Archive for the ‘Album’ Tag
With a back catalogue including songs that have been used all over US TV including E4 favourites One Tree Hill and Smallville along with a previous release being the theme tune to the Sci Fi series The 4400, Amanda Abizaid remains an unknown name here in the UK. I think she deserves to have a bigger fan base over here, especially with the upcoming release of This Life.
Abizaid has a soft voice; the vocals that almost sound as though they come with built in echoes. Of course, effects have been used to enhance this voice but the natural talent is evident from the very first track on this eight song album. Blue Star Red Sky has been mixed to create a sense of a lot going on behind the vocals. Whilst this isn’t something I’m desperately fond of – I’m all for the voice, deservedly, being the centrepiece – it works in this track.
Undivided is more favourable for me because of the husky vocals and the use of the flute. Yes, that’s right – the instrument I once gained passes up to Grade 2 in is being used in this record. Anyway, that’s enough of my musical history, the lyrics tell their own intriguing story here which always scores brownie points in my book..
Both Believe It and This Life show the stronger side to Abizaid’s vocals. Without too many competing sounds, her voice sounds much more powerful and is generally more pleasant. And the latter has a lovely chorus that you can’t help but sing-along to – much to the despair of those around me as I belt it out at a far less impressive standard.
It’s the last track, My Friend, which I particularly enjoyed for its slow tempo and solemn tones. The verses gradually build up to the chorus, singing of poison being turned into medicine – oh, how I love a good metaphor!
Overall, it’s a short, but sweet, album from the Lebanon born singer songwriter. I’d have liked a few more tracks with some simple vocals that weren’t being hidden by effects, but I can’t really complain.
This Life is released on 15th September
If you weren’t already aware of my love for The Boy Who Trapped The Sun then you clearly haven’t been following me on twitter or read this review of a live performance of his. In fact, I’ve seen him twice now. And loved him both times.
Scottish born Colin MacLeod has just released his debut album Fireplace and as much as I’d like to keep this amazing album to myself so he keeps playing small shows, he’s too good for me not to share.
I know I should do the orderly thing and begin with the first track and work my way through nicely, but I can’t. Because this album is home to one of my favourite songs ever – may I (re)introduce you to Dreaming Like A Fool. A song about sleeping next to someone who is planning on killing you, the metaphors are pretty full on – “You could never be an actress/I know the knife’s under the mattress”. The song is catchy. But not repetitive. It’s deep. Without being depressing. In other words, it’s perfectly balanced and I urge you all to give it a listen (or even a legal download!)
Now, back to the beginning. Golden opens the album with the sound of a seashore immediately relaxing you and preparing you for MacLeod’s vocals. His soft voice works so well with the guitar that you just want to hug him. Soothing vocals are also found in Katy – the first single from the album. Whilst it’s more upbeat with it’s quicker tempo, it still has the heartfelt lyrics that define the album.
Title track Fireplace, the slightly haunting I See You and an old favourite of mine Home all show MacLeod’s Scottish accent being given a starring role. The latter also houses a great bass line that I adore. He doesn’t disappoint in Thorn In Your Side or Walking In The Dark either. He doesn’t disappoint anywhere on this album. It’s a rarity that I love every track on an album, but I genuinely do. If anything I’d say his hidden track Poem is his weakest but that’s solely due to it being a poem – an art form I often struggle to appreciate. But if you like poetry then I’m sure you’ll love it.
Telescope has a strong opening guitar line that leads into those familiar soft vocals. And Copper Down is stunning. Oh, and I can’t fault Antique Cobweb either.
To put it simply: I love this album. I love Dreaming Like A Fool to the extreme. But this album is definitely worth a buy. And if you get the chance to see The Boy Who Trapped The Sun live (he’s playing at V this month) then you must go and see him.
When I read Gilli Moon’s press release, I was immediately struck by the phrase ‘Australian Singer Songwriter’. Those three words epitomise my music taste, so why was I unaware of this artist who has just released her sixth album? She’s not the most mainstream artist, but nor are most of the artists who fill my iPod. To be honest, I don’t know why I wasn’t aware of her. But I am now, and that’s the important thing.
The Stillness plays home to fourteen tracks which each shine in their own way. Opening with Conversation With Me, Moon’s soft vocals demonstrate her natural ability that compliment the piano playing which accompanies her voice.
