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.

Hatchie – Giving The World Away: Review

Under the twinkling guise of its starry production, Giving the World Away by Hatchie takes us on an emotionally draining listen that keeps a consistent tone, which gets lost along the way. Hatchie’s musical core has linear brevity with whimsical guitar strings and vibrant percussion, which reminded me of listening to Familiars by The Antlers and Lovelife by Lush on those late nights gazing at glow-in-the-dark plastic stars on the ceiling. Unfortunately, these fleeting moments skip a beat with the production. You spend a few moments taking in the Dream-Pop/Shoegaze aesthetic and focusing on her lyrics that the bad meshes with the good. It becomes hard to discern what you like and what you don’t upon your first listens. This inconsistency is prominent in production that has a Dream-Pop core, But Giving the World Away is a decent sophomore effort from Hatchie, crafting these introspective lyrics to match the atmosphere.

Atmosphere has a heavy focus on Giving the World Away. It incorporates elements that reflect psychedelic and rock aspects of a Dream-Pop/Shoegaze aesthetic at its core. Once set, we get these various shifts that keep the nuance of the aesthetic while trying something new. Lead singles “This Enchanted” and “Quicksand” beautifully encompass this by incorporating elements of dance music, mystifying the effects of the instruments in synchronization with an energetic drumbeat in the percussion. They counter each other’s style; the former reflects the shoegaze-like rock elements, while the latter takes a more dreamy-electronic approach–there is some flip-flop, especially in its quality. 

The tracks with elements of shoegaze excel because of the level of ingenuity compared to the dryer dream-pop-like tracks. With something as simple as “Twin,” you hear the difference when you hear the eponymous track or “The Rhythm.” The former goes on a wild journey, playing with the percussion on many fronts, while the latter takes a slower tempo approach, with uproariously psychedelic percussion. These twists and turns are never reluctant and give you enough of a punch to swift you away with ever-changing production. It hits you from the beginning with “Lights On,” which is jubilant and danceable, mirroring “This Enchanted,” which follows it. In brisk moments you find yourself dancing on your own in the confinement of modest darkness. 

You’ll notice that there are two sides to Giving the World Away: ones with overly dreamy tones and nuanced shoegaze-pop. They get jumbled with some linear consistency, albeit not all positive. The tracks tend to lose themselves in the vortex of the atmosphere, shifting into an unduly colorful space. It isn’t to discredit the songwriting and its depth; the production is what befuddles my attention, as tracks like “The Key” and “Till We Run Out Of Air” have these heavy emotional vocals from Hatchie and its production fails to match. Unfortunately, other dream-pop-like tracks aren’t as interesting. I could say there is a balance between the two, but it’s moot when one outweighs the other. They fade into a void that keeps small increments of the music, but you forget it’s playing until a more creative front reopens and you remember who the artist is.

Unlike albums I’ve mentioned earlier, Giving the World Away’s inconsistency wanes hard on the final product. So, while “The Key” and “Till We Run Out Of Air” have great vocals, the production makes these tracks forgettable, blending into blandness. It doesn’t benefit from poor pacing, as tracks tend to run long like “Twin” and “Take My Hand,” even if it only extends a melodic retread of the chorus. As a whole, Giving the World Away stumbles and fades into an abyss where the sonic shades can’t offer proper visuals of what we are ingesting. Many times, you’re lost hearing mundane melodic vocals or drab production that drowns out other aspects of a song. It leaves you with hollow spaces that could have gotten filled with tracks that had more shoegaze/rock sensibilities.

Giving the World Away treads toward forgetfulness, leaving some good tracks that embolden styles it takes for influence. Hatchie brings great melodies for steady flows; however, along with some production, it isn’t enough for an okay album. I’d recommend the few tracks I positively highlight, but it isn’t worth diving into because there is little reward. One minute you’re listening to “This Enchanted,” and next, you hear faint choruses coming in and out before reaching “The Rhythm,” continuing the unique production on tracks with that shoegaze aesthetic. These moments fill you with life and energy while the others are lifeless drones of pop that barely offer anything interesting. 

