Shania Twain – Queen of Me: Review

Blending luscious pop songs and whimsically balanced Country songs, Shania Twain continues to excel in reeling the listener into a world full of musical wonder. Taking a chance with producers containing rich backgrounds in pop, reggae-fusion, and rock – like when Josh Homme assimilated his rock roots with Country producing Nikki Lanes’ last LP – they find ways to bring distinct styles, elevating Twain’s strengths. When you hear a pop producer like Mark Joseph take a crack at Country with a song like “Last Day of Summer,” you hear his captivatingly smooth guitar playing, adding dimensions to the slower tempo track. It builds depth, allowing Queen Of Me to come and go like this swift, replayable, confidence-building experience. It’s an inoffensive Country-Pop album with a lot of replayability. It gets boasted by Shania’s rich energy, which makes even the most straightforward tracks a delightful listen.

Queen of Me shows its strengths imminently; Shania Twain opens the album with a phenomenal sequence of Country-Pop/Dance-Pop hits – from “Giddy Up!” to “Best Friend,” Twain is glowing. “Giddy Up!” is this fantastic country dance tune that gets those feet moving with glee, reminding us of her potency in making incredible hybrids. It’s only after that she begins to take shape and let the writing take the form of introspection and make the simple repeatable. “Giddy Up!” gets us up, but it’s what comes after that keeps us flowing within Twain’s gravitational pull. Her voice brings this touch of rejuvenation where the glee in her singing captivates you further. It’s a bit typical with its thematic approach, taking simple routes to get her emotions out with confidence and passion. That passion hits its peak on the beautifully rich “Not Just A Girl.” Like “Queen of Me,” the eponymous track, she exhumes this lioness confidence-like ferocity, making one react like Orville Peck when Shania Twain sang the first lines of their collaboration “Legends Never Die” – in the music video.

Queen of Me isn’t all perfect, though; we get a corny push-off song in “Pretty Liar” and a simple country-pop production in “Got It Good.” The latter does contain a lovely crescendo that keeps you engaged, but it doesn’t have the depth thickness of “Number One” and “Waking Up Dreaming,” nor does it have the kind of character the guitars bring on the country-focused “Inhale/Exhale AIR” and “Last Day of Summer.” Both tracks could have gotten shaved off and made the album a smoother listen, especially “Pretty Liar,” which comes by jarringly. But what Twain’s producers deliver is distinguishing character in the sound. The eponymous track blends synths into this remarkably captivating flex where she exhumes confidence through different scenarios. Additionally, “Waking Up Dreaming” is a perfect example of evolution in a genre; it’s part Country-Pop, part Dance-Pop, delivering these gorgeous electric guitar and synth bass notes that make Twain’s vocals triumphant.

Some of the songs on Queen of Me are a tad simple thematically, and it doesn’t tread new waters, but it does have emotional brevity to keep you replaying these songs more frequently. Unlike the Ava Max album, we don’t get boring, typical melodies or overly ambitious choruses aiming too hard to be catchy. Though “Pretty Liar” isn’t the most astute track, taking jabs at liars. It also includes a corny chorus, albeit catchy, and it goes, “Cause your pants are on fire (your pants are on fire)/You’re such a fucking liar (such a fucking liar)/(Liar) Another level higher, your pants are on fire.” She’s trying to have fun with the idiom but ultimately falls short of being something jovial and tongue-in-cheek. However, her lively energy in the song makes many of these songs great. The track “Best Friend” focuses on the relationship between best friends, and though it’s simple, her joyful energy makes it a pure delight to have repeating without hesitation.

Queen of Me is great, for lack of a better term. Shania Twain is back after five years, still in peak form, giving us wonderfully energetic performances and some overall fun songs. Though we get some simple ones, Twain keeps you reeled in because of that energy, her natural flow, and the lovely choruses that will have you singing along readily. It did so with me. But sometimes, you just need a little serotonin-laced music to keep the vibes strong.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Ava Max – Diamonds & Dancefloors: Review

After an artist delivers a less-than-stellar debut, one can only remain optimistic with the positives that seep through the negatives. Unfortunately, Ava Max doesn’t appear to let those positives take command and find better collaborators, instead disavowing our musical comprehension and delivering subpar Dance-Pop stuck in one gear on her latest album, Diamonds & Dancefloors. Ava Max takes us through a 180 spin from her debut, Heaven & Hell, shifting typical electro/synth-pop flair into the same genericism, but with Dance-Pop, with a touch of more personal and reflective content. There is little energy getting exhumed by Ava Max as she tries to sprinkle typical shifts between lower vocals and hitting the fifth octave. She isn’t relishing in the vocal range she can provide and instead teeters between mediocrity and thrill; sometimes, this quality is enough for the listener to find themselves in a trance; I wasn’t one of them.

Ava Max would tell Zane Lowe at Apple Music, “This album is about my life and what I went through in the last year and heartbreak…it’s basically heartbreak on the dance floor,” adding, “It’s gonna make you cry and dance at the same time.” The production is fine on its own, never taking chances in the breaks or choruses, instead relaying the same sonic mediocrity we’ve heard others do, like Zara Larsson, except better.

