Music: Janet Devlin – Hide & Seek – Album Review

“The Creatures of The Night. Me, Myself and I.”

Janet-Devlin-Hide-Seek-2013

Artists: Janet Devlin

Age: 12th November 1994 (age 19)

Genre: Pop, Folk

Released: 3rd July 2014

I’m going through a big change in the music I listen to. Gone are the loud sounds, harsh vocals and lewd lyrics, I’m attracted more and more to soul-searching songs that feel like they explore the depths of the universe itself. There are very, very few artists that I can place within that category, and as such, they are getting a bit overplayed.

Janet Devlin is one of those singers that deserves recognition for having a beautiful voice. There is a rare quality in her young, bit-rough vocals, with it’s Irish lilt, and her album showcases her astonishingly understated vocals perfectly.

I first saw Janet Devlin on X Factor UK 2011, and in her auditions, she brought a charm and innocence to all her performances, and she’s good, very good.

Janet Devlin not only sings, but has co-written all the songs on this album. It adds that extra spark and personality to every line. Hide & Seek (obviously a reference to Imogen Heap, one of Devlin‘s influences) was first released in limited quantities last July (2013), but is set to re-released this summer.

The album explores Pop and Folk genres, and there are some upbeat songs, Wonderful, Working for the Man, that are mainstream pop. They are catchy enough, but sound hideously generic compared to quirky-piano-pop Creatures of the Night.

Walk Away, Who am I to You, Pick Me Up and the titular Hide & Seek, are pleasant songs that are perfect for putting on as background music. They don’t stand out in particular, but the feel is of good, solid, pop music. When was the last time I heard that? Probably not in a decade.

The standout tracks for me are Devlin‘s slower songs. If there is a reason to buy this album, it is for Crown of Thorns, Things We Lost In The Fire, Nothing Left to Hide, and the brilliantly haunting When We Were Young. I have never heard such a young voice sing so expressively, and against quiet accompaniment, and still move me.

There is an untrained quality to Devlin’s voice. A raw power that hasn’t grown into its own, and is so unusual in a world filled with auto-tune or power singers (and shriekers).

Not everyone will “get” her. There is a reason why she managed 5th on the X Factor, and had her album funded by PledgeMusic. However, if you love this type of sound, she is a great artist at the beginning of her career, filled with talent and great potential.

I know I am a fan.

See below for album previews:

(more…)

Advertisements

Music: Ayumi Hamasaki – LOVEppears – Album Review

“Fly High And Then Immature Boys & Girls End Roll”

Artists: Ayumi Hamasaki

Age: October 2, 1978 (age 33)

Genre: JPop, JRock, Dance, Electronic, House

Released: 10th November 1999

One of my favourite albums, LOVEppears (pronounced ‘love appears’) is stuffed with dance tracks in Ayu’s distinctive voice.

The album follows a very tight and coherent style, so if you’re a fan of 90’s soft rock, electronic, or dance music, and you like a few of the songs, this album will rank high.

Although Boys & Girls is a favourite among many fans, WHATEVER, And Then, and Fly High are upbeat and vocally more interesting.

Even though it’s been a two decades since this album was released, the dance songs haven’t aged.

See below for album previews:

(more…)

Music: Ayumi Hamasaki – I am… – Album Review

“Connected Evolution Naturally Never Ever Still Alone”

Artists: Ayumi Hamasaki

Age: October 2, 1978 (age 33)

Genre: JPop, JRock, Dance, Electronic

Released: 1st Janury 2002

An album that’s covered with Ayumi Hamasaki’s own production, under the pseudonym of CREA. The personal touch truly helped as most of the songs are incredible, and recommended to old and new fans.

The opening track I am… starts with acoustic singing merging into pop-rock, that sets the tone of the album. The strong vocals follow into UNITE!evolution, NEVER EVER and M. Many of these songs are her most popular, and are also concert-favourites.

There’s a very tight and coherent production making the songs blend into each other, but each have their own distinctive quirks. Some would argue that Ayu has never created another album of this caliber.

See below for album previews:

(more…)

Music: Anna Tsuchiya – Unchained Girl – Single Review

“Ah Ah Ah Ah Stayin alive”

Artists: Anna Tsuchiya

Age: 11th March, 1984 (age 28)

Genre: JPop, JRock

Released: 28th September 2011

This single would be easy to skip, for the terrible covers, which show Anna posing in a toilet. However, as one of Japan’s most influential female rock singers, Anna Tsuchiya definitely deserves a second look.

Stayin Alive is a cover of the Bee Gee’s version, with Tsuchiya’s own smoky voice. Although I’m a big fan of the original, this has a dark atmosphere that’s hard to resist, complimented by the grungy rock video.

The other song is Juicy Girl feat. The Samos, a party-hardy song that does very little for me, and shows off none of Anna’s voice. Try following the nonsensical lyrics and Anna’s rubbery english, it’s a great ride.