Rating: 5 out of 10.

Camila Cabello – Familia: Review

Composed and structured, these are a few reasons why Familia by Camila Cabello resonates more musically compared to previous records. Unfortunately, that doesn’t say much as it still misses to hit the mark as a pop album. For the few times my ears perk up, they quickly flatten as Camila tries to blend flavorful Latin Pop within whatever bad ideas flow through her creative mind. It’s as if she tries to find a middle road between earwormy harmonies and melodies and consistently basic songwriting. She’s had some catchy and replayable hits, mostly coming from songs that have some roots in her native culture. Familia lets her vocals naturally materialize over its production and give us a pulse of vibrant Latin Pop textures, but some production and songwriting are still on the opposite end.

Unlike the glitz and glamour of pop that masked Romance, Familia has a more natural feel with its vision musically. It doesn’t get wrapped by overly produced pop textures; instead, it gets stripped, rearranged with the Latin music that influenced Camila Cabello in her youth and during her time with family during the pandemic. There are elements of Rumba, Salsa, Bachata, and Folk, but It’s not exclusive to those as they get blended into whimsical pop tracks with identity. It doesn’t matter the approach Cabello brings; there is synchronization between her vocal melodies, harmonies, and the production, which is the driving hook for more easy replayability. 

Unfortunately, going that route would be more for the synchronization that allows you to listen to 11 of 12 songs without taking a totally jarring detour. It gives the technical aspects of the music traction, even if songs teeter between more conventional or more vibrant, but it’s only as good as the writing. Camila Cabello isn’t known for having deeply enchanting choruses. Her writing can stand out, specifically in her verses, but for the most part, it stays mundane. It doesn’t match her melodies as they come across as radiantly captivating. It’s a happy medium that, despite the direction the production takes, it feels natural. It doesn’t make every song incredible, but it keeps steady for better or worse. It left me wishing she kept it tighter to being open face Latin Pop, but she takes a few directions, one works; the others don’t.

However, that isn’t to downplay some of the standouts on Familia. Opening with “Celia,” Camila Cabello hits the right chords as she evokes her inner Celia Cruz. It builds off the Salsa-like rhythm and creates this hypnotic pop song that mirrors what Celia kept going for us, the addiction to dance. Since Cabello’s solo debut, anytime the production utilized Latin music to guide the style, she’d shine. It was evident with the quality shift from “She Loves Control” and “Havana” to “Inside Out.” We don’t get an inconsistency in style on Havana since any shift in style still carries a consistent piece of Latin music built-in. The subtleties fuel any centric-glitzy pop and give them definition like the use of maracas, and other percussion notes, on the trip-hop-centric “psychofreak.”

Camila Cabello is mostly a hitmaker, and sometimes it shows when certain corners get cut to check off boxes like catchy choruses and earwormy melodies. None of those occasions come from songs about Shawn Mendes, as they tend to the more basic. That isn’t to say that Cabello isn’t capable of writing great verses, shining when she writes Spanish language songs and hybrids. It separates the greatness of “Celia” and “La Vida Buena” with “Quiet” and “Boys Don’t Cry.” The latter two aren’t as profound, embodying a little more conservative electro-pop notes and mundane lyrics, mirroring the simple but effective melodies. Some of the songs are personal, but the vocabulary isn’t always eye-popping like in “Quiet.” In the song’s verse, Cabello tries to deliver a sexy lead-in but falls flat with forgettable descriptions; on the pre-chorus, it’s the same with the lines, “It’s you, boy/I’m cool like an icicle ’til I see you, boy,” and her vocals mask it for the most part. It doesn’t make them good, despite having technical components down.

