Archive for April, 2010

Carrie Underwood – Play On

Winning American Idol season 4, releasing two multi-platinum albums, winning multiple awards and gaining over 10 #1 singles on various charts, Carrie Underwood has, without a shadow of a doubt, made a name for herself. And with both the previous albums selling over 1 million copies each in the US alone, Play On had a lot to live up to. Her second album, Carnival Ride, went straight to #1 on the US Billboard 200, and Play On, released on November 3rd 2009, did exactly the same. It has also sold over 1 million copies in the US alone, making it the third album to do so for her. If that wasn’t enough, sales from Play On made Carrie Underwood the highest selling American Idol contestant in America, outselling Kelly Clarkson by around 100,000 albums.

The album kicks off in style with Cowboy Casanova, the song having the strings you’d expect a killer country anthem to have, but the verses have a funky guitar riff to accompany Carrie’s vocals, which clearly haven’t packed up and gone anywhere. A perfect song choice to promote her third album, filled with attitude and punch. Quitter begins with a nice little acoustic intro leading into a story-like verse, followed by a melodic bridge/chorus. I really like how she changes up the tempo in the song, keeping it faster during the upbeat story verses, and slowing down during the more heartfelt chorus. Slowing down the pace a bit, Mama’s Song is a lovely little ballad, albeit a little sleepy at some points, the longer notes during the chorus are sublime. I also enjoy the backing singing after the chorus. Continuing the slower songs, Change is another story from Underwood. And even though this is a slower tempo, this one is definitely not ‘sleepy’. “You’re just a fool, just a fool to believe you can change the world” is beautifully sung and really a highlight on the album. Undo It brings a little pace back to Play On, with a funky little banjo intro. Underwood does attitude well in the verses, but the chorus is the real reason why this song is a success for me. The “uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-undo it” is catchy, and the harmonies just round off the pleasurable ear experience. Someday When I Stop Loving You is another ballad which, in all honesty, is probably forgotten when you think back over the album after listened to it. Obviously, you can’t fault Underwood’s vocals, but this song could’ve been so much more than just another boring country ballad. It almost becomes memorable towards the end of the chorus, but just as it starts to escalate, it falls back down flat again. Now the fasted song we’ve heard since Cowboy, Songs Like This rescues the album from almost slipping down in quality. It’s a fast-paced, action song with so much energy and, that thing Carrie does well that I’ve mentioned before, attitude. It sounds like a brilliant choice for radio, including hand claps and strings which are brilliant. Just as we gain some momentum, the pace slows down again, and just as I think ‘Oh great, just what we need..’ Temporary Home hits me with anything but boredom. The song is filled emotion, sadness and heart. The lyrics are beautiful, the melody and harmonies are wonderful, completely doing those lyrics justice. Underwood shows control and power throughout her vocals. This Time quickens up the pace one again, and I can’t say I’m hugely raving about it. It feels all too familiar, like this song has been heard before, not just similar to some of her other album tracks, but other country artists too, which is a real shame. For me, it’s just a filler song. The chorus is a good sing-along though. Look At Me continues the pattern of the slow-fast-slow switch this album has going on. The male backing vocals work really well here, in all honesty they’re probably the best thing about the song. Unapologize is next, and I never tire of hearing Underwood’s voice. The verses are brilliant, the way they’re constructed, the melody, everything is fantastic, leading into a big chorus with killer hooks and harmonies. It also has a minor chord breakdown before going back to the chorus. My favourite song from the album comes near the end, in What Can I Say. A song featuring ‘Sons of Sylvia’, a male country group, consisting of three brothers. It’s a slower song, starting off with just Carrie for the first verse and chorus, before the boys join in wandering all around Carrie’s melody with such ease. Everything about this song is perfection. The harmonies are brilliant, neither Carrie nor the Clark brothers outshine the other, they work together in perfect sync. Definitely worth the wait. Finally Play On, the title track, finishing off the album in style. It’s signature Carrie. Classic country arrangement, classic Carrie vocals, flawless as usual, and a classic soaring chorus.

This is probably my favourite Carrie album, even if it got a little repetitive at times. The songs have improved, there are less and less filler tracks than before, and Play On even entered the UK album chart at #93, the first time she’s made it onto the chart. Success! 8/10


Lady GaGa – The Fame Monster

After the phenomenal success of The Fame, Lady GaGa was everywhere, her songs heard over every music channel, television adverts, you name it. She had catapulted herself into the spotlight, creating her success almost single-handedly. With record sales over 10 million, The Fame went to #1 in over 7 countries, going multi-platinum worldwide. A lot to live up to. But Lady GaGa wasn’t phased, having many potential hits already written, hiding up her sleeve. In a sense, The Fame Monster is a kind of re-release, but GaGa didn’t want to just cash in by contributing to an addition 2 songs along with the original, she basically wrote and recorded a whole new one on top of the previous one, which also comes as a second disc. The Fame Monster was released November 18th 2009.

