As I mentioned in my first May Album Reviews post, May was a really BIG month for new album releases. May was not near as big a month for new single releases. It was with this in mind that I decided to do another new album reviews post in lieu of a new single & leak roundup post, as I normally would. There simply haven’t been enough really interesting or noteworthy new singles this month to do an entire post on. There are, however, a few singles that deserve an honorable mention before moving into the new album reviews. First of all, there is the stunning new single from Alanis Morissette, “Guardian,” which I highly recommend everybody check out! It is absolutely brilliant and, lyrically, kind of shows a really different side of Alanis, which is beautiful. There is also the supposed second single from Cheryl Cole’s upcoming record, “A Million Lights,” called “Love Killer,” which is an absolutely amazing song, with a heavy dubstep influence and a bit of a reggae undertone to it. It is just an absolutely brilliant pop song for summer, although it does not quite reach the level of excellence set by the first single “Call My Name.” There is also the new track from Victoria Justice, from the Nickelodeon series “Victorious,” called “Make It In America,” which has been in pretty heavy rotation on my iPod for the past few weeks. Last, but absolutely not least, (in fact, probably most,) is the brand new single from Kylie Minogue, released just 3 days ago, “Timebomb,” which is absolutely stunning and one of the best tracks of Kylie’s recent career – it is absolutely brilliant and has the most gorgeous video to accompany it! I highly recommend everybody check out this track. “Timebomb,” alongside Cheryl’s “Call My Name,” have provided us with the perfect anthems for Summer 2012! With all of that having been said, let’s get on with the new album reviews for the month of May!
GARBAGE – NOT YOUR KIND OF PEOPLE
Key Tracks: Big Bright World, Blood for Poppies, Not Your Kind Of People, Felt, Sugar, Battle In Me, The One
“Not Your Kind Of People” is Garbage’s first record since 2005’s “Beautiful Garbage,” and came as quite a surprise to much of the world, as Garbage were presumed to be broken up for good. It is a little funny how right now a lot of my favorite artists from years ago, who I kind of assumed I’d never hear new material from again, are releasing new music – Fiona Apple, Steps, Lisa Marie Presley, (who you’ll be hearing more about later in this post,) No Doubt and now Garbage. This record is pretty amazing, as well, and kind of sees Garbage returning to their old form, although there are definitely differences. This record sees Garbage taking on a much softer, slightly more pop-oriented sound, although it still incorporates the heavy guitar riffs and such that created that classic Garbage sound. One thing that seems to be considerably less prevalent on this record which was a big part of all of their previous work, is the Electronic/Synth influence. This record seems to rely much more heavily on putting real instruments at the forefront and has a much more organic sound than any of Garbage’s previous records. I definitely recommend this record to any fans of Garbage’s previous work, or fans of female-led rock music, in general. There is still no frontwoman quite like Shirley Manson, and she is in rare form on this record! Definitely worth checking out!
RYE RYE – GO! POP! BANG!
Key Tracks: Holla Holla, DNA, Crazy Bitch, Hotter, Sunshine, Boom Boom, Never Will Be Mine
This album has apparently been several years in the making – it was initially planned for release in March 2009, but it finally saw it’s release over 3 years later on May 15, 2012. Rye Rye is the first artist signed to M.I.A.’s record label, N.E.E.T. Records, and actually features M.I.A. on two tracks on the album. It also features guest appearances from up-and-coming singer-songwriter Porcelain Black, Akon, Tyga and Robyn. “Go! Pop! Bang!” is a really solid collection of tracks, although not an entirely cohesive collection. I love that the album is very much Hip-Hop at it’s core but has a LOT of House and Techno influences on most of the tracks. I will say that, in general, the best tracks on the album are the ones with guest artists, and it seems like, in many ways, she kind of takes on the style of those artists, like on the Akon track, “Crazy Bitch.” It almost sounds like an Akon track featuring Rye Rye and not the other way around. I am also really fond of the use of sampling on some of the better album tracks, like one of my favorite tracks on the record, “Boom Boom,” which features an interpolation of the Vengaboys classic, “Boom Boom Boom,” with it’s chorus of “Boom boom boom, I want you in my room.” Also, when I first took note of Rye Rye was when I heard her track “Never Will Be Mine,” which features Robyn in the form of a sample of my favorite Robyn song, “Be Mine.” Rye Rye takes my favorite song of Robyn’s and actually builds upon it a bit, which I love! I recommend this record if you are looking for some fun, summertime music to dance to or to get you hyped for a night out or something along those lines.
