Ella Henderson- Chapter One

Power. Just saying the word gives a sense of strength, with it’s two syllables and strong first three letters. But have you ever seen someone, specifically a singer, give meaning to the word? Sure, there are several artists out there whose voice could lift a 100 pound weight. Some throws javelins, hitting far distances with their holds, and others are pole vaulting, hitting new heights with their vocal range. Sure, there are many artists out there who can do this, but how many could go on a competition show, win sixth place, and still have the power of a heavyweight champion? There is only one I can think of, and that is Ella Henderson.

Haven’t heard of her? If you listen to top 40 radio, then I am almost certain you have heard her first single “Ghost”. Starting off the album, it is a pop song made in Heaven. It has Ella’s soon to be signature vocals going to high places, low places, and everywhere in between. She is all over the place, and it sounds like she is celebrating. What that thing is, I’m not sure, because the song is about wanting to wash away a bad relationship. It is still a good beginning to an even better album, titled “Chapter One”.

Henderson is a talented songwriter. Many of her songs prove this, including “Mirror Man”, with its line, “Mirror man, I wish I could love you like a mirror can!”. The only song that I did not like the lyrics for was one she did not write herself. This was the only one she did not co-write, and it shows. Her heart does not seem to be in the song as much, with her voice not reaching quite its full potential. There are too many ooohs and repetition of phrases throughout the song. The music does not disappoint though, with percussion taking the lead. Most songs are mostly piano ballads, so his song is on a different wavelength than the rest of the album.

“”Pieces” is easily a favorite on the album. This song has a definite climax, starting out quietly and building up into something spectacular. Raw vocals, a tambourine (which I love), and drums give this song its personality. I can imagine this song being on a road trip playlist or waking me up in the morning. The lyrics do not fit the music, with my favorites on the whole album “Right when we live in pieces/ But pieces fall apart”. This song is a win that makes up for any weak spots on the album.

While there are many bright parts of the album, several songs can be somewhat boring. “Missed” and “Five Tattoos” fill those size too small shoes. “Missed” feels like filler, while “Five Tattoos” showcases her vocals and how far she can hold her notes, but just doesn’t cut it. There is not much variation in the vocals and there is no progression with the instruments.

One last song that is one of the highlights is “Rockets”. It starts out as a simple song with a few runs of her voice, but progresses into something marvelous. It is a mix of pop and soul. Snapping fingers and horns puts the song in a league of its own. There is no other song like it on the album. You feel a sense of Ella’s personality shine through.

If this is “Chapter One”, then I can’t wait to read the whole book. With Ella as an author, I can’t seem to put it down. Like a real book, it has its ups and downs, its sore spots and crazy uplifting moments. If you are looking for an artist soaring to new heights, you have found just the right one. Let us welcome Ella Henderson to our music library.

Attila- Guilty Pleasure

Attila is commonly referred to as “The band you love to hate”. They have earned this title full-heartedly. With filthy mouths and Chris “Fronz” Fronzak’s signature growl, you can’t help but to like the band, even if it is just a little bit. Atilla are by no means new to the scene, but they have come back hard and heavier than ever. Guilty Pleasure, the band’s sixth full-length album, is nothing special, but there are a few standouts.

The winner of all song titles comes first. “Pizza, Sex, and Trolls” starts out the album. The song feels as if it is purely for laughs. The truth is, it is not. The song is a message to the band’s haters, telling them that Atilla will not be brought down. They do it in the funniest, worst way possible. There is talk of people talking trash on the internet, and people judging the band. I laughed out loud while listening, but overall, the guitar is good, and Fronz’s rap skills are put to the test.

“Proving Grounds” was the first single, and is the best song on the album. The song is quite offensive, throwing homophobic slurs into the mix, but mostly it is just fun. Attila’s songs pretty much sound the same, with the occasional guitar solo thrown in, but this song is different. With a part that starts out “Let me hear you say HEY”, and going into a rhyming bit, the song is easily the most interesting one to listen to.

The worst song on the album, and possibly the worst song I have ever heard, is “Dirty, Dirty”. Everything that could be wrong with a song, it is included. There are nasty lyrics, boring music, and a bad aftertaste left with you long after the song is over. Beer, girls, and drugs seem to be the main topics, and they are all talked about in a terrible way. While the beer and drugs have earned that, the girls are talked about in a degrading way, which is not fun to listen to.

