Posts Tagged ‘Review’


Written by James Christopher Sheppard

As a music critic and reviewer, I tend to write a review as soon as I have an album in my possession or have some way of listening to it in it’s entirety. Therefore, what I write tends to be based on an intense listen or two to each track. Now that I have reviewed around thirty albums, I now sometimes reconsider my reviews. Of course, the reviews I have written represent my first impression and most of the time, that opinion sticks, but sometimes an album grows and grows on me, and other times I don’t listen to them after reviewing them.

The main album that springs to mind that I would now give a hands down 10/10 rating is Charlie Simpson‘s debut Young Pilgrim. The more I have listened to it, the more I enjoy it. Having given ‘I Need a Friend Tonight’ 7/10, it would now easily get a 10. The album words together so coherently, it really deserves to be heard. If you haven’t yet given it a listen, I would strongly recommend that you do.

An album that I would potentially give a less favourable rating to now is Lady Gaga‘s Born This Way. On first listen, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the album, but I have only revisited it a handful of times since its release back in May. In reflection the album is instantly likeable, but does little to keep you wanting to return for more. I will admit to having a love/hate relationship with this album. I have struggled to appreciate ‘Born This Way’, ‘Judas’, ‘Hair’ and ‘You and I’ at all. To me, they are not a patch on anything on The Fame or The Fame Monster. Gaga’s recent car crash appearance at the MTV Video Music Awards as her alter ego Jo Calderone has not helped to re-instate my desire for more. Poor Britney Spears looked petrified as Gaga presented her with the ‘Michael Jackson Vanguard Award’.

Albums I am listening to at the moment that will be reviewed soon include The Sea by Melanie C, the new self titled Evanescence album and Torches by Foster the People.

 

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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

 


Reviewed by James Christopher Sheppard

Having just completed her massive ‘Aphrodite- Les Folies World Tour’, Kylie Minogue is releasing a stunning boxset of all five of her studio albums released since her career-changing monster hit ‘Spinning Around’ in 2000. Better than any Greatest Hits from the past ten years could be, this literally includes every track released by Minogue since signing with Parlophone in 1999.

Light Years

Including her first Top Ten hit since 1994’s ‘Confide in Me’, Light Years catapulted Minogue back to the forefront of pop. Following almost eight years of musical experimentation and collaborations with Nick Cave and Manic Street Preachers, Minogue put her shiny stilettos and hot pants back on and produced the most unashamedly camp disco album of her entire career. ‘Spinning Around’ hit number 1 in the UK and Australia and similar success followed for singles ‘On a Night Like This’, ‘Kids’ with Robbie Williams and ‘Please Stay’. The album also features live favourite ‘Light Years’, and possibly the campest song ever recorded, ‘Your Disco Needs You’.

Fever

‘La la la, la la la la la…’ Fever was released in 2001 and saw Minogue not only top the charts in five countries and go multi-platinum, but also had top five success in the USA. The classic single ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ now has iconic status and remains one of the biggest selling singles in the world over the past decade. ‘Come Into My World’ won a Grammy and ‘In Your Eyes’ and ‘Love at First Sight’ were also phenomenally huge successes. Following Fever, Kylie was considered an international superstar. Other stand out tracks from the album include ‘Love Affair’, ‘Burning Up’, ‘Fragile’, ‘More More More’, ‘Give it to Me’ and… basically the entire album is flawless electro pop.

Body Language

Never one to unleash the expected, Kylie’s Body Language stunned many, as it did not follow in Fever’s footsteps, or any other record’s footsteps really. The overall sound of the album is the most urban that Kylie has ever sounded, featuring a more American R&B sound than the electro pop people had come to expect from Minogue. While the album scored Minogue her seventh UK #1 with the understated electronic hit ‘Slow’, the rest of the album had a sound of being directed towards an American audience. As a result, the album underperformed in most territories as it just didn’t quite sound like authentic Kylie. Saying that, ‘Red Blooded Women’ and ‘Loving Days’ are treasures that would doubtfully exist without the rest of the album.

