Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes review

Second to last review (#14) for July’s month of reviews. That is, a new review every two days, or close to, for the month of July to celebrate the 5 year, 1 month anniversary of this blog! And August will be a new surprise!

From her debut, Youth Novels, to Wounded Rhymes, stylistically, Lykke Li has definitely changed. The sound is much bigger, due to an abundance of percussion, and very much a primal feel. It can still be called indie-(insert second genre here), but it is a very ambitious album.

Clocking in at a respectable 41 minutes for 10 tracks, it packs in a lot. For instance, “Sadness is a Blessing”, a fairly mid-tempo track, contains drums, bass, additional percussion, along with piano and organ. Immediately following is “I Know Places”, a very minimal track, with pretty much just guitar, and backing vocals. The listener gets to hear how Lykke Li is singing on this album, much more raw, adding the aforementioned primitive feel.

As I mentioned in the start of the review, the big, percussion heavy, primitive feel can be heard throughout, but no better example than the debut single, “Get Some.” In “Get Some”, worth noting is the songwriting, with its sexual suggestive lyrics. “I Follow Rivers” is simple, yet complex: “Oh I beg you, can I follow. Oh I ask you, why not always. Be the ocean where I unravel. Be my only, be the water where I’m wading.”

As I mentioned in my last post, how it is more album covers these days, less artwork, well, the cover of Lykke Li’s Wounded Rhymes fits into the album artwork category. The picture was taken by Roger Dekker, while the cover was done by Australian Leif Podhajsky. Similarly, the music videos are very artistic, and fit the music very well.

Earlier this year, on January 28, Lykke Li performed on the second half of Austin City Limits (“Sadness is a Blessing” performance linked) (Florence and the Machine being the first act), and her performance was downright amazing, as she performed with plenty of passion, and the music sounds great live with so many acoustic elements to it.

Definitely an album worth picking up (assuming you buy a physical copy!).

Source used:
Wounded Rhymes album artwork | lykkeli.com

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Rihanna – all six album cover reviews!

Review #13 (a new review every two days in July!), not really a music review. This is the post I would prefer to post as a Spring Cleaning post, but I have been thinking of it for a while, so finally did it. I will make up for it with another music review in August!

Back in the day, in this case the 1960s and 1970s releasing albums in a short span was not uncalled for. The Beatles for instance managed 12 albums in around 8 years (perhaps 10, as they had been playing many songs well before they were released)! Of course, the ‘album’ was new back then, and they were clearly innovators along with many other artists. Going on fifty years later, many things have changed.

Fast forward to today, I think Rihanna is the artist who has released the most albums in the past few years. She of course has a team of people behind the album, so it is completely possible. On her own, or even with four or five others, who knows what her career would look like.

This post will not really review the music, but the album covers. I could say album artwork, as actual artwork can still be found, but I think in most cases these days, it is just album covers. The picture of just her can certainly be artwork, but I do not think albums covers are given as much importance these days.

Debut, August 12, 2005

Sophomore album, April 19, 2006

Her first album, Music of the Sun, was recorded when she was 16/17 years old. Still a kid really! I think the album cover shows that. Her second album, A Girl like Me, was recorded very soon after the release of her first, as it was released a mere 8 months after her debut. She would have been a mere year older at that point, and again, it shows in the album cover, the photos could have been taken a few days apart!

Her third album, May 30, 2007. It would end up being her most sold album worldwide.

Album 4, November 20, 2009

Good Girl Gone Bad, again, recorded one year after her previous album, and it was released 13 months after. On the cover she would have likely been 19, definitely growing up, and maturing. As the catchy debut single “Umbrella” would tell. A ‘Reloaded’ version was released a year later, and along with the original album, she released a lot of singles! Seven to be exact that were official singles with accompanying music videos!

The time between albums 3 and 4 would be the longest in her career to date (just under 2.5 years). The aforementioned Good Girl Gone Bad Reloaded edition was released, and a certain incident with Chris Brown happened. This incident no doubt made her sound darker and heavier, as is how her fourth album cover looks for Rated R (the title says a lot too) (although, on a completely unrelated note, I would take the Queens of the Stone Age Rated R over this one). Rated R is also the least colourful.

