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Greg Holden may not be a household name to many and with a number of albums so far in his career, fame isn't so important to him. The singer-songwriter has contributed his own songs to many TV shows and more notably co-writing Home, the song Philip Philips performed after being crowned the 11th American Idol.
Chase The Sun is the New York-based British singer-songwriter's first album released by a major label, Warner Bros. It's a folk rock record with a sort of Mumford/Lumineers sound and at times, the story-telling style of Dylan himself.
Holden seems to have an affinity for simple verses that lead into grand, sing-along choruses in the many anthemic tracks like A Wonderful World, Bulletproof and Give It Away. These song types are just perfect for bars and pubs, which is where I presume Greg finds his target audience most of the time.
Working with a major label seems to have opened Holden to new avenues when writing songs. The lead single, Hold On Tight is a super motivational folk tune telling you Don't take your life for granted. Greg surprisingly goes into a personal, soothing piano ballad that sounds so different from his usual guitar-work in Go Chase The Sun.
Mainstream music may have crept into his muse with some pop aspects in the catchy and groovy Free Again. Greg also displays his personal songwriting style best in Boys In The Street. A heart-wrenching story about a gay man living his entire life without his father's approval of who he truly is.
It's quite saddening to know that this man's most famous work isn't something performed by him because this guy is one of the more unique individuals among the many singer-songwriters in the world. His personal songs just reach out to you and connect with you, which is what music is truly meant for. Chase The Sun shows the best of Greg Holden, a down-to-earth musician and a wonderful story-teller.
Track Gems: Boys In The Street, Free Again, Hold On Tight, A Wonderful World
Photo credit: Warner Bros
On 21st April, indie pop band, Passion Pit, released their newest album, Kindred. The first two singles from Kindred, Lifted Up (1985) and Where the Sky Hangs, had given us a gist of what to expect from the album - which was a mix of contrasted tracks.
With a full listen of the album, Kindred is indeed filled with a variety. Just like Lifted Up (1985) and Where the Sky Hangs, the tracks in Kindred are mashed up with fast and slow beats.
Lead singer, Michael Angelakos, has always been known to write lyrics as a reflection of what he has been through in his life. In Whole Life Story, Michael shares the struggles which he faced with his wife, which would have been a follow-up to Constant Conversations from Gossamer.
All I Want isn’t as appealing as the other tracks in Kindred. Instead of having a dominant beat to set the track in place, it sounded way too much of a noise, with too much background sounds. With different beats playing at one go, it becomes difficult to listen, and as the song continues, the vocals sounded detached from the music that’s playing, making it the least harmonious track in Kindred.
Comparing with Gossamer, Kindred does not seem to have a theme through its songs. It is not as heartfelt as Gossamer was, and it felt disorientated. Only a few tracks gave good impressions, while others, like My Brother Taught Me How to Swim, gave off desperate verdicts that Passion Pit is just trying to fill up the album.
Kindred’s third single, Until We Can’t (Let’s Go):
Track gems: Lifted Up (1985), Where the Sky Hangs, Whole Life Story, Looks Like Rain
Photo credit: Columbia Records
Alternative R&B has been riding a crescendoing wave of rapid increase in popularity over the past year or two. From FKA Twigs to Banks, from Jhene Aiko to Tinashe, these artists have taken experimental trap beats and fused it with sensual coos mixed with a downbeat introspective mood.
All these artists have released incredible studio albums over the past year but each seem to have found a certain target audience within the industry. Tinashe has established her niche towards the hip-hop/soul spectrum of the genre and she seems the most ready for mainstream success among her peers, complete with the potent combination of looks, dance skills, incredible vocal range and songwriting ability.
Aquarius is the major label debut album from Tinashe and she has enlisted the help of the who's who in the business, ranging from producers DJ Mustard and Stargate to the big rappers in the game, A$AP Rocky, Future and Schoolboy Q. What's surprising is that even with such diverse contributions, the album still manages to come across as a cohesive body of work, held together by the atmospheric interludes and the incredible tonal qualities of Tinashe's voice. What's even more impressive is that when the songs are listened to individually, they all present themselves as competent singles if released.
