Album Reviews: Jessie Ware, Prince (2x), Leonard Cohen, Thom Yorke

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Tough Love by Jessie Ware

After her 2012’s debut album, Devotion,  which was among my favorites that year, Jessie Ware returns with a second album titled Tough Love.  What attracted me to her work was her brand of sophisticated and elegant pop mixed with R&B, soul and electronic influences. Her seductive voice helped too. On Tough Love her selection of songs isn’t as strong as on Devotion, but she still delivered some nice melodies. The title track works as a great introduction for the album. It’s an accomplished track and Ware’s vocals are among the best on the album here. Most of Tough Love is comprised of mid-tempo pop songs about love and desire with some electronic influences like on Cruel and Sweetest Song. Pieces is well performed but it lacks much in originality. I’ve heard this kind of song many times. Champagne Kisses has an engaging chorus but it sounds like it needed a bit more work on the instrumental to reach its potential. Desire, the last track has some interesting parts but it becomes boring.

The most R&B influenced song is Kind Of…Sometimes…Maybe which is a good example of Ware’s sensual voice and minimalist production. Even though Want Your Feeling sounds like it relies too much on those a few piano notes, it’s a song I enjoy and think it’s among the strongest of the bunch. Can’t say that about Say You Love Me which is messy. Her vocal performance impresses but it’s just not an interesting song at all but rather cheesy. I don’t think the choir at the end helps at all. Ware’s second album isn’t a definite sophomore slump but it’s just not as strong as her fantastic debut Devotion. But there is still a lot to get out of this new album. B-

Notable Tracks: Tough Love, Cruel, Sweetest Song, Kind Of…Sometimes…Maybe, Want Your Feeling

 

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Art Official Age by Prince

Every new album release by Prince should be a moment of celebration. This year he released two new albums with one of them being Art Official Age. This album is more focused on R&B and electronic funk. Many of the songs are collaborations with newcomers Lianne La Havas and Andy Allo who both released their most recent work in 2012. I haven’t listened to the lyrics that closely but I believe some of the themes he discusses are the usual: love, sexuality, women, desire. It’s also a concept album involving robots and futurism.

He recently guest starred on the Fox sitcom New Girl with Zooey Deschanel where he performed a terrible dance track similar to the title track. But this one is more complex, not as trashy and quite fun. He also performed on SNL this weekend where he performed Clouds off this album. I prefer the version he performed live than the studio version. But this one is great too. I am not a big fan of the slow jams This Could Be Us, Breakdown and Time. They’re certainly well performed but in comparison to those from the previous album, they’re weak. U Know is fun but sounds familiar. Breakfast Can Wait and The Gold Standard represent some of the more interesting stuff on this album. The rest of the album boards too much on typical R&B. They’re alright but nothing to go crazy about. B-

Notable Tracks: The Gold Standard, Breakfast Can Wait, Clouds

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Plectrumelectrum by Prince & 3rdeyegirl

I know many people prefer Art Official Age but I think his collaboration with rock band 3rdeyegirl is more fun, edgy and has a bigger set of great songs. I don’t know a lot about Prince and his music, but I know his stuff on Plectrumelectrum aren’t what he usually goes for. I guess I could understand why some people prefer the other album. Maybe the 3rdeyegirl‘s contribution is too much rock influenced and that could absorb Prince‘s style. Songs like Marz and Aintturninround are nothing like my idea of Prince. But they’re still captivating rock jams. FunkRoll is featured on both albums with different versions. The one one this album si so much better than the modernized one from Art Official Age.

What I really like from this album are the slower songs. WhiteCaps and TicTacToe go straight for my heart. These are are my two favorite songs of both albums he released this year. Here it’s just a matter of personal preference. BoyTrouble is a sassy funk number that strays from the entire idea of the album. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. StopThisTrain sounds too sweet and reminds me of typical R&B songs I try to run away from. In conclusion, Plectrumelectrum is a funk rock based with a set of catchy, trashy-fun tracks mixed in with some heart melting and soulful slow jams. B

Notable Tracks: WhiteCaps, TictacToe, Marz, Wow, PretzelBodyLogic, FunkRoll

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Popular Problems by Leonard Cohen

It’s always nice to get a new Leonard Cohen album. Recommending a new album by this man feels unnecessary. This new album is stellar, a profound set of songs, a pleasure to listen to despite the harsh subjects presented in the lyrics. The production is low key, a perfect companion to Cohen’s poetic lyrics. I don’t have any complaints about this album, only that I found the instrumental on Did I Ever Love You quite strange. Very Mumford-ian. But its a small fault. The rest is outstanding. A

Notable Tracks: Slow, Almost Like The Blues, Samson In New Orleans, A Street, My Oh My, Born In Chains, You Got Me Singing

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Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes by Thom Yorke

This album starts alright but by the end I was exhausted with this type of ambient electronic sounds. I wasn’t a big fan of Thom Yorke‘s solo work in general and didn’t find his Atoms For Peace project that appealing so it’s understandable that this kind of music doesn’t work for me. I can take it in very small doses. But that’s not the only reason why I like the first two tracks. Well I more appreciate them than like them but I think they’re not as robotic and lifeless as the rest of the songs. A hard album to get through but not something I would call terrible. And given the big splash it was supposed to make with its surprise release, it proved to be a disappointment for many. C

Notable Tracks: A Brain In A Bottle, Guess Again

Any opinions? Feel Free to Comment!

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2 comments

  1. My favorites of them are Cohen and Ware. Prince albums were ok but not that great. I’d say all of these artists have released better music in the past. I was bored by Tough Love by Jessie Ware on first listen, but it has grown on me with repeat plays.

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    1. Cohen’s album is pretty great, hard not to like it. I too had problems with Tough Love on the first listen but now I think it’s a good album, just not as great as Devotion. And yes, Prince’s albums are alright but not outstanding. Weak year in music.

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