Master Blade, a collab with Yoko Kanno, sounds like it belongs as the ending theme to some anime. With Anna struggling to hit the high notes, and the lackluster orchestra, it seems likely to be forgotten when the album is released.

There is one song that saves this single.

See below for previews:

(more…)

Music: Florence + the Machine – Spectrum – Single Review

“Say my name and every colour illuminates”

Artists: Florence + the Machine

Genre: Pop, Rock, Indie

Released: 6thJuly 2012

The Calvin Harris Remix of Spectrum is a thumping, crying, and eerily noted song that draws in the listener. The clubbing feel is contributed by Calvin Harris, and meshes well with the the classic rock style of Florence + the Machine.

Like most club tracks, this has repeating lyrics, but it’s worth noting that it’s an upbeat and positive song.

See below for previews:

(more…)

Music: Ayumi Hamasaki – A Song for XX – Album Review

“Friend Wishing You Present”

Artists: Ayumi Hamasaki

Age: October 2, 1978 (age 33)

Genre: JPop, JRock

Released: 1st January 1999

Ayumi Hamasaki’s first album is also one of her most innocent and simply produced. It shows the influence of the 90’s, as well as influence from when her label Avex used to be predominately a dance label.

A song for XX, the titular track is surprisingly heartfelt, despite Ayu’s delicate voice. Likewise with poker face, from her first single.

The ballads songs are pretty good, with YOU and POWDER SNOW striking chords with me. There’s something really likable about the latter, and the piano version in Ayu’s LOVEppears album is worth chasing up.

Yes, it’s dated now, but fans of Ayu will enjoy her origins, as well as the drastically different voice. Compared to her newer albums, Ayu’s first album is more simple, but has more than just nostalgic value.

See below for album previews:

(more…)

Music: Conor Maynard – Vegas Girl – Single Review

“This is for the girl that can get down low”

Artists: Conor Maynard

Age: 21 November 1992 (Age 19)

Genre: Pop, Synthpop

Released: 22nd July 2012

Banking on Twitter, Conor tries to find a girl that he bumped into in the street. After creating a viral storm, Vegas Girl makes her appearance.

This song, from an upcoming UK artist is pretty damn catchy. His second single from the first album Contrast, it has hooks and rhymes that mimic a developed style.

He’s being billed as a UK Justin Bieber. I think that’s fairly inaccurate, Conor has his own scrubbed-clean-but-urban style.

Listen to the song to see rising talent.

See below for previews:

(more…)

Music: Tomohisa Yamashita – LOVE CHASE – Single Review

“Don’t run away, come here…”

Artists: Tomohisa Yamashita

Age: April 9, 1985 (age 27)

Genre: JPop, Dance

Released: 4th July 2012

You know when a song is so ridiculously catchy that it stays in your head for days? You watch the video and the ridiculous-awesomeness of it hits you?

Tomohisa Yamashita’s song, a.k.a Yamapi’s, Love Chase, is about a guy battling with his inner-selves about a girl.

See below for previews:

(more…)

Music: Namie Amuro – Uncontrolled – Album Review

“In The Spotlight Go Round Get Myself Back Singing Yeah Oh”

Artists: Namie Amuro

Age: September 20, 1977 (age 34)

Genre: JPop, R&B, Urban, Dance, Electro, Ballad

Released: June 27, 2012

Widely regarded as the Urban queen of Jpop, Namie Amuro comes back with her 10th album. Featuring singles that have trickled through, during the last three years, Namie manages to tie together love songs and dance tunes, with her unique, sweet-but-rubbery voice. For the first time during her career, many of her songs are in English, giving a fresh angle to her songs.

Starting the album is the electro-dance song In the Spotlight (Tokyo), and the theme of clubbing is continued with NAKED. Dance songs are sprinkled throughout the rest of the album. One stand-out track (among many amazing songs) is SINGING “YEAH OH”.

Much of the songs follow in the same style as her previous albums, but there’s a different and current feeling to this production. It’s one of Namie’s best albums to date, her fans will be pleased to know that she’s still modern.

See below for album previews:

(more…)

Music: Ayumi Hamasaki – Party Queen – Album Review

“Party Queen Reminds Me How Beautiful You Are”

Artists: Ayumi Hamasaki

Age: October 2, 1978 (age 33)

Genre: JPop, JRock

Released: 21st March 2012

Party Queen is Ayumi Hamasaki’s thirteenth album, one of her rare albums that didn’t chart at number 1 after being released.

Apart from the abhorrent album covers, the album is a mess of forgettable tracks, rocky screeches and stilted rapping. Party Queen, NaNaNa and Shake it suffer from what I like to call “Madonna syndrome”.

As in, you’re old now, you don’t have to sit quietly and sip tea, but have some dignity! The amount of “partying” that Ayu is trying to convey seems too forced.

This isn’t Ayu’s best work, but ups and downs have become a regular part of her career. She still holds her own against other singers.

See below for album previews:

(more…)

%d bloggers like this: