Tag Archives: Review

Mojo Barnes – “Signs” Review

Hailing from Seattle, Washington Emcee Mojo Barnes blesses us with a short yet stellar EP encapsulating personal woes, pains, and monumental moments in five songs.

Signs brings more to the table than just dope bars and witty punch lines; key example being “Blueberry” which gives Mojo Barnes the chance to release thoughts many can relate to coupled with an R&B vibe giving listeners a glimpse into his vocal talents. “Following” and “Heartbeat” perfectly mesh Mojo’s crooning with his strong lyrical ability in a way that sounds original unlike many others who take on this task.

“Following” puts us directly into his thoughts and feelings towards his own father by tackling the heart aches of an absent parental figure and the impact this made on him. “Heartbeat” is a beautiful expression of love to his “baby mama” sharing his excitement and joy in creating life together and moving forward as a family.

Hip Hop heads fret not because Mojo still comes with enough potent verse that have rewind value to keep you playing tracks over and over again. “Awakened” and “OHMYGOD” gives us a chance to hear how witty Mojo is as an Emcee. In “Awakened” Mojo raps:

 “Its been a minute since me and God had conversated/he must still be mad after I body bagged the congregation/ I’m just trying to smoke loosies/ sniff lines off drunk floosies/mix weed, coke, smack, crack, and couple of roofies on the back of a groupie having me acting like goofy”

Mojo is not afraid to spit verses that may shock and awe an audience. Overall “Signs” is a phenomenal and personal introduction into who Mojo Barnes is. By tackling an array of subjects, he is sure to keep listeners and fans busy till his next release.

Stand out tracks:

 “Awakened” “Blueberry” “Following”

[Concert Review] Coheed and Cambria: “Neverender GAIBSIV” tour

Coheed and Cambria performed 'Good Apollo I'm Burning Star IV, Volume 1: From Fear Through The Eyes of Madness' in its entirety.

I swear Neverenders never get old.

For those of you not familiar with Coheed and Cambria, a Neverender is exactly what it sounds like: It’s a concert where the band plays one (or a few) of their albums sequentially cover to cover. It’s a beautiful thing. If you’re like me and enjoy appreciating songs as part of the full picture of the album they were released on, it is a live music event dream come true!

In celebration of the 12th birthday of their most successful album, this year’s Neverender was a full play through of Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV, Volume 1 : From Fear Through the Eyes of MadnessGAIBSIV was the band’s third studio release and is the proud holder of their mega-hit single “Welcome Home” (which I believe was required by law to be everyone’s Myspace profile song for at least 2 months back in 2005). GAIBSIV is a continuation of a story from the albums prior which chronicles The Amory Wars.  You can pick up companion copies of the companion comics for this album which are currently being released at BOOM! studios.

Opening for Coheed and Cambria was Rhode Island-based prog-rock band The Dear Hunter.  The band originated as a side project of Casey Crescenzo, formerly of The Receiving End of Sirens.  The band boasts and impressive discography of seven studio albums, a demo, two live albums and 13 EP’s.

The Dear Hunter put on an energetic and entertaining opening act despite a lack-luster (and honestly a little headache-inducing) light show accompaniment.  I was not previously familiar with the band’s music at all prior to seeing them perform at this show and was pleasantly surprised. Though I don’t know that I will be going out of my way any time soon to look up their full discography, I wouldn’t mind stumbling across them again on Pandora in the future. I do appreciate that they have an extensive storyline to tell across their albums in true prog-rock fashion, although I think I have my hands full enough following The Amory Wars at the moment.

I may be a little biased, but I do honestly believe that Coheed and Cambria consistently put on some of the best live shows. This year’s Neverender was no exception. The visuals on screen behind the band ranged from video clips to trippy, moving artwork and really added to the feel and experience of the full album. The energy from the band was high and engaging. Something about being able to anticipate the next song in the lineup also seems to really amp up the audience in a way that is incomparable to other concerts.

After the conclusion of GAIBSIV (including hidden track Bron-Y-Aur, a nod to Led Zepplin), the band ended the set with a three song encore that included “Island,” “Delirium Trigger” and “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3.”

