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Download, Listen, Discard

Dan Brombach | Friday, November 30, 2012

Download

Taylor Swift’s newest album may carry the label of “country,” but if this blatant pop effort can pass as country music, then Nicholas Cage can call himself a groundbreaking actor and I can start telling people I play defensive line for the New York Giants.

For example, “I Knew You Were Trouble” is the typical catchy, sassy, borderline-angsty track Taylor Swift fans have come to enjoy, but its use of dubstep shows the true extent to which “Red” is actually a pop album. “22,” Swift’s song about living it up and enjoying youth, could have been pulled straight from a Katy Perry album, and will no doubt find its way to the top of the charts soon enough.

Not to harp on this subject much longer, but you certainly wouldn’t see an artist like Kenny Chesney do a collaboration with Skrillex. Drop the act, Taylor, you’ve gone pop.

Acknowledging this reality, “Red” is still a highly enjoyable, download-worthy album. My favorite tracks, “Red” and “All Too Well,” are classic Swift “love lost” songs, but without the whiny, passive-aggressive edge that annoyed me early in her career. Swift seems to be maturing in her perspective on relationships, emphasizing the good times and lessons learned rather than the fighting and dysfunction.

The notable exception would be “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” a party-ready track telling the story of an on-again-off-again relationship.

By diversifying her sound and subject matter, Swift has expanded substantially into the pop realm. Whether this fact makes you happy, or makes you want to leap off the top of Stepan Center, be prepared to hear “Red” for months to come.

Listen

Some may know Phillip Phillips from his victory on the 11th season of “American Idol,” but my first exposure to this talented singer/songwriter came watching last year’s summer Olympics. Phillips’ hit song “Home,” which weaves together soft vocals with the folksy, boot stomping sound of Mumford and Sons, served as the unofficial song of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team, and quickly became one of my favorite tracks of the summer.

Why was I watching women’s gymnastics? For the same reason every young male across the country tuned in: the beauty… of the sport. Yeah, that’s it.

None of the tracks on Phillips’ new release “The World from the Side of the Moon” can rival “Home,” but that doesn’t mean the album isn’t worth a solid listen.

My other favorite song, “Man on the Moon,” is a light, jazzy track laced with Phillips’ skillful acoustic guitar playing. In both “Man on the Moon” and “Get Up Get Down,” Phillips’s throaty voice, carefree vibe and suggestive lyrics actually make him sound shockingly like Dave Matthews.

Overall, “The World from the Side of the Moon” is nothing revolutionary, but its lighthearted sound and themes of life, love and self-discovery make the album an enjoyable listening experience.

Discard

Kid Rock rose to fame as the king of trashy, generic hillbilly rock, and his new album “Rebel Soul” has done nothing to steer him from this course. The album also did nothing to alleviate my moderate to severe hatred of his music.

Many of the songs on “Rebel Soul,” including the eloquently named “3 CATT Boogie” or “Cocaine and Gin,” sound like something they would play in the bathroom of a Famous Dave’s restaurant, riling up yokels as they pick spare ribs out of their assorted-colored teeth.

I was also slightly disconcerted by the song “Let’s Ride,” a so-called battle hymn for troops stationed in the Middle East, and its accompanying music video. The song tells troops to pick up their guns and “let their conscience be their guide,” accompanied by images of tanks juxtaposed with Muslim women in traditional garb. There’s a line between being patriotic and being culturally insensitive, and I’d suggest Kid Rock let this song fade out before visiting the Middle East anytime soon.

Kid Rock’s ode to his home of Detroit in the aptly named “Detroit, Michigan” contributes to the album’s spectacularly underwhelming nature. I don’t have anything against Detroit, but I do have something against bad music.

Maybe my impression was irreversibly damaged by the fact that, upon typing “Detroit, Michigan” into YouTube in an attempt to find the song, the first result was “Detroit, Michigan ghetto.”

Overall, “Rebel Soul” is the definition of white-bread hick rock. Unless that kind of music floats your boat, or I guess I should say floats your tractor, steer clear of this album.
 

