Saturday, September 14, 2013

Arctic Monkeys cover Drake

Apologies for being MIA the last few days--it's was due to a mix of being ill and starting my second year of university. Regular posting should resume in the next few days. But until then, here's my favourite anything at the moment... Arctic Monkey's cover of Drake's "Hold On, We're Going Home" on Radio One's Live Lounge.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Billboard Hot 100, September 14, 2013


1. Roar - Katy Perry

Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" lines has finally been dethroned; its 12 week stay cut short as Katy Perry's latest single "Roar" climbs a notch up to #1, landing her eighth chart-topper--moving an impressive 448k units this week, matched with 21 million streams and almost 100 million audience impressions. Perry is now the sixth female artist with the most number-ones on the Hot 100--trailing Mariah Carey (18), Madonna and Rihanna (12 a piece), Whitney Houston (11) and Janet Jackson (10).

3. Bezerk - Eminem

The lead single, "Bezerk" from Emiem's forthcoming eighth studio album  The Marshall Mathers LP, debuts at #3, landing the rapper his fifteen top ten single. According to Billboard, this is Eminem's tenth top ten debut--tying Lil' Wayne as the rapper with the most top ten debuts.

6. Applause - Lady Gaga

It's a little odd seeing a new Gaga single performing so moderately on the charts. This week her latest single, "Applause" slips two spots down to #6.

8. Royals - Lorde

New Zealand singer/songwriter Lorde scores her first US top ten single with, "Royals." It moves four spots up to #8.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Matt Burn "Keep It There"


I had initially planned to include this in a forthcoming ‘What I’m Listening To…’ post, but this is a track I’ve had on repeat for a while now. I’ve had my ears so locked into the mainstream that I tend to forget that there are some gems to be discovered beyond the charts. “Keep it There” is the first track lifted from currently unsigned, American singer Matt Burn’s (@MattBurnMusic) upcoming mixtape The Jungle, out September 10th. It’s a lovely slice of mellow R&B—driven by a lush piano backing and an understated beat—wrapped around Burn’s warm and layered vocal that fluctuates gloriously between a composed falsetto to bolder adlibs. Check it out below:



And in celebration of the release of Ariana Grande's debut album Yours Truly today, check out Matt Burn's cover of its lead single, "The Way."

Monday, September 02, 2013

Album Review: The 1975 - The 1975 (4.5/5)


Manchester based band, The 1975, seemingly emerged summer of last year—as if out of nowhere—and has since released a string of EPs that have lead up to the release of their eponymous debut album. This, ultimately, is the result of ten years of playing under different guises, honing their craft in the process. The self-titled set has, so far, landed the band three top forty singles—the biggest being the shimmering melodic pop of “Chocolate” driven by twangy guitar and drum work, layered over an atmospheric spacey backdrop. It’s the single that made me a fan and ultimately emphasises what the album is all about: It’s an alternative rock album with a pop consciousness.

The albums opens with “The 1975”—it’s not often you see a song actually titled after the band—it’s a short intro, glistening with moody soundscapes, deep distorted tones and lead singer, Matthew Healey’s distinctively layered vocal work. It sets the stage for “The City,” beginning with booming drum work, which is then lined with deep reverberating guitars and soaring synths that builds nicely behind the repetition of “If you wanna find love, then you know where the city is” during the chorus. Following is “M.O.N.E.Y.” which strips the production down to lines of stuttering pulsating tones and a rhythmic bassline that wrap around an interesting popping effect.

“Sex” begins with an exhilarating streak of electronic guitar before the vigorous drums quickly kick in—it’s that remarkable adrenaline-charged sound that isn’t uncommonly found in the most alternative of bands (see: Morning Parade). It’s certainly a stadium-filler; particularly as it gradually builds to its climatic mid-section that showcases elating instrumentation as the drums become more insistent and guitars more intense and elevated. “Why you talk so… why you talk so loud” roar’s Healey on “Talk!” a down-beat number that elucidates a softness to its production—driven by an assertion of clattering drum lines, subtle bursts of guitar chords and a quiet spiraling bleepy backdrop—at 2 minutes, it’s the albums shortest number (bar the interludes).

“Heart Out,” a summery mid-tempo with a prominent drum and plucky guitar-synth puts it in the running for the most radio-friendly number on the album. It gets a little more interesting as a horn mimics the melody towards the end. “Settle Down” follows—just as lighthearted—with twinkling synths and deliciously infectious guitar backing, which nicely accommodate the oncoming whistling effect toward the mid-section.

Laidback “Robbers” drops the energy a level—I’m unsure whether the term ‘ballad’ is appropriate, but in any case, this song is stunning! Beginning with howling guitar chords and a protruding drum backing layered over an atmospheric backdrop. The composition builds nicely up to its beautiful bridge, where the guitars melodiously progress beneath Healey’s emotive vocal. The jaunty guitar work of “Girls” takes us back to the ‘80s—it’s definitely fun—and if “Heart Out” and “Settle Down” weren’t the most radio-friendly cuts on the album, then this definitely is.

Towards the end of the album, we find “She Way Out,” which sounds a little unremarkable at first, until the infectious chorus hits. “Menswear” is certainly interesting, seemingly highlighting the album at its most experimental. For the first minute there’s an amalgamation of quiet percussion, subtle beats and soft tones before the composition picks up, emphasizing the instrumentation. “Pressure” follows with its twangy guitar work and moody soundscape—reminiscent of “Chocolate” without the catchy hook—the horns during its mid-section was a nice touch. Closing the album is the albums only ballad, “Is There Somebody Who Can Watch You.” It’s the first time we hear a piano, which sound that much more poignant against Healey’s emotive vocal. It’s beautiful and surprisingly melodious, evoking a sense of vulnerability that has so far been understandably absent on the album.

The 1975 is certainly an impressive album and was definitely worth the wait. At sixteen tracks, perhaps the album could use a little trimming, but it is elongated with the inclusion of instrumental interludes—“An Encounter” and “12”—but that aside, there is a lot to love here; a strong eclectic set rooted in alternative rock but unafraid to explore the poppier and more experimental sides of things. It’ll be interesting to see how they follow this up.

Best: Chocolate, Sex, Robbers, Heart Out, Is There Somebody Who Can Watch You, Girls, The City

Stream 'The 1975'

I'm currently reviewing The 1975's debut album, which is out today. The self-titled 16 track set is available to stream in its entirety on Soundcloud. Give it a listen. My review will be up shortly.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Billboard Celebrate 'Music Box'


It's been twenty years since the release of Mariah Carey's third album Music Box; Her biggest selling record to date, with its worldwide sales tallying over 32 million. It also plays home to two number-ones ("Dreamlover" and signature ballad "Hero") and arguably one of her biggest worldwide hits, the remake of rock band Badfinger's "Without You."

Musically, the album signified her first dalliance with R&B--a sound that becomes apparent on the Babyface produced "Never Forget You"--way before she dived into the genre head-first four years later on 1997's Butterfly. 