Album 5, November 12, 2010

Album 6, her latest, November 18, 2011

Album 5, Loud (released one year after Rated R) is Rihanna being herself again, having moved on from the incident. If one was judging based on the cover alone, it is Rihanna grown up, very much a young woman, and quite sexy at that! Judging with the music it is her showing a bit of her side as a rebel as well.

Again, a year later sees the release of her sixth full-length, Talk That Talk. A bit of cockiness (track 5, “Cockiness (Love It)”!), her dark side, and the rebel all in one! The same applies for the deluxe edition!

She is a solo artist, despite having many many people helping her out, credited or not, therefore SHE is the focus of the album cover. Yet, they pretty well define the music found within. My favourite album cover is Good Girl Gone Bad, with Loud in a close second, even if it is a wig (based on some footage from the DVD that came with it).

Six albums in just over six years! My guess is her next album will not be until 2013 with her other ventures (acting, and whatever else) going on.

Talk That Talk Deluxe edition

Tune-Yards – Whokill review

Review number twelve! Late again, but I am keeping pace!

Right from the beginning of “My Country”, Merrill Garbus’s loop based music is evident, with some big drum loops (the bigger the better, to steal from Nelly Furtado’s “Big Hoops (Bigger the Better))””. (Nice, closed that last sentence with double end brackets and quotation marks!) Of course much more is added to the mix, including horns later on that are not looped.

When I saw her symposium at Pop Montreal last year, she mentioned how she would like to move away from the looping pedal and along with a singing group, she has been studying singing styles and applying them to her music, and will continue to do so. Which is great to hear, as she will certainly evolve as an artist. That is not to say Whokill is not good, anything but. Her loops, along with live (not looped) instrumentation, and her unique songwriting makes for a cool second album, after her super lo-fi debut album (BiRd-BrAiNs) (recorded mostly on a dictation machine), and its lack of bass. The lack of bass she said meant her drums had to be big. And they are big in this album too, along with some good bass (stand up bass in “Es-So”, or cool distorted bass line in “Gangsta”).

The big up-tempo songs may be what she is known for, but she also slows things down on “Powa”, and “Wooly Wolly Gong”. The latter being stripped down too, pretty much a Tune-Yards lullaby!

All in all, I am not a huge Tune-Yards fan, but I like that she is innovating! I look forward to see what her future holds!

She returns to Montreal for a show July 31, with local act Mozart’s Sister opening. The remaining tour dates, which sees her going to Europe in August can be found at her official site, tune-yards.com

Source used:
Bird-Brains | Wikipedia

Nicola Roberts – Cinderella’s Eyes review

Well, review #11 (a new review every two days in July!) is late, so I am reviewing something I know fairly well, and a much newer release than most of my previous reviews. I will get right to the review.

Right off the bat, hearing the debut single, “Beat of My Drum”, this is considerably different pop than what she produced as a member of the British girl group Girls Aloud. Much less commercial pop, and more electronic. Sensible, smart pop if you will.

The album pretty much keeps the same feel as the singles, which, chronologically start off the album (“Beat of My Drum”, “Lucky Day”, and “Yo-Yo”), as most of the production is handled by Dimitri Tikovoi. He has worked with Placebo, Goldfrapp, and Sophie Ellis-Bextor among others. “Say It Out Loud”, despite its obvious synth line, is one of the closer ones to Girls Aloud style. “Gladiator” with its “Ding dong ding dong ding dong ding dong” start, is almost reminiscent of Gwen Stefani’s debut single, “What You Waiting For?” (Tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock, etc,), and it actually feels quite similar as a whole, from the beat up.

The album closes with the emotional track, “Sticks + Stones”, which is about her negative times as one-fifth of Girls Aloud, and people bullying her, calling her “the ugly one”. All while being a member of Girls Aloud, which goes to show how negative the industry can be, putting looks above everything. With its release, she has become an activist for anti-bullying.

As a whole, a welcome change, whereas some other members of Girls Aloud have not strayed from their previous sound, therefore not keeping my interest (what I have heard did not sound appealing). So nice to see her innovating. And every song on the album has merit.

