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Album Reviews

Multiply: Ed Sheeran
★★★★★

The Both

After waiting over five months for Ed Sheeran’s new album, Multiply, I can honestly say it was well worth the wait. It was rumored that he was taking a different path with this album, adding a more hip-hop feel to it. Multiply DOES include some tracks like this, but there are also a few songs that have a jazzy blues sound to them as well, and of course, it wouldn’t be an Ed Sheeran album if it didn’t include at least one or two acoustic songs where he shows off his phenomenal vocals. Six days before the album finally arrived, one song released every day. This was great for Sheeran, since every song hit number one the day it was released. “Sing” was his first single that swept across the nation. It’s upbeat and fast pace, has a jazzy sound to it and is incredibly catchy. The song features GREAT guitar along with some stellar vocals, including a harmonized chorus, all performed by Sheeran himself. This song is a bit different but well expected seeing as Pharrell Williams helped produce it. “Don’t” also has a jazzy feel to it. The verses feature some great heavy bass guitar where the chorus focuses more on heavy vocals and piano. This song tells a story of having feelings for someone that are a lot stronger than their feelings for you. “Thinking Out Loud” is one of my favorites from this album. It features electric guitar, some heavy bass guitar, as well as drums and piano throughout the background. This song has strong, loud, powerful vocals that catch your attention right away. Sheeran has great transitions between verses and chorus in this one that can make you melt in a heartbeat. You can definitely feel every emotion he was feeling through this jazzy, Michael Buble sounding song. Ed Sheeran isn’t really one to make “baby making music,” but if I had to pick one of his songs to put into that category, it would be “Thinking Out Loud.” My two favorite songs from the entire album are “I’m A Mess” and “Photograph.” These two songs are the acoustic tracks that everyone was waiting for. They both begin acoustic, then slowly begin to transition. Sheeran always uses powerful strong vocals in his acoustics which is wonderful. The transitions are flawless and as some drums and light electric guitar are added to the background, the anticipation builds. One thing I absolutely love with Ed Sheeran is that when he does an acoustic song, he’ll build and build and build until the song blossoms into something phenomenal. Aside from the sound, I fell in love with every single lyric of “Photograph.” It’s a song that represents love; Falling in and out of it, being hurt and losing someone, then finding someone new to heal your broken heart, and no matter who you love, no matter how short or long that love lasts, it can be captured in a simple photograph and put into the pocket of your ripped jeans. Overall, I love every song from his album. The Deluxe edition included sixteen ridiculously incredible tracks and is definitely worth listening to. Words can’t describe how good this album is or the emotions it brings out. I was honestly blown away while listening and had the biggest, dumbest smile on my face. I would definitely recommend this album to anyone who loves Ed Sheeran or is looking for some great new music.
Review written by: Nikki Lawrence

Behind the Light: Phillip Phillips
★★★☆☆

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Phillip Phillips makes his grand return and with his second studio album release, Behind the Light. It has been two years since Phillip Phillips released his first album The World from the Side of the Moon. Phillips is finally back, with an album that may not be a home run but it does have promise. The album features elements of pop rock and folk rock. The album features 12 of Phillips newest hits, “Searchlight,” “Raging Fire,” “Trigger,” “Lead On,” “Alive Again,” “Open Your Eyes,” “Fool for You,” “Thicket,” “Fly,” “Unpack Your Heart,” “Face,” and “Midnight Sun.” The other edition bonus tracks are “My Boy,” “Don’t Trust Me,” “Armless Crawler,” and “Grace.” Some of the tracks featured on this album would’ve been great if they didn’t sound too busy, it kind of distracts you from the lyrics and vocals; just Phillips and a guitar would have been perfect. Now-a-days we can honestly say that the greatest aspects of folk songs are the abstract lyrics, but that’s where Phillips tends to fall short. Also most of Phillips songs starts to sound a lot more similar to each other. Some of his lyrics don’t sound very personal, but he does have that great feel for the folksy melodies and rhythms. “Raging Fire” and “Fly” are two out of twelve of Phillips great songs from Behind the Light. “Raging Fire,” the upbeat folk rock and pop rock song demonstrates the power of love both lyrically and emotionally. Like a lot of other songs “Raging Fire” tries to draw that connection between a burning passion and love. Just like I said before “Raging Fire,” the addition of the elaborate orchestrations is too overbearing. This album does have promise, so if you’re a huge fan of the American Idol winner I suggest you check out this album right now.
Review written by: Alan Taylor

