Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience album review

After seven long years of musical hiatus, Justin Timberlake has finally released his highly anticipated album The 20/20 Experience. The question is was it worth the wait?

The title of Timberlake’s album perfectly translates into every track as he creates music that you can so clearly and vividly see. The concept is very similar to N.E.R.D.’s Seeing Sounds album. With this concept in mind, Timberlake masterfully offers a variety of songs each possessing its own special flavor in sound.

Throughout the entirety of the album, Timberlake succeeds in showcasing his trademark falsetto. It’s undeniably sexy, entirely soothing in unimaginable ways and so perfectly tender in tone. The 20/20 experience, which has an average of seven minutes per song, risks the chances of losing the attention of an audience, but surprisingly it actually works out nicely. Every aspect of each song flows so seamlessly. The tracks have the power to seduce you with exotically intricate beats, love infested lyrics, and vocal acrobatics that ultimately lead to forgetting about how lengthy the songs actually are.

“Strawberry Bubblegum” is so ethereal in sound as it is emphasized by the guitar and keyboards. The opening dedication “Hey Pretty Lady… this goes out to you, you, you” is very reminiscent to Usher’s opening of “SuperStar”on his Confessions album. The airy sounds match Timberlake’s falsetto as he sings of the intoxicating feeling he captured when he caught his lover’s eyes, calling her his “little strawberry bubblegum.” His delivery is quite cleverly done. He intermixes between falsetto, his speaking voice, and his mid-range singing voice as he describes her as nothing that he has ever seen before. While noting, “Don’t change nothing because your flavor is so original,” he sings the notes in a sweet staccato that draws you in completely.

“Don’t Hold The Wall” has a very tribal/tropically inspired beat as mastermind producer Timbaland is heard saying “Dance, Don’t Hold The Wall” in the background. It’s a perfect dance-pop song that will get you up on your feet and will hypnotize you into dancing without holding the wall.

“Tunnel Vision” another song with an apparent Timbaland influence, has a very chillingly breezy classic pop vibe as Timberlake admits to having “tunnel vision” for one special girl (ahem, Jessica Biel maybe?). He expresses his undeniable love singing “A million people around, all I see is you.” Aw, how sweet, he’s sure to break millions of girls’ hearts on this one. Well, of course, he melts the heart of one particular special lady.

In “That Girl,” Timberlake re-emphasizes the same theme of love for one specific girl, but this time in a very bluesy/jazzy feel of sound. Alternatively, Timberlake gives us another dance-pop song “Let The Groove Get In,” but this time it has noticeable Latin influences. It’s a song that will either make you want to take some salsa dance lessons or just simply shake what your mama gave you!

“Mirrors” is a timeless classic pop track that is sure to get a lot of radio play once the phase of “Suit & Tie” is over. “Mirrors” is another dedication to the love of his life describing his lover’s shine to the shine of a mirror. In the chorus, he beautifully sings how he sees them together as “two reflections into one, cause its like you’re my mirror, my mirror staring back at me.”

The question still remains was this album worth the wait? I definitely think so. It’s by far his best album to date. It’s an album that shows his musical growth and maturity as he explores new sounds, tightens his writing skills, and embraces his colorful vocal ability.

Seam – Tourism/Sleeper Double EP Review

Seams, a young electro artist experimenting with sounds and finding his way, has released “Tourist/Sleeper” a double EP, including his first Album “Tourist”, previously released in 2011, along with his brand new album “Sleeper”.

The aptly titled “Tourist”, which consists of 4 tracks, paints the picture of a Seam’s 2010 summer in Berlin. Consisting of musical groves, ambient noises, and incredible sound design, Seams transports you from the “Hanging Markets” to the “Carnavale, and recreates the sounds and atmosphere he personally took in that summer.

Seams shows incredible maturity for such a young artist, building full songs that envelope the listener and offer a delicious array of sounds, timbres and textures to enjoy. He is patient with his approach, and does not rush the listener, but gently leads them through his detailed adventure.

Songs like “Nachtmusik” show Seams is much more than a sound-design loving, electro-acoustic aficionado. The pinnacle of ambience and groove, this track offers more delectable goodness. It goes down like warm velvet and is best track on this side of the EP.

“Tourism” is the kind of album you take in as a piece of art. Play it, lay down on your couch, stare at the ceiling and let your mind drift wherever it may. A passive listen, but if you want to do that, then this album is perfection. Listen to it with great earphones or speakers. It deserves it. There is an incredible attention to detail here. Fully detailed, excellently crafted.

The 4 track “Sleeper” picks off where “Tourism” left off, and specifically shows the artist growing from an ambient, atmosphere creator, to a more musically focused producer, with a more structured sound.