It’s similarly the case with the last two tracks on Familia. It left me with the same feeling as Camila Cabello’s previous albums, predominately underwhelmed. Through the hurdles of getting caught by catchy melodies, great songs do stand out amongst the others, which continue to show us Cabello’s strengths. It may be fun to get lost in, but it’s very memorable. Familia will deliver some tracks that can fit varying playlists, but those are minimal. Hopefully, Camila Cabello grows from this and makes more Spanish language hits.

Rating: 5 out of 10.

Dora Jar – Comfortably in Pain EP: Review

Charisma. Charm. Fun. Emotionally driven. Simple words, sure, but accurate when describing the music of Dora Jar. Every step she takes has been a positive push forward, slowly refining her sound and becoming one of pop-rock’s hidden gems. On her new EP, Comfortably In Pain, Dora continues to hone in the rock sensibilities, blending fun and poignant lyricism that feeds into her quirky demeanor. Upon listening to “Polly” off last year’s Digital Meadow, she drove home these sensibilities with her spectacular songwriting and charming melodies. These qualities kept returning as Comfortably In Pain continued, and I repeat, but I can say without a doubt, there was a lot of enjoyment listening to this project. 

Dora Jar’s witty and vibrant songwriting has been a cornerstone of her charm. With lines like: “​​In the ring, let the red flag billow/Below me is a city, you can call me Godzilla/Cross the road little chicken, wanna stomp upon a bully/’Cause I’m invincible,” on “Polly” it’s easy to find that relativity between her and the listener by picking fantastical elements to replace the norm. She continues to bring it within many songs on Comfortably In Pain, like “Scab Song,” which sees Dora expanding the creative world inside her mind. In the song’s third verse, she sings: “You have green and blue veins/Loopin’ like spaghetti through your body’s traffic lanes/Sometimes I like to pretеnd that your veins have no end/And I can drivе through them,” continuing and developing the style. 

It isn’t just the fluidity of her songwriting that brings anything Dora Jar touches to life. It’s the captivating energy with her melodies, like in “Tiger Face;” she can fluctuate tempos to reflect an emotional core within each section – the verses see her keeping it real with her desires, her likes, and her feelings – while the chorus delivers a playful melody replicating a balance in her relationship. Within these lines, she is signaling her desire to see this person’s fierce side, as it brings some extra spice. The song is complemented by rustic acoustic strings before immersing itself within the confines of the production as it layers with the percussion – drums and piano keys. It is similarly the case with “It’s Random,” where it switches midway, like a random shift that beautifully contrasts the somber acoustic opener.

The production continues to shine, albeit some minimalism in instrumentations. There is an elegant balance between the twinkling guitar strings and rock progression. Dora Jar knows what she wants and tries to encapsulate those sentiments, like the pop-ballad “Lagoon.” It shows that she isn’t always gravitating toward the electronic trend in music; Dora is refining 2000s pop-rock and alt-rock and making it her own by twisting these various elements in the mortar and creating a great blend. It’s a testament to the producers for seeing her vision and adapting their structured approach for something a little more chaotic and fun like she does with “Scab Song” –  a literal song about a scab, with the resounding depth of opposite connotations that distinguish a sense of beauty speaks to the greatness of her craft.

Comfortably In Pain is a whimsical journey through the mind of Dora Jar as she continues to raise her ceiling. She is bringing energy beneath the charm and charisma. But most importantly, she knows herself and it reflects with the music she creates. Each new project is another step on this journey to grow bigger than she is now.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10.