Coheed fans are an interesting group.  We refer to each other as Children of the Fence (COTF), a reference to Heaven’s Fence: The universe in which The Amory Wars takes place.  By the end of the encore, most of us in the back row had one arm around our neighbor and our other index finger up in the air during the lyric “we were one among The Fence.”

Overall, the show was phenomenal.  For those of you in Europe you can still get tickets to the European leg of the tour, which I highly recommend.

Linkin Park – Heavy feat. Kiiara Review

Heavy brings us a new Chester...

 

Chester Bennington just trolled every Linkin Park fan who was expecting to hear…

…Chester Bennington.

I mean the Chester that we’re used to. The Chester whose vocal presence was “one step closer to the edge”. But, that’s not a bad thing, as we see on the veteran band’s newest single, which is ironically titled “Heavy”.

As a long time Linkin Park fan, I know this song will take some time for the average LP fan to get used to. To be honest, Bruno Mars could have just as easily fit on “Heavy”.

However, Bruno could not have owned this song the way Chester did.

The production was masterfully crafted, it seems, to reel in younger music listeners. In today’s world where reading the news even feels like a burden, it’s inspiration to see that falling skies aren’t exclusive to little people like us:

 I don’t like my mind right now

Stacking up problems that are so unnecessary

Wish that I could slow things down

I wanna let go but there’s comfort in the panic

And I drive myself crazy

Thinking everything’s about me

Yeah I drive myself crazy

Cause I can’t escape the gravity

For a few seconds, I forgot this was the guy who used to fly into Stone Temples. He seemed more like the co-worker in the cafeteria at work, talking to me in confidence about his old lady.

But then the bridge came, and the slightly raspy, cracking of his voice reminded me that Linkin Park’s lead vocalist was still present inside of his current form.

Kiiara was also a great addition to this song. She does more than just complement the production. She holds her own with sultry vocals that explode into a powerful performance on the hook that was so convincing, it sent me to Google to find more of her music.

In conclusion, there are some listeners who will label this song as Pop. In my eyes, genres are just another tool of division. The love of music is one of the few things we all have in common. Music is all about expression, emotion, and beauty.

And those are the same things that make “Heavy” so sexy.

Review Score: B+

What did you think of “Heavy”? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments!

Pre-Order ‘One More Light’

Linkin Park have announced their brand new album will be titled ‘One More Light’ and will be releasing May 19th, 2017. Their website has been updated with new information about the album with a number of preorder options. These include CD packages, vinyl packages and deluxe packages that include a 48-page hard cover album art book with photos from the album.

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Altwire Review: DJ Shadow – The Mountain Will Fall

DJ Shadow made history 20 years ago with Endtroducing… a one of a kind instrumental hip-hop album composed entirely of samples.  And while his later works never quite hit the same heights as that debut, the west coast producer has continued to deliver some of the most unique instrumental albums in the genre.  Shadow doesn’t just make beats, he constructs impressive soundscapes that weave in and out of each other.  He ties them up into a narrative arc without really needing words, and The Mountain Will  Fall follows the same tack.  The tracklist features more guest spots than one might expect, but none of them steal the spotlight away from where it should be: the beats, the music, the tone.  It’s not an attempt to recreate Endtroducing… but Shadow’s motivations seem to come from the same place and its success stems from that more than anything else.

Experimentation and novelty made DJ Shadow a legend and the same things take The Mountain Will Fall out of the realm of beat-tapes and into its own space.  The album begins with a spoken “Hi!” and swelling, ambient synth pads before the beat drops in with a sampled holler and thunderous, wonky drum sounds.  The serenity and calmness of the synths and the beat sheer volume and force smash against each other in confusion and harmony, never sure if it’s a competition and if it is, who is winning.  The whole project tilts that way.  Elements find themselves in strange contrast with other elements, drops land in unexpected places like they showed up early or late.  Most of the time, confusion serves to benefit the overall concept, but not always.

The second track, “Nobody Speak,” which features Run The Jewels, is on of the more out of place pieces.  Not to say it’s bad, it just feels more like an El-P beat than a DJ Shadow beat and it’s the only fully and clearly lyrical song on the project.  The tone and the lyrics don’t line up with the rest of the album, and the following track, “Three Ralphs” is hardly a full composition and serves mostly as a bridge between “Nobody Speak” and the nine following songs.  By track five, “The Sideshow” however, Shadow finds a solid pocket and The Mountain Will Fall, doesn’t lose much steam from there on out.  The track features abundant record scratches, deep brass bass, and a killer break-beat that nods to the sound of the mid 90’s when Shadow was coming up.

