Album Review – Set It Off, “Duality”

set-it-offI fear it has been too long since I posted here. Obviously, I will need something quite enticing to gain back my audience. To those loyal viewers who stayed in my absence, you sure are in for a treat.

Meet Set It Off, a Tampa, Florida-based rock/punk group who have been making music for about 7 years now. The band is known for frequenting Vans Warped Tour, even this year when I am extremely underwhelmed by the lineup otherwise. Originally, this article was going to be an “Artist Recommendation” page. That was, until I realized I could not pick a few individual songs I liked above the rest and that this would be my new favorite band. Every song is unique, and while Set It Off have a track record of good music, Duality is their greatest feat yet.

So what makes this album so incredible, that I waited this long to share it? Well, the only way I can explain that is if I break it down track-by-track:

1. “The Haunting” – Even though “The Haunting” was not the first impression that I was given of the band, it definitely helped me decide on whether or not I would dive into this album. While cruising about 35,000 feet in the air, my overpriced and crappy plane wifi allowed me the signal to get through one song on this album: This one. After being impressed by the introduction, and recognizing a couple of other good songs, I decided I would save this LP for later listening. I am sure glad I did, as “The Haunting” has the angry, passionate tone that plenty of the album has to offer, which appealed to me. It is a great example of what to expect, though each song is given its unique style to set it apart.

9.25/10

2. “N.M.E.” – When I heard the first thirty-or-so seconds of this song, I began to reminisce about pre-hiatus Fall Out Boy. Then, at this moment, I realized that I liked this band even more. The production on this song is diverse and I love the many instrumentals that go into making this piece so enjoyable. It has a similar tone to the previous song, but a hook that I find easier to pick up and an even better rhythm to it.

9.5/10

3. “Forever Stuck In Our Youth” – Despite not being able to keep up some of the words, I still find myself blurting out this song all of the time. The pacing is excellent and the lyrics make this an awesome love song. I was a bit bummed out that the bridge is basically just a repetition of the hook, when this band has already proved that they have mastered this section of the song anatomy.

8.75/10

4. “Why Worry” – This was the first solo Set It Off song I heard, and introduced me to the style of the band’s sound. It is one of their more popular singles, with good reason. The rhythm to the song is strangely likable despite being a bit odd, and the tone combines joy and angst in the perfect way. I have a knack for lyrics that address the listener in a way that feels personal, and this song does that quite well. “Why Worry” also features a solid bridge and great transition into the final couplet of choruses.

9/10

5. “Ancient History” – “Ancient History” was the second song that introduced me to this band, and ultimately what made me begin to love them. The song has a flavor of pop but has an aura of emotion that makes it interesting. The chorus is short but easy to pick up and enjoy. Then the bridge comes in, and the whole feel of the song shifts. It really is remarkable how well this group can transition back and forth, and this is a prime example of it. Also, that guitar riff before it just makes me smile every time.

9.5/10

6. “Bleak December” – “Bleak December” is exactly what the title suggest: bleak and cold. The band goes back to its angry, bitter post-breakup attitude and acts like it never left. The song gets a bit more explicit, but the lyricism does not suffer from this. You can feel the high levels of “done” that the song portrays with whoever this lady is, and the calmer, more collected bridge affirms this attitude of wiping their hands of her.

9.75/10

7. “Duality” – As we reach the title track, we look back and start to see how much the album has made each song unique and intriguing to hear more. “Duality” only provides another example of that, as the production is some of the album’s best. The hook is long but finds itself stuck in your head with a simple brain-washing “Do-do-do-do-do” repeated a number of times. Of course, it is followed by another excellent bridge that gives the song’s style a bit of a darker feel.

9.25/10

8. “Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing (ft. William Beckett)” – “Ba-Ba Black Sheep, have you any soul?” I wonder if this album is aimed at one girl, or if the band has just been screwed by so many devilish women? Regardless, this song is everything you would expect. More bitter feelings, but it does it with great analogies and an absolutely amazing chorus. The bridge sticks to the song’s original pace but switches up to some lyrics that are, well, not so friendly. I’m surprised this girl is “sleeping easy” after hearing these lyrics, but who doesn’t love a great breakup song about karma and deceitful women?

9/10

9. “Tomorrow (ft. Jason Lancaster)” – More Fall Out Boy vibes come forth in “Tomorrow”. I never said I didn’t like it, though. It is refreshing to get some optimism from the band after a couple of less smiley pieces, and while the song is Pop-y, it has a serious taste of Rock and loner-love Punk. Jason Lancaster shows that Set It Off aren’t the only ones who can make a great bridge as well.

9/10

10. “Bad Guy” – Something about this song feels a bit generic, but I still do enjoy it. I love the various sounds of the song and the pacing. The sound of “Bad Guy” gives the feeling that the album is coming to a close as it slows things down to close out. Not a whole lot to say about this one though, I enjoy it but compared to its predecessors it just feels a bit slow.