Animal Collective – Time Skiffs: Review

Through a better half of two decades, Animal Collective has been tuning with their vast soundscapes, bridging together grounded psychedelia and unhinged pop-chaos as they continue to attempt new directions with their music. So as I was listening to their new album, Time Skiffs, it began to dawn on me how nuanced it was to the late 2000s, where the psychedelic mold of Animal Collective rounded itself into a whirlwind of fantastic albums, like Strawberry Jam. Time Skiffs carries many strengths, but most importantly, it creates cohesion between contrasting instrumentations while tightening the bolts with awe-inducing melodies. It transcends one’s thoughts about their past, unrelentingly contrasting pop sound that felt jaded with off-kilter melodies – ones that will make you feel a slight “why” when grooving to FloriDaDa, off Painting With

Since the release of Campfire Songs, I’ve sensed a looming presence of what a composed version of Animal Collective could be. By keeping it close to the tone, it gave them some constraints. Instead of getting some unhinged but composed psychedelic rock and art-pop, they let themselves flow freely through various layers of psychedelic folk sounds. There has always been this sonic pheromone that has made the writing of Avery Tare and Panda Bear feel centered at its emotional core as the production, specifically the electronic and percussion work of Geologist and Deakin. You hear it with a structured approach balancing the pop cohesion and unhinged fluidity, even though it doesn’t always work.

The members of Animal Collective tend to shine a respective light, especially with the directions they take. It could come from the jubilant pop sounds of “Dragon Slayer” or the hypnotic jangle-art-pop “Cherokee,” where the underlying qualities offer the kind of depth that was absent on Painting With. Though Painting With was an acute side-step toward pop obscurity, as they worked around implementing these colorful instrumentations and melodies, Time Skiffs grabs the train tracks and reroutes them back to the musical jungle. It’s easy to pinpoint the differences significantly; it’s as if their curiosity continues to show with a progression of pop texture more akin to their definitive style in psychedelia. However, they don’t limit themselves. 

Amongst the first few tracks on Time Skiffs comes “Walker,” Panda Bear’s homage to pop legend Scott Walker, which offers a titillatingly upbeat production with twinkling xylophone. It adds an elegant contrast to a previous track, “Prester John,” a hybrid of two songs conceived by Avery and Panda, blended to create an atmospheric crescendo of synths underlying a dominant bass groove and piano. “Strung With Everything” adds to their level of ingenuity, as they use the influence from past pop artists to create something unique. It’s an unhinged jangle-psychedelic-pop that flurries into the skies with vibrant synths and infectious melodies; it leads you into a world filled with satisfying jabs into your ears. There is a moment about 5 minutes in where they blend in noises, like a school bell ringing. It oozes an influence from a pop style more akin to an early 70s Paul Simon record, where the fun and light isn’t too structured. 

Time Skiffs dwindles as it comes to a close, offering a continuation of the pop aesthetics from past songs. Unfortunately, all three tracks don’t stand out – “Passer – By” and “Royal and Desire” muddles in the dirt, barely elevating beyond its conceptual sonic atmosphere. It isn’t “We Go Back,” where they add a more rock aesthetic beneath the melodies and pop overtones. There is a lot to enjoy when Animal Collective doesn’t overreach its creativity meter, which can often deter from their range in melancholy. It happens right after the mundane “Dragon Slayer,” with the track “Car Keys” and its lack of control. The uproarious percussion drowns out the melodies and keeps you from understanding and enjoying the poor idea meshing that gets better on “Prester John,” which follows it.

Animal Collective gives us a different light on a beautifully catchy pop that doesn’t overreach. Unlike Painting With, Animal Collective keeps it close to their element instead of creating choruses driven by memorable repetition, which is very common in pop music. I genuinely liked Time Skiffs a lot, though it has its issues, the kind of flair from the psychedelic side takes me back to the late 2000s while staying afloat with structure and confidence.

Rating: 7 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 Weeknd – Dawn FM: Review

We’ve taken an exhaustively fun and thrilling ride from his debut to After Hours; from a front-row seat, we hear The Weeknd encapsulate and transition into 80s nostalgia with composure as the adrenaline rushes high. But The Weeknd, along with co-producers, don’t let nostalgia shroud over the complexities to keep sonic sensibilities modern. Dawn FM continues that, and more effectively. In a proposed trilogy, After Hours is now the appetizer, as we hear his progression in maturity – musically. However, The Weeknd gives us an afterthought – after the fun and thrills, what was it all for when you’re still left gutted with past regrets. He takes note of late-night radio and creates a similar atmosphere to parallel the sentiments of the average listener – it also maintains a proper balance of genre influence and his intricate ear for music with his producers.