The very first song, the lead single from The Fame Monster, begins with a different feel to the whole of The Fame. Bad Romance is still an electro-pop song, but it has a more mature, almost operatic feel to it. Of course, the vocals aren’t that of a soprano, Lady GaGa has her own sound, and that sound appears to have improved. GaGa sticks vaguely to the formula that sprung her previous hits, but opposed to Poker Face, Bad Romance is more melodic and the chorus feels slightly gospel, due to the “oh’s” in the background. Alejandro is something completely different, although the electro baseline can be heard quietly in the background, so can a set of strings instruments. It still has that huge instrumental feel that Bad Romance had, which I greatly enjoy. Alejandro, for me, is one of those songs you miss the quality of, because it’s overshadowed by other songs on the album, but it’s a really decent song when it comes down to it. Monster feels a more dancy song, although there has been an electro-pop song, it has a dancefloor-filler feel to it. The lyrical melodies in the chorus are catchy, the dance baseline makes you want to get up and it’s just a feel-good song, even if you’re singing “he ate my heart”. The first ballad, a power ballad in fact, on the album is Speechless, a song about GaGa’s father, the phone calls she had when he underwent open-heart surgery. Even though GaGa is best writing and performing fast-paced, electro-pop songs, she can actually pull a ballad out of the bag, her vocals have improved incredibly. Dance In The Dark brings back the faster-tempo to the album, during the verses, her lyrics are echoed behind, even though it’s not necessarily distracting from the song, it doesn’t really add anything to the song. The chorus is big and bold, definitely a sing-along one. I have to admit I really enjoy the breakdown towards the end, with a rapped bridge. One of my favourite on the album is Telephone which features Beyoncé Knowles. It’s a match made in heaven, GaGa and Beyoncé bring the song to such a standard it’s incredible. The chorus is catchy, the vocals are fantastic and Beyoncé’s bridge halfway through is filled attitude. They need to collaborate again in the future. Onto probably my favourite on the album, So Happy I Could Die. It’s got all the makings to be a success on the dance floor. There isn’t especially anything I can mention as to why it’s so great. It has one of those “Je ne sais quoi’s” that I can’t describe. It has a fantastic beat to it, the melodies are soft and flowy, and it’s a happy song, as you could guess from the title. The final song on The Fame Monster is Teeth. It has an eerie starting feel to it, with quiet squeals of pain, and the feeling the GaGa’s whispering “Don’t worry, I’ve done this before” in your ear. It has a punch to it, it has attitude, which has kind of been lacking before, not that it’s a bad thing. It just brings a new dimension to the album, showing the various sounds that Lady GaGa can bring to an album. The song is a brilliant way to bring the “little monsters” listening to the end of their auditory pleasure.

I just love The Fame Monster, I really do. She has chosen quality over quantity, which she sort of did on her debut, and it really worked this time. It shows Lady GaGa actually cares about her fans, rather than shoving out a half-hearted re-release as a way to get more money. The album is pure quality, and with an extra 8 tracks in your musical library, Stefani Germanotta is generous. Her vocals are improving dramatically, her lyrics and sound is maturing and she will, I have no doubt, produce a third album that will rival the first two. 9/10

je ne sais quoi

Ke$ha – Animal

I don’t think you could go anywhere without hearing the debut single of this woman at the end of 2009, or even the beginning of 2010. TiK ToK was a massive mainstream success, and because of that, Ke$ha’s debut album was hugely anticipated to see if she could live up to the expectations that had arised from TiK ToK. Previous to her solo career, Ke$ha featured on Flo Rida’s 2009 hit Right Round, co-wrote The Veronicas’ song This Love, sang backing vocals for Britney Spears’ Lace And Leather and appeared in the video for Katy Perry’s I Kissed A Girl. This all helped in gaining exposure in the run up to her debut. But all the exposure in the world can’t necessarily guarantee a brilliant album, leaving the inevitability of an anti-climatic debut a major factor here. Is Animal worth the hype?

