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Album Review – Gemini EP by Jack and White

August 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Tracks:

  1. Gemini
  2. Double Trouble
  3. Inside Outside
  4. Telephone Games
  5. Smoke and Mirrors
  6. Feathers

So, who’s Jack and White? It’s a newly formed duo composed of American Idol finalist Brooke White (this is her 2nd album, after her debut  High Hopes and Heartbreak) and singer-songwriter Jack Matranga.  Apparently, the story is that Jack was called in to co-write a song with Brooke for her second album, but their sessions worked so well that the pair ended up writing an entire EP together.

Their new EP Gemini EP (June Baby Records) by Jack and White has a lovely and easy breezy 70s inspired California light rock vibe that I’m really liking right now! I downloaded the EP after getting the free download of the very catchy “Double Trouble” (the iTunes free single this week). Good choice of a song to give away – it’s light, upbeat and catchy with great harmonies and IMO it’s the most listener-friendly from the EP. This is an indie release (so I’m not sure if they can even send singles to radio), but if they were, I think “Double Trouble” would have the best chance on HAC.

My favorite track from the EP though is the angrier (and rockier) “Smoke and Mirrors”, but the quirky “Inside Outside” comes close too. I love how strong and confident Brooke sounds on these tracks – I’ve always loved the warm tone of her voice and I felt that these two tracks showcased that quality the best. Brooke’s voice is more front and center for all the songs, but her partner Jack provides good harmonizing vocals too, for example, I quite liked the track “Telephone Games” for the pair’s delicate quiet harmonies.

To sum it up, basically, I really enjoyed the entire Gemini EP (throwback vibe and all) – and there aren’t really any songs that felt like filler to me (well, there are only six tracks after all), so I have to say that I was pretty happy with my well-spent $4.95 :)

Listen to “Gemini EP clips”

Gemini EP by Jack and White ‘ is available on iTunes ($4.95), but you’ll have to wait till August 30 to get it from the Amazon MP3 store. You can also check out Jack and White’s YouTube account for some videos that introduce clips from the album.

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Album Review – Adam Lambert’s Acoustic Live! EP

December 4, 2010 3 comments

Tracks:

  1. Whataya Want From Me (Live At Energy Berlin 103.4)
  2. Music Again (Live at Hit Radio FFH)
  3. Aftermath (Live at Glam Nation)
  4. Soaked (Live at Glam Nation)
  5. Mad World (Live at Glam Nation)

I was able to listen to full previews of Adam Lambert’s Acoustic Live! EP via this German Fan site. That’s because practically everyone in the world except for the US/UK can download the EP now. Why is that?

I guess no one will be surprised that I absolutely love the acoustic EP, and my only wish is that RCA gets it in their thick skulls to release the physical CDs (with Grammy Nominated! stamped on the covers!) to stores and Amazon so I can buy a couple as gifts. A digital gift just doesn’t have the same effect as something tangible you can wrap. (My second wish is that they included more songs in the EP.)

This is an EP that you can shove in the faces of those AI fans who complained that they couldn’t enjoy Adam’s flawless vocals on the CD due to the production or the electronic enhancements. Or to the non-fans who only remember Adam from the rock wails he did back on AI. This is Adam unplugged, no accoutrements, just the great, great voice straight to your ears.

And there are two tracks in particular that absolutely shine for me since I didn’t particularly like them on the CD. Aftermath has been the track that I always skip on the CD since I hated the production (and sorry, I hated the back-up singers too). Acoustic Aftermath is an absolute beauty and I guess I finally got the message of redemption and self-empowerment hearing it without any bells and whistles (or oversinging back-up singer pals).

Listen to Aftermath

The other track that I am absolutely in love with is Soaked. I thought it sounded cheesy and like an 80s movie theme song on the CD, but stripped of everything but the voice? The song is heartbreaking and defiant – reflecting Matt Bellamy’s talent as a song writer – and Adam’s operatic vocals? Absolutely sublime. I can’t help but wonder how much more Adam’s voice coach (the teary one on his E! True Hollywood Story) will sob while listening to this.