8.25/10

11. “Miss Mysterious” – If so some reason you decide not to listen to the whole album, make sure you go out of your way to listen to this one. The flow of it is elegant, the lyrics are inspiring and the meaning is very reflective. The song closes out the album perfectly, as it is literally a perfect song. The rhythm reminds me of “Drops Of Jupiter” and the meaning strikes comparisons to “What If”. These are both favorites of mine, so it is no wonder that this song is just beautiful to me.

10/10

So overall, the album averages out to about:

9.25/10

Duality is one of my favorite, if not the #1, albums I have ever heard. Each song is unique and enjoyable, and the 37 minutes it takes up is perfect for a shorter attention span like mine. I could give this whole album a perfect 10/10, but I know that no band will ever be that perfect. However, Set It Off comes damn close to being that. I honestly cannot wait to hear more from these guys, whether it be through their next album or live.

I highly recommend you listen to the full album, but if unable I would give the songs at 9.5 or over a chance. Stream it in full below and/or purchase it on iTunes here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/duality/id911196612

Give the album some love on Spotify below:

P.S. – Did you miss me?

Continue reading

Album Review – Foxes, “Glorious”

foxes-gloriousIt has been far too long since I did an album review. Or maybe not, most readers find themselves more attracted to hordes of wasps than reading a long wall of text. But fear not, I will keep the song descriptions brief. Actually, I probably won’t, or else I would not open every album review with “This will be shorter than usual.”

With that all said, let’s dive into Foxes’ debut album Glorious and break down why I enjoyed it as much as I did:

1. “Talking To Ghosts” – The album kicks off with “Talking To Ghosts”, which immediately sets a soulful but up-pace tone to the album. The rhythm is peculiar, but the sound is intriguing and keeps the listener’s attention. The instrumental is complex, and a little overpowering, but the song stands out and makes the next song worth tuning into. The lyrics become a bit less reflective by the end of the song, but the sound remains containing that attention-drawing complexity throughout the whole track.

8/10

2. “Youth” – “Youth” may be arguably Foxes’ most popular solo song (Afterall, nothing will ever reach the success that “Clarity” did). While the rhythm becomes easier to catch up with, the chorus comes and go rather fast. It takes the second round, at around one and a half minutes in, until the song’s anatomy makes more sense. Production does go a bit overboard with echoing, autotune, and forced voice-cracks until the bridge (which is just the chorus replayed again, but with less instrumentals). The conclusion of the song, however, features a climax of the beat and just the right amount of echo on the vocals of Foxes. That last third of the song makes the whole listen worth it for me.

6.75/10

3. “Holding Onto Heaven” –  At this point, I began to really enjoy the album. “Holding Onto Heaven” feels like the right balance of complexity but mindless Pop that Foxes is clearly attempting at. While she will hit it again in a few more songs (Hint hint at my favorite), “Holding Onto Heaven” is a great way to keep the listener saying “Well, let’s just see how this pans out.” The vocals do feature a bit of cosmetic work done over them, but the final product turns out better than the first two songs.

8.75/10

4. “White Coats” – “White Coats” goes back to the original pace that the album set, but does a much better job of carrying the mysterious aura of the sound of Glorious. I find “White Coats” the perfect “album” song, in that you enjoy it when you are listening to the album in full, but as an individual single it just feels out of place. The way it is placed in the album is perfect, and that gives the song a big extra couple of points. The chorus is noticeable, but still contains that lyrical complexity that peaked your interest in the last few songs. If you enjoy the raw sound of the chorus, you should find the bridge quite nice as well. The song

8.25/10

5. “Let Go For Tonight” – This song immediately represents a fast shift in the song’s tone, and while it may serve as a catchy individual piece, it just feels off with the album’s design. I admire the change and diversity, though the jump feels obnoxiously fast. It features less complexity, and more of an upbeat and happy-go-lucky Pop feel. While “Holding Onto Heaven” did well balancing the two, “Let Go For Tonight” feels unnecessarily repetitive and off balance from the original sound the album does well in keeping through the rest of the album.

6.25/10

6. “Night Glo” – And we find ourselves back to the original feel of the album, but the quick transition back makes “Night Glo” almost a tad boring. You might miss the chorus because there is virtually no change in pace until about half way into the song, and even that progresses slower than the American government system (shots fired). You may not notice this song play, but if you do you might see that it is actually a calming melody. Placing on the tracklist ruins it more than anything.