Ultraviolence: Lana Del Rey
★★★★☆

If you’ve listened to anything by Lana Del Rey before, you know her music (as well as her image) is not the normal pop star face. She sings of dying, being dangerously in love and doing things deemed wrong by society. She has received a lot of criticism for her song content and, more recently, saying she wished she was already dead at a young age like some artists before her. Despite the controversy, no one can deny that Del Rey owns her image and music and has the talent to make it in the industry for quite some time. Her newest album “Ultraviolence” oozes angst, haunting and sultry vocals and trippy 70s inspired beats. Most of the songs on “Ultraviolence” are about being tragically in love and all the aspects that come along said love. The first song on the album, titled “Cruel World,” where Del Rey sings about being crazy in love with her lover and being happy they are gone at the same time. The song’s beat makes it feel raw and harsh (much like dangerous love is.) Del Rey’s haunting vocals are on point on this track; she doesn’t hold back. The track “Ultraviolence” is one of the best songs on the album and also one of the darkest. Del Rey sings of being in an abusive relationship (lyrics include “he hit me and it felt like a kiss”) backed with a haunting, trippy back beat. I find it interesting that one of the best songs on the album has the darkest content, which is probably what Del Rey was aiming to do. There are other songs that deal with darker content on the album including “Shades of Cool,” a song about loving a man who loves other women and gambling and “Sad Girl,” a beautifully haunting song about the sensitive subject of being a mistress. The most upbeat song on the album is “West Coast,” a song that has already been released and is on the charts. Like most of Del Rey’s song on “Ultraviolence,” it has a trippy 70s flare to it as she sings of being in love on the West Coast. The West Coast has their movie stars and rock and roll groupies, but she has her love, and that is all she needs to survive there. If you haven’t checked it out yet, I highly suggest you do; it’s a great summertime track. “Brooklyn Baby” is also one to look into if you’re looking more for Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness” sound. It’s whimsical, upbeat and sad all at once as she sings of being judged and being in love. It sounds as though she is saying how tragic it is to be a Brooklyn baby, yet she is saying it with pride. Overall, Lana Del Rey’s sophomore album is tragically beautiful. She dares to be different and channels emotions that not many pop stars sing about; pain, loss, angst, etc. That is why I believe she has the ability to be in the music industry for some time – everyone can relate to those emotions, even if they don’t want to admit it. Del Rey is bold, daring and unapologetic, which is why you should definitely check out this album if you have the chance.
Review written by: Kelly Kuehn

Shatter Me: Lindsey Stirling
★★★★☆

Lindsey Stirling, one of the most well-known violinist and solo artist returns with her second studio album Shatter Me. Lindsey Stirling is well-known for being one of most talented violinist’s on YouTube. The album features musicals elements of dubstep, hip pop, classical, and trance. After being released, the album had peaked at number one on four different charts, US Digital Albums chart, US Top Classical Albums chart, US Dance/Electronic Albums chart, and US Independent Albums chart. Shatter Me is Stirling’s first album that she collaborated with other vocalists, Dia Frampton and Lzzy Hale. Hale is featured on the track “Shatter Me” and Frampton is featured on the track “We Are Giants.” Shatter Me features the 12 tracks, “Beyond the Veil,” “Mirror Haus,” “V-Pop,” “Shatter Me,” “Heist,” “Roundtable Rival,” “Night Vision,” “Take Flight,” “Ascendance,” “We are Giants,” “Swag,” “Master of Tides.” The additional bonus tracks not featured on the album are “Eclipse,” “Sun Skip,” “Take Flight (Orchestral Version).” The track “Beyond the Veil” is one of Stirling’s most successful tracks featured on Shatter Me. The YouTube video of the track had over half a million views on the day of its debut. It went number one on the Billboard Classical Digital Songs. The YouTube video of “Beyond the Veil” is one of Stirling’s most abstract and colorful videos. The video displays Stirling’s raw talent of being one of the talented violinists out there. “Beyond the Veil” has its own unique dubstep swag, and the addition of dubstep helped this track. This video is one of her best choreographed videos. “Shatter Me,” featuring Lzzy Hale, is also one of Stirling’s most colorful and powerful videos on YouTube. “Shatter Me” is one of those songs that digs down deep emotionally and musically. The addition of Lzzy Hale is what also helps to make this song great. You can feel the emotion drawn from Hale’s vocals, and she is a heck of a powerful singer.
Review written by: Alan Taylor