Lastly, I thought by now that I would be sick and tired of Whataya Want from Me? But whataya know – the vocals slay me each and every time still :)

Listen to Whataya Want from Me

Supposedly, you can pre-order the exclusive AdamOfficial Only Acoustic Live! (CD Album) for $4.99 OR the Acoustic Live! EP exclusive poster bundle for $12.99 on Adam’s Sony Music Store. But note that both are currently listed as sold out, however, the RCA mod on AdamOfficial has promised that they are rushing the printing of the second edition right now.

Digital-only downloads of Adam Lambert’s ‘Acoustic Live! EPwill be released December 6, is now available on Amazon as an MP3 Album. And I’ll put up the US iTunes link once available. and now also on US iTunes!

For those overseas, here are the iTunes links: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, New Zealand and France. And Amazon links: Germany, UK, France.

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Album Review – Cannibal EP by Ke$ha

November 22, 2010 1 comment

Tracks:

  1. Cannibal
  2. We R Who We R
  3. Sleazy
  4. Blow
  5. The Harold Song
  6. Crazy Beautiful Life
  7. Grow A Pear
  8. C U Next Tuesday
  9. Animal (Billboard Remix)

I was able to listen to the stream of Ke$ha’s new EP Cannibal, the companion to her debut CD Animal via her official website’s ‘Cannibal Album Premiere‘. Basically, this is RCA capitalizing on Ke$ha’s success with her debut album – doing a Lady Gaga so to speak.

So, what can you expect from Ke$ha’s new EP? More of the same actually – more autotune, synth, catchy dance beats, and unapologetic lyrics that can be offensive/juvenile/cheeky (can swing any which way). Don’t expect much actual singing going on, but seriously, why would you still be expecting that from Ke$ha ;) Cannibal is darker in tone that Ke$ha’s debut album though; if some people complained about Ke$ha brushing her teeth with an alcoholic drink in TikTok for example, then they’ll have even more to complain about with her latest songs, especially the title track Cannibal.

Cannibal is like the Shock jock-version of a song, with Ke$ha totally in an in-your-face Man-Eater mode with lyrics that many people will find offensive. Lyrics like ‘But now that I’m famous, you’re up my anus’ and comparing herself to Jeffery Dahmer aren’t going to endear herself to many listeners. I personally just found the whole track dragging and a hot mess – like it was just composed of samplings from different songs from her debut CD. I found it a total relief to skip over to Ke$ha’s iTunes hit We R Who We R. Yes, it’s yet another TikTok rip-off, but hey, it’s a formula that works for her – a driving beat combined with her distinctive speak-singing/rapping makes this a hit party song.

With Sleazy, Ke$ha tries to do hiphop – emphasis on the ‘try’. I do really like the tribal drum beat, but that’s the only thing going for it. It somehow becomes monotonous for me, with her trying to rap more seriously, instead of just talking her Ke$ha-way through a song.

Blow is total autotune overdubbed overload! Electronica written for clubs. It’s pretty generic, but sure to be a dance hit. Plus, bonus funny lyrics like ‘let me see dem Hanes’.

The best song from the EP for me was The Harold Song. I thought at first that I was listening to Katy Perry actually – they sound really similar here. It’s a pretty haunting & emotional ballad about young heartbreak. I like how it builds and builds, and then slows way way down… actually I think this will be the only song I’ll buy from the EP, aside from Crazy Beatiful Life which brings me back to the sound that I like from Ke$ha – it’s a nice mix of very infectious & catchy hooks and beats combined with irreverent, cheeky and silly lyrics like ‘douche bag guys’ for example. This one will definitely be one where I hit replay.

Grow a Pear is more of the same from Ke$ha, even more mindless and funny lyrics like ‘I don’t want to see your man-gina’, but the beat is really great to groove to. You may find yourself tapping your feet and dancing before you know what you’re doing.

C U Next Tuesday is basically the only song where Ke$ha actually sings all the way through. It’s like an 80s pop throwback, and kinda sticks out like a sore thumb on the EP actually, but it’s nice to have a song where we realize that there’s an actual person singing instead of some autotuned robot.

