Showing posts with label easy listening. Show all posts
Showing posts with label easy listening. Show all posts

Sunday, November 24, 2019

video review: 'everyday life' by coldplay

Anyone who thinks critics enjoy making these kinds of reviews... yeah, no, this wasn't fun. I wanted to like this WAY more than I did.

And while I'm on that subject, I've got Beck up next - stay tuned!

album review: 'everyday life' by coldplay

It feels like it's been longer than it's actually been since I talked about Coldplay.

Now for you all that has more to do with Warner Music Group throwing a copyright block on my review of the last album to take it down worldwide only days after it was posted - because spineless violations of journalistic fair use are fun for the family - but the larger truth is that I just haven't had much incentive to seek or discuss Coldplay in the 2010s. Sure, they had a single pop up on my year-end list of the best hits of 2016 - that being 'Hymn For The Weekend' with Beyonce - but to be perfectly candid, it was more of a factor of the Hot 100 in 2016 being an absolute garbage fire rather than the song being a credible standout.

And yet this isn't coming from someone who as a critic dislikes this band, even if they've given me plenty of credible reasons - for the most part I like Coldplay, and they're incredible live. But if I were to compare the cyclical melodic progressions, strident crescendos, and willowy wistfulness of their best material across the 2000s, the 2010s have seen them flailing with pop and electronic pivots that don't fully play to those strengths, rarely bad but frequently underweight and bland. Granted, it didn't help the production quality took a nose dive when they ditched Brian Eno, but I'd argue the bigger problem was a collapse in dynamic range - at their best, Coldplay could take their broad abstractions to soar, feel like so much more than was present explicitly in the text, but with every layer of stiff percussion and underweight electronics, I just got no emotional impact. 

And thus I was worried about Everyday Life, because at this point, Coldplay's pop pivot wasn't going to stop, especially given Max Martin cowriting with them. And yet while this album was being advertised as a double album, in reality each disc was pretty short so this project still clocked under an hour - thank god. But hey, rock bottom expectations, there's nowhere to go but up, right, so how is Everyday Life?

Saturday, September 9, 2017

video review: 'bravado' by kirin j. callinan

And there we go, something I probably should have covered months ago, but overall turned out really fun, definitely recommended.

Okay, Brazy Da Bo$$ next, and then... hmm, this could be interesting... stay tuned!

Friday, September 8, 2017

album review: 'bravado' by kirin j. callinan

Okay, one thing that I've enjoyed a great deal in the Internet era is that it's started to break down the first boundaries of what pop 'should' be, at least outside of what's defined by the mainstream. And while of course I'll have an appetite for that sort of thing, I like hearing voices or tones that might use the pop framework but would fly in the face of what's traditionally acceptable in the genre, even though that definition has evolved with time.

But no matter what era of pop it is, I don't think an act like Kirin J. Callinan would have had an obvious place, especially if there was going to be any radio crossover. And sure, a big factor is how he fused ramshackle guitar and piano together or the lyrics that leaned explicitly political and more nakedly sexual that pushed more into punk or freak folk, but the bigger factor was his voice. The most obvious comparison, both given his Australian lineage and his low, guttural howls is Birthday Party-era Nick Cave, but instead of gothic trappings Callinan pushed towards a brawny, wild eyed but sharply incisive brand of synth and guitar driven pop that wouldn't be far removed from textures you'd find in the mid-80s, at least on his first record. That was three years ago, and this time for Bravado he brought in an even bigger cast of players, recruiting from the underground for acts like Weyes Blood in order to flesh out his sound. So, what spectacle did we get this time?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

album review: 'all that echoes' by josh groban

In my list of the Top 10 Best Songs of 2012, I made the comment that there are certain acts called 'silent majority', which are acts that get hugely popular, but never quite attain the level of critical acclaim or rabid fandom that others do. This is a strange affliction that commonly hits soft rock acts, typically those that lack a distinctive personality and authorial voice. You know, like Coldplay and Foster The People. Now, the label can be disingenuous - often times these acts have a fair bit of personality hiding beneath the surface, but most casual music listeners aren't going to dig deep enough to find that. However, society and the critics aren't always wrong: sometimes acts get big without really having a lot to say or all that much meaning behind them (looking at you, Mumford & Sons!).

And if there was one act that really epitomizes the 'silent majority act' stereotype, Josh Groban would be it. Now granted, Josh Groban does have a fanbase - typically a bit older and with some significant overlap with the fanbases of Michael Buble and Celine Dion - but it's not the kind of insane fandom that epitomizes the biggest acts. You're not going to find someone who claims that Josh Groban is their favourite artist, and you'll be hard-pressed to call him a critical darling either. 

In fact, Josh Groban's artistic evolution over the past few albums really deserves an examination, because it's a study of an artist learning and trying to write better music. His self-titled debut contained no songs written by him and most were in Italian or French, a tradition that tends to alienate most critics. Most took a bit more notice on his breakthrough album Closer, which still had more foreign-language songs than English ones, but was a better showing of what Josh Groban brought to the table (three of which he had writing credits on), namely an incredible voice and top-of-the-line classical production supporting him. And while his voice was well-liked, his production was criticized for being overly grandoise and with more bombast than substance - which, in my opinion, is a completely fair criticism. Unlike Meat Loaf, Josh Groban's early songs just didn't have enough behind them without the voice and charisma, and while the public was able to overlook that, others couldn't.

Now Josh Groban's third album, Awake, continued a lot of the same trends by Closer (more English tracks), Groban really didn't write much more for it, and while critics were intrigued by more interesting tracks like 'February Song', they still didn't really support the album by any stretch, for most of the same reasons they were lukewarm or cold on Closer.  And even despite Josh Groban working with lots of new producers to fine-tune his production (often times 'shrinking' it, which I'd argue had mixed results), he still hadn't quite nailed the formula that would allow him commercial and critical success. It didn't help matters Josh Groban didn't have the incredible power of a smash single off of Awake like with 'You Raise Me Up' on Closer

So then Josh Groban did something that intrigued me and critics alike: after dropping a pretty solid Christmas album and a fantastic live album, he began taking a much larger role in the writing process of his material. This led to 2010's Illuminations, an album that nearly nailed the sweet spot of critical and commercial success, going platinum and getting some rave reviews. Interestingly, Josh Groban took the approach of writing 'smaller' songs, and in contrast to the overblown vocally difficult epics he was known for, stuck to a more conventional singer-songwriter approach. And while this did deliver some fantastic songs ('Bells Of New York City', 'Higher Window', 'Hidden Away', 'If I Walk Away'), I'd argue his best song 'War At Home' - in my opinion, the best song he's ever written - was easily his biggest and most powerful. 'War At Home', in my mind, is the theme music to the best DC comics never written, and it nails that glorious scope for which Josh Groban's voice is such an apt fit. And really, as much as I liked Illuminations, it was frustrating to see such a personality like Groban confine his scope to such 'small' songs. The critics liked it because the songs were better written, but I think I prefer Groban when he sings big sweeping epics for which his voice is a natural fit. I wanted him to kick the songwriting up a notch, not abandon his larger scope.

And so I had no idea what to expect going into his newest album, All That Echoes. Was I going to see him recapture that epic power backed by his steadily-improving songwriting talents?