Jessie Reyez – Yessie: Review

Among Jessie Reyez’s best qualities–that have overwhelmingly attracted me to her music–are her melodies and songwriting, which focus on establishing and delivering powerfully driven stories through distinctly dark and soulful tracks. Her debut, Before Love Came To Kill Us, masterfully stamped this as a known, but the consistency gets placated by Jessie trying to bring too many sonic ideas into the fold. That’s the opposite on Yessie, a more refined, intimate album that doesn’t try to go in various directions, instead finding herself musically. Yessie has smoother transitions between the R&B notes and variations of pop, soul, and rock overlays, which get concocted with different genre-style undertones within the production–equipped with depth and poignant lyricism; its concrete consistency makes it one of the best albums of 2022.

Yessie shows Jessie Reyez delivering atmospheric complexions between reflective coldness, hypnotic confidence, and personal contemplations of the now, leaving her heart on the sleeves bare with powerful emotions. Unlike her debut, the transitions between themes are pure, never making you feel disjointed as you proceed chronologically; the same goes for the production. Having it work is pivotal since we hear Jessie transitioning between distinct styles without stumbling, either in-song or song-to-song, like the Hip-Hop centric intro “Mood.” We hear her transition from a more Hip-Hop flow to a soul chorus with a harmonious sample of “Los Caminos De La Vida” by Los Diablitos of Colombia, which one would think these clashing styles would sound jarring. Fortunately, the synergy between them allows your imagination to grasp anything given and vibe with it effervescently. 

Though transitional effectiveness between songs is pure–starting clean with varying ilks of R&B/Hip-Hop/Pop–later vigorously with more distinct and generative styles as it turns the bends with “Mutual Friends.” Like the songs that preceded it, Jessie’s coming at it with ferocity through more personable one-on-ones no matter the style, like with “Tito’s” or “Forever.” Its soulful confidence adds contrasting layers that mesh beautifully. Here, Jessie and featured artist 6lack sing to their significant other, who is making a mistake by leaving a situation that reflects opposites attract. “Forever” is a compelling contrast to the aforementioned “Mutual Friends,” which backs the sentiments of the impactful “Queen St. W,” which establishes Jessie’s coldness that further gets reflected during the bridge and chorus of “Mutual Friends.” “Yeah, our mutual friend/Asked me how I sleep with so much hate in my heart/I told them I sleep like a baby,” (Bridge), “But if you died tomorrow, I don’t think I’d cry/I gave you one too many nights” (Chorus). The production’s consistency in elevating the effectiveness of her melodies and lyrics is potent here, capitalizing on a uniquely triumphant piano ballad. “Mutual Friends” minimizes or relatively dilutes the drum beats, letting Jessie Reyez discharge intensely and leaving me speechless as it takes notes from Billie Eilish’s dark-pop style, except Jessie makes it her own. Each track is different, refreshing, and significantly impactful on both ends, whether she is coming cold, confident, or lamenting, yearning for more as the music hits on the senses it evokes.

It becomes a testament to Jessie Reyez’s will to express herself refreshingly through radiant production that doesn’t juke you around in the ups and downs, primarily because there aren’t any off kiltered moments. She isn’t trying to formulate too many ideas and forcing them to acquiesce chronologically. Though there is some fantastic work on Before Love Came To Kill Us, her debut, it isn’t more concrete like Yessie. Yessie is more of a translation of Jessie Reyez’s being through varying situations she found herself in personally and how they’ve morphed her into who she is. We hear that through various styles, which get incorporated into the sounds like the confidently nuanced and personably fun “Tito’s” or the emotionally potent and rock stylings of “Break Me Down.” Two contrasting sounds amongst each other and other tracks on the album bring monstrous energy that has them feeling in line with the contextual tones throughout, specifically the latter. “Break Me Down” has the style and vibe of a mid-00s emo rock track with great explorative depth that you’re staying along due to its consistency with the transitions, like when we go from the cold “Mutual Friends” to the confident and mesmerizing “Tito’s.”