I Am is a stand out track for me. Whilst Moon has been compared to the likes of Alanis Morrisette (something I don’t disagree with) it’s Genevieve Little – another Aussie who I once randomly stumbled across who I am reminded of in this upbeat number. The chorus is full of optimism and charisma, emphasising the happiness behind the song.
The ‘haunting’ track of the album is Days In November. Background vocals and a repetitive chorus may often be seen as flaws in a song, yet here they serve to reinforce the strength of Moon’s vocals. It’s floaty without hitting the extreme airiness that Imogen Heap overwhelms me with.
Before I listened to Cos I Love You So, I assumed it would be cutesy pop. I was proven wrong with this track and its powerful chorus that some may say – OK, so my mum was listening to it and made a comment – sounds like Madonna. And that’s not a criticism by any means. Although, my minor critique would be the juxtaposition between Moon’s vocals and the, perhaps misplaced, rapping interlude by a male vocalist that just doesn’t seem to flow for me.
The Stillness is out now.
Having enjoyed his debut album, I was excited to hear what Jack Johnson’s latest album To The Sea had to offer. Bought using a Play.com gift voucher, it came with the added perk of knowing I hadn’t had to fork out money to ascertain it.
The CD arrived with the most beautiful sleeve. A seascape painted with the bluest sky and a lyrics booklet stapled onto the cardboard was filled with images of different coloured woods. It screams of life’s simple pleasures and mimicked the acoustic, untouched nature of Johnson’s songs. Dedicated to Johnson’s father Jeff, I immediately got the impression that this is unadulterated Johnson. It’s him singing what he wants, how he wants. Which is good because that what I believe music should be about.
Upon listening through this album four times, I feel that I am now in a position to provide you with a one word summary of these thirteen tracks: samey. Now, before you take that as a negative review and put away your wallets that you have prised out ready to take on my words of wisdom, I must say that I do like the album. Johnson knows the songs that work for him. And he sticks to them. Whilst You And Your Heart kicks the album off with strength, the songs get less and less impactful until about three quarters of the way through where things pick up again with Red Wine, Mistakes, Mythology and Pictures of People Taking Pictures. It’s fair to say that after two listens, these were the only songs that I could sing the chorus to simply by looking at their titles.
Album title track To The Sea is a grower. I think I like it because it maintains the raw style of the CD with Johnson’s guitar playing shining through. Using a monosyllabic title, At Or With Me woos me in a linguistical sense plus I am a fan of the piano introduction which, for once, does evolve into something more exciting as the song progresses. The softer vocals that open Anything But The Truth are endearing but the song fails to pick up the pace and lacks the energy and enthusiasm that I like to find in the vocals.
If you like Jack Johnson’s style, then it’d be worthwhile investing in this album. I am happy to own this album; it is genuine easy listening and non-offensive. However it doesn’t quite enthuse me in the way in which I want it to. I am seeing it as an album that will grow on me though.
From the opening notes of Fire Escape, I was immediately struck by the soulful tones of Diane Birch. Raised with religion as her parent’s top priority, the aptly named Bible Belt album combines soul with gospel to deliver these thirteen songs.
There’s a cute video for Valentino which uses many camera tricks to create something quite exciting. In fact, it was this video that inspired me to write this review. It’s a cheerful song with the title referring to an imaginary friend who appears to have been her way of escaping her strict upbringing. She didn’t discover pop music until her teenage years, although she played the piano from an early age, which works well as an accompaniment for her vocals.
Other personal highlights of the album would have to be Fools, Rewind and Don’t Wait Up for their varying styles. Whilst I enjoy Mirror Mirror for it’s reflections upon Birch’s life, I can’t help but find it tiring. It’s not hard work to listen to – I’d actually class it as ‘easy listening’ – but her soft voice could do with a bit of energy injected into it on a few songs to prevent the listener from falling asleep.
Forgiveness begins with the religious term ‘Hallelujah’ referencing Birch’s past once more. Her childhood clearly had a profound effect on her with travelling around the world being a major part of her first ten years. By ten, she’d lived in three different continents and would later settle in a fourth, Europe, when it came to writing Bible Belt. Each country must have brought with it new experiences and many goodbyes which Birch has been quoted saying she got used to. It can’t have been easy arriving somewhere, settling in then leaving, but I guess that was all she knew and so she’s used these experiences to help construct the album.
Whilst it’s not the most uplifting album, nor the most exciting, Bible Belt has a selection of sophisticated songs that are full of aspiration, regret and emotion. Birch has a great vocal ability and her lyrics are full of meaning which I always regard highly.