It’s important to start off your album in style, and Your Love Is My Drug sets the tone, that being an electronic-fuelled piece of pop brilliance. A perfect radio song, even if some of the lyrics aren’t what you want your kids singing along to. Nevertheless, when Ke$ha starts singing after her raps, it’s a song you’ll have problems not singing along to. Next, the hugely popular TiK ToK. There isn’t a lot that can be said for this song, you just have to listen to it. It’s a dance floor anthem, period. The chorus is melodic, with the bass line heavily electro-infused. There is no surprise that this song did so well globally. Then, probably my favourite song on the album, Take It Off continues the perfect debut. Yes, it’s also a song you don’t really want sang to you by your 8-year-old daughter, but for young adults in a club, it’s sure to be a floor filler. Kiss N Tell starts with just Ke$ha and a single-tone bass line, before exploding into full electronic goodness. The only problem I have with this song, as I do with many of Ke$ha’s songs, is that it’s heavy auto-tuned. Meaning that we lose the actual vocals are lost behind a robotic mask. If you aren’t worried about vocals, and just fancy a dance-pop song, then this is definitely for you. Stephen is a light and breezy change from the previous songs we’ve heard. Ignoring the slightly whiney bridge during the middle of  it, overall the song is actually pretty decent, with the chorus highlighting the breeziness I mentioned before. After that, Blah, Blah, Blah is another huge electro banger. I have to admit, I wasn’t a fan at first, but after a few listens it caught my attention. It features 3OH!3, although it wouldn’t be a miss if they weren’t there at all. “Stop ta-ta-talking that blah, blah, blah” will definitely be uttered by many people, I’m sure. Hungover is another song I wasn’t really fussed about before, but hearing it a few times, it’s pretty decent. It’s a different side to the album than we’ve had before, it’s the slowest song we’ve had. The chorus took me by surprise, it has an off-beat feel to it that I actually quite like. Party At A Rich Dude’s House is another fast-paced action song. I can’t say it’s my favourite on the record, but there is, however, one high point to this song. The falsetto during the middle of the song is actually pretty decent, showing Ke$ha can sing behind the auto-tune. Backstabber has a monotoned, rap verse before going into a higher register, also basically monotoned but in a different key. The song is okay, it’s not really a highlight, but the chorus is better than the verse. Animal seems to have a love for catchy choruses, because this is also one of those songs. Blind is a song I actually didn’t think I’d hear on Animal. It seems like it’s the most believable, most authentic song on the album. I would almost stretch as far to say that Ke$ha sounds slightly vulnerable on it, I know that’s a strange thing to say on it, considering the previous songs heard. Bringing back the tempo, Dinosaur is a humourous song about an old man seemingly “hitting on” Ke$ha. Some of the lyrics may be a little politically incorrect, but the song is one that’ll definitely leave an impression in your head. Especially the whistling during the chorus. I love when she sings over the whistling. Dancing With Tears In My Eyes doesn’t really hold in my memory when I look back over the album, it’s a good song for when you’re listening to it, but, if you think back, there are plenty of songs that are better. Boots & Boys is another singing-rap song. The chorus is catchy, even if there is no actual melody, or very little of one anyway. But there is no doubt that it’s a song that can be sang along too with ease. Animal starts to bring the album to a decent close, the song has a great chorus and is a definite improvement from the last two songs.  VIP feels very familiar, as it’s like a few of the singing-rap songs Ke$ha features on the album. The backing music is actually kind of entrancing. Finally, a bonus track on the Japanese edition, CUNxTuesday. It’s a slower feel to most of the songs on here, with a chilled out, relaxed feel to it. It probably should’ve replaced a couple of the final songs in all honesty.

All I can say is, it started off so well! The first half of the album is more than worthy of the hype Ke$ha was getting. But Animal, then, started to nosedive, until Blind rescued it briefly. At least, it seems, she doesn’t want to be taken seriously, as almost all of her songs are about alcohol, sex and drugs. Ke$ha is definitely an artist that will either really hit, or really miss. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that inconsistency. 7.5/10

American Idol – Top 9

Okay, so after the results show this week, I felt I had to write something about it. I know I’ve ever so slightly touched on it before, but what is wrong with America? Do they understand the voting process? (Well, the whole George Bush thing didn’t turn out so well, so maybe we’ll just leave it at that.)

Michael Lynche, or “Big Mike” as he’s fondly known on the show, in my opinion, was probably one of the favourites to win the show. Now, his performance was alright during the Top 9, not his best, but definitely not the worst. According to America, though, he was one of the three worst performances of the night, along with Aaron Kelly and Andrew Garcia (see blue link above if you don’t know who they are). It was then whittled down to Mike and Andrew, after Aaron was told he was safe, followed by Andrew, leaving Mike with the least votes and facing elimination from the show. He “sung for survival” and the judges decided they would use their “Judge’s Save” on him, and he’d be back in the competition.

This left me with mixed feelings. Should he have been there in the first place? No. Should he have been saved by the judges? I’m not sure. I’m glad he was, because I liked him, but now the save has gone, anyone could go. And there are far more marketable acts left to the mercy of the public, who clearly can’t vote correctly.

Back in the semi-finals, three strong contenders for the title went out before the Top 12, and last week, Didi Benami was voted off, to my utter disgust. This leaves one more point. And that point is Tim Urban. He is like the “Jedward” of X Factor on American Idol. He isn’t extremely talented in the singing area, but girls will vote for him because he’s something to look at (although Jedward were not). He shouldn’t have made the Top 12, and definitely not this far in the competition. How long will he stay in for? I don’t know. And that’s what scares me, as two people are definitely eliminated from next week’s show.

Lady GaGa – The Fame

Lady GaGa, real name Stefani Germanotta, was no stranger to the music scene before she emerged at the beginning of 2009. Before releasing her first record, she was writing songs for the likes of Britney Spears, Fergie, The Pussycat Dolls and New Kids On The Block. She was then heard singing by Akon, as she demonstrated a melody for one his songs, and was signed up to his label. The Fame was released on August 19th 2008, and, to date, has sold over 10 million copies worldwide, going multi platinum in over 10 countries. With albums sales like that, The Fame was certified Diamond, the highest record certification category given to an album or single. I’m looking at the UK edition.