The up-beat “Potential” actually shows just that. While still showcasing his sound design talents and his love to paint broad strokes of detailed, spectral elegance, Seams here shows clear focus and emphasis on making a structured, “dance-able” song.

This side of the EP gives a glimpse into the type of songs that will push the electronic music scene forward. Incredible amount of detail to pick out of the tracks, while still offering a consistent and enjoyable groove.

Seams is offering something very fresh to the electronic game. Through both albums, Seams consistently serves up a lot for your ear to taste. The detail in sound design is something to be admired. Very polished and thought through. Tourism/Sleeper is electronic music for an incredibly intelligent and perceptive ear. A piece of art, but not yet a masterpiece. Excited to see where his future development and growth will take us.

Azealia Banks – Fantasea album review

Azealia Banks is essentially the year 2012 embodied into one charismatic female with a love for all things Aquarian and a gorgeous mane of colorful hair. This year has probably been the craziest year for music yet. Music is steady becoming genre-less with categories of music clashing together that would never had even been a thought in someone’s mind a decade ago. Hip Hop has melded together with the high energy world of dance music, with artists like Nicki Minaj rapping over synth filled tracks with lead ups and breakdowns that used to be only reserved for raves.

Speaking of Nicki Minaj, 2012 is also the year of the female rapper. In a field where women often have to struggle to be accepted or to even reach a high plateau, female rappers have made It to the top and now sit on top of a throne. The Kreayshawns, Iggy Azaleas, and of course the Azealia Bankses of the world are taking over the industry. The issue of gender and sexuality doesn’t stop there. 2012 was also a milestone in the hip hop/ R&B world when multi talented singer/songwriter came out as a bisexual via an eloquently written letter on his Tumblr page. Alas, Azealia Banks had came out as a bi sexual way before Ocean with bi-curious lyrics in her breakout hit “212” such as “Now she wanna lick my plum in the evenin.’”

Azealia carries that excellent rawness into her mixtape Fantasea with new and exciting material that makes me feel like I did when I first heard “212”. The mixtape begins with “Out of Space”, which I was wary about because The Prodigy is my favorite band of all time, and I am protective of them, but Azealia Banks did it complete justice with her confrontational delivery over the classic rave track.

“Neptune” serves as an audible underwater mermaid gathering with a slow bubbly synths and Azealia’s smooth vocals battling with raps similar to her “212” flow. The track also features a hard hitting verse from British rapper, Shystie. It is hard to pick a favorite track on Fantasea, simply because every track has mind bending production that somehow fits perfectly with Azealia’s voice. Everything from the Diplo produced drum line track “Fuck Up the Fun” or the Drums of Death produced lo fi tune “Nathan.” Azealia Banks flow ability is exceptional in “Nathan” with an impressive flow change up that gets speedy then slows down.

When Azealia declared on her Tumblr that she would rather be viewed as a dance artist then a rapper, she must have had her track “Luxury” in mind, the sexy house tune features more of her sultry singing voice as well as a sexy “talk-rap” that could compete with some of the best underground warehouse tunes out there. Fantasea ends with the infectious trance-hop sounds of the extremely talented Araabmuzik. “Salute a bad bitch, you should” raps an arrogant Banks.

Banks represents a new generation of intelligent carelessness that has become evident in this IDGAF world of today, and I must say her mixtape Fantasea captures this new attitude with raw skill that makes me excited for what else this boisterous mermaid-esque raptress has in store for the future.

Smoke DZA – Rugby Thompson album review

Sometimes, when it comes to stoner rap, the only people who will enjoy the music are stoners. This isn’t the case for Smoke DZA’s signature marijuana-praising raps. For Smoke DZA’s latest album, Rugby Thompson he enlisted east coast beat maker Harry Fraud to produce the album in its entirety. This latest effort shows Smoke DZA’s growth from just another weed rapper to rapping about different content. Where this would hinder the versatility in many other albums, Harry Fraud’s soulful production brings something different with each track. The features on Rugby Thompson compliment his style well, getting verses from the likes of OFWGKTA’s Domo Genesis, A$AP Mob’s A$AP Twelvyy, Action Bronson, Schoolboy Q and fellow Jet Life member Curren$y.

Flowing right into the title track, “Rugby Thompson” acts as a time capsule for the 90’s with a vintage beat and a vintage flow and a smooth delivery that creates a track that is comparable to riding on a cloud. Probably the most refreshing aspect of the album, is DZA’s ability to switch up his flow from syrupy stoner rap to high energy double time style as heard on “New Jack”. The chopped and screwed “Ashtray”, serves as musical codeine with Smoke DZA’s dragged out verses coupled with Domo Genesis and Schoolboy Q’s unapologetic hard hitting verses. Harry Fraud also shows off his chopping and screwing skills in the mystical track “Rivermonts.”