Fans of The Weeknd are no stranger to his idolization of actor/comedian Jim Carrey and his soft-tender-NPR-like vocals add visceral layers to the slight melancholic sounds for the dance floor. As it transitions from the intro, Carrey’s vocals remind us what’s arriving: an album reminiscent of the deep cuts from the genres from where he’s taking influence. However, more surprises come from its slight detachment from the first single, “Take Me Breath.” 

Calling the sounds of Dawn FM melancholic, I’ll put, my perspective speaks on the vagueness of the sound in comparison to past productions. We’ve heard The Weeknd flow in both directions – melancholic or heightened pop – and there is less of the latter. However, It’s something which this isn’t devoid of, evident with “Take My Breath,” produced by Max Martin and Oscar Holter. At first, you get a whiff of the upbeat 80s electronic and new wave dance styles – from the riffs to the synths, I was left in awe by the complexities within the production. It’s bombastic and fluid, encapsulating that visceral “Star Boy” energy while embodying different themes. It comes after the darkly-digital electronic track “How Do I Make You Love Me,” as it weaves these hypnotic melodies with the multi-layered production. It’s a testament to the producers and engineers to craft an album, where if you have your transition setting to zero seconds, it brings one constant flow from start to finish.

Despite some of the dance floor coating, it plays like listening to a late-night station focused on delivering danceable vibes while keeping your head afloat through the depth of the songwriting, interludes, and production style. Like I’ve mentioned before, The Weeknd has been through countless trials and tribulations, akin to a consistent lifestyle he has portrayed. He’s never shied away from it, and frankly, we have gotten some of his biggest hits, like “Party Monster” and “Low Life,” from it. However, shit starts coming back around, and he’s finding himself in purgatory lamenting. Like his album cover, interjecting thoughts of his wrongs with little rights create an embodiment of a man stuck in the dark. The potent lyrics are as effective as the melodies, which The Weeknd brings plenty.

“Is There Someone Else?” for example, see The Weeknd reflecting on a nudge that has him seeing his partner finding comfort in someone else after constant fighting within their relationship. On the surface, we hear these regrets, his lack of understanding, and that unbearable weight as he tries to define himself. But one thing kept rattling through my head – how does it weave together in the bigger picture? “Less Than Zero” sees The Weeknd adding another dimension to his person, and part of it comes from understanding both perspectives. On “Less Than Zero,” The Weeknd sings: “Remember I was your hero, yeah/I’d wear your heart like a symbol/I couldn’t save you from my darkest truth of all/I know/I’ll always be less than zero,” which could symbolize a few things – his infidelity or his lifestyle.

The Weeknd isn’t always headstrong, but the production doesn’t sway you in opposing directions. The production for Dawn FM comes primarily from Max Martin, The Weeknd, and Oneohtrix Point Never, with an occasional co-lead from Swedish House Mafia. The latter produces the second single and immediate standout, “Sacrifice.” The dazzling production takes a lot of cues from funk/synth-pop hybrids as it incorporates slick electric guitar riffs with a rustic gloss. Unfortunately, I can’t keep gushing about the album without noting what didn’t work for me: the features. Usually, a Weeknd song with a feature hits, or it doesn’t lower/raise the quality, but on Dawn FM, it’s one for two. Tyler, the Creator comes with a little of column A and column B, while Lil Wayne phases in and out. The album maybe could have flourished brighter if The Weeknd went solo. But that is neither here nor there because the features don’t completely diminish the return.