Diamonds & Dancefloors speaks on heartbreak, focusing on a deteriorating relationship that boasts angst, depression, and reflections on identity, as one wants to distract themselves by dancing through their emotions. It’s not uncommon, with some of the most hypnotic works coming from Eurodance/Electro-pop songs of the late 90s and 00s. From “Better Off Alone” by Alice Deejay to “Dancing On My Own” by Robyn, and Basshunters’ trilogy “Now You’re Gone,” “All I Ever Wanted,” and “Angel In The Night,” this idea of letting loose and coming into your own, emotionally, which can get derivative. Ava Max tries to tap into that zone, style, but she becomes complacent with its lack of melodic creativity and production that takes that next step to feeling refreshing. There’ve been a few times when a song has given us beats that aren’t bottom of the barrel, like that of “Ghost,” which beautifully taps into aspects of Eurodance hypnotizing synths, despite it being predominantly in the choral sections. 

As non-extinguishing as “Ghost” is, it is one of only a few examples where Ava Max taps into her strengths: creating smooth melodies that will have you singing along. Writing is not one of them, as she shows us that her co-writers aren’t capable of boasting some boring and tried lyrics that take simple directions without making something profound. Ryan Tedder, who has written many hits, helps Ava Max turn “Weapons” into a radio hit, but it’s standard. Ava Max uses this song to focus on an idiom, “Stick and stones may break my bones (but words can never hurt me,” which some may feel that’s true to them. But Max’s song doesn’t reflect or hold that true, and instead, she seems like she can’t take words and would prefer the sticks and stones since there’s a bulletproof vest underneath for so many words. It is direct, as are other songs, with some that loosely thread simple metaphors like “Turn Off The Lights.” Much of what is here speaks to those who prefer it this way, but as someone who can find escapism within the melodies and production, it didn’t happen so often here.

Ava Max sews loose threads together to make a barely engaging album. One minute you’re grooving to some luscious choral melodies, and the next, it gets dourer as Max doesn’t captivate you with depth. When she retreats to another known: the more astute and emotionally protective creative, it still doesn’t feel new. “Cold As Ice” sounds like a tempered and groovier take on her Sweet But A Psycho demeanor that she established with her debut, but it still doesn’t pack a punch. With all these downs, when there should be more ups, but there are still some diamonds gleaming on the edges of the dancefloor, waiting for their moment to shine like Sugar Motta during a performance at Satana and Brittany’s wedding in Glee. The last two songs, along with “Get Outta My Heart,” spearhead some of the best work on the album. It uses minor quirks expected with Ava Max’s vocal style – here, she sounds different; she takes a smoother approach to her melodies while letting the Electronic/House elements create something new. It gets me moving, but there’s so little here for me to enjoy that I couldn’t find these to be anything rather than positives I won’t see getting repeated frequently, unlike “Weapons.”

Diamonds & Dancefloors was definitely made for the latter, but the grooves don’t always want to make you bust out your best moves, instead just free-flowing without a care. It has heart, except it isn’t poignant or carries enough depth instrumentally that you can’t help but push this aside and listen to better pop records from similar artists. As much as I can see something here for the masses, it doesn’t translate to something unique but rather something very apropos and diluted. There are a few tracks to like, but not enough to recommend a full listen.

Rating: 3 out of 10.

Carly Rae Jepsen – The Loneliest Time: Review

Playing into the aesthetics, dreams, and life influenced by her time living in California, Carly Rae Jepsen’s new album, The Loneliest Time. It’s apparent and gets heard through these vibrant, dreamy songs that boast the songwriting and her vocals, for the most part. Jepsen has made hits over glamorous synths-filled production that elevate her captivatingly catchy and fun ways. And we get that, but unfortunately, The Loneliest Time doesn’t land as strong, specifically in the second half. At times, it doesn’t feel like Jepsen is giving us that spark we get at the beginning and left with an intriguing concept filled with songs that understand the assignment, but it isn’t all effective. You see it as Carly Rae Jepsen weaves this concept reflective on time– during the day (the first half), it is sonically influenced by being in the sun, having fun, and incorporating happy instrumentations; the night (second half) unwinds more with slower grooves while trying to push the itch to dance. Though it has you grooving, Jepsen isn’t always bringing her all; she’s delivering with little nuance, despite its unique concept, and you’d preferably spin older records.

The Loneliest Time starts strong but starts to lose you with these distinct sounds that don’t acquiesce. You’ll know the difference between what makes “Joshua Tree” a breezy, fun jam and “Shooting Star,” something that feels lost within a world of Disco and Funk as it tries to maneuver similar sonic themes poorly. Though both “Joshua Tree” and “Shooting Star” embolden that dance-pop bravado with captivating grooves and choruses, sometimes they won’t have a similar impact like “LA Hallucinations” and “Party For One” from Emotion and Dedicated, respectively. Despite having the firmness to stand on its own, Jepsen occasionally downplays the vocals in the second half, never taking full advantage of her range and elevating to the strengths of “Surrender My Heart.” It hits you instantly less because of the production and more because Carly Rae Jepsen makes you feel the effusive energy getting brought, unlike “Bad Thing Twice.”