The final track Animal Billboard Remix then ties the EP back to the Animal CD. I do like the remix – it gave it a trippy trance-y feel before it builds up to the heavy chorus.

Listen to “Cannibal” Clips

Cannibal EP‘ will be released November 22, but and is available for pre-order on Amazon as an MP3 Album ($7.99) or as an Audio CD ($7.99). A special Animal+ Cannibal (2 CD Deluxe Edition) is also available as Audio CD ($16.60).

iTunes doesn’t have the album up for pre-order yet, but you can already download several songs as singles: We R Who We R, Sleazy, Cannibal, and Blow. *Now available for download on iTunes as an LP album ($7.99) and Animal/Cannibal Deluxe Edition ($14.99).

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Album Review – Live It Up by Lee DeWyze

November 15, 2010 1 comment

Tracks:

  1. Live It Up (Lee DeWyze, Toby Gad, Lindy Robbins)
  2. Sweet Serendipity (Lee DeWyze, David Glass, Jordan Lawhead)
  3. It’s Gotta Be Love (Lee DeWyze, Espen Lind, Amund Bjorklund, Claude Kelly)
  4. Dear Isabelle (Lee DeWyze, Toby Gad, Lindy Robbins)
  5. Beautiful Like You (Thomas Salter, Andy Stochansky)
  6. Stay Here (Lee DeWyze, Espen Lind, Amund Bjorklund, Claude Kelly)
  7. Me And My Jealousy (Lee DeWyze, John Shanks, Zac Maloy)
  8. Brooklyn Bridge (Lee DeWyze, Toby Gad, Lindy Robbins)
  9. Weightless (Lee DeWyze, John Shanks, Zac Maloy)
  10. Earth Stood Still (Lee DeWyze, Toby Gad, Lindy Robbins)
  11. A Song About Love (Lee DeWyze, David Hodges, Michael Busbee)

Okay, I just listened to Season 9 American Idol Winner Lee DeWyze’s post-AI debut album ‘Live It Up‘, and while I can understand why Michael Slezak (EW) called it “generic” on his review, it really isn’t that bad of an Idol album. It’s no worse than David Cook’s post-Idol album for example, and kudos to Lee for being a co-writer for all the tracks save one.

Overall, the album is heavily influenced by Jason Mraz with a bit of John Mayer, Jack Johnson, Coldplay and even Billy Joel. The Jason Mraz sound is especially obvious on tracks like It’s Gotta Be Love with it’s cute breezy chorus or Weightless which has a pretty melody (inspite of the weird lyrics). It’s definitely not a Top40 or pop album, so maybe RCA will be pushing this to HAC or AC. But since they do have to push a single to Top40 radio, I can understand why they ditched Live It Up as the first single for Sweet Serendipity. It is the poppiest track from the album, and has a catchy chorus (that reminds me of Kris Allen’s hit Live Like We’re Dying). The song sounds awful young though – like I can’t help think that someone like David Archuleta should be singing it instead. And I also thought the song blows live which is bad for album promo (ie. Tonight Show live performance) – why’d they think it was a good idea to squeeze so many words into the chorus?

Maybe the Coldplay/ Lifehouse lite track Me and My Jealousy should’ve been the lead single? This sounds more like Lee’s wheelhouse, with it’s raw and honest and emotional message. Another Coldplay-ish song Beautiful Like You could be a single too. It’s a bit too over-processed for my taste, but I can see this playing in the background in a Vampire Diaries montage or something like that.

My personal favorite off the album is Brooklyn Bridge though. Yes, it’s Mraz-ish, but Lee’s raspy tone works really well in this bluesy number. Just the voice and the piano – this should sound good live. My second fave is the very sad and angsty A Song About Love which also showcases Lee’s growly tone very well. If they had stripped it down some more, it would’ve been even better.

