Tag Archive | reviews

Album Review: Transit Of Venus by Three Days Grace

1. Sign Of The Times, 2. Chalk Outline, 3. The High Road, 4. Operate, 5. Anonymous, 6. Misery Loves My Company, 7. Give In To Me, 8. Happiness, 9. Give Me A Reason, 10. Time That Remains, 11. Expectations, 12. Broken Glass, 13. Unbreakable Heart

I still vividly remember the first time I heard this band. I was a 14 year old boy flipping through channels on a Saturday night. For a brief moment I landed on a music video on MTV before changing the channel; a second or two later I decided to flip back to it. Something about this band just caught my attention, and they’ve been my favorite band ever since. The music video, by the way, was for I Hate Everything About You, their first single.

Every three years since then (2003), they have released a new album (which if you ask me, is a really long time in between). Album one was good, album two is inarguably my favorite, and album three is pretty good. I’ve been waiting three long years, and unfortunately this new album is easily my least favorite of the four.

My interpretation of 3DG’s music has always been that it’s about being an outsider, isolated, hurt, and in pain. It’s about those kids who don’t fit here or there and are trying to navigate through life alone, lacking support and affection from others in the way. On the surface, some of their songs can be taken to be about romantic relationships but they actually go beyond that obvious interpretation. Depending on how you look at them, some songs deal about relationships, or lack thereof, with family, friends, and even one’s self.

This album, to no surprise, really continues on all of those themes. While album number two went into a dark place, album number three switched over to some more encouraging standpoints. This album is not quite as dark, but not quite as light either. So it’s not really a hybrid of the two perspectives, but instead it lands somewhere in between the two points. Kind of like the transit of Venus, where it lands in between the Earth and the Sun. Clever analogy, right?

The low points in this album are: Anonymous (which lacks content and substance), Happiness (which can easily be mistaken for another of their older songs, The Good Life, based on the intro but actually has a contrasting message), and Give Me A Reason (which lacks a sense of flow).

Onto the high points. Coincidentally one of them is The High Road, a dichotomous song about optimism and pessimism, about giving and receiving. On the one hand you want to and are trying to overcome your troubles, but you can’t quite do it alone and you depend on someone else to help you. Then we have Expectations, which has a really unique and unexpected tone and rhythm, as well as content. It’s a song that takes a progressive narrative approach, starting with the life of a young girl and the expectations of her to that of a young woman and the expectations she failed to live up to. It can generalize to anyone whose life didn’t turn out the way they thought or planned it would. Unbreakable Heart is an ideal ending to this album, as it ends on a positive note. The song is about being undefeated, by not allowing those around you to break you down and having the determination to come out on top.

Thoughts on the remaining songs:

  • Sign Of The Times: slow paced song about having a breakthrough of some sort, though not necessarily a good one.
  • Chalk Outline: hard hitting song about a lover doing you wrong and taking you for granted.
  • Operate: the negative effects that someone has on you, like a drug.
  • Misery Loves My Company: song title says it all, about being miserable and not wanting to take the comfort from others.
  • Give In To Me: after doing some reading, I found out that this one is a Michael Jackson cover.
  • Time That Remains: making the best of the amount of time you have left.
  • Broken Glass: analogy between the fragileness of glass to the delicateness in people.

The first time I listened to the album I was disappointed. I’ve heard it a few times now, and each time I like it more. However, no matter how much it grows on me I don’t think it will surpass album two or three in favorableness. Hopefully album five will arrive before 2015. Fingers crossed.

Album rating: 3/5.

Favorite Song: The High Road

“There’s times I stayed alive for you
There’s times I would have died for you
There’s times it didn’t matter at all

Will you help me find the right way up
Or let me take the wrong way down
Will you strain me out
Or make me take the long way around

I took the low road in
I’ll take the high road out
I’ll do whatever it takes
To be the mistake you can’t live without”

Least Favorite Song: Anonymous

Other Songs I Enjoyed: Misery Loves My Company, Give In To Me, Expectations, Unbreakable Heart

Album Review: Blown Away by Carrie Underwood

1. Good Girl, 2. Blown Away, 3. Two Black Cadillacs, 4. See You Again, 5. Do You Think About Me, 6. Forever Changed, 7. Nobody Ever Told You, 8. One Way Ticket, 9. Thank God For Hometowns, 10. Good In Goodbye, 11. Leave Love Alone, 12. Cupid’s Got A Shotgun, 13. Wine After Whiskey, 14. Who Are You

The opening track and first single, Good Girl, follows in the steps of Before He Cheats and Cowboy Casanova, two singles from her previous albums, in that it’s a mix of country and rock and roll and the topic is an unworthy guy.

