Muse – ‘The 2nd Law’

9 Oct

Muse have always been considered as one the country’s biggest bands. Their immense sound has always pushed the boundaries of any genre that presently invades the mainstream airwaves, and experiments to the point that it is almost unrecognisable. The trio’s latest record is no exception. Becoming their fourth number one album, ‘The 2nd Law’ calls upon dubstep to illustrate their apocalyptic ideas, taking the wobbly and static noise and moulding it into a tasteful cinematic form.

The album is made-up of chaos. The soundscapes boarder on epic as they trample through every genre with fierce energy below Matthew Bellamy’s taunting and versatile vocals. Apocalyptic imagery of disorder coincides with the dangerous beauty of hope as the lyrics both exploit current global crises whilst seeking solutions; Muse are championing themselves as saviours.  “This chaos, it defies imagination … you’ve arrived at panic station’ Bellamy sings within the funky and upbeat ‘Panic Station‘, a track that adopts a more punk-rock sound that brighten-up the otherwise gloomy atmosphere. Just as in ‘Animals‘, the trio exploit the instability of human behaviour, possibly pulling in influence from the London riots and the terror in Libya. However, it is not all negativity, as ‘Follow Me‘ and the official Olympic anthem, ‘Survival‘ offers comfort and overwhelmingly influential determination; “I choose to survive. Whatever it takes!”

Aesthetically gritty, yet fastidious, the album’s energy is electrifying. Definitely one worth checking out.

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Rihanna – ‘Diamonds’

8 Oct

Yesterday’s chart update saw the all-too-soon return of international pop-diva, Rihanna. Although the clubs and radios are still playing her recent floor-fillers, ‘We Found Love‘ and ‘Where Have You Been?’, Rihanna and her team will be releasing a seventh album in November with ‘Diamonds‘ being the first cut.

I’m far from surprised that ‘Diamonds‘ was able to fight off PSY and One Direction this week; it’s definitely the lesser evil on all levels. Soulful with a faint 80’s influence, this Benny Blanco (Ke$ha, Katy Perry) track is a step both up and down from the Calvin Harris club anthem that was laden with sonic synths and a party-hard attitude. It is, instead, a mid-tempo pop ballad that embraces a more stable and worth-while relationship (a big step away from her unsettling infatuation with Chris Brown) with the dreamy metaphor of “shining bright like a diamond”. ‘Diamonds‘ has the same striking power seen in ‘We Found Love‘ as it exudes an infectious amount of positivity despite it’s less upbeat soundscape. The explosive chorus and romantic verses are pushed by seductive beats and an alluring bass, whilst the synths echo in the background, allowing her vocals to control the atmosphere. Vocally, she bounces back and forth between the demanding Beyoncé persona to and an almost irritating Betty Boop voice, which can, unfortunately, prove awkward.

I am not a massive fan of Rihanna, but this particular song is quite a positive development in the star’s career. The production is clearer and the lack of synths shows authenticity. The song is let down vocally, but listeners will be too attracted by the cliché lyrics to notice. Has she finally grown up? I doubt it, but we will have to wait for the album before we jump to any conclusions.

Check it out below.

Mumford & Sons – ‘Babel’

1 Oct

Whilst Psy causes a riot on the singles chart, the Battle-of-the-Comebacks continues on the album charts. Folk-rock band, Mumford & Sons claimed their first number one yesterday with their second album, ‘Babel‘ after fighting off the first instalment of Green Day’s trilogy.

Their début album, ‘Sigh No More‘ only peaked at number two back in 2009, but with the new release, it re-entered the charts at number ten in yesterday’s update. ‘Sigh No More‘ had a massive impact on the alternative and mainstream airwaves, as the band’s unique sound was embraced as refreshing. The quartet was showered with admiration across the pond, as their roots inspired soundscape reinvented folk-rock, granting London-born musicians six Grammy nominations. This début was one I, and countless others, just couldn’t get enough of, and since then I’ve had a lot of respect for the band’s incredible talent. However, after a brief listen of ‘Babel‘, I felt the spell was broken and I came away from it with a ‘been-there-done-that’ attitude.

Where ‘Sigh No More‘ was raw and edgy, ‘Babel‘ is tamed by hours of studio abuse. The lyrics are consistently poetic above the frustrated plucking of strings, but there is a darkness hidden in the record carried by the rough, yet alluring, vocals. The début was bouncy and fun, and so ‘Babel‘ acts as an anchor that pulls the band back down to Earth. The romances are heart-wrenching as the tracks are overwhelming personal; you cannot help but feel you are intruding on the writer’s most private thoughts. However, that fierce desire to play and write potent music that thrills during live shows, outside of the messy world of politics, is still burning at the album’s heart. The soundscapes are chaotic with an abundance of strings and horns that further illustrate the riotous emotions already expressed in the lyrics.