There are also some softcore New Jack Swing and '90s dance influences, particularly on the jaunty "I've Been Thinking About You" and "Now That I Know." But ultimately this is an Adult Contemporary record stuffed to the brim with sugary ballads that put her then-five octave range on the forefront.

While it's definitely a significant album in her career, it's not a favourite of mine. It ranks somwhere below Butterfly, Daydream and the career-rectifying The Emancipation of Mimi. Check out Billboard's track-by-track review here.

Ellie Goulding 'Halcyon Days'


My time away from blogging meant I missed some of 2012's musical gems--which included Ellie Goulding's sophomore album Halcyon. A standout from the album which stuck with me throughout the year was the haunting "Figure 8" a firery, bass-heavy number, undercut with warbling synths and lush piano keys brooding beneath the electronic production--in other words: It's awesome. Halcyon Days--the reissue is released this week. It has so far spawned Goulding's first chart-topper "Burn." Along with that, seven new tracks (including two remakes) is added to the original tracklist (this is going by the Spotify edition).

Following the uproarious synth-drenched pop of "Burn," "Goodness Gracious" drops the tempo a little--but the synths are still there embellished throughout the track, shimmering over clattering rhythmic beats. The razor sharp synths get pretty '80s toward the end. "You My Everything" showcases some brooding piano work beneath Goulding's choppy vocal work, which gradually descends into rapid electronic beats and synths--almost like a toned down version of DJ Fresh' "Hot Right Now."

The atmospheric "Hearts Without Chains" strips things back to piano, vocal and bursts of soft percussion. It's beautifully composed--it segues nicely into "Stay Awake" featuring French producer Madeon, which begins briefly with guitar strings before it disintegrates into a glorious beat-heavy electronic production. If there was an underwhelming track on here it would be the rather dull and plodding electro-pop of "Under Control."

Similar to her rendition of Elton Johns' "Your Song," Goulding takes The Waterboys folksy love song "How Long Will I Love You" transforming it into a piano ballad backed with soaring strings and her emotional vocal. She also pulls things back for her remake of Alt-J's "Tessellate," seductively slowing down the tempo--soft clicks and a hush-hush bassline that sets the stage nicely for the beautiful horn solo.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Album Review: Ariana Grande - Yours Truly (4/5)


The debut album from Nickelodeon star Ariana Grande was certainly an album that I didn't expect to be looking forward to this year. Why? Because we've become accustomed to the sound that Disney / Nickelodeon stars peddle when the embark on their obligatory pop career: It's normally some form of pop/rock, perhaps with a more rock-studded edge (Demi Lovato) or lighthearted pop (Selena Gomez) or faux-urban pop (Ashley Tisdale) or whatever kind of pop Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana was doing on her last couple albums. Ultimately, it's a path that's so rooted in convention that one can't help but feel ambivalent when one of the cast members of Nickelodeon's former hit show Victorious announces her forthcoming debut album. So when Ariana Grande debuts her lead single, "The Way" featuring American rapper Mac Miller and it samples Big Pun and Joe's "Still Not a Player"--the feeling of being taken aback is a rather big understatement. The breezy mid-tempo number, flourished skittering beats, a delicious piano sample and kinetic handclaps also packed another punch: A breathy vocal that re-called that of Mariah Carey.

And that's we're the interest lies. Grande's breathy vocal, her fluttering falsetto and piercing whistle register is riddled with Mariah influences at her most vocally restraint. These influences are used to decorate the entire tracklist--which begins with "Honeymoon Avenue" a swooning mid-tempo, produced by Babyface. It's driven by subtle drum machines and an undercurrent of strings before the soft piano keys kick in towards its mid-section. Following is "Baby, I" also produced by Babyface kicks it up a gear--embellished with skittering drums, rhythmic clicks and claps--in the same vein as "The Way." The rapid drum beats before the chorus is nice ode to '70s soul.

Next up is "Right There" featuring rapper Big Sean. You'd be wrong to think that it samples Lil' Kim's 1996 hit "Crush on You." It actually samples The Jeff Lorber Fusion's "Rain Dance" of which "Crush on You" also takes its influence. It's the album's first major highlight--it's structure isn't dissimilar to "The Way," however its composition is noticeably stronger. Grande puts her vocal at the forefront on the swooning balladry of "Tattooed Heart" showcasing a nice '60s inspired doo-wop composition. "Daydreamin'" harbours the same nostalgic old-fashioned composition.

By, "Lovin' It" and "You'll Never Know" the album has its sound set in stone. In fact, it's hard to arcticulate why "Lovin' It" is any different to "The Way" and "Right There" aside from the fact it uses a sample I can't quite put my finger on. Yes, it's that hybrid of softcore R&B and urban-pop with skittering drum beats and drum machines. However, I can't praise the albums consistency and then criticise the albums recycling of the same sound. In any case it's a sound that works for her. Of course, there's the jaunty and aptly-piano driven pop of "Piano," the dance inspired "Better Left Unsaid" and the album's biggest mis-step "Popular Song" featuring MIKA to balance out the sound, but they're also the albums weaker moments and feel rather out of place.

The album arrives at a melancholic climax with the lovely piano balladry of "Almost Is Never Enough" featuring Nathan Sykes of The Wanted. Yours Truly, tries something other albums spawned by Disney and Nickelodeon stars rarely do--make albums targeted at--but not exclusive to--adults. The bulk of its sound plucked from the '90s and early '00s--pulling its inspiration from eras that the current tween audience are oblivious to. It's not perfect but sets the stage for what looks to be a pretty glittering career Ariana. (No pun in intended).

 Best: Right There, The Way, Baby I, Tattooed Heart, Honeymoon Avenue, Almost is Never Enough

Billboard Hot 100, September 8 2013



1. Blurred Lines - Robin Thicke (featuring T.I. and Pharell Williams)
2. Roar - Katy Perry
3. We Can't Stop - Miley Cyrus

It's a static top three this week. Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" notches a 12th week atop of the Hot 100. It holds off Katy Perry's new single "Roar" for a second week, staying at number-two. According to Billboard, the two songs are separated by only 13% in overall chart points (combining sales, airplay and streaming), this is down from last week's 17%. Miley Cyrus' "We Can't Stop" holds at three for another week. It'll be interesting to see if the controversy surrounding her recent VMA performance will have any effect on the single's performance for here on--I'm guessing not--but with the amount of press coverage this has gotten, it's hard not to wonder.

4. Applause - Lady Gaga

After Gaga's uncommonly low debut last week at #6, the lead single, "Applause" from her forthcoming third album ARTPOP climbs two spots up to #4. It's her ninth top five single--her first single since "The Edge of Glory" peaked at #3 in 2011.

