Spotify Listen Link: Dave Koz – Live At Blue Note Tokyo
2013 Grammy Nomination: Best Pop Instrumental Album
I know this guy! By which, I mean, I've reviewed this guy's music before. "Hello Tomorrow," I believe, was nominated in this category last year and Dave is part of the reason I was so crazy about the category. That being said, I'm obviously super happy that he's still finding success and putting out more music. This is actually Dave's first live CD, and features a lot of his greatest hits from over the past two decades of performing.
"What You Leave Behind" starts with this saxophone solo that goes on with nothing else for the first minute or so. I didn't even remember this was a live album until a break in the solo where the audience came in clapping. Then the whole band comes in, and away we go with the show!
Then we kick up the beat a little bit with "Together Again." We get into more of a rock mode where the guitar seems to start things off and Dave takes it on a bit later. There's a bit of funk to this one, so if you were expecting a light rock, sentimental album, well, you're getting it in a different way than originally anticipated. At least, that's my story and approach here, and I am being delightfully mistaken.
"Put the Top Down" finally gives us a welcome to the night, their final night in Tokyo apparently. Randy Jacobs is on guitar. He calls this the perfect song for summertime, and I have to agree. It's got a bit of sunshine should strewn throughout that's really cool for the highway in the warm weather.
Dave is a pretty nice host. He gives his audience some kind of reference point for the music, because let's face it, this kind of music is hard to remember off hand as to where it came from and when. "Let It Free" is a song out of 2003, and has an excellent light rock sound to it as, again, the saxophone and guitar trade back and forth with the frontal melodies.
"Anything's Possible" is not a cover of a song from "Seussical" (it's sad that not many people will understand that). It's a cute little number of ups and downs that'll probably get you tapping your toes just a little bit. There is this one incredibly obnoxious part around the three minute mark where is sounds like a CD is skipping. But, anywhos, moving on.
We slow things down ever-so-slightly for "Love Is On The Way." Saxophone takes the total lead on this one, singing out some romance as needed. There's a little breakdown part where I got a little confused as to their intentions anymore, but in a six-minute instrumental track I supposed you do have to vary it up just a little bit.
"It's Always Been You" is unbearably sweet for the sad lonely girl in me. I mean, you can tell in the title, and thus are prompted to feel, that there's a realization of longing love there and that it's always been there… I mean, duh, the title implies it right? The instruments fall again and again like stars, and it's just so damn sweet it's making my toothache hurt just a little more. Oh, and please tell me that's the reciprocation about halfway through. Sigh.
I almost missed "All I See Is You" as it came on so seamlessly from the last song. The pace was certainly stepped up though, so I'm not sure how I really missed it. I blame the tooth. Anywhos, the band is really jamming on this one, like, more so than the E Street Band ever does.
"Honeydipped" sure brings the funk level way up as we get going. It's a little gentler… no, smoother, than the last one, which is nice and different and keeps the album appealing as it goes on. I'm enjoying it as a background piece at the least.
We dip back into the romantic side of things with "Faces of the Heart." I mean, that's basically what we're doing here, right? Going from funk to love every other song or so? Or maybe there's some sadness in there too, but without lyrics I feel free to make up my own meaning here, so there. - insert raspberry -
"Silverlining" takes us into the final few song stretch. It's cute, though not necessarily what I would have expected with this title. That's probably a personal thing though. To me, the concept is something heartwarming and special. The music here is upbeat and dance-able, and not complete with a deeper sentiment. We do get a quick intro to the band at the end though.
Final song time - "You Make Me Smile." No, not an Uncle Kracker cover, but a cute song that will probably make you smile a little regardless. It's a sweet, albeit long, way to end the album, listening to the guys play us out.
Added to My Playlist:
The trouble with instrumental albums is always finding brilliant individual songs that stand out. You can't judge these albums by the amount of songs I pull out for a playlist. Instead, you have to give credit to the artist's full body of work. If you can get through the whole thing without getting bored and still wind up enjoying it as a whole, you've got a good collection going on - like Mr. Koz.
Spotify Listen Link: P!nk – The Truth About Love
2013 Grammy Nomination: Best Pop Vocal Album
Well you just gotta love P!nk. Yes, yes you do. She puts on a fantastic performance in every thing she does, brings class and creativity in every way possible, and oh, she makes great music. It's loud and fun and full of passion and life. Just like her, and all of us that want to be her.
We start things off in what seems like full-on party mode P!nk and "Are We All We Are." I say that kind of in mood only though. She's got some serious introspective lyrics going on there, with some thoughtful tone in her voice, and more of a rebel yell sound to the music than straight-out party girl going on. Consider it more of an anthem instead I suppose. The crowd of voices at the beginning may have thrown me off a bit.
"Blow Me (One Last Kiss)" is another classic P!nk song that I disposed at first, then "Glee" turned me around on it, I actually heard the words, and now I'm a bit obsessed. It's such a great kiss off song. Seriously, throw on a leather jacket and jam hardcore to this one and I think you've got a great way to ditch the breakup altogether.
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I think "Try" lays out love and loss so freaking eloquently, and it's incredible. "Where there is desire there is gonna be a flame, where there is a flame someone's bound to get burned. But just because it burns doesn't mean you're gonna die - you gotta get up and try." I mean, it's simple and true, but who would have thought to put it like that? It's really an impressive weaving of lyrics put against a moving along rhythm and general feeling throughout. Hellova dance routine in this one.
"Just Give Me a Reason" (feat. Nate Ruess) is the latest single. And yes, I feel that it's a bit over-played as well. But it is a good song if you haven't already heard it a million times that day. There's a simple beat happening that keeps the song moving and you feeling the words as they try to understand each other. Also, in all honesty, I thought this was a new Fun. song before I pieced together (thank you Shazam) that it was actually headlined by the lady half. Heh, whoops. Listening again as I watch the video is making me realize you could pretty much take this as either a break up song or a salvation of a relationship song. Or, yah know, whatever you want to take from it.
Now into something I haven't heard before. Seriously, can someone tell me why the singles come so heavily from the beginning of the album? Anywhos, "True Love" (feat. Lily Rose Cooper) is yet another conflicted moment in the life of P!nk, torn between adoration and wanting to kill the guy. Makes sense enough - only the ones you really love can break your heart quite so badly. I like the concept, but am not a fan of the music itself. The street beat isn't working for me, and the harmonies prevalent throughout this album just completely take time to enjoy.
"How Come You're Not Here" comes at us with some aggression and making me regret being a little harsh before. I don't like it when she's mad at me. Ah, shit, there's that singsongy rhythm in the background that's unnecessary. It takes off some of the edge, and I don't like that. I get that she's pissed without being Alanis-angry, but come on.
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Ha, here we go for real. "Slut Like You" is up next. Yeah, this is a bit of throwback to Pink original. It's a good party song with edginess to the primary vocals. I mean, let's face it, this is what she does. It's catchy enough for the dance floor, though if I realized I was singing this on the dance floor, I might get embarrassed for myself.
"The Truth About Love" is a much hard track than I think I would have expected from the title track of this album, though given the artist I shouldn't be terribly surprised. I want to call her voice raw, but I don't think, on paper, that would translate to what I actually mean. There's a weird vocal effect in the production that makes her voice scratchy without scratching. It's almost sort of hollow, but obviously she's got a lot of feeling behind it. Ugh, I'm failing at my non-paying job right now.
