Music

Rocking out.

BgA – Dong Saya Dae (똥싸야돼) M/V

EPIC.

But this is almost exactly what I think about K-pop. I guess I’m more of a traditional kind of music listener who prefers artists that aren’t about their dancing abilities. I don’t understand the lyrics, I barely appreciate the electronic music, and while I’m super impressed by the dance routines, it’s superseded the music. What’s the point of calling it music when it’s more about the dancing?

There’s also the sex appeal angle which makes me feel a little sad. I mean, sure, sex sells, but again, things like music should be about the music and not the looks of the artist. Music is meant to be heard, not watched. And K-pop is basically just a huge business venture by giant music corporations that cobble talented dancers together to form bands that have to adhere to strict routines and are punished severely for stepping out of line. They also have terribly short shelf-lives dictated by age and popularity, and groups pop up and then disappear all the time. It’s all about the money these days.

But I’m hypocritical; I do enjoy some manufactured pop music (of the English variety), and BABYMETAL is definitely manufactured but I love them to bits. Though at least I don’t follow K-pop bands solely because I think the singers are pretty. That’s just a whole new level of sad.

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Coldplay – A Head Full of Dreams

Eh.

It feels like they were trying to evolve their sound with A Head Full of Dreams, and they just got tired of it and stopped halfway?

The first half of the album sounded like psychedelic rock, with a lot of emphasis on the upbeat, almost trippy music rather than the lyrics that were mumbled through and sounded foreign as a result. Then the music took a backseat in the latter part of the album as it sort of switched back to the traditional Coldplay sound, except with more cheer.

As a result, it just doesn’t sound very good for Coldplay’s standards. And the worst part is, it doesn’t even sound wholly coherent like Mylo Xyloto. I’m not sure what’s going on, but it’s definitely not winning me over.

I know, musical evolution is hard, and plenty of good bands and artists have failed miserably. But A Head Full of Dreams is totally unremarkable even when taken on its own, and it just makes me wonder where the rediscovered mojo that led to Ghost Stories disappear to once more.

Adele – 25

It’s not 21.

But 25 marks an evolution in Adele’s music, moving on from heartbreak to nostalgia, regret, and even simple love. It retains all the hallmarks of an Adele album, with powerful, evocative vocals, sincere lyrics and piano ballads that make you feel so introspective and reflective. But Adele also adds some colour to 25, bringing cheer and joy with some songs, more upbeat tunes that brings an optimism to an album that has a tendency to turn its head and gaze back into the past poignantly.

Of course, while it’s not as good as 21 in my opinion, 25 still stands out as the best pop album of 2015. Her gorgeous vocals bring her heartfelt lyrics to life, showing that pop music can be more than just manufactured songs and stars, that it can be more than just catchy tunes and lyrical hooks, that it can be emotional and powerful.

Her success is utterly warranted, and it’s a godsend in a generation of pop music where sex appeal seems to matter more than ever before. And she seems far more grounded and relatable than Taylor Swift to boot. All hail Adele!

Adele – Hello

I don’t usually have the habit of discussing singles (and I haven’t even posted about any of the new albums I’ve heard recently), but I’ll make an exception for Adele.

I hope the rest of 25 is happier, because Hello is evidently not a ‘make-up song’. Of course, I don’t really care because it will probably be awesome no matter what sort of theme the album has.

As for Hello, it’s a welcome reminder that Adele is still around, and is still capable of making great tracks. I love how tastefully the music video was done, without any of the junk that clutters most modern pop tracks these days. Granted, pop songs are very different musically, and the videos sort of reflect that. But then, it demonstrates so much that’s wrong with the modern music industry these days.

Thankfully, there are no scantily clad women gyrating or twerking. There are no men in chains and hoodies throwing money around. There are no objects that serve only to flaunt the wealth of the artist. Just the music to lose yourself in, and an artful video to enhance the experience.

I can’t wait for 25.

Breaking Benjamin – Dark Before Dawn

I’m so glad that Breaking Benjamin is back. I heard there were health issues for the frontman, not to mention some legal wrangling. Apparently there’s a whole new band behind Benjamin Burnley now, but I don’t really care because they have retained the same sound that made them sound so great.

I have to admit, it’s been a while since I heard Breaking Benjamin songs. But the album immediately brought me back, with the same dark lyrics and hard rock sound. There’s a grungy intimacy to their songs in my opinion, and it straddles the line between rock and metal with finesse, never too heavy yet not too light.

It’s unfortunately not as great as Phobia, but Dark Before Dawn is a pretty awesome album in its own right. Sure, some people might claim they aren’t evolving, but why must a band or an artist be evolving all the time? Not all changes in sound work out for the better; Linkin Park’s constant evolution has not delivered a single album as great as Hybrid Theory or Meteora. Neither has it worked out that well for Coldplay.

So keep it up. I look forward to more Breaking Benjamin.

Muse – Drones

Drones is immediately familiar, capturing the Muse sound quite well. It’s a quirky, almost psychedelic sound, with thematic lyrics filled to the brim with meaning. There’s a unique atmospheric feel to Muse, and Drones is right there.

It definitely feels more familiar than The 2nd Law, which for me seemed to include too much electronic music. To me, it felt like that ruined the delicate balance between rock and psychedelic, almost like forcing me into the new world of EDM music at times. Of course, I might need to revise my opinion of The 2nd Law; hearing it recently somehow made me feel like it wasn’t actually that heavy on the electronic music after all.

But on first listen of Drones, it’s clear that it’s a Muse album. Unfortunately, it just sounded a bit dull; less impactful, less engaging compared to previous works. I’m not sure whether that’s intentional or if I just have a bad master (or the mastering is bad in general). But if it is intended, then in a way it makes a lot of sense thematically.

After all, the album is called Drones.

Florence + The Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

Florence + The Machine has always had a lovely, grand sound, with gorgeous vocals and amazing pipes. The lyrics are dark and brooding, yet the music soars to beautiful heights. It’s a unique sound that really makes them stand out as artists, a far cry from the copy-paste formulaic pop music scene.

In How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, the same gorgeous tone plays out across the album, leaving me breathless and exhilarated. The intimacy of the previous albums gave way to an even grander sound here, a big yet playful melody that provides a stunning backdrop for Florence’s vocals to shine. The feel of the music is polished, refined, akin to progression from previous albums.

But because of the grandness of the sound, almost orchestral in feeling, it leaves me feeling distanced from the music itself. The darker nature of the lyrics are now almost completely lost in the beautiful melodies, and the special dichotomy between lyrics and music is lost.

Granted, I still enjoyed the album immensely, but the lack of intimacy, the wideness of the sound, the polished nature…it doesn’t feel quite like quintessential Florence + The Machine. Still, it’s an evolution in sound I can get behind.

Final Audio Design Heaven IV

FAD Heaven IVMy terrible camera skills and the use of my phone camera really doesn’t do the beauty of these things justice.

I learnt of the crazy gorgeous and niche-tuning Final Audio Design via Head-Fi.org, and I’ve lusted after these babies for a long while now. While I understand that FAD are more sound than design, you can’t run away from the fact that the stuff they make looks ridiculously beautiful.

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