Category: Album Reviews


If you haven’t already gone out and purchased Rihanna’s latest album, consider this your sign to do so. Her sixth album, Talk That Talk, was released in November of last year, and its success so far shows exactly how she’s climbing the ladder of success. This latest album has RiRi expanding her range to new musical styles beyond the pop and edgy vibes we’ve seen her do before. Obvious in the first single she released from the album, We Found Love, her typical pop style is mixed with some electro sounds giving the album a feel of house music that is making Rihanna a leader of this trend. If you’re like us, and are finding yourself getting into the new trend of house music, you’ll definitely love it.

For those of you who are hard-core fans of Rihanna’s signature classic sound, you’ll love the album’s title track, Talk That Talk, featuring Jay-Z, which is more of her typical spin on pop. We, however, absolutely love the third single from this album, You Da One. Featuring influences from her native culture, this Barbadian beauty gives the song a Caribbean feel that makes you wish summer would last forever. Perfect for one of those days spent chilling at the beach, or a casual braai with friends, you have to add this song to your summer playlist while summer is still around!

What really interests us is Birthday Cake (Official Remix). Why? Because it features the notorious, no longer out of the picture, Chris Brown. Yup. THAT Chris Brown. Backed by some real electro beats, the two certainly don’t sound like ex-lovers who have been through so much. At one point, Brown even sings, “For a long time I’ve been missing your body,” making us wonder exactly how much honesty is being put into this track. While the story behind the collaboration is definitely intriguing, the song itself is just as alluring. It samples some of Rihanna’s new electro feel with a beat that makes you want to get up and dance at the club. Birthday Cake, along with her new track Roc Me Out, will definitely both be club hits in the near future. The latter track’s beat and catchy lyrics will have you singing along in no time!

One other noteworthy track off Rihanna’s latest album is Farewell. It doesn’t have the peppy, upbeat quality that many of the other tracks on the album have. As more of a ballad, it’s the perfect song for getting over that summer fling that might not have worked out.

Although one of her shortest albums, we credit Rihanna with making it one of her greatest. With a mix of electro and house beats, the album is definitely venturing into new territory for Rihanna. She proves that she is truly the Princess of Pop and manages to combine her signature Barbados style of pop with these new elements without losing what we loved most about her music in the first place- herself.

 

 

Selena Gomez & The Scene is a money making machine and can probably sell any album, regardless of quality. Despite this, their second album, A Year Without Rain, is surprisingly quite good. Whilst it’s not as good as sales would suggest and she is by no means the second coming it’s still a good listen.

 

People will always listen to songs made by Selena. Fans of the whole ‘Disney industry’ want any piece of their favourite star they can get. Whether it be in a movie, biography or in this case an album. This blind recklessness is worrying, not so much to the music industry, but rather the quality of the music itself. Many celebrities are weaving their way into the music scene a la Paris Hilton. While others must work hard to get any sort of airtime, the Selena Gomez name automatically buys her space despite quality of music, this I find both interesting and slightly unjust .That being said, this is a music review and the music is all important so I will give them a fair shake.

 

A Year Without rain debuted at 4th on our charts and surpassing her previous album, Kiss and Tell, by a distance. The songs on this album have a fun style in that they are very is easy to listen to. Just put on the first track and you will rarely feel the need to skip tracks. The style of most songs leans heavily into the pop genre and if you are not a fan of said pop, I implore you to stay away. Songs like ‘Spotlight’ and especially ‘Summers Not Hot’ is pop at its most extreme. If that’s your type of thing, the bubbly vibe of ‘Summers Not Hot’ will surely make you want to go straight to the beach. This easy listening is also a pitfall though, as whilst there are good songs, there are no great ones. No song will tug at your heart strings or astounding you with its ingenious lyrics. There are no masterpieces on this album.

 

The best quality of the album though, is definitely the amount of good songs on it. Most albums have a few greats with the rest not being worth of a second listen. In this album however, about 70% of the songs you will find yourself listening over and over again.  While most songs are the usual ‘girl likes boy, boy doesn’t notice girl’ affair and are also very identical in style, it’s exactly that style which makes this album this so catchy. It contains songs which just love to get stuck in your head and that you will find yourself softly singing all day, embarrassing as it may be.

