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Album Reviews

Generations EX: Generations From Exile Tribe

Generations EX

This singer is top Japanese dance and vocal group and has two vocals and five performers. This group is produced by Hiro who is a leader of Exile (also dance and vocal group). So, this group inherits the spirit from Exile. The average of age of this group is 21 years old, pretty young group. Because they are young, their performance is dynamic, powerful, and energetic. They are famous in Asia, not only in Japan. The basic dance is New Jack Swing, but each performer has different types of dance, such as Krump, Hip- Hop, and Lyric Dance. The mixed performance makes their songs powerful. Their policy of concert is for everyone. They perform big because they want all audiences see their performance. One of the vocalists, Yuto has beautiful and high tone voice. His high tone voice fascinates all girls. The other vocalist, Ryota is called by “Baby Face” because he looks younger than his real age of twenty. His voice is high and whisper. These two vocalists have harmony when high tone and whisper voice match very well, and also their voice and performance match together perfectly. You will like it and have fun when you see their music video and listen to their music. In this album, there are two solo songs for each vocalist. It is first time for them to sing a solo song and write a song. It is challenge for them. I think all songs are up- tempo music. They make you dance and sing the songs when you listen to the songs. Actually, one of the songs in this album called “Hana (Flower)” is a cover song. The original song is sung by Orange Range, which is famous band in Japan. Even though they cover a song, they can sing as if the song is their own song. As a singer and performer, they fascinate all girls and many guys. You can see the trend of Japanese songs in this album. I am sure you will dance and sing when you listen to the songs.
Review written by: Wataru Orihara

Chasing Yesterday: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

There are some musicians that can keep cranking out hits after their band hits it big. Paul McCartney did it after The Beatles, Beyoncé did it after Destiney’s Child and now Noel Gallagher has done it with the High Flying Birds. Gallagher, the former co-singer, lead guitarist and songwriter for Oasis, has come out with a rocking, yet unique, new album that is guaranteed to make you feel good. “Chasing Yesterday” is a mix of modern soft rock and classic rock of the ‘60s and ‘70s. The music Gallagher and the High Flying Birds produce will make you feel as though nothing in the world can make you feel bad as long as you have this soundtrack with you. The opening track, “Riverman,” is a beautifully trippy acoustic ballad that will make you reminisce of summer’s past; it’s just got that vibe that takes you into the realm of warm weather and unforgettable memories. Another song that has this vibe to it is “The Girl With The X-Ray Eyes.” It reminds me of a trippy “Hotel California,” with Gallagher’s voice melting with the beat an awesome way. “Lock All The Doors” has a similar vibe to it. When I first heard these songs, I thought I had stepped back to the ‘70s, a decade that many consider the “golden age” of music. All the tracks on the album have this sound to them, however some of Gallagher’s songs sound like a mash up of modern rock bands. “In The Heat of the Moment” is one of these songs. When I first heard it, I thought I had accidentally turned on a Coldplay song; Gallagher’s vocals sound nearly identical to those of Coldplay front man Chris Martin. Once the song progressed, it started to sound like a mash-up between Coldplay and Arctic Monkeys. An odd mash-up to say the least, but still rocking. This is one of the best songs of the album. It sucked me in right from the start and it was stuck in my head for a while after I stopped listening. If you only have time to listen to one track off this album, make it this one. “Ballad of the Mighty I” is similar to “In the Heat of the Moment,” and is also the first single released from the record. It is similar sounding to Coldplay’s music and is the most pop/soft rock sounding on the album. Having these more upbeat, pop-like songs on the album makes the music well balanced. You’ve got a little bit of everything; the newer, soft rock sound combined with the older, classic rock sound. Other songs that shine off the album include “The Mexican” and “The Dying of the Light.” “The Mexican” has a harder, more punk sound to it than any other song on the album. It reminds me of something I would find on an unreleased Ramones record. It’s groovy as can be, and one of the better songs on the album. Gallagher does a great job singing in all the tracks on the album, but the track “The Dying of The Light” is the one track where he absolutely shines. It’s a slower acoustic song with a beautiful melody to it. Gallagher’s vocals are beautiful and tragic all at one time. If you are going through any type of hardship at the moment, I suggest giving this song a listen to. You will find comfort with the song. Gallagher and the High Flying Birds have a plethora of great music on this album, however one song just does not seem up to par with the rest. “While The Song Remains The Same” is a trippy song that is full of noise rather than music. Gallagher definitely could have done something better with that track. Overall, “Chasing Yesterday” is a great album that truly displays the talent of Noel Gallagher. I recommend giving it a listen to.
Review written by: Kelly Kuehn