Dawn FM is nearly perfect, even when it is a little loaded with slightly weak archetypal hybrids near the end and one forgettable feature. I was left transfixed through this concept, and it plays to the strengths of the artist and producers. It will see steady rotation, especially as I, along with other fans, dance the night away.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Top 20 Albums of 2021

Rating Updated: Went from 9/10 to 8.5/10.

Digital Meadow is unlike most debuts. Dora Jar comes full force, attacking every part of her senses and letting that inner mythical brain explore the depths of her songwriting. She shifts on a dime, taking intricate themes and playing with them like empowerment on “Wizard.” By creating this persona that flips the perspective of her shyness. Dora Jar is ready to take the next step, and I’m excited to see where she goes.

Full of life and reflection, Actual Life 2 (February 2 – October 15, 2021) is a genuine escape from reality as we sift through the diaries of an artist in tune with his craft.

“Actual Life 2 (February 2 – October 15, 2021) benefits from allowing songs to feel free and atmospheric and having them contain their own identity in the long run. And from it, he rises above his first album and delivers a tighter and more nuanced follow-up that improves on one aspect of Fred’s music without forgetting the key strengths of the first Actual Life and further implementing them cleanly. I wholeheartedly recommend it, especially if you’re an electronic fan.” – FROM REVIEW

8. Birdy – Young At Heart

Joy Crookes was another artist, who’s debut album left me in awe – she has these complex ideas and realizes them into these larger-than-life short films. She speaks on identity in various forms, which relate to the dual-layer she masks herself with as she dives into her past and delivers topics about locational growth and character growth. The production is ever-shifting and offers a plethora of fun and consistent frequency as it transitions from song to song. 

Tyler, the Creator made a Gangsta Grillz album, and it was glorious. What more can you ask for, especially when Tyler continues to show his skills as a producer – Furthermore, it reminds us about his rapping skills, which can sometimes steal the spotlight without causing friction.

After digging deep into her emotions during a tumultuous time, Japanese Breakfast comes with a new sense of life, musically. She covers expressive themes about finding joy post heartbreak and realizing life isn’t perfect, but she finds common ground by letting the ray of light shine. The production is full of jubilant strings and percussion as a means to balance the serotonin in the chemical compounds on Jubilee.

Vince Staples elevates his craft and platform by breaking down his barriers and delivering an intricate look at his life. He’s an artist who knows what he wants and the lengths needed to tell his story, and he delivers.

“The broken-down instrumentations add a lot to the projection of Silberman’s vocals, and the writing has a distinct cadence that you just get lost in the dream as flower petals sway softly in the wind over spring flowers. It stays on that flow as Green to Gold cycles back from the closer, “Equinox,” a lively and hopeful instrumental that shows us a light at the end of our tunnel.” – From Review.

“This continuation on both volumes of Un Canto Por Mexico has been nothing short of amazing. With Vol. 1 she delivers livelier-traditional performances, while Vol. 2 brings a slightly melancholic direction sonically, allowing for the guitars to play bare as Natalia and her musical guests flourish from start to finish.”  From Review.

Sometimes I Might Be Introvert subverts what we know about Little Simz as a rapper. She digs into her subconscious and elevates her being and artistry – there are moments she flexes her lyrical and technical skills while exploring themes like introversion and identity. She blends these ideas with the production as well. We see the influence of afrobeat and soul into her songs, especially using the former to create the dynamic “Point and Kill.” I heavily recommend it, no matter which genre you prefer.

Adele – 30: Review

The 2010s were a monstrous year for Adele. From winning the Grammy for Album of the Year for 25 and winning the Academy Award for Best Original Song, Adele has made herself known as a dynamo pop star who writes with a chip on her shoulder. And that chip has allowed her to deliver her all while reflecting the energy which pours through her. Adele’s latest album, 30, doesn’t change a beat, save for the production – she comes into her own, taking a transitional step into unique sounds. 30 isn’t as dynamic as 21 or 25, but it relates to her tempered and soulful roots of 19, but with a matured and more rounded sound. It barely transitions in glossy pop production and instead, giving her producers the challenge of delivering music that is more stripped-down while retaining the same depth most Adele albums have had.