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The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.

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archive

Download, Listen Discard

Dan Brombach | Friday, November 30, 2012

Download

Taylor Swift’s newest album may carry the label of “country,” but if this blatant pop effort can pass as country music, then Nicholas Cage can call himself a groundbreaking actor and I can start telling people I play defensive line for the New York Giants.

For example, “I Knew You Were Trouble” is the typical catchy, sassy, borderline-angsty track Taylor Swift fans have come to enjoy, but its use of dubstep shows the true extent to which “Red” is actually a pop album. “22,” Swift’s song about living it up and enjoying youth, could have been pulled straight from a Katy Perry album, and will no doubt find its way to the top of the charts soon enough.

Not to harp on this subject much longer, but you certainly wouldn’t see an artist like Kenny Chesney do a collaboration with Skrillex. Drop the act, Taylor, you’ve gone pop.

Acknowledging this reality, “Red” is still a highly enjoyable, download-worthy album. My favorite tracks, “Red” and “All Too Well,” are classic Swift “love lost” songs, but without the whiny, passive-aggressive edge that annoyed me early in her career. Swift seems to be maturing in her perspective on relationships, emphasizing the good times and lessons learned rather than the fighting and dysfunction.

The notable exception would be “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” a party-ready track telling the story of an on-again-off-again relationship.

By diversifying her sound and subject matter, Swift has expanded substantially into the pop realm. Whether this fact makes you happy, or makes you want to leap off the top of Stepan Center, be prepared to hear “Red” for months to come.

Listen

Some may know Phillip Phillips from his victory on the 11th season of “American Idol,” but my first exposure to this talented singer/songwriter came watching last year’s summer Olympics. Phillips’ hit song “Home,” which weaves together soft vocals with the folksy, boot stomping sound of Mumford and Sons, served as the unofficial song of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team, and quickly became one of my favorite tracks of the summer.

Why was I watching women’s gymnastics? For the same reason every young male across the country tuned in: the beauty… of the sport. Yeah, that’s it.

None of the tracks on Phillips’ new release “The World from the Side of the Moon” can rival “Home,” but that doesn’t mean the album isn’t worth a solid listen.

My other favorite song, “Man on the Moon,” is a light, jazzy track laced with Phillips’ skillful acoustic guitar playing. In both “Man on the Moon” and “Get Up Get Down,” Phillips’s throaty voice, carefree vibe and suggestive lyrics actually make him sound shockingly like Dave Matthews.

Overall, “The World from the Side of the Moon” is nothing revolutionary, but its lighthearted sound and themes of life, love and self-discovery make the album an enjoyable listening experience.

Discard

Kid Rock rose to fame as the king of trashy, generic hillbilly rock, and his new album “Rebel Soul” has done nothing to steer him from this course. The album also did nothing to alleviate my moderate to severe hatred of his music.

Many of the songs on “Rebel Soul,” including the eloquently named “3 CATT Boogie” or “Cocaine and Gin,” sound like something they would play in the bathroom of a Famous Dave’s restaurant, riling up yokels as they pick spare ribs out of their assorted-colored teeth.

I was also slightly disconcerted by the song “Let’s Ride,” a so-called battle hymn for troops stationed in the Middle East, and its accompanying music video. The song tells troops to pick up their guns and “let their conscience be their guide,” accompanied by images of tanks juxtaposed with Muslim women in traditional garb. There’s a line between being patriotic and being culturally insensitive, and I’d suggest Kid Rock let this song fade out before visiting the Middle East anytime soon.

Kid Rock’s ode to his home of Detroit in the aptly named “Detroit, Michigan” contributes to the album’s spectacularly underwhelming nature. I don’t have anything against Detroit, but I do have something against bad music.

Maybe my impression was irreversibly damaged by the fact that, upon typing “Detroit, Michigan” into YouTube in an attempt to find the song, the first result was “Detroit, Michigan ghetto.”

Overall, “Rebel Soul” is the definition of white-bread hick rock. Unless that kind of music floats your boat, or I guess I should say floats your tractor, steer clear of this album.
 

