Album Review: Kesha – Rainbow

I think it’s fair to say Kesha has had a terrible few years. She has spent the majority of them being embroiled in an legal battle with American pop producer Dr. Luke after he allegedly sexually abused and assaulted her. She seems to have made her way out of this difficult time even stronger though, which is fantastic news. On the 6th of July of this year, she released the first single from this album, called ‘Praying’ – a triumphant anthem against Dr. Luke and everything he stood for. So here she is, with fourteen brand new songs, and her new album RainbowKesha has claimed that she has been inspired by her ‘true’ musical influences on this record, including Dolly Parton, The Beach Boys, and Iggy Pop. So Kesha seems to be finally free on this album, but how is it?

You can immediately see what she means about the influences of this album. This album is full of emotional, powerful anthems, with a few rock influences rather than the electropop she has been known for. Considering that, it is definitely her least ‘mainstream’ album she has come out with, but that isn’t a bad thing. ‘Woman’ is a powerful, but catchy feminist anthem, whereas ‘Let ‘Em Talk’ and ‘Boogie Talk’ feature the Eagles Of Death Metal and are great rock songs in their own right. Everything on this album is new, and unlike anything Kesha has ever made. This uniqueness makes this one of the most genuine and original albums of the year so far. Kesha has never really released a bad album, but with this one she has gone above and beyond anything that she’s done before.

The album is packed full of incredible moments. ‘Hunt You Down’ is a great country-inspired song, showing not only Kesha’s adaptability, but her great voice. Another great moment is ‘Learn To Let Go’, the closest song to Kesha’s previous material, but with a brand new spin on it. Not to mention ‘Praying’, which is an anthemic ballad, yet again showing the best of Kesha’s voice. Arguably the best moment on the album is Kesha’s own take on ‘Old Flames (Can’t Hold A Candle To You)’, a duet with Dolly Parton herself. Whether you’re a Kesha fan or not, you should pick this album up – it is a triumphant, incredible record, with some of the best songs of the year. Kesha, we’re so glad you’re back.

Best song: Let ‘Em Talk

Score: 9/10

Album Review: Ghostly Times – When All That’s Left Is Grey

We’ve had a lot of beautifully atmospheric rock music released this year. From Manchester Orchestra’s fifth album, to Bellevue Days’ third EP, people have been perfecting the art of creating an atmosphere through their music all around the rock world. One more band that aims to do this are Brooklyn-based Ghostly Times, who have created a fantastic sound on their debut full-length album.

The first two tracks typify this sound fantastically. ‘Ghostly Times’ and ‘Sleepless State’ create a great atmosphere that sets the tone for the rest of the album. The lead singer’s great voice is perfectly complimented by a plethora of guitar sounds, ranging from melodic swirls to low rhythmic accompaniment. This, alongside the fantastic drumming all comes together to make an atmosphere that is both beautiful and melancholy at the same time. Not all of the songs are the same though. ‘Book of Love’ takes much more of a typical rock format to great effect, and ‘Sit Back, Relapse and Go’ is a 6-minute-long odyssey. Not to mention the incredible ‘Murder of Crows’ – my favourite song on the album.

I have never been one for longer songs, and this album has quite a few of them. Having said that, the band has managed to make them in a way that has kept me engaged throughout the album. Everything on this album just feels right, from the start to the end, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for this band.

Best song: Murder of Crows

Score: 7/10

Classic Album Review: Bowling For Soup – Drunk Enough To Dance

Bowling For Soup have been creating the catchiest pop-punk for well over 25 years now. While some people may say that their music has lessened in quality recently, no one can deny that they still have a talent for writing some incredibly catchy hooks. And that ability catapulted them into fame in the early 2000’s, so much that their name is still mentioned amongst the greatest pop-punk bands of that era. There was one album that started all of this success though, and that was 2002’s Drunk Enough To Dance. This album would change their fortunes forever.