In an interview with Consequence of Sound, Carly Rae Jepsen said, “Loneliness sounds sad, but I think it can be exhilarating and exciting, and I think it can be the most intimate feeling in a really special way.” We heard it before with “Party For One,” but it wasn’t heavy-set on spearheading that connotation as it embodied a confident bravado that is about the dance. With The Loneliest Time, Jespen wants to subvert the preconceived definition that can come with the lonely feeling; she desires to purport it as an intimate and reflective time with turbulence. Think about those moments you yearn for when you turn on do not disturb on your phone, kick back and unwind solo dolo; it’s centering on the emotions that fluster your mind, leaving you with positive or negative notions while still looking for the bright side. From giving a jar of tears with love, through missed time, expressing the confidence someone special got out of you, or commentary on modern dating–these are some examples sung by Jepsen in “Bends,” “Sideways,” and “Beach House,” respectively.

Carly Rae Jepsen brings her trademark upbeat energy that seeps through the melodies, gripping you with a certain catchiness that works more than not. It rarely falls to the production to elevate the performance; it has consistency in its construction, but Jepsen rarely makes an effort to explore it more. “So Nice” doesn’t see Jepsen taking full advantage of the funkadelic grooves, almost choosing to meet in the middle and coasting instead of keeping it interesting. We’re seeing Jepsen shift sonically and attempt to tone down the glam and let the instruments express character; unfortunately, keeping it intriguing and having personality aren’t enough to muddle through bumps on the road. “Talking To Yourself” is familiar to “Surrender My Heart,” except with a guitar solo, and “Beach House” does too much by incorporating raw male vocals to shoe-horn the brutal honesty that fails to make an impact. Jepsen’s writing is slightly flawed and visually dull, delivering stereotypical situations: “Boy number twelve had a look in his eyes/Brought up his ex and he started to cry/Told me he loved me the very first night.” It’s rare, but when it’s noticeable, it devalues the individualized greatness of the production.

Lacking smooth transitions, The Loneliest Time has weird shifts between a vibe into something somber or vibrant. It makes sense when looking at its construction; however, it doesn’t have a seamless transition, as she incorporates characteristics of Country-Pop and Synth Pop on the last two tracks. I loved the stripped-down acoustic guitars contrasting the electricity from the electric guitar with pedals, like in the 15 seconds at the start of the last minute of “Talking To Yourself,” capitalizing on an ecstatic solo, further giving something to look forward to past the tedious chorus and familiar sounds. The synth-pop coating offers a bright contrast to the more club-oriented and disco-influenced “Bad Thing Twice” and “Shooting Star,” predominately due to Jepsen’s effectiveness. It makes sense when looking at its construction; however, it doesn’t have a seamless transition, as she incorporates characteristics of Country-Pop and Synth Pop on the last two tracks.

“Go Find Yourself or Whatever” is a Country-Pop song that feels grounded and better than most songs Jepsen has delivered on the album. The captivating melancholy stays in your mind, especially if you stop there. The Loneliest Time ends with a duet/feature performance by Rufus Wainwright on the eponymous track, which continues that melancholy, somber tone but feels displaced as the closer. It doesn’t have captivating grooves and feels like something that could have gotten left off. Though it isn’t what many expected, it still offers a semblance of something refreshing, unlike her Dedicated Side B, which felt like a slightly uninteresting extension of a superior A side. There is enough to enjoy on The Loneliest Time, but it isn’t the strongest effort by Carly Rae Jepsen and is a disappointment in the long run.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Calvin Harris – Funk Wav Bounce Vol. 2: Review

Funk Wav Bounce Vol. 2 lacks a track that captivates and tingles the senses of summer’s cadence. When we think of summer, the vibes that radiate are crisp, danceable, smooth, and sometimes percussion-heavy, and with Funk Wav Bounce Vol. 1, we got just that with the opening track, “Slide.” The gravitas behind each element is like that first bite of your favorite snack after a long-winded day that doesn’t resonate on Vol 2. There are some decent–at times–solid tracks, but the poor construction from an artistic lens gives us an essence of what could have been otherwise better moments. It’s evident with “Obsessed,” a track that becomes lost in third-rate vocals from Charlie Puth, or opening with “New Money,” which offers a lackluster intro that wastes 21 Savage’s talent. It says a lot about the parallel between albums, and though there isn’t much to it, a few highlights are there for you to pick out and play on repeat.

Though it wasn’t a major standout, Funk Wav Bounce Vol. 1 dropped with a dynamic one-two punch to start it off. That first punch,” Slide,” is something that has yet to get reflected in quality since its release. There was this whimsical synergy between Frank Ocean and Migos, along with beautifully incorporated percussion patterns at a minimalist level; there was a reason the mood and vibes equated to grandeur. It had the POP from beautifully delivered melodies and a verse from Frank Ocean, an otherwise surprising collaboration between two different sounds. The closest we get to that feeling that comes midway through the album on “Stay With Me.” It’s a memorable funkadelic-disco track that grows on you the more you listen. At first, it may not acquiesce with your senses, but as you focus, you hear these unique transitions between the different vocal styles of Justin Timberlake, Halsey, and Pharrell. A part of me wished there were more of a connection between it and the 1:24 minute “Part 2,” which would make an elegant and indulgingly longer dance track. Unlike it, others had me questioning the decisions behind each. It begins with a jarring mix between 21 Savage and a synth pop-rap beat where the two don’t blend well, and 21 just feels muted.