“Tito’s” is a darker dance-pop groove that hits those dance censors, making you groove to the beat as Jessie Reyez exhumes immense confidence in her lyrics and melodies. Its summery post-disco influenced production by Calvin Harris and Maneesh, as Jessie reminds us of the depth of her talent by turning a potential rudimentary dance banger into something more complex. After getting heard on“Mood,” we hear Jessie singing in Spanish more frequently, which we’ve rarely heard her do in the past–neé a feature with Romeo Santos saw her performing predominantly in English to his Spanish. It’s an extension of the strengths of Reyez’s monstrous performances, adding value at the end with the primarily Spanish track, “Adio Amor.” It adds exponential value to Jessie’s artistic duality, which sees her transcend soundscapes and deliver pure authenticity. It’s what stayed flowing through my mind–how impactful and less derivative of itself it is, as we see these fruitful transitions that never have you second guessing.

The music of Yessie is swarthy, melancholy sounds, creating gripping relatability that takes different sonic outlooks that aren’t as predictable. From the bilingual electro-R&B “Adios Amor,” which continues to show Jessie Reyez’s coldness, to the similarly thematically driven rock-like “Break Me Down.” It’s a crisp progression of greatness as Jessie Reyez capitalizes on delivering a personification of herself with remarkable depth. It isn’t an album that exponentially breathes club, or dance bangers, instead letting it round out stylistically akin to the atmosphere/tones derived from the beginning, becoming more apparent or subtle as it goes along. It left me bewildered with excitement, as Jessie Reyez has been someone who’s shown to me that she can create something special, and she does so here. Go check out Yessie now!

Rating: 10 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.

Maggie Rogers – Surrender: Review

Like some, I’ve wondered where Maggie Rogers could take her career since her debut came and delivered intriguing genre stylings, like electronic-folk, and not like the Ellie Goulding kind that felt more pop. Instead of exploring it more, she expands what inherently worked more consistently on her debut: Heard It In A Past Life–that is electro-pop, rather loose, and more alternative-electro-pop. It’s what makes Surrender a fascinating journey that explores the notion of surrendering yourself, allowing an opening for a “transcendence of sex and freedom,” as Maggie Rogers would describe. She isn’t succumbing to the external pressures of the disco trend, allowing the melodies to shift and form these captivating tracks, which keep you engaged through most, retaining a sense of balance between that and quieter pop that slowly hits the pedal as it gets to the end.

Surrender doesn’t mince expectations, and it reminds you head on instantly. Disregarding the musicologist’s idea of the leading hitter squared at track two or three, Maggie Rogers hits you with varying sounds that radiate magnetic synergy. They encompass layers of rock underneath exquisite electronic overtones, specifically synths, taking you through these clouds of dance-bliss. You’re in your room, feeling and letting Rogers’ words empower you to surrender and be yourself instead of masking individual weaknesses. “That’s Where I Am” begins a new start after finding someone in “Overdrive,” which tells us where Maggie Rogers at mentally. It reminds us how she can make minimalist lyrics feel more effervescent. In the first verse of “That’s Where I Am,” Rogers sings: “I found a reason to wake up/Coffee in my cup, start a new day/Wish we could do this forever/And never remember mistakes that we made.” It establishes a mood before shifting into escaping with this person, offering emotional gravitas with how she structures and delivers her lyrics. It continues to ignite the sentiment of going overdrive in the previous track. 

Similarly, track three, “Want Want,” continues to expand on these notions that embrace growth, pleasure, and an understanding of having it both ways. It embraces coy humility as Maggie Rogers sings about her innate synergy sexually with this person. However, it isn’t a continuous reflection of this journey, and she gives us scenes of the past, weaving a parallel between then and today. We hear through sentiments that steer toward acceptance, like on “Shatter” or “I’ve Got A Friend,” where she surrenders herself to her emotions. There are elements to Rogers’ music that offers a balance between styles, from the electro-pop to more alternative, live instrument heavy indie-pop rock. She reels us with captivating melodies and a mix of crisp pop drum beats, eclipsing certain constraints and finding ways to make humbling minimalism feel realized. It’s pertinent as it tries to create a median with sounds, especially as we hear clean transitions between tracks. One of the better transitions comes between “Horses” and “Be Cool,” specifically on both sides of the spectrum, like “I’ve Got A Friend.” Between the former two, there is an escalating string section at the end that capitalizes on the emotional gravitas of “Horses” and then tempers us with “Be Cool.” Though these tracks carry weight on both ends, there are varying moments where Maggie Rogers’ writing shines, like with “I’ve Got A Friend” and “Horses.”

