Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Quick Music Review

Childish Gambino - Camp (2011, USA) Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: Bonfire, Fire fly, L.E.S, All the Shine

This is a very old request, but better late than never, right? Anyway, I can’t get too into detail with this album and that’s not a bad thing. I didn’t know what to expect from Childish Gambino, since I’ve never listened to him before. I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed this album enough to check out his other material. From what I’ve heard, I like this album the most. It’s a mixture of indie rap that could made by anyone and mainstream rap elements. So, I can see this catering to both audiences musically and possibly lyrically. There’s some amusing lines throughout the album and created a fun experience for my ears. I like the experimental sounds from track to track and the playful to serious delivery by Gambino. Definitely a solid album.

Cinema Bizarre - Toyz (2009, Germany) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: Touching and Kissing, My Obsession, Heaven is Wrapped in Chains, Hypnotized by Jane

I believe I mentioned that I wasn’t too fond of this band, but I got curious some time ago when last.fm used to have song previews on their site. So, I checked out the new album at the time and I was surprised that what I heard was better. “La Generique” is just a simple introduction song to the album that could be pulled out of the Tim Burton collection circa Edward Scissorhands. “Touching and Kissing” has a silly title and the lyrics are super cheesy, but the music isn’t that bad. It’s catchy and has that 90’s/early 2000’s synth-rock thing going on. “I Came 2 Party” was part of the promotion and it was definitely different than their first album material. It reminded me of what Adam Lambert was doing at the time, so I had some mixed feelings on these wannabes this song. Once I could separate the two, I kinda enjoyed this cheesy dance track, but the censoring is a little annoying. “Deeper and Deeper” sounds like something from their competition Tokio Hotel, but I find that to be a somewhat good thing. It sounds like a more mature version of their old selves from Final Attraction and improvement is always encouraged. “Erase and Replace” is a little softer synth-rock song. It has an easy melody and the chorus is quite simple, but works minus the weird vocal modifications. The lyrics are surprisingly better in this track too. “My Obsession” is a pseudo-power ballad…I think. It has lots of dramatics both vocally and musically. It’s pretty with the soft vocals and piano accompanying it. “Je Ne Regrette Rien” has a slightly confusing opening with distant Latin sounds, electronics, and then the usual rock sound from the band. It almost has too many layers to it. The music transitions just seem sudden between the verse, bridge, and chorus. “Dark Star” seems like a more subdued version of the band with forced synths/keyboards added in the background of the song. They really like space themes. “Toyz” is an odd electronic rock song with lots of autotune that doesn’t quite work. Doesn’t help that the chorus is weak. “In Your Cage” is awkwardly worded in places and the music doesn’t seem to match up with the vocal arrangement in places. “Heaven is Wrapped in Chains” has potential to be a really good song, but the suddenness of the chorus just rushing at the tail end of the verses kinda ruins the flow of the whole song. Once you get used to it the first time, it becomes a little less of a problem, but unfortunately still awkward. “Hypnotized by Jane” is probably my most played track on this album. Something about it is very catchy and all the little vocal changes don’t bother me as much. “Blasphemy” is a slightly contrived piano song that tries to be sweet, but the vocals seem strained and forced to pull emotions out. “I Don't Wanna Know (If U Got Laid)” has promise, but the chorus just seems too silly for such a good musical track. I like the arrangement and the vocals work, but the whole lyrics are mediocre. “Out of Love” is a simple, but good electro-pop track. I think the band excels at things like this. “Sad Day (For Happiness)” sounds like an old keyboard ballad from the 80s. “Tears in Vegas” brings in dynamic keyboards and glam rock which transitions pretty well from the previous track. “Le Generique Fin” concludes the album with a similar tone as the introduction. This album was a definite improvement from their previous album. I’m still not a fan, but I did enjoy what I heard.

Adam Lambert - Trespassing (2012, USA) Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: Underneath, Cuckoo, Never Close Our Eyes, Outlaws of Love

Thanks to the MAMAs last year, I got to know that American Idol runner-up was still active in the music scene, which is great. I love his voice! The first song I heard from the album through his live performance and the first track is “Trespassing”. It has a simple, toe-tapping beat with some great guitar riffs sitting in the background while Adam’s voice whales and softens just right. Great introduction! “Cuckoo” continues the pace, but upping the energy just a little more for a good dance track. The title and the short chorus might seem silly, but it works surprisingly. “Shady” is a smooth electro-rock track that’ll make your hips sway to the subtle seductive beat. “Never Close Our Eyes” starts off like your typical dance track, but the lyrics and the powerful vocals make this song great. “Kickin’ In” retreats back to the retro sounds that are presented in “Trespassing”. Very simple, toe-tapping beat and I think that’s a cowbell hiding in there. “Naked Love” kinda sounds like the mainstream radio pop. It really restrains Adam’s power vocals, but it’s admirable he has such control of his voice. “Pop That Lock” is very…experimental. It’s electronic, simplistic, dubstep, and some stop and start arrangements in the music. “Better Than I Know Myself” has a slightly slower tempo and has a good arrangement that helps emphasize Adam’s vocal range, but it can sound pretty generic in spots. “Broken English” is another experimental track. It seems a little overproduced with the straining electronics, out of placed loud vocals, and awkward dubstep moments. “Underneath” brings me back on board of cheering the runner-up with this piano track. It has a good balance of softness, vulnerability, and passion. “Chokehold” eases you into a heavier track without being overwhelming to the ears. It’s not full on hard rock, but a balance of electronic and rock that compliment Adam’s vocals. “Outlaws of Love” is by far my favorite track on this album. Its beautiful arrangement and passionately written and it shows when you listen to this track. It has a soft piano and acoustic guitar to emphasis the personal emotions in Adam’s voice. If there’s one track you should really listen to, it’s definitely this one. “Runnin’” has some hard hitting drums and beats. It doesn’t quite transition as smoothly from the previous song, but it’s not too overwhelming. “Take Back” combines the hard hitting sound from the previous tracks and throws in some piano and electro-pop. It’s an interesting sound that’ll take some adjusting, but it’s an okay song. “Nirvana” eases us out of the album with some piano and a soothing electo-pop track accompanying it to support Adam’s smooth vocals.