7.25/10

7. “Night Owls Early Birds” – I found this song featuring a solid balance (Not an artist, but a dope ass name for a band), similar to “Holding Onto Heaven”, but it seems production hit it and quit it on “Holding Onto Heaven” and left a bit to be done on the vocals. The raw sound feels dominated by the upbeat instrumental, but I can still admit the song is catchy. Still does not do the balance as well as some of its other siblings in Glorious, and feels like the first real “skippable” track on the album. Though that might be because of how abruptly it ends (It went to the next song and took me by surprise, but a very pleasant one. Hint hint #2).

5.75/10

8. “Glorious” – The title track of Glorious comes on the eighth piece, but boy is it worth the wait. Before I go into this, I will admit this is not the perfect song; However, it comes damn close. The lyrics, tone, and rhythm sum up the album perfect, making this song serve as the perfect title track. The chorus drops some of the lyrical complexity, but production and vocals do their part to make the whole work great. The bridge starts out slow but transitions into a chanting chorus that just caps the song off perfectly. This has to be my favorite song on the album, and while it may not appeal to everyone’s tastes (much like the artistry of Foxes), it is definitely a fine piece of music.

9.75/10

9. “Echo” – I actually like “Echo” quite a bit too, but it simply cannot compare to its predecessor. The rhythm is still unique and the tone of the vocals and lyrics are just mesmerizing. The chorus is long, but barely repetitive. The song represents the sound of Foxes quite well, though it does try a bit too hard to be like the title track by the end. Still a great song and one of my favorites on the album. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?

9.25/10

10. “Shaking Heads” – Is dangerous and not recommended for children under 3 years old. That probably was not a good joke, so we’ll just move on. This song is decent, though the chorus cuts off rather abruptly. “Shaking Heads” does fail at following up “Glorious” and “Echo”, but does do well in conveying that the album is beginning to come to a close. I enjoy the song, but does disappoint after the last two.

6.75/10

11. “Count The Saints” – I did not know what to expect from the final song on the album, but I knew it would have a tremendous role in the score of the album as a whole. As it opens, I notice a similar rhythm to “Glorious” on the piano. The complex and ominous feel to “Count The Saints” as it progresses does a great job of summing up the sound of the album and end the album with a reflective tone. The vocals echo more and more and the song concludes with a great surge of sound before it mellows out and fades out through one last chorus and soft piano. “Count The Saints” is definitely one of the better tracks and ends the album very well.

8.75/10

So overall, the album averages out to about:

7.75/10

While Glorious can almost reach for 4 stars, the album just does not find its way up. It is a great change to Pop and has a unique feel that makes the album as a whole seriously worth a listen, but it contains a couple of highlights and otherwise filler songs. Had it been cut down to an EP and featured the songs that scored above 7.5, it would have gotten a better score. Just beware of songs that you kinda hope are under four minutes due to either not feeling enjoyable or just sheer boring. Most of these are not exactly “sing loud in the shower” types.

I did enjoy the album and loved a few songs on here, and will be keeping an eye on music by Foxes in the future. In the meantime, you can check out the album below (Yay, I got it done! So much for keeping it short):

Continue reading

Album Review – Anakin Artz, “Dark Matter” (EP)

anakin-artzMy first Anakin Artz song was “OP”, which I reviewed a few days after first hearing it. My initial impression of Artz and the song’s production was interested, but not fully amused enough to hear a full album. I gave the song a recommendation anyways, then was offered to hear the full EP “Dark Matter” by Artz himself. After going out of my way and hearing it, I must say that each song has its own uniqueness and I was impressed by the album. Rena1ssance also does a fantastic job on production as well, as he produces every song on the EP.

Let’s not play around with vague statements, let’s just bust right into this and break it down track-by-track:

1. “In$ide” – The mellow start to the album through the beat starts it out just right. As it breaks into the rap verse, it begins a bit rough but molds into what sound it wants to be. The song stays focused and breaks into a catchy chorus. The second verse picks up speed and proves that Anakin Artz is at his best on a higher-paced sound (then again, who isn’t?). The song is a solid start to the EP and definitely grabs the attention of the listener.

8.25/10

2. “That Talk” – A beat entirely different from the first enters but the same Anakin Artz comes back. This song feels much deeper and the flow is much smoother. The bars are genuine and Artz feels more relatable. The chorus is a bit of a downgrade from the previous, but the overall Hip-Hop aspect is done very well. The beat may not be as remarkable as the first, but it brings the song the right tone for its attitude and lyrics.

9/10

3. “OP – Already reviewed that one here.

7.25/10

4. “The Gusto” – I am sure this song samples something, but whatever it uses is a perfect fit for the song. Production again proves to build up the song into something big. The pacing is right and the song is one of the best on the EP. The song’s general focus might be a bit difficult to decipher, but otherwise it is a great song for any Hip-Hop fan.