After you get past it, presented to you are an array of tracks that don’t aggressively range in quality, but some decisions shift the final outcome. “Obsessed” begins with forgettable vocals by Charlie Puth before Shenseea grabs the steering wheel and makes a powerful argument about removing Puth’s vocals–more so when he delivers a slightly pale and mundane vocal performance in the second half. Similarly, “Somebody Else” contains an imbalance with the potency of the performances/verses, but not enough to make me question the addition of Lil Durk as a foil for Jorja Smith. Durk delivers a smooth flow that blends with the production, but his verse isn’t as captivating, teetering more on decent comparatively to the various rappers who tackle this subject. It isn’t offensively bad and meshes well with the vibe, but it isn’t anything profound. Jorja Smith’s vocals have beautiful consistency, but it doesn’t get used well. It’s like “Potion,” which reminds us of Young Thug’s chameleon-like nature as he offers a great partnership with Dua Lipa. Unfortunately, their talent gets misused over an uninteresting EDM/Post-Disco Pop track.

Though Funk Wav Bounce Vol. 2 isn’t all confusing decisions and lackluster mixes, some highlights round out the tracklist. From “New To You” to “Nothing More To Say,” there is a crisp progression of tracks that offer something of quality, whether its the 80s R&B/Dance nuance of the former or an absorbing hype track in “Ready or Not,” which stays on a steady wavelength, agreeing with the kind of intensity the songs after offer. Among this string of tracks is the aforementioned “Nothing More To Say,” a definitive highlight that brings forth the strengths of all involved instead of plastering prevalent artists and seeing if they can make it work. The latter is evident with the lackluster concoctions we hear at the beginning and end, whether from production or artists involved. It’s particularly disheartening when Calvin Harris brings along Pusha T and fails to meet in the middle, further becoming a middling closer after two more forgettable tracks. It’s a cluster of mediocrity that never sees the light and instead keep shifting the faulty one with older, worn, but slightly effective ones.

Funk Wav Bounce Vol. 2 isn’t anything to write home to, especially as it leaves you feeling mum toward the whole listen. It felt more like a chore than anything else, and we’re left thinking about how it went wrong. And that’s because it comes across as something pushed through fan pressure allowing it to not flow naturally like the first. However, that’s also an issue he had calling the first Vol. 1, which in turn caused more hype and demand to reflect that hunger, and it’s safe to say I was not satisfied.

Rating: 3 out of 10.

Harry Styles – Harry’s House: Review

Like his introduction as Eros, Thanos’ brother, in a post-credit scene for Marvel’s Eternals, Harry’s House oozes out Harry Styles’ sex appeal with some horny pop songs. Though it isn’t far from Harry’s usual trove of pop songs, it’s heightened and more fluidly resonates as he takes us on this tour. And this tour isn’t rudimentary, as Harry’s House speaks more about the inner workings of Harry, both musically and where he’s at mentally. His last album, Fine Line, contained the essence of but wasn’t limited. The ratio slightly skews, even though it’s not saying much compared to his vocal performances. Harry’s lusty and sultry vocals get balanced by tender moments, where We hear him break into ballads that carry nuance and some vibrancy even when the content isn’t appealing. Harry’s House sees Harry continuing to stride as we listen to him morph with different styles that have been part of his musical bag. This time, Harry is building toward another essential groove that keeps you focused on his melodies, the production, and songwriting, for the most part.

It doesn’t take long for Harry Styles to lay down luscious vocals while producers elevate the flare on the tracks. Kid Harpoon and Tyler Johnson bring an essence of style, keeping each aspect of the production interesting as it transitions from verse to chorus, pre-choruses, bridges, etc. It keeps you on a consistent trend upward with the middling ballad to mellow down. It leaves you vibing from shimmering styles that range with smooth progression like on “Late Night Talking” and “Day Dreamin’.” Though there may be some crossover, they each feel fresh, emboldening the identity. It’s the case with the songwriting, where Harry and co-writers can keep it centered on the model without losing your ears, even if it’s sushi or film. 

It’s beneath the production where we hear the essence of his songwriting in certain songs that gets down to the nitty-gritty. In “Cinema,” where he sings, “If you’re getting yourself wet for me/I guess you’re all mine/When you’re sleeping in this bed with me.” Or on “Daydreamin,’” where he sings, “Livin’ in a daydream/She said, “Love me like you paid me”/You know I’ll be gone for so long/So give me all of your love, give me something to dream about.” It isn’t every track, as Harry Styles gets introspective and laments about past relationships through these whirly pop songs that get you on your feet, grooving to the beat. It’s not a transcendent feeling, but you get left with a platter of solid music whose earwormy characteristics gloss over.

