Album Review – Mystery Skulls, Forever

foreverI discovered Mystery Skulls due to their dual-collabo with Brandy and Nile Rogers, on the songs Number 1 and Magic. I happen to find both of these songs excellent listens, but I believe the album as a whole deserves reviewing for its overall quality.

The debut album was released at the end of October of this year after four singles teased Forever. Some say Mystery Skulls’ Indie-based music sounds similar to Daft Punk, but their funky-electro sound is rather unique to my ears. Anyways, I will try to be a bit brief in this review, but no promises.

So let’s break into this album and review it track-by-track:

1. Forever – The title track introduces the sound of Mystery Skulls right away. The pop/electronic sound of Mystery Skulls (Thanks Wikipedia) is evident immediately by the delay of vocals and emphasis on the song’s bassline and complex instrumental design. Strings, piano, and sounds of crowds add to the song’s sound, which is an indication for the rest of the album. The transition into EDM is a bit quick, but the song is catchy and one of the better pieces of the album. 9.25/10

2.  The Future – Unlike the previous song, this track: 1. Has vocals that begin right away. 2. Features more swear words. 3. Leans more towards the Electronic sound than funk. The hook is a mash-up of “da-da-da-da” and fluxes of high bass. Yes, that was a real sentence, and I am proud of it. In essence, if EDM appeals to you, I would hardly skip this song. However, there are plenty of listeners looking for the Funk-based sound of Mystery Skulls. It can be a bit overwhelming to a non-EDM listener, lowering the general appeal but sticking to the roots of their sound. 9/10

3. Paralyzed – Paralyzed, aka Da Funk by Daft Punk but with vocals, is similar to the previous track. The hook makes sense and is catchy due to its lyricism. The emphasis of the song tends to be more focused on the vocals than before, and this pattern will continue later in the album at times. The song feels a bit basic between the lack of pace-change and similar beat to an earlier popular Daft Punk song. Still a solid effort and worth a listen though, despite not much change in the track until it feels too late (strings play throughout the end of the song). 7.75/10

4. Hellbent ft. Snowblood – Listening to this song for the first time was just kind of mind-boggling. The beat rises and rises until it feels like a dance-club in your ears. The pace drops quickly and emphasizes the vocals, but this is while the pace changes behind the singing of Mystery Skulls and returns to the almost ghastly beat of Hellbent. The creativity and complexity of the track’s pace and beat is entertaining and quite enjoying to listen to. The beat can sound like buzzing at times, and ruining the effect for a while, which is a shame. The track is also very brief, which is odd for a song that has one of only a couple of features. 8.25/10

5. Fantasy – More of me complaining about pace, but Fantasy features an immediate pace-change and another immediate drop that just feels rushed. Otherwise, the soothing auto-tuned track features an interesting and entertaining sound and lovely vocals. The hook is enjoyable, despite a lack of vocals, and this could be close to one of my favorites on the album. 9.25/10

6. Ghost – Ghost is one of the biggest reasons Mystery Skulls has an album right now, and it hardly disappoints. If this was my first impression of Dubuc’s music, I would be impressed. The song featured some Billboard chart time on the Dance songs at #15 (Again, thanks Wikipedia) and resembles much of modern pop’s sound. The song has moments when it resembles Hellbent, but this could be one of the best songs on the album. It is catchy as ever and remains stuck in my head. 9.5/10

7. Magic ft. Nile Rogers and Brandy – I had to deliberate if I liked this song over the next track, Number 1, and while I appreciate the lyricism in the latter, I find this song to be my favorite of the two, and on the whole album. Brandy’s voice sounds excellent and the vocals of Mystery Skulls are probably the purest and most enjoyable on this song. It is almost perfect, save for the over-repetitive hook, which does not ruin the song, per say, but just takes away from its appeal. 9.75/10

8. Number 1 ft. Nile Rogers and Brandy – Already reviewed this song here a while ago. I do enjoy hearing it a lot still, and it is up there in my favorites on this album.

