UK songstress Ellie Goulding burst onto the music scene with her sparkly brand of electro pop. Since then she and Skrillex have become an item and besides adopting a similar haircut to his, they have also collaborated a bit. Her sophomore disc Halcyon features a more mature sound with more pensive and personal lyrics.
“Don’t Say A Word” opens the album with disembodied choir sounds and almost tribal percussion. “Anything Could Happen,” “Only You,” The swirling Dubstep-influenced “Figure 8,” the shimmery club anthem “I Need Your Love” which features Calvin Harris, and the US no. 2 hit “Lights” are all upbeat numbers. This time around, the album is laden with ballads laden with choral walls, from “My Blood,” the acoustic “Halcyon”, the spare “Joy” (which allows her voice to soar unhindered), the lovely “Hanging On,” “Explosions,” the delicate piano ballad “I Know You Care” (which sounds like it dropped from Adele’s handbag), “Atlantis,” and the phenomenal “Dead In The Water,” a gentle number that builds and builds, as does the album.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 17 years since Garbage released their eponymous debut. I’ve loved their singles “1 Crush,” “Push It,” “Special,” “Cherry Lips” and many more. Their latest release Not Your Kind Of People is more of the same melodic Electro Rock with Hip Hop leanings. “Automatic Systematic Habit” (with vocodered vocals), “Big Bright World,” “Blood For Poppies” (“I don’t know why they are calling on the radio” Shirley Manson sings) aim straight for the jugular.
On his official sophomore album, Adam Lambert appears to have decided on a singular musical direction (unlike his multifaceted debut which I loved, mind you) and that is Dance/Pop with a Rock tinge, with a liberal sprinkling of Michael Jackson-style vocals.
Hello Land! is the first of four planned self-released albums by Guillemots, and it is more of their trademark sound; ornate strings, elfin vocals (by Fyfe Dangerfield), quivery effects, and unexpected time signatures. The songs are largely free-form, making this something to be listened to as a whole, rather than a singles collection.
Musical chameleon Santigold (formerly Santogold) returns with a sophomore album Master Of My Make-Believe almost as eclectic as her eponymous debut was. Opening is the glitchy “GO!” with shades of M.I.A alternating between cheerleader-style chants and martial beats. “Disparate Youth” is Dubby with keys, strings and bursts of guitar. Continuing in the Dub vein are the haunting “God From The Machine” (interspersed with martial beays), the spare “Fame” with clunky/skittery beats, the skeletal snaking “Freak Like Me,” and the glitch “Pirate In The Water”.
It’s hard to fathom that Blunderbuss is the prolific Jack White’s solo debut. Sonically, it’s not far off from his day job; catchy Blues/Garage Rock, though most songs fall in the mellow bracket. Opening cut “Missing Pieces” (with a squealing guitar solo, nice piano riff and the line “I was in the shower so I could not tell my nose was bleeding”) is a fine example of oddball Rock.
Electric Guest are an LA duo comprising Asa Taccone (providing creamy androgynous vocals) and Mathew Compton. Their debut album Mondo is produced by producer du jour Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton and their airy incredibly catchy sound is reminiscent of MGMT or even Burton’s Broken Bells.
Lenny Kravitz recorded his new album Black And White America in near solitude in the Bahamas, an experience he says brought him closer to God. Well, there are copious references to the Man upstairs in the lyrics of what must be his most stylistically diverse album yet.
Last year, Ben Harper teamed up with Dhani Harrison and Joseph Arthur in the supergroup A Fistful of Mercy, a beautiful folky affair. He retreats into solo mode on possibly his best album yet, Give Till It’s Gone.
Destroyed continues along the path taken on Moby’s last album “Wait For Me” but with dark and light hues sharply contrasted this time. It was apparently recorded while Moby was touring and suffering from insomnia at night.
Rapper Lupe Fiasco takes some artistic liberty in naming his third CD Lasers which is an acronym for “love always shines every time, remember to smile.” It is the follow-up to 2007’s 4 Grammy nominated Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool and follows a protracted period of wrangling with his label resulting in a darker angrier record.
The Joy Formidable are a Welsh trio and their debut The Big Roar is like a sonic assault, from “The Everchanging Spectrum Of A Lie” which opens with dischordant beats giving way to a Garbage-style affair with tumbling and trilling guitars, to the Garage Rock of “The Magnifying Glass.” Lead vocalist Ritzy Bryan even channels Shirley Manson in places.
Cage The Elephant came to my attention thanks to Amazon’s recommendation. Opening cut “Always Something” is a skittery/quivery rocker with a nice spoken/rapped section and a whiff of UK Indie band Libertines so I was surprised when I looked up the band and discovered they are from the US. Lead vocalist Matt Shultz recalls Pete Doherty so much on this ultra catchy track.
