All posts by Natalia Arbelaez

Album Review: Coldplay – Ghost Stories

Coldplay Cover

I’ve always been told that high expectations lead to high disappointments. Maybe I was expecting more from Coldplay’s latest album, Ghost Stories, released in May, 2014. I was expecting something different from what I’m used to and at first I was disappointed.  I’m a huge Coldplay fan & own every album. I remember when Parachutes came out; I did in fact have mix tapes from the radio with “Yellow” on them. What I failed to realize when I first popped this in was that this album is about a different journey. It took another taste of Ghost Stories to realize what this was and how brilliant it is. Fourteen years after Parachutes, Coldplay delivers an album that is crammed with emotion. Chris Martin is a genius when it comes to being able to soothe our souls with his voice. He can take us to a different reality, fix our anguish, misplace our minds for the length of the album without hesitation.

There are mixed feelings about this album from fans and critics alike, but I think we fail to realize that personally, Martin has been battling his own issues with the separation from Gwyneth Paltrow. We are traveling with him in a journey of heartache. This album incorporates his pains. His sufferings. So yes, it might be a bit somber than the overly colorful joy that was Mylo Xyloto. But bands like Coldplay have originality despite their lack of “fluff”. Their ability to have an exclusive sound yet create a dissimilar album than what they’ve crafted in the past 14 years is singular. Ghost Stories is a different side of Coldplay we have never seen before, still reminiscent of their true nature, still absolutely awesome.

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Guy Berryman, Will Champion, Chris Martin, Jonny Buckland

These ballads are still full of whimsical elegance which I believe to be a Coldplay signature. With producers such as Timbaland and Avicii we get a construct of music that is indeed full of emotion.  Tracks like “True Love”, you get the taste of Timbaland; the subtle beat boxing mixed with a hint of drums being led by Will Champion, and the cries of an elaborate orchestra, all wrapped with the tenderness of Martin’s voice: “I’ve lost you now, You Let Me Go, But One Last Time, Tell me you love me, if you don’t, then lie…” You feel the guitar’s crescendo in the core of your soul. It’s the power in the lyric as well as in the instrumentals. Jonny Buckland and Guy Berryman have such a great technique with the guitar and bass. It’s engulfing. What makes Coldplay so great is that in the juxtaposition of so many elements, their albums never sound overwhelming. There are still upbeat tracks such as Skies Full of Stars, produced by Timbaland and Avicii, we first experience a lovely piano instrumental intro, EDM influences in the mixing, slowly building up, and bam! We get an explosion of creativity and a lively sound pulsating through the waves; it would be hard for listeners to not nod their head with the beat.

So this album isn’t quite what you expected. That is the beauty in Coldplay. They brought us an album that was probably difficult to create with beauty in the pain. This is why they continue to make great music fourteen years after their first studio release. So, it might not be happy, you might be a bit bummed that this album is making you bummed. Or quite possibly, this could be an album to facilitate in a tough spot. Coldplay keeps über fans like me happy and content. There are no flashy gimmicks in Ghost Stories. It’s an album of conquest. You vs. the heart.  You win.

Album Review: Chvrches – The Bones of What You Believe

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I’m one of those rare people who stay up late for no apparent reason, watch late night television, and clean the house when insomnia kicks in. If it weren’t for that horrible habit of being a night owl, I probably wouldn’t have discovered Chvrches. It seems as though no matter what I do, I tend to be really late in finding good new music. It’s a tragedy, really. I gradually hope that crappy radio stations will bring new music my way and it usually doesn’t work like that. I have to search and hope what I find makes me happy. But luckily, this past November it came to me. It was my usual routine: a rerun Jimmy Kimmel Live during meal prep for the following day. Chvrches performed that night and ever since, I’ve been hooked. I have a slight fascination with the Scottish band that I never saw coming (Thank you Jimmy Kimmel)The thing about it was that in my crazy night time routine, Chvrches managed to get me to sit down, and appreciate their live performance, even if it meant burning my chicken. It’s like they knew they could beguile me through the power of television. Lauren, Iain, and Martin, had this hidden agenda to be completely awesome and get noticed. The next day, I had their album in my car, iPhone, computer; I was enchanted.

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The Bones Of What You Believe Cover

Chvrches was formed in 2011 and with all three band members having been in other bands previously, it clearly shows that these three aren’t newcomers to the music scene. Lauren Mayberry, lead vocalist, was formally part of two other bands: Boyfriend/Girlfriend, and Blue Sky Archives. Everything happens for a reason, I’ve been told. It seemed that way for Lauren and Iain. If Iain Cook hadn’t recorded Blue Sky Archive’s EP, he probably wouldn’t have invited Lauren to record demos with him and Martin Doherty, who have been long time friends. And if they hadn’t created Chvrches, we would all be thirsty for the kind of innovative freshness they bring to the music world. Iain Cook has a special kind of power when it comes to the construction of music. Although his preceding bands, Aerogramme and The Unwinding Hours, didn’t reach the astronomical levels that have been achieved by Chvrches, the influence he had was evident. Iain and Martin Doherty can manipulate their sounds with such exactitude it makes you crave more. The Twilight Sad, the band that Martin played keyboard and guitar with previously, shows his range as a musician since the style was more rock versus the synthpop Chvrches offers.  There are no cheesy synthesizer mixes in this. It has taste. The synthesizer can be a hit or miss with certain bands or artists that either completely slaughter a track with overly trippy vibes, or they incorporate other sounds that reverberate passionately, which I feel is precisely what Chvrches does in so many of their tracks on The Bones of What you Believe.