Just Dance, the first single released by Lady Gaga, spawning #1’s in many countries is the perfect way to start an album. Her voice sounds pure and soft in this song, with the electro-pop beats underneath, it serves up the perfect summer anthem. The “Da da doo doo”s in the chorus are perfect for singing along to, and the semi-rapped bridge adds a new dimension to the song. Next, LoveGame, a controversial song, banned in some countries for its use of the lyric “I wanna take a ride on your disco stick”. The dirty electro bass is brilliant, the chorus is another sing-along classic, and you’re only two songs in. Paparazzi, the first slower song in the album, fits in well with the album title. It’s smooth, almost trance-like chorus melodies lure you in and keep you hooked as she transfers to the verses. As soon as the electronic bassline starts, and the “Ma ma ma ma’s” start, you know you’re in for a real treat. Poker Face is a worldwide sensation. A song that was everywhere. The monotoned rap verses, into the melodic choruses, with the deep backing chants mould into a genius, catchy, love-to-hate pop song. I Like It Rough brings a breezy change to the chart-topping Poker Face. It’s a kinky little mellow pop song about the confusion of “liking it rough”. Singing about sexual subjects comes a second nature to GaGa, although she does it with such a casual manner. “Cherry cherry boom boom” introduces you into the next song, Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say). It has a palm-tree, beach, umbrella-drink-in-your-hand feel to it. A continued light airy feel to the album, which is a nice change. Starstruck, which features Space Cowboy and Flo Rida, has a more autotuned sound to it. Unfortunately, with autotune,  you don’t actually get to hear the “real” vocals. And that is a shame, because Lady GaGa actually has an impressive voice. Luckily the autotune didn’t say around for much long, as Beautiful, Dirty, Rich, switches the albums dimension once more. The chorus is decent and catchy, but I can’t say it has the wow-factor that previous songs have had. The Fame has a simple guitar riff as the main chord pattern, which is good. I like the variety in instruments. The title track is another song to add to the long list of “catchy chorus” songs that Lady GaGa seems to throw into her album. Money Honey has another one of those “dirty basslines” that I enjoy on a record. It’s a sound that will be most enjoyed on a dance floor. From the three previous songs, this is definitely a step up, as those 3 were heading downhill. I’m all for variety, just when it’s done right. The next song, Boys, Boys, Boys, was originally a mash-up of Girls Girls Girls by Mötley Crüe and T.N.T. by AC/DC. The song is upbeat and filled with hand claps and choral backing up vocals, making the song a solid entry into the album. A piano intro begins Paper Gangsta, until the bass kicks in. It’s got an urban feel to it, but Lady GaGa doesn’t mess about with her vocals. It’s just solid singing throughout. I do actually like this song quite a lot, more than I used to. I think it’s a “grower”. Brown Eyes brings down the tempo, we’re treated to a piano ballad from Lady GaGa. With the added addition of guitars in the chorus, this ballad is one of the better songs on the album, not including the chart topping hits. Summerboy has a similar sound to Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say). I say that because it feels summery and light. Not just because of the lyrics throughout, but the arrangement feels like it belongs on a sandy beach. Now for the bonus tracks, Disco Heaven. I can’t say this would be missed if it wasn’t included on the album. There isn’t really anything outstanding about the song. It’s kind of just “there”. The final track, Again Again, starts with a little giggle from GaGa, before an acapella, bluesy line, which leads into a piano chord sequence. It’s got a multiple-genre feel to it. It started off bluesy and jazzy, before sounded soul-ey and singer-songwritery. This is a song that is more than a bonus track, it’s a great end to the diverse album.

The Fame sort of speaks for itself. It’s multi-platinum status shows how popular it is, you don’t need me to tell you that. However, for the huge hits they deliver, there are a few misses. Something that can be allowed on a debut album, for sure, but, however popular you are, there is always room for improvement. 7.5/10

The success of Smart Casual propelled Kids In Glass Houses in to new heights, gaining momentum with every tour they went on and single they released. Smart Casual had charted reasonably in at #29 and set the Kids up for a follow-up album that could surpass its predecessor. Dirt was released on March 29th 2010, after two singles were brought out in the run up. In its first week of release, it charted 4 places higher than Smart Casual, at #25 on the UK album chart, although midweek, two days after its release, it was at #15. Dirt features guest vocals on two tracks, one includes New Found Glory, the other, more surprisingly, features Frankie Sandford, from the girl band The Saturdays.