Rita Ora - Ora (2012, USA) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: Roc the Life, R.I.P, Love and War, Hot Right Now

“Facemelt” revs up this album with deep growling sounds and some strong vocal delivery that might make your body wind to the griminess. “Roc the Life” has a simply drum beat and some vocal remnants that Rihanna decided to leave behind in her “Pon da Replay” days, but improved. There might be some seemingly vocal filler with the repeated “life”, but it really works for this song and has major confidence in the vocal delivery. “How We Do (Party)” is even more simplistic and borderline generic. It reminds me Jessie J’s “Domino”, but more basic. It could be consider boring for an artist like Rita Ora, but it’s passable. “R.I.P” was given to Drake, but Rita delivers quite well with her rendition, although it really makes that Rihanna comparison more obvious vocally. Tinie Tempah’s contribution is a little unnecessary, but doesn’t kill the fierceness of this track. “Radioactive” kinda sounds like your generic mainstream dance pop track. Maybe something Kelly Rowland could pull off, but this is a pretty good song. It does what it needs to do as a dance track: danceable beat, catchy chorus, and booming vocals. “Shine Ya Light” brings in Rita’s roots with some island sounds and vocal arrangement. “Love and War” was an unexpected track that I happened to like. Rita and J.Cole’s vocals work out quite well with this conflicting atmosphere that usually goes along with simpler R&B sounds. “Uneasy” brings in some guitars and choppy vocal delivery to this rock pop track. It doesn’t really work with Rita’s voice. It sounds like a song mocking lower level pop songtresses like Cheryl Cole or something. “Fall in Love” has potential to be something good, but, of course, anything with will.i.am gets a bit overproduced with electro-pop. This tends to bring the lyrical level to plummet and get dragged down by will.i.am’s lazy contribution. “Been Lying” brings back the integrity and strength back in Rita’s vocals in this power R&B track. “Hello, Hi, Goodbye” continues on the soft path, but does it with bongos and acoustic guitar. It might sound boring, but with the right vocal arrangement, it turns out quite pretty. “Hot Right Now” might really be considered as a DJ Fresh song, but it’s on this album. This song is responsible for me liking Rita. It’s a fun and in your face electronic club song. The beat may be difficult to dance conventionally, but this would be good for break dancing, extreme sport stunts or something. Either way, it gets the blood pumping and the energy high.

Icon For Hire - Scripted (2011, USA) Rating: 4/5
Favorite Tracks: Theater, Make a Move, Get Well, Off With Her Head

I’m going to push aside that I recently saw this band live, because I initially wanted to review this band because they were new to me. They still are. Anyway, “Overture” is practically a guide to the first track “Theater”. It’s a high energy song with some appropriate theatrics both musically and vocally. “Make a Move” smoothly transitions from the previous track with just as much energy. It softens and taunts just enough during the verses to get its point across. “Get Well” was the track responsible for me getting into this band. I like the incorporation of electronics and the hard hitting rock sound. It has pain filled and aggressive vocal delivery that works well with the music. “The Grey” gives us a little break from the aggressive rock to a nice, vulnerable track with piano and soft vocals. I must admit I didn’t properly appreciate this song until I heard it live and really paid attention to the arrangement. It’s very cleverly done and transitions well. “Off With Her Head” returns to the aggressive rock sound and confident vocals to back it up. “Fight” is something that went under the radar until recently. It’s slow building until you get to the slightly aggressive chorus. I love the bridge leading up to the chants of chorus. “Up In Flames” has a Three Days Grace vibe with some great energy and megaphone-like vocals dictating the motion of the beat and the audience’s possible movements. “Iodine” is very in your face and continues slightly off of “Get Well” in lyrics and sound. “Only a Memory” gives us a break with something a little softer with guitar, violin, and a pinch of orchestral elements. It’s something I can hear Paramore doing. “Pieces” concludes with a heavy sound to balance out the sound of “Theater” in the beginning. It’s not super heavy. It tends to speed up and slow down smoothly with the music.

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