JODIE HARSH X MELANIE C – THE NIGHT
Key Tracks: Set You Free, Sunrise, Walk Away
First of all, if the cover of this EP looks familiar it may be because I did a tutorial for this look for last week’s Work It Wednesday post! If it doesn’t look familiar, then you should probably go back and check out that post and watch that tutorial! This EP, or really more of just a single, is Melanie C’s return to dance music, in collaboration with Jodie Harsh, a popular drag DJ and club promoter based out of London. This EP only features 3 tracks, “Set You Free,” “Sunrise” and “Walk Away.” All three of these tracks are absolutely brilliant! “Set You Free” is a classic dance track about “letting the music set you free,” with a really cool dubstep infusion and an extremely modern, Ibiza sound. “Sunrise” has this same sort of Ibiza sound, without the dubstep influence, but has a very infectious, upbeat, timeless house sound. “Walk Away” is the slowest of the three tracks and seems to be more focused on a softer sound and vocal, with very heartfelt and personal lyrics. Melanie’s vocals are absolutely gorgeous, as always, and this EP is further evidence of what many have though all along – dance music is where Melanie belongs! I don’t necessarily agree with that sentiment, though, as I have loved her more acoustic or rock-influenced music, as well, but I definitely think that this is a sound that she should delve into more frequently! I also definitely recommend this EP to anybody looking for some really hot summer dance tunes to go alongside Kylie’s “Timebomb” and Cheryl’s “Call My Name.”
LISA MARIE PRESLEY – STORM & GRACE
Key Tracks: You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet, Over Me, So Long, Un-Break, Soften The Blows, How Do You Fly This Plane?, Forgiving, Storm & Grace
“Storm & Grace” is the first record Lisa Marie Presley has released in 7 years, since her brilliant 2005 record, “Now What?” I was a huge fan of Lisa Marie Presley’s two previous records but after they were both kind of deemed commercial failures and she didn’t follow them up with another record within a few years, plus the complete lack of music-related news about her during that time, I kind of assumed she was done. Given her attitude and perseverance throughout her career and life, though, I should have known not to count her out so early. Here is it 2012 and she is back in a big way! It does seem as though Lisa has spent the past seven years doing some sort of reflection upon her life and perhaps even making some major changes, (including a rumored step away from the Church of Scientology, which seems to be suggested in lyrics on a few of the songs on the album.) It definitely seems that the years have been full of inspiration for her, although I don’t know how positive that really is. This record is much slower and more downbeat then her previous records. It seems a lot more sad, in many cases, than the previous records but also still has Lisa’s natural rebellious nature and resilience on full display, like in the album’s lead single, “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet.” Still, it seems that the general feel of the album, overall, is melancholy. This album also has much less of a pop-rock sound than the previous two and leans much more towards more blues and classic country influenced sounds. Still, it is much more Johnny Cash than it is, well, Elvis Presley. I definitely enjoy this record and recommend it to anybody looking for some really strong, somewhat brooding and genuinely emotional songwriting.