In The Lonely Hour (Deluxe Version): Sam Smith
★★★★☆ Apocalypse soon

Sam Smith is a new artist that is on his way to GREAT things. After hearing the hit “Latch” that features his great vocals, I expected an album full up upbeat electronica songs to match. His new album “In The Lonely Hour” was definitely a shock but worth the time to listen to. Smith’s voice is unique and like no other that is topping the charts today. He has the vocal range of Cee Lo Green, with the rhythm and jazzy yet pop feel of Robin Thicke. He has a VERY jazzy and blues sense to him, which was a relaxing change. “Money On My Mind” is the first track off the album and there’s a reason for that; it’s incredibly catchy and upbeat. It caught my attention and kept me wanting more and is soon to be playing everywhere. “I’m Not the Only One” is a favorite for me. It has an old school sound to it and includes a lot of piano. It gives off a mellow feel and it shows Smith’s BEAUTIFUL vocals, all while telling a story that most can relate to: falling for someone who has someone else on the side. “Life Support” is another favorite. It has a beautiful violin introduction and other instruments are carefully added in which builds up to a great, catchy and flowing hook. This song most definitely shows Smith’s high vocal range. “I’ve Told You Now” is just the opposite, showing his low vocal range which is just as beautiful. If you’re not interested yet, this album has something for everyone, jazzy blues, with a touch of pop, and even the classic 70’s Backstreet Boys “boy band” cliché sound that catches the attention of all the girls, with his popular song “Restart.” Just when I thought the album couldn’t get much better, it features an ACOUSTIC version of the hit single “Latch.” This track stole first place for me. The vocals are absolutely phenomenal and who doesn’t love when an upbeat hit is transformed into something with piano lacing through every word? Overall, this album was not what I expected what so ever but ended up becoming ten times better. It’s definitely worth a listen if you like blues or jazz music, or if you’re looking to try something new.
Review written by: Nikki Lawrence

Road Between: Lucy Hale
★★★★☆ Ready Steady Go

 

“Pretty Little Liars” star Lucy Hale has released a country album that will get you feeling all sorts of emotions – love, loss and bitterness to name a few. “Road Between” is an album that has country twang mixed with pop vocals to create a quite enjoyable pop-country experience. Hale’s songs deal with issues that almost all young people are facing – being in love, dealing with heartache, and trying to figure out where you are going in life just to name a few. The first song off the album, “You Sound Good to Me,” is a simple song that has some country twang to it. Hale sings about how her love sounds good to her as she is leading a country life of sitting by fires and strumming guitar strings. It’s a sweet country ode to love and affection. Other songs that are similar to “You Sound Good To Me” include “From the Back Seat” (where Hale sings about learning to love from the back seat of a car) and “Love Tonight,” in which Hale’s voice has a hint of soul to it as she sings of being in love. For every song there is about love, however, there is a song about heartbreak. One of these songs is “Red Dress,” which features fellow country artist Joe Nichols. The song starts out with a slow piano number, but as the chorus comes around the tempo picks up and it’s back to a faster tempo. Hale and Nichols’ voices harmonize well as they sing about remembering a lost love whenever a certain song comes on the radio. If you and an ex of yours have ever had a song and you still think of them when it comes on, you can relate to this song. I like how Hale is able to keep up with Nichols, a veteran country singer, in this song. It proves that she has the talent to make it in the industry. She also has some feisty songs about breaking up on the album, including “That’s What I Call Crazy” and “Goodbye Gone.” Anyone who has bitter feelings about their break up should listen to these songs. They’ll relate to Hale’s vengeful words and feel the vengeance in the rhythm of the songs. A song that is unique to the album is “Nervous Girls,” in which Hale sings about not having it all together in her life and the pressures girls are feeling now more than ever – the pressures of maintaining a certain body image, being in love and finding out what they want in life. This simple acoustic song gets my vote for best song on the album because of the depth of the lyrics and the issues she touches upon while singing. Overall, this debut album is a pleasure to listen to. Hale sounds as though she has been in the business for years despite being a rookie. Young women can easily relate to anything she is singing about because she sings about real issues they are facing today. If you’re in need of some refreshing, simple country music to listen to, listen to this album. I’m looking forward to other work Hale will create under the country genre in the future – after this album, there is no doubt she will be in the industry for some time to come.
Review written by: Kelly Kuehn