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The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.

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archive

Download, Listen, Discard

Dan Brombach | Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Download

It may be nothing revolutionary, but Calvin Harris’ newest release “18 Months” is definitely in contention for the catchiest album of the year. Between the driving beats, smooth synths and background noises seemingly pulled from a late-90s video game, “18 Months” is like a cheesy rollercoaster at the state fair: It takes you for a loop and leaves you slightly ashamed at how much you enjoyed the ride.

With the already popular tracks “Feel So Close” and “We Found Love,” as well as the equally ear-friendly “Bounce” and “I Need Your Love,” “18 Months” will undoubtedly be the soundtrack for awkward freshmen making questionable decisions at dorm parties for years to come.

Harris assembles a range of heavy-hitting featured singers, from Ellie Goulding to Florence Welch, who provides the vocals for my favorite song from the album, “Sweet Nothing.” This talented cast saves the album from becoming monotonous at times, especially towards the tail end when Harris’ beats begin to blend together.

Calvin Harris may be one of the most consistent producers I’ve encountered thus far. Angsty techno hipsters wearing Skull Candy headphones may call him commercial, but the fact remains seemingly every track he touches puts the radio in a stranglehold. “18 Months” is the musical equivalent of eating candy for dinner, but hey, I’m a grown man and I’ll get diabetes if I want.

Listen

Ever since Kendrick Lamaar’s new album “good kid m.A.A.d city” came out two weeks ago, I’ve been hearing praise fly left and right. I’ve heard it called everything from a work of art to a milestone in West Coast hip-hop. In fact, when I told someone a few days back I had yet to listen to the album, he looked at me as if I had just confessed my undying love for Nickleback.

Let me start by congratulating Kendrick Lamar for a solid album offering a fresh take on the problems of inner city life. His songs speak candidly about substance abuse, crime and gang culture without the crudity displayed by other rappers, who seem to view these problems with pride rather than melancholy.

The album also showcases Lamar’s versatility, with many songs fluctuating in their mood, speed and style. However, this versatility brings me to one of my primary concerns: “good kid m.A.A.d city” can at times be downright schizophrenic. Lamar careens from the laidback vibe of the love song “Poetic Justice” to the gritty, frantic style of “m.A.A.d city” to the surrealism of “Swimming Pools,” in which his mind/sober consciousness has its own verse. I’ve grown to increasingly appreciate this unique variety of offerings as I listen to the album more, but it can still be slightly off-putting.

If you’re looking for an out-of-the-box music experience, I would definitely recommend giving “good kid m.A.A.d city” a listen. Just strap in and don’t blame me if the album gives you stylistic motion sickness.

Discard

Meek Mill’s new album “Dreams and Nightmares” is bad. We’re talking fried-clam-strips-at-the-dining-hall bad. WNBA-preseason bad. Nicholas-Cage-in-“Season of the Witch” bad.

A frank review of everything wrong with this stale, repetitive excuse for an album is actually more appropriate having just discussed Kendrick Lamar and his display of lyrical depth.

Perhaps Mr. Mill’s complete lack of creativity and talent is some sort of divine punishment for the track “Amen,” in which he prays to God thanking Him for clubbing, women of reprehensible moral repute and other things I doubt God would condone. In terms of musical blasphemy, this track ranks up there with Madonna wearing a crown of thorns and reenacting the crucifixion of Christ during an onstage performance in Rome.

Most of the songs from the album are shallow, bass-heavy garbage rap (“Young and Gettin’ It”), and even when Meek Mill tries to slow things down, as he does in “Traumatized” and “Maybach Curtains,” he is simply incapable of flowing well over the beat.

As if I needed something else to complain about, Meek Mill also recruits the help of Maybach Music Group “kingpin” Rick Ross on a number of songs, thus joining forces with one of a handful of rappers who could reasonably contest his claim to the title of worst rapper alive.

Overall, Meek Mill’s “Dreams and Nightmares” gets a clear-cut discard rating. If you happen to come into contact with the album, I would advise you to wash your hands with soap and cold water.