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Friday, November 18, 2011

Track-by-Track: Rihanna - Talk That Talk

Rihanna has never been cooler. From the styling to the distillation of sounds on her sixth album, I'm a big fan of this era in her career. Though there's a clunker or two, and the tracks could do with some reshuffling, this could easily end up as my favorite Rihanna album.

1. You Da One - This track suffers greatly from being the opener, where it's completely out of place. Looking past that, it's a solid mid-tempo reggae flavored song. We've heard this before from Rihanna, but there's no one better when it comes to this kind of stuff. 8/10

2. Where Have You Been - Now we're talking! This is the first heavy dance track on the album. I'm convinced she should do an entire album with Calvin Harris. It's such a great match. The melody is just soaring, too. 10/10

3. We Found Love - And when we're on the topic of "soaring," this single pretty much defines the term. It's well on its way to becoming my favorite Rihanna track. So simple, but so incredibly effective. 10/10

4. Talk That Talk (ft. Jay-Z) - I could do without the Jay-Z bits, which go on a bit too long, but other than that, I'm a huge fan of this. I love the simple, almost orchestral sounding beat. Seems like an obvious single choice. 9/10

5. Cockiness (I Love It) - This approaches MIA levels of bonkers. I should hate it. It's near atonal at parts, but the craziness just works wonders. It also ushers in the album's "dirty" sequence. The next few songs are easily her most sexual work. 10/10

6. Birthday Cake - The most pointless track she's ever done. It's not a full song, but not an interlude either. It just sort of goes nowhere until it fades out, totally screwing up the sequence in the process. I don't understand the logic behind this. 7/10

7. We All Want Love - Of the full songs, this is probably the only clunker. It's pleasant enough, but just so straightforward and anonymous. The only "filler" track on the album, though it would probably sound better toward the end of the album. 7/10

8. Drunk On Love - A big belter with a Te Amo-esque beat. Not single worthy, but an excellent album track. 9/10

9. Roc Me Out - One of the album's best songs, and probably should have been the first on the cd. It's like SOS meets Shut Up And Drive meets Rude Boy, but might be better than all three. The chorus is massive. 10/10

10. Watch 'N Learn - Another favorite. The playful sexuality and lush midtempo production reminds me a bit of Janet Jackson. There's something about the seesaw melody that's so addictive. 10/10

11. Farewell - The album's big ballad. Think along the lines of the last few tracks on Rated R. The lyrics are a little clumsy, but the production is beautiful and I love how she didn't hold back on the drama. 9/10

* If I were to take a stab at reordering the sequence, I'd do this: 1. Roc Me Out 2. Where Have You Been 3. We Found Love 4. Talk That Talk 5. You Da One 6. Cockiness (I Love It) 7. Watch 'N Learn 8. Drunk On Love 9. We All Want Love 10. Farewell (unfortunately, I don't like any of the bonus tracks enough yet to warrant adding them to the album)

Album Grade: 9.0/10

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

JLS - Shy Of The Cool

"She's just a few degrees shy of the cool"

After enjoying both of the singles, I've given in and listened to my first JLS album. It's not normally the type of music I'm into, but I really like about half to three quarters of the album (the rest is just too generic). In addition to all the of-the-moment upbeat tracks, this wonderful little song is nestled right at the end of the album. Apparently, it was written by the guys even before their stint on X-Factor. It forgoes trendiness and focuses on spare production and a winning melody. Everything about this works. And while I'm on the topic of JLS, who else can't wait until the inevitable Aston solo album a few years down? The guy's got an amazing voice. If he goes about it in an interesting way, he could be massive on his own.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists. Buy the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Track-by-Track: Cher Lloyd - Sticks & Stones

Post X-Factor albums are always an interesting prospect. More a chance to establish an artist's sound and image than an actual, cohesive album, they're best judged on their own standards. And using this criteria, Cher Lloyd's debut is definitely a success. Room for growth, but a success nonetheless.

