Saturday, May 15, 2010

Jukebox (V)

album reviews

Angels & Airwaves impress, Lifehouse bore, Ke$ha’s irreverent hits heat up the dance floor, and Emily Osment fails to establish her identity

Adam Green
Minor Love
Co-founder of the anti-folk band The Moldy Peaches (best known for their song Anyone Else But You that appeared on the soundtrack of Juno), indie musician Adam Green returns with his sixth solo album Minor Love. The singer, who has garnered comparisons to the likes of Lou Reed and Leonard Cohen, comes up with a compelling collection of slow-paced lo-fi ditties that merge simple song structures with his distinctive casual tone that, in his own words, “showcases a tender side of the often arrogant and emotionally unavailable bully/singer”. With songs like the amusing album opener Breaking Locks and The Strokes reminiscent What Makes Him Act So Bad and Goblin, the record is somewhat more mature than Adam’s previous efforts, and is surprisingly charming, and while it certainly doesn’t have universal appeal it is still very likely to be embraced by indie fans everywhere.
Highlights: What Makes Him Act So Bad, Cigarette Burns Forever

Angels & Airwaves
Tom Delonge’s ambitious alt rock project Angels & Airwaves returns with their third album, Love, the follow-up to their largely ignored 2007 effort I-Empire. This time, however, the group seems to have done something right. For a start, they released the album as a free download on Modlife ( and this move can do wonders for a band’s popularity. But what they did even better was that they made an album that’s actually worth listening to. The opening instrumental Et Ducit Mundum Per Luce entices the listener to come along on the journey that unfolds into a tale of loneliness and hope (which will also be the theme that will form the basis of their upcoming Love film), and the overall sound of the album seems to have evolved from the Tom songs off the last Blink-182 record. Without a doubt this is AVA at their best, and the album is definitely worth a listen. Besides, it’s available as a free download, so there’s absolutely no reason to not give it a try!
Highlights: The Flight of Apollo, Hallucination

“I’ll learn to live before I die,” sings Stephen Gately at the start of Brother, Boyzone’s first new album in over a decade. The boy band’s comeback album had been highly anticipated by their old fans (even the ones who bought their first three studio albums that came out in the ‘90s and are now too embarrassed to admit it!) as well as their newer admirers who were introduced to the band’s music following their 2007 reunion. Stephen’s untimely death last year, however, had cast doubt on the band’s future. The band has chosen to persevere and completed the set they had started recording with their late member and brother to whom this effort is dedicated. With Brother, the band has adopted the same formula that helped Take That’s comeback effort (in fact some of the albums strongest offerings – like Right Here Waiting, and Nothing Without You – actually bring Take That to mind), and delivered a more mature pop album powered by melodic upbeat tunes and ballads that put Ronan Keating’s vocals to best use; Stephen’s vocals can be heard on two – Gave It All Away and Stronger – of the eleven songs on the album. Overall, it’s a solid pop record that is sure to appease the boy bands fans.
Highlights: Gave It All Away, Nothing Without You, Love Is A Hurricane, Ruby

Chester French
Love The Future
Much hyped American pop duo, and famed Harvard grads, Chester French’s debut album earned them a lot of attention after three industry heavy-weights – Kanye West, Jermaine Dupri, and Pharrell Williams – had each wanted to sign the band to their record label (the band eventually chose Pharrell’s Star Trak Entertainment). The reasons for the producers’ enthusiasm, however, aren’t readily apparent when one gives a cursory listen to Love The Future, the thirteen-track debut offering by David-Andrew Wallach and (Peaches Geldof’s ex-husband) Maxwell Drummey. Listen closely, however, and you will notice that sprinkled throughout the album are hints of what the band can potentially create. Perhaps they have tried to do too much on the album and musically stretched each song way more than they should have, because the band is at its catchy best in songs like the melodic Beach Boys-esque Fingers, the quirky Neal, and the indie-tinged gem Beneath The Veil. Hopefully on their second album, Chester French will be able build on their strengths and transform their potential into pop gold.
Highlights: Fingers, Beneath The Veil, Neal, She Loves Everybody

Emily Osment
All The Right Wrongs
Disney star (and Haley Joel Osment’s younger sister) Emily Osment has decided that she wants to sing. Not surprising, since all Disney actresses are bound to release albums of varying degrees of awfulness at some stage in their careers. What might seem different about Emily though is that, after repeatedly sighting names like Led Zeppelin and Portishead as her musical influences, the singer seems to want to break away from the teen pop genre and release an album that’s all about Rock ‘N’ Roll. Unfortunately, with All The Right Wrongs, the six-song EP that the singer had apparently been working on for more than two years, that does not happen. The set is nothing more than watered down pop rock, not unlike the work of many of her Disney peers. The closest she gets to fulfilling her pop rock dreams is on the Paramore reminiscent You Are The Only One, and much of the remaining record does nothing but disappoint. By and large, All The Right Wrongs is nothing new or different, but it will still appeal to Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato fans and her Disney fanbase. (The sporadic use of the word “damn” in her songs, however, might not please her fans’ parents!)
Highlights: You Are The Only One, I Hate The Homecoming Queen

Animal is the kind of record guaranteed to tear the world of music fans in two. One group will point to it being an enjoyable dance record filled with lively pop songs. The other group will reel back in horror the moment the record starts, and run out of the room screaming and tearing their hair out soon after; how, they will wonder, can anyone listen to this garbage? Simply put, it’s the kind of album that would get an A for danceability, and an F for substance – the lyrics are crass, the vocals are indistinctive and auto-tuned, and it, by it’s very nature, is entirely disposable. Once you listen to it though, it will make you want to “wake up in the morning feeling like P Diddy” and leave your mind going “blah blah blah” for the rest of the day; just don’t be too hard on yourself when that happens.
Highlights: Tik Tok, Party At A Rich Dude’s House, Backstabber

Smoke & Mirrors
Lifehouse can make catchy pop songs, as they have proved a few times in the last decade since coming to the world’s attention with their hit Hanging By A Moment. Yet they just seem like another indistinctive pop-rock group that’s extremely one dimensional, and the dimension they master in isn’t particularly interesting. Which is why, to anyone but their diehard fans, Smoke & Mirrors won’t offer anything new. Still, chances are quite high that a song or two from this album will be coming to a TV series soundtrack near you very soon. The band has worked with musicians including Chris Daughtry, Richard Marx, and Kevin Rudolph on this record, but in the end it’s still the same old set of unmemorable (albeit not entirely incompetent) tracks that may be melodic and at time touching but eventually quite forgettable. Their fans, of course, will still feel the connection they have established with Jason Wade and co. over the band’s last four albums. For the rest of us though, Smoke & Mirrors IS a good pop rock album. It just that this has all been done before. Many times.
Highlights: Had Enough, By Your Side

- By Sameen Amer

Ink Quarterly - May-Jul 2010

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