Archive | Alternative RSS for this section

Review: The Chewers, ‘Chuckle Change And Also’


chuckle-change-and-also-album-art On Chuckle Change And Also, The Chewers show the beauty of being ‘off-kilter’

The Chewers • Chuckle Change And Also • Cimmerian Shade 

The Chewers are: Travis Caffrey & Michael Sadler

Sometimes, when you hear something wild and whacky in life, you find yourself looking in bewilderment like WTF? My friends, after listening to the 22-track album that is Chuckle Change And Also by West Virginian duo The Chewers (by way of Nashville, TN), I found myself expressing this sentiment after every track. Folks, Chuckle Change is definitely some kind of a ride. Throw the idea of ‘standard’ out the door prior to the first track as this album is incredibly progressive. Sometimes the progressive nature hurts accessibility, but ultimately, that is a necessary sacrifice for the good of the album and future of music. While it’s not the ‘second coming’ (way too dark and devilish for that), Chuckle Change offers the listener a true alternative to trendiness, conformity, and what pitfalls can make commercial music come off as generic and empty.

(Now)” opens the off-kilter effort as one would expect – off-kilter. As to exactly what is going on, well that question is still needs to be answered. Regardless, “(Now)” and all of its near 50 seconds of off-kilter-ness (is that even a word?) definitely sets the tone. The minimalist, noisy “Can’t Sleep” is evidence of the ‘tone’ that characterizes the entirety of Chuckle Change And Also. Bizarre yet in its own quirky way genius, “Can’t Sleep” represents…um… nonconformity. Nonconformity and being fearless to be different is something more musicians could stand to embrace. The Chewers certainly do, referencing not only the obvious lack of “sleep”, but also accompany the idea lyrically whether it is “tomorrow’s looming in the dark” or “body tense…stressed / the more I fret, the less I rest”. The oddball groove is nothing short of hypnotic. “Burn It Down” is lengthier than the opening duo, pacing itself into a foot-tapping groove. As groovy as it is, don’t think The Chewers have settled into being ‘normal’. There is still a tension as one listens, with guitar and effect-laden lead vocals leading the charge.

The bizarre experience continues with the weirdly titled “Techno-Slaves”, which lives up to its unique name. The production has techno sound effects that seem to signal outer space: “Space is feeling with magnet waves… the brain is a megaphone that can’t shut off…” WTF? Honestly, it doesn’t really matter. The Chewers have the audience’s attention from the opening note and they retain it throughout if for no other reason to see where they’re going musically. “Filthy” proves to be as unorthodox as everything else, with a hint of jazz added to the mix (for lack of a better stylistic choice). If the audience gets nothing else from a minute-and-a-half of “Filthy”, they learn that these dudes are filthy – at least contextually within the song (“Walking down the street in crusted clothes…I haven’t bathed in a thousand days / I’m filthy”). Then comes “Some Folks”, which manages to use the word “malignant” lyrically… For those who don’t mind dissonance, the accusatory “Some Folks” is your cup of tea.

What better way to follow up the previous “(Now)” with “(Later)”, another unexplainable interlude? While cohesiveness probably shouldn’t be in the same sentence with this album in general (save for overall being ‘all over the place’), at least there is a connection between, well something. “(Later)” is followed up with the gutty sounding instrumental “A Part Machine”, which once more gives the listener a sick groove to latch onto. When all other sense of normalcy fails, cling to the groove! “A Part Machine” is more than a groove – it is actually quite an alluring soundscape if you will. The bright rhythmic guitar coupled with a sense of ‘twistedness’ makes this instrumental truly notable. “Inmate 227” confounds immediately, yet it does make some sense. It’s about an inmate being released from prison. It’s not your standard narrative for a song, but what is standard about this album? Exactly!

After “Inmate 227”, the focus comes to “Smiling Samuel”, another heck of a song title. Creepy, the sentiment is few want to hang out with Sam – and perhaps even The Chewers, LOL! Difficult to listen to yet respectably creative, “Smiling Samuel” continues to find The Chewers flexing. It takes little analysis to under “The Fat Man”, but it is arguably a bit more bearable than “Smiling Samuel”. It’s not the most attractive track (understatement), but The Chewer’s musicianship and ‘off-kilter’ ideas play well here. “The Fat Man” definitely would be perfect for Halloween, but then again, so would much of this album. The brief “Mutter” proceeds. While it is brief, “mutter” isn’t very quiet…LOL. And as for “I’m Afraid”, well, I’ve held that sentiment since track one – just saying! With the production playing like a tone poem, the tense music definitely exemplifies the title and listener’s likely emotions.