Babel’ is not a bad album. It still showcases Mumford & Sons’ glorious talent, but it just does not have the same joyous and refreshing affect that we saw with ‘Sigh No More‘.

Psy – ‘Gangnam Style’

1 Oct

I am going to be honest. I am slightly disturbed by yesterday’s chart update in which Psy’s internet sensation, ‘Gangnam Style‘, finally became a number one single in ten countries across the globe. It is no secret that Kpop (South Korean pop) has been gradually invading the western airwaves, but Psy’s success came at us like a nuclear bomb. Captivating numerous artists, including Katy Perry and Maroon 5, ‘Gangnam Style‘ started as an internet craze that, thanks to Twitter, managed to get licensing for official release world-wide.

The single is far from a  masterpiece  but it is, admittedly  a perfectly constructed pop song. A floor-filler with pre-choreographed dance moves that mimic horse-riding, ‘Gangnam Style‘ is quite possibly the biggest party anthem of 2012; ‘Starships‘ has nothing on this. An energetic synthetic soundscape provides the club-like atmosphere, with infectious beats below Psy’s comically honest raps to get feet moving. Its repetitiveness and simplicity work well in the current charts but it is its catchyness that drills the English lyrics into your head. It will have you running about on an invisible horse singing out “HEY SEXY LADY! O! O! O! O! Oppa Gangnam Style!”.

For those who have no idea what Psy is rapping about, here is a little summary:- ‘Gangnam-gu‘ is the fat-cat district of South Korea’s capital city, Seoul and. ‘Oppa‘ is a form of our ‘Mr’, so simply it is a way of women showing older men respect. In the single, Psy-oppa is trying to seduce a girl by exploiting his own rich lifestyle. Nothing extraordinary.

The whole song and music video rely heavily on its goofiness, and should not be taken seriously. It is only a bit of fun that may help boost interest in the effervescent South Korean music industry. ‘Gangnam Style‘ is far from the best piece of Kpop out there, but it is definitely one of the most entertaining pieces.

Check out the music video below whilst I go listen to something a little less evil.

The Killers – ‘Battle Born’

24 Sep

The past two or three weeks have seen an immense battle take place on the album charts with comeback after comeback. Nostalgia has taken control of the airwaves with the return of P!nk, No Doubt, Green Day and more. But one comeback in particular has left this  music-fan weak at the knees.

Bruce Springsteen meets Meatloaf as Las Vegas-based rock-band, The Killers, attempt to remake the classic American-rock  record in a time of sythentic soundscapes and empty verses. Lyrically thrilling with alluring melodies and epic soundscapes, ‘Battle Born‘  easily became the band’s fourth number one album upon its release last week. Far from the energetic anthem, ‘Mr Brightside’, the record tracklist is alive with urgency and nostalgia set against a dazzling Las Vegas backdrop, pulling the band away from the pop-indie boundary and into a more classic and edgy sound beneath the crumbling umbrella of the rock genre.

The outstanding, ‘Flesh and Bones‘, opens the album with stunning lines, such as “I’ve gone through life white-knuckle” and “Cut from the cloth of a flag that bares the name ‘battle born'”. This fierce determination remains consistent, even during the intimate and mellow ballads; ‘Be Still‘ being the most striking. “Don’t break character/You’ve got so much heart” Brandon Flowers sings out, leaving a trail of goosebumps. ‘Battle Born‘, finishes the album in this same motivational, retrospective attitude alive with an electrifying soundscape; “When they knock you down/ You’re gonna get back on your feet!” However, romance still dances among the assertive attitude followed by desperation and regret. In ‘The Way It Was‘ and ‘Here With Me‘, Flowers remembers loves past in a touchingly hopeless-romantic tone; “Sometimes a dream, it doesn’t come true.”

An aggressive attitude leads the majority of the album, alongside the more gentle romances that tug on the heart-strings. Emotionally exhausting, ‘Battle Born‘ is probably my favourite album by the quartet. The post-card imagery and spellbound melodies are sure to enchant any thoughtful listener.