X

Mid ‘Showgirl Tour’ in 2005, Kylie was forced to dramatically cancel the remainder of the tour following her cancer diagnosis. For over a year, the world waited to hear of Kylie’s recovery, and finally rejoiced in late 2006 when she hit the road to complete the tour. Four years after the release of Body Language came X, with first single, ‘2 Hearts’ hitting #4 in the UK and #1 in Australia. X is packed full of electro club tracks, like ‘Like a Drug’, ‘In My Arms’, ‘The One’, ‘Wow’ and ‘Speakerphone’. While some criticized the comeback album as lacking the heartache that could have been expected from a post-illness album, the collection was a success and hugely popular with fans as it demonstrates what Kylie does best- electro dance pop.

Read more 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
Love?
by Jennifer Lopez

Following a prolonged break from topping the charts, Jennifer Lopez returns with her seventh studio album and the first since 2007, Love? First single, ‘On the Floor’ smashed it’s way to the top of the UK singles chart last week, knocking Adele’s massive hit ‘Someone Like You’ off the chart summit, which has raised excitement about the new material. Here’s how the leaked tracks are sounding so far.
‘On the Floor’ (featuring Pitbull)
What is it about Pitbull? He seems to crop up in the most obscure places, having been featured on Enrique Iglesias, Alexandra Burke and Usher tracks all in the past year, to name just a few. No matter how unlikely the pairings seem to be, however, it seems to guarantee a hit, and this is no exception. An appealing dance track, incorporating the sounds of Kaoma’s 1989 hit ‘Lambada’, the J-Lo track ‘Waiting for Tonight’ and something that screams the latest Sugababes work with Red One, who also produced this, the only thing this lacks is originality.
‘Good Hit’
‘I got that good hit’ Jennifer sings on the intro. If Lopez is trying to secure her place back at the top of the ghetto divas, it might be worth being less censored and actually using ‘shit’. With a great beat, this track holds some promise, but is completely ruined by the never-ending auto-tune on Jennifer’s vocals. It literally does not stop and trashes what would otherwise be a decent track.
‘I’m Into You’ (featuring Lil Wayne)
Second single from the album, ‘I’m Into You’ continues the Latin-tinged summer beat already and could well be as big as ‘On the Floor’. The only real problem is the very repetitive boring chorus ‘I’m into you, I’m into you, I’m into you, yeah, yeah yeah’. Really?
‘What is Love’
The melody is almost a slowed down version of ‘On the Floor’, yet still succeeds in feeling fresher that both ‘Good Hit’ and ‘I’m Into You’. It’s refreshing to hear Lopez actually sing and hear some emotion behind the vocal. No auto-tune and no guest rapper, this feels more authentically J-Lo. A breezy, relatable song, that hears a girl longing for love. A triumph- more like this please Jenny from the block.

 

Read the full review at Eyewear


Written by James Christopher Sheppard

Following the large amount of attention that my previous short review of the new Within Temptation album received, I decided to write a longer, more comprehensive review, now that I have the album in my grasp.

Within Temptation: In Profile

Dutch band, Within Temptation, have been labeled many things since forming in 1996- gothic metal, symphonic rock, gothic rock; I would say they are flying somewhere between all three. First album, 1997’s Enter, was doom metal and featured a sound far removed from the sound of the band today. 2001’s release, Mother Earth, featured the beginnings of what has become Within Temptation’s signature sound, establishing them at the forefront of female fronted, accessible although heavy, symphonic rock with a metal edge. Both subsequent albums The Silent Force and The Heart of Everything solidified their status and ability to get musically stronger with each release.

The Unforgiving

Within Temptation’s brand new and fifth studio album and first concept album, brings a whole new aspect to the band’s sound. Featuring harder, almost industrial beats, strings, more emphasis on thrashing guitars than on previous releases and lyrics sang from a new narrative perspective to tie in with the comic concept, this is the freshest album the band have ever put out. Here’s how each track weighs up.