1. Grow Up - A good, extremely catchy opening. The melody in the chorus reminds me of the Toys R Us jingle, which cracks me up (and is even funnier since Lloyd samples a lot throughout this album). The cameo from Busta Rhymes is also a nice little trip back to the 90's. 8/10

2. Want U Back - If this isn't a single, Lloyd's management are crazy. From the very first listen, it's a bonafide smash. The grunting noises totally make it. 10/10

3. With Ur Love - This is the track that made me come around to Cher's music career. It's laidback, subtly addictive and very cool. it wouldn't make a bad US single, either. Mike Posner's sort of extraneous, but doesn't detract. 10/10

4. Swagger Jagger - This fits much better in the context of the album, though the choice of sample still irks me. The production is great, though. A guilty pleasure. 8/10

5. Beautiful People - The last perfect track on the album. This is a great ballad and suits Lloyd's voice very well. It works alright as a duet with Carolina Liar, but probably would have been just as effective if she sang it alone. 10/10

6. Playa Boi - This song succeeds because of its excellent sample. That being said, the original song is miles more creative. I wish she would have just done a straight cover rather than augment it with some pretty lame lyrics. Still, that chorus melody is always welcome. 9/10

7. Superhero - A more laidback facet of Cher's sound, this has a very catchy melody and some nice lyrics. Even so, it's the first track to feel slightly underwhelming. 8/10

8. Over The Moon - A cutesy, nursery-rhyme sounding chorus battles with harder edged, rapped verses. It works surprisingly well, though the hook can quickly go from endearing to irritating. 8/10

9. Dub On The Track - The hardest track on the album, this is pretty much rap, dubstep, grime... all of that stuff thrown together. It's Cher's "street" side. It goes on too long, but it's not bad. 8/10

10. End Up Here - My least favorite track. That's not to say it's bad, but it certainly doesn't do anything interesting. It's pretty much the standard midtempo post-Ryan-Tedder pop/r&b track. Nothing more, nothing less. 7/10

* Worth noting are the album's two bonus tracks, the gorgeous cover of "Stay" and "Talk That," which should probably have been on the album as well.

Album Grade: 8.6/10

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sebastian - Sunday Morning

"Sunday morning took my soul"

What do we think about this, guys? Sweden's ex-Idol contestant Sebastian debuted his new electropop sound in this year's MF contest back in February, but I had my reservations about that track. Now, he's following it up with a song in a similar vein. It's less instantly catchy, but it also doesn't have those moments that made me dislike the last one. I wish it had a little more oomph to it, but I'm happy that he's continued working in this genre. It's certainly a smooth little pop song. I'm not sure if an album is in the works (I assume so), but it's about time for him to make a comeback. I loved the first two albums. The third one, less so... but I'm ready for another!

Sebastian - Sunday Morning by alienhits

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Nightwish - Storytime

"I am the voice of Never-Never Land"

After months of long lulls in interesting music releases, the floodgates have opened this November. My latest obsession is this incredible, huge, ridiculously overblown track by Finnish symphonic rock band Nightwish. Some of you might already be familiar with Nightwish. They're big in Scandinavia and have quite a huge cult following around the world. They've been around for awhile but it's been a few years since their last release. This is the first single from the new album, Imaginaerium, which is due out in a couple of weeks. The album's going to have an accompanying movie, which I am so excited about. Nightwish is the perfect kind of band to have their own rock opera. But enough about the album. This song... oh my god this SONG. I have no words, really. Instead, let me highlight some of the things I'm obsessing over:

1. The fact that this essentially sounds like Abba fronting a classical/metal/goth band.
2. The children's choir/MASSIVE symphonic breakdown two thirds of the way through.
3. The references to "Peter Pan" and storytelling, which I gather is the subject matter of the concept album.
4. That. Chorus.

Bottom line, this is one of the best singles I've heard all year. I CAN'T WAIT for the album!

Nightwish - Storytime by alienhits

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists. Preorder the album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.