Supersonic Home: Adventures

When I was a kid, I think ten or eleven, I went to my cousin’s garage sale. I remember buying two CDs; Fallen by Evanescence and No Need to Argue by The Cranberries. The Cranberries remain one of my favorite bands today. I think that I love this album, Supersonic Home, so much because their sound is very Cranberries-esque. Supersonic Home contains every wonderful thing about an indie band that hasn’t sold out yet. The members are at that point where they are still in it just for the thrill and love of music. They blend together emo and 90’s alt rock for one hell of an experience. Adventures, from Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, is: Dom - Guitar Reba - Guitar // Vocals Joe - Bass // Vocals Kimi - Keyboard // Vocals Jami – Drums. The no last name thin isn’t my fault, they weren’t findable. The album begins with an upbeat track. “Dream Blue Haze.” The vocals are unclear some of the time, because they are somewhat overpowered by the instruments. However I maintain that it was the best choice for the first song. Second comes “Heavenly” This is my favorite song from the album. There are long solos in between stanzas. These breaks give the drummer time to shine. At about a minute forty-nine seconds, begins a stanza where the vocalist almost speaks her lines and her voice quiets down. During this part percussion keeps a steady 1and2and3and4 beat which sounds so good, it matches perfectly with the vocals. Up next is “Your Sweetness”, an adorable little ballad yet a little sad. It’s about a girl who is breaking up with her guy. “The way things start always feels so inviting, but you bring out the worst in me. Your sweetness lingers… Your sweetness” Next on the album is “my marble hole”, this song is a weak spot of the album. This song is somewhat too slow, and is simply really boring. After “Marble Hole” comes “Pure” “Surround me with divinity, surround me with possibility waiting to lift and to live and to love.” This song is one of the more upbeat albums of the album, and for me personally hits closest to home. This song is about loving yourself, and not letting yourself be disparaged by significant others who don’t respect you like you deserve. The way that the vocalist-Reba- elongates the notes, draw them out, allows this song to stand out. Saying “just way it for it” is mundane. Singing “juuuuust wait for iiiiiiiiit” keeps you on the edge of your seat. Am I wrong? Coming in sixth is “Absolution, Warmth Requited.” This song begins with yet another drum solo. It’s a refreshing approach to let the drummer shine. “I wish I wish you could see me, there should be more clarity within the pull you have on me.” You really need to check out the guitar solo starting at 1:10. This I by far the most memorable riff of the entire album. Following that are three shorter songs, “Walk You to Bed” and “Tension” and “Long Hair” “Tension”, to me, has a certain “The Moldy Peaches”/ Kimya Dawson sound. It’s something about the raspy timbre. The last song of the album is the albums namesake. “Supersonic Home” is one of the longest songs from the album and ends the show with a bang. “Used to be that I carry the day they laugh and breathe while I dream of the same.” This is a very dance track. If you take my advice and check out this album: then take a few seconds to dance.
Review written by: Avery Sapetko