Don’t Kill The Magic: Magic!
★★★★☆

 

After hearing Magic!’s single, “Rude,” I couldn’t wait for the release of their new album, “Don’t Kill the Magic.” If you thought their first hit was good, you’re in for a treat with this album. I absolutely love every single song already, and always have them on repeat. They’re a great upcoming, smooth, reggae band from Canada with a very unique and distinct sound. Their latest, “Don’t Kill The Magic,” is a brand new song and already playing on stations across the country. It’s sure to be climbing the charts this Summer. It starts off with a slow intro, only to transform into a heavy song full of power, along with plenty of great drum and guitar. The verses are short, which is great because the song goes right into an incredibly catchy chorus that has a very cool sound to it, reminding me of OneRepublic. “Let Your Hair Down” is a song about getting away from everything you’ve been dealing with and finally celebrating Summer. It’s a bit slower in tempo but it definitely has a mesmerizing beachy, island, unique reggae sound to it alongside some phenomenal vocals that tell a story of Summer love. “Mama Didn’t Raise No Fool” also has a summer feel to it. It tells a story of falling for someone you shouldn’t and not knowing how to handle it. There’s a lot of heavy electric guitar in this song which I love but the chorus is my favorite part. It’s fast and crazy and features beautiful harmonized vocals. “No Evil” is a favorite of mine. It strays away from the Summer theme and has a darker tone to it. It has quick and catchy verses and a happy and upbeat chorus that anyone can get hooked on. My absolute favorite from this album is “How Do You Want To Be Remembered.” It has a slower tempo, but the lyrics are extremely catchy and it’s very laid back and mellow. I catch myself singing it all the time and I think it fits in with the Summer idea Magic! was going for with this album. Overall, I think Magic! did a great job. As an upcoming band, they are sure to be known after this album. I would recommend this to anyone who feels like listening to a great summer soundtrack or anyone who might be interested in a Canadian reggae band that sounds like Bob Marley mixed with Fun.
Review written by: Nikki Lawrence

The Rockville LP: O.A.R.
★★★★☆

The Both

This album is one that you are going to want to listen to. Why? Because O.A.R. is back with all new sounds intertwined with the originality they bring to their music. My favorite song off this album is their latest single ‘Peace”. This song is a slow song that is absolutely beautiful. It’s has the sound of the guitar making a huge impact about going after what you love and finally getting the peace you’ve been looking for. Another knockout song is “Two Hands Up”. This is the first song off of their album that is upbeat and really defines the album as a whole. O.A.R. keeps the sound they traditionally offer, but add a bit of techno in. A song similar to this style is “We’ll Pick Up Where We Left Off”, which is the second song off their album. It is upbeat and lively; full of energy and life. O.A.R. doesn’t leave who they are behind, which makes this album even more powerful. “The Element” is a reminder of how things started and brings the band back to where it all began. I really like this because the band knows who they are, and you can tell that even though the music industry is changing, O.A.R. adapts to some of the latest sounds, but this song incorporates the music in which they are already known for. Another song that is like “The Element” is “Favorite Song” this is a cute love song, much like “Peace” but much more upbeat and fun. This song is about love and singing along with the songs that make sense now that you’re in love. Another song like this is “So Good So Far”. This song is beautiful with the instruments used and the lyrics that combine with it. It’s about living in the moment and learning that so far, things are going good, but it isn’t over until you’ve won the guy or the girl’s heart forever. A song that I’m not a huge fan of off this album is “The Architect”. I can’t tell if it’s the trumpets being used, or the edginess it has. I feel like the mix between the instruments and the lyrics don’t connect well together, and that if one of them were different, the song would be a lot stronger. Overall, I highly recommend this album to O.A.R. lovers and for people who love artists such as the Goo Goo Dolls, Matchbox Twenty, and 90s music in general. I can see this band going far in the future, as long as they stick to who they are.
Review written by: Alyssa Kate