30 is unlike most Adele albums; it doesn’t bring a riotous and emotionally hammered pop song that creeps into many subsections of the radio/streaming genre spectrums, like Top 100 and Adult Contemporary. It has, however, given Adele the platform to let her words speak the truth and resonate with the fans. Some of her biggest hits never failed to miss the mark by having a production that outweighs Adele’s vocal performances and songwriting. And the litmus test is upon us with 30 as Adele isn’t here to deliver emotionally raging hits, like “Rolling In The Deep,” but she still brings the same gravitas. To me, it instantly hit at “My Little Love” – around the one-minute mark – and Adele speaks instead of singing. She slowly breaks down as we hear audio of her and her child, unleashing powerhouse feelings about her life since her last album, including marriage and motherhood.

“My Little Love” is this poetically and emotionally driven song that expresses the inner strain and turmoil that arose as she prepped herself to explain to her child about the divorce, considering the amount of time he has been under one roof with both parents. Divorce can cause strains and imbalances for both the parents and the child amid the proceedings, but more so because for Adele since her son has eyes to view past surface layers and understand her feelings. The heavy string sections relay the atmosphere/emotions that slowly begin to trickle and break. There is no denying 30 is a heartbreak album. And if it isn’t apparent with “My Little Love,” it’s apparent with its compilation of songs that fit a linear story. 

30 isn’t an album that you can play on shuffle, or else the scope will diminish. Adele made this album with intricate transitions, especially within themes and moods. After a backstory to remedy what will transpire, emotionally, for the rest of the album – Adele hones in on these emotions and explores them more. Following “My Little Love,” we receive the beautifully soulful anthem about allowing yourself to cry it out without feeling like it will make you feel weak. Though many songs grasp various angles of her emotions, like “I Drink Wine,” where Adele sheds off her ego, humbling herself by describing her regrets and mistakes. However, it doesn’t leave a mark like songs, “Can I Get It.” The song sees Adele speaking on her ventures in the single life, making allusions to casual dating here and there, talking about the distaste the consistency brings.

One consistent trait that has carried over has been Adele’s talent to turn each production on its head and make herself the central focus, even when you have dynamic strings and atmosphere, like on “Someone Like You,” trying to take the light. Like the previously mentioned “Can I Get It,” the production by Max Martin and Shellback is subdued compared to the glossy nature, typical, of the producers, especially within the drop. On “Can I Get It,” the pop overtones contain plucky and dazzling acoustics elevated by the tender percussion. And for the most part, the production contains a wide range of sounds, barely scratching the surface of redundancy. However, that’s to Greg Kurstin’s and Inflo’s credit, the producers for most of 30. Kurstin and Inflo show an elegant contrast, especially with Kurstin’s more explorative nature. Inflo’s production, on the other hand, feels very broken and intimate considering my knowledge of the production duo starts and ends with rapper Little Simz.

Unfortunately, the production can’t continually save a few of Adele’s deliveries. “Oh My God” and “Woman Like Me” come and by quickly without giving you a chance to reflect, as what follows hook you immediately. And it’s a detriment to the album since, to me, it feels as if these songs were left on the cutting room floor and left us with a tighter album. Though that may be an internal reason, it doesn’t leave me feeling like they had the visceral strength to keep me invested. I found myself skipping swiftly to the more immersive “Can I Get It.” I think it will hit people differently, but one thing is for sure, 30 is an album that would have weird pay-offs if it was. 

30 is more than just an album; it’s a cohesive rundown of Adele’s emotions as she goes through difficult moments in this stage of life. She carries herself firmly, finding a happy medium between reflecting on the smaller, joyous moments in her life and what troubles her as she shifts into a new phase in life. It is a great record that may resonate better with others, but what’s on the surface and its core is worth giving it a listen to.

Rating: 8 out of 10.