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Album Reviews

Heart Song III: Chris Hart

Chris Heart is one of the Japanese- pop artists from San Francisco, California. Because his majors were music and Japanese, he has been familiar with Japan and music. Also, his mother is a singer, so his base of musician spirit inherits from his mother. He can speak Japanese fluently, and his wife is Japanese. I was amazed by his voice and song in Japanese. I know how difficult to song in different languages since I am not from America. I think it is difficult for someone who is not from Japan to sing Japanese song because there three letters in language of Japanese, Katakana, Hiragana, and Kanji (like Chinese letter). However, he really understands Japanese and sings the songs with thinking and recognizing what each word means. So, each of his song has message and spirit. That is why his song amazes many Japanese people and makes them imagine the story of songs. Furthermore, he sings covered songs of Japanese famous singers. Even though it is difficult to sing covered songs, he sings perfectly, and almost all people are amazed. Because we already have stories of existed songs, and singers have to approve other singers to cover their own songs, I think not many people cover songs. In this album, all songs are covered by him and famous in Japan. How he became famous was to put his song on Youtube, and a music producer made him famous. Moreover, he was picked for 64th annual Kouhaku Utagassen, which is the most famous TV show on air annually on December. His voice is really high and beautiful. I cannot imagine that he sings really beautifully, and his music flow is always smooth from his big body. You will know what I am saying and enjoy this song even though you do not understand Japanese. Listen to this song, and you will be amazed by his beautiful and high- toned voice.
Review written by: Wataru Orihara

Grand Romantic: Nate Reuss

Fun. front man Nate Reuss has one of the most beautiful voices of this generation. If you don’t believe me, I dare you to listen to his debut album Grand Romantic and not have some emotion stir inside you after listening to him sing. Grand Romantic is packed with heart felt ballads of love and loss. It’s different from Reuss’ stint with Fun. Fun. tends to create upbeat pop ballads that are whimsical and oh-so-ever positive. On this album, the only feeling one can identify with is heartbreak. The song “Grand Romantic” delivers a strong start to the album. The song is a beautifully tragic ballad about wanting someone after you’ve lost them. Reuss’ voice is flawless and full of raw emotion as the violin in the background adds an epic effect to it. It reminds me of something Michael Buble would perform. It’s easily one of the best tracks on the album. There are other tracks similar to “Grand Romantic,” like “Great Big Storm” and “It Only Gets Much Worse.” Another powerful track on the album worth mentioning is the album’s lead track “Nothing Without Love.” If you haven’t heard it yet, do yourself a favor and look it up. Reuss’ voice is so beautiful and pure, and the instrumentals are on point. You can actually feel his soul spilling out to you as he sings of being nothing without love. There’s a reason it’s the lead track off the album – it’s one of the best on the entire album. Reuss only has one artist featured on this album, and that artist is Beck. At first, I was skeptical how their song “What Is The World Coming To” would sound, as their individual sounds are very different to say the least. The collaboration of Reuss and Beck is very good to say the least. Their voices are different enough to complement one another; Beck has the deeper voice while Reuss can belt out those high notes without a problem. The acoustics on the track give it a personal touch to it, and you can relate to everything Beck and Reuss are singing about. The album has some faster, more upbeat tracks on it as well. “You Light My Fire” is one of these tracks. While the other tracks on the album tend to be on the softer, more tragic side, this song is upbeat and fun. The song also has to do with enjoying being in love rather than being torn apart over heartbreak. It’s a refreshing song to hear after listening to so many tracks about heartbreak. A similar song to “You Light My Fire” is “Ah ha.” Overall, Reuss’ debut album proves that there is life beyond Fun. for him. His vocals are better than ever, and his ability to put what heartbreak feels like into words is outstanding. As much as I’m a fan of Fun., I wouldn’t mind seeing more solo stuff from Reuss in the future. I highly recommend giving this album a listen to.
Review written by: Kelly Kuehn