Ultraviolet: Owl City
★★★★★

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I don’t know if it is his voice or what but this hands down is my favorite album, at least currently. It is only the EP (Extended Play) but it definitely gets you pumped for the full album. I was unable to find out when the full album will be released. While the EP is only 4 songs, it is beyond worth the $3.96 on iTunes. “Beautiful Times” (featuring Lindsey Stirling) sounds oddly like the, once was popular “Firefles” by Owl City. The music video also has fireflies in it, coincidence? “Up All Night” is number 2 on the EP. I may be pretty biased but if you haven’t taken the time in the middle of reading this review to go to YouTube and check out these songs, you should. I can wait. “This Isn’t The End” starts off on a little depressing note, and beat to go along with it. But ultimately, this isn’t the end and even if it sounds like it. The lyrics are a little, traumatic but tell a story worth listening to. “Wolf Bite” is the last song on the EP. It has an uplifting beat, the lyrics however I’m not sure fit the feeling you get from the instrumentals. Regardless, “Wolf Bite” and the other three songs on this EP are amazing, and need to be listened to! So, what are you waiting for?
Review written by: Michelle Voorhees

Language and Perspective: Bad Suns
★★★☆☆

Bad Suns is a band that I found randomly one day in itunes and I could not be happier with such a accidental discovery. The group is from England, so of course I was interested just hearing that. Aside from their unique sound, the British accents really got to me. Their music is mostly alternative with a strange twist with a 70’s sound and feel to it. Two songs off of their new album that represent that sound the most are “We Move Like The Ocean” and “Salt.” “We Move..” starts off with an incredibly soft introduction, only to transform into a strong song with heavy bass guitar and drums, along with quick lyrics and one heck of a vocal range shown as well. “Salt” has a darker tone to it, almost “evil.” It is very unique to say the least and there’s a strange unknown instrument that laces throughout the background throughout the entirety of the song that keeps your attention. Again, they both are very current alternative but have a somewhat older sound to them as well. The songs “Matthew James” and “Pretend” are also similar. They’re both very urban and almost “hippie” like, being mostly acoustic with some great tambourine here and there to help out. Both also have very catchy and upbeat choruses that are sure to get you moving. “Take My Love and Run” also features a lot of tambourine coincide a very cool beat kept by heavy drums, low vocal range and a great hook. Although it is more of a mellow song, it is very hypnotizing and it gave me the feeling of Summer. “Sleep Paralysis” is another that has heavy drums, alongside phenomenal vocals, backup harmonized vocals and an eerie sound. “Rearview” was one of my favorites. It has a 50’s feel to it in a way, yet current pop and alternative at the same time. It’s a sound that’s unique and hard to explain but DEFINITELY worth a listen. Overall, I was very satisfied with this album. Having it be the first from the upcoming band, I have a strong feeling they’re going to go far with their music. The album is full of songs that have a lot of meaning, which can’t be put into words with music sometimes. I think this would be a great album for anyone who likes alternative music, or bands from Europe as well. “Cardiac Arrest” may be their hit single right now, but I expect great things from them in the future.
Review written by: Nikki Lawrence



Strong Museum of Play

Army