Amy Macdonald’s first album success – This is the life review

Amy Macdonald is back in the charts with her third album but to really understand how much potential the young Scottish singer has you have to look at her previous work.

Amy Macdonald is still waiting for her first UK number 1 single

Her debut album ‘This is The Life’ sold over 3 million copies worldwide and reached number 1 in the UK Album Charts as well as 92 in the US Billboard 200 so it is easy to see how well she has been liked since the very start of her career but it has only taken me till now to discover just how brilliant she actually is. Just listening to album through once you understand her versatility as a musician but underneath it all you feel that she hasn’t lost her identity and stays true to the sounds that she knows and loves. The more you listen to it, the more in love you fall, it is really that good and the whole album is full of top quality songs that will speak to everyone as they are quite easy to relate to. She has fantastic storytelling ability and you can’t believe that she was only a teenager when this was brought out as some of her songs, in particular, ‘Run’ and ‘L.A’ show that she has so much more ability than other artists at that age.

But, her surprisingly mature lyrics are counterbalanced by her youthful spirit which will appeal to many different people and one thing that gives her points in my eyes is the fact that she doesn’t sound like a stereotypical female pop singer and each song has its own brilliance to it and there is not a single track that is boring like pop artists are releasing these days. The charm of the whole album is that, she doesn’t seem to have to try that hard but there isn’t a cocky arrogance about it and she proves that keeping things simple rather than doing things to your voice or adding a lot of beats does not make a track better.

Many of her songs have been used for different things and have allowed more people to hear her including the opening song, ‘Mr Rock and Roll’ which was used as part of the BBC’s coverage of the 2008 Olympic Games. The song reached number 12 in the UK and sets the standard for the whole album to follow, it could have been easy for it to get worse from there but even though this sing a long track is my favourite on the album by no means does it get worse. It is quickly followed up by probably her most favourite song, ‘This is The Life’ which was actually used on an advert for Fiat 500 shown all across Europe and this made it a major worldwide hit.

Macdonald’s voice is outstanding and the song, ‘A Wish For Something More’ shows her full range and also is a very good song to listen to if you want to also hear how impressive she is on the guitar. Basically, for most of the album it is just her and her guitar and the entire album will appeal to fans of folk music, indie and pop rock and  don’t think any of them will be let down by a single song.

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Emeli Sande proving different can be successful

Emeli Sande could be the breakthrough artist of the year with her incredible album ‘Our Version of Events’

Sande started work on this album when she was only 11 years old

The album was released on the 13th February and has been to the very top of the UK Album Charts as well as faring quite well in America reaching number 28 on the Billboard 200. This is not something you really expect to hear at the top of the charts in the year 2012 as recently music has been more about getting up and dancing with a lot of energy to their songs but this is more like music of old and has brought poetry back to music. Most of the best songs are simple and this is what Sande has tried to do with this album by using her voice as the main effect and having a simple melody behind. You can tell she is influenced heavily by soul music and it really comes out at times during the album and you can really feel how meaningful the lyrics are to her. The most important thing to her in her songs is clearly getting the message of her lyrics across and is just as important as the tune, there is a definite passion and desire in her voice and this is seen in the songs ‘My Kind of Love’ and ‘Breaking The Law’. ‘Breaking The Law’ in particular is a very fascinating song and can mean many different things to people, it could be about a partner or a family member and it just shows how much some people will do for their loved ones.

The single, ‘Heaven’ is an epic pop song that will get audiences to throw their hands up in the air and sing along and will be heard over and over again in the years to come I am sure and it was named the record of the week by Fearne Cotton when it was released.

Most of the songs on the album are about love and romance but if you take the time to look deeper into it, you can tell it is much more complex than that and tries to explain complicated emotions, the song, ‘Maybe’ is an example of this as it is about after a break up thinking whether someone is the love of your life or not which is obviously difficult to explain but Sande is a very talented storyteller and does it well.