G-Dragon – ‘One Of A Kind’ EP

18 Sep

BIGBANG’s controversial leader has returned in full confidence with a brand new collection of solo material. Considerably one of Kpop’s most colourful characters, G-dragon has found influence all around the world; especially in the West after the group’s big win at last years EMAs. The EP, titled ‘One Of A Kind‘, is nothing we were not expecting. Whilst remaining true to himself, GD has experimented with various sounds and styles to make it a crazy but most enjoyable collection. We see GD as a chameleon, bouncing between aggression and romance, and adapting himself to multiple genres whilst producing equally colourful soundscape and lyrics. The romances are delicate and stunning, whilst the party anthems are outrageous and artistic; but which side of the rapper/singer will you prefer?

1. ‘One Of A Kind‘ – The EP’s title track opens with an electrifying hip-hop piece that is just as colourful as GD himself whilst the soundscape vibrates with energetic percussions and skittery sonic synths. With lines such as “I’m just wild and young” and “Yes, I’m one of a kind”, the BIGBANG leader partakes in a victory-lap as he celebrates not only his success but also embraces his artistic individuality.

2. ‘Crayon‘ – Another crazy electric hip-hop concoction follows with more artistic championing as GD calls for listeners to “Get your crayon”. The use of ‘crayon’ is a childish image that only builds upon the psychedelic soundscape and carefree atmosphere pushed by a  YOLO-esque attitude. Taking inspiration from Heath Ledger’s Joker, he asks “Why So Serious?”. Lose yourself in this bass-laden dance anthem and go crazy. Check out GD’s killer comeback performance at Inkigayo here!

3. ‘Without You‘ – With the help of a mystery female vocalist (set to appear in YG’s new girl group), GD abruptly slows things down with some heartache. Opening with his boyish delicate vocals, he sings “Love is painful … pain’s beautiful, the same as you.” Merging an alluring R&B attitude with a pop-ballad soundscape led by a twinkling piano below the determined drum-beats, GD is in a seductively weakened state beside the stunning female vocals. It is, all-in-all, a beautiful song.

4. ‘That XX‘ – The soundscape becomes minimal with a lonely acoustic guitar setting the tone. GD ‘s raw vocals are captivating alongside the melody as he sings about his frustration. Echoing a Bruno Mars influence, he keeps it authentic in comparison with the synthetic openings. Although embodying anger, it is laid-back and calm with emphasis on the heartache.

5. ‘Missing You‘ (Ft. Kim Yuna) – Hip-hop meets a smooth jazzy soundscape that boarders on nostalgic. Living as in an uncertain day-dream, GD and Yuna sing of an emptiness in their lives left by a lost love. Indeed it is dreamy and easy to listen to, but the female vocals are striking enough to maintain a listener’s attention.

6. ‘Today‘ (Ft. Kim Jongwan) – The Western version of the EP closes in a glorious glow as GD embarks on a final – but less aggressive – victory lap. With the dreamy vocals of Jongwan lost to GD’s youthful explosions, the song has a yo-yo effect that sums up the rest of the EP perfectly. GD returns to the carefree and joyful state from the opening as he sings out, “I’m rocking my life away!” The choir-sequence provides an anthemic atmosphere that is infectiously uplifting.

The EP is available for purchase on iTunes now. Go check it out!

Nicki Minaj – ‘The Boys’ (Ft. Cassie)

16 Sep

In November, Young Money Princess, Nicki Minaj will re-release her latest album, ‘Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded‘. The album was her first UK number one earlier this year, making Minaj the first female rap artist to top the charts here in the UK. Via twitter, Minaj has hinted that the album will include between 5 and 8 new singles for her barbz to spazz over. ‘The Boys‘, featuring American singer, Cassie, is the first of these new pieces to to revealed.

A captivating beat holds the track together with an old-school hip-hop vibe. An aggressive and arrogant attitude strings the lines together as Minaj and Cassie exploit the pitiful lives of prostitute-loving boys; “You get high/Love a bunch of girls/ Then cry on top of the world.” Acting as her alter-ego, Roman Zolanski, Minaj goes on a victory lap as her ego only continues to grow. The lines are filled of crude silliness that are reminiscent of her earlier work, such as  ‘Roman’s Revenge‘ (featuring Eminem) from her début album ‘Pink Friday‘. Speedy and full of character, Minaj’s verses are disturbingly engrossing whilst Cassie’s vocals add a seductive elegance to the craziness, giving the track a smooth R&B charisma.

Minaj seems to be unstoppable as she throws together the most bizzare insults whilst remaining fierce. The beat is powerful and the vibe is infectious. It will be interesting to see what will follow. Check out ‘The Boys‘ below.