9.5/10

5. “Tough <3” – The beat changes into a more ominous and low-key sound, and Anakin Artz goes into personal life details. He breaks down his relationships and his sound reminds me the most of Wale at this point. The chorus is catchy just as “OP” was, and brings the verses together well. The bars are a bit slower but the song is another solid pick from “Dark Matter”.

9.25/10

6. “November” – We cap the song off with another slow track. The beat is complex and introduces the chorus by a female vocalist. This was definitely a smart move by production and Artz, and his verses fit in quite well. The lyrics feel a bit more awkward this time, but “November” still manages to be a very notable ending and leaving me wanting more from Anakin Artz.

8.25/10

So overall, I would rate the full album at around:

8.5/10

The EP is a step in the right direction for Anakin Artz, who draws comparisons to Wale and Meek Mill. His flow is developing and his lyricism is molding into something he becomes more and more comfortable with, The EP starts out with decent music and ends with even better songs. While “OP” got its own music video, I found the other five songs way more personal and intriguing, and causes me to wish I had heard them first. My hopes is that Artz finds his voice on some higher-paced tunes and so that he can give a full display of his hottest verses.

Rena1ssance does an incredible job on production and is a huge part of this album’s success. Props go out to him as well for every beat. Great starts for both of these young artists allow me to look forward to hearing more.

So you can stream the whole EP on AudioMack below. Make sure to check him out as well on his official Facebook page here. Check out the music below:

Continue reading

Album Review – Tyler Carter, “Leave Your Love” (EP)

leave-your-love-tyler-carterTyler Carter has the ability to make some excellent and diverse music, ranging from Pop to Metalcore. The lead singer of Issues released his new EP, Leave Your Love, earlier this week to stream on YouTube. The album has a bit more of a Soulful Pop tone and includes only one feature.

So how does the solo work of Tyler Carter compare to that of his popular hits with his band? Let’s break down this album track by track and find out:

1. Sophisticated – The beat is rather basic and the vocal production feels a bit subpar, but Sophisticated is an enjoyable song. The hook seems to just go on for too long, though. I can nitpick this song quite a bit, as little aspects just feel overlooked. It focuses more on the hook than anything else, which while catchy, reaches a point where it is not as enjoyable and just makes the song feel shorter than it actually is. There is something about the song that makes it easy to listen to, however, and Tyler Carter’s voice sounds passionate and flows well with the beat.

7.25/10

2. Leave Your Love – The title track of the EP is a bit more mellow and soulful than Sophisticated, showing the diversity of Tyler Carter’s music.  Leave Your Love‘s tone reminds me a bit of The Weeknd but has a bit more vocal editing and extra notes behind lyrics. These can be a bit excessive, but otherwise the song is enjoyable. The end of the chorus is especially catchy and the fade out instrumental is beautifully composed and executed.

9.25/10

3. Georgia – Already reviewed this song here. Sidenote: This song has become incredibly catchy due to its simple lyrics and soulful sound. Though the rating was not incredibly high, it does deserve a listen.

7.5/10

4. So Slow – Despite starting the musical aspect way too late, So Slow actually becomes a great listen. The song sounds similar to Chris Brown’s F.A.M.E. sound. You know, amazing RnB? The flow in the second stanza is a bit off at times, but the whole song is a great pace and my only wish it that it had ceased the talking part earlier. Though the random pitch sounds for a bridge could have been dealt with any other way perhaps.

6.5/10

5. Tears On The Runway (Pt. 1) ft. Nylo – Two-parters are always interesting, especially when lined up together. Sadly, this one will not get a part two for a while. The duet is rather low-key and features heartfelt lyricism. The chorus is a bit brief, but it is enjoyable. This is my first encounter with Nylo, and her voice is unique, though not very ranged. Tyler Carter’s synth-based and tuned vocals sound a bit too much like the Jonas Brothers for me on this song, but it is still a fine listen.

7.25/10

6. Find Me – Find Me caps off the album decently, as the song capitalizes on the mistakes of the previous songs by adding a bit more emphasis on the points put into the verses. The song is a bit explicit, but feels more emotionally connected with Tyler Carter. The vocals are a bit rough, but have points where they are more impressive. The song is a bit average and hardly stands out as making the album great, but is not difficult to enjoy.

8/10

So overall, the EP averages out to a score of about:

7.75/10

The EP is a bit messy in its sound quality and composition, but the songs are diverse and interesting to hear. There are plenty of catchy melodies worth hearing and I would say listening to the EP in full is not a mistake, but is not necessarily going to be considered a “slept-on album” if it does not get the attention it was made to receive.

I still enjoy Tyler Carter’s solo music quite a bit, though this EP had its flaws. I just want to see these flaws practiced on and a full EP released with a couple of features and better faith in Tyler Carter’s voice. I have seen mixed reviews, and mixed is exactly how I feel about these six songs.