Although Kenny Powers is not the best song on the album, it is understandable why it was a single judging by its radio play ability. The infectious hook and the upbeat production can please general audiences. The switch off verses between Action Bronson and Smoke DZA in “Turnbuckle Music”, are enjoyable as they are effective with the track giving up a street video with the in-your-face delivery that is evident throughout the song.

The album comes to an end with the extra terrestrial sound with Smoke DZA spitting verses in a delivery that is similar to Earl Sweatshirt’s. When explaining this track Smoke DZA said “This Outro is like the end of Rugby Thompson and the lead into my next endeavor. We took the Christopher Walken skit from Poolhall Junkies. So, it marks the end of this and the beginning of George Kush Da Button: The 2nd Term, which is the next album.” If the growth from Smoke DZA’s previous album Rolling Stoned to this one, then George Kush Da Button: The 2nd Term will most likely not disappoint.

Big K.R.I.T. – Live From The Underground album review

For avid hip-hop fans, Big K.R.I.T. had arrived long ago; showcasing his soulful skills on independently released mixtapes like 2010’s “KRIT Wuz Here” and this spring’s “4eva And A Day”.  For the rest of us, K.R.I.T.’s debut album “Live From The Underground” is a brief introduction to the Mississippi native who slings laid-back verses over Southern blues infused beats.  While the rapper may have signed to Def Jam, “Live from the Underground” stays true to its anti-mainstream roots as K.R.I.T.’s everyman-appeal and modesty shines throughout the album.

Produced entirely by K.R.I.T. himself, “Live from the Underground” is as introspective as a rap album will get.  With a thick layer of blues guitars, expressive horns and hooks from the likes of B.B. King, K.R.I.T. paints a picture of everyday struggle while modestly pushing through hardships.  The artist takes risks venturing off into a multitude of subgenres and coming out unscathed: West Coast G-funk synth lines displayed on “Money On The Floor” and “Don’t Let Me Down”, lazy reggae chords on “Pull Up” feat. Bun B and Big Sant, and Southern R&B-tinged gospel vibes on “Cool 2 Be Southern” and “If I Fall.”

K.R.I.T. really excels, however, when he rhymes over soulful, bluesy beats.

The album’s standout track, “Praying Man”, featuring the blues legend B.B. King, delivers a powerful image of slavery and oppression.  K.R.I.T. flexes his storytelling abilities here as each verse involves a black person being saved from his oppressor by the elusive “Praying Man”: “And I been wounded for some miles, so I decided to rest my head, I guess they let me go cause they assumed that I was dead, Smiled and said ‘Son hop in this wagon and get settled’, He offered me a ride and drove me far away from my oppressor, forever “

If there is anything to negate K.R.I.T.’s socially conscious efforts, it’s the jadedness found in his voice.  Usually void of real emotion, K.R.I.T. speaks as if he’ll take no pity or joy.  That’s easily forgivable though based on the harsh realties he raps about.  Plus, his self-produced beats bring enough emotion to the table that calling him on his verbal tone would be faulty.  “Live From The Underground” may not be new or perfect to some but is an honest and genuine stepping stone for an artist on his way to something big.  K.R.I.T. stands for King Remembered In Time and only time will tell where the big man takes his conscious efforts.

Azealia Banks – 1991 album review

Barely old enough to order a drink, Azealia Banks serves up a heaping dose of lyrical debauchery on her newest EP, 1991, which was released digitally last week (physical release set for June 12th).  Banks’ sexually charged, in-your-face vocals pair nicely with the stripped down, early 90’s house music vibe heard throughout the album.  As we reach the midpoint of 2012, the “young terror from the nyc” is poised to the newest alternative IT girl, ready to be played out by mainstream radio and hipsters alike.

The obvious standout of the album is “212” featuring Lazy Jay’s 2009 track “Float My Boat.”  While the track may have been leaked last year, it feels fresh as ever as Banks’ rapid-fire lyrics dance with playful horn blasts and tropical riddims.  Plus, Banks flexes her singing skills with a sultry hook that may be sweet enough to forgive her for vulgarity on the infamously repeated “I guess that cunt gettin eaten” line.  Also leaked last year, “Liquorice” takes you on a high-speed ride of 808-drums and retro trance synths courtesy of UK producer Lone.

