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Ultraviolence
Ultraviolence
Price: CDN$ 9.94
37 used & new from CDN$ 7.10

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lana's Redemption, June 17 2014
This review is from: Ultraviolence (Audio CD)
I could go into a lengthy essay about Lana Del Rey's back story, but I'll just say upfront that Lana has made one of the best albums of 2014. This one could go the distance at the Grammys next year.

Vocally, melodically and sonically, "Ultraviolence" is a winner. Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys produced nearly every track. His decision to have Del Rey sing live, accompanied by a seven-piece band, was a master stroke. The alchemy of Lana and the studio band is palpable. She's never sounded better.

Auerbach's production choices complement but never overwhelm the songs, although reverb is used a bit too liberally in places.

The songs are stately ("Black Beauty", "Old Money"), playful ("Brooklyn Baby"), epic ("Cruel World") and heartbreaking ("Ultraviolence", "Sad Girl")

Lyrically, the album is less successful. While there are phrases that paint a vivid picture, there are also clunkers: "He lives in California too, he drives a Chevy Malibu" (from "Shades of Cool"). Still, Del Rey is able to bring her dark melodrama to life over the course of the album's 11 tracks.

The bonus tracks, with the exception of "Florida Kilos" are quite strong. "Black Beauty" is a stunner - perhaps Lana's finest hour.

There are no uptempo tracks on the record. It's somber and dark, but always engaging. Auerbach has dubbed Lana's style "narco-swing", which is fitting.

After the critical drubbing Del Rey took after the release of her 2012 album "Born To Die", "Ultraviolence" is Lana's answer to her detractors.

A great album is often the best revenge.

Am
Am
Price: CDN$ 10.00
40 used & new from CDN$ 9.26

5.0 out of 5 stars Rock With a Fresh Sound, Feb. 13 2014
This review is from: Am (Audio CD)
What a joy it is to hear a rock album with such a fresh sound!

The vocals on Arctic Monkeys' 5th album "AM" are outstanding. Lead singer Alex Turner's deep expressive voice provides an effective counterpoint to his band-mates' falsetto backing vocals. Matt Helders' drums propel the songs forward while Turner spins tales of late-night encounters with femme fatales.

The production is wide-screen - steeped in reverb - with a neo-noir-meets-60s-R&B vibe. "AM" sounds like a Frank Miller novel brought to life, if Phil Spector was working the soundboard.

All but two of the album's 12 tracks are up-tempo. Highlights include "Do I Wanna Know?", "Fireside", "One For the Road", "Snap Out of It" and "R U Mine?"

Strong throughout, Arctic Monkeys' "AM" is one of the very best albums of 2013, and one of the best rock albums in many years.

Reflektor
Reflektor
Price: CDN$ 10.00
39 used & new from CDN$ 10.00

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ambitious But Flawed Double-Disc, Nov. 2 2013
This review is from: Reflektor (Audio CD)
Arcade Fire returns three years after the release of their Grammy-winning Album of the Year, "The Suburbs" with their new double-disc set "Reflektor" - a sprawling, ambitious work containing 13 tracks.

As you listen to the album, it's evident that Arcade Fire is one of the few modern rock bands that can properly construct a song - in the classic sense - with strong melodic hooks and intelligent lyrics. Like "The Suburbs", this is another 'zeitgeist' album that reflects the spirit of our times.

The sound of this album is unlike any other in the band's catalogue. Thick with bass synths and a fuller drum sound, it sounds huge, and there's a real emphasis on rhythm this time, inspired by the band's 2011 and 2012 trips to Haiti and Jamaica. "Here Comes the Night Time" is a highlight that switches tempo between a lilting Caribbean swing incorporating steel drums, to a frantic Haitian percussive assault at the apex of the song.

Opening track "Reflektor", is another strong entry that sees lead vocalist Win Butler and wife Regine Chassange trading (reflecting) vocal lines over a conga-based beat. Rock legend David Bowie contributes backup vocals as the track builds to a sax and string-laden climax.

"We Exist" is another dance-oriented tune with a bass-line similar to Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean". This is a good showcase for Arcade Fire's arrangement skills. They've taken a classic 3-minute pop single and extended it beyond 5 minutes through variations on the chorus hook and an extended bridge. Organ chords enter to complement rising strings as the song reaches a crescendo in its final minute.

Other notable tracks:

- "Normal Person" - with an explosive punk chorus that recalls Blur's "Song 2".

- "Joan of Arc" - a very catchy number with Regine adding French vocal lines ("Jeanne d'Arc oohhh...").

- "It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus) - pure 1980's epic new wave driven by bass synth, recalling New Order and Ultravox.

- "Porno" - an hypnotic keyboard-based track with subtle variations on the main hook that keeps it interesting throughout. Another track that recalls 80s UK-based synth bands, with a touch of Roxy Music.

- "Afterlife" - probably the most radio-friendly song that Arcade Fire has released. Big, rhythmic and celebratory.

Lyrical themes: Duality; our digital age and its tenuous connections; lovers separated and reunited; the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice (Win & Regine?) - to name just a few.