Some people may find the album boring and not be able to listen to the whole thing through at once because it can be a little too much of the same as their isn’t a massive amount of change but to me if someone has a s good a voice as her why try and make it about anything else. ‘Next to Me’ reminds me of old soulful house music and with it’s beautiful harmonies I can see this being many people’s favourite song on the album and is just another example of her amazing voice and you have to remember this is only the beginning and she will hopefully grow and get better and better.

Arctic Monkeys have changed a lot since their debut album

Arctic Monkeys performed a Beatles classic at the Olympic Opening Ceremony in ‘Come Together’ in front of Sir Paul McCartney and this must be a massive moment for the band.

All four of their studio albums have reached number 1 in the UK

It was a very good cover of the song and nobody should be surprised that they were able to pull it off as they have showcased their talents for many years and performed a number of different songs. With their sound changing slightly throughout each album, choosing to do this song may have been challenging but achievable as they didn’t really have to change much and could do it as a straight cover. The band do seem to enjoy doing covers as they have participated in BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge a few times and performed one of the more interesting covers when they decided to do Girls Aloud’s ‘Love Machine’.

They were always destined for great things but they may not have thought they would be performing in front of The Queen at such a massive event that the whole world would see. Their debut album ‘Whatever People Say I am That’s What I’m Not’ was fantastic and is still the fast selling debut album and has been hailed as a modern classic so they were always going to be successful but they achieved it in their own way. Alex Turner was clearly aware of everything that was going on around him and could fit it all into the lyrics, ranging for prostitutes in the Sheffield area in the brilliant number one single ‘When The Sun Goes Down’ to the drama and familiarity of being in a relationship in ‘Mardy Bum’. All of the lyrics seem come off as his past experiences and his thoughts and feelings which give it more depth and the storytelling more engaging. They even sing about the state of affairs in a town and how much things have changed over the years with their being more love and dedication to a local football team than anything else. One of the biggest compliments you could give the lyrics is that they paint a picture that is instantly recognisable to a lot of people in the UK, in particular the song ‘A Certain Romance’ which is slightly different to the rest as it is a slightly slower song as opposed to the guitar led, jumping around sounds of some of their other songs.

This debut album achieved number one in the UK and somewhat surprisingly number 24 on the Billboard 200 in America. It is not because of the actual music that I am surprised by this but the fact that Turner didn’t try and hide his Yorkshire accent and used some slang words in the songs that many Americans may not have understood. But, it does appeal to a wide audience with the riffs having a punk feel to them and it being placed as more of an indie sound will certainly have attracted many listeners from different genres.

This was just the beginning for the band and with their recent albums you can see how they have grown and matured more as this album does have a heavy focus on going out on a Saturday night, looking at girls, ultimately getting turned down and getting into fights while waiting for a taxi. They have made different music now but as they say themselves, ‘There’s only music so that there’s new ringtones.

Train – California 37 album review

Train may not be the biggest band in the world and may not be well known to a lot of people but I am sure that nearly everyone will remember their hits, ‘Drops of Jupiter’ and ‘Hey, Soul Sister’.

California 37 is only the second Train album to reach the top 10 in the UK album charts

So what will their latest album, ‘California 37’ give us? In my opinion it could well be my favourite album of 2012 and this was quite surprising to me because I wouldn’t exactly say that it was my style of music but there is just something about it. Beginning with its opener ‘This’ll Be My Year’ which is basically a run through of Train’s career plus including things that everyone knows about for example in the year 1989 they reference the start of ‘The Simpsons’ and contains one of my favourite lines, ‘I stopped believing although Journey told me don’t.’ Some people won’t like these sorts of lyrics but to me it is clever.

This is just one of a number of references throughout the album including everything from Justin Bieber to WWE wrestler The Undertaker. Nearly every song is catchy enough to make you listen to it, just from the actual sounds like the bounciness, quick strumming and slight reggae style to ‘Drive By’ but then you realise what the lyrics are actually saying and it makes you want to listen to it even more. The stuttering vocal hook in this song also helps and works perfectly for this song.