You can stream the EP below on YouTube, along with pre-ordering it on iTunes for its January 2015 release here (So I don’t feel like such an industry killer by only sharing the stream and have Taylor Swift show up at my door):

-Austin Heath

Album Review – John Haesemeyer, “Three Mirrors”

john-haesemeyerJohn Haesemeyer’s soft-rock-esque/kind-of-Country-ish music sounds immensely professional, between nicely-worked deep vocals and rich instrumentals. His work on sophomore album Three Mirrors is an impressive follow up to the debut album Come Along Quickly, and might even trump it. The seven-track album was created with focus and energy stuffed into each individual song. San-Francisco-based Haesemeyer shows a high level of dedication and effort put forward in creating this album and each song.

But what happens when songs are given the proper time and energy, yet do not come forth as beautiful as imagined? If we are using baking terms, let’s say each cookie is cut right and a snowman does not end up looking like a mis-shaped ding dong, but do they come out of the oven soft and delicious?

Well, in order to see how “scrumptious” Three Mirrors is, we should break down the album track-by-track:

1. “Three Mirrors” – The title track of the album gives a general sense of what to expect throughout. At first listen, I almost assume I am listening to a Country album. I believe the production and tuning is so well-enforced, however, that it is safe to call it Soft Rock. The melodious track is calm and only changes tempo at the long-note for a chorus. The bridge features a beautiful amount of string instruments that form together superbly. The song is made to be elegant and a slow ballad, and it pulls this off quite well. My only disappointment is how the vocals sound a bit rough to start the album. The song gives vibes of a calmer Imagine Dragons.

9/10

2. “Two Of Me” – While the first track is a solid start, Two Of Me follows it up with an even better hit. It takes any vocal issues from the previous song and fixes them, along with adding its own twist to the title track. The hard work on production is incredibly apparent on Two Of Me. This is my favorite song on the album, and reminds me a lot of Bread’s music and emphasis on soft guitar and piano.

9.75/10

3. “Think I’m Going Down” – The guitar in Think I’m Going Down brings more nostalgia in similarity to Bread’s instrumentals, but Think I’m Going Down has a bit more of a Soul-y vibe than the previous two. The hook is simple but not overly-boring, and is made to be sung out loud after a couple of listens. It reels the listener in to finish the album, which is the third song’s role on an album of such few songs. Another great song on Three Mirrors, and one of the best.

9.5/10

4. “Church Of My Childhood” – I get a much-more Country feeling from Church Of My Childhood, which comes off as emotional and heart-felt. The pace picks up as the song progresses, though sadly a bit late. Hearing the song in full will definitely give it the fullest appeal, though I do wish the song had picked up a bit earlier. Otherwise, a solid follow up to three great songs.

8.75/10

5. “Back To College” – Again, the vocals get a bit rough and flow starts to break down. The song is passionate, and features impressively-tuned notes from Haesemeyer. The lyricism is intriguing in its story and emotion, but the song as a whole just feels a bit awkward when putting the instruments against the more intense voice of Haesemeyer on Back To College.

7/10

6. “Vancouver’s Shore” ft. Leah Tysse – I was glad when I saw this album had a feature, as I hoped it could be a turning point that made the last song worth hearing. Every song is important in keeping an album worth listening, and song number six had an important role. Both voices compliment each other well, but have little-to-no overlap and make the song feel hardly like a duet. At the points when they come together, the sound is lovely and instruments back up each voice nicely. While the overlaps are predictable in timing, they are worth hearing and both voices coming together sound excellent (though each is enjoyable alone, especially Tysse).

9/10

7. “Bright White” – I could see anyone finishing off the album after the previous song, so Bright White closes it out for listeners. The pace picks up a bit quicker than previous songs, and the sound is similar to the soul-like feel of Think I’m Going Down. The lyricism is not as impressive, nor are the vocals. The song is a nice ending to the album, especially when we hear the strings on the bridge again. However, it seems to repeat problems of previous songs. That being said, hard work on production is evident and the song’s humming caps off the album as a whole smoothly.

7.75/10

So overall, the album averages out to be about:

8.25/10

Basically, the cookies came out nicely, though they became a bit dry after a couple of days. The album has some beautiful moments, but I feel a sense of disappointment in re-occuring mistakes. Artists like Aloe Blacc, Imagine Dragons, and Bread come to mind when I hear Haesemeyer perform. My biggest hope for a follow-up album would be a better flow in lyrics to the music and a better transition in pace (or any on some songs, which hold a sound a bit too similar at times). Of course, Haesemeyer does pull off the Soft-Rock and Country feeling excellently and any fan of the genres should tune in.