9. When I’m With You – I was afraid of a drop in consistency after the two best features on the album, but When I’m With You debunks that theory and proves that Mystery Skulls has a consistently solid album throughout. The EDM aspect of this song is evident and the nearly vocal-less hook is incredible in it simplicity. Another song on the album truly worth a listen. 9.5/10

10. Body High – I was slightly disappointed by this track after the previous few being the climax of the album and so excellent, but the song remains a great listen.  The vocals are more prominent in this track until the chorus, and the complex instrumental (including piano) constantly changes and stays interesting. The hook is very catchy, and resembles the previous song’s beat. Everything jumps in just a bit too quickly and the song can be a bit tedious after a couple minutes in. 8.75/10

11. Every Note – So how will Mystery Skulls cap the album? The closing out of an LP is remarkably important to me, and the verdict on this one is clear. The song ends the album well by encompassing the album’s sound and playing a safe “similar to the previous songs” ending. The variations of sounds and consistent beat make it an easy song to listen to after an a long album, and the new sounds inserted are not enough to make the listener jump out of their seat. The song is solid, but not as entertaining as some of the previous songs. 9/10

So that averages out to around 9/10, which is appropriate for this album. The sound of Mystery Skulls is ingenuitive and an impressive start, but there are a few dud tracks that weigh it down and sound un-original. However, there are some gems on this album worth listening to, including Number 1MagicGhost, Fantasy and Forever. I highly recommend at least a listen to those. Now let’s give a special thanks to Mystery Skulls for merging Funk and Neo-Soul with EDM so well.

You can buy the whole album here. You can also stream the album as a whole at MelodySpot.com:

http://www.melodyspot.com/albums/view/356/Mystery-Skulls-_Forever

-Austin Heath

Music Recommendation – Single – Aquilo, Human

Aquilo’s Human is an example of the mellow sound of the English duo. The song is slow and a bit dark, but the energy behind it is so calming yet reflective that I had to share it. Despite the emotional touch of Human, is it really a good song?

I have to say the song is actually really enjoyable. I have enjoyed listening to it several times, though I do not think I could with only one earphone. The song’s purpose is to take over your hearing space and submerge you into emotion.

S O H N was in charge of production, who I must say did pretty well on this one. The chaos of the hook can ruin the mood a bit, but it hardly makes it a bad song. Overall, I would rate the song at 9.25/10. I recommend a listen/reflection/entrance into depression below:

-Austin Heath

Music Recommendation – Single – HAERTS, Be The One

Right away, when I heard HAERTS’ Be The One, I knew I liked the tune. The first stanza is a little bland but the instrumental start is great and the hook is worth the wait. The sound compares to that of CHVRCHES or Paperwhite.

The love song Be The One is the second single for HAERTS’ upcoming self-titled debut album, due for release on October 27th. Overall, I would rate the song at about 8.75/10. The whole song is a fun yet calm track that I find enjoyable, and cannot wait to hear more on the upcoming album.

Give the song a listen below on SoundCloud (link won’t embed on here for some reason):

https://soundcloud.com/haertsmusic/be-the-one

-Austin Heath

Artist Recommendation – Kiki Rowe

In my next Artist picks we have Kiki Rowe. Kiki is an up-and-coming Canadian RnB/Alternative singer. Sound familiar? Yes, Kiki bears serious resemblance to The Weeknd, and that is definitely not a bad thing. If you enjoy listening to Abel, you should seriously listen to this girl’s stuff.

Be Alright and All We Got are excellent, but my number one pick of the Mississauga native’s songs is Come Through. All of her songs have a gorgeous sound though, and her diverse music ranges from low-key RnB to Alternative-pop. The beautiful artist keeps her work original and interesting throughout every track.

I’m leaving her 10 SoundCloud tracks below, but if you do not have enough time to listen to them all then I recommend at least giving my three favorites above a listen. Overall, I would rate her sound at 9.5/10. While her sound is similar to The Weeknd’s, it is distinct and quite majestic. I would love to hear a little less editing in some of her tracks (something I’ve noticed changing anyways though). Now check out her music below:

-Austin Heath

Album Review – Minor Soul, Tiger

A few days earlier I wrote about Indie-Pop group Minor Soul, whose second album Tiger just released yesterday. The album is full of soothing melodies filled with acoustic sound. The brothers follow up their first album with some beautiful tracks in Tiger. Let’s break down the album track-by-track:

1. Nothing At All – One of the group’s singles for the album was Nothing At All, which ends up being my favorite of the album. It is upbeat and catchy, though it does not give a great idea of what the album will sound like. The song is pop-y and contradicts the calm sound of most of the other tracks. I still like the song a lot, just don’t expect the other songs to be similar. 9.5/10

