19 Jul 2014

Sigma - Changing (feat. Paloma Faith) Review

It's summer and thus it's the season of obligatory dance smashes. Sigma seemed to pop out of nowhere with their debut single Nobody To Love which was and still is, amazing. It set the tone for the sunny months perfectly with its epic arrangement of piano keys and d&b synths, plus the strong vocals by Daniel Pearce. Now they're back with second single and potential number one number two, Changing featuring Paloma Faith. Her vocals suit the dance production perfectly, overflowing with a 90s dance, soul sound. It's refreshing to hear her on a track like this and coupled with Sigma's production, identifiable after only one single, it makes for one hell of a summer anthem with an huge chorus.


9 Jul 2014

Sia - 1000 Forms of Fear Review

There are few songwriters as in vogue as Sia Furler. She began her solo career 14 years ago and achieved moderate success with her first five studio albums. Then with the sneaky shenanigans of one David Guetta her voice was flung into the spotlight on mammoth dance hit Titanium and then again with Flo Rida on Wild Ones. With the pressures of fame her personal battle with alcohol, drugs, depression and her unfortunate diagnosis of Graves disease she now wants to remain out of the spotlight, at least as a person. Her music however, could thwart this as she releases sixth studio album, 1000 Forms Of Fear, an album that is set to be her biggest seller so far and increase the attention bestowed on her. 

The album opens with behemoth track Chandelier which serves as the album's lead single and it's more immense, euphoric and heady than any of her past releases. Dealing with the 'party girl' approach to alcoholism ("Party girls don't get hurt/ can't feel anything/ when will I learn/ I push it down I push it down..."), a reflection of Sia's own battle with the addiction, the song is a thumping, whirlwind power ballad with elements of eletronica and hip hop layered under a soaring vocal that cracks at all the right moments. It's a contender for song of the year and as it stands it's way out in the lead. The grandeur doesn't stop there. Big Girls Cry is another album highlight/massive ballad with a brilliant chorus and Eye Of The Needle is wrought with emotion. The vocal breaks give her emotion authenticity and it's her pathos coated vocals that send the likes of Fire Meet Gasoline into the stratosphere, a song with a killer melody and an epic chorus that only she could hold the reigns to.

28 Jun 2014

Ariana Grande - Problem (Feat Iggy Azalea)

After the shitfest that was/is 'Talk Dirty' by one Jason Derulo I never wanted to hear a pop infused horn section again. Then Ariana Grande went and stuck one in her new single Problem and it's actually pretty awesome. 

Problem is an uptempo pop track with brilliantly polished production, some cool lyrics, and lovely singing.  The song opens with "Hey baby even though I hate you/ I wanna love you" and Ariana makes it clear she's not just some Nickelodeon alumni brat with mediocre talent. Iggy Azalea even drops a rap in the middle eight and it's burgeoning with sass and a cheeky homage to Jay Z. There are bound to be those who set her and peer Demi Lovato up for combat, however the two kid stars couldn't be further apart. As far as this song is concerned, Ariana doesn't need to worry about competition.

4 / 5

22 Jun 2014

Lana Del Rey - Ultraviolence Review: "She's emotionally bruised and beautiful..."

Lana Del Rey's Born To Die is a distinct 'debut' album that polarised opinions from critics. Some hailed her authenticity and emotive performance while others found her high pitched timbre and contradictory low gravelly jazz tones unpleasant. Both opinions aside, Born To Die went on to sell over 7 million copies worldwide and as incohesive and random as it is, it is one of the most intriguing albums to come out of 2012. 

The problem with Born To Die is that it doesn't gel, dipping in and out of themes and identities so often that you never get a sense of who Lana Del Rey is. The beauty of songs such as Born To Die and Blue Jeans is countered by frustrating and forgettable tracks like Carmen and Million Dollar Man. What Lana needed to do was show us who she is, consistently. Thankfully, the identity she portrays on third studio album Ultraviolence is far more accessible, relatable and grounded than the retro noir mistress acted on her last. There's nobody better at portraying 'black and white classic' than Lana Del Rey and when you couple this with the production of Dan Auerbach (Black Keys) you have the starlet and the auteur. 