And just when you think she's going to party us all the way out, P!nk brings about a lovely slower number in "Beam Me Up." It's like the dream embodied in a song. It's a request to see heaven and that person there. Nothing Trek-y about it, just a simple request for a last moment with them. And to make matters more tearful, there's a guitar and strings supporting the whole of the song that intensifies as it goes. Try not to shed a tear, I dare you.
"Walk of Shame" is pretty damn hilarious. I mean, give it a listen and try to tell me otherwise. It's got a great uplifting beat, and just downright thinnest of what you've probably had a thought of once or twice.
Eminem is in this next track… what? "Here Comes The Weekend" just has a title calling out to be a Friday theme. The beat's hard and perfect to blast while getting ready. Or even heading home down the sidewalk. And then Eminem comes in, and basically you've got two angry sounding folks ready to let loose on the town and blow off some steam.
"Where Did The Beat Go?" pretty much continues this drum beat obsession. My guess is that there's probably some rockin' drum playing on stage during at least one, if not many of these songs. The story seems to be that she's left and he's going to obsess about it.
Naturally, we're going to end this on a slow, introspective note where you realize how much like yourself P!nk is. "The Great Escape" is a piano-based blues-sounding track of understanding. This time it's her sticking up for someone, making sure they remain here and close. She won't let them run like they always tend to. Sigh, thinking on a Sunday night all along, as always people. "The passion and pain are gonna keep you alive someday."
| |Added To My Playlist:
- "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)"
- "Just Give Me a Reason"
- "Beam Me Up"
- "The Great Escape"
Maybe not my favorite P!nk album of all time, but it's hard to beat that greatest hits collection. Quite frankly though, this lady can basically do whatever the hell she wants at this point, right? I think she's proven to be versatile and able to tackle whatever she damn well chooses to put in front of her. She definitely makes me want to give up the nice front and tell a few folks how I really feel.
Spotify Listen Link: Katy Perry - Teenage Dream: The Complete Confection
- Nomination: Best Pop Solo Performance, "Wide Awake"
So, I'm really doing this again? I reviewed the original version of this and remember really liking a lot of it. Granted, some songs were also very painful to get through. And now she's re-released, and of course the ONE song that got a Grammy nod is on the re-release. And because I'm neurotic, I have to review the whole thing to make it count on my list. It's okay, most of this will be fun. I haven't gotten a good pop album in a while.
Oh, and if you're wondering, I'm assuming the re-release was because of the huge breakup from Russel Brandt. I mean, "Wide Awake" is completely about her liberation from the situation. So in a sense, this time, we get the full story. Heh, get it? The title implies that.
We start off with one of my favorite songs of the year "Teenage Dream." Seriously, I just don't get sick of this. It's fun and poppy and completely about being in love. I'm just young enough to still re-live my sweet teenage days in my mind (while ignoring the not-so-sweet) and still wish for some of them and absolutely that feeling again now. Also, Darren Criss has since done a slow version of this that makes me melt even more than the original version he did. And lord knows it's all about Darren.
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"Last First Night (T.G.I.F.)" comes up next, and yeah, by now I'm already remembering why I adore this album. Apparently I forgot - though looking ahead to the next track I remember the detest. Anywhos, talk about one of the best videos in recent memory, and speaking of Darren Criss, if you've somehow been living under a rock, watch the video to the side here. Hanson's in it, for God's sake. How does it get better. Also, when you're a 20-something girl, this is positively one of the best Friday-night-party-songs you can find.
GAHHHHH Now I remember why I didn't entirely enjoy this. "California Gurls" is possibly one of the most annoyingly catchy songs that has come out in the past ten years. I say all of this as a through-and-through JERSEY GIRL - so give me a break. I want to like it, but have absolutely no reason to unless I'm on the west coast and, well, I rarely ever am. And not sure what happened to the original video they released on YouTube, but maybe it was just too inappropriate for the site and isn't there anymore. This is the Live version from letterman.
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Now "Firework" is another incredible song. I didn't really expect to get something inspirational from Katy, but this song took me completely by surprise. It's a concept I don't think anyone else has considered, but positively wonderful. The video's a little on the weird side, but I can get over that. The message is inspiring. I even heard a principal quote it for a graduation speech. The backing dance beat helps to give the fun element too.
"Peacock" is one that never has and probably never will make sense to me. Katy reminds us here that she's a bit on the scandalous side with a song that's got quite obvious innuendos. I don't find anything I like in this though. I'm even making an effort to be in to the beat a bit and have fun, and it's just not entertaining at all, or even catchy. A low point in the album I think.
I always forget about "Circle the Drain." It's just not a title that's ever stuck out to me. It's also the first song with no video! Sad. It's a pretty damn intense song. He's got an addiction and she's one her way out before he hits rock bottom. She doesn't need this shit and is moving on and out. This is also the point in the album that we loose some of the pop element and get an spaced-out rock anthem. It's a strong sound and statement.
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So the title "The One That Got Away" has pretty damn obvious meaning. She talks about not planning for something like this, but who ever can? Who ever wants this situation anyway? But yeah, it exists. But anyone in it has had the "what if" fantasy in the chorus. Clearly I've been through it, as most girls have. At least she puts it to a great beat to move to and avoid the crippling sadness it could otherwise totally consist of.
"E.T." has totally grown on me since the first time I ever heard it. It's one of those songs I completely wanted to hate. I blame Yellowcard for my love of it though. They did a cover where I could actually understand every word and fell for it. The beat alone was always good, but once I got the spacey awesome lyrics too, I was completely entranced. Oh, it's inappropriate for sure. But once in a while a song like that really works.
In an little more of an intense number, "Who Am I Living For?" comes at us. She's still stuck in interstellar mode with the sound here, but at least it's not out of nowhere after the last number. It does take us closer to earth theme-wise though. This is a more insightful, tough number on a personal level for the girl. I think this was on the first iteration of the album, but whether it was or not, I hope Katy was able to take this even more to heart after everything.
"Pearl" was always one that I liked. It's a hard realization to come to when you see that you're not the person you once were or were meant to be. It's especially scary to realize it's because of someone else. Seriously, if you're reading this: please don't let anyone else put out your light. You're better than that and worth so much more.
With a line like "You make me feel like I'm loosing my virginity" right out the gate for "Hummingbird Heartbeat," I wasn't entirely sure this one would be something I could get in to. But as the song goes on, it just turns in to a lot of fun about being in love and silly. It grows on you for sure, just enough to get up and dance around to. Just be careful not to do that in your local Starbucks like I almost just caught myself doing here…
"Not Like The Movies" hit me at the wrong/absolutely right time. The simple version is that my dream movie guy brushed me off. We all want the fairytales, but sadly you get the heartbreak instead. She's cute and keeps hope alive. Anywhos, I appreciate everything about this song: musically, it's on the simpler, heartfelt side, and lyrically she spins some beautiful metaphors around each other to remind you of what you dreamed of for so long.
Luckily for me, these songs were broken up by a Yeah Yeah Yeahs commercial - thank you Spotify. I may have started crying in the middle of the coffee shop if "The One That Got Away - Acoustic" had come on immediately next. It's devastating emotionally when a fun pop singer takes on a seriously sad ballad. And then she takes it to the acoustic realm? Well my tear ducts are screwed.
