Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Music: Second Quarter Of 2012 (Non Metal)

Rating System:

★☆☆☆☆ Rubbish - One or two good songs
★★☆☆☆ Passable - One or two good songs, a bit of flow
★★★☆☆ Average - Half of album is listenable
★★★★☆ Good - Strong flow, immediately grabs you
★★★★★ Excellent - Undisputed classic for crictical listening

1. Beach House - Bloom [Pop] ✔

Dense layering and atmospherics are the law in Beach House's Bloom, stylistically indifferent from their previous offering but with plenty of room for ideas for songs with such emotional depth that hypnotically draw you in with Victoria Legrand's ever-haunting singing. Not only that, the album's rife with an abundance of bittersweet melody, as seen on the first two singles 'Myth' and 'Lazuli'.

Rating: ★★★★☆

2. Death Grips - Money Store [Experimental Hip Hop] ✔

Mixing club/house music with an aggressive Southern rap style, the debut album from Death Grips, the first of a two part album this year, packs a lot of punch, and I mean serious punch. It is almost impossible to not feel pumped after hearing 'The Fever (Aye Aye)' or the fast-paced 'Get Got'. The intense alienation of the music keeps it apart from its brainless peers, in fact, there could be no other group right now that sounds anything like The Money Store. It is destined to be a classic, unless the second album could match up or even better this one.

Rating: ★★★★☆

3. Chromatics - Kill For Love [Pop]

This is your typical melancholic indie pop. Whilst there are some strong songs, with strong, dreamy atmospherics and vocals that bring to mind Joy Division's depressive post-punk in the 80s, a lot of the songs lack depth, ambition and passion. Some of the songs sound similar and a lot of the filler tracks in the middle sound tired and aimless. They are some outstanding... moments on songs, unexpected hi-synth on the title-track, promising progress on the last track 'No Escape', and the electronic swirls that pepper 'Lady'. Other than that, this album isn't very nice, though it's intension may be more apparent on long journeys at night.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

4. Actress - R.I.P [Electronic]

This is some interesting electronic, instead of following for the hard-thumping intensity of modern dubstep and club influences, Actress uses ambience and light dynamics to formulate the nimble textures on this album. The sounds are unexpected and the sonic swirls of white noise create an exciting compilation of ideas. However, the songs do not flow well and the strong moments are too short, especially with the way some tracks like 'Holy Water' have some really nice tunes that end too abruptly.

Review: ★★☆☆☆

5. Storm Corrosion - Storm Corrosion [Progressive] ✔

Nothing can prepare you for the sounds that are present in this stunning album. From the creative minds of Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) and Mikael Adkerfeldt (Opeth), this is intended to be the last of the trilogy following Opeth's Heritage and Steven Wilson's solo project Grace For Drowning, and whoa. The ideas, the templates and structures of this music is so sonically powerful, twisting almost every note in the most evil way. The album sounds deceptively simple, repetitive, aimless and boring upon the first few listens. However, this is the intension of Storm Corrosion, and once you realise the twistedness of the music, the sinister grin of its frightening face that lay latent in the numerous layers of harmonized vocals, keyboards, cymbals and acoustic guitars, there is passion bleeding from every corner of the songs. Emotionally deep lyrics, beautiful melodies, jaw-dropping vocals from both singers (you won't even recognise Mikael here, his falsetto croon on 'Ljudet Innan' almost angelic). This is what the world has been waiting for, an album that is so completely different, not a mishmash of numerous genres, but one that takes apart the concepts of progressive rock and destroys all barriers of music. A masterpiece of twisted beauty.

