Pink – Funhouse – review

Pink comes right on time in 2008 with her highly anticipated and provocatively personal “Funhouse” album, addressing both her public and private persona, as only Pink can. Teaming once again with hit-makers Max Martin, Billy Mann, and others, Pink is poised to leave another memorable mark worldwide!

pink funhouse
Artist: Pink
Title: Funhouse
Label: LaFace
Rating: 6/10

Corporate line:
Pink comes right on time in 2008 with her highly anticipated and provocatively personal “Funhouse” album, addressing both her public and private persona, as only Pink can. Teaming once again with hit-makers Max Martin, Billy Mann, and others, Pink is poised to leave another memorable mark worldwide! Since her debut in 2000, Pink (Alecia Moore) has been widely hailed as a fearlessly talented singer, songwriter and the Pennsylvania native’s genre-defying creative risk-taking has propelled her to global stardom. To date, the chanteuse has sold 22 million albums cumulatively worldwide.

The good:

“So What” – Divorce sucks and Pink turns it into cotton candy sprinkled with a bit of sour grapes. Yes, the lyrics are weak and lack depth [“I’m a rock star/ I got my rock moves”] and won’t be earning her a Grammy any time soon. Then again, it’s impossible to forget and that sometimes means more.

“Sober” – Pink digs deep on this ballad and sings with serious grit ala Stevie Nicks.

“Bad Influence” – This is Pink selling her bad-ass attitude and hooking it into a song that makes you sing, sing, sing-a-long.

“Funhouse” – The lyrics are impossibly bad: “this used to be a funhouse/ but now its full of evil clowns” and yet the song is interest and Pink hasn’t sounded this cool in a while. What does a critic do?

“Mean” – Someone slipped Pink a country song. Pink might have been better off lending the song to Carrie Underwood. Then again, Pink might do well in Nashville.

The rest:

“I Don’t Believe You” – A bland ballad that never showcases Pink’s style or talent.

“Crystal Ball” – A pretty song that doesn’t fit on an album called “Funhouse.” Pink should do a folk album.

“Ave Mary A” – It would have been better if she sang the real “Ave Maria.” I’d pay money to hear that.

Finally:

Besides the amazing voice, it’s Pink’s personality that endears to her to fans and critics alike. Too often “Funhouse” doesn’t let her personality shine. “So What” is all attitude while “Sober” sounds like a Stevie Nicks song. Pink has always been eclectic, but never boring–a place she finds herself far too often on “Funhouse.”

Watch the live performance of “Sober”

Kaiser Chiefs – Off With Their Heads – review

Off With Their Heads could/should be described as being the first ‘proper’ Kaiser Chiefs’ album with a solid base on which is constructed a series of tracks which come together as an altogether less frenetic and more cohesive piece of work than previous outings and is almost certainly the better for it.

kaiser chiefs
Artist: Kaiser Chiefs
Title: Off With Their Heads
Label: Motown
Rating: 7/10

Corporate line:
Off With Their Heads could/should be described as being the first ‘proper’ Kaiser Chiefs’ album with a solid base on which is constructed a series of tracks which come together as an altogether less frenetic and more cohesive piece of work than previous outings and is almost certainly the better for it. The album was produced by Mark Ronson and Eliot James at RAK and Eastcote Studios in London in the Spring of 2008 and mixed by Andy Wallace (Nirvana, LCD Soundsystem, Run DMC) at Soundtrack Studios, Includes the single ‘Never Miss A Beat’.

The good:
“Never Miss A Beat” – This is the kind of brilliant pop single that the boys can produce without trying hard. One of their best tracks to date.

“Like It Too Much” – A hypnotic song that has a Blur flavor–during their epic days of big songs that sounded bigger than they were.

“Good Days Bad Days” – A happy-go-lucky single. Isn’t a classic however its one you’ll be singing-a-long to.

The rest:
“Spanish Metal” – The opener is mostly uninspiring and out of the Kaiser’s safe zone.