Unfortunately, I can’t remember what Stay Here or Earth Stood Still even sounded like, and all I remember from Dear Isabelle is I started humming ‘Hey there Delilah’ and thought it sounded really country-ish, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Listen to “Live It Up” Clips

Live It Up‘ will be released November 16, but is available for pre-order on Amazon as an MP3 Album ($9.99) or as an Audio CD ($7.99). You can also pre-order the album on iTunes ($9.99). The audio CD is also $9.68 on Barnes & Noble.

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Album Review – The Other Side of Down by David Archuleta

October 4, 2010 Leave a comment

Tracks:

  1. The Other Side Of Down
  2. Something ‘Bout Love
  3. Elevator
  4. Stomping The Roses
  5. Who I Am
  6. Falling Stars
  7. Parachutes And Airplanes
  8. Look Around
  9. Good Place
  10. Complain
  11. Things Are Gonna Get Better
  12. My Kind Of Perfect

Well, the fans of David Archuleta are certainly excited about the release of his sophomore album ‘The Other Side of Down‘ which is any day now – October 5 actually. Have you pre-ordered your copy yet? Note that the iTunes pre-order features a bonus song The Day After Tomorrow which I’m pretty curious about. For those who wanted a sneak listen before the album release, AOL radio has happily offered a free webstream of the full album.

Okay, before the album review proper, just wanted to say something about the cover. I like it. David Archuleta doesn’t look stiff or awkward (like in his debut cd), in fact, he looks like he’s just having a good laugh and is as relaxed as can be. He’s obviously in a place in his life that he’s very happy about, and I’m glad the photographer captured that feeling.

Now about the album, I’ll cover the good points first. Overall, the album is youthful and earnestly wholesome, and has a positive & uplifting message (I mean, by definition ‘The Other Side of Down’ is ‘Up’, get it?) And although the lyrics can get quirky and a bit silly at times (ex. listen to Elevator), I can appreciate that it was heartfelt, and comes from a very young-at-heart 19 y/o kid who inspite of everything (instant fame, money, divorce) has remained unjaded, happy and open about life. He’s gained enough confidence to take charge of his album this time, writing all but two of the songs (which songs didn’t he write though?). He’s also definitely signalling that he doesn’t want to be a Top 40 pop star, but he’s going more for the poppy but singer-songwriter sound (which I’m assuming is the genre he most appreciates, given his love for Sara Bareilles and A Fine Frenzy).

For me, the titular track Other Side of Down is the most radio friendly of the lot, and I’m not sure why it wasn’t chosen as the lead single. It has a snappy, happy, catchy beat, sounds modern (with some electronica) and yet, has retro elements to it. Something ‘Bout Love (which was the lead single) does have a catchy hook that I liked, if a bit vanilla and safe-sounding. The music video sucked balls though (boring as hell) and now Jive is pretending it never was the radio single, which is instead… Elevator (of the quirky lyrics). Now, I’m probably one of the rare fans who do like this track, but I don’t think it makes for a good radio single. Radio singles need an obviously catchy hook because that’s what ‘catches’ the casual radio listener’s attention & makes a song a hit (well, aside from Payola). Elevator lacks that obvious hook; what it has instead is a whimsical quality to the rhythm of the song (something that you hear frequently from a Sara Bareilles or Mika song), but it takes time to appreciate it. I’m not really expecting this song to hit it big for David, not like Crush did.

My personal favorite track is actually the last one, the ballad My Kind of Perfect. Love it! Love the piano accompaniment, love the smooth tenor of Archuleta’s voice, and love the hopeful message of the song. And I like that Archuleta’s vision of his ‘perfect girl’ just needs to be ‘his’ kind of perfect.

Listen to “My Kind of Perfect”

Look Around sounds very different from the rest of the album, almost experimental. I like that it was a fun track, and the liberties that they took in choosing the accompanying instrumentation. There were bleeps! Pretty cute.