 

So if you hate pop, this is definitely not for you. If you want the next best album of all time, again, not for you. If you prefer quantity over quality and don’t mind singing along to catchy tunes I can definitely recommend this album to you.

 

 

The pink is weak!

Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday: Deluxe Edition is an album not worth the money. It is not cohesive and lacks the collection of catchy chorus needed to make a good mainstream album. Fans of the female hip-hop genre or Minaj’s vocals should buy only the tracks they want, as the rest of the CD is sure to disappoint.

‘Roman’s Revenge’ and ‘Did it on ‘Em’ are the second and third songs on the album. These two tracks are crude and are only worth listening to once for a laugh. The swearing features so heavily in the tracks that a ‘beep machine’ would leave nothing left of the song. The lines “Raah Raah like a dungeon dragon” and “I just shi**ed on ‘em” sum up the juvenile lyric content of the two songs. Society still has a long way to go before songs about defecating on people are successful.

The rest of the CD takes a different direction. The music is more cheerful, there are some dance tracks and the lyrics are about life, love and parties: the usual. Despite the celebrity feature artists and the expensive production techniques, only one song stood out as a clear chart topper. ‘Super Bass’ peaked at number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 because it is the only song on the album with a fully developed, effective and catchy chorus. Minaj’s unusual rap sound in the verses coupled with the strong chorus make this track very accessible to Top 40 listeners as well as Hip-hop fans.

The track ‘Check it Out’ featuring will.i.am should have been a considerable hit with the club going listeners, as the track samples the famous vocal riff from ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’. It seems that the beloved 80’s hit was cherished by too many to make ‘Check it Out’ a club monster. Admittedly, the repetitiveness of the sample does soon turn into an unholy drone.

There are some other interesting tracks that are worth a listen, such as ‘Blazin’’ featuring Kanye West and the R’n’B ‘Moment 4 Life’ featuring Drake. ‘Blazin’’ is saved from the ‘bargain bin’ only because a legendary vocal riff from Simple Minds’ ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’ was used. ‘Moment 4 Life’ is a good example of a well-produced hip-hop beat supporting some good lyrics but the track lacks a chorus, which is noticeable and disappointing. We finally see some of Minaj’s natural singing voice in the track ‘Save Me’. Despite the obvious processing on the vocals, Minaj can hold a tune.

It is almost a pity that the lyrics and music are boring. ‘Fly’ is a half-decent attempt at an uplifting song featuring Rihanna. Unfortunately, Rihanna’s chorus is neither original nor well developed. The other eleven songs on the album are similar in that they lack a good chorus and are not exciting. Despite the weaknesses of the album, it is still currently a better buy than a ticket to Minaj’s concerts where she is still struggling to reproduce a quality rendition of any of her songs.

When William Fitzsimmons decided to release an album full of electronic remixes to his melancholic and outright depressing songs, many Grey’s anatomy viewers choked on their popcorn.  Illinois based singer and songwriter, William Fitzsimmons, has released three albums since his debut in 2005.  The first two albums, which were self produced and recorded in his home in Pittsburgh, became widely used in American TV dramas such as Grey’s Anatomy, Teen Wolf, One Tree Hill, and other tear jerkers.  It’s no wonder TV producers jumped at the opportunity to layer Fitzsimmons whispering voice over montages of broken relationships and unsuccessful surgeries.  His voice floats above the gentle hum of an acoustic guitar, singing lines such as, “And I won’t measure love from the tears that drip from your face” (Funeral Dress).  When William Fitzsimmons begins to sing, heartbreak, loss, and pain literally begin to drip from the speakers.

 
Adding grinding synthesizers, dirty bass, and the upbeat ring of electronica to a William Fitzsimmons’ song is like adding a V8 to a horse and buggy.  Some diehard fans might rather listen to Skrillex hum a lullaby then watch DJ Pink Ganter sink his teeth into the vulnerable flesh of Fitzsimmons’ whispering melodies.  However, by daring to inject a little life into Fitzsimmons’ gloomy ballads, the album stumbles upon an unlikely discovery.