In “I’ve Got A Friend,” Maggie Rogers takes us to a time she met this person, her close friend; she was slightly stunted by how the friendship flourished, creating disbelief between the expected and the natural. As she notes in her first verse: “Who would’ve said/When I met you at a party/Everyone was drunk on 40s just south of Stuyvesant/That I would get to know your sisters/Bring them with us every time that we were in Austin,” she realizes how special their connection is, bringing some jovial jubilance when describing their closeness: “Oh, I’ve got a friend who’s been there through it all/Masturbates to Rob Pattinson, staring at the wall,” without swaying from the emotional complexities between them noting: “I’ve got a friend who’s tangled up inside/Tried to hold her hand the day her mother died/I’ve got a friend who’s been there through it all/Talked me out of jail, talked me off the panic rail.” It’s one of many examples that shows the meticulous care Rogers’ brings to the music, giving us a sense of being while offering personal reflections that feel personable.

Unfortunately, Maggie Rogers on overdrive isn’t something that lasts forever. As the album comes to a close, “Symphony” and “Different Kind of World” don’t offer equivocal strength when trying to capture your attention. The production for the former doesn’t have an elegant contrast with the minimalist-style writing, eventually overstaying its welcome at 5:11. Similarly, “Different Kind of World” broken down acoustics feels off when compared to the tracks we have that preceded it. In past songs, some acoustics contain a continuous balance of varying harmonic pieces that buoy the guitar or piano, and these elements carry oomph. It isn’t till we get close to the end that the track shifts into this uproarious sequence of kinetic drums and synths, but it doesn’t save it from being anything more than a forgetful ballad.

That isn’t to say there isn’t something to take from Surrender. Maggie Rogers is coming headstrong and giving us more personable tracks that have more definition than some of the core singles of her last album. Instead of creating more livid-dance sequences, there is an essence to the dancing and singing. Definitely an improvement from her previous album, it’s something I’ll be returning to soon more frequently in the nighttime and other times, in my room during the rain.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Beach Bunny – Emotional Creatures: Review

Throughout the band’s growth, Beach Bunny has solidified an identity that delivers electric, fun, and raw music with powerful gravitational pulls; you can’t help but find some songs or albums that hit. That’s how it was with me, and it continues to be with their new album, Emotional Creature. Like past albums, they exhume a youthful (instrumentally) yet mature (songwriting) presence in the Rock scene, building these unique instrumentations with fluidity, continuously immersing into Rock at an authentic level. However, that loses importance with the consistency of the instrumentalists Jon Alvarado, Matt Henkels, Anthony Vaccaro, and frontwoman Lili Trifilio as they steer the ups and downs. Emotional Creatures reflects a new direction that mostly strides because of the aforesaid general positives and evolves naturally with its “Sci-Fi” angle–it echoes as synthesizers are now a prominent instrument. The album gives us an artistic improvement with a flurry of wicked great music in a compact product with great songwriting and melodies, despite a few hiccups.

With Beach Bunny’s recent inclusion of synthesizers, the shift isn’t as robotic; it offers a guide for effects, pedals, etc., instead. It adds nuance to the instrumentations as they bounce between pop and punk rock, weaving different tempos and transitions, which gives Emotional Creatures some smoothness. Though I can’t say similarly about all the songs, Lili Trifilio takes us through these perspectives that root into the core of her emotional journies with the people around her. Boasted by the intricate use of the effects and synths, the expressive force in Lili’s voice delivers that oomph, attracting you toward it. We hear that throughout, with a few occasions of insane synergy that tugs you closer and closer, like “Gone” or “Karaoke.” It’s an effervescent feeling throughout the first half, never becoming unwavering as we continuously transition from “Entropy” to “Weeds.”

Those tracks get supplemented by potent songwriting, which buoys a relationship-centric core that takes varying avenues to tell a story. “Fire Escape” beautifully uses these detailed actions to paint a scene in the context of the track; in this case, Lili Trifilio sings about her and her lover’s journey through New York. It’s a consistency that stands out more frequently than not, especially in the first half. We hear these varying trajectories that are distinct and colorful lyrically. Similarly, “Eventually” sees Lili singing about facing your problems as running from them never makes them disappear. The vocal melodies bring whimsical energy that radiates slight pop-punk nostalgia in its rawest form.