Finally:
The Kaiser Chiefs are never boring–that’s for sure. “Off With Their Heads” won’t go down as the Kaiser’s best to-date. Then again, Blur had a handful of albums that weren’t their best and yet after years became the sort of album you still craved for reminiscing. “Off With Their Heads” may do the same for the Kaiser Chiefs.

Watch the video for “Spanish Metal”

Snow Patrol – A Hundred Million Suns – review

Gary Lightbody (vocals/guitars) says, “”I’m so proud of this record. Everybody played out of their skin. Garret (Jacknife Lee) continued his progression from maverick genius to one of the best producers in the world. Musically, lyrically and sonically the best record we’ve made”

snow patrol
Artist: Title
Title: A Hundred Million Suns
Label: Interscope
Rating: 5/10

Corporate line:
Gary Lightbody (vocals/guitars) says, “”I’m so proud of this record. Everybody played out of their skin. Garret (Jacknife Lee) continued his progression from maverick genius to one of the best producers in the world. Musically, lyrically and sonically the best record we’ve made”

The Grammy-nominated band’s fifth studio album was recorded throughout the Summer of 2008 in Hansa Studios in Berlin (where Bowie recorded “Low,” “Heroes” and “Lodger”) and at Grouse Lodge deep in the Irish countryside. Written by Snow Patrol, the album was produced by Garret “Jacknife” Lee (Bloc Party, REM, U2).

Snow Patrol are one of the biggest selling UK bands this decade and “A Hundred Million Suns” follows up the 2006 Number One, seven-times platinum phenomenon Eyes Open which sold 2.1 million copies in the UK and over 1 million in the US. Eyes Open achieved platinum awards across the world from the US and Canada to Germany, Australia and beyond, selling over 4.5 million copies. Their single “Chasing Cars” has just received its 2 millionth download in the US.

The good:
“If There Is A Rocket Tie It To Me” – Simple. Lovely. The norm for Snow Patrol.

“The Planets Bend Between Us” – Again, a lovely song that you could listen to over and over. It’s a shame that it still sounds like some Coldplay song we’ve heard before.

“The Lightning Strike” – At 16 minutes this should sound a bit more epic. With that said, its one of the better tracks on the album. Something tells me it could have been ten minutes shorter.

The rest:
“Take Back The City” – Certainly a new flavor but it’s cheesy and not very convincing. It initially reminded me of Jefferson Starship–and that isn’t a good thing.

“Lifeboats” – Haven’t we heard this before?

“The Golden Floor” – A good track to listen to when you can’t sleep. Why does this have to be so boring?

“Disaster Button” – Perhaps the album’s worst track and the rare occasion when they aren’t piddling along. It sounds like an average song influenced by a bad ’80s commercial rock.

Finally:
Snow Patrol are stuck in honey. Sweet songs but nothing changes. They can’t shake their love for Coldplay and for slow songs that often sound too similar. Their one attempt at speeding up the pace sounded like Jefferson Starship. Gary Lightbody sings that he’s “not afraid of anything.” That isn’t true entirely, he seems fairly afraid of being daring. It’s a shame that Snow Patrol still operates as if they have to be the ultra safe version of Coldplay.

Nikka Costa – A Peeble to a Pearl – review

The latest radiant gem by the gifted singer-songwriter and performer Nikka Costa — is far and away her most direct and convincing musical statement yet. If this is Costa’s most pleasing album to date — and it clearly is — then it’s exactly because the woman singing to us so powerfully has finally found the creative freedom to first and foremost please herself.

nikka costa
Artist: Nikka Costa
Title: A Peeble to a Peeble
Label: Stax
Rating: 0/10

The latest radiant gem by the gifted singer-songwriter and performer Nikka Costa — is far and away her most direct and convincing musical statement yet. If this is Costa’s most pleasing album to date — and it clearly is — then it’s exactly because the woman singing to us so powerfully has finally found the creative freedom to first and foremost please herself.

The good:

“Stuck On You” – Costa roars with her signature style. It’s her sexually charged funk that charges up your soul.

