Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Review: Paradise Lost - Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us

Blamed by some fans for going way too commercial with their last few albums, obviously Paradise Lost took a serious note and offer a heavy slap on the face of all haters. "Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us" is what many fans have expected for over a decade, after Nick Holmes and co explored the fields of synthrock, alternative rock and lighter gothic metal. Considered by many as Paradise Lost's big come back their latest album will rock your socks and leave you wanting more.

Enough with the faith! Paradise Lost kick ass big time and are here to unites us all, even in death. Metaphorically speaking "Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us" is livelier and more emotional charging than the band's eponymous from four years ago and "In Requiem", out in 2007. Although not based on fast-paced tracks the album grabs you from the opening track, leading you from this great divide to the long anticipated unification of music and soul, leaving far behind those useless shells called bodies. Actually, you might need that bodies a little bit more if you want to physically experience the whole album with all those amazing riffs, Holmes' deep vocals and the constantly changing mood.

Paradise Lost subtly incorporate a few elements of their earliest doom/death material material that give additional heavier sound to the album. Still, they remain true to the gothic metal genre, of course, with a few slight stylistic detours that are left to you to be discovered.

Tracks to hear: "Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us", "As Horizons End", "Living with Scars" and "I Remain"

Personal rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Review: No Angels - Welcome to the Dance

For those who don't know or don't remember No Angels was a German girl band that had a string of successful singles back in the early 00s before personal differences emerged on the surface and just as expected the band fell apart. After a break up in 2004 they reunited in 2006, obviously for worse. Their latest release is the album "Welcome to the Dance", which supposedly had to skyrocket their career back to the good old top.

Sadly for No Angels this album is a major flop lacking any decent sound and memorable tracks. It hurt so bad listening to it that my whole being had to recuperate with a no-music-day. OK, I might overreact a bit, but "Welcome to the Dance" is anything but a dance album. It incorporates more electronica than ever nefore, but it all sounds so out of place (and time) that you might take this whole experiment as a joke. What's more silly texts and ridiculous tunes don't stand for quality music of any kind...if you please.

After the rather poor reception of their fourth studio album "Destiny" things looked like as if No Angels were going to break up once and forever. Obviously they didn't, backing up their careers or more likely cutting their own throats with "Welcome to the Dance". I wonder if their producers really hate them that much, allowing the band to release such a pile of crap. Not that No Angels have ever been a staple of quality pop music, but at least that managed to keep their heads above surface. Right now their bodies are lifelessly floating somewhere in the Sea of kitsch, without any certainty to be found.

Don't get me wrong, I am pretty sure that there are people that this album will perfectly appeal to and they will enjoy listening to it on repeat. For those who happen to be open for something a bit more musically challenging and intriguing "Welcome to the Dance" should be anything but tempting. If still you are ready to give it a chance, don't say I didn't warn you! 'Njoy?

Personal rating: 3/10
The two singles:

Monday, 28 September 2009

Review: Miss Li - Dancing the Whole Way Home

Miss Li, real name Linda Carlsson, is among the current names that define Sweden's indie trend adding a bit of jazzy vocals, swift melodies and heart-lighted lyrics. Compared by some critics to Anna Ternheim and Hello Saferide, Li offers a rather more positive approach to music with a twist of pop. Just two years after her last release Carlsson is back on track with her fourth studio album "Dancing the Whole Way Home", which by far is her most successful effort.

Despite sticking to her original sound Miss Li expands on a few new fields, going all deep with a semi-cabaret sound, probably heading to a more sophisticated and elaborate stylistic change in favor of moody jazz with a sateen touch of dreamy pop. On a first listen you might be left with the impression that the whole style mixing has gone havoc, but after a while most of the material will start growing on anyone open to clever genre fusions. Even if this whole pop-flavoured jazz isn't your cup of tea, still the album can appeal to a broader audience, quite picky as well.

"Dancing the Whole Way Home" isn't exactly the album you'd be dancing to on your way home, but you might catch yourself humming it while waiting in the line or just being up for some positive experiences. Definitely not a groundbreaking release, still Miss Li knows music good and if it didn't lack proper international promotion she could have easily made her way to the European market, at least. "Dancing the Whole Way Home" is an excellent kick-start for her to be internationally recognized and receive some credit outside Sweden.