KRIS ALLEN – THANK YOU CAMELIA
Key Tracks: All of Them
As I was listening to Kris Allen’s new album, “Thank You Camelia” for the first time, I was noting the tracks that I felt were really strong and kind of favorites of mine specifically for this post and, for an album with 11 tracks, I found at the end that I had 11 track titles noted. I’ve always had a little bit of a weird relationship with Kris Allen because I do think he is really talented and I really loved his first album but I really didn’t feel like he should have won “American Idol” over Adam Lambert. So, I kind of wanted to dislike him but I never actually could. This album only solidifies that, as I said I loved every single track from start to finish. The album opener, “Better With You,” displays Kris’ vocal range better than anything else he has done in the past and really sets the pace for the album’s gorgeous, rootsy pop sound. Probably my least favorite track on the record is “The Vision of Love,” which was also the album’s lead single, but that just means I love it less than the rest of the album but I still love it. “My Weakness” is a really fun track that incorporates a really cool heavy drum and hand clap on the pre-chorus and insanely catchy whistles on the chorus, while “Out Alive” is reminiscent of The Police, in some ways, although the song’s intro is more reminiscent of U2’s “With Or Without You.” The song “Monster” has a really interesting and much darker sound than anything else Kris has done and works brilliantly. “Teach Me How Love Goes” is probably my favorite track on the album, with it’s very simple, acoustic-based sound and really pretty vocals, although pretty isn’t generally how one would describe a male vocal. “Rooftops” features these adorable “rap” style verses that are a lot of fun. “Leave You Alone” is my second favorite track on the album. It just has this very cool concept about not knowing what to do to make somebody feel better who is angry or disappointed with you and just deciding to take a step back and leave them alone. It’s something that is sometimes necessary but doesn’t get written about very often. “Loves Me Not” is a really catchy, fun duet between Kris and indie-pop star Meiko, (who we will be discussing later in this post, as well.) The album’s closer, “You Got A Way,” is a beautiful, heartfelt ballad and features some of Kris’ best vocals to date. Overall, I was incredibly impressed with this record and imagine I will find myself listening to it a lot more in the weeks to come! I definitely recommend checking this one out!
MEIKO – THE BRIGHT SIDE
Key Tracks: Stuck On You, I’m In Love, When The Doors Close, Thinking Too Much, Leave The Lights On, Lie To Me, I’m Not Sorry, Good Looking Loser
“The Bright Side” is the sophomore record from indie-pop singer-songwriter Meiko, whose debut record was among my favorite albums of 2008 and I got to see her in concert as the opening act for Jewel, where she gave a really brilliant performance. So, I was pretty excited to hear her follow-up to that record. This record does not disappoint, either. I was initially really impressed with the increased production values on this album. It is immediately apparently, with the heavy drum intro of the first track, “Stuck On You,” that this record was stepping it up a lot from her debut. In terms of songwriting, she pretty well remains in the same wheelhouse as the first record, with really many really cutesy lyrics and really fun, flitting, melodies. The album has a very light airy sound, although it definitely veers into some heavier moments that are really impressive, including what is probably my favorite track on the album, “Good Looking Loser,” which is a heavy ballad about falling in love with somebody who fools you with their good looks and charm but is actually a real loser underneath, which I am sure we have all come across in our lives. I know that I have had more than my fair share of that experience and, like the song says, “You’re a good looking loser and I’m the one that got away.” One of the most impressive tracks on the record, in my opinion, is “When The Doors Close,” which has a really dark sound, moreso than anything else Meiko has done, and really strong lyrics about people making judgements about your relationship but realizing that “they don’t know how it goes when the doors close.” The sound of the song also takes on a really interesting sound for Meiko, having an almost trip-hop or dance influence, kind of reminiscent of one of my favorite tracks by Dido, “Take My Hand,” although in a very different way than that song. I absolutely love this record and highly recommend it to anybody who wants the catchiness and fun of pop music with the substance of more folksy or indie music.
