Belle & Sebastian - Write About Love
When one of your favorite bands puts out quality material, you find yourself waiting rather impatiently for the new release. I got really excited when I heard that Write About Love was coming out this year -four years between albums (The Life Pursuit) feels like an eternity.
With Write About Love, the band breaks away from the commercial sounds of The Life Pursuit in favor of a back-to-basics approach; it doesn't really matter which sound they go for, because they are a rare collective where nearly everything they do is gold and Write About Love is no exception to the Belle & Sebastian rule. While there are no tracks that immediately jump out as the best on the album, some of my favorites include "Calculating Bimbo" and "I Want the World to Stop", but honestly this album is, overall, all kinds of awesome.
Mark Ronson and the International Business - Record Collection
It's not often that I write an outright negative review of an album and I really wanted to like this one. I love Mark Ronson's interpretations of famous songs used on his last album, Version. While I didn't necessarily want "Version 2.0" from him with this album, the original material seems a bit lackluster, no-downright boring-in comparison. There's nothing that particularly grabbed me while listening, and by the time I finished the fourteen tracks my overall impression was "so what"? When an album leaves that kind of response at the end, something is wrong.
Unfortunately with no clear hit single, and no sense that the album has a direction let alone a strong cohesive sound, Record Collection (great title by the way, probably the best thing about the album) becomes a lackluster, ho-hum, "so what?" affair. Ronson, considering your credibility as a producer for the likes of Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen and Daniel Merriweather, I expected a lot more from you.
Robbie Williams - In and Out of Consciousness
One of the best things about the digital age of music is the fact that we are no longer restricted by the amount of material that can be fit onto a 'traditional' album. Sure, a rough template is still involved; we still get twelve to fifteen songs on average, but when it comes to breaking the mould it is considerably easier now than it ever has been.
Greatest hits compilations have actually improved as a result, and the latest by Robbie Williams (his second) really pushes the envelope as to how much you can cram into one package. Digitally, it's sixty tracks, spanning a 20-year career. That's a bit misleading since his first five years with Take That are not represented on the disc, though lead single "Shame" does feature Take That frontman Gary Barlow, and another track features the full group. What this does offer is fourteen years of hits from Robbie's solo efforts, including his cover of George Michael's "Freedom" (which up until now has not been available on an album), as well as all of his other massive hits from his first solo single to the most recent one.
The rest of the package is comprised of a highlight of B-Sides from Williams' solo career, and it's actually a pretty good selection. A great mix of collaborations such as "My Culture" with Maxi Jazz, covers including The Kinks' "Lola", and three new tracks that did not make the initial cut as singles for the compilation.
I'm not normally a fan of greatest hits packages; I don't think they are truly representative of an artist's repertoire but rather just a reflection of commercial success. However, with In and Out of Consciousness, Williams has proven that sometimes with a bit of care, consideration, and artistic genius, a worthy greatest hits album can be released.
Nelly Furtado - "Night is Young"
This song seems to be getting a lot of flack from reviewers on iTunes, in particular. Some have said that Nelly Furtado has just jumped on the mainstream pop bandwagon with "Night is Young", the lead single from her upcoming "best of" collection. In a way she has. She had a fresh sound when she released Whoa, Nelly! back in 2000, and actually managed to keep that sense of uniqueness with her second and third albums. Now she has become just another pop/dance artist who's music bears no distinction from others in the genre. "Night is Young" is a good enough song on its own, and while it is reminiscent of some of the material from Loose (her third album) it lacks any true originality or progression from Furtado as a musical artist. I'm a big fan of Furtado's work, but this has to be her most forgettable song to date.
P!nk - "Raise Your Glass"
I think this was supposed to be a P!nk song, but I'm not entirely sure. I mean, it sounds like P!nk singing and everything but "Raise Your Glass", the lead single from her own upcoming greatest hits package, lacks the lyrical edge that she has developed and honed in the last few years. It's a typical feel-good song that would fit well on a mixed cd or a house party playlist, but what it lacks is the ability to demonstrate that P!nk is continually growing as a musical artist. It's not the worst song in the world, nor even her worst, but she can certainly do better and I expected more from her for a greatest hits effort. Pedestrian and middle-of-the-road is the best way to describe "Raise Your Glass".