That whimsical energy holds their spaceship afloat, containing engaging reminders about the subtle complexities of both sides. Unfortunately, it can get shortsighted with lingering or repetitive notes, but we get a construct that elevates the stickiness which grips us firmly. Though the repetition can mostly feel subtle, it doesn’t weigh down the quality since Lili Trifilio delivers these varying vocal textures. The final track, “Love Song,” sounds more standard, giving this feeling that it’s just a poorer reflection of “Entropy.” Many catch our ears swiftly, keeping fans of rock music, like myself, looping music that comes with slight nuances to 00s pop-punk/punk-rock, like “Fire Escape.” It stays personable while remarking notions that generalize friction or connectivity in its songwriting, allowing the instrumentations to energize and deliver rawness, specifically with guitar and bass. And it’s a reflection of the consistency heard in the first half of the album.

With tracks like “Weeds” or “Deadweight,” there is a looseness toward sonic depth, but they get enveloped in its writing. Beyond taking their own unique approach to the themes, there is a cleverness to their writing. “Weeds” brings back that nostalgia in the form of age, as Lili Trifilio incorporates a Polly Pocket in a beautifully unique way, singing in the second verse: “Tired of giving, giving, living like a lady in distress/But I don’t need someone to save me/Not your Polly Pocket in your lover’s locket/You can’t hold me down, I’m a bursting bottle rocket.” After “Weeds,” we get a bit disjointed musically; Beach Bunny creates these detailed instrumentations rooted in synths and losing the essence of emotion. You’ll predominantly hear it with “Scream;” the synths guide the vocal performance over some mundane drum patterns–similarly, the instrumental track “Gravity” doesn’t try anything new with synthesizers. It left me feeling empty–there was an opportunity, and they missed it. 

Emotional Creatures continues to showcase Beach Bunny’s talent while expressing new directions. We get some wonderfully mixed rawness/openness from the band as instrumentalists, specifically Lili Trifilio’s dreamy, intimate, and detailed writing and vocals. You get taken to the center of their persona and more as they acquiesce sounds into a clean front-to-back progression, but there are hiccups along the way. As a fan of the band, they deliver tracks I’ll return to frequently, and I hope you do too.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Beabadoobee – Beatopia: Review

Captivating my ears with its core aesthetic for alternative rock that bled deeper than the surface layer, Beabadoobee wowed my ears on her debut, Fake It Flowers. The music had a level of nuance that gave it an identity, weaving together a consistency that never left me feeling that she was tilting toward thin nostalgia, even if the songs themselves aren’t individually strong due to slight repetitiveness. Unfortunately, it’s something that mirrors in her follow-up Beatopia, an album that brings us within her world. With unique melodic pop styles woven with lo-fi, psychedelia, and rock, a shift from her debut. It threads sounds that often take you back to the 90s–00s, shifting sounds that equate constructs we’ve heard at that time, whether from The Sundays or Mazzy Star, except with modern complexions. On Beatopia, there are many times we get something fresh and whimsical, and other times we get that repetitiveness that loses you ever-so-slightly.

Little details are essential, and it struck me first with Beatopia. There are confident quirks, whether track transitions or in chords, that elevate the emotional shifts from Beabadoobee. “Broken Cd” is an emotionally poignant, albeit subtle, pop song that digs at a romantic loss with strings that move and shift like a stream of consciousness; it transitions to an elevated rock banger, “Talk,” with an essence of grunge as a slight coating. It shows a parallel between two eras of Beabadoobee: the younger sullen teen who kept lamenting on a single memory to an older, more free-flowing, partying, with ill-fated romantic flings stumbling with mistakes, instead of moving on. It creates an initial jolt as the sounds contrast each other immensely. It cements a line of dividends where some sonic undertones feel more thematic, creating unique contrasts with the tracklist order, specifically as the second half focuses on more rock-like instrumentations like the remarkable “Fairy Song.”

With these little details, sometimes you may hear subtle mixtures, like taking certain chord progressions from “Maps (Four Track Demo)” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and incorporating them into their guitar riffs. On “Picture of Us,” the initial chord hit me instantly, though that’s no surprise since I listen to “Light and Day” by The Polyphonic Spree a lot–they both have similar progression in chord pitch at a near comparable time. Some pop parallels shift swiftly to create new and radiant sounds, like the lively “Sunny Day” and “Fairy Song.” And its effectiveness makes the shift from pop to rock overtones come with finesse instead of transitioning into more melodic rhythms; it transitions to killer sequences that contrast her emotionally pertinent vocals.