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Gun, The Bones Of What you Believe

The Bones of what you Believe, the bands first official album released in September of 2013, has made their footprint in the industry by hitting impressive marks: Peaked the Billboard 200 at the twelfth spot, the third spot for Top Modern Rock/ Alternative Albums and landing the top spot for Top independent Album. We’ve now heard their music on commercials and video games and even the track Gun on Episode 11 of the tenth season of Grey’s Anatomy.  Needless to say, they are here to stay.

Lies was the debut single, followed by Recover, tracks that are so powerful just based on the lyrics. If a song has a good beat, but doesn’t Say anything, then it clearly doesn’t offer anything but a head nod or some dancing finger tips, possibly even a foot tap depending on your style. Songs with character stay with you. You can see their live performances on YouTube which is what I’ve done and receive how they sound in the album and directly know that these three are ultimately professionals, congregated for greatness. They infiltrate your mind and cause you to analyze the symbols and try to come up with your own interpretation of what it might mean to those on the other side of the speaker. That’s how Tether is for me, track number four in The Bones of What you Believe. It is a track I believe I will relate to for a long time. Chvrches found a way to incorporate my situation from across the Atlantic. Lauren is such a pleasure to hear, it seems in my opinion she was a bit diminished before she joined Chvrches, it seems as she didn’t sparkle the way she does now. She lacked the creative partnership that would allow her to shine as a professional vocalist. Besides music, Lauren has a master’s degree in Journalism. The fact that she is educated, writes, and sings live in an impressing manner gives me hope. She isn’t just another pretty face; she is the type of role model girls need in a world full of twerk-filled dimwits that somehow get record deals with no talent or aspirations.

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Iain, Lauren, And Martin of Chvrches

They’ve got a great sound and energy. Three concerts scheduled in NYC for later this Spring, all sold out already. Synthpop, electric, Alternative-Indie; whatever category you’d like to place Chvrches in, they’re definitely a band to watch out for. With their knowledgeable backgrounds and control over their sound and imagine, here is a band that personifies talent and just genuinely gives off good vibes, I’m ready for more.

 

Album Review: Warpaint – New Year New Album

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January was a good month for LA based band, Warpaint, who released their second album. If you haven’t heard them before, it’s best to just start with the new. Their self-titled album is singular to the kinds of sounds the band had in their previous album, The Fool, which was released in the US in 2010. It’s interesting how Warpaint, although originating from LA, gives off more of a European vibe, maybe Oregon, Washington, non sunny kind of places. Not to make it seem like the band is boring or depressing they just bestow the world with its minimalist song arrangements which I personally tend to be a fan of at times (blame the introvert inside). All the visions that come to mind while playing Warpaint include coffee shops, immersed in a writing trance, not worrying about the devastating fact this year has consisted of being neck deep in snow.

I feel as though with their new album, Warpaint can finally conquer the American market more than they have in the past; they’ve done lots of growing up in the last few years. The band has gotten the privilege to do two covers for the imminent David Bowie Tribute Album joining a nice roll call including Duran Duran, MGMT, We Are the World, among others. David Bowie is awesome in his own way and being able to be part of a tribute album is something I’m sure we can all appreciate.

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Warpaint
has music I can write to. Meaning, while I sit here and stare at an empty page with dozens of notes and papers and scores of distractions, and I can just jam. It’s a rare thing, to be able to find something in a chord or a riff that can allow you to enjoy it and somehow still be productive. It’s not distracting in the “I’m going to lip sing and play my air guitar”. It’s not music that can side track you with the “I need to Google the lyrics right now because this reminds me of my life”. It entertains and serves its purpose as ambiance music. Warpaint has got a long path ahead of them, but if they stick to their current strategy of reinventing themselves and being true to their nature as musicians I’m sure there will be lots to come.

Album Rating:
6.8 Stars

A Strange & Enjoyable Pleasure: Still Corners – “Strange Pleasures”

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So you’ve listened to every single track in every single playlist you’ve made. Yes, even that show tunes playlist you secretly hide yet know it’s there. You’ve turned to Pandora or to iTunes radio and nothing seems to quench that uncontrollable thirst for what you desire. Deep in your core you want something that can satisfy every  inch of your being. With music, this can be hard but this is exactly how I was feeling moments ago. I wasn’t depressed enough to listen to Mumford and Sons, and I wasn’t feeling exactly chipper to chime in on some punky hip track. Then, I stumbled upon Still Corners’ recent album, “Strange Pleasures”. I plugged them in, and I let myself travel out of this realm. I was able to astral project myself into a grand staff of notes juxtaposed with lyrics and a wild combination of self awareness.

