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

Throwback Thursday – Brandy and Monica, The Boy Is Mine

The_Boy_Is_MineBack before the whole “side-hoe” thing was actually a thing, The Boy Is Mine was the women’s Same Girl; It empowered women who were cheated on and combined both efforts to get back at the cheating man. I am a dude and this song empowers the crap out of me. Of course, this song would be followed up over a decade later by one of my all-time favorites, It All Belongs To Me.

I love Brandy’s music now, and though this was not the first Brandy track I had ever heard, it did influence my interest in her music. The way she has branched out into EDM/Dance has been remarkable and worth noting. Monica’s voice has a unique sound to it, but does not beat Brandy’s vocals in my honest opinion.

This young vocalists sound lovely on this mellow RnB hit, and create a great example of the excellence that was late 90’s RnB/Soul. If I had to rate it now, I would give it a 9.25/10. The vocal range is still a bit rough and choppy due to the still-growing voices of both singers. The harmony on the hook is still my favorite part though.

You can relive the 90’s glory and enter a time of Spice Girls, shameful outfits and big-ass phones below:

-Austin Heath

Music Recommendation – Single – Mystery Skulls ft. Nile Rogers and Brandy, Number 1

It is no secret that I can be a bit biased towards certain RnB artists. So I have to admit, when I saw Brandy on the new track by Mystery Skulls, I felt a need to hear it right away. It did take a couple of listens, but this song has some serious appeal.

Brandy is the singer on the hook, so we can clear that up. While the repeating of “number one” may sound a bit too much like Ariana Grande for my tastes, Brandy’s voice sounds lovely and the song is incredibly catchy. I must say that normally I lean more towards liking the hook of a song, but I love the retro style the song presents.

Overall, I would rate the song about a 9.25/10. The song is catchy but still keeps a retro RnB vibe that I am always a sucker for. I recommend giving it a chance below:

-Austin Heath

Favorites Friday – Brandy, Right Here (Departed)

I have been criticized by assh – I mean, perfectly opinionated people, that my articles are basically a glorified description saying “This song is awesome except it’s not” and using 100 more words than I need to. I shall attempt to do so in this next installment of Favorites Friday, except I will leave out the “not awesome” part.

My favorites posts will be very biased, but in the end I will rate them neutrally. Brandy’s hit Right Here (Departed) is one of those songs that I discovered after it was a big hit, making me a reverse-hipster. Regardless, the Writing Camp’s work on the song goes along with the “angelic protection” that they hit big on with Beyonce’s Halo. In the end, I always found this song more inspirational and less couple love-based than Beyonce’s 2008 hit.

Right Here (Departed) is just one of those songs that I cannot get myself to say anything bad about. In the end, my only slight complaint is that Brandy’s voice is just a bit too edited and synthesized on the hook and bridge despite her having true singing talent. I consider Brandy an RnB Queen at this point, which was evident in her BET reunion the other day (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Google will be your Right Here (Departed) to find it).

Well, there I did it again, I could have just summarized this song as “awesome” or “good” or in this song’s case, “excellent.” But I have a lot of good to say for a song that has always given me newfound inspiration whenever I hear it. So in the end, I will rate it at a 9.75/10. Oh so close to a 10, but I have always been disappointed in the lack of love for Brandy’s pure voice in parts of the track.

Regardless, if you are in need of some life through music, give the song a listen. And obviously if you have yet to hear Brandy’s biggest hit (for great reason), listen/watch below:

-Austin Heath

Music Recommendation – Single – Monica and Brandy, It All Belongs To Me

I remember when this song came out in 2011 and it was my jam. Seriously, I listened to this everyday for months. Well after hearing it again recently I’m hooked. This break-up track is one of my favorite songs again, and I’ll tell you why.

I have always loved the sound of Brandy’s voice, and this song only showcases it better. Monica also sounds pretty incredible, but the both of them together make such an amazing RnB sound that I consider this a legendary collaboration. While the beat is subtle, it adds to the RnB effect that these queens bring.

In the end, I really love Brandy in this song, and while Monica sounds great too, it feels as though they are trying to dominate each other by the end of the song. The vocals could just use some better coordination is all, but that is mainly only after the first two minutes.

Even though it seems a bit competitive, I love the sound of their singing almost against each other at times, as they both have elegant voices. Brandy on the bridge is probably my favorite part though, but both really bring an incredible part to the track. For example, while I like Brandy’s parts better, I don’t think the song would be the same without Monica, and vice-versa.

Overall, I would rate the song at 9.75/10. I have an extreme fondness for this track and it lands in my all-time favorites. I seriously recommend a listen if you have not already heard it. I apologize for sharing a rather well-known song, but it does deserve some extra spotlight:

-Austin Heath