At its core, Beatopia has thematic styles hovering tracks, all of which stem from its melancholy, vibey center, which can assimilate smoothly. It’s heard from the pop-bossa nova-rock hybrid “The Perfect Pair,” which brings the elemental core of her poppy choruses and pushes them to the forefront. And with “Tinkerbell is Overrated,” a plucky acoustic pop soft rock instrumentation starts to grow, and grow, and become a riotous alt-pop-rock banger. They aren’t like “10:36,” which feels like a slight rethread from something that would have fit with the overall sonic landscape of Fake It Flowers because it can be hard to make out the vocal at times. It isn’t like “Talk,” which brings forth distinct contrasts, natural synergy, and parallels while having a genuine transition. It happens again, as “10:36” takes away what could have been a cleaner transition between “Beatopia Cultsong” and “Sunny Day.” 

After “Sunny Day,” there are slight impasses before picking up again with more consistency at “Ripples,” with a detour at “Lovesong.” “Ripples” and “Lovesong” have sounds that acquiesce individually, but the latter isn’t as impactful. “Ripples” brings forth intrigue as we see Beabadoobee emotionally struggle with a long-distance relationship due to touring, adding gravitas to the performance with comparatively uproarious violins. “Lovesong” sometimes comes off slightly hollow in the instrumentation, playing coy as we hear pianos coast over beautifully melancholic strings. It’s effective to a fault, as love songs aren’t always the most captivating. But the collection of tracks that follow have a crisper, hook–line–sinker as it transitions from the melodic, emotionally potent, and soft vocals of pop and then lets it out with the instrumentation.

Beatopia keeps me excited for Beabadoobee and her career moving forward, especially hearing the depth she can create with her co-producers. It’s different, mature, and offers a sense of identity instead of shifting genres every other song. With replay value, there is enough to head back to, especially that second half, as the flurry of great tracks hit you, leaving you satisfied as it comes to a close.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Regina Spektor – Home, before and after: Review

Regina Spektor has thread needles of jubilant and poignantly straightforward songwriting that sends the song’s themes to the forefront with clean vibes. “SugarMan” off her latest album, Home, before and after, reminds us of that as she reflects on the deceptive lust money can bring. Using sugar as the analogy gives it different avenues to explore while rounding it out with captivatingly catchy choruses; it gets boasted by Spektor’s vocals, coming across as joyously driven when performing what she writes. Home, before and after, has conciseness to its sound and style, where it makes you feel like it’s getting played during a session of merriment in the creative process. It reminded me of Fiona Apple’s last album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters, at times, where the vibrancy came from the naturalistic instrumentation–sans synths–that keeps it centered on its sound. It drives home the potent quality of the new Spektor album, even if it doesn’t tread new territory often.

There’s a lot to love about the new Regina Spektor album, whether it’s the lively vibes or Regina’s fragile and potent vocals. She’s allowing her songwriting to give us these perspectives that elevate the lyrical depth, which gets attributed to how she has taken the horns of the anti-folk genre and offers radiant deliveries. It’s a constant that stays effervescent, even if parts of tracks don’t carry a flurry of captivating melodies heard in “SugarMan” or “Loveology.” We hear this on the enigmatic “Up the Mountain,” where that energy she exuberates gets matched as you take it in. It’s similarly effervescent within most of the tracks on the album, save for “What Might Have Been,” which has her shifting to her apropos nebulous piano playing that can whisk some fans away but isn’t as effective here. 

It’s sometimes apparent throughout the album, outweighing that one time, specifically “One Man’s Prayer,” Spektor’s songwriting isn’t as keen and slightly forgettable. Though it’s one track, others are grounded, which gives us a vibe similar to when you first heard “Wallet” for the first time. Upon hearing her take us through this humbling tale about the contents of a wallet with Blockbuster memberships, it gives us a closer 1:1 relativity instead of having to pick apart various metaphors. Regina Spektor’s vocals uproot these little negatives to keep its front-to-back listen’s fluidity intact. 