2.0: Big Data

Big Data really came out swinging with their latest album. Not only did they kill every track, but they also had some amazing features to add the sprinkles on top. It’s no mystery why it peaked at number 75 on the Billboard 200 chart right after it’s release. Although they do have their own distinct sound, the band can be compared to The Bleachers, Joywave and Florence and the Machine, plus a few other electronica bands, all mixed into one. Big Data has done a great job at bringing back techno-pop in the last few years, but this album helps bring in a 90’s twist as well; something refreshing, reminding me of Michael Jackson, yet reminding me of today’s top 40 charts at the same time. The most well- known tracks off the album include “The Business of Emotion” which features White Sea and “Dangerous” featuring up and coming band Joywave. The song became huge when premiered on Late Night with Seth Myers. Both hits are up-beat and capture the definition of the band; energy, charisma and most definitely quirk. Jamie Lidell, Kimbra, Rivers Cuomo, Jenn Wasner, Dragonette, Twin Shadow and Bear Hands are all amongst features on the stellar album as well. The only “issue” I have with this album is that most of the songs sound very similar. Yes, it is incredible and unique, but most of the songs have many resemblances. Aside from that point, the music, feel and tone of Big Data most definitely shine through and can get anyone moving. My favorites, besides the two big hits, include “Sick For Me” and “Automatic,” although it was tough to pick any favorites. I usually have a least-favorite or two from every album I listen to as well, but Big Data left me with no disappointment this time. I would recommend this album 100%.
Review written by: Nikki Lawrence

Strangers to Ourselves: Modest Mouse

Making their fans wait an excruciatingly painful EIGHT years for new music, beloved band Modest Mouse has finally returned with “Strangers to Ourselves.” The 15 track album was originally dated for release on March 3 of this year, but the band took an extra two weeks beyond that point to perfect it, and boy did they do that. The album artwork is also something in itself, showing an aerial view of a resort in Arizona. In my opinion, this fits the album’s sound perfectly; something strange and wacky, maybe something you might hear after sitting in the sun for too long. Four tracks were released prior, but nothing gained such recognition as “Lampshades on Fire.” The song climbed the charts in just a matter of weeks. There are a few explicit tracks, including “Sh*t in Your Cut,” “The Ground Walks with Time in a Box” and “God is an Indian and you’re an A**hole.” Despite the peculiar names, these songs are actually incredibly interesting and well produced. “Sh*t in Your Cut” is my favorite of the three, starting out mysterious and almost parody-like. “The Ground Walks with Time in a Box” is apparently another crowd favorite, slowly moving up the charts and following in the path of “Lampshades on Fire.” Isaac Brock’s vocals are definitely another part of what make Modest Mouse so different and strange, and his voice is the most prominent feature in my favorite track of the album, “Pistols.” The band took an almost pop twist with this, still growing from their alternative and rock roots. The only thing I have to say about this stellar jam is that it is NOT about “pistols.” “Ansel,” “Coyotes” and “Be Brave” are also among my favorites, but the band knocked this out of the park as a whole. This is worth the 8 year weight and is for Modest Mouse fans, or anyone looking for something different and weird.
Review written by: Nikki Lawrence

How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful: Florence & the Machine

Heaven help the man who screwed over Florence Welch. Actually, we should be thanking him – he seems to be the inspiration behind this beautifully haunting and insanely powerful new album from Florence and the Machine. “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful” is loaded with ballads of a woman scorn. It covers all the emotions one feels during the end of a tumultuous love affair – heartbreak, rage and recovery. The lead single off the album, “What Kind of Man,” is an example of a rage song. Welch gives it her all in this track as she calls out a former lover for not loving her the right way. You can tell that she puts her whole soul into the track. You can also tell that she has a score to settle with this former lover of hers. The song has a rocking hook and is full of post- breakup angst. If you have ever had a former love you just wanted to call out for treating you so bad, this song should be your anthem. It’s empowering without being self­righteous and send a clear message. A song similar to this is “Queen of Peace.” It’s a softer song than “What Kind of Man,” but the message is similar. The song sends a clear message – Welch has a score to settle with this former lover. The song sounds peaceful, but don’t let the sound fool you. The lyrics reveal a much angrier song. For every song Florence + The Machine has about the rage one feels during a relationship, there is one about the heartbreak one feels after a deep love has ended. One of the most powerful songs on the album relates to this topic very well. “Ship to Wreck,” the latest single to be released to the public off the album, is a powerfully charged ballad of lost control. Welch belts out her lyrics of self­destruction over a rocking melody, and it’s so powerful that you will replay it over and over. There’s never been a song so beautifully written about the self- destruction one goes through when a deep love ends. A song that is more tame, but still as effective, is “St. Jude.” The song is a haunting and heartbreaking reminder of what happens when you try to provide selfless love. Songs about recovering from a deep love are also on the album. The one that stood out most to me is “Various Storms and Saints.” The song is full of raw emotion as Welch belts about recovering from a lost love in a haunting yet beautiful way. Overall, this is an incredible album that proves why Florence + The Machine are one of the best acts in the alternative world. If you have ever been in a serious relationship that changed your soul, you will definitely relate to this album. I highly recommend giving it a listen to if you have the chance.
Review written by:Kelly Kuehn