1. Why Not Me

A short intro to the album, featuring the voice of, presumably, Mother Maiden, as featured in the Faster music video. ‘Someone has to take a stand against evil. Why should it not be me?’ she asks, against progressive strings. The intro sets us up for the intriguing dark hero perspective with which we are about to engage.

2. Shot in the Dark

A progressive upbeat track, with strings and a haunting intro, turning into a demanding synth and guitar filled track. This could be released as a single as it certainly easily stands shoulder to shoulder with the quality and catchiness of first single Faster.

3. In the Middle of the Night

One of the heaviest and most thrashing tracks released by Sharon and co over the past decade. Goose-bump inducing perfection soars with every chord, lyric and beat. One of the best songs Within Temptation have ever recorded, it takes their sound to brilliant new heights and shows their harsher side to full effect.

4. Faster

All out synth-tinged single, Faster, feels like it’s the love-child of the hair metal rock of the 80s and Within Temptation’s heavy symphonic 2011 sound. The album version blows the radio edit out of the water, featuring an awesome guitar solo and a more progressive feel, which only adds to the track.

5. Fire and Ice

First slow moment on the album, Fire and Ice, shows the strength and richness of Sharon’s voice. A pro at pouring emotion into both her lyrics and singing, this showcases Sharon’s vocal power intensely. Despite the slower feel to this track, it remains epic and in-keeping with the rest of the album. Unlike past slower tracks, such as Forgiven, this track is given the full-blown epic instrumental effect- and it works.

6. Iron

Like In the Middle of the Night, this track further demonstrates Within Temptation’s ever-improving heavy darkness. Any fears that this album would be too commercial or pop, will be dismissed by the time you reach this track. A chanting chorus ‘You can’t live without the fire, it’s the heat that makes you strong’ is blasted by Sharon over undeniably brilliant symphonic rock at it’s heaviest best.

7. Where is the Edge

Continuing the album with Where is the Edge, this is the first track that is neither thrashing around nor slowed down. Still benefiting from the solid production featured on the whole album, this is the only track that, while being pretty good, doesn’t push the sound we are familiar with from Within Temptation. Still worth a listen though.

8. Sinead

Unlike any other Within Temptation track, the beat that dominates the pace of Sinead is pretty much an industrial beat. A fresh sound for the band- it seems to greatly compliment the song.

9. Lost

The second slower moment features some of the most despairing vocals we have heard from Sharon. ‘Help me I’m buried alive’ she cries- as I’m sure we all would if we were buried alive. Furthering the epic ballad sound established on the band’s earlier releases, notably Frozen, the slower tracks here feel fresher than ever, perhaps due to the concept nature of this album, and therefore the innovative lyrics.

10. Murder

The magnitude of chanting voices behind Sharon on this track lifts it’s haunting, gothic feel to a dark epic effect. Frantic strings progress into a brooding, symphonic track. Intense.

11. A Demon’s Fate

Fast paced track, A Demon’s Fate, would be well received to a wider audience than the typical Within Temptation listener. Accessible, yet heavy and symphonic, this is comparable to the best tracks from Nightwish’s remarkable Once album, like Dark Chest of Wonders, for example.

12. Stairway to the Skies

The final track is one of the album’s highlights. With an opening that recalls Marilyn Manson’s haunting version of Sweet Dreams, it swiftly moves into epic ballad territory, but features far more intricacy than previous slower Within Temptation tracks. Soft and brooding and longing, this is a triumph for the band, as it progresses naturally and spine-tinglingly into a truly beautiful song. The best track on the album, along with In the Middle of the Night.

Verdict

The Unforgiving is not only the best album that Within Temptation have released so far, but this is the best album I have heard in a very long time. Astounding and outstanding. Now we just have to wait until November, when the band’s rescheduled UK gigs will take place.

Back-catalogue to check out

Ice Queen Mother Earth Running Up That Hill Stand My Ground Angles Frozen All I Need