"Part of Me" had me loving Katy all over again. I mean, "Wide Awake" is a great song, but this one was the power song after the tears were dried. She took control of herself and her career and jumped back into our lives as the strong woman we always wanted her to be. And how empowering is that feeling of awareness in yourself? Every girl needs this one after a breakup or bad fight or attack on her character. Stand strong on your own two feet and be better than he could ever make you or allow you to be, and dance to the awesome beat while you're at it.
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Now, "Wide Awake" came out INCREDIBLY fast after the breakup was announced. I almost feel like she had this one in her back pocket and just happened to find the right time to throw it out into the world. Obviously, everyone had her back on it and adored the new piece. The dream was over and reality had set in, you know, like it does. You hit the concrete and have to figure out the next thing - but that's not bad at all.
"Dressin' Up" is a little trip back to Katy's raunchy side. I mean, guys, we can't forget that Katy Perry knows how to give us a sexy party song like no one else. This one's not a favorite, personally, but if it came on I wouldn't necessarily stay off the dance floor. Speaking of which, friends, we need a dress up and go out and be insane kind of evening.
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And now we'll take on the new versions of the old songs. First up is "E.T. - feat. Kanye West." Now, remember, the video that came out (on the side here) actually used this version, so technically this is the actual single. But I don't know, I like it without the rap included. He's got a way of making it feel just a little over-dirty. At least before there were innuendos, whereas now he makes it full-on all about the sex. Eh.
Now here's one I haven't actually heard. "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) [feat. Missy Elliott]." Also, where's Missy been? I thought she was making a comeback a while ago. Anywhos, this version looses a little of its steam with the rap right at the beginning, but I guess once it gets going it's pretty good - but not much different at all from the original. Tag a rap on and I guess you've got a remix…?
We end things in a way only Katy can do well - with a smash up! This final song is "Tommy Sunshine's Megasix Smash-Up." Eh, it's a re-lease and a pop album. I don't blame her for going this route. Mega-mixes need to be used more often anyway. At least this one creates a good party vibe to end a very up-and-down album.
And yes, that's Hanson in the background of this paused moment.
| |Added to My Playlist:
- "Teenage Dream"
- "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)"
- "Circle the Drain"
- "The One That Got Away"
- "Hummingbird Heartbeat"
- "Not Like The Movies"
- "The One That Got Away - Acoustic"
- "Part of Me"
- "Wide Awake"
Wow, I can't believe a 19-track album is over already! It's been a lot of fun, and always is when you actually know the track ahead of time. There's also that emotional roller coaster that Katy Perry decided to take us on, starting so high, dipping so low, and coming out evenly to familiar ground. Overall, I really enjoyed the ride, like I may not have expected, once again reminding me of my love for this lady's unique and fun work.
Spotify Listen Link: Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls
- Best New Artist
- Best Rock Performance, "Hold On"
- Best Recording Package
You may know them like I do - the band Jack White discovered. You may also know them as a bit of a different sounding folk/blues/rock band that many folks are really excited to hear. No matter how YOU know of them though, I am ready to listen.
"Hold On" is probably the one you've heard before. Or, at least, I have for some reason. The beat, right from the get-go, is so awesome. It's steady and feels just so damn good. I don't love the vocal effects, but if you listen the right way, there's a throw back sound of old soul singers where there's a slight scratch the voice and almost over-done blow outs of the mic and speakers. I have no idea if my meaning is getting across at all, but it's my blog so you just get to deal with it! Ha, I love doing this for absolutely nothing. No constraints! Down with the man and his rules! Buahahaha. Okay, okay, sorry, I'll be moving on right about… now. I mean, the song ended after all.
It's funny. When I think Alabama Shakes, I think down-home band, mostly based in stinger instruments and Southern beats. "I Found You" is a song that could easily be heard in an old smokey club with a brilliant band going at it on stage. It's like a blast from the 70's or so with the sound of a club and band meshing this odd way I can't even begin to put my finger on.
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"Hang Loose" has a beach sound without going Beach Boys on us. It's kind of really cool, which is about the only adjective I've got as far as explanation goes. A lot of the melody in the vocals meshes together for me though. It's pleasant enough to listen to, but nothing I feel too strongly about one way or another. If it's meant to be a fun, care-free song, there's a definite heaviness in there. If it's meant to mean something, I missed the message.
Things slow down ever so slightly for "Rise to the Sun." I guess there's a sulkier groove to this one. Modes like this have a tendency to run in to each other and melt into one glorious distortion of noise. It's groovy baby, totally groovy.
I spoke to soon on the slow song front. Then along comes a blues sounding song with "You Ain't Alone." This is a sway-y one man, just kind of something you have to feel in your soul. It's also sitting at close to five minutes, which is a little hard to swallow for a slower jam, even in something good. It's aggravating because I always run out of things to say in these moments as a song just keeps going on and on.
"Goin' to the Party" reminds me of Jack White. I mean, obviously the band has their very own amazing sound, but I can't help the association naturally, let alone when the music/vocals are reminiscent of the rock god. This is an interlude in a different but really cool way. Fitting, yet stands on its own as a song.
And we're back in for the second half. The piano plays in and drums start going like a marching band. "Heartbreaker" still has that smokey blues element to it. Sort of just want to sway around to it and enjoy the sound a bit. I wish I was paying attention to the lyrics just a little more closely, but I'm catching the point. And it's exactly what you think it probably is.
"Boys & Girls" - yes, it's title track time! Slower than expected, and sort of just as heartbreaking. Somehow I always assumed this band would get me on my feet dancing. But this isn't a bad thing, it just means that they feel and emote more than expected and do a generally excellent job at it. Feel with them.
Oh sweet muffled guitar, have I ever told you how much I love you, despite normally hating the technique. It's hard and edgy, with a smokey, romantic side as well. Yes, yes, I'm a complicated woman and proud of it. I don't even entirely care what's happening with the lyrics, as they are what provides a good backing here to the music that's taking control of my heart and soul. "Be Mine" is something sweet.
"I Ain't the Same" finally picks it back up just a little bit. Sorry, but we did need a bit of a wakeup to happen on this album. She's still snagging her damn heart out and making us feel it non-stop, but the there's a beat to tap your foot to, if not all out groove and dance to. There's also this cool element of freedom in the attitude here that I guess comes with the growth aspect the song seems to portray. I just love the overall concept and feel of this song. It's something great.
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Final song time. "On Your Way" closes us out with a medium beat along the way. It's a solid ending for the band with a pretty final sound going on. From the harmonies to the build in the drums make it feel like there's movement toward something to be completed. The musical breakdowns even sound like something playing just at the end of the show when the band is giving you all they've got left.
Added to My Playlist:
- "Hold On"
- "I Found You"
- "Be Mine"
- "I Ain't the Same"
Ah, so this is sort of a middle-of-the-road album for me. Maybe I got too excited over the bit that I loved before this and went in with too high of expectations. It wasn't bad, by any means, but it was tiring in spots, and absolutely amazing in others. I want more though, but live, because I know form experience that this band knows how to put on a show for sure.
Spotify Listen Link: Ed Sheeran – +
- Nomination: Song of the Year, "A Team"
Did you see this guy perform with Elton John this year?
This is an artist that seems to have alluded me thus far. He's got something I like, but can't quite put my finger on. Maybe it's his slight throw-back style to my old soft spoken favorites with twisted lyrics that get inside your head and make for excellent quotes. Maybe it's that mop top of red hair. Either way, I'm interested, if not excited, to hear what's about to happen.