Without listening closely enough, this may sound like just your average 21st century pop-punk album. But what’s unique about it is vocalist Jaret Reddick’s ability to create a catchy hook. From the chorus of ‘Emily’ alone, I knew that this would be a memorable album. Every song has something catchy about it, from the first track to the last, and even on incredible bonus track ‘Punk Rock 101’. Are all of the songs perfect? Of course not, but all of them are good enough to stay in your head for the next week or so. And let’s be honest, what more can you ask for? The lyrical side of the album isn’t bad either. Most of the songs have that trademark Reddick humour that Bowling For Soup songs are known for. Occasionally this can come across as childish, but never enough to be a real problem.

Even if the name Drunk Enough To Dance might not be remembered much by pop-punk fans in ten years or so, the songs will definitely stick to people’s memories. The songs are catchy, energetic, and humorous, which is exactly what any pop punk album needs. This album has had a lot more influence, and is a lot better than people give it credit for. I hope it will be listened to for years to come.

Best song: Emily

Score: 8/10

Album Review: Sleeptalk – Sleeptalk

You don’t just listen to the 1975 as a musician without picking up any sort of inspiration. A catchy vocal phrase here, a nice bit of guitar there – it may not always be obvious, but it’ll be there. A band that shows this a lot are Sleeptalk; the influences are clearly there, perhaps even more than your average band. There is a line though, between being influenced by something and copying. So is this album just a shameless copy, or something more? Let’s find out.

The most listened track on the album, ‘Strange Nights’, already provides evidence to the contrary. A catchy melody accompanies some great guitar and an incredible bassline to make a song that i’ll be listening to for a long time. The chorus is by far one of the best I’ve heard this year so far, and has a certain way of getting into your head. In the same way, ‘Indio, California’ has an absolutely infectious bassline and a soaring chorus. But they’re just the most played songs on the album, is there anything else to find below the surface.

The answer to that is a resounding yes. ‘February’ is a great tune, containing some of the best vocal work on the album, showing the band’s ability at creating something emotional yet atmospheric. The guitar throughout drives the song along, building up to a wonderful chorus. The ‘you’re not alone but I can’t control you/you’re not alone but I can’t change your mind’ refrain was something that I found myself humming for a whole day after I listened to the album. In complete contrast, something more atmospheric is ‘What A Shame’ which is full of swirling synths and little sound effects that make it almost a dreamlike experience.

So, to address the idea that this might be too similar to the 1975’s work, it’s simply not. The influences are there, sure, but whenever anyone takes influence from someone else, they will likely be compared. The important thing is that this album is completely a fantastic piece of work on it’s own. The ideas are all the bands own, and while they were influenced by the 1975, they were probably influenced by loads of other bands at the same time. Now let’s stop comparing bands and enjoy what a fantastic album this is.

Best song: February

Score: 8/10

Album Review: Manchester Orchestra – A Black Mile To The Surface

When I first heard of this band, I had no idea why they were called Manchester Orchestra. After all, they aren’t an orchestra, and they definitely aren’t from Manchester the last time I checked. But after listening to this album I think I have more of a clue. An orchestra has so many different little parts building up to make a symphony, and this band is the same in many ways, at least in this. Their music is very lovingly and carefully created, with loads of clever details building up to create some incredible songs. Still no idea about the Manchester part though.

If I had to choose one word to describe this album, it would be ‘atmosphere’. All of the songs add together to create a melancholy soundtrack, and it works extremely well. Despite this, all of the tracks have a their own traits, making each song unique. This works perfectly, because all of the album sounds like one whole soundtrack, but doesn’t sound samey enough to be boring. One particular song that stands out to me is ‘The Parts’, the most stripped-back song on the album. Despite this, it still creates a moody feeling throughout, and the sound of the acoustic guitar is somehow soothing but never stays enough to make the song an less atmospheric.

As I mentioned earlier, all of the songs convey a similar feeling, which makes this album feel like it could be the soundtrack to a film or something similar. This is quite fitting as this is the band’s first full project after soundtracking the 2016 film Swiss Army Man. This melancholy atmosphere stretches from tracks like ‘The Mistake’, with lyrics like ‘I don’t want to die alone’, which is as dark as it is relatable, all the way to tracks like ‘The Sunshine’, which has more of a folky feel.