Katy Perry – Teenage Dream (only the non-singles!) review

So, for review #10, Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream (original 2010 release), albeit only the songs that were not released as official singles. That is six tracks, none of which were produced by the very much in demand producer, Dr. Luke, also known as Łukasz Gottwald. If I were to do the same with the recently released Teenage Dream: The Complete Confection, it would only add one track, as it contains more singles, and different versions of other singles, “E.T.” featuring Kanye West for example.

There is no doubt, one cannot get much more commercial than Katy Perry, but she seems to be talented, underneath the overproduction, as she did work quite hard to get where she is now (so I understand). With this kind of commercial music, infectious hooks and all, it can merit some good points, if being catchy, and a guilty pleasure at the very least. I consider myself fairly good at distinguishing good music from not so good, and Katy Perry seems to have some potential. I thought after “I Kissed a Girl” she could have gone either way as far as being a one hit wonder, depending on what the record label thought, which in the end would have been about selling product.

As a whole, the six non-singles range from throwaway to decent songs. “Peacock” is a silly intentionally semi-explicit number, not too bad, not too great either. “Circle the Drain” (it was a promotional single) is the highlight of the non-singles, as lyrically it “focuses on a former lover’s drug-addiction and the strains it put on both of them.” It is a more serious tone, as one can imagine given the lyrics, and the actual expletives are on this one (which I dig, as it goes against what society of old would expect from women). Despite that, it is fairly up-tempo even while being in a minor key.

“Who am I Living For?” and “Pearl” are not very interesting, while “Hummingbird Heartbeat” really is not great, but kind of catchy, and sounds like it is channeling some 80s retro synth pop energy! And it features live acoustic drums! “Not like the Movies” (the first promotional single apparently!) is one of two (“Pearl” being the other) that only has two songwriters, Katy Perry and Greg Wells. It is a cheesy (for lack of a better word) ballad, so, not too good. Minus the cheesiness, the arrangement has some nice elements (my attempt at being nice?), that aside, another throwaway track.

This version has a couple of remixes as bonus tracks, “California Gurls” featuring Snoop Dogg (Passion Pit Main Mix), and “Teenage Dream” (Kaskade Club Remix). I generally do not care for remixes, and these are no exception! On a positive note, Passion Pit on their own have some good tracks from what I have heard.

Sources used:
Teenage Dream (Katy Perry album) | Wikipedia
Circle the Drain (song) | Wikipedia
Not Like the Movies | Wikipedia

Wilco – Yankee… Radiohead – Kid A review

Well, I started listening to Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, in fact I still am listening to it, I am on track four, “War on War.” Not knowing what I felt like reviewing, I went from listening to Caitlin Rose’s cover of the Arctic Monkeys’ “Piledriver Waltz” for her Record Store Day 2012 release (music video linked), as Richard from Thoughts on music (a cool blog for which I find out about a lot of new music!) posted about it, to thinking about Arctic Monkeys and somehow jumped to the Wilco album, as I have never heard it (in fact hardly listen to Wilco ever!), and it is rated as one of the best albums of the 2000s decade. Now I am on track six, “Ashes of American Flags”, and it does seem like a good album, but, a little too mellow for me. So instead, I will review what I think is the best album of the last decade, Radiohead’s Kid A, strictly from memory. I am pretty sure Rolling Stone agreed, with Wilco in second place. (Rather, I agree with them!).

Kid A is a definite turning point in their career, going from the critically acclaimed OK Computer which did have its share of electronic in it to pretty much a total electronic album.

From memory, I cannot begin to list where all the sounds in Kid A came from. Of course there are standard instruments in there, guitar, bass, and drums, but not always used in the conventional methods. Even the lyric style is fairly unique, starting off the album with “yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon” to “there are two colours in my head” (all in “Everything in Its Right Place”). Similar to South Park mocking Family Guy, it could have been two manatees choosing random phrases, and putting them together! Yet, I think it works very well, and I enjoy how they work! I myself have tried songwriting, and cannot really come up with zany stuff that works, of course I have not tried too hard.

