Posts Tagged ‘Eyewear’


Written by James Christopher Sheppard

The original Pop Idol returns, Will Young releases his fifth studio album, Echoes, at the end of August. Young hasn’t made big waves since his second album Friday’s Child when it reached five times platinum status and provided him with the massive single ‘Leave Right Now’ and ‘Your Game’. However, all of his album releases have gone Top Ten in the UK and been certified platinum. The openly gay popstar clearly has a devoted and loyal fan base, but can Echoes propel him back to the success of his early days? The entire album is produced by electronic and synthpop producer Richard X, so the collection should be more attention grabbing than Young’s last rather unmemorable effort, Let It Go.

 

‘Jealousy’

First single, ‘Jealousy’, has already created some excitement amongst the Young fan-base, perhaps due to the upbeat feel of the song. It’s a simple, breezy, emotional tinged synth pop with an 80s feel. The song does have a certain charm, but is unlikely to have the masses yearning to hear it over and over again.

5/10

 

‘Come On’

The tempo and mood is accelerated on ‘Come On’, combining the synth sound with an almost Florence and the Machine ‘Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up)’ drum beat with an element of ‘Maps’ by the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s. While the song certainly shares some similarities with the aforementioned songs, ‘Game On’ feels modern, radio friendly and certainly more addictive than ‘Jealousy’.

8/10

 

‘Runaway’

Sister track to ‘Jealousy’, ‘Runaway’ is breezy with mellow 80s synths circulating around Young sticking to his higher register. This is pretty catchy, with a hypnotic melody.

6/10

 

‘Lie Next to Me’

It’s ballad time and ‘Lie Next to Me’ will make Will Young fans happy enough. It’s quite dream-like, with Young relying on his voice to carry the song. The production is almost like a boy band Christmas single from the late 90s or early 00s. The emotion comes across in Young’s vocal, but the lyrics are almost too simple to really evoke an emotional reaction. Some people will absolutely love it, some may not. I’m somewhere in the middle.

5/10

 

‘Safe From Harm’

Almost Scissor Sister sounding, ‘Safe From Harm’ has a slightly darker element to it than the first four tracks. The synths are complimented by a simple piano played melody and Young uses his voice more variably, which is a breath of fresh air at this point.

7/10

 

‘Good Things’

Will seems to have jumped eras and gone from the 80s into the mid 90s. ‘Good Things’ sounds inspired by George Michael’s classic hit ‘Fastlove’, which knowing his audience is possibly a stroke of genius. A pretty decent example of adult pop, I can already imagine my Mum listening to this on repeat.

8/10

 

‘Happy Now’

The first song to not rely on synth-pop is ‘Happy Now’. Usually I listen to a song while I write about it… I have to say I listened to the whole of this track and had only written one sentence. What can I say about ‘Happy Now’? It’s a pretty slow to mid-tempo song about Will singing about being happy now. The instrumentation is quite refreshing at this point and Will sounds more comfortable here than on some other points on the album, but it is a little dull.

4/10

 

‘Hearts on Fire’

Another tempo change, ‘Hearts on Fire’ is an understated dance number that I can imagine being played in Soho’s coolest bars. The melody is darker than most of the album and the whole song has a certain dangerous and intriguing sexuality about it.

8/10

 

‘Personal Thunder’

Another dark, brooding number, ‘Personal Thunder’ cements Young’s position as the current answer to being what George Michael was during his Older period. The emotion behind ‘Thunder’ is enchanting.

8/10

 

‘Losing Myself’

This is possibly the most 80s sounding track on the album to this point. It could almost be a hit factory produced mid-tempo ballad. It’s not bad.

6/10

 

‘Silent Valentine’

Featuring the most unique and original production on the collection, ‘Silent Valentine’ is transformed from just another synth-heavy electronic slow number, to a gradual captivating track that is one of the most memorable featured here.

8/10

 

‘I Just Want a Lover’

Considering this is almost entirely an electronic album, there are very few cub-worthy moments, but this is definitely one of them. Appealing to a more mature ear, and perhaps a crowd at a swanky cocktail bar rather than your local Oceana club, ‘I Just Want a Lover’ picks up where ‘Good Things’ left off. ‘I just want a lover, nothing that is complicated. I don’t have to know you, we don’t have to talk about it’ Young sings as the song closes. Could this be Will’s sexiest moment yet?