Flaws: The bass synths can weigh down some of the tracks. Songs like "Flashbulb Eyes" and "You Already Know" come off as throw-aways, lacking lyrical substance. At times, Win Butler's vocals are delivered in an uncharacteristically timid way, limiting their emotional impact.

Final thoughts: Disc 2 is the stronger part of the record, but the tracks on Disc 1 sound great in a live setting. Overall, a very strong album that aims high and mostly succeeds.

Conan O'Brien Can't Stop
Conan O'Brien Can't Stop
DVD ~ Rodman Flender
Price: CDN$ 22.31
18 used & new from CDN$ 3.54

5.0 out of 5 stars Great Doc For the Serious Conan Fan, Nov. 28 2012
This review is from: Conan O'Brien Can't Stop (DVD)
Serious fans of talk-show host Conan O'Brien's humour will really enjoy this DVD that documents the period between O'Brien's loss of "The Tonight Show" and the start of his latest show "Conan", on TBS. Conan, sidekick Andy Richter and O'Brien's writing staff are shown developing a 90-minute show which played in 44 U.S. and Canadian cities in mid-2010. Conan's wife and children make brief appearances, along with comedians Jim Carrey, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Anyone familiar with Conan's staff will enjoy seeing O'Brien's loyal and beautiful assistant Sona, writers Deon Cole, Mike Sweeney and Aaron Bleyeart and producer Jeff Ross. Conan has a relaxed and playful rapport with his staff, but they do have to put up with his many moods. Conan can get a bit petulant and self-absorbed at times, but he balances it out nicely with self-deprecating humour. The DVD contains a lot of quality extras including a post-tour interview with O'Brien. The picture and sound quality are both excellent. Highly recommended.

The Absence
The Absence
Price: CDN$ 11.99
56 used & new from CDN$ 3.19

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Exotic Jazz With Latin Touches, June 19 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Absence (Audio CD)
Melody Gardot's third album "The Absence" was inspired by her travels to Portugal, Morocco and Brazil. She not only travelled to these locales, she immersed herself in the cultures, learning new languages, both linguistic and musical.

These influences find their way into many of the album's eleven tracks. "Mira", "Iemanja" and especially "Lisboa" are the best of these exotic cuts. There's also a group of moody, film-noir-inspired songs: "Impossible Love", "If I Tell You I Love You" and the album's stand-out cut "Goodbye" where Gardot's versatile voice simulates a baritone sax as she growls out the chorus.

Because of Melody's 2003 accident, the songs are mostly quiet in nature. This is most evident in the opening few tracks which I found a bit sleepy. The album as a whole, apart from the production, does not seem of this time. Gardot has a unique way of making her compositions sound like they're long-lost tracks from the Great American Songbook.

Adventurous, joyous and romantic, "The Absence" is a perfect late-night listen.

Blown Away
Blown Away
Price: CDN$ 9.99
33 used & new from CDN$ 4.83

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Carrie's Best By Far, May 2 2012
This review is from: Blown Away (Audio CD)
Carrie Underwood''s fourth album "'Blown Away"' is rock solid from beginning to end. It is a complete triumph and a huge leap forward for Carrie on all fronts. Vocally, lyrically and creatively, this is the emergence of Carrie Underwood 2.0 - The Artist.

Contained within its 14 diverse tracks are styles ranging from classic country ('Wine After Whiskey', 'Cupid's Got a Shotgun') to calypso ('One Way Ticket') to progressive country ('Blown Away', 'Two Black Cadillacs) all handled with vocal aplomb by Carrie, whose star has never shone brighter.

Previous albums 'Some Hearts', 'Carnival Ride' and 'Play On' are chock full of hits, but some songs seemed a bit too fussed over and formulaic. Many of the lesser cuts had a girlishness about them, with subject matters seemingly pulled from the pages of teen diaries. No more.

'Blown Away' is the work of a mature young woman. Throughout the album, Carrie is confident, completely in command and firing on all cylinders. With vivid lyrics and expansive production by long-time producer Mark Bright, 'Blown Away' has the goods to go the distance, taking down everything in its path on its march to glory at the CMAs, ACMs and Grammys, where it will most definitely represent country music as an Album of the Year nominee.

Two tracks in particular stand head and shoulders above the pack: "'Two Black Cadillacs'" and "'Wine After Whiskey"', both co-written by Underwood. The former tells the tale of a wife and mistress conspiring to do away with the man who betrayed them both, while the latter is a classic country weeper about a new relationship that pales in comparison to what came before. Against a cinematic backdrop of tinkling piano, rolling drums and edgy strings, Carrie brings '"Cadillac"' to life, infusing the chorus with gospel-tinged vocals: "''and the preacher said he was a good man, and his brother said he was a good friend".'' Tense, muscular and assured, Carrie's delivery is stellar. This is a shining example of progressive country music. "'Wine After Whiskey"' is pure heartbreak in the classic country tradition. Carrie effortlessly conveys the emptiness felt by a lover who discovers her new flame can't possibly compare to the one true love that has left and moved on. Carrie's vocal is tender and nuanced during the verses, crying out in hurtful longing during the heartbreaking chorus: '"Once you've tasted a love so strong, you can't go back and you can't settle on anything less, and that's what gets me, it's like having Wine After Whiskey".'