Songs to hear: "I Heard of a Girl", "Bourgeois Shangri-La", "Polythene Queen" and "Stupid Girl"
Personal rating: 7/10

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Review: Clan of Xymox - In Love We Trust

It's been quite long since I've listened to something new and really good in the whole gothic/darkwave field and I was really hoping that "In We Love We Trust", the latest release by the Dutch Clan of Xymox would break the ice. My hopes were too high, unfortunately.

Not that "In Love We Trust" has poor content or is of low quality, it's just that it offers absolutely nothing new or remotely intriguing. The new material is somehow lighter, easier to listen and less satisfying in comparison to previous albums. There are a few highs, but in no way can they compensate for the rest. Furthermore, "In Love We Trust" is also less club orientated with predominant slow tracks. Probably it will be a wonderful surprise for every fan who is more into dreamy ballads about love and despair.

Apart from the opening track "Emily" the rest of "In Love We Trust" takes another direction exploring the gloomy corners of life, although not as goth sounding as some might be expecting. Sadly "In Love We Trust" has no real potential hits from the rang of "Jasmine and Rose" or "A Day" and could easily pass your ears by, but after a few more listens the good stuff starts popping out. Nevertheless, in love we may trust, but they just had to be a bit more convincing.

Tracks to hear: "Emily", "On A Mission", "Desdemona" and "Love Got Lost"
Personal rating: 6/10

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Discoveries: Copacabana Club

Not much could be said about Copacabana Club, a fresh new Brazilian act hailing from the city of Curitiba, Paraná. Making an intriguing mixture of electro-rock and indietronica, they could be easily associated with bands like Cansei de Ser Sexy, although I'd rather make no such comparisons before they have released a full length studio album. Up to know they have released the EP "King of the Night" that contains the hit-single "Just Do It". I am pretty sure that if those guys release an album they would be Brazil's next big thing. My fingers crossed for a full release as soon as possible. If you have a profile you could listen to their EP for free: Copacaba Club

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Recommendation weekly: Nneka

Nneka's style could be described as Bob Marley meets Erykah Badu with a heavy African influence. This young, relatively still unknown, German-based Nigerian-born singer offers her very own experiences, beliefs and causes she eagerly supports. Nneka, originally from the Igbo ethnic group, has tries a few styles through her career extending from hip-hop, reggae, trip-hop and soul with a world music twist. Spending her childhood in her hometown of Warri, Nigeria Nneka tells stories that explore the diversity of African culture, the clash of modern thinking with traditionalism and the struggles that most African go through on daily basic. Criticizing capitalism and the self-absorption of Western societies Nneka makes some excellent good points that deserve to be heard out loud. To me Nneka is another living proof that music can still have a definite social connotation.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

My concert experience: Madonna

I can't believe it took me that much time to gather my thoughts and give a full review on probably the best concert I have ever been! I guess I am going to be a bit too biased having in mind my affection towards Madonna and her music, which in no way makes me blind for the rather blunt and lacking originality Sticky & Sweet Tour. After the completion of the tour Madonna announced a total gross revenue of over $400 million, making it the second highest grossing tour in the history of music (topped only by A Bigger Bang Tour by The Rolling Stones).

With 85 gigs in two consecutive years Sticky & Sweet is Madonna's most extensive tour, which was highlighted by concerts in countries Madge visited for the very first time like Bulgaria, Romania, Finland and Sweden. According to Billboard Boxscore the tour was seen by over 3,5 million people in 30 countries. In Bulgaria alone the concert was attended by roughly 55,000 people putting it in the top 3 most successful concerts in the country.
According to Billboard Boxscore Madonna put almost $5 million in her pocket, which to me is quite a surprise knowing that we had the cheapest tickets. I guess we were really very enthusiastic as the price of 100 euros per Golden Circle ticket (average salary is around 250-300 euros) turned to be absolutely no obstacle for fans.

