from the heart. Another fact is that you can’t really put her in a genre. Variety wise, the 11 songs go from here to there. It’s just too bad, all of them are so ultra-depressing (or just too strange), none will make it to my current playlist, and only one song might be saved for later reference.
She still has a fair share of loyal followers, and they probably all like it, with the deeply emotional rooted lyrics and all, but this is just not my cup of tea.5.

Review: Lene Marlin – Lost in a Moment

Saturday, August 20th, 2005

Norway’s only notable pop export (if you don’t count A-Ha’s failed comeback) gives it another try, with her last album dating back in 2003 (and her breakthrough single “Sitting Down Here” from 2000). Even though I don’t hold this type of pop to such a high esteem as alternative or adult rock, from time to time I can handle a few songs. Over the years her voice has improved (less nasal, but still soft-spoken) and the songs can be quite soothing.
This time around, a bit of an overdose kills the excitement. Most songs are still as poppy as I can remember, others have the too perfectly times chorus cue’s programmed in, it kinda has an aggrevating effect instead of the previous soothing power. As always, longevity is also not a strong point for this genre, but still, it could be nice to listen to it if dosed correctly.6½.

Review: Faith Hill – Fireflies

Tuesday, August 16th, 2005

Ever since her rise to Nashville fame more than 10 years ago, she’s walked a fine line between ol’ country and pop. Her breakthrough in 1998 (This Kiss from her second album Faith) was enough to win me over. A powerful velvety voice combined with super sweet lyrics. The hardcore country songs I always ignored, and her third album still had a lot of those. Still there were quite a few selected songs I liked. Then came Cry (2002), and like many before her (Shania Twain, LeAnn Rimes) a more distinct move towards more poppy ballads (actually, they all released their albums in that year, so no one can really take the credit for making that first move). Almost all of the songs on that album I liked (usually that only happens when the sun, the moon and the north star are aligned). The country radio stations, however, complained they couldn’t play any song of the album.
Now comes a new release, and it seems she’s succumbed to the Nashville pressure as the whole album is crammed (she usually has 14 songs on a CD) with that generic hardcore country stuff combined with those boring slow ones. Quite disappointingly, the lyrics aren’t that high quality either (“Is everything A okay in the USA, in the good old USA ?” “You see rock hard bodies and bikini hotties, and everybody’s got it going on” “Hey everybody, can’t you feel the rhythm now ? Hey everybody, don’t you want to party?”), no matter how seductive her voice is. Searching out the nice ones isn’t an easy job, and is a clear indication of what the grade will be.5.

Review: Daniel Powter – Daniel Powter

Monday, July 11th, 2005

He says he’s having a bad day, but if I listen to this “debut” album (he already released an album in 2000), it’s gonna be a bad year.
As is usual with these artists, they start off with the best song of the album. That way you’ll buy the album, only to have it be a huge disappointment (but at least the artist will have his pension taken care of). Well, that’s exactly what this album is.
Of the 10 tracks, only one is a hit, and the rest is mediocre stuff. A few are even irritating. On most of the songs, he even pretends to be a long lost brother of the BeeGees, but raising his voice like that doesn’t make it more interesting. Of course, I have to admit, there are one or two potential next singles that will be a hit, as I do know what the mass will like, but for people with a more evolved taste, this is just too unimpressive.5+.

Review: James Blunt – Back to Bedlam

Thursday, June 16th, 2005

Fellow blogger Daxxon who moonlights as a commerce driven DJ and pulls double duty as a podcaster (i.e. he goes wherever the wind blows him to) never impressed me with his musical repertoire. But there has to be a first for everything. So with much restraint, I tried another one of his tips, this time not so commercial, and actually not one played over the airwaves yet.
Needless to say, the song (You’re Beautiful) made me wonder what more this raw white Brit version of Aaron Neville had to offer. With only 10 songs on the album, he has to make every single one count to make a lasting impression. With only one minor slip, so he does.
Musically, it’s not an eye opener. But that’s not noticable, as the singer/songwriter has other strong points to show for. His voice is most apparent, belting out the highly melodic tunes with soul and determination. Pair this voice with personal experience driven lyrics and you have yourself an excellent album for pure relaxation purposes.8-.