The back half of The Mountain Will Fall continues the atmospheric trend with the dark and intense “Depth Charge” and the waves and soft electronic accents of “Ashes to Oceans.”  Each track contains elements that seem outside of DJ Shadow’s normal comfort zone but to his credit, he works them into his more comfortable style effortlessly.  “California” picks up about three minutes in and shows a noisy, aggressive side to the artist that sounds Death Grips inspired.  Tracks like “Mambo” and “Ghost Town” involve that newly popular style of hesitated drum hits and high, fast tempo, clicks.  It’s a new sound for Shadow, but he makes these things sound right at home amid his piano loops and deep house bass.

Enough time and perseverance might surely make a mountain fall to the ground, just like time and perseverance can keep a legendary producer from ever sounding stale.  The Mountain Will Fall is a picture of an artist who keeps moving motivated by curiosity and experimentation.  Consistent evolution is the name of the game for DJ Shadow.  He’s not the same DJ he was in ’96 but he’s still one of the most creative and original music-makers in the business.

Lake Street Dive – “Side Pony” Review

I have been excited about this new Lake Street Dive album for a while, but I’m just now getting a chance to listen to it. If you haven’t already heard the previous records by this band, then you have been sadly deprived for the last 5 years. This is probably my favorite current band, and I use the term “current” loosely. They have managed to bring forth a resurrection of  music from the past and give it a modern update all at the same time. This band is what you’d get if Amy Winehouse and Fleetwood Mac would have managed to collaborate. The lead singer, Rachael Price, is a vocal powerhouse. The band members are: Mike Calabrese (who holds down  the drums and background vocals all throughout the album), Bridget Kearney who lends the band  her voice and amazing skills as a Bass player, and last, but not least, Mike ‘McDuck” Olson (trumpet and guitar). The band started in 2004 in Boston, Massachusetts and they haven’t looked back.

 

The new album,  Side Pony, is a bit of an evolution album. It’s what you get when you take a band that’s already great and combine it with a label that allows them to immerse themselves in creative freedom. It debuted number 1 on the Billboard Top Rock Albums, Folk Albums, and Alternative Album charts. It’s no surprise when you listen to the writing and the production.

 

The album opens with a head banger. “Godawful Things” is a bass-driven song written by Mike Olson. The song Is a marriage of folk rock and funk, a combination that I hope the band won’t divorce from anytime soon.

 

“Close To Me” is a song written by Mike Calabrese. It’s a nice easy-going song that manages to take you mind off of your surrounding . It’s so easy to get lost in Rachel Price’s soothing vocals and the nice 3-part harmony provided by McDuck, and Bridget.

 

“Call of Your Dogs”, written by Bridget Kearney, made it hard for me to move on to the next song in this album. I played it at least three times for moving on to the next song! I guess it’s safe to say that this was my favorite song on the album.

“I Don’t Care”, a song written by Mike Calabrese, reminds me of that good old Muscle Shoals rock. The guitar lines stay close enough to blues that it leaves you wondering how to categorize the tune.

 

“Side Pony” Is the title of this album and the first single that was released. It’s a song written by Mike Olson. The song was written in honor of a hairstyle that was adopted by the band’s bass player Bridget Kearney. It’s a playful catchy tune that you’ll catch yourself humming while you walk down the street.  

“Mistakes” is ballad written by Rachel Price. The song is a bit of a reflection piece. It’s an ode to the mistakes you may have made…as well as the mistakes you’ll make.

 

I didn’t mention every song in this album, but it was definitely an album that I was able to listen to and enjoy without skipping any tracks. I finished listening to this album knowing that I would be revisiting it for the foreseeable future. I have to give this album an A. If you get a chance, please take a listen to Side Pony, and to the band’s previous albums. You won’t regret it.