 
The original version of “So This is Goodbye”, depicts a young man coping with the grief of seeing his ex-lover in the arms of another man.  Many of the lyrics suggest that the narrator cannot move on past the grieving stage: “And I cried myself to sleep, and you thought I was happy.  I was lonely and had nowhere to go.”  The fast flutter of the rhythm section contrasted against the sweeping guitar accentuates the narrator’s restlessness, making the listener feel tense and uneasy.  DJ Pink Ganter’s remix captures the feelings of jealousy and heartbreak by keeping the guitar’s mournful cries, but adds in the heavy thump of an electronic bass that works the listener into a contemplative trance.  The song doesn’t loose any of its tender emotion, but DJ Pink Ganter pumps it full of crunchy distortion, giving it some grit and guts.  It’s no longer a whiny singer obsessed with jealousy and loss, but a song of steady movement and slow progression towards emotional balance.

 
Undeniably, the album may push the boundaries of re-imagination too far, such as the album’s final track, a cover of Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl”.  Whether the cover is a joke or an actual attempt at exposing emotional undertones of the pop sensation, no one can deny that the lyrics, “the taste of her cherry chap-stick” roll of Fitzsimmons’ tongue with a palpable awkwardness.  Although a few of the songs on “Derivatives” may stretch the capacity of Fitzsimmons’ woeful voice, the success of the album lies in its daring attempt to expand musical boundaries, and to reveal subtle hints of hope within Fitzsimmons’ music.

By Duncan Lowe

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If F.Scottz Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby could be condensed into a forty minute long aria, it would be Lana Del Rey’s (Lizzy Grant) “Born to die”. Del Ray’s second album is a testament to just how awry the American dream has gone and how, despite decrying all the dissipation and decadence, we still love it, or at least love to hate it.

The star-spangled anthems are an unusual but alluring combination of orchestral instruments and Del Rey’s hip-pop swagger. The album’s title song Born to Die, in the fashion of any great symphony, begins with a sudden, forceful accent of violin (sforzando) and rolls into the twanging guitar and thud of drums. The same old-Hollywood tenor is carried through in “Blue Jeans”, and the albums more romantic ballads like the headlining track, “Video Games”.

The sounds are mellow in tempo but mellow-dramatic in movement. These compostitions epitomise Americans as the world sees them- unapologetically ritzy and ambitious, like Jay Gatsby in his bawdy suites. Any self-proclaimed liberal who says that the album is produced by greedy capitalists, is probably listening to it the same way they support republican policies-secretly.

If you want “depth” the lyrics are not the place to look either. Most of the verses lack any show of literary sophistication or personal insight. However, it might just be the very frivolity of Del Rey’s lyrics that make it so moving. As she sings about “kissing in the pouring rain” and “playing video games” one cannot help but long for that elusive “simpler time”. The seemingly superficial lyrics speak to a very real desire to escape the war outside and relive our imagined youth, when even Gatsby’s lover knows that “you can’t repeat past!”

While most of the words are simple and somewhat unoriginal, “National Anthem” is a lyrical surprise. The chorus sounds like it could very well have been the work of hip-hop emprassarios Jay-Z and Kanye West- “Money is the anthem of success/So before we go out what’s your address?/I’m your national anthem/God you’re so Handsome/Take me to the Hamptons/Bugatti Veyron”.Well-crafted commentary on class and material culture is indeed unexpected from a woman who is indefinitely swooning over some James Dean-type.

Born to die is an ode to opulent western-epics, Grace Kelly romances and Shakespearean tragedies. Yes, the album contains gimmick, gaudy pop-melodies, gratuitous sex, and frivolous libretto, but do not mistake naivety for stupidity. Lana Del Rey may be all pout and sexy sundresses but Lizzy Grant is an intelligent woman who knows what will sell. Whether you think it’s a dream or a nightmare, you will not stop listening to Born to Die.

