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Friday, December 09, 2011

An X-factor Prediction and a Picture

Okay, so these two things really don't go together, but I wanted to post them both anyway:

First, X-factor. No, not the horrendous wasted-opportunity-times-1,000 US version (seriously, is Nicole Scherzinger the worst judge in talent show history?). I'm talking about the UK version, which ends this weekend. I'll be away all Saturday so Sunday's going to be quite the marathon of finale goodness. Although this year's crop of contestants haven't been my favorite (excluding Kitty), I do genuinely like two of the three acts in the final.

If either Little Mix or Amelia win, I'll be a very happy viewer. Sadly, I'm not sure that's going to happen. Marcus has seemed unstoppable for sometime now. He fills that non-threatening, dull-as-dishwater male contestant mold that viewers seem to like so much (see: Matt Cardle, Joe McElderry, Leon Jackson). If he wins, I fear it's another backstep for the series. I don't think he'll be big in the music industry and, while I'm sure he's very nice, he's the least interesting of the three left.

My prediction for the weekend:
Winner: Marcus
Runner-up: Little Mix
Third: Amelia

If I had my way:
Winner: Little Mix or Amelia
Third: Marcus

We'll see. I'm hoping for a surprise, but I've learned not to get my hopes up when it comes to winners in this show.

In other news, if you haven't yet grabbed a copy of my debut novel, Skyship Academy: The Pearl Wars, you've got a chance to win one here! There's also an interview and this kickass Men In Black inspired picture:

My year-end countdowns start in a week and a few days, so next week I'll begin the Countdown to the Countdowns! Yes, you read that right. It's gonna be fun... I've got some great stuff planned.

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Thursday, December 08, 2011

Pop Blitz 12/8/11

Flo-Rida - Good Feeling
The sample used in this track is an interesting sidestep for Flo-Rida. After that, it's pretty much what you'd expect. Still, for the sample, this deserves at least a solid B

Rebecca Ferguson - Nothing's Real But Love
The song's about as sleepy as I'd expect from this X-Factor runner-up. It's better than Cardle's debut, but nothing I'd listen to regularly (or remember in a year's time). C+

Jason Derulo - Fight For You
What is it up with this guy and samples? I'm sorry, but you don't touch Toto's Africa. This is about 0.000002% as good as the original. D

Avicii - Levels
Where have I heard this before? Ah, yes... two tracks ago with Flo-Rida's song. Yeah, this is the track he sampled (stole?). It's about as good here as it was there. Nothing revolutionary, but pleasant. B

Kelly Rowland - Down For Whatever
Rowland continues with her successful club sound. It's not as good as her prior singles, but this is definitely the genre she should be recording in. I just wish the melody was a little more inventive. B-

Justin Bieber - Mistletoe
It's not easy to write an original Christmas song. This is far from a trainwreck, but it's still pretty stupid. Luckily, it's too damn catchy to dismiss entirely. B-

Jessie J - Domino
I'm no fan of this girl, but this is at least one of her better singles. I would've preferred it sung by someone like Katy Perry. Still, it's solid radio fodder. B

Your Choice: What's your favorite Pop Blitz song this week?

Pop Blitz 12/8/11 Your Choice!
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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Olly Murs - Anywhere Else

"Tonight the stars are in your eyes"

I never thought that I'd be listening to an Olly Murs album, but I've gotta admit... his new one's pretty good. After two fantastic singles, he's released a collection of songs that expands on his prior work and really establishes him as a major UK artist. Most of the tracks have an old-school vibe, but my favorites are the ones that sound a little more current. Anywhere Else immediately stood out because of its glossy production and anthemic chorus. It might not be the best track on the album, but it's definitely in a different category than the others. It reminds me of something we would have heard on Sebastian Karlsson's first two albums, which is funny because Sebastian, like Olly, is from a TV talent series.

(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.


Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Track-by-Track: Nightwish - Imaginaerum

It's hard to judge a Nightwish album. In many ways, they're operating so far above other acts that it seems unfair to use the same scale to rate them. Like their last album, there's nothing here that hasn't been exquisitely crafted. The band continue to experiment with genres, and it's natural that every experiment won't fully click with every listener. So, where the band gets docked points is only where their experiments didn't click with me. But make no mistake, this is one of the albums of the year. No doubt about that.