Then we get the songs Blown Away and Two Black Cadillacs, both of which have a darker feel since they deal with the death of a father/husband. Later in the album there’s Forever Changed, a song about her/a mother, and Thank God For Hometowns, which deals with more death, marriage, and other hometown occurrences; both songs seem to lack rhythm.

For the love related songs we have See You Again, Do You Think About Me, Good In Goodbye, and Wine After Whiskey. Out of the four, Good In Goodbye is the only one with a happy ending, while the rest are still stuck on an old lover in some way.

Two standouts in this album are One Way Ticket and Cupid’s Got A Shotgun. The former has a relaxed Jamaican feel to it, which is really unexpected, and it’s about moving forward in life. The latter is probably the most straightforward country song of the album, and it has a fun fast paced approach.

Blown away, I am not. Carrie Underwood has a great voice and it shows in this album, but the songs in general are not “wow!” Album rating: 3/5.

Favorite Song: See You Again

“I can hear those echoes in the wind at night
Calling me back in time
Back to you
In a place far away
Where the water meets the sky
The thought of it makes me smile
You are my tomorrow”

Least Favorite Song: Thank God For Hometowns

Other Songs I Enjoyed: Good Girl, Good In Goodbye, Wine After Whiskey

Album Review: Strange Clouds by B.o.B

1. Bombs Away, 2. Ray Bands, 3. So Hard To Breathe, 4. Both Of Us, 5. Strange Clouds, 6. So Good, 7. Play For Keeps, 8. Arena, 9. Out Of My Mind, 10. Never Let You Go, 11. Chandelier, 12. Circles, 13. Just A Sign, 14. Castles, 15. Where Are You

One thing about B.o.B is that he sure does hold himself on a high pedestal and he’s not afraid to proclaim it. A lot of his songs involve him rapping about how good he is, this is a constant theme. It gets to be a little too much self-boasting, however, and even he points it out in the closing track Where Are You (B.o.B vs. Bobby Ray) when he (B.o.B) tells himself (Bobby Ray), “now on your records all that you do is brag.” If admitting your problem is the first step to recovery, then B.o.B is well on his way to recovering himself.

B.o.B also raps a lot about where he has been and where he is now. It’s another constant theme, one of self-reflection, which creates various dualities (past and present, poor and rich, struggles and success, etc). For this, listen to the songs So Hard To Breathe, Both Of Us, Chandelier, and Castles. These songs set up a classic case of you can’t please everyone, as some are happy for him but some are disappointed in who he has become.

Another set of songs, Ray Bands, So Good, Never Let You Go, and Circles are geared towards the love interest route.

Considering that rap is not my genre of preference, I still found this album to be tolerable and listenable. Album rating: 3/5.

Favorite Song: Chandelier [ft. Lauriana Mae]

“What’s a song if it don’t have words?
What’s the word if it don’t get heard?
You can paint it anyway that you like
How can you get the picture if it come out blurred?
What life taught me can’t be unlearned
And every bridge can’t be unburned”

Least Favorite Song: Circles

Other Songs I Enjoyed: So Hard To Breathe, Both Of Us, So Good, Out Of My Mind

Album Review: Picture Show by Neon Trees

1. Moving In The Dark, 2. Teenage Sounds, 3. Everybody Talks, 4. Mad Love, 5. Weekend, 6. Lessons In Love (All Day, All Night), 7. Trust, 8. Close To You, 9. Hooray For Hollywood, 10. Still Young, 11. I Am The D.J.

At first I wasn’t a fan of this group’s popular song Animal, but it eventually grew on me… just now, about two years after its release. And though I have yet to take a full listen to their first album, Habits, I was intrigued enough to listen to this second album, Picture Show.