If you’re one of the few people who’ve actually read my review of Anthony Snape’s debut, you’ll already be aware of my adoration for him. And in particular, for Sunday. As such, I was delighted when Acoustic Sunday was released.
Beginning with the aforementioned track, it immediately makes my stomach feel anxious. The power that these songs have over me is incredible. They evoke emotion from you enveloping you in their narratives. Sunday sings of how quickly time passes by and how the bad times will soon pass.
“Tomorrow you’re older, so today you should smile” he sings as he encourages you to “break from the cycle” that we’ve all become trapped in. Tomorrow isn’t going to cause us any pain. Actually that’s a bit of a lie. Tomorrow is my last day of Sixth Form. It’s also the day of my first A Level exam. Both of these things could turn out to be painful. So maybe Snape has been a little overoptimistic, but we all need that optimism in our lives.
The album is made of three tracks from Disappearing Day and four new ones. Whilst I obviously adore Sunday, that doesn’t mean that Frequency and Little Piece Of Love aren’t amazing in their acoustic glory.
The first new song is Still Not Over You. As Snape holds the long notes, he manages to show deep emotions without even saying a word. His songs carry so much emotion that they can lead you to get so caught up in his emotions that your own feelings go into some sort of overhaul and you’re left questioning everything and anything. If you’re emotionally vulnerable then maybe this isn’t the best thing to listen to. But I guess it’s all about how you listen to it.
Pretty Girl has a title that makes me think of the kind of R&B tracks that top the charts. Fortunately this is nothing like that. Emotionally powerful (have I mentioned how emotional Snape’s music is?!), it makes you wonder who the pretty girl is. And how you wish you were her. But then you realise you’re not her and how nobody thinks of you as being like her and so you take a few minutes to wallow in self-pity.
Upon exiting the self-pitying stage, you can listen to the stunning Frozen Blues. The piano carries the lyrics along beautifully. It’s a love song full of metaphors (and you know how much I love a good metaphor!) that balances the happy and the sad to produce something perfect for singing along to loudly as you drive, forgetting that your windows are wound down. And yes, I may be speaking from personal experience here.
I’ve saved my favourite of the newer tracks until last. I once listened to Can’t Stop The Rain on repeat for an hour. It’s incredible. “No matter how the world might change. You still can’t stop the rain”. This is a man whose words speak volumes. He’s optimistically realistic. Or maybe realistically optimistic. Whichever way round, this song is something special.
In fact, this album is something special. It’s oozing with emotion in it’s rawest form. If I had a hundredth of the songwriting talents Snape has I would think of myself as incredibly fortunate.
It has taken me a while to get into Sia. As an Australian female singer/songwriter with a bit more media coverage than most of my favourites, you’d have thought I’d have taken a listen a lot sooner. But I didn’t. It was only when I was prompted on Twitter to download Some People Have Real Problems that I gave her a chance to shine.
With album artwork echoing everything that is beautifully awkward about the Paint application, I was expecting something a bit quirky. And yes, having seen some of her videos on YouTube, they are a little bit different to the usual drones of miming and choreography that populates our charts. (See this video for her new single Clap Your Hands to find this out for yourself!)
Little Black Sandals has a catchy hook in the chorus. It’s floaty, without being too floaty. It’s more Joss Stone than Imogen Heap in floatiness, which I regard as a positive. Her voice is soulful and full of emotion which adds to the strength of the songs.
I don’t like lentils, but that hasn’t stopped my appreciation of Lentil. In particular the rhythm that accompanies the lyrics which helps to keep the song flowing for the entirety of it’s duration.
Day Too Soon is possibly my favourite song on the album. Her voice reminds me of Gabrielle with it’s huskiness at times. The narrative tells the classic “I’ve been waiting all my life” story before meeting that special one “not a day too soon”. It might be clichéd but it’s well structured to emote these feelings beautifully.
Upon reading the lyrics to You Have Been Loved they carry a lot of meaning. Perhaps they’re too dragged out in the song itself, but the craftsmanship lyrically is impressive. Simple metaphors are used to construct the story of an ending relationship.
Naming a song The Girl You Lost to Cocaine immediately has an impact upon the listener. It’s a bit ‘jazz meets pop meets non-shouty-but-powerful-singing’. Combining these aspects works well and produces a song that I can imagine could’ve been radio friendly were it not for the ten seconds or so instrumental in the middle in which you’re left to reflect on the song’s title.