All of this continuity builds up to final track ‘The Silence’, which is only silent in name. It is a track that slowly builds up in terms of music, and then back down again. It is a seven minute odyssey of a track, creating a beautifully moody sound, and drawing this album to a close perfectly. Lots of albums are a great collection of songs, but this is something more; a beautifully working machine of an album. Take any of the songs, and it wouldn’t feel the same, but all together, this is a masterpiece. Truly one of the best albums I’ve heard all year.

Best song: The Silence

Score: 10/10

Album Review: Goldfinger – The Knife

John Feldmann is a busy man. Not only fronting Goldfinger, he has produced some of the best rock albums of the last few years. Blink-182’s California, Panic! At The Disco’s Vices And Virtues, and Good Charlotte’s The Young And The Hopeless are just a few of the albums he has worked on in his illustrious career as a producer. If that doesn’t speak for itself, then I honestly don’t know what does. But in his time as a producer, he has had less time to spend working with his band; before this the last Goldfinger album came out in 2008 – nine years ago. But recently he has taken a short break from his busy producing schedule to work on his own band’s album.

Having said that, the band is barely recognisable from what it was back in 2008. In fact, Feldmann is the only member who has remained. Instead of the old members, Story Of The Year’s Philip Sneed, MxPx’s Mike Herrera, and Blink-182’s Travis Barker have joined Feldmann in creating this new album. Some famous names for sure – but is it all for show?

The answer to that is a resounding no. The album bursts into life with 90’s pop-punk styled ‘A Million Miles’, complete with incredible drumming by Travis Barker and a fantastically catchy hook; a Feldmann speciality. It’s clear that even though most of the band has changed, the music still has all the heart and quality you’d want and more. ‘Orthodontist Girl’ has not only the odd charm and humour of a Blink-182 song, but a sterling performance from guest star Josh Dun, whereas ‘Tijuana Sunrise’ takes on a slower but no less energetic ska sound.

In the nine years he’s been away from his band, John Feldmann has not lost the ability to make some great songs. I shouldn’t be surprised, given the albums he’s produced, but the quality of this album really shines through. I will definitely listen to this one again.

Best song: Put The Knife Away

Score: 7/10

Album Review: In This Moment – Ritual

In This Moment seem to have changed a lot as a band since their last album. Gone are the promiscuous lyrics, replaced with what seems like a whole new vocal style by vocalist Maria Brink. The metal riffs are still there, but not turned up nearly as much as in previous albums. Not just this, but electronic elements seem to be used a lot more liberally, and the  The band have completely shed their skin, and thrown themselves into this new album, but is that for the best?

The album is a bit longer than average at 50 minutes long, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the band have chosen quantity over quality. The biggest example of this is a creepy cover of Phil Collins’ ‘In The Air Tonight’. Sounds weird doesn’t it? Well I won’t disagree that it’s a strange song choice for a metal band, but it is pulled off incredibly. The creepy edge shows the song in a whole different light, and I, for one, love it. But can the rest of the album live up to this?

Well, not exactly. The problem with having such a great track early on is that it sets the bar a little too high for the rest of the album to follow up. Having said that, the album has a lot of good stuff to offer up. For example, ‘Oh Lord’ shows Maria Brink’s voice working absolute wonders, showing a gritty aspect to her voice that has always been there, but never as obviously as here. This belongs to the same style as ‘In The Air Tonight’, a creepy ballad led by Brink’s voice. To contrast this, songs like ‘River Of Fire’ show a lot more metal tendencies. These are not completely in the style of their older hits, showing a bit more of a ‘horror’ themed touch, but definitely hark back to them. Finally, ‘Black Wedding’ is another highlight, not only acting as a nod to a similarly named Billy Idol song, but utilising the talents of Judas Priest singer Rob Halford.

In conclusion, this album is a brave step for In This Moment. The decision to move on and try a different style of music was one that really worked. And while the album doesn’t completely work in some places, it deserves a lot more credit than if they had created a carbon copy of a previous album. It pays to experiment, and this experiment has worked.

Best song: In The Air Tonight

Score: 7/10