Released in May of 2013, ‘Strange Pleasures” is my go-to album this year to find upbeat serenity; to find myself lost within the music; to find meaning after a day of too much coffee and too many cigarettes. Still Corners, a duo based out of London, has a whimsical, effortless way of manipulating wind chimes and a bass, and with Tessa Murray at lead vocals, you’ve suddenly discovered something that should have came out of “A Midnight Summer’s Dream”, without the weird nymphs, of course. Underrated and probably a well kept secret, Still Corners mixes their indie British roots with a twist of eccentricities that regardless of the genre you most desire, will not leave you disappointed. Still Corners’ first debut album was ‘Creatures of an Hour’, which although good, you can feel the duo grow into maturity through the second; a trip fans rarely take with their favorite artists. So they’re rough around the edges but what band isn’t? Although their songs are filled quite nicely, Still Corners runs the risk of having some of their tracks become too busy; described best as being on the verge of an acid trip. Their rugged freshness is a quality that most artist try to rid themselves of, but in reality it’s what sets them apart. It’s like being a music induced coma, but in a good way.  There are lots of bands out now with the electric, dream-like quality that Still Corners has but in their defense, they have shown so much potential that I’m sure they will continue to provide quality sounding music and show diversity in their tracks.

So you’ve grown tired of the overbearing lyrics in your favorite band’s LP. Or after a dispute with a significant other, you’ve grown tired of the incompetence of basic radio. That fresh gulp of water that you need and probably do not realize would be Strange Pleasures, an album to dive into by Still Corners. Let Tessa take you into a different universe by her somber vocals, allow Greg to use the bass and guitar to let you feel something different; something you might not know is real just yet.

Tracks to Listen to:

1.) The Trip
4.) All I Know
5.) Fireflies
9.) Beat City

The High & Low of It: Low – “The Invisible Way”

If you’re a minimalist with an appreciation for simplistic melodies and serene vocals, The Invisible Way by Low fits all your requirements. Hailing from Duluth, Minnesota, their sounds have traveled far and wide to be able to cover the likes of me, a simple gal from the eastern side of Pennsylvania. Now one thing to remember is Low is not a new comer to the music world. Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker got their start in 1993. They live up to their name, providing the world with slow tempos and a great use of music that makes you actually pay attention to the lyrics they sing.

Things about The Invisible Way that struck me upon listening is the smooth use of guitars and the way Alan and Mimi harmonize. Not only do they have a great sound, but the emotion they propel through the wavelengths can seize your attention; bringing into mind every single feeling you’ve been unwillingly repressing. It’s what I find fascinating in Mimi’s vocals. She has a raw nature that most females in some duos tend to hinder. In the track Holy Ghost there are no gimmicks, there is no overly played instruments and suddenly the only thing you can pay attention is her energy, flowing freely. It’s refreshing for Parker to get tracks all to herself, instead of just singing the melody behind Sparhawk.

I admire Low’s use of piano chords. They way they mix so well with the riffs of their bass guitar. Steve Garrington, bassist, does a great job in keeping the tracks minimal yet enticing. It’s admirable how they can successfully use keys in a minor and not have it sound like something out of Frankenstein. The risk that runs throughout this album is the consistent sound in all eleven tracks; one can mistake track two for track nine. It can all sound the same without any variations in their style. To others, that can be a good thing, but personally I find that it might diminish the quality of the work. But that is what makes Low timeless, after twenty years in the business they have made their mark. They’ve stayed true to who they are, even after often being classified as “slowcore” (a term I just dislike). I find them to be relaxing, not boring. Sometimes you just need music that can provide repose. The Invisible Way is an album I’d enjoy over coffee. Or while writing. Or while taking a bath. It’s just a relaxing kind of album. That you can just zone out to and not find distractions in the music you are enjoying. There is nothing glittery or over-stimulating about Low.

Besides The Invisible Way, Low has an amazing cover of Rihanna’s Stay, available on iTunes. I tend to dislike covers at times. Just not a fan, personally. But their cover of Stay is actually quite beautiful. Unrelated to their album, Low can actually mold their style into the likes of Rihanna. They have that zest in their abilities as musicians to make a “cover skeptic” like myself enjoy something not their own. For the future I’d like Low to attempt something unlike them, something that in the past twenty years we haven’t heard yet just to get a feel of diversity which I find they most desperately need.  Despite the perpetual, seemingly stodgy sound, Low and their album The Invisible Way can majestically inspire and enlighten, the next twenty years in their career is something to look forward to.

Tracks To Listen To:
3.) So Blue
4.) Holy Ghost
5.) Waiting
8.) Just Make it Stop