Skrillex and Diplo Presents Jack Ü : Jack Ü

Jack U

DJ duo Jack Ü consists of two of the worlds hottest DJs around; OWSLA founder Skrillex and Mad Decent founder Diplo. Considering top 40 radio has been flooded with dance tracks as of late Jack Ü is refreshing. They don’t stay in a certain genre and mash dubstep, house, pop, and even trap and the result is both unique and enjoyable. Like most albums Skrillex and Diplo Presents Jack Ü certainly has hits and misses. Diplo and Skrillex are great friends and have a great sense of humor and the outcome is a fantastic addition to dance music. Album starter “Don’t Do Drugs Just Take Some Jack Ü,” is one of the few missteps on the album. It has a trippy beat in the background but for two whole minutes someone is speaking (I assume Diplo or Skrillex) in a muffled voice, which just leaves the listener to question what they just heard, and not in a good way. Both DJs have great skill in production; each song has a fantastic catchy beat that you won’t be able to resist dancing to. The drops are also not at all predictable and make it very easy to rage to. The album is full of collaborations; 2 Chaniz, Kiesza, Missy Elliot, and even Justin Bieber are just a few of the notable features. There are a few songs that stand above the pack and one is lead single Take Ü There featuring Kiesza and and it’s remix featuring Missy Elliot. It is no surprise that “Take Ü There” is the first radio single off the album because of its catchy chorus and dance floor ready beat it packs. It’s also great to hear Missy Elliot rapping again. There a few songs like Beats Knockin featuring Fly Boi Keno that are enjoyable yet become very repetitive by the end of the 3 minutes. Beyond some tracks sounding a little repetitive Skrillex and Diplo Presents Jack Ü has some stellar songs perfect for both radio and the club. At only ten tracks the album is absolutely worth a listen, whether you’re at the gym or going out.
Review written by: Brandon Kasprzyk

Non-Fiction: Ne-Yo


Ne-Yo has always been known for his support of independent women and this album is no different. This is his sixth album and it looks like he isn’t stopping anytime soon and he shouldn’t. It’s hard to find artists that sing about realistic things and independent women. The album was preceded by four singles: “Money Can’t Buy” ft. Young Jeezy, “She Knows” ft. Juicy J, “Time of Our Lives” ft. Pitbull, and “Coming with You”. ”Money Can’t Buy” and “She Knows” are full of RnB influence. Juicy J was never my favorite, but his rap in “She Knows” actually adds to its overall quality. Young Jeezy has been known to catch my attention every once in a while and he definitely did so in this song. “Money Can’t Buy” is one of my favorites from the album. “Coming with You” and “Time of Our Lives” have more of a pop sound. Like Juicy J, Pitbull is not one of my favorite artists, however, unlike Juicy J that didn’t change. Both bring something different than what’s out right now, but Pitbull doesn’t really enhance the song. Both are definite club songs that will get you dancing. Ne-Yo gets back to what everyone knows him for in “Integrity” ft. Charisse Mills and “One More” ft. T.I. “Integrity’s” beat is subtle, but it won’t get out your head. This is possibly the best song on the album. Ne-Yo’s vocals are amazing. “One More” is a close second. It’s about a hard-working woman who deserves at last one more drink before she leaves. I love how he is not afraid to support independent women. His song “Run” also speaks on a woman’s strength. You will love listening to it even though you don’t agree with it. There were only two other songs that didn’t make me want to praise the album. They were “Good Morning” and “Who’s Taking You Home”. They don’t really fit with the rest of the album. Ne-Yo is one of my favorite artists and he solidified his place in my heart when I heard his songs “Religious “and “Make It Easy”. In “Religious” he sings about how much he appreciates his girl. It’s a great song. I would love to see it live with a full band behind him while he sings about how a girl makes him feel. “Make It Easy” is one of the most honest songs on the album. It has a beat you will have to move to. Tis album is something I would expect from Ne-Yo. Nothing really surprised me, but I wasn’t disappointed either. It was like a familiar, comfortable blanket that I hadn’t used in a while. I think it deserves a 4/5.
Review written by: Brianna Milon