The big picture theme on this album is one that can be found in almost any album, and that’s a theme about love. More than half of the songs cover this topic. One smaller theme is about fantasy and desire, as found in Everybody Talks, Weekend, Close To You, and Still Young. The remaining songs have no real connection to each other in terms of topics, but of course do have musical similarities.

  • Moving In The Dark: Fun and fast paced song that has a church/choir feel, yet it also reminds me a little bit of Animal at times. Presumably talking about having sex and blowing your worries away (no pun), based on the line “Set fire with just a little spark, that’s how it goes when you’re moving in the dark.”
  • Teenage Sounds: A unique song about the music industry, and being unhappy with where it’s at. Has a faster pace than the opening track.
  • Everybody Talks: I interpret this song being about an unattainable love that is only attained by making it up through rumors/gossip/chatter. The chorus is catchy, but not the strongest first-single option.
  • Mad Love: Slower tempo song, about a couple being inseparable, indestructible, and in-love, Features a female voice for parts of it.
  • Weekend: Living a fantasy love dream, even if for just a short time, or at least that’s what I gather from the repetitive “We can pretend, pretend for the weekend” line.
  • Lessons In Love (All Day, All Night): This song is a collaboration with Kaskade, and there are different versions for each others’ albums. I prefer the one on this album over the one in Kaskade’s album. And it would have been a much better first single choice.
  • Trust: About being honest, because it all comes back to bite you. The longest song of the bunch that starts with a nice piano melody that I wish would have made up more of the song instead of the electro sounds that follow.
  • Close To You: Mellow song, about wanting, and asking to be with someone, perhaps to protect them? Not sure…
  • Hooray For Hollywood: Sort of a Hollywood homage as it mentions many stars that have passed away.
  • Still Young: Wanting to have someone come back and live in the moment? Again, not sure… The chorus is the best part.
  • I Am The D.J.: Metaphorical song with the DJ/record representing the “me/you” relationship.

Is this album amazing enough to blow my mind away? No. But it’s good enough to have me wanting more. Album rating: 3.75/5.

Favorite Song: Lessons In Love (All Day, All Night)

“All day, all night
I got the lights in my eyes
And I’m falling for you
Keep cool, stay tough
But that’s never enough
And these are the lessons in love

All day, all night
I got the lights in my eyes
And I’m falling for you
Keep cool, stay young
I’m just having my fun
With the lessons in love”

Least Favorite Song: I Am The D.J.

Other Songs I Enjoyed: Moving In The Dark, Teenage Sounds, Trust, Close To You

Album Review: Pink Friday, Roman Reloaded by Nicki Minaj

1. Roman Holiday, 2. Come On A Cone, 3. I Am Your Leader, 4. Beez In The Trap, 5. HOV Lane, 6. Roman Reloaded, 7. Champion, 8. Right By My Side, 9. Sex In The Lounge, 10. Starships, 11. Pound The Alarm, 12. Whip It, 13. Automatic, 14. Beautiful Sinner, 15. Marilyn Monroe, 16. Young Forever, 17. Fire Burns, 18. Gun Shot, 19. Stupid Hoe, 20. Turn Me On, 21. Va Va Voom, 22. Masquerade

It’s no surprise to me that I’m finally enjoying Nicki Minaj’s music, ever since being featured in David Guetta’s Turn Me On, it’s gone dance-y, just the way I like it! Then again I never listened to her whole first album, so I wouldn’t know what her music sounded like before, but as far as I’m concerned she’s known strictly as a rap artist. Now, she manages to still give rap, but also R&B and pop, all in one album.

The album starts off with the pure rap songs (the first seven), most of which deal with being the bad-bitch-boss-lady who’s made it big. That’s the album’s first theme: success. It’s apparent in Come On A Cone, I Am Your Leader, Beez In The Trap, HOV Lane, and Champion. Humbled much? Not Nicki Minaj.

We briefly hit a couple of R&B tunes, Right By My Side and Sex In The Lounge, with the former being the better of the two and also featuring Chris Brown. Then, kind of unexpectedly and out of nowhere, we arrive at pop-dance tracks, and the second main theme of the album: just having fun and dancing the night away. Starships, the current single, is addicting (to me at least). Pound The Alarm, has a little rap and a little Pitbull (I think), whether it’s him or not, this song needs a remix with him pronto. Whip It and Automatic are enjoyable, but the previous two songs are just slightly better. Nicki explains that Roman, one of her alter egos, comes out when she’s angry (I did my research), so it’s fitting that one of the lines in the first song, Roman Holiday, is “Take your medication, Roman/Take a short vacation, Roman” considering that the album heads towards a much happier, dance driven place.

