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Album Review:  Wilco - 'Star Wars'
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Album Review: Carly Rae Jepsen Is Back With An 80s Inspired Technopop Record, E•MO•TION!
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Album Review: Synthpop Has A Fresh Face In Newcomers Years & Years' Debut Album 'Communion'
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Album Review: Wilco - 'Star Wars'

By Michael Aug 29, 2015

Take note, Wilco's latest album isn't about or at all related to the classic sci-fi trilogy we all love and know as Star Wars, and no one really knows why it's called so.

This 30-minute album's production process feels as short as it's playing duration with songs like the opener EKG sounding like a snippet of a jamming session, as well as the straight-to-the-point lyrics found in the campfire singalong-ish More...

Frontman Jeff Tweedy has explored many genres throughout Wilco's lifespan, including art rock and indie rock, but being recognised for their country/alternative sound, Wilco fuses mostly art rock and their earlier country rock sound here as seen in The Joke Explained, which features a synth line in front of a simple blues backing track.

You Satellite and Pickled Ginger are the songs with the most experimental influence that give Star Wars a more diverse flavor. But if you're looking for their simpler, earlier sound, Taste The Ceiling is a lovely acoustic guitar-driven tune to bring some simplicity to the record.

Probably the standout track, Cold Slope is a groovy track featuring laid-back Beck-like vocals in the verse before a short but swirly chorus. Distorted guitar chops and those chicken-picked guitar hooks really complete this 3-minute gem, with the following track, King Of You, sounding like a sequel to it.

The heavily-effected piano-filled Magnetized ends the album on a darker note, but it's contribution to the album's uncertainty makes Star Wars a reminder to all that Wilco is still alive and making head-turning music.

Track Gems: Cold Slope, Random Name Generator, Taste The Ceiling, The Joke Explained

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Carly Rae Jepsen turned heartaches into melodies and feelings into E•MO•TION(s). Described as a “massive challenge,” according to Carly, her 3rd record carries a fresh dance-pop kick in almost every track.

Her goal of wanting this album to sound like Cyndi Lauper’s 80s sound certainly hindered her from creating her own style. It kind of reminds me of Brandon Flower’s The Desired Effect; driven so much by the aim of making the record sound like it’s from another time period made it a bit synthetic.

Nevertheless, the synth-heavy tracks really did resonate her attitude towards romance.

I Really Like You couldn’t be more straightforward but it has been topping the charts ever since it was released due to its snappy repetitive chorus.

With the help of Devonté Hynes, All That, sounds not to far from the likes of Palo Alto with its overall calm and relaxed vibe. On the other hand, Boy Problems is a personal favorite with its catchy tune and feel-good sensations.

It’s really unavoidable not to make comparisons but I think Carly outdid herself with this new record, proving that she’s not just for one-hit wonders.

To all the critics out there who think this album lacks seriousness because of its manic-pixie-dream-girl feels, give yourselves a break. I’m sorry it doesn’t live up to your masculinity. Who’s to say a female artist singing about boys is worth any less than a guy with a guitar singing about a “chick’s booty?”

 Loosen up a bit and have some fun! Listen to Your Type here:

 
Track Gems: Emotions, Gimmie Love, Boy Problems, Your Type, Let’s Get Lost

Photo Credit: Interscope, Universal

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2015 seems to be the breakout year for British electronica three-piece Years & Years and their debut release, Communion, is a grand buffet of endless synthpop wonders and refreshing tunes.

There's a good chance you'll have heard of this group through their smash hit King, an unbelievably catchy song, with a slight 1975-vibe, and whose YouTube view numbers really surprised me.

The overall sound of Communion emulates that of 80's and 90's pop and modernizes it with today's advanced music technology. It may not bode well for the band's originality at first, but their energetic melodies and frontman Olly Alexander's youthful vocals really give them a bold character.

The Years & Years sound can be heard best in the upbeat single Real featuring intensely washed out high vocals and the 80's synth chords in the urgently-paced song Desire. Olly also incorporates some Justin Timberlake-inspired vocal melodies and harmonies in the standout tracks Take Shelter and the danceable Worship.