9. Summertime Sadness - Lana Del Rey & Cedric Gervais

The Cedric Gervais remix of Lana Dey Rey's "Summertime Sadness" launches an impressive six spots up to #9, scoring the singer her first ever top ten. The closest she had gotten to a top ten single was with "Young and Beautiful" taken from The Great Gatsby soundtrack, which peaked at #22 earlier this year.

17. Drake - Hold On, We're Going Home

Drake climbs seven spots up to #17 with "Hold On, We're Going Home" scoring his 19th top twenty single.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Eminem Announces New Album This Fall


Rapper, Eminem announced his eighth studio album entitled MMLP2 during the commercial break of this year's Video Music Awards. The album will be preceded by lead single, "Bezerk" out on Tuesday. The album follows 2010's Recovery that landed the mega-hit "Love the Way You Lie," featuring Rihanna. The album drops 5th November. Check out the announcement below:

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Billboard Hot 100, August 31 2013


1. Blurred Lines - Robin Thicke (featuring Pharrell Williams & T.I.)
2. Roar - Katy Perry

Gone are the days where hefty initial digital sales were enough to debut at the pinnacle of the Hot 100 (or get there in two weeks or less). This is something that greatly aided Katy Perry's single, "Part of Me," which debuted at #1 last year with 411,000. To put it in perspective--with the inclusion of streaming points (YouTube and Vevo views, Spotify etc) into the formula--Perry's latest single moving a staggering 557,000 in its first week--the sixth largest first week sales--wasn't enough for it unseat Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" and end its ten week reign. In fact, this week he extends it to eleven weeks--becoming the 27th single to spend at least eleven weeks at #1. Comparatively, Robin moved a distinctively lower 291,000 of "Lines" this week but was bolstered by streaming points that tallied up to 6.6 million. This is Perry's 11th top three hit, an impressive feat that accommodates an even more impressive 7 #1's, six of which scored from her last album Teenage Dream and its re-release.

6. Applause - Lady Gaga

Rush released and unfortunately thrown in direct competition with Perry's "Roar," with only a few days of sales--Gaga's comeback, "Applause," single debuts at #6 (and #3 on the digital songs tally selling 218,000 copies). This is her 12th top ten single and her first appearance in the top ten since "You and I" peaked at #6. Undoubtedly, it will rise as airplay and streaming kick into high gear this week.

11. Wake Me Up - Avicii (featuring Aloe Blacc)
15. Summertime Sadness - Lana Del Rey and Cedric Gervais

Swedish producer, Avicii's "Wake Me Up" continues to extend its lead as his most successful single in the US as it climbs four spots up to #11. "Up," should land Avicii his first top ten next week as he stays perched at #3 on iTunes behind Thicke and Perry. Also extending its lead as her highest charting single to date, is the Cedric Gervais remix of Lana Del Rey's "Summertime Sadness." Originally plucked from her second album (but international debut) Born to Die as the sixth single last year, it climbs a spot up to #15 this week.

16. That's My Kind of Night - Luke Byran

The second single, "That's My Kind of Night," taken from Country singer Luke Bryan's fourth album, Crash My Party, debuts at #16 this week, landing his third top twenty single, following lead single "Crash My Party" which peaked at #18 and "Drunk on You"-#16. Also, over on the Billboard 200, Crash My Party gives Bryan his second number-one album with an impressive 528k haul--the third largest of the year behind Jay-Z's Magna Carter... Holy Grail and Justin Timberlake's 20/20 Experience. 

17.  Royals - Lorde

New Zealand singer Lorde's "Royals" climbs seven spots up to #17, scoring her first top twenty single. Next week should see it push closer to the top ten as it sits at #6 on iTunes.

Monday, August 19, 2013

What I'm Listening To...

Here are current tracks that have been wracking up spins on my iTunes and Spotify account lately:

The 1975 - Head.Cars.Bending. Unfortunately this gem won't be featured on the English bands upcoming self-titled debut album. It's a brooding, downbeat number, driven with moody undertones, beat and synth-heavy compassion. It's also slightly psychedelic with its layered vocal work.

Arctic Monkeys - Do I Wanna Know? The first Arctic Monkeys track I've been excited about in a while. The guitar work, the persistent drum beat and distinctive chorus--with the production becoming amplified during the second half of the chorus. It's perfect.

Ariana Grande - Right There (feat. Big Sean). Sampling Lil Kim's "Crush on You," Ariana takes another step into capturing the mid '90s R&B essence that the sound of her forthcoming debut album Yours Truly is being built around.

Jay-Z - Fuckwithmeyouknowigotit (feat. Rick Ross).  This moody number--layered with a skittering beat and quiet synth tones is one of the highlights from Jay-Z's latest LP, Magna Carter... Holy Grail. 

Avicii - Wake Me Up. The folksy guitar against the euphoric dance-floor synths makes this one of the most interesting dance tracks in quite a while.

Lorde - Royals. New Zealand singer/songwriter's debut single, "Royals" is a nice mid-tempo, backed with prominent clicks and beats, quiet warbling synths. The song has landed her first chart-topper in New Zealand and now sits atop of the US Alternative charts--making her the first female alternative musician to do so in 17 years.

MKS - Flatline. The reformed original lineup of the Sugababes--now under the name MKS--initially felt a little half-baked and nothing I'd ever take seriously, but the first since 2001 is a corker, particularly the harmonies on that blustery chorus.


Fall Release Schedule

This fall is packed with major releases--here's a quick round-up. My most anticipated have covers:

September

The 1975 - The 1975. The debut album from English alternative rock band The 1975 spawned the band their first top twenty hit with, "Chocolate" and another top forty hit with, "The City," both plucked from the bands EP's  Music for Cars and IV. I've enjoyed both singles a lot, unfortunately the album omits one of my favourites from the band, "Heads.Cars.Bending," a brooding, down-tempo number with an awesome layered production.


Ariana Grande - Yours Truly. Looking forward to the debut album from Nickelodeon star Ariana Grande has been a surprise. I've enjoyed its first batch of releases, from the throwback Mariah-inspired R&B/pop of, "The Way," "Right There" and "Baby, I" to the lovelorn piano ballad, "Almost is Never Enough" featuring Nathan Sykes of The Wanted. And the rest of the album looks as though it will deliver.

John Legend - Love in the Future. Aside from "Ordinary People," I've never really been that into John Legend. Perhaps, it's time that I started. The lead single, "Who Do You Think We Are" featuring Rick Ross, isn't bad. This is his fourth album.

Tamar Braxton - Love and War. Toni Braxton's sister stormed iTunes earlier this year with her single, "Love and War," and much to my surprise it was a pretty solid slice of R&B. Unfortunately, nothing that followed captured my interest, including following single, "The One."

Arctic Monkeys - AM. The fact that the forthcoming Arctic Monkeys album is preceded by the single, "Do I Wanna Know?" already amplifies my anticipation. I haven't enjoyed a single, the way I have that, since "Teddy Picker." The album features production from James Ford who worked on the bands sophomore album, Favourite Worst Nightmare, Humbug and their last effort Suck it And See. 