Down There” is equally, if not more horrifying and definitely extraterrestrial. Face it, that organ is “very, very frightening! Galileo!” Then when the “Teeth Lock” cacophonously with tribal-like pounding drums, shiiizzz gets real…cray that is! “Teeth Lock” definitely brings several distinct names to mind – Lucifer, Baal, Satan, Mephistopheles – catch my drift? While perhaps repentance is a must after listening, at least the sin was a creative and intriguing one while it lasted! Guess what follows “(Now)” and “(Later)”? “(Past)” of course… and “That’s all I have to say about that!” Forrest Gump reference of course. Whether “Box Head Space” somehow connects to the ‘past’ would take a couple more listens to decode, but where overall sound lies, it is very much a product of the future. It’s truly out in space.

Tornado of Stasis” ends up receiving the honor of the lengthiest joint, breaking with the brevity that characterizes the majority. While the dissonant track is as ugly as they come, it once more plays faithfully to its title. Tornadoes are incredibly scary and often life altering weather events as they funnel and destroy everything in sight, including the living. Stasis of course is defined as a state of stability or as Merriam-Webster simplifies it, stagnation. Put the two ideas together, coupled with the adventurous music, and the perfect storm is before us.   What’s interesting, at least from a personal perspective, is that the slow tempo seems to represent bore and lethargy of stasis, while the dissonance exemplifies the tornado. A highlight – by all means!

There is still some “Steam” (a little more than a half-minute’s worth) following the storm, while “Funnel Head” infuses rejuvenated energy and eccentricity. “Funnel Head” should please metal heads, given its jaggedness. Penultimate track “Blank Pavement” delivers excellent pacing, beginning unstable but developing stability along the way. It’s still freaky stuff, but you take accessibility where and when it’s offered. Closing cut “Went Away” is definitely spacey; rather than relying heavily on noisiness, it invests more into sounding drugged out.

So… what’s the verdict on arguably the year’s most left of center album? It’s actually very well done and definitely stands out. While calling Chuckle Change a masterpiece might be an exaggeration, it is indeed captivating, even when it’s harder to process. From a musical standpoint, you get the impression that these West Virginia boys are out to make a unique statement with this particular album and brand of music. They easily accomplish this feat. If you need some quirk in your life, this is the album for you!

Favorites:

“Can’t Sleep”; “Techno-Slaves”; “A Part Machine”; “The Fat Man”; “Teeth Lock”; “Tornado of Stasis”

Verdict: ★★★★

5 Seconds of Summer Settle For No. 2


51nTjXJc7VL._SL500_AA280_ 

5 Seconds of Summer, the new Australian teen band, has nothing to hang their heads about; debuting at no. 2 with 143,000 copies of a four-song EP (She Looks So Perfect) is definitely notable.  Settling for that no. 2 spot behind the unstoppable Frozen Soundtrack (149,000 copies sold) – well that should boost confidence even more considering no one can end Frozen’s run.  After the slim margin separating album nos. 1 and 2, there is a huge gap.  Chevelle’s La Gargola sold 45,000 copies, good for the no. 3 spot.  Former “Jar of Hearts” pop singer/songwriter Christina Perri debuts at a familiar spot (no. 4), but does so smaller numbers for sophomore album Head or Heart (40,000 copies).  Country gets its representation from Dan + Shay, who sold 29,000 copies of Where It All Began (no. 6).  Nickel Creek also get a top ten berth, selling 27,000 copies of their first album following a lengthy hiatus, Why Should the Fire Die?  Hey, they don’t call it lucky no. 7 for no reason, right?

On the songs chart, specifically the Billboard Hot 100, Pharrell Williams continues to make us all “Happy” for yet another week, according to Billboard.  What is most shocking to me is that John Legend’s “All Of Me” is so hot, though I felt the hit potential when the underappreciated Love in the Future arrived in September 2013.  For R&B and for Legend, the popularity of the rather conservative track is awesome.

Next week doesn’t seem electrifying as far as notable new releases.  Still, albums arrive from Martina McBride (Everlasting), MercyMe (Welcome To The New), James Durbin (Celebrate), and SoMo (SoMo) among others. “It is what is”.

