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Friday, August 27, 2010

Track-by-Track: Darin - Lovekiller

It's always nice to see a little cohesion in pop albums -- an artist that knows the sound they want and sticks to it. No wishy-washy one-off experiments. With Darin's 5th release, he's gone for a very specific, big-beat-ballad sound that suits him better than anything else he's done to this point. It's cheesy stuff, but of the absolute highest quality.

1. Microphone - One of only two tracks that fall into the "not a ballad" category, this is an excellent, aggressive ode to performance that opens the album perfectly. A huge hit waiting to happen. 10/10

2. You're Out Of My Life - His Melodifestivalen entry, and a template for the rest of the ballads on the album. It was one of the stronger entries in the competition this year (despite some lousy lyrics) and fits in wonderfully here. 9/10

3. Lovekiller - His most overblown (and best) single yet. I loved this from the moment I heard it. Grandiose accusatory lyrics + chest-beating choir = cheesy pop bliss. 10/10

4. Only You Can Save Me - Apart from the singles, this is probably the strongest ballad of the bunch. It's got that fist-pumping, larger-than-life chorus. Totally formulaic, but it's a formula that works. 10/10

5. Drowning - Another clunker lyric-wise, but the marching band drumbeat and huge melody save it. If you're gonna write a pop ballad, this is exactly what it should sound like. Still, it's not as strong as the last one. 8/10

6. Viva La Vida - I'd take a lot of flak in certain circles for saying this, but I prefer this 100% to the Coldplay version. In fact, this is the version I'll be listening to from now on. He really brings out a level in the lyrics that Chris Martin didn't. Who would've thought that electro euro-dance would have complimented this so well? It's pretty epic. 10/10

7. Endless Summer - My least favorite track, though for a gentle, late-Summer acoustic ballad it's not bad. And it fills an important slot, offering some much-needed texture to an otherwise bombastic album. 8/10

8. OK (Dangerous Game) - A Gaga-esque dance track (the only one here) and one hell of a hook-fest. There's a heavy Michael Jackson influence, though the sound is more along the lines of his last album. Except it's better. 10/10

9. Can't Stop Love - A sappy ballad that returns him to the heavy-beat sound of the first few tracks. Not as strong as some of the earlier tracks, but pleasant enough. 8/10

10. I'll Be Alright - A slower, more haunting track with a great hook. His vocals really pop on this one, and the lyrics are some of the best on the album. A very strong closer. 9/10

Album Grade: 9.2/10

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Graffiti 6 - Annie, You Save Me

"You save me from the world"

Graffiti 6 is a new soul-pop project from singer Jamie Scott and producer Tommy D (Jay-Z, Janet, Kylie). It's a completely refreshing, lush, classic sound that couldn't have come at a better time. The guys have already released an excellent EP and Annie, You Save Me is their new single and first video. In both sound and mechanics, they're reminiscent of Gnarls Barkley, but they draw from even more genres, giving the songs an interesting anything-goes sound. This one has a folksy feel to it, but the trip-hop beat backing up the layered vocals takes it to a different level. It just sort of washes over you. Very nice stuff. I'm excited to hear an album's worth of material.

GRAFFITI 6 - Annie You Save Me by clandestinul

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


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

One Night Only - Can't Stop Now

"Don't despair, don't give up"

As usually happens, One Night Only's new album doesn't quite live up to the potential of brilliant first single Say You Don't Want It. It's full of fine, synth-assisted brit pop, but nothing really stands out as unique or completely memorable. Pleasant. That's the word. It's very pleasant -- and recommended -- but I can't say that I'm jumping up and down over it. Oddly, my second favorite track after the single is the closing song, an uptempo with the strongest hook on the entire album. It begins as an atmospheric, beat-free anthem before chugging right into a tense electro beat that doesn't let up. In fact, after a few more listens I might even prefer it to the single.

One Night Only - Can't Stop Now by alienhits

(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, August 24, 2010

Track-by-Track: Katy Perry - Teenage Dream

Despite helping to define her era of pop with a strong string of singles, Katy Perry's debut album suffered from a lack of consistency. Teenage Dream is much stronger. The goal here is mainstream radio domination, and judged by that standard, you can't really argue with the quality.

1. Teenage Dream - The album's high-point, and an absolute firecracker of a song. It's the kind of pop that's at once disposable and totally stirring. A blazing declaration of intent that lets you know exactly what kind of album you're in for. 10/10

2. Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) - The obnoxious lyrics are offset (and saved) by a top-down, Summer melody that flirts with being too repetitive but wins you back with an aggressive sax solo. 8/10

3. California Gurls - There's a reason why this has been a global hit. Sure, it's stupid (and I completely wrote it off at first), but the hooks get under your skin. And like it or not, this will forever define the summer of 2010. 10/10

4. Firework - More Euro-club than any other track here, this is huge sounding stuff, though a little out of place with the other songs. The beat is enormous, though. 10/10

5. Peacock - These single-entendre songs are usually unfathomably horrendous. While it's hardly intelligent, this is funny enough to work. The hook's pretty catchy, too. 8/10

6. Circle The Drain - A vitriolic, rocky track that forgoes gimmicks for an urgent melody and great production. One of the best songs on the album. 10/10

7. The One That Got Away - The tone of this is the polar opposite of the last track, which makes for a jarring transition. Still, this is a sweet pop song with a great melody. Wouldn't be a bad single choice. 9/10

8. E.T. - A beat-heavy midtempo heavy on effects. It's different from everything on here, which is both good and bad. Initially impressive, I've found that this has dulled with time. 8/10

9. Who Am I Living For? - Another darker track focusing more on attitude and tone than melody. It's an interesting sound, but forgettable when compared to the first handful of tracks. 8/10

10. Pearl - Now this is a really strange one. It's a subtle electro ballad, but has the effect of aging Perry by about ten years. The chorus is pleasant, but it feels lightweight compared to the hits and hits-to-be on the rest of the album. 7/10

11. Hummingbird Heartbeat - I love the production on this. It's got that uptempo 80's synth-rock sound to it. I'm not as crazy about the melody, though the chorus is very strong. 8/10

12. Not Like The Movies - Ballads are not Perry's stong suit, but this works surprisingly well. There's a connection here in the delivery that's missing throughout most of the album. 8/10

Album Grade: 8.7/10

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Darin - Microphone

"Hit the lights, start the show"

Though I've often admired his singles, I've never totally loved a full album by Swedish popstar Darin. That's changed with his new release, Lovekiller. What makes this kind of surprising is that it's an album dominated by ballads, which are not usually my cup of tea. Darin's secret weapon this time around is songwriter extraordinaire Tony Nilsson, who's had his hand in all but three of the tracks. I'm a huge fan of Nilsson's pop songs, even though the lyrics tend to be pretty stupid (and I've gotta admit, this album has some of the dumbest lyrics around). But his songwriting is stuck on "soaring," a perfect place to be when working with a talent like Darin, who's got a serious case of Michael-Jackson-complex (in the best possible way). Every ballad hits its cheesy-serious mark, and the few uptempos work wonders. Microphone kicks off the album in a big way--a declaration of "x-factor" that (unsurprisingly) is being used to promo this season of Swedish Idol. Full album review coming soon...

Darin - Microphone by alienhits

(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.