The next song that really caught my attention was ’50 Ways to Say Goodbye’ which is a song that is more pop but you definitely won’t find many pop songs like this. ‘She was caught in a mudslide, eaten by a lion’ are very good lyrics and you couldn’t imagine One Direction or any other pop bands singing anything like this.

For new fans of Train this album would be a perfect place to start as they will getting a feeling of where they have came from and will enjoy the slight changes in all of their previous albums and for older fans it shouldn’t disappoint, although they may not like the move away from rock as at times it drifts more towards country than anything else in particular the song ‘Bruises’ featuring Ashley Monroe. But this is a convincing attempt at a regular conversation between two old friends and is written brilliantly as it doesn’t seem to be staged so it could get Train even more fans from a different genre.

There are still elements of their older stuff with, ‘Feels Good at First’ a more gentle acoustic song and ‘We Were Made for This’ starting out soft and then turning into early Train stuff and then finally ending the album on ‘When The Fog Rolls In’. I can imagine these three songs being long term Train fans favourites.

Also ‘You Can Finally Meet My Mom’ has a similar style to ‘Drops of Jupiter’ with it having the piano sound to it. The reference in it ‘Even Bieber ain’t forever’ just makes me laugh and the lead singers voice is really easy to listen to as it has its own character. It is such an easy album to listen to and the changes from country to rock are comfortably done so it never seems like the band are out of their depth. However, saying that, the song ‘California 37’ is awful and I really don’t see the point in it but other than that I could listen to this album over and over again.

Were blink-182 worth the wait? Neighborhoods album review

Blink-182 have just completed their European Tour and so the question is was their comeback album ‘Neighborhoods’ worth the wait?

Neigborhoods is blink-182’s sixth studio album

First of all I would just like to say that I think the band are one brilliant live and put on a fantastic show, not only with their music but with their jokes and the way they interact with each other. Yes it can be immature listening to them talk about each other’s mothers but you can’t help but laugh and this is basically what made them so successful. Now, they are older this album has put a stop to all the jokes about having sex with dogs and getting dumped by girlfriends but they also haven’t experimented too much so they haven’t alienated their loyal fans and have given them a chance of getting new followers. They know what everyone loved about them but they knew it would sound weird, as they are now middle age singing about teenage problems so they have continued what they were doing but they have cleverly developed it.

There are a number of examples where their songs from this album could fit into their old ones. ‘Natives’ has an upbeat tempo and is definitely a classic ‘blink-182’ song and would not look out of place on ‘Enema of the State’. ‘After Midnight’ was a last minute addition to the album after they cancelled their original European Tour and in my opinion is one of their better songs so I am glad they included it, this is another instant classic and could be on the ‘Take off Your Pants and Jacket’ album. The most remarkable song on the album though, is the very impressive ‘Heart’s All Gone’ as it is instantly accessible as it perfectly blends elements from one of their very first studio albums, ‘Dude Ranch’ and their previous ‘Blink-182’. It is a high energy pop-punk song and just makes you want to jump around by listening to it. Plus, it also proves to me that Travis Barker is the best drummer in the world right now and his near death experience hasn’t stopped his speed and accuracy with the drumsticks.

All three members of the band brought together different ideas and it is clear to see that Tom DeLonge brought more of a stadium rock back with him from Angels & Airwaves, while Barker brought back with him more of a hip-hop feel and it is difficult to judge what Mark Hoppus brought back but I suppose you could describe it as an unconventional indie rock. All these different sounds create something new but they do manage to stay catchy, the song ‘Kaleidoscope’ is about the band’s transformation as it is new but recognisable. I think this song will be a lot of people’s favourites especially if you prefer Hoppus to DeLonge.

The album covers many different themes but a recurrent one is definitely death. It opens with ‘Ghost on the Dancefloor’ and is about hearing a song you shared with someone that has passed away. The band got back together after two deaths and Barker was terribly affected by this song as it reminded him of DJ AM.