Artbreaker I begins the album, starting with a 40 second guitar intro. When Aled Phillips’ vocals kick in, sounding more grungy and raspy, something I wasn’t really expecting from the get-go. It’s something that, once rid of the initial shock, really sounds new and different, in a good way. I must say, I was a bit sceptical at first, but I really got into the song after a listen or two. Next up, The Best Is Yet To Come, and this sounds like classic Kids In Glass Houses. The harmonies on the choruses and punchy verses are the formula for a great song. However, I can’t say I’m too fond of the chanting in the chorus, “Turn the lights out”, doesn’t really work for me. Probably my favourite song on the album, Sunshine, an epic rock ballad beginning with Phillips’ impressive falsetto, giving his voice a soft feel to it, leading up to the second half with his scratchy, harder sound. And if that wasn’t enough to grab you, the atmospheric chorus filled with raw emotion. “…cos I’ll be fine, without you, without you”, in the second half of the song after the chorus, is full of anger that you can really feel from him. Onto the second single, Matters At All, perfectly fitting for a release. Soft, melodic vocal verses with the backing vocals to match, leading up to a banging sing-along chorus. Definitely one of the better songs on the album. Then the first single, Youngblood (Let It Out), first released back in October 2009. Also great as the new single from a new chapter in the Glass Houses story. With an awesome guitar riff intro to hook you in, then Aled’s vocals, which almost sound like Kings Of Leon at the beginning. The chorus sounds perfect for a live show, the backing cheers of “Hey” would fit perfectly at a gig. Lilli Rose, brings the inevitable slower song to the album, which sort of let them down last album. Thankfully, the song is only soft and slow in the verses, which actually work by the way, before they bring it home in the chorus. My favourite part is nearer the end when the song comes to a pause, before a harmonic backing vocal comes in, and the “Lilli Rose” is sang, followed by a rest by everything, before the song comes back into life. Giving Up, having a “chilled-out” feel, like described in the previous album, actually has presence, something the slower songs didn’t have on Smart Casual. It keeps you hooked in and interested throughout. With an impressive bridge and chorus, this song is a sign that their slower songs are improving. For Better Or Hearse, ironically, is one of the more upbeat and catchy songs, not in keeping with its title. It has a great energy from the beginning, and all the way throughout. “Never gonna see, never gonna see another day” is one of my favourite parts in the song. Also, the brass instruments between the chorus and verses are a surprising, and welcome, addition. Undercover Lover, featuring guest vocals from Frankie Sandford, starts of quiet, almost haunting with just a guitar riff over the vocals. Then Sandford comes in just before the chorus begins, and throughout it also. If you’re a fan of The Saturdays, you probably wouldn’t even recognise one of its members was singing. Her vocals sound great, though. The chorus has a charming feel to it, I’m not sure how to describe it. Maybe Tomorrow continues the guest vocalists, with the guys from New Found Glory dropping in to help out. I can’t say, however, that they really make an impression. They’re involved in the acapella chorus and the chorus that follows, but probably wouldn’t have been missed if they weren’t there. The Morning Afterlife is a slow song, which has a raspy vocal from Phillips, making him sound like a completely different singer. Although it’s a slow song, it’s actually impressive. It’s tender and emotive, completely in a class of its own compared to the slower songs on Smart Casual. Next, Hunt The Haunted, and Phillips brings back the falsetto in the beginning of the verse, the song’s chorus feels a little slow, but during the second half of it, when there’s a long note rising in pitch, it starts sounding better on the ears. It’s a decent song, but one that isn’t below par in keeping with the quality of the rest of the album. Bringing the album to a close, Artbreaker II, carrying on from where they left off in the beginning. Although I do enjoy the sound of the Artbreakers, I’m not really sure of the point of having two songs at each end, rather than just one bigger song. Nevertheless, it finishes the album off in explosive style.

In my opinion, it’s a step in the right direction from their debut. They’ve matured, improved and outshined Smart Casual. Impressive ballads and epic rock anthems. 8.5/10

You Me At Six – Hold Me Down

After the success of Take Off Your Colours, charting in at #25 on the UK album chart, which I wasn’t expecting in all honesty, You Me At Six had acquired a huge fan base. With multiple EP’s, festivals and tours, including a main support slot on Paramore‘s UK tour, Josh Franceschi and the boys were letting the world know their names. After signing to a major record label, releasing their debut album and touring the world, You Me At Six must have felt like their dreams had come true, but the ultimate hurdle was coming up fast. Could they create the success, the hype and the quality for their sophomore album? Hold Me Down was released January 11th 2010, and was commercially welcome at a more than respectable #5 on the UK chart.