Review: Mac Demarco, ‘Salad Days’


41CKDmzB+RL._SL500_AA280_ Salad Days easily proves to be one of the year’s elite albums

Mac Demarco • Salad Days • Captured Tracks • US Release Dates: April 1, 2014

“Oh now, you’ve done it again / no use when you already know how it ends.” Throughout Salad Days, singer/songwriter Mac Demarco seems incredibly down – there is the sense of the constant ‘bummer’. The aforementioned lyrics, excerpted from “Treat Her Better”, would suggest this extreme pessimism from the Canadian artist. However, even though Demarco gets down within Salad Days about various things, he also offers atoning words of wisdoms and relatable truths. It sounds deep…and honestly it is, even when Demarco’s lyrics seem childishly simple (“Blue boy, blue boy”). There is a magic about Salad Days that makes the 11-track, 34-minute affair among the best of 2014 – it’s almost hypnotic.

Salad Days” opens the album abruptly, but makes perfect sense once it settles in. Nonchalantly performed by Demarco, the approach is part of the endearment of the track as well as the album as a whole. Essentially, Demarco delivers the song from the perspective that his life is done, despite his young age: “Salad days are gone / missing hippy Jon / remembering things just to tell ‘em so long.” Even if the “salad days are gone”, Demarco seems like he still has plenty of livelihood left personally. “Blue Boy” seems less concerned about life moving too fast, but trades that concern for being “worried about the world’s eyes / worried every time the sun shines.” “Blue Boy” is incredibly relatable, particularly to the worrywart who is too fearful of any and everything. The realistic and relatable nature of “Blue Boy” is definitely part of the allure.

On “Brother”, Demarco continues to sing in an undertone, definitely part of the ‘script’. “You’re no better off, living your life and dreaming at night,” the singer/songwriter sings both memorably and prudently on the standout. The production has soulfulness about it, even if it isn’t an overt soul cut. Besides stellar lyrics and a fantastic performance, the guitar, particular during the “Go home” portion of the song, is superb. “Let Her Go” follows up sensationally, as Demarco waves the finger about leading “her” on: “Tell her that you lover her, if you really love her / but if your heart just ain’t sure, let her go.” The style/approach remains easygoing and somewhat mellow if you will, but definitely meaningful. “Goodbye Weekend” proves groovier than “Let Her Go”, sporting funkiness about it. Demarco shows some jazziness within his vocals, which is definitely a fine touch. In addition to the jazziness, Mac has swagger too: “Goodbye weekend, so long darling / Macky’s been a bad, bad boy.” Get it Mac!

Let My Baby Stay” is the lengthiest song on this brief affair. Perhaps it rides out a bit too long at the end, but overall, Demarco gets things just right. The rhythmic intensity of the guitars here in particular stands out. A better track is “Passing Out Pieces”, in which the sound is incredibly assertive, despite the lyrics suggesting/questioning otherwise: “Watching my life, passing right in front of my eyes / hell of a story, or is it boring?” Here, Demarco seems to continue to lament his humdrum life, confirming how even the closest people in his life don’t understand: “What mom don’t know has taken its toll on me / it’s all I’ve seen that can’t be wiped clean / it’s hard to believe what it’s made of me.”

Treat Her Better” offers advice that many men could stand to heed to: “Treat her better, boy / if having her at your side’s something you enjoy”. The guitars are dreamy sounding and out of tune – all part of the sound/vibe. “Chamber of Reflection” is definitely a change of pace from everything else, featuring a hard, heavy beat and synths. Bass punctuations brilliantly anchor things down, while an exceptional harmonic progression exemplifies R&B/soul music. Further praising the instrumental aspects, Demarco makes excellent use of space and pacing. The vocals continue in understated fashion, making the listener truly listen closely and think about the lyrics. The chorus is nothing ‘special’ on paper, but perfectly sums up the track contextually: “Alone again, alone again / alone again, alone”.

Penultimate track “Go Easy” contrasts the reflective “Chamber of Reflection” with a slightly quicker, medium groove. Demarco is still relaxed, but his words continue to carry weight whether its “I’ll be right behind you / to pick you up until you come around” or later instance “Honey it can be tough, without your friends beside you / you build it up, just to knock it down.” Moving on definitely isn’t easy, and that seems to be Demarco’s messaging here. “Jonny’s Odyssey” closes Salad Days with ranch dressing – well not literally! “Jonny’s Odyssey” is an enjoyable instrumental cut.

So, just how good is this Salad Days album? Well it’s definitely not anywhere near the ‘bore’ that Mac Demarco describes his life as within it. Salad Days is one of the most intriguing albums of the year because of its subtlety, thoughtfulness, and overall creativity. Demarco definitely isn’t best vocalist I’ve ever heard, and I would wager that few would strike this assertion down, but his vocal style and tone is perfectly suited for this style of music. Most important, the songwriting and overall sound and craft of the songs on Salad Days is exceptional. I’m onboard!