I used to look forward to being able to listen to a modern rock radio station when I was in range (before internet streaming was what it was today!), and one of their ‘Buzz Cuts’ at the time was “Optimistic”, which manages to work on modern rock radio. Radiohead being a band, along certain others (such as the Beastie Boys) that work on modern rock radio even if they are not quite ‘modern rock’.

“The National Anthem” also could be such a song, with its very distinct bass line (which I might add is a fun one to play — yes, it is fairly easy, but it does sound cool too!).

The electronic aspect is very prevalent in “Idioteque”, which practically has Thom Yorke having a seizure by the end of it! The album does come to a nice mellow close (not at all like Wilco’s style of mellow!) with “Morning Bell” and “Motion Picture Soundtrack.”

And now for something completely different (I recommend hearing the actual album first):

Elvis Costello – This Year’s Model review

Review number 8!

By no means am I an Elvis Costello expert, in fact far from it, but I definitely appreciate his work.

This Year’s Model is Elvis’ second release, was recorded when he was 23 years old! Quite a feat!

At first, Elvis (born as born Declan Patrick MacManus) listened to The Clash’s debut, and did not like it at all, after several listens, he became a fan. This Year’s Model starts off with a punk influence in “No Action”, a fast track (156 BPM!) clocking in two seconds shy of two minutes. And with that in mind, Mick Jones of The Clash was invited to play guitar with Elvis Costello and The Attractions. He played an additional guitar on a version of “Pump it Up” that did not make the album, but he did play on “Big Tears” (on the second side of the “Pump it Up” 7″, or reissues of This Year’s Model).

The album is a rock record, which mostly has a new wave feel, to me the punk rock influence is not too obvious, even if it is the very start of punk rock. Of course the two genres evolved together, and I was not yet born, hence, again not an expert. The new wave is quite obvious in the toe-tapper that is “Lip Service” (among others!).

My favourite track is the very quick “Lipstick Vogue”, clocking in at 144 BPM! Pete Thomas’ excellent drumming is definitely on display in this one, as is Bruce Thomas’ bass playing (no relation).

“Radio Radio” is also a great tune. It was a single in the U.K., but appeared on the U.S. release. See my blog post titled “The genius of Elvis Costello (and the Beastie Boys)” for more about that song in particular!

Rolling Stone in their small blurb from the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time say it well:

Costello’s second album, and his first with the Attractions, is his most “punk” – not in any I-hate-the-cops sense but in his emotionally explosive writing and his backing band’s vicious gallop. “Radio, Radio,” the broadside against vanilla-pop broadcasting, distills his righteous indignation: Elvis versus the world. And Elvis wins.

No throwaway tracks, songwriting is great, musicianship is superb! No doubt one of the greatest albums of all time!

Sources used:
Rear-View Mirror: Elvis Costello’s ‘Watching The Detectives’
Liner Notes: This Year’s Model
500 Greatest Albums of All Time: Elvis Costello, ‘This Year’s Model’ | Rolling Stone

Lagwagon – A Feedbag of Truckstop Poetry EP

Having been to the Montreal stop of the Warped Tour two days ago, I was too tired out to get a review written that night. I was going to review another folk EP, to make it easier on myself after Warped Tour, it was going to be Lissie’s Why You Runnin’, but, alas I already reviewed it, and forgot! I could have expanded on the review, as the aforementioned review is not very comprehensive, but what is done is done. So, something else in the spirit of Warped Tour!

Lagwagon was one of the first major bands I saw at Warped Tour, the 1997 edition! They were actually one of, if not the last to play that night, on a small side stage next to the main stage after Pennywise!

A Feedbag of Truckstop Poetry was released in between Lagwagon’s very poppy Let’s Talk About Feelings (1998) and three years before they returned from a brief hiatus to release Blaze in 2003. And it was released as a seven inch vinyl on Fat Wreck Chords.

With the release of Let’s Talk About Feelings, but much moreso with Blaze, and especially Resolve (not to mention his solo work and other projects), Joey Cape, lead singer and songwriter for Lagwagon has really evolved into a quite a good songwriter. This seven inch is a fairly good example, and of where they would end up going musically.