2. Summer Nights – I am amazed by the vocals on this song, and would not be surprised if this became the most popular song on Tiger. While I like listening to Nothing At All the most because of its upbeat tone, this one is a beautiful acoustic masterpiece. Without a doubt the best song on the album. 9.75/10

3. Charlie Chaplin – Another single, and one of the most popular Minor Soul songs, is Charlie Chaplin. It’s a catchy track that picks up pace at the hook. The deep harmonies aren’t as impressive as the proceeding tracks, but it is an enjoyable song. 9/10

4. Running Home – I was truly impressed by the complexity of this song, and it was close to being my favorite on the album. The verses between the hook are not as exciting as the chorus though, except for the brothers’ harmonies together. I could see this also being a big hit song though. 9.5/10

5. Scissor Fingers – I can feel a change of pace for the LP in this song. The acoustic sound is more apparent and the vocals show heavy influence from Soft Rock. The pitch gets a bit too high sometimes in the verses, but the hook is smooth and cute. It is definitely one of the catchiest tracks on Tiger. 8.5/10

6. Old Shoes – Guitar dominates this song, similar to the rate of the previous song. There is a lot of passion before the hook, which is interesting to hear from the smooth vocals of Minor Soul. The bridge sounds a lot like Owl City, not sure why but it reminds me of them. It’s slow but very enjoyable. 9.25/10

7. Cards – From what I hear, this song is pretty popular already. It’s no surprise either. Despite the almost Country-sound of the first stanza, the song picks up pace and leads into an almost Alternative hook. It has a similar complex chorus to Running Home, but with a more consistent pace. 9.5/10

8. Walls and Ceillings – I was surprised by the beat to this song, which is much different from the rest of the album. It does prove, however, that this group knows how to change their sound up a bit every album. That says a lot about a group, and the Pop-sound of Walls and Ceillings, though not exactly my favorite, stands out as different and initiative. 9.25/10

9. High and Low – Right away this song leads to a slow love ballad. If you like a slower Indie sound, this track will be up there in your favorites. The long notes on the hook is incredibly soothing and the calm nature of this song is definitely achieved and consistently carried out. 9.25/10

10. Babylon – Similar to High and Low, Babylon first appears to be a slow ballad. However the hook picks up quickly and transitions into a passionate piece. The next stanza is a bit higher paced and the change is pulled off well to make the song still enjoyable without being too exciting or too calm. The music is similar to a Bastille or One Direction song, who I have praised since the beginning. I could see a track like this being a good model for newer songs from Minor Soul for its band-like sound. The bridge is fun and catchy and works well with the complex song. 9.5/10

11. Tiger – The final song is named after the album itself. The song is a slow and smooth track, explaining their inability to change a woman into what they want, just like they could not make a tiger change its stripes. I like the message, but the sound is basically just vocals with little instrumental. The voices sound great but just feels a bit like an empty shell. 8.25/10

So, that averages to about 9.25/10. The album has some very good songs on it and it is currently one of my favorites. Minor Soul deserves way more recognition and I think the top-rated songs in this review at least deserve a listen. No matter what music you like, it will be easy to find a song you like on here. You can buy their album on iTunes now, and find them on several social media outlets. So enjoy Tiger and if you like it, go back and listen to their debut album, Home Is Where You Are:

-Austin Heath

EDIT: I had forgotten Cards was produced by Ajr, so I’m sure that has something to do with it being a good song.

Music Recommendation – Single – The Shins, Caring Is Creepy

Contrary to the title of the song, Caring Is Creepy never mentions caring being creepy at all. It’s pretty difficult to get any message, or even lyrics, out of this song. It is damn good though.

The instrumentals behind the voice of singer James Mercer sound incredible, though they do dominate Mercer’s vocals a bit. The song is quite interesting throughout and is centered around the unique Indie-alternative sound it creates.

Overall, I would rate the song a 9/10. It may not be easy to understand and the instrumental may be most of the song, but it’s still rather good. I enjoy listening to it, especially before resting. It has almost an hypnotic sound that I think is worth a listen:

-Austin Heath

Album Review – Brendan Ciccone, Brendan Ciccone (Self-Titled EP)

I was going to introduce this artist’s music as a whole, but I was really impressed by the quality of his self-titled EP. The 5-track project is features vocals only from him with plenty of Indie-acoustic and electric guitar instrumentals. His voice is put on display to admire as he reaches high and long notes throughout, especially in the hook of It’s You.