Spektor weaves a consistent thread that emboldens her written and vocal technique in music. It allows time to become a small fragment of importance. Some directions that get taken perk up your ears with captivating melodies and harmonies that are keener on her identity, like “Loveology” or the enthralling “Raindrops,” which echoes the DIY Pop/Rock style we heard on Fetch the Bolt Cutters. It isn’t as direct as 1:1, but there is nuance to it, especially as it takes away from aspects of that echoey backing to drive a homely atmosphere. It’s heard a few times with the inner transitions of tracks like “SugarMan” or the opening track, “Becoming All Alone.” In between some emotionally melancholy piano playing–sometimes it’s mundane–there is something that catches your ear. On “Coin,” after some uninteresting piano playing, at the 3:34 mark, a shift gets heard, and some of that DIY Pop/Rock returns. It isn’t on the nose, but the very live and powerful band instrumentation gets driven to new peaks.

It’s the biggest strength of Home, before and after, as it elevates to new plateaus with its instrumentation. Sure, Regina Spektor and producer John Congleton can underwhelm at times–this is true–what shrouds these moments are these fantastic instrumentations that feel cinematic and triumphant. “Up The Mountain” is one of them, and the other is the incredible “Spacetime Fairytale.” Regina Spektor digs into her heart and develops a song about the love she holds for her son, reminding him that the world is vast as she focuses on influences that guide her songwriting and vocal performances. It’s heartwarming, but its continually building production makes the “story” expand. You hear these beautiful twinkly piano keys rhythmically before shifting to more creatively orchestrated pieces of grandeur. It’s more dynamic and viscerally captivating, taking it notches about the already fantastic “Raindrops.”

Home, before and after is another fantastic effort from Regina Spektor. There are some shortcomings, but there is a lot to indulge and get lost in as the instrumentations. I left feeling like nothing has changed since the last album. She continues to explore and cement a foundation for greatness as she has done throughout her career. I’d definitely recommend it as you’ll get what you expect, especially for fans.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Muna – MUNA: Review

At the turn of 2022, among many tracks to get played with immense consistency has been Muna’s “Silk Chiffon,” featuring Phoebe Bridgers. Their instrumentations/production and vocals are captivating and buoyed by strong songwriting, which creates an audible shift from conventional pop melodies. They have creative structures that elevate their music to replayable levels. MUNA has a shaping focus sonically and emotionally. While Save The World saw them working with and creating luscious tracks within the realm of electropop, power-pop, and synth-rock with fluidity, these styles become a subtle driving force in the dance-pop/synth-pop core that guides MUNA to new heights. They have these creative tempo shifts which keep you afloat through sheer lyrical and thematic parallels; the production takes distinct turns expanding beyond the core-base aesthetic, which rounds itself into another special release for the trio.

MUNA is captivating, and there were no doubts about that going into the first listen. Knowing how phenomenal “Silk Chiffon” is, Muna gives new or unknown listeners something to feel energized about as they continue to turn the corner and continue doing what they do best. “What I Want” shifts from “Silk Chiffon” lyrically and sonically, taking us away from a track about the beauty and happiness of queer love, likening a softness within their lover’s aura and body to silk chiffon to one about self-love. “What I Want” brings immersive dance-pop and electro-pop coatings in the waves of synths. It’s an evergrowing narrative filled with emotional complexities that allows you to create a sense of relativity, despite personal angles from band members Katie Gavin, Josette Maskin, and Naomi McPherson. 

It gives us parallels, one where we can feel free and enjoy the electrifyingly rhythmic tracks while seeing how they continue to extend past certain safety nets. But within, Muna finds a happy medium. Their lyrics reflect the essence of the sound with tremendous effect, like the previously mentioned “What I Want,” which stylistically embraces the lonely dance track like “Dancing On My Own” by Robyn, “Party For One” by Carly Rae Jepsen, or “Big Time” by Angel Olsen. They each embody these different tones, and for Muna, it’s more about the feeling, like “Brave” by Sara Bareilles, and within “What I Want” is the thrill of being yourself in any environment. Lyrically poignant, they continue to grow, filling us with these immersive lyrics and vocal performances that have their consistency in impact. It’s especially the case with the ballad “Kind of Girl,” which brings some twang to the vocals as they sing, reflecting on the kind of girl they are. Its unique placement adds some more frailty between the more dance-like “Home By Now” and “Handle Me,” two tracks that offer keen sensibilities toward vibing, dancing alone in a groove. Unfortunately, they sound too similar, with the former having more of an impact.