Not everything they try is a success such as ‘Fighting the Gravity’ which just tries too much to be different and at times you want Hoppus to do more as at times it does feel like DeLonge is the lead and at times he can be a little too whiny and it can get too much. DeLonge was always at his best when he was making jokes in his songs but when he is trying to be serious all the time it can get a little irritating. Blink-182 are back and it was worth the wait but hopefully next time they will give Hoppus more tracks to himself.

Who is Frank Turner?

Frank Turner was chosen to warm up the Olympic opening ceremony and a lot of people may have been saying who is this guy?

Frank Turner performing at the opening ceremony

It was a surprise to me that he was chosen but after I thought about it for a while I realised it was a masterstroke and he was the perfect choice as he can perform just as brilliantly in front of a few people in a living room as he can in front of millions. With his lyrics so meaningful combined with his punk past he is in a quite rare genre of music which is folk-punk which is most likely the reason why not as many people will have heard of him. But, as he proved he is instantly likeable which inevitably leads to sing-along’s. Frank Turner is an outstanding individual but it is difficult to describe his sound at times, however he manages to draw in the crowds with his down to earth humour and joyful noise, add this to his clear passion for writing and performing music and you have someone that deserves a little more success than he has got in recent years.

‘Poetry of the Deed’ is the album I have chosen  to look at to show off some of Frank Turner’s skills and it begins brilliantly with an upbeat piano sound and tongue in cheek lyrics in  ‘Live Fast Die Old’ and then continues onto the brilliant song, ‘Try This At Home’ which has a punk ethic to it and can be described as quite frantic at times but the energy to it makes you want to repeat it over and over again. It is basically a song about following his lead and has some of the greatest and funniest lyrics in it, ‘No such as thing as rock starts they’re just people who play music and some are just like us and some of them are d**ks.’ This made me laugh because he isn’t taking himself too seriously and is taking a swipe at other artists who love themselves and more like tools that produce the same rubbish over and over again.

Turner has had some praise and some exposure in the past when the first single off the album ‘The Road’ was named hottest record in the world by Zane Lowe on BBC Radio 1 when it was released. It is another first in the air song with an unforgettable chorus and this song in particular shows the charm to his voice which gives his music its personality.

‘Dan’s Song’ is another great song but the whole album seems to lack something and it is a fantastic place for new fans to start but if you are an older fan of Frank Turner then you will see a lot of songs that just aren’t quite up to his earlier standard and they seem to be missing something, in particular, ‘Sunday Nights’, ‘Richard Divine’ and ‘Isabel’. ‘Isabel’ is a strange song though because it has his usual good lyrics and is quite heartfelt but still doesn’t feel quite right.

‘Poetry of the Deed’ is a good album and I would recommend it to a lot of people but there are a lot of flaws to it and it isn’t quite as good as its predecessor ‘Love Ire & Song’ but if you are a big fan of the man then you should definitely get both.

Akon- Freedom Album Review

Some bands and artists try to change their style slightly to get new fans while keeping their older one happier.

Akon has had two number one singles in the UK

This is what R&B and hip hop artist Akon tried to do with his third album ‘Freedom’ and looking at the sales figures and how well he did in the charts it seems like his change in style worked and it was a good album. After being released in December 2008, the album reached number six in the UK Album Charts and number seven on the Billboard 200 but I think that is basically because a lot of people will have bought this album hoping for more of the same from Akon. Straightaway, there is a more dance feel to the album and is obviously very different to his first two albums as it was his first album that didn’t carry a Parental Advisory warning.

So onto the album itself, it is very easy to listen to when you are doing something else but in my opinion this is a bad thing for it because it doesn’t make you take any notice of it and you sort of forget you are listening to music. Akon is a clever writer but this album feels like he hasn’t put in much effort and his usually good hooks are missing so he has let himself down here. Another thing that makes this album poor is the fact that the first two songs are the best ones and I can imagine after the first two songs are played people will just turn it off or go back to the start which is a very wise decision.

