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Friday, August 29, 2014

Track-by-Track: Taemin - Ace

God, it's been a long time since I've done one of these. And with all of my going on about K-Pop this summer, it's time for some in-depth opinionating on some of the summer's biggest albums, starting with the solo debut of Shinee's Taemin. A note about any K-Pop review I do: I am not a Korean speaker. I search out translations of the lyrics when it interests me, but lyrics are definitely not something I'm focusing too heavily on in these reviews.

1. Ace - We get a slow burn to open the mini-album. I'm usually not a fan of this, but this track is so slinky and interesting and well-produced that I can't help but love it. The waterfall of vocals in the chorus are especially effective. The English bit at the end makes me laugh, though, as it's such a weird phrase: "Talkin' about what I know about". 10/10

2. Danger - Loved it from the very first listen. This is what Michael Jackson in 2014 would sound like, albeit Korean. It's an impressive, dense production, with the catchiest "bom bom bom" bits I've ever heard in a song. Full of attitude and a chaotic, propulsive beat, this is more than a song. It's an opening salvo. 10/10

3. Experience - We open with some spaghetti western guitar before launching into another catchy, uptempo MJ-inspired pop number. This suffers just a bit by following the excellent Danger, but it's still another great production with an easy chorus and strong beat. 9/10

4. Pretty Boy (ft. Kai) - This sounds more like current K-Pop than anything else on the album, and that's no bad thing. From the trumpeting opening to the huge, aggressive hook, this is a definite standout. If they were to select another single from the album, this would be my pick. In a lot of ways, it sounds like a mix between Shinee (Taemin's group) and EXO (Kai's group), which obviously makes sense. Doesn't make it any less awesome. 10/10

5. Wicked - We're going old-school again, with a slightly funkier feel. My favorite part is when things slow down for the bridge. It's actually better than the chorus, which is a little weak melodically. Still good, but not up to the four tracks that preceded it. 8/10

6. Play Me - With a nod to symmetry, we end with another slow track. This isn't as interesting or melodically rewarding as Ace. Unfortunately, it's easily my least favorite track. Perfectly pleasant, but it just doesn't do anything special for me. 6/10

Album Grade: 8.6/10 Highly Recommended

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Caotico - Bad Heart

"You came for answers"

Caotico had a BRILLIANT debut single with Brains Out a couple of years ago, which just also happened to be a duet with fellow Swede Tove Styrke. Then they released their album and I was underwhelmed. It just wasn't my thing. Now they're back with something that's definitely more up my alley. In a lot of ways, this is Swedish indie-rock to the hilt. It's got that languid vocal style and production that I feel is a hallmark of the genre, but it's also got a cool 80's electro vibe that caught my attention right away. I'd like to see the band continue with this theme as they move on with, presumably, another album. They've got heaps of potential and great charisma.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Buy the first album here. Follow me on twitter and facebook.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Josef Johansson - Blickar kan mörda

One of these days, I'll actually post a song in English again. But for now, I can't neglect the just-released single by Sweden's Josef Johansson. For those not in the know, Johansson was the performer of my favorite track at this year's Melodifestivalen, the epic Hela Natten. Blickar kan mörda (Looks Can Murder) is the new single and it's definitely more uptempo, but still retains that big, lush production.I love the slightly electronic, slightly acoustic, almost orchestral dance sound in this song. Even though he'd neatly slot into a "teen pop" label and probably be pretty successful there, Josef's music feels more mature and subtle overall. This song is cowritten by Swedish music legend Orup, and I'd imagine that it's his input that gives this single its air of classic, non-trendy Swedish pop. I really hope we get a full album from Josef soon. He's got a ton of potential and his singles run is three for three so far.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. Follow me on twitter and facebook.