Goldfrapp - Tales of Us.  Sixth album from British electronic duo Goldfrapp, preceded by somber lead single, "Drew."

Avicii - True. If there were going to be an album released this year chock of full of hits, it would have been Avicii's debut album. From his first top five, "Fade into Darkness," to his third, "I Could Be the One,"--are for some reason not included in his debut album. Fortunately, "Wake Me Up," his most recent chart-topper and the year's fastest selling single so far is.

The Wanted - Word of Mouth. The campaign for the English/Irish boyband actually began mid-2012 with the release of their sixth top five single, "Chasing the Sun." Latest single, "Walks Like Rihanna" (ugh!) is their eighth.

Drake - Nothing Was the Same. The forthcoming third Drake album doesn't seem like it's going to be any different from his last LP, Take Care apart from the fact that it will feature rappers that weren't around in 2011. Hit-Boy and Mill WiLL Made It are among the many producers producing the album. The album's current single, the soft re-tro inspired, "Hold On, We're Going Home" is pretty good.

Kings of Leon - Mechanical Bull. The last Kings of Leon album failed to recreate the commercial and critical success of its predecessor and breakthrough album Only by the Night. So far, Mechanical Bull has spawned the singles, "Supersoaker" and "Wait for Me."

Jason DeRulo - Tattoos. Third album from American pop singer features hit single, "The Other Side" and the more edgier "Talk Dirty" featuring rapper 2 Chainz.

Jessie J - Alive. I still have high hopes for Jessie J's forthcoming sophomore album, despite being preceded by the rather underwhelming lead single, "Wild" featuring Big Sean and Dizzee Rascal and the even more unimpressive, "It's My Party." I refuse to believe she would put out an album without a "Price Tag," or at least a "Domino." There's too much to lose if she doesn't, isn't there?

Avril Lavigne - Avril Lavigne. The fifth album from Canadian singer, launched with her 7th US top twenty single, "Here's to Never Growing Up."

Cher - Closer to the Truth. The upcoming twenty-sixth album from Cher seems to built on a rather hip foundation, featuring songwriting from Timbaland and P!nk and production from Jake Shears of the Scissor Sisters.

Icona Pop - Truth Is... Second album from Swedish duo Icona Pop featuring one of the year's biggest hits, "I Don't Care."

Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience, 2 of 2. The fourth album from Justin Timberlake and second half of his third is clearly going to be a big seller--the first half is already the year's biggest selling album--in both first week and overall. However, quality-wise I seem to be in the minority. His insistent blending of '70s retro disco and pop just doesn't capture my attention. Of course, there are exceptions, "Mirrors" is great and just sounds like a decent pop song plucked out of this century. The lead single, "Take Back the Night," doesn't do much to raise my expectations, but alas, I'm still eager to hear it.


October

Chase & Status - Brand New Machine. Third album from British electronic duo, featuring second top ten single, "Lost & Not Found" featuring Louise M^ttrs.

Miley Cyrus - Bangerz. If the lead single, "We Can't Stop," is anything to go by, the subject-matter Miley's upcoming fourth album is going to be centred around sex, drugs and twerking. Perhaps, it won't be as masterfully created as Christina Aguilera's 2002 coming of age disc, Stripped, but the accompanying video to "Stop" is only a pair of ass-less leather chaps away from being "Dirrty."

Katy Perry - PRISM. The lead single, "Roar" is already set to make the year's biggest digital debut which isn't bad way to begin the follow-up era to Katy Perry's incredibly successful Teenage Dream, which spawned an unprecedented five chart-toppers tying Michael Jackson's record with Bad. Its release added another #1 with "Part of Me." Collaborators include the impressive cast of Max Martin, Dr. Luke, Sia and Diplo.

Celine Dion - Love Me Back to Life. Dion's first English album since 2007's Taking Chances. 

November

Lady Gaga - ARTPOP. A year out of the charts and Gaga returns in November with her third studio album. Featuring production from Zedd and DJ White Shadow and going by its lead single, "Applause," the album will probably trail the same electro-pop production as its predecessor while probably a little more accessible this time. I'm guessing, no more German gibberish. In any case, I can't wait to hear it.

Rumoured

Britney Spears. Britney's eighth album is rumoured to be released this fall. "Ooh La La" released earlier this year for the Smurfs soundtrack probably won't be included.

Beyonce. She released, "Bow Down" and "Grown Woman" earlier this year, but still no solid confirmation of the album--just rumours.

Mariah Carey. She scored her biggest hit in years earlier this year with "#Beautiful" featuring Miguel, but after its original release date of July 23rd was cancelled, hope of the album being released this year has dissipated.

Revenge Season 3 Promo

Check out the new brief clip for the forthcoming third season of ABC's primetime drama Revenge. Enticing to say the least--which is refreshing coming the rather disjointed second season, that not only faltered critically but in viewership. Here's to season three bringing better days... and viewership.

Lady Gaga debuts "Applause" video

The accompanying video to the new Gaga single concludes a rather interesting week for the singer--rush releasing to the single which consequently put it head-to-head with Katy Perry's new single "Roar,", losing out to "Roar," the soft reception of the single itself and twitter beef with renowned douchebag Perez Hilton. But like her week, the video is uproarious, chaotic and certainly interesting. Check it out below.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Ariana Grande 'Yours Truly' preview


I didn't expect that this year one of my most anticipated release would be from Nickelodeon star, Ariana Grande. But I also didn't expect her debut single, "The Way" would be one of my favourite singles of the year so far. Its sound reminiscent of Mariah Carey at her most pop/R&B-lite. Here's quick preview of her forthcoming debut album, Yours Truly. Check out the live versions of the tracks here.

Right There (feat. Big Sean). This is an instant favourite. A deliciously R&B sound plucked right from the mid-90s--literally--the song samples Lil' Kim's 1997 hit, "Crush on You" (which actually samples "Rain Dance" by The Jeff Lorber Fusions).

Honeymoon Avanue. Melodious and stripped back to harmonious cooing, clicks and bursts of subtle trumpets.

Baby, I. The second single, although not as striking as "The Way," is still a cute ditty that's marinated with old school R&B. To be more specific, it sounds like a fusion of Ashanti's "Rock Wit U (Awww Baby)" and Mariah Carey's "Secret Love."

Tattooed Heart. A swaying, slightly Motown inspired ballad with soaring vocal work--backed with horns, prominent drums and piano.

Lovin' It. Another slinky, old school R&B mid-tempo, bolstered with horns, skittering drum work and jaunty piano keys. It also samples something I can't quite put my finger on.

Piano. As the title suggests, a piano laced happy-go-lucky number, with a nice twangy guitar beneath the bass-heavy composition.

Daydreamin'. A slightly sultry retro number with the obligatory twinkling piano keys, horns and drums. It's something that wouldn't sound out of place on Pixie Lott's debut album.