Harry’s House is full of different styles that buoy elements of funk, disco, dance, and soul, getting used as these remarkable building blocks over its Pop/R&B core. It gives us exuberant sounds, captivating your ears like previously mentioned songs, “As It Was” and “Daylight.” It’s delivering you synth-pop, dance-pop, some funk-pop, and more with tremendous effect. It’s taking you by the horns and driving you through varying levels of groovy fluidity. Though Kid Harpoon and Tyler Johnson produce most of the tracks, Samuel Witte delivers some work on the previously mentioned “Cinema,” an Alternative Dance-Pop song that contains nuances of disco and funk, especially with its bassline. It brings back the groove and mood after some ballad/slow songs. Unfortunately, Harpoon and Johnson are responsible for the uninteresting “Keep Driving.”

Harry’s House has more shortcomings, like two ineffective ballads in “Boyfriends” and “Matilda” and poorly delivered concepts, like “Grapejuice.” Despite great production, the melodies aren’t captivating, and the message isn’t transparent. The song’s about taking himself away, with his significant other, from stressors, particularly somewhere with solidarity and a bottle of Rouge (wine). It doesn’t have staying power, like two ineffective ballads that are mundane. “Boyfriends” is this soft acoustic ballad that sees Harry singing about a boorish boyfriend in a relationship but treads typical waters without creating an emotional gravitational pull. “Matilda” sounds like a slightly tedious one that doesn’t stray far from conventions. It has some more emotional impact, but it’s hard to get through a third-person perspective that speaks on how the whoa-is-me of another person. It isn’t like “Little Freak,” which takes root in personal experiences that give you something to latch on to, similarly to the radiant “As It Was,” where Harry sings about feelings of loneliness, looking back at his past in the process.

A tour of Harry’s House is a worthwhile journey as Harry Styles beautifully evokes remarkable performances. It’s slightly intuitive but emotionally potent as it weaves this array of modest sunshine. There is enough for a good time and for a long time, as the vibrant production whisks you away into dance-bliss before leaving you with a triumphant synth-pop track in “Love Of My Life” that will keep the mood flowing upon letting it repeat. I know it did with me, and I hope it does with you.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Florence + the Machine – Dance Fever: Review

Florence & The Machine has always had this machination with musical imagery and stylistic vocal performances that have given them a platform to succeed. Album-to-Album, they consistently brought something unique to the equation and gave us the depth of character the songs evoke. From the more personal and soul-filled High as Hope to the radiant baroque-pop on Ceremonials, Florence & The Machine have delivered consistently remarkable work, especially with Florence Welch’s ability to meld within any style taken with immense bravado. It’s what has her shining through on their fifth album, Dance Fever. It takes root in the meaning of choreomania: a social phenomenon of dance fever between 14th and 17th century Europe.  Having those sensibilities in mind, Florence & the Machine transition between danceable vibes and introspective melancholia, where the rich text beneath them elevates them to a new plateau where it’s hard to turn it off.

Dance Fever is full of musical ideas that build upon each other and take different directions; however, what’s different is how it’s pieced together into an album that takes chances and elevates itself by playing with some progressive soundscapes. Within these soundscapes, Florence Welch continues to weave–with co-writers and producers Jack Antanoff, Dave Bayley, Thomas Hull, Thomas Bartlett, and Robert Ackroyd–these personal conflicts that befallen her with complex production that never create an illusion of grandeur, further grounding the music with effervescent connectivity. “Free” sees Florence singing about anxiety, specifically hers, and the disillusion medication may have, as dancing is the budding melatonin that keeps her afloat. Jack Antanoff and Dave Bayley produce “Free” with Florence, creating a sound that fits the title literally. It’s loose and free-flowing, with elements of synth-pop and dance rock connecting through its enigmatic and energetic percussion, that you get left feeling similar energy. 

That energy is felt throughout the album, delivering on the literal meaning of its namesake. It takes chances by budding them with more melancholic production, especially when Florence Welch fluidly transitions between the two on “Cassandra.” For Dance Fever, it gives you a consistent progression of pop that gets you in a spiritual groove, with the few stoppages coming from these centered pieces, like “Back In Town” and “The Bomb,” where she converses with herself. She offers a sense of reality within these mystifying slow songs that counteract and balance the various dance vibes. There’s a significant balance between them and the introspective dance tracks that spread infectious moods with fervor. Florence Welch isn’t creating these dance tracks to divide sides; the songwriting and vocal performances match the emotional gravitas of each song, which allows them to have depth beyond the complexities of the sounds. 

“My Love,” along with “Choreomania” and “Dream Girl Evil,” are a few examples that bridge the context of the lyrics with the emotional bravado delivered by Florence Welch. “My Love,” like “Free,” is an energetic wave of disco-influenced electro-pop that may dance your writer’s block away. Florence’s content understands the divide between its themes and production, allowing us to hear the remarkable juxtaposition between distraught and intuitive notions beneath the music that makes groove. “Dream Girl Evil” is this remarkable Art-Pop-Rock anthem that fights back against misogynistic societal norms seen for women in a satirical fashion, where Florence imparts this notion of turning evil against them. “Choreomania” is another dance-rock song that buoys its emotional energy with the kinetic and unrelenting motion that the production injects into you. It’s a sonic theme that runs through the veins of Dance Fever. It’s progressive and interjects these auspicious themes that make you feel whole.

