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When did I buy this U2 album? U2 is still making albums? Who is this U2?
These were some of the many questions Apple users faced when they woke up to find the latest album of undoubtedly one of the best rock bands ever, U2, planted into their iTunes library. Songs Of Innocence, the album in question, affected around 500,000 people with it's naive marketing ploy. C'mon Bono, not EVERYBODY knows U2.
The public reaction was generally a cry against an invasion of their own privacy, and their voices were definitely heard, to reference the anthemic opening track, The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone). The next 3 songs are reminiscent of that classic U2 sound. The pumping Every Breaking Wave precedes the inspirational California (There Is No End To Love) with it's driving progressions.
The acoustic Song For Someone is one of the more heartfelt tracks here, much like Iris (Hold Me Close) (man U2 really love extended song titles in brackets). This love song remembers Bono's mother and it's nostalgic vibe assumingly brings him back to those lost times as well as for the listener.
Let's not forget the iconic The Edge's contributions. The guitarist expertly drives the animalistic Raised By Wolves and the haunting Sleep Like A Baby Tonight with his rhythmic licks. U2 pays homage to their influences like The Ramones clearly on the opening track and likewise for The Clash in the rightfully attitude-filled This Is Where You Can Reach Me.
Songs Of Innocence may not be another Achtung Baby or Joshua Tree but despite it's arrogant release, it's one of U2's better works. Let's hope their marketing method isn't replicated by another great band in the future.
Track Cuts: California (There Is No End To Love), Song For Someone, Raised By Wolves
Photo credit: Island
Scottish synthpop trio, Chrvches (pronounced "Churches"), debuted The Bones Of What You Believe last year and recently released the deluxe edition of this album. This solid creation of honest, electronic tunes is easily relatable to everyone, making the album a hit with the general public and critics alike.
The Mother We Share kicks off with a singable melody bound to hook you straight away from the get-go which is followed by the convincing, upbeat We Sink. Frontgirl Lauren's cute vocals sneaking in subtle profanities in the first two songs really catch the ear and remind us that her adorable singing is passionate at the same time.
The second single, Covered, just lacks that spark lyrically and melodically that other tracks like the driving Guns. Songs like Tether and By The Throat are those typical chill, indie pop tracks that you need on a rainy journey home.
The inclusion of some songs sung by the other two guys really open up a wider view for appreciating this album. Under The Tide and You Caught The Light are the tracks needed to pry that window out. The extra songs on this deluxe bring to us more of the same which is never a bad thing like the fast-paced Strong Bones.
The Bones Of What You Believe is a perfect album for a long journey with so many mood-accessible songs. Both the remixes and the Alucard sessions are an interesting alternative view of these well-written songs which I have to say are all involved in a 12-track horse race vying for a place in my track cuts below.
Track Cuts: By The Throat, Under The Tide, The Mother We Share (it was a really tight neck-to-neck race)
With all the furore that has been happening in Taylor Swift’s life (unleashing 2014’s first platinum record, announcing another world tour and riding on a steady barrage of press), it’s truly a wonder how the American singer-songwriter manages to keep up with her nocturnal #taylurking jaunts.
It’s all part of the 1989 conquest however – a blitzkrieg that surrounds not just a “collection of 13 new songs” but really, a career-defining era for the same woman who penned Love Story yet remaining staunch to her identity and fans. While Red tentatively poked around with more contemporary influences (dubsteb amongst them) and inched away from Swift’s Nashvillian roots, her latest offering then, is an unabashed declaration of independence.
“This is a story about coming into your own, and as a result…coming alive.”
As New York’s Global Welcome Ambassador, 1989’s glitzy opener is Swift’s tribute to the Big Apple; a befitting soundtrack set against the backdrop of its ambition-driven ethos. Representing a haven for new beginnings (“Everyone here was someone else before”), we are received by a refreshing side to Swift that is far from naïve but still possesses a familiar sense of optimism. Welcome To New York’s chirpy synths are not standalone as the presence of producer bigwigs including Max Martin and Shellback are naturally more prevalent than ever. From the lush soundscapes of Style to the saccharine buzz of Wildest Dreams, the album is nearly devoid of Swift’s signature twang if not for How You Get The Girl (which even then, is largely punctuated by the blow of playful programming).