WHITE: Superfly

This is a band, but only woman named Shiho works in this band because the other member left from this band in 2007. She still sings by herself even though the other member left. So, even though this is a band, but she is only on this band. The other member, Tabo, is now a music producer and writer. After he left this band, he still helps Shiho. She is one of the famous singers in Japan. She has really high­ toned and powerful voice even though she is tiny and small. I cannot imagine that she can sing with high­ toned and powerful voice. Her voice matches the music genre, rock, hard­ rock, J­ pop, pop, and soul. This album is sum of all her music genre. Her music genre is wide, so everyone can have fun with this album. The song called “White Light” in this album is a new song. This song represents her because this song is powerful and up­ tempo. Almost all songs are about to cheer up someone, so you are encouraged to do something when you are listening to her songs. Actually, this song is also to cheer up someone. This song is that you can restart with white. If you draw white even though you already start, you can still restart. In this song, she says that you will be fine and go back to white to restart. Like this, she has a lot of songs for cheering up someone. Her powerful voice encourages us to do something and makes us feel being able to do something. That is why some of her songs are theme song for cheering up national sports team, like soccer, baseball, volleyball, and so on. I like her lyrics and music­ toned, and no one can sing like her at Karaoke. Even though I like her song and want to sing her song, I cannot because of her voice­ toned. You will be fun when you are listening to all songs in this album and be surprised with her beautiful and powerful voice.
Review written by:Wataru Orihara

Let The Road Be: Rixton

After their first hit and chart topper, “Me and my Broken Heart,” comes a brand new album from upcoming UK band, Rixton. The band consists of 4 guys who are as quirky as they are handsome, and this album is the epitome of who they are as a whole. The album begins with “Let the road,” and in my opinion, is the worst song on the album and does no justice to the band. It opens with some strong A Capella vocals and thriving harmonies, but the song was very easy to guess; I felt like I was listening to a Pitch Perfect soundtrack that somehow got a Backstreet Boys remake. The lesson behind the song means well, pushing motivation to the listener, but a poor song to represent the album none the less. “Appreciated” is the next track, one that I enjoyed a lot more thoroughly. It opens with some simple yet cute acoustic guitar and a charming whistle to catch and hold your attention. This song represents that feeling you have for the person who does everything and anything for you no matter what, and it’s a perfect tune for the lead singer’s voice. My favorite aspect of this song is the chorus. The bridge is pretty simple, but the chorus explodes with emotion and power, and then dies down a little, allowing the song to carry through with some awesome percussion and vocals. “Beautiful Excuses” is one of my favorites off this album. It has a smooth beginning, which builds a lot through the intro and into the bridge. It gave me chills and it sure to do the same to others. Right after the bridge and before the chorus is sort of a break; the song transitions from the build back to a simple, elegant and beautiful piano bit, but then powers through into an incredibly dramatic and movie-perfect chorus, definitely meant for showing off vocal range. “I Like Girls” and “We All Want the Same Thing” are two VERY different songs, but somehow bounce off each other well. The first takes on a reggae sound, definitely pleasing those in favor of drinks, summer and especially girls. The entirety of the song just represents what it feels like to “fall in love” with a gorgeous girl, only to turn the corner and “fall in love” with another. “We All Want the Same Thing” takes on a 70’s funk feel, something that is coming back on today’s charts without a doubt. This song is the epitome of funk and what the 70’s felt like, aka going out, getting messed up, then bringing someone home without any questions asked for the fun of it. My personal favorite from Rixton this time would have to be “Hotel Ceiling.” This song can’t be put into words, and trying to understand without listening would be a failed attempt. In a quick and dirty explanation, this song is about messing up in a relationship and then losing someone you love to suicide. This song is a perfect representation of real-life situations, and what it feels like to drink yourself into depression while staring at the hotel ceiling. Not surprising, seeing as Ed Sheeran wrote it. That being said, this album is definitely a fantastic one, coming from a brand new band trying to make it. Having seen them live, I know they’ll be big in no time, especially opening for Ed Sheeran on his upcoming Summer tour.
Review written by:Nikki Lawrence

