Friday, June 26, 2015

Track by Track Review: Tori Kelly - Unbreakable Smile

Singer-songwriter and Capitol Records recording artist Tori Kelly has finally released her long awaited debut LP. Gaining traction from Vine and YouTube clips - as well as collaborations with acapella group Pentatonix - have given her enough traction for a budding career after somehow missing the Top 24 of American Idol years ago in season nine.

Where I Belong: An awkward, uneventful way to launch the album. Moments where it begins to shine are awkwardly shifted and diverted. 4/10

Unbreakable Smile: The first full length track is an uplifting Natasha Bedingfield style mid-tempo. "God made me sexy / Who cares if only I know?" is the most clever lyric, but also one of the few decent ones. Tori definitely doesn't care, and neither will the listener. 5.5/10

Nobody Love: The Max-Martin produced, summery, moderate hit Nobody Love sets a much more suitable pace for the album, even if it is somewhat of a Problem-copy cat with its large verse-slim chorus format. 9/10

Expensive: Another up-tempo is very appreciated. Essentially a sassy Uptown Funk with gospel undertones, what more could Kelly need? 9.5/10

Should've Been Us: A fiery Kelly has emerged (another appreciated Kelly varient). The chorus is filled with high wails and head bobbing syncopations. The rasp on "both know?" To die for (even if it is strained a bit). 8.5/10

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Track by Track Review: Carly Rae Jepsen - Emotion

Carly Rae Jepsen (IE "that Call Me Maybe girl") has released her second mainstream Pop album: Emotion.  After almost 3 years of working, "Emotion" enters the world with every track being written by Jepsen, as well writers like Sia making an appearance.  Preceded by the lead single I Really Like You which has moved about 1,000,000 copies worldwide, "Emotion" is ready to capture the attention of pop-fanatics.

Run Away With Me: It's unlikely to turn into a hit, but it's still the best pop song of the year, as well as the song that puts I Really Like You to shame. If anyone could do it, it would be Carly. 10/10

Emotion: A groovy, guitar driven track that shows some production restraint, something unlike past Carly works. The biggest and most genius part of the song? The hook being taken not by Carly's vocal, but by a lone electric guitar. That being said, it's still pulled off remarkably well. 9.5/10

I Really Like You: Should've been the song of the summer. Light, fun, ridiculously catchy, Carly just waltzes over the drum beats and synths like a true pro. All of that makes the couplet "Who gave you eyes like that? Said you could keep them?" over-lookable. 10/10

Gimme Love: A stripped back, sultry ballad. A pleading Carly groans over a lone guitar riff before growing into a chorus of backing vocals. Simple, but effective. Likely a track most will pass over. 8/10

All That: And the lights in the club are dimmed for this (shockingly) slow song. "Show me if you want me, if I'm all that" sounds strangely seductive yet heartbreaking, an effective combination. It drags on a bit too long, but if you give this song a chance to hold your attention, it's worth it. 8/10

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Track by Track Review: Florence + The Machine - How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

After an unfortunately long hiatus, Florence + The Machine returns with their third LP, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. What does the mainstream's most promising act give us this time? Take a look (and a listen).

Ship To Wreck - A fantastic start to the album, straight from Lungs. The pace and energy make for the realization that Florence + The Machine, one of the must talented and original groups of the century, is back. 9.5/10

What Kind of Man - The lead single and Ceremonials-esque track starts out with a haunting harmony before kicking into an electric guitar swing. Florence sounds as confident as ever, creating an unbelievably catchy chorus. 9/10

How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful - It starts off tame, much like its preceding track, but it soon blossoms to fully represent the vast sky with soaring imperial trumpets. Another appreciated euphoric track. 9/10

Queen of Peace - Florence gains a full-hearted accusatory tone for the first time this album. However, it doesn't have the same gusto and the first three tracks, and feels strangely like filler. 7.5/10

Various Storms and Saints - Calm, haunting and carefully crafted. The back harmonies perfectly match storms and saints, however that may be possible. A fascinating combination of imagery that Florence manages to execute flawlessly. 9/10

Delilah - "I'm dancing with Delilah and the vision is mine," Florence croons over a fast 4/4 beat before a breakdown cuts in the energy into 2/4. This track is constantly breaking and accelerating, making it all the more exhilarating. 9.5/10

Long and Lost - This solemn funeral procession is well placed, though it does feel more like an interlude at points. This whole album so far has played like a movie, BeyoncĂ© and Florence should get together to talk about a visual album for HBHBHB. 8/10

Caught - The middle of the album has slowed down, there's no trumpets, no massive drums, it's all very... Quaint. 7.5/10

Third Eye - Florence delivers sermon-like lyrics here, over hand claps, background doo-wops and pulsing drums, almost as a little brother to Ceremonials' "Heartlines." "I am the same / I'm trying to change," is the most potent refrain so far.  9/10

St. Jude - The flow of St. Jude with it's hollow production led by a lonely synth and oboe is the eye of the hurricane for this album. It's okay,good even, but it doesn't bring anything new to the table. At the same time however, "St. Jude" is subtly charming. 7/10

Mother - Florence abandons all of her signature instruments for a guitar and maraca driven rock track. She's begging for her mother at the end of an emotional night, but without its length, Mother would be another non-event for the album. 7/10

Hiding - Though an upbeat track, Hiding feels slightly creepy, an under appreciated version of Florence (see Seven Devils or Howl). This commanding track deserves the attention that it receives. 8/10

Make Up Your Mind - An interesting choice for an album closer. Most of her contemporaries would opt for a ballad or somber track to end on, but Florence fits this song neatly between the chaos and peace of the album. The end is somewhat abrupt, but the message is clear, make up your ****ing mind. 8.5/10

Where How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful should stumble, it merely wobbles. It's an album filled with rock solid production and lyrics, and safe vocal performances from Welch. A strong contender for album of the year halfway in.