You can go over to MuzicNotez.com and hear the full album, along with getting some know-how on Haesemeyer and his music:

http://www.muzicnotez.com/magazine/2014/09/john-haesemeyers-new-album-three-mirrors/

-Austin Heath

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

Album Review – Jasmine V, That’s Me Right There (EP)

I am a human of the male gender, therefore I will have at least some attraction to Jasmine Villegas. Fun fact: Jasmine V was the star of Justin Bieber’s Baby music video; You know, the girl that made “pretending” to hate Justin Bieber look easy. Maybe it’s because she did not have to pretend…

On that note, Jasmine V’s new EP That’s Me Right There is not her first impression on the music industry, but it does show a transformation on her part. This EP reveals a more adult and mature version of Jasmine, and features a prominent RnB sound throughout. Now let us break down this EP track-by-track:

1. That’s Me Right There ft. Kendrick Lamar – Already reviewed it here, and while I stand by that review, I want to add that this song features an excellent Kendrick Lamar verse and really grew on me to become one of my favorite songs recently. Therefore I recommend a second listen along with this album if you have already heard it.

2. Me Without You – While the first track may be a good start, Me Without You comes up close to beating it out. It is an upbeat RnB track that resembles Ne-Yo’s charm. The beat feels a bit misplaced though, but I can appreciate the focus on Jasmine’s voice. 8.75/10

3. Walk Away – Despite That’s Me Right There‘s excellent intro into the album, I believe Walk Away is the best song on the EP. The EDM twist on Jasmine V’s sound is excellent and makes this one of the catchiest songs she has released. The first beat drop hardly changes the pace, but the second really picks up the song and makes it stand out amongst the rest. Definitely a solid listen, 9.5/10

4. I Love Your Crazy – The songs starts out slow and melodious, but picks up pace and features the “snap, pop” beat that we have grown accustomed to in RnB. Jasmine V’s voice should not be autotuned in this song, as it just does not fit. The hook is brief and is easy to miss, making it a bit rough to listen to. Regardless, it is still serves it purpose as existing to be a slow jam. 8/10

5. Who That – While the grammar in Who That may be slightly wrong, the song works out a solid pace and picks up slow enough to make it interesting. The lyricism is disappointing and the most appealing part of the song is the beat. How Who That was able to be 4:30 long but I Love Your Crazy is almost half of that is baffling to me. The song can be appealing to RnB listeners but I was disappointed with the EP’s closing out with such an un-catchy hook and over-edited vocals. 6.75/10

So that averages out to a little under 8.5/10, which is rather accurate. The focus is generally on Jasmine V’s vocals, and I know she has singing talent as per her covers; however, her voice has been seriously over-edited at points and production just worked too hard. The final two songs just disappoint after the first three make this appealing.

I recommend at least listening to the first three tracks, but the other two are not worth sleeping on either per say. I like the EP as a whole, but hope to hear more pure sound from Jasmine V’s next works in music. In the meantime, go ahead and stream the EP below (You can also find it on iTunes here):

-Austin Heath

Album Review – rumHoney, Home Again (EP)

rumHoney are a London-based Alternative-rock group that have a bit of experience in the music industry. I was going to make this an artist recommendation, but I was particularly fond of their Home Again EP. Of all of their music, this soulful EP seemed to have the most character and encompasses the band’s sound best.

So let’s break down this short EP track-by-track:

1. Home Again – The title song for the EP is a good preview of the group’s music. Home Again seems to be one of the group’s more popular hits, and I could not pick a more fitting song. The pace is smooth and increases without being too abrasive, and the vocals compliment the instruments perfectly. Very solid start to the EP and an excellent song. Fades out nicely and lasts a while. 9.75/10

2. Bitter Love – Bitter Love features a progressive Rock sound that appears to have played with Country music a bit. The clash works well, though the vocals are a little drowned out by the instruments. The sound is consistent throughout and includes one of the catchiest hooks on the EP. 9.25/10

3. Wildest Dreams – I immediately got a vibe of 1970’s rock when hearing the intro to this track. This song proves more than any that this group could be appealing to any audience. The lyricism is sweet and romantic while not being too gushy, and though the hook is a bit hard to spot as there is not much change of pace. I enjoyed the emphasis on the vocals on this track. 9.25/10

4. Only As Good As The Last Kiss – I was not expecting the ride-out of the EP to be a slow love ballad, but rumHoney surprised me. The brief project closes out with an emotional love song with background vocals adding to the atmosphere. The main vocals are a little rough, but improve especially on the bridge. Despite being slower than the previous tracks, this one still retains a catchy sound. 9.25/10

So that averages out to slightly above 9.25/10. I find this group’s sound similar to Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the mellow Alternative music can be quite enjoyable. Definitely one of my favorite bands I have written about, rumHoney is worth checking out. If you liked this EP, you might also like their other short albums East To West and Da Swishlish, which contain a similar sound.

