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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Track-by-Track: Mika - The Boy Who Knew Too Much

I have a list of albums that I've been wanting to review, and I keep telling myself that I will write them up. And I will. Eventually. For today, here's the new one from Mika, out this week.

1. We Are Golden - The first single, this really represents the direction that I hoped that this album would go. Big, bombastic, choral. I still love this track, though maybe not as much as I did a month or so ago. The album version has a slightly longer ending. It doesn't really change anything. 10/10

2. Blame It On The Girls - Beginning with an unnecessary spoken bit, the track quickly launches into a stomping, singalong dance track. Among the more addictive material on the album, this is the next single (or so I've heard). 9/10

3. Rain - The Stuart Price produced masterpiece of the album, this is a thrilling, lush electronic dance track that uses Mika's sometimes grating vocals to their best effect. Definitely the Relax of this album. 10/10

4. Dr. John - A campy, Elton John-esque uptempo track that fluctuates between endearing fun and annoying filler each time I listen to it. Right now I'm quite liking it, though. 7/10

5. I See You - The middle-of-the-road ballad of the album. There is one later on that's much better and one that's worse, so I guess this is just sorta there. Background vocals are nice, though. 6/10

6. Blue Eyes - I loved this song on the Songs For Sorrow EP and was slightly irritated to find it on the album rather than a new song, but it's still very nice. A breezier, more organic sound. 8/10

7. Good Gone Girl - Certainly catchy, but it also represents the annoying part of Mika's shtick. It's a little theatrical. And by little, I mean dramatically. Now I love drama in music, but this is a little annoying. 5/10

8. Touches You - This is more like it! Back to the choral sound of the first track, this isn't quite as strong, but the drama in this one feels more appropriate. It's got a harder edge to it. I like that. 8/10

9. By The Time - This is the ballad I was talking about earlier, the best of the bunch by far. Very pretty melody on this one, and one of Mika's best slower songs. His voice sounds very nice here. 9/10

10. One Foot Boy - Another very catchy uptempo track with some great, subtle hooks. I'll repeat the word subtle, because of all the uptempo tracks here this one doesn't call attention to itself. It's more addicting because of that. 9/10

11. Toy Boy - This worked alright on the EP, but it's a little annoying here. Again, it's Mika's theatricality at its most grating. Putting the lyrics aside, it sounds like it was written for a Disney move in the 1950's. 6/10

12. Pick Up Off The Floor - This is the other ballad I was talking about earlier, the one that doesn't work so well. Honestly, I skip it most of the time. The falsetto is irritating and there's not enough of a melody to keep me coming back for more. 4/10

13. Loverboy - Slightly better, though this feels very much like a b-side (I believe it was, earlier, wasn't it?). It's uptempo, I guess, but devoid of energy. Not a favorite. 5/10

Album Grade: 7.4/10

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pop Blitz

Trying something a little different today. There are a bunch of new singles out now so I wanted to give them each a little time.

Robbie Williams - Bodies
Almost several songs in one, William's new single is a hodgepodge of sounds. Electro, gospel, soaring ballad. Some bits are better than others. The lyrics annoy me, but I like the melody. B-

Alphabeat - The Spell
It's somewhat of a shift of sound, far dancier and 90's-influenced than previous work. Very Ace of Base. Unfortunately, I've never liked Ace of Base. It's not the sound I was really hoping for from these guys, but it's definitely growing on me. And the opening ad-lib is epic. B

Janet Jackson - Make Me
Janet's most upbeat dance single in a long while, this is a treat for any longtime fan to hear. The simple hook seems a bit slight at first but it's totally a grower. And the beat is totally funky. A-

Cheryl Cole - Fight For This Love
Girls Aloud girl goes solo, comes up with something far more soulful and r&b oriented than I would have expected. It reminds me of Aaliyah, but not one of Aaliyah's better songs. The chorus rescues an underwhelming verse. C+

Carrie Underwood - Cowboy Casanova
Carrie's gone all Shania on us here, delivering an uptempo, pop-infused country track. Unfortunately, the melody's a bit lacking here. It feels very much like a retread of Before He Cheats. I'm sure she's hoping it'll also repeat that track's chart success. I don't think it will. C

Tokio Hotel - Automatic
Going for a slightly more electronic sound this time around, the glam-rockers crafted a soaring mini-anthem with this new single. I'd never connected with any of their music until this song. A-

Kris Allen - Live Like We're Dying
For the Idol's debut single he's covered a b-side from UK band the Script. It's alright, I guess. It's got that Jason Mraz sound to it. I just can't help but wonder why we need yet another Jason Mraz type. C+

Monday, September 21, 2009

"When you're wondering where you're from you're not the only one"

Sweden's electronic duo Kite are back with their second EP, titled 2. It comes out in the middle of next month, but their label has some samples available for download. For those not in the know, one half of Kite is made up of Nicklas Stenemo, former lead singer of the Mo/bassist for Melody CLub and one of my absolute favorite vocalists/songwriters in the world. Kite has often been an indier type of group, focusing more on glitchy electronics than out an out pop music, but they did come up with the epic Ways To Dance last year. For this EP, they have at least one unabashedly poptastic track in Cannonballs. I'm not going to talk about the dubious lyrics, because the less said about them the better, but I am quite obsessed with the melody and vocals. It's not too far off from the type of stuff the Mo used to do. Throw in a bit of the Similou style of happy dancepop, and you have Cannonballs. It's guaranteed to make you feel good. I can't wait to hear the rest of the EP (though you can hear two other awesome tracks at their myspace, including first single Looking For Us, which I also highly recommend).

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists. Preorder and download more free music here. Follow me on twitter at nickajames)