"'Blown Away"' contains other strong cuts like the dramatic title track, where Carrie's vocal matches the power of the twister at the center of a tale about a daughter's revenge on a drunken, abusive father. '"Cupid''s Got a Shotgun"', a fast-paced redneck rave-up fits Underwood like a glove as she sings of being pursued by a suitor armed with a "'sawed-off double-barrel, trigger-happy as can be".' A lively fiddle solo is followed by the twangy guitar runs of guest Brad Paisley. "'One Way Ticket'" is a breezy, calypso-styled ditty where Carrie substitutes steel drums with intentionally off-key whistling. It's a hoot, and one of the few moments of levity on the album. In song after song, Underwood''s vocals are warm, natural and unforced. Having listened to Adele last year, she's learned to reign in her tendency to unleash the glory notes, opting instead for restraint, subtlety and vocal detail, best exemplified in the spare and beautiful "'Forever Changed".

A new chapter in Carrie Underwood''s career is beginning. With international tours planned, the world will finally hear what many in North America have always known: Carrie is the finest singer of our generation. Let there be no doubt.

Forgiven, Not Forgotten
Forgiven, Not Forgotten
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 69.95
6 used & new from CDN$ 7.37

4.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Celtic Pop, June 19 2011
This review is from: Forgiven, Not Forgotten (Audio CD)
The Corrs debut album "Forgiven Not Forgotten" is one of the finest commercial pop releases of the last 20 years. The Dublin-based Corrs are a group of three sisters and one brother, all of whom sing and play instruments. Lead singer Andrea has a lovely voice, most evident on the waltz-time "Runaway", one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded. The Corrs exceptional vocal harmonies come to the fore on standouts "Love to Love You", "Closer", "The Right Time" and the title track. Celtic instrumentation abounds. Tin whistle, bodhran and fiddle combine with rock instruments to create an effective hybrid. There are six instrumental pieces that fit nicely into the flow, acting as intros and outros to the other nine cuts. The highlight is the Corrs version of "Toss the Feathers", a traditional Irish folk tune, given an expansive, drum-heavy treatment. A five-star record, docked one star for occasionally awkward lyrics.

Ok Computer
Ok Computer
Price: CDN$ 11.99
78 used & new from CDN$ 0.77

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Punk Floyd, June 4 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Ok Computer (Audio CD)
To fully embrace Radiohead's "OK Computer" you need to be fans of both the Sex Pistols and Pink Floyd in equal measure. Echoes of The Floyd pop up in the pristine "Subterranean Homesick Alien", closing track "The Tourist" and especially "Lucky" which has a distinctive "Dark Side of the Moon" vibe. The Pistols influence appears in "Paranoid Android" and "Airbag" where Thom Yorke yelps the tuneless line "In an interstellar burst, I'm back to save the universe". "Climbing Up the Walls" and "Electioneering" are venomous Brit-Pop tunes given the raw Johnny Rotten treatment by singer Yorke. It can take up to ten spins to find your way into the record, but it does reveal many rewards if you give it time. Best tracks: "Subterranean..", "Let Down", "Lucky" and "Airbag".

Middle Cyclone
Middle Cyclone
Price: CDN$ 16.95
27 used & new from CDN$ 10.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Best Indie of 2009, May 22 2011
This review is from: Middle Cyclone (Audio CD)
Neko Case, part-time member of the art-pop band New Pornographers has released five full-length solo albums since the late nineties. "Middle Cyclone" (2009) is her very best. Case's style is hard to define. It's part Americana, part film-noir and part kitsch. Lyrically obscure, "Cyclone's" central subjects are half-remembered dreams, connections to nature and recollectons of childhood. It's a very organic album, recorded at her farm in Vermont and in rural Ontario, Canada. Her band is in fine form, but Neko is the stand-out, adding new shading and nuance to her already formidable voice. Highlights include the noir-ish "Prison Girls", the ominous "Red Tide" and the lovely title-track, where Case sings with emotion and purity over a strummed guitar and cranked music-box. "Middle Cyclone" is Case's most commercially successful record to date, reaching number 3 on the Billboard 200. Highly recommended for the adventurous listener.

In Rainbows
In Rainbows
Price: CDN$ 15.32
34 used & new from CDN$ 10.97

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Radiohead's Warmest Record, May 21 2011
This review is from: In Rainbows (Audio CD)
"In Rainbows" is a thing of beauty. For the first time, a Radiohead album can be described as warm. For a someone wanting to sample the band for the first time, this is the one to buy. Frontman Thom Yorke sings with real feeling and even uses a fine falsetto voice on the gorgeous 'Nude' and the equally stunning 'Reckoner'. The obsessive-love song 'All I Need' starts quietly, driven by a bass synth line. At the three-minute mark, the percussion bursts forth in a flurry of crashing cymbals, the music rises to a crescendo and Yorke repeatedly cries out "It's all wrong, it's all right" over an accompanying piano figure - riding the wave to the song's end. Spine-tingling stuff. Radiohead is in a class by itself and this record proves it time and time again.

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