16 Jun 2014

Jessie Ware - Tough Love - "Jessie Ware is awesome."

5 / 5

Jessie Ware is awesome. That's a fact just like the earth being round. Her debut album Devotion is incredible. Leo Tolstoy took 6 years to write War & Peace. That's a lot of facts for a Monday night. Her new single Tough Love dropped tonight on Zane Lowe's Radio 1 show. I was excited and I was nervous; maybe a sweaty palm or two. Thankfully, the nerves were wiped out as soon as the first verse kicked in and Jessie's vocals floated high above the wavering synths and echoes. Then the immense gorgeousness of the chorus came into earshot:
"When your heart becomes a million different pieces / That's when you won't be able to recognise this feeling/ That's called tough love..."
Her vocals are more ethereal than ever before and coupled with beautiful production from BenZei, this is one of 2014's and one of Jessie's most sophisticated tracks. It could fit into Devotion nicely, but there are hints that her next outing might be even more unforgettable.

Nicole Scherzinger - Your Love - "Skip to the midway mark..."

Boomerang was a bit of a misfire for Nicole Scherzinger last year, which is a shame because it's actually quite catchy and not shit once you play it a few hundred times. She's now back and like her nemesis Cheryl Cole (sounds good doesn't it?) she's releasing a new single just in time for Xfactor fever to carry it to a lower top 10 placing... if she's lucky. Your Love is from her tepidly anticipated sophomore album.

It starts off with lots of caribbean beach flavour, courtesy of Rihanna hit makers Tricky and The Dream. Then there are some "yeah - yeah' bits and a "woo". Going well so far right? Then Nicole jumps in with a really 'shit attempt at being seductive' spoken word segment which includes a line about being knocked out like Michael Tyson. It improves once she actually starts singing but then takes a nose dive when she "doo doo doo"s; this seems to have become habit in the now lazy popscape, throwing in some noises because you can't be arsed to come up with some proper lyrics.

If you make it past the first 50% of the song things do improve vastly. The mid section is brilliant and saves this 4 minute track from being a complete waste of time. The production amps up and the bass thumps under her vocals as for the first time on the track, you actually feel like you're listening to a popstar. Your Love isn't quite what I was expecting after such a lengthy hiatus from the charts. It's nowhere near the epic quality of Don't Hold Your Breath. The production is faultless throughout, however if you're a lyric snob you'll probably guffaw. Skip to the midway mark - it's really a very good mid section.


Cheryl Cole - Crazy Stupid Love - "Paint by numbers pop..."

It's hardly surprising that Cheryl Cole is releasing a new single a few months before her Xfactor comeback. It's also unsurprising that said single is distinctly pop and has a very catchy chorus. The problem with this record is that it's not particularly memorable, nor is it pushing any musical boundaries. Sure, she's not known for being experimental and Crazy Stupid Love is no exception. She's roped in Tinie Tempah for a pointless rap somewhere in the middle and she's shoved in an annoying sax section after every chorus. It's no Call My Name, but it is produced by Wayne Wilkins who did the hard work on Fight For This Love and Promise This. It's a paint by numbers pop record, but even that fail safe doesn't save this single from being a flavourless disappointment.


26 May 2014

Ella Henderson - Ghost

If you catapulted Adele and Florence Welch into each other you'd be left with Ella Henderson, Xfactor alumni and all round good singer. Comparisons are unavoidable in a market saturated in female artists and in this case it's a huge compliment to the young chanteuse. 

Her debut single Ghost is very overdue, but it was worth the wait and it's definitely better than anything James Dickwad Arthur has released. It's pop alright, but it's coated in soul, funk and echoes of deep south gospel. Ella's voice soars over a thumping drum beat as she belts 'I keep going to the river to pray/ Cos I need something that can wash out the pain...' on the Ryan Tedder penned chorus. It's a solid introduction to her first album, which should be out sometime, so you'd think. 