Rating: ★★★★☆

6. BadBadNotGood - BBNG2 [Hip-Hop Jazz] ✔

Jazz is one of the most staunch genres in music. Elitists have always insisted that true instrumental jazz must follow the revered style of John Coltrane in the 60s, with indifferent and groovy tunes and rhythms. Jazz is now a dying genre thanks to the elitists' stubborness. However, BBNG set themselves apart, by using source material from hip-hop songs, rather than relying on the same old jazz methods. The instrumentation is energetic and pounding, not the meditative kind. The drums are amazingly fast and hard, the keyboards are shrill and piercing, like shooting at glass walls, and the bass is huge and thick, sounding more like rock than jazz. The rhythm changes in 'UWM', the vitality on 'Flashing Lights'. the drumming on 'DMZ', there are numerous memorable moments on this fantastic hip-hop jazz album.

Rating: ★★★★☆

7. Lone - Galaxy Garden [Electronic]

Rich, glossy production, which is a clear winner for electronic music. Galaxy Garden has lots of funky grooves and paints a lot of colours with its nimble and varied electronic swirls. Rhythms are also dense, with a throwback to the sounds of... gameboy music? It may sound cheesy but it goes well, giving it a retrofuturistic edge. I am relatively new to the electronic/synth sound as of now, so consider it a value judgement if a metalhead like me can be dazzled by the bright sounds of this album.

Rating: ★★★★☆

8. Slash - Apocalyptic Love [Rock]

I have nothing to say other than it sounds like Velvet Revolver with a better singer.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

9. Keane - Strangeland [Rock]

Strangeland is pretty much straight up what you expect from Keane, maudlin ballads and monochrome synth-pop with flashes of positivity. Yet, the production is dull, devoid of any bright sounds that interspersed Perfect Symmetry. This is your straightforward radio rock.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

10. The Temper Trap - The Temper Trap [Indie Rock]


Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

11. Adam Lambert - Trespassing [Pop/Rock]

I will not deny one thing, this guy has a huge voice, and I was unsure if it's because of his voice that the songs sound nice upon first listen or if the choice of songs make his voice sound better. I realised it's a bit of both on the whole album. The first half has some exciting sounding dance tracks, like the title track and lead single 'Never Close Our Eyes', whilst the second half is full of 90s styled rock ballads, which would be out of date if not for his overpowering voice, which doesn't exactly mean he's breaking musical barriers. Still, I'm pleasantly surprised, this album is a great step forward, and he will not earn a bad rating.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

12. Norah Jones - Little Broken Hearts

Not a lot of people know that Norah Jones is half-Indian. Even a lot more do not know that her father is none other than legendary sitar player Ravi Shankar (whose first daughter Anoushka is now carrying on his legacy on the sitars). Jones on the other hand is a contemporary jazz singer who handles adult pop. On this album, she teams up with Danger Mouse who produced Gnarls Barkley. Hence the production is alienated and chill, a nice clean contrast with Norah Jones' emotionally drenched lines. Songs have a melancholic flow and there are definite stand-out tracks (such as the late-night tune 'Say Goodbye'). Not exactly groundbreaking though, and the songs could have little variety.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

13. John Mayer - Born And Raised [Blues/Pop Rock]

Mayer abandons the poppy sounds of his past for a more blues-driven laidback sound, which is okay. Musically, he hasn't really shown anything new, except for some country sounds which is weak, with respect to his guitar-playing skills. He even has a song called 'Something Like Olivia' which is an apology to Olivia Wilde. This idea of writing personal songs is getting a tad irritating amongst these popular songwriters, especially when the delivery is exactly the same as Taylor Swift's songs (I heard they were ex-lovers). Still, John Mayer is a great guitar player, and his blues licks make up a little for the severe lack of creativity here.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

14. Marilyn Manson - Born Villain [Industrial]

Marilyn Manson is running out of ideas. Poor production that makes the album sound mirky and muddy, which is a big no-no because of the industrial sounds. As a vocalist, Manson sounds tired and old, not reaching the great vibrance of his Antichrist Superstar era. Repititve guitar riffs, seemingly weak instrumentation as compared to their industrial peers (this year saw the release of stronger industrial like The Industrialist, Relapse and MMXII). Save for one or two songs, the whole album suffers.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

15. Killing Joke - MMXII [Industrial] ✔

Emerging from the underground are post-punk industrial legends Killing Joke, with their 15th album, and they show no signs of stopping. In fact, MMXII may be one of the best Killing Joke albums ever made, with the dark tunes and post-punk influences still as vibrant as it was in the 80s. The opener takes you in immediately with its synth-heavy mist, and Jaz Coleman's vocals are coarse yet accessible enough even for most mainstream listeners. 'Trance' features disco-ish percussion, 'Rapture' captures the very essence of the industrial genre, seamlessly mixing post-punk, synth and dance altogether. There is almost no filler in this album. Very strong release, though it isn't revolutionary.