You'll Never Know. A cute ditty in the same vein as "Baby, I" saturated with fluttering falsetto vocal work.

Almost Is Never Enough (feat. Nathan Sykes). A lovely melodious piano-laced ballad. Of course, Grande sounds beautiful, but who knew Sykes let alone any member of The Wanted could actually sing.

Better Left Unsaid. This breaks away from the routine of R&B/pop and divulges into a beat-heavy dance-pop oriented production--nicely intercut with heavy drums.

Mutya Keisha Siobhan "Flatline"

The newly reformed--first lineup of British girl-group Sugababes--now under the name MKS--Mutya Keisha Siobhan return with what is technically their first single together since 2001's "Soul Sound." The new single, "Flatline" is an understated synth and drum-bcaked mid-tempo with a particularly nice harmonious chorus. It's certainly better than anything on the last Sugababes album Sweet 7. Check it out below:

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Little Mix "How Ya Doin"

These days, it's refreshing to hear something that isn't drenched with synths and heavy beats. So, X Factor winners Little Mix's latest single, "How Ya Doin?" the fourth taken from their debut album DNA is indeed a breath of fresh air. The single sports an awesome downbeat '90s R&B vibe--almost reminiscent of some of Jamiroquai's early stuff.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The National readies 'Trouble Will Find Me'


Over the last two years American rock band The National have become one of my favourite bands. Their fifth album High Violet (click for review) introduced me to a style of atmospheric and somber rock that I hadn't experienced listening to any other band that wasn't Radiohead. The album became their first commercial success, debuting at #3 on the Billboard 200. Their follow up album, Trouble Will Find Me, is out in May. I cannot wait!

Check out their performance of, "I Need My Girl," taken from the forthcoming record.

Album Review: Justin Timberlake - 20/20 Experience (3/5)


I once had a dream about a contemporary pop LP, in which the majority of the tracks clocked in at nearly ten minutes a piece. I awoke from said dream laughing, deeming no sane contemporary pop musicians would even dare. Well, I didn't really, but if I did, that dream would probably have been foreshadowing Justin Timberlake's third album 20/20 Experience. For instance, only three of the tracks runs under seven minutes, which is hard enough to digest on its own, but no--there's a second half which arrives later this year, because 70 minutes just isn't enough.

That said, the albums longest track, second single, "Mirrors," is fantastic and indeed the best track on the album. It's soft electronic guitar flushed undertones, its beat-box stapled backdrop and its gulping beats. It's classic Timberlake that wouldn't feel out of place on his last album, FutureSex/LoveSounds. It also has a "Cry Me a River" essence to it. Unfortunately, for such a magnificent song, it's a shame that it doesn't end at the five minute mark, but instead adds another three minutes with a plodding assortment of piano keys, soft beats and distorted background noise--almost like an extended interlude. It might be the ninth track down, but it mimics a problem that the majority of the album has and why it's so hard to love. However, there are times where Timberlake's sense of melisma works pretty well. Opening track, "Pusher Love Girl" re-calls Prince at his most soulful. The track straddles a choppy electronic guitar, horns and bulky beats. The beats become more prominent and Timberlake's vocal becomes more distorted in its last three minutes. The drug metaphors ("I'm just a junkie for your love") are fun too. Closing track, "Blue Ocean Floor," is another stunner. It's a rather somber ballad, which begins with an interesting atmospheric reverse-effect before soft pulsating beats and piano keys emerge.

Now, the rest of the album isn't bad by any means--the main problem here is that they don't need to be as long as they are. Sometimes melisma, length and experimentation are mistaken for artistry whereas in cases like these, the length should accentuate and compliment the song not over-blow or minimalise it. "Don't Hold the Wall," has an interesting composition with its rhythmic backing--a nice experimental take on R&B that, again, wouldn't sound out of place on FutureSex/LoveSounds. It's latter half pushes the heavy beats to the forefront while Timberlake and Timbaland mutter beneath the composition. "Strawberry Bubblegum," is less impressive with its ho-hum production of clattering beats and bleeps.

"Tunnel Vision," is nice slice of downbeat pop, with bursts of strings and heavy beat-backing. "Spaceship Coupe," follow on its heels, another downbeat track with a heavier R&B edge and a little more sultry--it sounds very Usher--to be specific, it sounds like a mix between "Burn" and "Promise" by American R&B singer Ciara. There's also a great guitar solo in its mid-section. The last two minutes are spent with sexual moaning beneath the composition and Timberlake's murmuring. "That Girl," is albums only normal length track (along with the '70s influenced R&B of lead single, "Suit & Tie") and seems take inspiration from the doo-wop era, motown and Prince's melisma.

It's difficult to class 20/20 Experience as a good or bad album. Its sound is certainly cohesive and it's a magnificent sound he's a exploring--a not quite so ambitious but still interesting and captivating modern take on classic pop, R&B and soul. But it's hard to enjoy when one listen through this ten-track LP is exhausting and unnecessarily bloated.

Best: Mirrors, Pusher Love Girl, Blue Ocean Floor, Tunnel Vision

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Saturdays Score First #1


It took awhile but it finally happened--Rihanna decided to take a year out and not release an album this November--but even more importantly, British girl group The Saturdays finally landed their first chart topper with, "What About Us," the lead single from their forthcoming fifth album (or fourth if you count Headlines! as an album) and their first ever single over in the states. And it only took six years worth of singles. Moving 114,000 in its first week, it's the years fastest selling single, eclipsing One Direction's Comic Relief single, "One Way or Another." Here's a look back at their previous singles:

If This Is Love (#8)


This frothy inoffensive pop ditty was released on the heels of the impending hiatus of fellow girl band Girls Aloud. So in true music industry fashion, The Saturdays were touted as their replacement. But this Cutfather produced track didn't quite hit the mark--a little too sweet and void of distinctive energy--it made sense that it entered the charts at a modest #8. Even its accompanying video lacked certain something that they would soon exhibit in droves in their later work.



Up (#5) 

Now, where "If This Is Love," lacked in energy and "that certain something," its follow up single, "Up," more than made for it. Coming in just a that little bit more stronger, more polished and feisty--with its sirens, prominent bleeps, heavy beat and burst of synths. The single scored the band their first top five single, peaking at #5. The group's debut album Chasing Lights was released shortly after.



Issues (#4)

After the upbeat dance-pop of the previous two singles, this mellow guitar-backed number was a welcomed release. The single landed the group their second top five and bested "Up," becoming their highest charting at the time.



Just Can't Get Enough (#2)

Technically, this was the first Saturdays single to see the top of the charts. Their cover of Depeche Mode's "Just Can't Get Enough," was released head to head with Flo Rida's "Right Round." They topped the midweek chart, but Flo got the last laugh by Sunday--the same thing would happen again four singles later. But this indeed became the group's highest charting single at the time, debuting at #2. And it also gets the award for their sexiest video.