10 May 2014

Kylie Minogue - I Was Gonna Cancel

Kylie doesn't set the charts ablaze the way she used to. It's not because the quality of her music is dire or that she packed away her butt flaunting hotpants, it's probably just because the pop landscape has changed so much. It's a shame, because All The Lovers and Into The Blue had number one written all over them but neither soared to the top spot. So, with her newest album Kiss Me Once we are presented with another string of singles. Unfortunately it's not the wonder of the album's title track we're getting because that is a fucking great song (credit to Sia - god like songwriter & musical marvel). On this occasion we have I Was Gonna Cancel, another Pharrell Williams production for 2014.

It's 80s disco mania from start to finish, with Pharrell's funky electro synths & Daft Punk esque robotic mutters layered beneath Kylie chanting "just hop out of the bed / go ahead face the day". It's infectious pop fun, but it feels flat at times and just doesn't have the same sass that made the big Kylie hits so bloody brilliant. 


8 May 2014

Sia - Chandelier Music Video

I have one thing to say. The video for Sia's Chandelier is amazing. 

7 May 2014

Iggy Azalea - The New Classic Review

Iggy Azalea wanted to be recognised by her label as a serious rap artist, not for her commercial viability. A high school dropout, Iggy worked with her mother cleaning hotel bedrooms to save money to make her dream of moving to America and pursuing a music career come true. In the end it did and it's clear from her debut album The New Classic that she takes her craft seriously and that her work ethic deserves nothing but admiration. This is a debut packed with sass, bite and odes to her journey to the top. 

Opener Walk The Line is a divine track, slipping from thumping rap production to haunting 'oohs' on the chorus, that showcases Iggy's fierceness and has her singing about the sacrifice of 'home' she made to get where she is. The New Classic is intended to reflect Iggy's personality, her belief and her attitudes to her life and the people around her. Don't Need Y'all is about the fake people who want to know her now that she's 'somebody'. The guy who used to flush your head down the toilet in school is suddenly your best friend sort of situation (not a personal experience).

6 May 2014

Avril Lavigne - Hello Kitty

I won't lie, I'm not a massive Avril Lavigne fan. Yes, I owned her debut and sophomore albums (Let Go & Under My Skin) and both of those were pretty good. Since those album's though, Avril has gone from teen queen to 29 year old try hard and this is startlingly apparent with latest single Hello Kitty. The single echoes Gwen Stefani, but the comparisons end at echoes. The song is silly, has a shocking dubstep breakdown and showcases all of her vocal limitations (there are plenty). At this stage in her career, it's about time Avril Lavigne defined her sound and direction rather than releasing half finished, desperate nonsense.


Anastacia - Resurrection Review

It was a bit of a shock when Anastacia announced in 2013 that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time. The first time it happened she recovered and released her very good self titled album Anastacia. It was an album brimming with emotion, incredibly emotive vocals and a new found 'sprock' sound (soul/pop/rock) apparent on singles Left Outside Alone and Sick & Tired. Her 6th studio album follows on from 2 not so great collections; one of pop-disco and another of needless covers of artists like the Foo Fighters and Kings of Leon. The aptly named Resurrection is a vast improvement on those 2 predecessors and a fine return to form.

Resurrection's tone is dark, darker than that of Anastacia. There's plenty passion fueling the vocals throughout and there are moments where she is expressing her passion to survive cancer, most notably on the ballads. Lifeline is an album highlight, backed by a beautiful string arrangement that explodes in the middle 8, and emotional lyrics that have Anastacia pleading, "Somebody tell me have I just wasted a lifetime/Show me some hope/God it's so cold/Throw me a lifeline". This fear of mortality is also apparent on the beautiful Stay where she sings, "I'm not ready to go just yet". The ballads continue with I Don't Want To Be The One Pendulum. The former is a paint by numbers heartbreak song, with soaring vocals and a memorable chorus - although it disappointingly doesn't 'take off' in the final chorus. The latter starts with great promise of being a beautiful gospel inspired ballad, but unfortunately becomes an unfulfilling and repetitive pop track. This disappointment is continued with Evolution, where the intention is good but the implementation falls short with an uninspiring and repetitive chorus. Thankfully, Apology and Broken Wings pick up the quality of the down tempo tracks, closing the album in emotional fashion. 