8/10

Read the full review at Eyewear

 

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Charlie Simpson’s Young Pilgrim

Reviewed by James Christopher Sheppard

Charlie Simpson is a name many will know. Some from his days as a third of teen bopping band Busted and some will know him as front man of alternative rock band Fightstar. Either way, Simpson has been known since 2002 and has been a part of five studio albums. At the age of 26, Charlie is releasing his first full-length solo release and it sounds pretty distanced from anything the singer/songwriter has been involved in before.
‘Down Down Down’
First single from the album is a good indication of what is to come. The song is entirely acoustic driven, with thick as treacle vocals, laden with emotional depth. The folk-rock ballad is stacked with multi-layered harmonies and builds to a gentle climax.
10/10
‘Parachutes’
‘Parachutes’, also the second single, picks up the pace and builds on what ‘Down, Down’ has already established. This is possibly the most radio-friendly and mature that Simpson has ever sounded. Brilliant.
10/10
‘All at Once’
‘All at Once’ at first entices with it’s toe tapping beats, but the sound soon turns to a sorrow filled as the song of heartbreak progresses. Simpson’s vocals sound confident and crystal clear, with the song completely utilising his unique tones.
9/10
‘Thorns’
Gentle, with a subtlety that draws you right in to the melodic dreamy higher tones of vocal harmony going on in the background, ‘Thorns’ is a careful ballad. The softer verses against the more exuberant choruses work wonders here.
9/10
‘Cemetery’
The fifth track shifts the memento into a new direction. ‘Cemetery’ is a combination of pop-rock-folk, which makes for a charming reminiscent song and one of absolute authenticity. Simpson’s voice is pushed to the limit, experimenting with his higher range and occasionally showing moments of strain, which surprisingly, adds to the song.
9/10
‘Hold On’
The most mellow moment of the album so far, ‘Hold On’, is lead by multiple layers of Simpson’s harmonies against a backdrop of strings, arranged by the renowned string arranger, Audrey Riley. A well crafted smooth ballad.
9/10
‘I Need a Friend Tonight’
The second string lead track, with assistance from Riley, is simple and melodic. ‘Friend’ is mid-tempo, soft and changes the mood of the album somewhat, as Simpson and the song both remain quite delicate and fragile. It’s hard to decipher whether ‘Friend’ is Simpson claiming he has found or is looking for religion, or if he is claiming he is lost and still can’t find his way home. I’ll let you decide, but it’s a pleasant song all the same.
7/10
‘Suburbs’
The tempo picks up a little with ‘Suburbs’, but the song in all it’s simplicity does little to further what is already great about Young Pilgrim. ‘I need you now, I need you now’ Simpson repeats. It’s possibly the least remarkable song on the album, but it still is not bad.
6/10
‘Sundown’
The temp change was only temporary as we are back down to the balladry of ‘Hold On’. ‘My heart is yearning for you dear’- this strikingly scarce track is one of the most powerful on Young Pilgrim in terms of pure passion.
9/10
Read the rest of the review at Eyewear

Written by James Christopher Sheppard

The editor of blogzine Eyewear, Todd Swift, emailed me today to inform me that my review of the latest Incubus album, If Not Now, When? has become his most read post ever, with over 4,400 views over the past month. The same post has also generated over 1,000 views here on my personal website. So basically I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone for taking the time to read what I write here- knowing so many people are investing their time in reading my pieces fills me with satisfaction and urges me to carry on.

I’d also like to take this moment to add that I am currently seeking any writing opportunities out there. I am eager to published in as many different publications and blogzines as possible. Also, if anyone has any writing/journalistic vacancies in London- or anywhere, and would like to approach me, please contact me at jamessheppard@hotmail.co.uk

Thanks again everyone, please continue to check back, enjoy and comment.


James Christopher Sheppard reviews Lupercalia by Patrick Wolf

 Lupercalia is the fifth studio album from underrated British singer songwriter and all-round musical genius, 27 year old, Patrick Wolf. Each of his previous four albums branch out in different directions, with Patrick experimenting with folk sounds, electronic music, brass lead pop, haunting piano melodies and just about everything in between. Lupercalia was originally intended as part two of concept album The Bachelor, but Wolf dispelled this theory in August 2010 through Twitter, claiming that the concept and original name, The Conqueror, had changed. The theme of the album is reflected in the title, with Lupercalia referring to the ancient festival of love and fertility around Valentines Day. Wolf told Digital Spy that despite the album being about love, which is the most common theme in pop, he ‘wanted to approach it in a way that has not been done before’.

‘The City’ 10/10

Easily the most flamboyant song that Wolf has released since 2007’s live favourite ‘The Magic Position’, ‘The City’ is a joyous celebration of not letting ‘the city destroy our love’. Brass is used heavily throughout the song, which suits the theme as it seems to have an element of standing proud, defiantly, and announcing that it is here to stay. With more songs like this on radio, I’m sure we would notice a much happier Britain.

‘House’ 10/10

Even from the charming intro, ‘House’ is one of the most exhilarating and happiest love songs I have heard in years. If ever there was a song that might make you want to get married- this is it. And somehow, Wolf manages to evoke this feeling without straying into cliché or cheese-land. ‘House’ is an absolutely beautiful, upbeat, shiver inducing love song. Watch a video I recorded of Patrick performing ‘House’ at his exclusive album launch show here: 

‘Bermondsey Street’ 8/10

Less upbeat than the celebratory first two songs, but still very much on the love boat, ‘Bermondsey Street’ has a simple sweet melody and has the sense of walking through your favourite street with the sun beaming down on you.

