June music reviews
Great new music from Coldplay, Weezer, Ashanti and Flobots
Viva la vida or death and all his friends
I have been waiting with great anticipation for this month’s music reviews and, if you’re a Coldplay fan, I’m sure you have too. Good news my friends, the newest album from Coldplay, Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, is (insert drum roll here) … excellent.
Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends is a triumphant fourth album for a band that faltered slightly with their last endeavor. X&Y wasn’t terrible, but it certainly wasn’t the calibre of music that we have come to expect from Mr. Martin and company. Perhaps it was the return of their fifth member, former manager Phil Harvey, which pushed the band into a musical realm that will both surprise and excite you, but I suspect it may have had more to do with their collaboration with über-producer Brian Eno.
The album was under incredibly tight security and music journalists had to attend a ‘private listening event’ in order to hear it. I didn’t mind though, I actually encourage hunky security guards to frisk me for recording devices any chance I get! Once past the human roadblock, the listening began and the experience quickly became audio ecstasy.
We’ll start with the first single “Violet Hill.” You’ve definitely heard it by now and hopefully checked out the video.
It certainly lays the groundwork for what to expect with the album. In a press release put out by the label, Martin says, “this album was fueled by a desire to move from black and white into colour, or if you like, we decided to let our garden grow a little more unkempt. The bloodhound was let off its leash”. Straight from the horse’s mouth and I couldn’t say it any better.
From beginning to end, it is evident that Chris Martin, Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland and Will Champion have undergone a musical metamorphosis, one that signals both the bands maturity, and their willingness to experiment with their sound. This isn’t typical Colplay, but it most certainly works. With headier lyrics, robust drums and distinctive harmonies, Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends may be Coldplay’s best album to date.
Who knows what their next single will be but I truly hope the gods of radio recognize “Lost,” a song that intertwines grandiose church organs and Will Champion’s brawny drumming, as the hit that I’m sure it’s destined to be.
“Lovers in Japan” combines the classic Coldplay sound with some anthem qualities to create a rich and powerful song.
“Yes” may be the most experimental song on the album, as they delve into an exotic Indian sound where Martin shows off his capacious vocal range. Those of you who read ellecanada.com music reviews may know that I am a strong proponent of the ‘hand clap’ in music and I’m happy to report that Viva La Vida fulfills this obscure desire of mine. “Yes” isn’t lyrically a song that’s going to cheer you up, but just keep clapping along into the next track “Chinese Sleep Chant” (you won’t see this one on the track listing because it’s a secret song … whoops, too bad I can’t keep a secret). And make sure you don’t turn it off after the final track either because there is a second ‘secret song’ after “Death and All his Friends.”
Including both the hidden tracks, we’re looking at about 46 minutes of audio excellence that makes it the shortest Coldplay album to date. Lead guitarist Jonny Buckland explains the reason for the brevity was because “We realized we hadn’t really listened to any albums all the way through for quite a long time, the simple reason being that people put too many songs on them.” I think this album makes a great argument for the saying “less is more” (which I never quite understood until now). Viva la Vida does leave you wanting more, but in my opinion that’s what a good album should do, as opposed to leaving you wanting less and turning it off half way through. Believe me when I tell you that you’re going to dig this from front to back.
Now on to album artwork, something that I feel we have begun to dismiss in an age where we no longer receive our music in a tactile form. Coldplay makes a bold statement in using Eugene Delacroix’s famous painting Liberty Leading the People, commemorating the French Revolution. A bold statement for a bold album that represents a bold new direction for this British band and I say “long live the revolution!”
In my opinion Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends is Coldplay’s greatest album to date. Pick it up on June 17th and let me know what you think at [email protected].
The Red Album
So it wasn’t true after all. Weezer did not break up. I repeat, Weezer did not break up. Not surprisingly, a popular Music Television website took Rivers Cuomo’s statement that “Weezer was done” and morphed it into “Weezer broke up!” Clearly they have not, since they are about to release their sixth album this month.
