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For the alternative rock band, Kings of Leon, making an album isn’t so much about pleasing an audience. The quartet has already found success in their most well-received album, Only By The Night. Not so much of a game changer, their recent effort WALLS radiates their struggle of keeping a steady musical momentum.
According to frontman Caleb Followill, the album is reminiscent of the metaphor, “the walls coming down.” A slightly cheesy take on learning how to break free. Though for Kings of Leon, it holds a personal part in their entire journey as a band and perhaps as brothers. In the words of Followill himself, “there is some real stuff being said.”
The record opens with Waste A Moment, a thundering track that carries their signature crunchy riffs. This is followed by the soft, almost indie-like, mellow intro in Reverend that finds its way to a powerful chorus.
The most noteworthy track, however, is Around The World smothered in a frolicking opening just begging to be admired. The track then flawlessly transitions to Find Me, a song carrying that certain repetitive melody seeping into almost every track in the album. Unfortunately, the title track and ballad, Walls, happens to be one of the those tracks.
Despite the disappointing lack of variety, we've got songs like Conversation Piece with Followill's beaming country-like vocals and Muchacho, an ethereal piece illuminating a vibrant aura far from their usual angst.
Though confessing how much of a challenge it was to produce this record, Kings of Leon undoubtedly delivered. But, this of course, is in spite of the record's lack of angst that seems to be seeping through repetitive rock melodies. After all, what's Kings of Leon without their signature and familiar garage sound anyway?
Listen to WALLS here:
Track gems: Around The World, Eyes On You, Muchacho
Photo Credit: Supplied, RCA Records
With just almost a year succeeding the release of their previous album, Get Weird, Little Mix proves that 2016 isn’t as bad as everyone thinks it is. Along with a successful tour, the hardworking girl-group delivers a rhythmic pop record, Glory Days, that is reminiscent of their adorable quirks and emotional heartaches.
Channeling their feisty attitudes, Little Mix delves straight into the topic of romance with Shout Out to My Ex. Dubbed as the new dance anthem for the brokenhearted, the well-received track speaks so much of the quartet’s advocacy that being single is not entirely synonymous to being miserable.
Following the topic of love is a song devoid of it. Little Mix belts out their dilemmas in F.U., a fiery ballad accompanied by enthralling chord progressions and the girl’s signature harmonies. What follows this is a jazzy track called Oops featuring one of this generation’s most melodically creative artists, Charlie Puth. Puth’s harmonious trademark is evident in the song’s soft-hearted and captivating melody, both encapsulating the type of sound one needs to hear for a little rejuvenation. If not the best, Oops remains to be one of those songs you should play on repeat.
You Gotta Not marks the end of the melodic intensity in the album. However, the vibrant jingle still falls under the "catchy category" with it's intense beats and sassy lyrics that seem to mock the girls' previous lovers - "I don't get paid to babysit no one."
With Little Mix' authenticity, it's not a surprise that the record still includes sentimental tracks like Your Love and Nobody Like You, despite their desire for it to represent independence and the ultimate "girl power."
Glory Days maintains an energy and vigor incomparable to any pop albums released this year. It satisfied our cravings for fun dance-pop music in a world full of "indie wannabes". This is prood that Little Mix have mastered the art of what constitutes a feel-good pop record in their five years in the industry.
For whatever endeavor they've experienced, the girl-group still manifests an aura that is true themselves and delivers it to like-minded fans through their unapologetically fun music.
Listen to the album here:
Track Gems: Oops, Shout Out to My Ex, You Gotta Not, F.U.
Photo Credit: musicweekly.asia, Syco, and Columbia records
Deviating from her usual eccentricity and loud demeanor, Lady Gaga releases what is deemed her most personal album yet. With every track blanketed in personal stories, it seems like Mother Monster has left her old self behind and is going through a new kind of reinvention with her fifth album Joanne. This is evident in the minimalistic album art covered in pastel colors and a simply styled Gaga that encapsulate a more straightforward record – again, far from her previous incarnations which were begging for mindbending interpretations.
Despite the range of genres incorporated in Joanne, that solid pop sound that Gaga has associated with herself is one recurring theme in the album.