Endlessly finds Duffy hooking up with the legendary Albert Hammond (understandably), Stuart Price (surprisingly), and Hip Hop collective The Roots on rhythm section. The result is a subtle tweak to her retro Pop/Soul sound, opening with the upbeat synth-driven “My Boy” which still sounds very sixties. Still keeping the tempo up are the ultra catchy “Keeping My Baby” (a song on single motherhood), the funky horn-peppered “Well Well Well” (with nice stop/start effects), the synth/string-swathed “Lovestruck” (Stuart Price’s electronics on display), and the bouncy “Girl”.
Canadian duo Ash Koley comprisies lead singer Ash Koley and songwriter/instrumentalist Phil Deschambault. Their debut Inventions has a New Wave/Pop sound inspired by acts like The Pretenders, Erasure, Eurythmics, Prince, and Radiohead. The catchy and sunny “Brighter At Night” opens the CD sounding like something Blondie would do.
Each of the tracks sounds different. “Apple Of My Eye” has such infectious harmonies, while “Don’t Let Your Feet Touch Ground” (with catchy Ooh oohs) is bouncy retro Pop.”Downtime Up” has an insistent piano riff and soothing harmonies, while the clap-driven “Country-tinged Mary The Inventor” starts off sounding a wee bit like George Michael’s “Faith”.
“Go!” is light and airy, “Colliding” is a reflective acoustic/piano ballad, while “Balance” starts as a spare ballad with full instrumentation building in as the song progresses into something Garbage-like (the band, of course). Closing things more upbeat is “Sheep In Wolves Clothing” with pulsing synths and chants of Whoa! At 9 tracks, it does fly past rather quickly, but Pop music this much fun will have you playing it over and over and over.
Mark Ronson’s new album Record Collection sees him largely eschewing the horn-rich retro Soul sound of his last CD Version. The sound this time around is more electronic with a heavy Hip Hop influence, but still with a stellar armada of guests and all original songs, no covers.
Lead-off single “Bang Bang Bang” features a relaxed Q-Tip and MNDR, a jerky funky affair already a #6 hit in the UK. Boy George sings “I need somebody to be nice, see the boy I once was in my eyes” over a bouncy beat on “Somebody to love me” while an awol D’Angelo appears on “Glass mountain trust”, a futuristic Funk joint that sounds very Gnarls Barkley. Continue reading Mark Ronson – Record Collection (Album Review)→
UK Trip Hop artist Tricky’s new album Mixed Race is a musical journey of sorts as the 10 tracks take one through various styles; Hip Hop, Blues, Dub, Trip Hop and Dance. “Every Day” features Frank Riley and is a dreamy Dub and Country hybrid with harmonica, “(Riley appears again on the clap-driven Bluesy “Come To Me” and “Murder Weapon” which starts off with a music box chiming the notes of “My Way”), Hakim” has a haunting Middle Eastern feel and features the vocals of Algerian singer Hakim Hamadouche against a sitar backdrop, while “Bristol to London” is electro with rapping by Tricky’s brother Marlon Thaws and Blackman. Continue reading Tricky – Mixed Race (Album Review + Video)→
Neo Soul crooner Bilal released his critically acclaimed debut 1st Born Second in 2001. Since then, he’s seen his second album 2006’s Love for Sale shelved by his label (though it did leak to fans’ delight), and appeared on albums by Common, Erykah Badu, Guru, Tweet, Solange, Jay-Z, and most recently Reflection Eternal earlier this year.
Airtight’s Revenge is thus a highly anticipated release and now signed to a smaller Indie label, he’s given free rein to experiment, and experiment he does. The album finds him mining that breezy hippy retro Soul sound similar to Shuggie Otis’ masterpiece “Inspiration information.” The 11 tracks on the album range from the Jazz/Funk “Cake & Eat It Too,” the Psychedelic groove “Restart,” the sunny joyous “All matter,” the midtempo clap-laden guitar-driven “Move on,” the Funk/Rock “Robots” with spoken/sung lyrics, the trippy falsetto-sung “The Dollar” with quirky signature changes, and the musically meandering “Who Are You” with a Reggae coda.
Everything else comprises ballads; the spare piano-driven “Flying,” the experimental futuristic horn-laced “Levels” (futuristic Jazz), the absolutely enchanting and tender “Little One” (with nice echoing guitars and touching lyrics to his sons promising “I won’t let you make the same mistakes / I’ll always love you”), and the closing acoustic “Think it Over.” I love the loose live sound, and his tenor is as supple and pliant as ever. Incredibly moving, the only other Soul releases that moved me this much this year have been Erykah Badu’s and Janelle Monáe’s.
Bilal can be seen in the fall issue of Art Nouveau, Available at MagCloud.com Sept 30.