Work (#22) 

After a consecutive string of four top ten singles, then came their first flop in the form of "Work," peaking at a disappointing #22. The single sported a more distinctive urban flavour than their previous singles, accompanied by its similarly raunchy video--inspired by Britney Spears' infamous "I'm a Slave 4 U" clip.



Forever Is Over (#2) 

The lead single from their sophomore album, Wordshaker, "Forever Is Over," scored the group their fifth top ten, debuting at #2. While it's one of their more underwhelming single for me, it showcased a move from their more glossy dance-pop and to a more rock-studded venture in pop.



Ego (#9) 


British pop doesn't get more decent than this (well, British pop by a girl group). Wordshaker's second single was indeed their best single and probably still is. Melody-studded production, catchy chorus and plenty of synths and beats--it had everything needed for a great modern pop tune. It is quite the shame it only managed the lowly peak of #9.



Missing You (#3) 

Another #1 that got away (this time thanks to Flo Rida). Doped with vocoders, mellow synths and a shimmering backdrop, it's doesn't strike the biggest chord but it's still nice.



Higher (#10)

What do you do to the person that's stopped you from hitting the top spot twice? You collaborate with them. Unfortunately, it's not a magic potion for a chart-topper. "Higher" debuted at #10 becoming their eighth top ten. But charts aside, where the majority of their previous singles had a rather melancholic lyrical undertones, this was there first dance with unadulterated fun.



Notorious (#8)

The lead single from their third full-length album On Your Radar was a rather misguided and a little disingenuous venture into dance-pop. From its clunky production to the unfitting lyrics--it didn't quite work. Still, the single debuted at #8 scoring another top ten.



All Fired Up (#3) 

There's no question that with the right producers, the group can produce some great pop. Where, "Notorious," underwhelmed, its follow up, "All Fired Up" more than made up for it. Its glorious synth-drenced production (and mesmerising video) knocked it out of the park. Behind, "Ego," it's their best single, which was also reflected in its chart performance, debuting at #3.



My Heart Takes Over (#15) 

One could have only assumed that after the flop of this melancholic ballad, it would have been over the group. With each single up until this point barely scanning 100,000, underwhelming album sales and no chart topper, things certainly looked dim.



30 Days (#7)

Things continued to slope with the release of their blandest single to date, which peaked at the bottom half of the top ten and left just as quickly.



What About Us (#1)

The Saturdays finally have a #1, so what's changed? The group have an air of new found life, which could only stem from their mildly successful attempt at success stateside. While the single isn't particularly interesting--it's synth-driven production is interesting enough to tantalise the commercial minds of its mainstream audience. Where their previous singles barely sold 100k, this moved that much in its first week, which is a feat in itself.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Album Review: Tegan and Sara - Heartthrob (4/5)


From what I've read, the seventh album from Canadian duo Tegan and Sara brings with it a switch up in sound, which sees them moving away from the indie folk-rock that they explored on previous albums and into a shimmery world of synths and dance-pop.

Right off the bat, first track, "Closer," launches the album into a synth-charged euphoria, backed with prominent drum patterns and pulsating bleeps, perpetuating that spacey and atmospheric sensation. It's great dance-pop, with a blustery chorus and catchy reptitive lyrics ("I won't treat you like you're typical") intact. I believe it was featured in this week's episode of Glee. "Goodbye, Goodbye" follows swiftly. And where the message on the previous track was to "get a little closer," things take a bitter turn on here as they sing, "you never really loved me." Stripping back the glistening production for the verses--where the drums and guitar chords pluck beneath the layers of soundscapes--before letting loose on the chorus.

"I Was a Fool," the albums first mid-tempo begins with melodious piano keys, before it's layered beneath drums and then synths for its Ellie Goulding-esque chorus. It's a great track; making way for its follow-up mid-tempo, "I'm Not Your Hero," which boasts a slightly skittering synth-beat and guitars. It's melody-charged chorus is particularly nice--it's sounds very synth-rock--the production comes together perfectly. "Drove Me Wild," is another winning synth-charged number. Re-calling dance-pop of the '80s somewhat, with its layering of distorted guitars, heavy synths, prominent backing beat, which make up the fantastic chorus.

Third mid-tempo, "How Come You Don't Want Me," feels a little Robyn with its pulsating backdrop. The chorus isn't as flashy as the previous tracks--it's more stripped down--bringing the duos boisterous vocal to the forefront. "I Couldn't Be Your Friend," starts with a persistent high-pitched guitar chord before the drums and synths kick in for the chorus. Excuse the barrage of comparisons, but it sounds like something Katy Perry would sing--even the vocal sounds a little like her.

"First time I saw your face, I knew I was meant for you," begins lovelorn, "Love They Say," which introduces layers of acoustic guitar for the first time, which dissolves into the synth, drum and soundscape in the chorus. "Now I'm All Messed Up," has a cool skittering synth-drum production, alternating between that a subtle section of distorted keyboards and twingy synths. "Shock To Your System," closes on the album on a somber and slightly anthemic note. The production is dramatic and haunting--an aura that is stapled beneath the prominent drum beat, synth, piano keys and the blustery vocal that repeats, "what you are is lonely."

Heartthrob might stay strictly within synth-charged dance-pop genre, but it still has a lot going for it. It's a cohesive collection of mostly fun pop and (what I now know is called...) synth-rock, that's pretty hard to argue against.  

Best: Closer, Goodbye Goodbye, I'm Not Your Hero, I Was a Hero, Drove Me Wild

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Big Reunion: Discography Review

If you've been watching, you'll know that we're seven weeks into the ITV series, The Big Reunion, which reunites six (as of this week, seven) of the biggest turn-of-the century pop bands, which include Five, Atomic Kitten, 911, Honeyz, Liberty X, B*Witched and Blue,  in preparation for a one-off UK arena tour this year. The series so far has detailed the highs of their success (some dangerously exaggerated) and their lows. Here's an in-depth look of at the records that best define each of their peaks.