Obvious inspirations include Janet Jackson and Aaliyah and this is one album that goes straight for the bedroom. Headed by her big hit 2 On, not all the songs are made for the clubs though, other than the Stargate-produced tracks All Hands On Deck and Feels Like Vegas, all 3 of which very competent songs to get your booty shaking. The album is filled with highlights from the M83-meets-Rihanna ballad Wildfire, the sexy title track and the catchy How Many Times featuring Future who frankly interrupts the intimate mood created by Tinashe. Bet is also the most interesting song on this album, which includes a nonchalent rap verse from Tinashe herself and an unexpected but totally rewarding guitar solo from Devente Hynes.
However, the standouts are the poppy Pretend and Cold Sweat which house the greatest opening bars in the album. Despite the thick production values, Tinashe's voice still manages to showcase its unqiue tones. This is one album that has incredible replay value which elevates it to such a high standard.
There are so many enjoyable moments it is hard not to fall in love with one of the strongest debuts in recent years, together with the aforementioned albums by FKA Twigs and Banks. If these girls are heading the future of R&B, it is hard not to see it taking over mainstream airwaves in the near future.
Best Songs: Pretend. Cold Sweat, All Hands On Deck, 2 On, Wildfire, Aquarius, How Many Times, Far Side Of The Moon, Feels Like Vegas
Photo credit: RCA Records
Kintsugi - "The Japanese pottery art of fixing something that's broken as part of the object's history, instead of hiding the damage with a disguise."
Longtime alternative rockers Death Cab For Cutie infuse this eastern philosophy into their 8th studio album; their first after the departure of lead guitarist and founding member, Chris Walla who contributed his efforts for the last time in this indie rock styled record of the early-emo band.
The album's breaking-up theme starts off in the opening No Room In Frame in which frontman Benjamin Gibbard relates to his divorce with Zooey Deschanel as he calmly recollects:
Was I in your way? When the cameras turned to face you? No room in frame for two. Referring to Deschanel's career overshadowing her ex-husband's.
The Kintsugi philosophy is used in the dark-undertoned first single, Black Sun which alludes to Deschanel again, as well as in the indie jam of The Ghosts Of Beverly Drive, as Benjamin tries to reconcile with his mistakes in the past.
The first half of the record are personal stories of Benjamin's experiences and how it has affected him today. Lyric lines of the past and the present contrast with each other in the story-telling tracks of the radio-friendly Little Wanderer and the acoustic You've Haunted My All My Life.
Good Help (Is So Hard To Find) and Everything's A Ceiling feature more electronic sounds as they spearhead the inspiring and encouraging second half that seems to be made up of songs meant to motivate the band to move on as a three-piece group.
Kintsugi is not the end of Death Cab. It's the rebirth of a band rediscovering themselves and having the opportunity to do something they could never have done without a member leaving. There's always a blessing in disguise when someone leaves a band after a long time. (take note, you know who you are)
Track Gems: Little Wanderer, El Dorado, Good Help (Is So Hard To Find), The Ghosts Of Beverly Drive
Once described as 'The biggest cult band in the UK' by Q Magazine, The Cribs have reinvented themselves as one of the decade's most beloved guitar bands, only this time, they've headed towards a more pop direction in their 6th record, For All My Sisters.
This 3-piece band of brothers Gary, Ryan & Ross Jarman decided not to have any infectious indie rock anthems or any wild experimentation in the 12 songs here and stuck to their early, raw garage sound in tracks like Different Angle and the lead single, Burning For No One that received a Zane Low 'Hottest Record In The World' status.
The Cribs introduced some light synth lines to thicken up the 3-piece sound in the melodic An Ivory Hand and in the poetically-penned ballad of Simple Story that didn't feature any bass guitar or drums, making this album more pop-oriented.
Summer Of Chances is probably the most intense track on Sisters with many different drum dynamics, shouted lyric statements and half-timed breakdowns. And after the vintage sounding acoustic guitar intro on Spring On Broadway, the album ends off with a majestic 7-minute love song of Pink Snow, dedicated to all the sisters out there.
They've strayed from the styles that caught many adoring fans' eyes, but The Cribs still impress us with an indie rock / indie pop album that definitely deserves more attention from the mainstream societies.
Track Gems: Different Angle, Summer Of Chances, Finally Free, Burning For No One
Photo credit: Sonic Blew