As I was saying, it’s good that David gained the confidence to take over a huge part of the song-writing duties, I just wish that Jive had paired him with maybe better co-writers, because the album also definitely needs stronger writing. The other tracks I haven’t mentioned haven’t been mentioned for a simple reason – I found them completely unmemorable, and I can’t say much about them to save my life. I do remember thinking, oh yes, that’s a cool chord or cool melody every now and then, but it wasn’t enough to make the whole song sound interesting and non-generic to me. I remember that Parachutes and Airplanes had some charm in it, but the song made no sense to me. The best thing I can say about Falling Stars is that David’s falsetto is absolutely lovely in it. Who I Am had a great message about taking ownership of oneself, but was otherwise meh. And Stomping the Roses sounded like a generic High School Musical song to me.

Tracks that I did not ‘love’, but other people in my family did like a lot were: Things Are Gonna Get Better where David takes it to church with a choir no less, very GLEE-sounding. Not quite sure it worked for me though, but my sister did like it. And my niece loves Complain, and I do agree that it shows promise; that song has some soul in it, but I’m not likely to be listening to it on repeat.

There’s a part of me that wishes that Jive had reworked Zero Gravity (from that fan EP that David released) and maybe added it as a bonus song or something like that. Total waste of a good song if you ask me.

I’m sure the myriads of David Archuleta fans out there will come out in droves to support this album. David’s voice sounds as strong as ever, very smooth, and I really appreciated the higher register (and the falsettos). I just wish that he had much stronger songs to work with – maybe for his 3rd album, he could have song-writing sessions with his idols Sara and Alison Sudol (or other artists?)

The Other Side of Down‘ is available on pre-order for download on Amazon as an MP3 Album ($9.99) or Deluxe version ($12.99), or as an Audio CD ($9.99) while the CD/DVD edition is $12.99. You can also pre-order the album on iTunes ($9.99) or as a Deluxe version ($12.99). The audio CD is also $8.54 on Barnes & Noble.

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Album Review – ‘The Family Jewels’ by Marina & the Diamonds

September 20, 2010 1 comment

Tracks:

  1. Are You Satisfied?
  2. Shampain
  3. I Am Not A Robot
  4. Girls
  5. Mowgli’s Road
  6. Obsessions
  7. Hollywood
  8. The Outsider
  9. Guilty
  10. Hermit The Frog
  11. Oh No!
  12. Seventeen
  13. Numb

First off, I have to say that ‘The Family Jewels‘ by Marina & the Diamonds is definitely not for everyone. And it’s really not a problem with the songs (which are just about as pop as songs can be), but the problem is Marina Diamandis’ (that’s Marina & the Diamonds) voice itself. My sister thinks her singing is very affected and has a very unpleasant nail-on-chalkboard quality to it. I don’t agree with that extreme; I mean, I kinda really love this album to be honest, although I do get that Marina’s voice can be kind of a challenge to listen to, especially on some of the songs on the album where Marina’s singing voice acts like it’s skirting some kind of edge where it seems like she’ll go out of tune any nano-second (listen to ‘Shampain‘ to see what I mean). She has this really hard tone to her voice that makes it sound like she’s constipated and like her vocal chords are all tense of something. It’s very weird. The voice is really kind of an acquired taste that you have to get sensitized to in order to enjoy the songs.

But the songs on the album are so much love – they’re wacky and interesting and fun and just pure pop magic with really catchy hooks a-plenty! The entire album is almost like this big giant wink, seriously. A comparable album that I can think of when it comes to how distinctively pop-theatrical and bombastic ‘The Family Jewels’ sounds is Mika’s ‘The Boy Who Knew Too Much‘.

I loved ‘I Am Not A Robot‘ from the first listen, when iTunes made it available for free download before. Personally, I thought it was the best pop song from the album, and Marina doesn’t sound as halfway annoying as she does on some other tracks.

There’s a very strong Girl-Power theme that runs through the album, from her asking ‘Are You Satisfied‘ (Are you satisfied/ with an average life?), to the very angry ‘Oh No!‘ which ranges from teen-age angsty (Don’t do love, don’t do friends / I’m only after success, don’t need a relationship) to pretty self-empowering lyrics (I know exactly what woman I want to be / Self fulfilling prophecy). ‘Girls‘ is another very angry pop song where Marina’s hard tone actually works. I actually love this one, except that I can hardly decipher what she’s singing, except that she’s talking back to someone or some people. I really enjoyed these three tracks the most, aside from ‘I Am Not A Robot‘.

