Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Album Review: Britney Spears 'Femme Fatale (Deluxe Edition)'

Oh Britney. What have you done?

For those of you that don't know me, from 1999 to 2005, I was a massive Britney stan. Huge. Until her knee screwed everything up. From that point on, when she decided her career was nothing and that celebrity status was more important, I decided to flip her the bird and move on. Sure, I bought 'Blackout' and 'Circus' but months after their releases and with minimal excitement. 'Blackout' was great leap forward for her, but 'Circus' was full of filler and seems like such a whimper compared to its predecessor (even 'In The Zone' was more of a leap forward than 'Circus').

So, my thoughts then on Femme Fatale, her seventh studio album.

It is much, much better than 'Circus'. My biggest problem with Britney was that she still had the lyrics and music of a teeny bopper. Not so much on here even though she is still working with Max Martin (who, if you didn't know by now, wrote 'Baby One More Time'). There's a nice duality in the opening tracks 'Til the World Ends' and 'Hold it Against Me'- both of them have the 'faux-dubstep' sound but are very much what Britney should sound like in 2011.
The fan favourite 'Inside Out' is next and while it's a good track, I don't get the hype over it. That's not to say I don't like it though. But it's no where near her top 10 best tracks. That honour should go to the next track, 'I Wanna Go'. The hook, the whistle effects, the beat- it sounds so fresh and different from anything else she's done. I keep going back to this track the most.
'How I Roll' is a cute sounding song with amateurish lyrics, but that's okay. Is it weird that my favourite bit about the song is just opening effects? SMS or e-mail me the answer plz.

The next three tracks that follow have this dance/techno (I use that term incredibly lightly) concept. I really would love to hear a mashup of 'Trouble For Me' with 'Take Me to The Love Parade' *coughmakeithappenpleasecough* There's a real 90s dance vibe on these tracks, in my opinion. 'Trip To Your Heart' another fan favourite off the cut, is good, but it doesn't live up to the hype. It does sound like the older, wiser sister of 'Heaven on Earth' though.'Gasoline' is a catchy albeit filler-ish track using the extended metaphor of petrol for adrenaline/lust. #shrugs
The standard album ends with 'Criminal'. Yes it's a good song, downtempo and harks back to Madonna circa American Life BUT ever since I read the observation that the chorus sounds like 'The Logical Song', it's been tainted. Just a bit.

Now, the real goodies are on the deluxe edition. 'Up N Down' has a great bridge and catchy chorus, as does 'Selfish'. The real highlight on the album is 'He About To Lose Me'. All I can say is: That. Beat. Totally hypnotic. Wonderfully understated. Just a shame that it doesn't sound like Britney sings the chorus at all.

It's a good album. Not the 'Ray of Light' esqueness that we had been told to expect. But then again, I don't think Britney could carry that sound or thematic concerns off very well. Indeed, the album is based on sex and dancing. Or dancing as a metaphor for sex. So it's a safe album in terms of lyrics, but thank god the sound has progressed. Her fanbase isn't 12 years old anymore and neither is she. The big question from here is whether she wants to continue to be a popstar or not, because it looks and sounds like it's just not her thing anymore.

Verdict: 7 Mickey's out of 10 Mouse Clubs
Standout Tracks: I Wanna Go, He About To Lose Me, Till The World Ends

NB: Big Fat Bass and (Drop Dead) Beautiful are both shit. Except for the piano bit on the former.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Album Review: Adele '21'

For many weeks after it's release, I avoided this album like the plague. Adele's debut album, '19', whilst having some great singles, did not live up to my expectations at all and so I was wary of falling into a similar trap.

And then I heard 'Rolling in the Deep'. The first single is an ear assault. It's punchy, with big vocals and full of vitriol. Actually, the whole album is peppered by hate, or perhaps regret. Either way it's one of the best breakup albums I've heard.
So after this, I watched her performances of 'Someone Like You' at the Brit Awards.


This is kind of performance that's destined to leave you in tears, clutching a pillow and rocking back and forth in the foetal position. Not that I did or anything....

post performance, I headed to my local CD store and had to have the album. And this time I was not disappointed. Tracks like 'Rumour Has It' and 'I'll Be Waiting' keep the spirit of the album alive in between heartbreaking songs like 'Set Fire to the Rain' and 'Turning Tables'. I've yet to warm up to 'One and Only' and 'Lovesong', but an average of 9 out of 11 brilliant tracks makes up for that. Her voice is so soulful and full of emotion, that you can hear the pain when she sings. Lyrically, it's very good. I particularly enjoy this one from 'Turning Tables': 'Next time I'll be braver/ I'll be my own saviour/when the thunder calls for me'. Achingly beautiful.

Adele was lumped in with Winehouse and Duffy as her contemporaries. Out of those three, it seems like she's the one that's made progress musically and may have long term success.

A stunning gem of an album.

Verdict: 9 angry texts out of 10 screened phone calls
Standout Tracks: Rolling in the Deep, Rumour Has It, Set Fire To The Rain, Someone Like You

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Album Review: Aston 'Aston'

Here's something different. Aston are a classical music group.
They do covers of pop songs.
Still here? Good. Because these guys are brilliant. I took one look at the track listing and went 'yes, yes, YES!', as if they had stumbled upon my music collection purposely. They arrange the tracks themselves and in some cases, they have one upped the originals. Muse, Coldplay, Florence + The Machine; hell even Rihanna and Lady Gaga get treatments here. It's all instrumental but it just sounds amazing. Each track sweeps and soars- you can feel the emotionality of these songs that you may not have noticed before. Perfect for a mainstream music lover who wants something a bit different.

Verdict:9 woods out of 10 winds
Stand out tracks: ET, You've Got The Love, Rude Boy