The future of synthpop/indie pop seems bright with so many young bands such as this one. Communion is a definite must-have for lovers or newcomers of this genre(s).

If the good reviews keep coming, 2015 will have been a fantastic year for Years & Years and we certainly hope they can maintain this level of fresh, new music for years and years to come (pun intended).

Track Gems: Worship, Ties, Gold, Desire

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Most Tame Impala fans wouldn't be wrong to say that the new album, Currents, isn't a Tame album at all. Shifting away from the effects-filled guitar tracks in the heavily-acclaimed Innerspeaker & Lonerism, Kevin Parker takes his Tame Impala project to uncharted territory, into synth-driven pop anthems.

The opening track Let It Happen already hits you with a looping stutter-synth riff that Kevin builds up and breaks down with for 7 minutes. An abrupt way to introduce the startling change in Tame Impala's music style.

After dominating the psychedelic-rock scene with the first 2 albums, Kevin Parker seems to be expanding his rule over to the rising synth-pop genre with a Tears For Fears-like 80's new-wave song The Moment and with Michael Jackson-esque melodies in the dance track Reality In Motion & the start-and-stop ballad LoveParanoia.

The few nostalgic glimpses of Kevin's use of guitar effect-filled riffs reassuringly cameos in the intro of the break-up song Eventually, which seems like a sequel to Lonerism's Mind Mischief, and in the lo-fi track Disciples that refreshes the ears from all the analogue synth sounds.

Another genre that Kevin seems to have incorporated into Currents, unknowingly or not, is the recent short-lived style of vaporwave. The fan-favorite single 'Cause I'm A Man begins with a punchy-bass beat that recalls this genre. That recognizable beat sound also appears in and around the record.

Kevin Parker does his best vocal work in The Less I Know The Better, which best represents his early guitar sound with a funky riff and upbeat groove that works with a catchy melody and clever lyrics. His best production comes in the form of the underrated ballad Yes I'm Changing that sends you waves of relaxation with ethereal sounds and feel-good vibes.

Past Life is probably the weirdest song here where Kevin tries his best emulation of the The Streets' spoken-word style using a transformed, low vocal which just doesn't sound right at all. Mr. Parker should stick to his unique washed-out falsetto vocal sound which we hear one last time in the ending New Person Same Old Mistakes that to me, ends the album on a low-key.

The album overall is yet another colorfully-produced album from Tame Impala, just in another genre/style. It's Kevin's most stylistically diverse record yet and Currents is a risk that he has taken with Tame Impala, but it seems to pay off as, of right now, it's interesting to see where he goes on from here.

Track Gems: The Less I Know The Better, Yes I'm Changing, Eventually, Reality In Motion

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Lenka is capable of more than just advertisement-enhancing jingle-like songs and catchy pop tunes, the Australian artist also has a more personal aspect to her music as seen in her previous album, Shadows, and her latest one, The Bright Side, shares her bubblegum-pop and deeply-emotional vibes in a perfectly equal balance.

Known for her adorable singing style, Lenka revisits her earlier work when she sings the feel-good tracks of the glockenspiel+ukulele driven Get Together and the cute, happy and liberating song Free. "1, 2, it's time for you, 3, 4, to open the door", just how stupidly cute are these lyrics?

Just to contrast the overly joyful tunes, the darker ballads like the electropop-ish Blue Skies and Go Deeper prove that Lenka's unique vocals fit in almost any pop genre there is.

Something new from Lenka's songwriting is the eyebrow-raising theme of motivation like the inspirational pop anthem We Are Powerful with that catchy whistling melody and self-esteem booster and the light-hearted tune of Unique.

The Bright Side is something you shouldn't pass on if an easy-going pop album to put a smile on your face even in your worst day is what you're looking for, and Lenka can probably turn that frown upside down with her eyes closed.

Track Gems: The Long Way Home, We Are Powerful, Free, My Love

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