“Can’t Please Everybody” – Is this song from 2008 or 1978? Costa’s greatest asset, besides her voice, is her authenticity. It shines through every note of her amazing voice.

“Love To Love You Less” – This instantly reminds me of Ray Charles and the brilliant twists and turns of love. Love, joy and pain always inspire great songs and Costa does a great job bringing it home.

“Keep Pushin” – Get your funk on. Costa is spirited as hell and doesn’t sell the same sound just to make a buck.

“Someone For Everyone” – Simply beautiful.

“Cry Baby” – Costa wears her heart on her sleeve–but her pain is our joy.

The rest:
“Loving You” – Imagine sitting in a bar with smoke floating through like fog waiting for last call–we’ll this song fits that atmosphere.

“Bullets in the Sky” – A nice closer that is mostly unremarkable.

Finally:

What does Nikka Costa and Amy Winehouse have in common? Their voices are the most obvious similarity, but they also shared a producer. You might be surprised that Nikka Costa had the producer and style long before Winehouse turned up. “Peeble To A Pearl” is solid soul. It’s amazing that a couple white women own soul music right now. Thankfully Nikka Costa is keeping it alive.

Watch the video for “Stuck On You”

Rise Against – Appeal To Reason – review

Chicago’s Rise Against is anything but a single-minded musical outfit. An astounding fusion of unhinged power, ear grasping melodies, stimulating lyrics and the ability to reach audiences in both underground and mainstream circles, they have redefined the rules. To date, the band has released four albums plus a rare material EP, and a DVD called Generation Lost. Each of their past two albums have sold just shy of 1/2 million copies in the U.S. with each album garnering three full on Modern Rock radio hits.

Rise Against
Artist: Rise Against
Title: Appeal To Reason
Label: Interscope
Rating: 0/10

Corporate line:
Chicago’s Rise Against is anything but a single-minded musical outfit. An astounding fusion of unhinged power, ear grasping melodies, stimulating lyrics and the ability to reach audiences in both underground and mainstream circles, they have redefined the rules. To date, the band has released four albums plus a rare material EP, and a DVD called “Generation Lost.” Each of their past two albums have sold just shy of 1/2 million copies in the U.S. with each album garnering three full on Modern Rock radio hits.

The good:
“Audience of One” – This is where Rise Against are at their Goo-ey best. Rise Against have some serious Goo Goo Dolls flavor on this song. It has the biggest potential for mass consumption. Whether that is good or bad is a matter of taste–but it seems that Rise Against has been chasing a hit throughout the album.

“The Dirt Whispered” – The rare occasion where a song feels like it has some soul–yet it still sounds far too much like every other song on the album.

The rest:
“Collapse (Post-Amerika)” – There is some passion and a message–but you’ve heard it all before except with more poignancy. Where are the Sex Pistols when you need a revolution?

“Forgotten Sons” – Rise Against shoots for an epic but settle for average.

“Entertainment” – The definition of filler.

Finally:
The biggest issue with Rise Against’s “Appeal To Reason” is that it doesn’t sound so new. Sadly, Rise Against doesn’t take a big enough risk. So instead of going more for a Bad Religion or Sex Pistols potency they settle for radio songs in a bad attempt at being the Goo Goo Dolls. Unfortunatly, Rise Against end up stuck in the middle of nowhere by playing it safe.

Jennifer Hudson – Jennifer Hudson – review

The 2008 self-titled debut album of Jennifer Kate Hudson reflects her high-powered soulful style voice which is transcendent and timeless. Guests features on the album include Fantasia on “I’m His Only Woman”, Ludacris on “Pocketbook”, plus the highlights version of “And I am Telling You I’m Not Going” from Dreamgirls.

Jennifer Hudson
Artist: Jennifer Hudson
Title: Jennifer Hudson
Label: Arista
Rating: 7/10

Corporate line:
The 2008 self-titled debut album of Jennifer Kate Hudson reflects her high-powered soulful style voice which is transcendent and timeless. Guests features on the album include Fantasia on “I’m His Only Woman”, Ludacris on “Pocketbook”, plus the highlights version of “And I am Telling You I’m Not Going” from Dreamgirls. Jennifer first gained notice as one of the finalists on the third season of the FOX television series American Idol. She went on to star as Effie White in the 2006 motion picture adaptation of the musical Dreamgirls for which she won numerous awards including an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, a BAFTA and a SAG Award.