Back to R&B. Beautiful Sinner is a song that should feature Rihanna singing the non-rap sections, as the lyrics sound like her kind of content. Marilyn Monroe is Nicki at her most vulnerable spot, I think, as she recognizes that even the great can fall. Young Forever shows more vulnerability as she remembers an old flame, whom she still holds in the same light as the last time she saw him. A few lack luster songs follow, before finishing on a good note with Va Va Voom and Masquerade.

Some music fans will not be happy with the reduced focus on the rap genre, but others will be happy to see some more mainstream songs. Even Nicki Minaj admits this as she says “I guess I went commercial” on the track Roman Reloaded, yet she also says that “Bang, my shit bang, it bang bang/B-b-bang, my shit bang it bang bang.” You can’t please everyone unfortunately. I have to point out that even in the R&B inspired and pop inclined songs, there’s still some rap in them; that remains an integral part of the album throughout. Overall, I enjoyed most of the songs on this album, which surprised me. Album rating: 4/5.

Favorite Song: Beautiful Sinner

“And maybe I’m naive for loving you
You’re a cheat and a liar
But tonight you’re everything I desire
You beautiful sinner
I love your wicked heart
Beautiful sinner
It’s such a work of art”

Least Favorite Song: Champion [ft. Nas, Drake, & Young Jeezy]

Other Songs I Enjoyed: Roman Reloaded, Right By My Side, Starships, Pound The Alarm, Marilyn Monroe, Va Va Voom, Masquerade

Album Review: MDNA by Madonna

1. Girl Gone Wild, 2. Gang Bang, 3. I’m Addicted, 4. Turn Up The Radio, 5. Give Me All Your Luvin’, 6. Some Girls, 7. Superstar, 8. I Don’t Give A, 9. I’m A Sinner, 10. Love Spent, 11. Masterpiece, 12. Falling Free, 13. Beautiful Killer, 14. I F***** Up, 15. B-Day Song, 16. Best Friend

Right off the bat we get started with an addicting dance song in Girl Gone Wild, unfortunately though, I feel it’s the only real dance song of the album, as most other songs would require a remix to play in a club. Moving on to the second song we have Gang Bang, which is a very-dark-in-content-fast-paced-techno-inspired track about beating someone to the punch (she kills her lover, who was gunning to kill her). These two first tracks are easily my favorite ones from this album.

As for the themes in this album, there appears to be two of them. The first is one of idolization (of a man), and can be found in the songs I’m Addicted (her man’s love is her drug), Superstar (her man having all the right qualities), Masterpiece (a perfect man, who’s hard to love), and Beautiful Killer (a man who is a beautiful killer?). The other reoccurring theme is of referencing her ex-husband, or so I think it is, as she touches on a former love in I Don’t Give A (moving on, holding her head high, and not caring what people say), Love Spent (wishing someone had loved her as much as they did her/his money), Falling Free (coming together just to go their separate ways), I F***** Up (taking the blame for a failed relationship), and Best Friend (having lost a best friend and no one being able to fill that void). The remaining songs are mainly happy and fun sounding, two of which have a retro 80’s and 60’s feel (Turn Up The Music and B-Day Song, respectively).

At first listen, I thought this album had a strong start, but was lack luster overall. On a second listen, I felt it sounded better and more cohesive. For the most part, I feel it’s a mellow pop album despite having some upbeat background sounds. Album rating: 3/5.

Favorite Song: Gang Bang (and also Girl Gone Wild)

“I thought you were good
But you painted me bad
Compared to the others
You’re the best thing I had

Bang Bang, shot you dead
Bang Bang, shot you dead”

Least Favorite Song: I F***** Up

Other Songs I Enjoyed: I’m Addicted, Give Me All Your Luvin’, I’m A Sinner, Beautiful Killer

Album Review: Teenage Dream, The Complete Confection by Katy Perry

Early review of an album that hasn’t been officially released, but then again it’s a re-release so it’s essentially already out, not to mention the 3 new songs have already been leaked.