In his defence ‘Right Now (Na Na Na) is a very catchy tune and is simple so it is easy to see why a lot of people liked this song. However, for his fans this will have been something strange to them as they may have been expecting more songs like ‘Smack That’. The change from rap to pop is quite a big leap and I know it isn’t a nice thing to say but Akon lost a bit of his edge when he stopped rapping about his past convictions and started singing about getting back together with his partner etc.

Most of the songs are poor but the song ‘Sunny Day’ featuring Wyclef Jean stuck out for me but that is only because Jean really stands out and is amazing because he is clearly a talented man yet he doesn’t overshadow Akon and makes him sound better.

I have slated this album quite a lot but to be honest I could pick out any pop stars album and see that they aren’t very good either which makes me wonder why they sell out big tours and their albums get near to the top of the charts. Pop artists and maybe even more now R&B stars focus on singles rather than albums as they know that if they put out one or two good songs people will buy their albums and come see them live. ‘Freedom’ leaves you feeling empty and this is a real shame as Akon is a decent singer but he uses a lot of effects which makes you realise he’s not confident he can pull off this style of music for a full album.

I think this is where music is going downhill because the bands that are producing good albums and putting in effort in every song are not getting the recognition in the singles charts which means that a lot of people won’t have heard of them or even if they have, they may be reluctant to pay for their albums.

Linkin Park- Living Things Album Review

Linkin Park continue to be one of the most unique bands in the world selling over 50 million albums worldwide and aren’t afraid to try out new genres.

No matter what they try it never seems like they are out of their depth, with the talents of Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda it is easy to see why they are so successful. It is difficult to pigeonhole the band into a specific genre for a number of reasons. In their early albums, it was more a case of alternative metal with a lot of rap and hip hop elements but with Joe Hahn on the turntables it gave it a more electronic feel at times. To me, they are so unique simply because they aren’t standing still and want to progress further and make new sounds, they clearly love what they are doing and are experimenting with new sounds all the time. All of their albums will divide opinions even amongst their own fans who may have hoped for one thing and got another, for example, if you loved Linkin Park because of Shinoda’s rapping then ‘Minutes to Midnight’ wouldn’t have been that enjoyable seen as though it only had two songs on in which he was rapping.

So what does their latest album offer? To me they have moved even further away from the metal genre as they continue to work more on their electronic sound however to me it is the bigger and louder choruses that make the difference in the album ‘Living Things’. The song ‘Victimized’ is a brilliant song which showcases a slightly different style they have gone for, drummer Rob Bourdon is sublime in this song and could easily overshadow everyone else in this song. Shinoda’s rapping isn’t too complicated and is reasonably laid back and the first verse is quite slow but then it does burst into life during the chorus when Bennington is screaming the word, victimized.

I am one of the fans that prefers their songs with Shinoda rapping as it sometimes seems a little bland without him even with all of their electronic sounds. The two songs that impressed me most were ‘Lies, Greed, Misery’ and ‘Until it Breaks’, they are both led by Shinoda who’s rapping skills are impressive especially in ‘Until it Breaks’ however this song is slightly let down by Bennington as it seems to me like they just wanted him involved somehow and I feel like it could have just been shortened instead of filling up parts of the song with him singing.

The album is closer to ‘Hybrid Theory’ than their last two albums because it is more energetic and angry and this is highlighted by the fact it is under 37 minutes long and no song is over four minutes while four are under three. It debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 as well as the UK album chart so the fans are clearly willing to listen to their experimentations and uniqueness and I think a huge reason for this is simply because you never quite know what to expect and how many other artists or bands can you say that about?

Will comedy music become mainstream?

Comedy music can come in many different forms such as parodies of popular songs, novelty songs, comedy rock and comedy hip hop and is just seen as a bit of fun but is it now actually becoming something that a lot of people will listen to?