The good:

“If This Isn’t Love” – A beautiful ballad that showcases Hudson’s strength.

“Giving Myself” – Again, Hudson breezes through another epic ballad that sounds ready for the finale of American Idol.

“I’m His Only Woman” f/ Fantasia – Two women singing their hearts out–what else is there to say.

“Can’t Stop The Rain” – The slowest and most laid back ballad. It’s getting cliche to say Hudson can sing any ballad, good or bad, and make it sound great.

“Jesus Promised Me A Home Over There” – The album ends on a high note as Hudson drops a beautiful bit of gospel on us.

The rest:

“Spotlight” – Reaches back into the soul of the ’70s but never hits the big booming epic sound of Donna Summers.

“Pocketbook” – Light on lyrics and melody. It’s a shame becuase the verses are hot. The hook is almost nonexistent as Hudson sings over and over “hit you with my pocketbook.”

“Whats Wrong (Go Away)” f/T-Pain – Again, the overuse of digital effects–in this case every vocal part by T-Pain is digitized. It destroys the song.

Finally:
Jennifer Hudson has the voice to dominate R&B and pop. The songs, for the most part, are good. But there aren’t any songs that are truly great. With a voice like hers you are always waiting for a song to give you goosebumps.

T.I. – Paper Trail – review

T.I. has grown to truly be one of his generation’s most captivating speakers. Whether he’s conversing frankly with a room full of youth about the positive side of staying in school and following their dreams, or moving tens of thousands at one of his concerts, the audiences are immediately engrossed by the King of the South’s words.

t.i. paper trail
Artist: T.I.
Title: Paper Trail
Label: Atlantic
Rating: 7.5/10

Corporate line:
T.I. has grown to truly be one of his generation’s most captivating speakers. Whether he’s conversing frankly with a room full of youth about the positive side of staying in school and following their dreams, or moving tens of thousands at one of his concerts, the audiences are immediately engrossed by the King of the South’s words. T.I., here delivers his most potent and important LP to date; “Paper Trail.” The title is a direct reference to T.I.’s return to literally writing down his lyrics- a practice he hasn’t engaged in since his debut. By going back to the basics T.I. has evolved into a better MC. The album features guest appearances and production by Lil Wayne. Rihanna, Usher, The Dream, Fall Out Boy, Kanye West, B.O.B, John Legend, DJ Toomp, Swizz Beatz, Drumma Boy, & Danja.

The good:

“I’m Illy” – When T.I. burns he’s hot as an inferno. This is the way we’d like him all the time.

“Whatever You Like” – It’s made for radio–it doesn’t matter when its good.

“Ready For Whatever” – “Can’t afford the price of fame/ ’cause it cost to much.” Perhaps T.I. finally realizes that being a hip-hop artist puts a big target on your back and he was hit in the bullseye. The best songs are written when depressed, under stress or in some sort of pain. And T.I. has some serious worries with jail on the horizon.

“On Top of the World” f/Ludacris – T.I. and Ludacris are hot duo. Ludacris hasn’t sounded this fresh in awhile.

“No Matter What” – A different flavor keeps the album fresh. Good to see T.I. mixing it up and doing it in a way that shows his multiple skills.

“Swing Ya Rag” – T.I. again has some new flavor thanks to Swizz Beatz. Then again its got some serious southern fried hip-hop and you know that’s all T.I.

“Swagga Like Us f/Jay-Z, Kanye West and Lil’ Wayne – An all-star party. The digital vocals are the only thing that keeps the song down.

The rest:

“Live Your Life” f/Rihanna – T.I. never gets off the ground and Rihanna does what she can with what she’s given–which isn’t much. Please someone stop with the digital effects to vocals–its beyond cliche at this point.