Joanne radiates an unexpected twist as the song Diamond Heart starts off with a slow tempo that reaches a climax just before the chorus. This was followed by the catchy A-YO, covered in heavy basslines, which beautifully compliments Gaga’s deep husky voice. With the song's potential to be the next dance-rock anthem, it’s no surprise that it has reached no. 1 in the Billboard charts. That badass guitar interlude is also worth a mention!
The genre-defying songstress proves that she’s more than just her quirky (sometimes, terrifying) costumes and loud music. We’re not able to appreciate her vocal prowess that often, but when she does let it out, it comes out as immaculate as ever. The velvety track, Joanne, proves just that as it leaves us with a pang of nostalgia with Gaga's flawless delivery.
This unblemished execution continues on with less angst and more emotions, as Gaga cuts deep into our souls with Million Reasons.
Another notable chord progression is the intro in Sinner’s Prayer. What Gaga has achieved in this song is another level of incorporating a Black Keys-like aesthetics into a country sounding tune.
Ending this genre-bending journey is a musical theatre-inspired track, Just Another Day, that Gaga herself labelled as "New York-Glam-Pop."
With the variety of melodies packed in just one album, there is no doubt that Joanne would bring listeners a wide range of emotions in its most authentic form and with this, it's safe to say that Lady Gaga has certainly outdone herself without much exaggeration.
Track Gems: A-YO, Million Reasons, Hey Girl
Photo Credit: Interscope Records
Dubbed as being their most diverse album yet, OneRepublic’s Oh My My seems to confuse both new and old listeners. We have a concoction of themes going on, mimicking an amalgamation of different pop rock tunes that we’ve been hearing on the radio - from Two Door Cinema Club’s dance-punk sound to Kodaline and Imagine Dragon’s alternative rock melodies.
The fourth studio album opens with Let’s Hurt Tonight, a track carrying that familiar OneRepublic melody one just can’t describe. It’s soul stirring, but not in a way that makes you heartbroken. It follows a mellow acoustic opening that transitions into Ryan Tedder’s moving falsettos, almost giving off the same vibe as their song What You Wanted.
The band’s desire for experimentation apparently seeps into the third song Oh My My, accompanied by techno beats and heavy bass lines. This propels us to similar sounding tracks like Kids and A.I., which to my surprise, did not come out as a disappointment. It’s not easy to pull off a varied tracklisting and OneRepublic did just that.
Finishing off this kaleidoscopic theme is yet another track, Heaven, straying from the initial acoustic opening. The deluxe version of the record joins this variety as it ends with another original, a country-like track, The Less I Know.
Despite the album’s vague imitations, confusing theme, and some disappointing feedback, OneRepublic doesn’t seem to mind, as long as they're able to deliver authentic stories that’s true to themselves. The band did mention that they wanted to encapsulate humanity in this incarnation, which somehow explains the diverse theme. After all, humans are never static.
Track Gems: Let’s Hurt Tonight, A.I., Human, Born
Photo Credit: Interscope Records
Shawn Mendes proved all the skeptics out there that he is not just a one-hit wonder with his sophomore studio album Illuminate that debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 chart.
Illuminate is definitely a body of art that tells about the ups and downs in the life of the 18-year-old singer. Unlike his previous album Handwritten, a sense of maturity can be found in the lyrics and tracks of Illuminate that was somewhat absent in his previous collection of songs.
The singer-songwriter's biggest musical influences, John Mayer and Ed Sheeran, are heavily imprinted in the rhythmic tunes and guitar-centred tracks. The honest and bluesy kind of feels are evident in almost every single song in the album, making it one to be played in chill and relaxed situations rather than a playlist to bring the life to the party.
A wide variety of themes can be found in this LP; from the Canadian singer being a gentlemen treating his lady right in Treat You Better and Bad Reputation to being in a relationship that feels frustrating in Ruin and Mercy to even empowering his fans in Understand with a speech placed right in the middle of the song as if speaking directly to them in a concert setting.
This album demonstrates the growth that the international superstar has made over the past year and what he's actually capable of. He seems to be growing up really fast with the more mature lyrics he has put out but the sincerity in his music is one thing that he has kept consistent from his Vine days till now.