The Midnight Beast seem to have alerted everyone to their music with their TV show and are now starting to make an impact on the ITunes charts as well as getting praise from other artists. The group from London have been getting positive reactions from not only the general public but also the people that they are parodying. ‘Tik Tok Parody’ reached number 90 in the UK and even Ke$ha stated on her website that it was even better than her version. Surely then it is only a matter of time before they bring out a song that will go right near the top of the charts? On YouTube they have over 300,000 subscribers and and a combined 50 million views on their channel which just shows how popular the group are and now with their TV being out, I expect their album which is due out on the 13th August to be a massive success.

Stefan, Dru and Ashley are hoping to make it big in the UK

However, it is easy to say they will be a success and its clear people like their songs but that doesn’t mean people will want to pay for them. If they do need to loom somewhere for inspiration then Weird Al Yankovic is certainly someone that has made a living out of parodying songs and writing his own comedy songs as he has sold over 12 million albums and received four gold records and six platinum records in America.

‘Weird Al’ even reached the top 10 of the Billboard 200 in 2006 with his album ‘Straight Outta Lynwood’ with even the title of his album being a parody of N.W.A’s album ‘Straight Outta Compton’. Even the single ‘White & Nerdy’ (a parody of Ridin Dirty by Chamillionaire) reached number 9 and it just goes to show that comedy can make a mark on the charts.

The Lonely Island are probably the most similar to The Midnight Beast in America and they have had even more success some would argue than ‘Weird Al’ as they have collaborated with a lot of artists including T-Pain, Akon, Justin Timberlake, Rihanna and Natalie Portman. These are some huge artists in the world of music, with the exception of Portman who is an actress. They, like The Midnight Beast first started off on YouTube but they have quickly grown into a well known group all around the world.

There are plenty more examples of music being influenced by comedy, for example, Tenacious D use a lot of jokes in their songs and they in my opinion would fit into the bracket of comedy rock along with Bloodhound Gang (although they are less ‘rock’). The list does go on and they are getting huge numbers of hits on YouTube like Flight of the Conchords.

That could be part of the problem though people want to have a laugh listening to their songs but do they really want it to come on whilst listening to their iPod on shuffle? My guess would be no and that is why it is difficult just to focus on the music and a lot of the ‘singers’ have to do other things such as TV work or even just be a comedian and use music in their work such as Bo Burnham and Tim Minchin.

The Forgotten Number One Artist- Afroman

Joseph Edgar Foreman spent three weeks at number one in 2001 with his famous song that a lot of people will remember once they hear his stage name, Afroman knocked off Kylie Minogue’s ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ with his single, ‘Because I got high’.

The song highlights the problems of taking cannabis in everyday life and rose to popularity after it circulated round the internet with many new admirers of the rapper. The song was later used on films such as ‘Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back’, ‘Disturbia’, ‘A Thousand Words’ and ‘The Perfect Score’ which made it even more recognisable to a wider audience. But what happened to Afroman and why do not many people remember him unless you say the title of his song?

Well the main reason is he didn’t really have much success in the UK or even in America afterwards but he still continues to write and make new music. He has released 13 albums in total with a 14th expected this year called ‘Marijuana Music’ so he has kept trying to make the breakthrough once again. Surprisingly, he also has a greatest hits album which makes me think that he does have very loyal fans but they must surely be few and far between.

However, I may be being a bit harsh as the album ‘The Good Times’ in 2001 reached number 10 in the US Billboard 200 and the song ‘Crazy Rap’ also reached number 10 in the UK Singles Chart. The album was his first studio album which was composed mainly from songs off his previous independent albums. The most famous song and the number one ‘Because I got High’ was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance in 2002.

The reason this came to my head is because I am becoming disenchanted with the music charts in the UK because it seems to be the same stuff that is getting to number one and nothing really that different seems to get the recognition it deserves. The singles chart is dominated by the same artists and the same genre of music which is now boring to me and I would love to see someone completely different take the top spot from Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber. Everyone knows that nine times out of 10 when they release a new song it will go straight to the top spot in the charts. Would Afroman have even got the chance to get to number one in the year 2012? I don’t think anyone would know who he was or even heard his famous song, which would have been very disappointing and shows that the music industry is much harder to break into these days than it once was.