“My Life Your Entertainment” f/Usher

The terrible:
“Porn Star” – T.I. couldn’t have believed this was a good song–he probably fell in love with the title and just couldn’t let it go.

Finally:
T.I. has outdone himself. “Paper Trail” is his best release to date. The good news is T.I. shows that he can get better.

Watch the video for “Whatever You Like”

Watch the video for “No Matter What”

TV On The Radio – Dear Science – review

Good luck finding easy answers in TVOTR’s ever-evolving soundscapes, though, whether we’re talking about their new disc, “Dear Science” or the band’s early days. When guitarist/vocalist Kyp Malone joined, he didn’t even get what Sitek and vocalist Tunde Adebimpe were going for on their self-released 2002 debut, “OK Calculator.”

TV On The Radio
Artist: TV On The Radio
Title: Dear Science
Label: Interscope
Rating: 8/10

Corporate line:
“A lot of bands have something to say,” explains TV On The Radio producer/multi-instrumentalist David Sitek. “We have something to ask.”

Indeed. Good luck finding easy answers in TVOTR’s ever-evolving soundscapes, though, whether we’re talking about their new disc, “Dear Science” or the band’s early days. When guitarist/vocalist Kyp Malone joined, he didn’t even get what Sitek and vocalist Tunde Adebimpe were going for on their self-released 2002 debut, “OK Calculator.”

“If people are listening to us because we’re dark and brooding, great,” adds Sitek, “But I think there’s a greater percentage looking for us to do something different with every album. Some of the darkest songs on Dear Science are the more upbeat ones. Like ‘Crying’ is f**king heavy, dude.”

“It’s like Bukowski once said, ‘I write all of this stuff to get away from it,'” explains Adebimpe, who struggled with the deaths of a friend and family member during the making of Dear Science. “Writing is a meditation, an exercise to put away all these painful things.'”

And that’s ultimately what TV On The Radio still hopes to do with its music–they’re still looking to connect, to make people feel something, anything no matter how up or down a song’s arrangement is.

“I grew up listening to Joy Division, New Order, Echo & the Bunnymen, the Cure, the Smiths and the Swans,” says Malone. “Some of that qualifies as ‘goth’ but it didn’t make me depressed to listen to that music despite what my parents assumed. It didn’t add to my ‘angst’ as a teenager. I simply identified with something in the music.

“It made me feel less alone, you know?” he continues. “If I could be that for someone else, that would make me happy. It’d be a real form of success for me.”

The good:

“Golden Age” – A brilliant song that sounds so much bigger than anything you might have expect from TV On The Radio.

“Halfway Home” – There is nothing usual about this track as swims back and forth through its many different layers and subtle litany of “ba ba ba ba bum.” Who knew the dark side could sound so sweet.

“Crying” – Tragic lyrics shouldn’t sound so good should they? If all you heard was the music and vocals without listening to the lyrics you might misinterpret this as a hit from the ’80s.

“Family Tree” – Perhaps my bias for this song starts with the fact that it sounds a lot like Super Furry Animals.

The rest:
“Dancing Choose” – Adebimpe rhymes and its not bad–if not misplaced. The chorus isn’t bad and then it gets all R.E.M. “End of the World” right into a free for all.

“Red Dress”

Finally:

With a taste of the ’80s, from funk to pop, and then toss in a little Super Furry Animals for texture and you have TV On The Radio. Yes, that is something guaranteed to be interesting. It’s great when an album comes out and just destroys your expectations and then rebuilds them in a way that is so powerful. So what are they going to do next? Don’t worry about that just yet–enjoy “Dear Science” and what TV On The Radio’s are offering now.

Buckcherry – Black Butterfly – review

Buckcherry is back with a purpose, unleashing their newest effort, “Black Butterfly.” Following the platinum success of “15,” these LA rockers haven’t lost any of their edge.

buckcherry
Artist: Buckcherry
Title: Black Butterfly
Label: Atlantic
Rating: 6/10

Corporate line:
Buckcherry is back with a purpose, unleashing their newest effort, “Black Butterfly.” Following the platinum success of “15,” these LA rockers haven’t lost any of their edge.

