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Music Reviews « Forrest Robinson

Archive for the ‘Music Reviews’ Category

Emeli Sandé – OUR VERSION OF EVENTS

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

Emeli Sandé – OUR VERSION OF EVENTS

By: Forrest Robinson

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There are some artists that literally just come out with a truly EXPLOSIVE presence. For certain, Scottish-born EMELI SANDE is one such artist. There are SO MANY things I love about her debut album, “OUR VERSION OF EVENTS”. There truly isn’t one bad song on the entire album. The production is amazing. The arrangements and orchestrations are rich. Each track sounds like was given the most focused attention in order for the music to truly breathe and have a fullness of identity. Of course, Sande’s voice is one of the most amazing I have heard in a very long time. Such energy. Such youth. Such STRENGTH. She doesn’t overly occupy the musical space with frivolous runs and ad-libs. The voice and the music all culminate into beautiful colors and moods, summing up to this glorious body of recorded work.

Oh, and FELLAS – we can listen to this beautiful music and passionate vocals without getting beat up by the lyrics! Emeli does lay it out there now. She is a strong woman. But she is a strong woman who dares to sing about LOVE. What do you think about THAT? Let’s get to the music:

This record opens in an epic way! “Heaven” grabbed my attention right at the intro. The orchestral background (live or sampled), Emeli’s vocals – youthful and strong – the epic choir chorus harmonies, even the 80s breakbeat mixed in with more modern programming was a major SCORE. It just builds. This song is a hit, I tell you! An epic HIT!! Emeli is not afraid to declare love on the next track, “My Kind Of Love”. She really puts her heart into the lyrics.

As I listened to “Where I Sleep” for the first time, I honestly waited for the other shoe to drop. I mean, her lyrics: “This is us, and this is love, and this is where I sleep” had me in a mild state of disbelief. No one got dissed in this song! And it’s a beautiful song from start to finish! “Mountains” is another personal favorite track on the record. The music is so beautiful. Both Emeli’s voice and the music are a dynamic match. This song begins soft, but intense. And the whole track develops into one long crescendo! The arrangement with the lush strings, choir, piano, key bass, and drum programming is GORGEOUS!

The next track, “Clown” is a bit of a torch ballad. It’s a very intimate track that begins with the piano and voice, and builds with the strings. Her vocals paint a clear and beautiful picture of vulnerability and honesty. “Daddy” is a wicked track with a slick vibe. I call it the “’James Bond’ film soundtrack song” – haha. The production is very nice. The way it fuses pop, hip-hop, and cinematic strings is really cool. It is impossible for Emeli’s vocal performance and the overall vocal arrangement to go unnoticed. The laid back mood set at the intro of “Maybe” pulls you into Emeli’s world of love and honesty in a relationship that can sometimes become troubled. There is hope, but there is also a time where two people must decide if it’s really worth taking that next step together.

“Suitcase” is a perfect example that Blues is not based on a mere chord progression. This song may sound a bit Pop, but trust me when I say that this song is THE Blues track on this record. The Blues resides in the lyrics of this song, and the music backs up the lyrics in stellar fashion. “Breaking The Law” is one of the most eloquently written guitar/vocal ballads I’ve heard in recent years. The vocal harmonies are very sweet as well. This song displays Emeli Sandé’s brilliance as a vocalist as well as a lyricist. This young woman is a poet. And I don’t know if “Next To Me” was meant to be a country track, but as “Suitcase” was the blues track on this record, “Next To Me” is in my opinion, the Country track. It pleasantly reminds me of Dolly Parton’s more contemporary compositions. The cool thing is that Emeli Sandé maintains her own identity and style! This is great work! This is an album of beautiful love songs.

“River” is one of the most beautifully written love songs I’ve heard in quite some time. Lyrically, Emeli paints a picture that we haven’t often heard in contemporary Urban or Pop genre releases of recent years. That picture is one of love, acceptance, and a woman who is there to let the other person know that she will love and also lead that person through turbulent times in order for that love to prevail. “Lifetime” is one of the sweeter, more poppy tracks on this record, which also brings an impressive balance to the overall vibe this record presents. The lyrics describe Emeli as someone who really does hold on to a hope and expectation that this world and this life can really be beautiful. The evidence resides in the lyrics of “Hope”. Hearing her repeat, “I just hope I’m not the only one” gives me personal hope, if only in knowing that I am not alone in hoping for a beauty that really can exist in the world. “Read All About It (Pt. III)” is a very strong finish to a very powerful record. Lyrically, I experienced this song as Emeli standing tall and honest in addressing the other person, as well as the individual within. It is obvious that Emeli’s songwriting sessions were not just about writing a quick radio or club hit. She and her team set out to write music that would be remembered for generations to come.

OUR VERSION OF EVENTS is an album that deserves substantial respect and attention. I hope that it will receive just that. This is one of the best albums that will be released in 2012. I truly hope that it will receive the attention it needs in order for the world to enjoy it!