Review: Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book

Is Chance the only one who still cares about mixtapes?  With three under his belt since 2012 and no sign of caving in to a label deal anytime soon, the 23 year old Chicago rapper is standing for a golden era in rap when mixtapes were a big deal and allowed artists the freedom to expand creatively and do it on their own terms.  And for a kid who never attached himself to a label, he’s found himself in extremely impressive company.  Its like his style and enthusiasm as well as his refusal to claim one camp or another allow him to bridge genres and make friends in wildly different schools of hip-hop.  From alternative to trap to pop-rap, Chance seems to have friends everywhere and he brings these influences together into an ambitious, broad, and fresh mixtape.

He’s clearly evolved his style since 2013’s Acid Rap.  There are more instances of dap-worthy, auto-tuned bangers and heavy dose of gospel sound that clearly nods to Kanye West’s The Life Of Pablo.  It’s more complex and nuanced than the boom-bap and nasal delivery of earlier mixtapes and the departure comes with it’s share of risks.  His lively persona shines through and is consistent with the way he’s always presented himself.  On every track he finds himself on he always sounds like he’s just super stoked to be there.  But now he’s more confident in himself; confident enough to take risks and let other parts of the tracks speak just as loud as his verses.  The standout tracks like “Angels”, “All We Got”, and “No Problem” have deep and multifaceted production and find Chance delivering verses that simultaneously sound like exactly what you expect him to sound like with an added maturity.  As much as fans love his trademark ad-lib and frantic, high-pitched tone, those elements that set him apart and endeared fans to his weirdness are sparse here and it makes everything fit together better.  He still manages to bring his uniqueness through a different gauntlet of creative rhythms and writing, but he cut the gimmicks this time.

Tracks like “How Great” and “Blessings” incorporate heavy gospel influences that feel really well conceived and sincere in the hands of Chance.  He brings a personality to these tracks that is so engaging and real that the listener is likely to start raising their hands and shouting affirmatives mid-song.  These moments are just a piece of the personality of the record.  Chance brings high energy and a personal twist that stems from the rapper’s real life.  He’s growing up, he has a child, he’s starting to explore religion, evolving relationships, and growing success.  The mood is infectious and makes the worse songs on the album still feel fun or at least bearable.  “Juke Jam” for example, drags and feels composed more to suit Justin Bieber than to suit Chance.  “Mixtape” is similarly produced to match the features’ style and that tendency in the production decisions pulls away from the otherwise confident vibe of the tape.  This is his mixtape but sometimes it still sounds more like he’s being featured on other people’s tracks than the other way around.  It’s obvious that he’s mostly just excited to be featuring some of the biggest artists in the world on his work, but all the features leave less room for his own voice to shine.

The evolution and experimentation are respectable though, even if it’s not always successful.  The huge new sound sometimes feels too over dramatic like on “Smoke Break”.  But other times, like “How Great”, the massive scope of the sound absolutely makes the track.  Really, the moments when he simplifies the presentation of big ideas are so much more effective than the moments when he tries to elevate insignificant topics.  The reprise of “Blessings”, which isn’t so much a reprise as it is a second song with the same title, is the most real and stripped down view of Chance we get on Coloring Book and it blows pretty much every other verse on the tape out of the water.  It’s gospel, it’s soulful, and it is just so simple.  This mixtape shows a lot of evolution and a lot of new influences coming together and its biggest flaw is perhaps that there’s too much.  Chance himself gets buried at times and for a rapper with so much charisma and personality it’s surprising that he’s not more of a focal point.  It’s good to hear more music from him and for all it’s flaws, Coloring Book, is refreshing in its maturity.  He’s got a ton of support and a lot of influences so it’s safe to say he’ll find a way to keep stepping it up with or without a major label.

AltWire Album Review: Kygo – Cloud Nine

Electronic dance music. A fine art in the sense that it’s a masterful way to dictate the energy and atmosphere of a room full of ravers. But not so much in the eyes of the average critical and analytic music buff, whose home lies in well-crafted, live instrumentation and audacious songwriting. Usually, electronic dance always has a habit of throwing everything, including the kitchen sink, at the listener. This happens with the volume turned up to eleven and an explosive electronic riff usually substituting for the refrain. But then you have exceptions such as Norwegian deejay Kygo’s debut album, Cloud Nine. Cloud Nine is a unique, downtempo take on a genre usually filled with loud noises. Traditionalists of EDM will probably hate the album’s calm and collected nature. However, Cloud Nine‘s marquee of catchy riffs, vibrant and spacious atmosphere and ensemble of incredible vocal talent will be a crowd-pleaser for casual listeners.