The Traveller: Rhett Miller

When a lead singer of a prominent band decides to work solo for a while, they need to be able to strongly differentiate their personal sound from that of their band as a whole, especially when the band is coming off of one of the most successful albums of their career. The Old 97’s are alt-country royalty, and 2014’s Most Messed Up was easily one of the best albums of the band’s twenty-plus years together. At its best, their aggressive, heavily punk-inspired country brings equal parts drunken debauchery and actual emotion together in a rowdy, adrenaline rush-inducing package. Miller’s solo albums have usually kept most of the debauchery and heart at the center of the 97’s lyrics, but he tends toward a gentler, more acoustic sound to take the more aggressive edge off. With The Traveller, Miller takes his solo sound even further from the 97’s norm by bringing in Black Prairie as his backing band. Black Prairie is a Decemberists side-project that is basically the band minus frontman Colin Meloy that leans in a more bluegrass direction instead of the theatrical folk of their main band. Essentially, Miller has traded in his typical incredible backing band for another high-quality band of a very different background, and has put together a pretty great album as a result. Most of the songs on the album keep the Decemberists-esque sounds to a minimum and let Miller’s songwriting and voice shine through. “Most in the Summertime” is a great summer love song, and acoustic jam that just lets Miller relax and put a loving smile on the listener’s face. “Wanderlust” is a terrific country-rock song that starts the album with a serious intensity, but still doesn’t get as aggressively in-your-face as an Old 97’s song would, creating a strong distinction off the bat between what Miller is best known for and what he’s trying to create here. When Miller and Black Prairie start to indulge their weirder sides, the album goes to some places that, while not the best tracks on the album, are certainly some of the most interesting things that this collaboration could have come out with. The instrumentals for “Jules” feels like it could fit right on the most recent Decemberists album, but Miller’s writing and voice allows that familiar violin and guitar work to go in a completely direction than anything Colin Meloy could have done with it. The melancholy, ethereal “Dreams Vs. Waking Life” lets everyone involved indulge their weirdest and darkest musical tendencies and creates an incredible dream-like song for the listener to wander through alongside the band. Overall, this isn’t an album that will likely hugely influence the direction of either of these main bands going forward, but it’s a great side distraction that lets everyone involved have a little fun and blow off some steam in the act of making a very solid album. This is definitely worth a listen to anyone who enjoys the Old 97’s, the Decemberists, or just very good country/folk-rock in general.
Review written by: Mitchell Owens

I Am Alive In Everything I Touch: Silverstein

This band from Burlington, Ontario, Canada, is celebrating their fifteenth anniversary. As if to mark the occasion their newest album “I Am Alive In Everything I Touch” was released earlier this month, May, on Rise records. The second track “heaven, Hell, and Purgatory” starts with Told’s signature unclean vocals. This track contains one of my favorite lines from the album. “I know everything I’ve done has led me here/ but I’m not scared to go/ lift up everything I own.” The album starts off with a strictly instrumental track. The song titled “Toronto” is a blend of noises from a train going over the tracks, acoustic guitar strumming, to the sound of cars driving by at the end of the bit. It is only logical to assume that these sounds are reminiscent of the member’s hometown. The third track “Buried at sea” works together with the first instrumental track to establish the theme for the album. The song, which begins with the sound of rain falling down, discusses relying on your aspirations as motivation to keep going. The next track “late on 6th” is the only acoustic track on the album, and shows off the band’s incredible versatility. Shane Told, vocalist, mixes his signature unclean vocals with well executed high notes. This song follows suit with many Silverstein songs and talks about heartbreak and longing. “I know we can’t go back/ I made mistakes/ I lost track/ when I called your name you didn’t hear a sound/ I couldn’t feel it then but I need you now.” Next up is a track with an amazing live video that you should watch. The track is “Milestone.” This song also contains the words of the title track. The song talks about how we have to band together in order to overcome the corrupt nature of society. Following that song comes “The continual condition” I wasn’t a fan of this song because it came off s trite and stale. It is another addition to the band’s wide repertoire of sappy emo love songs. It isn’t a terrible song just somewhat eye­roll­worthy. Next is “desert nights” my personal favorite track. The song is especially instrumentally strong. In the song the vocalist sings about feeling disconnected with life and how he doesn’t feel anything any longer. The album culminates with two strong tracks “Je me souviens” and “in the dark.”
Review written by: Avery Sapetko