1. Taikatalvi - An intro, sung in Finnish and setting the tone for the album. Nice, but I won't rate an intro.

2. Storytime - The first single, and not only one of the best tracks on the album but also one of the best songs of the year. It's absolutely massive yet still instantly catchy. This represents the sound that Nightwish do best. 10/10

3. Ghost River - Continuing with an experimental theatrical sound, this is slightly less instant. The riffs that open the track are amazing and I love the use of the children's choir, but the melody isn't as strong as the last track. 9/10

4. Slow, Love, Slow - A jazz number (!). It's brilliant for what it is, but I'm afraid this kind of music just isn't my thing. Maybe it would fit better later in the album, but right here I just feel like it kills the energy. Anette sounds great, though. 8/10

5. I Want My Tears Back - Now we're back! Mixing elements of hair metal, folk, rock and pop into a ridiculously inventive gumbo, you've got to hear this to believe it. The melody is among the most instant on the album, and then the track goes totally off the rails with a blistering instrumental. 10/10

6. Scaretale - More experimental with its song structure, of all the songs this sounds the most like a Tim Burton film. It's more like a freaky carnival circus than an actual song, but that's okay because it's just demented enough to be fun. A little long, maybe, but otherwise awesome. 9/10

7. Arabesque - It's all about the drums in this instrumental. It's a refreshing palette cleanser between songs and a dramatic focal point in its own right. 10/10

8. Turn Loose The Mermaids - A classic folk ballad with a beautiful, if familiar, melody. Anette sings this and does so very well. Not my favorite ballad on the album, but a close second. 10/10

9. Rest Calm - Probably the darkest/heaviest track on the album and, because of that, not a favorite of mine. I like the verses better than the chorus, and I think I'd like it more if the track wasn't so long. It's totally fine, just not a standout. 8/10

10. The Crow, The Owl And The Dove - My favorite ballad and rumored to be the next single. It's one of the poppier tracks on the album, while still maintaining a folk sensibility. It's a beautiful duet with a melody that I can't get out of my head. 10/10

11. Last Ride Of The Day - Now this is epic. It's similar in sound to Storytime, but might be even better. The choir is used brilliantly, and that moment we get the key change with the layered vocals? Epic! 10/10

12. Song Of Myself - Another ridiculously epic track, and the longest song on the album at nearly fourteen minutes. The latter half is a spoken poem, but the first half is pure bombast. One of the best things you'll hear this year. 10/10

13. Imaginaerum - An instrumental recap of several of the songs from the album. It's the closing credits for their upcoming movie. Here, it's a perfect capper to one of the year's best albums. 10/10

Album Grade: 9.5/10

* Wanna make this album even better? Combine tracks from this and 2007's Dark Passion Play and you have, literally, the best Nightwish album ever concocted. This is meaning-of-life good, folks. So here's Imaginaerum (Alienhits version):
1. Poet and the Pendulum (edited to the 10:05 mark -- the last few minutes ruin the flow -- Nightwish purists will kill me but I'm all about the sequencing)
2. Storytime
3. Last Ride of the Day
4. Amaranth
5. The Crow, the Owl and the Dove
6. Bye Bye Beautiful
7. I Want My Tears Back
8. Cadence of Her Last Breath
9. Eva
10. Scaretale
11. Arabesque
12. For the Heart I Once Had
13. The Islander
14. Escapist (DPP b-side)
15. Turn Loose the Mermaids
16. Song of Myself
17. Imaginaerum

(If you've gotta cut it down to fit on a cd, take out Scaretale and either the Islander or Imaginaerum)

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Monday, December 05, 2011

The 10 Best Singles By... Mcfly

In honor of Dougie being crowned "King of the Jungle" in this year's I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here (a deserved win, I might add), I thought I'd give his band Mcfly the Top Ten treatment. Over the years, I'm continually surprised at how much I like this band.

10. Obviously (2004) - A sweet, midtempo single that established them as more than a one-hit wonder. Relentlessly singalong.

9. I'll Be Ok (2005) - One of their best straight-ahead rockers. They draw from classic melody here, which gives the song a timeless quality.

8. Please Please (2006) - One of my favorite videos of theirs, and the first track on the countdown from their excellent 2006 album, Motion in the Ocean.

7. All About You (2005) - Not their first ballad, but definitely their first massive one. The Beatles-esque melody is still so refreshing, especially from such a young band.

6. The Heart Never Lies (2007) - The band at their most mainstream and mature. It's like a mix of Robbie Williams and Snow Patrol. Shouldn't have worked, but it does.

5. 5 Colours In Her Hair (2004) - Still a burst of energy after all these years. The band debuted with this huge surf-inspired retro rocker. So catchy.

4. Sorry's Not Good Enough (2006) - Piano driven, with epic Queen-like guitars, this single showed a new side to the band. More elaborate and melodic than almost anything else they've released.

3. Friday Night (2006) - An often overlooked single from the soundtrack to a horrible movie. But the song itself is the best rock track the band have produced, a Def Leppard frenzy of power riffs and layered vocals.

2. Transylvania (2007) - Their most interesting and unique single, it's almost like a mini-rock opera. Dougie proved why he should take lead vocals more often, and the band is really operating at their creative peak.

1. Shine A Light (with Taio Cruz) (2010) - Sometimes simplicity is all you need. This song just worked from the very first listen. One of my favorites from last year, and definitely one of the best mainstream pop releases of the last few years.

So there you go! But here's the thing, no list is complete without hearing what you think! Leave your top ten Mcfly songs in the comments!

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