I have to admit that back when Katy Perry released her first album, One Of The Boys, and her hit single, I Kissed A Girl, I thought she would become a one hit wonder (despite releasing a couple of other singles that did fairly well). However, when I listened to Teenage Dream almost two years ago I was pleasantly surprised at how good of an album it was. It’s a solid pop album that sticks to it’s theme throughout.

Some quick song notes:

  • Teenage Dream: the ultimate everything-is-perfect-lovey-dovey song from recent years
  • Circle The Drain: a rock-sounding song about someone who has allowed their life to go to waste
  • The One That Got Away: self-explanatory title, which ironically, and unfortunately, was the one release that didn’t reach #1 in order to achieve the record-breaking 6 number one singles off of one album feat.
  • Pearl: a female with potential for greatness, but being held back by her male lover
  • Not Like The Movies: about waiting for that perfect partner, who is out there somewhere
  • Hummingbird Heartbeat: innocent song about sex and feeling giddy  
  • Wide Awake: realizing that what was happening (in a relationship) wasn’t real or good
  • Dressin’ Up: mellow naughty song

If I was reviewing Teenage Dream, the original album, I would rate it 4.5/5. However, I feel that this re-release was unnecessary and the new songs don’t really add much to the album as a whole. For that reason the complete collection losses half a star. Album rating: 4/5.

Favorite Song: E.T. (without Kanye West)

 “Kiss me, ki-ki-kiss me
Infect me with your love and
Fill me with your poison

Take me, ta-ta-take me
Wanna be a victim
Ready for abduction

Boy, you’re an alien
Your touch so foreign
It’s supernatural
Extraterrestrial”

Least Favorite Song: Peacock

Other Songs I Enjoyed: Teenage Dream, Firework, The One That Got Away, Not Like The Movies, Part Of Me

Album Review: Scars & Stories by The Fray

1. Heartbeat, 2. The Fighter, 3. Turn Me On, 4. Run For Your Life, 5. The Wind, 6. 1961, 7. I Can Barely Say, 8. Munich, 9. Here We Are, 10. 48 To Go, 11. Rainy Zurich, 12. Be Still

One of the things that I enjoyed about this album is that it covers a variety of topics, but one downfall, in my opinion, is a lack of focus. The band has explained that in order to get inspiration for new songs, they traveled around the world. Because of that, one of the central themes found throughout the album is that of taking a journey, and that’s what ultimately manages to tie all the songs together.

In the song The Wind someone is literally/lyrically lost at sea but is metaphorically lost in life, and maybe that wasn’t a conscious decision but it’s nonetheless the journey they’re currently trying to navigate. I Can Barely Say deals with leaving one’s home only to later want to go back, but unsure on whether the doors will be open. 48 To Go is all about living in the moment, a blissful moment, as described while taking a road trip. Perhaps deliberately, the album ends with a song titled Be Still, which is about reaffirming one’s support for and to another person.

I don’t feel like this album has a song of the same caliber as How To Save A Life and You Found Me, which are the two hits from this band’s two previous albums. Possibly the closest song to that would be the first single, Heartbeat, as it follows a similar formula, but in my opinion it’s not one of the better songs from the album.

Not a great or horrible album, it’s just somewhere in the middle. Album rating: 3/5.

Favorite Song: The Fighter

“Maybe we were meant to be lonely
Maybe we were meant to be on our own
Loneliness has always been with me
But maybe we don’t have to be all alone

What breaks your bones
Is not the load you’re carrying
What breaks you down
Is all in how you carry”

Least Favorite Song: 1961

Other Songs I Enjoyed: Turn Me On, The Wind, Here We Are, Rainy Zurich

Album Review: Born To Die by Lana Del Rey

1. Born To Die, 2. Off To The Races, 3. Blue Jeans, 4. Video Games, 5. Diet Mountain Dew, 6. National Anthem, 7. Dark Paradise, 8. Radio, 9. Carmen, 10. Million Dollar Man, 11. Summertime Sadness, 12. This Is What Makes Us Girls. Deluxe version: 13. Without You, 14. Lolita, 15. Lucky Ones

There’s been a lot of hype about this artist, but I tried to hold off on listening to any of her songs until I could listen to the whole album in its entirety. However, I did cave in and listened to the title track, Born To Die. I found it to be… different, but different in a good way.