The album’s title track (“1991”) and “Van Vogue” are stellar additions to round out the album.  The two tracks, produced by eclectic bass music producer, Machinedrum, continue the EP’s housey agenda to a percussive wonderland.  “1991” is a minimal, Burial-esque track featuring pulsating bell sounds and an evolving melody that sounds like it could have easily been produced in, well…1991.  “Van Vogue” has the same feel as “1991” tinged with subtle R&B influences and airy reverb as well as a cleverly placed sample of a barking dog midway through the hook.

At the end of 1991’s mere 16 minute run time, you’ll hear a multitude of foul-mouthed phrases that should never be spoken in public.  But even after Banks’ gritty lyrics, you’ll somehow be left with a strange feeling of playfulness and innocence in her voice.  She’ll leave you shocked, confused and begging for more.  1991 is a breakthrough album that already feels classic.

Far East Movement – Dirty Bass album review

Los Angeles hit makers Far East Movement are at the forefront of pop music’s evolution towards the bass-thumping, neon-wearing industry standard of 2012.  The group’s newest effort, Dirty Bass, is a relentless 14-track dance party fit for pre-gaming sorority girls, bachelorette parties and anyone who fancies overusing the term “#YOLO.”  That said, the album has its fist-pumping-good-time moments, but is sadly a diluted taste of the seemingly boundless electronic dance music scene.

While the album’s production value is top-notch, Dirty Bass fails to offer a deviation from formulaic, LMFAO-esque party anthems.  The album’s one-dimensional platform plays out more as a playlist of selected singles rather than a complete body of work.  The common theme of the album is a bit crass and abundantly clear: everybody should want to party as hard as Far East Movement.  Songs like “Live My Life” ft. Justin Beiber (“I’m gonna live my life, No matter what, we party tonight”) and “Basshead” ft. YG (“Pop, pop, take a sip like, we the cool kids, take a hit”) seek to push Dirty Bass’ party hard agenda.

Despite a lack of lyrical breadth, there are a few gems hidden in Dirty Bass.   The title track (“Dirty Bass” ft. Tyga) starts the album off strong with a hard-hitting bassline and a tropical soca drum pattern reminiscent of Major Lazer’s “Pon de Floor” while “Turn Up the Love” ft. Cover Drive features an incredibly fun and infectious horn section.  The trancey and upbeat “Fly With U” ft. Cassie stands out as a feel good club banger as well.

It would be foolish to take Dirty Bass too seriously.  In all, it’s a fun party album riding the wave of pop’s new fascination with bass-heavy dance music.  Just let the bass move you and take the lyrics with a grain of salt (or a shot of tequila).

Rye Rye – Go! Pop! Bang! album review

“Just let the beat bump, and I’m gonna make your bodies jump” exclaims Rye Rye in the third track on her debut album Go!Pop!Bang! Rye Rye accomplished this mission to make bodies jump on each track from her long awaited debut. Go! Pop! Bang! initially was supposed to be released in 2009, but due to unforseen circumstances was delayed until this year. Those looking for old songs that started the Rye Rye buzz (such as the Baltimore club track “Bang”), will have to purchase the deluxe edition.

Rye Rye’s in-your-face attitude and lyrics are partnered with production from veteran producers like The Neptunes, RedOne, Bangladesh, Steve Angello, and Rye Rye’s mentor M.I.A. The album starts off with Rye Rye pulling listeners into an ocean of bass with the underground club track “Drop.” By the third track, the album begins to show elements of pop. Rye Rye’s radio play potential comes through in the RedOne produced track “DNA”. The infectious Eurodance beat melded with Rye Rye’s verses and Porcelain Black’s voice could easily shoot up the Billboard charts with the rest of the pop stars of today.

“Crazy Bitch” brings Akon’s hit-making vocals with a light and airy beat that sounds like the musical equivalent of sipping some lemonade on a beach. The chorus could turn some people off with it’s odd chorus where Akon croons that “She’s a craaaazy bitch/That’s why I love her.”

Rye Rye’s ability to adjust to the various styles of production is to be applauded. Her voice goes from vintage bubblegum pop on the upbeat track about a crush on “Boom Boom” to confrontational and arrogant in the Steve Angello produced “Holla Holla.” The percussion heavy track “Shake Twist Drop” has an Outkast sound to it, and features YMCMB member Tyga rattling off a few verses. Rye Rye’s undeniable ability to be able to rock the foundation in underground clubs becomes evident in “Dance” where she mixes Chicago Juke Music with Baltimore flair.

Rye’s debut serves as her busting in the music industry and showing that she definitely deserves a right to be there. Hopefully, people won’t have to wait as long to see what else this Electrohop MC has to offer next.