-By Mwinji Siame

Secret Chiefs – Dance You’re On Fire

Mainstream radio tends to feed us music that isn’t necessarily good and pretty much sounds the same, however, every now and then there are bands that surprise us by managing to make music that is radio friendly, super catchy and worth listening to. Johannesburg seems to be South Africa’s source of these bands and it makes one wonder what it is that Johannesburg has that Cape Town doesn’t. Cape Town has limited venues for bands to perform and a relatively difficult audience to convince. While Johannesburg has more venues and a bigger crowd of music goers, bands gig for years without ever blowing up. You’ve got to pay your dues if you want to make it in this scene and Dance You’re On Fire is one such band. They have been gigging and paying their dues since 2007. It was only after their change in sound, now more mainstream as opposed to their earlier experimental material, and the release of their single ‘Blockade’, followed by their full length debut album Secret Chiefs that South Africa was forced to take notice.

Their feel good sugary pop rock sound with an indie bite is the kind of music you would blast at full volume in your car on your way to campus to get you amped up for the long day ahead. I remember the first time hearing Boxes of Tigers. I was completely convinced it was Panic At The Disco making an awesome come back after the failure of Pretty Odd, so I turned it up to full volume. The quality of both this band’s music as well as the actual production and mastering of the album exceeds expectations. It is an extremely well-produced album, good enough to be released internationally.  Realising that they were in fact a local band only impressed me more.

While DYOF’s sound is commercial they have found a perfect balance between popular culture and indie that makes for catchy tunes but never losing its credibility as a ‘radicore’ band. ‘Secret Chiefs’ ranges from bubbly tracks like Boxes of Tigers and Little Wars which prove perfect for dancing around like a kid who’s had too much candy (when nobody’s looking of course), to more chilled songs like Michelle.  My personal favourites on the album would be Blockade and Michelle.  Blockade’s attitude filled leads make it stand out from the rest of the album while the mellowness of Michelle compliments the indie pop nature of the rest of the album.

The band is in the process of working on a follow up to Secret Chiefs hopefully to be released in 2012. They may sound a lot like Panic At The Disco but I don’t think we need to worry too much about them pulling a ‘Pretty Odd’ stunt. I can’t see them isolating themselves in a cabin in the mountains in the middle of nowhere, writing music while under the influence of opium related drugs. This is an album definitely worth adding to your collection.

A Group to be Watched

Cape Town based band, The First Descent (formerly known under the name of BlueSkyFriday), was established in early 2008 as a Power Rock band. As with many bands, however, members and influences change over time. It is through these changes that The First Descent has been moulded into the band it is today. The band is made up of members: Evan Strauss, Adrian Fowler, Bruce McDougall and Michael Pole, all of whom share a strong bond not only as musicians, but as people too.

After collaborating for only three years, the band has already managed to compile two EPs. Their first EP was recorded in 2009 with Clive Shonfeld and Adam Bilton of DonDouglasMusic. Their most recent EP was recorded earlier this year with Alan Simmonds of Soundsurgeon Studios which consists of four tracks: “Tattooed Hearts”, “The Runaway”, “Take My Hand” and “We Will Sail Away”.

As an up-and-coming band, their EP blew me away. It came as no surprise when, after listening to the tracks myself, I learned that the track “Tattooed Hearts” has made its way into the ReverbNation Cape Town Rock Chart, featuring at number 9. With a sound similar to that of Creed and The Doors, their music evokes feelings of reminiscence as the lyrics take you on a journey which leads to the stories that many of us have shared.

“Take my Hand” tells a heart-felt story of the memories of past relationships that one cannot escape. The melodic introduction to the song gives it a perfect ballad-like feel which pairs perfectly with Strauss’s pleasing vocals. It is a wonder why this track has not yet been placed on the charts.

“Tattooed Hearts” takes a different approach as the lyrics touch on one’s dreams and how it is easy to give up on them. The lyrics “I pray that you don’t make this mistake” enforce the message that we cannot let our dreams fall away as our dreams are “what keeps us awake”. The true magic of the song comes out towards the end when everything dies down for a few seconds and all you can hear is the sweet melody of Pole on the guitar, accompanied by Fowler quietly on the drums.

“The Runaway” would most likely sit very well with those who are Creed fans as their influence is significantly heard in this song. Strauss’s vocals shine in this song as he belts out every note perfectly, especially in the last minute of the track.