The beginning of Academia screams Regina Spektor to me. But then things suddenly change and the quickly spoken words become haunting slow lyrics for the chorus. The contrast achieves something intriguing and ultimately rather pleasant. Oh, and she sings “If I am a number I am infinity plus one” – despite the lack of rationality in this statement I admire the use of ‘infinity’ in any context that doesn’t relate to Buzz Lightyear.
The lullaby-esque I Go to Sleep is a bit too tiring for my liking and Playground takes a while to get into, but Death by Chocolate is far superior. The verses introduce different ideas of ‘Death by…’ situations that are all rather poignant in making a point.
“Death by anger this is true
Just let him go he can’t hurt you
Oh little girl this is such a cruel, cruel world
this is the first, of a million broken hearts”
There’s something about Soon We’ll Be Found that reminds me of Paloma Faith. Electric Bird has background sounds of, unsurprisingly, birds. And Beautiful Calm Driving is, well it’s beautiful and calm.
It’s in Lullaby where the slower pace really shows off the softer vocals that Sia has to offer. Occasionally there’s the odd word that I found inaudible, but that’s what the huskiness of the vocals does. And I quite like it.
Ending with the upbeat Buttons, the album is full of variety. Sia has a great vocal range that suits several different types of songs. I’m glad I was advised to look into Sia; I shall now continue to spread the Sia love by suggesting that you do the same. Check her out. And then send any other recommendations in my direction!
I can’t really remember how I discovered Jason Reeves. It must’ve been at the end of 2008 and possibly when I was in my Colbie Caillat phase. Anyway, I guess that doesn’t really matter. I discovered him. And I downloaded The Magnificent Adventures of Heartache and Other Frightening Tales.
Opening with the vaguely titled Someone Somewhere, you are immediately greeted with Reeves’ vocals and guitar playing. He’s not outstanding on either, but he’s very likeable. And extremely listenable. His songs are well written. In fact, I’d say that his song-writing is his greatest talent. He knows how to emote feelings into words. And then cleverly throw them together to form a song.
The beginning of Happy Accident is lovely. Using the simile “like a million people trying to catch a train on a Tuesday” to describe the craziness of running into a girl. When you listen carefully to his lyrics, you realise how much sense they make. The thought of premodifying an ‘accident’ with ‘happy’ could almost be seen as an antonym. Yet it makes so much sense in the context of the song. And concluding the song with the aforementioned line from the beginning of the song works really well to create that cyclical structure inspiring you to give it another listen.
You in a Song is a beautiful song lyrically. It’s a song about the desire to write a song. I’m guessing you could have probably guessed that from the title. He wants to “put your smile on paper”. This would be a difficult task for most songwriters so he works around it to create lyrics that display the same raw emotion.
The track list continues with Reaching, Pretty Eyes and Entwined. All three are pretty slow-paced and combine guitar and piano behind Reeves’ voice. They each appear to be about a girl. As do most of the songs on this particular album, which is particularly apt for the title of it. He’s found a formula that works and I don’t blame him for sticking to it.
Sunbeam Lights is just one minute long. I wish it was longer. The few lyrics say so much. It sounds truly heartfelt with the vocals laid on top of some simple piano playing.
In Never Find Again, the song sounds like it is being directed at one individual. One female individual. He sings of this girl saying how love is nothing like the movies. But the way he sings about love makes it seem as though it could be a classic RomCom storyline. Actually, this song could easily be the kind of track that’s laid over a RomCom where the “will they, won’t they” couple inevitably come across a hiccup, before realising that they are perfect for each other. I think Reeves should definitely look into this as an additional career path.
The longest song on the album, New Hampshire still keeps me listening for the 6:37 duration of it. His voice feels so welcoming that it would feel rude to skip through any of this song. Whilst it’s a long song, there’s little I can say to describe it other than that you should really listen to it yourself.
There’s a line in Old Fashion Letters that I love – “with crossed out words that you took back like “Do you really miss me?” Simple lines like this can say a lot. The pragmatics behind them are clear enough that further description is not necessary.
Just Friends is another song that I think would work well in a RomCom (Yes, I’m a bit of a sucker for this genre). The lyrics are quite obvious and blunt in comparison to other tracks on the album. To put it simply: He does not want to be just friends. So whoever it was written for should really listen up.
I’m never quite sure about The Fragrant Taste of Rain. It’s not so much of a song as words spoken on top of a few piano notes. I’m far more fond of Gasoline with it’s dramatic beat creating suspense. Another song about a relationship (quelle surprise!), the title comes from the line “covering my heart in gasoline”. Preparing his heart to be set alight is quite a dramatic idea. And it’s more original than a million other love songs that I’ve heard.