Go ahead and check out this EP below, and go ahead and listen to rumHoney on their SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/rumhoney

-Austin Heath

Album Review – Sebastian Mikael, Speechless

I wanted to emphasize the two songs I have already written about, Forever and Made Me, before writing about the whole album. Now that I have broken those down thoroughly, I can go through the whole Speechless album by Sebastian Mikael. It sticks to pure RnB and resembles a smooth combination of Chris Brown and Usher while staying strictly original and unique. I think highly of Sebastian Mikael’s music, and any other RnB fan usually does. Of course I will be as neutral as possible while examining the music.

So let us break down this album track-by-track:

1. Last Night ft. Wale – Last Night was the most successful individual song on Speechless, with rightful cause. The song has a catchy sound and adds a solid rap verse for good measure. I have felt that Wale has been in decline since his Ambition album, but I was impressed by his work on Last Night. Sebastian Mikael’s vocals sound beautiful and compliment the beat well. It is truly hard to find a flaw in this song, and I am glad that this became such a hit. I cannot lie either, this song is excellent. 9.75/10

2. 4 U ft. Rick Ross –  5 U (typo was intended for sarcastic purposes) adds another good feature for an up-and-coming artist with Rick Ross. I thought the verse was impressive, if slightly off-focus here and there. Rick Ross did a better job than usual of staying on topic and using better rhymes. Sebastian Mikael still sounds incredible, though his voice is dominated a bit too much by the beat. The upbeat pace is catchy and this is another excellent song on the album. 9/10

3. Forever – Already broke this song down here. I consider this the best song on the album, right above Last Night. I can still say I love this song and hope everyone who reads this can hear it.

4. Made For Me – Literally just broke this down here for emphasis purposes. I had a lot to say about the song and could not contain it in one album review.

5. Speechless – We finally get a song that truly focuses on the vocal talent of Sebastian Mikael. I loved the guitar behind his mellow voice and wish this track was longer. The lyrics feel a bit rushed at times, and slowing down would probably not only fulfill my first wish of length, but also emphasize his talent even more and be able to provide Sebastian Mikael with an extra ego boost. I find this a huge showcase of talent though regardless. 9/10

6. Thinkin About You Girl – The instant throwback Hip-Hop sound of Thinkin About You Girl was right away reeling. His voice sounds more like Chris Brown’s pure vocals on this track than any other. The RnB/Soul vibe of this song is prominent and makes it quite enjoyable. It tends to appeal to more RnB lovers than anyone else, so most likely if you are not into that thing, this may not be the song for you. 9/10

7. Kiss Me – This song, while staying on pace with the rest of the album’s sound, is probably my least favorite on the album. The echo on the vocals throughout is disappointing and the song as a whole just feels too over-edited. The problem is how concealed and hidden Sebastian Mikael’s voice feels when it should be the emphasis of the whole LP. The overall song still has a mellow and relaxing sound to it, and the fact that a song this good is my least favorite means the album is one of the best this year. 7.75/10

8. Lose It – Now that we are back to the incredible pure gift of Sebastian Mikael’s voice, we get Lose It, which shows off his vocal range and talent. The beat follows the vocals while standing out and making the song the beautiful melody it should be. This comes close to being one of the best songs on the album, and is very-well placed in the titles as well. The muffled follow-out is slightly early, but that is honestly the only complaint I have, and we had a similar issue with Forever, my favorite song on Speechless. 9.5/10

9. Crash – The harmonizing on this song resembles Chris Brown’s Forever but with my favorite RnB sound. The beat goes well with the song and the song continues to give listeners the beautiful vocals of Sebastian Mikael. It is closer to Pop than most of the other songs, and I do like the change up. Another close call for personal favorite on the album, though the repetition throws off the appeal slightly. 9.25/10

10. Beautiful Life – Produced by Sebastian Mikael himself is Beautiful Life. Ending an album well is a difficult feat, and I was curious to see how he would finish off an incredible album like Speechless. I believe that Sebastian Mikael knew to add more of his own pure vocals by the end of the album, and I loved hearing it at the end of the album while the quiet acoustic and drums in the back supported him. The song has a catchy hook and excellent vocals, with focus on his sound. An amazing way to close out the album. 9.75/10

So that averages out to a little over 9.25/10, which is appropriate for a nearly-perfect album like Speechless. I consider this one of the best RnB albums of the year and can only hope to hear more soon. My only desire is more emphasis on his own voice and perhaps less on the music behind it.

In essence, this whole album is an RnB fan’s dream. I recommend a listen to the whole album, but if you cannot hear all of it, I would recommend everything at 9/10 and above.