The complexities of Dance Fever don’t get hidden within the crevices; it’s there for you to breathe in. It begins with “King” and ends with “Morning Elvis,” a beautiful continuation in grounding her humanity. Florence Welch sings about these stories that reflect her core emotions, and also ours, as this relativity keeps us entwined with the music. Unfortunately, it isn’t all perfect. Some of the shorter interlude-like tracks combine a harmonic spoken word vocal delivery with broken down instrumentations, though it’s only impactful on “Heaven Is Here.” The others, “Restraint” and “Prayer Factory,” fit the mold of what the album wants to deliver, but it doesn’t have much-staying power as a transition between stylistic sectors. They feel slightly forgettable as they drown out in-between these luscious dance songs.

Dance Fever is a fantastic record that delivers on Florence + the Machine’s strengths on both ends and keeps us in a constant state of contemplative dance. It does something unique with its sonic concept that keeps you invested; the complexities of the production offer vibrancy that boasts the vibes that got injected into you by it. I left a memorable imprint in my ears, especially “My Love.” There is enough to take away and love, especially when you want to get up and dance alone in your room.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Arcade Fire – We: Review

With pertinent themes with clever and fantastical instrumentals, Arcade Fire continues to coast with dreary and rhythmic melodies and harmonies over uninteresting songwriting that you almost forget Win Butler is singing, but not Régine Chassagne. It’s constructed with linear focus instrumentally, but when it comes to the way subjects are delivered, your level of attention wanes. It’s disappointing; Arcade Fire has driven on more darkened paths, but their lively shift on Everything Now was a misstep; however, finding that happy medium on We hasn’t offered much of a rewarding presence. There are bursts of tangible tracks that keep your interest afloat but isn’t as rewarding as hearing The Suburbs for the first time. But they stumble on hurdles that divert from the aesthetic that works (Dance-Pop), creating a bridge between some complexions of folk and faltering in the construction.

Arcade fire runs with ideas/themes that speak on aspects of society like our attachment to technology, the “American Dream,” and the effect of the socio-political climate through unique POVs. But it’s muddled with obscurities in the verses that sometimes it feels like they are just singing words without context. It’s evident in the transition in the two-part intro, “The Age of Anxiety,” that establishes how open they will continue to be. On the second one, Win Butler sings: 

“Heaven is so cold

I don’t wanna go

Father in heaven’s sleeping

Somebody delete me

Hardy har-har

Chinese throwing star

Lamborghini Countach

Maserati sports car.”

It establishes this death anxiety, but fears he is too warped into a rabbit hole created by life but feels to build on it emotionally through slightly dronish melodies. It’s inconsistent. They juxtapose intended moods on the livelier dance-pop tracks, and that’s the only contrast between the 1s and 2s. So, when they go into more ballad-centric melodies, it loses that spark, for the most part. There is a smooth transition between “The Lightnings” as Win Butler matches the emotional gravitas, but it isn’t the same with both parts of “End of An Empire” and the first half of the second “Age of Anxiety.” It gets partially attributed to the songwriting, which isn’t as consistently linear like the first of the latter or “Unconditional I (Lookout Kid).” 

They’ve never devoided themselves from exploring beyond a reflection, and going through the black mirror, which adds a dual perspective between the themes and the purported “I.” They’ve done it eloquently in past work, like “Modern Man” on The Suburbs, and parallel, without the “I,” on the eponymous track on Neon Bible. They find ways to blend the two, and it’s the least consistent, especially as it doesn’t leave much of an impact. That impact comes when they liven up the instrumentations, offering a variety of unique constructs to stream with the melodies and sometimes good linear storytelling. It’s the one consistent throughout We. Through this teeter-totter of writing between both lead vocalists, Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, wherein Régine’s vocal performances shine with incredible consistency and sometimes act like a proper duet-foil for Win. It is heard in abundance throughout.

Régine Chassagne, as a performer, is the standout for the band, as she commands some of the best parts, outweighing Win Butler’s consistency in the first half. When the production switches from a low tempo to something more energetic, like in “Age of Anxiety II” and for a minute in “End of Empire IV (Sagittarius A).” Though it isn’t to say Win is all lows, at times coming with a solid stream of performances that stays with you, like the chorus and third verse of “Age of Anxiety I” and in the last 4 of 5 tracks. Within this roller coaster ride, you get their best near the end, especially the drive between “Unconditional I (Lookout Kid)” and “Unconditional II (Race and Religion).” Régine Chassagne shines vibrantly on the latter with infectious melodies and solid songwriting. It gets boasted by the cadence in Peter Gabriel’s backing vocals, which allows you to ride a slight high before the eponymous track, where that high keeps you rolling through a beautiful acoustic ballad.

e has a tiring and slightly modest first half before spearheading into these vibrant melodies and sounds that encapsulate their style blended with dance-pop complexions. It left me disappointed as it seemed they could only go up from their last album, though it slightly did; it wasn’t anything profound. Unfortunately, that stays in the second half, as Arcade Fire leaves you on a high note, albeit not as memorable.

