Album Review: Foxy Shazam – GONZO

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Foxy Shazam

 

GONZO

 

Self-Released, April 02 2014

 
 
 
 
 

Reviewed by Jon Howard

Last Fall, two years after the release of The Church of Rock and Roll, Foxy Shazam suddenly announced that they were in the process of recording a new album.  Shortly after, the band announced that they had completed said new album.  Then, months of silence. Without warning, Foxy Shazam surprised everyone by announcing on April 2nd that not only had they named their new album “GONZO”, but that it was now available to download for free on their website.  Fans eagerly downloaded the new album, wondering how it might expand on the bombastic sound of The Church of Rock and Roll and Foxy Shazam.  Simply put, GONZO doesn’t, and comes away much better for it.

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Album Review: Foster the People – Supermodel

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Foster the People

 

Supermodel

 

Columbia Records, March 14 2014

 
 
 
 
 

Reviewed by Jon Howard

Looking back at 2011, it really does seem as though indie pop sensation Foster the People came out of nowhere. Despite having been released nearly year earlier, their single “Pumped Up Kicks” suddenly gained massive popularity, crossing over from indie and alternative circles into mainstream radio airplay. By late May, “Pumped Up Kicks” had gone viral, garnering so much attention that Foster the People’s debut album Torches was able to break into the top ten of the Billboard 200, sitting comfortably at #8. Now Foster the People have finally released their long awaited sophomore album, Supermodel.

After the enormous success of Torches, Foster the People largely decided to take a different approach while writing and recording Supermodel. The album takes a step away from Torches’ synthesizer-heavy production for something a little more worldly. Opening track “Are You What You Want to Be” is Foster the People gone afrobeat. It’s a bold new direction for the band, but they should be careful not to tread too close to Vampire Weekend’s territory, or Foster the People could find itself on the losing side of many comparisons. Lead single “Coming of Age” is a definite high point of Supermodel, and it’s less than a coincidence that the song is probably the most similar on the album to their material on Torches. “Pseudologia Fantastica” shows what happens when Foster the People explores MGMT-style psychedelia, while also drawing influence from 1990s shoegaze outfit My Bloody Valentine. Meanwhile, “A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon” is about as close to grunge as a band like Foster the People can get, featuring crunchy guitars and shouted lyrics like “You’ll never be whole / Until you lose control / And stop drinking the wine that’s been dripping / From lips of the gluttons and envying their bloody teeth”. Supermodel largely abandons the sound of Torches, instead looking to other bands for influence while adding in a bit of Foster the People’s own flavor.

Though it may take some time to grow on you, Supermodel is certainly a good album. However, Foster the People have begun to tread dangerous waters. The band has expanded their sound beyond what we have grown to expect from them, a la Torches, but rather than evolve naturally they have tried to mimic their contemporary peers. By choosing to incorporate outside styles instead of developing its own, Foster the People have put themselves in danger of losing their own identity and falling behind the pack. Their new strategy has worked moderately well on Supermodel, but for their next album, Foster the People would do much better by looking inward rather than outward.

Recommended Tracks: “Are You What You Want to Be”, “Coming of Age”, “Pseudologia Fantastica”, “Best Friend”




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Album Review: Pharrell – Girl

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Pharrell

 

Girl

 

Columbia Records, March 03 2014

 
 
 
 
 

by Adam Weidemann

Pharrell had his hands on two of the biggest pop songs of 2013, but he has had a long and accomplished musical career. Girl is a departure from his hip hop production with The Neptunes, yet Pharrell has never been too distant from pop. He’s sung choruses in a pleasant falsetto (“Beautiful”, “Frontin”) and rapped on pop songs (“Drop It Like It’s Hot”), he even released a mixtape before his first album In My Mind. Girl capitalizes on his recent success as a pop singer with some very catchy tunes, including the biggest song in America right now and the album’s first single, “Happy”.

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Album Review: Real Estate – Atlas

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Real Estate

 

Atlas

 

Mexican Summer, March 04 2014

 
 
 
 
 

Reviewed by Jon Howard

Three years after their impeccable sophomore release Days, indie rock outfit Real Estate return with the highly anticipated Atlas. Atlas sees the band leave behind the more cheerful sound of their previous release in favor of something a little darker. Fast approaching his 30s and with his first child on the way, lead singer Martin Courtney finds the dreamlike, carefree Days of his youth coming to an end. Try as he might to look towards the future with the same optimism, he feels helpless and uncertain of what’s to come.

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Album Review: Temples – Sun Structures

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Temples

 

Sun Structures

 

Heavenly Recordings, February 10 2014

 
 
 
 
 

Reviewed by Jon Howard

If you had tried to tell me a few years ago that psychedelic rock was about to make a massive comeback, I probably would have laughed and told you to keep dreaming. Of course, there were a few lone signs of what was to come, most notably MGMT’s sophomore album Congratulations, in which they abandoned synthpop in favor of psychedelic surf rock.  Seemingly out of nowhere, psychedelic artists like Tame Impala and Foxygen began to gain large followings, while established artists began to add more experimental elements to their music.  By 2013, psychedelic rock had become one of the biggest non-pop music genres.  Thanks to the recent popularity of their musical style, the newly formed Temples were able to hit the ground not running, but sprinting. Already set to begin their first headlining tour, Temples also just released their debut album Sun Structures for the masses.