Go ahead and head over to DJBooth.net to stream the whole album, and you can buy it on iTunes here. Check it out:

http://www.djbooth.net/index/albums/review/sebastian-mikael-speechless#stream

-Austin Heath

Album Review – Jagged Edge, J.E. Heartbreak 2

We all knew this was coming. Jagged Edge will always have a special place in my heart after their song Ready was my first song review. Now I’m breaking down their whole J.E. Heartbreak 2 album, the sequel to their Platinum-selling J.E. Heartbreak album of 2000. So does the next chapter of the Heartbreak series live up to standards, or pull a Star Wars on itself and keep listeners on a false hope for over a decade?

Before I break this down, I want to say that I really appreciate the message that this album is meant to convey: RnB/Soul has been put in the shadow of Hip-Hop/Rap and it is rare to find a solo RnB collection. Jagged Edge wants us to focus on their RnB music, which believe me, is not difficult.

Now that we have that little tidbit out of the way, let us break down this album track-by-track:

1. JE Intro – The new trend in music seems to be having a contemplative intro to an album, which has been refreshing. This sets up the notion that the rest of the album will be RnB, no Hip-Hop or Rap or Pop should be expected and alienates anyone who are not strictly enjoying the album for its RnB aspects. It also explains the lack of quality song-writing recently. While this is incredible and iconic for a major RnB fan like myself, it can put off success and drive away potential listeners, which is threatening to profit. I like it, but I can understand others being driven away by the intro. Then again, kudos to Jagged Edge for standing up and saying “This is us. Like it or leave it.” The Intro is hardly music though, so not really for listening purposes. It more or less makes a statement and provides the opinion of the group. Not really rate-able.

2. Future – Right away I loved this song. It screams RnB and is a smooth yet emotional love ballad. Provides a similar sound to the rest of the album though, so I can guarantee that you should expect more of the same after this. 9/10

3. Familiar – Familiar is way more upbeat than Future was, but contracts the same Jagged Edge touch. The beat is more complex and the lyrics feel more mature. I was a bit disappointed in the brief rap segments after the first and third hook, especially after my hopes were really raised up in the Intro that this would be a pure crooner-type RnB sound. Still an enjoyable song though. 8.25/10

4. Hope – This song started it all, after being the first song by the group since 2011. The song is passionate and embodies RnB yet has a very catchy sound to it. This was absolutely a great start, and I wish I had heard it earlier. Definitely one of my favorite songs on the album. 9.5/10

5. Things I Do For You – This was the perfect follow-up to the previous three songs, which feel manlier and tougher. Then we transition and get an idea of the vulnerable and softer side of Jagged Edge. The song feels like it has a lot to say in not enough time, but otherwise it is still a great song. 8.5/10

6. Love Come Down – A lot of the team working on Hope also contributed to Love Come Down, though I felt Hope was the better of the two. That does not mean, however, that Love Come Down is not a good song. Actually, it is one of the best on the album, showing how much I love Hope. Something about the flow on the hook feels really rushed and off though. Regardless, the song is a catchy and upbeat RnB hit, and the bridge makes up for the awkward feel in the beginning. Basically, it’s gonna be good RnB/Soul listening for me. 9/10

7. It’s Been You – It’s Been You starts immediately, but is slow and more emotional than the rest of the album. Again, we get more of the softer side of Jagged Edge (if that makes sense). I like the slow sound, but it is not always in high demand by listeners, who tend to enjoy a higher pace. For it’s purpose, it does its job though. 9.5/10

8. Romeo – I seriously like this song, like it just barely follows up Hope in my favorites on here. It could be considered the best song on the album, except the transition from the hook into the verses just feels a bit awkward. The song is pleasurable and catchy for RnB, which seems to be the trend in this album. 9.25/10

9. Getting Over You – Already reviewed this song here.

10. Ready – My first song review, going way back here.

11. Make It Clear – “So what it is, girl” Lol, what is that, 1993? No, I cannot bust on this song, as I actually do like it. Sounds like the previous tracks though, resembles more of Jagged Edge’s sound. It is a bit hard to figure out where the hook is though at first. 8.5/10

12. No Half Steppin – More of the same vulnerable Jagged Edge, but I like this more than the preceding ones. Not much else to say about it really, flow is solid and song is the RnB that this album should embody. 9.25/10

13. No Poster (We Stay On One) – This is the Hip-Hopiest song on the album, and while it has its good moments, it goes off the tracks a bit and makes the conclusion of the album just feel a little lacking. I was expecting some incredible passionate love song to end the album. Placement is probably the worst part of the song, and it is still enjoyable. Just a little off from the usual sound I’ve come to love. 8.5/10

So that averages out to be slightly above 8.75/10. The album shows that Jagged Edge has not let go of their roots, but still stays modern. The RnB sound of the whole project is excellent to me, though, and their message is clear (most of the time). If you like harmonies, this is the group for you. You can listen to the whole album below and see what you think, but if I had to recommend anything I would say listen to anything above a 9/10.

Check out the album below:

-Austin Heath