The Track, “We Will Sail Away” ends off the EP with something unique as it ties in with the idea that in everyone’s life there comes a time when one needs to look inside oneself and descend to regions within, that have never been discovered before.

The First Decent has the talent to show us that there are so many things left for us to experience in our journey of life and their passion for music shines through their work. They are a promising group of musicians and I look forward to what they have in store for us in the future.

Misread Mumford?

BY KYLIE HOLLIDAY

MISTER & MISREAD

Mister & Misread – Photo by Metoikos Cadmus

Mister & Misread is a Somerset-West based band who arrived on the scene mid-June last year with the release of a video of their cover of Mumford and SonsWhite Blank Page.

The then-duo’s acoustic version brings in a beautifully soulful element that the original version does not possess. The pair transform this folk song into somewhat of a bluesy, easy-listening rock melody that is well worth a listen.

Lead vocalist, Kristyn Röhm or Misread, has a sincerity in her voice that is uncommon thus creating a dynamic and powerful tone, which maintains the perfectly suited understated quality of this soulful rendition. Her genuineness leads the listener into believing every word bringing in a great depth that makes the song easy to relate to; a quality that has become increasingly important in the music industry.

Guitarist, Nick Frost, adds a fullness to the song right throughout with his tentative manipulation of his guitar strings, whereas the Mumford and Sons original contains this fullness and intensity only through the assistance of a full band. Nick’s harmonising further intensifies the emotionally heavy lyrics. This is by no means intended to suggest that the Mister and Misread version is any better or worse than the Mumford and Sons original, or vice versa, but simply to remark on how the two differ.

There is a downfall to this release; although the sound quality of the video is good, it could be better. The video of this performance can be found on YouTube by typing in “Mumford and Sons, White Blank Page (cover) nikon d7000” or going to Etienne van Rensburg’s channel.

The band has since expanded to include three more Misters: Phil Joubert on bass guitar, Jono Otero on guitar and Fourie Pretorius on drums. Mister & Misread falls under the management of Sovereign Express who have managed the Parlotones, WONDERBoom, Jon Savage and the likes to great success, one can only hope that Mister & Misread achieves the same kind of success.

Since the addition of the new members, Mister & Misread has recorded and released to Soundcloud two original tracks; Silver Linings and The Best Is Yet To Come. The band has, through these few releases, proven their talent with a style classified as ‘easy-listening, dust-rock and dark-pop’ and the most original, catchy lyrics that make one wonder just how they conjured them up. They are a group who claim to have something for everyone, something new to offer and have yet to fail to deliver. I look forward to there being an album to buy, hopefully in the very near future!

The band can be seen live at Bohemia in Stellenbosch on every other Sunday and at various venues around Cape Town, to keep up to date with their gigs “Like” their Facebook page, you won’t be disappointed.

This band is a must see!