Muna has a vibrant cadence in their sound, bringing emotional catchiness while making feelings reflect through complexions heard, like Dark Pop on About U, their debut. It isn’t a focal genre; the production tiptoes between darker lyrics and dreamy, starry production swifts you off your feet as it comes to a close. “Loose Garments” blossoms, bringing a focus to orchestral strings to implement a glimmer to the sequencing of the track, allowing for inner transitions to come across smoothly. That glimmer reminds me of listening to melancholic indie-pop that boosts your mood when you just want to kick back and look at the stars; maybe you want to smoke some pot and let yourself get whisked away. It’s a similar sentiment that has stayed consistent throughout their first two albums, and it continues on MUNA.

Within its dance/synth-pop core, most of the tracks have a synth-dance pop hybrid core, but the overlaying qualities build upon its identity. It is effervescent. When you hear “What I Want,” it highlights 80s-style Disco-synths as it bleeds into, and dances with, the percussion to a jubilantly danceable pop track. And when you hear “No Idea,” you get the jamming synth-rock that has budding energy with the emotional core of the songwriting. It speaks to that unrelenting feeling of wanting to express your real feelings because the person your care for may lose interest in pursuing the relationship further. Driving the potency of the emotional songwriting are impactful vocals that bring weight to the final construct and output of danceable relativity. 

Muna offers compelling consistency, and more so on their latest, self-titled release, MUNA, where the vibes are immaculate. There isn’t a moment you won’t find yourself in a mood to groove as the sounds shift in unique directions that it’s sometimes hard to keep up. But within the 11-track album, some tracks have replay value akin to “Silk Chiffon,” while others remind us of how their sonic complexities as artists elevate the sound, whether full-on or subtle. It may not be perfect, but MUNA has a lot to love and enjoy, and I hope you do.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Purity Ring – graves EP: Review

Warping us into new dimensions is what Purity Ring does best, even though the trip can be a bit rocky. As an electro-pop band, they are usually willing to take risks and expand beyond the parameters of a basic melody and simple synth textures. They play with the pitch, exploring new realms with synthesizers, and captivate with seamless transitions; it’s exponentially so with their new EP, graves. Decorated with hypnotic production, you get an enigmatic atmosphere that transports you to a space filled with vibrant colors. Unlike their albums, the seven-track EP offers a compact progression with minor blemishes. It may play coy and mess around with a few complexions of the past, but the work is classic Purity Ring material, the good kind. 

Purity Ring can hook you at any moment. There is a cadence in the way they layer their synths. When weaved together, they bring a harmonic balance that whisks you away. It gets you from the start with the eponymous track off graves. It takes 30 seconds before marveling at the vibey synths that mesmerize you on impact. It continues to create unique transitions within songs and in-between, taking fascinating directions while playing spirited and swift synths and keys, usually around the chorus section. They tweak it in various ways that keep you on a consistent path. It starts to gleam and twinkle from there; then, it picks you up and takes you to an empty stream of consciousness.

Mood is a keyword here as it brings a flurry of low-feeling songs that keep you zoned into your emotions. Instead of creating vibrant, uplifting, and drab poppy electro-pop, Purity Ring focuses on developing sounds that evoke their inner thoughts. “Unlucky” is one of these tracks that are full of life, adding these elements of witch-house and synth-pop that acquiesce easily. Its creative output reflects sentiments that once or still fluster you, like the fear of expressing feelings of mad and sad because it’s wrong–for example. It gets followed up “watersong,” which describes the essence of the void the music finds us in. Vocalist Megan James contributes these harmonic melodies that enchant you within this void, allowing you to engulf everything they deliver. It gets continuously complemented by the varying sequences, like the overly bubbly synths and percussion on “watersong.” No matter the direction, the emotional core of the EP gets reflected tonally.

I speak about a void. This void makes us keen on our emotions, allowing us to groove and dance to the music Purity Ring gives us on graves. But there is balance, which keeps the interest levels high. It did for me, especially as they incorporate these somber tracks that act like a dose of melatonin that holds you until the production picks up. Though there is balance, “nthngsfine” feels lost in the background as it carries the enigmatic synths and keys of the previous track, “nevermind.” It comes off as an extended outro that doesn’t add value to the previous one, unlike the other short, “xsalt.” The harmonic piano keys elevate the closing track tenfold, offering a gleaming transition into the intro, “graves.”

