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Good Lovin’ | Artist-tree Music Group
Andria Simone’s style is perhaps not from our time, but the soul in her voice mixed with the R&B tones of her music is made for our generation. Obvious comparisons have been made between Simone and other soul singers like Alicia Keys, Amy Winehouse, and the mega-powerhouse voice of Adele. Simone’s debut mini-album Good Lovin’ is a raw album that showcases Simone’s voice but also looks at the artist in a more light-hearted way.
The album was produced and largely co-written by Greg Kavanagh and Demetri James, owners of Artist-tree Music Group, who chose Simone to be their flagship artist. Her album starts with an upbeat girl-power vibe with tracks like “Do What I Want” and “Good Lovin’” and then quickly moves into more broken-hearted ballads like “Shame” and “Only A Thought.” Without electronic enhancement, Simone’s voice is accompanied only by backup vocals and bluesy instrumentals.
The lyrics are strong for the most part; “You’re No Good For Me” and “Shame” are particularly noteworthy. However, some content does come off a bit contrived, like in the song “Operator,” and there is a slight sense of repetition, especially at the beginning.
Good Lovin’ is an album that builds and is at its strongest in the last half. As a whole, it’s a solid first album for Simone, who is a Canadian artist we can all be proud of, with a voice that deserves to be heard.
Divided | Unsigned
I’m a bit of a nerd. My vice? Drums. This album has one of the most talented drummers in the world and he goes by the name of Travis Orbin. The record has a very ambient feel, a type of music that’s all about the creation of an atmosphere of relaxation and the extension of your inner artist. If you’re an artist or someone who listens to music to help you think, I suggest this album. The music has powerful creative energy, complex instrumental brilliance, and transcendent simplicity. It’s perfect for studying, too.
This EP includes four songs plus a bonus track, a second version of the song “AKT” with vocals by Gabriel Riccio of The Gabriel Construct, a project that also featured Orbin on drums.
The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2 | RCA
The release of Justin Timberlake’s platinum album, The 20/20 Experience – 1 of 2 in February was a significant release in popular music. Now he completes the two-album set with The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2, a more produced album than its predecessor but no less of an experience.
The 14-track album (12 if you don’t purchase the deluxe version) flows seamlessly; however, many of the tracks seem to meander when listened to independently. At the hands of producers Timbaland and Jerome “J-Roc” Harmon, the production is the strongest aspect of this album. Timbaland’s presence is much more noticeable here than it is on part one. Many of these tracks feature Timbaland’s backup vocals and signature percussive beat boxing.
Much like 1 of 2, Timberlake incorporates a wide variety of instruments into the album. It contains big band horn, a very distinct organ that bridges the verses into the chorus on “Drink You Away,” and a lot of live guitar. The most intriguing part of the live instrumentation is how well it is integrated into the heavily produced and largely computerized modern pop music sound.
It would be amiss to not talk about the vocals in this album, since this is what Justin Timberlake’s sound is all about. An interesting contrast with the first part of the album is how little falsetto occurs in 2 of 2. He often reaches up into his falsetto register in the interest of self-harmonizing, and for certain bridges, but rarely stays there for extended periods of time.
The album never ceases to surprise the listener. The wide variety of tracks incorporate a good range of Timberlake’s powerful vocals, while Timbaland and Harmon’s driving beats add to the fresh incorporation of live instrumentation. The product is a complete album that, when paired with its predecessor, ensures one hell of a musical ride. Timberlake is once again successful at making a solid album and he remains a powerhouse in modern pop music.
Mechanical Bull | RCA
Kings of Leon’s newest album Mechanical Bull is true Americana, and possibly the best of the genre since Springsteen. With salt-of-the-earth lyrics sung with honest, strong, and wavering voices backed up by warm guitar, Kings of Leon both exist within and build upon their genre.
In Mechanical Bull, the band breaks free from previous albums’ trends of poppy, produced sounds and returns to the grassroots sound that made Kings of Leon gain traction in the first place. The underlying concepts of this album are simplicity and variation.
As the album develops, a lot of emphasis is placed on how much Caleb Followill has developed as a singer. This is a significant contrast to their original albums, where the vocals mostly took the back seat. Another highlight is the gospel vocals on “Family Tree.” This gospel sound is used frequently by Kings of Leon and it always seems appropriate for Followill’s southern voice. In “Coming Back Again” he sings, “I can feel it coming back again,” perhaps referring to the three-year hiatus on account of his alcohol dependency that led to a cancelled tour in 2010. On “Tonight,” Followill’s emerging position as front man of the band is solidified. The song is arranged fantastically with each of the four members doing exactly the right thing.
The album begins with “Supersoaker,” a song that possesses all the energy and jam-ability one expects from a Kings of Leon song: engaging and entirely radio friendly. It ends with “On the Chin,” the closest thing to a country song on the album, although the country influence is apparent with their general stylistic decisions. The steel guitar in particular creates the southern feel characteristic of country music. This is a pretty song, and it’s a great way to end an all-encompassing album.
For those into American rock, this may very well be the anthem of 2013. While there are some songs that feel like fillers, the majority of the songs on this album are both musically skillful and engaging. The album is slightly more subdued than past albums, but it is also more mature. The album feels neither simple nor overly complex, and somewhere in those driving baselines the listeners find a feeling that can only be described as harmony. The album reaches what it sets out to achieve for both the listeners, and hopefully the band.
—James Lewicki and Simon Monis