My two favourite songs fall right at the end of this fifteen song strong album. Photographs & Memories and The End know how to pull at your heartstrings. The former ends with the beautifully written line “cause every line on your face makes a beautiful maze for my eyes to trace”. Whilst the latter sings of that moment of realisation after a break up where you see that you’re the one who has got to make a change. But it’s written optimistically. It has not been written to depress you. In fact the line “Every ending’s a new beginning” is a motto by which I believe everyone should live by. In all senses, it mimics that saying about doors closing whilst others open. We shouldn’t dwell on the past, but embrace the future for all the new opportunities it is about to offer.
It’s a long album. Containing several long songs. But it’s worth listening to them all (bar The Fragrant Taste of Rain if I’m being fussy). It’s definitely Reeves’ best album. And it truly does take you on a magnificent adventure of heartache.
Nerina Pallot is a Jersey born, North London living, Arsenal supporting (she does have her faults!) singer songwriter. And a rather impressive one at that. I’ve seen her twice before, and already reviewed her latest album The Graduate. It’s been a few years since I last saw her and, alas, I was rather excited to here the announcement of her latest tour with a special gig at Union Chapel, London, on April 28th.
Combining my excitement for next Wednesday with the voice in my head nagging me to write something productive, I’ve decided to review Fires, Pallot’s second album.
It starts with her biggest hit. Everybody’s Gone To War can probably be described as one of the most literal songs that Pallot’s ever penned. (Oh, on a side note, Pallot’s been busy sharing her song-writing talents of late, writing for Diana Vickers, but, more importantly, writing for Kylie Minogue including the title track of her new album!) It’s a bit political –which I like. “If love is a drug/I guess we’re all sober” which later progresses to become “If God’s on our side then God is a Joker/Asleep on the job his children fall over”. Her use of metaphor is incredible. So simple, and yet so powerful. And how does it end? With the scarily simple line “I’ve got a friend who’s a pure bread killing machine/I think he might be dead by Christmas”. Truly thought provoking.
Pallot often writes about the most mundane things, turning them into something of beauty. In Halfway Home this is evident – “I’ve got a quarter in my pocket of an apple left to eat”. I love the vocals on the chorus. They sound so effortless, and yet they are sung in a key that I would be scared to ever attempt.
Next up come two songs of outstanding quality: Damascus and Idaho both flow with beautiful narratives that sound so heartfelt. The former sounds harsher, with the odd expletive thrown in for effect. And it works, so I’m not complaining. The latter has an incredibly catchy piano intro that immediately tells you it’s going to be something sublime.
I’ll gloss over Learning To Breathe – it’s not that I don’t like it. I do. I just think Pallot has a lot of better songs.
I never really liked Mr King until I saw it on one of Pallot’s Monday night live streamed shows. It changed the song for me. The simplicity of the guitar combined with the direct vocals just suddenly clicked for me. Whoever this ‘Mr King’ is, I hope he is impressed with this piece of art. It’s beautiful.
Geek Love. What a song. I’ve not listened to it much of late. But wow. It’s my favourite Pallot track. It’s also my friend Bryony’s favourite track (she’s even got herself a Geek Love tshirt). We’re both hoping it’ll make an appearance next week. I’m not sure what it is about this song. The lyrics to the verses and the chorus are so perfectly written for the mood of the music and the many messages of the song. It’s even got a bit that repeats the word “grey”. Three times. I love grey. But I love Geek Love more.
The piano in Sophia makes the song. Sure, the metaphors of the “fire escape symphony” are very clever. But it’s the piano that makes it haunting in places. It carries the lyrics along. I just can’t see it working with any other instrument as well as it does with just the vocals and the piano.
All Good People is a song that never stood out for me. The album version sounds a little too electronic for my liking, however live performances are far more favourable. It’s the same with Heart Attack. It’s just not my favourite style of Pallot’s.
Ending with Nickindia, Pallot returns to her more simplistic style. Her vocals shine this way. There’s a “ooh” that I love. It hits several notes that (despite many, many attempts) I just cannot hit. It’s slow paced, and it just works.
I’m sorry for the empty adjectives that I’ve used throughout this piece. If you wanted, I could write even more about each track. But even those of you who’ve made it this far would probably draw a line at a word-by-word analysis of each song! So I’ll leave you with one word to describe Fires: Beautiful.