Passion Pit, Mayer albums and others hit high notes
Published: Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, August 29, 2012 17:08
Channel Orange, Frank Ocean
After his mix tape branded him brilliant, Frank Ocean released his first full-length album to severe scrutiny. Fortunately for both himself and his listeners, he nailed it.
Each track comes with a new set of surprised, between the genius lyricisms, backbeats and consistently on-point sensual crooning, soaring falsetto and guttural rap combination. He has, thankfully, taken R&B a step farther from the overplayed hits destined for dark dance floors and grinding teenagers, and a step towards the emotional candor all artists should be striving for.
While insta-hits like ‘Super Rich Kids,’ and ‘Thinkin’ Bout You,’ will immediately stand out, the subtler though equally awe-inducing tracks like ‘Lost,’ ‘Bad Religion’ and ‘Sweet Life,’ are not to be missed.
‘Pyramids’ may be the highlight of the album, a mind-blowing mash up of genres and beats that could cater to almost any audience and is certainly worth sticking out its near 10 minute play length. Unexpected dance-y hooks are spliced between the R&B expected from the album, and even some guitar riffs are added, which melt into synth as the track closes out.
A contender for artist of the year, Ocean has torn the title of R&B king from R. Kelly’s fingers, and the torch has involuntarily been passed on to this very well-suited successor. Needless to say, his album is well-deserving of the hype surrounding it.
It is relentless, it is scuzzy, it is candy coated, it is harmonious, it blares in your ear and it will not go away—it is Passion Pit, at it again.
This earsplitting, energetic musical assault is, at times, a sensory overload, but fans have come to expect this from the five-piece hailing from Massachusetts.
Tracks like ‘I’ll Be Alright,’ catch the album at its most excessive and zany, but for each palpating track there is a surprisingly mellow, slow jam counterpart. The come down from the high starts almost immediately after track-two with the songs ‘Carried Away,’ and ‘Constant Conversations,’ which are highlights of the album.
While it can hardly be said that Gossamer surpasses the raw brilliance of the band’s 2009 debut Manner, it makes a nice companion to its big brother, and makes moves to parse out and diversify the band’s already unique sound. Though some tracks are forgettable, such as ‘On My Way,’ or tedious such as ‘Mirrored Sea,’ the number of quality gems vastly outweighs any tracks that didn’t live up to the steep expectations. ‘It’s Not My Fault, I’m Happy,’ launches off and doesn’t stop, building up to a euphoric all-encompassing five minutes.
Also, listen for the tales of hardship woven into the lyrics beneath layered synth and iconic falsetto, starkly contrasting the hyper immediate impression taken from the songs. The band has clearly been on a journey, and listeners are lucky enough to take the ride with them on this roller coaster of an album.
Born & Raised, John Mayer
Three years after the decent, though slightly stale and safe, Battle Studies, John Mayer is back and reinvented in the best way possible.
After some interviews that painted a less than admiral portrait, Mayer took off for Montana and has brought us back a new state of mind and a new style of music that is branded in Born & Raised.
In this album he was able to recapture the diversity and absolute hit-making power of some of his more timeless albums, such as Continuum. Though many years old, his older work will always maintain its incredible reputation.
Instrumentally and lyrically impressive as ever, Mayer has incorporated a new, nearly soft country style to his music. Particular tracks, such as ‘Shadow Days,’ ‘Age of Worry’ and ‘Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967’ take risks with the themes and honesty that show that Mayer was using this album as a public atonement rather than a dive for top spot in the charts.
It was hard to believe that the same man who nailed the Hendrix cover ‘Bold As Love,’ could have crafted purely pop singles like ‘Half Of My Heart,’ but that man is finally back, here to show us there is some soul left in the mangled shell from a few years back.
A decade after their debut album Songs About Jane, critics argue that by this fourth album Maroon 5 is not even the same band anymore, and those critics have a point.
While it is impossible to write Overexposed off as a ‘bad’ album, it does not quite feel like a Maroon 5 album. The first released single and the inescapable radio anthem ‘Payphone,’ featuring Wiz Khalifa, had both camps calling a ‘double sell out,’ in so many words; Wiz fans were frustrated that he was becoming too soft and mainstream, while Maroon 5 fans were arguing that the band was becoming too pop.
However, indignation from the ‘original’ audience is common when a band diversifies its sound to better accommodate their wider audience when they reach pop-star status, as Maroon 5 has done.