Just Kids: Mat Kearney

It seems as though current artists are afraid to branch out from their “sound.” Reasons for this can range from fear of commercial failure to fear of ridicule and judgment from fans. Despite these challenges, artists should not be afraid to be undefined. When an artist is undefined, they can do so much more with their music. Being undefined means more room for creative content and the ability to create something no one has ever heard before. After listening to this album, it is clear that Mat Kearney is one of those undefined artists. Fans of his earlier work may be shocked to hear what’s on this album. It’s not just Kearney’s voice and a guitar, like it was in his hit “Nothing Left To Lose.” It’s a little bit of modern pop mixed with his classic acoustic sound, combined with some serious hip-hop influence. Sounds like a weird combination of music genres, right? Maybe on paper, but once you hear the music these genres make together, you’ll be wanting more. Kearny’s latest album “Just Kids” is a charming hybrid of soft rock, modern pop and hip-hop. “Heartbreak Dreamer,” is the first track of the album. It has Kearney rapping (yet still singing) over a pop beat. It is not a bad song, but it didn’t get stuck in my head either. This is Kearney’s weakest song on the album, but it’s still a good song, which attests to the quality of the whole album. Kearney has numerous tracks that are inspired by hip-hop, including “Just Kids” and “One Heart.” Kearney’s vocals on these tracks threw me off at first. He is rapping, yet singing at the same time. The more you listen, however, the cooler the vocals become. Besides unique rapping/singing vocals, “Just Kids” is full of upbeat modern rock melodies. These melodies make the album work as well as it does. A key track attests to this is “Heartbeat.” It blends Kearney’s vocals with an upbeat pop background to create a truly unique track. The track put me in a good mood the second I started listening to it. Another track that has a really good pop beat in it is “Moving On.” This track has Kearney talking about moving on from someone despite all the memories you have with them. The beat is perfect for the song, and if you have ever gone through a break up and had trouble moving on, you’ll definitely relate to it. Although the album debuts a new sound for Kearney, you can still hear the acoustic sound he is known for in some of the tracks. “One Black Sheep” is one of these tracks. Kearney sings/raps about feeling different from everyone else over a folky acoustic line. If you have ever felt like an outsider, you can relate to what Kearney is talking about in this song. “Ghost” is also a track that has a more acoustic vibe to it. It’s a song about heartbreak and reminiscing of a past love. Kearney made the correct choice in going for a more acoustic sound with this song. It gives the song a more personal feel to it, as if Kearney is playing for a small audience at a coffee shop. The best song on the entire album is “The Conversation,” a song that features Young Summer. It’s more acoustic and soft than the other songs on the album, and I was blown away by how good Kearney’s and Young Summer’s voices sounded together. You can feel the sensual tension between the two as they sing of a conversation between former lovers. If there is one song you have to listen to on the album, it’s this one. Overall, Kearney’s new album is a refreshing sound to the music industry. Not many artists dare to change their sound the way Kearney did, and I respect him for that. I recommend giving the album a listen to if you have the chance.
Review written by:Kelly Kuehn