Forrest Robinson

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PAPER TONGUES (Self-Titled CD)

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

PAPER TONGUES: PAPER TONGUES

Review written by: FORREST ROBINSON

I must be honest in saying that as soon as the first track, “Trinity”, began, I knew it was a radio-ready single. However, I was also foreboding this to be another cd that sounded a lot like too many other “Alternative” cds. But I must say that this track represents a good band with an excellent lead vocalist who really brings it as a frontman should. I like the implementation of the synths in this band’s arrangement of their music. “For The People” Is an upbeat track that is well driven by drum programming and live drums. The vocals move at an energetic pace in this one.

“Ride To California” has a hiphop/pop element that is ready for the radio. “Get Higher” combines a rap-like verse with drum programming that goes into a melodic and rocking chorus. “What If” almost sounds like it belongs on another record. It is a really good song and honestly sounds like a totally different band. It also sounds like a surefire single. The lead vocal is very nice and legato. The harmonies are great in the chorus, and musically, it really drives forward.  

Soul” is upbeat and funky in the verse, and then rocks in the chorus. This is probably my favorite song on the record. The dreamy, heavy reverb on the guitar and the keys in the chorus, combined with the melodic vocals really make it happen for me in this track. “Everybody” has a nice funky feel to it from start to finish. The verse has rhythmic rap-like lyrics, and I really dig the drums in this song. I like the way the band opens up in the chorus.

“Strongest Flame” has a nice piano/vocal intro. The drum programming carries the track to the chorus, which is where the band kicks in. The song then stays pretty much live with the band throughout from there, which I think is cool. Again, this is a song that was likely written for the radio. “Rich And Poor” is catchy from the start. The singer is really working hard on this record. I really like the lyrics in this song. I also like how they dedicated this song to all the “struggling peeps”.

“Love Like You” is a really good finish to this record. The overall sound of the band is really good. Though this cd is a fairly predictable one as far as production, style and arrangement are concerned, it is easy to tell that PAPER TONGUES is a band that really wants it. They really worked hard on their sound and image and they are going for it. This is a band that will certainly be recognized. Their self-titled cd is an excellent commercial release.

LATE NIGHT ALUMNI – Haunted

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

album cover - Late Night Alumni Haunted

This Dance/House release from LATE NIGHT ALUMNI is one I was excited to see come in the mail. I knew right away that this was something ORIGINAL. The first track, “It’s Not Happening”, takes us there. This is a great song. The beat, the melody, the voice, and the synth work are all AMAZING. “In The Ashes” has a nice arrangement in the chord progressions and the melody. And this type of programming always works. “This Is Why” is one of the ballads on the record. This is only a tiny example of Becky Jean Williams’s vocal genius to this music. It’s nice how the acoustic guitar and glockenspiel sample sets the tone at the song’s intro. 

Becky’s airy voice is really amazing. “Epilogue” is a thing of beauty. From the opening piano and vocal intro to the overall arrangement of this track, this is definitely something pleasing and refreshing to the ears. I really like the haunting intro of “Vixen”. The accordion, voice, organ, and harp are excellent musical choices. The hinting of drum n’ bass in the drum programming rounds the track out nicely. This song has a really nice arrangement. “Angels and Angles” is a duet between Becky Jean Williams and one of the other guys in the band (I wish I knew who!). This track is also fantastic. The marcato strings are a great asset in the arrangement, which builds throughout to the songs end.

“Sustaining” is like a dream with beat. And it cruises on the wave that Becky’s voice produces. The sound of the old, distorted piano intro on “Main Street” has such a poetically melancholy vibe to it.  Becky’s voice is truly a remarkable instrument to build the music around. I LOVE how this song carries itself and builds all the way to its end, even though there is no drum programming to speak of. This adds beautiful diversity to the record. “For Life” reminds me a little of Vanessa Daou. But it certainly has its own identity! It feels like being in the middle of some sort of soundtrack. And I guess that might be the goal LATE NIGHT ALUMNI was going for when they wrote this song! This track is very well done.

“No or Yes” takes us back to the Lounge with some House in the atmosphere. The chords on the Rhodes patch were killing me! And I guess I can’t really stop going on about Becky’s voice! LOL! This would be a welcome problem to have. It’s just not quite fair – haha! That said, this is a great track! Okay, next up is “Spin”. Slow, steady, melodic, and driving describes this song. I love how various tracks exist within this song, which collide chromatically, producing a dissonance between the harmonies that exist between Becky’s vocal melodies and the actual chords of the song in the most beautiful way!

So, with all the brilliance already contained and exhibited within this gorgeous record, why not top it off with a dreamy Bossa track like “Moonwalking”? Why not indeed! The beautiful string arrangement, the steady groove of the acoustic bass sample, those dreamy chords played on the Rhodes (sample or not) and its tremolo effect, along with the ever haunting melodies of Becky Jean Williams, makes calling this track “beautiful” almost generic! HAUNTED is a poetic and beautiful work. If this cd is a forecast of  the music to come in 2011, then we are in for quite a much needed ride! And that means that this is going to be a FANTASTIC year. BRING IT ON! PLEASE!!!!

Forrest Robinson