"The A Team," the hit single, starts off the album. It's such a light, sweet song, and something we haven't seen much of in mainstream music, save Jason Mraz. I still haven't wrapped my hand around the lyrics entirely, which is both fascinating and frustrating for me. He has a way with words, that's for sure, and I think a lot of the song is actually pretty heartbreaking. Yet you can't help but melt in his sweet, quiet natured voice.
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All right, here we go! On to the never-heard-before music! "Drunk" most definitely has a little more to it instrumentally. In fact, I may or may not be dancing a little salsa dance around my room to this one. There's also a very on-the-air sound in the recording style, which is only a little weird, but we'll say it's in a good way. But how sad is this lyrics? "I'll get drunk again to feel love."
"U.N.I." brings us this little Jason Mraz-like rap at the start. I'm trying to stay away from the comparison, but so far I'm thinking Ed's a Jason Mraz / James Blunt combo. The style on the guitar here as a steady backing is really cool. "U.N.I" is "you and I" in the song, by the way. Heh, lovely. It's a relationship that's over, and he's "okay with it" - though she obviously knows otherwise. Oh joys.
The next one is coming on for me a few days later (I fell a bit behind), but I'm finally starting to understand where this soul thing comes in genre-wise. "Grade 8" has a soul/R&B feel throughout the song, and it's funky and different. This one's about love and feeling like a kid because of it. Good times. Better than that is the use of beats, both instrumentally and vocally.
"Wake Me Up" is unbearably quite as it comes in, especially in an entirely quiet apartment at night. It makes all of the words hit a little harder and mean a little more. It's also the first time you can tell there's an accent in this voice. He's British or something align those lines for sure (I'm not doing my research until after the music). This is sort of a weird mode for the middle of an album. It sounds more like an ending that an interlude. I'm a little thrown off on this one.
I heard this one earlier by mistake when I left random on, but hearing a song all about a baby not yet born is really different. "Small Bump" is something I have yet to experience (and won't for a while, sorry mom) but it's very sweet. I've seen it in parents eyes when they hold the baby for the first time, or even just during the pregnancy, and I think Ed hits the sentiment right on the nose with this one.
"This" is actually not a title I've ever seen before that I can think of off the top of my head. It seems like a fairly simple song on new love. Really intense love, but love and that's what matters. Lyrically, it really does sound like a poem just put to some simple strumming of the guitar. Oop, sounds like there's a little trouble in paradise towards the end of the song, and ask the relationship complicated, so does the music.
Next up is a funky little song called "The City." There's some effects on the beat that break it down just a bit throughout. Instead of the hectic-ness of the city, this one seems to capture some real heart and feeling of this insane city. And yes, I assume he's talking about New York, because where else would he be thinking about? Mhmm, I'm a bit selfish. The piano, by the way, is an unexpected and really cool touch.
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"Lego House" is one I put on while I was walking around the room cleaning. It's got a heart-full feeling somehow. It's super sweet not only in lyrics but in feel. There's a sway with a gentle rhythm, and the bass notes used on the piano add this depth and loveliness. As he gets into it, his voice even intensifies, giving even more life to the song as it goes on. Simply beautiful, really. I may be missing the point, but I really just don't care right now. Just give me more of this feeling and warmth and tenderness out of a little bit of music.
A bit tougher drums and that accent comes back on for "You Need Me, I Don't Need You." Obviously, a telling title. Not sure if it's about love or a fallen friendship, though maybe it works both ways. The movement in the melody is rougher around the edges yet doesn't miss a single beat. This is one that is amazing, though could even go a step father in being stripped down to acoustic instruments and highlighted with some great bongos. Feel that reggae nature too, wow. There are also a few remix versions of this floating around on Ed's YouTube page you should totally check out.
"Kiss Me" is a little awkward to listen to first thing in the morning in the office (don't you love when I give you stupid little glimpses into my life?). I've got to give credit where it's due though. The echo and recording work in general works here, and I don't normally agree with a lot of reverb and production work on music. This song maintains its raw emotion even with a guitar sweeping off into the background on the musical bridge and the whispers of a voice into the melody of the song. It's definitely not an up-and-at-em song, and that's tough, but this works. This album's getting better and better.
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This one may have gotten sort of lost on me. It's "Give Me Love." I don't enjoy the chorus as he trills through the same line over and over. I get the lovely sounds in the background, but the strumming is odd against sweet violins, and the melody isn't entirely meshing in my ears. Now, I could see this, with a slightly different chorus melody, being really great, but it's not hitting me here.
And now we move into the tracks on the Deluxe Edition of the album. Yay for Spotify getting more music. "Autumn Leaves" comes across as very simple with an electric guitar holding it together and a whispered,s west voice. This is probably one that is worth another listen, or two, or five. There's depth there unmatched by a lot of other music, while the music alone is completely relaxing. Okay, maybe I'm not 100% sure of how to really describe this one correctly, but I like it.
Funny story: before "Little Bird" came on, a commercial played on Spotify for "+." This has probably the most rock-like beat going for it throughout. This is one that'd probably have you bopping down the street with headphones on. It's cute without having a kid-like nature. I guess you could just say that it moves really well It sounds like a song of the frustration of love and being thankful for it.
"Gold Rush" is nice and bouncy again. These bonus tracks have very little production on them apart from the simply cleanly recorded sound. There's mostly just simple strings against each other, building a good general piece. There's a slight island sound that just keeps this sounding good and fun. The main realization I get at this point, which I'm sure I'll throw into that final wrap-up paragraph, is that Ed is a storyteller. His lyrics aren't necessarily meant to be so catchy they get stuck in your head, but they can make you either think or relate (or, okay, both), while you tap your foot along.
Final track time: "Sunburn." Now, I may be listening to this pretty low at work this morning, but I'm only getting actual sound every few seconds. It's like listening to something from across a room on someone else's computer. But the lines I am catching a interesting, and deeper than expected for some reason. The idea is simple: you scar like a sunburn. But I think there's some element of sadness when it's gone, probably some idea about it being cold and depressing at that point of the year. Anywhos, a solemn end to an up and down album.
Added to My Playlist:
- "The A Team"
- "Grade 8"
- "Lego House"
- "You Need Me, I Don't Need You"
- "Kiss Me"
- "Autume Leaves"
- "Little Bird"
First follow-up reaction is still a comparison one that places James Blunt / Jason Mraz / a little Steve Kazee a la "Once" in my head. None of this is bad, I promise, it just makes me a little nervous for his future career. But what is originality anymore anyway? So maybe this'll work. It certainly works for me. The lyrics are complicated enough to warrant me wanting to come back for more, if for no other reason than to grasp a better understanding. The good songs are lovely, and the bad songs just need another chance.
Spotify Listen Link: Beyoncé – 4
2013 Grammy Nominations:
- Best Traditional R&B Performance for "Love On Top"
Anyone else feel like Beyonce must be on album 10+ by now? You'd be a wrong as I was - this is legit solo album #4, as the title states.
So, as far as interesting stories behind the album, what we've got here is Beyonce's first release since severing professional ties with her former manager and, more importantly, father, Matthew. She went on a career hiatus for about a year, and came back to us with this more natural tone she was striving to portray.
Also, interesting note: Ryan Tedder is one of her background vocalists on this album. Not sure at all what made me check out the credits list, let alone why I noticed this in particular, but you may more commonly know his as the lead singer of One Republic. Cool, right? He also produced "I Was Here," but isn't credited on any particular track as a featured artist or writer. He's really a legit BGV. Wow.