The Consequence kicks off the album, with a little help from Sean Smith of The Blackout. It was released as a promotional single before the album’s release. Immediately, you can tell that Franceschi’s voice has matured. I’m not sure in what way, but it has a more raspy sound to it, compared to the clean-cut songs from most of the previous album. I welcome the screams towards the end of the song, as I think it improves the song, but I can’t say I’m blown away at the start to the album. Following is a song that I can’t quite make my mind up about. Right now, for me, Underdog is a great song filled with catchy choruses and changes in the arrangement throughout, and considering it’s only two and half minutes long, it does extremely well varying up the different elements in the song. Playing The Blame Game, in my opinion, should have been their second single. It has everything there to make it on the radio. A killer chorus, great elements throughout the verses, including a much better falsetto range compared to the falsetto Franceschi used in The Consequence. Now for my favourite song, Stay With Me. This song’s drum beat makes the sound for me, if you can understand what I mean. It adds an extra something which I can’t quite describe. It starts off relatively slowly, soaring into a 6 word chorus, but keeping you captivated throughout. Josh’s long-held notes are simple but extremely effective. Safer To Hate Her, for me, is a little forgettable. Franceschi’s vocals feel a little strained in the higher notes in the chorus. On the plus side, I really enjoy the guitars throughout. Take Your Breath Away leaves me a little baffled. The chorus is brilliant, everything about it is quality, but the lead guitar riff throughout the verses seem to clash, or overpower the vocals of the song. I don’t really enjoy the riff, so it spoils the verses for me. However, I like that they had a silence before bringing back in the guitar near the end of the song. It builded up an atmosphere. Onto the actual second single, Liquid Confidence, which I’m not sure was a good choice to release. The song itself is a decent song, no doubting that, but the softness in the beginning of a slower chorus, into a louder chorus doesn’t, for my ears, feel right for radio. Franceschi’s vocals are faultless throughout, through. Hard To Swallow doesn’t waste anytime firing out at pace, with a vengeance. The song just explodes into life from the get-go, and doesn’t dip in energy throughout. Definitely a highlight on the album. Contagious Chemistry follows up the quality on the album. I love the guitars in the verses. Such brilliance followed by a slow bridge into an energetic chorus. A song you just can’t fault. And when you thought that all good things come to an end, a third song in a row of pure brilliance, There’s No Such Thing As Accidental Infidelity. With added vocals from Aled Phillips from Kids In Glass Houses, it’s more of a slower song when it gets into the chorus. Similar to Stay With Me, in the fact that the lyrics are simple and effective even though there isn’t too many of them. Phillips kicks in with the harmonies towards the end of the song, which is truly brilliant. Can Trophy Eyes make it four? Well, it doesn’t quite follow-up to the quality of the previous three, BUT, the chorus is epic. It feels like one of those types of choruses, even though they’re not particularly ‘heavy’, it’s one you would be able to headbang to! Fireworks, for me, doesn’t get going until near the end, which is unfortunate. It’s a slow, love song, which will melt all the girls hearts. The chorus isn’t quite what I was expecting in the beginning. It seems unenthusiastic and it doesn’t feel like they actually want this girl back. Having said that, it could all just be build up to the moment when the vocals REALLY kick in. “I don’t know who you are” in the upper register is just one of those moments that kind of gives you goosebumps. It’s that good. Is it worth waiting for throughout the song, probably. But only just. I wish it had this much feeling all throughout. Finally, the bonus track from iTunes, My Head’s A Prison And Nobody Visits. I think they probably got it right, making this a bonus track, in my opinion. The song doesn’t jump out at you and announce its presence. It has some good moments, including a long note, rising in pitch nearer the end. Fireworks, for me, is the real end to the album.

As I said before, I truly was not expecting Hold Me Down to chart so high, and that just goes to show how far these guys have come. And how far they’re going to go. Because I have no doubts that they’ll go on to release another quality album after this. Until then, feast your ears on this while these guys tour the world and rack up the fans and sales to match what they deserve. 8.5/10

Kids In Glass Houses, a Welsh quintet, were an unknown, unsigned band, embarking on tours with already established acts such as Lostprophets and 30 Seconds To Mars. It wasn’t until late 2007 when they were finally signed to a record label and could put their demos to good use in the studio. They had already released an EP, E-Pocalypse!, before getting signed, and their debut album featured three of the songs from this EP. One single, which they released prior to the debut album, was Me, Me, Me, which was later re-released as Give Me What I Want, which made the cut on the album. After much anticipation, the album, Smart Casual, was released on May 26th 2008.

The first track on the album, Fisticuffs, is completely self-explanatory. Without sounding too cliché, the song starts the album with a “punch”. It’s a fast-paced, action song, filled with angst and attitude. Easy Tiger follows up, and was released as a single. Understandably so, as it’s a real catchy song, with a “do-do-do” chorus that will imprint in your memory. Previously titled ‘Me, Me, Me‘, Give Me What I Want comes along third on the album. The song’s lead guitar riff is awesome, showcasing the talent that the Welsh five-piece have to offer, with Aled Phillips vocal brilliance adding to the quality. Saturday brings the pace down a little, Phillips sounds like a crooner at the beginning of the song, whether intentional or not, it works. This song is a highlight. Next up, from highlight to possible lowlight, Lovely Bones doesn’t quite do it for me. Its lyrics are fine, the melodies, for me, are a little unimpressive, and the guitar riffs feel a little familiar to me, whether that’s because of similar bands out there or not, I’m not certain. Shameless brings the quality of the album up slightly. It’s an improvement from the previous song, the vocals are more imaginative and better to sing along to, if that’s what you want. Onto probably one of my favourite songs, Girls has a real character to it. The chorus includes a nice falsetto from Phillips and the lyrics are dark and twisty at parts, in a good way. “You put the fun back into the funeral”, for example, suggests the imagination into Kids In Glass Houses lyrical range. Onto a song that almost didn’t make the album, Good Boys Gone Rad. It would have been a real shame if this hadn’t made Smart Casual, as the first words in each verse have a great long note to introduce you to each part of the song. Dance All Night slows down the tempo slightly, with, what’s become almost a signature sound, Phillips’ falsetto range graces our presence once again. The song has a chilled-out feel to it. Pillow Talk, as the song may connote, also has a chilled out feel to it. It’s definitely a song to listen to when you’re in a good mood, possibly making you want to sway a little bit! Now my other favourite song appears late in the album, Raise Hell, which was, I think, the very first song I ever heard by these guys. And, although it’s been re-mixed for the album since it was on their EP, it makes the song even better. It’s definitely a huge sing-along anthem for a live show. With long, soaring notes throughout, it is definitely a crowd pleaser. Finally, Church Tongue rounds off the album, with backing “na-na’s” welcoming you into the song, the song ends the album in style, demonstrating that the guys want to finish how they started, with a bold impression.