Five - Invincible (1999) Five, like so many of their peers, worked best as a 'singles' band rather than a full-fledged album band--which when capitalising on teen-pop stardom, is the best way to work. If their first self-titled album was their 'N SYNC, then this was their No Strings Attached, only without the harmony-tight ballads and more edgy beat-heavy pop and rapping. Where the first album was a rougher, Stateside inspired diluted urban-pop, Invincible felt more refined and polished, spawning their first set of chart-toppers with the guitar-backed, happy-go-lucky pop of "Keep on Movin'" and the energetic sort-of-cover of Queen's "We Will Rock You." The album generally trails between laidback-pop ("It's Alright" and "How Do Ya Feel") and the more hard-edged, electronic-guitar studded pop ("Two Sides to Every Story" and "Don't Wanna Let You Go") but mainly takes the route of sugary mid-tempo's--the best being the syrupy, but charming title track and the Backstreet Boys inspired balladry of "You Make Me a Better Man." Essential: We Will Rock You. (3.5/5)

Atomic Kitten - Right Now (2000/2001) While on the show, they grasp at straws attempting to chart the success of Atomic Kitten in its orignal line-up, when in fact up until the infamous Kerry Katona departed, their record was underwhelming both quality and chart wise. The first edition of their debut album landed the band three top ten's with intechangable bubblegum-pop numbers "Right Now," "See Ya," and "I Want You Now." But it wasn't up until the re-vamped version of fifth single, "Whole Again," with new member Jenny Frost, that the world paid attention. And rightly so, the catchy and slightly-whimsical beat-heavy single scored their first chart-topper, becoming their signature hit. Their cover of Bangles' "Eternal Flame," quickly followed, scoring their second #1--then followed the #1 debut of the  albums re-issue. However, behind the success, remains a rather inconsistent and weak album, with its highlights--which were mainly the singles--sticking out like sore thumbs. Aside from, "Whole Again," and "Eternal Flame," only the cancelled seventh single, "You Are" and the sweet balladry of "Cradle" strike a chord. Essential: Whole Again. (2/5)

911 - The Journey (1997) More so than their peers, 911 didn't have a particular album that capitalised on their success. In fact, where albums were concerned, sales-wise they underwhelmed, but combined they landed ten top ten hits. This debut album may not contain their only chart-topper, "A Little Bit More," but it did spawn the most hits and the most singles, including their signature hit, "Bodyshakin'" a funk-studded, New-Jack swing inspired number--a sound that the majority of the album mimics, save for the pure-90s balladry of "The Day We Find Love" and "Our Last Goodbye." Essential: Bodyshakin'. (3/5)

Honeyz - Wonder No. 8 (1998) While, I don't particularly remember Honeyz that well, their debut album Wonder No. 8 is indeed my favourite out of the bunch. Their sound harboured a sultry mix between the fiestiness of En Vouge and the subtlety of SWV. The album was their only release and only a moderate hit, only peaking #33 upon its release. But they did score five consecutive top ten hits. The album begins with the sultry R&B of "Finally Found," and "Never Let You Down," and drops in a bit of hard-edged urban-pop along the way, like "Won't Take It Lying Down," which I in fact remember for its ridiculously sexually-charged video. But everything pales in comparison to the swooning, Motown-inspired balladry of  second single, "End of the Line." Essential: End of the Line. (4/5)

Liberty X - Thinking It Over (2002) Initially being labelled "flopstars" for not quite making the cut on talent show Pop Idol, Liberty X formed in 2001, releasing the moderate hit, the garage inspired pop of what would become the title track of their debut album, "Thinking It Over," they followed up with the more urban influenced single, "Doin' It," which became an unfortunate flop. Like Atomic Kitten's "Whole Again," it wasn't until a later single that turned their fortunes around. It was the seductive, guitar-backed pop of "Just a Little," that catapulted Liberty X into UK pop stardom, landing their first chart-topper and winning them Best Single at the BRIT Awards. Thinking It Over, is a surprisingly good album. Varying between stabs at R&B ("Everyday," "I Got What You Want" and "Right Here Right Now") the more downbeat balladry ("No Clouds" and "Holding On For You"). Even the more energetic pop of "Saturday" and "Dream About It" aren't too bad. Essential: Just a Little. (3.5/5)

B*Witched - B*Witched (1998) While their peers harbour some level of cheese, Irish pop group, B*Witched take the crown. Their debut single, "C'est la Vie," and its denim-drenched video, launched the Irish quartet's impressive consecutive run at #1, with their first four singles debuting at #1. B*Witched is a surprinsgly varied album from such a cheesy-pop group--there some some "what the fuck" moments, like on the trippy, downbeat "We Four Girls," which feature some strange whispered lyrics. But ultimately, the highlights are the singles--particularly the haunting, "To You I Belong." Essential: C'est la Vie. (2/5)

Blue - All Rise (2001) It's hard to pin-point an album that the JLS of their day, Blue were at the peak of their success, but for the opposite reason of 911 as Blue were consistent in their success up until their split in 2005. But in any case, their debut album All Rise kicked things off, launching four top ten hits, including two #1's "Too Close," and "If You Come Back." The album itself is sexually-charged, which meshes well with its R&B inspired pop collection, which I suppose set them apart from Five. While the upbeat balance out the album, the more subtle moments win the album over me, like the melodic pop of "Best In Me," the more dramatic, "Back Some Day," and the guitar-backed, "Long Time." Essential: If You Come Back. (3.5/5)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Taylor Swift "22"

Taylor Swift debuts the video for new single, "22" the third lifted from her fourth album, Red. It follows one of her biggest pop hits to date, "I Knew You Were Trouble." The song isn't my favorite from Red, but it's fun. Now if "All Too Well," were to get the single treatment...


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Album Review: Biffy Clyro - Opposites (4/5)



Scottish band Biffy Clyro rarely disappoint when it comes to their winning mix of abrasive, anthemic and serene alternative rock that they showcased on their first five albums--particularly on the last two Only Revolution and Puzzles. This new effort, Opposites doesn't pick up where Only Revolutions left off, as much as it does up the anty a little. For starters, its's a double album runnung 78 minutes, therefore it's expected that the scope of sound here will be varied and more exploratory. And that's exactly what it does.

The first half of the album is titled The Sand at the Core of Our Bones. The first three tracks kick off the album with that heavy electronic guitar and drum backed anthemic rock that we've come to expect. "Different People," begins with a mildly intense soundscape layered of twinkling synth before the layered guitar work and drumming kick in. The melody is particularly enthralling. "Black Chandelier," is a little more pulled back, with the drums becoming a more prominent, but still harbouring the energy of its predecessor.  Of course, the multiple guitars still come out to work on its anthemic chorus. "Sounds Like Balloons," begins with a twingy assortment of guitar chords (that remind a little of Red Hot Chilli Peppers) but picks up for the blustery chorus, where the production of slightly threadbare guitar work and drums.

The title track is the albums first true moment of subtlety, stripping back the galvanising the guitars and heavy drum backing to a soft guitar backing, percussion and a melancholic melody--almost recalling Goo Goo Doll's "Iris." It's a very sweet track, which makes way for the more upbeat and energized rock of "The Jokes on Us."

"Biblical," sports multiple levels of energy, with the light guitar work and prominent drumming of the first verse before upping the intensity on the chorus, where the production comes magnificently together--including the blustery choir-like vocal blended in the instrumentation, Snow Patrol style. "A Girl and His Cat," rocks a little harder than the other tracks on the first half. The guitars are more boisteous, with less emphasis on melody and more on rocking out.

"The Fog," is the first track on the second half that doesn't quite stick. It plods along with its atmospheric synths and a quiet pulsating bass line--but nothing as captivating as the albums other subtle moments. "Little Hospitals" begin with sharp guitar chords and diverges into an all around muscular rock production. Closing the album is "The Thaw," which is another mood shift back to the more stripped back sound of drums and light guitars--well, for the first half before things get more intense for the second. The lyric: "The secrets in the snow will always come out in the thaw," is particularly nice.

