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Album Review: If You Thought 'The Show' Was Lenka's Best Work, Check Out Her Latest Release 'The Bright Side'By Michael Jul 21, 2015
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
Longtime English rockers Muse may have reached their peak during their "Black Holes" & "Resistance" days, so where does this group, known for their epic stadium rock songs, turn to for their 7th album Drones? Well, they try to make it even more epic, but it just doesn't seem to work here.
Drones seems to be Muse's attempt at an "American Idiot" type of concept album with frontman Matt Bellamy singing/preaching about how "The world is run by drones utilising drones to turn us all into drones." It's a pretty interesting notion but the album just doesn't seem convincing enough as a whole.
Sure there are the heavy rock tracks like the opener Dead Inside and the epic (for lack of a better, newer word to describe Muse) 6-minute classic rock-ish Reapers which are decent on their own but seem too reminiscent of previous Muse work, providing nothing new to wow us.
Then you have the typical Muse song with that cliche fuzzed-out guitar riff to start the song before Matt starts to create a choir of different vocal lines using his own unique voice and adding some distortion to the refrain, in the case of Psycho. The weak songwriting in Drones is most exemplified in this follow up to the rather awkward [Drill Sergeant] as Muse tries to scare us with the character of a crazy army officer, but lines like "You're ass belongs to me now" don't really strike fear in our hearts.
Just like the 10-minute wonder of The Globalist, the Queen-ispired Defector is one track that really impresses musically and more importantly, best portrays the concept of Drones, with this song emphasising the topic of real freedom in this world, and the false freedom we're made to believe we have.
It's a lot to ask for to come up with a great album after so many excellent ones before and given that Muse have already solidified their rock greatness, the average-ness of Drones shouldn't bring you down. It still is a heavy rock album that will get your blood pumping, it just doesn't live up to the band's best material.
Track Gems: The Globalist, Mercy, The Handler, Defector
Britain's favorite extravagant artist in recent times, Mika has been pretty busy lately judging on The X Factor Italy and coaching in The Voice in France. That could be a reasonable excuse why his new album, No Place In Heaven falls short off his glory days of the Grace Kelly & Blame It On The Girls era.
Mika is known for his glam-pop style and eccentric songwriting which have translated into a number of decent hits. But the opening songs Talk About You and All She Wants feel like rejects from his debut hit Life In Cartoon Motion. They just don't scream hit pop song.
As an overall pop album, it doesn't disappoint that much with catchy tracks like the melodically-nostalgic Good Guys and the fun sing-along tune Oh Girl You're The Devil.
There was a missed opportunity for Mika to save this album from being bland in the penultimate song Rio. You could tell it was the best of the lot in this record with an excitingly catchy intro before a cleverly-rhymed pre-chorus and chorus. But then, another chorus came. And another in the "bridge". Don't get me wrong, the choruses are fantastic, but it all felt squeezed into one really feel-good song, when it could have been spread out into at least 3 other great pop tunes.
And the final nail in the coffin, there was just too many melancholic songs such as the piano-dominated Hurts and Last Party (a homage to the late Freddie Mercury) in one pop album. Let alone a pop album by Mika who we all know as a fun artist who can excite us with his crazy vocal range and colorful songs.
One more thing, (sorry, really hurts me to bash on Mika) the title track No Place In Heaven just sounded too much like The Supremes' hit You Can't Hurry Love when it hits the chorus. Really hope Mika brings back the feel-good tunes on his next record. Focus more on your music and not on talent contests man.
Track Gems: Rio, Oh Girl You're The Devil, Good Guys, Staring At The Sun
If you’re an old soul, Leon Bridges’ music might be able to teleport you back to the early 60s - back to those times when people lack human rights and equality was nothing but a dream. Jokes aside, Coming Home is probably the most unique album I’ve listened to this year.
Leon introduces a fresh genre most of us wouldn’t be familiar with. He ‘specializes’ in classic soul with a pinch of jazz and country, at least that’s how I classify them.
His upbeat tracks like Twistin' & Groovin' would remind you of the early Beatles, if they added a bit of jazz to their music.
Lisa Sawyer is a smooth retro soul that tells us a story about a girl witha heart warm as Louisiana sun and voice like a symphony.
Flowers, on the other hand, makes good use of the rich tone of the saxophone while keeping the jazzy-jive all throughout the song.
Coming Home is a debut record that will bring you to a never-ending nostalgia. This emerging artist deserves more recognition than just having his music played in the background in Starbucks.
Let Leon Bridge’s velvety vocals calm you in this live version of Coming Home:
Track Gems: Flowers, Twistin’ & Groovin’, Brown Skin Girl
Photo Credit: Rambo, Columbia
With the recent departure of a member from a certain popular British boyband this year, fellow British pop band Rixton couldn't ask for a better window of opportunity to make their mark on the boyband pop scene. Their debut release Let The Road brings new flavor to the genre with an entirely new and unique personality as a group.
Just the first song alone, the title track Let The Road, gets your immediate attention being a modern barbershop-quartet track that raises your eyebrows with its haunting harmonies. After that however, there isn't much that reaches this opening song's high standard.
Sure there are the typical meaningless songs you'd find in a pop album like the exponentially-irritating I Like Girls and the forcefully-rhymed track Wait On Me, but Rixton have this unexplainable style to the pop genre that is quite recognizable and interesting. The catchy tunes Speakerphone and Appreciated best show this unique character.
And of course, everybody knows Me And My Broken Heart, the lead single which you hear almost everywhere you go. It unfortunately owes its fame to Rob Thomas' Lonely No More which, in my opinionated hearing, sounds like it's being ripped off by the Rixton hit. Have a listen to both if you disagree.
If you're looking to get Let The Road, you definitely should get the deluxe version. Not because of the Me And My Broken Heart remix, but because it has the single Make Out which is a really fun pop song and entertaining music video at the same time.
Rixton has shown the potential to be a top boyband group, but they have to escape the confines of the record label hierarchy and try do to things their own way, because these young men have raw talent that needs to be explored by themselves, not exploited by sharks.
Track Gems: Let The Road, Speakerphone, Hotel Ceiling, Whole
Photo credit: Interscope Records