Review: Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little Pill (acoustic)

Tuesday, June 14th, 2005

With the last string of low expectancy disappointments (namely, Delta Goodrem – Mistaken Identity, Lifehouse – Lifehouse, Ben Folds – Songs For Silverman, Blue October – Argue With a Tree (live 2 CD’s), Stereophonics – Language. Sex. Violence. Other? as in, only one or even no song on the whole CD worth mentioning), I thought I’d spare you the critical breakdown of each one.
Instead, I took the easy way out, and that’s provided by Alanis with her rework of Jagged Little Pill to commemerate its 10 years of existence, as be it good or bad, the review would be easier to write.
So, how does it hold up on its own ? Basically, all songs are still the same. The metamorphosis is mostly in the wide variety of acoustic arrangements. Usually this gives a fresh feeling to each song (though one or two have a somewhat depressing bass riff going on), and that means the whole CD is still very listenable. Also worth mentioning is that now it’s quite noticable how her voice has matured in the ten years. If you don’t have anything Alanis, there’s no doubt, it’s a must-have.
But, with 30 million copies of the original album floating around, you can’t stop the comparison between the new and the old. The main question would still be, is it worth the buy if you already have the old one. The answer would be a undecisive no. Combine the fact that most people also have numerous cd-singles with the multiple renditions of the songs on the B-side, and it’s time to start scratching your head. The final fact is, most people also have the 1999 release of another must-have CD, Unplugged. And that’s the nail that shuts the decision making coffin. We end up with a big no for Alanis fans. The success hinges on a new generation who has never heard of her. And frankly, I don’t think such a generation exist at the moment. Blank grade: 9-. Compared grade: 7-.

Review: Mariah Carey – The Emancipation of MiMi

Wednesday, May 18th, 2005

Rob Thomas entered the Billboard album chart at the top spot last week, as the only solo artist ever coming from a band to pull that feat off. But what was he competing against anyway ? Well, Mariah held the number one spot till then, so I had to hear if it was a worthy adversary or not.
After her failure with Glitter (the movie, the biggest bomb of 2001, just in case you forgot) and an accompanying nervous breakdown, she pretty much disappeared from the Earth’s surface. Her first single was of the same R&B crop that’s currently polluting the airwaves, nothing special there. Mariah though, said in interviews the album would be a vocal explosion, stretching it to the limit. So at least I had something to look forward to. She already earns extra points putting forth 14 songs instead of the industry’s standard 12.
First thing, she is correct about the vocal part of the album. The dynamic strong voice draws your attention now and then. The songs themselves though, are another cup of tea. A handful of duets (Nelly, Snoop Dogg, Dupri, etc) is the same as those songs you hear on the radio everyday. Nothing new there. The other hand seems to be filled with Destiny’s Child’s left-overs, and the slower less melodious ones at that.
In the end, it’s not a total disaster, but it’s not that exciting either.6-.

Review: Bruce Springsteen – Devils & Dust

Wednesday, May 4th, 2005

After an extensive world tour with the E Street Band, he’s back with a solo album. The band was probably not the only thing he left at home, as the minimalist musical setup suggest only a handful of acoustic instruments was used. I usually don’t have a problem with that, but with the direction Bruce is taking, leaves me with a pale impression.
He’s always been known for his story-telling qualities in his songs (think, the River), and this album is full of it. The style though, is much slower, more like a trip to Nashville. Less than a handful of songs remind me (too much) of his older materials, but sadly these are still the only songs I can bear. The majority are actually more fitting on an audiobook then on a music CD. This album is definitely not continuous replay worthy. And for the psychologically less stable people, I’d like to warn you before you slip slowly into a full-blown depression era.5½.