"1+1" kicks the album off with this very simple guitar pick and Beyonce's soulful voice coming in. I remember her performing this for an awards show, sitting in the room with my mom, and at first, as she was hitting these awkward high notes, we were annoyed. Then, as the song went on, and she just sang her damn heart out, we were mesmerized.
The next one is all right. "I Care." I mean, I get it, and the sentiment of it, but the sound's just too broad and not entirely enjoyable. I know she was going for a rawer sound on this album, and she's by far achieved it here with such a simple layering of beats, but it's just not hitting right with me personally.
"I Miss You" just plays to me like a slightly more echo-y version of the last song. It's sad and simple, but nothing that hits hard. At least it's honest. I respect the song for sure - I mean, any self-respecting girl with heartstrings is having them tug in the listening process here.
Ah, my favorite song from the album out of what I've heard, "Best Thing I Never Had." And yes, there was a boy this totally got directed at. Jerk. Anywhos, what a freaking brilliant way to put it. The music there songs so classy, and her voice has so much heart. It's a great feeling to realize you really ARE better than his crap, and that he'll regret it… and you just won't care anymore. Seriously, ahhhh. So good!
So, here's the video. Don't love the garden scenes, or that Jay-Z's not the husband, but watch her expressions while singing - priceless and amazing!
"Party" features Andre 3000 and a very confused Janelle. On one hand, I like her throw back harmonies and beats here. On the other hand, I feel like I'm a kid in the 90's again listening to my cousin's R&B albums. Personally, the song doesn't thrill me in the least, but there's that damn respect again for the musical side of things. So props for that, but I don't think this one'll be on repeat for me anytime soon. Here's the video, though it's J. Cole, not Andre?
Speaking of throwbacks, "Rather Die Young" is a Whitney influence if I've ever heard one. It's gentle, sexy, and sung fantastically with a good back beat. Same deal here - mad respect, much like Whitney, even if ever song isn't going to be a perfect hit to my ears. She keeps at it with that voice in a way not many, if any, could.
"Start Over" has be baffled. Maybe it's my own personal situation right now, but I can't tell if they're a struggling couple or two people who broke up and are considering it again. Either way, this song grew on me more and more with each passing lyric. The music's nothing one of this world, but it's okay when you can carry it with these kind of words.
I read that Beyonce pulled influence from some old sounds, including the Jackson 5, but I had no idea until "Love On Top." It's the cutest beat for a love song I've heard since anything they ever put out. It's just so happy and sweet! Man, when I'm finally with someone again, this is going to be a playlist song about them for sure. For now, it'll go on as a hopeful little addition. Nice to know it comes from a place a real love as well - I mean, have you seen her and Jay-Z? Anywhos, here's a video from her Roseland concert:
If you haven't heard "Countdown," you've probably been living under a rock, and that's coming from a girl who only drives with the radio once in a very blue moon (I <3 my CDs!). This is a really cool creative song, literally utilizing a countdown to rock it down through the chorus. The beat could quite possibly get super annoying, but I don't know - somehow B makes this work really well. The shifts could be jaunting, but somehow the transitions work without killing your ears. Everything so of works for a young person.
All right, let me get this out - I went in to "End of Time" with the thought (for no real good reason) that this could just be really, really bad. It's pretty much all backed by a drum line - oh wait, there's some trumpets. Okay, I like the simple use of the marching band - very cool. But it gets old on a casual listening basis. The whole thing just screams the need of a real stage show, which I'm sure is amazing.
I thought, on my first ever listen of "I Was Here," that I'd be prone to hate the cliche sentiment of leaving a mark, but I got over that pretty quickly. The song's quite powerful and does express an inner desire that I think we all possess without necessarily saying it out loud. We all want to be remembered. We all want it to be for something great.
"Run The World (Girls)" could have been placed first on the album and set a really interesting and independent tone. Instead, it's at the end, and I can properly regard it on its own. The song's freaking fantastic, don't get me wrong! Any girl in the world will probably stand by me on that opinion. I don't love the twists and turns, but Beyonce makes it all work enough to keep me feeling confident and powerful throughout every beat.
Can Beyonce please put out a workout video?
Added to My Playlist:
- "Best Thing I Never Had"
- "Start Over"
- "Love On Top"
- "I Was Here"
- "Run The World (Girls)"
Yeah, Beyonce. I mean, sheer greatness, right?
First off - 2012 has sucked aside from a few cool highlights. The last three months, at least, have been hell. I can't wait for 2013 at this point.
The thing that got me through? Music. Come on, you probably expected to read that if you've been paying attention at all. It's the truth though - every day was just made a tiny bit easier when I could throw in my head phones and here sweet sounds and good words to make it through the day.
All that being said, there was some amazing new music put out this year to cry to, laugh with, and especially jam to. Once again, artists presented us with epic songs that define the time and albums full of new surprises and goodness.
| || |Here's this year's list fo releases from January to December, only minor-ly narrowed down from the full listing on Wikipedia of releases to what I've heard of/knew had a shot at my personal list (i.e. Nicki Minaj did not even make this cut). The stars are for ones that were automatically definite considerations, and the ~ was a recommendation for this list that I'll consider. The second iteration consisted of more symbols and markings to help in whittling it all down to what you'll get below.Side Note: I had NO IDEA some of these people put out new albums. I mean, P.O.D. is still around? And I thought The Fray was sort of a decently big deal - when did they drop a new album? All-in-all, this just means I'm even more thankful for this post.
I also have the 2011 list I made last year up in a side tab to reference for stylistic choices, but also to critique how this year has changed my listening habits. For instance, I'm seeing Kelly Clarkson, Adele, and Lady Gaga dominating that list, as I really was in to powerful girl-driven songs at the time. This year, I had a lot more headphone time because of thinner walls in my new NYC place, as well as walking time, so lyrics and good moving songs became really important.
I also noticed that this year I focused a lot more on recommendations than just artists I already had a history of liking - and man, what amazing good that did me.
All that said, I think we're about ready. Deep breath - let's look at 2012:
(in no particular order!)
Tenacious D - Rize of the Fenix
The Little Willies - For The Good Times
Norah Jones - Little Broken Hearts
Imagine Dragons - Night Visions
Halestorm - The Strange Case Of...
Yellowcard - Southern Air
Enter Shikari - A Flash Flood Of Colour
deadmau5 - >album title goes here<
Insane Clown Posse - The Might Death Pop!
Matchbox Twenty - North
Neon Trees - Picture Show
Muse - The 2nd Law
Willie Nelson - Heroes
Dr. John - Locked Down
Mumford and Sons - Babel
| |10. Bruce Springsteen - Wrecking BallOh America. Oh Bruce.Partially as a joke, partially out of respect, I took a listen to this a little while back. While I'm not sure this one will give us any classics a la "Born In The USA" or "Glory Days" (aside from "We Take Care Of Our Own"), it is a rockin' good time with an old friend.The title may be political, let alone the music, but Bruce has every right to say whatever he wants at this point. He's earned it. Talk about an American among Americans, this music is great and always will be. There's just no way to not include him in the best of the year. | |
| || |
9. Maroon 5 - Overexposed
Winner of most colorful cover of the year!
Seriously though, Maroon 5 continues to win me over with more good songs than bad. I know some people hate them, but I can't help it. They have a great beat in every song, and use these funk and soul approaches to some songs that have me twisted into love.