With the Jawbreaker cover of “Want”, albeit a bit more punk than emo, yet still quite good, I cannot help but feel as the first track, at just over 5 minutes long is emo in of itself. “A Feedbag Of Truckstop Poetry” would fit well on the aforementioned Let’s Talk About Feelings. I am not sure when these songs were recorded, so perhaps that may not be a surprise!

All songs can be found on the Lagwagon compilation album, Let’s Talk About Leftovers from 2000. In September of last year, Fat Wreck Chords/Lagwagon re-released their first five album with plenty of bonus tracks.

Corinna Rose – Corinna Rose EP review

Review number 6 in my review every two days feature for July! Once again, if you want me to review anything, leave me a comment, mention me on Twitter, or contact me via the contact page.

As mentioned in my last review, this is another folk/country EP. Caitlin Rose two days ago leaned a bit more towards country, while this leans a bit more towards folk.

And I just realised, Corinna Rose, ends with ‘Rose’ too, and both start with the letter C, pointless really, just a random observation!

As with Caitlin Rose, Corinna Rose has a voice very well suited for her genre. And her Corinna Rose EP is a great 4 song taste of what she and her band has to offer.

Again, as with Caitlin Rose, Corinna Rose is almost a throwback to yesteryear of folk music. She (and her band) keep it fairly simple instrumentation wise, yet, the arrangements seem perfectly suited. And when I have seen her live sans her band, her material works just as well in an acoustic setting.

The EP starts off with the catchy up-tempo “Belle Guitare”, slows down for the next two, “Hymn for the Heartbreaker”, and “Amanda”, and “Born on a Mountain” picks it up again to end the EP!

“Belle Guitare” or ‘nice guitar’ in English (thanks Google Translate, even though I knew!), is a really catchy toe-tapping number, with just the right acoustic guitar, eventual bass, and percussion. Autoharp and banjo rule in “Hymn for the Heartbreaker”, in both senses of the word ‘rule’, as they are without a doubt the prominent instruments setting the mood, and they sound great together! “Born on a Mountain” perhaps the most ‘country’ tune due to the electric guitar in the mix. However with the banjo in there as well, it makes for a great folk/country hybrid.

Corinna Rose’s “Green Mountain State” was featured during the opening credits of the latest Sarah Polley film, which stars Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, and Sarah Silverman!

Corinna is based out of Montreal, but definitely an up and coming artist to watch for, especially with her debut full-length album on the horizon (late this year or early next)!

Do check her out on Bandcamp, and her official website, corinnarose.com!

Official video for “Hymn for the Heartbreaker”:

Caitlin Rose – Columbia Hotel EP review

Today’s review (number 5!), and my next one will both be folk/country EPs.

Caitlin Rose’s Columbia Hotel EP does not seem to have been an official release on its own completely. It seems it was bundled with the some of the first versions of her debut, Own Side Now. And also for sale on tour (where I picked my copy up).

Regardless, it is five songs long, two of which can be found on Own Side Now, “Own Side”, and “For the Rabbits.” Two more are covers, “Faithless Love” (written by J.D. Souther, performed by Linda Ronstadt in 1974, and Glen Campbell ten years later), and “Marie” (Randy Newman). It also contains one more original, “You Never Come Home for Christmas.”

Caitlin Rose has a very well suited voice for the genre, harking back to the old days of country, such as Patsy Cline (who she covers on her Dead Flowers EP, 2008). And her delivery is fairly straight forward, which works well, as she does not need any sort of theatrics to add anything to the music.

Arrangements are fairly minimal, again, however, like her voice, that works wonders. “Own Side” is the same version as on her full length, however “For the Rabbits” is a much more laid-back version with just acoustic guitar and a little organ, whereas the album version has percussion and harmonies. Both covers she makes her own. That of course is easier to say since I only just listened to the original versions, yet most people would probably think they were her own, unless they knew the originals. Aside from Christmas being in the title of “You Never Come Home for Christmas”, one would not know it as a Christmas tune. It also features backup vocals by Keegan DeWitt prominently in the chorus.

Definitely worth seeking out (or the easier to find Dead Flowers EP, or her full-length) for fans of country/folk with a hint of Americana (even if the Americana aspect could be argued, in a world of poppy country, it is probably safe to say).