Rating: ★★★★☆

16. Lotus Plaza - Spooky Happening At A Distance [Indie Rock] ✔

From Lockett Pundt, the guitarist of Deerhunter, comes this second LP from his solo project. This may be quite polarising, because a lot of the songs sound like Deerhunter watered down, and this may or may not be a good thing. Pundt uses a lot of guitar reverb akin to Halcyon Digest, and to some, it may sound like B-sides from that album because it does not have the full-fleshed character that Deerhunter has with it's induvidual band members. However, let's not forget that Pundt also wrote one of Deerhunter's best songs last year, 'Desire Lines', and to the faithful there will be many inescapable hooks and melodies in the swash of tunes in this album.

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Updated Rating:  ★★★★★ This album is a grower, and it has proven to be one of the most listened albums on my iPod over time.

17. Justin Bieber - Believe [Pop]

It's mature, it's not annoying. If Bieber wasn't famous before this this album may be less welcome. Now it's an 'improvement' from a cute sounding teenager who is now supposed to be full of swag. The problem is that after all, because this sounds exactly like anything else from the radio. R.I.P Justin Timberlake, this is your new successor.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

18. Tenacious D - Rize Of The Fenix [Comedy Rock]

Since it's difficult to classify them as real musicians, and more of entertainers, I have to write in a style that does not offend the true intention of this album. Yet, Tenacious D is sometimes so overwhelmingly cheesy even as a comedy duo that it is almost suffocating. There are many gems here, but a lot of the songs and skits go nowhere. As a rock album, Tenacious D fails to impress with their instruments. Creativity is inconsistent, I am truly impressed with the ideas behind the music videos for the title track and 'Low Hangin' Fruit', but the rest of the album just fails to deliver.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

19. DIIV - Oshin [Shoegaze/Indie Rock]

I was immediately hooked after hearing the gorgeous 'Doused' on Pitchfork. Admittedly shoegaze is one of my favourite genres, but rather than taste I think there is a universal appreciation of the nostalgia and imagery conjured by thick, atmospheric guitar reverb and indistinguishable vocals. One problem with Oshin is that the group doesn't provide anything new to the musical world, and what you hear here is just about the same as any shoegaze you would hear from the late 80s- early 90s shoegaze sound (now that the metal community is answering back with blackgaze - shoegaze interwoven with black metal!). But DIIV's grroves and melody create a really moody, melancholic atmosphere that is virtually impossible to detach yourself from.

Rating: ★★★★☆

20. Linkin Park - Living Things [Experimental Rock] ✔

Like many people, I grew up to LP's all albums and became a hater when the highly uninspired Minutes To Midnight came out. It's not that I need screaming, some of my favourite LP songs are their more experimental songs ('Breaking The Habit'?, anyone?). But Minutes To Midnight did not have the identity that LP forged on Hybrid Theory and Meteora, because Mike Shinoda was delivering few half-baked verses and Chester was singing like any other alternative rocker. A Thousand Suns was good, but still had many cringe-worthy songs like 'Waiting For The End' and 'Iridescent'. However, Living Things is not only LP's majestic return to form, it is a phenomenal album on so many levels. Firstly, there is almost no filler. The album is tight, almost efficient, not a single second wasted, unlike the segue moments in A Thousand Suns. In fact, 'Burn It Down' is THE WEAKEST song here (excellent move releasing it as the first single). Secondly, even if LP isn't screaming as much as they did on Meteora, LP's heaviest song to date is here, entitled 'Victimized'. It is the kind of aggression you would imagine from a death metal band, and yet here it is, Chester's piercing shrill screams 12 years after Hybrid Theory. They appear in three of the songs here, but somehow, seem sufficient. Thirdly, the experimentation is fantastic, it does not alienate but still keeps you surprised every second, a fine balance that LP wasn't achieving in the last- heck, all their albums. In fact, this may be LP's most emo album, but it has such a confidence and passion that even Hybrid Theory pales in comparison to this. You may not approve of the new direction, but there's no denying that this is the sound of a band reminding the world who is still the highest selling band of the 21st century. And lastly, welcome back Mr Shinoda. Welcome back from being seemingly non-existent on the last few albums.