Is this a choice out of rebellion against the majority? Maybe. But they've been around for over 10 years now, have had hit after hit, and show no signs of stopping. Something must be right here, and I love it.
8. Lifehouse - Almeria
All right... confession time: I haven't actually listened to this entire album. BUT this is my favorite (one of my favorite) band and therefore they automatically get an honorary top 10 spot just for giving me new music this year.
I just haven't listened because I got this awesome gift set for myself complete with the deluxe copy (where this cover is from - the regular version's green and blue) and I'm waiting for my first listen to be on my new CD!
The one song that has been release is "Between the Raindrops," a western-themed song featuring Natasha Beddingfield. If that's any indication, this is going to be fantastic and totally deserving of my biased decision.
| || |7. Original Broadway Cast Recording - Once: A New MusicalBroadway had to make it in here somehow, and why not the musical of the year? This is an incredible story that I got the honor of seeing with my extended family. The night before, I believe, I listened to the whole soundtrack for music's sake alone.This is an incredible work of genius. The music is inspired and brilliant, full of Irish themes. Now, I saw it on stage, and I have to say - the excitement from the stage shines right on through on the recording. To quote my own review: love is actually something of such extreme depth that we'll never fully understand it - and we never should.
6. Jason Mraz - Love Is A Four Letter Word
Clever little double meaning there, sir.
This was another one that I didn't hear until today, and I don't know how I lived without it for this long. Jason Mraz is so clever in how he shows affection to others. Also, Colbie Callait is in there from time to time, and her voice with his is perfection. Love shines through.
This album has an excellent range musically and never fails to give us something cool. There are simple emotions sung about, and then there are more intense feelings brought on to us. Regardless of where he winds up calling, my heart strings are tugged all the way to my top 10 of the year.
| || |5. Jack White - Blunderbuss
Well I mean, come on. This was one of the best concerts I saw this year (thanks Chris!) and he is a bloody rock god! Blunderbuss (btw - this is what blunderbuss means) continued to solidify Jack's legacy, giving the world of music what we've waited so long for: his debut solo album.
The music is so much fun in parts, and so ridiculously different in others. I've never heard of some of the sounds he created here. I took a listen and wrote about it back in April, when the release happened. Also, additional little tidbit I never noted before: the album was released for listening on iTunes 8 days before the actual release, courtesy of one of my dream companies: Three Man Records. And you think the album is good? See him live. Even after a hissy fit.
4. The xx - Coexist
Thanks JK - this one is great. While Wikipedia bills it as an indie pop album, let's face it - everything's indie pop these days. In reality, it's an electronic dance album pumping out sketchy, loose songs. I mean that in the best way possible!
A writer on wikipedia said that this album contains themes of "heartbreak, loneliness and intimacy" - which makes it basically my theme album of 2012! Heh. And the album cover? It's oil and water with some light reflecting off of it - get it? Oil and water don't mix, but they can in fact Coexist.
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3. The Script - #3
I remember finding a few gems last year just based on brief iTunes listening on the 'preview all' function, and this year yielded even better results. The Script makes incredible music, and I have yet to be disappointed by anything they put out into the world.
The music on this latest piece of work is much like heir previous music, but... I don't know, more mature? Not even. This music has something special to it, continuing to reach out to listeners in creative ways. Their use of so little to make so much still astounds me. They keep an intensity in some songs, a relate-ability in others, and charm throughout. Trust me, a review's coming on this one asap.
| |2. The Shins - Port of Morrow
This was an unexpected highlight of the year. I highlighted it in our New Music Tuesday series back in March, and could not have been happier with the results. While I spent a good amount of time in the review talking about their lack of consistency, the band and sound have grown on me over the year.It also much help that this is an Oregon-based band, so my heart's immediately captured. Most importantly, it left me wanting more and more of their music, which has been a rarity in music lately. Plus, there's a darkness to the whole thing, despite the unexpected pop sound, that keeps these guys beyond interesting. I hope 2013 brings on even more.
| || |1. fun. - Some NightsI just reviewed this a week or so ago and mentioned right then it would be a contender for the top spot, and it has held up against all the others. This album combined the anthems people seem to need throughout the year, with a extreme measure of youth and appeals to this particular reviewer's needs. Musically, they experiment, and hit the nail on the head way more often than not. I have no idea if fun. will be able to follow up on this success and have staying power, but for the moment, everything is right about this band. The songs on this album have made 2012, and 2013 is sure to be full of more great times and lots of fun.
As has now become Ears Like a Hawke tradition, I'm rushing to publish this before heading out for NYE festivities. So, that said, hope y'all enjoyed this as much as I did. Happy New Year and see y'all in 2013!!!
Spotify Listen Link: Deadmau5 – > album title goes here <
2013 Grammy Nomination:
Ah, another year, another Deadmau5 review. This guy gets a lot of traction on this blog around this time of year, jeese.
- Best Dance/Electronica Album
This one's album number six, and came out this past September on Ultra. Apparently, it's partially made up of songs that were previously recorded but not released as singles (not uncommon). And there's a bunch of guest artists. Guys, I'm out of interesting things to say here. Let's do this.
"Superliminal" is the first of the made-up-word titles we'll encounter here. It hits hard and heavy right away, and in any setting other than my computer I'd probably be getting an immediate headache. Luckily, the pacing picks up and, despite this dull thud in my head, it's… okay. No… not oaky… damn you spellcheck. I think my dog just started barking at this. And there's still a whole three minutes to go!
Wolfgang Gartner (aka Joey Youngman) joins in for the next one, "Channel 42." It's like a weird creepy organ playing a few octaves too high, with a whole bunch of commercial beats thrown in. I like the darker element to it, but the sound is just a bit tough to digest.
"The Veldt - 8 Minute Edit" includes Chris James, and has one of the better dance feels I've heard in a while. It's up there with the Usher standard I sometimes have in my head. The tone is fun and just enough effect is on the voice to avoid the annoying line crossed by far too many. Even at eight minutes, which is pretty intense for any song, it maintains a fun time and I think we finally have something enjoyable on our hands. This time it only took three songs in!
All right, what's the deal with "Fn Pig"? I'm writing that before the song comes on. Nice slow sort of buildup. At least it's not smacking you in the face as things intensify. There's almost a strings element in there (I doubt any strings were involved at all) that's almost cool until about two minutes in, as it gets to be so much you can't entirely think. And by you, I mean me. This one may be too much for my puny little ears and brain to handle.
"Professional Griefers - Vocal Mix" is what I've sort of been waiting for. Gerald Way from My Chemical Romance is what makes it a vocal mix. While beat-wise it lacks much enjoyability in the verses, the chorus is sort of fantastic. It's just enough yelling and rock combined with dance to make it work - not an easy balance to achieve.
I'm now trying to work on my big Best of 2012 list as this album goes on, so hopefully the music is good enough to provide distraction! "Maths - Original Mix" is there, and while I can't say that there's anything necessarily special about this - I'm okay with it. I like that it's a very… eh… classic? Electronic song. I may et arguments that there is no such thing, but the sounds are generalized and familiar.
"There might be coffee" (ew). I've heard you before. I don't know when and I don't know how, but I've heard you and loved you, and still don't hate you now. This is all good news for you, because I'm at lack of how to properly describe this otherwise.
In what seems to take a little darker twist, we're on to "Take care of the proper paperwork." Lots of tribal sound in here, joined in my heavy guitar. Something insane is happening. I hate and love it all at once, and this is a part of my major reasoning on not being a deadmau5 fan. It's too aggravating to try to justify enjoying a song.
