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Updated: Jul 6, 2020


"Things fall apart, but nothing breaks like a heart..."

I never knew a lot about Mark Ronson until UPTOWN SPECIAL, which I loved! But this… OH MAN! This album from start to finish is non-stop emotional roller-coaster that puts you through every feeling of “honesty, heartbreak, love, lust, elation…”: every feeling that Mark Ronson says you should feel. It’s very obvious that Ronson comes with a lot of knowledge about music and across all genres as well. Jazz, Pop, Rock, Funk influences all appear on this album, and the thought he has put into every song, from the structure to the production to the instrumentation and beyond, is just amazing.


There is something to be said about the theme and story of this album. Every song follows the theme of complete and utter heartbreak (as per the beautiful album art) and continues to hit you with ‘THE FEELS’ while getting you enthralled in the awesome funk feel of “Late Night Feelings”, the club influence of “Find U Again”, the latin-jazz inspired “Don’t Leave Me Lonely” the pop ballad feeling in “2 AM”, the rugged ending plea of “Spinning”.


The collaborations on this album are nothing short of amazing. Performances from Camila Cabello, King Princess, Ilsey, Lykke Li, YEBBA (who is going to be one of the biggest artist in the world in no time. She is SO GOOD!) make this album unforgettable. This is probably my favourite album of year since Maggie Rogers’ HEARD IT IN A PAST LIFE.


HIGHLIGHTS: “Find U Again”, “Pieces of Us”, “Don’t Leave Me Lonely”, “2 AM”, “Spinning"


GRADE: 88 (A)

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Updated: Jul 6, 2020


"Who wants to be normal anyway?"

The eighth LP from the incredibly dynamic singer-songwriter is… just awesome. Ingrid Michaelson reinvents herself again with a concept album paying homage to the hit Netflix Original, STRANGER THINGS. Admittedly, I have never watched the series, however, if it’s as good as this album is, I’m going to have to binge it in one night. This concept album is a fabulous representation of incredibly supreme songwriting, fantastic performances and top-notch production.


Ever since her debut GIRLS AND BOYS, she has proven herself to be as versatile as any other artist in the world with a soft but vocally demanding sound, incredibly thoughtful and intelligent lyrics, very tight production, and songs that demand to be heard over and over and over again. With hit song after hit song, she quickly turned from an indie hidden gem to one of the biggest stars in the world. What do you do when you’re the biggest star in the world? You put out THIS exact album.


I loved this album from start to finish. From the opening track “Freak Show”, she is able to welcome us all into her sonic world of Stranger Things and never lets us forget that feeling until the very end. One of the most interesting things is that every song is very different from every other song. Every song, she is able to cater and change her vocal quality to serve each song in a different way. She has a very pop and belty tone on “Jealous”, but on “Hate You”, she is able to get the subtle breathy tone that we know and love from her. The instrumentation and production she uses on each track is just so spot on that the relationship between every instrument is so strong.


I don’t think that it’s a stretch to say that without Ingrid Michaelson, modern pop music might not what it is today. If you listen to today’s biggest artists like Billie Eilish, Maggie Rogers, Julia Michaels, Alessia Cara, YEBBA, Hey Violet and more, it is very obvious that that were influenced by Ingrid Michaelson. It’s amazing when an artist can be this influential and them come out with an absolute masterpiece like STRANGER SONGS years later. She has been able to adapt to the ever changing style of pop music and still stay true to herself and the messages she wants to put out.


Ingrid Michaelson has had IT for a long time and has proved that she still does with STRANGER SONGS. Billie Eilish’s WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE WE DO GO? will probably win Album of The Year, but this along with Maggie Rogers’ HEARD IT IN A PAST LIFE, should be a real contender because it is a brilliant piece of art. This is way up there on this list for me. It may even be my favourite album of the year and everyone needs to check it out.


HIGHLIGHTS: “Freak Show”, “Hate You”, “Jealous”, “Best Friend” “Take Me Home”


GRADE: 81 (A-)

Updated: Jul 6, 2020



"Don't forget who you are even though you're in need..."

Okay. I'm the biggest Maggie Rogers and Billie Eilish fan ever. I think their music is genius and is going to make an impact that will last for generations.

 

But, AURORA just beat out both of them for best album of the year. This is pop music like you’ve never heard it before. Being the head writer, executive producer and artist on her third full-length album, the up-and-coming Norwegian star reaches out and grabs your ears, eyes, brain and heart and demands that her voice be heard. She explores themes such as political and social issues, love, heartbreak, hurt, isolation, science fiction, post-apocalyptic worlds, evolution and the human race, the intrinsic need of humans to keep moving forward, and more, all while being thoroughly supported by her own superb production and song-writing (When was the last time you heard one person write, produce AND perform an album?). This is an unprecedented work and needs to be shared to anyone who’s ever listened to music, because it is a masterpiece.

 

What’s amazing is that A DIFFERENT KIND OF HUMAN (STEP II) sounds completely different than her previous two LPs, her singles, and EPs, which fall more into the realm of folk and alternative. However, Aurora Aksnes is constantly evolving and it is evident from the opening track.  We open with one of the best pop songs written in this century “The River”. Amazing melodic ideas, instrumentation that weaves in and out seamlessly, beautiful phrasing, incredibly evocative lyrics and an amazing ability to shift between a soft breathy tone, and hard-hitting bright sound very reminiscent of Dolores O’Riordan. We move to songs just as catchy, intriguing, stimulating, thought-provoking and “feels”-hitting like “Animal”, “Dance on the Moon”, “Hunger”, “Soulless Creatures”.

 

The album reaches a very special emotional moment with the title track “A Different Kind of Human” as she tells the story of an alien mothership arriving on Earth and saving a human too “pure” for the world. With a vocoder backing her “hellos” at the start in the form of A-flat2 chord, you feel that you are interacting with a higher form of life. As the chorus rolls around, the timpani rolls into each bar are production and instrumentation at its finest, also helping to tell the story as it evokes the feeling of propellers on a ship. It seems to me that the notes of the chord are trapped inside each timpani roll and weave out into their place as the timpani reaches the hit on the fourth beat, creating a perfect harmonious relationship between all life in this song and in the universe, as the narrative evokes.

 

Two things to especially watch out for:

i) THE VOCAL ARRANGEMENTS – There are some unbelievably intricate harmonies, intertwining parts, and beautiful embellishments such as use of Major 9 chords, 6/9 chords and more all in the vocals.

ii) THE USE OF PERCUSSION – If someone were to transcribe the percussion parts to this album, it would be insanely detailed. There is pretty much every percussion sound known to musicians used in this album, and each song uses a completely different tone and kit to support the song. (“In Bottles” is a percussion extravaganza).

 

I could go on and on about this album, because I can’t remember a time when I’ve been this passionate about a new release. If you are a lover of pop music, you’ll have a greater appreciation than most. But even if you don’t love pop music, AURORA may change your mind. Trust me, she’s that good…


HIGHLIGHTS: “The River”, “Animal”, “Dance on the Moon”, “Hunger”, “A Different Kind of Human”, “Apple Tree”


GRADE: 98 (A+)

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