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Hey Violet Revives Early Pop-Punk Sound With 'Brand New Moves' EP
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Album Review: Drake's 'Views' Is 80 Minutes Of Unsatisfied Expectations
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HANA Enters The World Of SynthPop With Self-Titled EP
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With hooks similar to the soundtrack of early 2000s movie Freaky Friday and association with self-confessed punk rockers 5 Seconds of Summer, Hey Violet are on their way to the pop-punk scene. However, the newcomers are still in the process of a defining sound that would set them apart from the long-gone emo phase they seem to be going for - both aesthetically and musically. But their latest EP, Brand New Moves, is good enough for now.

The EP opens with Brand New Moves, a song that can certainly draw one’s attention through it’s playful basslines though still incomparable to the band’s most successful single, I Can Feel It.

The pop punk influence is evident in the whole five-track EP with songs like Fuqboi, which is a reminiscent of the aforementioned emo phase. Lead vocalist Rena Lovelis sings about fuckboys as “the stain on your heart's reputation.” - the new anthem for the young and “brokenhearted.”

Pure, a more synth-based song ends the short journey through Hey Violet’s new originals. The last two songs is a stripped version and a Nomekop remix of the first track Brand New Moves, which I think the EP would do better without.

With 3 original songs, Brand New Moves serves as a cliffhanger for new fans who have been captured by their slightly harsh teenage daydream style.

 

Photo Credit: Hi or Hey Records

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Hotline Bling was one of the biggest hits of 2015. That single and Drake's well-received mixtapes If You're Reading This It's Too Late and WATTBA with Future brewed a high-hoped anticipation of his 4th proper album Views From The 6, shortened to just Views.

That being said, Views underwhelms as Hotling Bling appears as the closing bonus track, and it is still the best track here. We know Drake gets a bad rep for being soft and that was expected here, however 80+ minutes of the rapper wallowing in passive-aggressive contemplation just proved the album's low worth.

Keep The Family Close is a decent opener that sets the introspective tone of the album. But Drizzy still gets lost in forgettable tracks like the empty Redemption and the weak-flowing 9. The latter being an example of Drake's wastage of great beats on the album. The "Why you gotta fight with me at Cheesecake" line on Child's Play also sums up some of the unfortunate mediocrity in Views.

Drake got us hyped for new material with brilliant numbers like 6 God, Legend and Energy. But we only find similarly-impactful songs in the standouts Hype and Still Here, maybe also in some parts of Weston Road Flows. We also get another taste of What A Time To Be Alive on the Future-featured Grammys, but the overwhelming self-reflection just masks these good tracks.

Still, Drake was able to garner some love for the album with quality pop tracks (not including Pop Style) such as the trending ONE Dance and the danceable hit Too Good that features his special Rihanna. Despite the disappointing roller-coaster that Views takes you on, which ends right back again at Hotline Bling, there are worthwhile moments here. The album just wasn't what we expected (or wanted) from 2015 Drake.

Track Gems: Hype, Views, Still Here, ONE Dance, Feel No Ways

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Hana Pestle, more commonly known as her stagename HANA, has been gaining popularity performing alongside Grimes. Unbeknownst to many, HANA released a five-track self-titled EP earlier this year, which carries fresh tunes almost incomparable to her previous work as “Hana Pestle.”

The transition from acoustic to synthpop has been a smooth ride for the 27-year-old artist. The first track of the EP, Clay, opens with the delicate mixture of melodic synths followed by HANA’s lush vocals, which are almost operatic, in my opinion. (I’ve listened to her sing along to the Game of Thrones opening sequence and god, did it sound amazing.) HANA’s newly discovered brilliance in Clay received much-deserved recognition from the likes of Lorde and Lena Dunham, who featured the song in her HBO show Girls.

Avalanche, however, is a more dynamic track compared to Clay. The track doesn’t exist just for it’s upbeat sound though, HANA explains, “That song is also kind of about psyching myself out, and becoming an avalanche—someone who can basically roll over whatever comes in their way.”

Thought the first two tracks of the EP could easily get one’s attention, new listeners would soon realize the repetitive and similar melodies the rest of the songs carry. Underwater speaks for itself with a mellow arrangement almost synonymous to the sound of the ocean, hence the title.

Despite the lack of experimentation in melodies, HANA was able to pull off the new EP with the last two songs,White and Chimera. The tracks made use of HANA’s wide vocal range, which I’m sure is capable of producing more angelic music in the future.

 

Listen to Clay here:

Photo Credit: Hana Pestle, Mike Diamond, MTV

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The upfront, acoustic route Mike Posner has taken in At Night, Alone is a definite improvement from his pop-rap debut with his country-rooted voice and songwriting abilities being put on show.

Of course everyone knows the global hit I Took A Pill In Ibiza, but most guys are more familiar with the SeeB remix version, the original one on the other hand, is a shining example of Posner's new introspective approach towards his music in an acoustic rendition of the catchy tune.

Posner's vocals also show a hint of country twang to it, especially in the personal (slightly braggy) One Hell Of A Song and in the instrument-less Only God Knows which is a brave decision for him to include on the album being the most disparate track here.

He means for the album to be listened to at night, alone, and Posner gives us slow piano tunes like Not That Simple and the beautifully-penned Iris, which definitely lend to the album's purpose of putting you in a reflective mood in the late p.m.

Posner's overlooked ability to write powerful pop songs is proven in the incredibly arranged In The Arms Of A Stranger and the adventurous track Silence, both tracks give us dominating pop numbers that outshine the softness of the other tracks.

The overall stripped-down, synthless sound of this record may not sit well with fans of the I Took A Pill In Ibiza remix, but it's a decent singer-songwriter piece of work from one of the pop industry's middle-class men.

Track Gems: Silence, Iris, Jade, In The Arms Of A Stranger

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Though highly anticipated by fans, Catfish and The Bottlemen’s second record is not without it’s disappointing limitations. The breakthrough act of the 2016 Brit Awards took a step backwards with the release of The Ride, at least according to critics, myself included.

The Ride opens with the catchy track called 7, which was inspired by the time difference between frontman Van McCann and his love interest. The song adds an overall indie rock vibe to the album with the melodic part, “I don't think through things, I never get time cause I don't think things through.”

The strong essence of what the band was trying to achieve builds up until the third song, Soundcheck, but sadly, the climax seems to end there.

Still, there’s a few noteworthy songs that might get one’s attention, like the folk sounding guitar intro in Glasglow or the heartwarming “Oasis-esque” melody of Outside.

Catfish and The Bottlemen finds themselves in between their other British counterparts. The Ride somehow captures the soft rock anthems of The Kooks and the passive aggressiveness of Arctic Monkeys, but has yet to establish a unique sound in the gray area.

A part of their seemingly hollow theme in this album might come from their need to stay in their comfort zone. Prior to the album release, McCann confessed, “I feel like everybody started thinking too outside the box, trying to be arty and different. We wanted to stay inside the box.”

So in terms of metaphors, there are none. What you see is what you get. Perhaps the band’s main goal is to write straightforward lyrics that are far from being intellectually (or emotionally) stimulating. But maybe not everything has to mean something.

One thing’s for certain this moment, Catfish and The Bottlemen is not going to hop onto the “artsy-pretentious bandwagon.”  

Track gems: 7, Twice, Soundcheck, Glasglow, Outside

 

Photo Credit: Island Records

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