Cloud Nine clocks in at 55 minutes, consisting a joy ride of many different musical emotions across 15 unique tracks. It does this while keeping a philosophy of calm and tranquil musicianship. This is something you’d never see Avicii, Zedd, or any of the mainstream EDM artists take on. The album earns its name for a warm and relaxing experience that will have you feeling like you’re floating on “cloud nine”. There’s never an array of many different electronic melodies flying at once. There aren’t any loud drums or earth-shaking bass to be found. There is only the attractive craftsmanship of Kygo and his ability to create soulful songs out of the same “verse-buildup-drop” structure of the traditional EDM track. He accomplishes this electronic music production by regressing to simply a melody and its chords. For example, on the album’s most commercially exposed track, “Stay”, there are only three parts to the song’s “drop”: a warped piano track playing the chords, a simple synth melody and a smooth drum loop. All 3 parts are within a comparatively slower tempo than the average 140 BPM EDM track.

In various tracks, a particular live instrument becomes the feature of the track, setting the track’s mood and atmosphere with it. In “Raging”, it’s a dancing acoustic guitar. In “Happy Birthday”, it’s a commanding piano performance. Finally, in “Not Alone”, it’s a tranquil electric guitar. Some tracks bring the same instrument into the forefront, but employs them in a different way to match the intended color of the sound. “Serious” also features an electric guitar, but with a more passionate edge. This theme of the album helps give each track its own unique style and flavor. That’s what prevents Cloud Nine from becoming a 55-minute dud of aimless electronic music that sounds alike throughout.

Another strength of Cloud Nine stems from the host of amazing vocal talent featured on the album. Kygo managed to round up some rather gifted individuals. These individuals are both well-known inside and outside the mainstream and execute the album’s various vocal exercises. The biggest names on the album, John Legend and Foxes, both give some powerful performances on “Happy Birthday” and “Oasis” respectively. Legendary Australian duo Angus and Julia Stone also make an appearance on Cloud Nine. They kick out some fun and enchantment on closing track “For What It’s Worth”. Another fellow Australian, singer-guitarist Matt Corby, lays down a sensual and stimulating hymn on “Serious”.

Our hearts are like firestones
And when they strike, we feel the love

Of course, no album gets pressed onto the store shelf without carrying a few flaws. While the near-entirety of Cloud Nine‘s music and vocal talent is flawless, the album’s songwriting itself is there, existing as a substantial weight on the enjoyment of the lyrically-minded audiences. The album’s biggest weakness is it’s rather disposable lyrics. They seem to be made up simply as a reason to have vocals on the album. The track list of Cloud Nine consists mostly of poppy love songs and cheesy inspiration songs. “Firestone” has Conrad Sewell singing, albeit in a wavy and enjoyably hypnotic tone: “Our hearts are like / firestones / and when they strike / we feel the love”. The cheese is real.

Repetition is the bane of good songwriting, and unfortunately, Cloud Nine succumbs to a hell of a lot of repetition. It is not only confined to various repeats of choruses and hooks, but even deathly repetition of singular words or phrases. In the intro to “I’m in Love”, James Vincent McMorrow shouts the title of the song 23 times in a row. Yes, you heard me, in the intro alone. Foxes’ ethereal performance on “Oasis” includes of a three-line chorus where the phrase “You’re my oasis” is repeated twice. Even Angus and Julia Stone’s performance on “For What it’s Worth” is wasted on repetition. They sing the phrases: “We were kids / trying to make it up / as we go along / as we go along” and “For what it’s worth / I was only trying to / wake you up” four and eight times, respectively.