Blurryface: Twenty One Pilots

Twenty One Pilots is growing more and more popular by the day. The duo made it big with hits such as “Car Radio” and “House of Gold” off their 2013 album Vessel, and it looks as though their next album Blurryface is going to catapult them into the mainstream. Their last album was full of angst ridden songs that questioned the quality of life, but this one has a lighter, more optimistic sound to it. The song that convinced me of this is their newest hit “Tear In My Heart.” It’s essentially a love song that combines their classic alternative sound with pop-friendly melodies. It’s the catchiest song on the album, so it does not shock me that it is climbing the alternative charts at a high rate. It’s sure to become some couples’ “song.” There aren’t a lot of other songs on the album that mirror “Tear In My Heart.” I really like how Twenty One Pilots experimented with putting some electronic music. You can hear this taste of electronic in songs like “Doubt” and “Polarize.” The quality of the actual music throughout the album is great, but the content of the songs is what really got me to like this album so much. One of my favorite songs off the album is “Stressed Out.” It’s a song that is oozing with nostalgia about being a child and having no worries in the world. The beat is infectious, and the lyrics about now caring what other people think is on point. It’s a song everyone can relate to, and I think it’s one of the best songs off the album. “Not Today” is another great song off the album. It has a great bass line and is upbeat, but the lyrics of the songs contradict the sound of the song. The song is about getting over someone and how hard it is to let them go. Anyone who has gone through a break up can easily relate to this song. That’s the biggest thing I’m fond of throughout this album. The sound of the song may be upbeat and happy, but the lyrics of the song tell a different story. This concept can tie into reality. There are times where we are both happy and sad at the same time, and we do not know exactly why, but we know we must live through it. There are songs on the album that mirror this concept perfectly. Other songs are rawer with their sound, like “Goner.” This is a more solemn piano ballad about being a goner and only wanting the one you love to know who you are. It’s a beautiful song that is full of raw emotion, and is easily one of the best songs off the album. Overall, I wasn’t expecting this album to be as upbeat as it was. Vessel was full of angst, while this album is more upbeat. I’m happy to see Twenty One Pilots experiment with a different sound. I definitely recommend giving the album a listen to!
Review written by: Kelly Kuehn



This group is a dance and vocal unit called “E- Girls.” “E” means Exile which is also dance and vocal group. So, E- Girls inherits from Exile. The leader of Exile, Hiro produces this group like as female version of Exile. Actually, E- girls are formed by three female dance and vocal group, “Dream,” “Flower,” and “Happiness.” Dream is the oldest group and components of four vocalists. Actually, they can also dance professionally and have the feeling of and atmosphere of adult. Their songs are mostly love songs. Flower components of two vocalists and five dancers, and they all can dance as well. They are the middle age in E- Girls, 19 to 22 years old, so their songs are love and up- tempo. Finally, Happiness is the youngest in E- Girls, 15 to 20 years old, so they have energy and power to dance. They component of two vocalists and five dancers and they all can dance as well. These mixed characteristics, adult, powerful, and mild make much harmony to fascinate people. To be formed by three groups, they can perform dynamically, powerfully, and heartrendingly for each audience in every concert. You can enjoy their music when you are watching this video and listening to the music. Interestingly, the vocalists change depending on which music the vocalists match, so they are selected in each song. Different vocalists are chosen for different songs. In this album, there are rock, love, and happy songs. For rock song, you can enjoy watching the music video because the up- tempo music matches their dance. For love song, you better listen to the music. The music tone reminds the time when you love someone. For up- tempo song, the dance is dynamic and surprises you because of the powerful dance even though they all are girls. Some people in E- Girls are models and others are on variety TV shows because each person has different characteristics for entertaining. As performers, they train professionally as if they are athletes. They do weight training, running, spinner bike, and bench press. The producer Hiro thinks performers have to train and be professional to entertain. They do not want to show poor performances. I think they are the most famous girls group in Japan, but they still need to be known each name by people in Japan. Then they probably can do world tour sometime. You can see their amazing performances and professionalism and will like them.
Review written by: Wataru Orihara

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