After:Lady Lamb the Beekeeper

Aly Spaltro is the songwriter and lead singer of the band Lady Lamb the Beekeeper from Maine, and “After” is their second studio album. Their debut, “Ripely Pine” was released in 2013, and “After” is set for release on March 3rd, 2015. The album is available for free streaming on the Rolling Stone website prior to its release. I’m actually finding it quite hard to categorize the genre in which one could place Lady Lamb - especially this album - into, and for that reason “After” is incredibly fun to listen to. I didn’t necessarily love every single track (I had an especially hard time getting into its first single, “Billions of Eyes”), but within the context of the album everything really fits in quite nicely and feels like it belongs. Aly has an incredibly powerful, bluesy voice, and also has a vocal range that is definitely lower than where most women are comfortable singing - which she explores thoroughly throughout the record. This is not to say that she doesn’t explore her upper register, however; and, when she does, it’s punchy, and breaks into a rasp quite nicely. The album’s instrumentation is something of note as well. At the core of most of the songs, the standard rock set-up is used: usually one or two different guitar parts, bass guitar, drums, and some wonderful keyboard settings. Tying a few songs together are a horn section, strings, and in one song Aly plays banjo and brings in some men for a couple of voice parts. I really love how sparsely the extra instrumentation is used track-for-track, because it always comes in as a surprise and adds just a little extra “oomph” where necessary. There are a few tracks, however, where most of the song is just one guitar and Aly’s voice, with perhaps small amounts of bass, keyboards, or vocal harmonies. These songs add some nice contrasts and quieter points to the album. There’s really a lot about “After” that make it very enjoyable to me. One of these things is the warmness of its production. The vocals usually have some sort of heavy dose of reverb, the guitars are never quite perfectly clean, the drums are very dry, and everything is mixed and placed gorgeously. There’s this feeling you have when listening to certain tracks, where you’re very aware that there aren’t very many instruments playing, or that they’re all playing simple lines in unison, and yet it all feels much larger than what it actually is. Another great point of “After” is how the lyrics are written. Aly employs a kind of “stream-of-consciousness” style of lyrics and melody, which are accented by melismatic lines every so often. The way it sounds ends up kind of close to someone on a rant about something, as the idea that’s being portrayed just continues to come out for a period of time without break. Admittedly, this lyrical style was a little hard for me to appreciate at first, given that some lines feel like they don’t quite fit or are a little forced. However, upon listening to the whole album, I started liking it a lot: those imperfections give the lyrics a sort of natural feel to them, which in many instances turn out to be really beautiful. All in all, “After” is definitely an album everyone should be looking out for this week. If you haven’t already, I’d definitely recommend checking out “Ripely Pine” first, and then turning your head towards after. The two albums really compliment each other greatly. Lady Lamb the Beekeeper is definitely a unique musician and I look forward to any and all music that Aly Spaltro has coming in the future.
Review written by: Devin Johnston

Tomorrow Is My Turn: Rhiannon Giddens

Rhiannon Giddens is a lot of things. She’s the heart and soul of the Grammy-winning folk/bluegrass band Carolina Chocolate Drops. She’s a musical historian of such a high caliber that T- Bone Burnett hand-picked her for the New Basement Tapes project, alongside giants like Elvis Costello and Marcus Mumford. She’s the most prominent black, female voice in folk and bluegrass, and is one of the very few black women involved in these genres at all. Now, she’s taking a run as a solo artist with an incredible album composed (almost completely) of covers of traditional blues and folk songs. Giddens (with some direction from uber-producer/folkie whisperer/possibly actual musical steak T-Bone Burnett) manages to effectively make all of these songs sound fresh and new while staying shockingly true to the most well-known arrangements for all of them. By sticking to the traditional arrangements, Giddens allows her powerful voice to shine as the main point of interest for these songs. Her take on songs from iconic stars like Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, and Nina Simone shows that she can absolutely hang with these greats, and hopefully someday will be looked at in the same light that they are (especially by acing her version of Cline’s “She’s Got You,” the one truly legendary song tackled on this album). Giddens has an incredible vocal presence, and uses it to force these songs into being hers through sheer power. Her voice is also able to deftly shift between the wide range of emotion portrayed across this album, which adds so much character and complexity to these already powerful songs. Even though this album is an absolute delight to listen to, I can’t help but feel that this whole album is overly limiting and a misuse of Giddens’ considerable talents. While her role as a musical historian is certainly a major part of her artistic identity, the slavish devotion to original arrangements does as much harm as it does good to this album. Giddens’ true strength is as an arranger and composer of songs, and she has the ability to turn any song into something amazingly unique while still steeped in a mountain of musical tradition. The Carolina Chocolate Drops’ cover of “Hit ‘Em Up Style,” anchored by Giddens’ singing, is their biggest hit and what pushed them into the public eye. With the New Basement Tapes, the songs where Giddens took lead on arranging the music were consistently some of the best on the album. Here, she only really gets to stretch the boundaries of the music with “Black Is the Color,” which she builds around a great early-90s style hip-hop beat. It creates something unique, new, and interesting while still preserving the spirit and feelings of the original song. If an album really wants to showcase Giddens’ true musical skills, it should be more of this kind of experimentation with tradition and less directly translating it for a modern audience.
Review written by: Mitch Owens