This album is going to be one that Attila is remembered for. They have changed up their sound, and fans will be extremely happy. If you were not a fan of Attila before, this could either make you one or make you hate them even more depending on what songs you listen to. Overall, the band plays their music well, but it is not exciting. They seem to have found what works, and they are sticking with that. Give the whole album a listen before you make a judgement, but I guarantee that you will get a good laugh and maybe find a new favorite Attila song.

Cold War Kids- Hold My Home

Indie music is all the rage now. I’ve heard it described as pop, because it is so common and well, popular. The term is not even used specifically for independently recorded artists. There are many artists out there who have taken indie and made it their own. Vampire Weekend is a good example, as are Fitz and The Tantrums. Another example is the band that is going to be discussed today.

Cold War Kids don’t do many new things for music, but their talent is making what we have better. The album starts out with “All This Could Be Yours”. It begins with a piano riff that drags you in, and there is no getting out. The chorus is repetitive, but it is not so much so that you do not want to listen to it. Guitars are expertly played and vocals are interesting, yet remind you of many other artists. The good thing about it is that I like those artists.

“First”, the second track, pulled me in from the moment I hear the opening. This album was up on the First Play feature on iTunes, and the opening always played when you turned on the album. It got me excited to hear the album, and the song gets an A+ in my book. The lyrics are meaningful and well written, with words such as “Flying like a cannonball, falling to the earth”. You are happy and then you are sad throughout the whole album. There is no one mood ou stay with while listening.

If you don’t listen to anything else on the album, check out “Go Quietly”. The high vocals fit perfectly with the emotion of the song, and there are occasional rougher moments. These rough moments make the album what it is. It shows that no band is perfect, no matter how close they get. Even the lesser moments are good, and that proves a band to be great. This album will have me listening to more Cold War Kids, and I recommend you listen to this album and everything else by them. Their name may say Cold War, but they will warm your heart.

Maroon 5- V

I feel as if I am listening to every other pop album out there today. Maroon 5 does a good job of sounding like they put no originality into their music, while still putting out a so-so song. V, the band’s latest release will make fans of the band happy, but if you are looking for a little substance, you will be deeply disappointed. I shake my head in shame saying that I actually sort of liked the album.

 

Starting off the album is Maps, We have heard on the radio, playing over and over, probably getting sick of it. It makes sense that it got chosen to be the single. It has what every pop fan looks for. Cute lyrics? Check. Catchy chorus? Check, Vocals from the man voted “Sexiest Man Alive”? Check Check Check. It is the product of what fans want today. Maroon 5 knows this, so that is what they are going to deliver.

 

Sugar lives up to it’s name. It is the most sweet bubblegumastic song you could find. It has some of the most puke-invoking lyrics ever, but the song has to be the best on the album. It has a beat that you can dance to. I love a song that can do that, but I’d rather not feel like I am losing brain cells doing so. It contains the lyrics “Ooh, baby, ‘cause I really don’t care where you are, I just want to be there where you are”. Please. Try to be a little more creative with your words. Don’t rhyme the two lines WITH THE SAME WORDS. That can ruin a song for me, but luckily, Maroon 5 must have done some of their magic on me, because  even with all this criticism, I like this song.

 

Have you heard anything from Gwen Stefani lately? Well, I haven’t, but if you have found yourself needing your fix, you are in luck. My Heart Is Open features vocals from Stefani and it is one of the albums higher moments. The lyrics leave something to be desired for, but overall it is a good attempt at a ballad. You feel sort of sorry for the guy, with a broken relationship and all. Then you get into feeling bad for him because his song says that he heard her say “Yeah” 50 billion times, and then a few yesses added in to mix. He really wanted her to agree, but I will agree with one thing. This song has beautiful piano playing and I’ll admit, good vocals on both ends. This will be a song to check out if you listen to this album.

If you want my advice, leave this album behind and stick with some older Maroon 5. With a few exceptions, this album failed at being what it really wanted to be: A pop album worth listening to.

Ariana Grande- My Everything

Young kid’s channel star breaking into the music scene? We’ve all seen it done before, often leading to a short, somewhat successful career for the actor/actress. Fortunately, Grande seems to have bridged successfully from teen star to an adult on the cusp of becoming a seasoned singer.

Now, I’m not going to be one of those reviewers that says “She’s going to be the next Mariah Carey…Christina Aguilera…blah blah and so on”. No. Grande is a singer on her own terms, a force to be reckoned with. With her second album, she is proving to the world that Ariana Grande is not going to be just another face you used to see on the television screen.

Intro starts out the album. It is, as the name blatantly puts it, an introduction. It is a darn good one at that. With minimal music to hold back her voice, she croons few words, but it hits you hard.