For a project that’s inherently influenced by the pop music of the late 80’s, Swift’s winning collaboration has to be with Bleachers mastermind, Jack Antonoff. Lending Out of the Woods an ominous edge that further clouds the song’s theme of uncertainty, the fun. multi-instrumentalist even furnishes the anthem with his own warped background vocals. The giddying fervour that is similarly replicated in I Wish You Would seems to be quite characteristic of Antonoff a la Strange Desire. Equally poignant is the Imogen Heap co-write, Clean, a sobering finish to what is probably Swift’s most ostentatious effort to date.
1989 might be dotted with drum machines and the like but apparently, Swift is perfectly capable of slipping snugly into these new aural shoes. If anything, she’s freed up more space for her pitch perfect vocals to be more nuanced, skirting between satirically alluring (Blank Space), scathing (Bad Blood’s yelps) and full on breathy (This Love). Some may even consider the bridge to Shake It Off as another feeble T-Swizzle attempt at breaching the rap game but the track’s very (ironic?) existence points to how adamant she is in being undeterred by oft-unjustified, scrutinising criticism.
Swift’s journey into the wider world of pop is a cohesive and ravishing endeavour that reflects her own embrace of her individuality – one which should undeniably be celebrated as and if (read: when) it spawns multiple radio hits, all the better.
Track Cuts: Blank Space, Out of the Woods, Style, Wildest Dream, This Love, Clean
Photo credit: Big Machine Records
Two years after her critically acclaimed debut album, Jessie Ware returns with her second album, Tough Love. Just like its predecessor, Tough Love boasts a wide range of electronic soul pop tunes. What sets both albums apart is Tough Love's even more singable melodies and relatable lyrics.
Jessie's unique, relaxed and non-chalant approach to singing her tracks reappears again mostly on the upbeat You & I (Forever) and Cruel. Newer groovy tracks like Want Your Feeling and the slow-paced Kind Of...Sometimes...Maybe spice up the album's already delicious musical flavor.
Co-written by Ed Sheeran, the second single, Say You Love Me is a carefully crafted song with a slow, catchy chorus, capped off with a preachful gospel choir which ends off this electronic ballad.
Tough Love seems to be Jessie Ware's stepping stone onto bigger musical stages, the same stages British divas like Adele and Lorde have worked hard to reach. The album promises to be a pleasure to the ears and a big statement of intent from Jessie.
Track Cuts: Say You Love Me, You And I (Forever), Kind Of...Sometimes...Maybe
Photo credit: Universal Music
Giving us a taste of semblance in terms of vocal qualities from Mariah Carey and Pixie Lott– the Bang Bang hit maker assuaged the hunger of her hopeful fans for her remarkable vociferous runs. Enabling listeners to navigate the bouncy melody gracefully and generously, well Jessie J did it again for her third studio release Sweet Talker, surpassing the expectations being set for her.
Collaborating with prevalent rapper 2 Chainz, Burnin Up is being spiced up with a tinge of sassiness. This track beckons listeners to sashay their hips away in the club, piquing and whetting the interest of listeners as the song progresses. I love the fusion of Hip Hop together with Pop within this track, bringing about themes such as temptation and seduction. The breathy vocals enhances the overall appeal too!
Have we ever reached a point in life- everyone thinks they know us but they don’t really know who we really are? Acting strong on the out-front but we are crumbling behind the facade? How could you know me/ I keep praying that the cracks don’t show my pain. These lines struck a chord within me.
You Don’t Really Know Me embraces an ingenious crafted approach towards the song. In turn putting across a sense of helplessness by the acoustic set, it is not being over powered by heavy instruments. This enables Jessie to connect with us through her inclement vocals.
As a whole the album balances itself with a mixture of slow and fast tempo songs which takes us on an emotional roller coaster ride. Well I would certainly like Jessie to show us something more aside from the usual compositions about love. Also more collaboration with Hip Hop artists perhaps Kendrick Lamar or Drake! Let’s bring something new to the table.
Track Cuts: Burnin Up, Bang Bang and Sweet Talker
Photo Credits: Republic Records