Favorites:

“Salad Days”; “Brother”; “Passing Out Pieces”; “Chamber of Reflection”

Verdict: ★★★★

Shakira Settles For No. 2 as ‘Frozen’ Keeps The Top Spot Warm


51nD6mgvIyL._SL500_AA280_

On the Billboard 200 Albums Chart this week, multiple new albums graced the top ten.  Unfortunately for them, not were able to take down reigning champ Frozen Soundtrack, which once more sells six figures (161,000 copies) according to Billboard.  The new releases underperformed where numbers are concerned, keeping Frozen easily ahead of them. Frozen, led by ubiquitous Academy Award winning song “Let It Go” seems unstoppable.  As to what or who could kill Frozen’s vibe, I don’t know.

51Z9GVuOpnL._SL500_AA280_Shakira was unable to stop the beloved soundtrack, as Shakira. debuted in the runner-up slot with only 84,000 copies.  84,000 copies is nothing to snicker about, but for the pop diva, the numbers are underwhelming.  Johnny Cash’s lost album Out Among the Stars comes in third place, selling 54,000 copies.  The gap between nos. 2 and 3 is incredible, and the ride continues as Memphis May Fire land at no. 4 with 27,000 copies sold of Unconditional.  The difference between the top four album totals at 161,000, 84,000, 54,000, and 27,000 is incredible.  The top four albums sold approximately 326,000 copies.

Erica Campbell couldn’t squeeze her way into the top 5, but she did make it to no. 6 with her gospel solo debut Help, selling 23,000 copies (a piece off from her Mary Mary albums). Barry Manilow wasn’t far off from Campbell, as Night Songs fell one spot behind with 22,000 copies sold.  My Chemical Romance’s May Death Never Stop You (Greatest Hits) sold 20,000 copies, good for a no. 9 debut.   Still, examining the 20K copies of each of the aforementioned, the ceiling of each album seems incredibly low.  Sure, you don’t expect a gospel album (Campbell’s Help) to go extremely far on the pop charts, but still, given the crossover appeal of Campbell/Mary Mary, you might expect slightly more enthusiastic numbers.

Judging by titles issued this week, the charts may still be only so-so come next week. Releases from MKTO (MKTO), Ronnie James Dio (This Is Your Life), Chevelle (La Gargola), Nickel Creek (A Dotted Line), or Christina Perri (Head or Heart) don’t exactly scream big-time hit potential, no offense.

Playlist: Favorite Songs From March Album Releases


Pharrell Williams-AES-121317

March was a rich month for music releases.  After listening and reviewing multiple albums, it is always fun to pick out one big time standout.  Sometimes it is a difficult choice, while other times it’s the only choice (particularly on a sub-par album).  After looking back through my late-February and March reviews, I’ve compiled a playlist of one favorite from each album.

51X7l6td0ML._SL500_AA280_

Morning”

Beck

From the album Morning Phase 

Note: Morning Phase was a late February release that wasn’t reviewed until March.

becki-20140227-62Folks, Beck is the man.  Morning Phase was yet another stacked album from the hipster with numerous top-notch songs.  A personal favorite was the first full-length track, “Morning” of which I penned the following:

…Constructed with lush strings at its core, “Cycle” foreshadows the electrifying opener, “Morning”.  Sure, “Morning” lacks tempo by all means, opting for balladry, but it’s extremely beautiful and perfectly suits Beck’s unique voice.  Beck breaks enough with the ‘acoustic resolve’ here, with Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. adding some synthesizer color.  The ‘color’ element is something found throughout Morning Phase, even if it is subtle. Lyrically, the entire song is thoughtfully penned, with the chorus standing out tremendously: “This morning / I let down my defenses / this morning / it was just you and me…” Clocking in at over five minutes, “Morning” is no drag by any means.

51HOVga9zOL._SL500_AA280_

“The Purge”

Schoolboy Q featuring Tyler, The Creator & Kurupt

From the album Oxymoron

Note: Oxymoron was a late February release that wasn’t reviewed until March.

Schoolboy Q exhibits grittiness about him throughout the course of Oxymoron, which ultimately proves to be a solid album. It’s not the most pleasant album to listen to in regards to its content mind you, but the quality is there. “The Purge” was among my favorites:

“The Purge” is a beast, produced by and featuring Tyler, The Creator. Again, Schoolboy Q’s daughter establishes the tone: “My daddy said drown, n***a.”  The significance of the line seems to be “the purge” that Schoolboy Q references within the title and song.  “Coming in for yours / n***as got them choppers and they knocking at your door,” Tyler, the Creator spits on the hook. “The sirens getting louder when the bodies hit the floor / why you look confused? Motherf**ker this is war.” Schoolboy Q plays right into the maliciousness, referencing kilos, drug money, and guns. Q’s most notable moment comes during a bridge between verses: “Bust my gun all by myself / rock cocaine all by myself / poured propane all on myself / go so hard might harm myself.”  Oh, and did I mention Kurupt also guests on the third verse? “The Purge” goes hard. 