When William Fitzsimmons decided to release an album full of electronic remixes to his melancholic and outright depressing songs, many Grey’s anatomy viewers choked on their popcorn.  Illinois based singer and songwriter, William Fitzsimmons, has released three albums since his debut in 2005.  The first two albums, which were self produced and recorded in his home in Pittsburgh, became widely used in American TV dramas such as Grey’s Anatomy, Teen Wolf, One Tree Hill, and other tear jerkers.  It’s no wonder TV producers jumped at the opportunity to layer Fitzsimmons whispering voice over montages of broken relationships and unsuccessful surgeries.  His voice floats above the gentle hum of an acoustic guitar, singing lines such as, “And I won’t measure love from the tears that drip from your face” (Funeral Dress).  When William Fitzsimmons begins to sing, heartbreak, loss, and pain literally begin to drip from the speakers.
Adding grinding synthesizers, dirty bass, and the upbeat ring of electronica to a William Fitzsimmons’ song is like adding a V8 to a horse and buggy.  Some diehard fans might rather listen to Skrillex hum a lullaby then watch DJ Pink Ganter sink his teeth into the vulnerable flesh of Fitzsimmons’ whispering melodies.  However, by daring to inject a little life into Fitzsimmons’ gloomy ballads, the album stumbles upon an unlikely discovery.
The original version of “So This is Goodbye”, depicts a young man coping with the grief of seeing his ex-lover in the arms of another man.  Many of the lyrics suggest that the narrator cannot move on past the grieving stage: “And I cried myself to sleep, and you thought I was happy.  I was lonely and had nowhere to go.”  The fast flutter of the rhythm section contrasted against the sweeping guitar accentuates the narrator’s restlessness, making the listener feel tense and uneasy.  DJ Pink Ganter’s remix captures the feelings of jealousy and heartbreak by keeping the guitar’s mournful cries, but adds in the heavy thump of an electronic bass that works the listener into a contemplative trance.  The song doesn’t loose any of its tender emotion, but DJ Pink Ganter pumps it full of crunchy distortion, giving it some grit and guts.  It’s no longer a whiny singer obsessed with jealousy and loss, but a song of steady movement and slow progression towards emotional balance.
Undeniably, the album may push the boundaries of re-imagination too far, such as the album’s final track, a cover of Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl”.  Whether the cover is a joke or an actual attempt at exposing emotional undertones of the pop sensation, no one can deny that the lyrics, “the taste of her cherry chap-stick” roll of Fitzsimmons’ tongue with a palpable awkwardness.  Although a few of the songs on “Derivatives” may stretch the capacity of Fitzsimmons’ woeful voice, the success of the album lies in its daring attempt to expand musical boundaries, and to reveal subtle hints of hope within Fitzsimmons’ music.

By Duncan Lowe

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White Interrupted

Jack is back, and this time he’s flying solo. His single, Love Interruption released January 30th 2012, was put out to promote his upcoming album, ‘Blunberbuss’- out April 23rd.
The man who was named one of the greatest guitarists of all time, who helmed The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather, has finally stepped out of his comfort zone and is making a record under his own name.

Love interruption is a lot darker and more burdened than any of his previous works. While listening to Icky Thump, or Seven Nation Army one can hear a restless mind coming to play, thoughts that have been thrown together to make the senseless but intoxicating and incredible songs. You can imagine White ‘jamming’ in a garage, putting his emotion into a chord, whipping the guitar just to clear his head. Whilst his previous projects were a lot more ‘fun’, Love Interruption is a lot more sullen, graphic and violent. Unlike his previous works, it seems that a lot more thought and time went into creating this song. However, this does not necessarily mean the song is remotely close to his best works.

The song explores the acidic and astringent expectations of love, that almost makes the listener feel assaulted as he utters a vast variety of vile phrases -“stick a knife inside me, and twist it all around”, “murder my own mother”, “split my mouth wide open, and cover my ears”, Leave me dying on the ground.”- that paint images of a brutal molestation rather than a relationship, and has no resemblance to the stereotypical ideals of what love and its themes are.

Giving an opinion on this piece is…complicated. The intensity of the song is in the lyrics and repetitive chorus. Musically, however, White’s normal trademark of ‘riffing’, that crates an almost hollow or broken idea to his music, is absent. The strange combination of electric guitar, keyboard and saxophone once again underlines the abnormal rarity of the song. White’s chant “I wont let love disrupt, corrupt or interrupt me”, is embedded in the listeners memory as if to warn them not to let this happen to them either.

For months, White has underlined the importance of this single; everything about this release is dedicated to tell the world that this is Jack White being serious – he’s even releasing the album on vinyl – this is his return and he is bigger and better than ever. But to the ‘average’ White fan it is an uncomfortable change, the song has brilliance, but White is better suited riffing with both his lyrics and his guitar.
After an unusually long silence from White, his ‘grand return’ is rather disappointing. He isn’t back with a bang or another rambling subjugation but a song about the bitterness of love that leaves us thinking – is that it??

As said in Almost Famous, “Rock ‘n roll is a lifestyle, a way of thinking… it’s a voice that says here I am and fuck you if you cant understand me”. This is who White is. He is unapologetic, and creates what he wants when he wants. And regardless of what any critic says he will continue making music for himself and his fans, whether it’s disappointing or not. Love Interruption isn’t the White we know or maybe even love, but for this generation it is still a darn good piece of music. Give it a listen and decide for yourself…