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Album Review: Drake – Nothing Was the Same

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Drake

 

Nothing Was the Same

 

OVO Sound, Republic Records, September 24 2013

 
 
 
 

Reviewed by Ben Simpson

There is a large collection of artists that don’t think Aubrey Drake Graham deserves the recognition he has received. Common referred to him as “soft”. DMX, Li’l Kim, and Chris Brown had much more explicit ways to describe the 26-year-old Canadian rapper. But despite the hate, Drake finds himself right back at the top after his latest release Nothing Was the Same. “This is nothing for the radio, but they’ll still play it though/Cause it’s that new Drizzy Drake, that’s just the way it go.” Just like the words above, taken off of the opening track “Tuscan Leather“, Drake can make an album virtually without any sing-along hooks and still somehow find his way into millions of homes, cars, and smartphones. In a year where Kanye’s Yeezus weirded us out, and Jay-Z’s Magna Carta… Holy Grail talked down to us, Drake once again squeezed his way to the top of the heap with his most marketable asset: relating to his audience. Coming from a middle-class television-star life, his background is nothing like Jay-Z’s drug-slinging street years,  yet Drake shares the issues of the majority. He wants to be successful (clearly he has achieved that with the millions of record sales), he works hard (Drake famously hates vacations), and he just wants to be loved (as evident by the bazillion songs about women). Parents aren’t scared off by him, heck even Ellen has had him on her show plenty of times. “Degenerates, but even Ellen loves our s***” as “Tuscan Leather” puts it. But there is a dark side to Drake, and it seems to come out in this album. 2011’s Take Care was the type of album you would party to, his debut album Thank Me Later in 2010 was a typical self-hyping introduction album, but Nothing Was the Same is something else entirely.

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Album Review: MGMT – MGMT

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MGMT

 

MGMT (self-titled)

 

Columbia, September 17 2013

 
 
 
 

Reviewed by Jon Howard

After taking the radio by storm in early 2008 with their inarguably catchy synthpop singles “Time to Pretend”, “Electric Feel”, and “Kids”, MGMT faced a tough decision.  Should they produce more radio-friendly synthpop and be lumped in with such bands as Passion Pit and Phoenix, or develop the more experimental, psychedelic sound found elsewhere on their debut album Oracular Spectacular.  Their sophomore album Congratulations was confirmation that the band had chosen the latter route, and as a result was and still is extremely polarizing among the band’s fanbase.  Now with the release of their third, self-titled album, MGMT has all but confirmed that they are strictly a psychedelic act now.  If you fell in love with MGMT for their radio singles, turn around now.  This album has nothing to offer you.  If you fell in love with the psychedelic surf rock of Congratulations, however, then MGMT will certainly not disappoint.

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Album Review: Tyler, the Creator – Wolf

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Tyler, the Creator

 

Wolf

 

Odd Future, April 2 2013

 
 
 
 
 

Reviewed by Jon Howard

Tyler, the Creator has always been known for his shock-value lyrics, dark themes, and tight production, and with 2011’s Goblin all three of these elements reached their apex. Tyler had long stated that his next planned album Wolf would move away from the violent themes of Bastard and Goblin and be far mellower album.  In fact, ‘mellow’ would probably be the best way to sum the album up as a whole in one word.  The harsh beats and violent lyrics of previous tracks like “Yonkers” and “Tron Cat” are all but absent on Wolf, appearing only in a few tracks over the album’s 70 minute span. Rather, Wolf hides Tyler’s deeply rooted issues behind a mask of smooth, Summery music.

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Album Review: The Strokes – Comedown Machine

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The Strokes

 

Comedown Machine

 

RCA Records, March 26 2013

 
 
 
 
 
 

Reviewed by Greg Grunzel (DJ Baby Duck)

One thing is for certain: Jules loves the 80’s. Proverbial kings of the 00’s garage rock revival scene, The Strokes’ latest effort Comedown Machine bleeds 80’s more than Eddie Murphy’s bright red leather Delirious jumpsuit (humorous side note: the minimalist album art coincidentally is the same color). They are proud to announce it, too, by naming the almost-title-track 80’s Comedown Machine, a slow, dreamy croon along the lines of Call Me Back and Ask Me Anything from the previous two releases. The very Aha-esque One Way Trigger epitomizes the new sound and takes it to the extreme. Highlights (and potential future singles) include the danceable Welcome to Japan, and the currently-stuck-in-my-head Happy Ending. They even get weird and throw in the slow, sounds-like-its-played-through-a-trasistor-radio, almost-bossa nova Call it Fate, Call it Karma to close the album. To sum it up, if you’re a fan of The Strokes and even slightly enjoyed 80’s new wave (a la Talking Heads) like I am/did, there isn’t a skippable track on here. But if you’re looking for Is This It, this isn’t it.

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Album Review: Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience

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Justin Timberlake

 

The 20/20 Experience

 

RCA Records, March 15 2013

 

 

 

 

 

By Ishaba Haque

 

After a 7 year break from music, Justin Timberlake has made his comeback. And what a comeback it is. Timberlake’s sophomore album, Grammy winning, FutureSex/LoveSounds created quite the impact back in 2006. It revolutionized pop music and created a new eccentric sound of music that still resonates with people. His number one single “SexyBack” did exactly what the title suggests. It brought sexy back and it brought JT back.

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