Come take my heart of glass, and give me your love
I hope you’ll still be there to pick the pieces up

There is a grand exception to the disappointing offering in songwriting, though. That exception is the song “Fragile”, spearheaded by a powerful performance by British pop icon Labyrinth. In what seems to be a sharp deviation from the corny love songs, “Fragile” draws it’s themes from the classic metaphor of the shattered heart. This falls in line with Labyrinth’s trademark of unusually artful songwriting. “Come take my heart of glass / and give me your love / I hope you’ll still be there / to pick the pieces up / ’cause baby, I’m fragile”, he sings.

kygo-review-footer

For it’s rather disappointing lyrical effort, Kygo’s Cloud Nine more than makes up for it. It makes up in the form of some well-crafted, calm and collected electronic music that keeps to the form of the traditional EDM song structure…while avoiding the precarious jumping of the shark. Throughout its length, it delivers a relaxing experience through a minimalist style of production that creates a space of elation and composure in the otherwise noisy world of electronic music. Cloud Nine is backed by strong and stunning performances by a diverse range of skilled vocalists, from all kinds of fames and fortunes. For the average EDM listener used to the big sounds and heavy lines, it might be a bore. For the songwriters’ crowd, it might be a whole bunch of inedible corn, with the exception of “Fragile”. However for the casual listener, it will be nothing less than a delight.

Album Rating: B

“The Heart Speaks In Whispers” – Corinne Bailey Rae album review

Corinne Bailey Rae is back on the music scene after a five year hiatus with her new album The Heart Speaks In Whispers. I have personally been waiting to hear new music from her and I am genuinely pleased with this album. This album displays an exceptional amount of growth for Corinne. The production value on this album is amazing, it caters to the simple, but sweet vocals of the songs, and enhances the lyrics .

One of my favorite tracks on this is “Walk On”, with its soothing, calm Neo-Soul influence. It’s a song that marches to the beat of its own drum. Corinne sounds completely at peace with past turmoil. The drums really drive this song!

“Caramel” is another favorite. The song is a bittersweet song about coming out on the other side of strife. It’s a powerful ballad, and I managed to completely lose myself in it.

“Hey I won’t break your heart” is another ballad that I fell in love with. It’s a song about forgiveness. Introduced with a guitar and small choir-like backgrounds, the song grows as the seconds pass; soon you find yourself listening to a full sounding mid-tempo tune .

“High” is probably the best song on the album. This piano-driven song ties the whole album together in my opinion. “High” lifts the tone of the whole album and starts to lead you out, leaving you uplifted and satisfied .
There are a couple of other songs on the album that are album-fillers, in my opinion but I can still listen to them without skipping. “Do you ever think of me” is one of these songs, but only because it’s yet another ballad in an album overflowing with them.

The last song on this album is “Push On for The Dawn”. It’s a much needed mid-tempo song for an album ruled by ballads. The song is fabulous! The pure vocal talent on this song is mesmerizing; couple that with the well-balanced production of it, and you have a radio single.

I am very pleased with this album. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a very easy album to make compromises for. I would have loved for the album to have a few uptempo songs, but I went expecting Corinne Bailey Rae, and that’s exactly what I got. I have to give this album a B. I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I have!

You can find the album on Tidal, Spotify, and iTunes.

Review: Gwen Stefani – “This is What the Truth Feels Like”