‘The Future’ 10/10

Possibly Patrick’s most radio-friendly ballad ever, ‘The Future’ builds beautifully around a chorus that relies on some stunning female backing vocals that compliment Patrick’s vocal in a similar way to the Snow Patrol hit, ‘Set the Fire to the Third Bar’, does with Martha Wainwright. The only thing that could improve this song would be more of it!

‘Armistice’ 10/10

The first song to really resemble Patrick’s haunting balladry featured throughout his past works comes in the form of ‘Armistice’. And a striking example it is, easily matching the splendor of ‘Magpie’ from 2007’s The Magic Position or ‘The Sun is Almost Out’ from The Bachelor, only ‘Armistice’ is a song about love surviving throughout the darkest times. Very subtle and moving.

‘William’

‘William’ is less than a minute long and is more of a mid album interlude than a song by itself. ‘William’ appears to be a short poem dedicated to Wolf’s future civil partner, the man who supposedly inspired this entire album.

‘Time of My Life’ 10/10

First single from the album, ‘Time of My Life’ is finally available to own on CD and digitally, following it’s release exclusively on vinyl last December. The song has gone on to become a live favourite, as the already ecstatic crowd at Monday’s album launch show became particularly excited when the first few bars kicked in. ‘Time of My Life’ is a string heavy uptempo song that has a shiver-enducing sentimentality as it features the chorus ‘Happy without you’- presumably about acknowledging the good times through a break-up, wishing the other party well, all while trying to pick yourself off the ground. Pretty heavy song- this deserves an Ivor Novello award.

‘The Days’ 10/10

This song begins very delicately and beautifully and builds into string lead moving finale. ‘The Days’ is an example of Patrick Wolf at his emotionally moving best. With lyrics of yearning and regret leading towards the haunting ‘But when we come ghost, I will promise I will meet you, I will meet you at the end of the days’. ‘The Days’ is the saddest moment on Lupercalia.

Read the rest of the review at Eyewear


James Christopher Sheppard reviews If Not Now, When? by Incubus

It’s getting on for five years since established American rock band, Incubus, last released an entire album of new material, so expectations from their legions of fans are astronomical for new release If Not Now, When? This new album is their seventh release since Fungus Amongus, their 1995 debut and follows their longest break between releases. Fans will be pleased to know that If Not Now, when? does not disappoint…

‘If Not Now, When?’ 8/10

The first track is minimalist and a calm introduction to the album, lead largely around Brandon Boyd’s mesmerizing and unmistakable vocal. The sound Incubus have spent years crafting is as present as it was on 2001’s Morning View. ‘If Not Now, When?’ may not be an instant thunderbolt of a song, but with each listen, improves and yearns to be heard over and over.

‘Promises, Promises’ 8/10

First fully released single from the album, ‘Promises, Promises’, is not what is typically expected from a lead single from a new Incubus release. This is less ‘Megalomaniac’ or ‘Anna Molly’ and more ‘Are You In?’. Still, ‘Promises, Promises’ is an uplifting piano lead moment of funky lightheartedness and one that will be welcomed by many.

‘Friends and Lovers’ 7/10

Another chilled out track, ‘Friends and Lovers’, has a sweet melody and is executed brilliantly, but is not a stand out moment amongst the collection.

‘Thieves’ 9/10

Out of soppyville, ‘Thieves’ provides some brilliant lyrics and the most upbeat song yet. ‘Everything is fine, so long as you’re a god-fearing white American’ Boyd sings against the charming mid-tempo backdrop. Nice to see Boyd is his band mates haven’t lost their provoking lyric writing talents!

‘Isadore’ 10/10

The beats are slightly harder and heavier, yet the laid back mood continues. The lyrics here are the most vivid and story-telling on the album. Erica and Isadore appear to be riding a balloon to the moon, but Erica takes the only parachute, abandoning Isadore. I’d love to see an animated video for ‘Isadore’. This is addictive and layered and deserves several listens.

‘The Original’ 8/10

Boyd’s velvety tones are what makes ‘The Original’; that and the progressive build. The last minute builds into an epic mutli-layered which is very welcomed at this point in the album, but the lyrics are a little too sickly for me, with ‘Girl you’re the original. Always were, always will be’, nevertheless I’m sure many guitar playing boys will enjoy serenading their girlfriends with this one.

‘Defiance’ 10/10

A purely acoustic guitar driven song, ‘Defiance’ is a stunning song that shows the band’s raw talent and ability to really deliver in a minimalistic way.