JOHN MAYER – BORN & RAISED
Key Tracks: The Age of Worry, Shadow Days, Speak For Me, Something Like Olivia, Love Is A Verb, Walt Grace’s Submarine Test January 1967, A Face To Call Home
“Born & Raised” is John Mayer’s first release of new material since 2009 and seems to mark the turning of a new leaf for him as an artist. Much of John Mayer’s music in the past, in particular his last release, “Continuum,” tended toward the morose or, at least, somewhat melancholy. This album is very different in that respect. It seems to have a recurring lyrical theme about getting past hard times and moving forward, with the opening lyrics of the opening track, “Queen of California,” stating, “Goodbye cold, goodbye rain, goodbye sorrow and goodbye shame.” He moves on to say in the second track, “The Age Of Worry,” “don’t be scared to walk alone, don’t be scared to like it,” and the chorus of the third track, and the album’s lead single, “Shadow Days,” says, “My shadow days are over now.” Obviously, Mr. Mayer is looking ahead with confidence and hope and it is a really great sound for him! Sure, there are still melancholy tracks on the record, like “Whiskey Whiskey Whiskey,” but, overall, the general theme of the record seems to be one of hope. One of my favorite tracks on the album is the spunky, upbeat tune, “Something Like Olivia,” all about wanting to find a girl like the girl you really want who is already taken. It’s a really fun, upbeat summertime song! Another favorite track of mine on the album is called, “Love Is A Verb,” with it’s simple message of “Love ain’t a thing, love is a verb, so you gotta show show show me.” I also really love the album’s almost closer, (before a reprise of the title track,) “A Face To Call Home,” which is a really sweet, heartfelt love song about finding a person to feel at home with. Some of the tracks, like “If I Ever Get Around To Living,” while being really good songs, have a tendency to run a little longer than necessary, which has been the case with some tracks on every album John has released, but that can definitely be forgiven given the strength of the songwriting itself, as well as the strength of the other songs on the record. Overall, though, I absolutely love this record and recommend it to everybody!
SCISSOR SISTERS – MAGIC HOUR
Key Tracks: Baby Come Home, Only The Horses, Year Of Living Dangerously, Let’s Have A Kiki, San Luis Obispo, Best In Me, The Secret Life of Letters, F*** Yeah
By far, my favorite album of May is the brand new Scissor Sisters record, “Magic Hour.” I kind of knew this would be the case beforehand, considering their three previous records are all amongst my top 10 favorite albums of all-time. Still, you never know when you may wind up disappointed with a band that you love. Fortunately, that day has yet to come when it comes to Scissor Sisters. Just released today, “Magic Hour” is the 4th studio album from Scissor Sisters, and sees them moving in a very different direction while also kind of nodding back to the sound they started out with. Sonically, this record is different from anything the band has done before – the majority of the album has a heavier dance sound than they’ve ever done before. The album only features 2 ballads and 2 more mid-tempo songs, which is quite unusual for Scissor Sisters. The rest of the album is all very fast-paced, upbeat and dance-oriented. When I say that the album nods back to Scissor Sisters’ original sound I mean that, lyrically, this record reminds me a lot of their debut album, my second favorite album of all-time. It’s a lot more focused on fun and slightly more silly concepts, like one of my favorite tracks on the record, “Let’s Have A Kiki,” taking the sort of drag queen slang term for gossiping or talking shit about people, “kiki-ing.” This song is hilarious, with main vocals performed by Ana Matronic, just going on about her awful day and how she needs to sit down with friends and “have a kiki.” Still, my personal favorite track on this record is definitely a more serious song, “Year Of Living Dangerously.” This song has become kind of an anthem for me in life right now and a major source of inspiration because, while it is not where I am able to be currently it is where I hope to be soon. The chorus of the song says it all, “This is my life, this is my dream, this is my time, this is my belief, I still haven’t found what’s gonna set me free, This is my year of living dangerously.” This is probably what I have loved most about Scissor Sisters over the years – their ability to move seamlessly from being silly, over-the-top and controversial to making these incredibly moving and inspiring statements in their music. I really couldn’t possibly recommend this, or any of the Scissor Sisters records, highly enough. I urge you all to go out and purchase or download or whatever else you can do to listen to this record. It is music that needs to be heard!
So, this concludes my new album reviews for the month of May. I was also hoping to do a review of the new One Direction “Up All Night Live Tour” DVD but was cut short when the store told me that it was before street date. Why have it on the shelf then?! I was so mad. Anyway, I think my favorite albums of May 2012, including the ones reviewed in the previous post, would have to be Adam Lambert’s “Trespassing,” Carrie Underwood’s “Blown Away,” Kris Allen’s “Thank You Camelia,” Meiko’s “The Bright Side,” and, MOST OF ALL, Scissor Sisters’ “Magic Hour.” I really hope you guys check out some of these, Scissor Sisters’ album in particular, and while you are doing that I wish you all a beautiful week and a beautiful life!