"Closer" would work as a live light show. And I say that as someone who would probably never pay for a ticket to see this performance live. It's more on the edge of pop than I think anything I've heard from him, and I want laser lights to dance with so bad right now it's not even funny.
I suppose "October" sounds sort of like a rainy fall day if you really put your mind to it. Basically, the whole first two minutes I've hear is full of little drops of sound and beats throughout, feeling to me like they hit a puddle. Again, cool light display is in order here, but the dancing doesn't feel so much on the docket as before. I like consistency most of the time, but the off sounds here are too much to really handle. At least about four minutes in a back track comes on and relieves the pain.
"Sleepless" is going to put me right to sleep if this dragging down of a decent beat continues on for the entire scheduled four minutes. Also, I hate skipping drum beats. It just comes out sounding like a CD is skipping instead of anything remotely good musically. Why, oh why, does anyone use this in music when it hurts so bad?
Oh, *this* is the Cypress Hill appearance I've been waiting for. "Failbait - Original Mix" is really great for a rap song mixed with a DJ's mix, don't get me wrong. I just could give a crap about what is going on along the way here. At least the beat is decent - many have not been. I think I'm just jaded on harder rap songs and tune them out far too easily. Look back and old rap reviews for reasoning.
"Telemiscommunications" features Imogen Heap and is the final song here, AND songs completely different than anything else on the entire album. There is a whole other world of music invaded here, and it's gorgeous. It's simple and mixed so very well, with just enough effect on the vocals to be cool without going overboard. Balance is the main word that comes to mind, and it's the perfect sweet closing for the album it totally doesn't fit in to.
Added to My Playlist:
- "The Veldt - 8 Minute Edit"
- "Professional Griefers - Vocal Mix"
- "There might be coffee"
Made it through another deadmau5 album! Okay, okay, so I don't hate it all and never really have. But I fell out of my brief house love phase sometime in the past year, so I was a little worried about taking this one on. Overall, not awful.
Spotify Listen Link: Fun. – Some Nights
2013 Grammy Nominations:
- Record of the Year for "We Are Young" (feat. Janelle Monae)
- Album of the Year
- Song of the Year for "We Are Young" (feat. Janelle Monae)
- Best New Artist
- Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for "We Are Young" (feat. Janelle Monae)
- Best Pop Vocal Album
- Jeff Bhasker - Producer Of The Year
Whew, that was a long list.
Some of you may be wondering "Janelle, what the hell took you so long to finally review this? It's been out all year!" And yes, you're right - this is preposterous. Luckily, the Grammys took notice and gave me a great excuse to nix another album nominated last year, in favor or reviewing this one instead in effort to attract readers to a more current topic.
Also, my name's on the album, sort of!
Fun. is made up of Nate Ruess (formally of The Format), Jack Antonoff (formally of Steel Train), and Andrew Dost (formally of Anathallo). They loved the vintage pop sound and catchy hooks, and took to the mission of creating some of their own. Robert Joseph Manning, Jr. (formally of Jellyfish) joined in to help arrange things, and Steven McDonald (formally of… just kidding) produced a bit. That was their first album, and this is their second.
Additional note on this second album, the producer nominated also did Kanye's "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" last year.
And while Spotify gives me basically no other information than that, I'll accept it and move forward. Fun.!
"Some Nights - Intro" leads off with a gentle crowd clapping and a cute 20's-esq piano play in and gentle voice singing some not-so-20's esq lyrics. Things take an interesting, twisted turn into a dark carnival sound of bitterness. This is so weird, and seems to incorporate every kind of possible scary music, including a very Queen-sounding harmony portion, all into two minutes.
This all leads in to one of my favorite songs of the past few months, "Some Nights." I ADORE THIS SONG. K, hope we're all on the same page here. It's full of bitter strength in spite of everything. It's an anthem for the angry twenty-something, conflicted with the pressures of balancing partying and frigin' awful people. Musically - and I don't speak of that enough in conversations on this song - the beat is incredible and I just want to scream out to it. Seriously, drop what you're doing and be pissed and scream this out the car on a cold night. It does wonders for your mood. "Sorry to leave Mom but I had to go - who the fuck wants to die alone?" Then the slow pretty part comes in - and I mean the party about his nephew - that makes me thing of my cousin to no end. "The most amazing things come from some terrible lies…" (I love you little River man!!) Even the electronic weirdness on that note hold out is okay by me. And this may be the longest blurb I've ever written on a single song. I'm going to listen to it again and get back to y'all in a minute… After all: "It's for the best we get our distance."
"We Are Young" (feat. Janelle Monae) is the big track off this album that really got things kicked off. It's an anthem and honest to boot. Somehow, I think every young person out there can find some way to relate to each and every single line of this song. I think I was annoyed with the amount of airplay it got at first, but it's definitely grown on me, like most folks. I'm still waiting for the moment me and all my friends hear this out in a bar and stand up, shouting it out. Also, the featured singer has my name, and that's just pretty cool.
And now we move on to the rest of the album - yah know, the part I've never heard before because it hasn't been on the radio. "Carry On" has that same epic anthem feel, though lyrically there's something more personal to it. Also, there's something very Irish to it, which is just really cool. This sounds like one you could hear alone in your room and find some awesome renewed strength. The epic guitar riff in the middle is great too - and unheard of in most pop music today. Next single? Quite possibly.
(OK - side note: I look up videos *after* I do the album review so that my opinions of songs aren't skewed by visual love or hate… I had no idea this actually was a single…)
And for kicks, because it's my damn blog, here's an AWESOME acoustic version of the same song!
"It Gets Better" strikes me as a really good running song based on beat alone. Like, a really good 80's running song. Completed with leggings and headbands and everything in really bright colors. Now, again, we have a song promoting a good attitude and happiness eventually. I'm not sure how much cheeriness I can take, but so far so good.
Sounds like we're just slightly slowing things down with a nice strum for "Why Am I the One." Pretty simple sentiment set to an old 60's sound, especially in the harmonies. I didn't listen too terribly hard to this one, but I caught moments that I really liked. It came across, at least to me, as a story about a guy. One of those inner-monologue moments just too good to leave out of song form for the world to hear.
"All Alone" has a slight hip hop beat, just further making me love this band and their quirky, try-anything style. There's a little video game shut-down sound before the 2nd verse that I think a lot of people are going to miss, but I like the effect. I think this one moves down from the 20-somethings to the way they felt as teens instead. Oh angst, how you will never leave my generation alone.
Man, this album makes for really good background music when you're in your childhood home late and alone. "All Alright" is sort of slower, but not really? I guess it's a theme on acceptance of how things are, especially when you don't have the heart to fight it anymore. "I never claimed to be more than a one night stand." Can I take this moment to say that boys suck? Throw rocks at them. Yup, so this is a decent lonely song. Can never have enough of those.
"One Foot" is okay. It's loud and obnoxious, but I mean that in a nice way, promise. Lots of self-reliance preaching in this one, but at least there's an extreme element of self-awareness alongside it. I'm not a huge fan of the horns blaring, but it's not awful. So the sound of the music isn't exactly my cup of tea - so what? At least I'm not disgusted listening to the lyrics as it was in a previously reviewed album or 20 or so. At least this is a respectable story happening.