Smart Casual started off strong, picked up the pace until around the middle of the album, where it lacked the “oomph” that it had in the beginning. Luckily, the album didn’t peak at the beginning, saving their best, not only for the beginning, but for last too. This is a strong debut from the Welsh boys, earning a respectable 7.5/10 from me.

General Fiasco – Buildings

Personally, I had never heard of General Fiasco until about 6 months ago, but they’ve been together since 2007 and touring shortly after. After coming across one of their singles by chance, on none other than MTV2, I was intrigued by their sound and made a mental note of their name and song in my head. Thinking it was just a one-off song, and that would be the end of their existence in my head, the Northern Irish trio appeared back on MTV2 with another single. Then, researching the band, I find out they have an album coming out in the next couple of weeks, and anticipation kicks in. Releasing Buildings on March 22nd 2010, General Fiasco are well on their way to having a successful year, supporting Snow Patrol on their homecoming tour. Now we’re up to date, is Buildings up to scratch?

Fortunately, in my opinion, yes. We Are The Foolish kicks off the album, the song I first heard by them. This song is perfect for beginning their album, starting it off with a bang. The lead singer, Owen Strathern, has an interesting voice which really sticks in your head. Mix that with group cheers, epic guitar riffs and a killer melody, and you’ve got a killer song. Continuing from strength to strength, their second single I heard Ever So Shy begins with “Let’s get wasted, it’s all we ever do”. I love the guitar in the background of the verses. And when the chorus kicks in, you will have extreme trouble in trying to get it out of your head. This is a perfect song if you need something to kick up the volume and travel to. Please Take Your Time is the third song, and on the contraire to the title, it doesn’t take any time in kicking in. The real highlight is the chorus, where it really takes off. Both singing, back-up vocals and guitar/drums work perfectly together to create something great. Added points for a guitar solo also! Taking down the tempo from the explosive start, Buildings, the title track, shows their versatility. The chorus is atmospheric and strong, with the verses providing a perfect build up to it. I love when Strathern uses his upper register on the final lines “no-one will feel like you do”. I’m Not Made Of Eyes brings the tempo back, but I feel only begins as a song when the chorus begins. Yes, the beginning verses are good, but the mini bridge before the chorus, which feels like you’re being whispered to – although no whispering takes place – doesn’t quite work for me. The next track is probably my favourite from the album. Sinking Ships starts off on the acoustic guitar, having a really catchy chorus which will have you humming the melody. But the real surprise that’s in store, is the use of strings instruments. I loved the addition of the strings. I never expected violins or the real orchestral feel you get from this song. I think it was pure genius. And Owen also demonstrates his full vocal range, going from his lower register, through his upper register, to his falsetto range. Originally their very first single back in 2008, Rebel Get By has the tough act to follow the previous song. Although it doesn’t measure up to it, not that I thought a song would, the verses are upbeat leading into a slower chorus. Unfortunately I’m not quite enjoying the chorus as much as the verses, but that just shows the quality of their verses throughout this song. Talk To My Friends has me undecided in my opinions of the song. I do really enjoy the “this should be easy on you” bridges, and the chorus after, and I do enjoy how Strathern’s voice sounds throughout the verses. But I feel the “talk to my friends” part is anti-climatic and rather adds a deflated feeling to the song. Sort of like climbing up a mountain, reaching the top, but falling off straight away. Maybe not the best metaphor in the world, but I hope you understand what I mean. Thankfully, the next song restores hope back into the album, not that all hope was lost at all. Dancing With Girls has a perfect arrangement, showcasing the way they SHOULD have done it in previous songs. When the chorus gets into Owen’s upper, screech range, that is when the real magic happens. First Impressions has one of those choruses that I love. Loud, not in a bad way, and melodic. And towards the end of the song is the real gem. A simple melody repeated over and over which will, no doubt, be a crowd pleaser during live shows. And it’s just such a pleasure to the ears, not one of those failing attempts at a repetitive melody. Moving onto the two bonus tracks you get when purchasing from iTunes, Start At The Top, which, in my opinion, should not have been a bonus track. The chorus is a killer “..and I know, I know, we all get a little scared sometimes..” following into a falsetto “woo” which is pure magic. Finally, a previous single released towards the beginning of 2009, and charting on the UK Indie chart at #2, Something Sometime. And rightly so. It also shouldn’t have been an extra track for specific iTunes users. The whole song keeps me hooked in from start to finish. “Take a little more, take a little more” throughout the chorus will definitely be a lyric you won’t help sing along to during the song.