41644n4bcLL._SL500_AA280_

“Going To The Ceremony”

Kid Cudi

From the album Satellite Flight: Journey to Mother Moon

 Note: Satellite Flight was a late February release that wasn’t reviewed until March.

Kid Cudi-AES-083737Kid Cudi is an oddball – as left field as they come. This nonconformity is what makes him shine, yet also hurts his overall accessibility to many Earth dwellers. A surprise fourth album in Satellite Flight proves to be as confounding as it is interesting.  Still, “Going To The Ceremony” was a moment where the Kid was at his best/true to himself:

The real heat comes with “Going To The Ceremony”, the first vocal track of Satellite Flight. Opening uniquely itself with spoken word intro (“Now certainly we all recognize the extremely, extremely low probability / of life existing on the moon”), the track dives right into the rock-rap, left-of-center approach that Kid Cudi as well as WZRD has come to be known for.  This includes the typical humming, the repetitive lyrics (“But I don’t know where I’m going / where I’m going, it’s all happening / I’m going, it’s all happening”), as well as the driving, minimalism. “Going To The Moon” is familiar fare for the artist.

61BuLLrKZJL._SL500_AA280_

“Digital Witness”

St. Vincent

From the album St. Vincent

Note: St. Vincent was a late February release that wasn’t reviewed until March.

St Vincent-PKE-000036From one oddball to another, it should be noted that St. Vincent once guested on a Kid Cudi album – Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager to be precise.  On her own self-titled album, St. Vincent awes with her incredible songwriting abilities, with none usurping the brilliant “Digital Witness”:

“Digital Witness” is a definitely standout, with its soulful, groove-laden production work. St. Vincent definitely criticizes social media/networking, and how it’s affected traditional social relationships. “People turn the TV on, it looks like a window.” Basically, St. Vincent seems to suggest that real-life interaction has been supplanted with any number apps and social networking avenues. “Digital witnesses / what’s the point of even sleeping,” St. Vincent sings on the chorus. “If I can’t show it if you can’t see me / what’s the point of doing anything?” Does she overreact to the power of social media? Perhaps or perhaps not, but she makes one awesome song in the process.

Read More…

Can’t Just “Let It Go”: Frozen Soundtrack Is No. 1 Once More


61tLB9NYg9L._SL500_AA280_

After six non-consecutive weeks atop the Billboard 200 Albums Charts, the Frozen Soundtrack makes it a seventh week at the penthouse. This week, Frozen rallies to sell a gargantuan 202,000 copies. I guess folks just can’t “Let It Go” – bad joke, I know.  I’d say that the release of the album to DVD/Blu-ray/Digital likely had a role in elevating those sales. After Frozen, things get a bit hairier.

61RmtewJi0L._SL500_AA280_YG debuts at no. 2 with album My Krazy Life, which sold 61,000 copies.  61,000 copies isn’t a bad number, but don’t call it sexy either.  Foster The People land at no. 3, moving 54,000 copies of Supermodel, their second album.   Skrillex follows at no. 4 with Recess, which sold 47,000 copies.  Apparently there were physical copies of Recess, though when I visited the CD section, I was unable to find it – it obviously got its sales totals from digital sales.  Rock band The Pretty Reckless bow at no. 5, with 35,000 copies sold of Going to Hell (charming title, right?).  Enrique Iglesias’ Sex and Love enters in at no. 8 with a tepid 24,000 copies while Taking Back Sunday land at no. 10 with 22,000 copies sold of Happiness Is. Iglesias and Taking Back Sunday have both had better days where sales are concerned.

Happy” continues to be the story on the Billboard Hot 100 as Pharrell Williams’ infectious throwback R&B single is a big-time hit. Perhaps more surprising is the success of John Legend’s “All of Me”, which according to billboard.com has risen to no. 2 this week!  Two R&B tracks sit in the top two of the Billboard Hot 100 – shocking!

Several new releases landed in the top 10 this week, even though the numbers were so-so for some.  Next week, new albums arrive courtesy of Shakira (Shakira), Karmin (Pulses), Johnny Cash (Out Among the Stars), Erica Campbell (HELP), and My Chemical Romance (May Death Never Stop You: Greatest Hits 2001 – 2013) among others. All should definitely have no trouble charting and making some noise.