If You're Reading This It's Too Late: Drake

After two successful and mostly enjoyable albums former Degrassi actor turned rap super star is back with the surprise mixtape If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. Drake pulled a Beyoncé and released If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late out of nowhere. The 17 tracks are some of the best material he has created yet but unlike most mixtapes this one will cost you $12.99 on iTunes. The best part of any Drake album is how personal he gets, and his latest release is no different. The production is also well done thanks to longtime collaborator Noah “40” Shebib, the beats really seem to match the tone of Drake’s vocal performance. Unlike his previous efforts this are no clear singles or hits and while usually this could be a problem it is likely Drake did not even make this mixtape with radio in mind and as a whole it works. Although many of the songs are on par with each other when it comes to quality there are a few that stand above the others. One stand out is “Energy,” which makes it very clear that Drake has enemies. Whether it’s with an ode to his Mother on “You & the 6,” or with collaborators Lil Wayne and PARTYNEXTDOOR on “Used To” and “Preach,” it’s hard not to enjoy the songs thanks to the personal raps and fresh beats. Unlike with some artists after you finish If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late you do get a sense of who Drake is at the moment and the type of situations he’s going through. The very last track “6 AM In New York” expresses his wonders about the future and his legacy and gives a clue to where Drake may go from here. Whether the rumors are true and Drake is looking to leave the troubled Young Money record label with Lil Wayne it’s clear from this tape that Drake knows what he is doing. There is no clear singles or hits and some songs are not very memorable yet If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late is without a doubt some of the best Drake material to date thanks to the personal lyrics and the production assists.
Review written by: Brandon Kasprzyk

Tetsuo & Youth: Lupe Fiasco

Lupe Fiasco

Hip-hop has seen its fair share of changes. From the gangster rappers of the 1990s to the auto- tuned rappers of the millennial generation, hip-hop has never been a genre of pure definition. Usually, an artist breaks through the rap clutter that plagues the genre and changes the whole game, causing other rappers to copy their style. It’s a cycle that goes on and on, and this time around, it’s going to be Lupe Fiasco who breaks through the clutter and changes the game with his new album “Testuo & Youth.” The album showcases Fiasco’s impressive rap skills, lyrical genius and social consciousness all at once. This is especially present in his song “Deliver.” The song depicts life in the troubled part of town and how the pizza delivery guy won’t even deliver to the neighborhood anymore because of the violence that plagues it. It gives a unique perspective on life in the rough neighborhoods and how it can affect those who live in those neighborhoods. Fiasco has been known to put this content in his other songs, however one really had to read into the lyrics to get what he was saying. Now, he just puts it all out there and says it so that anyone can understand the issue. His rapping skills are tight all across this album, but I was surprised at the amount of instrumentals he had on his tracks. “Mural” is a track that opens up with a slow instrumental sequence, but when the tempo speeds up and Fiasco starts rapping, the background music stays instrumental. It’s like combining peanut butter and chocolate – two totally different flavors of music merging to make a great song. This isn’t the only track where Fiasco plays off something outside of the typical hip-hop genre. The song “Blur My Hands” features a soulful Guy Sebastian. The two balance one another out to make a dynamic sound that resonates with all fans of music. He does not hold back on this album in regards to his personal life. The song “Body Work” is about dealing with one’s past and the secrets one has to deal with on a day-to-day basis. Fiasco does not hold back on this track, or any other track on the album. The only flaw I would see in the album are the tracks “Summer,” “Fall,” and “Spring.” These are pure instrumental tracks that incorporate the sounds of their seasons’ name sake and are about a minute to a minute and a half long. They are cool tracks, however I feel like Fiasco could have used the space these tracks take up to make more of his music. Overall, Lupe Fiasco has proven to the world that hip-hop is most certainly not dead with this album. Hip-hop has been getting flack lately for not being “real” and having rappers “sell out” to become more of a commercial success. Fiasco certainly revives the hip-hop genre with this album, and I definitely recommend giving it a listen to if you have the chance.
Review written by: Kelly Kuehn

Strong Museum of Play