Emotion is clear throughout Resurrection. Opener Staring At The Sun is a piano led power ballad with a brilliant hook and epic chorus and could be one of her best songs to date. It showcases her immense vocals and how well they gel with sprock production. Anastacia take note, this is what you're good at darling. Stupid Little Things serves as the lead single, opening with thumping drums and a meandering verse. It's infectious from start to finish and the chorus is, to put it simply, fantastic. Dark White Girl's production is great and her vocals are on point as she sings about going to places she never thought possible in her lowest emotional moments. 

It's nice to have Anastacia back. Whether you like her or not, her talent is apparent both as a singer and a songwriter. Resurrection is a mature, emotional album with a focus on her battle with cancer and the emotional burden that comes with it. I imagine it will serve as an inspiration to her fans that can directly relate to her experiences and songs like Lifeline and Stay sensitively deal with her own fear of losing her life before her time. It's not perfect and there are some weaker moments, but there are enough great songs here to make a listen worthwhile. Resurrection is the album Anastacia needed to remind us of who she is and what she's good at. It's great to have a mainstream pop artist releasing material that actually means something and isn't all about aggressive sexuality.


27 Apr 2014

Kelis - Food

It seemed Kelis' career as a singer had gone past its use-by date back in 2010. Her last album Flesh Tone, as great a listen as it was, didn't make waves on the charts and when she announced her departure from music to pursue a career as a chef we just thought, 'well that's that then'. Now, 4 years on, the timer has sounded on her musical oven and out of the stur we have Food, a contemporary soul album that reminds you of why you loved Kelis in the first place but also reveals a new found authenticity in her sound. Kelis has never sounded so comfortable and those famous smoky tones shine throughout the album. Food opens with Kelis' son Knight making a cameo and playfully welcoming us with 'Hey guys! You hungry? My mom made food...' 

The album's lead single Jerk Ribs is one of 2014s best songs, backed by an incredible horn arrangement and lead by vocals that soar through to the final chorus. It's the strongest track on Food, the most instantly likeable and the best song to cook to (I've tried and it just works so well). This tempo is continued in the latter stage of the album with Friday Fish Fry, an infectious rhythm and blues number with a rock guitar riff. The only other uptempo track is Cobbler, a song that sees Kelis sing about a new man in her life, comparing being with him him to a holiday. It's unsurprising, given the song titles, that she came up with song concepts whilst cooking dinner and producer Dave Sitek jammed on his lounge piano. 

Little Mix - Salute (Single)

Sugababes 'Freak Like Me' 2
Little Mix unveiled the artwork for their upcoming single Salute last week. It's quite raunchy, for them at least. It's the 3rd single to be lifted from their album of the same name and that album is amazing, fact. Following on from their 'meh' cover of Word Up for charity (got to justify it somehow) last month, they really needed to release something strong to recuperate some credibility. I was quietly hoping for Nothing Feels Like You or Towers, alas what does what I want matter? The title track screams Destiny's Child, from the sirens in the intro to feminist fist pumping chorus about representing all women yada yada.  It's a great intro track to a (surprisingly) superb album but whether it was the best choice for the next single, I'm not so sure. Standing on its own its no Move.


Katy Perry - Birthday

Every now and then, Katy Perry releases a song and its brilliance is only surpassed by actual, admirable feats of humanity like saving lives etc. Roar and California Gurls are prime examples of said 'brilliance'. Her new single from Prism is Birthday, which follows on from hip-hop number Dark Horse and big ballad Unconditionally. It's a disco pop extravaganza, with cheeky lyrics like "I know you like it sweet/ so you can have your cake/ give you something good to celebrate" on top of an infectious poppy arrangement. It's the 2nd strongest track from Prism and potentially one of Katy's best songs to date. Huge fun.