Music Shopping List: 8 Albums To Consider on March 25, 2014


Johnny-Cash-s01

As March is nearing its completion, the final release week of the month has numerous album possibilities to add to one’s collection.  A posthumous release from a country legend, one cool pop-duo (with some other styles involved), and a powerhouse, inspirational half of a contemporary gospel-duo. Phew – what a mouthful! Check out the following list containing 8 albums to consider on New Music Tuesday, March 25, 2014.  

51Z9GVuOpnL._SL500_AA280_

1

Johnny Cash

Out Among The Stars

(Country)

Out Among The Stars is a legit lost album from the legendary Johnny Cash.  Since his death in 2003, numerous posthumously released efforts have been issued.  It is safe to say, Mr. Cash was quite prolific.

51nD6mgvIyL._SL500_AA280_

2

Shakira

Shakira.

(Latin, Pop)

“The Hips Don’t Lie” chanteuse returns with her first new album since 2010 effort Sale el Sol, which launched at no. 7 on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart.  Shakira is led by single “Can’t Remember to Forget You”, which features Rihanna.

41AV1b9e7xL._SL500_AA280_

3

Karmin

Pulses

(Pop) 

Pulses gives the engaged pop duo their first official full-length debut.  Karmin previous issue an EP entitled Hello, which was led by popular single “Brokenhearted”.  Pulses is led by single “I Want It All”.  A music video was recently issued for the title track (“Pulses”) while “Acapella” was issued as a single back in 2013.  

516765wXW5L._SL500_AA280_

4

Barry Manilow

Night Songs

(Easy Listening) 

Barry Manilow original albums are hard to come by these days at this point in the singer’s career.  Continuing on the covers path much like his contemporary Rod Stewart, Manilow releases yet another covers album with Night Songs.  Likely, this album should appeal to the older, more traditional crowd.  

61e21Jz2yiL._SL500_AA280_

5

My Chemical Romance

May Death Never Stop You (Greatest Hits 2001 – 2013)

(Rock)

MCR are no more, but that doesn’t prevent a greatest hits compilation from rightfully materializing.  After all, My Chemical Romance did four studio albums: I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love (2002), Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge (2004), The Black Parade (2006), and Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys (2010).  Three Cheers… and The Black Parade are MCR’s bestselling albums.

51vXuopIX3L._SL500_AA280_

6

Jerrod Niemann

High Noon

(Country) 

The country singer releases his fourth album, High Noon.  Although he has released four albums, his most recent three are the most notable from an availability and relevance standpoint (Long Hard Road was an independent effort).  High Noon arrives two years after Free The Music (2012), which bowed at a disappointing no. 62 on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart.  Previous album Judge Jerrod & The Hung Jury (2010) landed at no. 7.  

51qawsEjvAL._SL500_AA280_

7

Erica Campbell

Help

(Gospel) 

Erica Campbell is most recognizable with her sister Tina by her side as gospel duo Mary Mary.  This go-round, Erica goes solo delivering and enjoyable dose of contemporary gospel led by single “A Little More Jesus”.  Having reviewed this album ahead of its release (review available on blackgospel.com), it receives my blessing… no pun intended.

619gp0ew2UL._SL500_AA280_

8

The Hold Steady

Teeth Dreams

(Alternative)

The indie-rock band returns with their first album in 4 years (Heaven Is Whenever, 2010).  Heaven gave The Hold Steady their highest peaking album at no. 26 on the Billboard 200.

March Madness: Best Album Tournament for the 1st Quarter, 2014


 512oYPuD-AL._SL500_AA280_

Ah, there is no better time of the year than March Madness… well maybe except for Christmas, LOL! It is a time where brackets continue to be devastated by college basketball teams many haven’t heard of upsetting highly favored giants.  As disappointing (when my John Wall-led UK Wildcats lost to WVU in 2010 in the Elite 8) as it is exciting (when my UK Wildcats won the 2012 Championship), there are few things less satisfying than weekends filled with toughly contested basketball games.  Still, what better way to celebrate all the basketball madness with some music madness?

I chose 16 albums released between January and March 11, 2014 to play off against each other, tournament style – hey can’t get enough of the “Madness” (Muse btw).  Teams were seeded based on my opinion of their quality and how I believe they might be ranked (opinion). Don’t worry, there are some upsets based on basketball tournament trends to keep things interesting (again opinion).  Additionally, each game is assigned an actual score from this year’s tournament or tournaments in the last couple of years.  The score is meant to be indicative of how well matched respective albums would be in a playoff.  Nerdy and pointless – perhaps, but I think its an interesting concept and read (opinion, self-promotion, LOL).