The second disc is titled The Land at the End of Our Toes, which I'm less fond of. Opening track "Stingin' Belle" is quite a trailblazer, with its aggressive electronic guitars and rapid drums burning through the track. "Modern Magic Formula" and "Victory Over the Sun," are just as hard-hitting, with their dramatic, chugging layered guitar productions and heavy drumming. "Spanish Radio," is a nice switch up, beginning with horns which bleeds beneath the drums and guitars. "Pocket," boasts no horns, but is just as lighthearted with its summery melody.

"Skylight," is a beautifully dramatic, with its haunting backdrop, poignant piano keys and acoustic guitar. "Trumpet or Tap" and "Accident Without Emergency," are interesting mid-tempo's--striking guitar chords, percussion and drums. The second disc ends on anthemic note, with the fun energetic rock of, "Woo Woo" and "Picture a Knife Fight."

There's a lot I like about Opposites, including its well-executed mood-shifts and the blend of the anthemic and melancholic--although the first disc hits the mark better, where the second seems to tip over the harder rock of the alternative spectrum a little more. I can't remember the last time an alternative rock band released a double-album--for this type of genre, in which you can only churn out so many different sounds, it's quite challenging. This isn't perfect, but it's a pretty damn good album.

Best: Black Chandelier, Different People, Opposites, Bibical, Skylight, Picture a Knife Fight

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Album Review: Foals - Holy Fire (4.5/5)



Off the bat, British band Foals became critical staples with their first two albums, Antidotes and Total Life Forever. Unfortunately, it wasn't until this mesmerising third LP that I begun to pay attention. Lead single "Inhaler" was an intense and fiery number, wrapped with Yannis Philippakis' static drenched vocal and aggressive gouging guitars. If anything, it was one of the most intriguing alternative rock songs of 2012, for its diversity--sharp drum beats and an underpinning plucking synth on the verses and a relentless barage of electronic guitar, drum and bold vocal on the chorus, wrapped in a slightly distorted scape.

"Prelude" kicks off the album with what begins as subtle alamagation of twinkling synths, percussion and murmured vocal, before the drums and guitar chords join, which become more prominent as the track reaches its subtle mid-section. Then there's a burst of aggressive electronic guitar and a harsher static effect that drowns out the vocal. Following the intensive scape of "Inhaler," "My Number," picks up the mood, with its upbeat and joyful synths and ebullient guitaring, perfectly underpinning the jovial lyrics: "I feel, I feel alive." "Bad Habit," boasts a rather skeletal production with its clattering synths and percussion, before it beefs up the production on the chorus with fuller synths and guitars.

"Everytime" had a nice prominent drum backing pedling beneath the haunting guitar chords. Its clattering undertones is a sharp contrast to following track, "Late Night," a dangerously downbeat number, with subtle bells and soft percussion. Guitars, soft drumming and strings softly emerge as the song progresses. Philippakis's boldly rugged vocal plays nicely against the subtle production. The last two minutes are particularly stunning as the instrumentation comes together, before playing out with a slightly distorted guitar solo with underpinning drumming.

The following track, "Out of the Woods," returns with the clattering production--drums, picky guitar chords, percussion. "Milk & Black Spiders," has a pulsating bass line, with the obligatory clattery production. It has a slightly more atmospheric (almost re-calling that of Temper Trap) aura than the other tracks on the album, particularly towards the end of the song. The accumulation of synths, soundscapes, drums and guitars is mesmerising.

"I know I cannot be true. I'm just animal, just like you," begins "Providence," rocking a vintage '70s rock style a'capella. The production is upbeat and aggressive, harsh and relentless drum beats and boisterous guitar chords, especially in the last two minutes. "Stepson" has a skittering, tongue-clicking backdrop which is layered by swooning distorted piano keys. The second half brings in the strings--perpetuating a very lush and melancholic production.

Closing the album is the subtle percussion of  "Moon." It's atmospheric and haunting, pushing a nice somber ending. Holy Fire, is indeed a winner and certainly deserves its almost perfect score from NME. While, I do tire a little of the scattering production that backs a handful of the tracks--it is a solid and enjoyable body of work, nicely balancing the melancholic, the upbeat and the dark.

Best: Inhaler, My Number, Milk & Black Spiders, Late Night, Stepson

Singles Roundup

Almost Home - Mariah Carey (4/5). Mariah's last... let's call it a "buzz single" (like so many underperforming buzz singles are so shamelessly labelled) "Triumphant" may have turned out a dud to both the ears and the charts--this new effort "Almost Home," the soundtrack for Disney's Oz the Great and Powerful film, is distinctively better. First, she sings on more than just the chorus and the bridge. And second, her vocal is mesmerising--layered over prominent beats and a great melody. Pop radio may be reluctant, but my ears say it's a winner.

When I Was Your Man -  Bruno Mars (4/5). Since I've been away for so long, you probably wouldn't know that I wasn't too fond of Mars' last single "Locked Out of Heaven." But its follow-up, "When I Was Your Man," is slice of irresistible, lush balladry. Poignant piano chords wallow in the backdrop as Mars swoons desperately with those sweet melancholic lyrics.

Mirrors - Justin Timberlake (4/5). "Suit & Tie" was slick '70s inspired soul, but a little damp for a comeback single. This new single hits the mark a little better. A thick beat-box backed, beat heavy number, topped with soft electronic guitar chords and swooning strings. It's Timberlake's fourth UK #1. 

Thrift Shop - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (3.5/5). The first independent single to reach #1 on the Hot 100 since "Stay (I Missed You)" by Lisa Loeb back in '95. It's a hilarious little kinetic hand clap and horn backed ditty, but unfortunately, also reeks of one-hit-wonder, but who knows.

I Could Be the One - Avicii vs Nicky Romero (3/5). The last we heard of Avicii, he'd scored his first UK #1 with the Etta James sampling "Levels." Now he's back with the even more intensely synth-charged dance number, scoring his third top five single.

Scream & Shout - will.i.am & Britney Spears (3/5). Yes, it's a little too late for this one, but why not. It's a shame it took such a generic synth-driven number to score will.i.am his first worldwide mega-hit and Britney her first #1 in the UK since 2004's "Everytime."

One Way or Another (Teenage Kicks) - One Direction (2.5/5). This isn't particuarly bad. In fact, it sounds the majority of their other singles, despite it being a cover. If anything, a little unspired, but they probably weren't going for inspired anyway. It's their third #1.

Harlem Shake - Baauer (2/5).  After watching most of the viral videos, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the song (or instrumental rather) that had become a sort of ear-worm for the last few weeks, was an actual full-fledged 3 minute song. But once you've heard the first minute, you've heard it all.