I like "Stars" as a semi-closing track (there's two bonuses too). There's a cool dance element, a little too much electronic effect vocally, and various beats throughout to keep things interesting. Talk about experimenting with sound; I think this song's got about everything you could want on one track. Of course, it's closing in around seven minutes long, so this could all become repetitive and typical for the entire song, but halfway through it's still disjointing and oddly okay.
"Out on the Town" is one of the bonus track, and it's got my ears perking up a little more. Love and loss and nothing about what I wore. Regardless, it's a good story that's got me hooked. I mean, granted, there's a lot of songs I somehow relate to, but this is one of those life-story moments. Musically, it's lighter than about half of the rest of the album, almost finally feeling like it's not trying so hard, but probably amongst the best overall. It's not one I'd want to throw in someone's face, but man, it's got my closing my eyes and sighing heavily.
The final track, both bonus or otherwise, is an acoustic version of "We Are Young." Welp, we already know we like the lyrics and general feel of the song. The acoustic touch makes it interesting and touching. This is more like what you'd try to imitate around the campfire or piano with some friends because you feel the song is totally and completely y'alls.
Added to My Playlist:
- "Some Nights"
- "We Are Young" (feat. Janelle Monae)
- "Carry On"
- "All Alone"
- "All Alright"
- "Out on the Town" (Bonus Track)
- "We Are Young" (feat. Janelle Monae) (Acoustic Bonus Track)
Well damn, an album that finally lives up to its hype. Seriously, this was a unique and great time as a whole. Not every song's a complete winner for me personally, but I could see them hitting better with other people. The band's got something awesome going on here that resonates with the generation they're reaching out to perfectly. I need a good band like this to come around just about this often to have this kind of impact. Perfection.
Also, the lead singer looks like a mix of a young Kevin Bacon and Macauley Culkin.
- WIN: Best Gospel Song, "Hello Fear"
- WIN: Best Gospel Album "Hello Fear"
Spotify Link: Kirk Franklin – Hello Fear
I have a great deal of respect for Kirk Franklin, and I think a big part of that solely comes from having one of his tapes when I was younger. I only owned a few, and I listened to them endlessly. One was "Kirk Franklin and the Family," and the main song I rewound and replayed was "Why We Sing." Something was entrancing, and this was way before my CCM phase.
Kirk's still clearly making a huge impact in the gospel world, remaining one of the first names anyone ever thinks of when asked about the genre. For me, for a long time, he was actually the only Christian artist I could have named! And now, years and years later, I get to hear his latest and greatest.
I think it's a ballsy move to put a title track up as the first one on an album, but that's what we get here. "Hello Fear" starts with the family lightly singing an intro speaking to Fear itself. It gives a background and context to the song, and then moving on to better things. It's a break-up song in some ways, and an introduction to the new love of grace. Simply, it's a standing up against fear and for yourself. For a lighter sounding song lacking musical intensity, it's a strong song. The tone is a great beginning to the album, and could even well stand on its own. Very impressive from all angles considered.
"The Story of Fear" is simply that! It's a spoken verse with a slight rhythm, saying what it is. Yup, that's it. A cool interlude before we really launch in.
We do pick it up more with "Before I Die." There's a cool slight dance beat along with this one, but Kirk always has had this voice that makes you sit ups and listen a little closer. He's so serious when he leads the family in praise. It's almost a little intimidating, but he does have the sweet lyrics backing him up and making it easier to handle. Plus, he's got that crowd going out there.
"I Am" is a conversation I believe we've had before on this blog. I Am is also another name for God. So, songs that tend to use it have always been a little more intriguing because of the duel meaning. This one's sort of cool. It starts with the shush choir singing a story of coming to what they actually are, what "I Am." They could also be singing of coming to God though. See how that works? Aside from the lyrical interesting aspects, the song's really very beautiful.
The next one is slow and sweet. It's "But The Blood," a story of healing and cleansing through faith. There's an if/but statement throughout. The accompaniment is just a slow piano and slight beat with ad libbing guitar in the background for a while. Here's a moment in the gospel concert I've talked about: slow, swaying, and everyone getting in to every moment. There's a testimony in the middle, set to a sad violin, about the sadness in the world. Seems to flow right into the next track…
"Everyone Hurts," which is not, in fact, an REM song. Kidding, I know the difference. This has an R&B backing with very little church-like atmosphere to it. And of course, there's an assurance that God'll heal the hurt. It's not till the very end you hear a little organ, reminding me there's a church element. Not a bad thing, just not a hard-hitting song at the moment.
This next one starts off just like a show tune for some reason in my head. "I Smile" is upbeat and cute as it goes, and sickeningly sweet in melody. We've now gone from such incredibly sad and down songs to one that doesn't have a care in the world. I never thought I'd describe a song from a Kirk Franklin CD as downright cute, but that's about all I've got left for this one when it all boils. down. Awww. And then he goes on to give shout outs to various cities and states - and includes Jersey. Just too sweet for more words.
"Give Me" transitions us into a live song from the sound of it, and features Mali Music (?). This one's sort of weird. There's rhythm to his words, almost like a slow rap, and not much singing. It actually all sounds like a testimony to the crowd, but there's most definitely music going on their too. And I'm pretty sure Mali Music is actually CCM/Gospel music's answer to Lil Wayne with an almost tolerable voice. In other words, listenable just for the comparisons alone, so why not?
Quick one: "Never Alone Interlude." Having just come from a choir concert at my old high school it's got a really pretty sound, possibly with some younger voices if I'm not mistaken. Really pretty transition into the last section of this album.
"The Altar" features Marvin Sapp and Beverly Crawford. Very classing group gospel at the start with every word being sled into as it builds up. It's like the title - going back to the basic roots of everything at the center of gospel.
Rance Allen, Marvin Winans, John P. Kee, & Isaac Carree are all on board for "Something About The Name Jesus Pt. 2." If it weren't pushing one in the morning right now, I'd be less lazy and figure out if there's a part one. Instead, I'll assume there is. Lots of ad libbing, lots of feeling the power. No idea who's who, but oh well. This is what we miss out on when you get a recorded version instead of seeing the live excitement.
"Today" is live and a little more exciting even through the recording itself. The song takes on a much most pop-based beat. If you were to put other lyrics to it, there's a good chance this could be any female/male duet song you hear on the radio. It's fun though, not raunchy, and I feel the crowd and choir all up on their feet partying throughout the whole thing.
I guess the titling for the next two is for what they create in the show: "The Moment #1." I mean, that really strips down any possible alternate meanings, and lets it exist as just that. A woman who takes lead lets go with her voice in a very extreme, real way. Even the quiet testimony moments of trading sentences is solemn and honest. It flows so seamlessly into "The Moment #2" that, since I didn't realize the change, I don't even feel the need to create a new paragraph. Just listen.
"A God Like You" brings us to a hip-hop number in final song time! Okay, there's some child-like bounce to it, but I doubt that's totally what they were going for. On the more intense song, the words are quick and poignant. It's an interesting way to end things out. I like that he's not closing on a quiet note, because my image of Kirk Franklin has always been loud and out there, not soft and pretty. It's a generally good song beat-wise and a good closer overall.
Added to My Playlist:
I lost this dang review twice while trying to publish because of the 'swipe-to-go-back" feature Macs have. But as far as the music goes, well done as always, Family and Kirk. They put on a great show even through a recording (the only way I've heard them) and never fail to display true love through speakers.
- "Hello Fear"
- "I Am"