Luckily Madonna is still among the most popular musicians in Bulgaria, a fact that secured a full stadium and a passionate audience (to some extent). A few enthusiasts started gathering in front of Vasil Levski Stadium the day before, but the real hysteria was the very day when nationalities mixed and you could easily hear broken English flowing in the air. Although I consider myself a Madonna fan I decided to skip the part with spending my whole day under the blazing sun and went just half an hour before the doors were opened. Despite my fan-laziness I ended up a couple of rows from the stage. As a friend of mine said "If I knew we were going to be really that close, I'd have given my whole salary if it were necessary." Agree!

The support act was Paul Oakenfold, although if it were up to me I'd have kept Robyn for the second leg of the tour too. Anyways, I guess he was chosen as producing Madonna's latest hit single "Celebration" taken out from the eponymous Best Hits collection (released September 2009). Bulgarian media spent quite the time and efforts to report on the preparations for the concert: building of the stage, arrival of construction workers and crew, management of the event and highlighting fans' expectations. After all Madonna's concert was and still is one of the biggest events for 2009, despite all the baseless criticism Madge garnered.

At 10 pm what I have been waiting for over a decade came true: Madonna live in concert! Until the very last seconds, even when the opening tune began I still doubted that she is ever going to come on stage. But she did! Alright, I have to admit that I took me some 20 minutes to realize it. It may sound silly to you, but sometimes you just feel as if this person is a double and real Madonna is somewhere in The States having Margarita's and enjoying the company of her new criminally young boy-toy. But it was Madonna in flesh, just a few meters away from me and she looked so different from all the photos, videos, concerts and fan stuff I have ever seen. Probably, cause she was there just for me (OK, and the other 54,999 people) and I could see her face, the wrinkles, her flaming eyes and athletic body. I dare say she's beautiful in her unique way and has this charisma that I had only heard of.

Although I am really fond of Madonna and all she has done I cannot hide the fact that to me "Hard Candy" is a pile of crap, probably her weakest album for the last 20 years. Poor promotion, hideous style, boring photo shoots and tasteless songs with absolutely no message. Still, faith is cruel and it had me watch this very tour, I guess it was a punishment for dissing this album. "Candy Shop" was the first slap in my face, followed by "Beat Goes On". Luckily Madonna's career extend in almost three decades, hence the setlist diversity. Let's say that some of the Sticky & Sweet song arrangements made my ears bleed (check "Music" and "La Isla Bonita"). I wonder if Madonna feels insecure about some of her best known songs, as my mind still can't bear the fact that she chose "Rain" and "Die Another Day" to be backdrops (concert interludes), but gave a free spot to such a ridiculous song as "Dress You Up". It should go without mentioning that the audience kept absolutely silent during this very performance.

My personal favourite performance would be of "Miles Away". There was just this unique connection that made me feel everywhere and nowhere just gazing in Madonna's eyes. Another amazing moment was "You Must Love Me" when people around me started shouting out loud "We love you". I guess the whole we-love-you-hysteria startled her and for a dew seconds she was just smiling with her eyes supposedly filling up with tears. Of course, Madonna is such a stage-expert that you could never tell whether her reactions are ironic.

The audience blasted out at "Like A Prayer" and to some extent at "Vogue", clearly being her best known songs in Bulgaria. I cannot be very judgmental about the audience as I was in a sea of fans and I had the impression that everyone was having a great time. In reality lots of people were there just to see Madonna, but didn't show any enthusiasm and many spent the whole concert drinking beer and discussing personal problems. According to some spectators the whole concert was on a playback, but being a few meters away from Madonna I can assure you that for most of the time she sang live. Whoever doesn't like her singing can take a flight to Mariah Carey's nearest concert and spend two hours listening to impossible octaves.

I can keep on going telling more and more about my concert experience, but some emotions can never take the form of words. Sadly, the concert came to an end in no time and we had to say Goodbye. Of course, until next time!

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Finally back!

My little summer break unexpectedly went for almost two months after my notebook crashed down and I lost almost all of the data I had on it. Dozens of reviews, articles and material-to-be-listened-to went into oblivion leaving me no choice but wait for the problem to be solved, apparently it took some time. Luckily not much happened, a few new albums, couple of interesting music events and the rest is time-spenders. Lots to come, reviews, continuation of some previous topics and most certainly loads of quality music. Stay on track!