Hearing this band by chance was a touch of luck that I’m thankful for. If it wasn’t for flicking through music channels, I wouldn’t have heard this band, nor purchased the album. So far, it’s definitely one of my favourites of the year so far. Only 3 months in, and hearing a limited amount of albums doesn’t say much for the album, but I’m sure by the end of the year, it’ll be up there, not necessarily as the best album of 2010, but it should be one of my top 10! General Fiasco, I think, are going to have a big year. 9/10

Allison Iraheta – Just Like You

In May 2008, America crowned their 8th winner of American Idol, Kris Allen. Allison Iraheta, on the other hand, was eliminated in a respectable fourth place, albeit deserving at least a spot in the final. The irony of the “rock princess” being eliminated in Rock Week was a little too much to bear, especially as Danny Gokey’s performance of Dream On by Aerosmith, appropriately nicknamed “Scream On”, was so poor, that he should have been eliminated on the spot right there and then. But, alas, it was never meant to be and fourth place was where Allison finished. Fast forward 7 months and Iraheta’s debut album is released, with 11 different producers for her 13 tracks, you would automatically assume that a 17-year-old wouldn’t be capable of making an album with any depth whatsoever.

Starting with a riff, into an “Oh yeah!” Friday I’ll Be Over U begins the album, also chosen as the lead single. Although I completely understand why this song was chosen as the first single, with its radio-friendly vibe and pop/rock-slash-dance-beat infusions and a sing-along chant of “Friday I’ll be over you”, it’s a different kind of Allison that we heard on Idol. I must admit when I first heard this song, I wasn’t overly impressed as it sounded like it could be just “another one of those songs”. The ones that don’t stand out at all. I did know, however, that I would grow to love it, as Allison’s voice can overshadow the genre of the song as a whole. Robot Love, being the second track in, gives you that rock sound that Iraheta brought on Idol, albeit having a pop feel to it. The song is perfect for a seventeen-year-old girl, singing about technology stealing her boyfriend. The verses, the bridge, the chorus, everything about this song is brilliant. The guitars moulding in so well with Allison’s “Ooh, give me my, give me my baby back” just showcase the whole reason why she reached the top 4 on American Idol. Now, for one of the stand-out tracks on the album, Just Like You. Immediately sounding like a hit for the radio to me. A slower tempo this time, bringing out the softness and the harsh tones in her voice with make for a perfect ballad. Next, Don’t Waste The Pretty, a decent song, but not one that stands out in your memory when looking back over the album. The second single, Scars, follows, bringing a tender ballad to the album, which is welcomed with open arms. This song is also one of the best on the album, no question about it. And although I’m not sure if it makes the perfect single choice, as something from a teenager needs an upbeat feel to it, the song really showcases her full range of capability. Pieces has the job of living up to the previous song, of course it doesn’t quite do that, as Scars is one of the best songs on the album. Having said that, this song is a solid addition to the album. Now when I first heard D Is For Dangerous, I wasn’t really sure of the song. By that, I mean I didn’t really remember it. It didn’t make an impression on me. But as you give the album a few more plays, the genius of the song is apparent. After all, she is seventeen. Listing various things about a relationship in alphabetical order actually really works during the song. Holiday, originally recorded by a woman called Dilana, who finished runner-up on an American reality show called Rock Star: Supernova. Allison’s rock roots come out in this song, raspy moments in her vocals, mixed with her upper range. Just perfect for this song. Still Breathing is next, and a track also well-suited for radio, in my opinion. Pop/Rock is what Allison does best, and this is exactly that. The chorus here is simple, but brilliant. One of Iraheta’s best vocals on the album, I think. Bringing the album down to a slow tempo again, Trouble Is has a wonderful piano ballad feel to its verses, before breaking out into a drum/guitar second half, producing a powerful ending to the song. Next, a song written by none-other than P!nk and Idol judge Kara DioGuardi, No One Else has all the potential to be a stand-out on the album. And even though I feel Allison’s vocals are amazing throughout,  the chorus’ second half doesn’t quite match the first – meaning the ‘Simply no one else’ part. Beat Me Up brings the album back up with a bang. With a backing riff that will definitely make you want to move, and repetitive lyrical verses, everything about this song just has a huge tick all over it. One of my favourites from the album. But last – and by no means least – You Don’t Know Me, the only song that was co-written by Iraheta. And it’s probably my favourite from the album. It belongs on the radio, it belongs on your iPod. It just belongs. This song is a real gem. A perfect way to finish the album. Its verses are kind of low-key, leading onto a soaring belter of a chorus. This kind of song is what Iraheta is best at. Stretching her vocals to the limit, but in a way that sounds effortless.

Regardless of its commercial success in America, or lack of it as the case may be, this is definitely an album Allison Iraheta should be proud of. Only finishing 4th on American Idol and still making it into the Billboard 200 albums at #35 is a real achievement. I’m interested to see what Allison will be doing for her second album, because I have no doubt there will be a second record. And I’m excited about what she’ll bring to the table. 9/10