Rating: 5 out of 10.

Aurora – The Gods We Can Touch: Review

From the many popstars to make waves, it’s been hard for me to distinguish between artists like Madison Beer and Anne-Marie; however, some have caught my ear, like Joy Crookes and Aurora. It isn’t hard to distinguish yourself from the bunch – there just needs to be an identity in your sound or approach. Aurora, fortunately, has her identity, and it doesn’t stray far from keeping my ears returning with her use of an ethereal cohesion between the vocal and percussion layers. It perked my ears when I heard “Dancing With The Wolves,” and it perks them higher with her new album, The Gods We Can Touch. What Aurora brings on the album is an elevated experience that shows her maturity as a songwriter, singer, and pianist. 

The Gods We Can Touch is an escalating ethereal experience that continues to keep its tonal benevolence while exploring new factions in other sounds to create this dynamic pop album. There is a linear direction from the production, which adds a subtle duality to the wave-like textures – relative to synths, dark, and gothic in scope – with it, Aurora creates whimsically infectious melodies. “Give In To The Love” shows us that beautiful cohesion: the snares contain an enigmatic presence behind the synth bass, while Aurora delivers hypnotically gleeful melodies to keep us grounded. It’s part of the center fuse for tonal themes throughout the album. It reminds us to appreciate the small things around us and reflect on our relationship with them.

One of these things is self-love, which reflects on the song “Cure For Me.” It continues to illuminate Aurora’s talent without taking away from the impact the song has. It takes the synths and percussion to profound levels where the subtle tempo switches between verse, pre-chorus, and chorus leave you in awe. It’s hard to describe the kind of nuances that detail that part. There is a little bit of jaunty swing from the organs, a bit of island from the percussion, and the synths are the supporting actor; however, it all culminates into this grand anthem that hits close. These jaunty organs make a return in “The Innocent.” It is one of her more chaotic tracks, but it continues this elegant hybrid of electro-pop and wave that lines the album. As one of the many highlights on the album, it’s more than that. It reaffirms the bar Aurora sets, especially as she continues to take new directions. 

Upon listening to her last album again, A Different Kind of Human (Step 2), there is a sense of sonic rejuvenation for Aurora as she begins to express more without relying on tiring modulations and vocal pitches. “Artemis” is one of a few that tries to embrace the melancholic benevolence hidden within the crevices of the strings, albeit distant in sound. Aurora has plenty of ideas she wants to deliver, but it begins to steer from her visceral energy. There are tame ballads that offer stripped-down and driven performances, but these songs are simple allusions that still have unwavering depth, despite weak production. Fortunately, most of these problems tend to have you dwindling in the middle of The God We Can Touch. It’s almost like the locomotive had to pause the coal before it overheats, but with the kind of music Aurora brings in the first and second half, there is no way it could overheat.

The Gods We Can Touch ends by taking us to a fever dream where Aurora improves the mundane aspects of the production halfway through. She also adds another pop banger in “Blood In The Wine,” which uses drums and percussion to give us one more bombastic POP before descending in tempo. It lets us unwind as she delivers these themes with auspicious and visceral lyricism. But as it begins its loop around to the start, you realize how smooth the wavelength is in its transitions. It’s what makes it Aurora’s best project to date.

There is a lot to love about The Gods We Can Touch, but it’s far from perfect. However, one major glow-up is the innate replayability of the songs, whether from the writing and melodies or the production. They infect your ears with these luscious sounds that distinguish themselves within the guise of pop, and that is the highlight of going through this multiple times.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

The Weekly Coos Presents: A Retro Dance Party

When it comes to Dance music two definitions come to mind. It is a genre. It is a label for a song’s specific vibe and correlation to the dance floor. It started with Disco creating a new atmosphere for club-goers, stretching far and wide until it stripped down to sonic style with more synths and bass grooves. It has now become nuanced, along with the second wave of European dominance in the club scene with early House and Eurodance, as we see with the influx of pop stars coming from overseas today.

As people, we have this innate reaction when a recognizable hit or, as some put it, one-hit wonders, starts playing. We start tapping our feet to the groove that comes from our core, leaning into mingling and escaping our comfort zone. Everyone will have their niche taste or the music that will get them grooving; for me, it is Dua Lipa and others, who may listen to Heavy Metal, may still throw down when “Cosmic Girl” or “Virtual Insanity,” by Jamiroquai starts playing. But the dance floor is for all types of music, despite pop trends weighing in what would be a dominating force in clubs.

The variety of trends that have dominated the pop-sphere have waned and dissipated as new ones arise; however, the influence remains in new trends. I emphasize new trends because they aren’t necessarily new. They are refurbished, slightly better, and catchier variations of what there was in the 90s and early 2000s; this includes more staying power with the trove of singles that became monster hits. But unlike these new artists, the kind of dominance and perseverance these songs have had to stay relevant.

Some of these notable songs and artists include: “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” by Eiffel65, Darude’s “Sandstorm,” and “Rhythm Is A Dancer,” by Snap! One could go on and on about how many of these artists we have had in that time frame, but it’s easier for you to tunnel down that rabbit hole filled with awe and whimsy; the kind of whimsy that Whigfield’s “Saturday Night” brings. That whimsy delivers on other occasions, like the memory of a certain song’s peak on mainstream and hearing it on car rides that played Hot 100 radio.

