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|Written by Mike Cullen|
|Monday, 04 July 2011 00:00|
Foster the People -- Torches
I had two colleagues at work harass me into listening to this album. The result? I love it. This quintet from Los Angeles has a quirky indie sound that has that same hint of brilliance I love about Vampire Weekend (but not a direct duplication) and a funky sound that makes like a poppier version of Fitz & the Tantrums (another great indie band I've been introduced to lately). It's the fusion of quirk and funk that makes this album not only just enjoyable to listen to but out-and-out ear candy.
The album opens with three very strong tracks --"Helena Beat," lead single "Pumped Up Kicks," and "Call it What You Want," -- and just goes from there. I find myself tapping my feet to even the dull tracks, so this album really deserves the praise it's getting. Lately I've been feeling like I've been in a mainstream music rut, but, with the likes of Foster the People, No Fly List (see below), and others, I'm not going to be in this musical rut for long. You really need to get this album.
Lady Gaga -- Born This Way
This is how you construct a successful pop career and record. Lady Gaga bucks the "here and now" trends in music in favour of picking up international influences. Largely recorded while she was on tour last year, the album maintains a very fresh sound. It's clear listening to The Fame, The Fame Monster, and Born This Way that there is a very natural progression to her music, her influences, taste, and style. The Fame was very New Wave Revival in sound that carried over to The Fame Monster but with a industrial flavour straight out of Eastern Europe. With Born This Way, that harder, industrial edge continues into what comes out as a very cohesive album.
Don't get me wrong, there are some duds on this album (I'm looking at you "Americano", "Bloody Mary," and "The Queen"), but I can overlook it when superior tracks such as "Government Hooker," "The Edge of Glory," and "Scheiße" are thrown into the mix. I had a friend remark that the album was almost schizophrenic in nature; it's a pop album, it's a rock album, an industrial album, and a dance album. It's not any one of these things: it's all of them and so much more.
No Fly List -- Blaze On
I'm ashamed to admit I don't listen to enough home-grown talent, but, when I was handed the debut album Blaze On, I figured what did I have to lose? Ten tracks, just over half an hour; I could afford that. Upon the first listen, it just sounded like your typical Canadian indie rock music. On second listen I fell in love. Opening track, "4 Chords Away," was an early contender for favourite track on the album, but how did the rest of the album fair? Really well. So well, in fact, that like The Wind Up Radio Sessions last year, No Fly List has become the rock album of the summer for me. Right now the album is only available on iTunes, but it's oh, so worth it. Take a listen to "4 Chords Away," "A Secret Among Friends," or the title track "Blaze On" to see what I mean.
Matthew Good -- "In a Place of Lesser Men"
I could make a snide comment about how anti-depressants can dull the creativity of nearly over-the-hill rockers, but instead I'll say the latest single from Matthew Good is a "somber" and "mellow" affair. Actually, all things considered it is a good song; it's got a decent enough riff, and the lyrics aren't bad. It's one of those types of songs that you can kind of sit back and just lose yourself in, but this is not exactly what I expect from Matt Good. I want a good rock tune. I'm not saying that I want another "Hello Time Bomb" or "Weapon" (well I guess I am), but it's one of those situations where if the artist is really good when he's on his game, it becomes just as noticeable if he's off his game. Good song, but, as a lead single, it doesn't make me want to rush out and buy the rest of the album.
Rihanna -- Loud Tour
Setlist: Only Girl (In the World), Disturbia, Shut Up and Drive, Man Down, Darling Nikki (Prince cover), S&M, Let Me, Skin, Raining Men, Hard, Breakin' Dishes, Run This Town/Live Your Life, Unfaithful, Hate That I Love You, California King Bed, What's My Name?, Rude Boy, Cheers (Drink to That), Don't Stop the Music, Take a Bow. Encore: Love the Way You Lie (Part II), Umbrella
Rihanna has come a long way as a live performer from the first time I saw her back in 2006. During that abysmal show, I experienced some of the worst dancing and live singing ever. It was painful to watch, and I left the show about halfway through (the only time I've unhappily left a show in the middle). Fast forward five years and three more hit albums later, and Rihanna has not only redeemed herself but actually impressed me so much that the Loud Tour is one of the best pop shows I have ever seen.
With the majority of material from her last three albums, it showcased the both the talent and the creative force that Rihanna has become in the last four years. This was a fairly tight show, choreography wise, but it still allowed for many moments of audience interaction. Rihanna looked as though she was having the time of her life performing. Highlights from the show included her cover of Prince's "Darling Nikki" that segued perfectly into her recent hit "S&M," a rather poignant rendition of "Take a Bow," and, of course, "Umbrella" to close the show. Rihanna, you've totally won me over, and I look forward to future tours.
Read another take on No Fly List's Blaze On.
Tags: blaze on, foster the people, i just want a good rock tune, lady gaga, matthew good, music, no fly list, review, rhianna