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Make me like you? I could get used to this. I used to love you, and frankly, I never stopped.
    OK, enough already. EVERYONE has heard the new Gwen Stefani album, correct? If not, stop right now, get on your Apple Play and listen to that mo-fo!! Our girl is back! It’s been a while since we’ve seen anything from her except tabloid rumors and Voice promotions. This is What the Truth Feels Like brings back Gwen in her first solo album since 2006’s The Sweet Escape.
So… kind of a big deal.
    Even as I write this, I just got little chill pimples from the memories of singing those catchy tunes in my mini van with the kid-lets, who are now man-children about to move away to college (insert tears, sniffles… and moving on).
    I can’t get enough of Gwen. In my other life, I am a photographer and pseudo make-up artist/stylist. Gwen encompasses the very essence of what I live and die for in every day life. Those eyes, that confidence, the style, all that is Stefani! I just want to get her in front of my lens and play for at least a whole day. She is “photo-gasmic”! So much that you almost, almost, forget that she can sing.
    I want to just take a few moments to examine this album from the inside out. Come on, let’s  take a look, shall we?
    First of all, Gwen’s story seems to begin with a  glamorous pseudo-Playboy photo session. The album itself is completely gorgeous. I don’t know if I’ve seen her this beautiful since the Hewlett-Packard campaign of 2006. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that at 46, she has never looked better.
    When we unfold the booklet within, we journey into Gwen’s bedroom and into the studio, for some more playful shots in a Monroe throwback type bundle of loveliness.
She can’t be a day over 20.
    Seriously Gwen, what’s in the serum or what did you promise to the devil? She looks amazing.
Stunning.
Staggering.
    While I’m starting to question my sexuality, let’s keep moving.
Can we please talk about the bubble writing? Let’s not kid ourselves, pun intended, every girl had a journal just like the one Gwen has laid out before us here.
Since when has album art been this fun?
    I feel like I should post spoiler alerts here for all of this loveliness. In typical Gwen fashion, this whole musical bundle is just cute. It’s sassy, spicy, and you can just feel the girlishness gushing out of the package (oooohhhh… teenage audience draw! Good one Gwen…nicely done).
    Now I know no one really buys CD’s anymore, but vinyl is back in. Of course, there’s always the digital download. Invest in the whole thing. Why? Well, because…all the feels. Also, can someone please turn all this art into a font? I’d really appreciate that. Thanks.
    Now onto the hard stuff. Let’s dig deeper. We’ve fallen in love with the fact that Gwen is back, and that she’s so damn gorgeous. So, let’s take a listen.
Everyone, take a break for listening time. No, seriously, go do it.
Really. No, seriously…STOP READING AND LISTEN TO THE WHOLE ALBUM!
    Did you listen? Don’t you feel better? Did you dance in your seat a little bit? Don’t lie, we all did the butt-cheek rumba to “Misery”. It’s ok to admit it. It wasn’t what I was expecting either.
    Wait, before you storm off, hear me out. Let’s chat a little bit. Over the last 48 hours I have listened to this album no less than 20 times. Each time I listen to it, I feel Gwen’s pain a little bit more. Clearly, she spent a deep amount of time on each lyric.
    The first half of the album from “Misery” to “Used to Love You” is radio-worthy. She’s obviously grown up more than just a little bit, and her voice is nothing less than spectacular. “Used to Love You” reaches through, wraps it’s acrylic-nailed fingers around your pulsating heart, rips it from your chest, throws it on the floor, and stomps all over it. If that wasn’t enough, pull up the video.
Yeah, you’re welcome.
    “Make me Like You” may be my favorite track on the album. This is definitely worthy of what we’ve been waiting for. So glad you’re back Gwen. We’ve missed you, even though you never really went away.
OK, let’s skip over “Send me a Picture”, because…blah. Let’s talk about “Red Flag”. Gwen, seriously, WHAT THE [email protected]%???? “Red Flag” is reminiscent of “Ex-Girlfriend” and not in a good way. Gwen takes on rapping in that weird, funky method that only Lady Gaga can get away with.
    The next 4 songs are definitely B-Sides. While I don’t want to ruin the album for you, it’s like she just gave up after track 6. I will say “Me Without You” should be shuffled up in the list to number 7, and we could’ve just stopped there and trashed the rest.
    So then we have to consider it as a whole. Are 7 decent songs on an album really OK? I’m gonna go with…yes! All in all, I loved this album. Isn’t the point of iTunes to be able to select and make playlists of the songs we love and trash the others? I know, I know. Some of you have your mouths gaping,  open with a claw-filtered over going “Na-uh, she did NOT just say that”.
Yep.
    Yep, I did. All artists have not-so-great songs on albums, but not all artists have the ability to take the awful songs into a deeper level of embarrassing. So please, just stick with tracks 1-6, shuffle in 11, enjoy the album art and call it a day. We all want to keep on loving you Gwen.
    Gwen, I do love you. I love that funky style you have and your flawless skin. When I heard Tragic Kingdom straight out of the package before anyone else back in 1995, I played it over and over and over until my husband wanted to throw it out the car window. So much of what you’re doing here on side B is like a mistakenly bad throwback to that time. I’m not going to love you any less. However, I’m going to have to give this album a solid B+. I know there will be haters. You probably deserve better, but I can’t with good conscience give it to you.
    The B+ rating will NOT stop me from seeing the show this summer, or emulating a photo session of my own with these image influences. I’m going to love this album for what it is, and girl I will see you on the road.
I promise to bring Chamomile.
Album Rating: B+