This album as a whole has a very slow and relaxed feel, but without being dejected or sad. On top of that it also has a seductive-ness quality to it. I’m not sure if that’s Lana Del Rey’s goal or maybe it’s just how her voice comes across. But there is reason for the songs to have that seductive feel, since they are about girl meets boy, girl falls in love with boy, and girl seeks boy’s affection. Unfortunately, boy does not reciprocate girl’s love. However, the constant theme in this album does not focus on heartbreak. Instead, there’s a pattern of singing about being devoted to a man, seeking his approval, being dependent on him to live happily, and lacking self-worth to feel deserving of his love at the end of it all. Or at least that’s what I gathered from the songs.

Some quick song notes:

  • Off To The Races: has a calm, cool, collected rapping-like approach
  • Blue Jeans: takes a narrative approach, and is a good example of the devotion she gives
  • Video Games: sounds like a song that Florence + The Machine would have made
  • Diet Mountain Dew: starts with a catchy hook, more fun than the rest of the songs
  • Radio: finally made it big, and asks “how do you like me now?”
  • Carmen: talking about a young girl with problems
  • This Is What Makes Us Girls: recognizes love as her priority and is willing to do anything for it, also takes a narrative approach
  • Without You: no matter what she has or how much she has, she’s not complete without him
  • Lucky Ones: a happy ending kind of song

Lana Del Rey already had a lot to prove just by being a new artist, but having received so much hype, there was even more pressure to deliver a great album. Did she deliver? In my opinion she did. She’s different from most other female artists, she’s not as vocally gifted as Adele or Beyoncé; she doesn’t have the dance approach of Katy Perry, Lady Gaga or Rihanna; and she doesn’t have the more sad approach of Ingrid Michaelson, Natasha Bedingfield, or Sara Bareilles. For that, she finds herself in her own little alternative category. Album rating: 3.5/5

Favorite Song: Dark Paradise

“Every time I close my eyes
It’s like a dark paradise
No one compares to you
I’m scared that you won’t be waiting on the other side
Every time I close my eyes
It’s like a dark paradise
No one compares to you”

Least Favorite Song: Radio

Other Songs I Enjoyed: Born To Die, Blue Jeans, Diet Mountain Dew, Summertime Sadness

Album Review: Human Again by Ingrid Michaelson

1. Fire, 2. This Is War, 3. Do It Now, 4. I'm Through, 5. Blood Brothers, 6. Black And Blue, 7. Ribbons, 8. How We Love, 9. Palm Of Your Hand, 10. Ghost, 11. In The Sea, 12. Keep Warm, 13. End Of The World

A constant theme in this album is that of a significant other who’s done you wrong, either because they’ve cut you open, burned you down, locked you out, knocked you down, ripped through you, let you fall, let you go, walked away from you, crushed you, broken you down, or dropped you. All of those terms are used throughout the album. And yet at the end of it, Ingrid Michaelson sings “will you find me so that we can go together?” on the song End Of The World. That’s kind of twisted, but I suppose it’s common when dealing with love.

The only song not alluding to love is Do It Now, in which she sings “don’t waste a minute on the darkness and the pity sitting in your mind” in an attempt to inspire someone to take positive action in their life. In some of the others she sings without regret (I’m Through), willing to fight back (This Is War), coming to a realization (Black and Blue), even enjoying the pain (Palm Of Your Hand), and concerned with the smaller things in life (Keep Warm).

There’s a good variation of sounds too, Ghost is dark and daunting, Fire is quick paced, Do It Now is uplifting, Black and Blue has a seductive feel, and I’m Through and How We Love are more stripped down. I can’t compare this album to her previous ones because I’ve only heard a handful of her old songs, yet this album sounds like a good collection of songs, with a consistent theme. Album rating: 4/5

Favorite Song: Ghost

“I’m a ghost
Haunting these halls
Climbing up walls that I never knew were there
And I’m lost
Broken down the middle of my heart, heart
I’m broken down the middle of my heart, heart, heart
You know you make me a ghost
You make me a ghost”

Least Favorite Song: Palm Of Your Hand

Other Songs I Enjoyed: This Is War, I’m Through, Black and Blue, How We Love