Unlike their full-length albums, graves is compact and more fluid. Purity Ring can be more constructive and let a sonic motif of starry synths drive through the enigmatic moods. It lifts you quickly and takes you on a predominately vibrant vibey journey through music. It’s a solid EP that exceeded expectations, considering their last album, Womb, was a little underwhelming.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Flume – Palaces: Review

Flume’s production styles fluctuate and replicate a sense of competency, sometimes extending beyond and giving us a wider world of great electronic music. It is evident with past releases, Skins and Hi This Is Flume, and is similarly the case on his new album, Palaces. Unfortunately, it’s poorly conceived, confining itself in experimental lanes of industrial and pop complexions. Flume doesn’t extend beyond his reach. It leaves you feeling empty due to Palaces keening in too much on developing atmosphere and less on constructing something more elevated and vibrant. Getting lost in its sound, it stumbles over poorly constructed tracks with some featured artists and poor cohesion, but a few stood out amongst the 13-tracklist.

Flume is known for creative shifts in production, sometimes creating these dynamic sounds that elevate the plateau his music gets placed. We hear these shifting styles fluctuating core elements of pop and experimental/IDM (intelligent dance music) electronica without great contrasts and instead becomes jarring and off-putting. It’s more so within individual tracks, which it tries to create these unique hybrids without much of a payoff. Occasionally working with certain features, it’s heightened, working more fluidly when Flume comes at these tracks working solo. He offers a sense of nuance to the styles getting incorporated, specifically with how it’s deconstructed to give you a natural feel of the instruments. We hear this beautiful crescendo through tracks like “Jaspers Song” and “Go” while maintaining a grounded sense of musicality. 

But there is nuance to these solo tracks as Flume feels right in his element. He leaves you with this unique pacing that allows you to break apart the layers and straddle onto them as the music whisks you away. The ethereal weight of the sounds is keen on Flume’s strengths instead of creating an overbearing presence with flummoxing styles. Instead of wrought techniques like on “Only Fans,” we are given elegant cadence in the sequencing of tracks like “DHLC.” It isn’t unlike some with features that lose sight of the bigger picture, specifically as Flume tries to emulate without effect.

From the beginning, Palaces doesn’t offer much with the featured artists. There are moments of grandeur where it doesn’t stifle smooth transitions, but it predominantly left me waning on a vibe with distorted IDM that doesn’t fit the tonal direction. It separates the greatness of “Hollow” from the poorly constructed “Highest Building.” “Hollow” has smooth transitions between drops, while “Highest Building” shifts between these starry pop vocals and a slightly off production. Adjacently, there are tracks where its production feels to be mirroring styles from other artists without coming across as natural. “Only Fans,” in particular, tries to bring that energy and virtuoso of an Arca record, failing to do so on various ends, especially with its weak concept. And “Say Nothing” feels like a typical Tiësto track without a captivating progression of sounds. There are mediocre moments that never stood out, becoming just distant memories.

Some of the features on Palaces come and go, like its lackluster production. They don’t come with oomph despite meshing beautifully with the sounds. As they align with the style, the artist becomes complacent since they don’t make but break the track as it turns it into an empty, substanceless plate. Though four of the eight features come and boast the production, creating great tracks that beautifully encapsulate the vibe Flume is spearheading. Including “Hollow,” there is “I Can’t Tell,” “Escape,” and “Sirens” are others that try to break the mold and create these larger than sounds, albeit not being that special. “I Can’t Tell” and “Sirens” bring an overwhelming sense of creativity as Flume tries to stray far from the norm. “Sirens” does something spectacular with the IDM qualities that it transfixes you in a world of wonders. Similarly, “I Can’t Tell” properly blends EDM and IDM qualities as they transition between each other. It adds depth to LARUEL’s elegant melodies.

There isn’t much to Palaces to recommend, albeit the few tracks highlighted. The highs are exponentially high, but the lows feel like being stuck in a broken half-empty pool. It’s astronomically low. It isn’t as concise or constructively intuitive. It’s just there, something you can push off to the side while checking out other electronic artists like Dezza.

Rating: 5 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.