Album Reviews: U2, Karen O, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, Tennis, Maroon 5

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Songs of Innocence by U2

Earlier last month U2 returned with a new awaited album, Songs of Innocence, by dropping it on the iTunes like Beyonce did last December or like Thom Yorke did last week with BitTorrent. First of all I would like to say that I like the way these artists released their albums. But not everybody can do that. Most singers and bands still need promotion.

I’ve never been a huge U2 fan and have never gone far enough in their discography to consider myself one. I’m mostly familiar with the early popular songs like One and what they released after 2000. Their previous album wasn’t a surprising collection. They just kept their own sound and delivered mediocre songs. This new album is proof that they are going through a crisis. The songs feel dated and dead inside, lyrically and musically. In terms of song content, they went back to their childhood days, hence the title, with the song Iris (Hold Me Close) that is about Bono’s mother, and Cedarwood Road, named after the street he grew up on. Unfortunately the inspirational music and terrible lyrics ruin most of the songs like in the case of Song for Someone. Volcano starts very good but is destroyed by an uninspired chorus. I don’t hate all the songs. Cedarwood Road is in my opinion, the great song and the best one having a terrific instrumental. Raised by Wolves is another accomplished track about the 1974 Dublin bombings. A surprise for me was their choice to collaborate with Lykke Li. I didn’t expect this. Their track, The Troubles, is alright, she works well with the band’s style.

In conclusion, Songs of Innocence doesn’t surprise with only a few songs straying from the arena sound that U2 is famous for. Lyrically I didn’t like the simple lyrics, the metaphors used and their straightforwardness. C

Notable Tracks: Raised by Wolves, Cedarwood Road, The Troubles

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Crush Songs by Karen O

Following some solo work on Spike Jonze’s films Where The Wild Things Are and Her, and some collaborations with David Lynch, Santigold and others. Karen O finally releases a solo album, without her band The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Crush Songs is a collection of music she wrote and recorded when she was 27 years old. Back then she had many crushes and wasn’t sure she’ll ever love again. These songs are a result of those feelings. Musically, they sound like The Moon Song, the song she did for Jonze’s film, Her, with an intentional low quality sound. The sound echoes the theme of intimacy and young, shy love. These themes derive also from the simplicity of the lyrics and the acoustic sound.

But only a few songs manage to sound decent. Most feel like aren’t even finished. And there are so many of them. She exaggerated with the cute, lo-fi sound and uncomplicated messages. And I don’t know what she wanted to do in the song Body with that terrible screeching. If she worked a little more on some songs and had a smaller number of songs, about 9, then the concept would have worked. Songs like Ooo, Rapt, Beast and Day Go By, the crowning achievement of Crush Songs, are the only tracks I could call songs. The rest make her look like she’s fooling around. It’s a shame because I like her work with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. This cutesy, mellow concept works only in small doses. C

Notable Tracks: Day Go By, Ooo, Rapt, Beast

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Cheek To Cheek by Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga

After their collaboration on Mr. Bennett‘s 2011 record Duets II where they sung The Lady Is A Tramp, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga decided to make a jazz album together. Completely different from what Lady Gaga‘s music, Cheek to Cheek is a collection of classic vocal jazz songs such as the titular song, Nature Boy and Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye. They don’t do anything special with the songs, no reinvention, but their voices work great together. Honestly, Gaga should stick to this kind of music because she is so good at singing vocal jazz and so much interesting. Just listen to Nature Boy and Lush Life. I feel like she got out all of the pop quality out of her with nothing good capable of making in the genre proof being her latest album Artpop, which let’s say was not artistic at all. She has such a strong voice and is so versatile here I don’t think I want her to return to house beats and obscene lyrics. Mr. Bennett is good as always but his voice shows its age as seen on Sophisticated Lady where he was a little stiff.

I’m glad this album exists. It’s a surprising collaboration from two artists who seemed so different but apparently seem to come from the same world. Also, Gaga‘s presence will make younger audiences listen to the album and be introduced to these songs that are almost a century old. B+

P.S.: The artwork is ugly and not a good picture of the two.

Notable Tracks: Cheek To Cheek, Don’t Wait Too Long, Nature Boy, Lush Life, Anything Goes, I Can’t Give You Anything But Love

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Ritual in Repeat by Tennis

Indie pop Tennis group return with a new full length album after last year’s EP Small Sound. Ritual in Repeat is a little further away from the surf pop sound they began with and closely to a soft version of indie rock. The songs are full of hooks, riffs and thoughtful lyrics. This is my kind of pop music. It never crosses into cute territory despite their surf pop origins. Songs like Timothy, which was featured on last year’s EP, appears on this album too. They probably thought it was too good to not be included. I am glad they chose it, it’s one of my favorite tracks on the album and the best that EP offered. Other catchy songs are Never Work For Free, Needle and a Knife, Bad Girls and Viv Without the N. But the hookiest track is I’m Callin’ which is also the main single. What a fun song! This band needs to be popular. I’m very happy with this album. You’re gonna tap your feet so much they’re gonna hurt. A-

Notable Tracks: Never Work For Free, I’m Callin’, Timothy, Bad Girls, Viv Without The N, Wounded Heart

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V by Maroon 5

I never thought of Maroon 5 as a great band but they were there when I grew up and I liked them most of the time. Now they do music for the masses, generic pop songs so unoriginal and annoying. Their choruses sound like ringtones because that’s the new fashion. I hate them so much. From all those I could say Maps is a bit fun but the rest are horrible. They don’t make fun music anymore. They even broke Gwen Stefani. Why did they have to drag here into this? V is definitely a terrible album, but usually I listen to Deluxe editions where sometimes you can find edgier tracks. In this case there are two songs Sex and Candy, a cover from a band called Marcy Playground, and Lost Stars from the Begin Again soundtrack. Both songs aren’t something to die for but after listening to 10 songs that sound the same where Adam Levine asks me for permission to say Eeeeooo or whatever onomatopoeia, they were exactly what I needed. However, the rest of the album is just terrible. D+

Notable Tracks: Maps, Sex and Candy, Lost Stars

Any opinions? Feel Free to Comment!

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2 comments

  1. For me, has been a weak year for popular music. Many albums in that good-but-not-great zone. Not as good as 2013.

    Makes me sad that U2 are washed up, this and their No Line on the Horizon album sucked. I did quite like new single The Miracle. You should get hold of Best of 1980-1990 and Best of 1990-2000, those are amazing compilations.

    Crush Song, I agree some of the music feels unfinished or unnecessary, like demos, the tracks are so short that it’s tough to have an emotional connection to them. My favorite is Days Go By.

    Like

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