It just goes to show you that you can’t believe everything you read, unless I wrote it. HA!
Rivers Cuomo simply meant that the band was done for the moment. He went back to school, got married, and had a kid – the things that people do when they’re living life. Personally I would like to meet this woman that married Rivers, as it’s no secret that the dude is a bit eccentric to say the least. Lucky for him, he’s a rock star, and eccentricity works so well in the Rock Star profession. Lucky for us, Weezer didn’t break up and Rivers Cuomo is back to doing what he does best, making unique pop songs with substance and charisma. It’s great to see him back with the band, as I didn’t find his solo effort too satisfying. If you refer to the January edition of ellecanada.com music reviews, you’ll see that I said River’s Cuomo solo effort was like Michael Jordan’s attempt at professional baseball. In theory it should have worked but in reality, a definite fizzler. Now he’s back on track with Weezer and The Red Album proves that the band’s still got it. Aw yeah.
“Pork and Beans” has been on high rotation on rock radio and that was the point. Apparently the label told Weezer to go back and write a hit single. So he did and it is. Listen closely though and you’ll hear a dig or two about how Rivers feels about being told what to do. Very clever. Their video for the single is just as good. Check it out on YouTube and you’ll see one of the most clever videos I’ve seen in a while.
Track four, “Heart Songs,” is my personal favorite as Cuomo recounts the songs that are closest to him, an idea that we can all relate too.
In fact, I think that the charm of this album is that it’s music that is relatable, a true sign of a master musician and a simple request from fans, don’t you think?
Make sure you give “Dreamin'” as listen as it incorporates heavier guitar riffs and singable lyrics. You’ll enjoy “Cold and Dark World” a track that, like its title, is a dim tune showcasing a sinister side of Weezer. The gist is this, The Red Album is listenable from front to back. Rivers Cuomo is back where he belongs, in the loving embrace of the other six arms that make up Weezer. Oh one last thing, make sure you make note of Rivers sweet new moustache. Trés Magnum P.I.
In a 65 second intro, Ashanti proclaims, “I’m declaring me.” I was ready for it. Come on Ashanti; let me hear you declare yourself. Go on girl. The album begins with track 2, “The Way that I Love You” and is unremarkable and ordinary. The same can be said for “You’re Gonna Miss,” “Mother” and “In these Streets.” It seems as though ol’Ashanti has had her heart broken of late, or at least saved all heart breaks for this album.
Ashanti is certainly capable of heavy R&B soul sounds, none of which she decided to break out for this album. Collaborations with R&B and hip-hop heavy hitters don’t really help either. Robin Thicke shows up on “Good Good” adding inspirational keys and contributing some ‘uhs’ and ‘woos’ but unlike Akon’s ‘woo hoo’ in “The Sweet Escape” these lyrical donations prove annoying rather than catchy. Speaking of Akon, he and Nelly show up in the next song, “Body on Me.” It should be good, but it simply isn’t. Nelly provides the best part of the track but that’s roughly 10 seconds so it doesn’t really save the song.
It’s not like I enjoy disliking an artists attempt at making an album, I certainly couldn’t do it, but I think when it comes to females and R&B we currently have some serious contenders. Mariah, Beyonce and even Christina Aguilera have set the bar incredibly high. Unless Ashanti can somehow pole vault her way up and over that bar, she might want to try another genre. I hear yodeling is looking for some acts.
Sarcasm aside, I like Ashanti and this album just isn’t what she needed to do to stay in that R&B Diva category. It’s roller rink material.
Let me know what you think!
Check this out!
Fight With Tools
I just stumbled upon hip-hop group Flobots and I genuinely enjoy their socially and politically motivated lyrics and rhymes. Maybe you’ve already heard “Handlebars” on modern rock radio. The entire album is awesome. Check it out and let me know what you think.
Until next time, go forth and make sweet melodies.
Love or hate my reviews? Have a new band that’s worth listening to? Let me know by e-mailing me here! [email protected]