19 Apr 2014

Kelis - Jerk Ribs & Rumble

Kelis is one of the most underrated popstars around. She's moved through from hip-hop to r&b, from pop to dance and electronica. Now she's about to release her 6th studio album FOOD, and it's set to be a substantial helping of old school soul. The two promotional cuts, Jerk Ribs and Rumble are retro flavoured soul records that transport you back to an era where record players were the height of musical technology. 

Jerk Ribs is a wonderful uptempo track, with a soft soul bassline and an exhilarating chorus. Kelis' vocals have never sounded so affective, authentic and distinct. The lyrics are strong and the story is helped by Kelis' flawless delivery. When the muted brass backed chorus kicks in things bubble up to a whole new level of perfection. If this song was edible I'd be salivating by the end of the first chorus. Rumble is mid-tempo piano lead soul and like Jerk Ribs it sends you back in time and suddenly you're in a beautiful piano bar with a gin in one hand, cigarette in the other, foot tapping to the infectious beat. The cracks in Kelis' voice make this whole affair feel like a live performance. If these songs are anything to go by, Food is going to be the highlight of Kelis' career so far and potentially one of 2014's most accomplished albums.

Jerk Ribs - 5/5

Rumble - 4/5

Food is out on 21 April

Iggy Azalea - Fancy (Feat Charli XCX)

Neither of these artists have had the success they deserve, but all that could be about to change with Fancy. A hip-hop pop party anthem with a ratchet beat that serves as an ode to the glamorous lifestyle of the rich and famous. It's packed with sassy lyrics about drinking all your alcohol straight, flying from L.A to Tokyo, and being so swag you couldn't possibly shop in a department store. Basically, she would die before setting foot in Buchanan Galleries. The collaboration works well, the biting rap by Iggy supported by the Charli chants on the chorus and middle section where she sings "Trash the hotel/Let's get drunk on the minibar... Chandelier swinging/We don't give a fuck". It all comes together to form one of 2014's most distinct and entertaining commercial hip-hop moments. 


Lady Gaga - G.U.Y (Girl Under You)

We never got a visual to support the release of Do What U Want. That was a pretty careless move considering how brilliant the song is, just as careless as the original plan to release Venus with its dodgy pound shop production. ARTPOP was always going to polarise its audience, featuring some brilliant moments that are amongst some truly confusing, ridiculous songs that sound unfinished. Thankfully, Lady Gaga has made a good move at last and decided to release G.U.Y (Girl Under You) as the next single from her oddball collection electronic insanity. 

Produced by Zedd, this is similar to Venus but better, obviously. It starts off with sci-fi synths before erupting into a rough electro riff. The lyrics are a bit mad and the song is packed with entendres, but the chorus is memorable and the "G.U.Y" hook is killer.  It's got a solid middle 8 and Gaga's vocals (although spliced with some vocoder) soar into the stratosphere when she belts out "I don't need to be on top to know I'm wanted/Cos I'm strong enough to know the truth...". It's not original, nor is it as awesome as its predecessor, but it's one of ARTPOP's strongest tracks and when you cast aside a critique of originality, you remember this is simply another good pop song by an often brilliant pop artist.


15 Apr 2014

Lana Del Rey - West Coast

It's been two years since Lana (Banana) Del Rey released Born To Die, her 5 million+ selling sophomore album. It was great then and it's even better now. Once you get your head around the cinematic sound of her music you can't help but fall in love with this unique, odd-ball starlet. With her new album Ultraviolence not far away at all and a bunch of teaser tracks being released onto the internet by the lady herself (all of which won't be on the final record) it is fitting that a single be released. All hail West Coast, the song that threatens to burst into reggae at the very start but turns out to be a hypnotic, very Lana type affair, with soft guitar riffs and echoing synths and some staple Lana lyricism about Saigon, icons and being a lush. This song is beautiful.