The good:
“Tired of You” – Josh Todd has one of the best voices in rock. It’s that voice that can simply suck you into a song.

“Child called ‘It'” – A poignant song about child abuse.

“Cream” – Why this is the closing track is beyond me because it’s one of the best songs on the album.

“Rescue Me” – It’s great to have a band do one thing well–rock.

“Don’t Go Away” – This won’t go down as one of the great Buckcherry songs–it’s too generic to be great–but its still a good song. It’s trumped by “All of Me.”

The rest:
“Too Drunk…” – This seems like a concocted and forced follow-up to “Crazy Bitch.” Buckcherry is trying way to hard to be over-the-top. It’s the single and the weakest song on the album.

“Dreams” – This isn’t half as good as the song “For The Movies.”

Finally:
Buckcherry have moments of brilliance and moments where they sounds nearly ordinary–Josh Todd is the only reason they can never sound completely ordinary. Josh Todd is the glue that holds the band together. Nothing on “Black Butterfly” ever sounds on par with their initial hits “Lit Up” and “For the Movies.” Luckily nearly every track is good. “Black Butterfly” may not go down in your top ten of all time–but its still fun to take on the road and singing your lungs out to.

Watch the video for “Too Drunk…”

Nelly – Brass Knuckles – review

Grammy award-winning artist Nelly breaks four years of silence with straight hand-to-mic combat on his fifth studio album Brass Knuckles.

nelly
Artist: Nelly
Title: Brass Knuckles
Label: Universal
Rating: 5/10

Corporate line:
Grammy award-winning artist Nelly breaks four years of silence with straight hand-to-mic combat on his fifth studio album Brass Knuckles.

The St. Louis rapper has sold 30 million albums to date — and he’s approaching his upcoming release with renewed intensity. “When you’re the champion you have to psyche yourself into thinking you’re the underdog, even if people don’t see you as that,” Nelly confesses. “Nobody going to give you anything, you got to work hard for what you want. You got to continue to press.”

Nelly makes his statement in the form of brass-tacks vocal tracks, dance floor anthems and suggestive, seductive slow jams. A master at dynamic collaborations, he’s assembled a cast of all-stars to collaborate including Usher, Pharrell, Akon, Ciara, Chuck D, Snoop Dogg, Jermaine Dupri, Ashanti, Avery Storm and the St. Lunatics. “When you hear the energy change, or the tempo switches to a nice flow, it means something,” he says. Nelly shows his versatility spitting rhymes with deep, percussive flow, and then switching it up to sing over soulful hooks.

The good:
“Self Esteem” f/Chuck D. – Nelly hits pay dirt with this track. Nelly didn’t need help here, but he got the best kind from the greatest M.C. of all time Chuck D.

The rest:

“U Ain’t Him” f/Rick Ross – Is Nelly trying to prove he is a gangster? He’s either telling someone they aren’t as tough as him or that they are looking stupid trying because “you ain’t him.”

“Hold Up” f/L.L. cool J and T.I. – Too many guests that don’t have much to offer on a track that doesn’t have any urgency or potency.

“LA” f/Snoop Dogg – Nelly should stick with the St. Louis style. Nelly just doesn’t have it in him to rhyme like Snoop or the likes of Warren G.

“Lie” f/St. Lunatics – The chorus is hilarious because its so bad. These are the worst rhymes of Nelly’s career.

“Body On Me” f/Akon – Nelly again kicks out a song without trying hard. The lyrics are a joke.

“Stepped On My J’z” f/Jermaine Dupri – As if it couldn’t get any worse Nelly proves me wrong.

Finally:
Nelly can’t seem to rap on “Brass Knuckles” without a guest star. My guess is that he knew the tracks were weaker than usual and that he wanted to mask it with big name camouflage. Every track has an artist or two to help get Nelly through and none help the cause except Chuck D. Nelly still has the flow but too often Nelly tries to adopt their styles. The album doesn’t have any of the excitement and sing-song that made him famous.

Watch the video for “Body on Me”