Here’s the bracket:

Best Album Tournament 1st Quarter 2014

Read More…

The Frozen Soundtrack Seems Unstoppable at no. 1


61tLB9NYg9L._SL500_AA280_

Well, the headline is pretty familiar folks as the Frozen soundtrack returns to the no. 1 spot yet again.  What is most shocking/impressive is that that the numbers for the album don’t seem to change that much.  This week, Frozen sold another 99,000 copies, a feat that many artists wished their albums could do consistently.  Frozen even killed Luke Bryan’s vibe, as his umpteenth Spring Break EP (Spring Break 6…Like We Ain’t Ever to be accurate), bows at no. 2 with 74,000 copies.  After two no. 1 albums last year, ole boy’s streak stops.  Frozen, “it’s all your fault!”

41Gjnw1dUPL._SL500_AA280_Luke gets some company on the Billboard 200 where debuts are concerned.  Aloe Blacc launches Lift Your Spirit with 45,000 copies sold, good enough to land at no. 4.  311 drop Stereolithic at no. 6, right ahead of Young Money’s second album, Rise of an Empire.  The ‘empire’ may be rising according to Lil Wayne and company, but with a mere 31,000 copies sold, the stock seems to be dropping… No. 7 is a new high for Young Money, but previous self-titled debut sold considerably more despite debuting at no. 9.  Sara Evans doesn’t have a ‘valedictory’ week herself, as Slow Me Down lands at no. 9 with a modest 27,000 copies.  As for my girl Ledisi, well, let’s say her latest The Truth didn’t exceed the peak of Pieces of Me (no. 9), as The Truth misses the top 10.

61RmtewJi0L._SL500_AA280_Pharrell Williams, who manages to stay in the top ten of the albums chart, also keeps no. 1 locked down on the Billboard Hot 100.  People must like the “Happy” vibes.  As far as next week’s potential newbies on the chart, there are some options, but who knows how much any of them will sell.  Supermodel is a notable attraction, courtesy of Foster The PeopleEnrique Iglesias isn’t exactly the force he once was, but Sex and Love might draw in some numbers.  Skrillex drops his latest, Recess, while Taking Back Sunday teach us what Happiness Is.  Oh and throw My Crazy Life (Y.G.) into the mix as well.  May the best…selling album win the race!

Review: Beck, ‘Morning Phase’


51X7l6td0ML._SL500_AA280_ Beck thrives in an acoustic setting (for the most part) on Morning Phase 

Beck • Morning Phase Capitol • US Release Date: February 25, 2014

zBeck Hansen1-20140227-36After six long years, Beck – arguably the coolest musical hipster alive – finally returns with a new LP.  Where in the world has Beck been?  2008 album Modern Guilt (a collaboration with Danger Mouse) managed to debut at no. 4 on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart, but wasn’t exactly a splash – understatement. In fact, one would have to skip over Beck’s 2006 effort The Information and look back to Beck’s 2005 LP Guero to find an album that made big waves commercially.  2014’s Morning Phase likely won’t win Beck enduring commercial success, but from a critical standpoint, Beck is on-point, as usual.  Morning Phase won’t be proclaimed to be Beck’s best album, particularly given the depth of his discography, but the acoustic-driven effort definitely shines and never falters greatly if any. Beck is still Beck, whether it’s twenty years ago or present day when it’s all said and done.

Cycle” certain establishes the tone of Morning Phase, regardless of its interlude status.  Constructed with lush strings at its core, “Cycle” foreshadows the electrifying opener, “Morning”.  Sure, “Morning” lacks tempo by all means, opting for balladry, but it’s extremely beautiful and perfectly suits Beck’s unique voice.  Beck breaks enough with the ‘acoustic resolve’ here, with Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. adding some synthesizer color.  The ‘color’ element is something found throughout Morning Phase, even if it is subtle.  Lyrically, the entire song is thoughtfully penned, with the chorus standing out tremendously: “This morning / I let down my defenses / this morning / it was just you and me…” Clocking in at over five minutes, “Morning” is no drag by any means.  “Heart Is A Drum” proceeds, matching the strength of “Morning”.  “Free as a turning wheel / circling around your iron will,” Beck sings on the first verse, “See only what you feel / keeps you turning.”  In true ‘Beck’ fashion, “Heart Is A Drum” finds Beck at his truest artistically.  The use of sound collages adds some extra spice to yet another beautiful production.