Read the full review at Eyewear


James Christopher Sheppard

reviews Panic of Girls

by Blondie

 

After some record company issues spanning almost a year, Blondie independently release their ninth studio album, ‘Panic of Girls’, on 4th July 2011. For die-hard fans, the special collectors edition of the album is available in UK from the beginning of June, complete with a 132 page magazine featuring an exclusive glance at the story behind the album, images, interviews and an overview of the band’s incredible career. So how does it sound? Impressively, Blondie seem to have come up with their freshest sounding collection of new songs in years. Panic of Girls furthers Blondie’s domination over the new wave genre and brings them into their fifth consecutive active decade as a band.

 

‘D-Day’

Establishing Blondie’s new sound as evolved and as edgy as ever, ‘D-Day’ is an up-beat, synth-tastic, addictive opening. This song has more punch than ‘Maria’, with an athemic chorus, big beats and Miss Deborah Harry’s voice sounding young and passionate. Fans of early Blondie will go crazy for this. 9/10

 

‘What I Heard’

The second offering continues the up-beat new wave electro feel of ‘D-Day’. ‘What I Heard’ is catchy, punchy and would sound brilliant on radio. Definitely a contender for a single. 10/10

 

‘Mother’

First single from the album, ‘Mother’, is a great tool for getting lovers of Blondie and new listeners alike excited about the new album. With a simple video featuring the band performing the song is a zombie-filled club, that is exactly what ‘Mother’ is about, a band clearly having fun and loving what their doing. 9/10

Watch the video for ‘Mother’ here:

 

‘The End The End’

The fourth track takes the album in a completely different direction, but doesn’t stray too far from the many incarnations of Blondie over the years. ‘The End The End’ is the first of many chilled out, laid back reggae tinged song made for summer listening. Harry stays in the higher register of her voice here which gives a really old school Blondie feel to the song. 8/10

 

‘Girlie Girlie’

Continuing the summery reggae vibe, ‘Girlie Girlie’ includes some of the funniest Blondie lyrics I know of, and even includes a cheeky giggle from Harry a couple of verses in where she is clearly acknowledging the ridiculousness of what she is singing. The giggle and the tongue in cheek lyrics make ‘Girlie Girlie’ a great and memorable, feel-good moment so far. 10/10

 

‘Love Doesn’t Frighten Me’

Back to a more contemporary Blondie sound, ‘Love Doesn’t Frighten Me’ rocks the tempo back up to where the first three tracks left us. Following the reggae break, this is a decent example of the band rocking out. 7/10

 

Read the rest of the review at Eyewear and see the overall album rating. Let us know your thoughts about the new album below.

 

 


James Christopher Sheppard reviews
the new Panic! At the Discoalbum
Vices & Virtues

In 2005, Panic! At the Disco burst onto the music scene and rose quickly to the very top of the huge emo/rock genre. Their debut album, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, had a theatrical and upbeat fun rock vibe, which went hand in hand with their groundbreaking shows. With lyrics on their first two albums penned by now departed member, Ryan Ross, it’s going to be tough for the new line up, Brendon Urie and Spencer Smith, to match the same depth of lyrical issues the band were known for. Second album, Beatles inspiredPretty. Odd., featured a departure in sound for the band, plus they dropped the much-loved exclamation mark from their name. As a result, the album had underwhelming sales and a luke-warm reception from their fans. Vices & Virtues see’s the band re-instating their original name, Panic! At the Disco, and sounding more theatrical and rock orientated, employing the same style as their debut, but how does it compare?
‘The Ballad of Mona Lisa’
Musically in-keeping with their debut, this first single stands far enough away from the material on their first album to show the bands growth, but also shows that Urie and Smith have realized and are playing to their strengths. The creeping, slightly distorted piano that opens the track is a good indication that Panic! are back and mean business. A dark and upbeat roaring track, this provides a promising start to the album.
‘Let’s Kill Tonight’
The drum machine and vocal effect featured at the beginning of this track, again, is a sound familiar to the lovers of the band’s debut. By the chorus, the track has taken quite a different and intriguing turn, however, becoming darker and angrier. This almost sounds like the Panic! of 2005 meeting Lostprophets, which surprisingly works and provides an invigorating and fresh sound.
‘Hurricane’
‘Hurricane’ sounds a lot like it belongs on a Fall Out Boy album. Catchy and danceable, the track circles around the line ‘you’ll dance to anything’, which is quite a provoking statement. Not bad by any means, but there is nothing unforeseen here.
‘Memories’
The opening of ‘Memories’ sounds slightly Manic Street Preachers-esque which is unexpected after ‘Hurricane’. Musically and lyrically moving, strings soar and the tempo keeps an uplifting pace, ‘Memories’ is the song that hears the boys reflecting on the troubled past of the band. One to download if you are cherry picking.
Read the full review at Eyewear