I shall now break down the album song-by-song to explain the EP:

1. It’s You – This is definitely the right track to start the EP with. At first everything sounds very acoustic and calm, but after the electric guitar solo bridge, it picks up until the very end. The transition is well but unexpected. I really like this song, probably my favorite of the five. 9.75/10

2. Don’t You Ever Go – The next track slows down a bit, and reminds you of a typical Indie love song. The ballad is lyrically sweet and the guitar adds to the mood. I love the idea of putting this one on a date-night playlist, as it is appealing to plenty. A bit repetitive despite being, but still a great listen. 9.5/10

3. Not Even Death – I really appreciate this song as it reminds me of Bastille, who I praised a few weeks ago for their sound. The verses sound a little rough between words, and the hook comes and goes before you realize it. I do like how the album picks up pace after the slower previous track, and the bridge is very enjoyable. It’s a solid, though short, track overall. 8.75/10

4. Words – The more reality-based Words is an explanation of Brendan’s side of a breakup. While it starts out a bit bland, the passion really comes out at the hook and afterwards. The pauses between lines in the second verse can feel a bit elongated and awkward. This is probably my least favorite of the five, but still a good slow breakup track. 8.25/10

5. Relief – The album ends with a 5-minute song with long notes on words every sentence. However, the instrumentals in the background combined with the hook give the sound serious resemblance to Coldplay. I love the alternative sound in this song and hope that it continues similarly again in his next works. 8.75/10

So overall, that averages out to a perfect 9/10. The songs are all very melodic tones and the first two start out very strong. I would keep an eye on his work for the next few months. I recommend at the very least listening to the first two tracks, and if you like those give the rest a hear below:

-Austin Heath

Artist Recommendation – Minor Soul

It’s time for another artist recommendation! Here we have Minor Soul, a duo of British brothers who make acoustic-pop Indie-type music. Jake and Max have a soothing sound working together, especially in their upcoming album, Tiger. This year they are even going on tour with I’m Ready creators AJR.

The music features plenty of slow acoustic melodies, several of which are love songs. The tracks are very calm and pleasant to listen to. If you like Indie music this group will definitely be in your favorites soon.

I really like their songs overall, but my favorites are definitely That’s Just Love and Ocean Eyes from their Home Is Where You Are album, along with Nothing At All (my favorite of the three). Their music reminds me an Indie Red Hot Chili Peppers in their prime. I’m not good at comparisons but you can make out of that what you want.

Overall, if I had to give any feedback on their music or give you something to look out for, the albums have a similar sound in each song. If you like one of the songs, you will like them all, and vice-versa. With all of that said, my rating for the group is 9.5/10. They provide a great acoustic-pop/Indie sound that they seem to be going for, and the vocals are only improving through each album.

I recommend at the very least a listen to my favorites, and if you like these you can find most of their music for cheap on iTunes, or on their official YouTube channel. And if you really like them you can see them in concert opening for AJR at a steal of a price (if you ask me, Silver Springs near me is only $16 per person!). I’m personally considering it for myself.

So try out their music below and see what you think, this is only a sample of what they have to offer:

-Austin Heath

Music Recommendation – Single – Jesse Boykins III, Show Me Who You Are

Another RnB song here with some Indie mixed in. Jesse Boykins III dropped Show Me Who You Are earlier this year but the song has been overlooked by way too many.

The harmonizing hook and beat are solid, though repetitive, and the voice range of Boykins III is superb. I am a bit disappointed in the overpowerment that the beat has. At times it is very hard to understand the track and it feels way too chaotic.

Overall, I would give the song a 8.5/10. The quality really bothers me but it is still worth a listen. Try it out below:

-Austin Heath

Music Recommendation – Single – The Shins, Simple Song

After you play this one, go ahead and listen to some more. The Shins are an awesome band with great music. But I want to focus on a particular song, Simple Song. If you’ve heard it before then chances are you recognize it from How I Met Your Mother, in the last 2 minutes of Season 8. I looked up the song and it instantly became one of my favorites for a long time (go ahead and bash me for not hearing it before it was on the television, I could care less).

The song starts out slow, with lyrics that are hard to interpret. The song picks up and the guitar and drums get louder. They do not dominate the passionate singing of James Mercer however. The relaxing Indie sound combines with the exciting drums and guitar and strong voice. Not much else to say about the song except that it is very much worthy of a listen. The lyrics catch on pretty quickly after a few listens, 8.75/10. So go ahead and enjoy:

-Austin Heath