beckk-20140227-60Say Goodbye” continues the high quality of Morning Phase, but pales in comparison to “Cycle” and “Morning”.  Don’t take such criticism as the track is sub-par – it’s not – but topping a sensational “Morning” or “Heart Is A Drum” is a tall task for anybody, or any following song for that matter.   But how badly can one knock a track that uses the banjo (Fats Kaplan)? “Blue Moon” need not serve as atonement for “Say Goodbye”, but it definitely is superior.  A gander at the personnel and their respective instruments certainly grabs one’s attention; Beck, adds ukulele and charango to his arsenal.  “Blue Moon” itself could definitely be considered to be Morning Phase’s most commercial song, even if it still doesn’t fit such a mode.  Even though it the most accessible cut, it still feels plenty alternative/indie.  “Somewhere unforgiven / time will wait for you.”  Sigh Beck Hansen, how thoughtful. “Unforgiven” definitely has ballad written all over it, but that definitely doesn’t mean it lacks in energy.  There are more than enough musical moments that have you licking your lips…or something like that!

Wave” is one of Morning Phase’s more haunting tracks.  Besides the truly chilling vocal performance by Beck, the strings further accentuate the emotional intensity that characterizes this particular cut. “I move away from this place / in the form of a becki-20140227-62disturbance / and enter into the world / like some tiny distortion / If I surrender / and don’t fight this wave / I won’t go under,” sings Beck from the onset.  The intensity is loftiest on the closing repetition of lyrics “Isolation”, in which the strings portray a forte dynamic level (loud).  After the weight of “Wave”, Beck lightens up on follow-up “Don’t Let It Go”.  “Don’t Let It Go” still utilizes strings (Steve Richards handles cello duties), but also adds acoustic guitar and piano to the mix, in addition to bass and drums.  It’s definitely not up-tempo, but nor is it as slow as “Wave”.

Blackbird Chain” adds some electronic instruments (electric guitar, organ, and clavinet) to the acoustic setting.  Ultimately, “Blackbird Chain” is another solid, enjoyable number from Beck, if not necessarily a hit.  Like a couple of other instances, the refrain is simple, yet notable by all means.  “Phase”, like opening interlude “Cycle” is lush and beautiful.  Perhaps it has little contribution to the album’s overall success, but it still captures the ears. While “Turn Away” is driven by its rhythm, the vocals are equally important to its overall sound and vibe.  Strings continue to make things just that much sweeter, adding that extra dimension.

bbeck-20140227-134Country Down” predictably sounds like a country song – imagine that! Contributions to this sound (a nice departure) include the use of harmonica, pedal steel, and mainstay acoustic guitar.  In fact, heavy-handed acoustic guitar kicks off the track.  Like everything else it seems, “Country Down” benefits incredibly from superb vocal production.  Closing track “Waking Light” offers contrasts to most, blending electronic and acoustic instruments to create a desirably ear-catching timbre.  “Waking Light” isn’t what you’d characterize as ‘rollicking’, but in the context of Morning Phase, it feels an appropriate closing statement.  The instrumental section at the tail end is among the album’s virtuous moments.  Still, it doesn’t supplant the truly elite tracks, most notably “Morning”.

Overall, Morning Phase is yet another exceptional addition to Beck’s discography.  Face it folks, Mr. Hansen rarely – if ever – misses.   Keeping with his ridiculous consistency, Morning Phase is easily a four-star album.  Sure the album is too slow at times, but even when there’s one too many ballads, they aren’t really deal breakers.  Recommended – well to put it in a Beck song title from Guero – “Hell Yes”.

  • Likes: Exceptional vocals by Beck; Thoughtful songwriting; Lovely, warm string orchestrations
  • DislikesSometimes Morning Phase is too slow – aka things get a bit boring, too mellow

Favorites:

“Morning”; “Heart Is A Drum”; “Blue Moon”; “Unforgiven”; “Wave”

Verdict: ★★★★

Grantland

Sports and Pop Culture from Bill Simmons and our rotating cast of writers | Grantland

For The Win

What fans are talking about.

FiveThirtyEight

It'll make you smarter - probably

The misterman's take

life, liberty, love, and laughter

From Paul With Love

I like clothes and fashion and cats.

GmaNs WorlD Blog

Technology - Sports - Music - Mobile - Gadgets - Sun - Fun

AllHipHop.com

The World's Most Dangerous Site

Hollywood Life

Latest Hollywood Gossip, News & Celeb Pics

REALITY CHECK with B-HOP

HUMOR AND HONESTY ROLLED INTO ONE!!

Diane Ravitch's blog

A site to discuss better education for all

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 721 other followers