Hey all. So, I try to get new music every week for an album review. Most weeks, the review ends up being written, but some weeks, for whatever reason (oh hi, full time student, part time worker) it doesn’t get reviewed. So I figured today I’d jot down mini-reviews to sort of “catch up”.
blink-182 – Neighborhoods
Two years after reuniting, blink finally put out the first post-reunion record. The time seems to have been well spent since Neighborhoods credibly picks off right where the band’s 2004 self-titled album left off. Gone are the dick jokes of 90’s blink; Neighborhoods might be their darkest album yet. Neighborhoods eschews blink’s traditional pop punk sound for a more alternative rock orientation with a bit of 80s influence, or in other words: yes, the Tom DeLonge songs sound like AvA. Thankfully, though, they sound like better AvA songs, and get a nice shot in the arm/foot in the ass by Hoppus and Barker. The stock flaws of writing a dark album are present (occasional clunky writing, less inspired moments, and lack of direction), and there are way too few appearances by Mark Hoppus (he doesn’t appear alone until halfway through with “Heart’s All Gone”), but Neighborhoods works as a promising while enjoyable transition album. 3.5/5
Jay-Z and Kanye West – Watch the Throne
Lil Wayne and Drake keep posting themselves as rap’s Dynamic Duo, but honestly, I’d give the title to Jay-Z and Kanye West any day. Collaborating on and off across the past ten years (West’s first major mainstream exposure was producing on Jay-Z’s The Blueprint), Watch the Throne is the pair’s first effort on even footing. The two work so well together because they tease out each other’s better qualities: Jay-Z’s presence keeps Kanye from getting too in his own head, and in front Kanye’s grand scale yet excited production, Jay-Z breaks out some of his finest rapping in years. The duo rap about, of course, how great they are, but “New Day” (written to sons the two don’t have) and the social commentary of “Murder to Excellence” add depth to the project’s gold plated excellence. It would have been nice to see something a little more challenging from these two, but still, Jay-Z and Kanye put the work in, and the result reaches for the rafters. 4/5.
David Guetta – Nothing But the Beat
While Watch the Throne found two modern hitmakers in artist mode, Nothing But the Beat shamelessly guns for the charts. That’s not to say that no one’s trying per se, but D.Guetta and crew are only focused on one thing: the club. To Guetta’s credit, he does blend typically clashing genres into his own distinct mix, and these songs don’t suggest dancing as much as command it. By covering everyone in Auto-Tune and vocoders, Guetta strips most of his guest artists of any personality, but shockingly few of them offered any in the first place anyway. Current club pop lunkheads Taio Cruz, Flo Rida, Chris Brown, Akon, and will.i.am pass by without any real differences between them. Meanwhile, Usher, Sia, and (surprise) Jessie J manage to knock out gorgeous tracks while keeping some personality. Each and every song on Nothing But the Beat has craft to it, but as a whole, the album is similar to the point of being oppressive. 2.5/5.
Evanescence – Evanescence
Holy hell, this band still exists. Five years after the messy The Open Door, Evanescence is back with an almost entirely new line-up. But very little of the band’s drama translates over to Evanescence, the third album out under the name. I feel like I mentioned this before, but a self-titled album is usually a “This had, like, all of us writing” record. And this album sounds more democratic than Evanescence’s past two albums, but part of the reason for the naming is that Evanescence sounds like, well, Evanescence. Within the trademark Evanescence sound (chugging guitars, occasional piano, and pounding drums), there’s a bit more variety than normal; drum machines and synths occasionally appear, and there are more real guitar riffs. And of course, Amy Lee’s giant choir-kid-grown-up voice is right up front because where else would it go? Aside from lead single “What You Want”, Evanescence rocking out gets old pretty quickly, and the band works best when it does something different: “Lost in Paradise” is a slow building ballad, and “Oceans” is an all-or-nothing showstopper with electronics and strings. The electronic lullaby of “Swimming Home” closes the album on an odd note, but part of Evanescence‘s appeal is that it’s all over the place. 3/5