Listen to “Oh No!”

Some of the songs are self-consciously silly/ironic like the very catchy ‘Shampain‘ (I feel celestial…) and ‘Hollywood‘ where she sings about foolish girls in Hollywood. These two songs in particular reminded me of my mom’s Abba albums, not sure why, something about the sound? And ‘Hermit the Frog‘ is this very dramatic, slightly deranged performance piece of a song that you either detest or love. It can swing any way really.

The only songs my sister can even tolerate are ‘Mowgli’s Road‘ which is kind of Gospel-the Marina way, but I think it’s totally ridiculous and hilarious at the same time, check the weird lyrics out! And ‘Numb‘ where a heavenly choir accompanies Marina and kind of masks her voice. There’s also very strong Enya elements to this one.

Marina does turn serious on some tracks. Her voice is actually pretty gorgeous on ‘Obsessions‘, and I kind of like the wordplay on ‘The Outsider‘ (Feeling like a loser / Feeling like a blonde). ‘Rootless‘ is very very serious as well, same as ‘Guilty‘ but in a bombastic way that I ultimately couldn’t really take seriously. Isn’t that ironic?

The Family Jewels‘ is available on Amazon as an MP3 Album ($9.99) or as an Audio CD ($12.99). You can also download the album on iTunes ($9.99).

You can also check out Marina and the Diamonds’ Official YouTube channel where they have a lot of the songs from this album up, but don’t judge the songs by the videos (they all look cheaply produced for some strange reason).

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Album Review – ‘Together’ by The New Pornographers

September 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Tracks:

  1. Moves
  2. Crash Years
  3. Your Hands (Together)
  4. Silver Jenny Dollar
  5. Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk
  6. My Shepherd
  7. If You Can’t See My Mirrors
  8. Up In The Dark
  9. Valkyrie In The Roller Disco
  10. A Bite Out Of My Bed
  11. Daughters Of Sorrow
  12. We End Up Together

I’ve actually had The New Pornographers’ fifth album ‘Together‘ for ages, but I’d never got around to posting a review of it. But I just saw that the MP3 Album over on Amazon is just $3.99 at the moment, so I thought I’d write something quick for it. If you’ve been hesitating to try out The New Pornographers, that price is a total steal. Get it! (I don’t know how long it’ll stay at that price point, maybe two hours from now, it’ll revert back to the normal price).

I loved their previous album ‘Challengers‘ even though some New Pornographers fans weren’t so enthused about it since they felt it was a step back from Twin Cinema or Electric Version. I don’t know, I’ve pretty much loved all their albums so far, so maybe I’m easy ;)

The thing about all the New Pornographers albums for me though is that I can never really pick out track favorites. And that remains true for me for ‘Together’. The album is so cohesive, that it’s like the entire album is really just one song. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. The songs aren’t exactly clones of each other, and they shouldn’t because they actually have three different lead singers (A.C. Newman, Neko Case and Destroyer’s Dan Bejar) and different people write the songs, but the tracks just seamlessly flow into each other that when I’m listening to the entire album, I can’t really tell when one song starts or ends. Well, except for My Shepherd on this album, but then that’s Neko Case’s fault for being so amazing that the song’s awesomeness is multiplied exponentially just because she’s singing it ;)

Listen to “My Shepherd”

Most of the time when you buy an album, there’s like 3-4 songs that are a cut above the rest, and then the rest just feel like fillers. Empty fillers. I never got that feeling on ‘Together’. What you get is a distinctive ‘shiny’ New Pornographers sound that can be manic & bouyant and yet really deep too. There’s clever lyrics, really interesting melodies & hooks and lovely lovely harmonies. And oh yeah, Neko Case’s amazing vocals that I’d love to bottle up and spray on me in the mornings. It’s very artsy, pop-rock with folk thrown in. Just listen to the samples from the album and see if you agree with me!

Together‘ is available on Amazon as an MP3 Album ($3.99!) or as an Audio CD ($13.48). You can also download the album on iTunes ($9.99).

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