The two songs that became singles off of the standard edition, Problem and Break Free are the two most upbeat, mainstream songs on the album. Break Free has a good electronic background done by Zedd. The best thing about the song is the message, talking about, what else, breaking free from your old self. Problem, with sassy saxophones and a (even though I hate to admit it) a verse rapped WELL by Ms. Iggy Azalea, star of the season, is a song you will not be getting out of you head anytime soon. I didn’t think I would be one for rap, but if you are looking for that, you will find it on this album. The best from this standpoint is Break Your Heart Right Back, sampling Diana Ross’ I’m Coming Out and featuring rapping from Childish Gambino. It is a creative little bit, and he performs it well.

One Last Time is the standout on this album, featuring just Ariana and her voice, no rap appearances here. Her vocals shine on this song and the star she really is comes out. Why Try is also a close second. She belts the chorus, and you know she does not have to try hard to get it out. It comes naturally. You have to admit, this girl can sing. These two songs are the proof.

On the deluxe edition, Bang Bang featuring the powerful vocals from Jesse J and the extremely fast rapping of Nicki Minaj is a jubilee you can’t help but join. The lyrics are funny and the song overall is just a fast-paced little party. You can’t help but smile when you hear the song.

Even if you don’t like pop-R&B, like I normally don’t, you will fully enjoy this album. Ariana actually has a chance of being a child star that sticks around, and I’ll be happy to watch her grow.

Twin Atlantic- Great Divide

You may not know them now, but someday you will. You will be upset you haven’t heard them until now. I know I was. Twin Atlantic has a range of styles they go through, from punk-rock to pop to alternative. They do them all extremely well.

They have opened for many bands, including My Chemical Romance, You Me At Six, and Blink-182. That should tell you right there what talent these four Scots have. Sam McTrusty takes the job as lead vocalist very seriously. He drops off each line in a strangely appealing way, seeming to show off his accent. It works. Barry McKenna, guitar player, plays his guitar as well as, if not better than, any rock guitarist out there. Ross McNae ,bass player and keyboardist, has a good rhythm going on. Rounding out the group, Craig Kneale hits the drums like he is never going to play them again. I hope that is not the case. 

Every single song on the album will have a place in my heart, but there are some standouts. Fall Into The Party will have you rocking out along with the band. They seem to have a lot of fun with the tune, and you will too. While it does not have the most positive lyrics, the band has you thinking that they are the most upbeat words you have heard. I Am An Animal starts out with a solo on the drums that throws you into a guitar riff that makes you want to jump up, fist in the air. It even has a place in the song for some bubbly keyboard. If this song doesn’t get you dancing, I don’t know what will. Rest In Pieces slows things down, but that doesn’t make it any less remarkable. It showcases McTrusty’s voice, and shows off his accent that I love so much. All of the rest of the songs on the album are extremely well written and performed. 

Great Divide is a great album for any band, let alone a third album. To put out a third album filled with this much talent is more than anyone could ask for. Here’s to hoping that they put out a fourth. And a fifth. And maybe a sixth. Who knows how far these lads will go?

 

The Gaslight Anthem- Get Hurt

Some bands get better with time, while others fade away. Unfortunately, Get Hurt falls under the latter category. There are no standout tracks and nothing makes me want to jump up and scream along with the lyrics. There is nothing original about this album. We’ve all heard it before. It sounds like every other alternative album out there today. That saddens me, because old Gaslight Anthem is actually good. Listening to all of their earlier albums, I got excited for this album. As you can tell, letdown followed the release date. 

The album starts out with Stay Vicious, a song that tries too hard to be what Gaslight Anthem is not. Containing a chorus that is unsuccessfully hard, rough, and tough, it leaves you dreading the verses. They are not too bad, but the whole song together is a mess. 

A song that slightly redeems the album is the title track, Get Hurt. It does not have well-written lyrics, but the melody is sad and sweet. That can be a good combination in small amounts, but The Gaslight Anthem uses that mixture a little too much. They are whining about their love lives, whining about themselves, and then there are even more sob stories about their love lives. 

Writing about love is definitely a big theme is music, and The Gaslight Anthem are no stranger to that. Most of the songs are ones someone would listen to holding a box of tissues and eating a tub of ice cream. Tears would keep falling as they realized how unoriginal the album they were listening to is. 

The music played in the background is the same as every other alternative band out there. You could put any singer to it and not realize the difference between the bands. 

Keep listening to your old Gaslight Anthem stuff, but don’t waste your time with Get HurtYour heart and ears will be hurting after you play the whole thing.