Rating: ★★★★★
Updated Rating: 

Song Recommendations:

Dragonforce - Seasons (Acoustic Version) [Acoustic]
Tomas Barfod - November Skies (ft. Nina Kinert) [Trance]
Lone - The Animal Pattern [Electronic]
Lone - As A Child (ft. Machinedrum) [Electronic]
Beach House - The Hours [Dream Pop]
Beach House - Lazuli [Dream Pop]
Death Grips - Hacker [Experimental Hip Hop]
Actress - Holy Water [Electronic]
Storm Corrosion - Drag Ropes [Progressive]
The Shins - Simple Song [Pop Rock]
Zammuto - Yay [Experimental]
Marilyn Manson - Murderers Are Getting Prettier Everyday [Industrial]
Adam Lambert - Never Close Our Eyes [Pop]
Spiritualized - Hey Jane [Indie Rock]
Avicii - Silhouttes [House]
Peaking Lights - Beautiful Son [Pop]
Mount Eerie - House Shape [Indie]
Mount Eerie - Lone Bell[Indie]
El-P - The Full Retard [Rap]
Alfabet - Hell Of Samba [Electronic]
BadBadNotGood - DMZ [Hip Hop/Jazz]
Slash - You're A Lie [Rock]
Chromatics - Kill For Love [Indie Pop]
Animal Collective - Honeycomb [Experimental]
Animal Collective - Gotham [Experimental]
DIIV - Doused [Shoegaze]
Ab-Soul - ILLuminate (ft. Kendrick Lamar) [Rap]
Lotus Plaza - Strangers [Indie Rock]
Japandroids - The House That Heaven Built [Gospel Rock]
Fiona Apple - Every Single Night [Indie Pop]
St. Vincent - Krokodil [Rock]
Lotus Plaza - Out Of Touch [Indie Rock]
Killing Joke - Trance [Industrial]
Norah Jones - Say Goodbye [Pop]
Eternal Summers - Millions [Indie Pop]
Linkin Park - Victimized [Experimental Metal]
Linkin Park - Castle Of Glass [Rock]
Linkin Park - I'll Be Gone [Rock]
Linkin Park - Skin To Bone [Synth-rock]
Tenacious D - Rize Of The Fenix [Comedy Rock]
Tenacious D - Low Hangin' Fruit [Comedy Rock]

What To Look Out For In The Third Quarter Of 2012:
Animal Collective - Centipede Hz ✔
The xx - Coexist
Aerosmith - Music from Another Dimension
Akon - Stadium
Green Day - ¡UNO!
Owl City - The Midsummer Station
Chris Brown - Fortune
See Also: Music In First Quarter Of 2012

Satthy's Favourite Albums Of 2012 So Far:

1) Cloud Nothings - Attack On Memory
2) Linkin Park - Living Things
3) Cannibal Corpse - Torture
4) Lotus Plaza - Spooky Happening At A Distance
5) T.R.A.M - Linga Francua

Satthy's Favourite Songs Of 2012 So Far:
1) Alcest - Là Où Naissent Les Couleurs Nouvelles
2) Rush - Clockwork Angels
3) Linkin Park - Victimized
4) Cloud Nothings - Wasted Days
5) Meshuggah - Swarm / Demiurge

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