Some of us remember them for that one song, while others have had a continuous appreciation for their later work; particularly those in Europe. The same goes for other artists, like A Touch of Class or Alice DJ. They leave isolated hits that can turn up the dance floor at any themed party, with an isolated few aging gracefully to stay in the rotation with today’s music. Fortunately, these European artists benefited from the influence it had on American pop stars like Madonna, Cher, and Brittany Spears, with the latter of the two releasing pure Electro-Pop/House albums. I could go on and on about the kind of stimulation this music brought the club when the wavering punk rock scene started to slowly begin its hibernation. And like a bear, we fortunate enough to have them keep waking up and delivering detailed memories of the past.

These songs eventually became epitomized with social trends like Throwback-Thursday and more. With the massive reach from these social media platforms, it has allowed for natural growth in that intoxicating feeling nostalgia delivers. It’s a syndrome filled with intoxicating electronic sounds and swinging grooves. And there is no cure, except for dancing it out. So come dance with me, as we listen to dance songs throughout the years. 

Marina – Ancient Dreams In A Modern Land: Review

It has always been astounding that a talented voice like Marina Diamandis has yet to fully create an album where she finds a proper equilibrium between production and lyricism throughout. She has shown a lot of flashes in her career; specifically on Froot, the third album in her resume. Despite a lackluster fourth release, she has come back full circle to deliver a beautifully vibrant electro-pop album with more hits than duds on her fifth studio album, Ancient Dreams In A Modern Land. This album takes a trip down memory lane, both lyrically and sonically, as she delivers tracks that are resonant of her universal pop career through metaphorical landscapes. At times it takes missteps by guiding toward some broad redundancies in the themes/lyrical content, but the production still shines as a co-lead.

There has always been something about Marina’s voice that had me questioning why she kept steering in a slightly generic – dance pop route that never highlighted her strengths. But the more she started to learn and grow, as an artist, the more it started to seem that she is usually at her best when she is in some control of the sonic direction, instead of forcing the production to fit a concept. Though that isn’t necessarily the case with every producer she has worked with, delivering some standouts like “Primadonna,” off her sophomore release, Electra Heart. On a lot of these earlier albums there has been too much of a focus on grabbing the best and putting out glamorized dance records to fit a concept. When she is one of the foundations for the production, whether solo or with co-producers, there is a shift in focus.

The production on Ancient Dreams In A Modern Land is unlike her earlier, more fraught work, weaving these unique dance and electro-pop, some of which doesn’t overly glamorize and allows her words and themes steer the ship. However some tracks steer the ship too far from visceral direction the first few deliver before going into – the at times – redundant subject matter, like on “Purge The Poison,” which focuses on breaking apart the evils in society and America. It keeps going on the off-putting “New America,” which is about the issues with the social problems of America and it is taken into a world of boredom.

Unfortunately the production is the only highlight to come from the aforementioned tracks, amongst others, where the production takes the limelight. The other tracks contain sonic consistency and, despite some decent lyricism, Marina delivers great performances, like on “Pandora’s Box.” It has a tedious message that uses Pandora’s Box as a form of trying to let the emotions flow or if not, what is eventually let out is uncontrollable chaos. And though that’s a little on the nose, Marina gives a subtly beautiful performance over a melancholic electro-pop centric ballad that buoys the echo-backing vocals into organized chaos. 

Ancient Dreams In A Modern Land isn’t devoid of quality from both the production and the writing. The title track and “Venus Fly Trap,” for example, use these radiant metaphors, some of which reflect on Marina’s person and being, to express these warming and inspiring themes about life. A lot of the subsequent tracks start to embody more centric pop conventions, opposed to the glitzy electro-pop. A huge factor comes from the fact that she is keeping it simple and letting the glowing instruments create the backing. One such instrument that gets a boost on the production is the percussion and electric guitar, which carries the load. In doing so, Marina and her co-producers free flow, introducing an array of differently constructed production for the tracks. They take Marina’s vocal prowess and, like in past work, give us the work she flourishes in, the soft-emotional ballads.

Marina is at her apex when she breaks down the comfortable dance conventions coating her music. It’s because her voice is like the most powerful instrument she has always had and with the few ballads she gives us, there are some great ones. However, the individual standout comes from “I Love You More Than I Love Me,” which reinforces the thought that her love is worth more than what happened between her and her ex, Jack Patterson of Clean Bandits. The track that closes Ancient Dreams In A Modern Land, “Goodbye,” brings forth a beautiful message to her older self, letting her know about her individual growth as an artist and person. This is evident with the control she had on this album, like she did with Froot.

Through its ups and its downs, Ancient Dreams In A Modern Land brings unique perspectives and less-fraught production to deliver a mesmerizing, albeit flawed, pop album that shines like the album cover. It has its moments in the sun and catches you with unique melodies and harmonies you’ll find yourself coming back a bit frequently.

Rating: 7 out of 10.