Aoi from Ayabie - ONE (2011, Japan) | Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: MI DA RA, Liar, Surrender Love, Guilty
Like Jui's first album, I was feeling nervous about Aoi's. "Liar" starts off with a strong bass and a promising musical opening. When Aoi joined in, I was definitely feeling it. Maybe there was promise to this first big step of a solo album. It has a catchy chorus and a semi-familiar sound to it. The next track brought in the brass band to give us that jazz lounge rock tone. It's easy to listen and is an alright track. "Surrender Love" was the first promotional song that led up to the album and what gave me some hope on Aoi's solo expedition. It's very upbeat and has a good pace. "Guilty" gives off a more mature vibe to Aoi's voice and the musical arrangement with strong drums and a nice acoustic guitar sound. Perhaps a new level of Aoi's vocal (and musical) abilities as an artist. The tempo drops a little in the next track and has a very "magical" anime opening sound to it. "MI DA RA" gives off a familiar visual kei sound and works very well with Aoi's voice without it being bland to listeners. The tempo drops again in "secret whisper" and gives a steady, mellow feel to it with a gentle voice and consistent harmony. "Everlasting Love" sounds like it's going to be another slow song, but transitions a little to an uplifting anime sound. The anime tune sticks, but it's a little more upbeat in the next track. The album ends with an high energy track that's a bit generic, but is an okay listen. Congratulations, Aoi, you didn't disappoint as much as I thought you would~
VersaEmerge - Fixed At Zero (2010, USA) | Rating: 4.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Mind Reader, Stranger, Your Own LoV.E, Fixed At Zero (Acoustic)
Despite people criticizing them for "stealing" Paramore's formula, I still find them amazing and unique from their comparison. "Figure It Out" opens up the album with a dramatic sound that'll give you a feel of how the band functions with a catchy vocal harmony and great guitar moments. "Mind Reader" also has great guitar moments and Sierra's voice is very intriguing throughout the verses. "Fixed At Zero" is obviously the promotional track for the album and it's definitely a powerful one that everyone can remember the chorus and sing along live. "You'll Never Know" gives off an alluring, melancholy vibe that grabs you with the soft music track and Sierra's unique voice. It has a memorable and intense chorus that hits the heart immediately. "Stranger" surprises you with an acoustic intro and simple, but beautiful vocals, until it hits you with this catchy chorus that you can't escape. "Redesign Me" is very mystical vibe and definitely leaves an impression with an interesting musical arrangement that shows diversity to the band. "Fire (Aim Your Arrows High)" also has an intriguing arrangement and we even have the guitarist join in for some vocal time. It's a great high energy song and easy to put your body into. "Your Own LoV.E" keeps the band's original sound and shows off their growth with a powerful chorus and an equally powerful vocal. "Mythology" is a little lighter than the previous tracks and gives you a little break from the intensity. "Lost Tree" shows off both beauty and intensity within 7 minutes. There are a few bonus tracks, if you're lucky. "Father Sky" is a mature sounding song and you can tell the band has come a long way. "Let Down" also accomplishes the maturity level and gives off a beautiful, yet hard rock imprint in the mind. The acoustic version of "Fixed At Zero" is just as amazing and maybe a little better than the original. The album ends with an acoustic version of "You'll Never Know" which maintains the power of the original, but I think I like the previous version a little more. Hopefully, Fixed At Zero breaks the Paramore comparison and they can continue on their journey of being an amazing rock band.
10 years - Feeding the Wolves (2010, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Shoot It Out, Fix Me, Now Is The Time (Ravenous)
I must admit, the first time I listened to this album I wasn't all that impressed like I thought I would be compared to their previous work. After seeing them live again, I liked the album a little more. "Shoot It Out" was the teaser song they performed last year and ended up being the promo song when the time for the album release came closer. It's a powerful opener with a memorable chorus that fans can easily follow. "The Wicked Ones" goes back to their signature musical style that I don't think any modern rock band can imitate. It's dramatic and maintains a quick pace. "Now Is The Time (Ravenous)" has a smooth melody and I like the musical transition throughout the song. "One More Day" takes away the angry intensity to a more emotional punch with acoustic guitar and strong pleading words that hit the heart like a freshly sharpened arrow. "Fix Me" features there signature guitar echos and more dramatic sound. The vocals follow steadily on a personal level that are easy to take in. "Chasing the Rapture" picks up the pace a little and literally goes along with a musical "chase" without losing a great vocal arrangement. "Dead in the Water" takes a more mainstream approach, but still maintains an interesting vocal and backing vocal arrangement that makes a bit fresher. "Don't Fight It" retreats back to a more emotional tone with acoustic guitars and sorrowful vocals. "Waking Up the Ghost" brings the tempo up more, especially around the chorus area. "Fade Into (The Ocean)" closes the album with distant guitars and an emphasis on the vocals to keep you in this intense and theatrical piece. I'm really happy this band is still standing strong and not giving into what's popular.
Tae Yang - SOLAR (2010, South Korea) | Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: I Need A Girl, Connection, Break Down, After You Fall Asleep
Clover - Classic Over (2011, South Korea) | Rating: 5/5
Favorite Tracks: Better Day, ICE트림, La Vida Loca
A friend informed me that Gilme teamed up with two other talented Korean rappers to form Clover. Their first mini-album opens with "Clover Style" which gives us a strong, confident attitude and a great introduction to everyone's skill set as well as how well they blend together into a new amazing sound I'm sure South Korea has never experienced yet. "La Vida Loca" is the song chosen to promote their mini visually and I believe it was the perfect choice. It has Latin flavor that America has experienced briefly in the hip-hop scene and Clover has proven that it doesn't matter what language you spit, it can still be smooth and fresh. The transition is smooth from the previous track to "ICE트림". It maintains that Latin rap and ol' skool sound to their music while staying true to their vision of bringing something new to the table. My favorite track and the perfect ending to this new trio is "Better Day". It's smooth, chilled, and shows off a little diversity from the trio with a slightly different vocal arrangement. The mini ends with an instrumental track of "La Vida Loca" and a craving for more from these three.